Madagascar is sometimes overlooked as just another safari destination. But this massive island is home to thousands of species that are found nowhere else on earth—more than 90 percent of Madagascar’s flora and fauna are endemic—and with the threat of climate change and deforestation looming ever larger, this is one trip that shouldn’t be delayed. Reinstated Airlink flights from Johannesburg to Nosy Be have expanded access to the northern stretches of the country just in time for the April 2017 opening of Miavana, Madagascar’s most well-appointed property yet. Situated on the island of Nosy Anko, the eco-friendly resort includes 14 villas designed by Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, the architects behind similarly luxe African retreats like Chinzombo and Angama Mara. Between seaside pursuits, guests are whisked by helicopter to Ankarana National Park for lemur-spotting or Amber Mountain National Park to explore its waterfalls and crater lakes.
Slicker than graffiti-laden Berlin and edgier than Munich or Frankfurt, this booming port town has always been one of Germany’s most intriguing cities. Recent years have seen the banks of the Elbe River morph into an architectural wonderland, with icons such as Zaha Hadid’s River Promenade reshaping the landscape. The Elbphilharmonie Hamburg by Herzog & de Meuron, a concert hall featuring an undulating glass structure on top of a midcentury brick warehouse, will welcome visitors for its inaugural performance on January 11, 2017. Not far away, The Fontenay, a stylish grande dame, will open its doors in summer. The once-gritty isle of Wilhelmsburg is transforming into a hot spot, drawing comparisons to the similar-sounding Williamsburg in Brooklyn thanks to projects like IBA Hamburg – Energiebunker—a former air-raid bunker converted into an eco-friendly power source—WCW Gallery, and third-wave coffee shops like Kaffeeliebe.
Cambodia has some of Southeast Asia’s most stunning islands, but getting to them has always been arduous (a flight to Phnom Penh, a four-hour drive, then a choppy ferry ride). Luckily, there are now direct flights into the coastal Sihanoukville airport via Ho Chi Minh City. That means a much smoother journey to the newest island escapes: the wellness-minded Six Senses on Krabey Island, where spa treatments are Cambodian-inspired, and the Alila eco-resort on Koh Russey, which has an emphasis on Khmer cuisine and community service. And if you want to spend some time in the capital of Phnom Penh before or after your island vacation, you can do that in style as well: Rosewood has announced plans to open there in early 2017.
After being hit hard by the financial crisis, Bermuda is shaking itself out of stagnation and attracting a new generation of travelers. In 2014, the island won a bid to host the 35th America’s Cup, the high-profile international sailing race, which takes place this June. The promise of a flood of wealthy visitors—and a loosening of restrictions on foreign investment—has sparked a spate of development. Big news is the $100 million overhaul of the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, the island’s 132-year-old grande dame, whose revamped rooms have a fresh, contemporary look. The hotel has also added a stellar art collection, a spa, and a restaurant serving locally sourced fare from James Beard Award–winning chef Marcus Samuelsson. Elsewhere on the island, a St. Regis, a lavish Ritz-Carlton Reserve, and the Ariel Sands resort (backed by actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones) are in the works.
One of India’s most spectacular monuments will become newly accessible this year with the launch of a high-end resort in Hampi. When the 14th-century capital of the Vijayanagara Empire was constructed, in what is now the southwestern state of Karnataka, it was one of the largest cities in the world. The ruined settlement’s dazzling temples, monuments, and public buildings—strewn across a landscape of giant boulders, banana groves, and rice paddies—have long been a must-visit for dedicated Indophiles. But the town of Hampi has lacked world-class accommodation and infrastructure, making a visit less than luxurious. Now the new Orange County, Hampi offers a solution: 46 rooms spread across a palatial, Vijayanagara-inspired estate less than three miles from the UNESCO World Heritage site area.
Typically more of a pilgrimage site than a sybaritic city, Jerusalem has now emerged as a culinary force to rival Tel Aviv. At the sprawling Mahane Yehuda Market, food-and-drink spots have popped up in produce stalls, many of which stay open long past sunset. The Jewish diaspora and Middle East merge at restaurants like Ishtabach—try the Kurdish shamburak, a pastry with brisket, potatoes, and chimichurri—and Machneyuda, known for its standout beef tartare with plums. Stay at the new boutique Brown Jerusalem Hotel, which will open soon in a restored Ottoman-era villa and serve drinks in an underground water cistern.
