Where will 2013 take you? Jetsetter’s Alex Pasquariello has some suggestions. He studied new flight routes, investigated cultural goings on and hotel openings, and distilled the results into ten winning destinations. Find your favorite new beach, city and wilderness below
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
In 1513, Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first Westerner to “discover” the Pacific Ocean by crossing the Isthmus of Panama. Half a millennium later, that nation is one of the hottest travel spots in the hemisphere, while its northern neighbor, Costa Rica, up and came decades ago. That’s why we’re heading even farther north in 2013 to Nicaragua's blissfully empty beaches and wicked surf breaks. Start in the handsome colonial town of Granada, dodge bull sharks in freshwater Lake Nicaragua and then make the Pacific fishing village San Juan del Sur your base for a beach tour.
Croatia joins the European Union on July 1st, but it won’t become part of the Schengen Area — the group of countries whose borders can be crossed without a passport — until 2015. So go now, before the country becomes über easy for the EU’s backpacker crowd to infiltrate and the prices go Continental. Hit the craggy, glamorous coast and its islets, which make an affordable alternative to the Italian Riviera, go medieval in the cities of Dubrovnik and Split, and don’t neglect Croatia’s inland wonders, which include mountains barely touched by tourist hand. Don’t miss Plitvice Lakes National Park, a wooded wonderland with 16 interconnected lakes, waterfalls, and forests teeming with bears, wolfs, boars and deer.
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
The Maha Kumbh Mela – the world’s largest religious gathering — takes place but once every 12 years (the exact timing is determined by the positions of the sun, moon and Jupiter), and it’s coming round again this month. From January 27 through February 25, wash away your worldly sins in holy city of Allahabad, where the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers converge, with millions (yes, millions) of Hindu worshippers — it’s predicted to be one of the biggest meet-ups in the history of mankind.
Samana Peninsula, D.R.
Welcome to the land before time — with nonstop flights from New York. The Dominican Republic’s last natural bastion is a gloriously low-key ribbon where mountains compete with beaches for scenic superiority. Inland, El Limon waterfall is a 160-foot vision in whitewater that plunges from a jungle cliff. On the southern side, the lovely town of Samana comes alive (literally) from January to March, when humpback whales mate in the bay — expect some seriously impressive breaching and belching by the males. Records of the ritual go back to pictographs by the D.R.’s ancient civilizations; it was even noted by Christopher Columbus back in 1493.
We’re crowning Miami America’s best hotel city in 2013. Last year saw luxe digs like the SLS South Beach, James Royal Palm and St. Regis Bal Harbour open their doors, and the hotel scene only gets hotter in 2013 with the addition of South Beach Edition, The Gale, Pestana South Beach and Hotel Lorenzo South Beach. It’s not just sexy pools and relaxing spas that these new digs offer: — they also host some of the 305’s hottest eats. Find international gastronomy at The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS South Beach, French fare at db Bistro Moderne Miami at the JW Marriott Marquis or go hyper-local at Florida Cookery in the James Royal Palm.
Amsterdam has a lot to celebrate this year: it’s the 400th birthday of the canal ring, Van Gogh’s 160th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the museum dedicated to his art. The Rijksmuseum re-opens after a 10-year renovation, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra celebrates its 125th birthday and the Artis Royal Zoo turns 175. That’s a lot of candles. Time your visit with the Grachtenfestival, a series of concerts held in the Old City in August that will include a special waterside ‘Diner der Componisten’ featuring live classical music in collaboration with the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble.
Paris, c’est fini. We’re kidding, obviously, but Marseille, Europe’s latest Capital of Culture, is l’endroit to be in 2013, with a rejuvenated waterfront; starchitecture courtesy of Zaha Hadid and Kengo Kuma; a new mouthful of a museum, the Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée; a 2,000-seat concert hall; and much more. Plus, its Mediterranean location means that France’s oldest and second largest city has always had great seafood (bouillabaisse was born here) and sun (over 300 days a year). Don’t expect polish — this former industrial city is still gritty, but you'll leave with considerably more Euros in your pocket than you would post Paris.
There’s nothing like a new flight route or two to rev up a destination. Last November, JetBlue started nonstops from New York to this World Heritage Site city, and budget carrier Spirit Airlines ramped up its direct service from Fort Lauderdale to Cartagena in response. Behind 400-year-old stone and coral walls wrapping colorful mansions and colonial squares, you’ll find an intoxicating amalgam of Spanish, Afro Caribbean and Colombian cultures — and top-drawer caipirinhas.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Birmingham was one of the centers of the fight for equality that changed the world, from the lunch counter protests to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. The city – and country – will celebrate how far America has come since then with myriad historical and cultural events. First up: The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s “Black from the Heart of Dixie”, which honors some of Alabama’s most influential African Americans. In the spring, the Birmingham Museum of Art hosts Chicago artist Theaster Gates’ minimalistic sculptures depicting the violence of the 1960s and the Virginia Samford Theater stages “To Kill a Mockingbird” in September.
Is Pittsburgh the new Portland? Ace Hotel, harbinger of all things hip, seems to think so — it’s opening a hotel in a former YMCA in the Steel City’s East Liberty hood (a.k.a. Sliberty) next year. Dial in a new Google office and an emerging start up scene, art pods in empty warehouses and a rapidly rising food scene (check out the 10-entrée chalkboard menu at the Salt of the Earth, featuring local and seasonal produce), and you have an America’s Coolest City contender on your hands. Pittsburgh’s most famous son, Andy Warhol, would be proud. Pay your respects at The Andy Warhol Museum, which has around 12,000 works by the pop artist.