Mexico City, Mexico

WHY GO NOW: Taste original flavors where corn is king

It’s not difficult to find a hot, fresh tortilla in Mexico City. But chances are these tortillas are made from processed corn flour. However, a growing movement in the Mexican capital of 22 million is focusing on reviving landrace, or indigenous, strains of corn, and preparing it in traditional ways. Try Molino “El Pujol,” celebrity chef Enrique Olvera’s slip of a tortillería, which also serves tamales, long-simmered beans, and dressed-up versions of elote (grilled corn on the cob). Or organic tortillería Cintli, with its turmeric tortillas and Mayan milkshakes made with corn and chocolate. These chefs and tortilla radicals are in step with a cadre of musicians and artists in the city who are expressing themselves with a renewed sense of pride in all that is Mexican. [Read the full feature.]

HOW TO GO: Get a taste of the city’s new food activism at Masala y Maiz. It’s a restaurant/chef residency, corn research project, and community gathering spot that combines culinary traditions from the founders’ family roots—Mexican and South Asian—with dishes such as tamales stuffed with masala-scented chickpeas.

 

Peruvian Amazon

WHY GO NOW: Welcome to the jungle

Amazon rain forest covers more than half of the country of Peru. “We have low jungles, high jungles, cloud forests, flooded forests, vast swamps, waterfalls, jungle ruins, creepy isolated mountain peaks, and even the world’s largest documented thermal river—the Boiling River of the Amazon,” says Peruvian geothermal scientist and National Geographic Explorer Andrés Ruzo. “One of my favorite things here is the blending of cuisines and cultures,” Ruzo says. “Chefs are exploring the wilds of the jungle for the next bold flavor.” Lima top chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino has teamed up with river cruise operator Aqua Expeditions to support sustainable fishing practices in the Pacaya Samiria Reserve, where the Aria Amazon sails. Creating northeastern Peru’s roadless Yaguas National Park in 2018 spared millions of acres of Amazon wilderness from development; it should be ready for tourists soon.

 

Fanjingshan, China

WHY GO NOW: Climb through a sea of clouds

FanjingshanChina’s newest UNESCO World Heritage site, is worth the climb. A sacred Buddhist site (48 temples once stood on the mountain), Fanjingshan rewards hikers with bizarre rock formations and above-the-clouds views of China’s Wuling mountain range. The steepest climb is to 7,664-foot Red Clouds Golden Summit, two temple-topped peaks linked by a bridge. You could skip the climb and ride the summit cable car, but hiking offers an up-close look at Fanjingshan’s rich biodiversity, which includes endemic and rare species, such as the gray snub-nosed monkey.

HOW TO GO: Tongren, located in eastern Guizhou Province, is the gateway to Mount Fanjing, or Fanjingshan. Buses run to the mountain from the Tongren Airport, high-speed rail station, and train station.

 

Dakar, Senegal

WHY GO NOW: Discover West Africa’s center of style

Senegal’s capital at the tip of Cap Vert, Africa’s westernmost peninsula, defies easy definition—both stylish and chaotic, proudly West African but with French as the official political language. Luxury SUVs share roads with horse-drawn carts. Lively beaches draw surfers, sun-worshippers, professional wrestlers, and Senegalese sheep. “Driving along the seaside Corniche, you have sweeping views of the ocean on one side and the excitement of a bustling market on the other,” says academic researcher Abhit Bhandari, who splits his time between Dakar and New York City. “This is how I think of Dakar, as a city of contrasts.” Nightlife moves to hypnotic mbalax dance beats and Senegalese hip hop. Join the glam crowd at June’s Dakar Fashion Week, designer Adama Amanda Ndiaye’s annual showcase of African collections.

HOW TO GO: Kensington Tours’ eight-day “Senegal City and Beach” private tour explores the historic Médina quarter of Dakar and ferries over to former Atlantic slave trade hub Gorée Island.

