Slideshow: 10 Unexpected Holiday Destinations for the New Year and What to Eat When You Get There
December 17, 2015
Planning your 2016 travel itinerary? Don’t leave these underrated gems off your list of possibilities
10 Unexpected Holiday Destinations for the New Year and What to Eat When You Get There
A new year always opens up so many possibilities, including hopes for travel. There are roughly 196 countries around the globe right now. Very few of us are likely to visit them all, like this British 24-year-old did (he set the bar pretty high.) But that doesn't mean that our travel itineraries shouldn't stray beyond London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Sydney. The whole point of travel is to see new places, have new experiences, and, at least for people like us, eat new food.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up 10 unexpected destinations for your first trip of the New Year. Each of them will enrich your life, expand your horizons, yield Instagram photos that will make everyone jealous (and make them Google where you are, exactly) — and introduce you to some gustatory treats you may not yet have encountered.
Check out our list, which ranges from Friuli, a northeastern Italian region bordering Austria and Slovenia, to Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island nation off South America’s northern coast. Happy dreaming!
This northeastern region of Italy borders Slovenia and Austria, so it’s feasible to visit three countries at once on a trip here. Friuli makes up a significant amount of the official region called Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and the area’s multitude of activities make it an incredible trip for 2016. Check off hiking trails, biking tours, and vineyards (Friuli's wines are some of the best in Italy), and don’t pass on historical churches, picturesque parks, and expansive lakes. Whether it’s summer or winter, Laghi di Fusine won’t disappoint – autumn trees with a calm lake, or evergreens dwarfed by the snow-covered Alps.
What to Eat in Friuli
TripAdvisor ranks Ristorantino da Issa as the number one restaurant in the area, and it’s definitely worth a visit for its Middle Eastern menu and interior featuring incense, intricate carpets, and candles. As for the region’s specialty foods, one of our favorite places is Trattoria del Giardinetto in Cormons. Wherever you eat, be sure to try the polenta served in many different ways, like with cheese and meat sauce. The area’s cuisine is influenced by that of Central Europe and Austria.
Honduras’ ancient history, coastlines, and national parks make it a prime destination for the New Year. Another key factor? It’s lighter on the wallet since the trip isn’t trans-Atlantic. Sights travelers to Honduras should not miss include Honduras’ first national park, La Tigra, for its trails, waterfalls, and views; Copán, the site of ancient Mayan ceremonies, which features hieroglyphics on stone and tall monuments; and the Bay Islands for scuba diving.
What to Eat in Honduras
The country’s national dish, the plato típico, consists of heaping portions of beef, plantains, marinated cabbage, beans, tortillas, and fresh cream. If travelers are seeking a lighter meal, anafres — a cheese and black bean fondue with tortilla chips — is a popular option. Besides these dishes, visitors shouldn’t end their trips without tasting baleadas, or folded tortillas stuffed with crumbled cheese, beans, sour cream, and meat. And on the North Coast and Bay Islands, seafood reigns supreme – especially tapado, a seafood stew with ingredients like sweet potatoes, plantains, and yucca.
Iceland may seem like an out-of-the-blue destination for a New Year vacation, but in reality, trips to the north Atlantic island are soaring in popularity — even making it one of the top six European vacation spots, according to British Airways. Once-in-a-lifetime activities are part of the draw, like viewing the Northern lights, caving, whale-watching, glacier-climbing, and bathing in the famous Blue Lagoon.
What to Eat in Iceland
Potatoes, lamb, and extensive amounts of seafood are all staples of Icelandic cuisine. Cod, haddock, herring, lobster, and salmon are popular, and minke whale is available seared and on kebabs. Another local favorite is skyr, a soft cheese versatile enough to be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, as a dip, or in drink form. The iconic Icelandic hotdog, pylsa, is made with lamb and typically served with ketchup, onions, sweet brown mustard, and a sauce made with mayonnaise and rémoulade.
The northern region of Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador province, Labrador definitely counts as an unexpected travel destination for the New Year, if only because so many people haven’t heard of it. Vast mountains and lakes for sight-seeing dot the landscape, and travelers have the option to go camping, diving, hiking, whale-watching, and participate in a host of other activities. In the winter, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling are all viable outings. And don’t forget to view an over-10,000-year-old iceberg — whether you take it in via a boat, a sea kayak, or on foot.
What to Eat in Labrador
Seafood is a specialty across the entire province, as is fish and chips, so make sure to try both while vacationing in the region. Favorites include lobster, cod, halibut, salmon, trout, shrimp, mussels, and scallops. And if you’re looking for a non-seafood meal, premier game includes moose, caribou, bear, and rabbit.
Consider Laos, the Southeast Asian country bordering Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, when buying vacation flights for 2016. Expansive forests call to the wildlife enthusiast, and thrill-seekers can explore underground river caves and zipline through the jungle. If spending time in Vientiane, the country’s capital, Pha That Luang is a must-see masterpiece of a golden temple, and as a symbol of Laos and the Buddhist religion, it’s also one of the most important sites in the country.
What to Eat in Laos
Typical cuisine in Laos is reminiscent of that of its neighbors Thailand and Cambodia — a group sharing a table also shares sticky rice, spicy soup, and side dishes of meat. In Vientiane, quality French restaurants abound due to France’s influence during the colonial era. Pop some kaipen, or fried seaweed, a popular snack made with green freshwater algae and sesame seeds. It’s usually served with jaew bong, or chile paste. Another well-known dish is khao poon, or rice vermicelli soup, which has a chile and meat base and also includes vegetables like spring onion, string beans, and shallots.
