Whether you travel to eat or shop, surf or ski, new adventures await. And if you’ve visited any of our 46 destinations this year, send us your photo and story below.
1. RIO DE JANEIRO
Fifty-three years after Brazil’s federal government decamped to Brasília, and decades after São Paulo took over as the country’s business capital, Rio is staging a comeback. With the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics (plus an oil boom) providing the impetus, the tropical city perhaps most famous for its Carnival hedonism is on its way to becoming a more sophisticated cultural hub. In January, the Cidade das Artes, or City of the Arts, was inaugurated as the new home of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. On March 23, Casa Daros — an outpost of the Zurich-based Daros Latinamerica Collection — will open in a renovated 19th-century building with an exhibition of Colombian artists. March will also mark the opening of the Rio Museum of Art in Praça Mauá, a once decrepit port area now being revived. (The Santiago Calatrava-designed Museum of Tomorrow, also in the port area, is scheduled to follow in 2014.) Shopping, a Rio obsession, got a boost in December when the luxe VillageMall opened; it will soon house the city’s first Gucci outlet and South America’s first Apple Store. Special events also dot the coming year’s calendar, including the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in July, the biennial Rio Book Fair starting in late August, and September’s Rock in Rio. And, of course, there’s soccer: the finals of the Confederations Cup, considered a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, will be held in a completely overhauled Maracanã Stadium on June 30.
The European Capital of Culture designation (two cities get the title annually) often spotlights a destination that has become an up-and-comer on its own merits in the last few years, which is certainly the case with this ancient port town on the Mediterranean. A vibrant ethnic melting pot, Marseille is also home to an increasing number of contemporary art and avant-garde performances. Exhibition spaces include the 2,000-seat Le Silo, a landmark granary that’s been transformed into a theater; the Panorama, an ex-tobacco factory now home to modern installations; and J1, a hangar on the old port that will host a number of events. While in town, book into a stylish hotel like the four-bedroom Casa Honoré or the new cheap chic Mama Shelter Marseille.
If the name Oliver North means anything to you, there’s a good chance that Nicaragua doesn’t jump to your mind when you think of a relaxing, high-end, spa-filled vacation. For the past 30 years, the country has been fighting its image as a land of guerrilla warfare and covert arms deals. At first, only travel writers took note; over the past several years, various publications have declared the country the next great destination. However, if the booming eco-lodge business is any indication, Nicaragua’s moment might finally have arrived. In and around the coastal towns of San Juan del Sur and Maderas, new lodges like the Aqua Wellness Resort, the high-end (and soon-to-open) Mukul Resort and Jicaro Island Eco-Lodge are cropping up near old-time eco-lodges, like Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Eco-Lodge. The food scene is getting a high-end makeover as well, with top chefs opening restaurants. The most exciting ones — El Segundo, La Casserole, Ciudad Lounge and La Finca y El Mar — are proof that Nicaragua is becoming an impressive food destination in its own right.
4. ACCRA, GHANA
Accra, the capital of Ghana, has welcomed business travelers for years. Now tourists are streaming in, a byproduct of the fact that the country has Africa’s fastest-growing economy and is also one of its safest destinations. The Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel (with poolside bar and waiters on roller skates) opened in 2011, and the Marriott Accra — the chain’s first sub-Saharan offering — will feature a casino and upscale shopping when it opens in the spring. On Accra’s packed beaches, you’ll see everything from snake handlers to plantain peddlers. Head to the upscale neighborhood of Osu and hit the treehouse-inspired terrace at Buka for fine West African food. The best Ghanaian adventures start with a giant plate of tomato-smothered tilapia and banku — a fermented yeast paste that’s tastier than it sounds — washed down with local Star beer.
Imagine that the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York were partly closed for renovations for almost a decade — at the same time. That’s basically what happened in Amsterdam, with the closings of the Stedelijk, the city’s design and contemporary art museum, in 2004 and the Rijksmuseum in 2003. The Stedelijk finally reopened at the end of September with a new, sleek bathtub-like extension, and the Rijksmuseum will reopen in April with much fanfare after a complete redo by the Spanish architects Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz. The Van Gogh Museum too, will reopen in May, after a much shorter renovation. The city will also be celebrating 400 years since the building of its iconic canal ring and the 125th birthday of the Concertgebouw, the city’s concert hall, which will feature performances by Eva-Maria Westbroek and Bernard Haitink among others. To prepare for the wave of visitors, there are several new hotels, from the five-star Conservatorium, to an Andazdesigned by the Amsterdam-based design star Marcel Wanders. If you’re lucky, you might score the single suite at a hotel/restaurant/shopping/exhibition space named Droog, for the collective that designed it.
