1. Cape Town, South Africa

A place to meditate on freedom,
and the creative life that followed.

When Nelson Mandela was incarcerated at Robben Island prison, he found inspiration in Cape Town. “We often looked across Table Bay at the magnificent silhouette of Table Mountain,” he said in a speech. “To us on Robben Island, Table Mountain was a beacon of hope. It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.”

Cape Town’s importance to Mandela, who made his first address there as a free man, will doubtless draw many visitors in the wake of his death. The country has transformed itself since Mandela’s imprisonment, but there’s still much to be done. Many in Cape Town have been grappling with that challenge, including its creative class, which has been examining whether inspired design can solve some of the issues stemming from years of inequality.

The city formally takes up that issue this year during its turn as World Design Capital. Cape Town is celebrating design in all its forms, putting on fashion shows by students and established designers alike, hosting architecture open houses, welcoming the public into artists’ studios and folding the annual visual arts spectacular Design Indaba conference, which took place in February, into the design capital program. Also part of the lineup are locals seeking to rejuvenate impoverished black-majority townships: The Maboneng Lalela Project turns township homes into galleries and performance spaces; Foodpods constructs sustainable farms, giving residents access to healthy produce; and the Langa Quarter project seeks to make the precinct a cultural tourism destination.

Cape Town is again reinventing itself, and the world is invited to its renaissance.— SARAH KHAN

Transitional church by the architect Shigeru Ban. Emma Smales/VIEW, via Newscom

2. Christchurch, New Zealand

The rebirth of a quake-ravaged city.

Three years after two large earthquakes devastated central Christchurch, the city is experiencing a rebirth with creativity and wit — thanks to the ingenuity of its hardy residents — and is welcoming tourists back again. Though much of the central city has yet to be rebuilt, entrepreneurs and volunteers are finding surprising ways to make temporary use of empty lots and bring life back to the downtown. The Gap Filler program, begun a couple of months after the first quake in September 2010 and expanded after a more destructive second quake in February 2011, has created a dance floor with coin-operated music and lights and even a nine-hole mini-golf course in vacant lots across the city. The Greening the Rubble campaignhas since the 2010 quake been planting temporary gardens on the sites of demolished buildings. To replace the badly damaged 19th-century ChristChurch Cathedral, a magnificent transitional church by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban opened in 2013 with sturdy cardboard tubes for the roof. Businesses are also trickling back downtown. One bar, built inside shipping containers, has a name that encapsulates the spirit of the entire city: Revival.— JUSTIN BERGMAN

A rocky coastal view from the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

3. North Coast, California

A glorious new preserve for the public.

One hundred and thirty miles north of San Francisco, the moody bluffs of the Mendocino Coast have long been a spectacular place from which to observe marine life: passing humpback whales, sun-happy sea lions, foamy waves strewn with kelp. The incorporation of the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands — nearly 1,300 acres — gives hikers new access to a contiguous 12-mile stretch of coastline and fields of wildflowers, cypress forests and cliff areas (some overlooking dramatic blowholes, pinnacles and sea caves), much of it previously off-limits to the public. And Congressional proposals to include the north coast lands as part of the California Coastal National Monument have passed, which means better protection and more funds for maintenance; plans also exist to extend the California Coastal Trail through the new preserve.— BONNIE TSUI

Kayaking near Porto Palermo, Albania. Mustafah Abdulaziz

4. Albanian Coast

On a rugged shore, Europe at its best.

What if you could combine the rugged beauty you’d find on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast with the ruins of an undiscovered Turkey or Greece, all wrapped in the easygoing nature characteristic of rural Italy — at a fraction of the cost? Turns out you can, on the coast of Albania. The roughly Maryland-size country, between Greece and Montenegro, sits about 45 miles east of Italy on the eastern shores of the Adriatic and has limestone-ringed beaches, ancient ruins like Butrint and waterfront inns where you can stay for less than $50 a night. Rampant development threatened to turn it all to concrete in the years after Communism, but a new government took office in 2013 on promises of keeping the coast authentic. Head to villages like Qeparo, within sight of Corfu, where you can kayak past Cold War submarine tunnels, swim by abandoned forts and watch the tide rise during a dinner of fresh fish at an inn called the Riviera. This is Europe when it was fresh and cheap.— TIM NEVILLE

Lunchtime diners at the Grand Central Market. Monica Almeida/The New York Times

5. Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown? Really? Yes, thanks
to a thriving food scene.

Gone is the musty, lifeless, only-open-for-Kings-hockey-games reputation of downtown Los Angeles. While the museums in this corner of the city are thriving (the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art is nearby), the growing dynamism of downtown is the food scene. Most notable is the Grand Central Market, an arcade of over 30 of the best food vendors in the city. Originally built in 1917, the market has been redone in the past year, attracting popular purveyors like G&B Coffee and, soon, Belcampo Meat Co. Just down the street is Alma, which was named the best new restaurant in the country by Bon Appétit magazine. And where there is good food there is good shopping. Stores have added cachet to the neighborhood; an outlet of the fashion label Acne Studios opened in December, and Aesop, a skin-care specialist, in May. Diners and shoppers alike also have a hip place to stay: An Ace Hotel opened early this year.— DANIELLE PERGAMENT

Desert Rhino Camp, run in part by Wilderness Safaris, in 2009. Olwen Evans/Wilderness Safaris

6. Namibia

Africa’s latest conservation success
story is a boon for travelers.

