Review of NY Times 2019 Places to Go

Old San Juan

It’s the beginning of the year and it seems everyone and their ten cousins are publishing “X Places to Go in 2019.” I love those lists. They tell you about the new places, reasons to go, inspire you to broaden your horizons. Yet, sometimes I’m confused why some of the places get on the list. Other times the reasoning is clear. For example, almost all of the lists for 2019 include Puerto Rico. The island is still struggling after the hurricane Maria in 2017 and tourism dollars would be welcome since most of the help they’re getting from the current government comes in a form of paper towels. 

The lists are mostly compiled based on tourism statistics, press releases (a lot of them from museums) and anecdotal evidence. A lot of input comes from travel writers, hospitality professionals and travel agencies.  It’s subjective to who likes what when they travel or consider places to visit. And here is my, completely subjective opinion on the New York Times’s “52 Places to Go in 2019.” 

  1. Puerto Rico

We all know why PR is on everybody’s list. We need to show support for fellow Americans recovering from Maria. Is it on top of my list? No. And I’m married to a Puerto Rican. 

Old San Juan
Old San Juan
Garita, Old San Juan
Garita, Old San Juan

There are lots of advantages making PR as one of your destinations in general. It’s a direct flight from Washington, DC, you don’t need passport, everyone speaks English, and its tropical weather can’t be beat unless a hurricane is raging through. Architecture of Old San Juan is beautiful, but you should also check out other towns like Ponce and San German. For best beach experience, go beyond San Juan to Culebra, Vieques and Isabela. Everyone who says that Isla Verde is a nice beach hasn’t seen a nice beach. 

Other things that haven’t changed since pre-hurricane include relatively high crime, slow, indifferent service, and mediocre food. On our last trip it took us only about 2 hours to check out a rental car while the customer representative was leisurely having a personal conversation on the phone completely ignoring all of the 3 customers standing in front of her. When our hotel key wasn’t working we were told non-nonchalantly to find a housekeeper on our floor who would let us into our room. There are plenty of other tropical places within 3 hour flight from Washington, DC that has the same weather, colonial architecture and better than Soviet Union-era service. 

2. Hampi, India

India has always sounded like a magical place to me. It’s also on the list of the most dangerous places to travel for women. Probably best done traveling with a small group. 

3. Santa Barbara, CA

NY Times positions it as a “foodie magnet.” I’m not taking 5 hour flight to eat American food and pay American prices. 

4. Panama

Slightly curious to check out their beach situation. 

5. Munich, Germany

For those who like theaters and museums. Otherwise, it’s a city in Germany. I don’t get it. Why would this be a place you need to go in 2019 or ever> If it’s not Octoberfest, I don’t think anyone is booking tickets directly to Munich. 

6. Eilat, Israel

Sparked my curiosity. The place seems to combine my favorite cuisine with magical Red Sea diving and snorkeling. But we’ll have to wait for that airport they’re building as the drive through 5000 mile desert does not sound like a vacation to anyone. 

7. Serouchi Islands, Japan

Artificial meteor shower, cycling paths, art festivals and scenic flights do excite me. 

8. Aalborg, Denmark

Modern architecture can wait till I get really old. 

9. The Azores, Portugal

I was forced to watch a documentary on the loop about the Azores that one time when I was captured by Azores airlines and made a stop in the islands on the way back home from Portugal. Maybe it’s a result of Stockholm syndrome, but that documentary really made me fall in love with Azores islands. However, Azores Airlines need to be avoided at all times. There was no entertainment, no alcohol and outdated planes. If anyone else flies to Azores, it is a place to visit. 

10. Ontario Ica Caves, Canada

Cool for those who love cold weather and cross-country skiing. I’d visit if I lived in Michigan. 

11. Zadar and Nearby Islands, Croatia

Croatia is always a good idea, especially if it’s a place with as much charm as Dubrovnik minus its ridiculous crowds.

12. Williamsburg, VA

Mostly for families and where Washingtonians bring their out of town guests. Great place to learn American history. 

