Where should we go?
November 19, 2013 6:29 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I have 10 days off after Christmas and would like to take “a trip of a lifetime.” We got married this past June and never got a chance to go on a honeymoon. This is our chance to go on a fantastic trip but we can’t decide where to go. We are hoping you all can help! Details inside.

We have 10 days and are willing to spend up to $1500 per person on flights. The one thing is that we will be flying out of Dallas but back home to NYC. Right now our top three ideas are:

Mexico City and Oaxaca
Milan to Nice

Things we are interested in:

Ancient architecture
Weather that is at least as warm as NYC
Urban culture with some off the beaten track countryside day trip options
posted by degoao to Travel & Transportation (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Wow! All of your ideas are excellent.

We have friends that spent quite a bit of time in Mexico City over the summer -- it's cooler now but they said it was such an awesome place and they can't wait to return. I love Oaxaca.

My vote is for Mexico!
posted by mamabear at 6:42 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Istanbul will be very cheap this time of year, but that's because it's the low season. Which might make it not "the trip of a lifetime", because it will likely be cold, maybe overcast a lot of the trip, etc. Anything beachy or starlight Bosphorous dinner cruise type stuff might not be comfortable.

It will not be colder than NYC, though. Just not summery.

That said, it has ancient architecture, awesomeness, and urban culture/off the beaten track stuff in spades! And I'd recommend it to anyone -- it truly is a great city.

But if you were imagining scampering around archaeological sites in the sun, it won't be that kind of trip.
posted by Sara C. at 6:44 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ancient architecture
Weather that is at least as warm as NYC
Urban culture with some off the beaten track countryside day trip options

What about Southeast Asia?

- Definitely warmer than NYC in the winter
- Big (mega!) cities: Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City
- Countryside: beautiful lush countryside, although the feasibility of day trips may depend on your choice of countries
- Ancient architecture: lots of temples and historic architecture aside from the obvious Angkor Wat
posted by andrewesque at 6:51 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Seconding Mexico City to Oaxaca. Add in a little Puebla and you're set!
posted by lois1950 at 6:52 PM on November 19, 2013

Lima, Peru?
posted by islander at 6:53 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Forgot to add: I am not sure if you will be able to get to southeast Asia on $1500 per person right after Christmas as it is one of the high seasons to travel to Asia. However, I wanted to bring it up as sort of a dark horse option because it seems to fit all your requirements (and in fact I think winter is the best time of year to visit as it's not so brutally hot or wet.)
posted by andrewesque at 6:53 PM on November 19, 2013

posted by matty at 6:56 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

If it were me, I'd go to Rome, where the weather is generally very nice that time of year (it'll be freezing in Milan and windy in Nice), the ancient architecture is unbeatable, and where there's great urban culture with day trips to places like Ostia Antica, Hadrian's Villa, Etruscan Tombs in Cerveteri, and other great stuff.
posted by The World Famous at 6:56 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm told, from friends that have been on a coffee co-op exchange or visiting for the political culture, that the Oaxacan countryside is gorgeous and city is cool and interesting and not a small town.

Just east of Marseille is a section of coast called the Callanques, where you can spend a very pleasant day hiking, then return to the city via public transportation. Marseille has some excellent food (though also some overpriced touristy seafood joints) and a really interesting mix of cultures.

My brother says that Tuscany is as good as the hype. And the food...! Don't know if he went to Milan, but I think he enjoyed Florence? He spent a fair amount of time looking at art and architecture in the general region and was not disappointed, if that's what you're into.

A friend who went to Cannes/Nice was not quite as impressed.

Further to andrewesque's suggestion, Hong Kong has a big city, nice beaches, and lush forested mountains with hiking trails that you could take a five-day trip in. If you stay in a hostel outside of the city, up the peninsula a bit, then it's not as expensive (the main budget hostel area in Kowloon would be cheap, but... not trip-of-a-lifetime worthy). But you may have a hard time finding round trip flights to Southeast Asia in your budget range.

Personally, I'd go to Oaxaca! But partly because I haven't been, so take that with a grain of salt:-P In southern Europe, I'd go back to the Marseille and Provence region, or to Barcelona and environs (maybe spend some time there and some time in San Sebastian).
posted by eviemath at 7:00 PM on November 19, 2013

Tuscany is, indeed, as good as the hype. But it's very cold and rainy there at Christmastime.

