What’s on your travel itinerary in the new year? From a new luxury hotel in Laos (where you can take in the view of ancient temples from a chaise lounge by the infinity pool) to the waterfront night clubs of Hvar Readers’ CommentsWhere do you want to go in 2008? Share Your Thoughts » (the St. Tropez of Croatia) to Death Valley (where recent heavy rains have some flower bloggers speculating on a dazzling spring bloom next year), the travel choices for global nomads have never been more varied.
Vietnam and Cambodia are so 2007. Now, Laos is shaping up to be Indochina’s next hot spot. Ancient sites like the Wat Phou temple complex and the capital city of Vientiane are drawing culture seekers. Luxury teak houseboats are cruising down the Mekong. And global nomads are heading to Luang Prabang to sample the Laotian tasting menu at 3 Nagas (www.3nagas.com) or hang out by the infinity pool at the seriously upscale Résidence Phou Vao (www.residencephouvao.com).
Bargain-seeking tourists have long flocked to Lisbon, typically among the most affordable of European cities. But now the Portuguese capital is also emerging as a cultural force. The new Berardo Collection Museum (www.berardocollection.com), in the historic Belem district, boasts a major trove of modern and contemporary art. Designer hotels like Fontana Park (www.fontanaparkhotel.com) and Jerónimos 8 (www.almeidahotels.com) are attracting style-savvy travelers. And the Design and Fashion Museum, scheduled to open in late 2008, will go a long way toward cementing the city’s avant-garde status.
Tunisia is undergoing a Morocco-like luxury makeover. A new wave of stylish boutique hotels, often in historic town houses, has cropped up alongside this North African country’s white-sand beaches and age-old medinas, drawing increasing numbers of well-heeled travelers. The Villa Didon (www.villadidon.com) in Carthage, for one, has a restaurant originally run by Alain Ducasse. Indeed, TripAdvisor ranks Jerba, a resort island off Tunisia’s southern coast, as the No. 1 emerging spot in 2008.
Flying to the sugar-white shores of Mauritius is about to get easier. Virgin Atlantic just began nonstop flights from London to this tiny coral-ringed island off the coast of Madagascar, and it also recently became a hub port for Indian Ocean excursions by the Italy-based Costa Cruises. Meanwhile, new hotels are opening up, including a Four Seasons resort, Anahita Mauritius (www.anahitamauritius.com), that features four restaurants, three beaches and an ayurveda spa.
Move over South Beach. The iconic Eden Roc Resort (www.edenrocresort.com) and Fontainebleau Miami Beach (www.fontainebleau.com) — faded glitterati hangouts designed by Morris Lapidus — will reopen in 2008 after multimillion-dollar renovations, returning Mid-Beach to its former glory. Future neighbors include Gansevoort South, a W Hotel and a Mid-Beach outpost of the members-only Soho House.
Not to be outdone, South Beach will also welcome a red carpet of designer hotels: the Angler’s Boutique Resort (www.theanglersresort.com) by Gianni Versace‘s former decorator Wallace Tutt; the Tides South Beach (www.tidessouthbeach.com), revamped by the design star Kelly Wearstler; and the Mondrian South Beach (www.mondriansouthbeach.com) by the Dutch design superstar Marcel Wanders. Meanwhile, Nicky Hilton’s much-hyped dreams of running a hotel has ended up in bankruptcy court — and the auction block.
The 2004 tsunami, a fragile ecology and a recent bombing have done little to dampen a hotel boom in this island-nation of about 1,192 coral islets in the Indian Ocean. Among the high-end hotels expected to open next year is a Regent Hotels & Resorts (www.regenthotels.com) with 50 villas, many set over the water, allowing guests to observe the rich marine life while still lying in bed.
8. DEATH VALLEY
It’s too early to predict, but recent heavy rains have some flower bloggers already speculating about a dazzling spring bloom in Death Valley next year. Death Valley is home to more than 1,000 species of wildflower, and in that special spring after a wet fall and winter, the brown desert landscape is carpeted with Technicolor fields of blossoms.
The ultra-exclusive French skiing village of Courchevel may be overrun by Russian billionaires these days, but that has only fueled the resort’s consumption of Cristal jeroboams and high-ticket hotels. The sumptuous Hotel de Charme Les Airelles (www.airelles.fr) reopens this month following a $31 million renovation, and, late next year, Le Padisha ups the ante with rustic-chic apartments starting at 1.3 million euros, or $1.95 million at $1.50 to the euro.
