Where to Go in 2016 Ready to stoke your wanderlust? We combed the globe for more amazing (and amazingly affordable!) bucket list spots than ever before. From stylish cities to alluringly remote islands, here are the top 24 budget destinations for 2016. Budget Travel Thursday, Jan 7, 2016, 12:01 AM 1. ICELAND Marvel at lava fields and sky-high waterfalls on a (nearly free!) stopover. Why 2016. Icelandair has introduced or expanded service from Seattle, Minneapolis, Orlando, and Newark, and year-round flights from Chicago start this May, making Iceland incredibly accessible to Americans. Fly the airline to one of 26 major destinations in Europe and you can get a free seven-night stopover with no bag-check fees. What to do. Ogle breathtaking waterfalls, moss-covered lava fields, and black sand beaches. The 30-minute Golden Circle drive from Reykjavík packs in Thingvellir National Park, Geysir hot spring area, Gullfoss waterfall, and Kerid volcano crater. A little farther out, Iceland’s second highest waterfall, Haífoss, shows off a view that’s worth the detour. >> (Agnieszka Rayss/Sputnik Photos/Anzenberger/Redux) Budget Travel LLC, 2016


Where to Go in 2016

Ready to stoke your wanderlust? We combed the globe for more amazing (and amazingly affordable!) bucket list spots than ever before. From stylish cities to alluringly remote islands, here are the top 24 budget destinations for 2016.

  • summer solstice. Blue lagoon, Iceland
  • Aurora Borealis above Reykjavik Iceland.
  • San Antonio Riverwalk
  • Southerleigh in San Antonio
  • Havana, Cuba
  • Viñales Valley, Cuba
  • Los Angeles at night as seen from Mulholland Drive
  • The Venice Boardwalk
  • Town of Oia on Santorini, Greece
  • A cafe on the island of Folegandros, Geece
  • Verdant valley behind Con Son town.
  • Girl sorting dried anchovies, Vietnam
  • A beach in Martinique
  • Woman dressed in traditional  Creole costume on Martinique
  • Bartolome Islands distinctive Pinnacle Rock in the Galapagos Islands
  • The Galapagos is home to unique colorful creatures you wont find anywhere else.
  • This Roman temple in the Alentejo region of Portugal is a UNESCO World Heriitage site.
  • The village Carvoeiro in the Algarve Portugal.
  • The Mandarina at Casa Las Tortugas, isla Holbox
  • Isla Holbox pelicans
  • Water buffalo at teh Sambesi River in Namibia.
  • Namib Desert Park, Erongo, Namibia
  • Cincinnatis streets mingle a European charm with American energy.
  • Historic area in cincinnati, oh
  • Ubud, Bali, is one of Indonesia’s most popular beach getaways.
  • Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. Bali Indonesia
  • Korcula, Croatia, on the Dalmatian Coast, lights up the night.
  • Cavtat, Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • A traditional Nicaraguan breakfast in the making at Granada Market, Granada.
  • Matagalpa mural, Nicaragua
  • Highland Brewing Company, an Asheville, North Carolina, favorite, where pints start at $3.
  • Asheville, NCs River Arts District
  • Cartagena, Colombia
  • Colombia, taganga bay shore with amazing view.
  • Sri Lanka’s Golden Temple of Dambulla.
  • Ocean coast of Sri Lanka in the tropics
  • Scotland’s Old Forge is mainland Britain’s most remote pub.
  • Crail in the Kingdom of Fife, Scotland
  • St. Peter’s in Vatican City.
  • Artists with their works in the Piazza Navona - Rome, Lazio
  • The Copenhagen Opera House at sunset in Denmark.
  • The colorful streets of Copenhagen.
  • The Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the “Big Buddha,” on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island.
  • Hong Kong skyline at night
  • Copacabana Beach and Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio.
  • Woman walks with surfboard on Ipanema Beach past vendors selling beach balls and iced tea.
  • Fact meets fiction in New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings Shire. Below: Copacabana Beac
  • Albert Park is a famous scenic park in central Auckland, New Zealand.

