Best Places to Travel in 2016

To compile our annual list of the best places to travel in the upcoming year, T+L editors thoroughly and meticulously consider a variety of factors. Which under-the-radar gems are most exciting to our network of contributing writers and global correspondents? Which destinations are our A-List travel specialists fielding requests for? Which classic vacation spots are starting to emerge—but for entirely new and compelling reasons? Which global events and changes in travel restrictions have made certain destinations easier to get to? This year's list ranges from the Andaman Islands, off India (which impressed even the most discerning ocean-lover, Jacques Cousteau), to an unspoiled stretch of the Caribbean, and nine other beach destinations with sun, sand, and beautiful views. For food lovers, we've got everything from Ghent, Belgium (where a group of young chefs is leading the culinary revolution and plans for a massive food hall are under way), to the canal town of Aarhus, Denmark, which is stepping out of Copenhagen's shadow with three Michelin-starred restaurants of its own.

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50. Mie Prefecture, Japan

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Mie Prefecture, Japan
Sean Pavone Photo

Intriguing developments are under way in Mie Prefecture, a four-hour ride from Tokyo on the bullet train, which until now had mostly lured domestic travelers. The area’s draws: the Ise-Shima National Park, on the coastline; the pearl-producing oysters; the richly marbled Matsusaka beef; and sacred, ᴜɴᴇsᴄᴏ-protected Shinto pilgrimage sites. In 2016, world leaders will converge in the city of Shima for the G7 summit. Leisure travelers should head to Amanemu, a plush reinterpretation of a classic ryokan opening in the first quarter. Expect an understated, utterly Zen aesthetic and a focus on wellness. All 24 suites and four villas in the intimate property come equipped with private onsen—rejuvenating pools filled with mineral-rich waters from the region’s hot springs. Soak in the serenity before the secret gets out. —Diana Hubbell

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49. Seattle, Washington

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Seattle, Washington
Getty Images

This year Seattle is not going to let Portland, its little sister three hours south, get all the foodie-destination credit. One culinary neighborhood to watch is Capitol Hill, and in 2016, it'll be easier than ever for visitors to get there. The Seattle streetcar system is adding a line to connect the area, and Link, the light rail, is also building a line to take visitors right from the SeaTac airport to Capitol Hill. The most in-demand tables there include Lionhead, a Sichuan-inspired spot by Jerry Traunfeld (former chef at the Herbfarm), and Soi, a husband-and-wife team serving Thai food from the Isaan region. Don’t miss the new Capitol Hill Hot Cakes—though it sounds like a brunch destination, it's actually a "molten chocolate cakery" nighttime spot that also has soft-serve you can top with potato chips and roast-your-own marshmallows for s'mores. Seattle’s exciting news expands past the city proper as well: 16 miles northeast is the McMenamins Anderson School Hotel, a 1931 Art Deco–style former junior high school in the town of Bothell that’s now a hotel. The classrooms and ball fields are gone, replaced with three restaurants, two bars, a brewery, movie theater, indoor pool, and outdoor fire pits—making it a school you actually want to spend the night in. —Sarah Z. Wexler

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48. Liège, Belgium

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Liège, Belgium
akg-images / Bildarchiv Monheim

Once a blue-collar paradise for coal miners and steelworkers, Liège is the surprising new destination for art and food this summer. The Boverie art museum opens in May, showcasing the best of Belgian art and working in conjunction with the Louvre to curate a huge exhibition of international greats like Renoir, Manet, van Gogh, and more. The Boverie is the crowning piece on a public development in southwest Liège, between the Santiago Calatrava–designed train station (Liège Guillemins, the largest in the city) and an urban mall called the Médiacité, about a 20-minute walk from the center of town. By the Boverie’s opening, the Design Station of Wallonia—a local artists’ showcase focusing on design collaborations celebrating the city’s economic and cultural heritage—will also be in full swing. June sees the first annual Generation W Food Festival, in nearby Namur, where French-speaking chefs and producers from the Wallonia region of Belgium will showcase their regional cuisine. Look out for expert cuisine from Liège native Philippe Fauchet, whose namesake restaurant in St.-Georges-sur-Meuse focuses on terroir, and 10 high-profile chefs from the region including Maxime Collard, Pierre Résimont, and Benoit Neusy. Regardless of when you visit, the must-try foods include sugary Liégeoise waffles at Sandwicherie Pollux, on the Place de la Cathédrale, and the city’s traditional meal—meatballs with fries—at Café Lequet, near the river and the Cathédrale St.-Paul. —Jennifer Billock

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47. Iberá Wetlands, Argentina

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Iberá Wetlands, Argentina
Douglas Tompkins

Argentina is home to endless pampas, Patagonian desert, and the world’s second-largest wetlands, with an indigenous wildlife population that’s been drastically dwindling, until now. Mammals and avians native to Esteros del Iberá—a 3.2 million-acre watery network located in the northeast province of Corrientes—such as giant anteater, giant otter, pampas deer, and red macaw, are at the heart of an intensive repopulation program led by Kristine and Doug Tompkins’ Conservation Land Trust and backed by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The undisputed star of this rewilding is the jaguar, the largest feline in the Americas, and previously wiped out from Corrientes. The first female settled into her new home at the San Alonso reserve last May; a mate will join her by the end of 2015. Key to a healthy ecosystem, the jaguar’s repopulation is great news not only for those eager to see the rare animal but also for conservationists keen to see the reserve attain national park status. Esteros del Iberá recently unveiled three new access routes in its northwestern basin. Guests staying at eco-lodges such as Puerto Valle can now traverse this northern sector by kayak, horseback, or 4 x 4. On the southwestern basin, wildlife lovers should head to luxury lodge Rincón del Socorro for the best sightings, while fly-fishing fans should make a beeline to Pirá Lodge to catch golden dorado. —Sorrel Moseley-Williams

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46. Adelaide, Australia

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Adelaide, Australia
Peter Tarasiuk

In March, close to 100,000 music lovers from around the world will gather for WOMADelaide, a remarkable festival set in Adelaide’s dreamy Botanic Park. The lineup is as attractive as the setting—this year promises performances by the Violent Femmes as well as a rare collaboration between West African singer Angélique Kidjo and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. And there are plenty of reasons for travelers to stick around: in the booming Central Business District, talented chefs are testing out new concepts like Jock Zonfrillo’s flamboyantrestaurant, Orana, and the South West Supper Club, an exuberant pop-up dinner series led by former Southern Ocean Lodge chef Tim Bourke. Don’t miss NOLA Adelaide, a new pub serving craft brews, whiskey, and po’boys, opened in an old horse stable. Even Adelaide Airport, about four miles from the city center, is cleaning up its act. A brand new rooftop solar-panel system, the largest of its kind in Australia, will be unveiled in April, just in time to welcome a major increase in air traffic: new daily flights from Doha (via Qatar Airways) will launch in May, and there is talk of adding direct service from the U.S. and mainland China. —Alex Schechter

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45. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Andrew Hetherington

