New York in the summer can be a wearisome mess of heat and noise so get away to someplace very different this year with an overseas trip. If diving is your thing, the Indian Ocean islands of the Maldives beckon with some of the world's great reefs. Rediscover the great museums of Paris or gamble away some bonus money in Monaco.-Sascha Brodsky
MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA
MONTE CARLO, MONACO
HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM
By Chad Bascombe, Heather Corcoran, Cotton Delo and Charlie Oritz
WHERE TO GET BURIED IN SAND
Thirty minutes by boat from St. Martens in the British West Indies, Anguilla's powdery white beachfront is considered among the world's most beautiful. With world-class resorts and uber-luxurious villas dotting the island's 16-mile length, it's easy to find yourself alone at the beach, and there are 33 of them to choose from. Foodies should throng to the five-star CuisinArt Resort & Spa on Rendezvous Bay, which offers more than a spectacular meal at restaurant Santorini; patrons can take cooking classes with executive chef Daniel Orr, formerly of France, Belguim and most recently New York. After taking in the island's eclectic art scene, head out to the water for a view of Anguilla's traditional boating - the only sport that rivals cricket's popularity. But if CuisinArt's spas aren't your thing, Anguilla's villas offer a tempting alternative. Sitting above beautiful Sandy Hill Bay, the newly constructed Bird of Paradise tops the list of stunning selections. Sumptuously decorated and just three minutes by secluded path to the beach, its meticulously designed Balinese furnishings are only rivaled by the spectacular views from its half-moon stone wall veranda.
Flights with one connection start at $600. Flight time from New York is eight hours.
CuisinArt Resort & Spa
Suites start at $400/person
WHERE TO POLISH YOUR SWING IN THE CARIBBEAN
MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA
Jamaica, known to the world as the birthplace of reggae, holds a special place in the heart of golf enthusiasts. Featuring 10 different courses, Jamaica caters to a range of tastes and capabilities with most courses linked to resorts and highly accessible to tourists. A safe bet for golfers of all levels is the picturesque par 72 Half Moon Golf Club in Montego Bay. More adventurous hands should try the elegant White Witch of Rose Hall, a visual tour de force, whose shifty winds are an added challenge to this top-notch course. Half-day deep sea fishing expeditions can be arranged through Sea World resorts at the Cariblue Hotel.
Nonstop flights to Montego Bay start at $400. Flight time from New York is four hours.
Rooms start at $90
WHERE TO UNLEASH YOUR ID
For the traveler seeking Caribbean style along and lush greenery, St. Thomas is likely to fit the bill and then some. For those looking to reconnect with nature, bear in mind that much of St. Thomas is a national park. There's Magen's Bay, a protected beachfront recognized by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. On the northern shore of St. Thomas, Coral World Ocean Park offers 45-minute underwater tours aboard its semi-submarine, the Nautilus.†Back on dry land and a little further inland, Magen's Bay Arboretum features a number of rare tree species.
Nonstop flights to St. Thomas start at $490. Flight time from New York is four hours, 30 minutes.
Rooms start at $249
WHERE TO BE A HIGH-ROLLER
MONTE CARLO, MONACO
If the idea of "breaking the bank" in a glamorous casino just off of the CÙte d'Azur is appealing, Monte Carlo will surely delight. Other destinations may come and go as the latest luxurious getaway du jour, but the tiny - and cramped - city in the Principality of Monaco remains the tried and true destination for royalty and celebrities, for bankers and investors, and for those with money to spare. Even when traffic is snarled along Monte Carlo's winding roads, it's hard to resist the beauty of the Mediterranean and its cobalt waters, which the numerous yachts so poignantly proclaim. The Fairmont Monte Carlo hotels has extraordinary views of the Mediterranean and is a short distance to the famous Casino de Monte-Carlo, with its private rooms requiring jacket and tie and a deep wallet.
The average cost of a flight to Monte Carlo is $1,200. Flight time from New York is nine hours.
