Tripatini Surveys Hot Destinations for 2010

December 28, 2009 at 11:03 am | Posted in Africa, Asia, Barbados, British Columbia, Canada, Caribbean/Bahamas/Bermuda, Central America, Colombia, Croatia, cruising, Cuba, Estonia, Europe, Florida, Honduras, Iceland, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macau, Mexico, Middle East, Montenegro, New Mexico, Panama, Rwanda, Slovenia, South Africa, South America, Sri Lanka, St. Lucia, Suriname, Turkey, Turks and Caicos, United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by David Paul Appell

It’s that time when the travel-hungry are scouring the media for word of the coming year’s “it” spots. We can play that game too, so, besides popular perennials, here are 29 we see looming larger on twenty-ten’s worldwide vaycaydar:

For Americans at least, tight times mean Florida will tempt folks sticking closer to home; better deals down south include  Fort Lauderdale and up north the Panhandle. The latter’s now marketed as the “Emerald Coast,” trying to softpedal the “Redneck Riviera” image; comparisons to Sardinia’s glam Costa Smeralda are laughable, but there are some fetching towns, inns, and some interesting attractions — but above all sugary beaches along a stretch including  Destin, Fort Walton, Apalachicola, St. Joe Beach, and Pensacola. Another hotspot due for a boost this year is Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is popping the corks for its 400th anniversary (and while you’re out here, add a couple of days to explore some cool nearby towns like Acoma Pueblo and Gallup.

The big story this year is inevitably the province of British Columbia, with cool cities Vancouver and Victoria, stunning coastal and mountain scenery, eco/adventure tourism, and swell snow sports. The reason is, of course, is the attention focused on Vancouver and ski resort Whistler Blackcomb, hosting this February’s Winter Olympics.

The so-called Maya Riviera, on the Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean coast stretching southward from Cancun, continues evolving whether big luxury resorts, mass-market all-inclusives, exquisite small inns, or budget digs. Some also see a bump for Mexico City, whose pollution and security issues can be finessed with some common sense and which offers one of the world’s great urban experiences — and what other burg has not just a stunning Aztec pyramid complex (Teotihuacan) on its outskirts but several right in town — one smack in the middle of downtown?

This winter/spring, more ships come online and cruising is likely to stay strong, thanks to heavy discounting. Beyond the usual suspects, keep your eye on buttoned-down Barbados,  where some resorts and dining spots have been updating of late, and scenic St. Lucia, with luxury properties coming online fairly recently (Jade Mountain, The Landings) or refurbing (Cap Maison); there’s also a movement toward sustainable — and less pricey — town and country tourism. Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos also keeps adding fab resorts without sacrificing its limin’ vibe. Finally, could this be the year for Cuba, when the self-defeating, un-American, yet stubborn travel ban is dropped or relaxed for all U.S. citizens? Hold not thy breath, but anything’s possible, and if it happens, go — unsavory regime notwithstanding, it’s one of the world’s great travel and cultural experiences.

Eastern Europe has been on a major upswing ever since the Berlin Wall fell. But even 20 year later, some destinations are still growing or even just emerging. Examples of the former include Croatia and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. And lately we’re hearing more about Croatia’s neighbors, Slovenia and Montenegro. Both serve up stunning mountains with eco/adventure, historic cities and towns, and Adriatic seacoast with fine beach resorts. And this year, Montenegro welcomes AmanResorts’ fancy-schmancy Sveti Stefan, on an island of medieval architecture. On the western side of things, Icelands a nice land, with its superb eco/adventure, cool capital Reykjavik, short flight time from Europe and New York City, and some of the most affordable prices in years, thanks to the recent economic meltdown.

