Best Places to Eat and Drink This Spring

After being cooped up all winter, you’re ready to shed a few layers, go outside, and play in the sunshine. Bonus points if you can find a café with outdoor seating. Here are four places to eat, drink, and, hopefully, be merry this spring.

Photo: Purcari

Photo: Purcari

Moldova: Drink familiar wines, like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, before moving on to a dry Aligoté and a sweet Rkatsiteli outside of Chişinău.

Photo: N. Preseault

Photo: N. Preseault

Brussels: Explore Belgium’s most-underappreciated city—and sample mussels, waffles, and lots of chocolate along the way.

Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Tulum: Spend the day relaxing on a gorgeous beach or visiting the Mayan ruins before checking out the exciting restaurant scene on the southern end of Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

Photo: N. Preseault

Photo: N. Preseault

Franschhoek: Prefer autumn to spring? Head to one of South Africa’s picturesque wine regions to ride a wine tram, drink Syrah and Merlot, and eat dinner overlooking the vines.

Best Destinations for History Buffs

Hey, history buff! If you’ve exhausted your list of local museums, traveled abroad to see castles and battle sites, and planned vacations around ancient ruins, then you probably already know about the places the below. But have you visited them yet?

Icheri Sheher, Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku: Explore the sandstone buildings, the winding streets, and the carpet shops of Icheri Sheher in Azerbaijan.

Photo: FSG777 via stock.xchng

Photo: FSG777 via stock.xchng

Doha: See wooden dhows, souqs, mosques, and the largest Islamic art collection in the world along Qatar’s waterfront.

Photo: I, Ruud Zwart [CC-BY-SA-2.5-nl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/nl/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: I, Ruud Zwart [CC-BY-SA-2.5-nl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/nl/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

Djenné: Travel deep into the desert to visit one of Africa’s oldest communities—and one of the largest mudbrick buildings in the world—in Mali.

Photo: Stomac (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0-fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Stomac (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0-fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Bukhara: Find the “city of museums”—plus minarets, mosques, and madrasahs—along the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

Best Places to Go to Extend Winter

Most of us are excited about spring’s arrival. Warmer temperatures, blooming flowers, and the beginning of baseball season usually put a smile on people’s faces. But all you think about is mud season and allergies. You’re one of the few who misses the cold weather when the season changes. Here are a few places you can visit to try to extend winter, at least a little bit longer.

Photo: N. Preseault

Photo: N. Preseault

Búðir: Travel to Iceland’s remote Snæfellsnes peninsula to see a glacier-covered volcano, lava fields, waterfalls, black-sand beaches, and the endless North Atlantic Ocean.

Photo: Northern Lights Resort & SPA

Photo: Northern Lights Resort & SPA

Whitehorse: See the last of this year’s Northern Lights stream across the sky from a hot tub in the secluded Yukon wilderness.

Photo: Shymbulak Ski Resort

Photo: Shymbulak Ski Resort

Almaty: Get in your final ski runs—and enjoy the beautiful views from the slopes—in Kazakhstan’s snowcapped mountains.

Photo: Hamn Eiendom AS

Photo: Hamn Eiendom AS

Senja: Hang out with eagles, moose, seals, and maybe a killer whale above the Arctic Circle on Norway’s northwestern coast.

Marfa, Texas

Photo: John Cummings (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: John Cummings (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

You’re in the middle of nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. For hours, you’ve been driving along a practically deserted highway. Every once in a while, a trailer truck, kicking up dust and loose pebbles, rushes ahead of you. You drive through old ghost towns, by tumbleweeds and cacti, and through the vast desert. Finally, you see a building in the distance. Hopefully, it’s a gas station. You need to stretch your legs and use the bathroom. But when you get closer, you don’t see gas pumps or a neon restaurant sign. Instead, the building reads: Prada Marfa.

