1) ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Nonstop Service From Logan: Turkish Airlines
Outbound Flight Time: 9 hours 40 minutes
Like a cool grandpa who knows all the words to Kanye West’s best tracks, Istanbul is one of the world’s most ancient cities, but with a contemporary streak. Half of Turkey’s population is younger than 30, so hip Istanbul neighborhoods are on the rise, like Karakoy, the old Ottoman financial center turned artsy community. Want to check it out? Bunk at Vault Karakoy, the House Hotel (from $105/night, 90-212-244-6434, thehousehotel.com), a former bank with views of Old City and the Spice Market, then gallery-hop. Duck into photography-only Elipsis Gallery (90-212-249-4892, elipsisgallery.com) and the nearly 2-acre museum Istanbul Modern (about $8, 90-212-334-7300, istanbulmodern.org), credited with jump-starting the neighborhood’s revival. When you’re spent, kick back with tea and a few puffs of flavored tobacco at a local narghile cafe, then pick up a square of baklava at Karakoy Gulluoglu’s shop (90-212-293-0910, karakoygulluoglu.com), one of the best places in the city to get the treat.
If you’d rather thrill to literature, consider booking the Agatha Christie room or an Ernest Hemingway suite at the elegant Pera Palace Hotel (from about $210/night, 90-212-377-4000, jumeirah.com), in boutique- and restaurant-rife Beyoglu. It’s said that Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411; Hemingway drank at the hotel’s Orient Bar. Pay tribute by ordering a daiquiri (about $15). Venture down to the water, less than a 10-minute walk away, for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of floating down the bi-continental Bosporus by ferry or guided boat excursion (tours from about $40, 90-212-234-7777, plantours.com), Asia on one side, Europe on the other.
Two other must-dos: Once a basilica, then a mosque, now a museum, the domed Hagia Sophia Museum (about $13, 90-212-522-1750, ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr) houses precious objects like Islamic and Christian iconography and intricate nature-themed mosaics dating to about 800 AD. Then shop until you drop, just like they’ve done since 1461, at the 61-street covered Grand Bazaar (90-212-519-1248, grandbazaaristanbul.org), which has a very grand total of 4,400 shops that sell wares ranging from traditional blue-and-white Turkish ceramic tiles to belly-dancing costumes.
2) SAVANNAH, GEORGIA
Nonstop Service From Logan: JetBlue
Outbound Flight Time: 2 hours 46 minutes
Slowing down and savoring the scenery is easy as pie in Savannah, which has one of the most pedestrian-friendly urban historic districts in the country. Immortalized in the 1994 true-crime book and subsequent movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the city’s Gothic heritage and molasses pace might encourage you to peel your rushed Yankee gait back to a stroll and substitute a Kevin Spacey drawl for your Boston accent. (The city’s approved 16-ounce to-go cups for legally sipping alcohol while you amble the historic district could inspire that, too.) Wind through the grid of 22 park-like squares, all graced by live oaks draped in Spanish moss. Tilt your head skyward to appreciate the city’s stately antebellum mansions, its churches, including the 19th-century Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and the Forsyth Park Fountain. Hop the free Savannah Belles Ferry (912-233-5767, catchacat.org), which ping-pongs between the city and Hutchinson Island, to see the Savannah River up close.
For a “classic Savannah” home base, book a room at Planters Inn (from $149/night, 912-232-5678, plantersinnsavannah.com), with its dramatic carved wood four-poster beds and period decor. If you prefer your antebellum chic with a modern bent, The Brice, a new Kimpton Hotel (from $219/night, 912-238-1200, bricehotel.com), has streamlined furnishings and in-room yoga mats, but the bellmen wear bow ties and the bathrobes are seersucker. Sip a Negroni in the garden courtyard of the hotel’s Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar (912-233-6002, paccisavannah.com) and peruse a menu of Italian standbys and closer-to-home specialties, like fresh catch with capellini, garlic, oil, and white wine caper sauce. But be honest: You came to the South for a heaping scoop of shrimp and grits. Dig into a smoked version rolled in coconut-crusted nori at the Olde Pink House ($9, 912-232-4286, plantersinnsavannah.com) or one made with bacon, peppers, onions, and leeks at A.Lure ($25, 912-233-2111, aluresavannah.com).
Midnight’s iconic Bird Girl statue has flown the coop from Bonaventure Cemetery to Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center ($12, 912-790-8800, telfair.org). Visit it, then head downtown to purchase a tangible souvenir: a signed copy of Midnight from E. Shaver, Bookseller (912-234-7257, eshaverbooks.com). The store still stocks them.
3) MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
Nonstop Service From Logan: Aeromexico (begins in June)
Outbound Flight Time: 5 hours 20 minutes
US tourists are often surprised by the sheer size of Mexico City (more than 300 neighborhoods spread out over 573 square miles) and how easy it is to get there. Now’s the time for culture lovers: Street art and contemporary galleries in the artsy La Roma neighborhood have garnered major buzz. For truly cutting-edge art, dare to step into the Labor Gallery (52-55-6304-8755, labor.org.mx) in the Tacubaya area. One current exhibition, “Introspection,” by Raphael Montanez Ortiz, features a fantastically smashed-up grand piano, left behind after it was destroyed during a “ritual theater” concert. The classics, however, never go out of style. Lay eyes on murals important to the muralismo movement, such as Diego Rivera’s allegorical Creation, at San Ildefonso College (about $3 but free on Tuesdays, 52-55-5702-2991, sanildefonso.org.mx). Frida Kahlo’s own museum (about $6, 52-55-5554-5999, museofridakahlo.org.mx) is in the house where she grew up.
Your temporary abode can be as classic as the Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de Mexico (from $139/night, 52-55-1083-7700, granhoteldelaciudaddemexico.com.mx) in the historical center, or as hip as Condesa DF (from $196/night, 52-55-5241-2600, condesadf.com), with its trendy boho ’hood and Japanese-Mexican fusion restaurant.
Go high cuisine with traditional-meets-contemporary cooking like potato tamales with cacao-bean salad from Pujol (52-55-5545-4111, pujol.com.mx), ranked one of the best restaurants in the world, or low with tacos al pastor from chains Taco Inn or El Tizoncito. Local markets like Mercado de Comidas in Coyoacan and Mercado de Medillin in Roma hawk fare ranging from produce (think guavas and the corn fungus huitlacoche, a delicacy) to tostadas.
Because Mexico City was once the storied Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, it’s apropos to climb the Pyramid of the Sun (about $4, 52-59-4956-0276, teotihuacan.inah.gob.mx), 30 miles northeast at Teotihuacan, where Aztecs thought the universe began. To get an idea of how Tenochtitlan’s canals used to look, head to the “floating city” Xochimilco and hire a trajinera to spirit you through its canals.
4) PUERTO PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Nonstop Service From Logan: JetBlue
Outbound Flight Time: 3 hours 56 minutes
Play hard, then party harder on the Dominican Republic’s north coast beaches. The Puerto Plata area, dubbed the “kiteboarding capital of the world,” thanks to its warm water and trade winds, is so friendly to aquatic adventure that the annual Master of the Ocean water-sports ironman (809-963-7873, masteroftheocean.com) is held here. Spectate for free or learn how to surf at Swell Surf Camp (from $645 per person/week, swellsurfcamp.com) for grown-ups, ideal for solo travelers. Aside from gnarly waves, the area is known for its affordable resorts and hotels for beachgoing crowds in nearby towns Cabarete, Cofresi, and Sosua.
Vacation big at an all-inclusive resort like the 516-room Iberostar Costa Dorada (from $118 per person/night, 809-320-1000, iberostar.com), 10 miles from Puerto Plata. Or recharge at Cabarete’s rustic eco-resort Natura Cabana Boutique Hotel & Spa (from $130/night, 809-571-1507, naturacabana.com), which touts its “tranquil” environment, seaside yoga temple, and reasonably priced spa menu.
Off property, take in a 360-degree view of the Dominican Republic’s bright blue waters, curvy beaches, and tropical vegetation from the botanical gardens atop Mount Isabel de Torres — you can reach the summit via a tourist-friendly 10-minute teleferico (cable car) ride (about $8, 809-970-0501, telefericopuertoplata.com) or by taxi. When you’re back on solid ground and hunting for lunch, visit one of the restaurants lining Cabarete’s beaches for fresh seafood. For a romantic dinner in town, dine alfresco beside the garden and pool at Mares Restaurant (entrees from $17.50, 809-261-3330, maresrestaurant.com), whose “slow food” menu skews Dominican but with global flair, like flambeed rock lobster and deboned Dominican goat with local Brugal rum.
Perfect your salsa and reggaeton moves at Dominican dance club Rancho Tipico (809-781-6370) in Sosua, where you can mingle with locals and gulp Mama Juana, the country’s rum/red wine/honey liqueur, until the wee hours.
5) BEIJING, CHINA
Nonstop Service From Logan: Hainan Airlines
Outbound Flight Time: 13 hours 40 minutes
Beijing is aces at blending the very old with the innovative. One moment you’re admiring Neolithic pottery at the Palace Museum, a.k.a. Forbidden City (from about $6.50, 86-10-8500-7421, dpm.org.cn), and the next you’re standing in front of your steel-and-glass boutique hotel, with a jagged silhouette so sharp it actually looks dangerous. Are you a brave soul unfazed by crowds and cold temps? If so, consider going to Beijing for the Chinese Lunar New Year, in late January or February, depending on the year. Street entertainment is free, and the city’s “temple fairs” offer folk art demonstrations, snacks, and shopping for entrance fees of a few dollars.
