May 30, 2024

Olympia Travel Tips

Maniac Travel Update

The 23 Best Places To Travel Around The World In 2023, Chosen By The Experts

The 23 Best Places To Travel Around The World In 2023, Chosen By The Experts

There’s no denying that travel is back in 2023, thanks to a pent-up demand for all those vacations that were put on hold during the pandemic. But what are the best international places to visit? What are the top travel destinations around the world?

Every year, I round up the best places to visit. This year, in honor of Women’s History Month in March, I tapped into leading women travel experts and influencers to find out their choices for the best international places to travel in 2023.

Want to stay closer to home? For ideas of where to travel in America, check back soon, as I’ll be posting a story on “The Best Places To Travel In The U.S. In 2023.”

This year, the picks for where to go in 2023 span the gamut from European capitals to exotic beach escapes to sustainable rainforest retreats. Compare these choices to last year’s selections for the best places to travel around the world.

But keep in mind: With travel demand soaring and 31{0b5b04b8d3ad800b67772b3dcc20e35ebfd293e6e83c1a657928cfb52b561f97} of travelers saying they intend to spend more on international travel this year, costs on the rise and the airlines encountering record demand, don’t delay. Now is the time to book that bucket list trip of a lifetime.

Best Places to Travel in 2023: Europe

Where to Go: Mallorca

Chosen By: Heidi Mitchell is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, covering an array of topics from cybersecurity to the psychology of work, and is an award-winning travel writer for publications including Travel + Leisure, Town & Country and the Financial Times’ How To Spend It. She lives between Chicago and London, though she will always be a native New Yorker and a global nomad.

Why: With demand soaring, United Airlines has, for the second year, instituted direct flights from JFK to Palma de Mallorca starting again in April. Since the pandemic began, loads of Europeans and Americans have relocated to this Balearic island known for its wide beaches but which actually shines more brightly inland—where new arrivals are rediscovering the work newly-starred chefs like Santi Taura who makes every dish (literally–including the ceramics) by hand nightly at his tiny DINS restaurant, the pleasures of strolling the cobbled streets of Valldemossa in the interior, the expansive winery of José Ferrer in Binissalem and the challenging bike trails that are best enjoyed in spring and fall, when temperatures are deliciously cool. “I didn’t expect the town of Palma to have such a Moorish influence — that 13th-century cathedral!—nor did I think I’d feel comfortable walking the streets of Palma at night on my own, but it’s so clean, magically illuminated at night, and buzzing with youthful couples strolling hand in hand,” says Mitchell.

In the un-kissed hours, even if you’ve been to Mallorca before, today you’ll find a renewed energy. Paul Skevington, a former executive headhunter, moved from London to open a premium cycling outfitter called Parietti in what he calls “the Mecca of European cycling,” an island roughly the size of Delaware. He also jokes that Mallorca has become “Founders’ Island,” a community where everyone starts his or her own business, be it a precious little gift shop (Ca Na Toneta) or an artisanal apothecary (Arquinesia).

If you’re looking to stay out of the hubbub of Palma, where most of the half-million residents reside, make Castell Son Claret your home base. Originally built as a 19th-century castle, the 43-room pile sits on 326 acres, populated mostly by sheep. “I loved waking early after nights of long dinners and bottles of wine to run it off on the property, veering between sheep and wild olive trees,” says Mitchell. The new garden suites deliver transporting floor-to-ceiling views of the UNESCO-protected Tramuntana mountain range, while the design is a nod to the glamour of the 1960s jet set, reimagined by Spanish design firm Decagano and Juncosa. Its restaurant, Sa Clastra, is run by native son Jordí Canto, who (word has it) has been tapped to receive his own Michelin star.

“Forget what you have heard about package tourists overrunning the beaches here,” says Mitchell. “In fact, forget the beaches, and pack your hiking shoes and an explorer’s mindset. Mallorca today is practically uncharted territory.”

Where to Go: Isle of Skye, Scotland

Chosen By: Jane Anderson is a travel writer and magazine editor based in London. Currently travel editor at Prima magazine, the U.K.’s fifth best-selling monthly lifestyle title, and editor of Companion magazine, a tabloid-style title for guests of 25hours Hotels. She also freelances for the travel sections of The Telegraph and iNews. She is also the co-author of Slow Travel Family Breaks: Perfect Escapes in Britain’s Special Places, recently published by Bradt Guides.

Why: The Isle of Skye became famous as the place that Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped to after the Battle of Culloden, thanks to local hero Flora Macdonald. (It’s also home to “The Skye Boat Song,” composed by Sir Harold Edwin Boulton in 1870s and now beloved of Outlander fans.) Part of the Inner Hebrides, Skye is now a place to escape the pace of modern life and take a breath. “It was, and hopefully always will be, a sanctuary,” says Anderson. “My father was from Edinburgh, a place I love and know well, but it took me until my fifties to explore the West Coast of Scotland, a place he holidayed as a young man, and in particular Skye.”

This year sees the opening of The Bracken Hide Hotel, a one-of-a-kind pod hotel and Nordic sauna retreat with a wild swimming pond on the outskirts of the diminutive capital, Portree. Melding rustic charm with a touch of glamour, its luxury cabins reflect Skye’s wild landscape with views of the Cuillin Hills or the Isle of Raasay. The Hub has a restaurant, whisky bar and screening room.

