Statistically speaking, there’s a pretty good chance that one of your New Year’s resolutions is to travel more — and better. However, promising it is one thing, and committing to actually jumping on a plane is quite another…especially when you're not the sort of person who's apt to shell out a ton of hard-earned cash for some canned, all-inclusive, Spring Break '04-type vacation.
What is your jet-set jam then? Let us paint you a picture. Imagine yourself discovering the next “Gangnam Style” in person a year before a billion other people do on YouTube. Or uncovering that little gem of a coffee shop before everyone else descends on its locally roasted beans. Or just laying back on a pristine beach with incomparable waves, before the rest of the world comes over and crowds its shores. Sounds enticing, no?
Well, to help you get to know our world a little better this year, we've curated a must-visit list of destinations — ranging from Spain’s new foodie capital to the coolest music festival in Nairobi to the newly welcoming Myanmar. Here are 29 off-the-beaten-path hot spots you can’t afford to miss in 2013. Better start saving those miles, now....
Auckland, New Zealand
A trendy boutique shakes up a peaceful island.
No matter where you live, the dead cold of January surely makes you long for a little B&B action. Now, imagine that dream set on the gorgeous and calming Waiheke Island just a 35-minute ferry ride away from Auckland, and you’re golden — and soon to have a golden tan. Just opened this November, The Oyster Inn is the envy-inducing new place to stay Down Under. Set on Oneroa Beach, the inn is equipped with stylish cofounders, which makes its boutique reason enough to visit. Andrew Glenn, the former global marketing director for Topshop, and Jonathan Rutherfurd-Best, who ran the high-end party planning company Urban Productions, transformed a former bar and newspaper office into a sophisticated, chic enclave that is, rightfully so, attracting plenty of international travelers. And with only three guest rooms, it’s sure to fill up fast.
Photo: Courtesy of The Oyster Inn
An ultra-modern airport worth rerouting your trip for.
There is a myriad of reasons to head to the largest and most vibrant city in Turkey, whether to soak in its impressive cultural heritage, haggle through the bustling Grand Bazaar, or Instagram the eye-popping mosque-turned-museum Hagia Sophia (which thousands of locals are protesting be turned back into a religious site).
But, sometimes, you can feel transported even before you set foot outside of the airport. In fact, we even suggest you actively attempt to schedule a layover here. At Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, you’ll find a newly refurbished first-class hangout at Turkish Airlines. With a home theater and billiard room, Michelin-worthy food, and self-service drinks (alcohol included), the CIP lounge doubles as a cool refuge and architectural marvel. And did we mention the spa showers and sleeping suites?
Photo: Courtesy of Turkish Airlines
Royal fever is about to get even hotter.
We admit to holding the home of Big Ben in high esteem. After all, we just launched our first international edition there, giving you plenty of reasons to traipse through the city streets in search of the best boutiques you either can’t find stateside — or which just feel are cooler because they’re miles away from home. (We’re looking at you, Opening Ceremony). But, if you thought the last two years made London a conversation piece, what with the royal wedding, the Olympics, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee setting tongues wagging, then imagine what will happen when Kate gives birth to the littlest royal this summer. Middleton’s brother, James, was recently spotted at Mischa Barton’s new boutique in Spitalfields Market, so we suggest heading that way if you're looking to rub elbows with royal kin.
Photo: Courtesy of Opening Ceremony
Gaultier and ABBA make a play for the art world.
Everyone knows the Swedes have a knack for innovative design and quirky culture, but in 2013, they’re taking it one step further. Case in point: After debuting in Montreal and winding its way through Dallas, San Francisco, Spain, and the Netherlands, the captivating Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition, From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, will travel to Arkitekturmuseet in Stockholm. Look beyond the infamous cone bra and you’ll discover the inspiration behind Gaultier’s 30+ year career. It opens in June, in time for the launch of his just-announced street-wear collection.
Another opening of note is ABBA The Museum, set to welcome dancing queens from around the world on May 7, on the island of Djurgarden. After reveling in ‘70s pop, travelers can celebrate by going for a “fika,” the Swedes version of a get-together.
Photo: Courtesy of Ola Ericson
The doors are finally wide open — for a select few.