With rolling hills dotted with sagebrush and ponderosa pine—and thousands of acres of vineyards—the Okanagan Valley can no longer be considered a nascent Napa. Lying between two mountain ranges and stretching roughly 125 miles north from the U.S.-Canada border, the geography varies from the desert-like conditions in the south to the green plateau of the Naramata Bench and Okanagan Lake’s sandy beaches. While the area’s stark beauty and hot, dry summers have always drawn outdoorsy types, there’s now an increasingly sophisticated scene revolving around food and local wine. Wine-focused restaurants like the Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl and Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Winery serve up spectacular views and farm-to-table specialties, along with Pinot Gris and Meritage (a Bordeaux-style blend). For accommodations, the best options are the Sparkling Hill Resort (owned by the patriarch of the Swarovski jewelry dynasty, the design includes millions of crystals) or the more traditional, 1908 Mission-style Naramata Heritage Inn & Spa. It’s easy to spend a few days roaming around the countryside, hopping from winery to winery (there are over 130), but one place in particular is worth a special trip: the exquisitely modern Black Hills tasting room, where you can sample a glass of Nota Bene, one of the area’s big reds. Last year was even hotter than usual, which is good news for those planning a visit: many of the 2015 vintage wines, predicted to be the best in a century, will be ready for tasting in 2016. —Guy Saddy

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44. Georgia

Georgia, Tbilisi, City and Tsminda Sameba Cathedral at dusk
Jane Sweeney

The origins of wine can be traced back to this region, which straddles the border between Europe and Asia. Oenophiles have long flocked to Kakheti, the top winemaking region, for vineyard tours and exceptional tastings. But the buzz is building about Georgia, and the country is about to get an influx of visitors interested in more than just wine. Concerns about safety in Ukraine have led many leading cruise lines, including Regent Seven Seas and Oceania, to spend more time in Georgia’s laid-back Black Sea coastal city, Batumi (home to one of the world’s largest botanical gardens). Major hotel brands are breaking ground as well: Radisson Blu is opening in Kakheti’s Tsinandali village, and Le Méridien has plans to open in a few years. Go now to be one of the first to experience breathtaking views of the Caucasus Mountains, the varied Persian, Soviet, and Art Nouveau architecture in the capital, Tbilisi (bed down in the year-old, gastronomy-centric Design Hotel Rooms Hotel Tbilisi), and—of course—the world-famous wine. —Melanie Lieberman

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43. Casablanca, Morocco

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Casablanca, Morocco
Sean Caffrey

Morocco’s largest city has emerged as the gateway between Europe and Africa—and not just for the corporate types moving into the upcoming Casablanca Finance City complex. The Four Seasons has opened its doors at Anfa Place, a mixed-use development by Foster & Partners that abuts the city’s beachfront Corniche area. The building has 186 rooms and suites with Fragonard bath amenities and customizable beds, shops ranging from Moroccan fashion label Diamantine to Marks & Spencer, and more than a dozen cafés and restaurants (head straight to the Philippe Starck–designed Paradis du Fruit). Within a few years, the city skyline will be dominated by Africa’s tallest skyscraper, the $1 billion, 114-story Al Noor Tower. Go now for uncrowded access to architectural wonders like the seaside Hassan II Mosque, with its magnificent marble interiors and the world’s tallest minaret—the mosque is among a small number in the country that are open to travelers of all religious backgrounds. —Nikki Ekstein

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42. Chiloe, Chile

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Chiloe, Chile
Wolfgang Kaehler

When LAN Airlines began flying in to a new airport on Chiloé several years ago, word about the island and its surrounding archipelago began spreading fast. The allure was clear: over 30 verdant islets with primordial forests and a bounty of wildlife that once wooed Darwin to their shores. Colonized by Spanish Jesuits in the 17th century, the islands remained in relative isolation from mainland Chile for over 250 years, resulting in an intriguing cultural hybrid of indigenous folklore and Hispanic traditions. Mestizo influences can be seen in the UNESCO-protected wooden chapels, built by native seafaring tribes, whose domed ceilings resemble the hull of a ship. Travelers flock to Chiloé from December through March to island-hop by kayak, bird-watch, hike, horseback ride, and see penguins and blue whales. As the tourist numbers increase, colorful waterfront palafitos that were once fishermen’s stilted homes are being converted into upscale spots like farm-to-table restaurant Mar y Canela and boutique hotel Palafito 1326. And Tierra Chiloé, the Big Island’s premier property, has plans to add more rooms to accommodate growing numbers. The Chacao Bridge, to connect Chiloé to the continent, is also under way, making the region even more accessible to travelers. Go now to beat the crowds and experience Chiloé’s still-unspoiled landscape and its singular culture. —Nora Walsh

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41. Bozeman, Montana

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Bozeman, Montana
Ben Pierce

What was once a Podunk cowboy town has morphed into a mountainside mecca. The ingredients—university town, easy-to-access mountain adventures, proximity to a killer national park—were always there, but it took a high-concept boutique hotel to lasso the city’s artisan energy and stake Bozeman’s claim as an all-American hot spot. Opened last April, the Lark has swiftly become the community hangout. In the reimagined 1960s-era motor lodge, locals and tourists mingle in the laptop-friendly lobby, there’s an outdoor lounge, complete with fireplace, and a retro silver taco truck permanently parked on property. Outside the hotel, on Main Street, that made-in-Montana spirit continues with a variety of shops that range from old-school outdoorsman supplier Schnee’s to the trendy Revolvr Menswear. Restaurants like the Roost, Blackbird, Open Range, and the Feed Café combine sophisticated flavors with laid-back, rustic charm. And of course there’s great craft beer throughout town, but the new White Dog Brewing Company is the only place serving it on a handcrafted frost rail to keep your beverage ice-cold. —Amy Tara Koch

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40. Borneo

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Borneo
Julien Garcia

This lush island (part Indonesian, part Malaysian) has long been known as the home of the endangered Bornean orangutan—and as one of Asia’s last surviving great rain-forest habitats. For years, only the truly adventurous made the difficult journey into its wild, undeveloped heart, but high-end offerings are slowly opening the island to the world. The National Geographic Orion (now operated by Lindblad Expeditions) was among the first to venture into the waters off Borneo’s coast. Other lines are following suit; Silversea has introduced a new port of call in 2015 in Bintulu, a coastal town on the Malaysian side of Borneo and a gateway for exploring the nearby Similajau National Park (home to hornbills, gibbons, and long-tailed macaques). New itineraries in otherwise remote and under-the-radar areas have also spurred hotel development. Gaya, an island off Borneo’s Malaysian coast that once consisted mainly of fishermen’s villages, has recently welcomed another hotel: Gaya Island Resort has 120 hillside villas with spectacular views of the sea and comes with its own yacht and resident naturalist. Last April marked the opening of the 101-room Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa, the second in Borneo for the Marriott brand, whose design mimics its forested surroundings. And with the reopening of the North Borneo Railway system, visitors are gaining unprecedented access to the island’s rural corners, and a chance to see a world not yet overrun by civilization. —Lindsey Olander

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39. Canouan, Grenadines

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Canouan, Grenadines
© Corbis