If "urban culture" was not on your list, I'd say go to Positano, Amalfi, or Capri and make a day trip to Pompeii and Herculaneum. The Amalfi Coast is so much better than the French and Italian riviera, in my opinion (and I have a high opinion of the Riviera, as well). After you leave Positano, you'll have a hard time believing your memory of it as a real place.
posted by The World Famous at 7:09 PM on November 19, 2013

I would vote for southeast Asia, like Thailand or Vietnam, or India.
posted by kat518 at 7:11 PM on November 19, 2013

If "urban culture" was not on your list, I'd say go to Positano, Amalfi, or Capri and make a day trip to Pompeii and Herculaneum.

This is totally doable as a few days out of a longer trip to Rome.

In fact, with a 10 day trip you could definitely do Rome and the Amalfi Coast plus Pompeii/Herculaneum.

If you were willing to rent a car, you could probably go to Paestum, too.
posted by Sara C. at 7:14 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

India? You could do Delhi, Agra, Jaipur (a pretty common route) and see the Taj Mahal plus a lot of ancient architecture to boot. Food will be cheap (if you stay out of the stuff meant for tourists), lodging is variable, depending on where you stay. If you go, take the trains between cities.
posted by tuesdayschild at 7:15 PM on November 19, 2013

In fact, with a 10 day trip you could definitely do Rome and the Amalfi Coast plus Pompeii/Herculaneum.

That was my honeymoon, actually. Well, plus half a day in Bologna just for the food.
posted by The World Famous at 7:17 PM on November 19, 2013

Thailand or Cambodia.
posted by pompomtom at 7:18 PM on November 19, 2013

Lima, Peru (Machu Picchu!!)
Galapagos Islands
China (Great Wall!)

All the above have amazing sights, great history, are affordable once you've booked hotels/flights, and utterly amazing. You can memail me if you want more info!
posted by shazzam! at 7:23 PM on November 19, 2013

re: India. Delhi/Jaipur/Agra is more challenging of a vacation than Istanbul. Plus the tickets will be more expensive. Istanbul is great.
posted by goethean at 7:35 PM on November 19, 2013

I thought Nice was pretty boring, honestly, when we were on our honeymoon. It's mostly about shopping and sitting on the beach, but the beach is more of a "scene" than a place to relax and go swimming. There is definitely some good food, but it was pretty similar to Italian seafood, so I wouldn't go just for that if you are also going to Italy.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:38 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you want beautiful, urban, historic, and *cheap* - LISBON.

I'm sure six people will come along and disagree, but I love it. It's an amazing old city and there are a lot of really beautiful historic sites nearby (Sintra is pretty amazing and has both modern and Moorish castles!). Food is great. I hear there's a lot of nightlife, but that's never been my style. Very walkable. Lots of museums and such. Climate is very mild in January - I've been for Christmas twice and never needed more than a hoodie, some days I wore tshirts.

And cheap. So, so cheap. You could easily spend a few days in Lisbon and have enough money to go somewhere else for the rest of the trip.
posted by sonika at 8:47 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

India in ten days is not really doable. Or at least not really doable while actually having fun and not being stressed and probably sick the whole time.

Also, while I love India and will always recommend that anyone visit there, the architecture in Delhi/Agra/Jaipur isn't terribly ancient (it isn't even old in comparison with Istanbul or Rome). It's also hard to genuinely get out of the cities on the Golden Triangle itinerary, since that's one of the densest parts of a very dense country.

I would visit India another time, when you have a month and are not looking for an Ancient Archaeology vacation.
posted by Sara C. at 8:51 PM on November 19, 2013

AH. You want *ancient* architecture. Just saw that detail. There are a lot of old ruins in Portugal, many dating back to the Moors around 900AD and before, but no... Nothing truly *ancient.* I retract my previous suggestion and instead hope you go to Istanbul and report back - I've never been and I would love to go.
posted by sonika at 8:51 PM on November 19, 2013

In fact, with a 10 day trip you could definitely do Rome and the Amalfi Coast plus Pompeii/Herculaneum.

