Each year we look forward to planning our own travels and since we’ve got a community of readers that love to live a life of adventure, just like us, we know you do too! Our 14 places to go in 2014 was such a hit with you all last year, that we’ve once again done our research and put together 15 places to travel in 2015. From our line up of raw destinations where seal hunting is still very much a way of life to uber chic city breaks, these destinations are culturally rich, inspiring, and exciting right now.
Milan plays host to Expo 2015, once upon a time named the World’s Fair. Milan actually hosted the World’s Fair back in 1906 and learned a thing or two. There has been huge preparation for the 1.1 million square meter fair grounds that are plotted out like a classical Roman metropolis for the “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” themed exposition. Many of the exhibits will be food focused and will feature everything from the future of the honeybee to how food will be packaged in the future. Full event info at Expo2015.org.
When to go: The Expo 2015 takes place from May 1 to October 31, 2015. May and October just so happen to also be some of the most pleasant months to visit Italy when the weather is favorable and temperatures are comfortable.
How to get around: International flights are available to Milan Malpensa Airport. The city also has an excellent subway system for getting around. Download the Milan Metro app for iPhone to help you plan your route around the city.
Where to stay: The Four Seasons Milan is in the heart of Milan’s haute couture fashion district and steps away from the Teatro all Scala opera house. The hotel is housed in a restored 15th century convent with fantastic spa, fine dining, and beautiful courtyard gardens that will make you forget you’re in the heart of the Euro-chic city.
Insider Tip: Tucked away in one of Milan’s many hidden courtyards, Il Salumai di Montenapoleone is one of the city’s best restaurants. Located in the heart of the couture houses, it’s the place to see and be seen. But be sure to book one of the coveted tables in advance.
Dubai rose from the sand with all the glitz and showiness of the Las Vegas Strip, but Abu Dhabi has been decidedly making a slower and less flashy entrance to the party. Abu Dhabi is becoming a cultural center in the UAE with the first Louvre Museum outside of Paris set to open this year and the Saadiyat Island Cultural District luring art aficionados with new museums, performing arts, and beautiful architecture. Of course, like its neighbor, Abu Dhabi still offers world-class shopping, fine dining, and adult playgrounds like Ferrari World.
When to go: Abu Dhabi enjoys sunshine year round, but temperatures can soar to 49°C (120°F) in June and July. November to April are the most pleasant months to visit, and you can escape winter in the northern hemisphere.
How to get around: The best way to get around Abu Dhabi currently remains by car and the highways are easy to navigate. The city is too spread out to walk, but the public bus system is easy to use. Taxis are also relatively affordable and you can flag them on the street.
Where to stay: The Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri resort is situated on a beautiful private stretch of beach and many rooms have a stunning view of the Grand Mosque. With the CHI Spa and some of the finest dining restaurants right on the hotel property, you will hardly want to leave the luxe resort.
Fun Fact: Once a royal hunting preserve, cheetahs, hyenas, Arabian oryx, and thousands of other animals now run wild on Sir Bani Yas Island.
Thailand continues to attract a diverse array of travelers and offers an array of experiences. It’s modern capital, Bangkok, eases Westerners in to the culture and traditions of South East Asia. No matter whether a relaxing beach holiday or adventurous rock climbing experience are your dream vacation, Thailand has something to offer for everyone.
When to go: Songkran is the Thai New Year and it is happening April 13 – 15, 2015. It’s basically one giant nationwide water fight, and being that April is Thailand’s hottest month, it’s no doubt a welcome relief from the heat.
How to get around: When in Thailand, do as the Thais do and hop on a tuk-tuk! As for traveling between locations, Air Asia offers inexpensive flights around the mainland and to the islands. Despite Air Asia’s recent crash of QA8501, we found the airline to be an enjoyable experience and continue to recommend it.
Where to stay: Anantara is a Thai based luxury resort company and each property is unique. We’ve had the pleasure of staying at eight Anantara resorts worldwide, include Anantara Bangkok Riverside, Anantara Bangkok Sathorn (which is home to the fantastic ZOOM rooftop bar), Anantara Golden Triangle, Anantara Koh Phangan, and Anantara Bophut Koh Samui. Making our rounds with a few days at each made for a fantastic two-week Thai holiday.
