In choosing our picks for the most intriguing destinations for the upcoming year, we decided to dive deeper, considering destinations with intriguing sites and experiences. The complete list is divided into four segments, including both domestic and international destinations and something for every travel style. Last week, we focused on seven newsworthy destinations and you’ll find that post here.
Now we turn our attention to the “Diving Deeper” category which includes: Kobe, Japan; Belize; Faroe Islands; Reno, Nevada; Tasmania; the Cambodian Coast; and Ica, Peru. Each destination has a lot to discover and are all off the beaten path. Here’s why they’re our top picks for 2019.
We know it for its Kobe Beef Cattle. It’s also the setting for James Michener’s novel, Sayonara, which detailed the challenges and rewards of cross-cultural relationships in the mid-1950s. Perched on a hillside and sloping down to the sea, Kobe is one of Japan’s loveliest cities. Be sure to visit Nankinmachi Chinatown and, after dark, the bustling nightlife districts around Sannomiya Station will keep you entertained. For architecture enthusiasts, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge linking the city of Kobe with Awaji Island is the world’s longest suspension bridge. The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Museum functions both as a memorial to the disaster and a solution for reducing future risks.
Allow time for relaxation while experiencing the rich cultural history and wellness benefits of Japan’s oldest hot spring town, Arima Onsen. Located within the city, Arima was founded 1300 years ago. It has served for centuries as a timeless retreat for emperors, court nobles and visitors from around the world.
Belize has long been a favorite destination for scuba enthusiasts but go beyond the stunning reefs and experience the country’s unique culture. To really immerse yourself head to the Toledo District in the southernmost part of the country. Here you’ll find jungle eco-lodges where you can harvest cacao and make your own bean to bar chocolate.
When you’re ready for adventure, head to Blue Creek Cave for a swim. Locally known as Hokeb Ha which means where the water enters the earth, a short hike takes you to the opening and a beautiful azure pool. Swimming inside you are enveloped in the darkness of a different world. This isn’t your everyday ordinary swim as you’ll be navigating the waters and waterfalls inside this 300-million-year-old cave wearing a headlamp to guide you. Along the way your guide will point out the evidence of ancient Mayan sacrifices … of the human variety. It’s a challenging adventure but one you’ll never forget.
While in the Toledo District, be sure to visit Lubaantun. It’s the largest Mayan site in southern Belize with 11 massive structures towering over five main plazas and three ball courts. Dating back to 700-900 AD, the site is unique in that the limestone blocks have no mortar holding them together.
Sitting in the North Atlantic Sea, the Faroe Islands are a place of mystical beauty. Here waterfalls plunge into the frigid sea and volcanic mountains tower over sheep grazing near colorful homes with grass-topped roofs. This archipelago comprised of 18 islands is home to only 50,000 residents—not counting the sheep. The islands are connected by a network of bridges, tunnels and ferries. Located halfway between Iceland and Norway, it’s one of the most remote places on earth—and ripe with discoveries.
Get to know the Faroese people through “Heimablídni” which translates as home hospitality. You’re welcome to join them at their dining table to experience traditional homemade Faroese food. As you dine, you’ll be regaled with intriguing stories of country or village life on the islands. Hoymabit takes the in-home dining experience in another direction with private concerts by notable Faroese musicians. The music continues with Summartónar (summer tunes) which has an extensive program of concerts scattered across the tiny island from May through August featuring local artists as well as internationally acclaimed Faroese performers.
The Faroe Islands have recently garnered international attention in the culinary and fashion worlds and tourism numbers are on the rise. In 2017, KOKS restaurant was awarded the country’s first Michelin star for its inventive adaptation of traditional Faroese cuisine. The award was retained in 2018. Growth followed the attention and the restaurant recently relocated to the waterfront in an 18th-century farm building. The culinary scene continues to grow with a number of new restaurants opening in the city of Tórshavn—the world’s smallest capital.
Las Vegas isn’t the only city that glows in Nevada. Often referred to as “The Biggest Little City,” Reno has plenty to offer on its own. Go beyond the neon lights of the casinos and step outside for a stroll along the Truckee Riverwalk downtown. Art lovers and foodies will be pleased with the excellent selection of galleries and restaurants.
Housed in a four-level 70,000 square-foot building architecturally inspired by the geological formations of northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, the Nevada Museum of Art focuses on the ways humans interact with their surrounding landscapes and environment. Located on the museum’s campus, the Center for Art + Environment is a research library with archive collections from over 1,000 artists and organizations working on all seven continents.
Originating from the automobile collection of William Fisk Harrah of Harrah’s Casinos and Resorts, Reno’s National Automobile Museum is ranked one of the top 10 auto museums in the country. Dedicated to preserving the American automobile’s heritage with an emphasis on the collection of Mr. Harrah, the museum offers educational exhibits and experiences year-round.
The surrounding mountains and nearby Lake Tahoe provide abundant outdoor recreation from boating in summer to skiing in winter. And whatever you do, don’t miss the annual camel and ostrich races in nearby Virginia City.
Yup, those little devils are still around, and you can see them at places like Bonorong Wildtife Sanctuary alongside wombats, kangaroos and the deceptively cute Koalas. But there’s much more to this island at the edge of the world including a burgeoning foodie scene particularly in Hobart. Chefs from across Australia have relocated to the island’s capital city to take advantage of the abundant local produce. Housed in beautifully repurposed old buildings such as banks, storefronts and even a former automotive showroom, unique restaurants are opening and serving inventive seasonally driven cuisine. It’s a fusion of big city style and small-town charm.
The Taste of Tasmania Festival originated to ensure that crews finishing the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race had a reason to celebrate. It has now evolved into the largest food and wine festival of its kind in Australia with an estimated attendance of more than 220,000 people. Booths showcasing the very best of the food and beverage landscape are situated against the sparkling backdrop of the waterfront which is dotted with magnificent yachts. The festival happens the last week of the year and into the new year making it the place to be for New Year’s Eve.
After you’ve indulged for days, work off the extra calories on one of the state’s new hiking trails. Or explore your dark side in the subterranean galleries of Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art where passion, death and decay are on full display. It may be small, but Tasmania has plenty of variety!
There’s no question Cambodia is an empire of temples—all worthy of admiration. In recent years, however, the Cambodian coast has emerged from years of neglect and isolation to become a favored destination. Palm-fringed beaches dotted with resorts and beautiful offshore islands with the occasional fishing village invite sunbathers and swimmers to once again enjoy the beauty of the Gulf of Thailand. Travel a short distance inland through rural landscapes of flooded rice paddies and swaying sugar palms to find national parks and impressive mountain scenery.
Hands down Machu Picchu is the biggest draw in Peru, but Ica, located in Southern Peru is worthy of a visit all its own. For one thing, it’s at the heart of the Pisco Trail and who wouldn’t want to imbibe a few Pisco Sours while visiting this fascinating country? Located along the Central Coast, Ica is best known for its spectacular sand dunes and the mysterious Nazca Lines.
Etched into the vast desert, the Nazca Lines are a collection of giant geoglyphs—designs or motifs depicting various plants, animals and shapes. Best seen by air, the 2,000-year-old lines were left by the ancient Nazca culture in South America. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the Nazca Lines are still a mystery to researchers—even after more than 80 years of study.
More to Come …
Next week we’ll share more about the destinations we’ve chosen for the Cultural Explorations category. Stay tuned!
This article was originally published on Travel Squire.