(1) Snaefellsjokull, Iceland
Get totally transcendental atop a volcanic glacier—then ski down it.
The cratered peak of Snaefellsjokull is most famously recognized as the gateway down in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, but these days the glacier is known for a different kind of descent. Ten months of the year (the glacier is closed in January and February), intrepid alpine skiers flock to this inactive volcano for nine-plus miles of uninterrupted glacial terrain, ending in greenery, fantastically bizarre lava formations, and an arctic-tern colony in the fishing hamlet of Arnarstapi. A ski lift will take you up partway, but the only way to the top is via snowmobile and a little ice climbing. Mystics believe the mountain is a healing source of “energy radiation” on par with the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge. True or not, the view from the top, a seemingly endless stretch of snowcapped peaks and foamy ocean, is transcendental. As Verne put it, “Where the earth ended and the sea began it was impossible for the eye to distinguish … I wholly forgot who I was.”
(2) Yap, Micronesia
Dive with mating mantas.
The warm crystal waters of Yap (a tiny group of islands in the Pacific between Guam and Palau) are filled with the kind of exotic sea life—testy mandarin fish, leaf fish, ghost pipefish—that gets even a hardened scuba diver’s oxygen tank pumping. But between January and April, when the mantas arrive to mate, that scenery goes off the charts. Set yourself at one of the observation stations at the bottom of the Mi’l Channel and watch as the sea above you fills with the swooping giants (their wingspans reach up to fourteen feet) that glide like kites through the water in search of a partner (Yap Divers; 800-348-3927).
(3) Bray, England
Eat snail porridge and bacon ice cream.
No one loves an excuse to travel more than a foodie, and this year’s pilgrimage of choice leads not to France, or Spain, or Shanghai, but to the obscure British hamlet of Bray, 40 minutes by rail outside of London. This is the home of the Fat Duck restaurant, run by an earthy, obsessive, endlessly inventive Englishman named Heston Blumenthal. Part classicist, part innovator, part country gourmand, Blumenthal makes ice cream out of smoked bacon and eggs, and supplements his langoustine lasagne with deposits of pig’s trotter and truffles. The Fat Duck is that rare thing in the world of haute cuisine: a place for effete food snobs who actually like to eat (44-1628-580-333).
(4) Tokyo, Japan
Spend every last penny—and feel good about it.
You can barely turn a Tokyo corner without bumping into an architecturally marvelous luxury-goods bastion (the glass-diamond bubbles of Herzog & de Meuron’s Prada store alone are worth the trip), but it’s not just the complete collection of big brands that makes this the shopping capital of the world. Labyrinthine department stores like Tokyu Hands, Mitsukoshi, and Matsuya are overflowing with affordable, uniquely Japanese little goodies and gizmos, and then there are homegrown superbrands like Uniqlo (dirt-cheap stylish basics) and Muji (ultraminimalist everything). It’s easy to do nothing but shop for a week—and still feel like you’ve soaked up the local culture.
(5) Boca Paila, The Yucatán
Get one-up on your fly-fishing buddies—forever.
They’re strong, they’re silent, and they’re incredibly elusive—which is why bonefish are the saltwater fly fisher’s most desired quarry, and Boca Paila, at the very bottom of the Yucatán’s Mayan Riviera, his paradise. It’s hidden in the middle of a 1.3 million–acre nature reserve, and the only way in is a seven-mile dirt road so rutted, bumpy, and slow that only true lovers of isolation would ever brave it. Which means that as you’re casting your eight-weight line for skittish bones in the lagoon’s turquoise water, you’ll probably be entirely alone—just as it should be (four-night, three-day package, meals and guide included, start at $1,668; 800-245-1950; bocapaila.com).
(6) Kerala, India
Glide through the forest on a houseboat.
A few miles inland from the crowded, touristy beaches of Kerala lies a network of villages linked by palm-fringed lagoons, estuaries, canals, and deltas. Rent a fully staffed kettuvallam along the boat jetty in Alleppey town and let your crew row leisurely around the waterways. In any direction, you’ll find dense palm groves, Chinese fishing nets, lushly green paddy fields, and sleepy, water-bound villages where you can bargain for souvenirs boatside. Park for the night near Pathiramanal Island, populated by rare, migrating birds; wake up early the next morning so you can see farmers working the flooded fields and ducks being herded by locals in small canoes, while you sip your steaming sweet-and-strong milky coffee and eat fresh mango, pineapple, and papaya.