Fairmont Monte Carlo
011 377 93 50 65 00;
Rooms start at $585
WHERE TO BE REMORSELESSLY DECADENT
MALDIVE ISLANDS, REPUBLIC OF MALDIVES
Nestled on the equator in the Indian Ocean, the Maldive Islands form an archipelago comprised of 26 naturally occurring atolls. Luxury and élan is the draw here, as 100 of the 2,000 islands have become private resorts, offering an unrivaled and secluded exotic escape. Flights arrive in the island capital of Male, but the beauty begins upon boarding a sea plane to the surrounding atolls which house the five- and six-star resorts. While flying overhead, the varying landmasses take shape underneath, and the azure waters are perfectly broken up with pristine patches of white sand and emerald palm fronds. One such niche is the award-winning Hilton Maldives Resort and Spa on Rangali Island - perched on two islands and linked by a bridge. Water villas with wooden interiors sit on stilts atop the ocean.
The average cost of a trip to the Maldives is $2,000. Flight time from New York is 30 hours.
Hilton Maldives Resort and Spa,
011 960 668 0629;
Rooms start at $780
WHERE TO EXPERIENCE EUROPE WITHOUT CROSSING THE POND
Picturesque and quaint, Montreal is a little of taste of France in our northbound backyard. Keeping one foot firmly planted in the past with the other taking a brisk stroll in the present, Montreal's many charms lie not in its urbanized, modern buildings, but in its Old World feel and resplendent architecture dating back to the 17th century, found along Le Vieux-Montréal (Old Montreal) and Le Vieux-Port (Old Port). Considered by many to be a flaneur's paradise, Montreal is best seen on foot. Cozy cafes and private art galleries provide rest for those with sore feet, as does the Mont Royal Park, a worthy rival of New York City's Central Park - with good reason, too: they were both designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The best shopping takes place on Rue Laurier, with upscale shops lined up in neat rows. And dining in Montreal has been garnering steady acclaim thanks in part to Chef Normand Laprise's Toque! restaurant. Best of all, the biting winter doesn't have to be a repellent to those interested in visiting the ville charmante. Buildings, metro stations, galleries and theaters are all linked by the subterranean Underground City, a sprawling network comprised of shops and boutiques, used by pedestrians and commuters to avoid traffic and the fierce elements above.
The average nonstop trip to Montreal costs $300. Flight time from New York is 2 hours.
Hotel Le St-James
Rooms starting at $350
WHERE TO STALK LITERARY GHOSTS AND DRINK GUINNESS
Since the Irish capital will be forever enshrined as the setting for James Joyce's masterwork "Ulysses," literary types may be chagrined not to find an Irish capital peopled with wandering philosophers like Leopold Bloom. Nor can Dublin be defined by the stereotype best loved by American frat boys, who daydream of a pub scene in which they vie for position with the Emerald Isle's seasoned Guinness drinkers. Dublin represents the electricity of modern Europe in the fullest sense - with an exploding economy that's earned Ireland the appellation of "Celtic Tiger" and a population that's almost 50 percent under age 25. For the dedicated tourist, castles and relics of Ireland's troubled past under English rule are plentiful in Dublin, but it's also a cosmopolitan city with everything to keep a Manhattanite happy. Shoppers will gravitate to the posh shops of Grafton and Henry streets, and those doubtful of their capacity to survive the late-night revelry of Irish youth in the Temple Bar neighborhood can take in a play at the Gaiety, specializing in operatic productions, or the Abbey, founded by W.B. Yeats in 1904 as a showcase for Ireland's dramatic talent.
Nonstop flights to Dublin start at $500. Flight time from New York is seven hours.
353 1 6603000; dylanie.com
Rooms start at 240 euros
WHERE TO OGLE SPORTY BODIES
Perched at the edge of the Pacific, Sydney is a geographically blessed city with magnificent views and famous beaches that compliment its cultural appeal and promote an active lifestyle among residents. Best known among the local sunning spots is Bondi Beach, a kilometer-long strip dotted with trendy cafés and restaurants where surfable waves often pummel the shoreline and women sunbathe topless. You can also take a dip in one of Sydney's tidal swimming pools (nswoceanbaths.info) with ocean waves serenely lapping over the sides, like Wylie's Bath in Coogee Beach, where masseurs on the surrounding decks deftly knead the muscles of tired swimmers. And while no trip to Sydney is complete without gazing at the iconic Opera House with a design resembling the masts of a ship at sea, you can do more than just look. Take in a show by Opera Australia or the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Flights with one connection to Sydney start at $1,500. Travel time from New York is 23 hours.
