The 41 Places to Go in 2011
Tomas Munita for The New York Times
- SANTIAGO, CHILE: An earthquake has not stood in the way of its booming modern music, art and culinary scenes.
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: January 7, 2011
From the beaches of Mexico to the wilds of Kurdistan, the places on this year’s list take you to the end of the world and back.
Where to Go in 2011
Justin Mott for The New York Times
Absolute Sanctuary, a yoga and detox center on Koh Samui, Thailand. More Photos »
1. Santiago, Chile
Undaunted by an earthquake, a city embraces modern culture.
Less than a year after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc in Chile, its capital, Santiago, has largely recovered, the economy continues to grow, and tourism is in an upswing.
Though the quake, which caused hundreds of casualties, was centered more than 200 miles away, many of Santiago’s older buildings were damaged, including the Museum of Fine Arts.
But the earthquake last year — and another in Chile last week that caused more panic than damage — seems to have only briefly paused a cultural shift that had begun to take hold in the city. Known as a buttoned-up place, Santiago has in recent years added modern museums, smartly designed hotels and sophisticated restaurants. The city has become decidedly more vibrant.
This year, it has even been chosen as the first foreign city to host a rather unbuttoned event: Lollapalooza. The 20-year-old American music festival picked Santiago for its first overseas outing because of its open space and the variety of cultural offerings, and because locals have a passion for contemporary music, said Lollapalooza’s founder, the musician Perry Farrell. The festival takes place in April in O’Higgins Park.
This musical awakening owes much to the government’s investment in the arts. The new Centro Gabriela Mistral, for example, a 200,000-square-foot center made of glass and weathering steel, has a varied calendar of concerts, dance performances, plays and art exhibits.
Perhaps the most remarkable cultural space to open in the last few years is the Museo de la Moda, a privately financed fashion museum inside a revamped 1960s Modernist mansion. It has a permanent collection of nearly 10,000 pieces of couture and memorabilia (of which 800 are typically on display), including a light-blue jacket worn in 1966 by John Lennon and a black strapless gown worn in 1981 by Diana, Princess of Wales.
Luxury hotels are not new to Santiago, but when the W opened in 2009, it was the first to feature truly modern design. The recently opened Aubrey is equally chic and much more intimate. With an attractive mix of vintage and new furniture (Tom Dixon lamps, 19th-century Parisian rugs, tufted leather sofas), the 15-room property raised the bar for boutique lodgings in the city. It occupies two renovated residences in the Bellavista neighborhood, a creative district where Lollapalooza’s fans would feel right at home.
— PAOLA SINGER
2. San Juan Islands, Wash.
Bold-face restaurateurs vie with unspoiled nature. Nature wins.
The big draw for the San Juan Islands this year just might be its dining scene. Blaine Wetzel, a former chef at the wildly acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant Noma, took the reins at Willows Inn on Lummi Island (due to reopen on Feb. 10), while Lisa Nakamura, who has trained with big-name chefs like Thomas Keller, opened Allium on Orcas Island.
But the eternal lure of the San Juans — what brings chefs out as well as tourists — are the landscapes. On islands from Shaw to Decatur, pastoral hills give way to broody forests and scrappy escarpments that overlook fjordlike inlets. Thanks to an active land preservation effort by organizations like the San Juan County Land Bank, each year new areas are protected from logging or unruly development, and in turn provide fresh terrain for the public to explore.
Last year, the San Juan Island National Historic Park grew by 312 acres with the purchase of densely forested Mitchell Hill. On Lopez Island, a 50-year lease signed by the state Department of Natural Resources in 2009 now protects the Lopez Hill area from logging; a web of public trails winds past mossy conifers and madrona trees with peeling cinnamon-red bark. And some smaller parcels have the air of a secret about them, like the spectacular Watmough Bay Preserve on Lopez, with a trail that leads to a strip of beach on a wooded inlet, its moody water as magically lighted as a Bierstadt painting.
— SARA DICKERMAN
3. Koh Samui, Thailand
A toned-down version of Phuket, heavy on wellness and food.
As Thailand’s third-largest island, Koh Samui isn’t exactly off the radar. But the 95-square-mile tropical gem in the southern Gulf of Thailand, whose white sand beaches, abundant coral reefs and seas of palm trees were once a backpackers’ secret, has emerged as the stylish luxury alternative to crowded Phuket. Last month’s much-anticipated opening of the W Retreat Koh Samui on a private beach along the island’s northern shore was the chic hotel brand’s premiere in Southeast Asia. July saw the arrival of the 78 pool-villas at the Banyan Tree Samui and its bay-facing spa, which includes the island’s first hydrotherapy facility. It is burnishing Koh Samui’s reputation as one of Thailand’s top wellness destinations, along with the yoga and detox center at the Moroccan-inspired boutique resort Absolute Sanctuary, which turns three in April.
Local restaurants have kept pace, luring international chefs who are transforming Koh Samui into an eating destination as well. Newcomers include H-Bistro at the Hansar Samui resort, where the French-Mediterranean and Thai menu was conceived by a former private chef to the Jordanian royal family, and Orgasmic by Chef Wally, which serves innovative cocktails and dishes like cocoa butter Hokkaido scallops and freshly caught white snapper with pecan-celery mash. The local scene goes into full swing at the weekly Sunday Sessions under the soaring thatched roofs at loungey Beach Republic, whose brunch, seafood barbecue and sunset D.J.’s are quickly becoming famous.
— NAOMI LINDT
Where a country’s hardships are a visitor’s gain.
Iceland’s economic crash has had an upside, at least for tourists. After the devaluation of the krona that followed the country’s 2008 financial crisis, the breathtakingly beautiful island is a lot more affordable, meaning that a hotel room that was $200 before the crash might cost $130 now.
