Decisions, Decisions

Chiang Mai, Santiago or Cappadocia?

When you work in travel, you’re exposed to a seemingly endless number of amazing vacation options, and choosing between them can sometimes be paralyzing. Our own Mitchell Friedman is experiencing this indecision quite acutely, and he needs your help. Where should he go next?

I’m ready to start planning a vacation. The only problem, and it’s a minor one, is that I have no idea where I should go. I’m hoping you’ll help me decide.

Here’s what you need to know about my conundrum:

1. I’m looking to travel this coming spring
2. I only have time for a one-week vacation
3. I’ve narrowed my options down to Cappadocia, Santiago, and Chiang Mai

Below, I’ve laid out my pros and cons for each spot, and at the end I’ll ask you to vote on which one I should choose. You can also suggest a different destination in the comments, because more places to consider is just what I need.

And if you’re wondering: yes, I do intend to follow through on your preference. At this point, I’d love nothing more than for someone to make this choice for me. And besides all that, this is a great way to inform my bosses that I need a week off.



Since the moment I laid eyes on it (specifically, its Instagram “location page” page — seriously, check it out), I’ve been obsessed with this region of Turkey. The surreal, dreamlike landscapes, the bizarre hoodoo spires that pop out of the ground, the caves and ancient underground cities. All of it. The description du jour of the region is “out of a fairytale,” and I’d love to go spew my own clichés about the place, which I’ll brainstorm from a hot air balloon floating over the artsy erosion of the Goreme valley. It’s one of the most unique places in the world.


With a level three “travel advisory” from the U.S. State Department on all of Turkey, citing terrorism and arbitrary detentions, I have to take the government’s advice and “reconsider travel.” Cappadocia doesn’t fall into any of the regions called out more specifically by the advisory, but as the US and Turkish governments feud, it seems more and more prescient to wait on a visit until the situation’s more predictable. At the same time, you never know what will happen in the future — and it’s such a shame to miss a chance at visiting a place so remarkable, and to connect with the people who really make up the country.


Argos In Cappadocia - boutique hotel in Cappadocia

Argos In Cappadocia


You can actually sleep in the archaic cave dwellings carved into the region’s soft volcanic rock, and Argos in Cappadocia is one such example of an extremely comfortable cave hotel, with some rooms sporting private terraces or in-cave pools. Where else do you get to say the phrase “in-cave pool”?

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Santiago is a bucket-list location in South America, a massive city set among the Andes and chock full of day trip opportunities. For example, you can do hot springs and hiking in the Andes on one day, and then turn around and visit the Maipo Valley, a wine region to rival Mendoza in Argentina, the next. Wine and hiking, we can agree, are the two equal and opposite pillars of any vacation. Plus, gastrotourism is my favorite word, and Chilean seafoods with names like locos con mayo (giant sea snails with mayo) and pastel de jaiba (a sort of cheesy crab casserole) are ones I’m willing to go the extra 5,000 miles for.


There is so much I want to see in South America. But I only have one week, so does it really make sense to travel all the way to Santiago without ticking a few other places off my ever-growing list of dream destinations? Imagine the angst of having Patagonia and Easter Island within your sights but just beyond your reach. I might do something rash, like accidentally quit my job to leap into a life of backpacking around the globe. Since I really don’t want to quit my job or go backpacking (big hassle) right now, maybe I need to save my trip to Santiago for when I have a couple more weeks, at least, to explore the continent. I could save this one for later.


Matildas Hotel Boutique - boutique hotel in Santiago

Matildas Hotel Boutique

Barrio Brasil

Housed in a vintage 1912 structure in the central, architecturally fascinating neighborhood of Barrio Brasil, Matildas Hotel Boutique is in easy range of plenty of bars and restaurants, so I could easily get my fix of Chilean food and Pisco Sours (the classic cocktail of the region). And, of course, some rooms have views of that other Santiago showcase: the Andes.

