While São Paulo’s concrete sprawl doesn’t offer the verdant beauty or mythic beaches of Rio de Janeiro, its thriving art and food scene has in recent years transformed what was once just Brazil’s financial capital into its cultural epicenter. Stroll the city’s gritty alleyways and avenues to see where celebrated street artists Os Gemeos and Eduardo Kobra got their start. São Paulo’s Art Biennial, which is second to Venice’s in longevity, kicks off in September 2018 and showcases contemporary talent, both international and homegrown. For a truly immersive experience into Brazilian fare, don’t miss Alex Atala’s D.O.M., named one of the best restaurants in the world. Atala champions native ingredients — from priprioca root to ants, often foraged from the Amazon region by the chef himself — and weaves them into his inventive dishes. The arrival of luxe hotel brands is another signal of the city’s burgeoning cosmopolitan status. The prestigious Oetker Collection, with only nine other properties (in glitzy places like Seychelles and the Côte d’Azur), recently opened Palácio Tangará, a gorgeously appointed mansion set in leafy Burle Marx Park, a welcome oasis from the city’s high-rises. The Four Seasons will also debut a new property in mid 2018, marking the brand’s first foray in the country. —Karen I. Chen
Landlocked Laos might be quieter than Southeast Asian neighbors like Vietnam and Thailand, but 2018 could transform the country into the region’s next hot spot. Wattay International Airport, in the capital of Vientiane, is set to complete a terminal expansion to accommodate more international links next year, but the biggest changes are foot in the UNESCO World Heritage–inscribed town of Luang Prabang, in central Laos. This serene riverside spot lures travelers to its golden Buddhist temples, French-colonial architecture, hiking trails, nearby elephant sanctuaries — and now, glamorous new digs. Last year, the design-forward Azerai opened inside a century-old French-colonial building that was formerly an officer’s quarters. The debut concept from Aman Resorts founder Adrian Zecha has airy, light wood interiors that nod to local culture in their use of batik textiles and Laotian artwork. There’s also an 80-foot swimming pool in a tree-shaded central courtyard. The upcoming Rosewood Luang Prabang aims to be a destination in itself. Opening in mid 2018, this highly anticipated resort will feature pavilion-style villas, luxury tents, and a spa that seems to float above the jungle. —Kate Springer
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