I agree with this timeframe and with the general awesomeness of all of these places, but Rome and its environs can be cold in the winter (like, water in the smaller public fountains freezing over and dustings of snow)-- so it's warmer than New York and less snowy, but not necessarily nice. Maybe I've just had rubbish luck with Decembers in Rome though! Naples is even warmer, but being out in any large outdoor site like Ostia/Cerveteri/Herculaneum in December in the rain is perhaps more of an adventure and less of a charming trip than perhaps you are envisioning. (I am speaking from experience.) Should you go, I highly, highly recommend staying at least a night in Naples proper, because Naples around New Year's is mildly insane and wonderful: gunpowder from fireworks in the narrow streets setting off all the motorino alarms, tanks of fish and eels, tripe in stalls, praesepe stands still up.

To be honest we did a week and a bit in Belize over Christmas two years ago and it is still one of the best trips I've ever been on. It was warm, it was beautiful, exploring Maya ruins was amazing, snorkeling was fantastic, the place we stayed at was surrounded by rainforest and we saw orange iguanas every day. Belize is small enough that it was easy to do one inland day and then out to the caye the next. Belize itself would not rank high on the "urban culture" side though, but you could easily see similar scenes by doing a side trip in Mexico away from Mexico City (which is also wonderful) or by taking a detour south through Guatemala and Belize.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:56 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

most of your requirements say "Rome" to me with the caveat that it absolutely could be cold and rainy, at least some of the days. Rome and Naples is a great combination. Naples really is terrific, it gets overlooked a lot because of its reputation for crime, but its archaeological museum is among the best in the world and the city just has this fantastic warm vibe that really has to be experienced to be understood… but out of ten days, some of them will probably be rainy, yes. On the other hand, Rome's museums are also superb so it isn't as if there isn't stuff to do on a rainy day.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:17 PM on November 19, 2013

Are you willing to drive? Sicily.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:20 PM on November 19, 2013

In Mexico, look into the Yucatan peninsula. A base in the state capital, Merida, gets you to the Mayan ruins at Uxmal, Chichen Itza and Tulum in 1, 2 and 3 hours, respectively. All three are impressive archeological sites. There are also plenty of cenotes, that is, gorgeous limestone sinkholes for swimming and gazing at cave formations, within a day's (if not an hour's) drive of Merida, which had a very urban feel when I was there many years ago. Nearby Vallodolid felt more relaxed and seemed to have kept more of the colonial architecture; it was a beautiful city to wander. Both were a far cry from the coastal tourist messes of Cancun and Cozumel (although Tulum gets you close to both of those, and times may have changed, so no guarantees).

I was surprised to just learn the Phallus Temple at Chichen Itza is still mostly overgrown and hidden from casual tourists, like it was when I visited, but it and the phallus garden at Uxmal are worth a trip for sure, if you like ancient erotic sculpture. There's a Mayan observatory and a ball court at Chichen Itza, too, among other structures. It's a great ancient site, despite the tourist traffic.

Oh, and the temperature in December is in the 80s during the day, 60s at night.
posted by mediareport at 10:39 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

p.s. flying into Merida instead of Mexico City will almost certainly be cheaper, probably by a significant amount.
posted by mediareport at 10:39 PM on November 19, 2013

Another vote for Oaxaca.
posted by trip and a half at 10:41 PM on November 19, 2013

Worth noting that Italy will most likely be considerably more expensive than Istanbul. Countryside day trip options are better in Italy though- bergamo, an hour out of milan, is better than anywhere you'll get in that time in istanbul. Well- perhaps not better, but an hour by bus from Istanbul and you'll probably still be in istanbul. I say this as a former resident, who loves the place!
posted by jojobobo at 11:51 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend if mine is doing a bike tour and is currently in Turkey. He recently posted photos of Mount Nimrod and ... well I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of it before. Its a world heritage site of amazing statues. Here's a pic I got from google images to give you an idea, though it was misty when my friend took his pictures so they look even more awesome.

You could do a Turkey Greece combo trip, lots of history, amazing ancient architecture, awesomeness abounds.

Or, from personal experience, Japan was a real life changer for me. You could do ten days, get a Japan rail pass, take in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima. Awesomeness, ancient architecture, a vibrant and totally alien urban culture ... hmmm ok it will be freezing and potentially snowing ... but its still awesome, I went in winter and loved it.

I agree the Mexico trip is also a great idea. Oaxaca is well worth it, Teotihuacan blew my mind, and Mexico City is really great, and the Yucatan peninsula seems to meet all your requirements. I also went to Palenque and really enjoyed that.