13. Las Vegas, Nevada

A playground for adults who appreciate everything capitalism has to offer. Clearly made it on this list thanks to Las Vegas tourism organization. 

14. Salvador, Brasil

The picture featured NY Times makes me want to book a ticket ASAP. Beautiful, colonial architecture, beaches, unique culture, great food and art. 

15. Danang, Vietnam

Southeast Asia is my top place to go if I have 2-3 weeks I to spare on vacation. Vietnam is a must-see in Southeast Asia and a description of Danang solidifies that position. 

16. Costalegre, Mexico

Mexico is my second adopted country right after United States (without residentship, property or good grasp of language, but all this can be resolved with a little bit of effort). West Coast is not my preference due to a long flight from Washington, DC, but this place sounds marvelous. 

17. Paparoa Track, New Zealand

A long flight for hikers. 

18. Puglia, Italy

Where Italians go for beach vacations. High on my personal list. So high that if I see reasonably priced tickets this summer, you can expect a personal report.

19. Tatra Mountains, Slovakia

Under-the-radar destination for skiing and outdoors activities in Europe. Not necessarily worth buying tickets just to hang out in Tatra, but if you are going to Prague in the winter, definitely worth extending your trip into the neighboring Slovakia.  Especially if you don’t mind hanging out with unpretentious people, skiing in uncrowded ski runs, and $20 ski lift prices. 

20. Calgary, Canada

NY Times is highlighting a new library as one of the reasons to visit. Yeah, ok. 

21. Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Russia

Lake Baikal in Siberia is the world’s deepest lake. The island is considered the holiest place by Buddists. Great place if you’re looking for non-generic place to visit. 

22. Huntsville, Alabama

Sounds like a better version of National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. 

23. Falkland Islands

Makes me think of Margaret Thatcher and Galapagos. 

24. Aberdeen, Scotland

An overnight train from London to Aberdeen sounds romantic and nostalgic and something that 50-60 year old couples would enjoy. 

25. Golfo Paradiso, Italy

A less crowded alternative to Portofino and Cinque Terre. 

26. Dessau, Germany


27. Tunis, Tunisia

This is an example of what should be on the lists like this. Places to go that will enchant you, inspire awe and transport you to a magical place that looks and feels nothing like your home. Ruins of the ancient city, historic mosques and warren of alleys, cafes and art galleries. A mesh of Arab, north African and French cultures influence of which you see in architecture and food. Add beaches to the mix and you have a bingo on your travel list. 

28. Gambia, Africa

I would take a Peregrine Adventures river cruise to see hippos, crocodiles and chimpanzees. 

29. Northern Rivers, South Wales, Australia

A breezy boho way of life and a bunch of nice restaurants in a beautiful setting. If you’re cool flying for 2 days to experience what you can get in California with less travel time, go for it.

30. Frisian Islands, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark

The Fanoe Oyster Festival in October 2019; all you need to know. 

31. New York City

It shouldn’t be on this list, because NYC is always on the list for everyone. Interesting new stuff coming up though in 2019 – The Shed, The Staircase and an expansion of the Museum of Modern Art. 

32. Chongli, China

A ski resort with a fake snow. I bet NYT writers got a year of free Chinese food for this mention. 

33. Orcas Island, Washington State

In 2018, Oprah Winfrey bought a 43-acre estate on the island for a reported $8.275 million. A place for foodies and wine lovers. Also, mostly cold weather. 

34. Uzbekistan

An interesting stop on the Silk Road in Asia. A lot of new infrastructure coming in to make travel to Uzbekistan easier. Definitely under-the-radar interesting country in Asia with a lot of European culture mixed in. Cheers to NYT writers for noticing. 

35. Vestlandet, Norway

Unless, your recent 123andMe or Ancestry report revealed you’re 80% Norwegian and you happen to be an avid hiker who likes beer, I don’t see anyone putting this place on their list. 