 

Dordogne, France

WHY GO NOW: Live the fairy tale

Picture-book castles lead to romantic fantasies in the Dordogne, but the true charm of this region in southwestern France lies in the richness of its long cherished culture. Marking 100 years in 2019, the Félibrée is an annual celebration of all things Occitan, including food, music, dance, and a language that resembles French, Spanish, Italian, and Catalan. “We are very attached to our country and our differences, but at the same time we are a true land of welcome,” says Jean Bonnefon, a dedicated Occitanist. “The Félibrée is proof of this.” Although the Dordogne is extremely pastoral, you can’t exactly say it’s off the tourist map. Just try to find parking in Sarlat or rent a kayak on the Dordogne River on a summer day. And it’s hardly unsophisticated. There are nine Michelin-starred restaurants, a smattering of upscale hotels and golf courses, and 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites. But considering that France received 87 million visitors in 2017, the relative emptiness is by far the Dordogne’s most luxurious asset. [Discover all of Dordogne.]

GO WITH NAT GEO: Nat Geo Expeditions offers several itineraries in France, including a 10-day “Human Origins” trip that visits the prehistoric sites of the Dordogne’s Vézère Valley.

 

Canterbury Region, New Zealand

WHY GO NOW: Watch one of the world’s great races

Kiwis call their scenic nation Godzone, short for God’s Own Country. So it’s fitting that GODZone is also the name of a multiday, expedition-style race across some of New Zealand’s most untouched and visually stunning terrain. The 2019 edition of GODZone—the largest race of its kind in the world—will be staged March 10 to 17 across the South Island’s alps-to-ocean Canterbury region. The event is an Olympics-meets–The Amazing Race mash-up combining trekking, mountain biking, climbing, kayaking—and little sleep. Join pre- and post-race activities in coastal Akaroa, the host venue. Embark on your own Godzone adventure by hiking and stargazing in Canterbury’s Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

HOW TO GO: Explore more of Canterbury by “freedom camping” on public land outside campgrounds in a compact motor home.

 

Hoang Lien Son,Vietnam

WHY GO NOW: Head beyond Hanoi

Thanks to a new cable car connection, tourist traffic is on the rise at 10,312-foot Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak. Still, much of this northwest mountain region (beyond the busy gateway town Sa Pa) remains rugged, rural, and a world away from hectic Hanoi, about 195 miles to the southeast. Visitors hike routes in and around Hoang Lien Son National Park and the adjacent Muong Hoa Valley, then rest up at homestays among the Hmong, Red Dao, Tay, Giay, and other ethnic minority groups. Sapa Sisters, a sustainable tourism venture owned by local Hmong women, offers custom trekking adventures.

GO WITH NAT GEO: At Topas Ecolodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World tucked on a hilltop inside Hoang Lien Son National Park, guests can discover the cultures, languages, and traditions of Sa Pa’s diverse tribes.

 

Greenland

WHY GO NOW: Learn the true meaning of “epic”

The world’s largest island celebrates 10 years of self-rule in 2019. While still one step short of full independence from Denmark, Greenland arguably reigns supreme when it comes to off-the-hook Arctic adventures, such as extreme heli-skiing, sea kayaking among towering icebergs, and dogsledding across the top of the world near Qaanaaq (Thule). Roughly 80 percent of the island is covered by the Greenland ice sheet, and no roads connect towns. Sail or soar into the wild via charter boat, ferry, helicopter, or plane. Climb the solid rock walls of south Greenland’s fjords. And witness a dazzling northern lights display in remote Northeast Greenland’s National Park, the world’s largest, covering an area more than twice the size of California.

HOW TO GO: Camp near the edge of the Greenland ice sheet, explore remote fjords, and get an up-close look at the effects of climate change on Natural Habitat Adventures’ “Discover Greenland: The Natural Habitat Experience.”

 

Oman

WHY GO NOW: Ride Arabian horses in a storied land

Oman’s ruler has in recent years sought to restore the sultanate’s horse culture. He has sanctioned both distance and flat races to revive interest among his people and imported Arabians back into the country to bolster its breeding population. Horseback riders can explore the Hajar mountains, go deep into the twisting gorges of Wadi an Nakhur, and gallop for miles along Gulf of Oman beaches or the endless red dunes of the Rub al Khali. [Read the full feature.]

HOW TO GO: Oman Horse-Riding Holidays requires an intermediate level of riding skill and is adept at matching riders with the proper mounts.

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