Good-Value, Not-the-Same-Old Travel Destinations

  • 01 of 12

    In Asia: Palawan Island in the Philippines, a Protected Natural Paradise

    El Nido Resort on Apulit Island in the Philippines
    ••• El Nido Resorts are found on four spectacular islands in the Philippines' Palawan province. Here, Apulit Island. ©El Nido Resorts

    Hottest New Luxury Travel Destinations for Right Now

    Luxury travelers are trophy hunters. They like to get to a vacation destination before everyone else does -- but in comfort and in style, and with good value, too. Here are 2016's hot destinations for thrills, chills, nice hotels, and modest prices.

    First: Palawan in the Philippines: Perfect, Unspoiled Tropical Islands

    If you dream of a Southeast Asian beach resort without crowds and high prices, we have a place for you. It's in the Philippines: Palawan province, a natural paradise blissfully removed from the modern world.

    So Much to Gawk at in Palawan

    You'll never feel hemmed-in or pressured in Palawan. It offers privacy: nearly 1800 islands with 1200 miles of virgin coastline. 

    The typical Palawan landscape is out of a storybook: a jungle-covered small isle topped by an extinct volcano, bordered by serene sugar-sand beaches, and lapped by jade-green waters.

    In Palawan, Nature Reigns

    Palawan is a natural paradise (and UNESCO...MORE World Heritage Site). Its impenetrable limestone cliffs and vast stretches of wildlife preserves protect creatures of the land, sea, and air. 
    • Palawan's exotic birds have made the region a destination for adventurous birdwatchers

    Scuba and Snorkeling in Palawan

    This province is one of Planet Earth's best spots for diving and snorkeling.
    • The water is warm and clear and the marine life dazzling
    • Coron Island's shipwreck diving is renowned...do you dare?

    Eco-Luxury Destinations in Palawan

    Upscale visitors head to several distinctive destinations in Palawan.
    • Puerto Princesa City, the vintage capital
    • Coron (resorts: Two Seasons Coron, Club Paradise, El Rio y Mar, and Huma Island Resort & Spa, with 81 private villas
    • El Nido (the four eco-conscious El Nido Resorts offer overwater bungalows that perch right in the ocean lagoon; El Nido Apulit Island is shown above)
    • Pamalican Island (resort: the ultra-exclusive Amanpulo)

    Find Out More About Palawan in the Philippines

    • Palawan official tourism site and great info about Palawan nature

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  • 02 of 12

    In South America: Valparaiso in Chile, Arts City Perched on the Pacific

    Steep hill street in Valparaiso, Chile
    ••• Just like San Francisco: Valparaiso street slope down to the Pacific. ©Naslo.veliz/Flickr Creative Commons

    Valparaiso, the San Francisco of South America

    If this picture of Valparaiso reminds you of San Francisco, well, the two cities have a lot in common.
    • In the 19th and early 20th centuries, they were the Americas' most important Pacific ports
    • And are both still major cruise ports
    • They are built on steep hills leading down to the ocean, and are famous for their cable cars
    • They are fantastically scenic and colorful
    • They have attracted artistic residents and have tons of local pride
    • And are both cultural tourism destinations (Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was designated Chile's Cultural Capital by the national government)

    How Valparaiso Differs from San Francisco: It's Cheap to Visit!

    Unlike San Francisco, Valparaiso is a travel bargain. Even staying in a luxury hotel, you won't spend a lot here. 

    What's New in Valparaiso?

    The attitude in Valparaiso is "we are cool and we know it!" This town has all the hallmarks of a happening travel...MORE destination.
    • Design-centric boutique hotels like Casa Higueras, Palacio Astoreca, Zero Hotel, Casa Galos
    • A hot dining and drinking scene...

