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AWARD WINNING! Best New

Magazine

WINTER 2016 lonelyplanet.com

BEST IN TRAVEL 2017 ’s must-see destinations

Including Finland, for log cabin stays beneath the northern lights

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New ways to fall in love with Paris

LOS ANGELES

DISCOVERIES ON A TRIP ALONG SUNSET BOULEVARD

CANADA

UP CLOSE WITH P OLAR BEARS IN THE WILD NORTH

Biking gear Dominican Republic beyond the beaches


Editor’s Note The northern lights have long left their iridescent trace on my imagination. They have formed the backdrop to some of the greatest feats of exploration, from appearing in Victorian adventurers’ tales of spearing across the Arctic to Commander Scott Kelly’s haunting photos beamed to Instagram from the International Space Station. Throughout 20 years of travel as a writer and the past eight years editing magazines for Lonely Planet, this cosmic spectacle has remained at the very pinnacle of my bucket list. And yet, my first personal acquaintance with it occurred with less drama. I was in a hotel parking lot at 3 a.m., with toes gently freezing, as I willed the aurora borealis to unfold. An argument followed between a group of fellow travelers about whether they had just found what they were looking for, after someone took a long exposure photograph and noticed a greenish tinge behind a thick bank of cloud. Could we tick this experience off and head to bed? For those who stuck around, melancholy shifted to awe. The clouds eventually parted and a shimmering chain of greens, blues and pinks emerged, like an immense Chinese dragon dancing through the night sky. This issue’s cover features the northern lights alongside the most perfect log cabin and, if you look closely, a husky beckoning us inside. Our cover location is Finland (see p. 10 and p. 48), a winning country in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel, our annual distillation of 43 years of heritage and expertise around the world that reveals the best places to travel to in the year ahead. Spoiler alert: our overall Best in Travel winning destination this year is Canada, a nation marking, in ebullient spirits, the 150th anniversary of its confederation. Here, too, you can expect to celebrate winter in the company of huskies and the northern lights, as a fire blazes in the hearth of your cabin. We expand on our coverage of Best in Travel winning destinations with this issue’s feature stories. Long-standing Lonely Planet writer Marcel Theroux carries us to Churchill, Manitoba, in Canada’s Arctic northeast, for encounters with polar bears from the safety of a Tundra Buggy (p. 58). Meanwhile third-generation Angeleno Adam Skolnick takes an epic 26-mile walk along Los Angeles’s Sunset Boulevard (p. 68), his measured pace revealing diverse flavors and surprises within a city many of us believe we know so well. Peter Grunert, Group Editor

NORTHERN LIGHTS PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

@peter_grunert @petervg73

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contents Winter 2016 Volume 2 / Number 4

BEST IN TRAVEL 2017 p. 46

p. 58

p. 68

p. 76

Winning Destinations It’s here! Our annual list of the 10 best countries, regions and cities to visit in the coming year. You can start planning now.

A Close Encounter with Polar Bears Get an up-close look at polar bears in remote Churchill, Canada, where the bears are both a threat and a livelihood.

Walking Sunset Boulevard See the City of Angels in a new light during a day’s hike along one of America’s most iconic city streets.

A Glimpse of Myanmar Journey from Mandalay to the Bagan plains to see ancient temples, then explore hill country villages around Kalaw.

SIMON URWIN

// Pictured: The Hollywood Walk of Fame extends from Hollywood Boulevard down to Sunset Boulevard.

All prices correct at press time. Prices for hotel rooms are for double, en suite rooms in low season, unless otherwise stated. Flight prices are for the least expensive round-trip ticket.

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LUKE BEARD

contents Globetrotter p. 9

Easy Trips p. 37

5 Spots / Gorilla season in Rwanda, Junkanoo in the Bahamas, and three other timely events you need to know about now.

Ideas for quick winter getaways to Park City, the U.S. Virgin Islands, New Orleans and more.

Travel Icon / The Taj Mahal.

Great Escape p. 83

10 New Ways / Unexpected ways to experience Paris. Like That ? Try This / Popular travel destinations vs. underthe-radar locations. What to Eat in Brooklyn / Acclaimed chef Dale Talde shares his favorites in the borough. Pack & Play / Essential cycling gear for an urban jaunt and an epic tour.

// Above: The Coachman Hotel in South Lake Tahoe, featured in one of our Easy Trips.

Among nature and heritage towns in the Dominican Republic.

Postcards p. 95 Reader photos, including Indonesia and Santa Barbara.

Cover Photo // The northern lights over Finland’s Lemmenjoki National Park; Photo by Philip Lee Harvey

Mini Guides p. 98 Florence / Experience the Tuscany region’s capital on a budget. Costa Rica / Outdoor activities in a tropical paradise. Chicago / A night out in the Windy City.

The Photo Story / Women of Mongolia.

London / Visit some of the world’s greatest art museums.

Amazing Places / Hotels in converted spaces.

Atlanta / History, museums and dining for a weekend visit.

Inside Knowledge / Stay fit while traveling.

South Africa / Vineyards within a day’s drive of Cape Town.

DESTINATION INDEX AUSTRALIA South Australia / 53 Tasmania / 11 THE BAHAMAS Nassau / 11 BERMUDA / 49 BRAZIL Rio de Janeiro / 30 CANADA / 47 Churchill / 58 CHILE Aysén / 53 COLOMBIA / 48 COSTA RICA / 101 CURAÇAO / 42 DOMINICA / 48, 95 DOMINICAN REPUBLIC / 83

ETHIOPIA / 51 FINLAND / 48 Rovaniemi / 10 FRANCE Bordeaux / 55 Paris / 14 FRENCH POLYNESIA Tahiti / 16 The Tuamotus / 54 INDIA Jaipur / 112 INDONESIA Solo / 96 IRELAND The Skellig Ring / 54 ITALY Florence / 99

Pistoia / 56 JAMAICA / 16 MACEDONIA Ohrid / 56 MALAYSIA Perak / 54 THE MARSHALL ISLANDS / 16 MARTINIQUE / 16 MEXICO Mérida / 56 MONGOLIA / 26, 49 MYANMAR / 51, 76 NEPAL / 49 NEW ZEALAND Taranaki / 52 OMAN / 50

PERU Choquequirao / 52 PORTUGAL The Azores / 52 Lisbon / 57 RUSSIA Moscow / 57 RWANDA / 11 SLOVENIA / 16 SOUTH AFRICA / 16 Cape Town / 55, 109 SOUTH KOREA Seoul / 56 SWAZILAND / 16 SWITZERLAND / 16 UNITED ARAB EMIRATES Abu Dhabi / 96

UNITED KINGDOM London / 105 North Wales / 52 UNITED STATES CALIFORNIA Joshua Tree / 112 Los Angeles / 55, 68, 112 San Francisco / 22 Santa Barbara / 97 South Lake Tahoe / 44 GEORGIA Atlanta / 107 Coastal Georgia / 54 ILLINOIS Chicago / 103 KENTUCKY Lexington / 28

LOUISIANA New Orleans / 38 NEW YORK Brooklyn / 18 New York City / 28 OREGON Eugene / 11 Portland / 57 TENNESSEE Natchez Trace Parkway / 23 TEXAS San Antonio / 29 U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS St. John / 40 UTAH Park City / 41


Globetrotter A WORLD OF TRAVEL TRENDS & DISCOVERIES

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Chase away the chill with the tastiest ramen, a special cocktail and the perfect Italian combo. p. 18

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GLOBETROTTER//

SPOTS

to Talk About Right Now

Lonely Planet’s Destination Editors scour the globe looking for the most authentic and inspiring places, events and trips. Here, they share their favorite spots for winter.