(7) Glasgow, Scotland
Dance to the next big post-punk band.
Discover the new Franz Ferdinand (or Dogs Die in Hot Cars, or Snow Patrol, or Sons and Daughters) at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, Scotland. After the massive success of “Take Me Out,” Glasgow is ground zero for the post-punk revival, and King Tut’s—where Oasis was signed back in 1993—is its CBGB (44-141-221-5279).
(8) Macao, China
Immerse yourself in an old-fashioned gritty gambling den—fast.
Wynn in Macao? Sad but true. The deliciously seedy former Portuguese colony, under Chinese rule since 1999, is morphing into a glitzy Vegas-style mecca, with a Wynn, Venetian, and MGM Grand slated to open by 2007. But for now, the casinos are still smoke-filled, the crowd is still hard-core locals, and you can still feel like a character in a Tom Waits song. Aim straight for Casino Lisboa, a gaudy neon confection topped by an outlandish roulette wheel, on a Saturday evening, and bring cash; the high rollers throw down bills as well as chips.
(9) Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Take the secret route to a legendary peak.
Forget the crowded Marangu and Mweka trails of Tanzania’s most majestic peak; ascend instead by the rarely climbed Western Breach Route. It takes an extra two to five days, but the sunrise views from alongside the summit glacier over the African plains and the meditative state of deep isolation will shake up your soul (sixteen-day hikes with Mountain Travel Sobek, from $5,190 per person; 888-687-6235; mtsobek.com).
(10) Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Pretend you’re a mongol warrior.
You haven’t seen a big sky until you’ve loped through the Gobi Desert on a two-humped camel. No power lines, no roads, and very few other people; just 2,000-foot-high sand dunes rippling across the horizon. Go at sunset, when the 54-million-year-old, fossil-filled Gobi-Altai Mountains turn a honey-golden hue you’ll never forget. Return to the Three Camel Lodge “Ger” camp for local vodka on ice, a massage, and a night sky packed with brilliant stars (nomadicexpeditions.com).
(11) Vancouver, Canada
Gorge on superlative Japanese small plates—just across the border.
Vancouver has North America’s highest density of Japanese restaurants, which is why it’s way, way ahead of the rest of the continent when it comes to Nipponese- and Asian-influenced regional cuisine. Right now, enthusiasts are deep into a small-plate frenzy—think Barcelona meets Kyoto, with more rain and a stronger dollar. The nightly trek goes something like this: Tapastree’s (604-606-4680) silky lemon-brandy chicken liver, Lumière Tasting Bar’s (604-739-8185) lush kuri squash and mascarpone ravioli, and Bin 941’s (604-683-1246) dazzling ahi chow mein with pinot gris lime sauce. Those willing to hold out until the wee hours should head for Gyoza King (604-669-8278) after midnight, when off-duty sushi chefs and waiters order the succulent hot dumplings.
(12) St. Petersburg, Russia
Loot czarist treasures—legally.
So what if it’s 20 degrees outside? St. Petersburg’s slightly crumbly romance plays well against steely winter-gray skies, and even its subway (like the palatial Avtovo station seen here) pays homage to the past. And if you crave some of that opulence, the city is an antique-shopper’s paradise. Along Nevsky Prospekt, stores like Nasledie and Russkaya Starina routinely offer 200-year-old samovars, silver from aristocratic families, Vologda lace, and—if you believe the sales pitch—teacups that might have touched Tolstoy’s lips. If you’re not picky about provenance and on a budget, the bustling Udelnaya flea market (open daily; get there early for the best deals) always has porcelain statuettes, rare clocks, and Soviet knickknacks. Be ready to haggle, and check Customs regulations—there are byzantine restrictions.
(13) Savile Row, London
Buy your first bespoke suit.
