So many places to see, so little time. To help make planning a great escape in the new year more breezy and less run-of-the-mill, a few travel bloggers and I chime in on the destinations that top our 2013 travel bucket lists.
Cathy Brown (@LatinAmerExpats)
A trip to Argentina can combine extremes of both city and country in a way that few other destinations can. Begin in bustling Buenos Aires at the elegant Algodon Mansion, take a short flight to the Lakes Region of Patagonia to hike or fly-fish in picturesque San Martin de Los Andes (a stay at Rio Hermoso is recommended) and complete the trip at Cavas Wine Lodge in Mendoza where the Malbec never stops flowing.
Mexico is finally starting to get the recognition it deserves as being able to offer more then just sun and sprawling oceanfront resorts. La Casa de la Marquesa in the mountainous region of Queretaro is the perfect starting point to explore nearby "pueblos magicos" ("magical towns" whose history and culture has been kept intact). Puebla is known within Mexico for having some of the best gastronomy in the country, in addition to abundant folk art and impressive archeological sites (here, La Purificadora is recommended).
Even the most well-traveled skiers may have never thought about skiing Bulgaria. Still off most people's radar (which means it's still incredibly affordable), Bansko is situated at the foot of the Pirin mountain in south-western Bulgaria and offers the longest runs in the country. After a long day on the mountain, relax at the Kempinski Hotel Grand Arena Bansko.
While most visit Uruguay for the glitz and glamour that is Punta del Este, a stay at nearby Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio or Fasano Punta del Este can balance the sophisticated nightlife of Punta with a great introduction to the sprawling Uruguayan countryside where the slow life on rustically beautiful farms is reminiscent of how things may have been 100 years ago.
Rick Molinsky (@ontvrick)
The new airport and recently finished major highway has made the once remote Lombok easier to get to and easier to get around. More five-star hotels and villas are planned. The eco-attractiveness of the Gillis only adds to the appeal of Lombok. Eco-tourism is also attracting more and more interest to Central Java (such as the coffee plantation in MesaStila).
Shanghai shopping-themed holidays are gaining momentum. Locals tell us "shop till you drop" tourism is booming and with new hotels such as Langham Xintiandi and the Ritz-Carlton opening near luxury retailers, there's plenty of great choices.
Singapore, determined to shake its staid image, is fast becoming a playground for younger, hipper travelers and foodies. The younger generation are moving back home to open restaurants, bars, clubs and art galleries. The Food Festival in July is a must-do.
From the glamping adventure appeal of the central province to the revitalized capital Colombo with it's bars and clubs, Sri Lanka covers a spectrum of travel desires.
Largely in part to the world class MONA art gallery (with its Pavilions) and more choices in accommodation, the once-sleepy Tasmanian capital of Hobart will continue to be a must-see for anyone heading to Australia.
Rebecca Tay (@rtay)
With the next World Cup and the Olympics heading to Brazil, I feel like now is the time to see it. From Carnaval to the Christ the Redeemer statue and even the amazing, hard, tanned bodies on the beaches of Rio, there is so much to see and do there. I'd need to spend a good few months exploring.
Meg Nesterov (@knockedupabroad)
I'll be celebrating my little czarina's second birthday in her father's hometown this year, St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the most poetic cities in the world. The Venice of the North also has a big birthday next year, when St. Petersburg turns 310. With days stretching long into the night all summer, make the most of White Nights from the rooftop terrace at the new W Hotel St. Petersburg.
I recently discovered what many Europeans have kept a great secret: Slovenia is the less crowded, less chaotic and less expensive answer to neighboring Italy. Picture-perfect Ljubljana is the gateway to a small gem of a country. Hit the beach at a classic resort town like Portoroz or restore yourself at a health spa with waters known for its curative properties from ancient Roman times.
Megan Montenaro (@MeganMontenaro)
I had a handful of different friends visit Iceland in 2012 and they all came back with great stories of how cool Reykjavik is and how friendly the people are there. Someone even told me of a bar that lends laptops to patrons and of course Wi-Fi is free everywhere! The food and nightlife scene also got rave reviews, and the city seems to strike the right balance between cutting edge and tradition. I'm told the golden triangle (Pingvellir, Geysir and Gulfoss) should be seen, but is very touristy, and the Westman Islands are very relaxing and scenic -- the speedboat tour around the island is recommended.
Joy Pecknold (@joypecknold)
I have an obsession with Islands -- maybe because I was raised on one -- and ever since I was a kid Madagascar has fascinated me. It's been marred by political instability these last few years, but signs point to a less tumultuous 2013, which would make it an ideal time to visit. Home to scores of animals and plants that can't be found anywhere else, the island offers more than just a pretty beach. Some time spent at the secluded, low-key Constance Lodge Tsarabanjina off the coast would be just my style.
Another island, Mauritius, is just a water-hop away. Madagascar's glitzier cousin has many of the big luxury names one looks for -- Oberoi, St. Regis, Four Seasons, One&Only -- but it also has some eco cred. It was named one of Ethical Traveler's "10 Best Ethical Destinations" for another year in a row, in large part to their sustainability initiatives.
Also a repeat winner on Ethical Traveler's list is Costa Rica. A few of my friends headed there this year for the surf, and I hope to follow suit. But that's not all it offers. An adrenaline junkie's paradise, there's a bounty of outdoor activities to try (repelling down a waterfall, anyone?). Costa Rica is by no means "under the radar", but a property like Lapa Rio Ecolodge with only 16 suites tucked in on all sides by dense rainforest makes it feel like it is.