In Central America, everybody’s jockeying to be “the next Costa Rica” — even El Salvador (who knew?). But watch Honduras; ’09 tourism plummeted due to its political crisis but should be back on track — and hungry — once the new elected government debuts in January. Highlights: Maya ruins, colonial towns, exceptional eco/adventure, world-class diving.  Panama, too, with great rainforest, beaches, one of the hemisphere’s loveliest colonial quarters (Panama City’s Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and barefoot Caribbean isles like Bocas del Toro and the San Blas, home to the autonomous Kuna Indians. In South America, Colombia‘s overall continuing security and economic progress will feed that diverse country’s tourism, especially to another colonial stunner, Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, and happening capital Bogotá (whose colonial quarter’s also nothing to estornudar at). Rising on the radar is the continent’s smallest and only Dutch-speaking country, Suriname, a multi-culti charmer with a cute, sleepy little capital and some of the hemisphere’s most unspoiled eco offerings.

With the steam let out of Dubai, look to UAE capital Abu Dhabi, also developing a-plenty yet without sacrificing traditional culture and flavor. On the Mediterranean, with political crisis at bay for now, Lebanon is still rockin’ the casbah — well, at least Beirut is, while the beach resorts, Roman ruins, and even wine country outside the capital provide a lower-key counterpoint. Up on Turkey‘s “Turquise Coast,” meanwhile, a resort town and region called Dalaman is currently hot, for example outstripping Spain’s Majorca as among the Brits; allures include beaches, soft adventure, nightlife, and historic/archaeological sites.

The tourism offerings in staid ol’ Singapore are getting something of a 2010 shot in the arm, with the elaborate, Vegas-style casino-resort Marina Bay Sands; the also elaborate Fullerton Heritage Complex crammed with shopping, dining, and lodging; and Sentosa Island’s Resorts World, with a Hard Rock Hotel and a Universal Studios theme park. Another “city-state” (now a semi-autonomous part of China) seeing some new action is Macau, where, again, it’s Vegas-style casinos that’ve been complementing the Portuguese colonial architecture and fueling a local boom. On a less glitzy, more laid-back note, since Sri Lanka ended its civil war last May, more travelers will be returning to its historic towns, Buddhist temples, and breathtaking beaches.

From Kruger Park to Cape Town to the winelands, South Africa is on the upswing again, thanks to interest generated by Hollywood hits like Invictus and District 9, and especially June’s soccer World Cup. Lower on the radar, the story of the year may well be the rebirth of safari tourism in Rwanda, 17 years after its genocide, and, believe it or not, Zimbabwe, despite still being a political and economic basket case.

Beyond Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Towns Rock

November 30, 2009 at 9:50 am | Posted in New Mexico | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Old New Mexico lives on in towns like Acoma Pueblo. © Karen Tina Harrison

by Karen Tina Harrison

New Mexico takes its nickname, the Roadrunner State, from its official bird. But it’s also true that straight, fast roads make the USA’s fifth-largest state pretty easy to run around in. I’ve visited more than 20 times in 13 years, and its legendary capital Santa Fe, an hour north of Albuquerque airport, hasn’t lost its allure, with its heady cultural brew of Spanish colonial, New Age, Native American, and Wild West. But I’m just as jazzed about exploring the many small towns and such that dot the Roadrunner State. These are a handful of my favorites, all doable as day trips or overnighters from Santa Fe.


A mini version of Santa Fe, with chile-spiced menus and galleries galore,  Taos is more laid-back; here, even trustafarians resemble ski bums. Pack your best Patagonia fleece vest for dinner invites and your best camera equipment for some spectacular scenery (try to catch the 800-foot-deep Rio Grande gorge zig-zagging beneath rainbow-anointed mountain peaks).

Highlights include a tour of millennium-old adobe Taos Pueblo and an envy-inducing browse through Mabel Dodge Luhan’s Southwestern jewelry and pottery at her eponymous museum (a New York heiress and Vogue editor, she moved to Taos but kept shopping). Vivid landscape paintings draw collectors to galleries along Kit Carson Road and in the neighboring hamlet of Arroyo Seco.

This is a hanging-out town where everyone stops to admire and applaud the guaranteed-vivid sunset à la Key West. Prime late-afternoon perches include kid-friendly Michael’s, where the chili is legend; Orlando’s, for traditional New Mexican fare, and Graham’s Grill for mod NM. For higher-octane refueling, consider a glass of NM-made Gruet bubbly or a chile-and-tequila Bloody Maria at the Anaconda Bar in the almost painfully tasteful El Monte Sagrado Resort. If you’re a gossip stringer, your pick is Taos Inn’s Adobe Bar, where local Julia Roberts is a regular (check the mezzanine).

