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When you work at National Geographic, one of the first questions people ask is if you get to travel. The answer is often yes, but one of the best parts of the job is being surrounded by sharp, globe-trotting people, and getting to hear their stories. That’s why we asked folks on the Nat Geo Travel team to share a story about the best trip they’ve taken in the past year with our readers.

In a world where the easiest route is usually the most popular, it’s no surprise that many vacationers limit their warm-weather winter getaways to the Caribbean’s more accessible islands—especially if they have kids in tow. And while the quick trip has its advantages, some of best destinations require more effort. Here are four to add to your list.

In addition to being longtime contributing photographers for Traveler magazine, my wife Sisse and I are frequently invited to join National Geographic Expeditions trips as photography experts. On a recent trip to the Macaronesia Islands, we had 25 passengers sign up for a photo workshop with us. We gave them assignments, or themes, to explore throughout our journey. Here’s one of the lessons learned along the way.

National Geographic Traveler features editor Amy Alipio (on Twitter @amytravels and on Instagram @amyalipio) recently returned from a family trip to New York City to soak up the holiday glow. Here are some of the high points of her trip, in her own words.

I Heart My City: Karen’s Bogotá

Freelance writer Karen Attman moved to Venezuela from the United States nearly two decades ago to embrace the ex-pat life and hasn’t looked back. She moved her home base to Bogotá in 2012 and and thrives on the Colombian capital’s enthusiasm and creativity. “It’s a flourishing city that has an amazing energy,” she says, “but the main reason is all about the people. They are innovative, creative, loving, open, and generous.” Here are a few of Karen’s favorite things about her adopted hometown.

The keys to happiness in Mexico City are the simple things: the cozy cantina that serves pork ribs in green sauce; a walk in Parque México, on any day of the week but especially on Sundays, in the Condesa neighborhood; or a teeming food market such as Mercado San Juan.

From the art aficionado to the wilderness worshipper, 2014 produced a seductive spectrum of alluring treats for every traveler on your holiday gift list.

The city where the U.S. got its start is rich in history, for sure. But Philadelphia also can brag about its art collections, science centers, and culinary spots—all destinations within walking distance of City Hall, the centermost point of Center City.

Throwback Travel: Budapest’s Bathing Beauty

Geothermal and glorious, Budapest’s Gellért Baths opened in 1918, the year that marked the end of World War I and the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s collapse. Here are a few memorable takeaways from the soak of a century.

In addition to being longtime contributing photographers for Traveler magazine, my wife Sisse and I are frequently invited to join National Geographic Expeditions trips as photography experts. On a recent trip to the Macaronesia Islands, we had 25 passengers sign up for a photo workshop with us. We gave them assignments, or themes, to explore throughout our journey. Here’s one of the lessons learned along the way.

National Geographic Traveler columnist Heather Greenwood Davis is the magazine’s family travel advocate, guru, and soothsayer. Here’s her latest advice.

With its mix of national parks and private game reserves, Botswana offers visitors a range of experiences, from the Makgadikgadi salt pans (part of which is protected as Makgadikgadi Pans National Park) to the water-rich Okavango Delta. Here’s an insider’s guide to visiting this biodiverse wonder.

#NGTRadar: Travel Lately

Travel Lately—a roundup of the best new dispatches from the travel blogosphere—is a regular feature on Intelligent Travel every other Wednesday. You can play, too. Follow us on Twitter @NatGeoTravel and tag your favorite travel stories #NGTRadar to help us find the crème de la crème on the Web.

Raised in a quasi treehouse on the edge of Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, New York, Nat Geo Young Explorer Alizé Carrère now travels the globe to illuminate how humans and other animals adapt to changing environments. When she’s not out not in the field, she recharges her batteries in her beloved hometown. Ithaca “is an incubator for creativity, intellectual development, self-expression, and a place to gain an appreciation for life’s diversity,” she says.

I spend a lot of time exploring big, dynamic cities. But these isolated islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador grew on me in such a way that when I left, I felt as though I was taking some of the characteristics of the landscape and animals—fearlessness, energy, equilibrium—home with me. Here are a few other things I learned about the Galápagos along the way.

Itching to escape the cold—or embrace it? Join the @NatGeoTravel team on Twitter to get the scoop on the best places to visit this winter at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, December 16.

Travels on the Run: Sarajevo

I’ve wanted to visit Sarajevo since it was part of Yugoslavia, after it had become the darling of the 1984 Winter Olympics. And here I am, going on a run through its historic, war-torn heart, awed by the bullet holes, caved-in roofs, and overgrown foliage that prevail even 20 years after the devastation of the…

Uninhabited Québec

I peer out of the lighthouse window, watching the wide, murky Saint Lawrence River easing past on its journey to the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of sea birds squawk and shriek on the rocks below. I think about the men who spent years cooped up alone on this little island in the remote wilds of Québec, illuminating the way for the weary mariners who sailed by in the darkness of night.

National Geographic Traveler Editor at Large George W. Stone relocated to Singapore from Washington, D.C., two years ago, and has fully embraced the island way of life. Here’s his advice on how to make the most of your time in this distinctive Southeast Asian nation: Island Getaway: Get a sense of traditional kampong (village) life on Pulau…

National Geographic Traveler editor at large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips. Here’s his latest advice.

Catherine Karnow has been part of the Nat Geo family for the past 15 years, going on assignment for both National Geographic and Traveler, where she’s a contributing photographer. She also shares photography tips on the Nat Geo Travel site and leads photo seminars and workshops for the Society. Here’s a look at the world through her unique lens.

Don’t let the cold temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere take the pep out of your travel step. The winter months can offer up some of the best travel opportunities, often at a lower price point—and you can always head south if you’re in need of some Vitamin D. Here are a dozen destinations to inspire you from our Nat Geo Travel Facebook fans.

National Geographic Traveler columnist Heather Greenwood Davis is the magazine’s family travel advocate, guru, and soothsayer. Here’s her latest advice.

London isn’t high on many people’s travel lists past early fall, but I happen to love London when it’s cold outside. “You get to see the city for what it really is in the winter,” my friend Lauren Bryan Knight told me. “It’s London with her hair down, devoid of anything other than the quiet rhythm of Londoners living out their daily routines.” Here’s why the English capital should be on your winter-travel list—and how to make the most of your time while you’re there.

Naughty and Nice: Krampusnacht

If the yuletide season has seemed more like Halloween of late, it’s because a contingent of horned, long-tongued beasties is slowly making its way west from the forests of Germany. Make way for the Krampus, the dark counterpoint to the benevolent St. Nicholas.