A year at the helm of Paste Travel has taught me many things. Chief among them is the fact that covering stories for the Internet is different than the print world I grew up in as a young writer. Web stories have a different shelf life. In some ways these articles are fleeting and can appear or disappear with the click of the publish/un-publish button. The advantage, of course, is that those same articles might just exist forever … even without the need for shelves.
Editors are also constantly looking for ways to attract Internet readers, or viewers, and keep them flipping through slides, pages, lists, images and galleries. A balance, therefore, must be found between eye candy and substance. For my part, I have tried to strike that balance—paying the rent, so to speak, with service-focused fun, and hoping that discerning travelers stick around the site to gnaw on the meat of longer, narrative-heavy pieces.
However, Internet and print travel sections do share a common denominator: every magazine strives to give readers top-end destination stories, which provide the foundation upon which lists, galleries and essays are built. This “Best of” Destinations gallery is our version of that foundation—the weight-bearing pillar that supports all of our endeavors.
One of the greatest qualities Paste Travel continually brings to the journalism world is that we play no favorites and have no geographic agenda. In 2015, reporters, freelancers and frequent contributors covered every continent with more than 500 stories. Some of our writers cut their teeth with Paste. Others are veterans, who can smell a travel article the moment they get off a bus, plane, boat or camel.
We’ve been incredibly lucky to have such a wide range of destination-based pieces from such a talented group of journalists. We hope you feel the same way and that Paste Travel has inspired you to explore the world in 2015. We look forward to toasting you at some far-flung airport bar in 2016 as you continue your pursuit of knowledge and adventure.
1. Lima, Peru; 2. Athens, Greece; 3. Nice, France; 4. Alexandria, Virginia; 5. Vancouver, Canada; 6. New York City; 7. Miami, Florida; 8. Belgrade, Serbia; 9. Austin, Texas; 10. Havana, Cuba; 11. Nashville, Tennessee; 12. Budapest, Hungary; 13. Sarajevo, Bosnia; 14. Key West, Florida; 15. Chattanooga, Tennessee; 16. Seoul, South Korea; 17. Prishtina, Kosovo; 18. Birmingham, Alabama; 19. Hanoi, Vietnam;
20. Toronto, Canada.
Alex Crevar is Paste’s travel editor.
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The former City of the Kings—once merely a stopover for travelers venturing south to Machu Picchu or the Nazca Lines—has recaptured a taste of its old splendor, but the new royalty rules from the kitchen, not the palace. Lima sits in a long and narrow stretch of tropical desert that hugs the Pacific coastline. The Andes are little more than 100 miles away, while sheer cliffs separate much of Lima from its rocky beaches below. The six-mile El Malecón stretches along the perch and entertains visitors with the Larcomar shopping center, Love Park and fiery sunsets that light up the Costa Verde (Green Coast) horizon. Less than a mile inland, Kennedy Park (as in President J.F.) is the center of action in Miraflores and an ideal reference point for Lima-based activities. South America's third-largest country offers everything from sandboarding in Huacachina to piranha fishing in Iquitos, but the focus in Lima is eating, drinking and shopping in an urban landscape pulsating with fresh vigor.
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Athens has hit the news for all the wrong reasons lately. Economic crisis, social unrest and corruption in high places have become the blight of the city considered the Birthplace of Western Civilization. Some 2,500 years ago, classical ideals of democracy, philosophy and beauty were born here. Today it's a chaotic jumble of high-rise concrete apartment blocks, dense traffic and soaring unemployment. But as Greeks look for a new way forward—they voted in the radical-left Syriza Party on an anti-austerity manifesto in January 2015—the city is still as exciting and exuberant as it has ever been … with tons of culture, a balmy Mediterranean climate and an unstoppable all-out nightlife.
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Nice has had quite a mixed upbringing, swinging between French and Italian ownership with an identity that's just as undecided. While this coastal town on the French Riviera officially became part of France a little over 150 years ago, its residents still embody a mixed culture of Mediterranean, Italian, French and Corsican. Parisians may point their noses up at their southern sister, but the Niçois are proud of their city, called Nissa La Bella, or Nice the Beautiful, in the local Niçard dialect. The physical beauty is evident from the four-mile coastline running along the Promenade des Anglais to the eagle's-nest medieval villages and turquoise-blue Mediterranean Sea, but the city itself is also developing and stepping out of the shadows of its nearby counterparts. Neighborhoods are changing for the better, adding new eateries and shops, bringing life back into a somewhat sleepy town, and showing that the city has just as much glamor as ever; it just doesn't flash it as much as Monaco or Cannes.
