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
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
Last summer, the museum expanded its artistic footprint by over 130,000 square feet, making it the largest contemporary art space in the country. The new Building 6 houses long-term installations by artists like James Turrell, Louise Bourgeois, and Jenny Holzer. Two new museums are still in the works for North Adams, both spearheaded by former Guggenheim director Thomas Krens. At the Global Contemporary Art Museum, curators will work directly with artists to acquire and commission site-specific pieces, while the Extreme Model Railroad & Contemporary Architecture Museum will showcase works by the likes of Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, all built in miniature as part of an elaborate model train system. Design is also top-of-mind at Tourists, a modern take on the roadside motel that’s set to open this summer. The resort — situated on 55 acres at the convergence of the Appalachian and Mohawk Trails — will have 48 rooms, each with floor-to-ceiling windows that put the focus on surrounding vistas. —Fiorella Valdesolo
In addition to more than 100,000 artifacts, including pieces currently stored in the vaults of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the new museum will sport a Modernist design courtesy of Heneghan Peng Architects. Chosen from more than 1,550 design proposals from architects in 82 countries, the final building will echo both the geography of the plateau on which it rests as well as the Pyramids themselves. When the museum partially opens in 2018, visitors in the immense atrium can soak in the majestic sight of both the Pyramid of Menkaure and the Great Pyramid of Khufu from a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. —Diana Hubbell
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The team learns that Traveler 001 is still alive in the body of his former psychologist, Perrow, when the Faction tries to capture him/her. Perrow dies but they believe 001 had access to a transfer device (since in the future he helped construct one) and as a result they are unsure where his consciousness now resides. Doubts about their loved ones worsen for Kat (suffering hallucinations and suspicions), Jeff (now, not Jeff and trying to make amends) and David, who is concussed.
Three high-ranking Travelers are sent back by the Director to put Grace on trial for violating protocols, overwriting a person who was not assigned to be her host, and sabotaging the Grand Plan. Mac and the team must give testimony at the trial that will determine if she should be overwritten or not. Meanwhile, the Faction is trying to replenish its numbers by overwriting people with the stored minds in the Quantum Frame. It transpires the trial was staged by the Director to flush out a Faction member from within the three Travelers judging Grace, which it successfully does, this leading to Mac's team securing the Quantum Frame.
The team track down Simon (Traveler 0004), a specialist who developed the consciousness transfer technology in the future, who was sent into a host body that developed schizophrenia after arrival. Simon, who set up the Travelers' communications system in the 21st, is haunted by hallucinations of Vincent, who previously convinced an institutionalized Simon that the Director wanted him to next build transfer technology in the 21st.
Often overlooked in favor of more-developed, splashier neighbors like Hvar or Brač, Šolta’s under-the-radar nature has proved a boon: The stony islet has become synonymous with pristine nature (pebbly beaches, turquoise waters, lush greenery), medieval villages, winemaking (try the indigenous Dobričić variety), and family-run olive oil purveyors like Olynthia, a fourth-generation producer. After watching the sun set at Maslinica bay, check out the island’s peppering of stylish beach clubs, seaside bars, and open-air restaurants — then drop your bags at the Heritage Hotel Martinis-Marchi, built inside an 18th-century Venetian fort-castle and ideally situated for those who want to explore Šolta’s ancient villages and crystal-clear bays. —Kate Springer
The Greek highway system has seen several recent upgrades, with a new route making the 2,000-year-old olive trees and lesser-visited ruins of the Peloponnese, the country’s southernmost swathe of mainland, more accessible. Completed in late 2016, the new A71 highway from Lefktro to Sparta shaves off two hours of driving time from Athens, and has also connected the Lefktro region to nearby Kalamata Airport, about 90 minutes away. Meanwhile, ports have been expanded at Gytheio and Katakolon — the latter a stopping point for the Viking Star, which launched in 2014. Farming is still integral to the region, and agritourism resorts like Eumelia constantly refresh their food and wellness-themed workshops, in addition to serving local dishes like maniatiki pasta with dry mizithra cheese, and moustokouloura, or cookies made with grape molasses. Goddesses seeking more temple-like accommodations should head to Porto Heli, on the eastern side of the Peloponnese, where everyone is talking about Amanzoe’s new Villa 31, a serene space with grandstand views of the surrounding coastline that contains a unique installation by light artist James Turrell. —Adam Harney Graham
As Canada's token middle child, Edmonton has long gotten short shrift amid its glitzier sisters (we're looking at you, Toronto and Vancouver). But no longer — food and museum news is casting a spotlight on Alberta’s capital city. After stints at Noma in Copenhagen and Manhattan's Daniel, chef Scott Downey returned to his hometown to open the Butternut Tree in September, with a focus on indigenous foods — grilled bannock with wild mushrooms and winged kelp; bison served with Saskatoon berry jus; maple-butter cake with black-currant jam. We're waiting to make our dinner reservations until the new Royal Alberta Museum opens its doors. Designed by Dialog architects on the site of a former Canada Post distribution center, the 419,000-square-foot space will include Ice Age horse fossils and a dig pit for children. To experience Edmonton’s indie side, stay at Crash Hotel, an homage to the Ace, which opened last winter. Its themed Hi-Fi room walls are lined with vintage speakers, and hangover pills are at the ready in the mini-bar. —Kathryn O’Shea-Evans
The word island derives from Middle English iland, from Old English igland (from ig or ieg, similarly meaning 'island' when used independently, and -land carrying its contemporary meaning; cf. Dutch eiland ("island"), German Eiland ("small island")). However, the spelling of the word was modified in the 15th century because of a false etymology caused by an incorrect association with the etymologically unrelated Old French loanword isle, which itself comes from the Latin word insula. Old English ieg is actually a cognate of Swedish ö and German Aue, and related to Latin aqua (water).