Travelers rave about the business district’s quirky, ultramodern Hotel Eclat (from $184/night, 86-10-8561-2888, eclathotels.com), with its in-room Panasonic massage chairs and gallery’s worth of contemporary art, including an Andy Warhol Giant Panda screen print in the lobby. If you’d prefer a more staid scene, the nine-room HuLu Hotel (from $76/night, 86-10-6543-9229, thehuluhotel.com) is located on a small alley and made up of traditional wooden houses surrounded by foliage. Don’t worry: There’s still Wi-Fi.
Because making the 42-mile pilgrimage to the Great Wall is nearly a given, if you go in the summertime, savor the anticipation of walking the steep, winding, vivid-green cliffs of one of the most popular sections, Badaling, with a pit stop at the Great Wall Museum (about $6, 86-10-6162-6022).
Hiking the wall will work up an appetite, so make a beeline for a dinner of Beijing (Peking) duck. Qianmen Quanjude (86-10-6511-2418), in the Congwen District, is reputed to be the original Peking duck restaurant, but you can find updated takes on the dish at contemporary joints like Da Dong (86-10-5169-0328, dadongdadong.com), built in an old granary in Nanxincang, which serves the bird crispy with an array of culinary accouterments, including sugar, crushed garlic, scallions, red turnips, and cucumber, atop a Lazy Susan.
6) DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Nonstop Service From Logan: Emirates
Outbound Flight Time: 12 hours 15 minutes
Think of Dubai as a vacation oasis. Sand. Beach. Pools. Bazaars. Futuristic skyscrapers fanning into the sky, namely a grand candlestick-like spire, Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Dubai has all of the above, plus cultural activities, food fit for a sheik, and unparalleled luxury, even if you’re on a budget. Tip: Book the undulating green-glass Meydan Hotel (from about $150/night, 971-4-3813231, meydanhotels.com) abutting the Dubai racecourse before or after horse-racing season to snap up reasonable rates on marble-floored rooms with balconies. While the horses are away, you can play on the nine-hole golf course, float in the rooftop’s infinity pool, shop and stroll on The Walk promenade, and sip sangria next to Jumeirah Beach, courtesy of your complimentary access to party-hearty Meydan Beach club (971-4-433-3777, meydanbeach.com).
Friday brunch is a big deal in Dubai, so you may as well do it in a three-restaurant complex with a chocolate room and unlimited champagne. Starting at $129, the brunch at Al Qasr at Madinat Jumeirah (971-4-366-6730, jumeirah.com) isn’t cheap, but then again, neither are the spread’s staples, like wagyu burgers and towers of fresh sushi. Or take a guided Middle Eastern food tour that will have visions of authentic falafel, hummus, and baklava dancing in your head, thanks to Frying Pan Adventures (about $113, fryingpanadventures.com). Grabbing a shawarma from a stand for about a dollar is also an option.
When you can eat no more, stop into the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (cultures.ae) one morning for an $18, 90-minute heritage tour through the Al Fahidi Historic District and Diwan Mosque, concluding with a traditional Arabic snack of tea, coffee, and dates. You’ll need the fuel for haggling at the bazaars, or souks, in bustling Deira. Ask for the “best price” while bargaining for incense from the Spice Souk, 22-karat bangles at the Gold Souk, or an abaya (caftan) at the Naif Souk.
But back to 2,716-foot-high Burj Khalifa (971-4-888-8124, burjkhalifa.ae): Skyrocket to one of two observation decks for about $34 — the taller one will run you $100 more — look out over the city, and pretend you own one of those shimmering buildings.
7) LIBERIA, COSTA RICA
Nonstop Service From Logan: JetBlue
Outbound Flight Time: 5 hours 45 minutes
Jet-setters who soar into the increasingly popular airport in the town of Liberia, Costa Rica, are usually seeking one of two things: sun and sand on the Pacific Ocean side of the country or communion with nature in Rincon de la Vieja National Park ($10, 506-2666-5051, acguanacaste.ac.cr). Either is a noble goal, and one that’s shared by many like-minded vacationers — including supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who is so fond of the country’s peaceful vibe that she bought a home in Santa Teresa and married Tom Brady for a second time there in 2009, after their first wedding in California.