Want to go where the billionaires go to get away from the millionaires? That’s how some locals describe Canouan, a tiny island within St. Vincent and the Grenadines. More than half of the island’s 2,500 residents are employed by resorts (notably, Canouan Resort and its sibling, the Tamarind Beach Hotel & Yacht Club); 11 rank among the world’s wealthiest individuals. One regular, Irish financier (and billionaire) Dermot Desmond, is catering to the gilded crowd by opening an 80-berth mega-yacht marina, rumored to be lined with several high-end restaurants, by early 2016. And then there’s a forthcoming resort (the name has yet to be decided), opening by mid-2016—it’ll have 32 show-stopping suites and villas that, at $2,000 per night and up, will instantly become the Caribbean’s most expensive, all with ocean views and $1,500 Pratesi linens. With eight restaurants, access to a pristine marine reserve, and a spa with treatment rooms in overwater bungalows, it’ll have the feel of a private island. But charter yacht service will also be available for day trips to the uninhabited Tobago Cays, if total seclusion is what you’re after. —Nikki Ekstein

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38. Zimbabwe

Dana Allen

In Zimbabwe, the crowds remain relatively small and the prices low—but November’s opening of the Victoria FallsAirport, allowing for direct international flights, could change things drastically. Since the U.S. dollar was officially adopted, the economy has improved and Zimbabwe has seen a wave of fresh investment. In the far north of the country, a canoe safari on Zambezi in Mana Pools National Park has become a popular trip for families (with children over 16) looking to spot crocodiles and hippos. And safari operators are expanding their offerings, particularly in Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park, known for its expert guides, walking safaris, and sightings of big herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra, and wildebeest. Hwange now has several upscale digs in private concessions; the best are the nine ultra-contemporary tents at Wilderness Safaris Linkwasha Camp and the Beks Ndlovu-owned Somalisa and Somalisa Acacia camps, where elephants regularly come for a sundown drink out of the swimming pool. —Jane Broughton

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37. Siberia

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Siberia
© Matthieu Paley

If this vast stretch of arctic tundra and snowy forests in Russian territory seems a bit inhospitable, think again. With increased attention from cruise lines and new safaris dedicated to seeking out the region's rare, namesake tigers, Siberia is poised to be the next great frontier for the adventurous. Unless you speak at least rudimentary Russian, traveling to Siberia on your own can be a complicated undertaking. Fortunately, several tour operators are now making it much easier. Wildlife enthusiasts can join Natural World Safaris on an expedition to see Siberian tigers in the Durminskoye Reserve. For seven days, guests will follow famed conservationist Alexander Batalov as he tracks and records the cats’ movements. Meanwhile, Remote Lands is offering two innovative itineraries in Siberia, including a 15-day trek beginning in the historic city of Irkutsk and an eight-day cruise of ancient Lake Baikal, the deepest in the world. Not all travel across this rugged country is groundbreaking, of course. The Trans-Siberian Express railway’s centennial arrives in 2016. Celebrate with the Siberian Discovery route on Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, whose route is being extended to the indigenous outposts of Stretensk, Nerchinsk, with its dazzling mirrored palace, and Blagoveshchensk, from which you can see the Chinese city of Heihe across the glittering Zeya River. —Melanie Lieberman

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36. Placencia, Belize

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Placencia, Belize
© Peter Donaldson / Alamy Stock Photo

Belize is still great for backpackers—much like Costa Rica in the 1980s—but certain areas have also become bona fide retreats for the well-heeled. For years now, Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn has been drawing glamorous types to its cottages in the beach town of Placencia, on a little-known peninsula on the country’s east coast. But the secret is on the verge of getting out, especially with the late 2016 opening of Itz’ana, an ambitious farm-restaurant-retreat hybrid with 39 upscale villas—all within mere feet of the world’s second-largest coral reef system. The project, which is just down the road from Turtle Inn, is not just ambitious for its five-star creature comforts (rooms will have terraces with daybeds, waterfront views, and soaring ceilings). It’s also a stage for chef Mara Jernigan, of the immensely popular Limilita pop-up restaurant in Placencia, who will be using indigenous ingredients to spotlight Belizean agriculture and fine dining. (She’ll even have a personal fleet of fishermen.) Also on property: a Mayan-inspired spa using locally harvested rainforest botanicals, a room (and sommelier) dedicated to rum, and chartered yachts for sundown cruises. —Nikki Ekstein

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35. Sicily, Italy

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Sicily, Italy
Westend61 / Martin Moxter

Whether it’s the fifth-century B.C. Greek ruins, the architecture of Arab-Norman Palermo (a newly appointed UNESCO World Heritage site), or the seemingly endless miles of dreamy coastlines, travelers have never been able to get enough of Sicily. And these days, “wine is one of the things bringing tourism to Sicily,” says Karen La Rosa, the founder of La RosaWorks, a boutique tour operator specializing in the island. She recommends exploring State Road 120 (SS120) around Mount Etna—the latest region of Sicily that’s attracting wine connoisseurs—where the soil is enriched with minerals from hardened lava. A treasure trove of wineries, both big and small, can be found there, encircling the volcanic slopes. Most notably, Tasca d’Almerita, a celebrated, centuries-old family label, has opened a vineyard named Tascante that produces two varietals made from the Nerello Mascalese grape (a gentler alternative to Sicily's richer-tasting, more famous native Nero d'Avola). This summer, the all-women-run Tenuta di Fessina will unveil a new boutique hotel, with a spa housed in a restored palmento (stone cellar used for crushing grapes). What better way to end a day of tastings than with a thermal bath in an old wine tank? —Alex Schechter

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34. Tasmania

Ancient glacial crags reflected in the still waters of Dove Lake.
National Geographic

The opening of the groundbreaking Museum of Old and New Art, in 2011, was a tipping point of sorts for Tasmania. Suddenly, the rest of the world was paying attention to this tiny pocket of the world and even exploring beyond Hobart. One of the latest additions to the island is Pumphouse Point. Set on Lake St. Clair, a two-and-half-hour drive (or 45-minute flight) from the state capital, it takes remote to the next level. There are just 18 rooms in two buildings, formerly part of a hydroelectric plant. The Pumphouse sits over the mirror-like surface of the lake, while the Art Deco Shorehouse, once the substation, hosts the dining and lounge areas. The low-key makeover from Cumulus Studio ­is effortlessly stylish, with a soft industrial bent, and focuses the gaze on the environment. Here, you’re in the southeastern corner of the Cradle Mountain–Lake St. Clair National Park, an alpine region that’s home to temperate rain forest, wildlife, and, well, not much else. Walking, cycling, fishing, and taking the rowboat onto the lake are all on the relaxed agenda. The smart thing to do is combine a stay here with three nights on a 75-foot luxury ketch, the Lady Eugenie, where guests can walk along the islands during the day (organized by Wineglass Bay Sail Walk) and see the rugged eastern coast. Together, they’re a glimpse into the best Tasmania has to offer. —Carrie Hutchinson

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33. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Sean Pavone Photo

The Steel City is reforging itself into the Arts City, with former warehouses and industrial spaces transforming into edgy galleries, like the seven-story Andy Warhol Museum (the hometown hero's work is displayed along with traveling exhibits, including pieces by Ai Weiwei in 2016), the Mattress Factory (now home to room-sized installations by artists in residence), and the free-entry Society for Contemporary Craft. The Quantum Theatre stages traditional (this year’s lineup includes a Henrik Ibsen play) and avant-garde shows, including a world-premiere opera version of A Winter's Tale. Another way to catch a unique visual is at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, which has opened the Islands, a 22,000-square-foot exhibit that features clouded leopards, two Philippine crocodiles, and the critically endangered swimming Visayan warty pigs. Further proof of the city's changing culture is found in the East Liberty neighborhood. In the last century, it went from being one of the most affluent areas of the city (Carnegie, Heinz, and Mellon families lived nearby) to one of the least, and along with the rest of the east end, is being rebuilt by creatives who are opening galleries, shops, and cafés. And the area has two new boutique hotels: the Hotel Indigo Pittsburgh East Liberty, with 135 pet-friendly guest rooms and free Wi-Fi; and the Ace Hotel, with 63 rooms and a meat-heavy restaurant in a 100-year-old former YMCA building. —Sarah Z. Wexler

