Instagram often looks like a daydream or some kind of portal into another realm. You scroll through your feed on your lunch break at the office job, at your shift’s end at the restaurant, or in bed as your late-night “reading.” Jungles bounce, waves crash, sunsets radiate—meanwhile, you’re far away, plotting a budget and planning an escape. So here are 18 destinations around the globe that you should be ready to devour in all their brilliant, stunning glory
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Tight Travel Restrictions Have Recently Been Lifted
Of course you’ve wanted to visit Cuba! It’s been that big “don’t push” red button in the U.S. for 50+ years. It’s not as much tourist attraction as it is a lifestyle and culture to embrace. Drink good cocktails, smoke great cigars, and stroll while listening to enthralling street musicians. Why go now? You have witnessed every one of your fave instagrammers flocking here and it has graced the cover of every travel magazine this year. Hurry and go before it becomes too touristy. Photo Factor: Beautiful old cars, crumbling buildings and you will feel like you stepped into a time machine.
A quiet 40-mile landscape of rich orange, brown, and green, Bagan is home to more than 2,000 pagodas and temples. Built in the 11th Century and nestled upon the Ayeyarwaddy River, it’s an ancient place of great tranquility, especially if you’re able to tour by horse cart. Even better, make it to Thatbyinnyu Pahto in order to see the grand land in full. Why go now? Head here before it internationalizes and loses it's charming old Asia feel. It has been preserved and this is another place that feels as if you have stepped into a time capsule. Photo Factor: Book a Balloons over Bagan trip!
A seaport of old tan fortified walls and plentiful bright blue boats, Essaouira has earned its mysterious reputation, largely because it’s long been a challenge of merely arriving. Why go now? For a good spell, it was a matter of a faraway flight followed by very long taxi ride. But this summer, that all changed with direct flights from Luton, meaning taking up a meal beside crashing Atlantic waves or stretching out on the sprawling beaches is no longer a challenge. Photo Factor: Often referred to as the hipper little brother of Marrakech.
Puerto Rico looks like it’s where the sun vacations, as sunlight breaks wild over stunning beaches, even cracking into the breathtaking caves. It's a lively nation where everything is in an arm’s reach. Use San Juan as homebase and venture out to surf, dive, kayak, spelunk, hike, bike, and zipline. Then eat, drink, and dance the night away in the country’s capital. Why go now? Priceline.com listed it as one of the hottest 2015 international destinations based off of advanced hotel reservations for next year and many U.S. airlines have added budget-friendly flights. Puerto Rico now has some of the lowest airfares in the Caribbean.
Norway’s capital has always been a gorgeous, impressive city, and it’s becoming a very, very fun one too. Not only is it filled with epic architecture, stunning museums, wild viking history, and breathtaking nature (242 of its 454 square kilometers are forests), it’s developing a pretty killer café and bar scene you don’t want to miss out on these days. Why go now? Open any design mag and you will see an up and comping designer from this area. This countries artists are creating some of the most trend setting designs in all of Europe. Photo Ops: There are trendy restaurants galore, a plethora of emerging artists and design lovers will be inspired by the modern Scandinavian design that whole world seems endlessly obsessed with.
Nicaragua has been a loud blip on every jetsetter’s radar for a while now—popping and bopping with beaches, rainforests, volcanoes, and reefs—but Granada especially has become a place you simply can’t turn down. The city’s a charming foodie haven these days, offering up a score of wild farm-to-table blends of local and exotic flavor, all served up alongside enamoring architecture. Why go now? It's got one of the oldest cities in the Americas and the eco-tourism is exploding. Book an adventure through El Camino Travel who know the inside scoop! Photo ops: Hammocks, jungles, architecture and design.
Blue lagoons, clear waters, a new thriving nightlife scene, stunning sandstone buildings and a history that spans 7,000 years old in this island nation make it a must visit. Why go now?Fort Saint Elmo, which has been closed to the public for years, is finally reopening its doors! If you are an architecture lover, Pritzker-prize-winning architect Renzo Piano has designed an open-air theatre along with a brand new entrance to the city. Photo Factor: Historical streets, crystal clear water, tapas, wine and a light color palette perfect for film photographers, make this an idea spot to snag photos.Madewell even shot their 2014 campaign with famous model Erin Wasson in the stunning setting. Photo: Erin Wasson for Madewell
Chengdu is known for it's rare giant pandas and their breeding facilities, home to New Century Global Centre (the world’s largest building in terms of floor area), and just a skip away from Mount Qingcheng, one of the most important centers of Taoism. Why go now? The city has been coined 'The San Francisco of China' due to it's hip vibe. With a new fleet of luxury hotels like the St. Regis and Ritz Carlton popping up, you better head here fast before prices follow suit! Photo Ops: The magnificent pandas, the ultra hot culinary scene, ancient temples and the worlds tallest Buddha all provide photo op galore.
The oldest port city in the Americas continues to enchant travelers with new openings, not to mention warm Caribbean breezes, Spanish-colonial mansions, and Afro-Cuban rhythms at lounges like La Vitrola. Why go now? Awesome airline JetBlue has nonstop flights from JFK airport and has recently added new daily flights from Fort Lauderdale. The hotel scene is flourishing with The InterContinental opening in Bocagrande and the trendy Viceroy set to open in a restored 17th-century convent. Photo Factor: One of our fave travel companies, El Camino Travel is taking groups here because of the many photo ops of colorful doors, cobblestone streets, bountiful fruit carts, musicians, volcanic mud baths and the local dance scene!
