Our friends and readers are a well-traveled bunch, and we constantly hear stories of their adventures in places all over the globe. But there’s no doubt that certain destinations come up more than others. To which we say: It’s time to shake it up! Here are six of the most talked-about destinations right now, and the six places that are poised for the popularity tipping point.
1. Like Tulum?
It’s no wonder luxury travelers and earthy yogi types alike have gravitated toward Tulum: its relaxing atmosphere, historic Mayan ruins, and cliffside Caribbean beaches will please just about anyone.
Don’t be surprised if you’re the only one on the beach in Trancoso—its under-the-radar vibe is one of the qualities that attracts a glamorous yet low-key crowd (think designers and celebrities like Diane Von Furstenberg, Robert and Cortney Novogratz, and Naomi Campbell). Like Tulum, the destination is endlessly Instagrammable, with a palm-lined coastline, colorful houses, and a sixteenth-century church in its main square. One major draw is the myriad natural pools caused by a combination of the region’s reefs and low tide. Fitness fanatics will love to take a capoeira lesson, and anyone will love to take a cliché (but still epic!) horseback ride on the beach.
2. Like Iceland?
Surreal natural surroundings, amazing design, impossibly friendly people: Yup, Iceland is a dream. From glacier climbing to chilling in a bubbling geothermal pool, adventurers will love this island in the middle of the Atlantic.
Try: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
With its grassy oceanside hills set on the eastern coast of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador give Iceland a run for its money in terms of natural beauty. The region is also a great place to ogle icebergs—so great, in fact, that there’s a cluster called “Iceberg Alley.” Take a boat tour through the icy giants, and prepare to feel very, very small.
3. Like Copenhagen, Denmark?
There are plenty of reasons why food lovers, design hounds, architecture nerds, and cycling fanatics dig Copenhagen. Plus, the city is super proud of its ancient Viking heritage—you can even visit a recreated Viking village to see how these people lived. It’s the epitome of Nordic cool.
Try: Oslo, Norway
Oslo has a bit less street cred than Copenhagen, but it shares a strong Viking heritage, plus the inventive food, great shopping, and walkability of its slightly more famous neighbor to the south. History buffs will enjoy learning about the city’s Medieval past—anchored to the present by the wealth of architecture from that period—and nature lovers can take full advantage of Oslo’s easy access to fjord-side hiking trails. Europeans are starting to realize that Oslo is the next “it” place, too: It’s currently the fastest growing city on the continent.
4. Like Austin, Texas?
Texas’s state capital offers quirkiness in spades, which has made it one of the darlings of domestic travel. While South by Southwest continues to explode in popularity, Austin has also fostered a unique food scene, an influx of startups, and a raucous nightlife.
Try: Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville isn’t just country music and hot chicken anymore (though those two things are still big draws). The city’s food scene alone is worth the trip—a reason we named Nashville one of the best places to go in 2015. Cocktail culture is booming, too—but don’t worry, the iconic honky-tonk dive bars are still alive and well. And for those who love country, Nashville hosts one of the largest country-music festivals in the world.
5. Like Thailand?
In Thailand, old and new exist in stark juxtaposition. Marble temples sit amid a buzzing city. Bangkok’s cutting-edge art galleries, cool cafés, and vintage stores attract the younger, nightlife-loving set, while luxury-minded travelers will delight in the city’s opulent hotels. After a stimulating journey to one of Thailand’s cities, a retreat to a serene beach (try Koh Samui) is pretty much required.
Also known as Burma, this Asian country was largely barred to tourists until several years ago, after a dictatorship was dissolved and a civilian government was put in place. A stream of travelers has filtered through the country, mostly to such cities as Yangon, Mandalay, and Bagan, a green expanse dotted by sky-poking temples that date back to the 11th century. The food is comforting and spicy—with similar flavors to Thai, Indian, and Chinese—yet without the influence of outside cuisine. If you’re going for more of a Thai island vibe, check out Ngapali for a much more under-the-radar beach experience.
6. Like Cartagena?
Cartagena’s colonial history is tangible, from the colorful architecture to the Spanish forts built in the 17th century. Colombia is still blossoming as a travel destination—which is why we named it one of the best places to go in 2015—and it still might even feel like you’re the only tourist in town.
While it has impressive examples of colonial architecture of its own, Quito is much more under the radar than its newly popular neighbor Cartagena. One of its major draws? Its proximity to both active and dormant volcanoes. In fact, you can even stay in a hotel that’s located right next to a volcano. And while Quito isn’t beachside, you can get outside by zip lining through the jungle and hiking a waterfall—both a short drive out of the city.
Top photo by Michaela Trimble
© 2016 AFAR Media