While traditionally a must-see for nature tourists — who come for thermal springs, glaciers, volcanic landscapes and the Northern Lights — Iceland is stepping up the cultural offerings with Reykjavik’s new Harpa-Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre, a symphony and opera house whose stunning glass facade was designed in collaboration with the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Opening ceremonies begin in May, with performances by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Icelandic Opera and local rock bands. Another draw is the third annual DesignMarch (in March), a festival that showcases Icelandic design, from clothing and textiles to furniture. And the Iceland Airwaves music festival, every October, is perennially cool.
— SALLY McGRANE
A reborn cathedral joins fashion-forward galleries and hotels.
Compared with the Italian troika of tourism — Florence, Venice and Rome — Milan is often an afterthought. But with novel, eye-catching design emerging around the city, that should soon change.
For years, unsightly scaffolding obscured the Milan Cathedral; now that most of it has been dismantled, the newly scrubbed Gothic masterpiece, also known as the Duomo, is worth a fresh look. Across the piazza, the city’s collection of 20th-century art is now showcased at the Museo del Novecento, which opened in December in the restored Palazzo dell’Arengario.
Outside the historic center, former factories have been transformed into design studios, old warehouses have been repurposed as unconventional art venues, and galleries are packed with avant-garde works. The eclectic Spazio Rossana Orlandi gallery displays the latest creations from emerging designers, while large-scale art installations from acclaimed international artists like Anselm Kiefer are exhibited at HangarBicocca, a cavernous art space that re-opened last year.
And though fashion followers still flock to the wish-filled windows of Miu Miu and Marni, fashion in Milan now extends beyond retail and runways. Arguably the most fashionable addition is the Hotel Milano Scala, which opened last year in a renovated 19th-century mansion singing the eco-chic promise of “zero-emissions hospitality.” In a country where green directives are not yet widespread, it proves that Milan is, once again, on the cutting edge.
— INGRID K. WILLIAMS
6. Republic of Georgia
A rustic ski wonderland on the verge of discovery.
Ski buffs don’t usually think of Soviet Georgia when planning their next backcountry outing. But some ambitious plans in the Caucasus are trying to change that fast. Tucked between the Black and Caspian seas and smattered with mountains, Georgia has the kind of terrain adventurous skiers yearn for: peaks reaching 16,000 feet, deep valleys and largely untouched slopes. Known best for spectacular off-piste and heli-skiing, Bakuriani and Gudauri — each a short drive from Tbilisi — saw 30,000 visitors in 2009 and are expanding fast.
And now, in efforts spearheaded by the Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, the ski-resort bug is spreading even further. In Mestia, the first groomed slopes of a new resort opened in December. Also earmarked as a winter hot spot is Goderdzi pass, which can have snow coverage six months a year.
— KIMBERLY BRADLEY
Anticipating the 2012 Olympics, a slew of new hotels and restaurants.
There is never a bad time to go to London. But this year may be better than most: the 2012 Summer Olympic Games has prompted the construction of 12,000 hotel rooms, and several hotels that have been around for a while are burnishing their appeal with notable new restaurants.
Many are opening well in advance of the games. The 192-room Four Seasons London at Park Lane reopens late this month after a two-year-plus gut renovation that added a penthouse spa overlooking Hyde Park and new restaurant seating in a private garden. The new W London Leicester Square arrives in February, conforming to British tastes with a trendy take on high tea. In April the Corinthia Hotel London reinvents a vintage 1855 hotel, and in May the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London makes its debut in a cathedral-like Victorian hotel with a restaurant by the Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing.
Other hotels are adding restaurants from renowned chefs. This spring, the May Fair Hotel will become home to the chef Silvena Rowe’s Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, Quince.
Expect hotel and restaurant bookings to be tight on and around April 29, date of the royal wedding, for which London tourism officials expect a pre-Olympics wave of visitors.
— ELAINE GLUSAC
8. Loreto, Mexico
A beach hideaway with sport fishing gets a luxury resort.
Long known for sport fishing, Loreto, on Baja California Sur’s eastern coast, is poised to become one of Mexico’s next luxury destinations.
On Wednesday, Villa Group Resorts, one of Mexico’s largest privately owned hotel groups, will open a $60 million Villa del Palmar resort with three restaurants, a 20,000-square-foot turtle-shaped pool and 150 suites from $250 to $1,500 a night. The resort is the first phase of an 1,800-acre development, Danzante Ba. It will add seven resort hotels, restaurants and a Rees Jones golf course.
Loreto also has longstanding attractions to tout. It recently started a public relations campaign, with help from the Mexico Tourism Board, to highlight its colonial architecture, deserted beaches and marine life. Founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries, Loreto is home to the historic Mission of Our Lady Loreto, one of the first “California” missions. The baroque Mission of San Javier can be found nearby in the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains.
Visitors can take day trips to see prehistoric rock art in the Sierra de San Francisco region of Baja California between Loreto and Bahia de Los Angeles. Five islands that make up the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, which covers 797 square miles in the Sea of Cortez, offer extensive snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, whale-watching and scuba-diving opportunities. The area is home to more than 800 species of marine life, including six-foot-long Humboldt squid.
— MICHELLE HIGGINS
9. Park City, Utah
Beyond the film festival, a growing group of top-tier resorts.
Many film aficionados have been lured to Park City for the annual Sundance festival, missing the slopes entirely, which is a shame. This year, new hotels, expanded terrain and events at area ski resorts make on-mountain exploration imperative. Last month, at Deer Valley, Montage opened a 220-room Craftsman-style midmountain lodge ; it offers ski-in, ski-out access, gas fireplaces in every room, and a spa.
