Finding a unique destination is becoming more & more challenging. Suddenly, all of the “lesser know” places are known, and the “undiscovered” spots have been discovered (and are now bustling tourist spots). Which is great, don’t get me wrong (viva la tourism industry). But, I’m still always on the lookout for new destinations, that are a bit off the beaten path, and yet still possess as much charm & beauty as some of their better know sister cities.
So, I teamed up with several travel bloggers to create this list of surprisingly awesome cities that are hot this year.
Scroll down to read about these amazing cities!
Image by Kitty to City
“Antigua has it all; colonial charm, outdoor adventures, shopping, and pocket friendly prices. Town center is lined with cobblestone streets, ruins from old Catholic churches, and Spanish style architecture. Spend a day wandering about the ruins and museums to get a feel for this city’s rich history.
Surrounded by three active volcanoes, Antigua is the hub for several nearby adventure sports. Hike to the top of the nearby Pacaya volcano, go zip lining through the jungle, or rent a motorcycle and explore the surrounding countryside. If shopping is your thing, take a walk around town; posh fashion boutiques as well as local handicraft stores dot the streets. In the need for a birds eye view? Hop on the free shuttle up to Cerro San Cristobal, a farm to table restaurant nestled in the hills. Sip on a glass of wine, listen to local musicians, and enjoy the scenery on their outdoor terrace that overlooks the city and surrounding volcanoes.
Guatemala is budget friendly. You can easily get by spending less than $50 a day. What’s not to love? You’ve got history, architecture, and a lush landscape…and you won’t break the bank.”
“Chicago is one of those awesome cities that gets overlooked on lists like this nearly every year; most people focus on the U.S. cities along the coast including New York, San Francisco, Miami, and Los Angeles: in my opinion Chicago beats them all.
Chicago is ‘coastal,’ too: it’s nestled along the shores of Lake Michigan making for perfect freshwater swimming and sandy beaches that can be enjoyed during the amazing summers. In the winter, they get chilly, snowy weather on par with any you’ll find in New England. People are also ridiculously friendly: this is the Midwest, after all!
My favorite part about Chicago, and why it should be on your list, is the food and drink. In the past decade, chefs, restauranteurs, and bartenders have been transforming Chicago into a city where it’s hard to find a neighborhood where people aren’t raving about an amazing new restaurant. Chicago is also considered one of the best cocktail cities in America, if that’s your style. If you’ve never made Chicago part of your must-see list, 2016 is definitely the year.”
“As a lover of the great outdoors, Denver has been a favorite city of mine since my first pass through Rocky Mountain National Park. And as a skier, I was somewhat upset that my first real visit to the city was in the off-season, when Vail, Brighton, and Keystone were all bare of snow. But what I found is that a visit in the off season can be just as thrilling – a paradise for climbers, hikers, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
It was on this trip that I first tried my hand at outdoor climbing, just outside of Denver in Golden, Colorado – home of the Coors brewery. The scenery is stunning and climbing is perfect for adrenaline junkies like me who are missing the snow. I climbed with experienced friends so I had no need for a tour guide, but I’d also recommend a guided tour (like Colorado Mountain School).
After the climb, we kicked back to enjoy some house brewed beer – and kombucha! – at Golden City Brewery’s lovely outdoor patio before heading back into the city. I just love that Denver has so much to offer no matter the season!”
Image by Emily Luxton
“Earlier this year, I visited Dundee in Scotland for the first time. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t expecting much more than a rainy industrial town; before I went, someone even told me “you’ll be disappointed”. But I was in fact very pleasantly surprised. Dundee has recently been named the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design, and what I discovered – despite the dramatic Scottish weather – was a city blazing with creativity and art. Not only in the galleries and museums, but also in cool co-working spaces, quirky shops, trendy new restaurants and bars, and the seriously amazing shared artists studios at Meadow Mill. There’s so much going on, the vibe is really cool, and best of all the people of Dundee are infectiously passionate about the exciting changes in their town!”
Image by Sarah Sees the World
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
“I had a 9 hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, between flights last year and I wanted to use it wisely. I was on my way home from South East Asia and was looking forward to getting home to the Western world, but found Kuala Lumpur was a fantastic melting pot of cultures in a clean and modern city.
The Petronas Twin Towers were not only iconic but the mall below the towers was awesome for shopping and included many of my favourite chain stores.
I also headed up the Menara tower for a 360 degree view of the city, and we were swept straight from the ticket up to the open deck 421 metres above ground level in next to no time. There were plenty of cheap and cheerful places to eat and an Uber across the city cost me less than $2NZ.”
Mexico City, Mexico
“I just went to Mexico City for the first time, and it was surprisingly awesome. It reminded me a lot of Buenos Aires with its leafy boulevards, wide plazas and neoclassical architecture. The food was amazing- you can find authentic food from all over Mexico, as well as great international food. Another huge plus is that Mexico City is really cheap – we stayed at a four-star hotel for about $150 a night, and we were able to eat at fine-dining restaurants for a fraction of what it would cost in the US or Europe.”
Image by A Little Adrift
“I loved Tbilisi, Georgia. There was just something unexpectedly charming about the city. The Old Town has gorgeous architecture, the country has a culture of hospitality, and the wine is delicious. It’s low on the radar for many travelers, but high on charm and culture — and it’s affordable too!”
“When I think of the ideal city, I think pretty views, lovely skyline, hip coffee shops, and tons to do. Vancouver completely exceeded my expectations and is surprisingly lovely. The Granville Island Market is big and there is plenty of fresh produce as well as wonderful vendors and products to discover. Grab breakfast or lunch there and if it’s nice out go sit by the water. Downtown Vancouver has many boutiques and restaurants to keep shoppers busy all day.
A great day in Vancouver includes walking along Waterfront Drive and checking out the food trucks or stopping in at a fancy restaurant. You can buy pure maple syrup in any of the gift shops and when you are in Gastown make sure you take pictures of the old steam clock. Vancouver is also home to many talented street musicians and it makes walking around at any time of day quite entertaining.
If you like the outdoors, not 15 minutes away from downtown you can take the BC Highway 99 to Capilano Suspension bridge. The views are breathtaking and the trees are beautiful. If you love animals make sure you take a short trip to Steveston and do a Whale Watching tour. (Did you know, Steveston is the town where they film Once Upon a Time in? If you are lucky you can catch them filming!) You would also be surprised to know that Vancouver is a popular filming destination. Just do a google search to find out what famous movies were filmed there. Vancouver is a clean and beautiful city and it has something for everyone.”
I’d love to hear what surprisingly awesome cities you’ve visited and loved? Have you been to any of the cities mentioned in this post? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing about new destinations to add to my bucket list. 😉
Image credit: Please notice that all copyrighted images are labeled with photo credits. Any images not specifically labeled with photo credits in this article are acquired from Pixabay or are in the Public Domain. A big thanks to all the creative photographers responsible for these amazing images!