FAROE ISLANDS, DENMARK These 18 small islands located between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic and have a population of fewer than 50,000 people, which means lots of breathing room and natural beauty as far as the eye can see. The islands—like Kalsoy, pictured above—are green and mountainous and can be explored in a rental car or by boat tour.
FAROE ISLANDS (continued) Outdoorsy folks, listen up: There's plenty of hiking, fishing, and bird-watching; more adventurous travelers can go diving or kayaking. Waterfall-spotting? Done. Above is Gasadalur Village and its iconic waterfall, Vagar. Accommodations depends on which area you want to call home base, but Hotel Foroyar, located in the town of Torshavn, is a nice contemporary property (from $109 per night, breakfast included, hotelforoyar.com).
MALTA, AFRICA The small Mediterranean country of Malta, nestled between Sicily and the coast of North African, is a microcosm of European charm and history. Its small size makes it possible to plan a trip that encapsulates most of the destinations there, including the city capital of Valletta (above) and the medieval towns of Mdina and Cittadella. The locale is reasonably affordable, so hotel deals are easy to come by. Try the oceanfront Corinthia Hotel St. George’s Bay (from $162 per night, corinthia.com).
MALTA, AFRICA (continued) Adventure seekers can go scuba diving or participate in a variety of watersports—above is the famous Azure Window on Gozo Island—while history buffs will want to explore the island’s many ancient ruins, including the labyrinthine Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni—museum tickets are $34, but worth it (heritagemalta.org).
HAINAN ISLAND, CHINA Hainan is located at the most southern point of China, giving it a tropical climate with beach resorts and rainforests. You can stay in the city of Sanya (pictured here is the Guanyin of the South Sea of Sanya—the Buddhist goddess of mercy—near the Nanshan Temple) or select a more remote resort for your vacation, but either way you’ll want to spend most of your time on the expansive beaches.
HAINAN ISLAND, CHINA (continued) Opt for one of many massive luxury resorts like the MGM Grand Sanya or Renaissance Sanya Resort & Spa, both of which run less than $200 per night, but be sure to venture into downtown Sanya for your meals. MeiJie ChuanWei Seafood JiaGong is a local favorite for dinner while the Haikou New Port is home to a massive fish market.
QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC Many travelers think of Montreal or Toronto when heading to Canada, but Quebec City is a vibrant, destination with surprises around every corner—case in point, the picturesque Montmorency Falls (above), about 100 feet taller than Niagara Falls.
QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC (continued) Located along the Saint Lawrence River, Quebec City has a historic, European feel with narrow streets, stone buildings and bistros aplenty. Settle in at either one of the authentic or contemporary rooms at Le Monastere Des Augustines (from $65 per night, monastere.ca) and walk around the city’s Old Quebec area (above). Make time to pay a visit to La Citadelle de Quebec, a historic site and museum ($13 for adults, $4.50 for children, lacitadelle.qc.ca). For more tips and travel info about the city, check out our Three-Day Weekend: Quebec City.
CABO VERDE Most travelers won't be able to see all of Africa, but Cabo Verde should be on your list. The small country, located in the Atlantic Ocean off the continent’s northern coast, is made up of several volcanic islands—the Serra Malagueta mountains of Santiago Island are pictured above—and ideal for those interested in diving, watersports, and exploring the local Creole Portuguese-African culture.
CABO VERDE (continued) Book a room at Hotel Morabeza in Santa Maria on Sal island (above) (from $135 per night, hotelmorabeza.com), and then snag a table at nearby Marea Restaurant for Italian food with a local twist. Don't forget to sip a cup of Fogo Coffee Spirit, Cabo Verde’s iconic brew, at some point during your visit.
FUKUOKA, JAPAN On the northern shore of Japan’s Kyushu island there is a bustling city called Fukuoka, which is known for its ancient temples, nearby beaches, and sprawling Fukuoka Art Museum (admission about $2, fukuoka-art-museum.jp). Although it’s one of the country’s largest cities, visiting Fukuoka is manageable and will give you an opportunity to experience its culture and food (be sure to seek out one of the many ramen vendors).
FUKUOKA, JAPAN (continued) The city is also home to numerous annual festivals, including the two-week Yamakasa, which takes place in July and has a 700-year history. To stay, try the centrally located Royal Park Hotel, (from $105 per night, rph-the.co.jp). Pictured is the Reclining Buddha of Nanzoin Temple, a 40-minute bus ride from the hotel (81/92-947-7195).