1. ICELAND Marvel at lava fields and sky-high waterfalls on a (nearly free!) stopover.

Why 2016. Icelandair has introduced or expanded service from Seattle, Minneapolis, Orlando, and Newark, and year-round flights from Chicago start this May, making Iceland incredibly accessible to Americans. Fly the airline to one of 26 major destinations in Europe and you can get a free seven-night stopover with no bag-check fees.

What to do. Ogle breathtaking waterfalls, moss-covered lava fields, and black sand beaches. The 30-minute Golden Circle drive from Reykjavík packs in Thingvellir National Park, Geysir hot spring area, Gullfoss waterfall, and Kerid volcano crater. A little farther out, Iceland’s second highest waterfall, Haífoss, shows off a view that’s worth the detour. >>

(Agnieszka Rayss/Sputnik Photos/Anzenberger/Redux)

ICELAND (continued)

Continue your trip east along Route 1, the so-called Ring Road, and you’ll pass more waterfalls, Vík’s extraordinary black sand beaches, and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Hungry? At Fridheimar restaurant in Reykholt, they grow tomatoes with geothermal heat and serve lunch in their glass house all year, putting the produce in everything from their signature soup to Bloody Marys to ice cream (from about $15). 

Where to stay. In Hella, not far from the Golden Circle, Stracta Hótel delivers chicly spare Nordic style, hot tubs and saunas to soothe your travel-weary bones, and an included breakfast buffet that’ll start your day off right with skyr, cured meats, cheeses, eggs, and more (from about $134 per night). —Catherine Strawn 

(Strahil Dimitrov/Dreamstime )

2. SAN ANTONIO Admire bold public art and taste foodie-approved “Texas seafood.” 

Why 2016. Mosey on down to the Lone Star State for a culinary boom, two big anniversaries, and five freshly designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Alamo.

What to do. This is not yo’ mama’s River Walk. The quintessential bright café-table-lined downtown path now spans 15 miles, thanks to two culture-focused additions you can kayak, bike, or walk: The Museum Reach leads directly to the San Antonio Museum of Art, while the Mission Reach cuts a path to the newly designated missions, all of which are active parishes. Catch a mariachi mass for free on Sundays at Mission Concepción and Mission San José. Plus, this year marks the 180th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo and the 125th anniversary of the arts-and-culture celebration Fiesta! San Antonio, and with those come a slew of free music festivals and parades. The year-round installation The Saga tells the city’s history in rapturous video projected onto San Fernando Cathedral (free); farther north, kids can put their engineering skills to the test at the new STEM-focused DoSeum ($12). >>

(Matthew Johnson)

SAN ANTONIO (continued)

To sample the new culinary scene in town, dip into the Pearl district’s Southerleigh to try Texas seafood dishes like the Cellarman’s Lunch Pail, which nets you a soft-shell crab po’boy or wood-broiled oysters, plus a side ($12). Then, knock back a craft beer at Sternewirth taphouse, a lobby-adjacent lounge at the swanky new Hotel Emma, outfitted in dark wood and deep-hued leather. Bring friends and sit in a retrofitted beer tank, dubbed a “tanquette." Of course, the humble puffy taco still reigns as San Antonio’s classic cheap eat: Grab one at Ray’s Drive-Inn, which founded the dish ($2). 

Where to stay. Hotel Havana has retro candy-colored in-room refrigerators and a pan-Latin restaurant (from $156). Wyndham Garden, on the Museum Reach (from $125), provides easy access both to Pearl and the hip rooftop bar Paramour (drinks from $4). —Jamie Beckman 

(Matthew Johnson)

3. CUBA Be one of the first Americans in generations to visit the once-forbidden island.

Why 2016. Cuba es posible! The U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to resume commercial flights, and JetBlue, partnering with Cuba Travel Services, is already offering charter service from New York, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale to Havana for authorized Americans. We look forward to seeing this once-in-a-generation travel opportunity expand. Watch our exclusive Cuba video! >>


(Sheri Giblin)

CUBA (continued)

What to do. Start in Havana, where eclectic architecture—from rusting iron balconies to crumbling Colonial theaters—plays a backdrop to a parade of midcentury automobiles and the vibrant sounds of classical guitar. Steep yourself in the island’s intoxicating history and culture at the iconic, Baroque-era Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana and the sprawling Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (about $8). For the lighter side of Havana, you must see La Colmenita de Cuba, a comedy theater troupe of young kids that brings hilarious satire to the stage at the famed Teatro Nacional (about $10, 53/7-879-6011). Hit the Madrigal Bar for boozy nightcaps and live Cuban jazz (Calle 17 No. 302). 

