The Best Vacation Destinations You’ve Never Heard Of
admin | Thursday, 5 September 2013 | 2578 Total Views
#20 Changbaishan, China: Biggest. Ski. Resort. Ever.
Surprise, surprise: China is embarking on yet another hyper ambitions modernization project. This time, the goal is to build a $3.2 billion ski resort in the pine-packed nature reserve in Jilin province, near the North Korean border.
With 43 planned trails totaling 20 miles, it'll be one of the largest resorts in Asia. Hoteliers are already setting up shop, including Westin and Sheraton resorts, which opened last month.
#19 Bhutan: An Enigmatic Kingdom
Bhutan is one of the most enigmatic countries on earth. Here, the rice is red, chillies are the main ingredient in many dishes and the country charges $200 a day as a tariff for visitors. That last bit may seem absurd, until you realize the fee is all-inclusive -- encompassing accommodation, food, transport and an official guide.
In Bhutan, you'll find snowcapped peaks, primeval forests and gorgeous Buddhist monasteries. Maybe the local scenery is why this tiny kingdom is consistently ranked the happiest country on earth. Called "Nepal for the jet set," Bhutan is also mostly tourist-free. And as any seasoned traveler will tell you -- that's a damn good thing.
#18 The Kimberely, Australia: A Craggy Beauty
The Kimberely region, three times the size of England, has remained untouched for years, it's rugged, craggy beauty mystically unreachable. But that's all beginning to change. Luxury lodges and bungalows -- many of which have their own dedicated helicopter landing spots -- have sprouted up.
Yes, the Kimberley area is remote and thus geared towards the well-heeled. But if you have the cash, this place is crazy beautiful.
#17 Constantia: South African Wine Country
If Cape Town left you feeling dizzy from its natural beauty, this nearby suburb will take the rest of your breath away and knock you out cold. Set against the staggeringly beautiful slopes of Table Mountain, Constantia features 10 winemaking farms dating back to 1685.
The crown jewel of the city is the Steenberg Luxury Hotel. With an award-winning winery, 18-hole championship golf course, plush spa and three gourmet restaurants, it's perhaps unsurprising it was rated the #1 hotel in all of Africa by Travel & Leisure magazine.
#16 Lithuania: Land of Beer
Lithuania is fast becoming a mecca for beer lovers. A new beer trail allows visitors to sample Lithuanian beer from different provinces.
Rumor has it, the beer in Lithuania has a different DNA than all other known strands. These "earthy and unusual" ales can be tried in more than 50 farmhouse breweries in the country's north. Duff land, this is not.
#15 The Philippines: A Secluded Paradise
Secluded beaches, untouched reefs and tiny surf towns are among the draws of this country, which is made up of more than 7,000 tropical islands. New resorts have sprung up in recent years in this country, catering to the international jet setter.
These include the new Dedon Island resort on Siargo, near one of the world's best surf breaks and the private island resort of Eli Nido Pangulasian, which is located in a Unesco biosphere. Snorkel to your heart's content.
#14 Koh Pangan, Thailand: Like Cabo Without the Spring Breakers
Once known primarily for its raucous annual full moon party, Koh Pangan is now growing up and shedding its hedonist reputation. New resorts like the stylish Buri Rasa and Kupu Kupu are luring high-end business clientele as well as families, making the place seem more "Eat Pray Love" than spring break at Cabo.
Besides the gorgeous beaches, hidden waterfalls and Buddhist temples, Koh Pangan offers Western amenities like a Canadian-run Yoga studio and a vegan cafe serving handmade coconut ice cream.
#13 Puerto Rico: Better than the Bahamas
Our neighbs to the South are looking mighty fine these days. Puerto Rico might not get as many American visitors as the Bahamas or Hawaii, but this island paradise is just as worthy of a jaunt.
The beautifully-preserved old city with its blue-glazed cobblestones is a site to see. New hotels have opened in recent years, too: The Condado Vanderbilt, a stately hotel built in 1919 is re-opening this summer after having been closed since 1993. The Ritz just opened new digs 20 miles from the main city-- with 115 rooms facing the ocean, and 11 miles of walking and biking trails.
#12 Pecs, Hungary: Budapest's Cooler Cousin
125 miles south of Budapest, Pecs is a fascinating cultural jewel, with Baroque buildings, an Ottoman bathhouse and new creative venues. After being chosen as a 2010 European Culture Capital, the city added a new modernist concert center and the extensive Zsolnay Cultural Quarter, a venue for art and music.
Another benefit to visiting Pecs is that the weather there is almost always pleasant; lying equidistant from the Danube to the east and the Drava to the south, Pecs enjoys a microclimate that lengthens Summer.
#11 The Falkland Islands
These galapagos islands, described as "cold and rugged" by the NYTimes, don't have the best PR. Indeed, politics has consumed this region -- even 30 years after the Falkland War between Argentina and Britain. No matter: this is still a good time to visit.
Stanley, the capital, is seeing massive development, including the creation of the Faulkland islands Museum, a new harbor-view restaurant and the expansion of the Malvina House Hotel. Get here before the new money completely transforms the place.
#10 Republic of Congo: Gorilla Watching!