This permanent sculpture installation—sorry, you can’t actually shop here—is your first introduction to quirky Marfa, 37 miles away. It’s also a warning to open your eyes and stay alert, because you never know what you’ll see in this art-obsessed town. Marfa is in the Trans-Pecos desert in remote West Texas. The little town is between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park. It was founded as a railroad stop in the 1880s, turned into an army training facility during World War II, and was pretty much forgotten until minimalist artist Donald Judd moved here in the 1970s.

After your immediately necessary bathroom break, find the Food Shark, a food truck set up near the railroad tracks, for an early lunch of mole pork tacos and an endless iced tea. Endless is a good thing when it’s already 80 degrees before noon. Start with a tour of Donald Judd’s studios with the Judd Foundation. He converted many old buildings into workspaces before his death in 1994. The Architecture Studio was a former bank, and the Art Studio was once a grocery store. To see more of Judd’s work, plus installations by other minimalist artists, head to the Chinati Foundation, where large-scale exhibits are scattered around 15 buildings and the grounds of a former army base.

Photo: El Cosmico

Photo: El Cosmico

Later in the afternoon, check into one of Marfa’s unique hotels. The Thunderbird, with its 1950s architecture, has turntables, a vinyl library, manual typewriters, and Polaroid cameras. At the nearby El Cosmico, choose between a vintage Airstream trailer, a safari tent, and a Sioux-style tepee. Or get a feel for the Wild West at the rustic Cibolo Creek Ranch outside of town. Eat dinner at Maiya’s. The menu changes daily, but it’s always difficult to decide between the appetizers, like curry carrot soup and a caramelized fennel tartlet.

Then head into the desert to try to see the Marfa lights near the Chinati Mountains. On clear nights, mysterious, sphere-shaped lights sometimes float across the sky. The lights have been fascinating people for years—UFOs and ghosts are frequently discussed—though no one has been able to determine their origin. You may not believe the paranormal theories in advance, but it’s hard to think otherwise once you actually see the lights.

The next morning, drink your coffee, but wait to eat breakfast until you arrive at Farm Stand Marfa. Grab a breakfast burrito to eat as you browse Ganka’s organic bread, Socorrito’s tamales, and Malinda’s watercolors. Stroll into town to see the classic Texas town square and the view from the fifth floor of the Presidio County Courthouse. Stop in more galleries to see paintings, photographs, and chalk drawings. Catch a film screening at Ballroom Marfa. And don’t miss the Marfa Book Company, an independent gem.

Back on the highway, you’re once again surrounded by cacti and tumbleweeds. An 18 wheeler is bearing down on you. Your bladder is making you uncomfortable. But there’s nothing ahead of you for quite a long time. And Marfa now seems like a desert dream.

Chiloé Island, Chile

Photo: clafouti via stock.xchng

Photo: clafouti via stock.xchng

It just got a lot cheaper to travel to Chile. For years, the United States and Chile have been charging citizens of the other country reciprocity fees. True, the fee was valid for the life of your passport, but $160 dollars per person was still a lot to tack onto a vacation. A recent agreement between the two countries ended this visa charge, though. So what’s the first destination on your Chilean wish list?

You plan to visit colonial cities, up-and-coming wine regions, and, of course, Patagonia’s fjords and glaciers. But first, you’re going to Chiloé, the largest island in the Chiloé Archipelago. The island is known for its wood-shingled churches, stilted houses, relaxing hotels, and gorgeous scenery. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a long flight.

You arrive in Castro after a ferry ride from the mainland. The region’s capital, located in the center of the island, is Chile’s third-largest city in continual existence. The Plaza de Armas, the main square, is the center of town. It’s always full of people, and it’s surrounded by green trees, shops, restaurants, and the yellow-and-purple Church of San Francisco. Wooden palafitos line the waterfront; the houses were built on stilts to protect them from flooding. The city has been wiped out twice by tsunamis after earthquakes. You can see photographs from the last one, in 1960, at the Regional Museum of Castro. After learning about Chiloé’s history, visit the Museum of Modern Art, housed in five refurbished barns.

