There’s a phrase we like to use at Traveler to describe certain destinations: “It’s having a moment.” It comes up a lot—that near-impossible-to-pin-down, can’t-put-our-thumb-on-it logic as to why you should visit somewhere. Here’s some places that have been listed for you:
Scottish Islands: Explore more than 800 islands lie within reach of Scotland’s rugged coastline, scattered across the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, there is something for everyone, whether you’re a whisky aficionado, seeking spiritual sustenance, or just looking to lie on a white-sand beach with no one else around.
Temple Towns of Tamil Nadu: In this serene corner of southern India, you’ll find sacred temples, extravagant mansions, gracious people, and unscripted adventure. Don’t miss towns like Mahabalipuram or Gangaikonda Cholapuram; vital Hindu pilgrimage sites like busy Madurai; and coastal villages like Avudaiyarkoil, where bicycles and bullock-carts outnumber cars.
Liechtenstein : Looking for what feels like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in one? Try Lichtenstein, Europe’s second-least-visited country. Tucked between Austria and Switzerland, the tiny country has the same mountain scenery and winter sports as its bigger siblings, as well as a number of detour-worthy museums; traversing its 16-mile length by foot is popular with hikers and runners.
Oman : Yes, there’s sand (lots of it). But this tranquil country on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula will surprise you: a safe, secure patch of the Middle East that’s not only an antidote to the glittery artifice of Dubai (the only place in the region that Americans visit in significant numbers) but also a series of astonishing topographies, each more impressive than the last.
San Marino :A “speck” of a microstate, teensy San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state in the world. It saw just 60,000 visitors in 2016, which means you can have the historic center (practically) all to yourself.
Antarctica: There’s no better place to get face to face with penguins than Antarctica. Get to know some real stuff from the researchers behind the Antarctic Travel Experience Project, which tracks the lasting effects of a visit to the vast, ice-cloaked White Continent. Cruise there on a fuel-efficient, Cleanship-certified vessel like the Ponant ship Abercrombie & Kent charters for its climate change departure, which visits the scientists at Palmer Station to donate research equipment. What you’ll discover when you arrive: the world’s last wild frontier, spectacular glaciers that are increasingly retreating and breaking off into icebergs, penguins—like the Adélie—on the decline, and a first-hand look at a place so inspiring, it will be impossible to not do something to save it.
Guadalajara, Mexico: Often overshadowed by sprawling Mexico City, Guadalajara is well worth paying attention to—and not just because it’s the birthplace of tequila. The city has long been known for Mercado San Juan de Dios, the largest indoor market in Latin America, and the UNESCO-listed Hospicio Cabañas, where José Clemente Orozco murals line the walls, but the past few years have seen Mexico’s second largest metropolis emerge as an art and design destination, as well as a home to lively food, cocktail, and party scenes. A perfect knot of all those things can be found within the city’s artsy Colonia Lafayette district. Explore the neighborhood on foot: Colonial-era buildings and exemplary pieces of modernist architecture punctuate the boulevards, colorful bougainvillea droops lazily over walls, and bars brim with locals and expats. (Meat lovers shouldn’t miss dinner at Hueso, with its melt-in-your-mouth short rib.) If you have time, tack on a day or two in Tequila to visit La Rojeña, the 200-year-old Jose Cuervo distillery, and the region’s dusty blue agave fields, which lie below the looming Volcán de Tequila.
Athens, Germany: Athens has always been known as an old city—that’s nothing new. Instead, what is new is its burgeoning status as a modern arts capital: Look no further than the recently opened, Renzo Piano-designed, $623 million Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, which houses the National Opera and the National Library of Greece, sits on the biggest park in Athens, and is the first public building in Greece to achieve a Platinum LEED certification. The National Museum of Contemporary Art also partially reopened in a renovated brewery after a 12-year closure, and in April, the city will co-host documenta, the exhibition of modern and contemporary art that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany (it’s the first time the hosting duties will be split between two cities). Book a room in the shadow of the Acropolis at the new-as-of-2015 AthensWas boutique hotel, and make time for a souvlaki (or three) at O Kostas, which serves the best in town. Though it’s long played second fiddle to other European capitals like Rome, and merely seen as a stopover point on the way to, say, Corfu, Athens has once again arrived.