The 19 Best Places for a Big Trip in 2019

The late, great travel icon Anthony Bourdain might have said it best: "Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown." It’s about that frisson of nervous excitement when you leave the comforts of home, giving way to revelation as you open your senses to somewhere different and new. That’s the mark of a trip well taken -- well, that and a few cool Instagram stories.

The late, great travel icon Anthony Bourdain might have said it best: "Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown." It’s about that frisson of nervous excitement when you leave the comforts of home, giving way to revelation as you open your senses to somewhere different and new. That’s the mark of a trip well taken -- well, that and a few cool Instagram stories.

"Teetering in the unknown" doesn't necessarily mean winging it -- you need to know where to go before you actually go, and just as important is the why and the when. That's where we come in. We polled industry experts and professional travelers all over the world, littered our office with maps, and even asked our friends and coworkers and moms, to find the 19 coolest places to visit in 2019.

Some will lead you to far-flung corners of the Earth, made accessible for the first time by freshly opened borders or new flight routes. Others can be done in a three-day weekend -- destinations in our own American backyard that are, for better or worse, on the brink of big changes. And in some cases, the stars have aligned (sometimes literally) to make 2019 the very best year to be there. All are worthy of your vacation days, and maybe a couple "sick" days, too. From Denver to Uzbekistan, here's where you need to go in 2019. Teeter responsibly.

Rincon, Puerto Rico
Rincón, Puerto Rico | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Go beyond San Juan to fall in love with the island’s coolest surf town
A year and a half after Hurricane Maria, this resilient Caribbean island is still rebuilding. But the vast majority of hotels, resorts, and restaurants are up and running and more than ready to welcome travelers. Now is a great time to take advantage of the cheap flight prices and put your tourism dollars directly into the hands of people who most need them.

Bear in mind those people may not be in San Juan -- an extraordinary city, but too frequently the only one visitors ever see. This spring, go beyond the capital and get to know Rincón, the world-famous and much-beloved surf town on PR’s western coast. March is prime time for surfing off all those flawless beaches, but if 30-foot waves don’t do it for you, you can snorkel, dive, join a yoga retreat, or simply hop from beach bar to beach bar. Keep an eye out, too, for humpback whales passing directly by Rincón as they migrate north from January to March. If you want to go a step further in helping the ongoing recovery efforts, look out for surf and service trips, where you’ll spend part of your time getting surf lessons and part of your time serving the community.

You can fly, no passport required, into nearby Aguadilla -- a direct 3 1/2-hour trip from NYC -- or drive about three hours from San Juan. Hotel options range from budget-friendly to Instagram-friendly. Don’t miss the Grand Carnival Parade on March 2 -- or Karnaval, as it’s called here -- and stick around for the RAMAS Festival (March 22-24), whose name is a very handy acronym for everything you can look forward to -- Rincon Alternative Music Art Surf. -- Kastalia Medrano

cave of Matera, Basilicata, Italy
Basilicata Region, Matera, Italy | deimagine/E+/Getty Images

Matera, Italy

This prehistoric marvel is the spotlight of Europe this year
Matera, found on the arch of Italy’s boot, is one of the oldest cities on Earth. Carved out of these limestone hills is a vast network of caves and underground tunnels, inhabited since 8,000 B.C. Squalid conditions and neglect made Matera “the shame of Italy” until the mid-’90s, when UNESCO designated its ancient district, the Sassi, a World Heritage Site. Today, the prehistoric structures have been modernized in stunning and inventive ways -- into cafes and bars, art museums and boutiques, design hotels, and underground spas. There are cave restaurants, too, like Osteria Al Casale, updating Basilicata cuisine while utilizing traditional ingredients like chicory and lamb.