Unknown to many, you can get yourself to Havana — legally. Americans weren’t allowed to go until the POTUS lifted travel restrictions last year, but now the culturally rich area allows thousands of U.S. tourists inside the border through people-to-people tour operators. There’s just one catch: Your reason to visit must be for a “cultural exchange” with the country.
Yet, what better way to get a taste of the Cuban way of life than, well, tasting it. Traditionally, Havana’s state-run culinary scene had a bad rap, but all that is changing with the advent of a slew of new restaurants, including the highly praised Le Chansonnier and Swedish-Cuban fusion destination Casa Miglis. The latest place for after-dinner drinks (or tapas, if still hungry) is Madrigal, set up in filmmaker Rafael Rosales’ loft space.
Photo: Courtesy of Casa Miglis
The Louvre’s ultra-modern, first satellite locale.
You’ve already seen Les Mis thrice, so shouldn’t you whisk yourself to the scene of the revolution that put all those wheels in motion? Most travelers have already shuffled through the Louvre in Paris, but few have laid eyes on its extension, the Louvre-Lens museum, which just opened this December after eight years in the making. Nestled in the struggling former coal-mining town of Lens, the low-slung, glass-and-steel museum was designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architecture firm SANAA and will showcase works from its sister site in the Galerie du Temps. Better yet, the museum’s location in Northern France is only an hour's train ride from Paris and plenty close to Belgium and Germany. Why not make a week of it?
Photo: Courtesy of Hisao Suzuki
Mexico City, Mexico
A luxe upgrade for a 17th century palace.
You may have spent a Spring break or two south of the border, but we guarantee that you've never done Mexico quite like this. The stylish new boutique hotel Downtown Mexico blends industrial and modern touches with pre-existing 17th-century colonial architecture — this resides, after all, in the area known as “Centro Historico.” The refashioned-palace digs come courtesy of Grupo Habita, which has reinvigorated Mexico with its minimalist, eye-catching hotel designs (it's expanded to New York, too — check out Chelsea’s Hotel Americano for proof). A third-floor rooftop terrace and pool let you tower over the central quarter, which is bursting with so much history that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Photo: Courtesy of Undine Pröhl and Gruopo Habita
Mui Ne, Vietnam
Visit the Hawaii of Southeast Asia before it's too late.
Sometimes, all you want to do is lounge on a beach. So, how about lounging on a beach on the other side of the world? The laid-back resort town of Mui Ne, which is about a five-hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City, is a relaxing paradise full of palm trees and sand dunes — but its quickly eroding coastline threatens to ruin the livelihoods of locals and tourists alike in the coming years. Act now before more parts of this “Hawaii of Vietnam” are paved over with concrete.
An added bonus: Once you've paid for the plane flight out, pretty much everything else is crazy cheap. Think $8-a-night cheap. (The Mui Ne Backpackers Resort is a favorite hostel that doesn’t feel like one). And, while you’re there, go wild and learn how to kiteboard at Surfpoint. Kiteboarding’s the unofficial sport of the island, and the weather’s so good that you can launch yourself into the air year-round. You wouldn’t want to say you missed this.
Photo: courtesy of Miu Ne Backpackers Resort
Butchery (and more coffee!) hits the Bay Area.
For a vacation that caters to the (ethically) meat-obsessed, head to Northern California for a stop at the new “boutique” butcher shop Belcampo Meat Co. First and foremost, it pledges transparency in its animal practices, so you’ll feel a little better about tucking into all of the above (for proof, visit its farm, which is located at the foot of Mt. Shasta — a day trip away!). But you'll also enjoy the fact that it's an all-in-one farm, old-school meat shop, and restaurant located just 30 minutes north of San Francisco. The menu is classic and mouthwatering — think cheeseburgers, French dips, and beef tallow fries.
Oh, and since you’re in the Bay, take a short trip into San Francisco for a break at Reveille Coffee (the location of which was born from a very popular coffee truck). Opened at the end of November, it’s a sleek space that serves Four Barrel beans and is the talk of the town — high praise for the area’s caffeine fanatics.
Photo: Courtesy of Belcampo
Panama City, Panama
That’s a what designed by whom?!