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Chiang Mai shares much of the upside of Santiago, as it’s both the largest city in Northern Thailand and the capital of the mountainous Chiang Mai Province. So if you’re starting to feel like you know my priorities here, I’m yearning to visit the city for the food scene (with Khao soi the can’t-miss dish) that everyone expects in Thailand, but also itching to visit all sorts of natural attractions in the wider region. Places like the “sticky waterfalls” of Bua Thong and the massive Pha Chor canyon in Mae Wang National Park are within an hour or so of the city. Not to mention, Chiang Mai has plenty of nightlife (and a highly recommended night bazaar), and hundreds of ancient Buddhist temples. It has, to put it succinctly, everything. I am, to put it lightly, dying to go.


So, is this the perfect choice? No, unfortunately, because two of the most convenient spring travel months encompass “the burning season” in Northern Thailand, and it can be difficult to know exactly when the air quality is going to really start deteriorating, how long it will last, and whether it will really affect the experience. Conventional wisdom says “to avoid” March and April in Chiang Mai. I could adjust my travel accordingly, but it’s inconvenient.


Tamarind Village - boutique hotel in Chiang Mai

Tamarind Village

Mueang Chiang Mai

In the heart of the historic old city, Tamarind Village nonetheless feels like the countryside with its bamboo-arch gateway and leafy, massive namesake tamarind tree. As soon as you venture outside the grounds, however, you’ll find the famous night bazaar and dining options all along the river. A relaxed vibe in the heart of the city? Very appealing.

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So now that you’ve heard all my lauding and kvetching — where should I go? Help me out by voting below, or, now that you know my most intimate travel desires, suggesting another destination in the comments. Go ahead, make my decision for me.


Where should Mitchell go?

  1. Having lived outside of Bangkok for five years I can tell you that Thailand has three seasons, hot, hotter and hottest (with and without rain). Your travel dates fall in the latter. That said, you’re not getting the full picture without experiencing full immersion – true jungle heat. If you’ve never been to the region you’ll be awed and amazed as a matter of course. Service, scenery, shopping, prices, people, food, culture and zen, a laid back energy like no other. And, MASSAGE. And, you can fit a couple whirlwind big-city days in Bangkok into the mix as you fly through. I’d do it.

  2. I highly recommend a trip to Morocco if you haven’t been. With a week to spend you could fly to Casablanca and drive out to the coastal town of Oulidia. It’s a quaint fishing village that’s known as the Oyster Capital of the world. Truly the without a doubt best seafood I’ve ever eaten, with fresh out of the water squid and razor clams. I’d stay at
    La Sultana, where the staff are amazingly accommodating and friendly. I’d stay two nights and travel to Marrakech, where there is also a La Sultana that’s located in the Kasbah so you really get to experience the day to day life there and their rooftop has a view of the Atlas Mountains. The Djemaa el-fna, the largest bazaar in the world is walking distance, so fantastic and the food is beyond!!! Also the Yves Saint Laurent’s Majorelle Garden is here complete with an amazing cafe. You can take a day trip to the desert and experience the Sahara on camel, pretty cool! So yeah, that’s what I’d do!

  3. I recommend you go to Chaing Mai, although with only one week, it will also be the most difficult time change. However, Santiago is a massive city and it is a long drive to do anything, other than see the city. I would not recommend going to Valparaiso and the food in South America is frankly not that good. Save Chile for when you can ski Portillo n August, go to Torre del Paine and walk the Atacama Desert. They are three of the most incredible places on earth, and Santiago is really just a stepping off point to get there. The travel threat in Turkey is the real deal. We had a cruise ship port of call canceled there recently because of it. That said, Turkey is incredible, the people are lovely and the food is wonderful. The culture is one of a kind. I recommend Thailand because of the people, the food and the hospitality. It’s a long trip and if you go, you should include a night in Bangkok at the Siam. You will not regret it.

  4. After reading your comments, it seems to me you have already made your decision, which is to go to Cappadocia. All three places would be wonderful, Chang Mai being my personal favorite. But, I agree, if you’re going to Santiago or to Chang Mai, you really need more than a week. Unless it’s a situation of it being the last chance you’ll ever get to go to any of these places, then I think you really have to listen to your heart and pick the one that most speaks to you. But it doesn’t sound to me like that is the case, so I would go with Cappadocia, and make plans for Santiago and Chang Mai in the next years to come, when you have two or three weeks to spend.