Other recent openings include the St. Regis Deer Crest, the Waldorf Astoria Park City and the Hyatt Escala Lodge.
Over at the Canyons Resort, 300 acres of new skiing and snowboarding terrain includes 10 new trails that range from intermediate to expert gladed tree runs. The resort is also introducing what’s billed as the first heated chair lift in North America and opening an après-ski “beach,” an outdoor gathering place with beach-style lounge chairs, food and cocktail stations and expansive views of the mountainside.
— BONNIE TSUI
10. Cali, Colombia
Cafe culture is on the rise while salsa fuels the night life.
Cali has always felt like the grittier stepsister of Medellín, but tucked amid the colonial homes of the barrios of San Antonio or Granada are a number of new jewelry boutiques, low-key cafes and salsotecas teeming with crowds as sexy as any in South America.
Salsa remains Cali’s lifeblood. If the dance floors of Tin Tin Deo or Zaperoco are too full, try La Fuente, a pint-size bar jammed with sweaty students who spill out onto the street most nights. Or, follow the sounds of Latin jazz to Guayusa, just next door. Those with serious salsa chops hitch a cab out of town to the suburb of Juanchito, whose dance floors do not fill up until after midnight (but go in a group, as this section gets dicey at those hours). Also be sure to check out a performance of Delirio, the monthly cabaret that is part Cirque du Soleil, part salsa clinic.
— LIONEL BEEHNER
11. The Danube
From Budapest to the Black Sea, new cruises on a storied river.
For years, high-end river travel in Europe has focused on western European waterways like the Rhine and the Rhone. But recent developments have brought the high life to the principal river of central and eastern Europe: the Danube.
Last year, California’s Viking River Cruises launched new cruises on the river, and in 2011, another tour company, Tauck, will introduce riverboat trips from swinging Budapest to the Black Sea. Meanwhile, the Kempinski Hotel River Park recently opened on the Danube’s banks in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. The blue Danube threads its way through four capitals (Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade) and touches 10 countries, passing by majestic scenery, outrageously great wine regions and castles, fortifications and ruins dating back centuries. What better way to see all these treasures than from the water?
— EVAN RAIL
12. Niseko, Japan
An Aspen emerges in Asia, with luxury to spare.
It was the snow that first brought the Australian ski bums here, the great powder blown in by Siberian cold fronts. Then chefs and designers discovered that this sleepy town on Japan’s northern Hokkaido island was actually a lovely spot in itself, with natural hot springs, family-owned inns and spectacular views of impossibly symmetrical Mount Yotei. Now with the development of stylish restaurants and a network of fashion-forward chalets (like the foodie must stop Kamimura and the 10 zenlike lofts at Suiboku), the well-heeled are arriving on direct flights from all over Asia to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, creating the region’s answer to Aspen and Courchevel.
Expect that to intensify when a high-speed train line, now planned to begin service in 2015, cuts the trip up from Tokyo to under four hours. This month the fully revamped 200-room Green Leaf Niseko Village, stylishly renovated by the New York-based Alexandra Champalimaud, is reopening its doors, while a Banyan Tree and Tadao Ando-designed Capella complex are in the pipeline.
— ONDINE COHANE
Hawaii’s most developed island adds resorts and attractions.
The nature that abounds on Maui and rural Kauai often overshadows the attractions on Oahu, the most populous Hawaiian island. But this year Oahu offers travelers fresh incentive in the form of name-brand resorts and other tourist attractions.
Disney plans to open Aulani, a 359-room resort 17 miles west of the Honolulu airport, in August. The 21-acre compound, part of the manicured Koolina Resort & Marina, will emphasize Hawaiian culture over Disney animation by offering hula lessons, lei making and storytelling (Disney movies will be stocked in the kids club). In addition to standard pools and a lazy river, a conservation pool supports stingrays that kids can safely touch.
For grown-ups, in October the hotelier Ian Schrager unveiled the first in a boutique hotel chain that he is creating for Marriott: the 353-room Waikiki Edition. Though it’s not on the beach — it’s a five-minute walk to the ocean — the resort makes up for it with an outdoor movie theater, a restaurant by the Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, surf-and-bikini boot camp and yoga. It has four bars, including one hidden behind a revolving bookcase.
But there’s more than sunsets and mai tais to Oahu. A $56 million visitors’ center and museum at Pearl Harbor opened Dec. 7 featuring interactive exhibits about the World War II attack that trace the path to war from both American and Japanese perspectives.
— ELAINE GLUSAC
14. Antwerp, Belgium
A new breed of boutiques have made it a fashionista’s paradise.
There hasn’t been so much fashion buzz in Antwerp since the dawn of the Antwerp Six, a group of designers including Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester who rose to prominence in the mid 1980s. And while the city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts is still churning out avant-garde talents, it’s Antwerp’s latest crop of shops that is causing the current buzz.
“The fashionistas I know have suddenly fallen in love with Antwerp,” said Lulu Townsend, the managing director of the London travel company Chic Retreats. “It’s a shopper’s paradise.”
In the last year alone four destination-worthy concept stores have opened, among them the fashion shop-cum-gallery Ra, which sells local and international labels and also hosts art and fashion events. Next door is Your, which offers everything from “a 2-euro pack of bubble gum to 14 brands of jeans and a 350,000-euro Alfa Romeo 8C,” said Jorrit Baars, who conceived the space.
Then there are the posh new boutiques Graanmarkt 13 and Renaissance, which features designers like Alexander Wang along with a chic Italian restaurant simply called Ristaurante. While you are in the building, check out the latest exhibition at Antwerp’s fashion museum, MoMu.
— GISELA WILLIAMS
15. Melbourne, Australia
New hotels plus big-name chefs put Sydney on notice.
