Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now
Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Hidden Gems in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe often gets overlooked as a travel destination, but it is filled with hidden gems waiting to be explored. From charming medieval towns to spectacular mountain ranges, Eastern Europe offers budget-friendly adventures minus the crowds. Forget Prague and Budapest, it's time to venture off the beaten path to these under-the-radar destinations.
Start in Lviv, Ukraine's most European city. Cobblestone streets, pastel-colored buildings, and outdoor cafes give Lviv an old world vibe reminiscent of Vienna or Krakow. Climb up High Castle Hill for panoramic city views and explore the centuries-old Armenian and Latin Cathedrals. Don't miss Rynok Square, the bustling heart of the city lined with restaurants and merchants selling wares.
Next up is the town of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Sitting on the banks of the Vltava River, Cesky Krumlov charms with its medieval castle towering over red-roofed buildings. Spend an afternoon wandering the castle grounds and interior before grabbing a local Pilsner beer at one of the many riverside restaurants. At night, cruise down the river in a canoe for a magical perspective.
Further south lies Lake Bled in Slovenia, one of the most photogenic spots in Europe. In the middle of the tranquil turquoise lake sits Bled Island and its iconic church. Take a traditional wooden boat called a pletna to the island and ring the church bell for good luck. Hike up to Bled Castle for heavenly lake views and try the famous Bled cream cake, a decadent local treat.
Venture off the tourist track to relax lakeside in Varna, Bulgaria. As Bulgaria's seaside gem, Varna dazzles with golden sand beaches lining the Black Sea. Soak up the sun on Beach Asparuhov or take a day trip to discover nearby archaeological wonders. In the evenings, stroll the Sea Garden along the coast and sample inventive modern Bulgarian cuisine.
Lastly, immerse yourself in nature by exploring Romania’s remote Apuseni Mountains. Trek through pine forests to discover the breathtaking Scarisoara Ice Cave, Romania’s largest underground glacier. Go caving and climb limestone cliffs in the Padiș Massif. Spend evenings in tradition wood cabins enjoying hearty Romanian stews and folk music.
What else is in this post?
- Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Hidden Gems in Eastern Europe
- Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Off the Beaten Path in South America
- Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Amazing Asian Cities You've Never Heard Of
- Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - The Coolest Caribbean Destinations
- Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Africa's Best Kept Secrets
- Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Small Town Charm in the American South
- Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Quaint Villages and Hamlets in Europe
- Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Island Paradise in the South Pacific
Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Off the Beaten Path in South America
South America dazzles travelers with iconic destinations like Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, and Patagonia. But venture beyond the tourist trail and you’ll be rewarded with raw, authentic experiences devoid of crowds. Let’s dive into the continent’s underrated gems perfect for intrepid explorers.
Northern Colombia may seem like an unlikely vacation spot, but the city of Cartagena offers colonial architecture, vibrant culture, and great food without the crowds of the Caribbean coast. Wander the walled Old City, lined with vibrant buildings in shades of blue, yellow, pink and green. Listen to live music spilling onto the streets and fuel up on hearty sancocho stew at hole-in-the-wall eateries. Nearby, swim in the volcanic mud baths of Totumo or scuba dive to explore coral reefs.
In southern Brazil, skip busy Rio in favor of laid-back Paraty. This former Portuguese colonial town charms with pastel-hued buildings, cobblestone streets, and a bay dotted with islands. Take a boat tour through the bay to find secluded beaches and waterfalls tucked away in the lush jungle greenery. Don’t miss trying fruity caipirinha cocktails made with the famous Brazilian sugarcane liquor called cachaça.
Venture from mainstream destinations to uncrowded natural wonders like Humantay Lake in Peru’s Sacred Valley. The turquoise alpine lake sits at 14,000 feet, surrounded by Andean peaks. Hike 1.5 hours through sheep pastures and orchid-filled cloud forest to reach this jaw-dropping viewpoint. Cool off afterward at the thermal baths in the village below.
In northern Argentina, skip Buenos Aires for the remote village of Purmamarca with its “Hill of Seven Colors” layered with orange, red, green, and yellow mineral deposits. Snap photos at sunrise when the colors glow brightest. Nearby, gaze at the epic scenery of Quebrada de Humahuaca, a UNESCO-listed valley carved by the Rio Grande bordered by cactus-studded cliffs in hues of purple, yellow and cream.
