The votes are in! This year, the editors at Frommer's Travel Guides and Frommers.com scoured the globe and polled our stable of authors and experts to identify twelve surprising, thriving, or emerging travel destinations. After careful thought and consideration, we are thrilled to announce our picks of the places not to be missed in 2007.
Frommer's top destinations are:
Amazingly, Krakow -- the capital until 1609 -- survived the destruction that befell the rest of the country during WWII and is now, with its amazing historic landmarks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the things to see are the gargoyle-bedecked Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), a medieval covered market still bustling with tourists and street vendors; Wawel, the royal castle; and the 14th-century Gothic Kosciól Mariacki (St. Mary's Basilica), with its intricate spires. Wandering the cobblestone streets of the Old Town (Stare Miasto), aged landmarks coexist amid a modern shopping scene. The town may have a rich history, but it has its feet firmly in the modern world -- wireless internet access is everywhere, and festivals throughout the year (especially in summer months) showcase cutting-edge music and theater. Look for our first-edition Frommer's guide to Eastern Europe, which releases in March of 2007.
A hyper-urban experience that is cheaper than London and New York, Tokyo is surprisingly easy to explore (even for people who don't speak the language). Public transit is manageable and the city is very walking-friendly. Visit neighborhoods like Shimokitazawa, the Greenwich Village of Tokyo, with its prevalence of cafes, small boutiques, thrift/vintage stores, and cheap noodle shops. Omotesando, Tokyo's version of the Champs-Elysees, is a wide boulevard populated with designer boutiques and home of the new Omotesando Hills Mall, designed by noted Japanese architect Tadao Ando. If you are a sports fan, attend a Sumo match or check out a baseball game with one of Tokyo's two resident teams, the Yomiuri Giants and the Yakult Swallows.
A Midwestern city already known for its gorgeous city layout and its fine arts community, Minneapolis is experiencing a cutting-edge design boom. The blockbuster new Guthrie Theater (now located in the Mill District along the Mississippi River) is a sight to behold -- a sleek, dark-blue steel building designed by the architect Jean Nouvel. The Walker Art Center has been expanded and also in the works is an addition to the Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, which some say evokes his later, more famous Guggenheiim Bilbao. Though winters are harsh, Minneapolis is a fantastic place to be outside. Alongside the Mississippi is a series of lakes that wind through downtown, where you can bike, jog, or just hang out. The Guthrie's new location, with its spectacular views of St. Anthony Falls, is also bringing more traffic to this neighborhood, in addition to shops and restaurants.
Panama has much of the same appeal as a destination like Costa Rica -- rainforests, volcanoes, and snorkeling. Panama City is the only metropolis that has a rainforest within the city limits, and on a clear day, hikers at the summit of Volcán Barú can often see both oceans at the same time. Isla Coiba, once home to a penal colony, is now part of a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site that has the second-largest coral reef in the eastern Pacific. Here, you can see sharks, dolphins, turtles, whales and other big marine life. For a tropical beach experience, go to one (or several) of the 1,500 islands off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. To get to Panama, you can fly directly from the U.S. on American Airlines, through Miami, and on Delta, through Atlanta. For more, see our first-edition Frommer's guide to Panama, releasing in Dec. 2006.
Located in the Smoky Mountains, Asheville is a small college town with a thriving arts, culture, and gay & lesbian scene. It is home to the Biltmore Estate, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, and Carl Sandburg's birthplace in nearby Flat Rock. Recently, Asheville has been drawing literati and celebrities who had gravitated to New Orleans as a hub of culture. With the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby, the area is also great for driving tours and shopping trips to numerous crafts and pottery shops (we suggest picking up a hand-made broom).
A surprising choice, Ethiopia has finally emerged out of the shadows caused by years of political strife, economic hardship, and famine. Improved infrastructure has made traveling there increasingly popular, especially among independent-minded travelers and those seeking adventure. Ethiopia is revered for its rich history as one of the earliest Christian kingdoms (the town of Aksum is said to be the home of the ancient Ark of the Covenant). Visit the monolithic churches of Lalibela -- in particular the Church of St. George, named after Ethiopia's patron saint, which is carved into the shape of a cross and is perhaps the most exquisite of the monolithic structures. Look for our online-only guide to Ethopia appearing in 2007.