I know what you're thinking -- since when has war-torn Congo been on the top of any sane traveler's list? While parts of the country remain embroiled in violence, the Republic of Congo -- a former French colony that has managed to avoid much of the conflicts of its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo -- is experiencing a boon in travelers.
Two luxury safari camps have opened in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park in recent years, with easy access to the sights and sounds of the world's second-largest tropical rain forest. Well-appointed rooms with gorgeous views are just the beginning -- here, you even have the opportunity to follow gorillas with local guides. Um, yes please.
#9 Casablanca, Morocco: Not Just a Movie
This port town has a dusty, colonial feel, but it still manages a romantic pull -- and not just for film buffs. Filled with cool Art Deco town houses, palm trees and Parisian-style bistros, Casablanca has experienced a rebirth under the reign of the more tolerant and economically savvy King Mohammed VI.
Now, the city is starting to court the international jet set with a bevy of new art galleries. Visitors will also want to check out the Twin Center, North Africa's tallest towers, and the "gorgeous" Rialto movie theater. Paris in the Middle East? Not quite, but you're going to want to see for yourself.
#8 Mergui Islands, Myanmar: Like Cast Away, In a Good Way
These 800 islands have remained largely empty due to Myanmar's police state: the few dozen tourists who would visit each month were closely monitored. But all of that is beginning to change as Myanmar slowly takes steps to become a democracy.
Now, though only a handful of companies run trips to the Mergui islands, tourists are beginning to rediscover this region. Because so few have heard of the area, though, visitors can still expect Cast Away-esque empty beaches, deserted islands and gorgeous natural surroundings. Sailing Yacht Asia gives tours of the archipelago in luxurious yachts that can accommodate 10 people.
#7 Jackson Hole, Wyoming: Tetons and Thai Food.
Once known purely for its fine powder and Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole is now a destination for any season, thanks to a burgeoning art scene, new resorts and a well-regarded music festival.
You can still ski down bone-jarring cliffs during the day and saddle up to cowboy bars at night, but now there are also expert classes to take in nature photography, great galleries to visit and even a darn-good Thai restaurant to book for dinner (named appropriately, Teton Thai).Who knew Wyoming could feel so cosmopolitan?
#6 Burgos, Spain: A Gastronomic Delight
This teensy city used to be known primarily for its massive cathedral, which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in the 80's. Today it's attracting foodies the world over, after being declared Spain's gastronomic capital.
Local delicacies include blood sausages with roasted peppers, grilled lechazo, and baby lamb. Besides the gorgeous church and scrumptious food, there's a new boutique hotel here (Via Gotica) as well as the recently-opened Museum of Human Evolution.
#5 Granada, Nicaragua: At the Center of a Renaissance
Granada, nicknamed "Great Sultan," was founded in 1524 and is the oldest city in the new world. Today it's emerging as the center of a Nicaraguan renaissance. As locals say: "Granada is Nicaragua; the rest is just mountains."
With colorful, colonial houses, framed by the hulking Mombacho volcano, Granada leaves an impression like nowhere else in the country. It's also got huge tracts of forests teeming with endangered species, quiet surfing beaches and first-rate resorts. Check out El Zaguan for Granada's best churrasco-style steakhouse and Alabama Rib Shack Bar for American grub with a Latin flare.
#4 The Jesenik: Relaxation Awaits
The Jesenik , a Czech mountain range along the border with Poland, has long been renowned for its rejuvenating, clean air. Folks have been coming here to unwind since the 18th century.
Just ask Maximilian Franz, the youngest child of the Holy Roman empress Maria Theresa: He founded a Swiss chalet in the spa village in 1850. Today, modern pools, saunas and treatment facilities attract the tired and the stressed from all over Europe.
#3 Washington D.C.: Not Just For Fat Cats and Lobbyists
If you're thinking D.C. is still full of preppy rich lobbyists and disadvantaged minorities, you're right. But in the past couple of years, neighborhoods have become more racially mixed as the city has seen an influx of new residents. The foodie scene is humming right along, too, now that the artisnal foodie palace Union Market and Thai jewel Little Serow have gained followings.
Check out Logan and Adam's Morgan for first-class dining and entertainment options. Rad nights can be had at the Black Cat and the 9:30 club.
#2 Oslo, Norway: Fine Fjords, Fine Food.
Oslo offers an intoxicating mix of tall trees and tall buildings, fjords and fine food. The Oslo Opera house, which looks like a giant glacier sliding into the river, boasts incredible acoustics and has won numerous international design awards.
Nearby, you can grab some Michelin-approved grub at Maaemo restaurant, or explore Oslo's diverse mix of top-notch nightlife, which ranges from jazz to indie rock. Perhaps best of all is how easy it is to leave the city behind and explore Oslo's surroundings, where one can cycle, hike, ice-skate, kayak, sail or ski -- all within city limits.
#1 Yucatan, Mexico: Steeped in Culture
This ancient Mayan city is home to a plethora of archeological sites and a culture steeped in tradition. Here you can find beautiful resorts offering truly unique spa treatments (like a three-day cleansing ritual called Kukulkhan) as well as a dance festival, concerts, literary festivals and even talks by renowned astronomers.
Nearby Valladolid has become a bit of a foodie paradise, offering dishes like grilled watermelon with panela cheese and tacos stuffed with pork, black bean and pickled onions.