Looking for a recommendation on the next must-see place? As the New Year approaches, it's time to consider where you'll want to go next year. We've selected 10 places that are coming into their own; they're not swarmed with tourists, and travelers can still find bargains to get there.
Amador County, California
Placerville may technically be the center of the Gold Country, however, the small towns a few miles south, Amador City, Sutter Creek, and Jackson, provide a picturesque destination spot. Located in the rolling hill region, scattered with tall oak trees and granite outcroppings, these three cities are a window into its Gold Rush past as many of the old Victorian houses have been converted into bed and breakfasts. Located 55 miles southeast of Sacramento, windy roads connect the towns provide the visitor with a distinct vacation outside the big city, and due to their proximity, a vacationer can make a pleasant trip out by visiting each one.
A Must: Venture into the gold mines on a one of the mining tours. Don a hardhat before preceding into an old mine and learn about the geology and history of the mines while investigating gemstones and gold deposits on the walls.
Nestled on the banks of the world's longest river and largest rainforest, Belém, Brazil is tropical paradise with an eclectic combination of both modern sophistication and frontier. Belem's collection of excellent restaurants utilizes local ingredients such as tropical fruits and Amazon fish to create a cuisine that is unlike anywhere in Brazil. From the Opera House, home to a variety of events each year, to the Ver-o-Peso Market on the banks of the Amazon, selling every rainforest product imaginable, to the old downtown, with a colonial fort, cathedral, and a myriad of 19th-century buildings, Belem provides new surprises for the eager explorer. It is also a great gateway to the Amazon.
A Must: Belém's chief wildlife attraction is the island of Marajó, the world's largest freshwater island that sits at the mouth of the world's largest river with vast flocks of colorful wading birds, caiman, and piranha.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is architecturally charming, and very well preserved. Stately homes, courtly manners, and gracious hospitality define this Southern belle. Horse-drawn carriages decorate cobblestone streets lined with pre-Revolutionary War buildings. Traces of the Civil War are also alive in Charleston. Confederates fired the first shots at Fort Sumter, an artificial island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, where the Union army had retreated.
A Must: Check out Charleston's 18th-century architecture in the original walled city or 19th-century architecture along Meeting Street and the Battery.
More cosmopolitan and modern than its capital neighbor (not to mention a more happening night life), Glasgow features radiant Victorian architecture. It encompasses a large artist community with museums; fine art and contemporary galleries as well as music venues are littered throughout the city. Don't miss January's Celtic Connections folk festival. Although cosmopolitan, Glasgow's parks provide the city with a real outdoor feeling. Additionally, a 45-minute drive can take you to the outskirts of the Highlands.
A Must: Named European Capital of Culture in 1990, one cannot deny Glasgow's dedication to the arts. No trip is complete with out a visit to one of Europe's best collections of art, the Burrell.
Once a Mecca for the hippies of the 1960s, Goa, India is now opening to mainstream tourism. Because of its Portuguese influence, Goa does not conjure up images that Delhi or Bangalore may. Located on the west coast of India between Maharastra and Karnataka, Goa's beaches, coconut trees, and sea views are just the tip of its beauty. Walking down the street, you will hear Portuguese as well as Indian dialects, see Hindu shrines atop holy crosses, gigantic mansions and farmers plowing their rice fields amidst water buffalo. Due to its bargain prices, Europeans love to enjoy paradise for a cheaper price. The nightlife is characterized by reckless abandonment and the five-star resorts will take care of your every beck and call.
A Must: Anjuna is home to Goa's wonderful Wednesday Market. Thousands of stalls sell everything from futuristic rave gear to hammocks perfect for the beach. The people are about as varied at the merchandise: Rajasthanis, Gujaratis, Tibetans as well as Karnataka farmers with "fortune-telling" cows are no stranger to this market!