The masterful Frank Gehry decamps to Latin America, and what does the renowned architect build? A very colorful and scattered pile of crumpled-up paper. At least that’s what his new BioMuseo resembles at first glance. But here’s the thing — you won’t be able to stop staring — and it’s just plain fun. Set to open in August '13, the BioMuseo will highlight the strange and awesome creation of the Isthmus of Panama, and the domino effect it had on oceans, wildlife, and exchange — both cultural and otherwise — between North and South America.
Inside the museum, the Panamarama surrounds visitors with 14 screens that play scenes from the nearby Panama jungle. It’s just like hiking through it yourself...only with fewer bugs. And if all of that doesn’t sell you on Gehry’s new funhouse, perhaps the fact that Brad and Angelina already paid a visit will be the tipping point.
Photo: Courtesy of Yivan Alveo
A haven for bookworms this side of the Great Wall.
Beijing has plenty of incredible sights — the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and who can resist those cuddly Giant Pandas at the city’s zoo? But still, those looking to escape the flashy lights need to only go two hours outside the big city. There they’ll find the quiet village of Huairou, now home to one of the most unique libraries in the world. The new Liyuan Library, designed by Li Xiaodong Atelier, practically blends in with its surroundings. Walls made of glass are covered with firewood — the same sticks villagers use for their stove — and surround a meditative space for reading, browsing, or perhaps even a quick catnap. The building was so impressive that it won the Culture Project of the Year award at the WorldArchitecture festival in late 2012.
Photo: Courtesy of Li Xiaodong
Glitz and tradition mingle in the Mideast.
The capital city of Qatar is exploding with arts and culture — its annual film festival is a must-see event, and there’s even a Lincoln Center Doha. Recently, chefs Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy opened two new amazing restaurants at the Museum of Islamic Art and the Pearl-Qatar. Even Janet Jackson is planning a wedding to boyfriend, Wissam Al Mana, in the rapidly expanding city.
But if you’re not blessed with Janet's bank account, there are plenty of other attractions. One of the most popular and historical marketplaces, Souq Waqif, has undergone a makeover to restore its 19th-century origins, and it’s the perfect spot to snatch up silk, spices, and traditional garb. Or if you’d rather get sand in your shoes, try out the Mideast’s fastest growing sport, Ultimate Frisbee. Tournaments are popping up all over the city. So, go challenge a new friend or two.
Photo: Courtesy of Qatar Tourism Authority
No cars allowed on this island of artists.
If there’s one thing to know about Greece in 2013, it’s that the islands want your business — and there’s no reason not to give in. As the country struggles with austerity cuts in the New Year, you can help boost local tourism by traveling 45 minutes from Athens to Hydra, a haven for local artists (and not to mention famous resident Leonard Cohen, who’s had a house there since 1960). The sleepy town comes alive in the summer months and its contemporary art scene can give Art Basel a run for its money. Collectors love it, including Pauline Karpidas, who champions young artists at her Hydra Workshop space.
Plan a trip during the summer months and stay at the Hotel Miranda, which was transformed from a mansion exactly 50 years ago. Oh and lest we forget, pack those walking shoes. There are no cars or bikes, which makes it even easier to take in the scenery and surrounding sea.
Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Miranda
Busan, South Korea
A new president pledges K-Pop love.
South Korea has just elected its first female president, and she plans to boost support for local culture in innovative ways, making it the perfect time to discover the country and its second-largest city, Busan. President-elect Park Geun-hye won’t be inaugurated until February, but the daughter of former president, Park Chung-hee, has already said she wants to increase the budget for the arts to 2% by the end of her term. And to capitalize on major crossover artists like Psy, she aims to create a Contents Korea Lab to promote and develop local talent. This way, instead of watching K-Pop acts on YouTube with the rest of the world, you can discover them in the flesh.
Photo: Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
Where happiness is a way of life.
Most people wish for health and happiness in the New Year, yet it’s rare for an entire kingdom to commit to living better. Bhutan measures success in “Gross National Happiness” instead of the traditional Gross National Product, and next year, other countries are looking to mimic its astounding sustainability practices. Getting to Bhutan isn’t simple; no independent travel is allowed. Instead, you must go through an approved tour operator, and there’s a daily rate for all U.S. citizens of $200 or $250, depending on the season. But who can really put a price on happiness?