You've got a lot of great options, hope you have a great time.
posted by Admira at 12:56 AM on November 20, 2013

Rome > Florence > Milan > Nice would be easy and very scenic by train, fwiw. Nice is not the most thrilling city in the world but it would be a nice way to wrap up that trip; it's very easy, pretty place and relaxing in the off-season (we honeymooned there, also in a November, and the weather is very mild.)
posted by DarlingBri at 1:42 AM on November 20, 2013

Mexico. You basically have a week to spend at your destination when you factor in your two travel days. You'll be flying out of Texas to Mexico, which means you'll have time on the travel day to get adjusted. Bonus, no jet lag. The European and Asian options will suck up a lot of travel time, money, and energy. Mexico meets all your requirements.
posted by Elsie at 2:20 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm sort of off of Mexico, what with the State Department Advisory.

I think a Mediterranian cruise would be awesome. You'll cover a lot of ground, have the opportunity to see some neat stuff, and it can be very cost effective. There's a lot to be said for unpacking once, and having food and lodging covered. You may even get an airfare deal though the cruise line.

Here's a list of MSC Cruises of the Mediterranian.

I rolled my eyes at a similar cruise but it became a "Trip of a Lifetime" and I'm so glad I went!

The price is right and it is SUPER relaxing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:53 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Belize! We just got back from our honeymoon there and it was awesome. There are beaches, Maya ruins, and jungle. The water is beautiful and the scuba/snorkling is fantastic. Admittedly, towns/"urban culture" are a bit limited, but if you expand the trip into Guatemala, you have the opportunity to visit Flores and Tikal, which is amazing. The weather should be perfect that time of year and travel within the country is very easy.

The best part: there's a direct flight from Houston to Belize City, and it won't cost anywhere near your $1500 limit, so you can save that cash for another great trip.

If you're interested in more details, memail me. I'd love to share.
posted by Flamingo at 7:09 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was going to mention Peru as an option as well, but it may require too much travel time to be worth it for you. Though other people have mentioned Lima, Cusco would be zillion times more interesting (If I'm going to a big polluted traffic-ridden city I'd choose Mexico City over Lima in a heartbeat). Really, it would be perfect for what you're looking for: jawdropping juxtaposition of ancient architecture and urban city, mixed with colonial stuff in between, plus lots of interesting side trips like the many interesting smaller towns in the Sacred Valley and of course Machu Picchu. Ancient architecture EVERYWHERE. BUT, as I was going to say, it's a real long flight down to Lima and often requires at least one stop. Then you need to fly again to Cusco and due to the way flights are scheduled in Lima you will almost inevitably end up with 8-12 hours in the airport if you are not staying over in Lima. Anyway, it's an amazing trip and lots of people do it in the span of 10 days...I just think it's more pleasant if you have more time on the ground.

That said, I think you would be really really pleased with Mexico City and Oaxaca, I absolutely loved time in both cities. Seek out bars serving free botanas with drinks, like the Mexican version of tapas, little dishes that get better as you order more drinks. Definitely look into the wide variety of options for countryside excursions surrounding Oaxaca. We ended up spending two or three nights in Teotitlan del Valle because it was so calm and lovely. We stayed in the home of a world-renowned female weaver who happened to rent out rooms sometimes in her spacious, quiet, well-appointed home, we found her phone number in Lonely Planet Mexico (would have been probably a 2009 or 2010 edition) but I don't see mention on the website anymore. We also enjoyed the market at Tlacolula and light trekking in the Sierra Norte staying at community run hostels, check out tours through the Pueblos Mancomunados for itineraries (this community org has an office in Oaxaca).
posted by dahliachewswell at 4:34 PM on November 20, 2013

Both "Turkey + Greece" (especially if Turkey means anything west of about Bergama) and "Rome - Florence - Milan - Nice" are going to be WAAAAY packed for a ten day trip. Maybe OP are the type of couple who love really active vacations where they're always on the move and never spend more than one night in any particular place, but those are tight to the point of definitely not being much fun and possible not being possible.

That said, Mount Nemrut looks amazing, and there are a lot of similarly ancient, incredible, and little known sights in eastern Turkey. I could see planning a trip specifically to eastern Turkey to see some of that stuff. Maybe flying into Istanbul, spending a night or two, and then flying east.
posted by Sara C. at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2013

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