    What to Eat and Drink in Valparaiso

    Like many American cities, Valparaiso was settled by European immigrants. Its cuisine is a blend of Old World and New. Tastes to try:
    Mariscal, a healthy dish of mixed seafood with a Chilean salad on the side
    Chorrillana, steak and eggs with onions and French fries
    • What to drink? Chilean wine (try the indigenous red grape, Carmenere) and cocktails made with Chilean pisco liquor

    Cerro Concepción: the Coolest Neighborhood in Valparaiso

    Cerro Concepción (Conception Hill) is not to be missed.
    • You get there via Ascensor Concepción,  Valparaiso's oldest ascensor (cable car/funicular), launched in 1883 and an icon to Chileans
    • The nabe is filled with cafés, bars, boutiques, and galleries
    • Locals as well as hip tourists hang out here

    Why End-of-Year Is the Best Time to Visit Valparaiso

    Between Christmas and New Year's, Valparaiso hosts a major festival.
    • Hundreds of thousands of Chileans and visitors flock to its performances, concerts, dances, and parties
    • The bash ends on New Year's Eve with the biggest fireworks show in Latin America
    • And let's not forget: this is the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere!

    Find Out More About Valparaiso in Chile

    • Valparaiso official tourism site

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  • 03 of 12

    In the Caribbean: the Northern Coast of the Dominican Republic

    Playa Grande Golf Course in the Dominican Republic
    ••• Playa Grande Golf Course seen from Amanera resort. ©Playa Grande

    The Dominican Republic: Now a Full-Fledged Luxury Destination

    For a long time, luxury travel to D.R. consisted of the great golf resort Casa de Campo. The island's other hotels were mainly midscale all-inclusive resorts on the eastern coast.

    But D.R. has exploded with luxury offerings -- that are still more moderately priced than other Caribbean islands. 

    A New Era of D.R. Accommodations

    The boom began with several upscale resorts that opened on the Samaná Peninsula. Amongst them:
    • Sublime Samana: a design hotel with pools cascading down to the beach
    The Bannister Hotel: 29 quiet rooms perched on a sapphire bay 

    The Newest High-End Player: Playa Grande, a Luxury Destination

    The newest Caribbean region on the luxury travel map is Playa Grande, a virgin coastal region on the Dominican Republic's north coast. Playa Grande's nearly 2,000 acres encompass a seven-mile-long beach and an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Playa Grande offers luxury...MORE residences and fine hotels:
    • Amanera, a small hotel from Aman, an ultimate luxury brand 
    Playa Grande Beach Club, a resort with six one-bedroom bungalows and three three-bedroom bungalows
    • A few miles past Playa Grande is Gansevoort Dominican Republic, with 48 suites, a spa, wine cellar, cigar bar, and chic party attitude

    Find Out More 

    Dominican Republic tourism

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  • 04 of 12

    In Mexico: Merida in the Yucatan, Colonial Jewel & Hub of Mayan Culture

    Merida in Mexico
    ••• Mérida is colorful in every way. ©Visit Mérida

    Mérida, a Stunning and Safe Destination in Mexico

    Americans who love vacationing in Mexico often have safety concerns about visiting less-touristy regions and towns, especially those near the U.S. border.

    But the city of Mérida, the capital of the culturally Mayan state of Yucatan, is in the quiet extreme south of Mexico. And this colonial gem is becoming a fashionable destination that conserves its colonial beauty, charm, serenity, and travel-bargain tabs.

    Yanqui, Don't Go Home

    Mérida has become a top choice in Mexico for Americans seeking second or retirement homes, like Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel de Allende.
    • But Mérida is still very affordable. You will meet many Yanquis here, and Spanish is not necessary

    What Does Mérida Offer Visitors?

    • Beautiful colonial churches, palaces, and monuments, earning Mérida the nickname "the White City"
    • Delicious Yucatecan cuisine, often considered the best by Mexicans themselves
    • One of Mexico's top Sunday happenings, a weekly...MORE festival and market in the center of town
    • Mayan heritage, customs, and archeological wonders: the Mayan temples at Uxmal and the world-famous Chichen Itza

    And Oh, Mérida's Flavorful Hotels

    In Mérida, you'll find familiar large hotels like the Grand Hyatt, Fiesta Americana, and Presidente InterContinental.