With a bunch of new hotels and restaurants led by notable chefs cropping up, Melbourne has been stealing the spotlight from its sister city, Sydney.
The most notable addition comes from the luxury brand Crown, which is investing 1 billion Australian dollars (about the same in U.S. dollars) to expand its sprawling Crown Entertainment Complex on the southern bank of the Yarra River. In April it opened Australia’s largest hotel, the 300-million-dollar 658-room Crown Metropol, which has an infinity pool on the 27th floor with 180-degree views of the city, and is home to the Maze and Maze Grill, the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s first endeavors Down Under. The complex also includes the Crown Towers hotel, which has four private penthouse gaming salons with 360-degree views of Melbourne’s skyline.
The city’s thriving arts scene now has stylish boutique hotels to match, too. Three Art Series Hotels, inspired by (and featuring the works of) famous artists, opened in the last year. The Olsen, named for the landscape painter John Olsen, is the flagship of the group, with 229 rooms (from 215 dollars a night) and a heated, glass-bottomed swimming pool.
Visiting foodies will be able to choose from a number of new restaurants. In October, the Australian chef Neil Perry, of Rockpool in Sydney, opened Spice Temple, a 200-seat contemporary Szechuan restaurant next door to his Rockpool Bar & Grill in the Crown complex, as well as a new bar, the Waiting Room, in the lobby of the Crown Towers hotel. Also within the Crown complex, a new seafood restaurant, the Atlantic, will debut in February with Donovan Cooke as executive chef.
— MICHELLE HIGGINS
16. Tlemcen, Algeria
An ancient Islamic city dresses up for a gala year.
There’s a buzz of anticipation — and power tools — in the streets, squares and souks of this ancient Algerian city. Named a Capital of Islamic Culture for 2011 by Isesco (Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), Algeria’s spiritual heart is preparing for a yearlong gala that will include some 300 exhibitions, concerts, screenings, theater performances, lectures and readings. The ruins of medieval ramparts and towers are being refurbished. Time-worn mosques and hammams are being dusted off. Cultural centers and museums are being started. And a first generation of five-star hotels — notably a Renaissance by Marriott— is rising from the ground.
Why Tlemcen? As the seat of a medieval dynasty that controlled much of North Africa, Tlemcen has long been a center of Islamic learning, culture and art. Skilled craftsmen ply their wares around the Kissaria market, traditional orchestras show off their chops every summer at the city’s festival of Arabo-Andalusian music, and the Muslim faithful pour into magnificent religious edifices like the Great Mosque and the tomb of Sidi Boumediene — a revered 12th-century Islamic scholar. With the approaching festival, the city should at last recapture some of its past glory.
— SETH SHERWOOD
17. Sopot and Gdansk, Poland
Poland’s Baltic coast welcomes party hoppers and soccer fans.
Every country with a coastline has its version of the Hamptons. In Poland, it’s Sopot. In the summer, the small city — with its white beach, fin-de-siècle villas and lively cafe- and club-lined boulevard — is packed with young party hoppers from all over Poland and Scandinavia, dancing at flashy venues like the new Dream Club. Vladimir Putin has been known to stay at the palatial Sofitel Grand, which looks over the sea and nearby pier, the longest on the Baltic.
Sopot and the neighboring city of Gdansk (formerly known as Danzig) are gearing up for the 2012 European soccer championships, which will take place throughout Poland and Ukraine. Already there has been a flurry of openings, including a new boutique-style Hilton in Gdansk’s historic center, the Ergo Arena between Sopot and Gdansk (Lady Gaga was one of the first to perform), and a symphony hall with a stylish restaurant in Gdansk that was formerly a power plant. But the biggest debut is further off: the reopening of the beloved Forest Opera, an amphitheater in Sopot, which by 2012 should have 1,000 additional seats and a new roof.
— GISELA WILLIAMS
18. Erzurum, Turkey
Skiing in Turkey? A winter sports capital emerges in Anatolia.
Turkey may not be the first place people think of for skiing, but it’s got mountains — big, snowy ones. Now the government is making a push to turn Erzurum, a city of 785,000 in eastern Anatolia, into a winter sports capital in time for this month’s 2011 Winter Universiade (sort of an Olympics for university students). Two and a half miles from town lies the ski resort of Palandoken, which the Iranian skiers who come here know has the most challenging skiing in Turkey. Three lifts have been added to the bald mountain that rises nearly 3,000 feet from its base to its summit at 10,498. The number of runs is a modest 18 — but the fun skiing is off-piste, between the runs, on Palandoken’s 2,200 acres.
About 11 miles from Erzurum sits the new Konakli Ski Resort, which opened this winter with six chairlifts and 3,000 acres of skiing. A new five-star hotel is scheduled to open next season; until it does, rent a car for day trips and stay at Palandoken’s Renaissance Polat Erzurum Hotel.
— CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON
19. Hyderabad, India
Dynastic grandeur in the heart of modern India.
Even in the 16th century, Hyderabad, in southern India, famous for its diamond trade and sultans’ palaces, was a city with serious bling. In the last decade, a new sort of wealth has arrived — the outsourcing of international companies, which has inspired a boom of sleek cafes and restaurants such as Fusion 9.
The latest buzz is the debut of two five-star hotels, both connected to the Nizam family, rulers of Hyderabad for the two centuries before India’s independence. The first, Park Hyderabad, is a futuristic structure designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with an aluminum and glass facade inspired by the settings and metalwork found in the Nizams’ jewelry collection. The new Taj Falaknuma Palace, on the other hand, is a window into the past. It’s a wedding cake of a building that still belongs to the Nizam family, and it took the Taj Hotels group 10 years to renovate the European-style castle. “The Falaknuma Palace will complete the Indian palace tour for the south,” said Shanti Kohli, of New Delhi-based Amber Tours. “It makes a trip to Hyderabad worthwhile just on its own.”