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A mere six miles from the nation's capital, Alexandria feels a world away. Here, people don't dash about from power lunches to meetings to business cocktails, or bark "stand to the right" at oblivious tourists. Instead, they stroll down a boulevard framed with trees, twinkle lights, top-notch restaurants, boutiques and bars. In recent years, numerous organizations have recognized Alexandria's charms: Livability.com named it among the Top 10 Downtowns. Amazon has repeatedly dubbed it the most romantic town in America. And the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Alexandria a "Distinctive Destination."
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The gateway to Canada's west coast with a population of around 600,000, Vancouver sits at edge of the rainforest, is within a stone's throw of some of the planet's best skiing, and is one of the country's most diverse bergs with more than half of its citizens speaking a first language other than English. Though it was named for British Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver, who mapped the region from 1791 to 1795, the city arguably owes more of its identity to Captain John "Gassy Jack" Deighton, who, seven decades later, opened a saloon at what is now the intersection of Water and Carrall. The tavern became the anchor for the Gastown district—Vancouver's oldest neighboorhood and one of its chief cultural calling cards. The 2010 Winter Olympics brought Vancouver and British Columbia into the global spotlight. However, its fifteen minutes have continued thanks to an evolving food and cocktail scene, a vibrant arts community and its reputation as one of the most liveable cities in North America.
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Few experiences produce more dread in a New Yorker than a visit to Times Square, especially if it includes a stop at the stadium-sized Toys R Us with the 60-foot Ferris wheel. Sidewalk-spreading tourists and Batman meltdowns add to the pain, but the stress mostly stems from the steady stream of visiting friends who all want to see the Empire State building, Lady Liberty and every other attraction promoted in midtown hotel lobbies. Paste's proposed weekend in Gotham has none of that. A real New York experience includes street murals, pop culture landmarks, emerging art scenes and culinary hotspots that never met a Groupon. The phrase "city that never sleeps" originally applied to the Bowery in lower Manhattan, not the city as a whole, and the neighboring Lower East Side (LES) rarely sleeps within a nine-block micro-hood affectionately called Hell Square. If these spots sound like an ideal home base for exploring NYC, this weekend layover is for you.
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Miami is a combination of grit and glamour. Here, on the southern tip of Florida's Atlantic Coast, Scarface and Miami Vice gave birth to the Kardashians. Incorporated in 1896, after Henry Flagler brought his railway to the end of the peninsula, the city, which today has a population of around 420,000, made a name for itself in the 1930s with Art Deco architecture and a melting pot of cultures and cuisines from the influx of Cuban and Latin American immigrants. Nicknamed the "Magic City" during the real estate boom in the 1920s, the city is again growing at a rapid pace. In the past 15 years, neighborhoods that were once on the sketchier side (where you wouldn't think of unlocking you car doors) have received a much-needed makeover and are now teeming with street art, new museums, artisan boutiques and local eateries.
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Belgrade has most of the trappings of an evolving magnet for hip travelers: a riverfront medieval fortress, historic shop-lined avenues, and former industrial zones that have become a lure for creative types. But the thing that makes the capital of Serbia, which started European Union accession talks in January 2014, special is that it brandishes a boastful and freewheeling energy while retaining (or as a result of) its enduring grit. Even after being destroyed and rebuilt some 40 times—after decades of sanctions, war and NATO bombings—the Balkan metropolis of 1.4 million entices visitors to partake in a new design district, barges repurposed as bars on the banks of the Danube and Sava rivers, café culture and partying long past zora, the Serbian word for dawn.
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In 2015, close to 80,000 people flocked to Austin for South by Southwest, the city's annual music and film festival. And there is no question the event permanently wins over a more than few hearts to the Texas capital each year. Proof positive: an estimated 110 new residents relocate to the Texas capital each day. But a visit here during SXSW is completely different from one during the rest of the year. While live music is a huge part of the city's culture, Austin has also been making headlines for its cutting-edge food scene, and its temperate weather makes outdoor exploration a 12-month activity.
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The United Nations General Assembly recently voted 191 to 2 against the U.S. blockade of Cuba. This, combined with an ease of travel restrictions to Cuba in early 2015, further opens the door for Americans to enter a country that boasts beautiful colonial architecture, rich culture and people with a generous spirit. Havana was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century situated on a bay due east of Key West, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. The largest city in the Caribbean is also Cuba's capital and the vibrant city reflects the country's history of colonization through architecture, food and art. Popular amongst tourists because of its walk-able neighborhoods, numerous museums and plenty of Old World charm, it is also a city in flux.