Of all the bespoke tailors on this legendary street, Kilgour (formerly Kilgour French Stanbury) is the best entry to the world of bespoke. There’s a warm welcome and a staff of 50 tailors to help guide you through the process (allot a few hours to go through thousands of fabric samples). Under the direction of designer Carlo Brandelli, Kilgour’s traditionally lean cuts have gotten even hipper—flat-front pants and slim jackets with constructed shoulders. As for the necessary follow-up fittings, top tailor Ritchie (one name only, please) travels to the U.S. several times a year, so those can be done on your home turf. At $2,650 for an “entry-level bespoke,” it’s a bargain (44-207-734-6905).
(14) Varanasi, India
Stretch your body—and your mind.
There are more obvious Indian yoga meccas than Varanasi—Mysore, for instance, is the home of the Ashtanga system. But if you want to practice your asanas in a truly spiritual atmosphere, you can’t do better than the holiest of holy cities. Hindus believe that those who end their lives in Varanasi will attain instant enlightenment; even if you’re not quite that committed, you’ll at least find bliss. Get a room in the medieval labyrinth that is the old city, looking out on the ancient Ganges, and sign up for yoga classes at the Banaras Hindu University. Or go solo at one of the countless small shrines that dot the riverbank, or at the ghats—huge stone steps leading down to the river, where pilgrims bathe at daybreak, and early-morning meditation is literally sublime.
(15) Shenzhen, China
Tee off on a new golf course every day for a week.
Imagine Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, and Sea Island all in one location, and you’ll get a sense of Shenzhen’s new luxury mega golf resort, Mission Hills. Ten eighteen-hole courses stretch over 50 miles of lush fairways, all designed by PGA champions (Vijay, Ernie, Annika). The centerpiece is Jack Nicklaus’s World Cup Course—the first in China sanctioned for PGA tournament play. But start with Greg Norman’s monstrous creation, with endless high-backed and gleaming bunkers—not to mention a slope rating over 140 (read very difficult). Once you’ve played that, the par-three sixteenth on Nick Faldo’s course, with its minuscule island green, will feel easy (missionhillsgroup.com).
(16) Buenos Aires, Argentina
High-kick your way into the tango underground.
At Porteño y Bailarín, a below-the-radar Microcentro newcomer, co-founder Jose Garofalo leads informal crash courses on Tuesdays, coaching sweaty couples in the art of the high kick, the deep lunge, and the come-hither gaze. Stick around to test your new moves with porteños of all ages and skill levels at the milonga (a kind of tango rave) that kicks off about 11 p.m. Around midnight, head to the real action at La Catedral, an unmarked, underground club in the chic Palermo district, with a reddish glow and edgy art plastering the walls. Throw back a Fernet-Branca and Coke, a bitter B.A. favorite, and tango into the fray (porteybailarin.com.ar; parakultural.com.ar).
(17) Chitkul, India
Brush up against the border of Tibet.
Before Tibet’s border was closed to travelers, Chitkul was just another spectacularly situated, remote village on the trade route from India through the Himalayas. Now it’s the last legal outpost before the closed border, which gives it an outpost’s isolated glamour. Start your trek from Simla (a relative bastion of civilization 150 miles to the east), and bring aspirin: It’s a grueling, bumpy drive along cliff’s-edge roads. The goal is priceless, though: a tiny village of wooden houses, frozen in time, where the spectacularly beautiful Kinnauri inhabitants will insist you stop for a cup of locally brewed chuli (wild apricot) liquor.
(18) Lisbon, Portugal
Watch the sunrise from a medieval tower.
Book the 6:15 p.m. TAP Air Portugal flight from Newark to Lisbon, which touches down around 6 a.m. Take a taxi directly to the Palácio Belmonte, a converted section of a fifteenth-century castle, where you’ve booked the Bartolomeu de Gusmão room—a sprawling four-level suite in a Moorish octagonal tower. Splash some water on your face and go right to your private rooftop terrace, where the sun is rising over the city’s red rooftops and the sparkling harbor beyond. With any luck, just as the church bells are ringing, you’ll be surrounded by a flock of wild lime-green parrots racing off to start their day (about $840; 351-21-881-66-00).