— GISELA WILLIAMS
20. Manchester, England
An industrial city reinvents its famed musical past.
The cold and gritty factory city that famously inspired the post-industrial anguish of bands like Joy Division and the Smiths has transformed into a thriving cultural hub. Several new music venues are cashing in on “Madchester” nostalgia, including FAC251, an indie-music club that opened in February in the old Factory Records building. The owners of the popular Trof cafe, which bills itself as a “dandyish den of opulence,” recently opened a new multiplatform cultural venue called the Deaf Institute. For those who want a taste of the city’s favorite depressive sons. — CHARLY WILDER
21. Tallinn, Estonia
The beautiful capital city aims to shed its stag-party past.
Soon after EasyJet began flights from London and Berlin to the Estonian capital in 2004, Tallinn became known as the Las Vegas of the Baltics, luring hordes of party tourists with its cheap liquor and wild seaside night life. But now, with the city’s selection as a 2011 European Capital of Culture, cash is flowing in and pulling Tallinn out of its stag party adolescence.
Some seven years after Estonia joined the European Union, large-scale infrastructural and restorative work, including several rebuilt museums, a waterfront promenade and a large arts venue, KultuuriKatel (Culture Cauldron), are reshaping Tallinn’s cultural identity. Much of Northern Europe’s arts community will converge on the city this year, as it debuts a yearlong schedule of European Union-sponsored events, including the student-focused contemporary art triennial Exsperimenta! and “Stories of the Seashore,” a project that enlists writers, actors, artists and musicians to reflect on the sea that has been so central to Estonia’s development.
— CHARLY WILDER
22. Fogo Island, Newfoundland
An art colony blooms on remote and rugged shores.
A remote island off the coast of Newfoundland with a dwindling population of 3,000 residents might not strike you as an important cultural enclave. But it soon could be, thanks to a local resident, Zita Cobb and a Norwegian architect, Todd Saunders. They teamed up to create a series of innovative artists’ studios in former saltbox houses and deconsecrated churches that perch over the North Atlantic and rugged pristine landscapes. Two are complete, and four more will be unveiled in June as part of the Fogo Island Arts Corporation. The effort, with the help of government financing, puts more than $15 million into showcasing the island as an arts and eco destination.
Besides the cutting-edge studios, which will host artists and writers as part of an international residency program, the foundation will also open a 29-room hotel next year. For the moment visitors can stay at country spots like Foley’s Bed and Breakfast and Peg’s B&B and rent a car to tour the architectural showcases. Talk about island innovation.
— ONDINE COHANE
With new resorts and casinos, the city lets its hair down.
For years, this island country was considered oppressive and humorless. But recently Singapore has started to have some fun with new supersized resorts, design hotels and restaurants.
“There has been a big change in the Singapore scene in the last two or three years,” said the hotelier Lik Peng Loh, who recently opened Wanderlust, which he calls an “adult playground.”
Singapore’s decision six years ago to allow gambling led to the recent opening of two complexes: the Resorts World Sentosa, with a casino, Universal Studios theme park and four hotels, including a Hard Rock; and the Marina Bay Sands.
— GISELA WILLIAMS
24. Port Ghalib, Egypt
A low-key beach escape with clear water and sea creatures.
The once unspoiled beauty and calm of Sharm el-Sheikh, on the Red Sea in Egypt, has suffered from an influx of tourists (not to mention a recent series of shark attacks). Those looking to skip the crowds should turn to Port Ghalib, across the Red Sea from Sharm, on the eastern Egyptian coast. Ghalib’s beaches offer soft, snow-hued sand and translucent water that divers love.
Since the area’s rich marine life hasn’t yet been sullied by packs of visitors, the coral reefs are undamaged and ripe for exploring. Admiral Travel, a Florida-based travel consultancy that specializes in trips to Egypt, arranges customized diving expeditions to Elphinstone Reef (a few miles from Ghalib) that allow clients to swim with hammerhead and gray reef sharks. Port Ghalib also offers affordable lodging options, with several attractive hotels. Four resorts operated by the InterContinental Hotel Group include the upscale beachfront Palace Port Ghalib Resort, which features a Six Senses spa.
— SHIVANI VORA
25. Whistler, British Columbia
The Olympians are gone. Now it’s your turn.
You don’t need a lifetime of training or a Spandex unitard to retrace the strides of the best Nordic skiers in the world. The 2010 Winter Games left behind a tremendous structural legacy: Whistler Olympic Park, which is now open to the public. The park, and its partner facility, the Callaghan Country Lodge, offer some 55 miles of trails that range from easy to Olympian.
Skiers not yet ready to power up the devastating hills that were part of last year’s Nordic sprint events can look to the park’s ski school, which offers lessons in most of the Nordic skiing disciplines — classic cross-country, skate skiing, even biathlon.
Whistler Village, with its extensive lodges, condos and restaurants, is near the park’s day lodge, but cross-country skiers seeking a truly remote experience may choose to stay at Callaghan Lodge, a cheery chalet encircled by glacier-swaddled mountains. One five-kilometer cross-country loop from the lodge passes right below the toe of the massive Solitude glacier. In the winter, the lodge is accessible only by trail, which takes about three hours for the average skier to reach from the park’s central day lodge. Less ambitious souls can still enjoy the lodge as snowmobile transport is available for an additional fee.
— SARA DICKERMAN
26. Guimarães, Portugal
A city of youth is fired up by its art scene.