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
Although the former Soviet republic might seem remote, Uzbekistan once sat at the very center of the world. In the first millennium, no traveler could pass from Asia to Europe without stopping in the Silk Road strongholds of Bukhara and Samarkand, and as a result these cities evolved into rich cultural centers. For intrepid travelers, today’s Uzbekistan is a promised land: a Muslim-majority nation that’s both safe and affordable, with few tourists and an abundance of well-preserved mosques and harems. And since the death of authoritarian president Islam Karimov last year, the new regime has taken steps toward reform that have given both Uzbeks and the international community reason for optimism. Improving relations with Iran could soon bring a rail link to the Persian Gulf, and in 2016, the Afrosiyob high-speed-train line began connecting the country’s major cities. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan should benefit from the so-called Iron Silk Road, or Trans-Asian Railway — a Chinese-funded network of routes knitting together Beijing and Europe — once a segment connecting the country through Kyrgyzstan is completed. Book a customized journey with Exeter International, which specializes in the region. —Heidi Mitchell
An island may be described as such, despite the presence of an artificial land bridge; examples are Singapore and its causeway, and the various Dutch delta islands, such as IJsselmonde. Some places may even retain "island" in their names for historical reasons after being connected to a larger landmass by a land bridge or landfill, such as Coney Island and Coronado Island, though these are, strictly speaking, tied islands. Conversely, when a piece of land is separated from the mainland by a man-made canal, for example the Peloponnese by the Corinth Canal or Marble Hill in northern Manhattan during the time between the building of the United States Ship Canal and the filling-in of the Harlem River which surrounded the area, it is generally not considered an island.
Just an hour and a half north of Melbourne, Nagambie Lakes is one of Australia’s oldest viticulture areas, with some vines dating back to the mid 19th century. This part of Victoria has long been considered a great day-trip destination for its outdoor activities — waterskiing, rowing, and sailing — and renowned wineries. Now there’s reason to linger, thanks to the November debut of the Mitchelton Hotel, a 58-room resort and spa at Mitchelton Winery. With its fine-dining restaurant, the Ministry of Chocolate, and 5½ miles of trails circumnavigating the vineyard, it’s the perfect base for a weekend in the region. Start your trip with a tasting on-site — Mitchelton is known for its Riesling — before venturing to other nearby wineries like Tahbilk, which has been producing quality vintages since 1861, and Goulburn Terrace, which specializes in natural wines. Other popular local vintners include McPherson Wines, David Traeger Wines, and Box Grove Vineyard. —John Scarpinato
The Big Easy turns the Big 3-0-0 this year, and in this city where the good times roll, the parties will be epic — think citywide art shows, supersized Mardi Gras parades, and a festival of lights using landmark buildings as backdrops. Thirteen years after Hurricane Katrina, there is much to celebrate: The Central Business District, once a dead zone after dark, now crackles at all hours thanks to four new hotels (the Ace, Troubadour, Catahoula, and NOPSI), each with its own rooftop bar. The neighborhood is also home to new restaurants like Maypop — a Vietnamese-Creole joint from acclaimed chef Michael Gulotta. Another area coming to life is the three-mile riverfront, where a renovated Spanish Plaza will reopen this spring. More riverfront updates, including a new Four Seasons Hotel, will roll out in the next few years. Toast the tricentennial at the Sazerac House, a French Quarter museum dedicated to the official cocktail of New Orleans, opening later this year. —Allison Entrekin
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