6. NEW DELHI
Having surpassed its sibling Mumbai in the number of millionaire residents who call it home, New Delhi is celebrating its economic rise with gusto. It’s even added speed to its notoriously creaky infrastructure. Delhi’s new metro system, currently in its latest stage of expansion to the Outer Ring Road, provides a smooth yet surreal ride from the dense cacophony of the ancient Mughal bazaars to the hypermodern mega-malls of the grassy suburbs. Immaculate, cheap and air-conditioned, the metro might be the most ambitious construction since India won its independence. And there are lots of new places to visit: cutting-edge galleries like Latitude 28 andGallery Threshold in the emerging Lado Sarai arts district, and new restaurants like Varq and Indian Accent, which are expanding the horizons of nouvelle Indian cuisine. Setting new standards for dramatic design, hotels like the Aman, Oberoi and Leela have all recently opened strikingly original and competing visions of living in style in a city that suddenly exudes a lot of it.
Turkey is now included in the Eurail system, and Istanbul’s busy cultural calendar this year is excuse enough to use your pass to stop there. In addition to the biennial this fall, there are new galleries and cultural centers to explore. Salt, which is directed by the curator Vasif Kortun and has impressive spaces in Beyoglu and Galata, and the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence opened last year, joining a buzzing art scene that includes newish arrivals like Rodeo Gallery and Arter. Lined with lively cafes and funky little design and fashion shops like Lunapark,Bahar Korcan and Atelier 55, Galata, one of the oldest districts in Istanbul, is going through a renaissance at warp speed. This year also marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic, which will bring yet more cultural celebrations, including the reopening of the Ataturk Cultural Center, home of Istanbul’s state ballet, opera and orchestra.
As one of the world’s richest nations and a capital of global finance, Singapore has been awash in green for decades. But lately the densely populated city-state is burnishing its credentials as another type of green center — the ecological kind. A study released in 2011 by The Economist magazine’s Intelligence Unit and Siemens ranked Singapore as the greenest city in Asia, and this year the metropolis of glass and steel inaugurates two vast nature projects guaranteed to boost the green quotient further and to enhance the city’s image as a destination for environmental tourism. Gardens by the Bay, an ambitious 250-acre nature reserve, won the building-of-the-year prize at the World Architecture Festival for its glassy, hill-like main building, which houses attractions like the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. Not to be outdone, the new Marine Life Park is already touting itself as “the world’s largest oceanarium.” It features a huge water park with rides and an aquarium showcasing some 800 species of underwater life.
Idyllic white sand beaches, secluded, little-known surf towns, and pristine reefs are among the natural draws of this country made up of over 7,000 tropical islands. Now in addition to the more upscale choices cropping up in former backpacking enclaves like Boracay, there is a new generation of luxury hotels opening even further afield. The new Dedon Island resort on Siargao, for example, is close to one of the world’s best surf breaks, Cloud 9 (Kelly Slater is a fan), and has an outdoor cinema along with spa and paddle board classes. And the private island resort of El Nido Pangulasian opens this month in the Unesco biosphere of Palawan, right by some of the world’s most pristine diving spots. Although the Philippines has been subject to travel advisories in the past, they mostly focus on Mindanao in the south. For extra security, outfitters like Asian expert Remote Lands organize private transfers and local guides.
10. THE KIMBERLEY, AUSTRALIA
Even by Australian standards, the Kimberley region is remote, with roughly 50,000 people living in an area larger than Germany. The area has long been largely off-limits to anyone without a yacht or the nerve to pilot a four-wheel drive through rocky riverbeds. Now luxury lodges have opened up the region to travelers willing to trade big bucks for land-based access to some spectacular spots. The Berkeley River Lodge, a 20-villa, fly-in complex, opened last spring on a sprawling Timor Sea beach. Inland, the classic El Questro Homestead added bungalows overlooking the Chamberlain Gorge on a million acre preserve. From any of these spots you can go fishing for barramundi, hike to sacred rock art sites, and take tours to towering waterfalls or up croc-infested estuaries to spy on wallabies and jabirus. The catch? The region is loaded with iron, and mining companies will continue to go after it.