Considered the birthplace of Portugal, this picturesque northern city has long been of great historical importance to the country. Now, with half its inhabitants under 30, it is also one of the youngest cities in Europe. A string of recent developments, like its selection as a 2012 European Capital of Culture and the rehabilitation of the Unesco-designated historic center, have helped turned the youthful “cradle city” into one of the Iberian peninsula’s emerging cultural hot spots.
Much of the city’s burgeoning music and arts scene is nourished by the Centro Cultural Vila Flor, a contemporary-minded cultural center that opened in 2005 in a converted 18th-century palace. It includes amphitheaters, an exhibition villa, artists’ studios and a modern Portuguese restaurant. This March, the center will host the first International Festival of Contemporary Dance, bringing in an impressive selection of dance companies from throughout the world.
— CHARLY WILDER
27. Olympic Park, Wash.
Bad weather is good for skiers and storm-watchers.
It’s a La Niña year, which means that storms are hitting the Pacific Northwest in a big way. And Olympic National Park offers two ways to take advantage of the wild weather. Skiers can tackle Hurricane Ridge, the mile-high ski and snowboard area, which has massive bowls and glades with 400-plus inches of snow each year. Lifts operate only on weekends, but Hurricane Ridge Road and its visitor center will be open seven days a week for the first time during the 2011 season, so cross-country skiers and snowshoers have all-day, everyday access to the unmarked and ungroomed trails in the forests and meadows around the ridge.
Nonskiers can head to the park’s historic lodges, Lake Quinault and Kalaloch, for rooms with fireplaces and epic views. This year, the two lodges are offering “storm-watching” specials through the winter and early spring that include lodging as well as breakfast, rain ponchos, souvenir blankets and rain-forest tour options.
— BONNIE TSUI
28. Dresden, Germany
A new museum leads the way to a historic city’s future.
This city, devastated by bombing during World War II, has meticulously refashioned itself into a prewar picture postcard. Now, with most of the costly historic renovations finished there is finally time for a little reflection. In fall 2011 the city will open a comprehensive new Military History Museum, with a striking glass and steel extension by the architect Daniel Libeskind added to the existing 19th-century building.
The exhibition space, which covers almost 200,000 square feet, offers two experiences. The original space will feature a chronological history of German war, with an emphasis on the last century. The other, spread over multiple floors in the trapezoidal addition, will feature displays related to sociological and anthropological topics, like the effect of war on the individual. The floor will be paved with stones recovered from foreign cities that Germany bombed during World War II, as well as from Dresden itself.
At the summit of Mr. Libeskind’s wedge, which bisects the building (representing the fissures of German history), there will be a 100-foot-high viewing platform, giving visitors a new, more informed vantage point over Dresden’s reconstructed old town.
— RACHEL B. DOYLE
29. Oualidia, Morocco
On a Moroccan lagoon, oysters, flamingoes and no crowds.
The seaside Moroccan village of Oualidia is almost exclusively for the birds — and that’s exactly what’s special about it.
“It’s just about communing with nature: fishing, surfing, kayaking or birdwatching,” said James von Leyden, a British expatriate who built a house overlooking Oualidia’s lagoon, which is filled with pink flamingoes, migrating herons and the occasional surfer.
Mr. Von Leyden and his family spend about four months a year at Villa La Diouana, their charming riad on the sea; the rest of the year it is rented by savvy Morocco insiders, like the French handbag designer Laetitia Trouillet.
The British writer Danny Moynihan and his wife, Katrina Boorman, an actress, fell so in love with the area that they bought property in 2004. This year they are completing an eight bedroom eco-property. (It will also be available to rent.)
For those who prefer hotels, the luxurious new 11-room La Sultana is the place to stay. Those on a budget can check into the charming but rustic L’Hippocampe, whose bar is a cozy meeting point. As is the seaside fish restaurant L’Ostrea, which serves Oualidia’s famous oysters.
— GISELA WILLIAMS
On an African isle, luxury lures the après safari set.
Zanzibar. The name alone evokes images of spice markets and swaying palms. Newly renovated palace hotels in Stone Town and exotic villa hotels by the sea are adding to the allure of this Tanzanian island.
Tarquin Barnsby, founder of the travel company Pure Zanzibar, notes that Zanzibar, with its white beaches and relatively modern infrastructure, is a popular beach stop for travelers after a safari in East Africa. He added that the island’s trade winds are attracting kite surfers and that a cleaned-up Stone Town, the island’s main center, is now worth a visit.
New hotel options include the Mashariki Palace, which just opened with 18 spacious rooms. Small hybrids of villas and hotels include the Baraza, which resembles a sultan’s palace, and Kilindi, a property on the north coast, with 15 whitewashed pavilions, private plunge pools and ocean views. Cheaper options include the new Dongwe Ocean View. And burned-out travelers with deep pockets should check into the just renovated, soon to reopen Zamani Retreat Kempinski, the chain’s first holistic wellness resort.
— GISELA WILLIAMS
31. Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
The ranches beyond a historic village offer a dose of rural chic.
Colonia del Sacramento, on the southwestern shores of Uruguay, has long been a popular detour from Buenos Aires. Reachable by ferry across the Río de la Plata, this Unesco World Heritage site offers centuries-old stone houses, casual restaurants with riverside patios and boutiques selling crafts. In the last few years, its appeal has spilled into the surrounding countryside, where tastefully decorated ranches and locavore offerings are attracting travelers in search of rural chic.
At the recently opened La Vigna, 37 miles south of the historic quarter, guests can learn about organic farming, sheep shearing and other activities worthy of a gaucho. Or they can just relax at the main house, a restored Renaissance Revival estate built in 1880 by Italian winemakers. It has five rooms furnished with rustic antiques and ceramics made on site.