The smaller city of Cienfuegos should be high on any architecture lover’s list. Its Palacio de Valle is a world in a building. Roman, Gothic, Moorish, and Venetian in design, this 1917 palace is heartbreakingly beautiful at sunset. The incredibly low entry fee includes a drink on the roof, but those in the know also venture to the basement tapas bar (about $2, Calle 37 between Ave. 0 and 2). 

Where to stay. You can see all the way to the mountains from your balcony at Havana’s historic Hotel Casa Granda (from about $60 per night). After a Creole lunch on the terrace, it’s just a short walk from the cathedral and major museums. —Jenny Adams 

(Sheri Giblin)

4. LOS ANGELES Discover the other side of Tinseltown: a hotbed of fine arts and affordable luxury.

Why 2016. A recent embrace of public transportation options, an evolving “high-low” art scene, and an abundance of stylish steals have put the City of Angels near the top of our list. 

What to do. Explore the Arts District on the eastern side of Downtown. The neighborhood has been transformed from abandoned industrial buildings to a creative hotspot for design, TV and film, and offers great restaurants and shopping. Don’t miss Poketo, a store stocked with unique design-driven pieces that also serves as a creative community center with regular workshops and art exhibitions, or Alchemy Works, a concept store with under-the-radar labels that doubles as a gallery and events space. Fuel up with lunch at Cerveteca, a laid-back spot with Mexican comfort food and killer cocktails (chorizo burger $15). Then make your way to the just-opened—and free!—Broad Museum on Grand Avenue in Downtown, with works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and Roy Lichtenstein. >>

(Intersection Photos)

LOS ANGELES (continued)

On the 45-minute walk from the Arts District to the Broad Museum, stop at iconic locales like Little Tokyo, Angels Flight, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Grand Central Market, which has more than 50 fresh food stalls, both local and global. Since 1917, Angelenos and tourists have been drawn to its diversity for everything from grocery shopping to gourmet meals, hence the lines at ultimate breakfast spot Eggslut and Horse Thief BBQ. (If walking in L.A. seems inconceivable, get from the Arts District to the Broad on the DASH bus Route A.)

Where to stay. Rest your head at Mama Shelter (from $159 per night), a chic hotel right on Hollywood Boulevard that’s just blocks away from the Chinese Theatre along the Walk of Fame. Its Instagram-bait rooftop boasts nearly a 360-degree view from the Hollywood sign to Downtown to the West side. —Celia Shatzman

(Intersection Photos)

5. GREECE Raise a glass of ouzo in the birthplace of Western civilization.

Why 2016. The historically low euro benefits Americans visiting Greece, which is attempting to emerge from a recession and financial crisis. 

What to do. Book now! And lock in the great exchange rate by paying for hotels, museum tickets, and other expenses in advance. Then start your trip at the center of everything: the Acropolis of Athens. The birthplace of philosophy and democracy in the Western world is represented by elegantly crumbling structures like the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike. Insider tip: Arrive in the afternoon so that you can see the ancient marble structures in bright sunlight, golden twilight, and then illuminated at night (about $13, 30/210-321-0219). >>

(Christian Kerber)

GREECE (continued)

Set aside a few hours for the classical artworks and relics that have been restored and moved to the nearby Acropolis Museum (about $6). Of course, there’s more to Athens than the ancient, and the city’s tavernas (think fresh fried seafood, grilled octopus, and dolmades washed down with the potent liqueur ouzo) and clubby nightlife have a certain philosophy all their own. A 45-minute flight and a world away, Aegean islands such as Santorini and Paros are favorites of Budget Travelers who appreciate shockingly affordable little hotels, pulled-from-the-sea taverna treats, and the sun-drenched whites and pastels of beckoning beach towns. 