    But Mérida's authentic hotel style is elegant boutique hotels that were once family mansions.
    • These include Rosas & Xocolate,​ Hacienda Xcanatun, Casa de Azul
    • The Haciendas from Starwood Luxury Collection are five colonial estates in the Yucatan transformed into serene, romantic luxury hotels. Two are near Mérida: Hacienda San José and Hacienda Temozon

    Find Out More About Mérida

    • Visit Mérida official tourism site
    • How to get to Mérida? Many visitors combine a stay here with a visit to Cancun, and drive from there (under a three-hour drive)
    • Americans can fly into Mérida from Houston or Miami, connect to Mérida through Mexico City, or fly nonstop to Cancun and rent a car 

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  • 05 of 12

    In Mexico: the Newly Chic Town of Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya

    La Quinta, Fifth Avenie, in Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya
    ••• La Quinta, Playa del Carmen's Fifth Avenue, is the heart of this new hotspot. ©Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office

    Why Travelers Suddenly Love Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Riviera Maya

    Mexico's Riviera Maya vacation region is Cancun's sleepier sister just to the south. It has become a top destination thanks to its endless, exquisite Caribbean beach and its mainly all-inclusive resorts lining the shore.

    Playa del Carmen Is the Only Town on the Riviera Maya

    A few tiny villages and one small city -- Playa del Carmen -- dot the Riviera Maya. Until recently, Playa del Carmen was a place to catch the ferry to your hotel on the island of Cozumel, or if you were bored with your resort and wanted to check out Playa del Carmen's tequila-soaked atmosphere.

    Once-Gritty Playa del Carmen Has Come Up in the World

    Playa del Carmen is now a place to stay and enjoy a beach vacation with city sophistication, dining, and clubbing.
    • Today's Playa del Carmen is a perfect solution if the Riviera Maya feels too sleepy and isolated for you and Cancun too frantic
    • And with the Mexican peso weak against the...MORE U.S. dollar, your money will go far here

    Playa del Carmen's Action Is on "La Quinta," Fifth Avenue

    No longer is Playa del Carmen's main street, "La Quinta," a jungle of honky-tonk shops and raucous bars. La Quinta is now a place where you can shop by day for fine fashions and Mexican silver jewelry, and dine, drink, and stroll in style by night.

    A New Wave of Young-in-Spirit Boutique Hotels in Playa del Carmen

    In the past few years, a number of boutique hotels have opened to cater to a young demographic.
    • These include Lunata, and Hotel Basico, and Deseo Hotel + Lounge

    The News: Some Bigger, More Luxurious Hotels Right in Playa del Carmen

    In the past couple of years, several luxury hotels have opened for business right in Playa del Carmen.
    • They draw luxury travelers who want to combine the feeling of a beach resort with Playa del Carmen's energy of a town

    And Playa Del Carmen's New, In-Town Luxury Resorts Are...

    LAT20 Hotel by Live Aqua is a fashionable, all-inclusive hotel for adults only.
    • It's super-stylish, with a muraled wall by noted Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra
    • LAT20 is a sister to Live Aqua Cancun a few miles north, and guests can combine stays at both properties (see Luxury Travel's review of Live Aqua Cancun)

    Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen has a privileged and rare location right on the beach.
    • It's a relatively large resort, with 278 rooms and 36 suites
    • The hotel is on the a la carte plan, with three restaurants
    • Amenities include a spa patterned after the region's cenote caves; 24-hour gym; 80-foot lap pool; kids' and teen clubs
    Thompson Playa del Carmen is a fashionable hotel with in-house clubs, sleek design, and a social 20something crowd
    • Thompson Playa del Carmen is set a couple of blocks from the beach. But the hotel-owned Beach House, right on the shore, provides the sand and surf

    Find Out More About Happening Playa del Carmen

    • Playa del Carmen background from Visit Mexico
    • Find out more about the Riviera Maya

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  • 06 of 12

    In Europe: Portugal's Douro Valley & City of Porto, for Beauty & Wine

    Beautiful Porto on the Douro River in Portugal
    ••• Porto, the spectacular city at the mouth of Portugal's Douro River. ©Amawaterways

