The 16 Best Travel Destinations of 2016

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Big Sur, California

In April of 1958, Big Sur resident Nancy Hopkins wrote to a friend, "This is the land of laissez-faire, you know. You can't dream up anything that hasn't already been done." The 90-mile stretch of rugged Pacific shoreline had, by then, become a well-documented recreation spot for artists and writers, among them Robinson Jeffers, Henry Miller and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Bearded bohemian types had moved in, too, camping out on rocky beaches and beneath canopies of sequoia trees. These freethinkers and wandering naturalists sustained themselves on wild parties and fresh air. "Fill the pool with champagne and have a moonlight orgy," Hopkins wrote to her friend. "Big Sur will be very disappointed if you don't do something just a little bit insane."
Photo: Courtesy of Post Ranch Inn

Paraty, Brazil

Paraty—which in Tupi, the language spoken by indigenous Guaianás people, means "river of fish"—is a gorgeous little colonial town roughly halfway between between Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Belo Horizonte. It's the perfect small-town refuge from Brazil's big metropolises. The Portuguese arrived to the area in the late 1600s, setting it up as an important trading post for exchanging minerals extracted from the Brazilian interior by slaves for finished goods like sugar and wine. Today, Paraty is a placid fishing town with a tourist-friendly colonial city center and a laid-back downtown. There are plenty of decent, affordable hotels and restaurants, while tour operators offer trips into the surrounding mata atlântica forest and the gorgeous blue-green bay.
Photo: Daniel Cukier/Flickr

Western Big Island, Hawaii

When people think of Hawaii, popular destinations like Maui or Oahu typically come to mind. But the west side of the Big Island, known colloquially as the Kona side of the island, which includes everything from the Kohala Coast to Kau, is worthy of more attention. With its jet-black and bright-red lava rock fields, an active volcano and famous black sand beaches, it's sure to bring a whole new perspective to the tropical paradise you know and love. Blessed with sun and clear skies, the west side of the island is drier and hotter compared to the lush east side, but it also has more beautiful sandy beaches, luxurious dining experiences, and adventure activities. Home to Hawaiian cowboys, the famous Ironman competition and delicious Kona Coffee, western Big Island is ideal for those looking for a less touristy Hawaiian experience.
Photo: Courtesy of Mauna Lani Resort

Tehran, Iran

America lifted its sanctions on Iran earlier in 2016, and you know what that means: Iran is the trendy new place to go. Well, not exactly, but it's getting there. Tehran actually reminds us a lot of New York City; underneath all that concrete lays a liberal city. The only differences (OK, there are a lot of differences) are its age and rugged backdrop: the Alborz Mountains. Despite all its political madness, the Iranians are recognized by the United Nations as having created the world's first charter on human rights. Not unlike GOT's Mother of Dragons, when Cyrus the Great (the original King of Persia) conquered Babylon in 539 B.C., the first things he did were free its slaves, allow everyone to choose their own religion and establish racial equality. Cyrus' ideas spread quickly throughout the world—first to India, then Greece and eventually Rome. Point being, no matter how crazy the country's politicians might seem, Iranians are good eggs and it's a culture definitely worth exploring.
Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty

Stockholm, Sweden

With about a million residents, Sweden's capital feels much bigger than its population suggests. Although Scandinavia can be undeniably pricy, there are plenty of cost-effective ways to enjoy the capital of Sweden. Stockholm's rich cultural history and evolving food scene are enough to warrant a trip; throw in sustainable design and a plethora of green city parks, and you have yourself a well-balanced vacation.
Photo: Nicho Södling

Zagreb, Croatia

Every year Zagreb, Croatia's main city, grows in popularity. And, with each year, it further secures it's spot on the must-see travel stops in Central Europe. As you exit the train station through a series of double doors and see the statue of King Tomislav, the county's first king, and the Cathedral steeples standing tall in the distance, prepare to take this tour to the places every newbie needs to know to enjoy this burgeoning capital. What you'll soon learn is there is much more to this city, and the country, that its proximity to the Adriatic coast. Outstanding food, wine, museums, and theaters are all there for the taking.
Photo: Angelo Miceli/Flickr

Santiago, Chile

A unique blend of chic cosmopolitan style and rugged outdoor adventure, the city of Santiago, Chile is as multifaceted as the people who call it home. Towering skyscrapers are flanked by snow-capped mountain peaks and bustling nightclubs are nestled beneath swaying palm trees. The charm lies in the balance—the perfect marriage of nature and urban sprawl. Despite being the capital, Santiago doesn't see a whole lot of tourists—and you'd be hard pressed to find more than a few handfuls who speak understandable English. It's a city deeply rooted in its heritage and history, and to understand and see it, you almost need to speak the language or have a guide. It's a place built for strolling for hours without care through the glamorous barrio of Bellavista to the bustling La Vega Market. Thanks to the lack of tourists, you can easily get off the beaten path—even in the center of the city. So, whether you're staying for a day or a week, get lost in Chile's capital by sinking your teeth into the mouthwatering food scene and the magnificent culture.
Photo: Claire Gallam