36. Lyon, France

A place to be for every francophile and a foodie. Additionally, in 2019 Lyon is hosting one of four countrywide International City of Gastronomy projects, an indoor, one-acre exhibition designed to showcase France’s cuisine and its contributions to health and pleasure. Who can say no to something that can artfully combine health and pleasure? I don’t know how you do it, France, but I’m in.

37. Doha, Qatar

Sterile city in the middle of a desert. 

38. Batumi, Georgia

Love seeing this place on the list. Georgia is having a tourism revival and for a good reason. Their food is as unique as are their wines. Even Anthony Bourdain made a stop in this obscure little country and he was not disappointed. The seaside is charming with mountains sloping into pebbly beaches with botanical gardens separating the two. The culture is a unique mix of western adapted by younger generations while still preserving hundred years old traditions passed on from their grandparents. 

39. Marseille, France

Another place profiled by Anthony Bourdain, however a place not many others, including Frenchmen themselves, would recommend visiting. We definitely skipped it on our last summer trip to south of France. It’s ok for one day as a lot flights into French Riviera go to Marseille. Spend a day exploring cuisine and head north to Provence. 

Cassis town
Not Marseille. Much more charming Cassis.

40. Wyoming, USA

Did you know Wyoming was the first state to pass a law in United States history granting women the right to vote — nearly 51 years before the 19th Amendment guaranteed the same entitlement to all American women? It’s celebrating 150th anniversary with lots of women-honoring museums and all-female trips aimed to teach how to horse back ride and fly fish. Learning how to sustain yourself in the wilderness might be not a bad idea but I can’t think of one girlfriend who would sign up for this type of trip. 

41. Los Angeles, USA

Ugh. It’s LA. It’s spread out, so you’ll need to rent a car or uber around. Beach is nice if you’re a seal and like a cold water. Why is this on the list? 

42. Dakar, Senegal

Sounds cool, but if I’m going to Africa, I want to see zebras, hippos and lions. 

43. Perth, Australia

A very long flight for something that you can get in LA. 

44. Hong Kong

Hong Kong itself is a New York City on the steroids. However, a short bus ride to the other side of the island and you’ll find yourself in the old fishing towns on stilts with an interesting seafood. This is where I would hide out if I was a runaway Bourne Identity character. 

Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong villages
Hong Kong villages

45. Iran

I like NYT’s summary “Tourism cautiously returns to the Middle East jewel.” I like unknown places. Places very different from home. And Iran is one of those countries that have segregated itself from the rest of the world for a long time. But the history that’s there, the culture, it’s what makes my pulse tick quicker. This one inspired me. I was ready to text my girlfriends about all-female trip that allows you to experience this country in a very unique way until I realized that Iran has strict no alcohol rule… And that’s where I knew that Iran will need to wait.  

46. Houston, USA

Why are we wasting space on this? 

47. Columbus, USA

Did NYT writers had some goals of extending this list longer than it needed to be? It’s sounds ok if you happen to be in Columbus for business. No one is taking a weekend trip to Columbus, Ohio. Settle down, NYT writers. 

48. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Much better than Columbus, Ohio. 

49. Vevey, Switzerland

Lost of wine, but otherwise sounds like Swiss Columbus Ohio. 

50. Cadiz, Spain

Food, wine and beach. But mostly lots of food that jeopardizes how you’ll look on the beach. 

51. The Elqui Valley, Chile

The Elqui Valley was named the world’s first International Dark Sky Sanctuary as well as a center of international global astronomy. It also has wine and Pisco. 

52. Tahiti

Everybody wants to go to Tahiti. It doesn’t need to be on this list. If it didn’t cost as much as New York City apartment to spend a week in Tahiti everybody would be doing it. 

However, I was pleasantly enlightened about the Tahitian Guesthouse experience — an Airbnb-type of option for lodging in Tahiti. Also, a budget airline French bee began offering flights for as low as $330 one way from San Francisco sounds like a scam and I can’t wait to figure out what it is. 

2 thoughts on “Review of NY Times 2019 Places to Go

  1. I had the same reaction you had to the NYT list — half the places on the list (maybe more) seemed like they were chosen by throwing a dart at a map of the world. So random.

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