    Portugal Is Hot, and Travelers Are Rediscovering Its Douro Valley 

    Northern Portugal's magnificent Douro River Valley has been a destination for eons--from Neanderthal times onwards. The Douro Valley's timeless beauty works its magic on everyone.
    • And now, Portugal is much less expensive to visit than most European destinations

    Visitors Explore the Douro Valley the Portuguese Way: by Boat

    The Douro river valley is a darling of the river-cruise world.
    • Visitors can experience the river on flat-bottomed river cruise ships such as the all-suites Viking Osfrid and on the Portuguese fleet called Douro Azul
    • Luxury travelers can hire a yacht such as Winds of Fortune
    • They can also take a scenic train or drive along the river
    • Any way you experience the Douro River, you'll stop in charming river towns and savor the local wine

    The Douro Valley's Age-Old Wine Culture

    The Douro Valley is Europe's oldest wine region, and a new generation of wine lovers is discovering its native red...MORE and white varietals.
    • Douro Valley visits focus on winery visits and wine tastings

    The Douro Valley's Porto Is One of the World's Loveliest Cities

    As evidenced by the photo above, the city of Porto is a sight to behold. It is set on steep hills bounding the Douro River, and the best way to explore Porto is on foot...over several wine-intensive days.
    • Porto is famed for its fortified Port wine: strong, red, elegantly sweet

    In Porto, Stay in a Fabulous Luxury Hotel

    Luxury travelers have their choice of Porto luxury hotels including:
    • The Yeatman, a Relais & Chateaux hotel owned by the family behind the Taylor Fladgate port label, with a great restaurant
    InterContinental Porto Palacio dos Cardosas, a restored 18th-century palace in the heart of Porto
    • Let Hipmunk check rates at Porto's top hotels

    Find Out More About the Douro Valley and Porto

    Porto and Northern Portugal official tourism site

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  • 07 of 12

    In Europe: Gozo Island in Malta, for Mediterranean Villages

    Former fishing village Xlendi with modern hotel buildings, Gozo, Malta
    ••• Danita Delimont/Getty Images

    Is There an Undiscovered European Destination? Yes: Gozo in Malta

    Gozo sounds exotic...and it is. It's one of the three islands that compose the tiny nation of Malta.
    • Malta is the southernmost country in Europe, just to the south of Sicily 
    • Prices in Malta are much lower than Italy's
    • Gozo is only eight miles long by four wide, with 40,000 residents in tiny villages and very small towns

    The Amazing Thing About Gozo 

    Of the many unusual aspects of Gozo, this one is striking: it is rural yet very sophisticated, with beautifully restored stone houses and excellent restaurants (like the wonderful Ta'Frenc)

    What Is There to See and Do on Gozo?

    For such a tiny place, Gozo has an amazing array of places to see. You could spend an unforgettable week here.

    Amongst Gozo's incredible appeals:
    • A spectacular coastline offering idyllic beaches and bays, amazing rock formations, natural salt farms
    • The Gozo Coastal Walk, covering around two-thirds of the island's shoreline
    • Dozens of...MORE picture-perfect churches, many built centuries ago
    • Landmarks like the Azure Window, a natural stone arch in the sea, seen on Game of Thrones
    • World-famous scuba diving at sites like Ghasri Cave and the Blue Hole
    • Ggantija (Giant's House), a 5,500-year-old Neolithic temple complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site, constructed of colossal stones

    Where Do You Stay on Gozo?

    Visitors to Gozo have their choice of accommodations.
    • Some visitors stay in small hotels in Gozitan villages and small towns, where they can walk to the corner for a Gozitan ftira (pizza made with the island's sheep's-milk cheese)
    • Other visitors rent one of Gozo's many available farmhouses or villas

    Brad and Angelina Liked Gozo, and You Will Too

    Hollywood's reigning couple (and their kids and assistants) stayed for months on Gozo, the location for their 2015 movie, By the Sea. 
    • Brad already knew Gozo from shooting Troy and World War Z there
    • Though By the Sea was shot in Gozo, it's supposed to be the South of France. Who knows why? Gozo is a lot more boast-worthy