If you prefer something altogether more old-school, head to Kinloch Lodge. Opened by Lord and Lady Macdonald in 1972, and previously their family home, it’s now run by their daughter Isabella Macdonald, who is related to the aforementioned Flora (whose portrait hangs in the wood-paneled restaurant). Along with head chef Jordan Webb, Isabella has brought the hotel’s ethos back to one of seasonality and sustainability with ingredients home-grown in Kinloch’s polytunnels or foraged from the loch shore and forests. Guests can learn these skills from the hotel’s ghillie, Mitchell Partridge or head out with local wildlife expert Stewart Dawber of Skye High Wildlife to spot deer, otters and Golden Eagle

“A highlight of my stay at Kinloch was a whisky tasting with manager Dan in the historic bar where the Macdonald clan discussed joining the battle of Culloden,” says Anderson. “You have to start with the two local distilleries: Talisker, established in 1830, and newbie Torabhaig, producing its first single malt 2021.” To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Excise Act (the so-called Year Zero for whisky), Kinloch Lodge has a new package dedicated to the water of life that includes a tour of Torabhaig distillery, a whisky tasting and a picnic lunch.

And finally, don’t miss a meal at Edinbane Lodge, a derelict hunting lodge until five years ago when chef-patron Calum Montgomery, born and raised on Skye, took it over with his family. Taking the title of Restaurant of the Year at the Scottish Excellence Awards in March, it also has four bedrooms to crash out in after you’ve feasted on hand-dived Isle of Rona scallops with smoked seaweed butter and the like.

Where to Go: Noto Valley, Sicily

Chosen By: Nneya Richards is a speaker and travel blogger at ’N A Perfect World, a curated intersection of travel, food, fashion and geopolitics inspired by the global-citizen lifestyle of the millennial. Richards aims to empower young people, especially those of color, to travel, as she believes it is through exploring the world that we will bridge cultural gaps and misunderstandings.

Why: “Film and television tourism has always been a thing. It’s arguably Italy’s best PR asset and there’s no doubt that this summer, the Sicilian town of Taormina will be jam-packed with The White Lotus fans,” says Nneya Richards.

Whether lunching at the Four Seasons San Domenico Palace—the actual hotel of the HBO show—or passing through the colorful streets that Valentina (The White Lotus manager) strolled through on her way to work, Richards says that “you won’t be disappointed in this romantic and charming town.”

But if you’re up for a more in depth Sicilian tour, replete with beautiful architecture and baroque splendor that will take your breath away, fly into Catania and head south into the heart of Sicilian baroque architecture: the Noto Valley.

“In the southeast of Sicily, Val di Noto boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage sites,” says Richards. “This is where you see the true Kingdom of Sicily, even more so, the history of this area dating back to Magna Grecia.”

With the Ionaian sea and beautiful stretches of beaches sparkling during the day and the lit grandeur of the famed Noto Valley towns at night, there’s something for an entire family. “Chocolate fans? Head to the town of Modica,” says Richards. “Love ceramics? Head to an artisanal shop in Caltagirone. The Noto Valley is a can’t miss.”

Where to Go: Nice, France

Chosen By: Laurie Woolever is a writer and editor who is the co-author (with Anthony Bourdain) of World Travel: An Irreverent Guide and author of The New York Times bestseller Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography.

Why: “Nice is at the forefront of a new era: A new city-wide tram system offers eco-friendly transportation throughout the city, many streets are now open only to pedestrians and its Old Town district is flourishing with new restaurants and boutiques,” says Laurie Woolever.

The arrival of Anantara Plaza Nice Hotel in a rejuvenated 19th century architectural jewel overlooking the glittering Promenade des Anglais, also marks a big moment for Nice and a triumphant return of one of the most storied hotels on the Côte d’Azur. The Belle Époque-era hotel blends old-world elegance with contemporary luxuries, featuring an elaborate spa and signature experiences like “In the Footsteps of Coco Chanel,” which includes a tour of Château de Crémat (the wine estate that inspired Chanel’s famous interlocking-C’s logo) and a tasting of a cuvee that is only available at the Anantara Plaza Nice Hotel.

There’s plenty of exciting food news in Nice, too. “For dining, I love Rouge, a natural wine bar featuring Mediterranean sharing plates founded by a protégé of Yves Camdeborde of Le Comptoir in Paris, and SEEN rooftop restaurant and bar at Anantara Plaza Nice Hotel for its elegant menu and spectacular city views,” says Woolever.

Also notable for 2023: The Monaco Grand Prix will be celebrating its 80th run this May, and this year also marks the 76th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. Nice is a great home base for both.

Where to Go: Interlaken, Switzerland

Chosen By: Susan Portnoy is a freelance photographer and travel writer.

Why: Interlaken, Switzerland has been called the Adventure Capital of the World and it has become an incredible home base for a vast array of year-round outdoor activities—from hiking and biking to paragliding, bungee jumping and mountain climbing.

“The more I travel, the more I want to savor a location instead of approaching my trips like a tasting menu and visiting multiple destinations—I want to experience a region in depth,” says Susan Portnoy. “Interlaken checks all my boxes. In the Bernese Highlands, the landscape’s natural beauty is a winner and so many activities—like hiking in Grindelwald or kayaking on Lake Thun—were either in town or less than an hour away by car or train.”

With responsible travel in mind, Switzerland is also renowned for its sustainability practices. “I’m in love with its train system. You can get almost anywhere by train with little hassle, and the passenger cars deserve extra points for always being nearly pristine,” says Portnoy. “A Swiss Travel Pass is a must. It enabled me to jump on public transportation and get discounts on excursions and entry into more than 500 museums, all with one QR code.”

Beside hiking, biking, skiing, or swimming, Interlaken offers more hair-raising options. “The most unusual for me was the Canyon Swing,” says Portnoy. “Simply put (and sporting a harness), I stepped off a mountain, free-falling 300 feet at 120 mph. Just before I might have hit the boulders in the river below, I began swinging back and forth in a slot canyon.”

