A picture-perfect trio of islands lapped by turquoise waters, the Maltese archipelago has all the charm of nearby Sicily with far fewer tourists. Valletta, the tiny nation’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, feels like something plucked straight from Westeros. The historic walled city dates back to 1565, and has a vibe that’s Mediterranean with a North African twist. This underrated destination is finally stepping into the global limelight as a 2018 European Capital of Culture. To celebrate the occasion, the city has planned more than 140 projects and 400 events throughout the year. The festivities begin on January 20, with contemporary dance, a choral symphony, and acrobatic performances across the city’s four main squares. Should you miss the grand opening, swing by in February for Carnival, or in June for the Malta International Arts Festival and the Valletta Film Festival. —Diana Hubbell
The Moroccan city has attracted an artistic crowd since the 1960s, when everyone from Yves Saint Laurent to Mick Jagger fell for its vibrant sensory landscape. Now the city’s cultural scene is being reinvigorated, thanks to two landmark happenings in the world of art and design. First came last October’s launch of the YSL Museum — a striking geometric building next to the Jardin Majorelle, which Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé, bought and restored in the 1980s. Then, in February, the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair will debut at the storied hotel La Mamounia. Marrakesh has had an art biennial since 2005 — the next is slated for 2020 — and the city is home to a number of well-regarded galleries. But the arrival of 1:54, which has editions in London and New York and draws names like Billie Zangewa and William Kentridge, is set to position the city as a hub for African art. There’s also hotel news. Oberoi is poised to open its third African property here, a lakeside resort surrounded by citrus orchards. And Royal Mansour has added a 6,450-square-foot pool flanked by seven air-conditioned cabanas. —Flora Stubbs
Rising above its associations with the annual hot-air-balloon festival, Albuquerque will this year set out to prove itself as a fully-fledged destination. The Sawmill District, just north of the historic Old Town, is being revived as a creative center, anchored by the arrival of the Hotel Chaco. The design of this boutique property, which opened in April, is inspired by the state’s indigenous culture, with handmade Navajo wool textiles and pueblo-inspired motifs. Come spring, downtown ABQ will also see the arrival of a new entertainment hub: the $40 million One Central, which will have a sleek bowling lounge, as well as upscale stores and restaurants. And just outside town, visitors will soon be able to experience the striking Sandia Mountains in a nail-biting new way. The proposed Mountain Coaster, an alpine sled-style ride that plunges riders down the mountainside in a total vertical drop of 380 feet, is due to open this fall. Getting to Albuquerque is becoming even easier, thanks to new nonstop flights from major U.S. cities via Southwest, United, and Alaska Airlines. —Melanie Lieberman
In 2006, a Travelers commercial titled Snowball was nominated for an Emmy. Snowball featured a man, walking down a steep San Francisco sidewalk, who trips and knocks over a table of items at a garage sale. The man and the items roll down the street, forming a ball which gathers garbage cans, pedestrians, construction materials, motorcycles, light poles, and other items, in a manner very reminiscent of the familiar cartoon "snowball" effect or the cult video game Katamari Damacy. The creators of the ad say it is simply based on the snowball effect, they have never heard of the game, and that the resulting similarity was a surprise to them.
Flight Oakland - Los Angeles (OAK - LAX) $55+ Flight San Francisco - Los Angeles (SFO - LAX) $91+ Flight San José - Los Angeles (SJC - LAX) $91+ Flight Houston - Los Angeles (HOU - LAX) $106+ Flight Houston - Los Angeles (IAH - LAX) $106+ Flight Dallas - Los Angeles (DFW - LAX) $123+ Flight Chicago - Los Angeles (ORD - LAX) $125+ Flight Seattle - Los Angeles (SEA - LAX) $125+ Flight Portland - Los Angeles (PDX - LAX) $137+ Flight New York - Los Angeles (LGA - LAX) $140+ Flight Orlando - Los Angeles (MCO - LAX) $163+ Flight Minneapolis - Los Angeles (MSP - LAX) $165+ Flight Detroit - Los Angeles (DTW - LAX) $166+ Flight Washington - Los Angeles (BWI - LAX) $173+ Flight Atlanta - Los Angeles (ATL - LAX) $178+ Flight Fort Lauderdale - Los Angeles (FLL - LAX) $178+ Flight Philadelphia - Los Angeles (PHL - LAX) $187+ Flight Newark - Los Angeles (EWR - LAX) $191+ Flight Boston - Los Angeles (BOS - LAX) $197+ Flight Raleigh - Los Angeles (RDU - LAX) $199+ Flight Chicago - Los Angeles (MDW - LAX) $201+ Flight Washington - Los Angeles (DCA - LAX) $204+
U.S. travelers have historically overlooked Mauritius in favor of other Indian Ocean destinations like the Seychelles and Maldives. That could all change, though, now that this remote, idyllic island some 1,200 miles off the African coast has become easier to reach. A flurry of new airline services launched at the end of 2017: KLM began servicing Mauritius from Amsterdam, and British carrier Thomas Cook Airlines introduced biweekly flights in November. Upon arrival, travelers can take in dreamy lagoon views from the newly reopened One&Only Le Saint Géran, fresh off a multimillion-dollar renovation. Every room and suite now has a private terrace or balcony, marble baths with cascade showers, and sophisticated teak, stone, and leather accents. Guests can also look forward to updated dining experiences — like lunch spot La Pointe, which grills fresh-caught seafood over firewood and coconut embers, or open-air restaurant La Terrasse, which offers Mauritian specialties. Unchanged at Le Saint Géran is its aura of exclusivity, thanks to the resort’s unique position on a private peninsula jutting out from the island’s eastern shore. —Melanie Lieberman
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, skerries, cays or keys. An island in a river or a lake island may be called an eyot or ait, and a small island off the coast may be called a holm. A grouping of geographically or geologically related islands is called an archipelago, such as the Philippines.
There is a difference between islands and continents in terms of geology. Continents are the largest landmass of a particular continental plate; this holds true for Australia, which sits on its own continental lithosphere and tectonic plate (the Australian plate). By contrast, islands are either extensions of the oceanic crust (e.g. volcanic islands), or belong to a continental plate containing a larger landmass; the latter is the case of Greenland, which sits on the North American plate.
This German town lays claim to not one but two of the world’s greatest opera houses. Most music lovers know about the acoustically perfect Bayreuth Festspielhaus, built in 1876 by composer Richard Wagner as the home for his summer music festival. But the city also contains the grandest Baroque theater in the world, the Margravial Opera House, built between 1744 and 1748 by Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012, the theater has been closed for repairs for the past six years. It reopens in April 2018 with a performance of Artaserse by the 18th-century German composer Johann Adolph Hasse (tickets go on sale in February). Bayreuth also makes an excellent starting point from which to explore the rest of the region, famous for its hundreds of Bavarian biergartens and vineyards producing internationally renowned Franconian wines. —Christopher Tkaczyk
From the Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast to the coral-reefed Keys, the state is filled with an array of activities for all ages and tastes. On a Florida vacation, families can plan several days of theme park fun in the Orlando area, or they can ride horses at a secluded ranch in central Florida, ride bikes along nature trails in north Florida, learn about astronauts and rocket science at the Space Coast or take one of the garden tours in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.