The Observatory Hotel
61 2 9256 2222;
Rooms start at $379
Rooms start at $260 on weekends
WHERE TO MEET A SNAKE CHARMER
Known as the Red City because of the buildings' red-ochre coloring, Marrakech is an enchanting city full of architectural delights, distinct flavors and bustling markets (souks) offering hand-made rugs (berbers) and rare antiques. Located in southwestern Morocco, this liberal-minded, busy city offers an array of sights and sounds, not to mention the smells of Moroccan spices wafting by. An assortment of restaurants abound, offering meals unique to Morocco. Often cited as the culinary star of North Africa, Morocco is known for rich stews and roasted meats. If relaxation is more your style, take in a gommage (body scrub) at one of the many hammans (steam baths). For a unique day trip, the Kasbah Tamadot, located nearby in the village of Asni in the High Atlas Mountains, has rooms with carved ceilings, antique doors and views of the surrounding mountains. The resort goes up to $2,000 for a master suite during high season, and its gardens and luxury hammans offer a respite from the bustle of the Marrakech city center.
The average cost of a trip to Marrakech is $1,200. Flight time from New York is 12 hours.
Kasbah Tamadot, in Asni
011 212 0 24 36 82 00;
Rooms start at $375
WHERE TO RUN AWAY AND NEVER COME BACK
Though still overrun with mostly European tourists, Fortaleza's low-profile location in the tiny northeastern state of Cear spares it from some of the congestion you'll find in Rio de Janeiro. With 25 kilometers of white sandy beaches, there's a niche for everyone, with Praia de Iracema claimed by intellectuals and artsy types, and Praia do Futuro sought out by surfers. Wherever your pleasure may be, you'll wind up snacking on crab at one of the beach-side shacks and sipping on coconut water or beer - always served ice cold. But the towers dotting the coastline are constant reminders that you're in the midst of Brazil's fifth largest city and entrenched in the cares of urban life, so for a definitive getaway, board a bus for the fishing hamlet of Jericoacoara. Trappings of civilization are few at the pristine beach village - there are no street lamps or ATM machines in Jeri - and you might be tickled by the urge to empty your bank account and stay there forever.
Flights to Fortaleza with one connection start at $1,300. Flight time from New York is 16 hours.
Grand Marquise by Sol Melia,
55†85†4006 5000; solmelia.com
Rooms from $127
WHERE TO MEND A BROKEN HEART
With its wide boulevards and riverside promenades, Paris lends itself equally well to romantic abandon or brooding melancholy; few settings are as satisfying for sulking over a breakup as a Parisian café - where you can order a cheese plate and a carafe of red wine and watch the stream of humanity flow by. For modern art enthusiasts, there's the unparalleled Musée d'Orsay, housed in a former railway station, with works by Impressionist masters like Monet and Renoir. For a darker view of the so-called City of Lights, there's the underground catacombs stacked high with bones and skulls, where revolutionaries and resistance fighters once organized.
Nonstop flights to Paris start at $600. Flight time from New York is seven hours.
01 40 69 60 00; fouquets-barriere.com
Rooms start at 690 euros
WHERE TO SAMPLE STREET FOOD
HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM
The residents of Vietnam's largest city still call it Saigon, a name that's just one part of a complex legacy of invasion and occupation. The resultant blend of cultures can be tasted - quite literally - on the city streets, where vendors offer up delicacies like Banh Mi, a popular sandwich made with pate, pork, pickles, carrots, cilantro and mayonnaise on a Vietnamese interpretation of the classic French baguette. In the Ben Thanh Market and the neighboring Night Market, which opens as the sun goes down, bargain-savvy visitors can snatch up deals at the many stalls. Pass on the weasel coffee - made from the beans eaten and regurgitated by the mammal - and opt for iced instead. Made with coffee sweetened with condensed milk, the drink is a local favorite in the humid months between May and November. For a taste of luxury after a day of shopping, settle in at the Hotel Majestic, a five-star hotel that still looks every bit as, well, majestic as when it was built in 1925.