So dramatic is Matera’s metamorphosis, it was chosen as the 2019 European Capital of Culture, an annual initiative spotlighting the cultural richness of cities across the continent. A slew of new upgrades and facilities will help accommodate a packed lineup of events: Over 800 artists from around the world will be showcased in multimedia exhibitions throughout the year. The party kicks off with a grand opening ceremony on January 19, when musicians from all the previous Capitals of Culture will jam out around the Sassi. You can buy a Matera 2019 Passport (€19) for 365-day access to all the festivities. Fly into Bari, the nearest city, and make Matera a stop on your road trip through the whitewashed hill towns, olive groves, and beautiful beaches of Puglia. -- Paul Jebara

Denver Beer Co, Denver, Colorado
Denver Beer Co. | Matt Nager/Thrillist

Bars, restaurants, snow, legalization -- everything in Denver is fresh right now
Denver is booming: In a few short years the city has transformed into a capital of cool, with an avant-garde arts scene, new hotels, trendy nightlife, revamped neighborhoods, and weed tourism. Startup culture has taken hold. The culinary options have vastly improved. And the population has exploded (along with the rent prices, gentrification, and political division). Now’s the time to catch Denver during the height of its renaissance, growing pains and all.

To see what’s trending right this moment, hit up urban food hall Denver Milk Market, and save room for creative dim sum at Super Mega Bien inside the devastatingly hip Ramble Hotel. Barhop in LoDo (Lower Downtown) after a gallery opening in RiNo (River North Arts District). For breweries, hit up Novel Strand in the on-trend Baker neighborhood, or The Grateful Gnome for enormous sandwiches. Catch the hip-hop shows at the Roxy Theatre in Five Points, and end your night at The Breakfast King on Santa Fe -- the glorious Burrito Supreme has thankfully stayed the same, even as the city around it evolves.

Denver brands itself as the world’s largest après-ski town -- it’s at its very best in the cold, crisp winter. Come in February for the once-a-year winter show at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Drink a craft beer (we've got a lot of that here) by the fire at Inga’s Alpine Tavern, or clink cocktails at one of the many hidden speakeasies. Or... shake the winter blues at one of Denver’s not-at-all hidden dispensaries. -- Kastalia Medrano

Poco do Bacalhau, Faja Grande, Flores

The Azores, Portugal

The price tag on this tropical, volcanic paradise is too good to last
So you’ve explored the streets of Lisbon, maybe even its dazzling rival city, Porto. What’s next on your Portugal itinerary? About 900 miles from the mainland you’ll find the craggy shores of the Azores, a nine-island archipelago that has all the geographic splendor of Hawaii, the Scottish Highlands, and New Zealand rolled into one. Think rugged hiking trails that lead to hidden waterfalls on Flores, vineyards built on black volcanic soil and hat-shaped mountains that scrape the heavens on Pico, and lakes that seem to be perpetually shrouded with mist on São Miguel, the region’s largest island. Discover the throwback neighborhoods of Angra do Heroísmo, visit one of Europe’s only tea plantations, and chow down a massive meat stew cooked underground by volcanic heat. This is a truly peerless adventure.

Go now, before geotag-hungry Instagrammers and “those loud Americans” ruin it for the rest of us. The islands are affordable (for now) -- typically 20% less than what you’d pay on already-reasonable mainland Portugal. Getting there is no skin off your back, either; last year, Delta launched seasonal nonstop flights from NYC to São Miguel, on top of the year-round directs from Boston on Azores Airlines. Those directs to São Miguel spend less than six hours in the air, making it the quickest route to Europe from the East Coast. If you don’t mind chillier nights, come in October and you’ll be treated to even cheaper airfare, fewer tourists, and some of the islands’ top hotels for less than half price. -- Chadner Navarro

Shuk HaCarmel market, Tel Aviv, Israel
Shuk HaCarmel market, Tel Aviv, Israel | Michael Jacobs/Art in All of Us/Corbis News/Getty Images

Tel Aviv, Israel

A cosmopolitan foodie oasis with “it destination” written all over it
With more non-stop flights to Tel Aviv than ever, splashy new hotels, and sublime restaurants, the question isn’t why visit this ancient city, but for how long. With its beachfront locale and respected arts scene, it’s easy to see glimpses of Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Sydney, and even LA here -- but make no mistake, Tel Aviv has a personality all its own. It’s the country’s second-most populous city after Jerusalem, and the vibe is young and hungry. A good night might start at the buzzy, reservation-only Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar before moving on to music and dancing in clubs that don’t quit ‘til sun-up. If you can stand the desert heat, come in June for the largest Pride parade in the Middle East; otherwise opt for lower temps and lower prices in the spring or fall. Whenever you come, come hungry.