Photo: Chiloé Island

Photo: Centro de Ocio Hotel

MAM Chiloé isn’t the only forward-thinking place on this traditional island. Across the water from Castro, you find Centro de Ocio. Your eco-friendly hotel, in an old chilota house, is surrounded by a native coihue forest and fields of grazing sheep. The light-filled rooms have huge windows, whirlpool baths, and balconies overlooking the fjord. Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the hotel. Have a Tui Na massage, which uses Chinese medicine techniques, to return balance to your body. Sit outside in the wooden hot tub. Or find a comfortable spot to stare at the beautiful surroundings with a pisco sour.

Over the next few days, you hike through Chiloé National Park’s Valdivian temperate rainforest. Have a picnic on long, windswept Cucao Beach on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Visit Chiloé’s UNESCO World Heritage Site churches. Many of the wooden churches are painted shockingly bright colors. The three-peaked Church of Tenaún is blue and white. The Church of Chonchi is turquoise and yellow. And the Church of Caguach is tomato red. If one of the churches is closed when you arrive, find the key holder of the village to let you in.

Travel to Puñihuil to see nesting Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins, plus huge colonies of marine birds. Watch for blue whales cresting offshore. Take a boat trip to see the palafitos from the water. You might see Commerson’s dolphins swimming alongside the boat or South American sea lions on the rocky shores. Eat curanto (meat, potato, and vegetable stew), milcao (potato bread), and fresh shellfish. Listen to stories about ghost ships, forest gnomes, and even witchcraft. The island may be filled with churches, but beliefs extend beyond Catholicism.

At the end of each day, curl up with a blanket on your balcony to hear the wind whistle through the fjord, see Castro’s lights bounce off the water, and watch shooting stars stream across the sky. And be thankful travel to Chile just got a whole lot easier.

Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei

Photo: Ulu Ulu National Park Resort

Photo: Ulu Ulu National Park Resort

What have you gotten yourself into this time? You’re on a traditional longboat in the middle of the Temburong River. It started slowly. The boat maneuvered around a long sandbar and big boulders. You passed palms, enormous ferns, and geckos trying to blend into the trees. Then the slow-moving river became a fast-moving river. It wasn’t as easy to avoid those boulders in the quick current. You rode through a mangrove swamp, down rapids, and into the dense rainforest. You heard Müller’s Bornean gibbons screeching in the trees and saw pygmy squirrels jump between the branches.

Then you saw a dinosaur. It might have actually been a Rhinoceros Hornbill, a prehistoric-looking bird. But when you tell the story later, it will always be a dinosaur. You consider yourself adventurous and daring. Some would even say crazy. But this takes the cake.

Your journey began in Bandar Seri Begawan, the oil-rich capital of Brunei. You could have seen the palace, the mosques, and the glitzy shopping areas like a normal tourist. Instead, you road a boat to Bangar, transferred to a vehicle to reach the end of the road at Batang Duri, and climbed aboard this longboat that is taking you deep into Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei’s first national park.

Photo: Ulu Ulu National Park Resort

Photo: Ulu Ulu National Park Resort

You can finally disembark when you arrive at the Ulu Ulu Resort, the only accommodations in the park. You’re at the edge of the rainforest and the river. You hear rushing water, rustling leaves, and bird chatter. You’re welcomed with a nonalcoholic drink (this is a Muslim country) and shown to your chalet-style room. You expect the worst, but you’re pleasantly surprised to see comfortable bedding, a modern bathroom, and a porch with a river view. Not that you’ll be spending much time in here. It’s already time to start moving.