(19) Londolozi Tree Camp, South Africa
Watch a warthog chow down below your feet.
The porcine tuskers really might run beneath your deck high in the jackalberry trees at the Londolozi Tree Camp in South Africa—and don’t be surprised if buffalo come to graze round the trunk, too. If that sounds a little too close to nature, sunset soaks in an open-air hot tub (after side-by-side massages) or the view of giraffes loping along in the distance should compensate (rooms from $600 a night, all-inclusive).
(20) Turin, Italy
Get great tickets to the Winter Olympics.
The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the national anthems you don’t recognize: This winter’s Olympics, held in Turin in the Italian Alps, are not entirely sold out, which means if you move fast enough, you can feel the breeze from Bode Miller’s 75-mph run down the giant slalom (CoSport; 877-457-4647; cosport.com).
(21) Machu Picchu, Peru
Be the king of the hill.
You can see Machu Picchu in a day, but why rush it? Atop the mountain, there’s one hotel—the Sanctuary Lodge—with only 31 rooms. And since all tour buses head down the mountain by 4:30 in the afternoon, the only folks remaining to wander these five square miles of mountaintop mystery are a handful of trekkers and the lodge guests. Whatever your views on the spirituality of the place, having Machu Picchu pretty much to yourself is, well, awesome (from $565; 800-237-1236).
(22) Victoria, Australia
Take the ultimate scenic route.
Forget Maui’s road to Hana, or pretty much any other scenic drive you’ve contemplated. If being behind the wheel is the stuff of your dreams, this is the apotheosis. The course starts in bayside Geelong, snakes west along the Southern Ocean to Warrnambool, and back to Melbourne (to do the 360-mile trip loop, allow at least four days). The views are so different from each direction that the return trip won’t look anything like the outward leg. Detour for a leg-stretch at the koala-filled Port Campbell National Park; by night, hoist beers with unreconstructed Aussies in slumbering whaling towns like Apollo Bay and Port Fairy. Make sure on day two that you reach the 180-foot natural-limestone piles known as the Twelve Apostles in time to watch the sun paint the sky behind them.
(23) Destination Club
Sample a superb second home.
A tastefully furnished 2,600-square-foot ski-in/ski-out log cabin, with stone fireplaces and mountain views, perfectly situated at the foot of Telluride village—and that’s just one of the fantastic second homes available through the Leading Hotels of the World’s new Leading Residences “destination club” (the tasteful way to say “time share”). For the $325,000 joining fee, you can hang your hat at twenty other top properties, like a beachfront villa in Cabo or an 1,800-square-foot suite with spectacular Eiffel Tower views at the Hotel Montalembert in Paris (lrwclub.com).
(24) Okavango Delta, Botswana
Swim with the hippos, scream with the monkeys.
There are powerboat tours through Botswana’s Okavango Delta that offer creature comforts like plush seating, not to mention safety rails, but for a truly at-one-with-nature experience, book a local guide for a predawn ride in a mokoro (a traditional dugout boat, similar to a canoe). As you paddle through the papyrus, the only thing you’ll hear is the unnervingly weird bellow of the hippopotamuses, the splish of the crocodiles, and the chattering of the vervet monkeys (don’t forget the mosquito repellent).
(25) Hoi An, Vietnam
Witness a full-moon ceremony.
The medieval village of Hoi An is exquisite even when the lights are on. But once a month when the moon is full, this jewel box of Chinese merchant houses and French colonial villas turns even more magical. On that night, the locals turn off all the electric lights and decorate every window sill and door with Chinese lanterns. Offerings are set out for the gods, candlelit boats float along Thu Bon River, and paper lanterns are released into the water as traditional music and dancing take place on the main square. Book a terrace table on the north side of the Song Hoai restaurant, at 9 p.m. Bring a wrap for when the goose bumps start (119-121 Nguyen Thai; 84-510-910-369).
(26) Colca, Peru
Get close to condors.
