Baker's dozen: 13 Best Under-the-Radar Travel Destinations
From the reinvented to the relatively unknown, for when you need to getaway already.
BY Ian Centrone | Jan 12, 2018 | Travel
We're two weeks into our resolutions for the twelve months ahead. If by now we haven't realised the futility of not living life where we are, when we are, then we're living on another planet. Most resolutions tend to boil down to becoming incrementally better versions of our same old selves.
But travel could, maybe, make a small crack in the established order of things. Iceland and Thailand may have blown up on your Instagram feed in 2017, but this year might be about discovery. From reinvented capitals to secluded island getaways, here are some under-the-radar destinations for 2018 (some more than others).
Patagonia's Perito Moreno Glacier and Torres del Paine National Park are by now well-known, but Aysén isn't yet. This remote frontier land is sparsely populated and largely unexplored. Adventurers will appreciate its dramatic landscapes: snow-capped mountains, staggering fjords and temperate rain forests. It's splendidly isolated, so you can go off the grid easily and countless adventures await. Trek the Aysén Glacier Trail, ride a horse along the Andean mountains, or kayak the Exploradores Valley’s challenging rivers.
Looking to escape London, Paris and Milan? Estonia’s capital city looks a fairytale. Stroll past gothic architecture along the cobblestone streets of Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 13th century, now lined with picturesque cafés and boutiques. This year marks Tallinn’s 100th anniversary of its original independence declaration from the Russian Empire, so expect celebrations throughout 2018.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Now a big dot on the radar, but here the art of slow travel is still alive and well. More tranquil than in Vietnam and Cambodia, Luang Prabang sits cosily in a valley where the Mekong and Nam Khan meet. French colonial architecture mixes it with Buddhist temples and new luxury hotels and resorts. The upcoming Rosewood Luang Prabang (opening midyear) tantalises with pavilion-style villas and luxury tents. Nearby, Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport is also being expanded to accommodate more visitors, because it is Southeast Asia’s new star destination. Also, be sure to check out the serene Azerai.
A sleepy surf town in central Chile? Surfy and idyllic, more like. Pichilemu is proving to offer much more beyond its expansive, dark sand beaches and obliging waves. For one, artists such as Macarena Irarrazaval, Beatriz Hagel and Florencia Onetto are elevating Pichilemu as an up-and-coming art destination for locals and tourists alike. Culinary innovators like Gustavo Moreno Marquez and Javiera Valenzuela Concha of Raíces Lab are also catching the eye of gastronomes by creating sustainable menus from foraged local ingredients. Stay at Hotel Alaia in Punta de Lobos where you can take lessons from a pro and hang loose in the superb, surf-themed oceanfront suites.
Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina
If you like long-hauls and would like to experience USA today, the Carolinas are undeniably having a moment, with cultural hubs like Asheville and Charleston drawing attention of globe trotters. But this year, South Carolina’s Lowcountry is on the rise, with Palmetto Bluff taking center stage. Steeped in history, rich biodiversity, and 32 miles of quiet coastline, it's considered by locals to be one of the best-kept secrets of the South. For true Southern hospitality, check into Montage Palmetto Bluff, where you can spend your days on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course; or at the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club; or on an offshore excursion. Its romantic laidback luxury will make any visitor feel right at home.
It's a small cluster of villages on Portugal’s Troia Peninsula, a coastal getaway from Lisbon and Cartagena. Whitewashed buildings with terracotta roofs and pristine beaches are bordered by rolling sand dunes, twisted cork trees and vibrant rice fields. There aren’t many hotels or restaurants, which adds to Comporta’s charisma, but the Sublime Comporta is a chic retreat of just 14 rooms and villas.
Landlocked Botswana’s landscape is defined by the Okavango Delta and Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa, and offers some of the most spectacular safaris on earth. Only two million inhabitants call Botswana home, making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Animals roam and rule, including elephants, giraffes, zebras, hyenas, cheetahs and more.
Ireland’s compact Cork City is giving Dublin a run for its money after reinventing itself over the past couple of years and is ready to steal the spotlight once and for all. Waterfront views, historic churches, and friendly locals make Cork a favourite spot for seasoned travellers, but it’s its evolving culinary scene that will steal the spotlight for 2018. Although fiercely rooted in Irish heritage, inventive eateries and pubs in the revitalised city center are bringing a welcome diversity to Cork. Check out the likes of The Rocket Man Food Co., Miyazaki and Tequila Jack’s.
Gaining esteem as the next cultural powerhouse. State capital Hobart is exepriencing a gastronomic renaissance, with Australian chefs highlighting the region’s world-class produce. But the real draw is Tasmania’s breathtaking, rugged wilderness. Journey along the weathered coastline, staggering mountains and untouched beaches. Or, explore by sea: witness the pink granite peaks of Freycinet National Park, cruise through Wineglass Bay, and spot fur seals basking on jagged cliffs.
The rural region of Garzón (nicknamed Uruguay’s Little Tuscany) is located in the heart of Maldonado, a 30-minute drive inland from the upscale José Ignacio seaside sanctuary. Once a ghost town, its city center received a second wind after celebrated Argentine chef Francis Mallmann opened his restaurant-hotel, El Garzón. Today, a slew of galleries, such as Galería Pueblo Garzón, display a collection of local works and artists from around the world. But its newest lure lies in the burgeoning wine region, with Bodega Garzón producing some of the top Tannat red and Albariño white wines in the world.
Smack-dab in the middle of Anchorage and Mount Denali is the small village of Talkeetna. A gateway to Alaska’s famed Denali National Park, it's heaven-sent for hiking, fishing, rafting and flightseeing. In town, expect to come across a healthy mix of brewpubs and weed dispensaries sprinkled in with quirky artist studios and shops selling locally made handicrafts. For stellar views of Denali, snag a room at the rustic Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. Summer is your best bet in terms of weather, but you can beat the crowds by planning a winter jaunt for a chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Another transformative experience. Although completely blocked-in by neighboring Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, undisturbed Malawi offers sprawling national parks paired with an endless white-sand coastline, thanks to snorkelling hot spot, Lake Malawi. This September marks the triumphant return of the Lake of Stars Festival, a three-day celebration of music, arts and culture.
Gross National Happiness is now mainstream, thanks to Bhutan. Visitors pay a minimum tariff of USD250 per day, which may seem steep, but the fee is all-inclusive, covering your accommodation, transportation, food, and an official guide. As a Himalayan kingdom, the local expression of Buddhist culture permeates all aspects of life. There is abundant wildlife, the bustling capital of Thimpu, and majestic cliff-side monasteries like Tiger’s Nest.
From: Esquire US