There are so many reasons to visit this long, narrow strip of land running down the west coast of South America, and travel here just got easier (read: cheaper). Because Chilean citizens no longer require a visa to enter the U.S., Americans no longer need to pay a $160 “reciprocity fee” to visit Chile. Go for the extremes, either the Atacama Desert in the north or Chilean Patagonia in the south, although many treasures in between will tug at your heart strings including bustling Santiago or the seaport city of Valparaíso.
2. St. Lucia
With emerald mountains, sparkling waters and sandy beaches surrounding this Caribbean island, it’s no wonder the paradise has seen a rise in tourism. Adventurers unite by hiking through rain forests, diving with the marine life and touring volcanoes. Put your party pants on as rum punch is ubiquitous throughout the area. Yo ho yo ho a pirate’s life for me!
It’s actually one of the happiest places on earth, and who doesn’t like happy?! With views like this, I can see why…
4. New Zealand
Okay, so Lord of the Rings may have helped the country’s tourism out a wee bit, but this bombshell of a vacation spot has more than a blockbuster movie set to add to its list. William and Kate visited last year, for example, but far more than the celebrities that have graced its rugged interiors, the vast landscapes and world-class wines will have you extending that trip of yours in no time.
5. Cartagena, Colombia
Sure, the country of Colombia has seen its fair share of turmoil throughout the years, but gone are the days of Pablo Escobar, and nowadays people can’t stop talking about how Colombia got its groove back. The seaport of Cartagena has emerged as the country’s belle of the ball and thus, has become not only a safe LatAm city to visit, but a South American must-see. For anyone coveting an eternal summer, I suggest you start packing your bags for southern skies.
6. Marrakesh, Morocco
Words cannot adequately begin to describe the love affair I have with the country of Morocco. Set in the northern tip of Africa, a dream vacation awaits. In minutes, the scenery can change from lush green gardens to Arabian sand dunes to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Nature is never far away, offering plenty to the fans of the great outdoors. The Arabian dreamworld of Marrakesh offers sights, smells, tastes and sounds like never before – sensory overload at its finest!
7. Bali, Indonesia
Bali is a living postcard. Enough said.
8. Yellowstone, Wyoming
With 3,000 plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls, be prepared to share the trails with permanent residents like buffalo, elk and sometimes even grizzlies. The popular park sees around 3 million visitors each year, but don’t worry. You may not see many of them as the area encompasses 2.2 million acres of territory to explore.
9. Cape Town, South Africa
You could visit Cape Town for a few weeks and not even scratch its surface. With a plethora of things to do, you’ll need time before anything else while in the second largest city of South Africa. Allow me to explain: See museums and the performing arts, cable car up to Table Mountain, cage dive with sharks, sip wine through the vineyards, go deep sea fishing, see the Big 5 with Cape Town safaris, hike, swim, surf, kayak…the list goes on and on.
It’s impossible to pick just one place here because everything is a must-see. The famous blue lagoon in Grindavík is only 40 minutes from the capital city of Reykjavík, where you can whale watch. Head south to Strokkur for geyser gazing. See the vast volcano landscapes of Landmannalaugar or head west to Grundarfjörður where you can see the Northern Lights at night. Don’t forget to explore the ice caves which aren’t hard to find since the country is covered in it!
Move over Costa Rica! Nicaragua is the Central American hot spot this year with inexpensive adventure options. As word spreads about the miles of white sandy beaches, rain forests and mountains, hikers and climbers flock here to see the main attraction of the volcanoes and craters.
12. Da Nang, Vietnam
Foodies everywhere unite! If you want damn good noodle soup and tasty street food while being able to walk it all off amongst limestone caves and Buddhist grottos, look no further. Culinary tours are quite popular here, as one would imagine. Ranked #1 in the Travelers’ Choice Destinations on the Rise section via Trip Advisor? You guessed it: Da Nang
13. Sydney, Australia
Are you surprised? Didn’t think so. The friendly city is so well-rounded – let sophisticated sounds fill your ears at the Sydney Opera House, bask on the pristine beaches, discover the harbour or explore its national parks. Day or night, there’s always something to do in Sydney.
14. Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza is one of those places you can visit year-round, and with a panoramic view of the snow capped Andes, who wouldn’t want to sip wine in all this glory? Americans are pouring money into new vineyards and wineries, so there won’t be any shortage of wine here any time soon. With every new season comes a different charm that can be appreciated by all, except maybe non-wine lovers. If beer is more your thing, head to Germany and leave more vino in this South American wine country for me.
As travel restrictions ease up for Americans, you can bet many citizens will be traveling the 90 miles off the coast of Florida to see what once was largely forbidden territory for many. Between Dec. 16 and 18, in the days surrounding President Obama’s announcement about reopening relations with Cuba, travel queries related to the island jumped 809 percent, according to Google. I think it’s time I learn how to roll my own cigar. Nahhhh.