ROVANIEMI, FINLAND // Head out on a dogsled to chase the northern lights in Rovaniemi, Finland. October to November, and February to March are peak times to go aurora watching. Why not get in the festive spirit by adding on a trip to meet Santa Claus and Rudolph at their “official residence” in the Arctic Circle. Gemma Graham @gglpde @gemmakgraham

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OPPOSITE PAGE: JUSTINREZNICK/ GETTY IMAGES; THIS PAGE CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT: JOHNER IMAGES/ GETTY IMAGES, ORLANDO SIERRA/ GETTY IMAGES, COURTESY MONA, ERIC LAFFORGUE

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EUGENE, OREGON // Sample the flavors of one of Oregon's largest cities, situated right in the state's agricultural heart. The Northwest’s best native edible truffles are ripe for the picking in January, and Eugene becomes a hub with its Oregon Truffle Festival. Alexander Howard

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@AlexMHoward

early February) in Rwanda makes it a perfect time to hike through the East African jungles to glimpse mountain gorillas – the air is clear for photography and the steep paths are sure underfoot. @Go2MattPhillps

@go2mattphillips

BAHAMAS // Chase away the post-holiday blues at one of the Caribbean's liveliest parades. Junkanoo, the Bahamas’ biggest street carnival, takes place on both Boxing Day (December 26) and on New Year’s Day. The largest of the parades is in downtown Nassau. Bailey Johnson

@alexmhoward

RWANDA // The short dry season (mid-December to

Matt Phillips

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@The_Traveling_B

@the_traveling_b

TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA // Tasmania's capital, Hobart, gets taken over by the Museum of New and Old Art’s eclectic Mofo art festival, set for January 20–22. More than 300 artists and musicians participate in installations, performances and more throughout the city. Tasmin Waby

@TravellingTaz

@tasminwaby

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GLOBETROTTER//

10 NEW WAYS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH

PARIS 4. PLAY PÉTANQUE LIKE A LOCAL. On Localers’ two-hour “Play Pétanque in Paris” excursion you’ll get a hands-on lesson in the classic French game – sips of pastis included. • Pétanque tour $60; localers.com

It’s easy to fall for Paris. The City of Light has long been known as a haven both for lovers and the forlorn. Here are some unique ways to experience the city, and rekindle the love affair. 1. SEE THE EIFFEL TOWER – FROM THE INSIDE. Designer Gustave Eiffel built a personal office atop the nearly 1,000-foot tower. The space has been restored and is now open for visitors. • $19 elevator ticket to top; toureiffel.paris/en 2. SLEEP IN A GLAMOROUS, HIP HOTEL IN THE MARAIS DISTRICT. French fashion designer Christian Lacroix decorated Hotel du Petit Moulin, playfully merging Belle Epoque Paris elegance with modern designs. • from $221; hotelpetitmoulinparis.com

THE EIFFEL TOWER’S NIGHTLY LIGHT SHOW IS PROVIDED BY 20,000 SPARKLING BULBS PLUS A BEACON OF TWO BEAMS REACHING 50 MILES.

3. STEAL A KISS IN A FAMOUS CEMETERY. Père-Lachaise, the world’s most visited cemetery, is the final resting place of many famous people, including Oscar Wilde and Honoré de Balzac. • Free admission; paris.fr

PÈRE-LACHAISE'S MOST VISITED GRAVE IS THAT OF ROCK STAR JIM MORRISON. IN 2011, 40,000 FANS VISITED ON THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS DEATH. 14

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5. HAVE ONE OF THE BEST BITES IN PARIS – FOR LESS THAN $5. Du Pain et des Idées, one of the world’s best bakeries, has Parisians lining up for crusty sourdough, orange blossom brioche, croissants and more. • Closed weekends; dupainetdesidees.com 6. DINE ELBOW TO ELBOW. At Le Refuge des Fondus, diners sit at just two long tables. Only fondues are served, wine comes in baby bottles, and the walls are covered with graffiti. • From $23; +33 1 42 55 22 65 7. WATCH THE CITY ROLL BY WITH THE PARI ROLLER. This 18.5-mile in-line skating tour draws as many as 35,000 participants every Friday night, beginning at 10 p.m. in the 14th arrondissement. • Participation is free; pari-roller.com 8. SEE UNDERGROUND ART. Scan some of the 300 metro stations for unexpected art, such as the ceramic fresco at the Bastille platform depicting the French Revolution. • Free admission

THERE ARE SOME 30,000 BAKERIES IN FRANCE; 1,100 OF THEM ARE IN PARIS. IN THE EARLY 1900S, THE FRENCH CONSUMED NEARLY 2 POUNDS OF BREAD DAILY; TODAY THAT'S DROPPED TO ABOUT 3½ OUNCES.

9. TAKE A LATE-NIGHT DIP. The art deco era Piscine Pontoise has become a littleknown late-night spot for locals in the Latin quarter. • Evening admission $12; equipement.paris.fr/piscine pontoise-2918 10. RIDE A 19TH-CENTURY PEDAL-POWERED CAROUSEL. A private collection of antique fairground attractions is housed at Musée des Arts Forains. • Guided tours $18; arts-forains.com


CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: PHILIP LEE HARVEY, MATT MUNRO, HELEN CATHCART

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GLOBETROTTER//

WHAT TO EAT IN

Brooklyn From left: Chef Dale Talde in his restaurant in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. // His kung pao chicken wings, with peanuts and buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, are in high demand.

Chef Dale Talde puts an American twist on iconic Asian dishes. Here, the Top Chef alum shares his Filipino heritage, his passion for Asian food and his favorite spots in NYC’s buzziest borough. By Lauren Finney | PhotograPhs By guiLLaume gaudet

It’s hard to make it in New York City, but despite an often-cutthroat environment, Dale Talde has managed to build a restaurant empire. The energetic and irreverent chef, an alum of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, is a partner in eight restaurants on the East Coast, including in Brooklyn, where the first three of his establishments are located. A Filipino-American, Talde, 38, proudly cooks what he calls inauthentic Asian. “I cook the food of many Fil-Ams, and those other first-generation people whose parents are from two different countries or cultures,” he says. “It’s that kind of mashup of where we are from and where our parents are from. To us, it’s authentic.” That means at Talde (taldebrooklyn.com), his namesake restaurant in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, you’ll find off-the-wall combinations such as pretzel pork and chive dumplings served with spicy mustard, or yuzu fruit guacamole with crispy rice and Italian speck, a type of prosciutto. The menu has no limits to its seemingly oddball yet delectable pairings: roti bread gets an everything-bagel treatment, and pad Thai gets upgraded with crispy

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oysters and bacon. For Talde, who has cooked some variation of Asian food for much of his career, it all feels real and not forced; it’s the kind of cultural mélange he was accustomed to growing up in a Filipino family. Raised in Chicago, he moved to New York City in 2005 to cook under famed chef Masaharu Morimoto (best known for the Iron Chef cooking show). He recently moved from downtown Brooklyn to New Jersey, close to two of his restaurants. Brooklyn is teeming with many ethnicities and cultural groups, so it was a natural choice six years ago when Talde opened his eponymous restaurant. The space there plays off Talde’s personal theme of melding together the unexpected: ornate 19th-century wooden carvings depicting elephants and dragons provide the backdrop for his modern, remixed food. Next up, Talde and his partners, John Bush and David Massoni, are adding two restaurants to their arsenal. The first is Massoni, an Italian spot scheduled to open November 1 in the Arlo Nomad Hotel on the East Side of Manhattan. Rice and Gold, in Chinatown, is set to open in late 2017. “We’re focusing on anywhere rice is the center of the place: Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Spain, the Carolinas,” Talde says. Rather than being led by what he calls “ego-driven food,” the new restaurants will have a theme in common with the others: community. “We are warm, understand the locals and give them what they want,” he says. “The mentality of all our restaurants is we do what we want to do, but we listen to the neighborhoods because they own the restaurants. It’s their watering hole, their place to take the kids to dinner, their place to celebrate.”


Favorite spot in Brooklyn

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“I surround myself with Asian food, but I still love to eat ramen at Chuko [chukobk.com] on a cold day with my wife, Agnes. Chef David Koon is a good friend, and they do ramen right. We all cooked together at Morimoto, and when they opened Chuko I knew it was going to be great. The vegetable ramen is creamy yet light and super flavorful, like getting a big hug from Mom when you’re sick.”


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Preferred purveyor

Local seafood that’s responsibly sourced is Talde’s preference. “Green Point Fish & Lobster Co. [greenpointfish .com] has awesome fish. It’s some of the best you’re going to get. I love the sustainable fish like Spanish mackerel, tilefish and the clam section.”

Cocktail den

Talde likes Weather Up [weatherupnyc.com] in Prospect Heights. “It feels special, no matter what.” Look for expertly crafted drinks, such as the Toronto (above), made from rye whiskey; Fernet, a bitter herb-based liquer; and simple syrup.

Super sandwich

Talde heads to Defonte’s Sandwich Shop (718-6258052) in the Red Hook neighborhood when he wants a classic Italian combo packed with capicola, salami, pepperoni, cheese and pickled red peppers. “It’s a delicious mix of fatty, salty, sweet and sour all in one.”

Pizza place

Everything is off the wood-burning stove at Speedy Romeo (speedyromeo.com), including the wild mushroom, egg and sage pizza (above). “Their stuffed red pepper is super addictive. It’s spicy and crunchy from a mix of housemade Italian sausage and parmesan.”

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GLOBETROTTER// What to Eat

Superior seafood

“Pacificana’s [pacificana brooklyn.com] a dim sum place, and I go for the dim sum, but I always want the crab and the steamed fish – simply steamed or wok-tossed with chilis and ginger, you can’t go wrong.”

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GLOBETROTTER//

INSIDE KNOWLEDGE

Travel Fitness Staying in Sha pe on the Road: MaSovaida’s Tips

Travel and fitness go hand in hand for Lonely Planet Destination Editor MaSovaida Morgan. Here, she reveals how exercising on the road can enrich your travel experiences.