Namibia’s communal conservancy movement, which pairs sustainable tourism with rural community outreach, has been a much-heralded success: In 2013, the country’s 79 conservancies received the prestigious Gift to the Earth Awardfrom the World Wildlife Fund, and the stunning Namib Sand Sea Desert joined Unesco’s World Heritage list. Options abound for travelers who want to help the effort, including the Desert Rhino Camp, which Wilderness Safaris runs in partnership with the Save the Rhino Trust; the camp directly supports the conservancy, which has reversed dwindling rhino populations. Wilderness Safaris also plans to open the Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, on the Hoanib River in the north. And Namibia’s Tourism Board introduced three self-drive routes this year to point visitors toward less-visited parts of the country.— ADAM H. GRAHAM

Cotopaxi Volcano rises above Cotopaxi National Park. Ivan Kashinsky for The New York Times

7. Ecuador

Epic biodiversity, and a newly
renovated railway to get you there.

Ecuador is famed as the home of the Galápagos, the beloved islands off the coast that feature mind-boggling wildlife — but the mainland is no slouch either. One of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Ecuador has over 1,600 species of birds, 4,000 kinds of orchids, one of the largest condor shelters on the planet — and one-fifth of the country (including the Galápagos) is protected. And there is a new way to see a good chunk of it: the recently refurbished Tren Crucero. The luxury vintage train starts in Quito (the first city ever to be declared a World Heritage site by Unesco) and travels through the Andes, over snow-capped mountains, past volcanoes, around a harrowing turn called the Devil’s Nose and through the countryside until arriving in the bustling city of Guayaquil. The four-day trip includes an excursion to Cotopaxi National Park — a place where you might see deer, wolves, bears or one of those condors.— DANIELLE PERGAMENT

Exploring Son Doong Cave. Carsten Peter/National Geographic, via Getty Images

8. Quang Binh, Vietnam

Now open: One of the world’s largest caves.

Son Doong Cave in the Quang Binh province of central Vietnam is one of the world’s largest caves and is now, for the first time, accessible to tourists, thanks to the tour operator Oxalis. Huge shafts of light penetrate its vast caverns, allowing forests of 100-foot-tall trees to thrive in spaces big enough to accommodate 40-story skyscrapers. Colossal 260-foot stalactites are also present. Monkeys, hornbills and flying foxes have all been spotted in this surreal habitat, first fully explored in 2009. While trips into Son Doong are limited in number (only 220 permits for the year) and to visitors with deep pockets (over $6,000 per trip), the nearby and more affordable Tu Lan Cave is also now open to adventurous travelers.— DAVID LLOYD

Playing in the “Water Labyrinth,” created by the artist Jeppe Hein, in Perth. David Dare Parker for The New York Times

9. Perth, Australia

For Australian panache, go west.

Perth, the capital of western Australia, has long been feted for its beaches, laid-back vibe and Aboriginal heritage, but lately Australia’s fourth-largest city is exhibiting the signs of a trendy transformation. Regional wine lists? Check. Modish new restaurants in repurposed spaces like stables (the Stables Bar), cottages (the Old Crow) or a printing press building (the Print Hall)? Check. International celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver, whose Italian spot Jamie’s Italian recently opened? Up-and-coming neighborhoods like Mount Lawley and Northbridge, chockablock with cafes and vintage shops? Check and check. Transformation is evident on a larger scale, too: The Riverside project is infusing the eastern side of the city with parks, shops and housing plazas, while expansion of the new Crown Perth complex includes hotels — Crown Metropol and Crown Promenade — and posh restaurants like Nobu and La Vie Champagne Lounge. Now that first- and business-class lounges have opened at Los Angeles International Airport this year, the national airline Qantas makes it easy to get Down Under in style.— BAZ DREISINGER

Looking across at the complex that houses the nhow hotel. Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

10. Rotterdam, the Netherlands

First-class architecture in
the Netherlands’ second city.

Post-World War II reconstruction has changed the face of one of Europe’s largest ports, where striking, cubed architecture gives shape to the most modern skyline in the country. But it’s not done yet. This is a banner year for ribbon cuttings to celebrate both new and reconfigured space: An overhaul of Rotterdam Centraal  train station in March has already unveiled a new shop-lined pedestrian passageway and the city’s first Starbucks. The renovated Kunsthal museumreopened in February. François Geurds, chef of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant FG, opened another restaurant in January. Come December, the massive arch of the Markthal, whose interior displays 3-D food photographs, becomes the country’s first indoor food hall. Need a launching pad? Check into a brand-new gem: the Rem Koolhaas-designed nhow hotel.— ELISA MALA

Street food in Taipei. David Hagerman

11. Taiwan

Urban and outdoor pursuits in
one (reasonably) compact package.

The traveler who wants to do it all should consider Taiwan. This island, roughly the size of the Netherlands, has an easy-to-navigate public transport network that links a cosmopolitan capital with a bounty of natural and man-made wonders. Taipei, whose robust art scene recently earned its selection as the World Design Capital for 2016, has more places to lay your head: A boutique hotel from the homegrown bookstore chain Eslite will join the recent arrivals Mandarin OrientalLe Meridien and W. All of these should be a convenient base from which to do some sightseeing on 17 bike trails along the shores of Taipei’s many rivers and inlets or to take a foray into the city’s vibrant street food scene with a nightcap at the reservations-only bespoke bar Alchemy, which opened in 2012 to much acclaim. Four hours south by high-speed rail and bus, 70-square-mile Kenting National Park is home to wetlands, white sands, fishing villages and, starting this year, a ferry point for the deep sea fishing and diving paradise of Orchid Island. Up north in Keelung, a new National Museum of Marine Science and Technology has opened, part of a revitalization project at Badouzi Harbor, which is linked to nearby headlands by color-coded walking routes. And it all becomes cheaper to get to later this year, with the launch of budget carriers from China Airlines and TransAsia Airways.— ROBYN ECKHARDT

Putting the finishing touches on a dish at Moriki. Djamila Grossman for The New York Times

12. Frankfurt, Germany

An infusion of hip night life wakes
up a humdrum city.

