Every year brings a new, thoroughly subjective list of the “best places to visit.” Our list is no less subjective, but it is carefully considered. Based on our intuitions and what makes each destination worth visiting in the new year, here are our picks for the best unexpected travel destinations of 2018.
Mexico City and the Yucatan Peninsula
For many in the know, Mexico City has been a go-to travel destination for years. Now, the city is finally getting the mainstream recognition it deserves. Among many other accolades, it’s recognized for 2018 as a World Design Capital for its deft blending of new and old. The city proudly maintains much of its architecture, heritage, and cuisine while also looking forward with new bike share programs, urban gardens, and one of the coolest creative scenes in North America. A quick, two-hour flight to the Yucatan Peninsula puts even more unique experiences — snorkeling underwater museums, hot air ballooning over ancient ruins, and mind-altering Shamanic wellness experiences in Merida — at your fingertips.
Don’t miss: Every autumn, the mountains just west of Mexico City witness one of the world’s most spectacular migrations. Billions of monarch butterflies travel more than 3,000 miles across North America. A number of companies organize guided tours to witness the one-of-a-kind exodus.
Croatian tourism has been steadily on the rise for years. Thanks to a starring role as the backdrop for mainstream hits like Game of Thrones and the recent Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the country’s breathtaking landscape has become a destination in its own right. The seaside city of Dubrovnik — with its walled towns, cobblestone streets, and centuries-old architecture — feels perfectly plucked from a Gothic fairytale. Every beach in the country boasts a long list of water sports, from jet skiing to windsurfing to paragliding. The country’s culinary scene has also been in the spotlight recently for Istrian truffles, which are among the best in the world.
Don’t miss: Plitvice Lakes National Park is the country’s most notable natural treasure. A dense, emerald green forest surrounds 16 glistening, mineral-rich lakes which cascade into one another through a series of countless waterfalls.
La Paz, Bolivia
Bolivia is fast becoming South America’s swankiest destination, and nowhere is this more evident than La Paz. In the last few years, the shared capital city has opened its doors to chic cocktail bars, world-class restaurants, and boutique hotels. Incidentally, it’s also home to The Death Road, one of South America’s most dangerous and bucket-list-worthy adventures.
Don’t miss: Take the cable car up to neighboring El Alto, one of the highest cities in the world at 13,615 feet. It’s loud, manic, and quintessentially Bolivian — and the views are literally breathtaking.
Don’t miss: The country’s architecture represents an amalgam of more than two thousands years of conquest, construction, and rebuilding. It’s no surprise then that mausoleums, mosques, madrasahs, and minarets dot every skyline in the country — all of which provide a no-brainer tour for fans of history and “architourism.”
There’s an ever-shrinking number of places in the world where you can truly feel like you’re getting away from it all. The Faroe Islands are a tiny blip of an archipelago adrift in the north Atlantic Ocean between Norway and Iceland. The 18 islands that make up this self-governing Danish region are at once ancient and modern. Miles of beautiful, rolling, treeless hills serve as the backdrop for quaint villages full of grass-topped churches and brightly painted cottages. It’s a marvelous escape for hikers and bird-lovers that feels a million miles away from anywhere. Yet, the entire archipelago is connected by a series of modern roads, tunnels, and ferry lines.
Don’t miss: Until 2004, pint-sized Gásadalur Village was largely cut off from the rest of the world. A road now provides travelers with relatively easy access to one of the most pristine and picturesque villages in all of the Faroes. The cliffside location is surrounded by craggy green mountains perched high above the Atlantic Ocean — an Instagram-worthy photo op if ever there was one.
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