There’s a lot for your stomach to navigate, from roadside falafel stands and market kiosks to restaurants with well-deserved waiting lists. First-timers should take a walkingtour through Tel Aviv’s always-packed Carmel Market, the epicenter of Israeli cuisine. Nearby, Shlomo & Doron will school you on hummus; here, it’s the focal point of a meal, not just a starter, so prepare for the most delicious lesson. Celebrity chef/restaurateur Eyal Shani is behind North Abraxas, where eating local means the best cauliflower of your life (paired with natural Israeli wine, of course). And even the pickiest New Yorkers will feel at home here -- Major Food Group (of Carbone fame) recently opened their NYC-style deli, Golda’s Delicatessen, inside the brand-new Jaffa Hotel. -- Cindy Augustine

biking Elqui Valley, Chile
Elqui Valley, Chile | Jesse Kraft/EyeEm/Getty Images

Elqui Valley, Chile

A 2019 total eclipse is just one highlight of this star-gazers’ paradise
Whatever you’ve got planned on July 2, 2019 (nothing, right?) cancel it and get yourself to Chile’s Elqui Valley. “The Great Southern American Eclipse” is coming to town (er, to valley). There's no better place to witness this two-and-a-half-minute celestial spectacular -- Chile, with over 40% of the world’s observatories, is the undisputed capital of astrotourism, and the Elqui Valley is the world’s first-ever International Dark Sky Sanctuary. As a bonus, it’s also a major winegrowing region, with picturesque vineyards and pisco distilleries for eclipse pre-gaming and post-viewing awe.

A slew of travel companies will be offering special eclipse tour packagesViñedos de Alcohuaz, Chile’s highest altitude commercial winery, will be hosting tastings and eclipse viewings led by prominent astronomer Massimo Tarenghi. We do love our wine, but sleeping under the stars on Sportstour’s four-day eclipse glamping experience sounds positively stellar. The all-inclusive tour includes visits to quaint towns on the Pacific coast, Chile’s oldest pisco factory, thermal hot springs, and of course, an isolated observation point to view the eclipse without distraction. -- Paul Jebara

Diniwid Beach, Boracay, Philippines

Boracay, Philippines

Once ravaged by over-tourism, this Filipina beauty has had an eco-makeover
The announcement was a bombshell: the Philippines’ most visited island would close for a six-month environmental cleanup. Sloppy beach parties had devastated one of the world’s most beautiful sanctuaries. But after some serious TLC, this island paradise with famously intense sunsets has returned more radiant than ever.

Gone are the tacky umbrellas, beach vendors, day-drinkers, and cookouts -- single-use plastics are banned too. You’ll find vastly improved swimming conditions in Boracay’s turquoise waters, revitalized coral reefs, and more space to lounge on over a dozen freshly groomed, ivory-sand beaches. If you can, wait until at least mid-year to discover Paradise 2.0, as new roads and infrastructure are still finishing up. But don't leave it too long -- Boracay could end up mighty exclusive, with only 19,000 tourists allowed to stay on the island each day.

The success of Boracay’s rejuvenation will have global implications; it sets an inspiring precedent for similarly over-touristed sites around the world. Thailand’s Maya Bay (of The Beach fame) is now closed to visitors so its ecosystem can recover (after just a few months, the reef sharks are already returning). And we all have a part to play -- if we support the reopening of Boracay with our tourist bucks, other destinations are sure to go eco too. -- Barbara Woolsey

The Valley of the Gods
The Valley of the Gods, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah | Bryan Allen/Corbis/Getty Images

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

The most American place on Earth -- for now
Bears Ears is the American West at its purest and most iconic -- a wild, rugged desert landscape bursting with cultural and geological history. Five Native American tribes came together to push this monument into existence, working in tandem with the federal government to protect the land -- the first national monument ever to be managed this way. Now, 85% of it might shortly fall into the hands of uranium miners due to President Trump’s downsizing of the monument, an unprecedented move that has been legally challenged by tribes and conservation groups. Go see it while you still can. The ideal visiting times are late spring and early autumn -- winter means road closures, summer means bugs.