One can’t-miss stop is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery outside of Paro. Nestled deep in the mountains of the devout Buddhist country, the 17th-century spiritual site is the ideal place to rest and recharge, especially after the two-hour mule ride to its top. You’ll figure out why they call Bhutan the last “Shangri-La” in the world.
Photo: Courtesy of Tourism Council of Bhutan
A newly crowned mecca for food fiends.
Spain has long been a gastronome’s paradise, but after the closing of chef Ferran Adria’s world-famous El Bulli in 2011, the foodie world wondered who might take up its mantle as the region’s reigning restaurant. The answer might surprise you. Quique Dacosta, located on the Costa Blanca shore and named for its chef, specializes in avant-garde Mediterranean fare. Imagine course after course of local fish, uni-infused risotto, and imaginative desserts. It just received its third Michelin star for 2013, elevating it to the status that El Bulli held for many years (just don't try visiting before February 6 — the kitchen is currently closed to test out a new creation). While you’re nearby, take a bus ride to Valencia to check out the Mercado Central for fresh and local fruits and vegetables in one of the oldest and most charming market stands in Spain.
Photo: Courtesy of The Official Tourism Site of Valencia
An appealing museum for the lovelorn.
No one likes to be alone on Valentine’s Day. This year, instead of the same old routine (order in Chinese, put on a Nora Ephron film, repeat), you could find yourself in Croatia, reveling in the awesomeness of other people’s breakups. The Museum of Broken Relationships, which began as a traveling exhibition and zigzagged through Manila, London, and Singapore before opening its doors in Croatia’s historic capital, romanticizes the saddest part of a doomed romance — all that junk you’re left with when it’s over. If you have a broken heart, you may desire to donate something yourself.
A place to rest your head that’s equally as quirky as the museum is Studio Kairos, Zagreb’s first B&B, which has four rooms dedicated to writing, crafts, music, and local cuisine. Plus, there’s a bike rental, so there’s no excuse not to explore. Go before Croatia joins the European Union in July, and you’ll beat the tourist rush.
Photo: Courtesy of Museum of Broken Relatonships
Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Everything's happening, all at once.
As host of the 2014 World Cup and home to 2016 Olympics, Rio is set to boom in the next few years, but first it’s busy zooming into the digital age. Entrepreneurs are swarming to the second-largest city in Brazil to work at, of all things, start-ups. One big selling point for the digital set was the country’s attempt to pass the first-ever “Digital Bill of Rights” late last year, which would ensure freedom and privacy for one and all. (To get an idea of Brazil’s creative output, visit Elo7, South America’s take on Etsy.
But after all those intellectual mavens and masters are done furiously brainstorming for the day, they need someplace amazing to calm their busy minds. Enter the new gastropub Q Bar, a must-visit that attracts a fashionable crowd to its location in Ru Dias Ferreira, home to dozens of other culinary delights. Work and play never felt more easily intertwined.
Photo: Courtesy of Rio Convention and Visitors' Bureau
New York, New York
Explore punk’s power over couture.
Come again this summer for one of the most eagerly awaited events of the year, because it’s never too early to stir up excitement for the Met’s Costume Institute Gala, cochaired by Rooney Mara, Lauren Santo Domingo, Riccardo Tisci, and Anna Wintour. The corresponding exhibition looks to be a doozy. Punk: Chaos to Couture will break down punk’s influence on fashion from the ‘70s to present day and opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 9. Sid and Nancy combined with Commes des Garçons and Alexander Wang? You’ll never look at fashion the same way again.
And since you’re already on the Upper East Side, drop in to Fivestory on 69th Street and Madison Avenue. The townhouse-turned-boutique, launched last year by 26-year-old Claire Distenfeld, is arguably one of the city’s most promising and rewarding new openings — and worth a trip all on its own.
Photo: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Fogo Island, Canada
A remote wonderland-turned-art-world destination (that's eco, too!).