Flights to Ho Chi Minh city start from $1,600. Flight time from New York is 25 hours, with two connections.
Hotel Majestic Saigon, 84-8-829-5517
Rooms start at $125
WHERE TO GET A NEW LOOK
Ever since IKEA and H&M landed on American shores, Sweden has taught the U.S. a thing or two about affordable design. As Scandinavia heats up as the next center of avant-garde fashion, local labels like Weekday and Swedish Elle designer of the year Whyred are keeping residents chic. To see where the designers get their inspiration, head to one of the city's 70-plus museums or many nightclubs in the Stureplan district. Sweden isn't known for its weather, and there's no better way to spend a rainy day in Stockholm than in the Moderna Museet, where paintings and photos from contemporary Swedish artists like the edgy painter Mama Anderson hang alongside works by international masters like Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg and Salvador Dali. Fish dishes make up most of the menu in this archipelago city, and visitors will not want to miss the traditional surstrˆmming, a type of canned herring so pungent it's only eaten outdoors.
Flights to Stockholm start at $650. Flight time is eight hours from New York.
Grand Hotel Stockholm,
Rooms start at $350
WHERE TO FIND THE ANTI-DISNEY FAMILY VACATION
Prove to your kids that history is cool with a trip to Cairo. The city is full of attractions to keep little ones chattering about mummies and mythology, while even adults will be taken aback by the desert majesty of the pyramids. Tahrir Square, the modern city's center, is a safe and exciting place to start discovering Cairo's rich history. The area is filled with things to do, including the Egyptian Museum, where kids can learn about Egypt's boy pharaoh, Tutankhamen.
Flights to Cairo start at $1,300. Flight time from New York is 17 hours.
Cairo Conrad Hotel
Rooms start at $280
WHERE TO PEN YOUR MAGNUM OPUS
If you want to spend a week pretending to be Ernest Hemingway, but the embargo is keeping you from Havana, head to Merida in Mexico. The colorful colonial beauty of the city, which is the capital of the Yucatan peninsula, has attracted expatriates from around the English-speaking world. You'll find them in the cafes and shops of the city center as well as the city's English library. However, be sure to escape the city. The surrounding areas provide an unparalleled natural beauty and the landscape, like the cuisine and local dialect, is peppered with a distinct Mayan flavor. Do not miss the remains of the ancient city of Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. If you decide to stay, all you'll need is a hammock; thankfully, the city is known for them.
Flights to Merida start at $550. Flight time, with one stop, is 10 hours.
Casa del Balam, 1-800-624-8451
Rooms start at $75
World's Top Destinations
The World Tourism Organization, part of The United Nations, has compiled the following list of the most popular destinations by number of visitors in 2006 (numbers in the millions).-Samaia Hernandez
1. France 79.1
2. Spain 58.5
3. United States 51.1
4. China 49.6
5. Italy 41.1
6. United Kingdom 30.1
7. Germany 21.4
9. Austria 20.3
10. Russia 20.2
CRUISES SURGE IN POPULARITY
Though London, Paris, Rome and Venice don't appear to be relinquishing their place as hubs for international tourism, other European destinations are gaining prominence due in large part to the growing popularity of cruises, industry watchers say.
Croatia and the Greek islands have become sought-after picks for vacations, says Cheryl Hudak, president of the American Society of Travel Agents, who noted that package deals like cruises have the advantage of cushioning the traveler from feeling the effects of the weakened dollar abroad. They're especially popular among people visiting Europe for the first time.
Elsewhere on the globe, South Africa has gotten hot, with travelers thronging to sign up for wine tours and head out on expeditions into the bush. China - and Hong Kong and Beijing in particular - have greater appeal than ever.
"Especially with the Olympics coming up next year," Hudak said, "you're starting to read a lot about that area."—Cotton Delo