Kenyan Game Parks
The stormy waters in Nairobi have settled down, making Kenya a more attractive place for those seeking an adventurous vacation. A Kenyan Safari is a trip you will remember for a lifetime: Jungles echoing with the sound of wildlife; Monkeys, antelopes, gazelles, hyenas, cheetahs, hyenas, elephants, and, of course, the king of them all, the lion wander around the rugged landscape. The huge game reserves of Kenya are a perfect place to see your favorite animals in their natural habitat, offering both short and long term safari adventures for less than you may think. World-renown Masai Mara National Reserve, west of the capital, Nairobi, is the destination spot of almost every visitor because it gives you the biggest chance to see the most species in one place.
A Must: At 392 sq km, Amboseli National Park has huge herds of elephants, and to see a herd of them making their way sedately across the grassy plains, with Tanzania's Mt Kilimanjaro in the background, may be a real African cliché but it's an experience that certainly leaves a lasting impression.
Known for its reputation as a island getaway, Margarita, Venezuela offers the same amenities as its Caribbean neighbors: all-inclusive resorts, excellent white sand beaches, watersports, natural parks, a golf course, but all at a fraction of the price. Vacationers are benefiting from the economy's steep decline, and often visitors can even find inexpensive scuba diving adventures. The main attraction here is the Castillo de San Carlos Borromeo, a 17th-century fort that protected the town and harbor from foreign and pirate attacks. The fort's thick stonewalls and bronze cannons still watch over the beach, harbor, and Caribbean Sea.
A Must: For better bargains and a more local feel, head to El Mercado de los Conejeros. Located on the northwestern outskirts of Porlamar, it's a semi-permanent flea market of food, crafts, and dry goods.
Mother Nature is Molokai's biggest influence with no structure on the island taller than a coconut tree. Those looking for accommodations, fancy restaurants, shopping, and nightlife should steer clear of the island that is considered the most "Hawaiian" of all the islands. The birthplace of hula, Molokai is still governed by the old ways of life (some natives still catch dinner off the reef), making it particularly intriguing to adventure seekers. This is one of the few places in the world where you can see empty beaches, tall sea cliffs, coral reefs, rainforests and more in one place.
A Must: A Horseback Ride to Ililiopae, Molokai's most powerful heiau or ancient human sacrifice temple. Ride horseback along a dirt trail through a mango grove to reach this huge rectangle of stone that overlooks the village of Mapulehu.
Ramah, New Mexico
The diverse culture and history surrounded by open prairies and pink buttes is why we have selected Ramah, New Mexico as an up and coming destination. The city itself is rich with Mormon history, although the mix of ancestral roots from Spanish settlers to Texan bean farmers can be seen. Bordered by the Zuni and Ramah Navajo Reservations, the intense pride for their heritage seems to radiate everywhere. The El Morro National Monument is a centuries old collection of messages inscribed on a sandstone rock by Native Americans, Spaniards and other travelers.
A Must: The Ramah Farmers Market, where locals bring lettuce, spinach, beets, onions and carrots sit on tables and in bins amid the honey-like scent of flowers happens every weekend. Stop to enjoy a hazelnut cookie or raspberry tarts. Live guitar music lilts out across irrigated fields where horses and cattle graze.
The name "Tasmania" suggests an unspoiled place, with vast stretches of wilderness roamed by strange creatures like the Tasmanian devil. Visitors to Tasmania are surprised by its size, as the distances are certainly manageable. Dense rainforests, mountain peaks, alpine meadows, great lakes, eucalyptus stands, and fertile farmland are all easily accessible. Tasmania's other main draw is its history. Remains of the Aboriginal people who lived here for tens of thousands of years are evident in isolated rock paintings, engraving, stories, and the aura of spirituality that still holds tight in places where modern civilization has not yet reached.
A Must: The national park and World Heritage area that encompasses both Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair is one of the most spectacular regions in Australia and, after Hobart and Port Arthur, the most visited place in Tasmania.
Where are you planning on going in 2006? Let us know on our Travel Message Boards.