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32. Costa Rica

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Costa Rica
Live Images ltd

Few places have the biological diversity of Costa Rica, with its cloud forests, wetlands, and tens of thousands of unique species of flora and fauna. Since the 2012 opening of the new terminal at Liberia’s International Airport, many low-key properties have opened, but it’s only more recently that the new wave of luxury development has come to fruition. Guanacaste’s beach community of Las Catalinas has opened their Beach Club, a gathering place for residents, villa renters, and visitors alike. It has two pools, a restaurant, a gym, and a beachfront terrace. A 20-room boutique hotel in also the works for later this year. In Papagayo Bay, the adults-only, all-inclusive Secrets Papagayo has joined the Four Seasons and Andaz. Next up: a Mandarin Oriental, a Paradisus, and a Wyndham. Farther south, the Pacífico Sur region is having a moment too. Auberge Resorts recently unveiled its takeover of Hacienda AltaGracia, in the remote Pérez Zeledón mountains. The brand’s first Central America property, which grants new access to a relatively unknown region of Costa Rica, has horse stables and ultralight planes for exploring the terrain. Best of all, a new airline, VivaCam, is planning low-cost flights from San José to the rest of Central America. —Lindsey Olander

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31. Wales

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Wales
Sophie Jackson / EyeEm

It’s only recently that adventure travelers have mentioned Wales in the same breath as places like New Zealand and Utah. But a flurry of openings in the rugged country have piqued the interest of adrenaline seekers. Last year saw the opening of a range of attractions, including the world’s first subterranean trampoline park and the world’s largest subterranean zipline course. Wales’ natural charms have long drawn outdoorsy mountain climbers (to the Brecon Beacons and Mount Snowdon), hikers (especially to the Coast Path, which opened in 2012 and runs the entire length of the 870-mile coast) and surfers (particularly around the verdant Gower Peninsula). And the country is capitalizing on its newfound image with the help of ambassador Bear Grylls, who summers on (and owns) the remote island of St. Tudwal West, off the coast of the Llyn Peninsula. —Emily Mathieson

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30. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
GARDEL Bertrand /

The 2014 World Cup was merely a prelude to all that’s to come for Rio, which returns to the spotlight this year as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. More than 380,000 spectators are expected to descend upon the city in August, and in preparation, the city has embarked on a significant building spree, extending beyond Ipanema to areas once off the tourist radar. The newest hotels include the five-star Windsor Marapendi (from Brazil’s prolific Windsor chain) and the Grand Hyatt, in coastal Barra da Tijuca. Massive cultural centers, however, might be the biggest indicators of Rio’s new vision. The Museum of Image and Sound reopens this year in a staggering glass-front building overlooking Copacabana’s beach, with an exterior vertical walkway that echoes the iconic Roberto Burle Marx–designed sidewalk below. And a $2.5 billion project aims to revitalize the city’s port area, long a jumble of slums and abandoned warehouses. Among the notable additions: the Museu de Arte do Rio, a hypermodern exhibition space and neighboring school for contemporary art; a cable car that goes to Providência, the city’s most historic favela; and the long-awaited Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow), a mammoth 15,000-square-foot facility with interactive exhibits that explore the science behind outer space, human impact, and the future of life on Earth. —Lindsey Olander

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29. Zagreb, Croatia

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Zagreb, Croatia

Croatia’s pretty capital of Zagreb—often overlooked in the shadows of the Adriatic Coast and islands—is blossoming as a destination. Last summer saw a flurry of openings in this gorgeously green city, including two offbeat museums: the Tortureum Museum of Torture (which, despite its name, is actually quite fun) and the quirky Museum of Illusions. Zagreb has also become an unlikely contender in Europe’s culinary scene, with a crop of recently opened bistros like Johann Franck on the city’s main square), Sherry’s Wines & Bites, in a courtyard off Britanski Trg (the British Square), and artsy Divas on Martićeva street. It’s this very area around Martićeva, with its architectural landmarks, that’s experiencing the biggest boom, with specialty shops, design stores, and art studios. Starting in mid-June, it is slated to host Design District Zagreb, spearheaded by the team behind Croatian Design Superstore, that will include pop-up shops, art galleries, workshops, studio visits, and dining events in disused apartments, vacant courtyards, and closed-down shops. Also coming, later this year, is the brand-new passenger terminal at Zagreb Airport, a multimillion-euro investment that will hike its capacity to five million passengers per year, compared with the current two million. The best place to stay is still the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel, the grande dame of Zagreb hotels, which just celebrated its 90th birthday.—Anja Mutić

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28. Galle, Sri Lanka

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Galle, Sri Lanka
Ian Allen

Once a pit stop on the Spice Route for rowdy sailors, Galle is an easy, hour-long drive from Colombo. It’s well worth a visit, to see its 17th-century fort (and UNESCO World Heritage site), municipal offices, places of worship, and homes that sell for millions of dollars. Vintage cars sit by washed-out walls, giving the city a Havana-like feel; a Moorish bazaar scene plays out on the streets with merchants plying gems and jewelry; myriad vantage points offer views of a blustery sea and melting sunsets. Next door to the fort is an international cricket stadium—the sea is at its side—with a busy calendar of matches. Galle is awash with hotels, from the grand, beachside Jetwing Lighthouse, by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, to 42 Lighthouse Street, a newly opened boutique gem in the fort. Get a taste for local art at Hempel Galleries and take home 1950s travel posters from Stick No Bills. The Galle Literary Festival is back after three years, running from January 13 to 18, and will fill the city with poetry and live performances. There’s even a new built-in weekend getaway: half an hour away on scenic Koggala Lake, Tri, a hilltop eco-resort with design inspired by the spirals of the Fibonacci sequence, has just begun to welcome visitors. —Govind Dhar

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27. Detroit, Michigan

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Detroit, Michigan
Courtesy of David Whitney Building

In a few short years, Detroit has gone from being a cautionary tale to a success story, and now bills itself as “America’s Great Comeback City.” This is more than just clever marketing—formerly desolate stretches of the riverfront, city streets, and buildings have been resurrected for locals and visitors alike. The first Aloft hotel in Michigan is open in the historic David Whitney Building, and the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center recently unveiled a $30 million renovation. And the historic fire department headquarters across from the Cobo Center will be reborn as the boutique 100-room Foundation Hotel in early 2016. Aside from increasing its hotel offerings, the city has several other new draws: the West Riverfront Park, great for biking, running, and fishing; and the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center with a freshwater aquarium and man-made waterfall and climbing tree. Almost 100 new restaurants, along with breweries and distilleries, opened in the past two years (such as Detroit Water Ice Factory, a dessert shop from writer Mitch Albom, and Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles, former NFL cornerback Ron Bartell’s effort to continue to revamp the Livernois Avenue of Fashion), with more on the way. Now that retailers like John Varvatos and Carhartt have opened outposts in the city, and Nike is making plans to join the fray, Detroit might not be able to sell its comeback story for much longer—it’s decidedly back. —Corina Quinn