Don’t let the kids fall asleep on the bumpy four-hour bus ride from Arequipa to Colca; they’ll miss the national nature reserve where alpacas are as populous as the squirrels in Central Park. After you’ve checked into one of the seven rooms at El Parador del Colca (your terrace looks right down into the 10,000-foot plummet of Colca Canyon—twice the depth of the Grand Canyon), ramble around the lush grounds, with fishable trout ponds, a garden supplying the restaurant’s menu, and views of seven nearby volcanoes. Go to bed early, though, because you must be out the door by 6 a.m. for the one-hour drive to La Cruz del Condor. Stake out a cliffside spot near the adobe cross that marks the Andean giant-condor sanctuary. With any luck, as many as 25 will rise from the depths of the canyon with the sun, spread their ten-foot wings in unison, and ride the thermals out into the horizon.
(27) The Maldives
Roll out of bed, straight into the ocean.
Even though it’s been a regular on the jet-setter beach circuit for a while, the Maldives has still managed to keep a relatively humble vibe (in other words, no high-rise hotels with wraparound concrete balconies). The new One&Only Maldives at Reethi Rah maintains that low-key feeling. Individual bungalows are generous but not garish, and the thatched roofs and wooden verandas work with the surroundings. Of course, inside is another matter; there are bamboo arches, flat-screen LCD TVs, and espresso machines next to the minibar. And if you book a water villa, you’ll get a hammock suspended over the azure Indian Ocean, so if you want to go for a swim, all you have to do is roll over (from $625; 866-552-0001).
(28) Ome, Japan
Go to the source for sake.
Scotch-whiskey tastings are passé, so go to Japan in winter to catch the height of sake-brewing season. Like New York bagels, the secret is in the water—many brands of Japanese sake are made at small, family-run breweries that draw from local water sites, lending subtle differences in taste and quality from region to region. In Ome, the picturesque Ozawa Shuzo brewery combines well and spring water to create a delightfully light, dry Sawanoi. Savor it amid the 300-year-old brewery’s traditional architecture while admiring the perfectly framed views of the snowcapped mountains and the Tama River outside (81-428-78-8215).
(29) Dublin, Ireland
Remind yourself that theater is a living art.
World-class productions, classically trained actors, fifteen-euro tickets, and Guinness on tap during intermission. Is there still a reason to fight through London’s overcrowded, overhyped, overpriced West End? The hot ticket in Dublin this winter is the Abbey’s production of Lennox Robinson’s satire Drama at Inish. Also, at the Gate until November 29 is Betrayal, by Nobelist Harold Pinter, part of the Pinter 75 Festival (abbeytheatre.ie; gate-theatre.ie).
(30) Fiji, French Polynesia
Feel like you’re part of the family.
It’s on its own island, and only nine couples at a time can go. The new spa offers wasai (water shiatsu) and ten-handed massages. But the best part of Fiji’s Wakaya Club is the staff of 200, who call out Bula! with such delight when they see you, you suspect it’s a cry of joy, not just their way of saying “hello.” No wonder that, despite Wakaya’s rustic-luxe accommodations, your favorite memory will be when—if—the staff invites you to a lovo, a celebratory feast on the beach. While a pig roasts in the sand, Chef Moko and his staff sing, dance, and tell simple but affecting stories. Okay, you’re probably not the first person who’s heard them. But when the staff surrounds your plane before you leave and sings farewell, have a Kleenex handy (679-3448-128).
(31) Sydney, Australia
Catch truly fresh fish.
For anyone accustomed to the muted grays and blues of local catches, Sydney’s Fish Market is a color carnival of vivid orange, red, green, and silver. The auction starts at 5:30 a.m., and though there’s a tour at 7 a.m., most of the action is already done by then. Get there early to see the full range of exotics: googly-eyed black oreos, sleek king threadfins, and glittering golden trevallys. If you’re not too sleepy, you can pick one out, take it downstairs, and have it for lunch—sushi style or fried up with fat salty chips and a crisp local white—at the tables under the docks where the next catch is arriving (sydneyfishmarket.com.au).
Follow your nose through the Atlas Mountains.