MENDOZA, ARGENTINA Wine time! Skip Napa and head for Mendoza, situated in Argentina’s Cuyo region, the heart of Argentina’s wine country, which offers stunning Andes mountains scenery (above). There you’ll obviously want to visit several wineries and taste the region’s signature Malbec (which you can do by bicycle), but you can also relax in the nearby Cacheuta’s thermal stone pools at Termas de Cacheuta (termascacheuta.com).
MENDOZA, ARGENTINA (continued) For a classic, central hotel try the Park Hyatt Mendoza (from $145 per night, mendoza.park.hyatt.com). Or you can head into the countryside Villa Mansa Wine Hotel & Spa, which runs as low as $97 per night and puts you happily close to the vineyards (villamansa.com). It's a 45-minute drive from Potrerillos Dam (pictured above), perfect for picknicking, water sports, or soaking up the natural Andes beauty.
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA This capital city is a busy cultural metropolis, which features the opulent Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and the National Museum of Cambodia, pictured above ($5, cambodiamuseum.info).
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA (continued) Modern boutique property White Mansion will set you back only $56 per night, so you can save your hard-earned dollars to shop at the bustling Central Market and the eclectic Russian Market (hotelphnompenh-whitemansion.com). Grab a drink—and a cigar—at Elephant Bar or embark on a sunset cruise along the Mekong River on the Kanika Boat, (from $7 per person, kanika-boat.com).
SABA The Caribbean is a heavily frequently destination, but instead of heading to the Virgin Islands or Barbados, consider Saba. The small island has a population of fewer than 2,000 people and is formed of the now-dormant Mt. Scenery volcano.
SABA (continued) Saba is considered a diver’s paradise thanks to the coral reefs and is peacefully free of big resorts and chain restaurants. If diving isn’t your thing, the island has hiking trails around Mt. Scenery (you’ll only pay $1 in trail upkeep fees for access) and it’s possible to explore all four of the island’s villages in only a few days. Book a room at The Cottage Club, a boutique hotel with sea views located in Windwardside (from $130 per night between April and December, cottage-club.com).
TALLINN, ESTONIA Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is situated along the Baltic Sea and has a beautiful, historical old town area (pictured above) contained in medieval stone walls. It’s the perfect combination of old-world charm and modern restaurants and hotels.
SAN BLAS ISLANDS, PANAMA Panama’s San Blas Islands, created from 378 tiny islands, make for a perfect Caribbean getaway. You’ll have to hire a boat to visit (although there are a few flights available from Panama City), and Panama Travel Unlimited is a popular company for day or overnight tour bookings (prices vary, panamatravelunlimited.com). The islands’ activities are minimal, so expect to spend most of your time lying on the sand, snorkeling, and swimming in the clear blue water.
SAN BLAS ISLANDS, PANAMA (continued) The accommodations are low-key and many travelers opt to stay on their chartered boats, but check out the rustic colonial-style Hotel El Porvenir for a good beachside option (from $140 per night, hotelporvenir.com).
SAN JUAN ISLANDS, WASHINGTON Yes, this is the U.S.! The San Juan Islands are located along the northern coast of Washington and are made up of 172 islands, four of which are accessible by ferry. San Juan Island is the largest and most populous, but Orcas and Lopez Island are a good bet if you’re looking for something with an off-the-grid feel.
SAN JUAN ISLANDS, WASHINGTON (continued) The islands offer cycling, hiking trails, kayaking, and lighthouse-spotting, and whale-watching tours leave from San Juan’s Friday Harbor (three-hour jaunts run $99 for adults, $69 for kids, sanjuansafaris.com). Boutique hotel Bird Rock offers contemporary, luxe rooms (from $203 per night, birdrockhotel.com), while Orcas Hotel is a charming, quaint property with a rural vibe (from $169 per night, orcashotel.com).
GUADALAJARA, MEXICO Instead of hitting the usual beach resort in Cancun or Cabo, consider heading inland to the Mexican city of Guadalajara, located a few hours from the Tequila Valley. The artsy, vibrant city, known as the home of mariachi, has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to nightlife. The Guadalajara Jalisco Arch monument (above) marks the entrance to the city.