It’s on and off (and on again) for Libya. Four years after the United States government lifted a ban on American travel, this socialist North African nation is going green. The eldest son of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the leader of Libya, is developing a carbon-neutral resort along the country’s pristine Mediterranean coastline, home to stellar Greek and Roman ruins and endangered seals. Luxury hotels and golf courses are planned, as well as a new airport in Tripoli. But red tape remains. Tour operators have canceled trips because of visa holdups, and last month planeloads of European tourists were turned away under an odd rule that requires foreign passports to be translated into Arabic.
As Croatia‘s Dalmatian Coast has become a new Riviera, Hvar has become its St.-Tropez: a tiny village that fills with yachts and international partyers over the summer. While the waterfront Carpe Diem (www.carpe-diem-hvar.com) remains the island’s night-life center, narrow stone alleys are lined with chic cocktail lounges and hotel terraces, including the rooftop pool at the new Adriana hotel, Croatia’s first Leading Small Hotels of the World member (www.suncanihvar.com/adriana).
12. PUERTO VALLARTA
Maybe it is the lasting memory of the gay icon Elizabeth Taylor‘s scandalous affair with Richard Burton during his filming of “Night of the Iguana” in the early 60’s, but Puerto Vallarta is becoming gayer by the year and is now poised to overtake Acapulco as Mexico‘s leading gay beach. There are now some dozen gay-friendly hotels (www.gayguidevallarta.com/Lodging/gay.html) and a glut of bars and clubs clustered along the aptly named Zona Romantica.
With a nickname like the “Hamptons of Germany,” it’s only a matter of time before jet-setters discover the North Sea island of Sylt. Known for its nudist beaches, reed-thatched houses and designer stores, the T-shaped island has long been popular with German celebrities, particularly television stars and sports figures. But now getting there is a simple hop from London and a dozen other European cities, thanks to the low-cost carrier Air Berlin.
The verdict is in. The Next Prague is … Prague. Stag parties have moved on, bohemians have left for cheaper rents, and youth hostels are being squeezed by luxe hotels. Joining a new Mandarin Oriental next year is the Augustine, converted from a monastery and other buildings into a Rocco Forte hotel (prague.roccofortecollection.com), and the just-refurbished Hilton Prague Old Town (www.prague-oldtown.hilton.com), with a buzzing restaurant opened by Gordon Ramsay.
If you’ve been to Quito, Ecuador, there’s a good chance you were heading to the Galápagos. But Quito, the colonial capital perched 9,200 feet up in the Andes, is no longer just a whistle stop. The city’s crumbling historic center, one of Latin America’s least altered, has been reborn after a seven-year, $200 million renovation. And a crop of upscale hotels has arrived, including a JW Marriott (www.marriott.com), making Quito a glorious new center in the so-called Middle of the World.
There’s more to Liverpool than just the Beatles. Next year, this industrial city celebrates its 800th birthday (and its designation as European Capital of Culture), as it trots out everything and everyone, from Turner Prize artists to young emerging bands like the Zutons. But make no mistake: The headliner is Paul McCartney, who is returning to play the “Liverpool Sound” concert at Anfield Stadium on June 1 (www.liverpool08.com).
Wi-Fi beer gardens, lederhosen-wearing hipsters, hybrid Mercedes-Benz taxis. No wonder Monocle magazine recently named Munich the world’s most livable city. The Bavarian capital might get shortchanged when compared with Berlin in terms of liberalism and creativity, but Munich has a robust economy that stimulates high fashion, cutting-edge cuisine and cushy living — not to mention a new Jewish Museum (www.juedisches-museum.muenchen.de), 79 years in the making, and a posh new hotel in the heart of the city, the Charles, from hotelier Rocco Forte (www.charleshotel.de).
What Axis of Evil? Upscale tour operators are tiptoeing into Iran next year, offering trips that explore the ancient country’s Persian treasures and olive-green desert plains. Next spring, the luxury cruise liner Silversea will make stops in the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on its Dubai to Dubai cruise. And California-based Distant Horizons (www.distant-horizons.com) is organizing two 18-day trips that start in Tehran and then weave through the once-forbidden countryside, including stops in Shiraz and Isfahan. Prices start at $5,390 per person.
All those rolling fields of green. The cypress-lined fairways. It’s surprising that there aren’t more golf links in Tuscany. For better or worse, a new course has just opened for guests at the Terme di Saturnia resort (www.termedisaturnia.it ) in southern Tuscany. The nine-hole course covers 247 acres surrounded by wheat, sunflowers, oats and olive groves — that is, until the next nine holes go in.
