As we at Hideaways travel the world, we're always on the lookout for destinations that celebrate those special things—like history, culture, and pristine beauty—that set them apart from every other place. And it seems discerning travelers like you share our interest in experiencing places like these that are unique, not heavily touristed, and even downright cool.
And so, here are our Top 12 Soon-To-Be-Hot Destinations for 2012. Hint: Go now before the rest of the world discovers our little secrets! And to ensure you travel with confidence and member-only perks and privileges, plan your escape with an expert Travel Specialist at Hideaways Travel Services (toll-free: 800-843-4433).
This lush, rugged Caribbean island, pronounced Doe-mi-NEE-kah, is ideal for nature lovers interested in an island vacation that's packed with adventure but not people. You won't find any touristy beaches here, nor will you find the suffocating crowds that accompany them. But you will find volcanic peaks, rain forests, lush valleys, national parks, 365 rivers, and waterfalls as well as the last remaining home of the indigenous Carib Indians, which gives you an irresistible glimpse of the way the Caribbean used to be. Don't miss hiking, diving, snorkeling, and whale watching. Recommended hideaway: The Fort Young Hotel. For more insight, members are invited to read: Paradise Found on Dominica.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
This "city of one hundred spires" is one of Europe's most dazzling, with its art, architecture, and music. To add to Prague's appeal, it's also more affordable than comparable (and very touristy) cities like London, Paris, and Rome—and the dollar's recent gains on the euro make it even more affordable. While here, stroll along the famous Charles Bridge, visit at least one museum (like St. Agnes Convent, which houses an impressive medieval and early Renaissance art collection), and sample some famous Czech lager. Recommended hideaway: The Aria. For more insight, members are invited to read: Prelude in Prague.
Yes, Fiji is as seductive as you've heard! And it's a relative bargain compared to Tahiti—it's also more intimate and doesn't have all the big chain hotels. With more than 330 islands in the Fijian archipelago, you'll have a wonderful time island-hopping around the South Seas, where you can visit native villages with welcoming locals, hike tropical highlands, explore a sacred cave, and swim in warm, clear waters. Recommended hideaways: LikuLiku, Taveuni Island Resort & Spa, Yasawa Island Resort, and Nukubati. Take note: With non-stop flights from LAX, Fiji is an easy option for an exotic beach vacation.
Colombia has a wealth of attractions, from sophisticated cities to extensive nature preserves, beaches, the coffee triangle, and ancient colonial architecture—and all are now much more inviting since the country has become safer. That said, there is a distinct lack of luxury hotels in Colombia, so this is decidedly not a do-it-yourself destination—you'll want to enlist the assistance of an expert Hideaways Travel Specialist to ferret out appropriate upscale vacation rentals and then coordinate and book all the elements of your experience. Recommended hideaways: Luxury villa and apartment rentals in city and beach locations.
Let the masses make their way to Thailand and Vietnam. You know better—you'll discover an authentic Asia (without all the tourists!) in Myanmar. Known for its impressive temples and the "Road to Mandalay," this country was described by Rudyard Kipling as "quite unlike any place you know about" . . . and, some 100 years later, his sentiment is still true. Myanmar is a place you have to see to believe, where the past is truly present and you're delighted by experiences you know you'll only have here, like encountering monks and their performing cats, or savoring a spoonful of monhinga, the national noodle dish of Myanmar—a fish soup served with fermented noodles, chickpea fritters, crushed red chili, fried onions, fresh cilantro, and lime wedges. With one sip, your taste buds will be utterly transported (after all, it's only fitting they should travel as far as you have). Recommended hideaway: Governor's Residence.
Even when Europe's economy was soaring, Portugal was relatively inexpensive. Now, with economies around Europe in trouble and the euro cheaper than it's been in a long time, Portugal is an even better bargain. We suggest traveling to Porto in the north, where you can sample some fabulous wines along with a different culture; or to the classy and hip beach town of Cascais, the most upscale slice of Lisbon's "Riviera;" or maybe to the Azores, where each island is as different as one Hawaiian island is from the other, and all are beautiful—just without any beaches to speak of. Recommended hideaways: Reid's Palace, Lapa Palace, Pestana Porto, and especially any of the authentic Pousadas de Portugal properties which are usually historic buildings—castles, convents, and such—that have been converted into country (and city) hotels. Or try a cruise with AmaWaterways. For more insight, members are invited to read: Portugal, a Perpetual Delight and Traveler's Journal: The Azores: So Near, and Yet So Far.
Nearly free from the overdevelopment that afflicts many Central American hot spots, Panama is a refreshing collection of natural beauties: beaches, rain forest, mountains, and even a volcano. These days, Panama also is seeing a lot of growth, with new luxe hotels and resorts opening and more cruise ships calling on port cities. With the expansion of the Panama Canal scheduled for completion in 2014, now is the time to explore this country before literally dozens more large ships come to call. Recommended hideaways: Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge and Panamonte Inn & Spa. Or cruise the Panama Canal with lines like Crystal Cruises and Oceania Cruises.