    You Can Do Gozo as a Day Trip

    Many Gozo visitors take a 45-minute ferry ride from the main island of Malta, which offers full-service hotels. The top place to stay on Malta is Corinthia Hotel St George's Bay, which is both elegant and lively.
    • The hotel's concierges and guest services staff know Malta inside-out and will make sure you see their country's very best
    • Luxury Travel's story about Corinthia Hotel St George's Bay

    Find Out More About Gozo in Malta

    Gozo's tourism site, with info on hotels and villa rentals

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  • 08 of 12

    Middle East: Tel Aviv in Israel, Incubator of Lifestyle Trends & Hot Hotels

    Brown Beach House, a trendy boutique hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel
    ••• See and be seen at Brown Beach House hotel and its club in cutting-edge Tel Aviv. ©Assaf Pinchuk

    Tel Aviv: Style Central in Happening Israel

    Many Israel visitors make ancient Jerusalem their destination in the Holy Land. But modern Tel Aviv provides a thrilling contrast. You haven't fully experienced Israel unless you've immersed yourself in thriving Tel Aviv for a few nights.

    This Mediterranean city is a hotbed of sophisticated lifestyle. It may remind you of other palm-tree-lined cities. And then you will realize: Tel Aviv is an original.

    A Host of Fabulous Hotels in Tel Aviv

    One of the tourism joys of Tel Aviv is its array of fashionable hotels -- at lower rates than luxury hotels elsewhere.

    You Can Go Classic in Tel Aviv...

    Some visitors choose to stay in a traditional luxury hotel.
    • A tasteful choice:l the Dan Tel Aviv right on the beach. It's beloved for its dead-center location, beachfront views, fragrant custom bath potions, and irresistible buffet breakfast

    Or You Can Go Trendy

    Style-conscious visitors revel in Tel Aviv's trend-setting boutique hotels. Some of the...MORE best:
    Brown Beach House (shown above), done in glamorous black-and-white, with huge, apartment-like suites and a white-hot lounge scene
    The Norman Tel Aviv, a former Bauhaus mansion, attracts hip business travelers, many from the design world
    Hotel Montefiore, in the center of town, with just 12 stylishly eclectic rooms and one-on-one service
    THE POLI HOUSE, steps from Carmel Market, designed by Karim Rashid, with a rooftop lounge that's a VIP scene

    Tel Aviv Is a City of Outdoor Bliss

    In Tel Aviv, you want to be outside under the glorious Mediterranean sun. You can wander around:
    • The beachfront promenade: a parade ground of buff Israelis running, cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, dogwalking
    • The Old Testament-era district of Jaffa: now a center for fashion boutiques, street shopping, the mesmerizing Ilana Goor Museum, and The Grape Man for wine tastings
    • Florentin: a tantalizingly scruffy arts district laden with eccentric shops, restaurants, and Art Deco apartment houses
    • Levinsky Market: foodie heaven, where you can snack on specialties from all over the Hebrew Diaspora: Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East
    • Carmel Market: bargain source of souvenirs like sesame halvah, spices, bedazzled mezuzahs, Dead Sea beauty balms (Carmel Market must-taste: etrog smoothies made from Israeli lemons)

    Find Out More About "TLV"

    • Go Israel official tourism site
    Visit Tel Aviv site

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  • 09 of 12

    Middle East: Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Home of the New Louvre

    Abu Dhabi's amazing skyline
    ••• Abu Dhabi, where yesterday meets tomorrow and art is everywhere. ©Visit Abu Dhabi

    Abu Dhabi, the Emirate of the Arts

    Abu Dhabi perches on the calm Persian Gulf 90 miles down the coast from Dubai. They are both part of the United Arab Emirates and share a prosperous, modern Arab perspective. 