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26. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Getty Images/Imagebroker RF

If the island chain 600 miles from mainland Ecuador has been a notable spot since Darwin visited way back in 1835, why cross it off your bucket list now? The main reason to go is to experience the amazing biodiversity, and you'll see more Galápagos penguins today than at any time in the past 15 years. These are among the rarest penguins in the world, listed as internationally critically endangered in 2000. But their population has since doubled, upping your chances of spotting the tuxedoed birds, especially if you go to the westernmost islands of Isabela and Fernandina. The best way to tour is still a weeklong cruise, especially the ones from Ecoventura, a family-owned operator in the area since 1991. In late February they'll launch the Origin, a luxury yacht petite enough to stop at the smaller islands, with room for 20 guests and two naturalists to take them on intimate tours during the seven-night sail. Two different itineraries offer activities including hiking the islands' volcanic formations, snorkeling with penguins, kayaking with sea lions, bird-watching for blue-footed boobies, and seeing more iguanas, giant tortoises, dolphins, and whales than anywhere in the world outside of a zoo. —Sarah Z. Wexler

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25. Ghent, Belgium

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Ghent, Belgium
Ed Norton

Ghent, with its beautifully weathered cobblestones and canals, has emerged as one of Europe’s most exciting places to eat. The Belgian city is at the epicenter of a Flemish food boom led by Kobe Desramaults, the country’s biggest food star, who runs two restaurants in Ghent and a third outside town. Desramaults is the ringleader of a group of forward-thinking young chefs—some call them the Flanders Kitchen Rebels—who are cooking modern food behind historic façades at buzzy bistros like Tom Van Lysebettens’s new Cochon de Luxe or Olly Ceulenaere’s Publiek. And this March, the city gets a destination food hall to match its gastronomic ambitions. The Holy Food Market—a Low Countries Boqueria of sorts—is opening in a refurbished 16th-century chapel, with shops, restaurants, and cocktail bars under its high vaulted ceilings. At the newest restaurant openings, the locations are just as interesting as the food itself: there are new concept store/restaurant hybrids like L’Amuzette and Ile En Ville, and public gardening projects like De Stadstuin (or “city garden”) have their own outdoor cafés. The city’s top chefs, most under age 35, like to throw a good party every few months: the Flemish Food Bash is a recurring all-night food and music festival that brings together guest chefs from around the world. —Jay Cheshes

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24. Andaman Islands, India

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Andaman Islands, India
Sourav Saha Photography

Jacques Cousteau was dazzled by the coral reefs and marine life of the remote Andaman Islands when he visited the archipelago for his 1990 film Andaman: Invisible Islands. Twenty-five years later, not much has changed for one of the most remote beach destinations on earth. The 572 isles bobbing between the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea lie closer to Thailand or Burma than they do to India, but at the moment, the only way to fly in is via Indian cities—Chennai, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, or Bhubaneswar. Only 37 isles are inhabited, and even fewer are accessible to tourists, but intrepid sun-seekers on a quest for unspoiled beaches that evoke the Maldives, only with far less flip-flop traffic, have started trickling in. November saw the opening of Havelock Island’s first boutique hotel, Jalakara, a boho-chic seven-room hideaway on the edge of the rain forest. For an even more adventurous getaway, consider chartering the 133-foot Infiniti. The posh six-bedroom yacht navigates around the archipelago, with stops at remote diving sites and uninhabited islands like Cinque and Narcondam. —Sarah Khan

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23. Denver, Colorado

City and Sky
SweetBee Photography

Denver may be surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, but these days the city attracts a lot more than skiers and snowboarders. Art and design are at the heart of everything in the Mile High City lately—the 165-room Art Hotel has opened next to the Denver Art Museum, the Children’s Museum is reopen after a $16.1 million expansion, and the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art will debut a new space next year. Even at the new Westin Denver International Airport, there’s plenty of eye candy. The hotel’s $5 million art budget has translated into large-scale outdoor installations (including one from sculptor Ned Kahn) and indoor accents from local artists. Its 519 rooms also have sweeping floor-to-ceiling views of the city, the Rockies, and the Great Plains. But the property’s not risking form over function—a major perk of the hotel, in addition to its proximity to the airport, will be is access to the new commuter rail that takes travelers to downtown Denver in 37 minutes. That will give diners arriving at Union Station even more opportunity to queue up for the famous crudo, octopus mortadella, and raw bar atJennifer Jasinski’s Stoic & Genuine. —Corina Quinn

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22. Zanzibar

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Zanzibar
Nic I'Anson

Zanzibar’s allure is hardly a secret. For centuries, waves of Swahili, Portuguese, Omani, and Chinese traders have left their cultural marks on the archipelago off the coast of Tanzania. But it’s only recently that the gleaming beaches have received an influx of attention from big-name hotel brands, giving new reasons to visit the Spice Islands. First came the Park Hyatt Zanzibar, which arrived with a splash in an erstwhile 19th-century Omani mansion overlooking the water in Stone Town, on the island of Unguja. In November, a pair of Czech owners opened the 17-bungalow Tulia Zanzibar on ethereal Pongwe Beach, on the island’s eastern coast; on the northern tip, the former Essque Zalu is in the midst of transforming into a Per Aquum resort later this year. And on neighboring Pemba Island, the secluded Aiyana debuted in June with 30 airy villas bedecked in traditional art and elaborately carved woodwork. And given the isles’ past, the local cuisine is complex, too. The night market at Forodhani Gardens offers a delicious history lesson in the form of seafood kebabs, urojo soup, sugar-cane juice, chapati with Nutella, and the famous Zanzibar “pizza”—essentially a crêpe stuffed with eggs, meat, and more. —Sarah Khan

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21. Havana, Cuba

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Havana, Cuba
Frederic Lagrange

Since President Obama’s historic announcement that the United States would loosen travel restrictions to Cuba, Havana has become one of the most exciting destinations on our radar. It is now a real possibility that this year, anyone will be able to plan a trip there without signing up for a rigid people-to-people tour. Verizon now has coverage, and ferry operators have received the thumbs-up from the American government to start service (they are awaiting the okay from the Cuban side). American Airlines and JetBlue have nonstop charter flights to Havana from Los Angeles and New York City, respectively, and cruise lines including Carnival and Haimark will set sail to the island as well. Visiting the capital is like stepping into a vintage photograph: washed-out colonial façcades and cobblestone streets bustling with antique Fords and Chevys. But preparations for a major tourism boom have already begun: check out the new multimedia art space and bar, La Fábrica de Arte Cubano, or check in to one of 30-plus new hotels on the horizon, including Accor’s Pullman Cayo Coco. Master chef trio Massimo Bottura, Andoni Luis Aduriz, and Enrique Olvera have expressed their desire to open an upscale restaurant in Havana—a far cry from the ration-restricted fare of Cuba’s government-owned dining spots. —Melanie Lieberman

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20. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Christian Kerber