Frankfurt, long considered strictly a financial capital and major travel hub, used to land on the culturati map once a year, during its annual book fair. A recent boom of restaurants and clubs, though, makes the case for permanent placement. Leading the city’s transformation is its fast-evolving red light district, where spots like Maxie Eisen, a deli-style cafe by day and a speakeasy-inspired bar by night, offer a sexiness that isn’t unseemly. In the city center, a buzzy pan-Asian restaurant called Moriki was just opened by the Berlin-based chef Duc Ngo with a menu that includes envelope-pushing courses like sushi pizza; and the new sleek Lamoraga, a modern Spanish restaurant, is pulling in the shopping crowds for lunch. By the end of next year, the developer Ardi Goldman plans to reinvent and reopen the famed King Kamehameha Club, which had its original heyday in the 1990s and 2000s. And growth extends to the art world: The 32,000-square-foot underground extension at the Städel Museum earned accolades from around the globe when it opened last year.— GISELA WILLIAMS


The Zoma Contemporary Art Center. Michel Temteme for The New York Times

13. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

An ambitious art scene heads
toward the international stage.

Building on a strong historical legacy (Addis boasts one of East Africa’s oldest art schools) are a host of events scheduled for 2014: a photography festival, two film festivals and a jazz and world music festival. Thanks to the city’s diverse art institutions and galleries, including the artist-in-residence village Zoma Contemporary Art Center and the Asni Gallery (really more an art collective than a gallery), there is an art opening at least once a week. Even the local Sheraton puts on “Art of Ethiopia,” an annual show of new talent. But it’s the National Museum that, in May and June, hosted this year’s blockbuster exhibit, “Ras Tafari: The Majesty and the Movement,” devoted to Emperor Haile Selassie I and Rastafarianism.— GISELA WILLIAMS

Underwater views in Fernando de Noronha. Kadu Pinheiro

14. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

A world-class World Cup getaway.

Now that the World Cup is over, escape to Fernando de Noronha, a 21-island archipelago about 330 miles off the coast of one of the host cities, Recife. Here you’ll find 250-foot-high black cliffs muscling against peach-sand beaches, Portuguese hilltop forts and blue coves where humpbacks and spinner dolphins linger. Only one of the islands, Noronha, is inhabited, and the entire chain is protected as a park with just 246 visitors allowed per day. Regulations have kept Noronha relaxed, with only small hotels and roads rough enough to make dune buggies the rental cars of choice. Hike along cliffs to gorgeous beaches like Sancho, dive with sea turtles or climb Morro do Pico, a 1,059-foot-high volcanic pinnacle.— TIM NEVILLE

Lights are tested before a concert at Ryman Auditorium. Nathan Morgan for The New York Times

15. Nashville, Tenn.

Leather jackets and skinny jeans
join cowboy boots.

Country music lovers have long made the pilgrimage to Nashville, but now the city has fast gained cachet among rock fans and foodies. The city’s vibrant scene is home to the Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Jeff the Brotherhood and Diarrhea Planet, who all play in town occasionally. And a youthquake is transforming scruffy neighborhoods like 12South and East Nashville into hipster hubs. New hangouts include Pinewood Social, a bar, restaurant, bowling alley and karaoke joint, and the 404, a restaurant and boutique hotel in a former auto garage. Add to that a thriving culinary scene, exemplified by the Music City Eats Festival, back for a second year in September. And Nashville’s old standbys — like the honky-tonk Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and the venerable Ryman — are as fun as ever.— STEVEN KURUTZ

Hikers pause in the Loch Lomond area. Paul Tomkins/Scottish Viewpoint

16. Scotland

New reasons to play, and watch
players, in Scotland’s yards.

Riddled with lochs and crested by moody Highlands, Scotland adds to its already considerable outdoorsy appeal this year. In April, the John Muir Way, named for the conservationist originally from Scotland, expanded to 134 miles from 45 miles, newly spanning the farmland and forests of the country’s midsection. Organizers estimate it will take eight to 12 days on foot or four to six by bike to complete the coast-to-coast route running from Muir’s boyhood hometown Dunbar west to the Loch Lomond area. The attractions extend beyond amateur workouts. This summer, Glasgow staged the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Olympic-style competitions for Britain and the former British colonies, and in September Gleneaglesresort in the Highlands will host the Ryder Cup golf competition. Sports and hospitality meet at Cromlix House Hotel, a 15-room resort that the tennis champion and local hero Andy Murray opened earlier this year in a Victorian mansion in Dunblane.— ELAINE GLUSAC

Calgary’s Peace Bridge. Chris Bolin

17. Calgary, Alberta

An oil boom town gets its cultural legs.

Flush with oil money, Calgary has morphed from ho-hum city on the prairie into a cultural hub, with offerings far beyond the Stampede, the annual rodeo and festival. Locals stroll over the tubular Peace Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava, opened in 2012. Public art is part of life; in 2013 Jaume Plensa completed Wonderland, a 39-foot-tall steel mesh head installed in front of the new skyline-transforming Norman Foster-designed Bow Tower. They join beloved cultural institutions like the One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theater, whose dancer and choreographer Denise Clarke was in December named to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honors.— ELISABETH EAVES

A surfer checks the waves on Ishigaki. Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

18. Ishigaki, Japan

Sand and surf, now a (low-cost)
hop from Osaka.

The yen is the weakest it’s been against the dollar in years, putting Japan more within reach in 2014. For low prices coupled with laid-back attitudes, look way south to the island of Ishigaki, 250 miles south of Okinawa Island and far from the bustle of Tokyo. The 85-square-mile island, largely undiscovered, is home to sunburned surfers, sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs. And it’s never been easier to reach: A new airport opened here in March 2013, and Japan’s new low-cost carrier, Peach, just began service from Osaka.— INGRID K. WILLIAMS

Zebras on the Laikipia Plateau. Nichole Sobecki

19. Laikipia Plateau, Kenya

A pristine slice of biodiversity
is home to a new luxury eco-resort.