Explore while you exercise: not all workouts have to feel like work. Get your bearings in a new

Pack your own healthy, nonperishable snacks. Energy bars, trail mix and jerky are good choices, as are instant oatmeal packets, which can be prepared in your hotel room with hot water from the coffee maker. During a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro, I took a lesson in futevôlei (footvolley), a seaside sport that combines elements of beach volleyball with soccer. Just being on Ipanema beach was a little intimidating: most cariocas (residents of Rio) are incredibly fit, and although I spend a lot of time in the gym, I hadn’t played a single ball sport in two decades. After the lesson, it was time for a real throwdown with a few lithe and strapping locals. Being able to hit the ball is one thing, but actually clearing the net time and again to score points requires a lot of endurance and precision – not exactly my strong suits. There was a moment when I swore I had the ball as it came over the net and met the top of my knee, but what I expected to be a deliberate rebound flew off the court and nailed an elderly spectator right in the head. It wasn’t long before I ran out of steam from the nonstop jumping and diving, but I stayed the course while huffing, puffing and praying for it to be over each time I flopped facedown in the sand. That wasn’t the only time I found myself spent from trying my hand (or foot) at an athletic activity in an effort to learn about local life in a new destination. While I maintain what most would consider a rigorous fitness routine at home – heavy

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on the strength training, plus dialing in my nutrition – I’m inconsistent when I travel. Throwing best practices to the wind in favor of nonstop indulgence while on the road (lest I miss out on any of the rich experiences that prompted me to travel in the first place) often left me feeling like I had to start my regimen over every time my homeward-bound plane touched down on the tarmac. Many journeys later, I’ve learned that maintaining fitness and being completely present while traveling are not mutually exclusive when a sense of adventure and true curiosity about a culture is at the heart of every experience. Hiking in Peru, trying the traditional Rapa Nui dance on Easter Island, and going for a spin on a "sky bike" over the cloud forest of Ecuador were as beneficial to my health as my typical workouts at home. But because these activities enabled me to bond with the local people in these diverse destinations – whether through their kind and positive encouragement to keep pushing through the difficulty, or finding camaraderie in our mutual exhaustion after a long day of challenging physical pursuits – they were infinitely more memorable and enriching.

Rise and grind: Start the day with 30 minutes of activity. Whether it’s a circuit in your hotel room or a jog around the city, this is a great way to boost energy and may help you stay conscientious about food choices throughout the day.

Remember that water is your best friend. Air travel and adjusting to new climates and elevations can dehydrate you. Pack a refillable bottle and top it up whenever you can, or buy bottled water if you’re in an area where tap water is unsafe to drink.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: PETER ADAMS/GETTY IMAGES, HEMERA TECHNOLOGIES/GETTY IMAGES, YASINGUNEYSU/ GETTY IMAGES, NICOPIOTTO/GETTY IMAGES

destination while getting active with a walking tour, hike or bike rental. Also, local parks make great outdoor gyms.


Easy Trips

COREY RICH

QUICK ESCAPES FOR WINTER

Bundle up and head to the south side for snow sports, sunny skies and nonstop nightlife. p.44


Easy Trips

Go beyond Bourbon Street in NEW ORLEANS.

Whether you’ve sworn off the intensity of the French Quarter or you’re looking to see The Big Easy from a different perspective, New Orleans’s other neighborhoods have much to offer. It’s worth positioning yourself at accommodations uptown in the Garden District, a neighborhood known for its majestic antebellum homes, lush landscaping, and shopping areas, such as Magazine Street, that range from the funky to the commercial. Catch a novel view of downtown from the roof of the recently renovated Pontchartrain Hotel, where the Hot Tin Roof bar has become a popular gathering point for locals. A streetcar runs along St. Charles Avenue, and for $1.25 you can take it from around Tulane University all the way down to Canal Street at the edge of the French Quarter. Along the way, you’ll pass the Ogden Museum of Southern Art ($13.50; ogden museum.org), home to the largest collection of art by Southern artists, and the National World War II Museum ($26; nationalww2museum.org), where four large contemporary buildings hold naval

artifacts, tanks, fighter jets and more. The latter’s state-of-the-art theater features a 45-minute interactive film narrated by Tom Hanks, complete with fake snow and rumbling seats. Over in Mid City, there’s the 1,300-acre City Park – almost twice the size of NYC’s Central Park – with plenty of gardens to roam, including a 60-piece sculpture garden. Across the street are the calm waters of Bayou St. John. Kayak-Iti-Yat ($45; kayakiti yat.com) offers daily informal guided kayaking tours, allowing you to see the sights of the neighborhood, including large plantation-style homes. Finally, head back beyond the French Quarter to the adjacent Bywater and Faubourg Marigny neighborhoods. This area has become the epicenter of New Orleans’s new creative class, with designforward restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques and bars, and some old standbys, including the famed HiHo Lounge (hiholounge.net) music venue.

GET THERE Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, about 15 miles west of the city, has flights from the East and West Coasts daily. Taxis from the airport accept credit cards and are a flat fee of $36 for up to two passengers.

EAT In Mid City, try Toups Meatery (toupsmeatery .com) for fine food and craft cocktails, and Café Degas (cafedegas.com), a French bistro. In the Bywater, there’s Red’s (redschinese.com), a cool, innovative spot from restaurateur Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese fame. The newly opened food hall St. Roch Market (strochmarket .com) is a couple of blocks away.

LEFT TO RIGHT: GABRIELLE GEISELMAN, KATHLEEN FITZGERALD

This page, from left: Oysters at St. Roch Market // The exterior of the Henry Howard Hotel is representative of Garden District architecture. // Opposite, clockwise from top left: St. Louis Cathedral overlooking the Mississippi River // enjoying cocktail hour in the Fauborg Marigny neighborhood // Henry Howard Hotel lobby // Pontchartrain Hotel

For more information, visit neworleanscvb.com.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ERIC YU PHOTOGRAPHY/ GETTY IMAGES, MARIO TAMA/ GETTY IMAGES, ALISON GOOTEE, CHRISTIAN HORAN PHOTOGRAPHY

STAY Henry Howard Hotel (from $179; henryhoward hotel.com), one block off St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District, is an 18bedroom intimate dwelling. Pontchartrain Hotel (from $179; thepontchar trainhotel.com), also in the Garden District, features rooms blending Southern antiques and European style. The rooftop bar provides stunning views.

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See ST. JOHN through the verdant hills and pristine beaches of Virgin Islands National Park.

GET THERE St. John doesn’t have an international airport or a cruise port. To get there, it’s a 4-mile ferry ride from the St. Thomas docks in Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook (departing every hour). Passengers disembark at Cruz Bay, a pastelhued ferry port close to stores, restaurants, car rental firms, dive shops and bars.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are made up of three major landforms: St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, the ideal location to get a nature fix and unwind. Just a 4-mile ferry ride from the more industrious St. Thomas, St. John is the least developed of the USVIs. Its wildness is thanks to the fact that twothirds of the island is a protected national park. There are 20 trails to hike in Virgin Islands National Park, ranging from beginner (Lind Point) to advanced (Reef Bay Trail, which takes you past Danish sugar plantation ruins). Friends of Virgin Islands National Park leads daily hikes to Reef Bay and along L’Esperance, a historic road important to the island’s rum trade ($40; friendsvinp.org). VINP is a part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves; within the park there are all kinds For more information, see visitusvi.com.

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of wildlife, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles, fish and 138 bird species. Go snorkeling or diving for great views of underwater species. Trunk Bay ($4 entry fee), known for its underwater snorkeling trail and considered the island’s most beautiful beach, is the most popular (and often crowded) spot for visitors. For something more low-key, head to the shallow waters of Cinnamon Bay or to Francis Bay, the best place to spot sea turtles. If a quirky day trip is in order, try the Tektite Museum (free; islands.org/tektite). Tektite was the name of an underwater marine research facility and NASA project based on St. John in 1969 and 1970 that helped scientists better understand the effects on humans of living underwater for long periods of time. The museum features photos and videos from the project.

Clockwise from left: St. John is known for its turquoise waters and white-sand beaches. // The Hawksbill sea turtle is one of three kinds of sea turtles on St. John // Trunk Bay, part of Virgin Islands National Park, features a 225-yard-long skorkeling trail along offshore coral reefs.

STAY Befitting St. John’s reputation for natural living, Concordia Eco-Tents (from $135; concordiaeco-resort .com) offers imaginative wood-framed eco-tents strung together by boardwalks. The Estate Lindholm (from $255; estatelindholm.com) is a boutique hotel overlooking Cruz Bay. Luxury villa rentals are available at mclaugh linanderson.com. EAT Miss Lucy’s (misslucys vi-hub.com) is as famous for its Sunday jazz brunch and piña colada pancakes as it is for its weekday conch chowder and jumbo crab cakes.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: MONICA AND MICHAEL SWEET/ GETTY IMAGES, REINHARD DIRSCHERL/ GETTY IMAGES, KELLYVANDELLEN/ GETTY IMAGES

Easy Trips


Easy Trips

Experience the “Greatest Snow on Earth” in PARK CITY, Utah.