Vancouver? Check. Toronto? Double check. But you can add Fogo Island to your list of Canadian hot spots. The small island, located off the coast of Newfoundland, is comprised of 11 villages and home to fewer than 3,000 residents. It’s quite rocky, cold — and now incredibly buzzy, thanks to the new five-star Fogo Island Inn, complete with library, downloadable “e-cinema,” art gallery, and spa. But the accommodations aren’t just chi-chi, they’re also eco- and artist-friendly. And the locals are welcome to use the public spaces when the inn opens this spring, giving the small town an instant zap of modernism and culture.
This economic infusion is the brainchild of hometown resident Zita Cobb, who made a fortune in the tech world before returning to her roots with the goal of revitalizing the little island. Her Shorefast Foundation also built four studios that will host artists from Canada and around the world. It's a perfect getaway for a contemplative mind.
Photo: Courtesy of Paddy Barry
A surfing sanctuary in the wild.
For a some serious surfing — or some much-needed relaxation — book yourself on a couple of flights and head east, very far east, to Sumba. The Nihiwatu Resort, which prides itself on being “in the archipelago of the extraordinary,” resides on the idyllic island just a one-hour plane ride from Bali. The beaches are some of the best in the world, and the staff ensures that only nine people can surf at a time. This is definitely a destination resort, with thatched bungalows and a jungle spa, and doubles as a popular honeymoon spot.
Look beyond the crystal-clear beaches and tropical forests, though, and you’ll find the rich traditional culture of the Sumbanese. Every February and March, they engage in “Pasolas,” a ritual to celebrate the upcoming rice-planting season, which involves men on horses charging each other with spears (yep, it's as awesome as it sounds).
Photo: Courtesy of Nihiwatu Resort
Ski like an Olympian near the Black Sea.
Every city chosen for the Olympics must undergo a radical transformation. High rises are erected for thousands of athletes and spectators, sports venues for every event — from skating to curling — must be built and tested, and then there’s the little matter of the opening and closing ceremonies, watched by hundreds of millions around the world. No pressure, right? It’s no wonder Russia’s resort city of Sochi, where even President Putin has a home, has been preparing for the 2014 games since the locale was chosen in 2007.
But before the city becomes overrun by super-fit Olympians, you can pretend you’re gunning for a gold medal on one of the ski slopes off the coast of the Black Sea. Test your slalom skills at the intimidating Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, built specifically for the upcoming Games. Of course, if catching a glimpse of Apolo Anton Ohno is on your bucket list, you can always wait until 2014.
Photo: Courtesy of International Olympic Committee
Bal Harbour, Florida
Hedi Slimane gets a sunny debut.
The Sunshine State isn’t all crazy news headlines and theme parks (although the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is quite the draw). The Miami-Dade country area is also home to an extremely exclusive retail space, with Bulgari, Chanel, Hermès, and Valentino living harmoniously side by side. Bal Harbour Shops is not only one of the last remaining family-owned shopping centers and inspiration for a striking online magazine, it’s also the site where Hedi Slimane has decided to plant his first U.S. concept store. Slimane took time out from revamping French fashion house, Saint Laurent, to debut his marble-and-concrete boutique dedicated to women’s ready-to-wear and accessories in December. (Others will soon open in San Francisco and Soho.) Thankfully, it’s just in time for his debut collections, which are expected to land in the first months of the year. Bal Harbour’s proximity to sand, sun, and shops makes it a faultless spot for a spontaneous weekend.
Photo: Courtesy of Bal Harbour Shops
Kansas City, Missouri
Hipsters retreat…to the Midwest?!
Travel and Leisure just dubbed K.C. one of America’s top cities for hipsters. There’s plenty of evidence that it’s true: The town’s hottest new restaurant is a cool, industrial storefront version of the wildly popular Airstream food truck/trailer called Port Fonda. Authentic Mexican food in Missouri? It does exist! Wash down those albondigas divorciadas with a Nutcracker Ale and a tour of the Boulevard Brewing Company, Missouri’s largest independent brewery. K.C.’s microbreweries rival those in Brooklyn — minus the bumpy subway ride.
And lastly, get your art fix at the dozens of galleries in the Crossroads District. Best of all, the flights to Kansas City are inexpensive enough that you can make a quick weekend out of it. We’re pretty sure everyone is welcome, non-hipsters included.