For something more low-key, Portnoy recommends a visit to the Funky Chocolate Factory (“to learn about the history of chocolate in Switzerland and create your own book-sized chocolate bars”), The Carlton-Europe Vintage Hotel (“it opened in 1898 and has wonderful vignettes filled with antiques from its past”), the Harderbahn funicular (“a must-stop for stunning views”) and Ristorante Sapori e Pizzeria (“with towering ceilings, arches and a gorgeous painted ceiling, it has the opulence of Versailles”).

Where to Go: Formentera, Spain

Chosen By: Jane Anderson is a travel writer and magazine editor based in London. Currently travel editor at Prima magazine, the U.K.’s fifth best-selling monthly lifestyle title, and editor of Companion magazine, a tabloid-style title for guests of 25hours Hotels. She also freelances for the travel sections of The Telegraph and iNews. She is also the co-author of Slow Travel Family Breaks: Perfect Escapes in Britain’s Special Places, recently published by Bradt Guides.

Why: “In my twenties and thirties, the Balearics were all about partying on the famed White Ilse of Ibiza. And while I still love a dance, I hanker after the mellower vibes of little sister island Formentera,” says Anderson. “Beloved of hippies and creatives since the 1970s, this Green Isle has largely been kept under the radar.”

Resisting the pressure to build an airstrip, Formentera is only accessible via fast ferry from Ibiza or private yacht—if you’re so lucky—though be warned, the strict laws here protecting the seagrass mean that yachts cannot drop anchor. The precious seagrass gives the surrounding waters that iridescent turquoise hue—as vibrant as any Indian Ocean castaway isle.

“Thankfully plastic bags are banned,” says Anderson, “and all hotels must have a circularity plan encompassing aspects like water use and clean energies.” Vehicles are limited during high season to reduce congestion, pollution and maintain the balance between tourism and daily life for residents. There’s also a Sustainable Tourism Tax. And this year Formentera has committed to the Declaration in Defense of the Night Sky and Right to Starlight, the first steps toward UNESCO recognition as a Starlight Tourist Destination.

One of the biggest attractions of Formentera is its 32 ‘Rutas Verdes’ or ‘Green Routes’ that criss-crosses the island. With over 100km, they give the impression of a much larger landmass when you slow down the pace. All are bike-friendly, passing lighthouses, beaches and mighty defensive towers by the coast or swinging in land by dry-stone walls next to salt flats, windmills, vineyards and ancient archaeological sites, with bird watching and insta-worthy views at every turn. “I recommend an ebike tour with Formentera Ebikes Tours, run by local Bartolo Torres who will keep you fueled with aniseed-soaked figs grown on his family farm,” says Anderson.

“My top tip is to come in the shoulder seasons of May/June and September/October when it’s quieter and less expensive, and slightly cooler—the perfect climate for walking and cycling,” adds Anderson, “and stay at Hotel Casbah, a gorgeous rural boutique hotel with local baskets in the room for you to use during your stay.”

“You’ll find one-off souvenirs at the Pilar de la Mola hippie market, such as dresses made from vintage linen, lace tablecloths and old towels by Coser I Cantar or seagrass-inspired jewelry by Enric Majoral. And check out the forthcoming dates for Formentera Astronomica stargazing event if you’re into the solar system.”

Where to Go: Paros, Greece

Chosen By: Laura Begley Bloom, travel expert and author of this column.

Why: When it comes to Greek islands, Santorini and Mykonos usually get all the attention. But another spot in the Cyclades is fast becoming the hot destination for true insiders: Paros. You’ll get quintessential whitewashed villages, stunning white-sand beaches and clear-blue Aegean seas, minus the crowds and the high prices.

With its winding streets, the port town of Parikia (sometimes known as Paroikia) is the town most visitors first encounter. But in the northern part of the island, the soulful village of Naoussa is the go-to for the jet set. At night, tables spill out into the narrow cobblestone streets (don’t miss the well-regarded Yemeni). Meanwhile, al-fresco restaurants like Tsachpinis Ouzeri Ton Naftikon transform the yacht-filled harbor into a buzzing open-air dinner party.

New to the Naoussa hotel scene is Cosme, a Luxury Collection Resort, set on the outskirts of town. This luxe escape has 40 suites designed with a crisp aesthetic, plus its own private beach club. Another appealing Paros address: Parīlio, a 33-suite retreat characterized by timeless simplicity and surrounded by pastoral landscapes.

Want to bring a piece of Paros home with you? Head to Anthologist, which has jewel-box boutiques at both Cosme and Parīlio, stocking limited-edition items and artisanal objects sourced by Anthologist founder Andria Mitsakos to reflect the authentic ambience of the Greek islands.

Best Places to Travel in 2023: Europe/Asia

Where to Go: Istanbul, Turkey

Chosen By: Anya von Bremzen is a three-time James Beard Award–winning author and a contributing writer at AFAR magazine. Anya has published six acclaimed cookbooks and a memoir, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. Her new book National Dish will come out in June 2023. She lives between New York and Istanbul, where she owns an apartment.

Why: “With its layered history, magical waterways, and breathtaking vistas, Istanbul has always been known for romance. But this city that straddles Europe and Asia is also a kinetic modern metropolis revitalized recently by a string of ambitious new projects,” says Anya von Bremzen. “One is Galataport, a mixed-use development with a gorgeous waterfront promenade, acres of retail, a futuristic underground cruise port and dining hotspots like the seafood-centric Sait, trendy fusiony Roka and the Populist bar, which serves up local craft beers and incredible views. Also here: the about-to-open Renzo Piano-designed Istanbul Modern museum and the Peninsula Istanbul, which opened last month across several historic buildings, with stunning rooms overlooking the Bosporus.”

Istanbul’s grandest hotel is the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, which incorporates on its grounds a 19th century Ottoman palace. “It’s a local institution and an icon, and by summer it will unveil a super-opulent renovation of its guest rooms and public spaces overseen by designer du jour, Serdar Gulgun,” says von Bremzen.