Insider Tip: The Taling Chan floating market is worth the trek out to it from Bangkok. While we saw mostly junk at many of the other markets we visited, Taling Chan was mostly food based and is mainly frequented by locals. It’s small, though an expansion was in the works, but tasty!
4. Stuttgart, Germany
Stuttgart may not be as popular as German destinations like Munich, Berlin or Dresden, but the capital of Baden-Württemberg surprises and delights visitors with a variety of attractions. Car lovers can discover 125 years of automobile history at Stuttgart’s car museums. Stuttgart also boasts one of the top Christmas markets in Germany and you can soak up some culture at the world famous Stuttgart Ballet.
When to go: The Cannstatter Wasen (Stuttgart Beer Festival) is a worthy rival to Munich’s Oktoberfest, though often overlooked by tourists. Visit the two-week long festival from September 25 – October 11, 2015.
How to get around: Stuttgart is easily accessible via Germany’s trains and travel within the city is easy using the buses, trams, underground, and light rail systems.
Where to stay: Stuttgart is an international hub for car dealers and home to several car museums including Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. Car lovers won’t want to miss sleeping in a hotel room tricked out to look like the iconic Route 66 or a vintage car wash at the V8 Hotel. (Read our full review of the V8 Hotel here.)
Fun Fact: Oenophiles will want to head to Stuttgart, which has a wine history that dates back to 3AD. It’s the only German city with a municipal wine estate and it covers 17.5 hectares.
Insider Tip: Ritter Sport Chocolate is made just south of Stuttgart, in a small town named Waldenbuch. Kids can craft their very own Ritter Sport chocolate bar at the Chocoworkshop (reservations required).
The Serengeti put Tanzania on the map, but less popular parks like Tarangire are worth adding to your safari itinerary. Conservations efforts are also underway to help convert hunting areas in to game reserves, curb poaching, and secure animal corridors. Low-impact camps like Tarangire Treetops are forging relationships with the Maasai people by employing them and adding to guests’ cultural experiences. And don’t let 2014’s ebola outbreaks scare you away – Tanzania is far, far away from any areas affected.
When to go: We absolutely loved visiting Tanzania in February. It’s not high season, so we often didn’t see another soul, except at the popular Ngorongoro Crater. The Great Migration is also happening and seeing the thousands of wildebeest and zebras on the Serengeti Plains is something you won’t soon forget.
How to get around: Elewana’s SkySafari includes air transport via a private Cessna Grand Caravan, an executive class plane with luxurious individual leather bucket seats that holds just nine passengers. Instead of spending days on horribly bumpy roads between parks, we took to the air and often flew over herds of elephants and wildebeest before landing smack in the middle of the wild.
Where to stay: SkySafari has a variety of glamping experiences from the thousand year old trees with treehouses at Tarangire Treetops to a tented camp along the Grumeti River where hundreds of hippos grunt. Take a look at our SkySafari experience here.
Fun Fact: Tanzania boasts having the tallest mountain in Africa and also the fourth tallest volcano in the world.
With Obama announcing major changes to US – Cuba relations, intrigued Americans finally have reduced travel restrictions and can explore Cuba. While many of our non-American friends have been free to explore and report that Cuba is just as stuck in time as we all dream it to be, there are new luxury golf resorts (which were formally banned under Fidel Castro), airport improvements and a renovated port with additional space for luxury yachts.
When to go: Cuba has a hot and sunny tropical climate. The dry season is November through April, but even if you go in the rainy season (May through September) the rain comes down hard and fast before the sunshine breaks through the clouds and dries everything out again.
How to get around: G Adventures offers a 15-day small group trip that traverses the small island nation. Dance the salsa in Havana, sunbathe on the breathtaking beaches Cuba is known for, and ogle the classic cars in the colonial squares. Of course, you can explore independently and it is fairly straightforward to rent a car
Where to stay: Situated in the heart of Old Havana, the Iberostar Parque Central is as close you’ll get to luxury in Cuba, at least for now. After a stay in Havana, which is a must, head to one of Cuba’s breathtaking beaches for some fun in the sun. Check out the Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort & Spa, which is situated on the Hicacos Peninsula and surrounded by about 20 kilometers of pristine beaches.
