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From the beaches of Mexico to the wilds of Kurdistan, the places on this year’s list take you to the end of the world and back.

1. Santiago, Chile
Undaunted by an earthquake, a city embraces modern culture.

Less than a year after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc in Chile, its capital, Santiago, has largely recovered, the economy continues to grow, and tourism is in an upswing.

Though the quake, which caused hundreds of casualties, was centered more than 200 miles away, many of Santiago’s older buildings were damaged, including the Museum of Fine Arts.

But the earthquake last year — and another in Chile last week that caused more panic than damage — seems to have only briefly paused a cultural shift that had begun to take hold in the city. Known as a buttoned-up place, Santiago has in recent years added modern museums, smartly designed hotels and sophisticated restaurants. The city has become decidedly more vibrant.

This year, it has even been chosen as the first foreign city to host a rather unbuttoned event: Lollapalooza. The 20-year-old American music festival picked Santiago for its first overseas outing because of its open space and the variety of cultural offerings, and because locals have a passion for contemporary music, said Lollapalooza’s founder, the musician Perry Farrell. The festival takes place in April in O’Higgins Park.

This musical awakening owes much to the government’s investment in the arts. The new Centro Gabriela Mistral, for example, a 200,000-square-foot center made of glass and weathering steel, has a varied calendar of concerts, dance performances, plays and art exhibits.

Perhaps the most remarkable cultural space to open in the last few years is the Museo de la Moda, a privately financed fashion museum inside a revamped 1960s Modernist mansion. It has a permanent collection of nearly 10,000 pieces of couture and memorabilia (of which 800 are typically on display), including a light-blue jacket worn in 1966 by John Lennon and a black strapless gown worn in 1981 by Diana, Princess of Wales.

Luxury hotels are not new to Santiago, but when the W opened in 2009, it was the first to feature truly modern design. The recently opened Aubrey is equally chic and much more intimate. With an attractive mix of vintage and new furniture (Tom Dixon lamps, 19th-century Parisian rugs, tufted leather sofas), the 15-room property raised the bar for boutique lodgings in the city. It occupies two renovated residences in the Bellavista neighborhood, a creative district where Lollapalooza’s fans would feel right at home.
— PAOLA SINGER

2. San Juan Islands, Wash.
Bold-face restaurateurs vie with unspoiled nature. Nature wins.

The big draw for the San Juan Islands this year just might be its dining scene. Blaine Wetzel, a former chef at the wildly acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant Noma, took the reins at Willows Inn on Lummi Island (due to reopen on Feb. 10), while Lisa Nakamura, who has trained with big-name chefs like Thomas Keller, opened Allium on Orcas Island.

But the eternal lure of the San Juans — what brings chefs out as well as tourists — are the landscapes. On islands from Shaw to Decatur, pastoral hills give way to broody forests and scrappy escarpments that overlook fjordlike inlets. Thanks to an active land preservation effort by organizations like the San Juan County Land Bank, each year new areas are protected from logging or unruly development, and in turn provide fresh terrain for the public to explore.

Last year, the San Juan Island National Historic Park grew by 312 acres with the purchase of densely forested Mitchell Hill. On Lopez Island, a 50-year lease signed by the state Department of Natural Resources in 2009 now protects the Lopez Hill area from logging; a web of public trails winds past mossy conifers and madrona trees with peeling cinnamon-red bark. And some smaller parcels have the air of a secret about them, like the spectacular Watmough Bay Preserve on Lopez, with a trail that leads to a strip of beach on a wooded inlet, its moody water as magically lighted as a Bierstadt painting.
— SARA DICKERMAN

Read the complete article from the The New York Times

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