$87 million in hotel investments planned out for the next 10 years!
Ecuador's capital offers a great deal of fascinating history, beautiful architecture, and wondrous culture. Quito is a sprawling city, mysterious from afar, charming in the streets, with something to offer to any kind of traveler. Explore churches, cathedrals, parks, palaces, and mountains, and then come on back to La Mariscal for entertainment. Why go now? Quito has had over $87 million in hotel investments planned out for the next 10 years. It has also won awards as the top South America destination. Photo Ops: Gorgeous architecture, adventure sports and jungles filled with over 1700 brightly colored bird species.
Winos and artists, beware! A wild land of plenty exists out near Ontario’s silky blue waters with more than 40 wineries that serve up glassfuls that are smooth on your tastebuds and light on your wallet. If that’s not enough, you can always take a bottle to one of the white-sand beaches and wait for the Northern Lights. Why go now? The county is exploding for creatives who love the outdoorsy setting mixed with great restaurants, wineries and cool new hotels like the Drake Devonshire (pictured left). Photo ops: Cafes, white sandy beaches, hip boutique wineries and hipster ice cream parlours offer endless opportunites for your square shaped snaps.
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The Sultan is slowly opening the door wider to tourists
What are you in the mood for, mosque, museum, palace, opera house, natural park, spa, or perfumery? Muscatt, tucked between striking coastline and craggy desert rock, offers a variety of tourism, an industry that has only recently started to blossom in Oman’s increasingly modernized capital. Why go now? You will experience dreamlike settings with sweeping coastlines, pristine desert and goat herding bedouins roaming the markets. The area is still ruled by a Sultan who has kept the regions charm and authenticity. Luxury resorts are starting to pop up, and more are on their way, so hurry!
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Winner of many Trip Advisor 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards
Queenstown is known for adventure—parachuting, bungee-jumping, kitesurfing, hang-gliding, jet-boating; just name it and they love it. Word on the coastal paradise for wildcards has gotten out, as the airport has seen record flight numbers from overseas passengers these last few years. Don’t worry, though, as the postcard scenery, surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains, isn’t crowded even a little. Why go now? Queenstown was ranked as the number one destination for the TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards for the area, as well as one of the world’s top 25 destinations. That certainly means you will be seeing more and more of this lovely spot grace your insta-feed.
Nara is an increasingly intriguing eastern gem, a place that offers solace. First of all, gentle deer roam the town, and secondly, the city is filled with temples, parks, and gardens. It carries with it a majestic, much slower pace of life than the big-city mania of Tokyo. Why go now? Only an hour away from trendy Kyoto and Osaka, this region was once the first permanent capital and is brimming with historic treasures. You can also see some of Japan's oldest and biggest temples. Photo ops: The combo of blooming cherry blossoms, ancient temples and hundreds of meandering deer make for otherworldly fairy-tale instagram snaps.
Truly reminiscent of a fantasy tale, Ha Long Bay is an astonishingly other-wordly seascape. More than 2,000 jungle islands roll and dive in the aqua-green lagoons. It’s a flooring maze that hides away caves, coves, and grottoes. Why go now? Ha Long Bay is the number one tourist destination in Vietnam and the rare beauty of the area is being greatly spoiled by coal shipping and Disneyland-like construction. If you head here, make sure to get involved in conservationist efforts! Photo ops: 2,000 islands and islets that jut out from the water will provide endless opportunities for gorgeous snaps.
Yes, yes...You are very well aware of this stunning setting! With many fashion magazines doing their editorials here and it being the backdrop to 'Game of Thrones', this city is hardly a secret. However, if you haven't yet been it's hard to deny it's beauty. Why go now? Considered the “Pearl of the Adriatic” as well as one of the best preserved medieval walled cities, Dubrovnik is known for the tiny houses with orange rooftops that decorate the town. Historical churches and palaces await travelers, who return home from their day at one of the many nearby pristine beaches.
It seems like EVERYONE is either going to Iceland, planning to go to Iceland, or dreaming about visiting Iceland—all for good reasons. It’s a magical, largely untouched natural wonder, varying its landscape from medieval green valleys to desolate outer-rim planet. Travelers can hear folklore, relax in hot springs, explore caves, catch the Northern Lights, and drink warm with the locals when the wind rolls through. Why go now? The travel here is not going to taper off anytime soon.. So brace yourselves for more and more photos with this moody setting as the backdrop. The Iceland tourism board is also pushing for the destination to be one of the hottest places to get married in 2016. Photo Factor: There are not many other places you can get the foggy landscape mixed with fluorescent icescapes. The contrast of black and white is a photographers dream.
Designers and decor lovers have been flocking here to snap up beautiful kilim rugs, vases and tapestries for years. But this city is seeing even more travel! Why go now? In September 2014, Raffles moved into the business district with a new mall and a $350 million performing arts center. The hotel scene is getting hotter and hotter with both St. Regis and Soho House (pictured left) opening their doors in Beyoglu. Super chic The Vault Karakoy and 10 Karaköy also opened this year, only a few short steps from a plethora of new shops and restaurants. Photo Factor: Every corner of the city is brimming with a kaleidoscope of color, patterns and culture.