Fun Fact: Baseball is by far the most famous sport in Cuba, which was introduced to the country by American sailors who came in to port on trading ships in the 1960s. Check out the league’s calendar and go to a game!
After several trips to Norway we have no idea why, but Norway has long had to compete with other more “fashionable” European destinations for visitors. Since the hit Disney film, Frozen fans have been flocking to Norway to see Elsa and Anna’s Arendelle. It doesn’t actually exist, but Norway’s stunning fjords, charming stave churches, and super cute reindeer served as the inspiration for Frozen’s artists.
When to go: To see Norway actually frozen, head there in the winter. The Northern Lights dance in the Polar Night from September through March and you can even get up close with real life reindeer. Of course, the fjords are green and stunning in the summer months. Basically, we’re saying there’s never a bad time to go to Norway!
How to get around: For a true Frozen experience, Adventures by Disney has a fantastic itinerary in which you’ll follow in the filmmaker’s footsteps with hiking and river rafting Norway’s breathtaking terrain. The 8-day itinerary takes care of everything from transportation and hotels to activities. If you’re seeking a more adults-only trip, you can travel independently using the trains or rent a car.
Where to stay: We’ve found the Scandinavian Radissons to be chic and luxe. Bergen served as the inspiration for Arendelle and you can check out the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Bergen. Steps away from the harbor and picturesque Bryggen district, you’ll feel like Elsa every morning as you step outside. You might even want to break out singing Let It Go!
Insider Tip: The best vantage points are from the top of Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken. You can hike between the two, which is a typical way a local spends an active day.
A new law encouraging wealthy Americans to invest money in Puerto Rico for a tax break has spurred an uptick in luxury tourism to the island territory. Before that, nearly 5 million tourists would pass through San Juan each year from cruise ships. They barely stray from the beaten path and they don’t know what they’re missing. Coffee connoisseurs will especially appreciate the many coffee plantations and array of drinks brewed from locally sourced beans. Top it all off with stunning beaches – why wouldn’t you want to go?
When to go: The shoulder season from mid-April to June is a perfect time to visit Puerto Rico. The busy winter tourist season has just ended and prices are a little lower with hotels as inexpensive as $80 per night. Weather is still quite nice until the rainy season sets in come June.
How to get around: San Juan is easily navigated on foot and by using the bus. For venturing further afield, a rental car is the best best. Be sure to have some spare change for the occasional toll.
Where to stay: Billionaire (demonstrating smart investments is why he is a billionaire) John Paulson owns two luxury resorts: the newly opened Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan and the St. Regis Bahai Beach an hour to the east. The St. Regis is on a coconut plantation and is Puerto Rico’s only AAA Five Diamond Resort.
Insider Tip: You might love pina coladas (and getting caught in the rain), but the rum, anise and fruit juice concoction known as the chichaíto (cheeh-chah-ee-toh) is the drink to order, especially after dinner, in Puerto Rico.
Although New York City has long been a top urban US travel destination, many travelers fail to venture below 34th Street. But amazing things are happening in just one square mile in Lower Manhattan and it’s well worth spending the majority of your next trip to NYC in this up-and-coming area. Many of New York’s most famous landmarks like Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty are in Lower Manhattan and the insiders at Walks of New York will introduce to the rest. And don’t forget to eat your way through Chinatown and Little Italy with some of the best and cheapest eats in Manhattan with Ahoy New York Food Tours.
When to go: I have two favorite times to be in NYC: the spring and during the holidays. In Spring, the sun is shining and spectacularly warm on your face. The green spaces are blooming with colorful flowers and there couldn’t be a more pleasant time to stroll outside.
How to get around: Walk! The best way to explore Lower Manhattan is on foot. But you can easily use the subway to quickly get uptown or take a cruise out to the Statue of Liberty.
Where to stay: Located on the waterfront and with panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty, the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park is the place to be when staying in Lower Manhattan.
Insider Tip: The High Line is one of NYC’s beautiful green spaces and is best explored on a sunny day. The elevated park has gourmet food carts, sun loungers, art and water features. You almost forget you’re in the bustling metropolis of NYC while peering down upon it.