Deeper inland, Estancia Tierra Santa (open March to June and September to December) has three suites inside a renovated colonial manor — all with wood-burning fireplaces and outdoor terraces. More than 50 bird species have been spotted during expeditions at this ranch, which also offers fishing, hunting and riding on criollo horses.
The promenade at the nearby Puerto Camacho marina includes a stone-walled chapel, a food shop that stocks artisanal preserves and a restaurant, Basta Pedro. The marina, part of a larger development, will include a racetrack with lessons taught by expert riders. You’ll be galloping through the grasslands in no time.
— PAOLA SINGER
32. Tozeur, Tunisia
Camel racing, souks and eco-lodging in a Saharan oasis.
With its luxury hotels and glittery events — film festival, art fair, Formula One race — many feel that Marrakesh, Morocco’s “jewel of the south,” has lost its authentic North African luster. Fortunately, there is an alternative: Tozeur, Tunisia’s desert gem. Compared with its Moroccan cousin, Tozeur is smaller, quieter, more remote and (for now) less touristed — though a few luxury hotels have begun to sprout there. Set in an oasis of date palms, this former Roman outpost and caravan hub is awash in Saharan culture, from traditional souks to a zoo of desert animals. No glammed-out red-carpet events animate the streets, only the annual Oasis festival of traditional dance and music. The closest that the region has come to a star turn were cameos in “Star Wars” movies, thanks to its otherworldly dunes and dried-up salt lake.
Visitors can have a futuristic desert experience of their own, courtesy of the new Dar Hi hotel in Nefta. Designed by Matali Crasset — a protégé of Philippe Starck — the small eco-hotel has rooms that suggest sci-fi stone turrets and caves, and a hammam fed by underground springs.
— SETH SHERWOOD
33. Hangzhou, China
An hour from Shanghai, a historic jewel goes five-star.
Although Hangzhou is only now coming into the global spotlight, its gorgeous pagodas, historic temples and lush gardens have been inspiring Chinese poets and painters for centuries. Recently, the feverish growth of Shanghai has sparked the rediscovery of Hangzhou as a peaceful retreat and a cultural masterpiece. And with it, a new generation of luxury hotels has arrived: Shangri-la overlooking West Lake; the Banyan Tree set within China’s first wetland reserve; the Aman, close to some of the area’s most spectacular ancient Buddhist temples up in the hills; and most recently, the Four Seasons with a destination spa and two swimming pools set up along the lagoons. Next up is an Angsana, the Banyan Tree’s design-chic sister hotel. And with the debut of a high-speed train from Shanghai, it’s now — unbelievably — less than a one-hour journey from central Shanghai. Once there, rent a bike and step into sights like Lingyin Temple, one of the world’s most important Buddhist temples.
— ONDINE COHANE
34. Iraqi Kurdistan
Safety, history and a warm welcome in a stable corner of Iraq.
As United States forces withdraw from Iraq, a handful of intrepid travel companies are offering trips to the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north, which has enjoyed relative safety and stability in recent years.
Geographic Expeditions is conducting a 21-day tour to Kurdistan and Eastern Turkey, about half of it spent exploring Kurdistan along the Hamilton Road, which connects strategic gorges, and the other half devoted to the Anatolia region of Turkey. Distant Horizons has been taking small groups of Americans to Kurdistan twice a year since 2008, has a trip this spring, The Changing Face of Iraqi Kurdistan, which will explore Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah. And last April, after a 20-year break, Lufthansa resumed service from Frankfurt to Erbil, the Kurdish capital and fourth-largest city in Iraq.
While the State Department continues to warn American tourists to avoid Iraq entirely, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office says the Kurdistan region is an exception. “The risk of terrorism in the Kurdistan Regional Government-controlled provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaimaniyah is markedly and statistically lower than in other parts of Iraq,” states its Web site.
Visitors can tour significant cultural landmarks like Erbil’s citadel, which dates to the Assyrian empire, and the site of the Battle of Gaugamela, which ended in the defeat of the Persian king Darius III by Alexander the Great and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire. The biggest lure is the opportunity for authentic cultural encounters. “Authenticity is something that can be lost so quickly as development occurs,” said Janet Moore, of Distant Horizons.
— MICHELLE HIGGINS
35. Durham, N.C.
A downtown turnaround means food worth a trip.
A decade ago, downtown Durham was a place best avoided after sundown. But as revitalization has transformed abandoned tobacco factories and former textile mills into bustling mixed-use properties, the city has been injected with much-needed life. In the heart of downtown, a crop of standout restaurants and cafes has recently sprouted around West Main Street, where low rents have allowed chefs and other entrepreneurs to pursue an ethos that skews local, seasonal and delicious.
The farmers’ market favorite Scratch Bakery has a brand-new storefront for its seasonal homemade pies that include chestnut cream pie and buttermilk sweet potato pie. At the cafe-cum-grocery Parker and Otis, the menu features sandwiches made with freshly baked bread from nearby Rue Cler and locally roasted java from Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee. And at the sophisticated Revolution, squash tamales, mascarpone gnocchi, and tuna with wasabi caviar rotate through the seasonal menu.
— INGRID K. WILLIAMS
Mountains, medieval architecture and unexpected night life.
Just over a decade ago, this Albanian enclave was a troubled province of Serbia; Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian forces destroyed myriad towns and cities and killed thousands in their pursuit of independence fighters. NATO ended the fighting, but flare-ups continued.
The last few years have seen Kosovo — which declared independence in 2008 — attempt to rise from the ashes. Despite problems and controversies, there is progress on the travel front: a $1 billion highway project is under way, government-owned hotels have been privatized and refurbished, various historic sites have won Unesco World Heritage status, and the airport now welcomes the European budget carrier EasyJet.
