13 Places to Visit in 2011

U.S. News & World Report

13 Places to Visit in 2011

In many ways, January is the ideal time to plan a trip. It’s a new year after all, and "traveling more" is a great resolution to add to your list. Plus, thoughts of exciting trips might just get you through the rest of the cold, dark winter. So, crack open that calendar: Now is the perfect time to ink it up with 2011 escapes.

[See a photo recap of 13 Places to Visit in 2011]

Taking a cue from Stieg Larsson and his astonishingly successful Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, we submit Stockholm as a top city to visit in 2011. This "Venice of the North" is visually arresting with canal-connected islands and the architecture in Old Town, which was untouched by World War II bombs. Plus, if you travel over the Midsummer Festival in late June, you'll experience an almost eerie 24 hours of daylight.

One of Frommer's picks for places to travel to in 2011, Puerto Viejo is a small city on Costa Rica's remote southern coast. Come here to get away from the flurry of everyday life and to lap up the pleasures of Puerto Viejo's beaches, rivers and rainforests. Of course, there are also delectable restaurants and lively bars, but this Caribbean city's vibe is decidedly more serene than others.

Sometimes oldies are goodies, and this is the case with this coastal Brazilian city. Rio de Janeiro is once again in the limelight as the 2014 host of the World Cup and the 2016 host of the Summer Olympics. You should definitely visit in 2011 to avoid the rush, and while here, enjoy the Amazonian cuisine, the Tijuca Rainforest, the Sugarloaf Mountain, the absolutely exhilarating downtown area and, oh yeah, the Ipanema Beach.

The only U.S. destination to make our list, New York makes for a fabulous vacation every season and year after year. But 2011 is especially remarkable because it marks the decade anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack. The National September 11 Memorial is scheduled to open in time for the anniversary. CNN also notes the expansion of the High Line park, which has brought some spunk back to the Chelsea riverfront. 

Lonely Planet, which lists Wellington as one of its top 10 cities to visit in 2011, describes this coastal metropolis as "Cool-with-a-capital-C." The reason behind this gracious exaltation is its profusion of bars, cafés, restaurants -- and just culture in general. In fact, in recent years, the city has earned the nickname "Wellywood" because of its flourishing film industry. You're sure to recognize Wellington's stunning scenery in the upcoming movie, The Hobbit, which is currently being filmed here. Visit Wellington for its cultural moxie, but you should also come for its brilliant landscape of hills and harbor.

The greatest thing about this oft overlooked city in Spain is its affordability -- but that could be changing as its popularity is on the rise, giving you more of an impetus to travel here soon. Newly named the European Capital of Sport for 2011, you should visit Valencia for pastimes like soccer and Formula 1 but also for the savory paella, provincial beaches and interesting attractions like the City of the Arts and Sciences.

Tokyo is usually considered Asia's heavyweight as far as cosmopolitan charms go; but if you find yourself contemplating an East Asian vacation, you might think about Seoul -- especially if you're a fashion- or design-ophile. While those of you who follow the news will note that South Korea's political relationship with North Korea has been strained over the past year, visitors to Seoul should have no problem when it comes to safety. This city actually earned the World Design Capital in 2010, an award given out biennially from the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. You should visit Seoul for its contemporary architecture, the glassy parks that sidle Han River, the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the vibrant markets.

The New York Times lists Sri Lanka as one of its top places to visit in 2010, but if you didn't get to go, we recommend a trip here in 2011. With miles of clean white shoreline accompanied by clear waters and roaming monkeys and elephants, Sri Lanka makes for a wildlife-infused beach getaway. Plus, you can also enjoy the anonymity and relaxation of the area's spa retreats.

The Danish capital city tops many 2010 lists, and we carry it forward to 2011 for its cozy cosmopolitan feel. If that seems an oxymoron, you should note that the Danes equate luxury with comfort. So a sense of hygge (coziness or tranquility) infuses even the swankiest restaurant or expensive antique shop. If you visit, you too can enjoy Copenhagen's geniality and its museums, dining scene, Scandinavian design and progressiveness.

When many think of Argentina, they think Buenos Aires, but we recommend heading north to exotic Salta. You will be delighted to find plenty of cozy local cafés and restaurants, live música folklórica (folk music), intriguing museums, dozens of wineries and red canyons and cliffs. One of the best ways to experience Salta's breathtaking scenery is to hop on the tren a las nubes (train to the clouds).

This North African country sits across from Italy on the Mediterranean, making it a sweet place to enjoy the sun and sea. But that's not all -- if you visit Tunisia, you can also enjoy flamingo-laden lakes, verdant forests, citrus groves and long stretches of Saharan sand. What's more is that you can revel in Northern Tunisia on a dime; Concierge.com calls this beautiful Arab country "a poor man's Morocco."

Located along Australia's southern coast in the Victoria province, Melbourne mixes urban sophistication with a mellow beachy vibe. According to Frommer's, who ranks Melbourne as one of its top 10 destinations of 2010, "Melbourne's sublime appeal lies in its laid-back attitude, its distinctive cosmopolitan flavor and a rich calendar of events." This was enough for us to carry this relaxed city down-under over into 2011. Visit Melbourne for its easygoing coffeehouses, fine food and wine, turquoise waters and eclectic neighborhoods.

One of the EU's 2010 choices for European Capitals of Culture, Istanbul is a study in contradictions. Straddling the divide between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a mesh of the Far East and Europe. You should visit for the wonderful incongruity of the ancient and the new -- the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque and the Beyoglu nightclubs, and much, much more.

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