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These are the most exciting destinations we visited in 2019
// By Kae Lani Palmisano
By Kae Lani Palmisano
Photo courtesy of iStock / abriendomundo
We can't stop thinking about these places!
Travel has the ability to change us. With every new destination comes a new perspective through which to see the world – and new experiences that we’ll carry with us for a lifetime.
As 2019 comes to a close and we embark upon a new decade, we here at 10Best are looking back at some of the most interesting, exciting and inspiring places we’ve visited this year. These are destinations where the landscapes moved us, the cuisines expanded our palates and the people touched our hearts.
Photo courtesy of Turismo de Lisboa
Portugal captivated our editors this year with its intriguing history, delicious cuisine, iconic tiled facades and its relative affordability. It’s a small country that packs plenty for visitors to experience ranging from stunning cliffs and beaches, like those found in the Algarve, to a world-class wine region, such as the Douro Valley.
With direct flights from many cities in the United States, Portugal is an easy-to-reach European destination.
Explore Portugal: 10 reasons why travelers are flocking to Portugal »
Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
10Best photographer and contributor Dave Stamboulis explored the Atacama Desert this year and captured landscapes that were out of this world. This South American desert plateau runs 1,000 kilometers down the Pacific Coast of the continent, just west of the Andes mountain range.
He says it's "like a hallucinogenic landscape painting run amok." A place full of peculiar vistas, towering volcanoes and salt mountains, it will change the way you think about desert habitats.
Explore Atacama Desert: Surreal Atacama Desert should be on every adventure bucket list »
Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
Adventure lovers will find some of the best outdoor experiences in Chile’s Aysén, a region in Northern Patagonia filled with pristine forests, jagged mountains, glaciers and lakes. The wilderness of this region is like no other.
One of the best places to experience the best of what Aysén has to offer is the Cerro Castillo National Reserve which travelers say might be the next Torres del Paine.
Explore Aysén: One of the world's most gorgeous hidden gems »
Photo courtesy of Kae Lani Palmisano
Great Barrier Island
Island life takes on a new meaning on New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island. Located off the coast of Auckland, this remote locale offers visitors flawless beaches with teal waters, hiking trails through the bush and hot springs.
The Great Barrier Island has also earned International Dark Sky Sanctuary status, meaning that there is virtually no light pollution, making it one of the best places to view stars in the night sky.
Explore the Great Barrier Island: What it's like to stay on the remote Great Barrier Island in New Zealand »
Photo courtesy of Thanda Safari
This private game reserve located in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal gives visitors the chance to see the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo). Planning a safari can be complicated and Thanda Safari takes care of that for guests, with bookings that cover everything from lodging to meals through the game drive.
You’ll not only get a chance to experience wildlife encounters, but you’ll also learn valuable photography skills as well as interesting tips on how to track the Big Five.
Explore Thanda Safari: Get closer to wildlife than you ever imagined on this safari »
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta
South Padre Island
Wait – there’s a tropical island off the coast of Texas?! Yes! South Padre Island is a beach getaway that offers up lots of adventure and education. In addition to miles of pristine shoreline, the island gives visitors an opportunity to explore natural habitats and wildlife.
The SPI Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary and the nearby Sea Turtle, Inc. teaches visitors the importance of protecting natural habitats and allows them to encounter wild birds, alligators and sea turtles.
Explore South Padre Island: 10 of the best things to do on South Padre Island »
Photo courtesy of Leila Kwok/Tofino Resort + Marina
Tofino, located on the western coast of Vancouver Island, is a popular destination during the summer, but our experts recommend visiting during the off-season.
In addition to incredible landscapes and exciting encounters with wildlife (bear watching and whale watching tours are available), Tofino has a burgeoning food scene. At 1909 Kitchen, chefs will take your catch of the day and cook it for you in a meal that is truly sea-to-table.
Explore Tofino: This isolated Canadian destination is more alluring in the off-season »
Photo courtesy of Kristin Amico
In recent years, Dubrovnik has gotten some attention thanks to its iconic medieval walls and Adriatic shoreline being used as the backdrop for King’s Landing on HBO’s "Game of Thrones." But even if you’re not a GOT fan, this picturesque destination has something that everyone can enjoy.
Just outside the fortified walled city, travelers can explore the nature of Mljet National Park, enjoy the cuisine of the Pelješac peninsula and see gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea from the top of Mount Srd.
Explore Dubrovnik: Local tour guides share the best things to do in Dubrovnik, Croatia »
Photo courtesy of iStock / Neurobite
The Faroe Islands have captured the attention of travelers over the past few years, which is why our experts say the capital, Torshavn, should not be missed. Travelers often come to the Faroe Islands for the breathtaking views, but what they’ll find in Torshavn is a culture that has been shaped by the archipelago’s natural beauty.
Torshavn is home to the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands where visitors can explore works by some of Faroes’ most renowned artists. Visitors can also dine at Koks, a remote two-star Michelin restaurant with a menu featuring local ingredients that are sometimes foraged.
Explore Torshavn: Visit Torshavn for European charm and gorgeous views »
Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
While the crowds head to the Philippines’ Boracay and Palawan, 10Best photographer and contributor, Dave Stamboulis, recommends going north to the lesser known, but just as beautiful Ilocos Norte.
The coast along Ilocos Norte is a sunbathed escape for travelers looking for a peaceful beach getaway. Whether you want to surf the waves at Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud or just sit along the beach, Ilocos Norte is the perfect place for any beach holiday.
Explore Ilocos Norte: This destination is the Philippines' best-kept secret »