JOEL ADDAMS/ GETTY IMAGES

GET THERE Park City is about a 45-minute trip from Salt Lake City International Airport, where more than 800 scheduled flights come and go daily. Once in town, the free bus system can take you to the foot of each ski resort, historic district and other sites. The free Main Street Trolley Service runs up and down the city’s main artery, which is dotted with galleries, shops and restaurants.

The Greatest Snow on Earth. That’s not a matter of opinion: the state of Utah has an official trademark proclaiming it to be true. All that soft, powdery snow can be attributed to a few things, including frequent storms and right-side-up snowfall (that’s when a fine powder sits atop the heavier stuff) – perfect for slicing through the hundreds of trails on either Park City Mountain (parkcitymountain.com) or Deer Valley Resort (deervalley.com). Lift tickets for either resort are about $100 a day; that grants you access to 21 lifts and 101 trails at Deer Valley, and 41 lifts and 300 trails at Park City Mountain. Service-oriented companies like Get Outfitted (getoutfitted.com) and Ski Butlers (skibutlers.com) can help you round up everything you need to hit the slopes – from skis to goggles and base layers.

If skiing’s not your thing, try the Park City Museum ($10; parkcityhistory.org), with several permanent galleries dedicated to the city’s mining and ski history. The Utah Olympic Park (utaholympiclegacy.org /park) has bobsled fantasy camps (around $600), tubing and zip lining (from $6), and is host to bobsled and skeleton world championships. In town, you can ride the alpine coaster ($25), go snowshoeing and snowmobiling, or try your hand at fat tire snow biking. A day pass to a world-class spa, like the one at Stein Eriksen Lodge ($50 day pass; steinlodge.com), gives you access to plunge pools, hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. When night falls, head over to High West Distillery (highwest.com), a ski-in saloon and distillery, or check out the rowdy No Name Saloon downtown (nonamesaloon.net).

Utah Olympic Park is a popular attraction year-round. It is an official training site for U.S. Olympic athletes and also hosts skeleton (pictured) and bobsled championships.

STAY Resorts like Deer Valley or Park City Mountain can be pricey (some accommodations can top $1,000 per night) but their amenities are world-class. Less expensive options include locally owned lodgings, such as the Blue Church Lodge (from $190; theblue churchlodge.com). EAT Try The Farm (parkcity restaurants.com/the -farm) for a post-ski lunch, or local favorite Silver Star Café (the silverstarcafe.com) for a hearty weekend brunch.

For more information, see visitparkcity.com. Winter 2016

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JUSTIN FOULKES

Where is the best place to visit right now? Each year Lonely Planet poses that question to our worldwide network of travel experts. Amid ďŹ erce debate, we whittle down their suggestions to 10 countries, 10 regions and 10 cities. On the pages that follow are the best of this year’s travel picks.


TOP 10 COUNTRIES

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The best way to experience Canada’s wilderness is via its impressive national parks system. (Banff National Park is pictured here.) Admission to all 47 parks is free in 2017.

CANADA

Bolstered by the wave of positivity unleashed by its energetic new Prime Minister, Justin reputa Trudeau, and with dynamic cities that dominate global livability indexes – plus its reputation for inclusiveness and impeccable politeness – the world’s second-largest country will usher in its sesquicentennial in 2017 in rollicking good health. Marking 150 years since confederation, the birthday party promises to be heavy on bonhomie and highly welcoming to international gate-crashers. The weak Canadian dollar means visitors should have plenty of pocket money to spend on Canada’s exciting fusion food and mysteriously underrated wine. For more on Canada, see our feature story on Churchill, Manitoba (p. 58).


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The Finnish summer brings a bonanza of the world’s tastiest blueberries, cranberries, wild strawberries and highly prized cloudberries.

“IN SUMMER I PICNIC ON THE BEACH IN TAMPERE. IN WINTER, YOU CAN STILL

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Wander the walled Old Town of Cartagena, with its sunsoaked streets, Spanish-built churches and bougainvillea-draped courtyards.

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Feel your heart beat in time to a pounding waterfall on a rainforest walk along the 115mile Waitukubuli Trail; each of its 14 segments is designed to be done in a day.

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TAKE A DIP – THEY CARVE A HOLE IN

COLOMBIA

Decades of civil war and violent crime meant Colombian passport stamps once were for hardcore travelers only. Fast-forward to the present day, and the lost years seem but a dust speck in Colombia’s rear-view mirror. There are no world wonders here, but the country’s mix of vibrant culture, nature and hospitality is a rich tapestry woven by welcoming arms. More than a decade into its dramatic about-face, this South American jewel is even expecting a visit from the world’s No. 1 Catholic. When Pope Francis kisses Colombian soil in 2017, it will mark the Andean nation’s first papal visit in 30 years.

DOMINICA

Locals joke that if Christopher Columbus rose from the grave and returned to the Caribbean, Dominica is the only island he would still recognize. One glimpse of its prehistoric ferns and deserted shores, and you’ll see what they mean. For decades, an absence of shiny white beaches has helped keep at bay the resort development that has swept through other parts of the Caribbean. Coconut palms are the only skyscrapers you’ll see here. Visit before Dominica gets its first large-scale chain resorts in 2018, which will pave the way for a new era of tourism.

LONELY PLANET / Winter 2016

THE ICE.” Eliisa Vainikka, researcher

Fought over by Russia and Sweden for 800 years, Finland finally gained independence in 1917. The Finns will celebrate their centenary with gusto, with events planned in every region. Expect everything from outdoor concerts and communal culinary experiences to sauna evenings and vintage travel poster exhibitions. There’s even a new national park, a 27,000-acre chunk of land in the village of Hossa studded with pine forests and crisscrossed with rivers. With the country also playing host to the World Figure Skating Championships and the Nordic World Ski Championships in 2017, there’s never been a better time to discover Finland’s proudly unique culture and landscapes.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: LAURIE CASTELLI/GETTY CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: IMAGES, SITIKKA/GETTY IMAGES

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FINLAND


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View the Himalayas from the rim of the Kathmandu Valley or see the mountain peaks up close and personal on treks to Annapurna, Kanchenjunga and Everest Base Camp.

TOP 10 COUNTRIES

NEPAL

Even natural disasters can’t keep Nepal down for long. The 2015 earthquakes caused devastation, but what is most striking from a traveler’s perspective is not how much was lost but how much remains. Landmark temples crumbled, but others came through with just the odd tile out of place, and whole swathes of the country escaped serious damage, including most of the popular hiking trails. Nepal has all the skills required to repair monuments and infrastructure, but what it does need is income. By visiting Nepal now and supporting local culture and people, you could help a nation rebuild and bounce back even stronger.

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BERMUDA

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Bermuda’s pink-sand beaches – made from a mix of crushed coral, calcium carbonate and the shells of single-celled organisms called foraminifera – are a huge draw.

“THE COLORS OF BERMUDA LEFT: BARTOSZ HADYNIAK/ GETTY IMAGES, RIGHT: SCOTT DUNN/ GETTY IMAGES

ARE UNIQUE. NO INSTAGRAM

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Giant wrestlers, thundering horses and sharp-shooting arches make naadam festivals Mongolia’s most visually spectacular events.

FILTERS

MONGOLIA

In 2017 Mongolia will raise the curtain on a new capitalcity airport, a state-of-the-art facility that symbolizes the country’s rapid modernization. Ulaanbaatar has been the biggest beneficiary of the economic boom, its transformed skyline bristling with glass and steel towers. At the center of this development is a $500 million Shangri-La complex, to be completed by 2017, featuring a 290-room hotel, an IMAX cinema and a Hard Rock Café. Beyond the capital lies Mongolia’s stunning countryside, highlighted by Lake Khövsgöl. In 2015 the lake was connected to Ulaanbaatar by paved road, cutting driving time by 10 hours.

NEEDED HERE!” Rebecca Hanson, founder of TABS Bermuda

The British territory of Bermuda is often mistaken for a Caribbean island, and those in the know might not correct the misunderstanding, in order to keep the place to themselves a little longer. About 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina, Bermuda is reachable from most major East Coast cities in around two hours; a quick hop will get you a bit of Britain mixed with island flair. In June, Bermuda will host the America’s Cup, where the United States will defend its title. Temperate climates and favorable winds make Bermuda the perfect location for this historic sailing race – and for your next trip.

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The rarely visited Musandam Peninsula is called the “Norway of Oman” thanks to its khors (fjord-like inlets) that teem with marine life.

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LONELY PLANET / Winter 2016

Oman has been Arabia’s ace in the hole for a while, but with more flights than ever before and high-end hotels popping up, the sultanate looks ready to raise its game again. Luxury accommodations, including the award-winning duo of Six Senses on the Musandam Peninsula and Alila in Nizwa (the town’s 17th-century fort is seen here), have long had a foothold in Oman. Now, glitzy properties from Anantara, Kempinski and other luxury names are slated to open soon. The burst of construction doesn’t stop there, though: the $120 million Majarat Oman, a futuristic indoor theme park, is scheduled to open in 2017.