With its café-lined streets and medieval architecture, you would be forgiven for mistaking Slovenia’s jewel box of a capital for Prague, save for one key distinction: the lack of tourists. Ljubljana, whose historic center is virtually unscathed by war and time, has managed to remain unspoiled and affordable. This year, the city is poised to step into the limelight as the official European Green Capital, following in the footsteps of sustainability pioneers such as Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Hamburg. Evidence of ambitious eco-initiatives is everywhere, from the 2,000-plus trees planted over the past decade to the car-free downtown. There are numerous public parks, including Tivoli, with its Baroque-era mansion; the Ljubljana Marshes and their ᴜɴᴇsᴄᴏ-designated prehistoric dwellings; the 21-mile circular Path of Remembrance and Comradeship, lined by 7,000 trees; and the two-century-old botanical gardens form a network of green oases. Adventurous nature-lovers will want to go spelunking in nearby Postojna Cave, the longest cave on the continent that’s open to visitors. An expedition in 2015 uncovered two additional miles, extending this subterranean labyrinth’s known passages to 15 miles. With Alpine panoramas and stalactite-studded caverns, this is one of the few places in the world that’s naturally stunning at any altitude. —Diana Hubbell

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19. Taipei, Taiwan

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Taipei, Taiwan

For years, without fanfare or fuss, Taipei has been establishing itself as one of Asia’s most compelling cities. The efficient (and clean) public transportation system makes it a dream to navigate; its spectrum of culinary offerings, from street-food stalls to fine-dining restaurants, rivals Singapore’s; and the arts scene is finally getting some recognition. The city has been named the World Design Capital for 2016, and construction on the Taipei Performing Arts Centre by OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), a complex with three theaters, should be completed this year. It’s a visually arresting piece of contemporary architecture guaranteed to turn heads. Other examples of the city’s creativity can be found at Gallery 100, which spotlights regional talent, and the more eclectic Aki Gallery. There’s been an increase in interesting hotels, as well. The palatial Mandarin Oriental is the swankiest place to stay, but there are also clever boutiques, like the new Eslite Hotel, a design-centric property from a beloved local bookstore chain. —Diana Hubbell

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18. San Antonio, Texas

Best Places to Travel in 2016: San Antonio, Texas
© George H.H. Huey / Alamy Stock Photo

They’re only 80 miles apart, but for decades San Antonio has been Austin’s more mature (but less cool) sibling. Alamo City locals have happily played second fiddle because they like flying under the radar, but now San Antonio is overturning its sleepy stereotype. In November, the historic St. Anthony Hotel downtown opened after a multimillion-dollar renovation. This overhaul follows an epic project that converted the River Walk from a congested tourist trap into 15 miles of trails that connect the city’s Spanish missions (just named a World Heritage site) to the Pearl up north. The Pearl, once a 23-acre brewery complex, is now a neighborhood brimming with locally owned shops and acclaimed restaurants, in addition to a Culinary Institute of America campus. Travelers can finally stay on its historic grounds at Hotel Emma, an independent boutique inside the former 1894 brewhouse. You’ll see the Roman & Williams aesthetic in the lobby, where ammonia tanks once used to cool Pearl beer sit on replicated Redondo tiles, and the guest rooms combine leather chairs with cement floors and exposed beams. The hotel has two restaurants: Supper, which specializes in grilled meats, and Larder, for grab-and-go baked goods, flowers, and beer. Ready or not, San Antonio, you're becoming cool. —Millie Kerr

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17. Aarhus, Denmark

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Aarhus, Denmark
Thomas Winz

Denmark’s second city rarely gets a moment in the limelight, since its big sister Copenhagen takes much of the glory. But Aarhus, the picturesque canal town on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula, is shining this year, particularly on the culinary front. Chef Wassim Hallal has been at the forefront of a growing enthusiasm for delicious and technically advanced Nordic cooking that’s been sweeping the city. His restaurant, Frederikshøj (star dish: smoked oysters with bone marrow), along with restaurants Gastromé and Substans, were awarded the first Michelin stars in Denmark outside Copenhagen, and the trio is part of a rapidly evolving scene that’s seeing a raft of exciting newcomers. Other openings include Restaurant Domestic, a Jutland-produce-only outlet from four local influencers, and the upcoming outpost of Mikkeller, the microbrewery bar from Copenhagen. With this culinary revolution, plus innovative architecture (Olafur Eliasson’s rainbow-colored walkway atop the ARoS museum), some major regeneration along the waterfront, and the city’s upcoming tenure as one of two European Capitals of Culture in 2017, all the necessary ingredients are in place for Aarhus to become the next big European destination. —Emily Mathieson

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16. Tanzania

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Tanzania

A safari trip through Tanzania’s more remote parks used to mean staying in low-key camps. That’s about to change, as this year Asilia will open the first truly luxurious lodge in Ruaha National Park, a seldom-visited area teeming with wildlife like elephants, leopards, and lions. Set on a hill overlooking a savanna with baobab trees, it will offer guided walks and both day and night wildlife drives—all without another vehicle in sight. It is still possible to have privacy in the popular Serengeti plains and Ngorongoro Conservation Area at the new breed of high-end tented camps. Two upcoming options: Asilia’s Highlands, opening in March on the slopes of the Olmoti Volcano, will have seven glass-fronted geodesic tents, and in June, Nomad’s eco-friendly Entamanu Ngorongoro is set to open eight tents—with views both into the crater and out over the Serengeti. Not to be outdone, the classic camps are sprucing up: andBeyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp has repositioned its 10 tents to improve views and added alfresco showers and a two-bedroom family tent. And Singita Mara River Tented Camp, located in the Lamai Triangle, has upgraded its Wi-Fi and is boosting solar power for espresso machines and other indulgences. —Jane Broughton

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15. Margaret River, Australia

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Margaret River, Australia
Petrina Tinslay

Margaret River, the country’s latest gourmet enclave, is just over three hours by car from Perth, bordered by the Indian Ocean to the west and dotted with forests. Here, more than 60 vineyards thrive in what closely resembles a maritime Mediterranean climate and produce some 15 percent of the country’s premium wines. At Cullen, which has an serves freshwater crayfish and grass-fed beef and lamb, which pair well with the Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon. Stay at Cape Lodge, a plush boutique hotel set in 32 acres of woodland. Its lakeside restaurant has a new chef, Michael Elfwing, previously of England’s Fat Duck. Also essential: a trip to the Bahen & Co. chocolate factory, where former winemaker Josh Bahen creates a house blend that is 70 percent cacao and sweetened with organic sugar, along with a spectacular version with chili and salt. —Graham Boynton

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14. Kochi, India

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Kochi, India
Tai Power Seeff

Kochi, the historic center of the Indian state of Kerala, has undergone quite a makeover. This year, it hosts the third Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the country’s influential contemporary art exhibition. The winter event runs from December until March 2017, and will be curated by Sudarshan Shetty, who is known for his site-specific installations. The exhibits will include works from up-and-coming Indian artists, as well as international big guns—Anish Kapoor participated in 2014. The biennial has breathed life into the city’s galleries as well. Must-visits include the Aspinwall House, David Hall, Kashi Art Gallery, Moidu’s Heritage, and Pepper House. Contemporary art has spilled over into the streets: graffiti-inspired murals sit alongside landmarks like the Paradesi Synagogue. Stay at the redesigned Trinity, an eight-room guesthouse with a modern aesthetic behind its historic façade. Though the building began its life as an office of the Dutch East India Company, inside you’ll find colorful furniture and lithographs by modernist master M.F. Husain, considered the godfather of contemporary Indian art. —Deepanjana Pal

