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Stretching along the southern side of Italy's Sorrentine Peninsula, the Amalfi coast dazzles with its mysterious grottos, craggy cliffs and shimmering bays. Grab a seat on the sea side of a regional bus to soak up views on the fabled route from artsy Positano to Amalfi. Ravello offers some respite from the crowds, plus the stunning Villa Cimbrone, which overlooks the Bay of Salerno. The historic section of Sorrento has winding streets filled with craftspeople. Capri is only a hydrofoil or ferry ride away.
Once a vital part of a mighty sea power, Positano is today a sophisticated resort on the central Amalfi Coast. Moorish-style architecture rises up steep slopes that gaze out on the Sirenuse Islands. Smart boutiques, selling fashions for visitors to display on Grand Beach, abound in the village. And it’s a great base for exploring the area—you can easily travel by boat to Capri, Ischia and the Grotta dello Smeraldo cave.
Land of Mermaids. Land of Orange and Lemon Groves. Land of Colors. This small city in Campania has earned a plethora of alluring names. Famed for its sea cliffs, the town's steep slopes look out over azure waters to Ischia, Capri and the Bay of Naples. The birthplace of Limoncello liqueur offers some good diving, great sea fishing, boat cruises and appetizing restaurants. Excellent hiking trails cross the peninsula. Rent a car or take a taxi if the steep streets look too intimidating.
The Ionian Islands are splendid, cinematic paradise. The waters are bluest blue, the sands are achingly silky and smooth. Everything looks heavily Photoshopped. But that's just Mother Nature, in all her unspoiled glory. Zakynthos is the largest of the Ionian Islands, and it's as fruitful as it is beautiful, boasting a bounty of crops like olives and grapes. Music is a huge part of the local culture—you can catch a concert or festival almost any night of the week, and you'll be captivated by the sights and sounds of Zakynthos performers.
Attracting visitors from all parts of the world, Majorca is a dreamy island destination in the Mediterranean Sea, just off the south-east coast of Spain. There's something for every taste—beaches and coves, a spectacular mountain range, romantic fishing villages and a rustic countryside dotted with almond and olive groves.
The Pearl of the Mediterranean has an ambiance more in keeping with its neighbors to the north than with those in the Middle East. Site of Pharos lighthouse, one of the Wonders of the World, and of Anthony and Cleopatra’s tempestuous romance, the city was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE. Today, Alexandria offers fascinating insights into its proud Greek past, as well as interesting mosques, the casino strip of the Corniche, some lovely gardens and both modern and traditional hotels. (Editor's note: Our list was compiled before political unrest prompted many countries to issue travel warnings for Egypt. If you're currently planning a trip to Egypt, please consider the risks and monitor your government's travel alerts.)
The shining jewel of Qatar, Doha is a multicultural city, home to most of the country's population as well as expatriate communities from a range of origins. Shopping abounds in the city's plentiful malls, while the Corniche impresses visitors with picturesque architecture and dazzling views of the harbor. Doha boasts myriad cultural facilities, including the futuristic Education City and the National Museum.
Dubai is a destination that mixes modern culture with history, adventure with world-class shopping and entertainment. Catch a show at the Dubai Opera, see downtown from atop the Burj Khalifa and spend an afternoon along Dubai Creek exploring the gold, textile and spice souks. If you’re looking for thrills, you can float above the desert dunes in a hot air balloon, climb aboard a high-speed ride at IMG Worlds of Adventure or skydive over the Palm Jumeirah.
The sandy coast of Goa is perfect for reclining by the sea. Nestle into a cushioned chair at a beach shack and savor a curry while you sip a Kingfisher beer, watching the sun slip lazily below the horizon. In Old Goa, the beautiful Basilica of Bom Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fine example of baroque architecture. Visit during Christmastime to experience a fantastic religious and cultural mash-up of East and West.
Want to make your co-workers insanely jealous? Just casually drop "I’m vacationing in the Maldives this year" into conversation, preferably in the dead of winter. Or better yet, go there without mentioning it to anyone—then send them a "Wish you were here!" postcard.