You can enjoy the Nicoya Peninsula beaches just like Gisele at sustainability-focused, bargain-priced Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa (from $95/night, 506-2654-4444, resortflamingobeach.com), 47 miles southwest of the airport on an eco-protected stretch of soft sand. If you have a little more cash to burn — and an image to maintain — brand new “barefoot luxury” hipster enclave El Mangroove (from $288/night, 506-2291-7750, elmangroove.net) is only 20 minutes from the airport and comes replete with rustic-modern bamboo decor, spacious rooms, farm-to-table restaurant menus, and resident DJs, all close to the beach town El Coco. While you’re knocking back an Imperial lager at a local bar, order up chifrijo, a snackable, scoopable, layered dish of white rice, savory beans, chicharron (fried pork), and pico de gallo, with tortilla chips on the side.
East of the airport, follow the hiking trails in the lush 35,000-acre nine-crater active-volcanic area Rincon de la Vieja that thread through warm springs, burbling mud pools, and multiple waterfalls; you may spot bird species like toucans and critters like howler monkeys. Don’t forget your bathing suit for the cool swimming holes. While you’re navigating the lagoons and lava rocks, keep on the lookout for swaths of purple orchids — they’re Costa Rica’s national flower.
8) ST. LUCIA-VIEUX FORT, ST. LUCIA
Nonstop Service From Logan: JetBlue
Outbound Flight Time: 4 hours 33 minutes
The name St. Lucia might not ring a bell, but you’ll instantly recognize the otherworldly, Jurassic-looking landscape of this vibrant, tropical Caribbean island. Twin 2,400-plus-foot verdant volcanic spires, Petit Piton and Gros Piton, ascend regally into the clouds and have served as an exotic backdrop in films and TV shows ranging from Superman II to The Bachelor. Increasingly luxe resorts are being developed on the island, but St. Lucia retains an untouched quality and zeal for tourism that can net incredible deals.
In Soufriere, $12 buys a tour of the dormant “drive-in volcano” at still-hissing-and-bubbling Sulphur Springs National Park (758-459-5726, soufrierefoundation.org), plus the opportunity to smear on a full-body mud mask and soak in hot mineral-rich pools. In-shape adventurers should set aside four hours to conquer Gros Piton via its trail; Petit Piton is a more technical climb (you’ll need ropes). Or for $5, hike the Tet Paul Nature Trail; at the top, you can see all the way to Martinique and St. Vincent.
Farther north, near Castries, Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina (758-458-5300, capellahotels.com) just unveiled its open-to-non-guests Rum Cave, which delivers more than 200 rums (including local favorite Chairman’s Reserve) to patrons via wooden trolleys. Opulent resorts like Jade Mountain, with its personal infinity pools, come at an eye-popping premium (from $500/night, 800-223-1108, jademountain.com), but more reasonable lodgings include a $90-a-night villa rented by a charismatic local tour operator (758-719-1721, simonsaystours.com). Don’t give up hope if you want chic: Even digs with high list prices can be had at bargain rates on third-party websites like TabletHotels.com. Also check out the all-inclusive kite-surfing mecca Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa (758-459-6000, cbayresort.com), five minutes from the airport.
Come snack time, make carving into a freshly picked mango a priority; for dinner, perch amid Soufriere Bay views from Mango Tree Restaurant at Stonefield Estate Resort (800-420-5731, stonefieldresort.com) to sample Creole-inspired dishes like jerk chicken and steamed dorado. More evidence of St. Lucia’s allure: In 2013, Cambridge native Matt Damon and his wife, Luciana Barroso, rented out the upscale Viceroy Sugar Beach resort (758-456-8000, viceroyhotelsandresorts.com), on a swath of pristine white sand, to renew their vows. The most important tip of all, though? Drench yourself in mosquito repellent like you’re Achilles warding off your own demise. Don’t forget your heels — the skeeters will surely find them.
ALSO COMING: HONG KONG AND TEL AVIV
Logan airport offers nonstop service to 74 domestic and 39 international destinations. The eight in this article were added in 2014 or will be added this year. In May, Hong Kong (service from Cathay Pacific) joins the list, followed by Tel Aviv (El AL Israel Airlines) in June.
WHAT’S A “NONSTOP” FLIGHT ANYWAY?
A speedy lesson in Airport Lingo 101: The terms “direct flight” and “nonstop flight” are often confused, says George Hobica, founder of advice and deals website Airfarewatchdog.com. Here’s the difference: “ ‘Nonstop’ means just that. ‘Direct’ means no change of planes, but there is a stop.” For most people, a nonstop flight is desirable for obvious reasons: They’re quicker, and there’s no connection to miss. A stop, however, has two benefits: “For some people who hate those cramped, hard seats, getting off and stretching is preferable,” Hobica says. “Also, connecting flights are usually cheaper, and it’s much easier to use [frequent flyer] miles on them compared to nonstops.”
Jamie Beckman is a senior editor at Budget Travel magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.