JUSTIN FOULKES

OMAN


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Just being in Myanmar is an unmissable experience: golden temples, tropical outposts, history by the truckload and disarmingly honest locals.

“GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT IS EVERYWHERE, FROM THE DAILY DONATIONS OF ALMS TO THE WARMTH SHOWN TO VISITORS.”

LEFT: ANDREW MONTGOMERY, RIGHT: PHILIP LEE HARVEY

Khin Omar Win, director of Eastern Safaris /Balloons Over Bagan

TOP 10 COUNTRIES

MYANMAR

Change has been a long time coming in the nation also known as Burma, but the election of the first civilian government in half a century has all eyes on the future. No one is pretending that all of Myanmar’s problems have gone away, but things are moving in the right direction, and Southeast Asia’s most secretive country is poised to receive an influx of travelers. Visiting comes with challenges, but the reward is a window onto a vanishing Asia, where the difficulties of travel are part of the appeal, and where life moves to the timeless rhythms of chanting monks and monastery bells. For more on Myanmar, see our feature story in this issue (p. 76).

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Enjoy a multiday hike through the stunning heights of Ethiopia's Simien Mountains National Park, where you’ll walk amid hundred-strong troops of baboon-size grass-eating gelada monkeys.

ETHIOPIA

With its own calendar (where else can you get 13 months of sunshine?), timekeeping, script, language, cuisine, church and coffee, Ethiopia is as exotic as countries come. And whether you’re hiking through the Simien Mountains to see wildlife that roams nowhere else on Earth, climbing to a church carved into a remote cliff face in Tigray, or boating across the serene waters of Lake Tana to visit an age-old monastery, you’ll be overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape. In 2017 new airline links will make the country more accessible than ever; be one of the first to hop aboard. Winter 2016

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The Pouakai Crossing is a day hike sidling around Mount Taranaki volcano, with panoramic views.

“RING PLAIN LIFTING TO INLAND HILLS; BACK-ROADS TUNNELS; MAIN-ROADS

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Unique to Choquequirao are the stone llamas blanca (white llama) figures. The designs are inlaid into the lower terraces, forming a pattern of animals across the slopes.

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Paddle Sete Ciades, São Miguel’s twin crater lakes; one is a deep blue, the other a brilliant turquoise.

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ARTWORKS: THEY’RE SPECIAL.”

CHOQUEQUIRAO, PERU

Choquequirao, hidden across the deep Apurimac Valley, was the last Inca refuge from the conquistadors. There’s a growing traveler buzz to see it ASAP. A cable car will squeal into life in 2017 (or possibly later; bureaucratic feet are dragging), gliding as many as 3,000 visitors a day to the ruins in just 15 minutes. Visit in the early days, or take the four-day trek in Inca footsteps, and have a taste of Machu Picchu all to yourself. You’ll encounter only a couple of visitors – plus the archaeologists who continue to peel back the jungle, which still cloaks two-thirds of the spectacular site.

THE AZORES, PORTUGAL

Blending amazing nature and cool Iberian culture, the Azores offer accessibility from North America and Europe without the abundance of travelers who have recently discovered Iceland. The archipelago’s natural assets resemble an array of superlative sights pulled from other destinations: lush Hawaiian volcanoes, medieval Portuguese villages, gurgling Scandinavian hot springs, towering Irish cliffs and rugged Patagonian craters. But the secret won’t last: the Azores saw a 31 percent increase in tourism over the past year, so visit before things take off.

LONELY PLANET / Winter 2016

David Hill, writer

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Blaenau Ffestiniog’s Llechwedd Slate Caverns has a new deep-mine tour into the Stygian depths of the Snowdonia region. The caverns are North Wales’ most popular attraction.

TARANAKI, NEW ZEALAND

The joke goes that most travelers who reach Taranaki have just taken a wrong turn, a gag backed by statistics showing that just 2 percent of New Zealand’s international visitors venture out this way. But a new motto – “A Little Bit Out There” – offsets the region’s remote location with a deliciously offbeat new gallery dedicated to effervescent kinetic artist, filmmaker, painter and poet Len Lye. In nearby Egmont National Park, meanwhile, a magnificent hiking trail is emerging from the shadows to challenge the Tongariro Alpine Crossing as the country’s finest one-day walk.

NORTH WALES, UNITED KINGDOM

On the site of an aluminum factory in the Conwy Valley, Surf Snowdonia wave pool, featuring the longest human-made waves, is the most headline-stealing example of the region’s reinvention. Meanwhile, Zip World at Penrhyn Quarry boasts the world’s fastest zip line, and Bounce Below offers giant trampolines strung in the caverns beneath Blaenau Ffestiniog, one-time capital of Wales’ slate mining industry.

VOLANTHEVIST/ GETTY IMAGES

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TOP 10 REGIONS


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FROM TOP: JUSTIN FOULKES, KEN HORNBROOK/ GETTY IMAGES

Visit at least a couple of the 13 distinct wine-growing regions that help make South Australia responsible for nearly half of the conticonti nent's total wine output.

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The Calluqueo and San Rafael Glaciers are more accessible than ever thanks to newly developed tour routes. Visit these cities of blue ice before it’s too late.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA Its climate may be hot, but South Australia offers the coolest mix of world-class wine country, abundant produce festivals, stark and stunning tracts of picturpictur esque outback, and crowdfree beaches that could make even the Bahamas jealous. The Queen Mary 2 transatlantic ocean liner is putting South Australia on her travel list in 2017, choosing to dock not only in the state’s artistic capital, Adelaide, but also taking in the rustic charms of KangaKanga roo Island. South Australia is a delicious feast.

AYSÉN, CHILE

There’s only one road into the Aysén region of Chilean Patagonia. If you follow its unpaved contours from start to finish, you’ll experience a kaleidoscopic journey where foggy fjords give way to brooding rainforests, bone-dry grasslands and powder-blue lagoons. Shaped by the forces of the Patagonian Ice Field, Aysén is an extreme landscape in constant flux. But with fresh routes to glaciers, a booming craft-beer scene in remote hamlets, and a massive new nature reserve green-lit for national park status, Patagonia’s last frontier has never been such a delight to explore. Winter 2016

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Tumakohua Pass has a fabulous array of fish life, especially in its concentration of gray sharks at incoming tide. Go nose to nose with them on a dive.

THE TUAMOTUS, FRENCH POLYNESIA

Close your eyes, and imagine this: you land on a strip of coral, surrounding a glinting lagoon of every hue from lapis lazuli to turquoise – a perfect ring of islets edged with sandbars and ruffled coconut trees. Remember that tropical paradise that appears in countless advertisements? Here’s the real thing. As if that weren’t enough, the Tuamotus islands rank among the world’s best dive destinations, and that reputation has never been so justified: the number of dive areas is growing, and a new live-aboard dive boat is launching in 2017.

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Cumberland Island is a slice of unspoiled paradise, with a mix of beaches, forests, marshes, mudflats and tidal creeks. Stay the night if you can (the Greyfield Inn is a great – and the only – option).

“DIVING IN THE TUAMOTUS IS LIKE VISITING AN UNDERWATER SAFARI PARK.” Marco Delecluse, dive instructor on Rangiroa

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Ipoh’s signature dish ayam tague (chicken and bean sprouts) reigns supreme here. Locals adore Restaurant Lou Wong for its version.

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PERAK, MALAYSIA

Perak’s capital, Ipoh, is nurturing a bloom of vintage-style cafés and boutiques. The nucleus of this old-meets-new makeover is Kong Heng Block, surrounding the imaginative Sekeping Kong Heng hotel. Here, cheerful joints like Roquette Café, Burps & Giggles and Bits & Bobs pull a vibrant crowd to shop, dawdle and slurp ais kepal (ice balls). Meanwhile, guesthouse owners and tour guides on Pangkor Island are starting to lead sustainable nature walks and village tours. In this sunbather’s paradise, an emerging focus on wildlife is a breath of fresh, sea air.

LONELY PLANET / Winter 2016

Nothing beats landing on Skellig Michael, the larger of the two Skellig Islands, and climbing the 600 treacherously steep stone steps to reach the chambers left by the monks.

“IT’S NOT THE EASIEST TO GET TO – AND THAT’S THE POINT.” John O’Sullivan, manager, Skellig Experience

COASTAL GEORGIA, UNITED STATES

You’ve probably heard of Savannah – that Southern belle with a stellar restaurant scene and gorgeous 19th-century mansions framed by oaks dripping with Spanish moss. But most visitors never know what lies just beyond: a coastline with quirky towns, historic treasures and wildernesscovered islands. Hollywood has taken notice and started filming major movies here, including the Baywatch reboot, due out in spring. If you’re seeking a coastal getaway without the crowds, go now, before the secret’s out.

