TERRY WARD, MEN'S JOURNAL
JAN. 23, 2014, 1:54 PM
Travelers often find themselves on the path most traveled because – amid the brush and bramble of advertisements, trend pieces, and travel magazine features – it's the only passage they can imagine.
And that's fine: Popular destinations tend to be popular for a reason. That said, there is a singular joy in trying something different.
To encourage travelers looking to take a chance, we've compiled a list of places they can skip in 2014 and found the places they ought to go instead.
Going to Vail, for example, is not (and never will be) a mistake, but there are other adventures out there.
Don't go to Montreal.
North Americans in search of a French fix tend to default to Montréal. Though there is a lot to do in Canada's second largest city, travelers looking for a more Gallic experience would be wise to set their sights on Québec City, the capital of Québec province and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Québec City is more than 400 years old and the architecture in Vieux-Québec is far more French than anything in Montréal. But it's the cuisine that's really turning heads here lately.
Dine on foie gras, Quebec cheeses (the province produces over 300 varieties), and lobster with truffles in the cozy "winter garden" at Le Saint-Amour or opt for something easier on the wallet at the retro-inspired La Cuisine, a restaurant that morphs into a dance bar at night.
Order the bouilli (beef stew à la pot roast), an unpretentious comfort food that, like Québec City, is the ultimate in all things Québecois.
Don't go to Vail.
Vail's sick back bowls make for legendary powder carves, but when it comes to sheer mass of terrain paired with that certain je ne sais quoi of a European ski vacation (sauna culture, bier gardens), it's impossible to trump Trois Vallées.
Located in France's Savoie département – a roughly two-hour drive from the airports in Geneva and Lyon – Trois Vallées is French for "three valleys." And the sprawling interconnected terrain in the world's largest ski area spreads over three valleys and eight different resorts with more than 370 miles of ski slopes.
Méribel resort is the party town in these parts, but the place to hobnob with Austrian counts, French movie stars, and the like is Courchevel 1850, where the chalet-style apartments at the ski-in/ski-out hotel La Sivolière are well worth the splurge.
Don't go to the Bahamas.
It requires a considerably longer flight over the Caribbean – about three and a half hours from Miami – but the spice island of Grenada, just north of Venezuela, is everything Nassau is not.
Where cruise ship-crowded Nassau occupies what's basically a limestone rock, Grenada's rich soil grows everything from coffee and cocoa to nutmeg and ginger. There are rushing rivers to go tubing down, jungles teeming with monkeys and sweeps of long white beach that beat anything on Nassau's built-up shores.
Visit Grenada's River Antoine Rum Distillery to see the oldest waterwheel-powered rum producer in the Caribbean, after scuba diving around the 600-foot-long Bianca C, an Italian cruise ship that sank here in 1961.
And snag a room at the beachfront Flamboyant Hotel & Villas on the sublime beach of Grand Anse for a fraction of what a similar suite would cost on "Paradise Island."
Don't go to Thailand.
El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
The latest political tensions in Bangkok aside notwithstanding, Thailand is a less exciting destination than the Philippines. The dramatic karst formations of El Nido on the island of Palawan would have made a more striking backdrop for Leonardo DiCaprio's escapades in "The Beach" than Thailand's Ko Phi Phi.
Palawan, it seems, sits pretty much smack dab at the epicenter of marine biodiversity. The underwater life is downright flamboyant. Dive safaris of six days or longer on the S/Y Philippine Siren take you to explore sunken Japanese wrecks, deepwater pinnacles, the critter hot spot of Anilao, and Apo Reef, the second largest contiguous reef system in the world.
The other option: Opt for a more sedentary vacation along the lines of sipping a San Miguel beer on a spectacular beach like Sipalay on the island of Negros, where bungalows rent for next to nothing.
Don't go to New Zealand.
New Zealand is a magical – and very well marketed – place. But next time, think out of the box and take your own magical mystery tour to a land of similar delights on the world's flip side: Norway.
Once you have fished for cod in the Norwegian fjords of Lofoten and golfed under the midnight sun, have ogled the aurora borealis ("northern lights") and dived around Narvik's WWII wrecks, you'll be left to wonder what on Earth the Southern Hemisphere could possibly have to rival northern Norway's plenty.
And while Norway is far from inexpensive, there's an exceptional national law that allows campers to stay for free. Thanks to allemansrätten (literally "every man's right"), access to public lands is free for both Norwegians and anyone lucky enough to visit their chilly but beautiful home.
Don't go to Portland, Ore.
Portland, Oregon, is far from played out, but that "Portlandia" bit can be a little much. Take the overtly hip factor down a few notches, without sacrificing any of the artistic vibe and restaurant-microbrew hedonism, with a visit instead to Asheville, North Carolina.
Like Portland, there's a lot going on here in the craft beer department. But, even more exciting, is the recent rise in local cideries. The best of the bunch is Urban Orchard Cider Co., which opened in late 2013 in West Asheville.
Have a few drinks, then rent a bike to check out the galleries in the revitalized River Arts District. And remember to fill your tank along the way at Wedge Brewing Company, where pints are paired with bands, and White Duck Taco Shop, where fusion meets finger food.
Add to all that, standup paddle boarding on the French Broad River and hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway and you've got a very long, satisfying weekend.
Read more: http://www.mensjournal.com/expert-advice/alternative-travel-destinations-for-2014-20140121#ixzz2rHHTHeVa