Pay your respects to Ancestral Puebloan towers and kivas. Drive (or mountain bike!) past otherworldly rock formations in the Valley of the Gods, see the Bears Ears buttes themselves, or marvel at the petroglyph-covered Newspaper Rock on Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway. For the ultimate escapism, tackle trails in pristine (for now) regions accessible only on foot. Into backcountry camping? You’re in the right place. You can’t fail to be awed by the light pollution-free view of the Milky Way up above. -- Kastalia Medrano

Gwangjang Market, Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea

Asia’s most exciting urban playground just got more accessible
Glass, steel, and neon glare: Seoul is electric, a world-leading urban wonderland. The cityscape of starchitect design offers round-the-clock entertainment for the trend-hungry traveler, while the famously inventive food scene expands and evolves. With shiny hotel openings and new non-stop flights from Boston and Minneapolis this year, what are you waiting for?

As much as Seoul is modernizing right now, it’s also nurturing its roots. New restaurants are refocusing on Korean cuisine -- take the buzzed-about Jangkkoma bistro with its beef tartare bibimbap, or fine dining at Kwonsooksoo, which earned two Michelin stars for its devotion to traditional Korean food served with modern flair and presentation. And then there are the bars. Oh, the bars! Tug the right book on a shelf in the back of a Gangnam flower shop and you’ll find yourself in Alice Cheongdam, a chateau-inspired cocktail den. Over at the Four Seasons, an unmarked door leads to Charles H., where imperial tapestries and brass tables set the scene for killer Manhattans. A night out in Seoul, arguably the greatest party city in the world, is a deliriously joyful whirlwind.

Beauty obsessives might need an extra suitcase: The newfangled “K-beauty” emporiums put Sephora to shame. Peruse the multi-floor flagships of Chicor and Innisfree for natural cosmetics, or the futuristic Dr. Jart+ Filter Space, which boasts a humongous air purifier and an “air shower booth.” -- Barbara Woolsey

Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Street plov in Tashkent, Uzbekistan | zazdravnaya/shutterstock


New reforms have opened up this cultural heavyweight at the crossroads of East and West
Uzbekistan is a fascinating mashup of cultures and contrasts, a country where Soviet skyscrapers sit alongside ancient mosques, and roads wind from frenetic bazaars into deserts where nomads sleep under the stars. Threads of the ancient Silk Road still run through here -- the eastern path to China evident in breakfast bowls of steaming noodles and the western tug toward Turkey in plov, a rich pilaf served with dates and dried fruit. Once isolated from the rest of the world, new visa regulations and a vastly improved exchange rate have opened this tantalizing country up to adventure-seeking travelers for the first time in decades.

The 1,500-year-old city of Samarkand sits near the eastern border of Tajikistan, where the flat desert rears up toward the Pamir Mountains. At the city’s heart is Registan, the ancient square bound by three mural-covered madrasas. A new high-speed train runs between Samarkand and sister-city Bukhara, whose historic center of sand-colored mosques and heady markets is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The same train continues to Tashkent, the capital, a city of glistening skyscrapers and Soviet-era Brutalism.

Travel here still has its quirks -- the country is a newbie at tourism, after all. The railway is excellent, with comfy sleeper cars and onboard restaurants, but tickets sell out fast. Get your e-visa well in advance and check the most recent import laws -- there are tight rules on bringing medications into the country. Be sure to register at a hotel within three days of arriving in Uzbekistan, and then every three days thereafter. Master the bureaucracy, and this fascinating and diverse land is yours to discover. And it’s cheap too -- decent hotels will run you about $40 a night. -- Liz Dodd

 Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Come celebrate Pride in Catalonia’s weird and wild creative capital
Architect Antoni Gaudí built in this city a house inspired by the sea -- fluid, experimental, decidedly out there. It’s just one of his many architectural feats that reflect Barcelona’s playful energy. Unassuming streets in the Gothic Quarter play host to what is potentially the wackiest bar scene in the world; at Espit Chupitos you can participate in intricately themed shots like “the Monica Lewinsky” (we won’t spoil it, but blindfolds are involved), or sing karaoke at Sor Rita Bar, where decapitated Barbie dolls are a central design motif. Even at historic restaurants of well-repute, things can easily descend into weirdness: At Els Quatre Gats, I watched an older gentleman jubilantly bang out “Mama Mia” on a grand piano while I dined on pan con tomate. Spontaneous theatrics are the norm in a city that refuses to take itself too seriously.