For thrilling modern takes on Turkish cuisine, von Bremzen suggests the two-Michelin starred Turk, the new Avlu restaurant at the renovated Four Seasons Sultanahmet and classics like Mikla. “I also adore the city’s brilliant female chefs like Burcak Kazdal, who prepares amazing locavore food at her charming Apartiman,” says von Bremzen.

Come summer, von Bremzen escapes to Bodrum on the Aegean coast. “There, I’ve fallen for a new hotel called Kaya Palazzo Le Chic, located on one of the loveliest stretches of beach in the area,” says von Bremzen. “Its private pier has a great restaurant, and the spa does amazing massages.”

Another reason to head to Istanbul in 2023? “Getting to Istanbul has never been easier,” says von Bremzen. “Turkish Airlines, the classy award-winning national carrier recently expanded its U.S. getaways with Newark, Dallas and Seattle–Tacoma.” Hot tip: For travelers with lengthy transfer times in its Istanbul hub, the airline is offering the new Istanbul Stopover Program, which includes two complimentary nights at a four-star hotel for economy class passengers and three nights at a five-star hotel for business-class passengers. “Oh, and the airline’s Istanbul business lounge serves some of the tastiest Turkish food in the city,” says von Bremzen.

Best Places to Travel in 2023: Asia

Where to Go: Japan

Chosen By: Alyssa Ramos, founder of My Life’s a Movie and a solo female travel blogger, content creator, entrepreneur and social media influencer who travels the world full-time and seeks to showcase unique destinations through her unique photography style and honest, detailed travel tips. Her motto is “Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do.”

Why: “With travel almost completely back to normal, it opens up a whole new contender list for best places to go in 2023,” says Alyssa Ramos. “Topping the list is my current location: Japan. After nearly three years of borders being closed for travel, the glorious country has finally re-opened, and it’s even better than ever.”

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, tourism has been spiking since the country reopened in October. “Despite news of foreigners flocking here, or of it being overcrowded, I’m currently finding it quite spaced out and as always, organized—even during the first Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Festival Season since pre-pandemic,” says Ramos, who is excited about destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa.

Some of the big 2023 news in Tokyo includes the opening of Aman Residences, Tokyo—the brand’s first residence-only development—as well as the debut of Aman’s sister wellness-oriented brand at Janu Tokyo and Japan’s first Bulgari hotel. Another big opening: Tokyu Corporation’s new Tokyu Kabukicho Tower, which will be Japan’s largest multi-use hotel and entertainment complex. It will be home to two new hotels: The luxury Bellustar Tokyo (a Pan Pacific Hotel set on the 39th to 47th floors) and the lifestyle Hotel Groove Shinjuku on the 18th-38th floors

When it comes to entertainment, there’s a lot going on in Tokyo, including the soon-to-open Animate Ikebukuro (the world’s largest anime store), digital art collective teamLab’s new immersive production of the Puccini opera Turandot, a new Japanese Cultural and Innovation Center next to Haneda International Airport and Sunshine 60 Observatory in Ikebukuro (which is reopening as an indoor park). Want to see more of Tokyo? Follow Ramos’s guide to how to plan a city self tour by train.

In Kyoto, there’s a ton of news on the hospitality front, including the Ace Hotel (with an outpost of Piopiko from Michelin-starred chef Wes Avila), Marufukuro (in the former Nintendo headquarters) and the Park Hyatt Kyoto (located close to Kodai-ji Temple).

Another one of Ramos’s go-to spots: the islands of Okinawa. “It reminded me of French Polynesia but for a fraction of the cost,” she says. One place to stay is the new Hoshinoya Okinawa, a beachfront island resort in the coastal village of Yomitan. Ramos also recommends the Zamami Islands for the beautiful beaches.

Where to Go: Sri Lanka

Chosen By: Juliana Broste is a 12x Heartland Emmy Award-winning travel filmmaker and host, showcasing adventures and fun things to do around the world. Come along for the adventure at @TravelingJules on Instagram or travelingjules.com.

Why: “It’s no secret, Sri Lanka has had a hard time,” says Juliana Broste. “Even with inflation, visitors will find Sri Lanka a spectacular, affordable destination worth the long haul. Loop around the island and you’ll see why this land will keep you guessing—from the hustle and bustle of capital city Colombo to beautiful beaches, rice fields, waterfalls, plains, and mountains.”

There’s a lot to see in a relatively short distance, so have your camera at the ready. “Spotting the wildlife in Sri Lanka is really special,” says Broste, who explored the country on a photo tour. “You can go on safari to an Elephant Sanctuary, go whale watching on the Indian ocean and spy on birds, lizards, jellyfish and monkeys in a mangrove.” On Broste’s bucket list for next time: spotting leopards at Yala National Park.

Sri Lanka has plenty of interesting cultural attractions to explore, including the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Kandy. “Be sure to pack an all-white outfit that covers your shoulders and legs when visiting religious sites,” says Broste. “Catching a traditional Kandyan dance performance is a highlight, seeing men and women in traditional dress telling stories through dance.”

Tucked away in hill country, Nuwara Eliya, known as “Little England,” is a cool climate escape where a famous Sri Lankan export, ceylon tea, is produced. “Winding roads reveal rows and rows of tea bushes on the hillside—be sure to stop in for a cup of tea on your visit to a tea factory and plantation,” says Broste. “Equally as fun: sampling a king coconut on the side of the road along your adventure.”

For an incredible view of Colombo, head to the top of the shimmering pink Lotus Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city. “It’s a symbol of the city and just a touch taller than the Eiffel Tower,” says Broste. “Another famous viewpoint worth the hike is the ancient city of Sigiriya known as Lion’s Rock, with the ruins of an ancient stronghold located atop a dramatic rock outcrop. It’s wild to think how an entire civilization lived here centuries ago.”