Morocco is such a scent-heavy country that every minute inside a car or, worse, a tour bus feels like a wasted opportunity to inhale another perfume. The turmeric and orange-scented markets in Fez, the earthy dust of the Djemaa El Fna in Marrakech, and, best of all, the sweet woodsmoke that pervades the Atlas Mountains and the desert beyond tell more about the country than any microphone-toting tour guide. Which is why the best way to crisscross the country is with your snout to the wind, on top of a motorcycle—a boss BMW R 1150 R Rockster, for one—led, of course, by a crew who’ll navigate, negotiate, tote luggage, and repair as needed (edelweissbike.com).
(33) Tulum, Mexico
Give your stomach a rest.
Adding the new three-day fruit-and-veggie fast on top of Amansala’s already notorious Bikini Boot Camp could mean that your growling stomach will distract from your aching muscles. But after 72 hours of jícama-and-carrot salad, gazpacho, and fruit smoothies, you’ll be boasting that inimitable purified glow (amansala.com; $1,575 per person for six days).
(34) Venice, Italy
Pull out all the romantic stops.
You probably think it’s too corny to go to Venice for a romantic getaway; after all, the Piazza San Marco attracts as many honeymooners as it does pigeons. But here’s the loveliest way to find out why some clichés are worth giving in to. Reserve one of the rooms numbered 375 through 380, in the section of the moody but opulent Hotel Danieli called the Danielino. The room won’t be as big as you hoped it would be, but who cares, because when you two step out onto its balcony at sunset as the pink-tinged streetlamps flicker on over the Grand Canal, there’ll be chills, hugs, and kisses (39-04-1522-6480).
(35) British Columbia
Ski your own private freshies.
In the high peaks of British Columbia’s Selkirk and Purcell mountains, there are about a dozen remote ski lodges, accessible only by chopper or Sno-Cat—and mile after mile of deep, unbroken powder. Hike or skin up, float down, then do it again. And again. All for about a quarter of the price of heli-skiing. Though all of the lodges are quite basic, Purcell Mountain Lodge is the swankiest option, with a sauna and organic cuisine. At the other extreme is the Selkirk Backcountry Lodge, with no-frills accommodations (with outhouses) but awesome open bowls and steep couloirs above the treeline. In between, Sorcerer Lodge sits on the edge of an alpine lake that’s the perfect setting for epic post-powder beers and barbecue (from about $1,500 per week, all-inclusive; backcountrylodgesofbc.com).
(36) Escondido, California
Let a superb spa take control of your life.
For bar-setting luxury mixed with body-punishing workouts, the women-only Golden Door in Escondido, California, is still the time-tested best. Your every moment is planned, from the 6 a.m. power hikes and each pretty, garden-fresh meal (the scooplets of sorbet are served in frozen day lilies), to the daily afternoon massages and the labyrinth walk before bedtime. You may cry during the surprisingly cathartic silent-meditation hike (offered in January and July), but the sunrise outside your window (room G6 has the best view) will make up for it (from $6,750 per week; 800-424-0777).
(37) Trastevere, Italy
Get in on the happening Roman art scene.
Imagine Chelsea. Now imagine Chelsea dotted with cypress trees, Vespas, and a gelateria on every other corner. Rome’s contemporary-art scene, anchored by stars like Manfredi Beninati, Micol Assael, Lara Favaretto, and Alberto di Fabio, is taking off—and you’ll find the prices are nowhere near as astronomical as in markets like New York and London (you can get a small Beninati for about 5,000 euros). Start touring after lunch (most galleries are open 3 to 7 p.m.) at Galleria Lorcan O’Neill Roma (1E Via Orti D’Alibert), walk south to Studio Miscetti (14 Via delle Mantellate) and then hit 2RC (15A Via delle Mantellate), Volume! (86-88 Via San Francesco di Sales), and Extraspazio (16A Via San Francesco di Sales). The galleries are small (don’t be afraid to knock loudly if the door’s closed), which means you can browse them all in one day, and go back the next day to buy.
(38) Fox, Alaska
Bow down to the northern lights at a bluesy dive bar.