Set between Mount Kenya and the Great Rift Valley, the Laikipia Plateau teems with wildlife: elephants, leopards, endangered rhinos and one of the highest concentrations of zebras on the continent. Now the area has also become a conservation success story, sustained and protected through an unusual mix of public and private partnerships and a network of environmentally minded ranchers. With the 2013 opening of Segera, a resort owned by Jochen Zeitz, a German-born executive, there is also a new spot to admire its pristine landscapes. The 50,000-acre property includes an enviable collection of contemporary African art, an organic and solar-powered farm and a wine collection focusing on African labels. And more sustainable travel may be on the horizon: A new national park on the area’s southwestern border has been proposed by the government.— ONDINE COHANE

Borobudur, a Buddhist temple. Justin Mott for The New York Times

20. Yogyakarta, Indonesia

A volcano, a temple, a shrine
and now a place to stay.

This central Javan sultanate draws crowds for its proximity to bewitching attractions: the monumental, wedding cake-esque Buddhist temple Borobudur, the soft-serve-ice-cream-shaped Hindu shrines of Prambanan, and pre-sunrise hikes to summit Indonesia’s friskiest volcano, Mount Merapi (which most recently erupted in 2013). But finding a decent room has never been easy, until now. Thanks to tax breaks for hotel development, 20 new starred hotels, to complement the city’s existing 30, will open through 2015. Among them are Zest Hotel (a Swiss-Belhotel brand) at the end of 2014 and, according to a director of the Tourism Promotion Agency of Yogyakarta, three new properties from Accor, whose brands include Sofitel and ibis.— SANJAY SURANA

Skiing at Squaw Valley. Max Whittaker

21. Tahoe, Calif.

A ski area spruces up with new terrain,
lodging and an entire base village.

For decades Northstar-at-Tahoe, on the north end of Lake Tahoe, was a mostly overlooked ski hill. Since 2004, however, more than $1 billion has poured into the resort. Though weather in the region has been fickle so far this season, the improvements are impressive. And they aren’t limited to the base village that has risen at the renamed Northstar, centered around a huge ice rink ringed by couches and fire pits. The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe opened a few years ago, and Vail Resorts, since buying the ski resort in late 2010, has built an on-mountain day lodge, added more terrain and installed the new Promised Land Express lift on the resort’s Backside. Tahoe is resurgent, as resorts from Squaw Valley to Homewoodundertake improvements with an eye toward bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics. In the next few years expect to see everything from the Cal Neva Resort, once owned by Frank Sinatra, open after a big renovation, to a South Lake Tahoe with new waterfront hotels.— CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON

Strumming on the streets of York. Andrew Testa for The New York Times

22. Yorkshire, England

A photogenic (and historic) ale trail.

The sprawling northern county of Yorkshire is becoming a big destination for beer lovers, thanks to a recently published guidebook called “Great Yorkshire Beer” and a renewed interest in historic breweries like Samuel Smith (founded in 1758) and Timothy Taylor (from 1858). Spend an evening crawling through the Fat Cat, the Kelham Island Tavern and other award-winning pubs in Sheffield — recently called Britain’s best beer city by the connoisseur Adrian Tierney-Jones — then travel to Leeds, whose compact center is home to the Victoria Hotel, the Cross Keys and other public houses that pull pints on traditional hand pumps. A final stay in the photogenic city of York offers a Tudor-style pub at the end of every cobbled lane, as well as modern beer temples like York TapPivni and the House of Trembling Madness.— EVAN RAIL

A pool at the 77-story JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

23. Dubai

Reborn, relentless and still over the top.

Five years ago, one of the planet’s most ambitious cities appeared to be dying. Crushed with debt, Dubai found its megaprojects and skyscrapers scuttled or scrapped. The city went from juggernaut to joke. But now, it’s back. Economically surging, Dubai has won its bid to host World Expo 2020 and has unveiled its Tourism Vision, also for 2020, a plan to attract 20 million tourists — double the current crowd. Last October witnessed the first passenger terminal at Dubai World Central Al Maktoum International Airport, and travelers will discover colossal new hotels like the 555-room Conrad Dubai and the 77-story JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which Guinness World Records recognizes as the tallest hotel in the world. This year, a new tram system will be inaugurated, along with some theme parks, including the first phase of Dubai Adventure Studios, the first phase of IMG Worlds of Adventure, and Holy Quran Park (devoted to the Islamic holy book).— SETH SHERWOOD


The Via Triumphalis necropolis. Guido Montani/European Pressphoto Agency

24. The Vatican

New saints, a new(ish) pope
and newly restored treasures beckon.

Pope Francis, who has nearly 4.8 million followers on Twitter and routinely makes headlines for doing things like inviting atheists to join the cause for peace in his Christmas message, is widely viewed as reinvigorating the scandal-plagued, conservative-leaning Roman Catholic Church. (Just ask Time magazine, which last December named him the 2013 Person of the Year.) The first South American pope is so popular that the Vatican estimated that nearly a million visitors came in April for Holy Week and the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II. Services commemorating the new saints will continue throughout the year. The faithful can also enjoy the fruits of restorations that have taken years, like that of Bernini’s colonnade in St. Peter’s Square and the reopening of the Via Triumphalis necropolis, a vast ancient Roman cemetery first uncovered in the 1950s. And pilgrims can stay up-to-date on news and events, including restorations and exhibitions, thanks to the Pope’s new mobile app.— KATIE PARLA

Fishing boats on the beach in Punta del Diablo. Remy Scalza

25. Uruguayan Riviera

South American beach towns,
before they go upscale.