Along the banks of the river, follow the steep, muddy path through the jungle to the canopy walkway. You’re drenched in sweat—and glad you brought the stainless steel water bottle from the resort—when you reach the top. Almost the top. Now you have to disregard your fear of heights to actually climb on the walkway itself. It looks like a metal cage and seems to be supported by metal cables, but it’s still swinging 50 meters high. No one is chickening out, so you can’t either. You climb the ladders, grip the handrails, and hesitantly walk toward the center. Your breathing slows, and you finally look out. It’s green—every shade of green imaginable—in every direction. Bushy-crested Hornbills (more dinosaurs) and Black-and-yellow Broadbills fly overhead. You can finally see the tailless gibbons swinging between the trees. You hold your breath, but out of amazement, not fear.

You’ll spend the rest of your trip hiking through the rainforest, swimming under waterfalls, and searching for frogs during night treks. You’ll go tubing down mini rapids, listen to cicadas from a hammock, and eat chicken fish. You’ll have plenty of stories to tell when you return home. And each one will begin with “I saw dinosaurs in Brunei.”

Tavira, Portugal

Photo: fazenda nova.

Photo: fazenda nova.

The beautiful Algarve. Portugal’s southern coast is full of massive rock formations, powdery beaches, windswept dunes, and tons of tourists. Of course, everyone wants to vacation here. It’s not surprising, given the gorgeous setting and the near-perfect weather. Like the Amalfi Coast or the French Riviera, it’s hard to enjoy the Algarve—and sometimes even see it—with bumper-to-bumper traffic and camera-toting gawkers. But with nearly 100 miles of coastline, there must be a place to which you can still escape. So it’s time to head farther east.

You’re almost in Spain by the time you reach Tavira. To get here, you drove through green fields, around carob and almond trees, and away from the areas built-up with high-rise hotels and manicured golf courses. Tavira, located where the Gilão River meets the Atlantic Ocean, is a pretty, little fishing town. The Phoenicians settled it during the Bronze Age. The Romans followed. But the Moors, who built a castle, a “Roman” bridge, whitewashed houses, and elaborate gardens, left the biggest impression of all.

The best way to get to know Tavira is to wander the cobblestone streets. From the ruins of Tavira Castle, see the 37 spires—churches outnumber hotels here—the river cutting through town, and the Ria Formosa. These barrier islands form a natural lagoon along the coast. It’s now a nature reserve where flamingos and storks nest. It also has eight miles of undeveloped, golden-sand beaches. Visit a few of the churches. Santa Maria do Castelo, next to the castle, was built on a Moorish mosque in the 13th century. São Paulo has a hand-carved alter. Santa Ana has river views from the bell tower. And Misericórdia is a Renaissance masterpiece. Walk through Praça da República. Slaves used to be sold in the palm-lined central square. Listen to musicians on Ponte Romana, the seven-arched bridge. Watch men pull mussels off the rocks exposed by low tide. Then smell oleander, jacaranda, and salt in the air while you drink coffee at a riverside café.

Photo: fazenda nova.

Photo: fazenda nova.

You’ve already fallen in love with little Tavira, and you haven’t even seen your hotel yet. Drive into the hills outside of town to find Fazenda Nova Country House, an old farm that’s been turned into a peaceful retreat. The British owners welcome you with a glass of Arinto wine and a tour of the main area that’s decorated with salvaged wood and antique farm equipment. Your large suite has a king-size, Balinese-style bed. The modern bathroom has polished concrete and a rain shower. The terrace leads to a garden with a fire pit, wild flowers, and olive trees.

Spend the afternoon by the infinity pool. The smell of lavender and rosemary eases the remains of your leftover travel headache. Browse the vintage magazines in the library. Take in the view of the orchards and the gardens, plus the salt flats and the ocean in the distance, from the upstairs terrace. Plan which beach—Praia do Barril, Praia da Terra Estreita, or Ilha de Cabanas—to visit tomorrow.

Then eat a seafood dinner at A Cozinha. The vegetables are from the garden. The olive oil is produced on site. The bread is made in a 200-year-old outdoor oven. The local wine keeps flowing. You may have had to do a little more research and drive a little longer, but you finally found a quiet haven on the Algarve.