Where to Go: Hong Kong

Chosen By: Currently exploring South East Asia, India-Jayne Trainor is a travel writer and photographer who has contributed to AFAR, Atlas Obscura and Reader’s Digest, among others. She shares her adventures and tips on Instagram @exploringwithindia.

Why: “Hong Kong’s slogan is ‘Asia’s world city,’ and this couldn’t be more accurate. Each time I visit, I wish I’d spent longer exploring—but with diverse cuisine, a burgeoning arts and culture scene and more than two hundred jungle- and beach-covered islands, you’re constantly discovering new things to see and do,” says India-Jayne Trainor.

There has never been a better time to discover Hong Kong: The city is giving away half a million flights this year. The region recently lifted its final Covid restrictions, and the past three years allowed for the development of new luxury hotels, such as The Regent, The Hari and Fullerton Ocean Park, which are also elevating Hong Kong’s foodie reputation to new heights.

Local teahouses and street food still dominate, but flavors from Asia, Europe and North America can be found in restaurants including Jade, Heimat and Mosu. “Mosu is in one of my favorite neighborhoods, the West Kowloon Cultural District. Home to the new M+ Museum and Hong Kong Palace Museum, it’s a constantly growing arts and culture hub, with theaters, performance spaces, cafes and stunning views of Hong Kong’s skyline,” says Trainor. Art can be found everywhere in Hong Kong, which just concluded Art Basel 2023—from the vibrant street murals in Sheung Wan to the new Tai Kwun buildings.

Although Hong Kong is widely assumed to be densely packed with skyscrapers, its hundreds of islands are just a short ferry ride away. Lamma Island and Cheung Chau have a laid-back feel, with golden beaches and waterfront cafes. For a little more adventure, hiking on Sharp Island or across Hong Kong Island to Repulse Bay offer mountainous views and rewarding beaches. “I love that you can go from bustling city to waterfalls and jungle in less than an hour,” says Trainor. “Despite this, whenever I visit I inevitably return to Hong Kong’s most famous attractions such as Happy Valley, Star Ferry and The Peak—catch the Peak Tram to the top for the best views in the city, ahead of the scenic walk down to Hong Kong Park.”

Where to Go: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chosen By: Alyssa Ramos, founder of My Life’s a Movie and a solo female travel blogger, content creator, entrepreneur and social media influencer who travels the world full-time and seeks to showcase unique destinations through her unique photography style and honest, detailed travel tips. Her motto is “Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do.”

Why: Pre-pandemic, Kuala Lumpur was the sixth-most-visited city in the world, and now after being closed for two and a half years, Malaysia’s capital is back and better than ever, with an historic influx of visitors and lots of news for 2023. “I have had plenty of layovers at Kuala Lumpur and always loved the fabulous airport with the mini rainforest complete with waterfall in the middle,” says Alyssa Ramos. “But Malaysia, and specifically Kuala Lumpur, is a destination I am guilty of highly underrating for many years.”

Ramos describes Kuala Lumpur as a “mini Singapore, but for a fraction of the price, with brand-new luxury high rises stretching towards the sky, many with stunning rooftop pools and direct views of the Petronas Towers.”

This year’s big opening is the Park Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, which will occupy the top 17 floors of a 118-floor tower overlooking Stadium Merdeka, the UNESCO heritage site where Malaysia declared independence in 1957.

“There are also fantastic restaurants with a wide array of cuisines from all over the world,” says Ramos. Some of the latest hotspots include Sushi Mew at The Westin KL, Jwala for fiery Northern Indian cuisine (the name of the restaurant mens “flame” in Sanskrit) and the Latin American Mano Restaurant.

On the outskirts of town, the Batu Caves are not to be missed. “Just a short ride with Grab (the local rideshare company) will get you to the famous Batu Caves with their hundreds of colorful steps leading up to cave temples,” says Ramos.

Where to Go: Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Chosen By: Brazil-born, San Francisco-based Catarina Mello (@professionaltraveler) is an award-winning luxury travel content creator, photographer, entrepreneur and online educator. Since escaping the office and swapping her digital marketing career at Google for a life as a travel creator, Catarina has grown her audience to over 800k followers across platforms.

Why: “Ninh Binh has been named one of the most underrated destinations in Asia, and it’s often referred to as one of the most beautiful hidden gems on the Asian continent,” says Catarina Mello. “It’s rising in popularity on social media, so it won’t stay a hidden gem for too long. Go while it still offers a very authentic Northern Vietnam experience.”

A fun fact: The 2016 movie Kong: Skull Island was filmed in the province of Ninh Binh. What Mello loves about this area: “Only two hours away from the busy capital city, Hanoi, Ninh Binh is an authentic and fascinating place known for its giant limestone karst mountains, lush valleys, miles and miles of rice fields and winding rivers,” she says. “It’s so beautiful you’ll immediately fall in love with it.”

Travelers spend their days biking through rice fields, hiking limestone mountains for incredible views, visiting pagodas and cruising along the scenic countryside and through caves on a local rowing boat. “In Ninh Binh, the cliffs emerge from the valleys covered in rice fields and rivers—and for that reason, the province has the nickname of ‘Ha Long Bay on Land,’” says Mello. “It’s truly magical.”

Where to stay? “Tam Coc Garden Resort is in an idyllic setting, surrounded by limestone peaks and lush rice fields,” says Mello. “The hotel gardens are beautiful, the swimming pool has magnificent views, and the rooms and villas are full of charm. Not to mention the outstanding service—there’s nothing they can’t arrange or do for guests.

Be sure not to miss Ninh Binh’s special cuisine: mountain goat meat. “The most famous dishes include goat soup, grilled goat meat with five spices and steamed goat meat with ginger,” says Mello.