Around glamorous Punta del Este and boho-chic José Ignacio, there’s no deficiency of boutique hotels, expat art galleries and exclusive waterfront brasseries. But farther east along the Uruguayan Riviera, a relatively untrodden stretch of Atlantic coast tucked between Argentina and Brazil, sun, sand and simplicity remain the draw — for now. In the Rocha region, villages like Cabo Polonio, La Pedrera, San Antonio and Punta del Diablo are just starting to attract serious international attention, bringing a sprinkling of first-rate accommodation — like Brisas, a clifftop 14-room inn restored by an Argentine tech mogul — without compromising the area’s natural charms: miles of undeveloped beach, rolling pastures and a culture where gaucho cowboys and fishermen with wooden boats aren’t just props.— REMY SCALZA

Kapaleeswarar Temple. Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times

26. Chennai, India

A cultural capital springs to life.

Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu (and formerly known as Madras), was long considered the gateway to popular South Indian tourist destinations like Kerala but was overlooked as an attraction itself. It is, however, a national cultural capital and home to several dance and music schools like Kalakshetrafor dance and the Music Academy for Carnatic South Indian music, which both regularly hold performances around town. There are also historic sites aplenty, including the Kapaleeswarar Temple, built in the name of the Hindu god Shiva. Fresh buzz makes this city especially enticing: Several major hotels including the Park Hyatt have recently opened, and there is a slew of new and trendy clubs, boutiques and restaurants, including Ottimo for excellent pizzas.— SHIVANI VORA

An aerial view of North Island in the Seychelles. Michael Poliza/Wilderness Safaris

27. Seychelles

An African luxury hot spot that’s
become easier to get to.

This archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean now has one of the world’s most expensive hotels. The listed price for a villa at the North Island resort, on a private island where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stayed during their honeymoon, ranges from 2,582 to 4,079 euros (about $3,670 to $5,800) per night; the Doubletree by Hilton Seychelles, which opened last year is, thankfully, more affordable. The appeal goes beyond pampering and powdery beaches: The Seychelles is also home to some 100,000 giant Aldabra tortoises that live on a coral atoll that is a Unesco World Heritage site. Air Seychelles recently signed code-share agreements with Air BerlinCathay Pacific Airways and other airlines, making these islands about 1,000 miles off the east coast of Africa more accessible.— RACHEL B. DOYLE

Close-up of an elephant being led by trainers at Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton property. Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

28. Krabi, Thailand

A Phuket-like hideaway, but still unspoiled.

The southern Thailand town of Krabi lies just a 45-minute boat ride across the Andaman Sea from Phuket. But you can spare yourself the trip to Phuket — plenty of riches lie here, and you don’t have to fight the crowds to enjoy them. Krabi sits next to the Mu Koh Lanta National Park, a prime spot for hiking, rock climbing and elephant trekking. If you do get restless, there are about 130 pristine islands nearby that are ripe for exploration and virtually undeveloped save for a few ancient monasteries. And Krabi, which used to have few options for accommodations and was hard to get to, is now more tourist-friendly. A number of hotels have opened in recent years, including Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton property. A marina, Port Takola, is in the works and will be home to restaurants, night life and shopping, and a new terminal that has opened at Krabi Airport means that there are more flights to and from this gem.— SHIVANI VORA

Cycling in Aspen. Jeremy Swanson

29. Aspen, Colo.

Ditch those poles. Art and bike trails await.

This ski town has a big development off-piste: The long-awaited reinvented Aspen Art Museum opened its doors this summer. The 33,000-square-foot space, designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, is meant to reflect the mountain experience. Visitors first take a lift to the roof and take in the view from the sculpture garden before descending to tour the galleries. There is also plenty of news for outdoor types this year, too, with new mountain biking trails planned throughout Aspen and Snowmass, a new mountain skills center and expanded lift-serviced biking.— BONNIE TSUI

The rugged scenery in Iceland’s Highlands. Dirk Bleyer/Imagebroker, via Newscom

30. Highlands, Iceland

Natural wonders are in danger.
Go see them before it’s too late.

The Icelandic government has spent decades protecting its glaciers, pools, ponds, lakes, marshes and permafrost mounds in the Thjorsarver Wetlands, part of the central highlands, which constitute some 40 percent of the entire country, mostly in the interior. But last year, the government announced plans to revoke those protections, allowing for the construction of hydropower plants (instead of glaciers and free-flowing rivers, imagine man-made reservoirs, dams, paved roads and power lines). “If they get into this area, there will be no way to stop them from destroying the wetlands completely,” said Arni Finnsson, the chairman of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association. If you ever want to see Iceland in all of its famously raw natural beauty, go now.— DANIELLE PERGAMENT

“Parallel n°2 (Barcelona), 2008” by Stéphane Couturier at the Bildmuseet. Rob Schoenbaum for The New York Times, Courtesy Stéphane Couturier and Galerie Polaris, Paris

31. Umea, Sweden

Soundscapes and culture shine
in northern Sweden.

A hotbed of hardcore and heavy metal music through the 1990s, this northern city has welcomed all genres during its tenure as a European Capital of Culture this year. Music has taken center stage at outdoor opera performances, a crowdsourced music festival and an orchestral tribute to the local hardcore band Refused. Visual arts focused on the culture of indigenous Sami people are on exhibit at Bildmuseet, the city’s contemporary arts museum that reopened in 2012 in a glass-and-wood building designed by Henning Larsen Architects. And it’s all easier to reach thanks to a new higher-speed rail connection from Stockholm.— INGRID K. WILLIAMS

The Anantara Xishuangbanna Resort & Spa opened last February. Anantara Xishuangbanna Resort & Spa

32. Xishuangbanna, China

Skip smog-choked cities — and face masks — and head out to China’s wild frontier.

With pollution skyrocketing in China’s showcase cities, visitors to the country are increasingly seeking out greener pastures to explore. Set deep in the tropics of southern Yunnan province, Xishuangbanna is about as lush as you can get — the region boasts the richest biodiversity in China, including some of the country’s last wild elephants. In February 2013, the area went upscale with its first five-star hotel — the Anantara Xishuangbanna Resort & Spa, which organizes tea-leaf picking trips in mountainside plantations. More action-oriented experiences are possible, as well, such as the tour group WildChina’s jungle biking trips or treks along the caravan route plied by tea traders centuries ago.— JUSTIN BERGMAN

Walking across a pedestrian bridge above Andermatt. Martin Ruetschi/Keystone, via Corbis

33. Andermatt, Switzerland

A mountain makeover from
overlooked to opulent.

