Ishigaki, Japan
An island in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture, tops the list.
Home to a varied landscape including sandy beaches, rare coral, mountains and mangrove forests, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular spot.
Also great for food lovers, Ishigaki – which means stone wall – is known for its soba noodles, called Yaeyama soba, made of flour instead of the more traditional buckwheat.
The average hotel price is 131 USD per night, while the lowest to be found is 95 USD.

Porquerolles, France
Never heard of this tiny island off the coast of St. Tropez? The Fondation Carmignac is about to change that when it opens a nonprofit arts venue this year featuring works by some of the 20th century’s most important artists. Until now, Édouard Carmignac’s collection of pop art by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Roy Lichtenstein has been seen by few people outside of his family and the employees who work in his offices. All that will change this spring, when his gallery and sculpture garden opens to the public.

Malta
How strange it seems now that this former British colony was, until recently, considered most remarkable for expat retirees and red phone boxes. Though its fortified, honey-gold capital, Valletta, is in the spotlight as a 2018 European Capital of Culture, top tastemakers have been quietly rediscovering the history-soaked Mediterranean island of Malta for a while. Cool kids come for Annie Mac’s Lost & Found festival – pitching up for a third go-round this year, with Diplo and Jamie XX in tow – and stay for a sceney new bundle of forts-turned-clubs and what our writer Juliet Rix calls ‘centuries-old palazzi transformed into high-design hotels’. The most visionary of these, Iniala Harbour House, opens in January. Millionaire philanthropist Mark Weingard enlisted a trio of designers to reimagine several townhouses, flaunting original features like stone walls, cupola ceilings and basement vaults. For the guest who thinks they’ve seen everything: in-room ‘experience-ometers’ can be set to desired activity levels; the hotel plans an itinerary to suit.

Shanghai
With a spate of new development, Shanghai seems poised to become mainland China’s most exciting place to be. Long a fusion of East and West, the city has steadily been welcoming cultural attractions, from the Power Station of Art (mainland China’s first state-run museum dedicated to contemporary art) to the striking new Fosun Foundation designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with Heatherwick Studio. Last year saw the opening of Bellagio Shanghai and the urban resort Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li, both members of Leading Hotels of the World. This year, the city’s hospitality scene will explode, with the new Amanyangyun, Middle House designed by Piero Lissoni, the ultra-luxe Bulgari Hotel Shanghai, and the scene-making Shanghai EDITION.

The Seychelles
The Seychelles’ brand of barefoot luxury is that bit wilder, more elemental, than its similarly Eden-esque neighbours, the Maldives and Mauritius. Primeval jungle fringes white-coral sand; postcard-blue surf pounds dramatic black rocks. The Indian Ocean archipelago zealously lends itself to castaway fantasies: local lore about buried treasure and haunted sea caves abound. But paradise comes at a price: marooned 1,600km off Africa’s east coast, reaching this remote refuge can be an ordeal. Not so in 2018, when British Airways launches the UK’s first non-stop flights to the Seychelles from March.

Baiona, Galicia
The Spanish Costas are overrun with tourists as once-popular destinations in North Africa remain off limits. Northern Spain has better value and it’s rarely better than Baiona in southern Galicia. The fishing port is close to Portugal so gets warmer weather and less rain than locations further north. The town has several small and appealing beaches – with countless others along the coast nearby. If you like seafood you will be in heaven with prices more reflective of the Spanish rather than the German or Irish cost of living.
Mexico’s Pacific Coast
If Tulum is where A-listers go for a fix of glam Zen, the Pacific coast is more the preserve of the Gypset. Sayulita, 20 miles from major resort Puerto Vallarta, may be a sleepy beach town, but doesn’t want for style. It’s an easy, sand-and-salt-in-your-hair scene, where wandering bohemians wash up in search of surf, then stay to open vintage board shops or hammock-strung guesthouses. Among bargain beach-shack Margaritas and cheap taco stands, designers from New York and Paris run brightly painted boutiques.