Where to stay. The beautifully appointed Hera Hotel is a short walk from the Acropolis of Athens (from about $81 per night). —Robert Firpo-Cappiello 

(Andrea Wyner)

6. VIETNAM Indulge in a grand tour of a fascinating land where east and west come together in unexpectedly delicious juxtapositions.

Why 2016. Package tours from companies like World Spree have made a Vietnam “grand tour” more manageable and affordable for Americans. Work your way from north to south—and cruise through UNESCO World Heritage site Ha Long Bay—while taking in gorgeous views of the countryside, French-Asian Vietnamese cuisine, and history and culture.

What to do. Visit Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City and Uncle Ho’s Mausoleum in Hanoi (admission for each about $2). In Hoi An, get measured for custom-made clothing at Yaly Couture (prices vary, yalycouture.com). Hue’s Imperial City (admission $7), and nearby Minh Mang Tomb (admission $5) are equally impressive. >>

(Christopher Wise)

VIETNAM (continued)

Explore tiny islands in Ha Long Bay on an overnight cruise—you’ll have the option to visit mountaintop temples, see secret caves, and kayak channels where monkeys peek down at you from the cliffs above (Pelican Luxury Cruise, from $370 for a double cabin on a one-night/two-day trip). You’ll find palate-pleasing delights like pho, spring rolls, and sweet and sour morning glory soup throughout Vietnam. Giang Café in Hanoi serves a memorable “egg coffee,” a Vietnamese treat that gives Starbucks a run for its money ($1). Remember: When in Hanoi, skip anything that says, “thit chó” (dog meat, considered a delicacy by some). 

Where to stay. World Spree tours include five-star accommodations in Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City and an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay (from $1,799 for a 10-night trip with airfare from the U.S.). —Kaeli Conforti 

(Christopher Wise)

7. MARTINIQUE Luxuriate on tropical beaches and in vast nature preserves for pennies.

Why 2016. Brand-new nonstop flights from New York City, Boston, and Baltimore/Washington D.C. (BWI) start at just $79—you read that right—on Norwegian, and American Airlines is adding even more nonstops from Miami. Plus, the French Caribbean island uses the Euro, which is nearly 1 to 1 with the U.S. dollar.

What to do. Dubbed the Island of Flowers by the Carib Indians centuries ago, Martinique is still a rugged green butterfly-filled haven: Two-thirds of the tiny, 436-square-mile island is protected parkland. When you’re not lounging on white-sand beaches on the southern coast or blue-gray volcanic sand beaches in the north, take advantage of the cherished vegetation by touring Le Prêcheur nature site. The area offers gardens, rivers, and a dose of local history, particularly that of St. Pierre, the former capital city that was destroyed Pompeii-style by active volcano Mount Pelée in 1902. Learn all about the event (and its lone survivor) at the intimate Franck Perret museum (about $3, 05/96-78-15-16), or hike the volcano for sweeping coastal views. >>

(Christophe Testi/Dreamstime)

MARTINIQUE (continued)

Adventure-inclined travelers can head north for surfing, veer southeast to catch tradewinds for kitesurfing, and set out for the picturesque globe-like Diamond Rock to scuba-dive while exotic seabirds fly overhead. Or take a different approach and party hearty at Carnaval, with colorful parades, burlesque, and bashes that begin the weekend before Ash Wednesday. Booze aficionados can sample local rum by ordering a ti punch (rum, sugarcane syrup, and lime). Manufactured organic cocoa, Creole cuisine, and fabulous French wines, breads, and cheeses are among the island’s culinary all-stars.

Where to stay. Villa Veo’s villa rentals, some of which include infinity swimming pools, romantic terraces, and direct beach access are surprisingly affordable (from about $62 per night). Brightly painted beachside Hotel Bambou’s half-board packages include Creole and French breakfast and dinner buffets (from about $101 per night). —Jamie Beckman


8. GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS Go to the ends of the earth (almost!) to see unique wildlife and taste the freshest seafood.

Why 2016. Thanks to packages from tour companies like Friendly Planet and G Adventures, you can now afford to see the giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, and other one-of-a-kind wildlife up close. 

