Our advice for making the most of your remaining 2018 vacation days: avoid the familiar. The usual suspects are almost always overpriced, overexposed, and overrun with tourists who, unlike you, lack the savvy and imagination to find someplace else to spend their hard-earned money. Want to go off-piste but still score the Instagram cred of Paris or Reykjavik? Here are four places that make a strong case for the benefits of expanding your horizons.
Instead of Rome:
Similar because: You’re guaranteed to get your fix of old churches. Noto’s cathedrals and palazzos date back to 1693, when an earthquake destroyed the original town and led to the reconstruction of Noto on its current site in a distinctive new style: Sicilian Baroque.
Better because: Rome doesn’t come with tranquil Sicilian beaches. Spend a beach day at Eloro sunbathing near the ruins of an ancient Greek amphitheatre, then enjoy a glass of Nero d’Avola wine in the quaint fishing village of Marzamemi.
Must visit: Caffe Sicilia. Fourth-generation owner Corrado Assenza’s take on a popular Sicilian breakfast, almond-flavoured ice granita accompanied by an eggy brioche bun, earned him a starring role in the latest season of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
Instead of Paris:
Similar because: Both cater to romantics. If you think Paris’s Seine and Notre-Dame Cathedral get the heart singing, prepare to fall for Budapest’s River Danube and stately Art Nouveau architecture.
Better because: Steamy Budapest thermal pools tap into the hot springs running below the city. A dip in the 105-year-old Széchenyi’s mineral-rich water is even said to prevent joint diseases.
Must visit: Costes Downtown. The casual sister of Budapest’s first Michelin star–winning restaurant quickly picked up a star of its own, thanks to its fine Hungarian fare and wine.
Instead of Maine:
Similar because: Lighthouses and colourful cottages line the shores of both, and a cable-knit sweater is pretty much mandatory attire for either. (Just keep in mind: those headed to chilly Newfoundland may end up having to actually wear said sweater, rather than just draping it fashionably over their shoulders.)
Better because: As the plot of hit Broadway musical Come From Away explores, nothing compares to Newfoundlanders’ Maritime hospitality. That welcoming spirit is found everywhere from Raymonds dining hall in St. John’s to the chip wagons parked outside Gros Morne National Park.
Must visit: Mallard Cottage. Operating out of an 18th-century cottage, this farm-to-table resto serves up the best of the sea, plus craft beer from nearby Quidi Vidi Brewing.
Instead of Iceland:
Similar because: Just like Reykjavik, Portugal’s Azorean archipelago is cultivating an identity around wellness centres that blend the restorative benefits of nature and massage therapy. The Furnas Boutique Hotel on the largestcof the Azorean islands, São Miguel, includes saunas, spa treatment rooms, and an outdoor soaking pool surrounded by lush vegetation, waterfalls, and lagoons.
Better because: The Azores know how to turn up the volume. São Miguel’s landscape might scream “Enya,” but its annual Tremor spring music festival embraces everything from punk to rap, with intimate shows held in eclectic venues.
Must visit: Arquipélago Contemporary. Art Centre turns a volcanic stoneclad factory into a vibrant culture hub, home to gallery space, artist studios, and an auditorium.