Where to Go: Rajasthan, India

Chosen By: Alyssa Ramos is the founder of My Life’s a Movie and a solo female travel blogger, content creator, entrepreneur and social media influencer who travels the world full-time and seeks to showcase unique destinations through her unique photography style and honest, detailed travel tips. Her motto is “Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do.”

Why: “In two words, I would describe India as ‘beautiful chaos,’” says Alyssa Ramos. “I put India back on my travel to-go list this year after years of it being closed due to the pandemic, and after my recent trip, I was even more impressed than ever.”

As a solo female traveler, Ramos says she has never felt safer in India and loves visiting places like Delhi’s Kahn Market (“you can find upscale shops and a lot of cute restaurants and bars”) and the Andaman Islands (“one of my top secret gem locations”).

But for 2023, Rajasthan tops Ramos’s India list. “It has beautiful architecture, palaces, a huge fort, tons of market shopping and, of course, delicious food,” says Ramos. “Be sure to stop by The Tattoo Cafe & Lounge, where the most famous photo of the Wind Palace can be taken, and say ‘hi’ to the owners Juhi and Karan for me. Order something to support your cafe, or even better, get a tattoo—like I did.”

The big news in Rajasthan is Jaipur’s Villa Palladio. The colorful high-design hotel set on a gracious country estate is from the same folks behind the city’s legendary Caffé Palladio and Bar Palladio. Another exciting opening: Johri & Sons, a buzzing cocktail bar created in collaboration with gin brand Stranger & Sons and boutique hotel The Johri at Lal Haveli. On the outskirts of town is the newly opened 3,765-acre Amagarh Leopard Reserve, where you can spot 16 leopards, 250 species of birds, hyenas, foxes and more.

Ramos also loves the classic hotels like Udaipur’s Taj Lake Palace (“a former summer palace floating in the middle of a lake”) and Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace (“the royal family of Jodhpur lives in a wing there”). “If you want to feel like royalty, you have to stay at one of these properties,” she says.

Best Places to Travel in 2023: Caribbean, Central and South America

Where to Go: Manizales, Colombia

Chosen By: A digital nomad from Toronto, Peggy Bree lives in Colombia with her malti-poo, Chilli, and is growing her bespoke creative outlet, blank room. Follow her Instagram for her faith, digital nomad and brand/business life.

Why: Cartagena, Bogota and Medellin have had their moments in the spotlight. Now trending for 2023: Manizales, a quiet central Colombia town that is known as the “City of Open Doors,” thanks to its welcoming residents.

“Manizales is the place to go that is off the beaten track,” says Peggy Bree. “If I had to describe Manizales in one word, it would be ‘epic.’”

Surrounded by the massive volcanoes of Los Nevados National Park, Manizales is located in the Andes coffee-growing region. It’s got coffee plantations to visit, hot springs to soak in and a cloud forest to explore. “It’s a side of Colombia that is a bit more unique and wild,” says Bree. “I’ve never seen as much greenery—including large waterfalls surrounded by bamboo trees.”

The place to stay: Attraversiamo, a bamboo boutique hotel (see Bree’s video here). “It was inspired by Bali, which the scenery in Manizales matched,” says Bree. “It’s the perfect place to read a book, study and journal.”

Where to Go: Grenada

Chosen By: Nneya Richards is a speaker and travel blogger at ’N A Perfect World, a curated intersection of travel, food, fashion and geopolitics inspired by the global-citizen lifestyle of the millennial. Richards aims to empower young people, especially those of color, to travel, as she believes it is through exploring the world that we will bridge cultural gaps and misunderstandings.

Why: Grenada, known as the Spice Isle of the Caribbean, offers world-class beaches, picturesque waterfalls and plenty of news for 2023. “Grenadians have kept their beautiful green isle a hidden gem. But I understand—it’s paradise,” says Nneya Richards.

It’s now easier to get to Grenada than ever. “With Jet Blue offering more direct flights to Grenada, you can expand your Caribbean horizons,” says Richards.

This year’s hotel openings include Six Senses at La Sagesse, which will mark the brand’s debut resort in the Caribbean. With its dedication to sustainability, the resort will have a variety of indoor and outdoor restaurants and bars using fresh ingredients grown nearby and seafood from local fishermen. The soon-to-open Beach House by Silversands Grenada is a small luxury boutique hotel with one-bedroom villas and two-bedroom suites on the cliff or overlooking Portici Beach.

Richards is also excited about Sandals Grenada on exclusive Pink Gin Beach. “Think: pools in the sky and living rooms in swimming pools. Private plunge pools, cascading waterfalls and meandering river pools and butler service,” she says. “Speaking of waterfalls, a trip to the island is not complete without a waterfall hike.”

Grenada is also home to some of the best chocolate in the world. “When you go to a chocolate factory in Grenada, you can pick the cacao pod off the tree,” says Richards. “That’s just a tip of the iceberg with how well you’ll eat when you’re in Grenada.”

Where to Go: Caribbean Coast, Costa Rica

Chosen By: Laura Begley Bloom, travel expert and author of this column.

Why: The ultimate destination for the eco-traveler looking for a one-of-a-kind trip with a low environmental impact in 2023? Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast.

This less discovered coast is getting a lot of buzz, thanks to its mix of culture and wildlife—without the crowds. It’s the ultimate destination for travelers who are seeking a one-of-a-kind trip with a low environmental impact where eco-lodges, rainforest bungalows and boutique hotels are as easy to find as sloths.

Culture seekers will love the small beach town of Limon, which has become ground zero for travelers in search of snorkeling, surfing and Afro-Caribbean music. Or for a uniquely immersive experience, travelers can stay with the Bri Bri—Costa Rica’s largest indigenous community—in the Talamanca, and discover more about their history and traditions.