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13. Guatemala

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Guatemala
Al Argueta

With 2015’s crackdown on political corruption out of the way and a new president at the helm, travel to Guatemala is looking brighter than it has in years. There are major changes in every corner of the country: Adventure seekers who in the past based their trips around landmark attractions like Tikal National Park are adding extensions to more remote archaeological sites in the northern state of Petén, such as the partially excavated El Mirador—accessible only by helicopter or a rugged, five-day hike. International chains like Marriott and Hyatt have plans to open in Guatemala City’s Zona 10, a.k.a. Zona Viva, this year. It’s a smart move—the area is the city’s dining, shopping, and nightlife hub. But boutique hotels still reign in the historic highlands city of Antigua Guatemala. The 35-room, Dutch-operated Good Hotel, which opens in July, will reinvest all profits into the community. Cruise traffic will increase as well, as big lines like Princess Cruises and Regent Seven Seas add stops at Santo Tomás de Castilla, on the Caribbean coast, and Puerto Quetzal, on the Pacific coast. Finally, on Lake Atitlán, visitors are venturing out from the town of Panajachel toward the smaller lakeside Mayan villages. Stay at the intimate, nine-room Casa Palopó—the country’s first Relais & Châteaux property—with views of three volcanoes. —Nicholas Gill

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12. Canggu, Bali

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Canggu, Bali
Tommy Schultz

Sun-wizened surfers have been riding the waves off the island’s southwestern coast for decades. But with a crop of Australia-inflected, eclectic establishments designed to appeal to a relaxed crowd, it’s recently become favored for more than just its breaks. The hip Frii Bali Echo Beach provides a welcome antidote to the island’s mainstream resorts with its simple rooms and Balinese accents. Guests can try stand-up paddleboarding, water yoga, or Muay Thai—if they’re not too busy lounging on beanbags around the two pools. There’s also a group of expat-run restaurants geared to the active: Milk & Madu specializes in fresh juices and wood-fired pizzas, and the concrete-clad Crate café does hearty smoothies and feta-tempeh wraps. Old Man’s surf spot is the best place to watch the sunset and have an ice-cold Bintang beer. After dark, a line of surfboard-laden motorbikes leads to Deus, a restaurant, bar, music venue, and art gallery that’s the cultural heart of Canggu. For the most action, go in May or October, when Deus hosts two major surf competitions, with pros Harrison Roach and Zye Norris scheduled to compete. —Leslie Patrick

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11. St. Helena

Best Places to Travel in 2016: St. Helena
Darrin Henry

For the tiny number of history and nature buffs who have made it to St. Helena, Napoleon’s final port of exile, much of the appeal was the British territory’s ultra-remote location, almost 2,000 miles from South Africa. The only way to get to the capital, Jamestown (population 640), was five days aboard the last working Royal Mail ship from Cape Town. But in February, the opening of St. Helena Airport, on the Prosperous Bay Plain—where you can spot the endangered wirebird—will cut the journey time to five hours from Johannesburg. A new generation of adventurers will discover sea turtles and the occasional whale while snorkeling in Rupert’s Bay and traverse the dramatic Diana’s Peak. In the island’s misty hills, the Longwood House museum is an evocative reminder of Napoleon’s life on the island. A boutique hotel is in the works, but for now stay at the five-room Farm Lodge, a 17th-century plantation house where the décor and home cooking are reminiscent of a bygone era—like the island itself. —Emily Mathieson

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10. Asbury Park, New Jersey

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Asbury Park, New Jersey
Russ Meseroll/ Image Brief

In the song “My City of Ruins,” written in 2000, Bruce Springsteen described Asbury Park as a city of boarded-up windows and empty streets. A battering by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 didn’t help. But the Jersey Shore town, 90 minutes south of New York City, has started to recover, led by its gay and live-music scenes. Visitors to Asbury’s boardwalk can still have their fortunes told at Madam Marie’s Temple of Knowledge and play on vintage pinball machines (preserved at the Silverball Museum), but now they’ll also find clothing and jewelry at the Market at Fifth Avenue, sushi and tacos at Langosta Lounge, and surfboards and skateboards at Lightly Salted. A short walk from the beach, the Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten serves almost 100 varieties of beer, and famous venues like the Stone Pony—a Springsteen haunt—are still packed. The Empress Hotel on the oceanfront is the place to stay, at least until the 110-room Asbury opens this year. The first new hotel in the city in 55 years is part of a multimillion-dollar plan to revive a one-mile stretch of beachfront. Also in the works: a face-lift for Asbury Lanes, the beloved 1930s-era bowling alley. —David Shaftel

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9. Frankfurt, Germany

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Frankfurt, Germany
Steve Herud

Many think of Frankfurt as a city of straitlaced bankers and nondescript towers. But over the past few years, Germany’s business capital has loosened up. The city’s tastemakers are opening hidden spots, many of them in Bahnhofsviertel, the red-light district next to the main train station that is starting to gentrify. There you’ll find Club Michel, a supper club on the second floor of an office building, where a rotating roster of chefs includes a soba-noodle-making expert. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, the brothers behind Maxie Eisen, a hybrid of French bistro and New York deli famous for its cocktails and pastrami sandwiches, have opened the sleek Stanley Diamond, which has dishes like beet risotto and almond-nougat crème brûlée. Not far away are two chic places for after-dinner drinks, Kinly Bar and the Parlour. The only way to see it all is to spend a night or two. Stay at the futuristic Roomers, a Design Hotel with looming black doors, burlesque-inspired rooms, and a domed rooftop spa. —Gisela Williams

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8. Douro Valley, Portugal

Six Senses
Courtesy of Six Senses Douro Valley

For centuries, Portugal’s Douro Valley, the world’s first officially designated wine region, has drawn people for not only its port but also for the postcard-pretty landscapes—steep terraced vineyards carved into mountains along the Douro River and whitewashed quintas (wine estates) atop granite bluffs. If you have time for only one winery, go to Quinta da Roêda, an estate in Pinhão owned by port producer Croft, with a visitors’ center in a converted stable. Take a guided walking tour or, during harvest time, tread grapes in granite fermentation tanks alongside workers. For full immersion, check in to a wine hotel. The six-suite, all-wood Casa do Rio opened last summer in the Upper Douro. And the 57-room Six Senses, near Lamego, has a wine library and uses grapes in its spa treatments. While the traditional way of touring the Douro has been on day trips from Porto, there are now several ways to fully experience the valley. Douro Azul offers yacht trips with vineyard stops, Helitours goes via air, and Viking River Cruises’ third Douro River ship, Osfrid, launches in March. — Anja Mutić

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7. Hangzhou, China

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Hangzhou, China
Jason Lee/ Courtesy of Azure Tiantang