What to do. Watch sea lions at Carola Beach on San Cristobal Island and snorkel at Kicker Rock to get close enough to admire eagle rays, starfish, and even sharks. Visit the Wall of Tears, constructed by prisoners when Isabela Island was a penal colony. Explore hidden coves in Tintoreras, where barking sea lions and adorable Galápagos penguins come to play. Don’t miss El Chato reserve on Santa Cruz Island, where you can spot giant tortoises that are more than 175 years old, and learn about current conservation projects at the nearby Charles Darwin Research Station. Seafood fans will feel like they’ve returned to the mother ship here, with dishes such as ceviche and sopa de pescado (fish soup), or try encocados, a dish featuring lobster or fish with creamy coconut sauce and rice—just visit the kiosks in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island for a taste. >>

(Justin Black/Dreamstime)


Where to stay. The Galápagos Islands Wildlife Discovery tour by Friendly Planet includes airfare from Fort Lauderdale to Quito, access to San Cristobal, Isabela, and Santa Cruz Islands, entrance fees to Galápagos National Park, sightseeing, most meals, and guided tours with a naturalist (from $3,899 per person for a five-night trip). Tours from G Adventures don’t include airfare but give you the chance explore Floreana Island in addition to Isabela and Santa Cruz Islands (Galápagos Island Hopping, from $1,999 per person for a 6-night trip). For a unique experience, their Galápagos Express tour for 18-to-39-year-olds lets you camp each night under the stars (from $1,249 per person for a six-night trip). —Kaeli Conforti


9. PORTUGAL Explore the vineyards and tasty cuisine before word gets out that this is one of Europe's coolest destinations.

Why 2016. Once a lesser-appreciated travel destination, Portugal is about to have its moment. Lisbon is experiencing an uptick in foreign visitors, and the Algarve has long been the vacation of choice for socks-and-sandals-wearing northern Europeans. Enjoy the country’s charm without the crowds in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, known for its unique culinary expressions, port wine, and its location—where the Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean meet.

What to do. A trip to Porto should include a visit to an iconic port lodge across the river; five-euro tours include a tasting of about three different port wines. Sightsee through the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site of steep cobbled streets and Baroque architecture like the Clerigos Tower. >>


(Christopher Wise)

PORTUGAL (continued)

Twenty minutes away from Porto, in Matosinhos, you’ll find the freshest seafood in town: Restaurante O Xarroco is great for grilled fish, prawns tossed in olive oil and garlic, or for something truly local, fried petingas (tiny fish similar to sardines) paired with tomato rice (351/22-938-1649). Farther off the beaten path still is the region of Alentejo, which has beaches, rolling vineyards, olive groves, and even Roman ruins. Its northeast pocket—close to Spain—is home to some of the best wines in the country. Award-winning boutique winery Lima Mayer is in Monforte, which you can visit by appointment.

Where to stay. On the banks of the river is Pestana Vintage Porto (from $168 per night), which recently added 50 additional rooms designed in chic midcentury-modern style. —Chadner Navarro


10. ISLA HOLBOX Find incredibly affordable luxury in the "new Tulum."

Why 2016. Word on the street is that Isla Holbox is the next big destination on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, an undiscovered authentic Mexican fishing village protected by dazzling mangroves. Swim with gentle, majestic (and totally harmless) whale sharks, visit miniature islands ripe with birdwatching ops, and taste the freshest seafood around.

What to do. Isla Holbox is home to the pride and joy of the island: whale sharks. If you’re game to swim with the world’s largest fish, prepare to be awed when you see its double dorsal fin, intricately spotted body, and five-foot-long mouth that seems to be fixed in a never-ending smile. The Classic Tour offered by VIP Holbox explores Punta Mosquito, where hundreds of pink flamingos shake, eat, and bask in the sun on the beach (from about $24). There is a stop at Isla Pajaros, a small mangrove-covered island sprinkled with more than 100 different types of birds. Watch eagles soar overhead and iguanas wrestle on the sand. >>


(Andrea Wyner)

ISLA HOLBOX (continued)

At Yalahau, swim inside a sparkling cenote that was believed to be used by pirates as a freshwater supply. Mandarina Restaurant and Beach Club’s claim to fame is being the island’s only true organic restaurant, sourcing all ingredients locally. While sinking your toes into the warm sand, sample freshly caught fish and produce from a farm in the nearby village of Solferino. The flavors are inspired by the Italian and Argentinian ex-pats who live on Holbox. Popular dishes include the rack of lamb with mustard, honey and rosemary; fine slices of beef cured in lemon juice; and homemade ravioli with salmon.