Andermatt has long been a quiet town of Alpine farmers and bargain-seeking skiers. But the former Swiss Army outpost began its transformation into a bona fide ski destination with the opening last December of the Chedi Andermatt. The 104-room resort, housed in a modernized chalet with a Japanese restaurant among several dining options, indoor and outdoor pools and a 10-treatment-room spa, is just the first phase of a big new development of apartment buildings, homes, five more hotels and a golf course in the coming years over 321 acres. The pedestrian village will offer skiers access by gondola to the nearly 9,800-foot Gemsstock Mountain, with future lifts to the larger nearby ski area of Sedrun planned to open in 2015.— ELAINE GLUSAC

The Indiana State Museum, a site along the Cultural Trail. A J Mast for The New York Times

34. Indianapolis

In the land of cars, cycling
(and culture) get the limelight.

An urban cycling model has arrived in Indianapolis: the new $63 million, eight-mile bike-friendly Indy Cultural Trail. The path connects five downtown neighborhoods, including arty Fountain Square, to top downtown sites, including the Capitol Building, City Market and White River State Park, a 250-acre park that hosts the Indianapolis Zoo and six more major attractions. Bicycles can be rented along the paved and lighted pathway, allowing riders to cruise past public art, including a motion-activated fireflylike swarm of LED lights. City officials say that planners from Cologne, Germany, to Portland, Ore., have come to see how the city most famous for a 500-mile car race managed to swap auto for bike lanes and still keep everything rolling smoothly.— ELAINE GLUSAC

The Mekong River near the border of Vietnam and Cambodia. Justin Mott

35. Mekong River

River cruising swells on the Danube of Asia.

Like the Danube in Europe, the Mekong River in Southeast Asia has become a vital river cruising course, with a variety of small-ship itineraries linking Vietnam and Cambodia. Late last year, Pandaw River Expeditions upgraded two of its ships, the Mekong Pandaw and Tonle Pandaw, enlarging public spaces, adding gyms and stocking cabins with iPads. In 2012, the company launched the 32-guest Angkor Pandaw, offering three- to seven-night itineraries, while Avalon Waterways set the 32-passenger Avalon Angkor sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap over seven nights. In September, Aqua Expeditions will introduce the 20-suite Aqua Mekong, offering guide-led shore excursions to temples, villages and wildlife-rich areas via skiffs.— ELAINE GLUSAC


A bar scene in the Monastiraki neighborhood. Eirini Vourloumis for The New York Times

36. Athens

Out of an economic crisis, a city surges back.

Vibrancy and innovation can bloom even in hard times. Exhibit A is Greece’s ancient capital, which was hit hard by the global economic crisis and yet is seeing change at sites old and new. First the old: At the Acropolis, the famous Caryatids statues continue to get a restoration in 2014. And the new: The National Museum of Contemporary Art will soon open in a former brewery complex. Neighborhoods have also seen a resurgence, including the quickly gentrifying Monastiraki and the still gritty Kerameikos-Metaxourgeio; the latter will get a cultural lift in 2015 from the biannual ReMap art event. Travelers will have a new lodging option by the end of the year, when a revived Emporikon Hotel opens on Aiolou, a street that is also home to a host of new dining spots.— GISELA WILLIAMS

Going for a ride at Casa Bonita. Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The New York Times

37. Barahona, Dominican Republic

A scenic, low-key destination
on the verge of discovery.

Most vacationers to La Republica hole up in the all-inclusives north and east, overlooking the rarely traveled southwest. The port town of Barahona is the gateway to the cactus-strewn region’s riches, like the hauntingly beautiful Bahia de las Aguilas beach and the eight climate zones at the geological depression Hoyo de Pelempito, both blissfully devoid of people. But there are signs of the government’s vision to develop the area. The abandoned former Barcelo Bahoruco Beach Resort will partly open at the end of 2014, and two separate 300-room projects — near La Canoa and San Rafael Beach — are in the final stages of design approval. For now, you can experience the quiet life at the thatch-roofed Casa Bonita, or at Rancho Platon, which has a tree house raised between the palms.— SANJAY SURANA


A northern lights show in northern Norway. Tim Graham/Getty Images

38. Arctic Circle

Chasing the northern lights?
This might be the year.

There aren’t many reasons to visit the frigid region surrounding the North Pole, but the darkest months, from September through March, offer the most stunning of them: northern lights, that colorful spectacle of solar particles entering our atmosphere. And there are some comfortable ways to see them, thanks to hotels offering northern lights safaris, including the newly opened Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel in Iceland and the Icehotel in Swedish Lapland (and actually within the Arctic Circle).— GISELA WILLIAMS


Boats float across the harbor in Dar es Salaam. Nichole Sobecki for The New York Times

39. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

On the African coast, music thrives
in a commercial capital.

Tanzania may be best known for the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro and the game-packed plains of the Serengeti, but the real pulse of the country is found in its largest city, Dar es Salaam. An eclectic mix of music echoes through the beach clubs, open-air bars and nightclubs of this Indian Ocean coastal city. Old-school dance music competes with Swahili hip-hop and traditional drumming, all drawing from the city’s African, Indian and Arab influences. Add in the street food, the beaches and the fact that the year-old African low-cost carrier Fastjet uses Dar as its hub, and it’s easy to see that this commercial capital is more than a stopover on the way to Tanzania’s natural splendor. It is an African metropolis coming into its own.— RACHEL B. DOYLE


The home where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born will be one of the sites linked by the new Atlanta Streetcar. Erik S. Lesser/European Pressphoto Agency

40. Downtown Atlanta

A revitalized city center welcomes
new museums and streetcars.

