These destination alternatives combine the vacation attractions you love with the thrill of going someplace new.
Vacations can be a time to unwind as well as a time to try new things. And that mix of requirements can sometimes lead you to debate revisiting a favorite location versus exploring someplace brand-new.
Here, we turn that potential debate on its ear by pointing out locations that might feel a lot like your favorite places, while still offering all-new experiences. Along with offering new twists on classic ideas, some of these alternative spots feature new luxury resorts or cruises that make them more attractive than ever before. Enjoy as you consider where to vacation next.
If you love European cities
Normally visit Rome? Consider Toledo, Spain.
Craving a city with medieval streets, world-class museums, glorious cathedrals, and a thriving culinary scene? Skip the crowds and long lines in Rome and try Toledo instead.
This under-the-radar destination with a dramatic perch above the Tagus River is an unexpectedly stunning city full of energy and history — a densely packed UNESCO World Heritage site that’s also a vibrant college town. It boasts a majestic 15th century cathedral, a beautiful riverbank trail, a towering millennium-old fortress, an outstanding museum dedicated to El Greco, cobblestone bridges aplenty, and red clay roofs that seem tailor-made for Instagram. These are supplemented by trendy brewpubs, restaurants beloved by Michelin, and a clutch of lively student bars that resemble medieval taverns.
Toledo offers the sort of authenticity that more frequently visited European cities have lost; a trip here means true immersion in Spanish life.
Top tip: Toledo is easy to get to — a 30-minute train ride from Madrid — so many people come for a day trip. But the city really rewards a longer, more immersive stay.
If you want a Caribbean holiday
Normally visit the Bahamas? Consider Cartagena, Colombia.
Caribbean vacations are wonderful, but what if you could have tropical beaches and palm trees with all the energy and flair of Colombia? Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast, is the answer — a destination that pairs glorious beaches with one of the most fascinating cities on the continent.
Cartagena’s walled Old City (another UNESCO World Heritage site) is one of the best-preserved colonial towns in the Americas, and its cobblestone streets are filled with trendy restaurants, boutiques, and bars. Stay in the city and take daily motorboat rides to Isla Barú, with its mangrove-lined white beaches and freshly caught seafood, or base yourself at one of the growing number of luxury beach resorts and head into town whenever you want a gourmet meal, to dance all night at a salsa club, or to spend an afternoon combing through art galleries and charming shops.
Top tip: You can get a nonstop flight to Cartagena from both New York City and Miami; it’s just an hour or two longer than flying to the Bahamas.
If you enjoy stargazing and snow
Normally visit Iceland? Consider Greenland.
Iceland’s glories, from geysers to lava fields, are myriad, but it’s such a popular destination that there’s a good chance you’ll run into someone you know while you’re hiking a glacier there. For a much, much less tourist-filled alternative, consider Greenland.
Still unspoiled and with plenty of chances for spotting seals, whales, and polar bears, Greenland feels truly remote — it’s a place where jaw-dropping icebergs and pristine landscapes are more common than hotels. Traveling around the country means taking boats and helicopters in a sequence of short hops that are far from luxurious, but the towering mountains and endless icescapes are truly one-of-a-kind. Oh, and chances of seeing the Northern Lights are even better here than in Iceland.
If you want to embrace island life
Normally visit the Maldives? Consider Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique.
Clear turquoise waters, pristine white sands, luxury accommodations — the Maldives are wonderful, but there’s a new competitor on the horizon that’s well worth a visit.
Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago is made up of five islands, and it’s both a national park and a protected marine reserve. Although the archipelago comes with all the magnificent scenery and warm waters you’d find with any island off Africa’s east coast, the waters around Bazaruto are bursting with sea turtles, dolphins, reef and game fish, and endangered species, from whale sharks to the dugong (the rare sea cow).
Top tip: Get here before the crowds discover it! And check out the latest luxury resort: The exceptional Kisawa Sanctuary on Benguerra Island debuted in 2022.