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The capital may be set on banks of the Potomac, but it’s never had a reputation as a great waterfront city. That could all be about to change, thanks to the $2.5 billion, 24-acre District Wharf, which opened in October just south of the National Mall. The shiny new InterContinental Washington D.C.-The Wharf offers access to the development’s new parks, music venues, 50-plus shops, and 20 restaurants — which include projects from area chefs like Fabio Trabocchi, Mike Isabella, and wunderkind Kwame Onwuachi. This is also set to be a banner year for culture: the Freer and Sackler galleries, sister museums that champion Asian art, recently reopened after a 20-month renovation, the National Gallery of Art will host the first-ever show dedicated to Cézanne’s portraits from March to July, and the Kennedy Center continues its inaugural season of hip-hop programming curated by Q-Tip. —Brooke Porter Katz

Until now, Zambia has had little recognition as one of Africa’s great safari destinations. Yet experts know it as the birthplace of the walking safari — as well as the home of some of the most highly trained guides on the continent. In South Luangwa National Park, visitors can expect to see more animals than baobab trees, while Liuwa Plain National Park is the setting for the world’s second-largest wildebeest migration, when tens of thousands of the creatures head across the plain from neighboring Angola. Last year saw the arrival of Liuwa’s first permanent camp: King Lewanika Lodge, a six-villa safari lodge overlooking a watering hole where hyenas and antelope gather. —Mary Holland

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


Whether you are celebrating your birthday, anniversary, national holiday or just planning a relaxing mini vacation, there are many exceptional romantic getaways to choose from: castles, cabins, rooms with jacuzzis, luxury suites and themed villas. Check into a secluded inn, five star hotel, scenic resort or a romantic cabin and unplug for a few days in a new setting.
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Though decades of civil war made parts of the island unsafe, tourism is on the rise in Sri Lanka, where international visitors exceeded 2 million for the first time in 2016. The momentum is particularly strong along the south coast, which has the highest concentration of hotels and resorts after Colombo. The 172-room Amari resort recently opened on the beachfront in Galle (known for its UNESCO-protected Dutch fortress) with ocean views from every balcony. Water also plays a central role at Alila Koggala, a new luxury eco-resort with 36 suites and private villas, opening 20 minutes outside of Galle in June. The property sits on the serene shores of Lake Koggala and will feature an ayurvedic spa where treatments can be taken on a platform floating on the lake. Further along the south coast, Mirissa Beach is attracting travelers in need of a full mind-body reset. The laid-back surfer town — think Venice Beach minus the tech crowd — comes alive at night with bars and barbecue restaurants overlooking the turquoise bay; when you’re ready to turn in, there are earthy, low-key lodges peppered throughout the jungle, such as Surf & Yoga, which offers daily on-site yoga and private surf lessons. —Alex Schechter
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