Atlanta plans several ribbon cuttings in 2014, but the main event is the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, opened in June next to the Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium downtown. The 42,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly museum features permanent galleries devoted to domestic and international rights struggles and houses the Martin Luther King Jr. papers owned by Morehouse College. By November, visitors will be able to take the new Atlanta Streetcar on a 2.7-mile loop that will link the park to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and other stops. Another parkside attraction, the 94,000-square-foot College Football Hall of Fame, is opening in time for fall kickoff of the N.C.A.A. season.— ELAINE GLUSAC


A fire festival is held in the area every Jan. 15. Nozawa Onsen Tourism Association

41. Nozawa Onsen, Japan

Skiing, soba and snow monkeys.

For nearly a century, visitors have been lured to this ski destination, a 90-minute drive from Nagano, by affordability and a host of charms: fine powder, long slopes and charming cobblestone lanes lined with traditional ryokan inns, generations-old soba noodle shops and natural hot spring baths. But the recent arrival of stylish, foreigner-friendly restaurants, cafes and bars have infused the area with new energy, offering travelers just the right mix of old and new. Microbrews and excellent coffee are served at ski-in/ski-out Craft Room, while Tamon prepares innovative kaiseki cuisine using local ingredients. The lantern-hung rooms at Jon Nobi are popular among international skiers, as is its chic izakaya restaurant Himatsuri, inspired by the town’s fire festival, held annually on Jan. 15. The Asian operator Backyard Travel offers 10-day itineraries to explore Nozawa and nearby sights like a seventh-century temple and a refuge for the area’s famed snow monkeys.— NAOMI LINDT


A vineyard near Subotica. Marko Risovic for The New York Times

42. Subotica, Serbia

Serbian wine? Time to take a sip.

The Balkan Peninsula has a wine culture that dates back hundreds of years, but war and political unrest over the last century decimated Serbian vineyards. As recently as a decade ago, Serbia produced virtually no wine that met international standards. But progress has been swift. Recently, small producers have revived the Subotica-Horgos wine region near the northern border with Hungary. Here, the Palic Wine Route has been attracting domestic wine tourists who spend days sampling local cabernet sauvignon in wine cellars, sipping dry Trijumf white during dinner at Bosscaffe and unwinding in the Hotel Galleria‘s high-tech spa.— INGRID K. WILLIAMS

A map moves in the background at an exhibit inside Elsinore’s Maritime Museum of Denmark. Jakob Dall for The New York Times

43. Elsinore, Denmark

A museum’s entrance makes for something
new in the state of Denmark.

Even angst-ridden Prince Hamlet, literature’s most famous Dane, might be cheered by the new Maritime Museum of Denmark, which recently opened in his hometown Elsinore. Designed by the architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group, the glassy structure is built into a U-shaped dry dock and filled with slanted floors and zigzag passageways that evoke ocean-rocked ships’ decks. Maritime relics — from torpedoes to Lego pirate ships — mix with electronic maps and films that explore the romance of the sea, shipboard existence and trade, both centuries ago and today. Interactive exhibits allow you to run your own trade company, navigate by the stars and ink a sailor’s tattoo. For additional watery wonders, head to Copenhagen’s new Blue Planet aquarium, billed as the largest in Northern Europe.— SETH SHERWOOD

Cheeses at L’Enclume. Andrew Testa for The New York Times

44. Cartmel, England

Haute cuisine comes to the lush landscapes
of the Lake District.

The British dining scene is expanding beyond London, and the chef Simon Rogan deserves much of the credit, having helped elevate the Lake District village of Cartmel into one of England’s most unlikely culinary destinations. His three restaurants in the medieval village — the Michelin two-starred L’Enclume, Rogan & Company and his most recent addition, the Pig & Whistle — have menus featuring whatever’s fresh on his nearby farm. Cartmel is also home to a celebrated farmers’ marketCartmel Cheeses and the Cartmel Village shop, renowned for its sticky toffee pudding. What’s more, the village is a cozy base from which to explore the Lake District, once an inspiration to William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.— DAVID SHAFTEL

An expansive view from Mount Everest. Tshering Sherpa/Agence France-Presse–Getty Images

45. Nepal

New peaks open up for alpine adventurers.

This Himalayan republic is the mother lode of alpinism, home to eight of the world’s 10 highest summits (including Everest). So when a Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation subcommittee recommended last September that Nepal allow access to 165 new peaks in the Kanchenjunga massif this year — 13 of them above 23,000 feet — the world’s mountaineering community was aflutter. Some welcomed the announcement, while others dismissed it, saying the government had stretched the meaning of “peak” in a few cases to include subpeaks within mountains that were already accessible in order to rake in more in fees. Even so, the proposal was significant since it was the first such release in a decade. And though the government scaled back the scope of the original proposal, it did formally open 104 of the new peaks in May.— SANJAY SURANA

Sigmund Freud’s hat, cap and cane at the museum that bears his name. Josef Polleross for The New York Times

46. Vienna

Feel like reminiscing? A city
is awash in anniversaries.

Vienna is home to some 450 balls each year, from traditional waltzes to the “seriously outlandish” Rosenball for the gay community, and this year is the 200th anniversary since the city’s ball culture took root. You could mark the occasion by attending one, but it wouldn’t be the only date to celebrate in the capital city this year. Visitors can pay homage at the Sigmund Freud Museum since it has been 75 years since the psychoanalyst’s death. The city is also commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I with special exhibits and the European Peace Walk, a permanent route from Vienna to Trieste through five countries. There are also new art spaces, a new transportation hub, more direct flights from the United States and offbeat places to stay, like Urbanauts’ former storefronts or Chez Cliché’s themed apartments, with décor inspired by fictional hosts, such as Marie Therese, who loves Baroque furnishings and classical music.— TANYA MOHN

A statue in the jungle at Srah Damrei. Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

47. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Even a 1,200-year-old lost city
has some new draws.