When it comes to beaches, must-visit spots include Playa Punta Uva, Puerto Viejo, Playa Cahuita, Playa Cocles and Manzanillo. The coast is also home to a number of national parks that showcase a commitment to conservation, including Tortuguero National Park (a nesting site for green turtles), Cahuita National Park (home to sloths and monkeys), Gandoca-Manzanillo Natural Wildlife Refuge (which is home to natural mangrove oyster beds) and Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge (the second largest rain forest preserve in the country).

Best Places to Travel in 2023: Canada

Where to Go: Edmonton, Alberta

Chosen By: Kelsey Marie, content creator and writer at Travel Noire.

Why: Edmonton is a vibrant urban center in the heart of the wilderness—the largest northernmost metropolis and the capital of Alberta, Canada. Visitors can discover 18 hours of daylight during the summer and castles made of icicles during the winter. When it comes to Edmonton’s culinary scene, there is always something new to be discovered—from experiencing the cool and creative Chinese fusion at Fu’s Repair Shop to the finest prairie cuisine at RGE RD.

“I had one of the most amazing meals at RGE RD. From the decor to the plating, this place is phenomenal,” says Kelsey Marie. “Another must-try at RGE RD: the Road Trip. Your tastebuds will embark on a journey, and you won’t know what’s coming next on this blind-tasting multi-course adventure.”

Edmonton’s craft beer scene has also been exploding. Visitors can explore the new unofficial brewery district, Happy Beer Street, which features seven craft breweries like The Monolith, offering mixed-fermentation beers that take a few years to brew. Happy Beer Street continues to grow with the eighth brewery, Ale Architect, opening April 2023.

Many Indigenous groups reside in Amiskwaciy Waskahikan, also known as Edmonton, and the history of the land is long and vibrant. Visitors can discover Indigenous experiences in and around the city, including art at Whiskeyjack Art House, Bearclaw Gallery and the Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton Park. And don’t miss Elk Island National Park. “On a snowshoe adventure with Talking Rock Tours, you’ll learn about indigenous culture and surrounding wildlife and have a chance to become one with nature,” says Marie.

Where to Go: Victoria, British Columbia

Chosen By: Corinne Whiting is a Seattle-based writer contributing to outlets like USA Today 10Best, Seattle Times, Seattle Refined and more.

Why: “One of the unexpected joys of living in the Pacific Northwest turned out to be frequent jaunts to charming Victoria,” says Corinne Whiting. “I love the ease of this compact, walkable city and each visit I seem to discover brand-new treasures.”

In 2023, sustainability and respecting and acknowledging local First Nations are at the forefront. Learn about the Songhees Nation at the Songhees Wellness Centre—where people and traditions come to meet—then venture out in a cultural canoe or walking tour departing from the Inner Harbour.

With its impressive natural landscapes, Victoria also takes “green” to another level as an international leader in environmental initiatives. Just recently, Greater Victoria achieved Biosphere certification, marking a major milestone for the destination. Travelers to Victoria can see additional sustainable efforts in action, whether it’s booking a stay at a carbon neutral hotel like Inn at Laurel Point or Parkside Hotel, dining at Big Wheel Burger (Canada’s first carbon-neutral fast-food restaurant) or seeing the iconic Orca Whales with a carbon neutral and ocean-friendly tour operator like Orca Spirit or Eagle Wing Tours.

In June 2023, Fairmont Empress will unveil a multi-million dollar transformation to its signature Fairmont Gold level (the brand’s exclusive lifestyle hotel experience). The renovated Fairmont Gold will feature the addition of 22 guest rooms and a newly renovated Fairmont Gold Lounge, complete with an expanded indoor lounge and outdoor terrace that provides sweeping water views.

For Whiting, other Victoria highlights include First Nations-led tours and kayaking excursions, as well as magical biking adventures peppered with delicious snacks and pints along the way. “And of course it doesn’t hurt that Canadians are some of the nicest folks around, too,” she says.

Best Places to Travel in 2023: Africa and the Middle East

Where to Go: Namibia

Chosen By: Melissa Klurman is a travel expert and contributor at Reader’s Digest, The Points Guy and Travel Awaits.

Why: “The rolling red sand dunes and remote Skeleton Coast landscapes of Namibia have long been on my Africa bucket list,” says Melissa Klurman, a travel writer and African travel expert who’s been covering the continent for two decades. “This is the year I finally was able to fully immerse in the wonders of Namibia, and it was well worth the wait,” she says.

What made 2023 the perfect time to visit? “Natural Selection, a safari company that runs stellar, eco-friendly lodges such as the fabulous Shipwreck Lodge, added a flying safari to reach their camps for the first time,” says Klurman, adding, “this is a true game changer for visiting the visually stunning, and very isolated, desert regions of the country.”

While flying safaris are the norm, and quite necessary, in other safari areas of Africa, such as Botswana, in Namibia driving has been the most popular way of getting around. Being able to fly, instead of drive, says Klurman, made all the difference in her itinerary and makes the under-the-radar safari destination much more accessible for travelers. “I was able to visit Etosha Heights in the northern reaches of the country to see wildlife such as elephant, lion, and giraffe, and then fly to the wildly remote Skeleton Coast Shipwreck Lodge, where life seems all but impossible in the massive sand dunes,” says Klurman. “For the rest of the Natural Selection itinerary, a private pilot flew my group to what is now my new favorite lodge anywhere, Hoanib Valley, comprised of just six tents in what feels like another planet, and then on to the Dark Sky Reserve of Kwessi Dunes all the way in the southern NamibRand.”

An itinerary like this could take 13 days driving, but with help from the travel specialists at Audley Travel who helped Klurman plan her itinerary, “Flying, I was able to do the entire thing in half that time,” says Klurman.