Angra dos Reis, Brazil
Brazil’s visa waiver during the Olympics was a success for one big reason: it encouraged travel beyond the big cities. The tourism board hopes to bring back the waiver, and if you’re planning to take advantage, save time to visit Angra dos Reis, between Rio and São Paulo. This popular Brazilian vacation area is where cariocas go to escape the crowds. In May, Brazilian chain Fasano will open a long-awaited 54-suite hotel in a complex that includes a marina, golf course, restaurants, and a spa. The design is striking, with elevated wooden buildings that look like they’re floating, all with open-air terraces and views of the forest and sea. And the government recently pledged $8 million to improve the infrastructure on Ilha Grande—an island that’s so popular that they’ve had to impose a daily limit on visitors.
Despite its many allures (milky-blue terraced waterfalls, mountains blanketed with jungle, centuries-old golden stupas, and crumbling temples) landlocked Laos has always been overshadowed by its tourist-magnet neighbors. But that’s changing: in the fall, the country was thrust into the international spotlight with a historic visit from Barack Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the nation. Recent negotiations with Thailand opened up additional flights from Bangkok, and new upscale lodgings have made Laos’s two major cities—the temple-studded capital of Vientiane and Luang Prabang, a UNESCO-protected town prized for its natural sights and mix of traditional and French-colonial architecture—much more accessible. In 2017, the President by Akaryn—the area’s first five-star hotel—arrives in Vientiane just steps from the temple of the Emerald Buddha, followed by a Rosewood in Luang Prabang.
A wave of incredible new properties is bringing renewed attention to Central America’s largest country, which visitors flock to for rain-forest tours and snorkeling around surrounding islands. Fifteen miles south of Granada is the recently opened Nekupe Sporting Resort & Retreat. Nekupe, a native word used to describe heaven, is an intimate eight-villa resort spread across 1,300 acres on the mountainside. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer uninterrupted views of Mombacho, but the best way to experience the cloud-forest-covered volcano is hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Travelers seeking a beach escape should head to the new Meson Nadi hotel on the edge of Costa Esmeralda: a contemporary, Bauhaus-inspired, six-suite boutique with concrete tiles, handwoven hammam blankets, and gardens.
Okawango Delta, Botswana
It’s now possible to spot the Big Five in Botswana, an idea that just a few years ago may have seemed far-fetched. Buoyed by the antipoaching efforts of the Botswana government and local conservation groups, the philanthropic arm of the (impeccably renovated) Sanctuary Chief’s Camp has helped reintroduce populations of both black and white rhinos to the Okavango Delta. The neighboring and Beyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp also got a thoughtful redesign of late, with understated, sustainable accommodations that echo the surrounding landscape. For lovers of wildlife and luxury, there’s never been a better time to visit.
Kitesurfers have long made a playground of the breezy beaches of Paros, and no wonder: this sunshiny isle is a Cycladic triumvirate of sandy shoreline, history, and culture. Last summer the island debuted a new airport, opening it to larger aircraft and more vacationers. And the fishing village of Naousa, with its boxy white architecture and seaside tavernas, is increasingly sophisticated—check in to the modern, adults-only apartments of Porto Naousa or the elegant Seven Santa Maria, where six airy, all-white suites (and a separate villa) come with a private boat and skipper for exploring the island’s secret coves.
Of the 800 or so mountain gorillas left in East Africa, more than half live in the forested foothills of the Virungas, a chain of 12,000-foot volcanoes stretching through Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. Rwanda is by far the safest and most reliable (in terms of infrastructure) of the three, and this summer it will become even more enticing when Wilderness Safaris’ first Rwandan property, the upscale, six-villa Bisate Lodge, opens near Volcanoes National Park. With dramatic views of the forested volcanic peaks, this new base—close to park headquarters, the departure point for daily treks—exists to fund conservation projects, including a reforestation program. In addition to spotting silverbacks, guests can see Buhondo and Burera lakes, the lava tunnels of the Musanze Caves, and the golden monkeys that are endemic to the region.
With a growing array of open-air bars, arts venues, and restaurants, Belfast is quickly becoming an attractive destination for travelers. Stay at the design-forward Bullitt Hotel (inspired by the Steve McQueen film), which opened in October with casual, well-appointed rooms and complimentary grab-and-go breakfast granola. Check out arts organization Seedhead, which runs street-art tours and hosts pop-up cabarets around the city. The Michelin-starred OX and EIPIC lead the fine-dining pack, but also visit Permit Room, with its internationally inspired breakfast and locally roasted coffee. Noteworthy new nightlife spots include the Muddlers Club, a stylish restaurant and cocktail bar in the trendy Cathedral Quarter, and Vandal, a graffiti-adorned pizza place that turns into a late-night club, on the top floor of a 17th-century pub.