THE SKELLIG RING, IRELAND

A long time ago, far, far away . . . a small band of monks established a hidden base on a remote, wave-pounded hunk of rock rising out of the Atlantic like a giant triangle. With a setting like this, it’s no wonder the island, Skellig Michael, made the new Star Wars location list. To get to this far-flung isle, you’ll have to take a boat trip from the Skellig Ring, perhaps Ireland’s most charismatically wild and emerald stretch of coastline.

ZU DIAN YEOH/ GETTY IMAGES

TOP 10 REGIONS


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CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

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To reach Table Mountain’s 3,500-foot-high plateau, you can ride the revolving cable car or hike up through Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

“CAPE TOWN HAS AN AMAZING QUALITY OF LIFE AND CAPTIVATES VISITORS AT

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TOP: PJPHOTO69/ GETTY IMAGES, ARTIE NG/ GETTY IMAGES

The Gironde riverfront is Bordeaux’s new focal point. At its epicenter is the Miroir d’Eau, an immense reflecting pool; in summer, its picturesque, cooling mist is a magnet for the town.

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Save a day for the beaches. Whether you head to Venice to see street performers or to Santa Monica pier, you’ll see why the West Coast has become such a big draw.

FIRST SIGHT.” Liezel van Schalkwyk, concierge

BORDEAUX, FRANCE

They used to call her the “Sleeping Beauty,” but – though she’s hit the snooze button a few times – Bordeaux is now wide awake and ready for action. The new LGV Sud-Ouest high-speed railway line, due for completion in mid-2017, connects the city with Europe’s high-speed train network and cuts travel time from Paris to just two hours. Its timing is perfect. The recently opened Cité du Vin continues the impressive redevelopment of the Garonne riverfront with a state-of-the-art wine-lovers’ experience, and the city’s gastronomic revolution keeps building on its own success.

Cape Town’s deceptively laid-back folk have been working hard to add cultural and culinary cred to the Mother City’s famous natural charms, cementing its reputation as an African city with a global outlook. Local gastronomy is as impressive as the flattopped mass of Table Mountain (pictured), with historic wine estates in every direction, hip markets selling the fruits of the Cape’s fertile terrain, and inventive restaurants winning global plaudits. The art and design scene will be given a boost in September by the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, the world’s largest museum of contemporary African art and a post-industrial architectural marvel.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Despite its reputation as a land of celebrities, health fanatics and superficiality, LA has been gaining steam as a cultural destination, and it's more accessible than ever. The 2016 Metro expansion has made getting from downtown to Santa Monica and everywhere in between much easier; city initiative Car Free L.A. helps tourists navigate without wheels; and almost 50 new hotels are in the works. This isn’t just a beach town, it’s also a commerce capital, where movie producers and finance types mingle over sashimi and kale salads. For more on LA, see this issue’s feature story (p. 68). Winter 2016

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Crossing the over-water walkway past Lake Ohrid’s cliffs takes you from the old town to the small sandy cove of Kaneo, perhaps Ohrid’s most idyllic place.

“A CUP OF COFFEE IN THE OLD PART OF THE CITY, THEN LUNCH BY

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The secret to visiting the popular Maya site of Chichén Itzá, featuring astounding pre–Hispanic structures 75 miles east of Mérida, is getting there before the crowds arrive.

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The beating heart of Pistoia is Piazza della Sala, a market square since medieval times. Come evening, the piazza transforms into an outdoor lounge bar.

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MY PERFECT COMBINA-

MÉRIDA, MEXICO

Mérida’s cultural offering is like no other on the Yucatán Peninsula (sorry, Cancún, you’ve got pretty beaches, but party culture doesn’t count). On any given day you’ll find a dizzying array of live music, art shows and dance performances, and the booming culinary scene is hotter than a habanero. Mérida has been designated the American Capital of Culture, meaning visitors can expect a colossal cultural extravaganza as organizers stage a series of large-scale events throughout 2017. And here’s the kicker: the beautiful town ranks among the safest places in Mexico nowadays.

PISTOIA, ITALY

Pistoia is sometimes referred to as “little Florence” for its concentration of art and architecture. But despite its charms, this Tuscan town sees just a fraction of Florence’s tourists. That’s set to change in 2017, when the city will take its turn as Italy’s Capital of Culture. Pistoia earned the title in recognition of its impressive cultural credentials and devotion to grassroots ideas and local entrepreneurship. The award offers the city a chance to showcase an alternative to Tuscany: one that eschews grand-slam sights in favor of small towns full of personality and dynamic, living culture.

LONELY PLANET / Winter 2016

TION.”

Overlooking the extraordinarily blue waters of its eponymous lake, Ohrid enjoys a stunning position that is best viewed from a boat. From the water you’ll see the town’s terra-cotta roofs broken up by centuries-old church spires (the city claims to have once had 365) and overlooked by the turreted walls of Czar Samuel’s castle. Ohrid has transformed itself from Macedonia’s religious center to its busiest holiday resort, and its beaches are the best by far in this otherwise landlocked nation. However, a planned new lakeshore development will likely change this sleepy town forever, making now a great time to go.

Nikola Cuculeski, professional tour guide

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Join a tour at Seoul's Changdeokgung Palace for access to the Huwon, a “secret garden” that’s a royal horticultural idyll.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

The Korean capital is striving to become a more attractive and user-friendly metropolis. Following successful projects such as the Cheonggyecheon, where an aging elevated highway was replaced with a park and waterway, the city will unveil in late 2017 the Seoul Skygarden. This time, the old highway in question – a 3,077-foot-long, 55-foottall overpass – will become the platform on which trees, shrubs and flowers will be planted to create an arboretum of local species.

CELIA HUECK/GETTY IMAGES

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LAKE OHRID:

OHRID, MACEDONIA


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The Miradouro de Santa Catarina (a viewpoint in boho Santa Catarina) offers fantastic views of Lisbon. Reach it via the Elevador da Bica funicular.

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MOSCOW, RUSSIA

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Moscow’s revamped green spaces, Gorky Park and Hermitage Gardens, are now centers of urban life, with art exhibitions, music festivals, street food, dance classes and public bike paths.

“I REALLY LOVE THE VARIETY HERE,

TOP: MATT MUNRO; BOTTOM: ERIK ISAKSON/ GETTY IMAGES

PARTICULARLY WITH PLACES TO EAT.” Kasenia Kurilova, marketing manager

Russia may not have revealed all its Revolutioncentennial plans, but it’s as clear as a crenelated Kremlin facade that there will be radical changes in Moscow. The city will host soccer matches in the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, so the race is on to bring an inkling of the ultra-modern to a metropolis renowned for bombastic architecture. The new Zhukovsky airport and a new metro line will mean an all-time high in connectivity, and Moscow will gain a blockbuster attraction in the Polytechnic Museum and Educational Center, a science museum being relocated to a dramatic building in the Vorobyovy Gory hills.

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Portland is a city of gardens, most famously the International Rose Test Garden, which will celebrate its centennial in 2017.

TOP 10 CITIES

LISBON, PORTUGAL

It has sights, culture and cuisine, yet Lisbon is rarely mentioned alongside southern European heavyweights such as Barcelona and Rome. If this mystifying lack of recognition is what helps the Portuguese capital remain a bargain, long may it continue. Add the weakness of the euro, and the city looks like an unbeatable deal. If you need more persuasion, consider the museums: from Egyptian artifacts at Calouste Gulbenkian Museum to pop art at Berardo Collection Museum, Lisbon has plenty, and one devoted to the history of Judaism in Portugal is coming in 2017.

PORTLAND, OREGON

Portland is America’s city of the future: a friendly, sustainable and ethical place that values good living and leisure over acquisitiveness and ambition. Bisected by the Willamette River and surrounded by peaks, it is also a preternaturally attractive place. What better spot could there be for viewing one of nature’s great spectacles: the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Although the eclipse will be partial in Portland, drive a few miles south into the Willamette Valley or hike up Mount Hood and you’ll be cast in the moon’s deep umbra between 9:06 a.m. and 11:38 a.m.

For more on the hottest destinations, trends and travel experiences, see Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 book and lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel.

Winter 2016

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MAGICAL MYANMAR The last country in Southeast Asia to open up to tourism is making up for lost time. Get a slow introduction to its charms on a riverboat cruise to an ancient city of temples, then travel across the plains into hill country, for rewarding hikes in rural villages. By Oliver Berry | PhOtOgraPhs By andrew MOntgOMery // The RV Katha Pandaw, a riverboat on the Irrawaddy. // Opposite, from left: Balancing water pots in the river village of Yandabo; Captain Thein Swe Oo (seated) and his son Min Min on the deck of the Tai Win.