Travelers will be greeted by rugged mountains and pine forests. They’ll also find that Europe’s youngest nation boasts the Continent’s youngest population, with about half of the people under 25. That statistic comes to life in Pristina, the capital. Thanks in part to the return of enterprising young Kosovars living abroad, the city is filling with cafes, nightclubs and restaurants.
But remnants of Kosovo’s Slavic and Ottoman past are the marquee attractions. Once the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the city of Peja contains the Patriarchate of Pec, a complex of medieval churches overlooking a jagged gorge, with interiors that glow with frescoes, and the Decani Monastery, filled with vivid biblical scenes.
— SETH SHERWOOD
37. Pingyao, China
Ming architecture is intact as contemporary culture takes root.
While other towns in China have modernized, Pingyao, in China’s coal-rich Shanxi Province, has clung to its old ways, barring cars within its 33-foot-tall Ming dynasty walls and preserving the traditional architecture of incense shops, courtyard houses and 19th-century bank buildings. Named a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997, Pingyao has become a major destination for Chinese and foreigners alike.
But the city is becoming known for more than its history. Its yearly photography festival, which takes place in late summer, has attracted enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe for a decade. Another sign that Pingyao is being embraced by the fashionable set: in 2009, the city’s first boutique hotel, the 19-room Jing’s Residence, a Relais & Chateaux member, opened in a restored courtyard house built more 200 years ago by a Qing dynasty silk merchant.
— DAN LEVIN
38. Salonika, Greece
Out of the country’s economic woes, a new wave of artists.
It may come as cold comfort to the Greeks, but the country’s financial woes have made it prime territory for bargain-hunting tourists. The coastal city of Salonika, often overlooked by tourists in favor of Athens, has been gaining momentum for the last several years with its prolific cultural scene. Now, with British Airways adding a direct route from London and a new mayor pushing forward a spate of major cultural and tourism initiatives, Salonika is hotter than ever.
The newest wave of culture makers in the laid-back city include the nonprofit Dynamo Project Space, which gives a platform to up-and-coming local artists, architects and designers, and Sfina, a self-appointed “urban prankster network” that instigates flash mob-style events in public spaces. Since it opened last summer, the eco-conscious design firm 157173 has garnered attention for its offbeat minimalist lamps, mobiles and other design objects that are equal parts Bauhaus and Joan Miró.
— CHARLY WILDER
39. Okinawa, Japan
A ‘Japanese Amazon’ with some luxury thrown in.
The latest news about Okinawa might focus on the future of the American military base there, but the cluster of coral-lined islands has long been a uniquely lovely place to experience wild Japan. Few foreigners make it here, though Okinawa is a popular vacation spot for Japanese mainlanders as it’s just a few hours from Tokyo by plane and has excellent diving, hiking and palm-fringed white-sand beaches.
Playing off an increased awareness of the islands as a destination for non-Japanese tourists, new hotels are popping up all over the prefecture: InterContinental opened the first two luxury resorts last year, and in March, the Tera Resort Hotel is scheduled to open near the Shuri Castle ruins, which are part of a Unesco World Heritage Site. On Okinawa Island visitors should head to the northern coast for a decidedly unspoiled, natural experience replete with sugarcane fields, hibiscus-lined beaches, and traditional ceramics studios that use old-fashioned Okinawan firing techniques and dragon-shaped kilns. Farther southwest, the island of Iriomote is the wildest of them all, with dense coastal jungle, mangroves, rich indigenous wildlife, and tiny villages accessible only by boat. They don’t call it the Japanese Amazon for nothing.
— BONNIE TSUI
A scene pops up in abandoned buildings, and glamour rises.
From Castle Hill to Heroes’ Square, Budapest is renowned for its grandeur. But in areas blighted by poverty and neglect, a surging bohemian culture revels in the wreckage at “ruin pubs.” Originating in the scruffy old Jewish quarter downtown, these bars occupy abandoned buildings and their courtyards, hosting hipsters quaffing German and Czech beers while reclining on cast-off furniture amid haphazard flea market finds. Szimpla Kert epitomizes the “romkocsma” (“ruin pub”) movement, which has exploded beyond the district to encompass not just vacant lots, but rooftop bars such as Corvintet, which bills itself as an underground club in the open air.
Not all of Budapest’s historic buildings are celebrated for their distress, of course. The Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace, opening in summer 2011, will occupy a vintage 1900 former palace, with 102 rooms and a branch of the Paris-famed Buddha-Bar glassed in on the roof.
Budapest will also be easier reach once American Airlines begins daily nonstops from Kennedy International Airport on April 5. Those flights will land at the new international terminal at Budapest Ferihegy International Airport, which opens March 27 with a 60-foot-high glass atrium filled with new restaurants, shops and bars.
— ELAINE GLUSAC
Big-time music arrives in a town known for beaches and art.
Between the white-hot Art Basel festival and the growing Design District, south Florida’s city on the sea is slowly earning must-stop status on the global arts circuit.
This month, the quest to amass cultural assets to match its beachside charms continues with the opening of a huge performing arts center, the New World Center, designed by Frank Gehry, in the heart of Miami Beach. The 100,000-square-foot space will be home to the New World Symphony and its conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, and will have a 2.5-acre park for outdoor performances, a 7,000-square-foot outdoor projection wall for videos and installations, and a music academy for young artists. And after only the briefest of pauses in honor of the global economic meltdown, the stampede of hot hotel openings returns, led by Soho Beach House with 49 rooms, a private screening room, and Cecconi’s, the city’s hot restaurant of the moment. Others include the Dream South Beach, planned to open in the next couple of months, and a new top-end JW Marriott.
— ONDINE COHANE