    Abu Dhabi has a beautiful setting: it's a verdant port beside the timeless Arabian desert. 
    • It is composed of over 200 islands
    • Abu Dhabi now offers the state-of-the-art Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal in Zayed Port

    The Biggest Cultural Travel Story Is Brewing Here: The Louvre Abu Dhabi

    Abu Dhabi has earned a reputation as the Emirates capital of arts. Now, cultural travelers are looking toward Abu Dhabi and counting the days.
    • It is here, on Saadiyat Island a few minutes from downtown, that the Louvre's first museum outside of Paris will be opening, later in 2016

    Everything about the Louvre Abu Dhabi, from its domed design by French "starchitect" Jean Novel to its spectacular paintings and antiquities, promises that Abu Dhabi is poised to become a world capital of...MORE precious art. 
    • A glimpse of the Louvre Abu Dhabi's art collection

    More Cultural Wonders on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island

    Saadiyat Island is a cultural treasure trove created for sophisticates.
    • Among its lures: Zayed National Museum designed by Lord Norman Foster; the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, by Frank Gehry; and the Performing Arts Centre, by Zaha Hadid

    Art-Loving Abu Dhabi Knows the Luxury Lifestyle, Too

    Abu Dhabi is a vibrant city with amazing architecture, sophisticated dining, championship sports, and spectacular hotels.
    • Just some of the luxury hotel brands with luscious properties in Abu Dhabi: St. Regis (two hotels), Park Hyatt, Shangri-La, Sofitel, and more. And opening in 2016: Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, Edition
    More hotels in Abu Dhabi 

    Sophisticated Dining in Abu Dhabi

    Visitors to Abu Dhabi can enjoy traditional, multi-course Arab feasts, often served under the sun or stars. And Intrepid diners can explore Abu Dhabi's celebrity-chef shrines. 
    • p&c by Spain's Sergi Arola at the Shangri-La Hotel offers a gin bar and live jazz (in an in-house radio studio)  
    • Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill at Fairmont Bab al Bahr has an English point of view
    • Other cuisines to sample in Abu Dhabi: French, Italian, Moroccan, Lebanese, Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, and of course Arabian
    More on Abu Dhabi dining

    Amazing Luxury Adventures in Abu Dhabi

    Visitors seeking thrills and chills have come to the right place. Some offerings;
    • "Air cruises" by seaplane: bespoke itineraries all over Abu Dhabi in your own pontoon jet from Seawings (you take off and land on the beach and climb into your chauffeured sedan)
    • "Flying Aces," the world's fastest roller coaster, at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

    Find Out More About Abu Dhabi

    Abu Dhabi's official tourism site 

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  • 10 of 12

    In Asia: Sri Lanka, the Buddhist Empire in the Indian Ocean

    Sri Lanka mountains
    ••• Sri Lanka's 25,000 square miles cover beaches, forests, grasslands, and mountains. ©Gwen/Flickr Creative Commons

    Sri Lanka: Everything You Want in Asia, All on One Island 

    Set in the Indian Ocean at the crossroads of the ancient seas, Sri Lanka has been coveted by emperors and kings. And now it is a trophy of adventurous travelers. Sri Lanka offers:
    • Endless expanses of pristine beaches
    • Sensational wildlife and bird sightings
    • Ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples, such as the Golden Buddha of Dambulla
    • Cheap prices overall: for hotels, restaurants, transportation, shopping

    Outdoor Adventure in Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka lures adventure travelers from the world over. Some unforgettable outdoor pastimes:
    • Surfing (some of the world's best) at Arugam Bay
    • Cycling through tea plantations
    • Wildlife-spotting in jeep tours  in Yala National Park and Bundala National Park (for elephants, leopards, crocodiles, sloth bears, giant squirrels, and much more)

    Cross-Cultural Dining, Indian Ocean-Style

    Sri Lankan cuisine is unique. Its primary influence is Indian, but you will also taste the flavors of the Middles East...MORE and Malaysia, and notice the serving styles of Holland and England.
    • What to order? Fresh fish curry is always a good choice; for breakfast, a "hopper" (a bowl-shaped crispy crepe filled with a fried egg and sambal sauce)

    Where to Visit in Sri Lanka

    • Many visitors head right to the southern coast, known for its beaches--and today, for luxury hotels right on the sand
    • The "Cultural Triangle" of the north-central region, filled with ancient historic sites
    • Uve in the southwest, for serene hill retreats, some deluxe
    • Kandy, the spiritual hub of Sri Lanka (best reached by its vintage train line)
    • The capital of Colombo, lively with students, artists, and backpackers

    Find Out More About Sensational Sri Lanka

    Visit Sri Lanka official tourism site

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  • 11 of 12

    USA: Richmond, Virginia, Old Capital of the South, New Capital of Trends

    Richmond, Virginia is the South's trendiest travel destination
    ••• Richmond is a city of parks. Here, Lee Circle on Monument Avenue. ©Henley/Visit Richmond VA

    Richmond: Everyone's New Southern Sweetheart

    So what's the hot Southern destination now? Charleston, South Carolina? Asheville, North Carolina? Savannah, Georgia?