THE RIVER Early morning is always the busiest time of day on Mandalay’s waterfront. Moored along the riverbanks of Myanmar’s second city, scores of boats are being loaded for their journeys. Passengers cram onto ferries, searching for space on crowded decks. Porters carry on crates of fruit and sacks of rice, balancing loads on their heads as they cross planks leaning against the gunwales. Beside the keels, children splash and somersault in the water while villagers from the nearby shanty town rinse their clothes in the shallows. Then, cargoes stored, the boats pull away from the banks, turning into the current with a chug and a belch of diesel smoke before disappearing downstream. Known in the Myanmar language, or Burmese, as the Ayeyarwady, the Irrawaddy is the longest river within the country, unfurling 1,350 miles from its source near the Tibetan border to the Andaman Sea. Bisecting the country into east and west, the Irrawaddy is to Myanmar, also known as Burma, what the Ganges is to India: half spiritual symbol, half industrial thoroughfare. In the days before the British built the country’s first railways and modern roads, the Irrawaddy carried most of the country’s traffic. It’s still busy with boats today. Barges stacked with timber hug the deep-water channels, chugging past fishermen casting their nets and ramshackle ferries commuting between the river villages. But the Irrawaddy is more than a glorified motorway; it’s a sacred river, too. Along the banks, whitewashed stupas, domelike Buddhist shrines containing the ashes of saints or other holy relics, line the water’s edge. Monasteries appear along the shoreline, their tiered roofs rising from a canopy of palm and bamboo. Occasionally, golden pagodas glint amongst the trees, their gilded tops flashing in the sunlight.

Captain Thein Swe Oo has worked MYANMAR OR BURMA? “Bama” has long been the colas an Irrawaddy boatman for 25 years, loquial name of the country in starting as a deckhand. Dressed in a the language of its majority loose shirt and the baggy Burmese saBamar people, while “Myanma” is the formal or written rong-like garment known as a longyi, equivalent. In 1989 the military he’s now in charge of his own vessel, junta decided to change the a double-decked ferry called Tai Win. English name of the country from Burma to Myanmar. The “It takes many years to know the new name was initially rejectAyeyarwady,” he says, manning the ed by pro-democracy leader helm while his son Min Min scans Aung San Suu Kyi, and many the river ahead for obstacles. “There followed her example. are many sandbanks and channels, and the currents change often. I know it quite well, but even now the river sometimes catches me by surprise.” The sun sets toward the trees, turning the river from tea brown to terra cotta red. Puffing on his cigar, the captain guides the boat to its overnight mooring at the pottery-producing village of Yandabo. River sounds – screeching birds, keening crickets, the slap and gloop of water against the banks – replace the drone of the motor. As his father weighs anchor, Min Min dishes up the evening meal: river catfish, cooked on an iron stove that sends swirls of gray smoke into the sky. Dusk turns to darkness, and the deck lights flicker on, white bulbs reflecting in the black water. “It is a good life on the river,” the captain says, leaning against the Tai Win’s wheelhouse. “I have worked my whole life on the water. Now, I find it hard to be in the city – too much traffic, too much noise. The river is where I belong.” Winter 2016

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// The view from Shwesandaw temple in Bagan, taking in the ornate Myauk Guni (in the foreground, at left) and the stupa of Dhammayazika (in the distance, at right).

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THE PLAINS

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:

About 115 river miles from Mandalay, novice monk Ashin Wila Tha removes his sandals and steps from the fierce afternoon heat into a crumbling Buddhist temple in Old Bagan, located on a bend in the Irrawaddy. “This way,” he says. It’s cool and dark inside, but a few threads of light are enough to illuminate the temple’s inhabitant: a huge reclining Buddha, 59 feet long and 16 feet tall, fashioned from stone as smooth and white as marble, his face fixed in a permanent beatific smile. “This is one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Bagan,” the monk explains, pulling some candles from beneath his scarlet robes. He lights the candles and arranges them on the statue’s outstretched hand. “Some people say he is just sleeping, but to others he is in parinirvana: the moment of death and enlightenment.” Ashin Wila Tha leans over the candles and says a prayer, then pads into the darkness to light sticks of incense in an alcove, filling the air with the heady aroma of jasmine and patchouli. In any other country, this superb statue would be thronged by tourists, but among the great temples of the Bagan plains, it’s almost a forgotten footnote. Sprawling along the sunbaked eastern bank of the Irrawaddy, Bagan is Myanmar’s largest sacred site, a complex of more than 2,000 temples covering a site of some 40 square miles. It was built at a hectic rate between the 11th and 13th centuries by a succession of the country’s ancient kings. It’s thought that Bagan once counted at least twice as many temples as it does today, but many have long since crumbled into dust, victims of the ravages of time or the frequent earthquakes that strike central Myanmar, including a devastating one in 1975. A massive restoration program had saved Bagan’s most important temples from collapse, but hundreds of temples and pagodas – including Ananda temple, with its four giant golden Buddha statues – were damaged in last August’s powerful, 6.8-magnitude quake. Other iconic structures damaged included Sulamani and Htilominlo temples. Work to restore the ancient buildings could take up to three years. Meanwhile, visitors continue to make their way to the sites, and the ruins. The most famous temples are often crowded at sunrise and sunset, but hundreds more lie far off the beaten track, lost along dusty lanes, obscured by tangled thorn bushes and thickets of cotton grass. Inside, thousand-year-old frescoes loom from the walls and crumbling statues meditate in the darkness, guarded by bats and overrun by creepers and vines. “I don’t think anyone has seen all of the temples in Bagan,” says Ashin Wila Tha, emerging from the shadows into the warm light of early evening. “There are too many. And anyway, I think it’s good that some things stay secret.” He slips on his sandals and shuffles across the pagoda’s flagstones. Beyond the gate, a horse cart rattles past, and the domes of the nearby temples disappear behind a cloud of orange dust.

MIND YOUR MANNERS Remove your shoes and socks in pagodas and temples. It’s often less of a chore to wear flip-flops, as most Burmese do. Dress modestly in temples (no shorts, short skirts or exposed shoulders). Feet are seen as unclean, so don’t use them to point at things, and apologize if you accidentally brush someone with yours. Don’t touch anyone’s head, and avoid blowing your nose at the table.

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// Chickpea-flour fritters; local hiking and nature guide Than Win Tun. // Opposite: A Buddhist altar decorated for Full Moon Day.

THE HILLS One hundred miles east of the Bagan plains, high in the hills above Kalaw, the people of Pane-Ne-Pin village are preparing for a feast. It’s Full Moon Day, the most auspicious day of the month in the Burmese calendar, and the villagers are getting ready to make the journey to their local monastery. They’re dressed in their best outfits: striped turbans, pink longyi, and purple velvet jackets spangled with sequins, all sewn on by hand. A few of the women are busy preparing a picnic, cooking chickpea-flour fritters in a heavy pan over a smoldering wood fire. Others sort gifts for the monks from a pile of newly woven blankets in the village’s meeting house. Once they’re ready, they set out along the valley, chatting and giggling as they trek past tin-roofed houses and terraces cloaked with plantations of orange and tea. Established by British governors more than a century ago as a summer hill station where colonial families could escape from the suffocating heat of the surrounding plains, Kalaw stands at an altitude of some 4,300 feet. Ringed by hills and furrowed by valleys, the area enjoys a climate ideal for farming, and it’s become one of Myanmar’s most important agricultural regions, producing much of the country’s fruit, vegetables and tea. More recently, Kalaw has begun to draw hikers to its surroundings. Hundreds of old paths zigzag over the hillsides, linking villages and plantations with the lowlands below. The most popular is the three-day path between Kalaw and Inle Lake, which winds across the spine of the Shan Hills. Than Win Tun has spent his life exploring the trails around Kalaw. He now works as a professional hiking and nature guide. “I don’t think I could get lost here if I tried,” he says, striding along a dry path fringed by tea bushes, his feet clad in a pair of battered flip-flops. “To me the hills are home.”

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He stoops to pick some leaves sprouting by the trail’s edge. One of the plants is a type of wild mint, he says; the other a natural antiseptic. “It’s good for cuts and bruises,” he explains. “And you can make a tea from it when you have a cold. Nearly every plant can be used for something.” Where once Kalaw’s hills would have been covered in ancient forests of teak, fig and banyan, over the past century much of the land has been cleared for logging and agriculture. But gradually farmers are realizing the benefits of keeping the forest intact, as a way of preventing soil erosion and retaining underground water reservoirs. “For a time, people forgot why the trees were important,” says Than Win Tun, pausing to run his hand along the trunk of a gigantic fig tree. “But now they’re remembering. That makes me feel positive about the future.” He rounds a bend in the trail and emerges on the outskirts of another village, where a group of pink-robed nuns sweep the shrine’s platform with bamboo brooms and lay wreaths of jasmine flowers in honor of Full Moon Day. “Life in the hills never changes much,” Than Win Tun says, as incense smoke fills the treetops, and the shrine’s prayer bells tinkle in the cool breeze.

TRAVELING RESPONSIBLY Political and economic reforms in the past seven years are starting to move Burma on from the legacy of the junta of 1962 to 2010; in recent years, the army has remained a behind-the-scenes presence, taking a slice of most transactions, from park entry fees to hotel bills. Spread your money around by using local guides and services as much as possible; verify that your tour operator is reputable; and try to buy from small shops and restaurants.