The reason for Luxembourg’s appearance on our list of unexpected destinations is that many would choose to visit its neighbors, Belgium, France, and Germany, over this tiny country. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in landscapes, castles, and price (a five-star hotel in the capital averages $160 per night.) Don’t miss the Grand-Ducal Palace in Luxembourg City — this country is the world’s last remaining to have a ruling grand duke, and his namesake’s architecture is sublime (16th-century Flemish Renaissance.) If appreciating nature is a visitor’s endgame, he or she can take in the Ardennes region and its parks, which are known for scenic views and historical castles.
What to Eat in Luxembourg
The nature of Luxembourg’s cuisine has been influenced by neighbors France and Germany, especially the latter when it comes to traditional dishes. Local freshwater fish like trout, pike, and crayfish is a specialty, as well as cakes and pastries. One well-known dish is judd mat gaardebounen, or smoked neck of pork accompanied by a stew of beans and potatoes sautéed with bacon. It’s usually served in very hearty portions. Another specialty, bouchée à la reine, consists of a puff pastry filled with chicken and mushrooms in a béchamel sauce. For a special dinner out, Luxembourg City hosts nine Michelin-starred restaurants.
A melting pot of Malay, Indian, and Chinese culture and cuisine, Malaysia’s Southeast Asian location means unique food influences, lush rainforests, and postcard-worthy beaches. Attractions in capital Kuala Lumpur, called “KL” by locals, include visiting the Petronas Twin Towers, skyscrapers with a sky bridge and observation deck, and the Batu Caves, a hill made of limestone peppered with cave temples. Gunung Mulu National Park is also a popular tourist destination, and it’s filled with expansive views, caves, and karst formations, or eerie-looking rock formations sculpted by nature itself.
What to Eat in Malaysia
From murtabak, or pan-fried bread stuffed with minced meat and onions, to tepung pelita, or a rice flour dessert steamed inside a banana leaf, Malaysia is filled with dishes enriched with spices like coriander and turmeric or cooked in ingredients like coconut milk. Other favorites include popular street food apam balik, a Malaysian pancake turnover filled with peanuts, corn, and sugar. Don’t leave without trying laksam, a spicy noodle soup characteristic of northeastern Malaysia made with thick rice flour noodles in gravy made from coconut milk and boiled fish.
Montenegro is located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and shares borders with Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Whether travelers are enjoying the country’s strip of beaches or exploring the mountains and medieval villages, this is sure to be a 2016 vacation to remember. Don’t miss Durmitor National Park and its glacial lakes and limestone peaks, particularly Black Lake, surrounded by immense mountains and incredible scenery. The coastal walled city of Kotor offers extensive history, castles, and photo opportunities.
What to Eat in Montenegro
Montenegrin cuisine has been influenced in part by Italy, Turkey, Serbia, Hungary, and Croatia, and it also varies regionally — the coastal regions tend towards dishes with a Mediterranean flavor. Traditional meals include pršuta, or smoked ham, often served with grape brandy and dry cheese; kačamak, a porridge of wheat, barley, or corn flour served with cheese; and rastan, collard greens, cooked with spices and potatoes.
An archipelago of about 70 islands off the northeastern coast of the Scotland, Orkney’s draw is characterized by ancient Neolithic sites, cathedrals, and historical tours, as well as activities like bike tours, climbing, diving, sailing, and kayaking. One of the area’s premier attractions is the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and group of over 5,000-year-old Neolithic sites on the Orkney’s largest island, Mainland. Highlights include two stone circles (the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness) and Skara Brae, a stone-built settlement, remnants of the Viking occupation.
What to Eat in Orkney
Orkney’s lush fields provide for raising cattle, sheep, and water buffalo that are prized throughout the region, and the surrounding seas mean fresh salmon, scallops, crab, lobster, and razorfish are common delicacies. The climate is largely responsible for the region’s largely stress-free cows, which means quality ice cream and cheddar products. Other sources of pride include baked goods and Orkney fudge, as well as leafy greens, potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes. Specialty dishes in Orkney include fried Grimbister cheese, crab claws, beef, seafood, and fudge cheesecake. The best place to buy local products is the Brig Larder in Kirkwall, the capital.
Trinidad & Tobago
This twin island country, the home of calypso music, is located off South America’s northern coast and offers rainforests, reefs, and picturesque beaches. Trinidad’s Maracas Bay, which is about a 40-minute drive from the island’s capital, lies on a deep bay lined with palm trees and vendors selling delicious food. And Nylon Pool, a coral pool near Tobago’s Pigeon Point beach, is accessible by boat and absolutely worth a visit.
What to Eat in Trinidad & Tobago
Flavorful Caribbean food rules this twin island nation, and although each island has its signature dishes, there’s so much crossover that travelers can usually find dishes on either island. Specialty dishes from Trinidad include “doubles,” or chickpeas with tamarind, mango, or pepper, sandwiched in light “bara” bread; and pineapple chow, or fresh fruit mixed with lime juice, hot pepper, and salt, among other trappings. In Tobago, try ice-cold coconut water straight from the source, freshly caught lobster, and curried crab and dumplings. Roti is another Caribbean delicacy, consisting of a flour pancake similar to a tortilla and usually filled with curried chicken, goat, shrimp, or chickpeas.