More insider tips: take the “high road” from Santa Fe through the mountains to Taos, not the highway. And on your trip back, stop for a soak at the recently cleaned-up (yet still far from slick) “hippie hot springs,” Ojo Caliente.

Las Vegas

A gritty yet charming hamlet, Las Vegas was once as infamous for its outlaws as Dodge City and Tombstone, but in 1879 the new railroad brought more respectable types, including German-Jewish entrepreneurs. You can visit Montefiore Cemetery and vintage-1884 Congregation Montefiore, now the Newman Center of New Mexico Highlands University.

Dozens of landmarks from LV’s Wild West and railroad eras are mapped out in a walking-tour brochure from the visitor center at the still-used railroad depot or the Plaza Hotel, a handsome 1882 structure on Las Vegas’ central square — a favorite of Teddy Roosevelt’s — said to be haunted by the hindquarters-slapping ghost of hard-gambling owner Byron T. Mills.

Overlooking the Plaza are multi-dealer Plaza Antiques and Tapetes de Lana, a weaving co-op dedicated to preserving a centuries-old New Mexican craft. A Tapetes scatter rug or scarf, perhaps in the striped Rio Grande style, is as potent a New Mexican souvenir as a chile ristra wreath, but much easier to fly home with.

Bridge Street, adjacent to the Plaza, houses more antiques shops, a drugstore soda fountain, and an unintentionally fashionable Salvation Army store. Also worth prowling: Douglas Street for 1880s apartment houses and El Fidel Hotel; Railroad Avenue for Rough Riders Antiques and fabulous neon (look for the sign incorporating New Mexico’s sunburst design); and 8th Street for Craftsman bungalows.

Re eats, it may be easier to stop at the Plaza Hotel or El Fidel, but my choice is a dive called Kocina de Raphael (610 Legion Drive). Ask for directions, and be hungry — and bring a swimsuit and a social mood to the roadside hot springs about three miles north of town on Hot Springs Boulevard. You’re there when you see turreted Montezuma Castle, an 1882 Harvey House railroad hotel now part of United World College USA.


To get to the oft-overlooked but archetypally Western town of Gallup, zip an hour south on I-25 from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, then another two west on I-40. Hugging a neon-spangled strip of old Route 66, Gallup’s the commercial capital of the 225,000-strong, artisan-rich Navajo Nation, making it the mother lode of authentic Indian jewelry, pottery, rugs, fetishes, and kachina dolls, all sold for half to a quarter of  Santa Fe prices.

You’ll find these treasures in Gallup’s trading posts, which serve the Navajos as galleries, banks, pawn shops, and general stores. Time-honored examples include Ellis Tanner (ask to be escorted to the “wholesale room,” stuffed with unclaimed “dead pawn” turquoise-and-silver bracelets and earrings for under $75), and Richardson’s Pawn, a Route 66 landmark known for heirloom-worthy Navajo rugs, hand-loomed into captivating patterns like cross-laden “chief’s blankets” and geometric “eyedazzlers.”

Gallup’s choicest chow is found at Fratelli’s Pizza, where the pies are hand-thrown, and at Zen Steak & Sushi. Before heading back to Santa Fe, a pit stop at the exhilaratingly unrenovated El Rancho Hotel is a must (case the mezzanine for black-and-white glossies autographed by movie stars from Ronald Reagan to Jane Fonda, who holed up here while filming Westerns).

Acoma Pueblo, recently rebranded as “Sky City,” is a riveting detour en route to Gallup. This thousand-year-old tribal village dizzyingly set atop a towering stone mesa is billed as America’s oldest continually inhabited town; stop for a tour and the Haak’u Visitors Center, with a documentary, Indian “fry bread,” and a shop spotlighting Acoma’s celebrated pottery (sure to mesmerize you with its thunderbolt-like patterns).

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.