Where to stay. Casa Las Tortugas is a bohemian-themed paradise with comfy boutique accommodations. The hotel has everything you need for a relaxing vacation: a stunning beachfront and a central location near the shopping district. The property offers daily yoga classes; spa services, like the aromatherapy-rich jet lag recovery massage; and $4 bike rentals (from $141 per night). —Adrienne Jordan

11. NAMIBIA Experience the ultimate African safari and discover the continent’s best-kept secret.

Why 2016. DIY adventurers are learning that democratic Namibia is a safe and affordable place to track the Big Five on foot, horseback, camel, or in a jeep.

What to do. Etosha National Park, in the arid northeast, plays host to self-drive safaris. From the security of your rental car, roll up to more than 30 roadside watering holes to spot lions, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, and antelope. (There’s also the comfort of hot showers and flush toilets.) If you prefer to keep more of a distance from the wildlife, you can use a campsite’s “hide”—a two-story hut with windows that overlook a watering hole. >>

(Christian Kerber)

NAMIBIA (continued)

Where to stay. Government-run camps like Okaukuejo within Etosha National Park are comfortable, and a steal compared to the usual sky-high safari lodge prices (from $64 per person per night). —Maridel Reyes

(Lonely Planet)

12. CINCINNATI The Midwest's "comeback kid" is welcoming travelers who prize a retro-cool vibe.

Why 2016. Indie director Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation) shot Anomalisa in this charmingly old-world city, returning it to the must-see map. 

What to do. Drink in the view of the Roebling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio from one of the Rosenberg swings in Riverfront Park, then take an exotic turn and visit the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s new black rhinos, Seyia and Faru (admission $16). >>


CINCINNATI (continued)

In the hip Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, former breweries and other buildings have been transformed into a magnet for culture vultures and foodies: In summer, catch a free concert at Washington Park (washingtonpark. org) or head to Taft’s Ale House for meat and beer (tri-tip sliders $3). Don’t leave town without trying Cincy’s signature “five-way” (spaghetti with chili, shredded cheddar, onions, and beans). 

Where to stay. The Millennium Hotel Cincinnati was a hit with the cast and crew of Anomalisa (from $131 per night). —Robert Firpo-Cappiello 

(Courtesy Vonelle Viajera/myBudgetTravel)

13. INDONESIA Pick an island, any island. There are 17,000.

Why 2016. Visitors are looking beyond Bali to Jakarta’s shopping and food and the natural beauty of Java. 

What to do. Indonesia is a world unto itself. Start on the island of Java to explore rain forests, volcanoes, savannah, and beaches, or get down to business in the capital, Jakarta, where shopping for tapestries and tasting local specialties like crispy duck is key. >>

(Nina Choi)

INDONESIA (continued)

For a wilder time, spot eerily human-like orange apes at Sumatra’s Orangutan Feeding Centre, which helps them transition to the wild. Of course, Bali remains one of our favorite islands for rhythmic music, romantic beaches, and a price that’s right.

Where to stay. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jakarta-Diponegoro is family-friendly (from about $80 per night). —Robert Firpo-Cappiello

(Lonely Planet)

14. CROATIA Discover the Mediterranean's hip-yet-economical playground.

Why 2016. Croatia offers Mediterranean delights at a fraction of the cost of pricier neighbors like Italy. Go now for the stellar exchange rate.