Buenos Aires
It should be little surprise that Art Basel chose Buenos Aires as the first participant in its new Art Basel Cities initiative. The Argentine capital thrums with creative energy, from street-art-filled Palermo to Puerto Madero, the neighborhood Alan Faena revitalized when he opened his namesake hotel in a former silo—now home to the new Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences. The program launched in November with a series of talks and events at the Art Basel Cities House and will continue to support cultural exchange with residences and a weeklong event of programming in September directed by Cecilia Alemani, director and chief curator of the High Line in New York and curator of the Italian pavilion at the 2017 Venice Bienna

Baiona, Galicia
The Spanish Costas are overrun with tourists as once-popular destinations in North Africa remain off limits. Northern Spain has better value and it’s rarely better than Baiona in southern Galicia. The fishing port is close to Portugal so gets warmer weather and less rain than locations further north. The town has several small and appealing beaches – with countless others along the coast nearby. If you like seafood you will be in heaven with prices more reflective of the Spanish rather than the German or Irish cost of living.

Costa de la Luz
This is the secret the Spanish keep to themselves because they don’t want their coast of light blighted by lobster-red tourists from the north. The stretch of coast from Cadiz to Trafalgar (yes, the famous one) and Conil de La Frontera boasts stretches of sandy beaches and low-rise, eco-friendly resorts and endless days of unbroken sunshine are all but guaranteed. The beach-side restaurants are brilliant and brilliantly cheap, the surfing and body boarding are great craic and if you get bored Morocco is a day-trip across the sea. Don’t go in July and August when all of Spain seems to be there.

Wild Atlantic Way
If it is good enough for Luke Skywalker it should be good enough for you. We are terrible in Ireland for overlooking the magical tourist hotspots on our doorstep and there can’t be anywhere in the county that is attracting more attention internationally than Skellig Michael and the Wild Atlantic Way at its fringe. Don’t plan it too much. Just pick a random spot along the way and start cycling. If you’re not too fussy about your accommodation and don’t let the weather get you down, you will have a great – and very cheap – holiday at home.

Adriatic
Croatia has gone cruiseship mad and Montenegro concrete crazy. Although only in certain spots, leaving plenty of these stunning countries to enjoy, if you know how. Go on an adventure in Croatia’s Paklenica, Northern Velebit and Plitvice National Parks. And in Montenegro, Lake Skadar National Park is a stunner. Or get to the Adriatic before the other European schools break up. May and June are still quiet.

Slovenia
Slovenia is made for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. It’s the first country to be declared a green destination. The best time to visit depends on whether you want snowy peaks (Dec-March) or hiking and cycling (May-Sept). Outside these months, there is still plenty on offer. Check the “I Feel Slovenia” website (slovenia.info/en) for information. Fly from Dublin/Cork via Amsterdam, Frankfurt or London or to Venice and cross the border by train. Kayak across Lake Bled before following a trail through the trees to a tea room once used by President Tito. (lakeblednews.com/cafe-belvedere).

Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Winter is not just for the skiers in Jackson Hole. It’s also for the birds – hawks, eagles and owls – and the elk, moose, bison and wolves. The valley floor, part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, is as well regarded as Lamar Valley for wolf sightings. In summer, the Teton mountains that frame the “hole” (aka valley) provide the backdrop for grizzlies as they re-emerge. Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris (jacksonholewildlifesafaris.com), founded by photographer and guide Jason Williams, have winter and summer safari offerings. Trailfinders (trailfinders.com) has flights via Denver and Washington.

Antarctica
Head south to visit the world’s last wild frontier, see its declining colonies of penguins and view spectacular glaciers breaking into icebergs. The carbon footprint of getting here is substantial – flying to Argentina and then boarding a cruise, so travel on fuel-efficient, Cleanship-certified vessels (Abercrombie & Kent’s Ponant, abercrombiekent.com; Responsible Travel, responsibletravel.com) carrying 250 people or fewer. Only 100 passengers are permitted to disembark at one time.

Botswana Wildlife Guiding Course
Be part of your own safari by learning to how to track the Big Five, to paddle your own canoe through the Okavango Delta and wild camp under the stars. “Safari Brothers” Grant and Brent Reed, known for their NatGeo Wild programme, run one- to four-week guiding courses (€1,624-€2,744pp) at their Okavango Guiding School. It is based in Kwapa Camp, in wilderness that stretches unfenced from northern Botswana into Angola and Zambia. Training sponsorship for a local guide is included. Courses are run all year round. Dry season is May to September.

Azores
Once famous for its whaling, this Portuguese archipelago is now a whale-watching hotspot. You can also hike, bike, visit wineries and taste cheese. Blue and fin whales pass through from April to June while sperm whales, dolphins and sea birds gather all year round. Bring waterproof bags for your camera if you plan to travel around the nine volcanic islands and book accommodation at least a few nights in advance at busy times. Archipelago Choice offers a seven-night whale-watching holiday to Pico

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