38 On winter nights, the northern lights set the sky over Fox on fire with shimmering waves of vivid fuchsias, blues, and pinks in a light show that beggars description. It can get a little chilly after a while, though—the temperature hovers around 15 degrees—so make the Howling Dog Saloon (907-456-4695) your home base. The eclectic crowd (geology students, bikers alike) will be drinking Silver Gulch beer (it’s brewed across the street) and—if it’s Wednesday—rocking out to local favorites the Mighty Untouchables. Go before the heavy December snow drifts settle in, and watch out for moose.
(39) Paris, France
Go to Paris for a dance.
39Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus is a towering figure in modern dance, but he rarely brings his troupe to the States. Aficionados should book their tickets now for Puur, his most recent creation, at Paris’s Théâtre de la Ville. Best seats: fifth row, seats 43 to 46. Puur runs from November 29 to December 3.
(40) Chicago, Illinois
Eat the most innovative cuisine in America—really.
No offense to the Windy City, but there’d better be a damn good reason to go there in winter. Here are three: the sushi wrapped in edible paper from former Charlie Trotter’s chef Homaro Cantu at Moto (312-491-0058); the meltingly tender tempura-fried pork belly from French Laundry alumnus Grant Achatz, at Alinea (312-867-0110); and the ostrich with eucalyptus-infused yogurt from Graham Elliot Bowles at Avenues (312-573-6754).
(41) Santiago, Chile
Taste the cutting edge of red wine.
Napa is lovely, and France has tradition on its side, but for sheer romance and drama—and, of course, fascinatingly complex, bravura reds—Chile takes the wine taster’s tour prize. Specifically, the Concha y Toro vineyard (56-2-476-5269), about 45 minutes south of Santiago. Stand on the front porch of the founder’s romantic nineteenth-century wedding cake of a mansion and breathe in the scent of jasmine from the garden (it’s summer there, so all is abloom); then, just as you’re sinking into serenity, turn around and get a jolt from the looming, jagged Andes peaks that form a backdrop. Now you’re ready for your first glass of Casillero del Diablo, made with the Carménère varietal that’s pushing Merlot to the side. Other must-stops: the Colchagua Valley’s Montes (56-2-248-4805), Bisquertt (56-2-946-1540), and Casa Lapostolle (56-2-426-9960).
(42) New Zealand
Ride a horse across Middle Earth.
Visiting New Zealand ranks high on a lot of must-go trip lists; riding across Lord of the Rings territory is an equestrian thrill of a lifetime. On horseback you can trot and canter across surrealistically green sheep-dotted pastures and rocky, vertigo-inducing cliffs that hikers (much less cars) can’t get near. The trip’s highlight: a heart-in-mouth gallop over a 30-mile stretch of hard-packed, uninhabited sand along the North Island’s Kaipara Sound. Experienced riders only; this is no pony ride (equitours.com; 800-545-0019).
(43) Canoe Bay, Wisconsin
Fight cold with cold.
As romantic as a Vermont country inn can be, why not go someplace really off-the-map, where you won’t be sharing the breakfast room with five other couples from New York? At the rustic-luxe Canoe Bay, tucked away on 280 acres of forested land in northwestern Wisconsin, you’ll have the snowy cross-country trails to yourselves. You can also book in-room, fireside massages and have a private dinner in the resort’s 700-bottle wine cellar. It’s true that nighttime temps often dip below zero, but that’ll only heighten the pleasure of snuggling up in your own secluded cedar cottage in front of the fire with a blanket and a bottle of First Growth Château Haut-Brion (from $325, all-inclusive; 715-924-4594; canoebay.com).
(44) Popokvil, Cambodia
Explore a French ghost town in the jungle.
The ruins of Popokvil atop Bokor Mountain are just as spooky as Angkor Wat, but much less traveled. About 100 miles from Phnom Penh, near the quiet river town of Kampot, a ravaged road leads up through a lush forest to a cloud-shrouded plateau. There, you’ll find the remains of a French colonial-era town—a crumbling post office, an empty Catholic church, and a creepy hotel-casino. After clambering about the ruins all day, sit on the cliff’s edge and watch the sun sink into the Gulf of Thailand below.
(45) Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda
Drop the kids at a pirate ship while you hit the beach.