If Barcelona is unlike anywhere else, that includes the rest of Spain. A fraught pro-independence movement continues to divide the Catalan capital, but all politics aside, you’ve got to admire a city so fiercely devoted to being different. Barcelona is remarkably gay-friendly (the Eixample district is also known as “Gaixample”) and hosts the largest Pride celebration on the Mediterranean. The festivities kick off mid-June and will feature plenty of talks, walks, drag shows, and street parties. Come early and make a month of it -- less than an hour’s train ride south is the beach town of Sitges which, despite its mere 17 square miles, has become one of the top gay destinations in Europe. A 10-day celebration marking their Pride’s 10th anniversary starts June 1. There will be pool parties, but more than that, there will be a community coming together to celebrate universal amor. -- Ruby Anderson

Kangerlussauq, Greenland


Climate change means some places are vanishing. Greenland has never been more visible
This is one of the last places on Earth that’s safely accessible, but none of your friends have been to. You can stand on the bow of a ship as it crunches through the ice in eerie slow motion. You can see the northern lights splayed across the deep black night sky. You’ll spot polar bears and Arctic foxes, and even narwhals if you’re spectacularly lucky. And unlike Antarctica, the Arctic has a human history -- you’ll meet handfuls of inhabitants in creaky wooden villages along the coasts, and witness a unique, isolated culture.

The recent tourism boom in Iceland has had a handy side effect: It’s now much easier and cheaper to get to Greenland (it’s only an hour flight from Reykjavik). Warming temps and developing infrastructure are making parts of the country accessible to tourists for the first time. In the west, hotels are springing up in Ilulissat and the capital city, Nuuk. The eastern coast is more remote, even by Greenland standards, but it has arguably the world’s most stunning fjord system. The best way to explore is by cruise, since almost all human activity is along the coasts. Quark Expeditions offers several trips -- book for the summer if your focus is polar bears; autumn if it’s the northern lights. -- Kastalia Medrano

San Diego, California
La Jolla Beach, San Diego, California | Masayuki Hiraoka/EyeEm/Getty Images

San Diego, California

America’s greatest beach city gets competitive this year
Eternally 72 degrees and sunny with a ridiculous 70 miles of coastline, San Diego beckons to lovers of surf and sand. Stake your umbrella at Ocean Beach, famous for its surf breaks and non-ironic hippies; explore ritzy La Jolla, with its year-round resident sea lion population; or head south to Imperial Beach for the best street tacos you’ll ever eat without needing a passport. Sleepy SoCal vibes pervade, but the city is also an extreme sports capital, a surf and watersports hub that will fittingly play host to the first-ever World Beach Games this October. Over a thousand athletes from all over the globe will converge on Mission Beach to compete in a gauntlet of surfing, skateboarding, beach soccer, beach volleyball, and more. For visitors, people-watching will be a sport unto itself.

Don’t underestimate San Diego as just a beach town -- this dynamic border city boasts plenty of unique corners worth visiting, with or without the oceanfront digs. Currently in the throes of a food and drink renaissance, the city’s craft beer scene reigns supreme, but a handful of distilleries have opened in the last two years, and nationally recognized restaurants like Kettner Exchange and Trust are proliferating at a fast clip. Ever at the ready are SD’s most sought after signature dishes: Cali burritos (guac recommended) and a beer-battered fish taco, best served oceanside. -- Jackie Bryant

Chefchaouen, Morocco | Oscar Wong/Getty Images

All-women expeditions are opening up Moroccan tourism in meaningful ways
Even if you’ve never been to Morocco, you probably have an image of it in your mind: brightly colored fabrics, pyramids of rich spices, bustling open-air markets, and an unspecified number of camels. It’s true, all those things are there. But there’s so much more, especially if you get out of the tourist hubs of Marrakech and Fez. Try the postcard-perfect surf town of Taghazout, for example, or check out the sand dunes at Merzouga, purported to have healing qualities.