Photo: Courtesy of Missouri Division of Tourism
Go barefoot at the edge of the world.
Never heard of it? This tiny speck on the globe is a U.S. territory — and one of the least visited places in the world. The islands are a four-to-five hour flight west of Hawaii (!), and the best part is you only need a regular ol’ U.S. passport to kick off the long and worthwhile journey. If you’re in the mood to chat with locals, stay at the busiest island, Tutuila, which is full of waterfalls and white beaches. While there, settle in at Tisa’s Barefoot Bar in Pago Pago for lodging and Samoan feasts every Wednesday night. For the past 10 years, Tisa’s held a tattoo festival where people model their body art and learn about the art of Samoan tattooing called “tatau.” You can gloat to your friends that you’ve been to the southernmost U.S. territory, but wouldn’t it be more memorable if you came back with something permanent?
Photo: Courtesy of American Samoa Visitors Bureau
A trek worth taking for mind-blowing cuisine.
It's about time you graduated from the IKEA cafeteria. Go deep into the Swedish mountains with rare treats, like scallops cooked over juniper branches, and diced beef heart will be doled out carefully, lovingly for you at Fäviken. A remote restaurant that’s set on a farm and seats only 12, Fäviken Magasinet is run by 29-year-old super-chef Magnus Nilsson and already stakes a claim on must-eat-there-now lists of many food obsessives.
Half the fun is trying to find your destination. The journey to Fäviken involves a flight to Trondheim, Norway, and long car ride through the wilderness or train ride from Stockholm or other nearby cities. To coincide with other Jämtland farms, Nilsson’s menu changes according to season. In anticipation of winter months, they “dry, salt jelly, pickle, and bottle” everything.
Photo: Courtesy of Phaidon Press
Desert Hot Springs, California
A midcentury mirage that’s actually real.
Keep rubbing your eyes all you want — this place is real. Palm Springs has always been a popular weekend spot for Los Angelenos, but those looking for something a little more exclusive that feels more like an unrivaled destination should head 15 minutes away to the Desert Hot Springs. There, you’ll find Hotel Lautner, which, despite being one the most lauded openings of last year, somehow remains under the radar (and at a decent price point!). Brimming with a quintessential Mad Men style courtesy of designers/co-owners Tracy Beckmann and Ryan Trowbridge, the four-unit retreat was originally constructed in 1947 by renowned architect John Lautner. (This is where Roger Sterling might steal Joan away for a weekend...pre-baby.) An outdoor fire pit and floor-to-ceiling views of the desert surroundings will make you feel peacefully and consistently connected to the outside world, even if for some reason you’re trying to leave it. Book now for Coachella weekend, before everyone else has the same brilliant idea.
Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Lautner
Obama says you can visit — so, go!
Heralded by many as a rising destination of 2013, the typically isolated area of Southeast Asia is getting easier to visit now that President Obama has lifted some sanctions on travel to the region (and even he stopped by last month). The country, which is nestled very conveniently between India, Thailand, and China, has undergone a number of positive reforms under President Thein Sein, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners, and travelers are responding to the positive news by arriving in droves. Freed opposition activist Aung San Suu is also encouraging travel, provided that tourists try to not support any companies affiliated with the government, and Viking Cruises just announced it'll soon set sail to the region. Finally, this year, locals were allowed to gather and stage a celebratory countdown to 2013 for the first time. A happy new year, indeed.
Photo: Courtesy of Myanmars.net
Where fashion and music mingle.
Kenya offers a little something for everybody, from the amateur athlete who looks to marathon trainers for inspiration to the music obsessive wanting to crank up something fresh. Every August, Nairobi holds a 10-day music festival showcasing the best of the region, and for those who can’t wait for summer, the K1 Klubhouse showcases live jazz every Tuesday and house music every other night, in a raucous environment.
Designers are also taking note of the area, and 2013 could see it become an even bigger hotbed for fashion. Max Osterweis launched his luxury label, Suno, after spending time in Africa and drawing inspiration from textiles. And although ideas for collections are refined in the New York City offices, production takes place in Kenya, where workers are ensured sustainable wages and practices. As Nairobi goes, so goes the world.
Photo: Courtesy of K1Klubhouse