    I admit it: we're not the only ones who suddenly have a huge crush on RVA: Richmond, Virginia. Travel + Leisure named it #3 of ts 50 top destinations for 2016.

    What Makes Richmond So Hot?

    This is Richmond's moment. It's still a charming, small Southern city with just over 200,000 residents...but with the style and cultural offerings of cities 10 times its size.

    What You'll Find in Richmond

    • A downtown core surrounded by unspoiled, original neighborhoods full of local color
    • Great Southern dining with a modern twist (and a lot of attention from food media)
    • Craft breweries and distilleries
    • History galore (Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy; that's the Robert E. Lee Monument above)
    • Lovely walks and parks
    • The James River, offering views and barge cruises
    The Valentine Museum for immersion...MORE into Virginia's central role in US history, and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
    • The Virginia Capital Trail, a total of 52 miles of walking and biking paths for history, nature, and people-watching
    • Festivals aplenty, like Dominion Riverrock in May for sports and music, and the French Film Festival every spring
    • Lower hotel rates and restaurant tabs than the South's other hot cities

    Small City, Big-Deal Hotels

    Richmond is blessed with a range of luxury hotels. Among them:
    Quirk Hotel, A Destination Hotel, opened in 2015, is a design-driven boutique hotel and art gallery
    Jefferson Hotel, opened in 1895, with a magnificent stained-glass dome and grand staircase, is the very rare hotel with five stars from Forbes and five diamonds from AAA 

    Find Out More About Richmond, Virginia

    Richmond's official tourism site

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  • 12 of 12

    In the USA: Reno, Nevada: the West's Original Casino Town

    Riverwalk park in Reno Nevada
    ••• The Riverwalk District is Reno's geographic and social hub. ©Visit Reno

    Reno, the Way Vegas Was 50 Years Ago

    If you like Vegas but feel it's gotten too glitzy, pricey, and crowded, Reno is the Nevada casino destination for you.

    It's a real Western town that later became a gambling magnet.
    • Reno grew up in the 1850s. Vegas? The 1950s. Draw your own conclusions
    • Actually, Reno used to be known as "Splitsville:" the place you'd go for a quickie divorce

    Reno Is a Real Western Town

    Reno looks like a Western movie backdrop. It enjoys a spectacular setting along the Truckee River, with snow-capped mountains looming
    • The riverbanks form a park -- Riverwalk District (shown above) -- that beckons fun-lovers day and night to gather for snacks, drinks, picnics,  concerts, "wine walks," and whitewater kayak rentals (yes, in the middle of a city)
    • A couple of times a year, a dust storm rolls into town. What do folks do? Lock themselves into Grand Sierra Resort & Casino or a craft distillery or brewery and get happy

    What's There to Do in...MORE Reno Besides Gamble?

    Lots!
    • Check out a first-rate cultural spot like the National Automobile Museum, the Reno Air Races, the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, the Nevada Museum of Art
    • Big-city dining like at Charlie Palmer Steak
    • Get a holistic treatment at the Spa at Grand Sierra Resort
    • Get pumped at REX Nightclub
    • Visit a craft brewery
    • Take a quick ski trip to Lake Tahoe nearby
    • Take a day trip to Nevada's historic capital, Carson City, and dine at Adele's

    And Then There's a Local Festival Called Burning Man

    Reno is the city nearest Burning Man, and the place where festival revelers like to meet before or after.
    • If this doesn't say "trendy," what does?

    Find Out More About Reno

    Visit Reno official site 
    • See Luxury Travel writer Susan Kime's slideshow of everything great to do in Reno