Everyone’s favorite white-sand archipelago off the Tanzanian coast today draws visitors with bongo-flava hip-hop and the historic architecture of its capital. Start by exploring the labyrinthine alleyways of Stone Town, Zanzibar City’s oldest area. Take Mizingani Road, past the House of Wonders, where the Zanzibari sultan lived with 100 concubines a century ago (now a history and culture museum) to the Dhow Countries Music Academy (zanzibarmusic.org). Get a lesson in local taarab music or watch a rehearsal for the next Sautiza Busara festival, which draws about 20,000 African music lovers every February (busaramusic.com). And before disappearing into the island’s forests and beaches, pick up a few vibrantly patterned kanga or kikoi wraps at the sewing workshop-school, Upendo (upendomeanslove.com).
The small two-bedroom White Sands cottage in the town of Paje opens onto its own stretch of beach (from $850 per week; holidaylettings.co.uk).
Stay in one of ten palm-thatched bandas on private island Mnemba, where there’s a good chance of watching turtles hatch (from $1,155 per person per night, meals included, along with two diving trips per day; andbeyondafrica.com).
A far cry from constantly thrumming Delhi and Mumbai, India’s northwest state of Rajasthan exchanges city crowds for sprawling desert landscapes, colorfully painted palaces, and ancient mountaintops temples. The new Maharajas’ Express (rirtl.com) offers weeklong tours of the region for $7,160. But for a hundredth of that, you can build your own itinerary, taking public trains from town to town and crashing inside a different opulent, centuries-old residence each night. In romantic lakeside Udaipur, sail to Taj Lake Palace (tajhotels.com), a 260-year-old marble castle in the middle of Lake Pichola, for a sunset dinner at rooftop restaurant Bhairo. And, for the full Jungle Book experience, go tiger spotting in Ranthambore National Park, where Katy Perry and Russell Brand got married last year at a $1,000-a-night resort. Ignore the tourist-gouging hotel packages and reserve your safari directly through the park for just $11 (rajasthanwildlife.com).
Where to Stay
Beyond lush courtyards, 20,000-square-foot mansion Madhu Pushp Bhawan has marble floors and tapestry-covered walls (from $32; theotherhome.com).
Home-cooked meals are served in a peaceful, hummingbird-filled garden at Ajmer Bungalow (above, right), a Colonial-era home in the hills (from $100; ajmerbungalow.com).
Go “glamping” at Rasa Resort, where private tents have bay windows, canopy beds, and views of the “pink city” of Jaipur (from $208; rasaresorts.in).
Ho Chi Minh City
It’s boom time for Ho Chi Minh City (né Saigon), that tropical, French-infused metropolis known for its neon signs, Colonial architecture, 50-cent bánh mìs, and kamakazi motorbikes. Take the city’s pulse from on high at the Bitexco Financial Tower, with its sleek, spinelike design and soaring observation deck (from $10; bitexconfinancialtower.com) Return to street level to shop L’Usine (lusinespace.com), an impossibly trendy design-concept store in an old Parisian-style ballroom that doubles as a coffee shop. For unmatched clay-pot dishes, dine at Cuc Gach Quán (cucgachquan.com.vn/en), run by an architect and his wife in an old Colonial home they’ve done up with antique music machines and koi ponds.
Where to Stay
Situated in the city’s geographical and cultural heart, this spacious two-bedroom apartment is well-lit, simply furnished, and has Wi-Fi and cable (from $36; airbnb.com/rooms/131580).
A five-minute walk from bustling Ben Thành Market, this modern, book-filled studio is itself on a quiet block (from $49; airbnb.com/rooms/158498).
The villa turned hotel Ma Maison Boutique in District 3 has just a dozen rooms, most with private balconies, and recently got a Provence-style makeover (from $69; mamaison.vn).
Byron Bay, Australia
The former whaling and dairy town has evolved into Australia’s hippest—and perhaps hippiest—beach destination, an appealing amalgam of Santa Cruz and Malibu, where surfers, artists, and anarchists mingle with the Sydney fashion set. After exploring the flawless beaches—Wategos for picnics and surfing, Tallow for dolphin sightings, Main Beach for people watching—embark on a café crawl down Jonson Street, hopping from Bayleaf Café (612-6685-8900) for espresso to One One One for wine (612-6680-7388) to Byron Beach Cafe (byronbeachcafe.com.au) for steamed mussels.
Where to Stay
Set up one block from downtown at this three-bedroom cottage with a fenced-in yard and a barbecue deck (from $290; vrbo.com/371981).
The four-bedroom Ammamead is grand, modern, and has its own 52-foot saltwater lap pool (from $625, three-night minimum; byron-bay.com/ammamead).
The rooms at Beach Hotel (above, right) are spare, but there’s a bustling restaurant and wineshop within the complex (from $275; Bay Street; beachhotelresort.com.au).
*This story has been corrected to show that Zi Villa is 14,000-square-feet, not 4,000-square-feet.