Situated one hour from the Cascade Mountains and one hour from the Pacific coast, Portland serves as a convenient hub for the area's excellent outdoor adventure opportunities -- from summer hiking and mountain biking to winter snowboarding and downhill skiing on Mt. Hood, and kayaking and fishing on the nearby Columbia River. Portland, an environmentally friendly town, has revitalized its waterfront along the Willamette River as part of an overall commitment to responsible urban development. Here is one of only three U.S.-based sake manufacturers, where you can tour the facility and participate in a sake tasting. Foodies are starting to recognize Portland for its flourishing restaurant scene, especially in the Pearl River warehouse/loft neighborhood. There is also nearby Willamette Valley, a wine region touted for its up-and-coming Pinot Noirs. For a unique place to stay, check out one of the several hotels run by the McMenamin family (www.mcmenamins.com) -- our favorite is the Kennedy School Hotel.
Virgin Gorda is home to the laid-back Little Dix Bay resort, originally built by Laurance Rockefeller. You can take jeep tours of the island, hike through the jungle, or explore funky Spanish Town and its unassuming bars and restaurants. Best of all, you can hang out at the Baths, a string of beaches where giant boulders form tranquil pools and grottoes flooded with sea water. An excellent way to experience this island chain is through bareboating (renting a boat -- with crew or do-it-yourself -- to sail from island to island). We recommend the charter company the Moorings (tel. 888/535-7289 or 888/952-8420 in the U.S. and Canada, or 284/494-2332 in the British Virgin Islands; www.moorings.com). The British Virgin Islands are especially alluring because they are more off-the-beaten-path than other islands, and most cruise ships are too large to dock there.
This lush region of British Columbia, dubbed by some as "Napa North" or "the Tuscany of Canada", boasts a mild climate, with rolling hills and plentiful fruits, nuts and grapes. Vineyards are the big business now -- with more than 120 in the region, it is an ideal place for wine tasting. As in Napa, the topography and climate of Okanagan Valley make it a great place for hiking, kayaking, and biking (bike tours will even take you from winery to winery). The gateway to the region is Kelowna and the center of the wine region is a town called Naramata.
Glen Canyon is home to Lake Powell, created in 1963 with the opening of the Glen Canyon Dam, which backed up the Colorado River and flooded the canyon. Several years of drought have lowered the lake level drastically enough (by more than 140 feet) that the landscape has been transformed, revealing intricate rock formations that have been hidden for decades. One formation is the Cathedral in the Desert, a sandstone amphitheater that has been underwater for so long that it does not appear on most maps. The politics swirling around the area are equally fascinating, with groups like the Sierra Club and the Lake Powell Institute lobbying for draining the lake once and for all. The recreation industry here is huge -- houseboating, fishing, and water skiing are among the sports that keep the lake busy most of the year. Given how environmental circumstances are changing the landscape, book your trip now!
Clean, beautiful, and affordable, Zurich is a must on any traveler's trip to Europe. Rent a bike (it's free) and explore the city's progressive, art-filled culture. Every September, Zurich hosts the "Long Night of Museums," an event where museums (as many as 40 are participating this year) stay open all night and visitors can go from one to the other, have a drink, and take in the art -- all for a fixed price (25 SFR, including public transport). The city is also the home of the annual street parade, a huge, citywide dance party that takes over the city for one Saturday in August. Like the lovemobiles in Berlin's loveparade, themed floats with club gear-clad revelers make their way through town blaring techno and rave music. Crowds follow the procession and everyone, young and old, dances in the street.
A university town and burgeoning retirement location, Portland has a fantastic mix of culture and education. It also has an impressive amount of first-rate restaurants, with several perennial entries on Gourmet magazine's "America's Top 50 Restaurants" list -- including the excellent Fore Street, which builds its menu around local ingredients. The weather can be extreme, but Portland is an eminently walkable city, with the downtown area compact enough to explore thoroughly. For those seeking outdoor adventures along the coast, there's a jogging trail that stretches from Portland to nearby Brunswick. Conveniently, Amtrak has instituted service to Portland from Boston's North Station, making the city much more accessible from the Northeast corridor.
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