For more than a millennium, artists, poets, traders, and explorers have been drawn to the idyllic scenery of Hangzhou’s vast West Lake. Thanks to the lucrative manufacturing and tech industries (Alibaba’s headquarters are in Hangzhou), the city is one of China’s wealthiest. The busy airport now accepts private-jet landings, and as Hangzhou’s residents and visitors have become increasingly sophisticated, its hotels and restaurants have followed suit. The most notable newcomer is the riverside Azure Qiantang, a Luxury Collection hotel designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon that makes liberal use of its eponymous blue. Later this year, the 417-room Midtown Shangri-La Hangzhou, the group’s second property in the city, will open within steps of West Lake. The downtown food scene is no less refined: Mercato Piccolo, from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, serves house-made ricotta with strawberry, olive oil, and grilled bread. Coming soon is Wujie, a branch of Shanghai’s celebrated vegetarian restaurant (don’t miss their mountain-yam tiramisu). Two hours outside the city in Xinfeng village is the new Hidden House, a rustic hideaway with giant outdoor hot tubs, hearty home-style cooking, and picturesque stone pathways on which to stroll through the surrounding bamboo forest. —Crystyl Mo

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6. Lanai, Hawaii

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Lanai, Hawaii
Courtesy of Four Seasons

With no traffic lights and just one airport runway, Lanai is the anti-Oahu. And last June, one of Hawaii’s quietest islands got even quieter when its owner, Larry Ellison, shut down both its Four Seasons resorts for renovations—leaving only the 11-room Hotel Lanai, in Lanai City, open to guests. That’s all set to change this year, with the highly anticipated March launch of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. The property (formerly the Four Seasons Manele Bay) will have new restaurants, including one overseen by master chef Nobu Matsuhisa, two pools, and 217 rooms decorated with woodcuts by local artist Dietrich Varez. Thankfully, the most important things will remain the same: the prime location—near a marine preserve—and the five-star views. —Stephanie Wu

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5. Iran

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Iran
Luis Davilla

Rarely does a single accord return one of the world’s great civilizations to center stage, but the recent nuclear agreement with the UN Security Council may well accomplish that for Iran. With 19 ᴜɴᴇsᴄᴏ World Heritage sites and a history of empire going back to 1000 B.C., Iran was a major destination before the revolution of 1979. Now intrepid travelers are rediscovering the vibrant, surprisingly cosmopolitan capital of Tehran; the gorgeous architecture and Great Bazaar of Esfahan; the mosques of Kashan, the retreat of Safavid kings; and the extraordinary gardens of Shiraz. There’s plenty to celebrate about modern Iranian culture, too: the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, founded by the shah in 1977, holds an impressive collection of Western art. Also in Tehran, the nonprofit art center Sazmanab is a showcase for emerging talent. Since the tourist visa availability is in flux, the best way to visit is with an operator—U.K.-based Exodus and Canada-based G Adventures offer comprehensive trips. —Sean Rocha

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4. Lille, France

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Lille, France
Courtesy of Lille Metropole Museum of Contemporary Art and Outsider Art / Virginie Garnier

With cobblestoned streets, historic buildings, and preeminent museums, Lille, just an hour from Paris, has all the trappings of a charming destination. And now, with exciting developments in dining, fashion, and art, it’s emerging as France’s cultural cradle of the north. Look for indoor and outdoor art exhibitions from Lille3000, a city-sponsored program, and the Modigliani retrospective at the modern art museum LaM. Another city-backed project, Maisons de Mode, supports emerging fashion designers by providing them with retail space and business mentorship. Head to Rue du Faubourg des Postes to shop at the stores of two recipients: ethical fashion label Sainte Courtisane and jeweler Constance L. In the old town, there are specialty coffee shops like Caféine Coffee, craft-beer dens like Les Bières de Célestin, and neo-bistros like Bloempot, where Florent Ladeyn serves Flemish dishes like duck tartare. Stay at the five-star Clarance Hotel Lille, which has earned attention for its 18th-century bones dressed up with contemporary furnishings. All 19 rooms and suites are named after Baudelaire poems, and chef Nicolas Pourcheresse, who trained with Alain Passard, helms the restaurant, La Table. —Lindsey Tramuta

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3. Richmond, Virginia

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Richmond, Virginia
Kip Dawkins

Virginia’s capital, with its Civil War monuments, distinctive architecture, and intriguing galleries, has started to draw a cosmopolitan crowd. For an ideal weekend trip, start by checking in to the new Quirk Hotel, in a former department store. Then tour nearby Jackson Ward, a beautiful neighborhood that was once the epicenter of Richmond’s black culture, and roam the many restaurants and galleries of Broad Street on foot or on a hotel bicycle. Make time to take in the architecture of Monument Avenue and shop in Carytown for labels like A.P.C. and Herschel at Need Supply Co. Some of the best restaurants in town are in the Church Hill neighborhood: try the gastropub fare at Dutch & Co. or the Southern poutine at The Roosevelt. Finally, stock up on vegan baked goods at WPA or wood-fired traditional breads at Sub Rosa before tackling a bike ride along the 52-mile-long Virginia Capital Trail. Reward yourself afterward with a craft beer at the Hardywood Park brewery. —Sara Ruffin Costello

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2. Guadalajara, Mexico

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Guadalajara, Mexico
© Undine Pröhl

Mexico’s second cityis a hotbed of creativity, thanks to an ebullient jazz scene, the popular Guadalajara International Book Fair, a prestigious film festival, and a well-supported community of visual artists. The murals alone are spectacular—there are a few by José Clemente Orozco, a contemporary of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, in the Government Palace, and one by Alegria del Prado, a pair known for their electric work, near the University of Guadalajara’s museum of art. There’s a game-changing hotel, too: Grupo Habita’s Casa Fayette, an Art Deco mansion transformed by fashionable design firm Dimore Studio. At its restaurant, try chef Trevor La Presle’s grilled Veracruz snapper with fried garlic vinaigrette. From the balcony of the eighth-floor suite you can look down at the hotel garden—where La Presle grows mint, cilantro, tomatoes, and lettuce—or gaze out over the city’s impressive skyline and antenna-capped Cerro de Cuatro beyond. —Diana Spechler

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1. Bocas del Toro, Panama

Best Places to Travel in 2016: Bocas del Toro, Panama
Ian Allen

The Isthmus of Panama is home to some of the purest natural beauty in Latin America: dense tropical rain forests, wide savannas, coral reefs bursting with aquatic life, and delightfully deserted beaches. The latest idyllic spot to emerge on travelers’ lists is Bocas del Toro, an archipelago made up of nine islands and hundreds of cays and islets. In the country’s northeastern corner—a one-hour flight from either Panama City or San José, Costa Rica—it’s a sanctuary where the main mode of transportation is a wooden motorboat, dolphins swim through crystalline waters, and dockside restaurants serve the local fishermen’s catch of the day. Bocas Town, the archipelago’s main village, is equal parts rickety and charming, with tin-roofed wooden houses converted into colorful boutiques, guesthouses, and restaurants—head to Ultimo Refugio for the best food in town. And while Bocas isn’t losing its ruggedness anytime soon, a new hotel is likely to redefine tourism there. Sarani Resort, scheduled to open this summer, will bring unprecedented style to the area. The 35 hardwood bungalows, on 75 acres, were designed with the quiet mood of a Balinese resort in mind. There will be an infinity pool, an outdoor bar crafted from old wooden boats, and a restaurant serving organic Caribbean food. —Paola Singer

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