8. Wine Regions of New Zealand (Hawke's Bay and Napier)
New Zealand is about the size of California, which seems fitting since both destinations are known for their world-class "new world" wines. Because it's just a little harder to get to for North American travelers, New Zealand's wine country is a new and "hot" destination for those who've already done U.S. and European wine tours. And the boon you'll enjoy in elbow room and enthusiastic service, not to mention that irresistible "Kiwi" accent, will certainly make up for a few more hours spent on an airplane. Once outside the tasting room, enjoy this bucolic country's host of other pleasing attributes, like its ecological heritage—more than 30 percent of New Zealand's land has been set aside for national parks and reserves where outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy thrilling hikes, arresting alpine drives, and fabulous trout fishing. Recommended hideaways: Cape Kidnappers in the Hawke's Bay region; call Hideaways Travel Services for other small boutique hotel and wine-estate recommendations. Take note: Think about combining this trip with the wine regions of Australia—it would certainly be a toast-worthy adventure! For more insight, members are invited to read: A Vacation Down Under in New Zealand and "Jumping" Into the "City of Sails".
This tiny Caribbean island just north of Venezuela is known as one of the best dive destinations in the world. Yet, despite its obvious appeal, it's not as crowded and touristy as other Caribbean islands. Why? Well, here's the rub: Bonaire isn't particularly easy to get to from the US. Once there, however, you'll find it well worth any additional effort for your reward of relaxing on pristine beaches, biking stark desert terrain, and, of course, snorkeling or diving along an entire coastline that's a strictly protected national park. Bonaire's offshore reefs lie outside the hurricane belt and harbor an exquisite rainbow of marine life. Visibility is exceptional, typically 100 feet or more, and the range of dive sites is amazing, from wrecks to shallows to dramatic walls. Recommended hideaway: Harbour Village.
This Asian country, bordered by Thailand and Vietnam, currently is defining its future. As it does, it's being careful to preserve the best from its past, like Angkor Wat, Cambodia's distinctive temple complex. This UNESCO World Heritage site is truly the most breathtaking collection of temples you'll ever see. Then there's Siem Reap. This city has undergone a renaissance of sorts that celebrates its best qualities, like a waterfront location, and encourages new ones, like its emerging world-class dining. Recommended hideaway: Seabourn has altered its itineraries for Asian cruises in early 2012, adding more exotic port calls—like Sihanoukville, Cambodia's up-and-coming beach resort—for the 208-passenger Seabourn Pride. For more insight, members are invited to read: Getting to Know: Cambodia's ODA Free English School.
11. European River Cruising
River cruising has always been one of the best values for Americans needing their European "fix." This method of touring— cruising aboard a river vessel and experiencing the countryside, villages, cuisine, wine, and culture at a relaxing 5 mph—offers a great way to explore many European countries, including up-and-coming Russia. Along the way, you'll experience scenery that ranges from bucolic to dramatic, and all that without language difficulties, without getting lost, without packing and unpacking, and without much effort. In fact, in most cases you'll be traveling in the lap of luxury. And your budget will be relatively fixed, as these voyages are mostly all-inclusive. Recommended lines: AmaWaterways, Viking River Cruises, and DouroAzul. For more insight, members are invited to read: As You Like It: European River Cruising.
Japan is making a comeback in the aftermath of its 2011 earthquake/tsunami tragedy, and discerning travelers are taking notice. Sure, the language is a bit of a barrier, and this certainly is not a destination for those on a tight budget. However, Japan deserves to be on your bucket list for its many appeals, from the beaches of Okinawa to the ski slopes of Hokkaido, and from the culture of Kyoto to the modern art scene of Naoshima and the divine dining in Tokyo. Take note: We recommend discovering Japan on a custom tour led by local experts, especially one that blends city experiences with a visit to the Japanese countryside and villages, where you'll find a very different Japan. For more insight, members are invited to read: Tokyo: Lost & Found in Translation.
Bonus: "Bonding" Travel
Just as a postcard isn't nearly as exciting as actually visiting a destination in person, there's an enormous (and thrilling!) difference between just seeing a place and diving headfirst into its experiences, especially when you're doing that with friends, family, or a special someone. We're talking about sailing schools, bareboat charters, fishing trips, cooking schools, rafting adventures, spa weekends, "glamping" trips at a resort like Montana's Paws Up, and even "roughing it" in one of America's great National Parks. You'll have fun, get to know your surroundings, and really get to know each other. Talk about a bonding experience! For more insight, members are invited to read: As You Like It: Sailing Schools, Family Travel: The Tie That Binds, As You Like It: European River Cruising, As You Like It: Destination Cooking Schools, Special Report: Personalized Tours, Spa-ctacular Hideaways, and Villa Vacations, A Z. Get personal: Identify and plan your ideal "bonding" adventure with a Travel Specialist at Hideaways Travel Services (toll-free: 800-843-4433).