Just when you thought the Caribbean island of Anguilla couldn’t get any fancier, the Kor Hotel Group is opening the Viceroy Anguilla — the latest offshoot of its Viceroy brand (www.viceroyanguilla.com) — in the spring. The hotel will have 172 luxury accommodations, a 15,000-square-foot spa and beach clubs set along 3,200 feet of private waterfront.
Bogotá might be remembered for its death squads and gang violence, but this Colombian megalopolis — the fourth-largest city in South America — is cleaning up its act and drawing tourists with its cultural diversity and colonial charms. A new Hilton hotel is being built, and three U.S.-based airlines — JetBlue, US Airways and Spirit Airlines — recently applied for the chance to offer direct flights into Bogotá.
Playa Blanca is about to hit the tabloids. Nikki Beach, the très chic beach club in South Beach and St.-Tropez, is opening a gated resort in the once-quiet fishing village on the Pacific coast of Panama (www.nikkibeachpanama.com). The developers are already calling it the “sexiest project in Panama.” Less fabulous families need not worry. Superclubs (www.superclubs.com), the all-inclusive resort, is also dipping its toes into Playa Blanca with the 300-room Breezes Panama, scheduled to open in 2009.
The former home of Cleopatra is rising. Alexandria was among the ancient world’s greatest cities, but it had fallen into oblivion. Now a string of new monuments is bringing the so-called Pearl of the Mediterranean back. A gleaming $200 million library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (www.bibalex.org), resurrects the ancient library in steel and glass. A new Four Seasons (www.fourseasons.com/alexandria) stands in the stately Stan Stefano plaza. And throughout town, the city pulses with new shops and upscale cafes.
A faded spring-break haven on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Mazatlán has been drawing American retirees and second-home buyers to its less-crowded beaches and cheap real estate. Few tourists show up, partly because there are few hotels. That’s changing. A half-dozen resorts are now in the works, including Diamond Beach, a $1.2 billion development with high-rise hotels, a golf course and condominiums.
25. ST. LUCIA
St. Lucia’s upscale progress marches on. After the arrival of eco-hedonistic resorts like Jade Mountain and Discovery at Marigot Bay (which just launched a solar-powered ferry), big-name resorts with $1,000 rooms are on the way. Scheduled to open next year are the Residences at Ritz-Carlton (www.theresidencesstlucia.com), the Westin’s Le Paradis (www.leparadisstlucia.com) and the RockResorts’ the Landings St. Lucia (www.thelandingsstlucia.com). There’s even a private jet terminal in the works.
In addition to being one of the world’s most expensive cities , Oslo is burnishing its reputation as a design and architecture center. Next April, the futuristic National Opera House (www.operaen.no) will open at the head of the Oslofjord, sheathed in white marble. It will be joined by two new design hotels: Thon Hotel Gyldenlove (www.thonhotels.com ) and Grims Grenka Hotel (www.grimsgrenka.no).
27. BUENOS AIRES
Marketed as the first five-star gay hotel in Latin America (but also “heterofriendly”), the new Axel Hotel Buenos Aires (www.axelhotels.com) confirmed what many gay travelers already knew: the Argentine capital is becoming South America’s next party capital. Situated in the bohemian-chic neighborhood of San Telmo, the 48-room hotel features Eames furnishings, a gymnasium and a poolside bar.
28. RIMINI, ITALY
Rimini’s nine-mile stretch of sand along the Adriatic Coast once attracted holiday crowds. But the birthplace of Fellini has been reborn as Italy’s bling party capital, drawing style-conscious Romans to its raging club scene, cool boîtes and designer hotels, most notably the new DuoMo hotel (www.duomohotel.com) designed by Ron Arad.
Blame Madonna. Safarigoers tended to overlook Malawi, but that has changed since she began her effort to adopt a 1-year-old boy from this tiny African country that lies within the Great Rift Valley. Next July, the luxury lodge Pumulani (www.pumulani.com) is set to open 10 villas on spectacular Lake Malawi, home to rare cichlids and pied kingfishers.
The sleepy Honduran island of Roatán, known for scuba diving and fishing, is waking up with big plans, with both Royal Caribbean and Carnival building new cruise terminals there, and the Westin Resort & Spa Roatan scheduled to open in mid-2008.
Since gaining independence in 1975, Mozambique has moved from a war-torn society to one of Africa‘s economic success stories. Now its 1,500 miles of pristine coastline is being fashioned into a “fair trade” tourist destination. High-end lodges with low-environmental impact are being built along the Bazaruto Archipelago, home to endangered sea cows, staghorn coral and mangrove forests. Farther north, the Guludo Beach Lodge (www.guludo.com) offers nine luxurious tented bandas along the beach, with proceeds going back to the local village.
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