Where to Go: Oman

Chosen By: Brazil-born, San Francisco-based Catarina Mello (@professionaltraveler) is an award-winning luxury travel content creator, photographer, entrepreneur and online educator. Since escaping the office and swapping her digital marketing career at Google for a life as a travel creator, Catarina has grown her audience to over 800k followers across platforms.

Why: “If I had to bet on a destination skyrocketing in popularity in the coming years, I’d pick Oman,” says Catarina Mello. “I’ve been to 57 countries, and to say that Oman is the most underrated country I’ve ever been to is an understatement. Oman is beautiful in every way. The landscapes are spectacular and so diverse: from pristine turquoise beaches with incredible underwater life to beautiful canyons, mountains, wadis that will take your breath away, a glowing orange desert with giant sand dunes and much more.”

There are castles straight out of a fairytale book, stunning mosques, charming mountain villages, souks and markets with local treasures. “Not to mention the rich culture, the cuisine and kindest and most welcoming people you’ll ever meet traveling,” says Mello.

The best part? “It’s an extremely safe, welcoming, and relatively small country, making it easy to explore all its different landscapes by car,” says Mello. “It’s the perfect road trip destination.”

Oman has a lot to offer, but Mello’s favorite places include the Daymaniyat Islands right outside of Muscat, Wadi Shab, Bimmah Sinkhole, Sultan Qaabos Grand Mosque, Wahiba Sands desert, Nizwa Fort and Jabreen Castle.

Best Places to Travel in 2023: Oceania

Where to go: Tasmania

Chosen by: Chloe Sachdev is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She has lived all over the world—from Singapore and London to Hong Kong—and now calls Sydney’s Bondi Beach home. Her stories appear in print and online for a range of international publications such as Conde Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure, The Telegraph, The Times and more.

Why: “Tasmania is wild and untouched with a landscape of wind-battered mountains that tumble into a frothy blue ocean, with a world-renowned food and drinks scene steered by this provenance,” says Chloe Sachdev.

A great example of Tasmania’s food scene is found in the heart of Hobart at Omotenashi. “It’s a set-menu experience, with just 12 seats, that riffs on the Japanese omakase experience but showcases Tasmania’s best produce,” says Sachdev. Another must-visit: Institut Polaire, a wine bar and kitchen dedicated to Tasmania’s cold climate biodynamic and natural wines with a seasonal food menu from local growers, fishers and farmers. “They’ve recently opened The Polaire Suite, a sleek one-bedroom short-stay apartment at Hobart’s waterfront precinct,” says Sachdev.

On the east coast in an old oyster hatch is the newly opened Waubs Harbour Distillery in Bicheno. “It’s the world’s closest distillery to the ocean, producing a unique maritime Tasmanian single malt whisky,” says Sachdev. “If you can, time your visit during The Great Eastern Wine Week festival in September, a 10-day food and drinks festival showcasing the best of the best from the east coast region.”

Tasmania has always been known for its epic beauty, best explored by foot on a myriad of overland multi-day walks such as the Wukalina Walk, a four-day/three-night First-Nations owned and operated guided walk. “For something shorter but with the same Indigenous significance, there is also Blak-led tours, a tourism company based on Tasmanian Aboriginal stories through guided tours and story-telling projects across Tasmania,” says Sachdev.

Beyond the landscape, Tasmania has a thrilling creative scene, thanks to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart. “Although it opened a decade ago, it still pushes the boundaries; the effect can be seen in its Dark Mofo festival held annually in June for two weeks with bonkers public art, live music, performances, and nocturnal revelry around the city of Hobart,” says Sachdev.

There is no shortage of stays in Tasmania, from thoughtfully curated seaside shacks to shipping containers and luxury lodges. “A recent discovery of mine is Kittawa Lodge on King Island off the northwest coast of Tasmania,” says Sachdev. “It’s a chic boutique lodge on the edge of the wilderness. They’ve recently partnered with The Tasman hotel in Hobart, putting together an itinerary for guests to take in the cultural highlights of Hobart, before transferring to King Island.”

Where to Go: Northern Territory, Australia

Chosen By: Jen Rose Smith, a journalist who freelances for CNN, Virtuoso and National Geographic.

Why: With Australia’s borders open to international travelers since February, visitors have begun to flock back to the land Down Under. For those looking for an off-the-beaten-track outdoor adventure destination, there’s the Northern Territory. With its outback desert landscapes, hidden swimming holes, colorful outdoor markets, Aboriginal rock art, camel rides, traditional art galleries and spectacular Uluru in the red center, the Northern Territory is unlike any other place on earth.

“Visiting the Northern Territory overturned every idea I had about Australia—it’s a mind-expanding encounter with cultures dating back tens of thousands of years,” says Jen Rose Smith.

New for 2023, visitors can experience iconic Uluru in a new light with a state-of-the-art drone and laser light show that will illuminate the desert sky with over 1,000 drones dancing and weaving in a kaleidoscope of color. Called Wintjiri Wiru, the show tells the Mala story, which is sacred to the Anangu Community and traditional owners of Uluru. “Indigenous traditions and creativity are woven into every part of the landscape,” says Smith.

Additionally, world-renowned artist Bruce Munro is launching a new illuminated art piece called Light Towers at Kings Canyon Resort near Watarrka National Park.

Also new to the area: Finniss River Lodge, Australia’s latest experiential lodge near Darwin in the Northern Territory. The lodge has only six suites and offers activities like air boating, fishing and heli-guides, plus a restaurant with dishes made from local produce.

“Everything I encountered left me wanting more,” says Smith. “The landscape goes from red-rock desert to lush, tropical floodplains where I spotted crocodiles, wallabies, and dozens of bird species—it’s constantly changing. This is a place to really slow down, listen and take in some truly remarkable places.”

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