If you’ve seen the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, then the country’s lost city of Mahendraparvata, its majestic temples on Phnom Kulen and the stone animal carvings at the site of Srah Damrei (elephant pond) should be next on your list. About 30 miles from Siem Reap, Mahendraparvata predates Angkor Wat by about 350 years and was the birthplace of the Khmer Empire in A.D. 802. Although the city has been known about for several decades, researchers in 2013 discovered new temples and a network of roads and dikes that had been concealed under thick mountain vegetation.— ROOKSANA HOSSENALLY

Walking in front of town hall in Varazdin. Filip Horvat for The New York Times

48. Varazdin, Croatia

Croatia’s architectural and musical
gem lies inland.

Forget Croatia’s beloved coast: The inland city Varazdin is one of the country’s most picturesque and well-preserved areas. One hour north of Zagreb, this small metropolis of 50,000 has an immaculate cobblestoned town center and is stocked with Baroque churches and palaces like the Draskovic. The theme continues with an annual Baroque music festival, but that’s where it ends. Other music-themed festivals and concerts are decidedly modern and change from year to year: One, the Radar Festival, for contemporary stars, has drawn names such as Bob Dylan and Carlos Santana, and various other festivals throughout the year such as Spancir Fest, celebrated from the end of August to September, attract artists and musicians from around Europe.— SHIVANI VORA

The Tap Room of the Hollander Hotel. Chris Zuppa/Tampa Bay Times/ZUMAPRESS.com, via Newscom

49. St. Petersburg, Fla.

Reinventing a Florida city’s reputation.

Once mocked for its thousands of green benches dotted with senior citizens, St. Petersburg is anything but stationary. With a redeveloped waterfront, a stunning Dali Museum, and sophisticated restaurants in place, the downtown energy is now heading up historic Central Avenue, thanks in part to the craft beer scene. Among the many recent arrivals, artsy Cycle Brewing features Fixie and Endo ales, while Green Bench Brewing Co., the name a nod to those erstwhile icons, invites winter escapees to its sunny taproom and beer garden. Refuel at the ambitious Rococo Steak, set in a renovated 1920s YWCA, then hit the Tap Room of the reinvented Hollander Hotel.— DIANE DANIEL

The beach at El Secreto. El Secreto Resort

50. Belize

More flights and lodges in Central
America’s eco-frontier.

Twenty years ago, when Francis Ford Coppola opened Blancaneaux Lodge in western Belize, relatively few travelers had ventured into this small Central American country. Slowly they arrived, many of them curious to witness the scenery that had captivated the film director, which he described in an email as “completely remote, with a beautiful pristine river you could drink the water out of and the most star-studded night sky I had ever seen.” Since then, upscale rustic hotels have cropped up all over Belize — there’s El Secreto in Ambergris Caye, for example, and Belcampo, an eco-lodge and sustainable farm in the south that’s about to unveil a sophisticated redesign — adding to the lure of rain forests, Mayan ruins and coral reefs. It helps that Belize is easier to reach: Delta recently began nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Belize City, and regional carriers like Tropic Air have expanded their routes, connecting Belize to resorts like Cancún and making remote towns like San Ignacio more accessible.— PAOLA SINGER

The Tjibaou Cultural Center. Blaine Harrington III

51. New Caledonia

What you’d expect (natural beauty) and
not (world-class museum).

This semisecret gem of the South Pacific, a three-hour flight from Sydney, is attracting visitors like never before. Thank infrastructural upgrades like a refurbished international airport, improved roads and bridges, and the arrival of high-profile properties like the new Hilton Noumea La Promenade Residences and the Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Resort & Spa. An island itinerary reads like a fantasy novel: snorkeling and diving in one of the world’s largest lagoons, an aquamarine stunner populated by thousands of coral and marine species and home to the world’s second largest reef (after the Great Barrier); horseback riding through verdant mountains and indigenous Kanak villages; kayaking by moonlight among the submerged forest of the Blue River Provincial Park. The cosmopolitan capital, Nouméa, has its own allures, like Le Roof, where you might spot dolphins diving in the distance while savoring the fresh oysters, and the Tjibaou Cultural Center, a Renzo Piano-designed museum housing one of the world’s largest collections of Pacific art.— NAOMI LINDT

War of 1812 re-enactments, like this one, are scheduled for 2014 in the area. Brendan Bannon for The New York Times

52. Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Once a kitsch capital, now earning a
reputation for food and sports.

Known for its remarkable natural beauty and tourist kitsch, Niagara Falls is now evolving into a draw for those who love food as well as those who seek thrills. The Niagara Falls Culinary Institute opened a high-end restaurant, deli, patisserie and gelateria steps from the American Falls, transforming the area’s dining scene overnight. A gastro pub called the Griffon Pub, which features 50 beers on tap and creative New American dishes like gnocchi poutine, opened a few miles east of the falls last year. On the Canadian side, oenophiles can get a taste of the region’s growing wine scene just a short bike ride from the falls along the Niagara River Recreation Trail. Nondining attractions are plentiful, too. This year, Canadians have hosted two major War of 1812 bicentennial re-enactments in the area, and since May visitors have been able to see the falls from a new luxury catamaran. Tourism officials on the Canadian side appear poised to allow daredevils to zip line across or rappel down the Niagara Gorge later this year.— DAVE SEMINARA

Mark Mackoviak

53. Patagonia

In November, I traveled through this landscape by motorcycle, crisscrossing the Andes through Chile and Argentina; over 10 days I covered more than 2,000 miles. Seemingly around every corner, glacier-fed rivers and lakes gave a feeling of tranquillity. It’s vast, beautiful and nearly empty this time of year.— MARK MACKOVIAK

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