1. Kyoto, Japan
Photo from @visit.kyoto Instagram
Kyoto, the spiritual capital of Japan, is known for its seasonal foliage, traditional festivals, historic Buddhist temples, and fantastic Japanese tea gardens. Spectacular sight-seeing includes the Fushimi Inari, the famous vermillion gates shown above, Kurama-dera, a must-see temple in the mountains, Kiyomizu-dera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and much much more. Rent bikes and ride everywhere you need to go along the riverwalk, a haven of peace (and also where everyone goes to practice their instruments and dance routines) in the middle of the city. For the over-21s, embrace the Japanese nightlife and go to an izakaya, a Japanese pub, and hit the all-you-can-drink Rainbow Karaoke afterwords for the best night you’ll ever have. Notably, Kyoto is also one of the most budget-friendly places to visit.
2. Penang, Malaysia
Photo from Pinterest
Penang, Malaysia is one of the most underrated cities in Southeast Asia. Not only is it gorgeous, with astounding jungles, waterfalls, and beaches, but the people are generous beyond belief and the food is both dirt-cheap and delicious. George Town, Penang is home to some of the coolest street art you’ll ever see as well as the dopest street food market. In fact, Penang is widely known as the food capital of Malaysia. Must-try’s include the lamb rendang and the roti canai.
As one of the least touristy places I have ever been, in Penang, you get the sense that the Malaysia you are experiencing is the real Malaysia in all its vibrant authenticity.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
Photo from Travel + Leisure of the Charles Bridge
As one of the only cities not bombed during World War II, Prague has retained an incredible amount of beauty and charm. This city is magical, with a 600 year old astronomical clock that comes alive every hour and colorful baroque buildings. Home to the delicious trdelnik pastry (a spiral of dough lined with melted chocolate) and the most hip, experiential nightlife I have encountered. Go for Christmas if you love a good, genuine Christmas market. P.S.: Beer is cheaper than water.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
Photo from Lonely Planet
Although this is an undeniably expensive city, there is always a way to find cheap prices to experience the “hyyge” of this wonderful, architecturally dynamic place. Hyyge – pronounced hOOga, but I mean, pronounce it however you dang-well please – is a Danish word which doesn’t translate directly to English, but describes, in essence, a combination of coziness, comfort, and companionship. Enjoy Copenhagen by taking a canal tour or simply by exploring and stray off the beaten path by visiting Christiania, a self-proclaimed anarchist autonomous village.
5. Caye Caulker, Belize
Another underrated country – why isn’t Belize talked about more often?! The people radiate a happiness and openness that is refreshing, especially in light of the happenings of 2017. Head to Belize for a vibrant culture, some tropical relaxation in the great outdoors, fantastic snorkeling, and the freshest seafood (trust me, order the ceviche).
6. Isle of Skye, Scotland
Photo from Expert Vagabond
It’s hard to get to, but sometimes the best places are. Isle of Skye is almost supernatural: astounding waterfalls, rolling green hills, grazing sheep, rocky cliffs, plus some bomb fish and chips, this place is a must-visit for 2018. Go for hikes, take walks, hit the adorable fishing villages, visit medieval castles, OR just get cozy in one-of-a-kind AirBnBs like this. Hiring a car or doing a guided tour is a good idea here as you’ll be able to more effectively explore the island – its way bigger than you think, considering the tiny population!
7. Tokyo, Japan
Shibuya, Tokyo on Halloween, 2017
Yep, Japan snipes two of the top ten. In Tokyo, you’ll see more people in once place at one time than you’ve ever seen before. Crowd-haters, don’t let that dissuade you. You will either fall in love with, or be shook by Tokyo’s culture. Either way, it will, no question, be an unforgettable. Visit Tokyo to experience one of the coolest metropolises on Earth – incredible fashion, food – conveyor-belt sushi is not to be missed – and history. Head to Shimokitazawa for vintage shops, strut the Shibuya crossing (the busiest crossing in the world), climb the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices building for a free 360 view of the skyline, visit the quaint Chiyoda park for a little break from the hustle and bustle, and stop in Electric Town to play or just watch the professionals in their element playing Dance Dance Revolution.
8. New Orleans, Louisiana
Bacchanal Wine, the Marigny. Photo by Bon Appetit
Experience New Orleans outside of the touristy French Quarter in 2018. Go to the Marigny for old “shotgun” townhouses in red, blue, pink, and all the other colors of the rainbow, the new, industrial yet serene Crescent Park facing the Mississippi, popping wine bars, and the beloved neighborhood dive spot, Vaughan’s. Go uptown to the Garden District to the beautiful houses along St. Charles Avenue and to Dos Jefes Cigar Bar. Go see Kermit Ruffins, and definitely don’t miss Thursday night dancing at Rock n’ Bowl.
9. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Casa Rosada, photo taken by Lydia MacDougall
Buenos Aires, according to Lonely Planet, is “sexy and alive.” Combining a unique and edgy culture with a passionate people and incredible food, Buenos Aires is a place to fall in love with in 2018. Head to the bohemian area of San Telmo for art galleries, street murals, tacos at Banco Rojo, and the feria flee market on Sundays. Go to Palermo, Buenos Aires’ largest barrio, for immeasurable restaurants, parks, bars, and museums. Hit Rey de Copas bar for the coziest atmosphere and best cocktails.
10. Spiaggia Di Cala Luna, Italy
Known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia with steep limestone cliffs and lush greenery. The caves, beaches, and snorkeling are calling our names. Because after 2017, we deserve it.