What to do. Hit the sophisticated coffee houses and museums of the thousand-year-old capital, Zagreb, or dive into history by wandering the medieval alleys of Korcula. Pedal along the Istrian peninsula’s 2,000 miles of bike trails through rolling hills, rustic hamlets, and vineyards that evoke Tuscany, or head inland to explore the fairy-tale beauty and wildlife of Plitvice Lakes National Park. >>

(Intersection Photos)

CROATIA (continued)

Croatia’s 1,200-plus Adriatic islands are dreamlike havens, with pine-shaded coves, pebbled beaches, and peaceful fishing villages. You can set sail with Katarina Line, which has weeklong trips on small ships with 20 to 40 passengers (about $397 per person). 

Where to stay. Palmizana, a family-run hideaway on Sveti Klement, one of the idyllic Pakleni Islands off the western tip of Hvar, is a cluster of six bungalows and seven villas, decorated with bright Mediterranean colors (from about $107 per night). —Karen Carmichael 

(Lonely Planet)

15. NICARAGUA Enjoy Central America's mountains, rain forests, and beaches without the crowds or high prices.

Why 2016. Nicaragua and Costa Rica share a border and a topography ripe with biodiverse jungle, hulking mountains, and idyllic beaches. The difference? Nicaragua hasn’t been discovered by tourists—yet. 

What to do. Spend a day (or two, or seven!) at las playas. Madera and Marsella beaches evoke surfer vibes at backpacker prices. Then head to the retro-chic beach town of San Juan del Sur for poolside happy hours and fun nightlife at Pelican Eyes (cocktail, appetizer, entrée, and dessert $15). Hermosa and El Remanso beaches are relaxing settings for fish tacos and Toña lagers. >>

(Andrew Rowat)

NICARAGUA (continued)

Where to stay. Selva Negra, a family-run organic farm and coffee plantation, has hostel-style rooms and private bungalows nestled in the mountains, plus hiking trails replete with charmingly shrill howler monkeys (from about $55 per night). Xalli offers it all beachside between Volcanoes Concepcion and Maderas (from about $30 per night). —Shira Levine 

(Courtesy laratada/myBudgetTravel)

16. ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA Sip small-batch brews, indulge in a vibrant food scene, and spend your evenings around a cozy campfire.

Why 2016. The ultimate cool small town just keeps getting cooler. 

What to do. Stroll downtown’s light-filled and ornate 1920s Grove Arcade mall. Head to the Wedge Brewing Company in the River Arts District and get to know Asheville’s latest prince: small batch beer (pints from $3). Then head to your digs for a campfire and s’mores. In the morning, hit the National Park System’s Blue Ridge Parkway for a mountain sunrise. >>

(Michael Turek)


Where to stay. The Aloft Asheville Downtown has a terrifically funky location (from $159 per night). —Lisa Aiken

(Whitney Tressel)

17. COLOMBIA Check out South America's most beautiful "makeover."

Why 2016. While Cartagena has long been hailed as a Caribbean coastal paradise, lately Bogotá has also been turning heads as a hotspot. 

What to do. Bogotá’s historic quarter is a cobblestoned maze of colonial buildings and churches juxtaposed with cool cafés and bars. Explore Plaza Bolívar and check out the monumental city hall, houses of congress, the supreme court, and the 19th-century Catedral Primada. >>

(Andrew Rowat)

COLOMBIA (continued)

Where to stay. Check in at the Continental All Suites for its excellent location (from $56 per night). —Celia Shatzman 


18. SRI LANKA Achieve spiritual enlightenment—or at least an elephant sighting.

Why 2016. With cruise ships and package tours on the way, be the first to get this passport stamp. 

What to do. Sri Lanka boasts ancient temples (including eight UNESCO World Heritage sites) and a spiritual tradition going back more than two millennia. Start in bustling Colombo for a glimpse of the former British colonial occupation, then go in search of elephants at Minneriva, and the world’s oldest living tree, Anuradhapura. >>

(Brian Maranan Pineda)

SRI LANKA (continued)

Where to stay. Galle Face Hotel, in Colombo, has amazing ocean views (from $140 per night). —Robert Firpo-Cappiello 

(Eduard Kyslynskyy/Dreamstime)

19. SCOTLAND Find Europe's wild side in Edinburgh and beyond.

Why 2016. Scotland’s one-two punch of culture and nature has put it on travelers’ “next” list. 