Portugal has long been a bargain destination in the Mediterranean. Prices have stayed relatively the same over the last five year period. While oenophiles flock to Italy and France for their famous wines, you can get more bang for your buck in Portugal’s Douro Valley. With terraced vineyards creeping down the riverbanks, the region is stunning and you can spend your days sailing and sipping port.
When to go: Spring and autumn are the best times to visit the Douro Valley. The vines will be green and flowers in bloom. If you visit in September, you can take part in the harvest and even stomp grapes by foot at some of the wineries.
How to get around: The Douro Valley is best explored on the river or by rail. In the summer months, there is a historic train service. And if you’re looking for a more adventurous trip, you can even kayak the river.
Where to stay: You can take a multi-day river cruise, staying right on the boat. Or stay in the heart of the Douro Valley at CS Vintage House, a former 18th century wine estate with fabulous views and a spectacular pool.
Insider Tip: Indulge in the port and chocolate gourmet tasting in CS Vintage House’s Wine Academy. Chocolates handmade by the hotel’s in-house pastry chef accompany a white port, a 10 year old tawny port, a 40 year old tawny port, and a late bottled vintage port.
Budapest is still a best-value European destination for a city-break with low prices and a stable exchange rate. Renaissance and art-nouveau architecture provides a romantic backdrop to an increasingly hip destination that Danube River cruisers continually rate as their one of their favorite spots. There is plenty to do for every kind of traveler from caving for the more adventurous to sipping Hungarian wines for the wine lover. Check out these Top 12 Things to Do in Budapest.
When to go: Budapest is lovely at any time of the year, though the fall colors are gorgeous and temperatures quite lovely in October.
How to get around: Budapest is an easily walkable city and for attractions a little further afield, Budapest has a a tram system. Castle Hill is also accessible by funicular.
Where to stay: The Intercontinental Budapest is located in the heart of the city and river view rooms have gorgeous views of the Chain Bridge and Castle Hill. Many attractions are within walking distance and a tram stops just steps from the hotel’s entrance.
What to eat: Hungarian food is hearty. Think goulash soup, stews, and game dishes like rabbit and goose leg. Budapest is also known for its delicious cakes; visit Cafe Ruszwurm, Budapest’s oldest confectionery that still operates as a coffee house to try some of the best cakes in the city.
What to drink: Spend an afternoon learning about Hungarian wines from sommelier and connoisseur Gábor Nagy at Faust Wine Cellar. You sip wines from all around the Eastern European country and probably go home with a few to enjoy while reminiscing on your trip.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may not have actually been filmed in Greenland (the village of Hofn on Iceland’s South Coast served as the setting for the karaoke bar-slash-helipad in the movie), but it certainly fueled our already curious interest in Greenland. We got our first taste of exploring Greenland a few months ago on a day trip to Kulusuk. The rawness of it left us wanting more and with more companies offering cruises and expeditions, Greenland is more accessible than ever before.
When to go: Greenland is not as green as it’s name would imply. Have you heard the expression “Greenland is full of ice and Iceland is very nice” before? Greenland can suffer some harsh winters, making access by ship or flight nearly impossible. Most companies that offer Greenland trips do so in August and September.
How to get around: Don’t except to rent the red or blue car that Walter Mitty did in Nuuk. There are no roads to connect the villages and most Greenlanders travel by boat or dog sled. You can easily explore multiple villages and natural sites on one of Quark Expedition’s multiple Greenland tours. If we were to pick one, we’d choose Greenland’s Far North.
Fun Fact: Nearly 80% of Greenland’s land mass is covered by an icecap and glaciers. The Ilulissat Icefjord is the largest glacier outside of Antarctica and the ice-free land is only about the size of Sweden.
13. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana regularly appears on the lists for the most affordable European capital cities to visit, and though Slovenia is mainly known for its natural wonders like Like Bled, the capital is worth a visit. The city with a name most people can barely pronounce, let alone spell, makes for a perfect city break. Beautiful alabaster bridges span the river that snakes through the heart of the city and Baroque buildings dot the squares. From street food to upscale eateries, foodies will be pleasantly surprised with Ljubljana’s food scene.