If you’re there between April 5-15, you might come across the Marathon des Sables -- a brutal ultramarathon across the Sahara that will make you glad you are… not doing it. Sip on a nous nous (equal parts espresso and milk) instead and enjoy the breeze. Spring is the best season in Morocco, especially if you want mild, sunny weather for hiking in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.

Perhaps this is all easier said than done, though, especially for women who might find it daunting to wander from Morocco’s inclusive city centers. Traveling with males, too, can limit meaningful interactions with local women along the way. But for the first time ever, local female tour guides are hosting female travelers on cross-country expeditions. With an emphasis on immersion, the tours provide a firsthand glimpse into what daily life is like for Moroccan women (and you'll see all the sights too). -- Kastalia Medrano

Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy

Normandy, France

A coastal road trip with stunning views, history, cheese and more cheese
This June, if you’ve never seen Paris, by all means, see Paris. Then hit the road west, where country lanes winding through apple orchards give way to windswept sandy beaches. Venturing into Normandy’s historic towns and seaside retreats, you’ll find centuries-old cathedrals, half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, and epic seafood. Wherever you roam, take your Calvados apple brandy with a side of Camembert cheese, and bed down in an authentic chambres d’hote.

Stop in the ancient harbor town of Honfleur, a favorite of Monet’s paintbrush, on your way to the famously fancy seaside resort of Deauville. Take the air on the colorful beach promenade, which features the French equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or hit the grand casinos. After that you’ll probably want to save a buck, so cross the river to Trouville, where a four-course meal at Au Potager costs just $15. In Cabourg, lunch is best served on the beach -- source your picnic from the Dives-sur-Mer market, held every Saturday in a 14th century hall.

To mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Normandy has a packed calendar of 1940s-themed costume parties, sailing festivals, military parades, parachute drops, and film festivals. Plan to be in Bayeux and Carentan on the 7th and 8th, respectively, for street parties and swing band concerts. On the 9th, train your eyes on the sky for nine simultaneous fireworks displays all along the coast. Finish your trip at the OG Disney castle -- a stunning medieval abbey and UNESCO site on the island of Mont-Saint-Michel. -- Émilie Thyebaut

Glowworms in a Waitomo cave, New Zealand

New Zealand

This faraway adventure has never been easier to reach
Don’t go to New Zealand “someday.” Go to New Zealand THIS YEAR -- so many planes will take you there! Last winter, Air New Zealand wink-wink-nudge-nudged the Midwest with new non-stop flights from Chicago (it also flies directly from Houston, LA, and San Fran). And this spring, United expands its non-stop service between SF and Auckland. With all these extra plane seats available, expect some tempting prices, too.

For such a small country, New Zealand packs a lot in. Block off at least two weeks of vacation (just remember the seasons are reversed; December through February means peak summer, peak prices). Landscapes vary dramatically, from the idyllic beaches of the Bay of Islands to the glaciers and fjords in the far south. On South Island, Queenstown offers a stunning backdrop for pretty much any adrenaline-pounding, thrill-seeking activity you can think of (and it has the world-famous Fergburger). Up north, Tolkien nerds should head to the quaint meadows of Hobbiton, while nature lovers can hit the hot springs in Rotorua or tube through the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The cities are no slouches either -- the capital, Wellington, is a burgeoning foodie destination. And then there’s the most compelling fact of all: There are more sheep than people. -- Emily Zemler

Old Montreal
Rue St. Paul, Old Montreal | David Madison/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Montreal, Canada

From European vibes to chill new offerings, Québec's coolest city just got cooler
Last fall, our northern neighbor became the second country after Uruguay to legalize recreational weed, signaling massive impending change for its multicultural cities. Montreal now rivals Amsterdam as the world’s coolest city with legal green. A swift hour-and-a-half flight from New York, it's more than a convenient cannabis playground for East Coasters -- it’s the quickest way to feel truly elsewhere without crossing any large bodies of water. The glamorous cobblestone streets of Old Montreal feel distinctly European, and the Québécois French language dominates. No need for a crash language course, though -- locals switch nimbly between English and French, and they are nice about it. (Classic Canada.)