What to do. Revel in the beauty of the Outer Hebrides, the lakes and mountains of the Highlands, especially the Cairngorms, and in August get a taste of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world. >>

(Michael Turek)

SCOTLAND (continued)

Where to stay. The Knight Residence is in walking distance of Edinburgh’s nightlife (from $133 per night). —Robert Firpo-Cappiello


20. ROME You don't have to wait an eternity to afford the Eternal City.

Why 2016. Hotel prices in Rome are down 17 percent from last year. 

What to do. See the Roman Colosseum and toss three coins over your left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain to ensure your return. And don’t forget the gelato! Visit Gelateria della Palma and choose from more than 150 flavors (from $3 for three scoops). >>


ROME (continued)

Where to stay. Mecenate Rooms offers posh apartments a five-minute walk from the Colosseum (from about $75 per night). —Kaeli Conforti

(Lonely Planet)

21. COPENHAGEN Get to this charming Danish capital for unusually low fares and hotel rates.

Why 2016. Hotel prices are 16 percent lower than they were last year, and Norwegian Air is offering one-way flights from $152. Start packing! 

What to do. Stroll past colorful buildings in the historic Nyhavn neighborhood, unwind at Tivoli Gardens, and savor New Nordic Cuisine, featuring seasonal, locally sourced food. >>


(Lukas Blazek/Dreamstime)

COPENHAGEN (continued)

Where to stay. Generator Copenhagen is a hostel that feels like a boutique hotel (from $81 per night for a private room). —Kaeli Conforti 

(Sean Pavone/Dreamstime)

22. HONG KONG Nab a luxurious hotel room at a discount.

Why 2016. With a towering skyline matched by a vibrant cultural scene, Hong Kong is currently offering a wealth of hotel deals.

What to do. Spend a relaxing day on nature-filled Lantau, where you can spot elusive pink dolphins, browse the bustling seafood markets, and see the 112- foot Big Buddha at Ngong Ping Village, followed by a vegetarian lunch at Po Lin Monastery. >>

(Brian Maranan Pineda)

HONG KONG (continued)

Where to stay. The renovated Salisbury Hotel is a best bet for both location and price (from $154 per night). —Jen Jones Donatelli 


23. RIO DE JANEIRO Savor the sights, sounds, and tastes of this Olympian metropolis.

Why 2016. This summer, Rio will host the 2016 Olympic Games, from August 5 to 21, and the Paralympics from September 7 to 18. 

What to do. Stroll on legendary beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema, see Christ the Redeemer, or view the city from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Eat everything, and wash it down with a refreshing caipirinha cocktail. >>



RIO DE JANEIRO (continued)

Where to stay. Experience Rio like a local: in your very own Airbnb apartment, mere blocks from the beach (from $80 per night). —Kaeli Conforti 


24. NEW ZEALAND Find your adventure in the real-life Middle-earth.

Why 2016. Fiji Airways and Air Tahiti Nui specials are making New Zealand even more budget-friendly, as is the strong U.S. dollar. 

What to do. Bungee jump from Queenstown’s Kawarau Bridge (from $127) and visit Middle-earth at the Hobbiton movie set ($49). Chow down on roast lamb, mussels, pavlova (a fruity merengue-like dessert), and hokey pokey, a delicious concoction involving vanilla ice cream and honey. >>

(Nicole Valeri/Dreamstime)

NEW ZEALAND (continued)

Where to stay. Travelscene offers packages that include tours and accommodations in several New Zealand cities (from $499). —Kaeli Conforti

(Rafael Ben-ari/Dreamstime)
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All year long at Budget Travel, we keep an eye on culture, cuisine, and hotel trends around the world and monitor currency fluctuations, airfare, and room rates. We draw on our personal experience and passion to deliver “Where to Go,” the ultimate list of top travel locales that offer a broad mix of everything the savvy traveler wants, including great value. No. 1 on this year’s list is Iceland, whose glaciers, volcanoes, and hot spring are drawing more visitors than ever before, followed by San Antonio, Cuba, Los Angeles, and, well… You’ll just have to start reading to find the full list of 24 destinations.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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