Ready to stoke your wanderlust? We combed the globe for more amazing (and amazingly affordable!) bucket list spots than ever before. From stylish cities to alluringly remote islands, here are the top 24 budget destinations for 2016.
1. ICELAND Marvel at lava fields and sky-high waterfalls on a (nearly free!) stopover.
Why 2016. Icelandair has introduced or expanded service from Seattle, Minneapolis, Orlando, and Newark, and year-round flights from Chicago start this May, making Iceland incredibly accessible to Americans. Fly the airline to one of 26 major destinations in Europe and you can get a free seven-night stopover with no bag-check fees.
What to do. Ogle breathtaking waterfalls, moss-covered lava fields, and black sand beaches. The 30-minute Golden Circle drive from Reykjavík packs in Thingvellir National Park, Geysir hot spring area, Gullfoss waterfall, and Kerid volcano crater. A little farther out, Iceland’s second highest waterfall, Haífoss, shows off a view that’s worth the detour. >>
Continue your trip east along Route 1, the so-called Ring Road, and you’ll pass more waterfalls, Vík’s extraordinary black sand beaches, and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Hungry? At Fridheimar restaurant in Reykholt, they grow tomatoes with geothermal heat and serve lunch in their glass house all year, putting the produce in everything from their signature soup to Bloody Marys to ice cream (from about $15).
Where to stay. In Hella, not far from the Golden Circle, Stracta Hótel delivers chicly spare Nordic style, hot tubs and saunas to soothe your travel-weary bones, and an included breakfast buffet that’ll start your day off right with skyr, cured meats, cheeses, eggs, and more (from about $134 per night). —Catherine Strawn
2. SAN ANTONIO Admire bold public art and taste foodie-approved “Texas seafood.”
Why 2016. Mosey on down to the Lone Star State for a culinary boom, two big anniversaries, and five freshly designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Alamo.
What to do. This is not yo’ mama’s River Walk. The quintessential bright café-table-lined downtown path now spans 15 miles, thanks to two culture-focused additions you can kayak, bike, or walk: The Museum Reach leads directly to the San Antonio Museum of Art, while the Mission Reach cuts a path to the newly designated missions, all of which are active parishes. Catch a mariachi mass for free on Sundays at Mission Concepción and Mission San José. Plus, this year marks the 180th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo and the 125th anniversary of the arts-and-culture celebration Fiesta! San Antonio, and with those come a slew of free music festivals and parades. The year-round installation The Saga tells the city’s history in rapturous video projected onto San Fernando Cathedral (free); farther north, kids can put their engineering skills to the test at the new STEM-focused DoSeum ($12).
To sample the new culinary scene in town, dip into the Pearl district’s Southerleigh to try Texas seafood dishes like the Cellarman’s Lunch Pail, which nets you a soft-shell crab po’boy or wood-broiled oysters, plus a side ($12). Then, knock back a craft beer at Sternewirth taphouse, a lobby-adjacent lounge at the swanky new Hotel Emma, outfitted in dark wood and deep-hued leather. Bring friends and sit in a retrofitted beer tank, dubbed a “tanquette.” Of course, the humble puffy taco still reigns as San Antonio’s classic cheap eat: Grab one at Ray’s Drive-Inn, which founded the dish ($2).
Where to stay. Hotel Havana has retro candy-colored in-room refrigerators and a pan-Latin restaurant (from $156). Wyndham Garden, on the Museum Reach (from $125), provides easy access both to Pearl and the hip rooftop bar Paramour (drinks from $4). —Jamie Beckman