This is a city of neighborhoods as walkable and diverse as those you’d find in NYC. Wander north from the Old Town into Gay Village, the heart of Montreal’s LGBT scene, or tromp down St. Laurent Boulevard into the bohemian Plateau neighborhood, where impressive murals light up parking lots and street corners. The Mile End houses the highest concentration of trendy eateries, and bread fanatics can weigh in on the infamous bagel rivalry of St-Viateur versus Fairmount. Farther still lie the fresh markets, authentic bakeries, and pizzeries of Little Italy.

This is indeed a fine city for the munchies -- from fish to fries, you can’t go wrong. Poutine abounds in all shapes and flavors, including the very-late-night variety at La Banquise, and don’t leave without trying the smoked meat sammies at Schwartz’s. Montreal entertains year-round with a packed events calendar, but a trip in September rewards with inviting temps and diverse, delicious food fests like YUL EAT, plus a massive food truck festival on the first Friday. -- Bruce Northam, American Detour

Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
Leipzig, Germany | Tom Werner/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Leipzig, Germany

Bauhaus, techno, and factory art in Germany’s fastest-growing city
“The better Berlin,” raves the German press about Leipzig, a cultural capital crushing on modern art, creativity, and freak-flag diversity. But its appeal runs deeper than on-trend cool -- it’s stacked with classic European culture and history, too. The Peaceful Revolution kicked off here in 1989 to bring down the Berlin Wall, so what better place to commemorate the 30th anniversary? With Berlin just an hour’s train ride away, make it a twofer.

One of the world’s oldest universities (founded in 1409) is a hotbed of youthful progressivism, most vigorously expressed in the Moritzbastei cultural center. Colorful subcultures flourish in the old industrial quarter of Plagwitz, where factories are regenerated as galleries, and in the punk stronghold of Connewitz. At night, join the masses at the city’s techno temples, The Institut for Future and Distillery. Fair warning, Leipzig just axed mandatory closing times.

Come in June for Wave Gotik, one of the world’s largest goth music fests, closely followed by Bachfest (as in Johann Sebastian). 2019 also marks the centenary of the Bauhaus movement, and there’ll be exhibitions at the Museum of the Printing Arts and the Grassi Museum, where an iconic window by German-American artist Josef Albers is always on display. -- Barbara Woolsey

Yala National Park on Sri Lanka
Yala National Park, Sri Lanka | bezikus/shutterstock

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Jungle Book adventures that don’t feel contrived -- but for how much longer?
It’s the fleeting moments in Yala National Park that are most unforgettable -- watching a baby elephant weave between its mother’s legs, or your 6am wake-up call from the monkeys playing in trees outside your jungle hut.

This isn’t a Disneyland safari. The jeeps are manned by locals, not rangers, who coordinate on flip phones to help visitors see elephant herds, wild buffalo, and the elusive branch-lounging leopard. Compared to better-developed parks in Africa, Yala feels intrepid and wild, disorderly and authentic. And get this: The entire experience, including park entry, jeep rental, and driver, only costs about $100.

It might not be like this for long, though. New luxury tented lodges are opening, and guides say that it’s getting busier with each passing season. Sri Lanka is coming of age as a tourist destination with plans for new infrastructure and development, only now recovering after a decades-long civil war. With an intoxicating mix of cultures and religions, spicy island cuisine, and all that untouched natural beauty, you’d better get there before the masses wise up. -- Barbara Woolsey

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Editor: Keller Powell
Production: Pete Dombrosky, Kyler Alvord, Ruby Anderson
Design Director: Ted McGrath
Photo Director: Drew Swantak
Motion Graphics Designer: Megan Chong
Special Thanks: Bison Messink, Liz Childers, Jonathan Melmoth, Joseph Hernandez, Alex Robinson, Gianni Jaccoma, Eric Vilas-Boas, Amber Sutherland-Namako