Lastly, trade the tourist throngs of Santiago for Chiloé Island in southern Chile. Across the island’s patchwork of rolling green pastures sit colorful stilt houses and wooden churches built by Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century. Try curanto, a traditional stew layered with shellfish, meat, potatoes and smoked chorizo cooked in a pit oven. Spot endemic wildlife like Darwin’s fox or the world’s smallest deer. Sacred statues and folklore creatures fill this magical island that feels a world away.
Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Amazing Asian Cities You've Never Heard Of
Asia dazzles with megacities like Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore, but some of the continent's most amazing places are smaller, lesser-known cities few tourists visit. Venturing to these under-the-radar destinations rewards intrepid travelers with a more authentic slice of local culture, amazing food, and attractions sans the crowds.
One such gem is Luang Prabang in Laos, a town of saffron-robed monks, crumbling French Colonial architecture, and some of Southeast Asia's most sacred temples. Wake up early to witness the daily tak bat ceremony where monks collect alms from locals. Wander narrow lanes dotted with boutique hotels and cafes before climbing hundreds of steps to catch the sunset at Wat Phou Si. Sample Laotian specialties like khao soi noodle soup or sticky rice with mango for dessert.
The port city of Kaohsiung in Taiwan proves not all of the island's highlights are in Taipei. Kaohsiung dazzles with an expansive night market hawking Taiwanese street eats, the unique Pier 2 Arts Center housed in former warehouses, and the stunning 85 skyscraper-high Tuntex Sky Tower. Don't miss a day trip to Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum with its sprawling grounds and giant golden Buddha. Kaohsiung's tropical climate means outdoor activities like cycling by the harbor or relaxing on palm-fringed Cijin Beach.
In the Philippines, skip crowded Manila for up-and-coming Cebu City, the cultural heartbeat of the Visayas region. The angular shapes of the Taoist Temple contrast with the abundant tropical foliage of the Temple of Leah. Sample sumptuous lechón roasted suckling pig and dried mangoes. Whale shark and sardine run snorkeling adventures beckon on nearby Malapascua Island.
Nature lovers shouldn't overlook Kanazawa on Japan's remote Hokuriku Coast. Kenroku-en Garden delights with ponds, teahouses and manicured Japanese landscape design. The fresh seafood dazzles, from delicate sashimi to crunchy soft shell crab. Day trips introduce the rural charm of Shirakawa-go's thatched roof farmhouses and the restored samurai district of Higashi Chaya.
Lastly, George Town on Malaysia's Penang Island blends Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences into an intoxicating cultural cocktail. Cycle through the street art adorning heritage buildings along Armenian Street or try Nonya cuisine, fusing Chinese and Malay flavors. The Kek Lok Si Temple and Penang Hill offer tranquil escapes from the city bustle down below.
Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - The Coolest Caribbean Destinations
Trade mega resorts for eco lodges nestled in rainforests or colonial hideaways full of character when exploring the Caribbean. While spots like Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas seem to dominate tourists’ itineraries, intrepid explorers know some of the region's coolest locales lie off the beaten path.
Cayo Espanto, a private island off the coast of Belize, offers indulgent castaway luxury for Robinson Crusoe types. This all-inclusive resort houses just seven villas, meaning you’ll have all 150 acres of tropical foliage fringed by white sand beaches practically to yourself. Sip rum punch beside the infinity pool, swing in a shaded hammock or charter a boat for world-class fly fishing and snorkeling along the massive coral reef. Mornings start by paddle boarding directly from your overwater villa deck.
Nature lovers shouldn’t miss Dominica, dubbed the “Nature Island of the Caribbean.” Boiling Lake, the second largest flooded fumarole in the world, awes with its ethereal blue and gray shades bubbling from the earth’s crust. Hike through primeval rainforests to refreshing waterfalls like Middleham Falls or the gorgeous Emerald Pool. Scuba divers can plunge into one of the Caribbean’s top spots to explore volcanic reefs, geothermal vents, shipwrecks and even a freshwater river flowing into the sea.
Inlaid among the Leeward Islands north of Venezuela, tiny Saba impresses hikers with Mount Scenery, potentially the world’s shortest volcano hike at just 877 steps to the 2,910-foot summit. Watch clouds cloak the rocky peaks as you climb past wild orchids and mahogany trees. Downhill, rush into the refreshing seas off Windwardside Village or explore ruins of 19th century settlements. With just 1,300 residents and a small airport, Saba retains tranquility and charm.
Cayman Brac offers the Caribbean’s best wreck diving, with several WWII ship and plane remnants sunk in the crystalline waters. Snorkel or dive with sea turtles, nurse sharks and tropical fish swirling the USS Kittiwake, a former submarine rescue ship deliberately sunk in 2011. Non-divers can still glimpse colorful coral reefs through a seaside glass bottom boat tour. Relax at your eco-chic resort or reel in wahoo, marlin and tuna off the picturesque coastline.
Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Africa's Best Kept Secrets
Beyond safaris and the pyramids lies a treasure trove of Africa's best kept secrets begging to be discovered by intrepid travelers who venture beyond the beaten path. This immense continent holds hidden gems of astonishing natural beauty, thriving modern metropolises, and ancient cultures clinging to tradition like nowhere else on Earth. Seek out experiences that inspire connection, from meeting local artisans to participating in centuries-old ceremonies, to gain an authentic understanding of destinations hardly touched by tourism.
In the winding alleys of Essaouira, Morocco, breathe in scents of spice in the UNESCO-listed medina then watch skilled artisans hand-carve thuya wood and chisel argan boxes in tiny workshops. Nearby, ride camels along empty Atlantic beaches and unwind in a luxury riad converted from a merchant's home. Or spend a few magical nights camping in the stark beauty of the Sahara listening to nomadic musicians jam late into the desert nights.
Off Africa's eastern coast, the island nation of Madagascar dazzles with landscapes and wildlife seen nowhere else, like propeller-shaped baobab trees, Technicolor chameleons, and lemurs leaping through rainforest canopies. Track endangered indri lemurs in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park then soak weary muscles in therapeutic hot springs beside Lake Tritriva. Further south, watch humpback whales breach off Île Sainte Marie between July and September.
Inland, Ethiopia holds centuries of history and culture topped off by rich Watia Ethiopian coffee ceremonies multiple times a day. Find solace wandering the rock-hewn ancient churches of Lalibela then stand in awe at the Blue Nile Falls plunging over 400 feet. In bustling Addis Ababa, the National Museum displays the fossilized bones of early hominids.
Down in South Africa, bypass crowded Cape Town for the rugged beauty of the Drakensberg Mountains. Hike past towering sandstone cliffs and through lush fern forests to the 95 meter high Tugela Falls, Africa's second highest. Spot endangered bearded vultures and black eagles soaring overhead. At night, listen to the call of endangered African wild dogs while you stargaze from rustic thatched rondavels.
Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Small Town Charm in the American South
Beyond the bustling metropolises of Atlanta, Nashville and New Orleans lies a different South waiting to be explored – a South of charming small towns brimming with Southern hospitality. Mosey down main streets lined by mom-n-pop shops and historic buildings telling tales of days gone by. Sip sweet tea on wide porches as you watch the sunset over antebellum mansions. Small Southern towns let you immerse in what it truly means to live that famous “Southern comfort” lifestyle.
Take Natchez, Mississippi, a living museum of the Old South along the Mississippi River. Trust me, this place will charm your socks off. Stately mansions with grand white columns transport you back to the antebellum era when cotton was king. Pop into the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture housed in Forks of the Road, the second-largest slave trading market in the U.S. before the Civil War. Reflect on the town’s complex past as you wander historic sites like the 1835 Stanton Hall manor. Down on Main Street, don’t miss市场烧烤, homemade fudge at Mammy’s Cupboard confectionery. Then relax to live blues at 315 Lounge in the former 315 L.E. Bean clothing store, a historic Black-owned business.
Further east, Oxford, Mississippi enchants as a literary mecca that's home to the renowned Ole Miss University. Walk the oak-shaded campus and grab a scoop at Square Books, one of America’s best independent bookstores. Pop into shops selling everything from handcrafted pottery to funky fashion along the Courthouse Square. Stay at the quaint 1859 Graduate Oxford hotel and listen to live music while sipping craft cocktails at Proud Larry's. Order the cheese grits at Big Bad Breakfast – trust me, you won’t regret it!
Down in Florida, make time for a side jaunt to Mt. Dora for antique shops housed in Victorian-era buildings along Donnelly Street. Built in the 1880s, the lakeside Lakeside Inn charms with rocking chairs and Old Florida elegance. Nearby, stroll through fragrant citrus groves at Simpson’s Orange Groves or take a boat cruise to glimpse exquisite coastal mansions along Lake Shore Drive on nearby Lake Eustis. With its small town charm, Mt. Dora proves an alluring timeout from flashy Orlando.
Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Quaint Villages and Hamlets in Europe
Trade mega-cities and crowded capitals for time-warped villages and hamlets revealing Europe’s bygone rural way of life. Cobbled lanes meander below turreted castles and Gothic spires soaring into blue skies. Locals sip espressos at the same cafés their grandparents frequented, seemingly oblivious to modern life’s hustle. You’ll lose track of time ambling the atmospheric alleys, popping into smoky butcher shops and bakeries preparing handmade delicacies the old fashioned way.
Who can resist Alden Biesen in Belgium, where a 13th century castle-turned-hotel presides over storybook scenes of duck ponds, flower gardens and thatched cottages? Belgian craft ales pair perfectly with local fare like salty frites, Liège waffles and melt-in-your-mouth Waterlooort sausage. Nearby cycling paths thread through the lush landscape where Battle of Waterloo raged. After peddling by, relax in your four-poster bed once fit for royalty.
The rugged English coast tempts with Bamburgh in Northumbria, dominated by its imposing clifftop castle. Kids romp across Bamburgh Beach below in view of the Farne Islands where puffins and grey seals lounge. Nearby bask in afternoon tea beside the fire at Lord Crewe Arms, an 18th century coaching inn with cozy rooms full of antique wood furnishings and tapestries. Dig in to fresh dressed crab and tip a pint of English brown ale while kicking up your feet.
Tuscany’s medieval hill towns embody la dolce vita lifestyle. In bucolic Montalcino, locally produced Brunello red wine pairs perfectly with pecorino cheese and salumi at cozy enotecas. Hike up to the 14th century fortress for godly views over a patchwork of vineyards. Nearby Pienza charms with honey-hued stone buildings in an idyllic valley setting. Historic family-run inns like Albergo II Chiostro dish hearty Tuscan cuisine on al fresco terraces.
Further east in Slovenia’s Julian Alps, hike from fairytale Lake Bled into the peaceful Vintgar Gorge, stepping over rushing turquoise waters on wooden footbridges. Back at your tranquil eco-lodge tucked in the forested foothills, dine on hearty Slovenian stews and mushroom gnocchi. Nurse a craft ale on the deck watching flames flicker in your riverside cabin’s outdoor firepit. Slow travel rewards by lingering longer in Slovenia’s tucked away mountain hamlets like Bohinj with its emerald lake mirroring soaring peaks.
Dreaming of 2024: Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations to Book Now - Island Paradise in the South Pacific
The stunning islands of the South Pacific have captivated imaginations for centuries, from European explorers to modern-day travelers in search of paradise. This far-flung region holds some of the world’s most unspoiled tropical idylls, with palm-fringed white sand beaches, jewel-toned lagoons, and lush rainforests teeming with exotic birds. Ditch mega resorts to get back to the simplicity of thatched bungalows inches from aquamarine waters, where any sense of time or urgency slips away into the gentle lap of waves.
One such island escape is Niue, a tiny coral atoll dubbed the “Rock of the Pacific” by early sailors. With just 1,600 residents across 100 square miles, solitude and tranquility reign. Snorkel, dive or explore sea caves along a coastline dotted with natural rock arches, chasms and blowholes carved by the sea. Hike through the Huvalu Forest Conservation Area, the planet’s largest raised coral atoll rainforest. Swim beneath waterfalls tucked into the foliage before savoring grilled seafood under the stars at your beachfront fale.
Further south, ‘Eua Island in Tonga seduces adventurers with its untamed rainforests perfect for hiking and birdwatching. Follow the adventurous Footsteps of the Ancestors trail along ridges with staggering cliff views. The island’s lush interior shelters fruit bats, parrots and the rare Pacific imperial pigeon among the banyans and Pandanus palms. Back at your seaside fale, nap in a hammock strung between palm trees before snorkeling Tanzania’s blue hole, a collapsed sea cave filled with tropical fish.
For a castaway experience, the Conflict Islands off Papua New Guinea offer eight deserted isles ringed by coral. Each has simple thatched bungalows with 24/7 power, yet zero roads or cars mar the rugged natural beauty. Dive among WWII wreck dives or sail to uninhabited islets that emergence during low tide. Witness leatherback turtles nesting on the beaches. Kayak across the lagoon’s glassy surface at sunset when the scattered isles glow against the dreamy pastel skies.
The turquoise lagoon surrounding Aitutaki in the Cook Islands competes with Tahiti for natural splendor minus the resort crowds. Circumnavigate the main island on a scooter, stopping to admire breathtaking vistas of coconut palms kissing the vibrant waters. Plunge into that inviting sea at One Foot Island, where coral shards give way to pillow-soft white sand. Come evening, sway in your hammock on your overwater bungalow deck, stellar constellations blazing overhead in the ink-black sky.