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I’ve been doing several Top 12 of 2012 lists to round out the year, and initially had a Top 12 New Destinations of 2012 list in the making.
But I decided to scrap it — 12 wasn’t a good number for this one. I wanted to narrow it down to the destinations that REALLY floored me this year, without adding any fillers.
Here are the new 2012 destinations that impressed me the most this year:
Wild, barren, stark, isolated, and breathtakingly beautiful — I never dreamed that paradise on Earth would look like this (or feel so cold!), but that’s what the Faroe Islands were to me. The scenery was so beautiful, I found myself constantly picking my jaw off the ground.
Don’t Miss: The photogenic village of Gasadalur, haute Faroese cuisine at Koks in Tórshavn, hiking around the island of Mykines.
This is the side of Croatia often overlooked by tourists. Leave the coast and drive into the hills and you’ll find adorable towns covered in roses and artwork. Inland Istria is like Italy, minus the tourists — and you won’t find cheaper truffle dishes anywhere else in the world.
Don’t Miss: the musician-filled hamlet of Grožnjan, the wild rock-slab beaches of Kamenjak, strolling through touristy but gorgeous Rovinj.
Andalusia is where to go to experience the romantic Spain of flamenco and bullfighting, whitewashed houses and Moorish architecture. Though I only visited Sevilla and Granada, the region made quite an impression on me. I could have stayed for months.
Don’t Miss: Sunset over the Alhambra at Plaza San Nicolas in Granada, the colorful mosaic-filled nooks at Plaza de España in Sevilla, indulging in free tapas in Granada.
It’s one of the world’s most beautiful countries — and yet it’s staggeringly diverse, from white sand beaches, vineyards, and stunning mountains to the wild brush of Kruger National Park. There is so much to see and do for virtually every kind of traveler.
Don’t Miss: the safari you’ll remember for the rest of your life in Kruger National Park, exploring the beauty of the Cape Peninsula, enjoying the upscale side of Johannesburg.
This region in Spain is the darling of the travel blogging community, and it deserves every bit of hype it gets. A fantastically diverse region of Catalonia with incredible beauty, a wide variety of landscapes, and unforgettable food, just thinking of Costa Brava brings a smile to my face!
Don’t Miss: The bridge and small-town charm of Besalú, tasting the world’s best gelato at Rocambolesc in Girona, hiking along the sea in Lloret de Mar for the best views in the region.
Nowhere in the world is like Iceland. A wild, ever-changing, geyser-filled landscape with temperamental weather and a population so tiny that you need to consult a database to see if you’re related to the person you want to date. And the adventure opportunities are endless.
Don’t Miss: Snorkeling or diving into the near-frozen neon abyss of Silfra, glacier-hiking and waterfall-spotting on the South Coast, and of course, an afternoon luxuriating in the Blue Lagoon.
The tropical paradise of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is far from undiscovered, but there may be no better place in the world to sail around for a week. Dalmatia is filled with stunning natural beauty, party towns, secret hideaways, cool architecture, and more.
Don’t Miss: The bright turquoise saltwater lakes of Mljet National Park, cocktails on top of a tower at sunset at Massimo Bar in Korčula, the all-white town of Pučišća on the island of Brač.
It took very little time for me to declare Montenegro the most naturally beautiful country in Europe. Between the gorgeous fjords, the mountainous coastline, and towns straight out of a fairy tale, I was captivated by Montenegro — and enjoyed its low prices and relative obscurity.
Don’t Miss: Whitewater rafting in Tara Canyon, hiking up to the top of the fortress of Kotor, dining in Sveti Stefan with a perfect view of the island.
Having spent months in Italian cities, I luxuriated in the pleasures of rural Umbria — exploring tiny towns seemingly unchanged for centuries, vineyard-hopping and enjoying the wines, discovering local crafts and traditions. AND THE FOOD WAS ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE.
Don’t miss: the medieval town of Bevagna, the views from the top of the mountain in Assisi, dining in the countryside at Terre Margaritelli.