  5. One week vacation ??? Stay home ! Go to Brooklyn … and for the rest of the world its better too !

  6. If your week hits Song Kron – ‘Buddhas birthday’ then Chaing Mai it is – but one week in Tassie could hit your food, wine, and hiking…fly into launceston area in the north! Avoids the crowds -be sure to hit Mole Creek area! Or keep it really simple and melbourne is a food paradise!

    In a bizarre way…HONG KONG is also an eaters paradise – go to LAMA or LANTAU islands for hiking, and a week might just be the perfect length of time!

    A week in Calistoga, CA is closer and hits your highlights WITH great biking too! Farm to table, French laundry, mud baths…

    Enjoy your travels

    Wherever they take you!

  7. I loved Chile when I visited, but going only for Santiago and easy day trips may not be worth it: I’d save it for when you can add either a trip to the Atacama or Patagonia (or both like I did).

  8. Hello Mitchell: The maximum benefit of a vacation is to renew yourself and return to work refreshed with new energy and ideas. Only a week to explore these exotic places is not enough. I implore your bosses to give you more time and if not, I have a solution. A short plane ride south will take you to the oldest city in America, St Augustine, Florida. My number one adventure to do there is to ride a bike to the north end of Anastasia Island at low tide on the beach. You never know what you will find, you will see only a few people and no development. The trek will leave you happy and free. The city has two forts, the eclectic Lightner Museum, and several delicious farm to table restaurants, such as Collage, Preserved, Rype and Redi, and the Floridian. Matanzas Inlet at low tide is also a must. At sunset take a flight along the coast with the world’s only company offering rides in a genuine fully restored 1935 Custom Cabin Waco Biplane. Day trips nearby include several springs with manatees, Amelia Island where you can ride horses on the beach, and Cumberland Island, home of wild horses. Whatever you decide will be fantastic. I have plans to travel in Chang Mai this November for the Elephant camp but not sure I can swing it.

  9. Since you have a week both travel time and jet lag are major considerations. Flying south eliminates the travel hangover and you immediately begin enjoying your trip.

    Please stay at the Luciano K. Stellar hosts eager to advise and super cool Art Deco house. Best rooftop deck for drinks, dinner. Of course they are Tablet.

    Yes, Patagonia, the Atacama and Easter Island are close and yes, definitely worth visiting but give yourself a real holiday and get to know Santiago. The day trips are fun and easy with everyone I met chill.

  10. Since the main thing “against” Turkey is the “travel advisory” I would go. I lived all my life in the middle east. more that 50 years in the heart of Jerusalem. through 4 wars and hundreds of terror attacks and I can tell you, you never now what brings the next day. and it may sound frightening but it is not when you are there. usually life goes on safely. actually it is much much more dangerous to take your car and drive from New York to Philadelphia than to visit cappdocia, turkey id superb. people are so nice landscape is beautiful and food excellent.

  11. All destinations sound wondwrful. Maybe I missed your starting point bit will assume you are based in US. For that reason alone I selected Chile as it is closest. You’ve only got a week and don’t have time to waste on jetlag. Consider flying out of a different airport than the one you arrived at ……might be the difference of seeing/experiencing just a little bit more.
    Looking forward to reading about your adventure.

  12. Go to Santiago. You can add a visit to the picturesque port of Valparaiso (a 1:30 to 2 hr drive) with its collection of funiculars and amazing sunsets by the ocean, and visit some of Neruda’s homes (there is one in Valpariso, one in Santiago and another one in Isla Negra). You will also be surprised to see Viña del Mar, a 5 minute drive from Valparaiso, with its gardens and casino, reminiscents of the French Riviera, and a long coast adorned with seafood restaurants and incredible views.
    In reality, Chile is so diverse and long, with so much to see in each different area, that even two weeks would not be enough for it all.
    So it is a good idea to focus in the Central Zone, where Santiago is located, which offers much more than wineries and hicking.

  13. I am fortunate to have visited all three. I recommend Santiago but do take a side trip to either Patagonia or the Attacama desert. Yes it is possible to do two locations in a week. The Matilda is a great little hotel. Security in Turkey at the moment can make you feel uncomfortable like there is a (bad) event waiting to happen/ Chang Mai has less to do for a week that the other two locations, more of a side trip from Bangkok than a weeks destination.

  14. Excellent Australia recs! Of course, Hong Kong is also amazing — I’ve been but never got to see the islands!

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