Most midwinter family beach getaways end up with at least one member bored, sunburned, and otherwise resentful. Virgin Gorda’s Little Dix Bay has distractions to satiate even the most blasé teen (kayaking, snorkeling) and toddler-appropriate supervised play in a 2,500-square-foot area that includes a miniature pirate ship. Best of all, you’re not doing the supervising (there’s a staff ratio of one to three), leaving you free to get a massage under the palms or a floating nap on a raft in the sea. See you at dinner, kids! (From $900 for a suite; 888-767-3966.)
(46) The British Virgin Islands
Wake up on a different island each day.
Start from Tortola, on your staffed, chartered sailboat, and spend the next eight days hopscotching across the sapphire-blue waters of the British Virgin Islands to a different beach every day. (Salt Cay, Jost Van Dyke, and Virgin Gorda are must-hits on the BVI circuit.) Snorkle, swim, eat, sleep; funny, it never gets boring (from $8,220 a week; Moorings, 888-952-8420).
(47) Todos Santos, Mexico
Lounge on a truly deserted beach.
If your vacation vocation is finding the beach that makes you most feel like you’ve been hooked up to a Demerol drip, hop on a plane to Todos Santos, a tiny village in Baja, Mexico, 60 miles outside Cabo San Lucas. Getting there is tricky; there are bandits to dodge, and plentiful crosses mark the highway fatalities. But once you see the sea, everything is forgiven. The first hundred yards is all trustafarians and fish-taco stands (don’t eat the guacamole), but walk three more minutes and you’ll hit pristine, deserted sands that make the Caribbean look like the Jersey shore.
Carve your way to the South Pole.
If you’ve got some time to kill this winter—three and a half weeks, to be precise—Quark Expeditions is launching its first-ever journey to the South Pole aboard the Kapitan Khlebnikov, a deluxe (well, there’s a pool and a sauna, anyway) Russian icebreaker. This isn’t just about penguin-spotting, though: The 26-day trip’s goal is to surpass Amunsden’s historic 1911 expedition and attain the most southernly position ever reached by a ship. Besides making history, you’ll see Hooker’s sea lions, red-crowned parakeets, and, of course, lots of those cute, family-oriented waddlers (quarkexpeditions.com).
Do laps in your bathtub.
You go to the St. Regis Temenos Villas in Anguilla because the three 5,000-square-foot villas are operated like a five-star resort (devoted butlers, private chefs, immaculate grounds, buttery sheets on king-size beds). But you may find once you get there that you don’t actually want to leave your room, even for the infinity pool and the terrace massages. With fifteen-foot ceilings, indoor and outdoor showers, and lighting provided by the sun over your head, the bathroom is hypnotic. Plan ahead if you want to take a bath: The recessed tub takes about an hour to fill (from $50,000 per week; 888-625-5144).
(50) Ramah, New Mexico
Take the family back to the old, old days.
In the early morning, when the desert cool hasn’t yet burned away, it only takes about 25 minutes to walk from the visitors’ center of Ramah’s El Morro National Monument park out to Inscription Rock. There, you can explain to the kids that the 2,000-plus birds, stars, hands, bighorn sheep, and maps that purportedly lead to a hidden pond were drawn seven centuries ago by Puebloan tribes. While you’ve got their attention, point out the various signatures and “I was here” scrawls left by passing Spaniards, settlers, and other travelers since, and then tempt them up the more strenuous Mesa Top Trail with promises of a Martian landscape (the otherworldly Chain of Craters). Reward them with a Navajo fry-bread taco with Anasazi beans at the Ancient Way Café and Outpost.
Edited by Tara Mandy.
Contributors: Kate Appleton, Kathleen Beckett, Tim Blanks, Sara Cardace, Katie Charles, Ondine Cohane, Julie Earle-Levine, Scott Goetz, Matt Gross, Mark Horowitz, Nichole Marks, Diane Mehta, Janelle Nanos, Steve Noveck, Larry Olmsted, Denise Penny, Danielle Pergament, Corrie Pikul, Adam Platt, Aaron Rasmussen, Stephen Rodrick, Hal Rubenstein, Rima Suqi, Stacia Thiel, Ben Williams, and Jada Yuan.