GUADALAJARA, MEXICO (continued) Book a room at the contemporary chic Casa Fayette (from $116 per night, casafayette.com) and head out on the town. Be sure to grab a drink at mezcal joint Joselito Mezcal and at speakeasy Fat Charlie’s, which is surreptitiously nestled behind a taco restaurant ($2 pints after 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, fatcharliesbar.com). For a traditional meal, line up at unassuming La Chata, for dishes like pozole and meat tampiqueña (beef tenderloin with by chilaquiles, beans, and a quesadilla).
FRASER ISLAND, AUSTRALIA Fraser Island, located off the coast of Queensland, has the designation of being the world’s longest sand island, stretching 75 miles. Beyond its beaches, the island features rain forests, various rock formations, and a lot of wildlife, all of which you’ll see from the four-wheel drive jeep you’ll rent.
FRASER ISLAND, AUSTRALIA (continued) Drop your bags at the Kingfisher Bay Resort, which offers simple, attractive accommodations for as low as $86 per night (kingfisherbay.com), and pull up a chair at Seabelle, where you can try local cuisine like kangaroo and crocodile (entrées from $23, kingfisherbay.com).
OURAY, COLORADO Colorado’s towering Rocky Mountains draw a slew of visitors, mainly to its ski towns, but Ouray is a lesser-known gem located midway between Durango and Denver. The small locale is the perfect gateway to any number of outdoor activities, like hiking or mountain biking, and it contains its own hot springs pool ($12 per day for adults, ouraycolorado.com).
OURAY, COLORADO (continued) For those who aren’t inclined to pitch a tent at one of the area's many campgrounds, book a room at the (supposedly haunted) Hotel Ouray (from $149 per night, hotelouray.com). In the evening, head to the Ouray Brewing Company for local beers and their signature brewery smoked BBQ (entrées from $8, ouraybrewery.com).
GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN Instead of Stockholm or Oslo, book a flight to Gothenburg, a beautiful Scandinavian city on the eastern coast of Sweden. You can visit the famed Liseberg Amusement Park ($54 for a day pass, liseberg.com) and walk through the colorful Haga neighborhood, which is filled with cafés offering Sweden’s tradition of daily fika (which essentially means “coffee break”).
GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN (continued) Car fanatics, a must-visit for you is the Volvo Museum (about $12, volvomuseum.com); foodies, you should hit the many stalls in the Saluhallen food market (46/31-13-93-26). The city has many solid hotel options, but check out the intimate Hotel Bellora, which has chic rooms for as low as $129 per night (hotelbellora.se).
APIA, SAMOA Ahhh...paradise. Apia is Samoa’s capital and largest city and is an apt starting point to explore the country’s technicolor tropical beaches and forests.
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND Forgo the glittering lights of London for the vibrant seaside town of Brighton, a charming English destination with an iconic pier and classic shingle beach. It’s home to several music and arts festivals throughout the summer, has a large array of shopping options, and is near several must-see sites in the Sussex countryside, including South Downs National Park and the Royal Pavilion, above (about $18, brightonmuseums.org.uk).
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND (continued) Hunker down in the hip Artist Residence Brighton, a quirky, beach-adjacent hotel that averages $125 per night (artistresidence.co.uk). In the evening, pay a visit to one of the city’s many pubs, especially The Prince Albert, a gritty spot with live music and a selection of traditional beers.
EL REMATE, GUATEMALA Hideaway for two, please! The small town of El Remate can be found along the shore of Guatemala’s Lake Petén Itzá, offering a remote, beautiful retreat for your vacation. The hotels along the lake are low-key and mostly eco-conscious. Boutique property La Lancha, with its rain forest casita and lakeview suite rooms, is a good bet (from about $149 per night, thefamilycoppolaresorts.com).
EL REMATE, GUATEMALA (continued) In town, you can visit the wood carver artisan shops, walk along the water and take a day trip to the nearby Mayan ruins in Tikal, located in Tikal National Park. But mainly, sitting on of the lake’s many docks will give you a quiet, lovely place to decompress.
GRAND ISLE, LOUISIANA Louisiana has a lot more to offer than New Orleans, especially if you want to be seaside: Grand Isle, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, is a good option to explore. There you can spend time sunning on the gray sand (above), try your luck at fishing, or explore the popular bird-watching trails—and take a much-needed break from reality.
GRAND ISLE, LOUISIANA (continued) The hotels on the island aren't what we'd call the height of luxury, but Blue Dolphin Inn & Cottages are worth a gander at $150 per night (bluedolphininn.net). You can also pitch a tent at one of the many campgrounds—most of which accept RVs.