MAKE IT HAPPEN

/ Myanmar

GETTING THERE Myanmar’s main international airport is in Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon); international flights also arrive at Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw airports. The most common route to Yangon is via Bangkok, Thailand, though there are regular direct flights with several other regional cities, including Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. GETTING A VISA Apply to the Myanmar Embassy for a tourist visa, which is valid for three months and allows visits of up to 28 days ($20; mewashingtondc.com). GETTING AROUND A one-way fare between Yangon and Mandalay costs around $100. There’s little to differentiate between the several main local airlines, although Myanmar Airways has had a poor safety record in recent years. It’s often cheaper and more reliable to book flights through travel agents than via airline websites; you can compare prices at oway.com.mm. Longdistance buses are cheap but slow and rarely air-conditioned. If you’re traveling in a group, it’s easier to rent a car and hire a driver through a travel agent (such as ssttourism.com), for about $50 to $330 per day. ESSENTIALS • An Irrawaddy River cruise makes a relaxed introduction to this land of pagodas. Belmond’s river cruiser is one of the more luxurious options ($1,050 for a three-day, two-night excursion from Mandalay to Bagan; belmond.com). • Sky Palace Hotel in New Bagan has air-conditioned rooms and self-contained bungalows overlooking a walled garden (from $50; skypalace.asia). • Hill Top Villa Hotel, perched 4,300 feet up in the hills above Kalaw, offers air-conditioned log cabins with porches (from $55; hilltopvillakalaw.com). WHO CAN HELP Intrepid Travel, with offices in Petaluma, California, offers a variety of Myanmar trips (from $1,915; intrepidtravel.com). WHAT TO READ See Lonely Planet’s Myanmar (Burma) ($29.99) guidebook. Thant Myint-U’s The River of Lost Footsteps is a moving account of the country’s past and present, while Aung San Suu Kyi’s Letters from Burma is a collection of correspondence written during her house arrest. For information on the country’s evolving political structure and economic situation, see the U.S. Department of State’s website, state.gov. Winter 2016

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The forested peak of the Arenal Volcano in northwest Costa Rica

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Surfing PAVONES

Home to one of the longest lefthand breaks on the planet, Pavones is a legendary destination for surfers the world over, and on a good day can offer a satisfying two- or three-minute ride. Conditions here, on Costa Rica’s southernmost point, are usually best with a southern swell but if you’re there when the waves aren’t, just head a short distance south to Punta Banco, a reef with decent rights and lefts.

MINI GUIDE

SALSA BRAVA

Activities in Costa Rica Miles of junlge-fringed beaches and a number of national parks and reserves provide the perfect playground for rafting through the wilderness, surfing epic breaks or hiking through clouds.

Rafting & Kayaking

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RÍO PACUARE

The Río Pacuare offers some of the most scenic rafting in all of Central America. The river plunges down the Caribbean slope through a series of spectacular canyons clothed in virgin rainforest, through runs named for their fury and separated by calm stretches, where you can stare at 300-foot near-vertical green walls. Exploradores Outdoors runs rafting trips (exploradoresoutdoors.com; $99 for a one-day expedition).

PLAYA GRANDE

A wide, gorgeous beach that by day has steep and powerful waves and by night sees the arrival of nesting leatherback sea turtles. It’s Costa Rica’s most accessible, reliable break and draws hordes, though it’s so big that it never seems crowded. Nighttime visits are by guided tour only. By day, rent boards, sign up for lessons and recover with a deeptissue massage at Frijoles Locos Surf Shop & Spa (frijoleslocos.com; from $50 for a 60-minute massage).

Hiking

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CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK

RÍO SARAPIQUÍ

The Río Sarapiquí isn’t as wild as the white water on the Río Pacuare (see below) but the dense jungle that hugs the riverbank is lush and primitive. You can run the Class II–IV rapids throughout the year; the river fluctuates with rainfall, so if it’s been raining, the river will be at its best. It’s also a great place to learn how to kayak; several operators offer lessons (costaricaraft.com; half-day expedition from $60).

This Caribbean break near Puerto Viejo has the country’s biggest surf and, in December, waves can reach 30 feet high. The swell pulls in from the east, pushing a wall of water against the shallow reef, in the process generating a thick and powerful curl. The wave, baptized by some locals as “the cheese grater,” has turned Puerto Viejo from a barely accessible town 30 years ago into the world-class surf destination it is today.

A surfer catches a wave at Playa Grande, on the Pacific Coast

Kayaking in the 120-square-mile Tortuguero National Park CANALS OF TORTUGUERO

Created in 1974 to connect a series of lagoons and meandering rivers, the canals are an excellent introduction to Tortuguero National Park, the most important breeding ground of the green sea turtle. Kayaking through the canals will get you up close to birds and wildlife, including kingfishers, turtles and caimans. Rent a canoe or a kayak in Tortuguero village (tortuguerovillage .com; canoes from $4).

Labeled by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on Earth,” this national park is home to scarlet macaws, Baird’s tapirs, giant anteaters and harpy eagles. Paths are primitive but provide a supreme look at the wonders of the rainforest. You’ll need a guide; Osa Wild offers unique experiences at affordable prices (osawildtravel.com; park entry $15; guides from $35).

Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to more than 2,500 plant species

MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST

TENORIO VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK

There are 8 miles of marked and maintained trails within this virginal forest dripping with mist, sprouting with ferns, dangling with mossy vines and gushing with creeks. The most popular trails make a triangle to the east of the reserve entrance. Note: trails can be muddy, and you should arrive early because visitor numbers are restricted (reservamonteverde.com; park entry $20).

The heavenly blue river, waterfalls and lagoons here are among Costa Rica’s most spectacular natural phenomena, which is also why the park is known to locals as Río Celeste (celestial river). There’s a well-marked trail that circles volcanoes and misty waterfalls; it’s about 4 miles in total, but allow three hours as some parts are steep and rocky (visitcostarica .com; park entry $12).

TURN OVER FOR MAP AND NUMBER LOCATIONS

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MINI GUIDE Activities in Costa Rica

Essentials

The Know-How

GETTING THERE & AROUND

Costa Rica can be reached via frequent, direct international flights from the United States, Canada and Central American countries. You can also cross a land border from Panama or Nicaragua. There are frequent, inexpensive buses to San José (single $1); taxis charge around $20. Chartering a private plane is the quickest way to travel around the country. Costa Rica’s airlines are Nature Air and Sansa (return flights from $65; natureair.com, sansacosta rica.com). Or consider a door-todoor private bus service, such as Interbus (interbusonline.com). WHERE TO STAY

Less than one-quarter mile north of the entrance to Tortuguero National Park, Cabinas Tortuguero has 11 brightly painted bungalows surrounding a neat garden. There are hammocks for lounging (tortuguerovillage.com; Tortuguero; with private bath $30).

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Sleeping

Hotel Belmar’s Sunrise room looks over the Monteverde Cloud Forest

Hotel Banana Azul sits astride a tranquil black-sand beach in Puerto Viejo. The best choice is the Howler Suite, a corner room with good views. There’s also an onsite bar-restaurant (bananaazul.com; Puerto Viejo; from $99). Every room at eco-resort Hotel Belmar has an incredible view of the forest, gulf or both. Rooms feature wooden furniture, high-threadcount linens, floor-to-ceiling windows and large balconies. There’s also a spa and a great restaurant (hotelbelmar.net; Monteverde; from $151).

BIRDWATCHING

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Costa Rica is a veritable Eden, with varied birdlife: Toucan – Costa Rica has six species of this classic rainforest bird. Huge bills and vibrant plumage make the chestnut-mandibled toucan and the keel-billed toucan hard to miss. Scarlet macaw – Unmistakable for its size, red body and ear-splitting squawk, it’s commonly seen in the Carara National Park and the Osa Peninsula. Resplendent quetzal – The dazzling quetzal once held great ceremonial significance for the Aztecs and the Maya. Look for its iridescent-green body, red breast and long green tail near Los Quetzales National Park. Hummingbird – More than 50 hummingbird species have been recorded in Costa Rica. Most live at high elevations. The largest is the violet sabrewing, with a striking violet head and body and dark-green wings.

Lonely Planet’s Costa Rica ($24.99) is a comprehensive guide to the country. San José, Costa Rica’s capital, is featured in Lonely Planet’s Guides app. See Ticotimes.net for trip planning and more destination information. Two excellent contemplative books on birds are A Naturalist in Costa Rica ($24.95; University Press of Florida) and The Minds of Birds ($29.95; Texas A&M University Press), both by Alexander Skutch.

COMPILED BY NATALIE MILLMAN, WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM MARA VORHEES, WENDY YANAGIHARA AND GREGOR CLARK. PHOTOGRAPHS: ALVARO LEIVA/SUPERSTOCK, MINT IMAGES/SUPERSTOCK, KIKE CALVO/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE/CORBIS, MLORENZOHOTOGRAPHY/ GETTY IMAGES

Activities


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