In a recent post called TRAVEL GUIDE: How To Plan A Perfect Girlfriends’ Getaway, I shared some key advice to help you plan your next trip, but failed to mention where you should go! But as always I’ve got you covered. The New York Times has done the work for you and has recommended some of the best places to go in 2012. The year is not finished yet, so there’s plenty of time to squeeze in just one more trip before the busy holiday season. Here we go:
1. LHASA, TIBET – New luxury hotels bring respite – and controversy
Tibet’s holy capital is in the throes of a luxury-hotel boom. In Lhasa, this is news: not only is operating an upscale hotel at nearly 12,000 feet above sea level no small feat, but real-estate developments here are, almost by default, also culturally loaded.
The majestic, 162-room St. Regis Lhasa Resort has been in full operation since May. In 2010, a charming Tibetan-owned villa called the Lingtsang reopened as a boutique hotel with opulent, colorful woodwork and courtyard verandas. And coming soon are the sprawling InterContinental Resort Lhasa Paradise and the 284-room Shangri-La, both scheduled to open in 2013.
On the upside, it’s the first time that travelers can get high-end amenities in a city where even basic hospitality has been a challenge. On the downside, the openings — like Lhasa’s booming population, new business districts and shopping malls — are seen by many Tibetans and interested outsiders as more cultural colonization and exploitation of a sacred land. KIMBERLY BRADLEY
2. ST. VINCENT – A new resort may put this Caribbean island on the map
The fact that American Airlines does not fly there could explain why St. Vincent remains among the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets: a stunningly lush, unspoiled gem of an island surrounded by water cerulean enough to render that of other islands murky by comparison. What there is here — a climbable volcano, dramatic waterfalls, black-sand beaches — is dwarfed by what there isn’t: chain stores, crowds, big hotels.
Except, that is, for one notably new exception. Buccament Bay, a five-star resort, opened in the fall and boasts more rooms, about 360, than all other hotels on the island combined. And there are the resort’s five restaurants, a spa, a soccer camp and performing arts center. The resort, along with a new international airport that is scheduled to open in late 2013 and designed to handle five times the number of passengers currently arriving at the island, will most likely let the cat out of the bag and attract the long overdue crowds. Get there before they do. BAZ DREISINGER
Olive, the BBC’s food magazine, recently startled British gourmands when it declared Birmingham, England’s second largest city, the United Kingdom’s “foodiest town,” ahead of London and Edinburgh. The award came last October, just as Birmingham was hosting an annual festival, the 10-day Birmingham Food Fest, which featured such local talents as Aktar Islam of Lasan Restaurant; up-and-comers like David Colcombe of Opus, Andy Waters of Edmunds Restaurant and Steve Love of Loves Restaurant; and a troika of Michelin-starred chefs: Glynn Purnell of Purnell’s; Andreas Antona, Luke Tipping and Adam Bennett of Simpsons Restaurant; and Richard Turner of Turners of Harborne.
The chefs are building on an already rich dining scene. Birmingham is famous in Britain for its Balti Triangle, an area of town that is home to a beloved Pakistani-Kashmiri curry dish invented here; it is also birthplace to such classically British food items as Typhoo Tea, Bird’s Custard and HP Sauce. ALEXANDER LOBRANO
4. DAKHLA, MOROCCO - in Morocco’s south, an arty hideaway
Morocco’s cool crowd doesn’t want anyone else to discover this remote but strangely beautiful desert town on the Atlantic Coast of the Western Sahara, an area with a tumultuous history now governed by Morocco. On a 30-mile-long spit of sand between the ocean and a tranquil lagoon about 600 miles south of Marrakesh, the town is becoming one of the world’s greatest wind- and kite-board surfing destinations.
But there’s more to Dakhla than high-flying fun. Many come for its fledgling bohemian status: it’s a wild, remote, sun-drenched place with a freewheeling atmosphere and plenty of local Tuareg culture. Water temperatures remain a constant 80 degrees year-round, the desert is a short trek away, and the locally caught seafood is delicious. Sleepy during the day thanks to the often intense Saharan heat, the town comes alive after dark with lively cafes and restaurants. Dakhla also finally has a place for nonbackpackers: the Calipau Sahara hotel, a modern riad that opened two years ago, with a long stretch of private beach and a seawater pool. And although part of Dakhla’s charm is its relative inaccessibility, Royal Air Maroc offers daily flights from Casablanca. ALEXANDER LOBRANO
5. TANZANIA – Coming into its own as an upscale safari destination
For the last several years the number of tourists going to Tanzania has been edging up, according to East African travel specialists like Hippo Creek Safaris and Abercrombie & Kent. But it wasn’t until several violent attacks on visitors to neighboring Kenya that the numbers really took off, as Tanzania started to absorb skittish Kenya-bound safari seekers.
Not that Tanzania is coasting along solely on Kenya’s troubles; it’s always had Mount Kilimanjaro, after all. And now other attractions are being discovered, too — places like Gibb’s Farm, a small lodge from which guests can hike to the Ngorongoro Crater area, a prime destination for big game viewing. In addition, the opening of exclusive safari reserves like the Singita Grumeti and the upscale camps managed by Nomad Tanzania and Chem Chem are evidence that the country’s tourist infrastructure is becoming more sophisticated, perhaps even catching up to Kenya’s. GISELA WILLIAMS
(source: New York Times)