When to go: Fall is a fantastic time to visit when the trees are turning shades of gold and red. The national dishes, like mushroom soup, take the bite out of the crisp air. One of the city’s biggest cultural events also takes place each November: the Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFE).
How to get around: Ljubljana is an easily walkable city, but if you want to explore further afield than the compact old town, hop on one of the Bicikelj rental bikes from the 32 stations across the city.
Where to stay: Luxury lovers will appreciate the three saunas, three bars, and garden at Ljubljana’s most luxurious hotel, the Antiq Palace Hotel and Spa. The spacious elegant rooms will make you feel like a noble family reigning in the grand old days.
Insider Tip: There is a great hike just 10 minutes from the city for those looking to commune with nature on your city break. Take the city bus number 8 (Gameljne) to Smarna Gora for a hike up to the two camel shaped peaks. It’s steep, but the hike only takes about 20 minutes and offers spectacular views over the city.
Known as the Grand Canyon of Europe, the Ardeche in the south of France is one of those places that should be kept a secret, but is just too beautiful not to share. While the south of France typically brings to mind images of yachts moored at the most exclusive beach clubs in St. Tropez and celebs strutting their stuff on the infamous red carpet of the industry-only Cannes Film Festival, Ardeche has a decidedly different vibe. It’s an adventurer’s dream with via ferratas, white water kayaking, and riverside camping.
When to go: September is a perfect time to go. The summertime crowds have left and the temperatures are just perfect for comfortably hiking, climbing, and kayaking.
How to get around: This part of France is best explored with a car to reach the gorges where you’ll find via ferrata routes. You can also take a multi-day kayak trip down the river and camp along the way.
Where to stay: There are many four and five star camp grounds along the Ardeche River, but if you seek a little more luxe comfort after days climbing and kayaking, Hotel Berneron in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc makes an excellent base for exploring the region.
Insider Tip: Vogue isn’t just a fashion magazine. It’s a real village in the Ardeche and it’s on the list of France’s most beautiful villages. With the chateau dominating the village, a labyrinth of cobbled alleys and staircases, and the crystal clear Ardeche River flowing beneath, it’s no wonder and it’s well worth taking some time out from outdoor adventures to stroll around.
Myanmar, formerly Burma, was only officially opened up to international tourists and journalists in 2011. Since, it’s been touted as the next big tourist destination, though Myanmar is definitely still rough around the edges. ATMs, previously either absent altogether or only available to locals, have popped up around the country and hotels are even offering wifi. Things are changing quickly and though it can be a bit tricky to get around, Myanmar is very worth the efforts to get an unfiltered look at Southeast Asia.
When to go: The best time to go to Myanmar is between November and February, when it is the driest and coolest.
How to get around: International flights are available to Mandalay or Yangon. There are trains, buses, and boats, and domestic flights all available to travel between Myanmar’s cities including Bagan. Domestic air carriers (as of 2013) still operate in an archaic fashion by simply confirming your ticket with an email. Air Bagan is able to accept payment via the internet, though make sure you have your confirmation printed out.
In Bagan, options are bicycle, e-bike, traditional horse and cart, or taxi. Not to be missed is ballooning over Bagan for a birds-eye view as the sun illuminates the stupas in shades of gold and pink.
Where to stay: Blue Bird Bagan Hotel is located at the edge of New Bagan and the archeological site. The rooms are spacious and luxurious and there’s even a lovely on-site pool and restaurant. The hotel also has bicycles and e-bikes for rent or can arrange a horse cart to get around.
What to eat: Burmese curries are rich and flavorful. Vegetable curries, like pumpkin or eggplant, are particularly delicious.
Cultural tip: Despite the hot weather, even in the “cooler” months, shorts are not acceptable attire. Pants are preferable or pick up a longhi as a souvenir and to wear. Shoes also must be removed when entering temples, so flip flops are easiest.
Fun fact: When you think of wine-making, Southeast Asia probably doesn’t even come to mind. But wine-making is a popular industry in Myanmar. You’ll find Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Inle Valley White Wine as some of the most popular.
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