The 18 best places to travel in 2023
For many people, this year marked the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that travel was back within reach. It was a year defined by joyous reunions — reconnecting with friends and family in person, rediscovering favorite destinations and taking stock of this new, changed world.
It was also a year of novel travel challenges. As demand soared, so, too, did prices. We returned to the roads and skies to find a travel industry that could barely keep up with our ravenous appetite to explore the globe.
But somehow, our love of travel has endured, our wanderlust is just as insatiable as ever and destinations around the world are beckoning us to visit.
That’s why we’re thrilled to share the destinations on our list of the best places to go in 2023. And this year, we’ve not only tapped our editorial team to contribute their tips and insights but also our extraordinary network of writers from around the world.
As always, we looked at exciting new hotel openings and boundary-pushing flights, plus the places that embody the travel trends and philosophies we see taking shape in 2023 and beyond: The destinations prioritizing sustainability, focusing on Indigenous and community-based tourism and encouraging travelers to venture beyond the obvious gateway or itinerary.
We also saw a proliferation of innovative new ways for travelers to use their points and miles to experience the world, including exciting ultra-long-haul flights where miles will come in handy and hotels in destinations that previously might have been absent from most reward travelers’ maps.
As we head into 2023, get excited (we are!) about embarking on unforgettable journeys to new corners of the globe, prepare to take a second look at places you already thought you knew and connect more personally with the people who call them home along the way. We hope this list of places to visit rekindles your passion for travel and look forward to exploring this wonderful, awe-inspiring planet with you. —By Eric Rosen and Melanie Lieberman
Aotearoa-New Zealand: The future of inclusive travel
Best for sustainability-focused outdoor adventurers and sports enthusiasts.
Laid-back beach towns, award-winning wine, genuine hospitality and outdoor adventure aren’t the only reasons why you should put Aotearoa-New Zealand at the top of your 2023 travel list.
Although the country’s commitment to sustainability has long, deep roots (more than 33% of its land is protected), New Zealand’s tourism industry launched the Tiaki Promise, a sustainability pledge, just prior to the pandemic. The Maori word “Tiaki” means to care for people and places, so the aim of this pledge is to avoid overtourism and encourage visitors to explore lesser-known destinations.
One way to do so is to seek new Maori cultural encounters and experiences, such as a traditional hangi feast in Rotorua, which is prepared in underground pits, after a visit to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Or, take an interpretive storytelling trek up Maunga Hikurangi on the North Island’s east coast. If you’re there in June or July, you can celebrate the Maori New Year, Matariki, which is based on the lunar calendar and became an official public holiday in 2022.
Next year, New Zealand will also co-host the largest FIFA Women’s World Cup ever along with Australia. Matches will be played on both the North and South islands. Along with other large sporting events like the Women’s Rugby World Cup, it’s a clear example of the nation’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion as international visitors return.
A handful of new hotels have opened recently, too, such as the art-filled Park Hyatt Auckland, the environmentally friendly Hotel Britomart in Auckland’s central business district and, on the South Island, The Carlin Hotel in Queenstown, which overlooks the Eyre and Remarkables mountain ranges surrounding Lake Wakatipu.
Getting to the country from the U.S. is even easier now with Air New Zealand’s new nonstop flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Auckland Airport (AKL) and Qantas’ launch of the same route starting in March 2023.
TPG tip: If you’re staying in Tamaki Makaurau, the Maori name for Auckland, explore one of the towns or nearby islands in the harbor. The ferry ride to Devonport takes 15 minutes, while Waiheke Island is only 40 minutes away by ferry. The latter has fabulous beaches and wineries to explore using a hop-on, hop-off bus. —By Becky Blaine
Orlando: Easy fun with classic experiences
Best for roller coaster riders, of course, but also space geeks and culture freaks.
Whether you want to feel like you’re in outer space, watch an actual rocket lift off or catch a concert in one of the world’s best theaters, Orlando is the destination to visit in Florida — and 2023 is going to be a banner year for the city.
Many travelers come for the world-class theme parks, but Orlando is undergoing a travel renaissance that includes a just-opened terminal at Orlando International Airport (MCO) and 170 miles of railway that will connect the high-speed Brightline train from Orlando to Miami by mid-2023.
But don’t hop the train too fast. Book tickets to a concert at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts’ Steinmetz Hall, which opened in 2022 and is rated as one of the world’s most acoustically perfect spaces. An urban pocket park downtown called Art2 is also elevating this area of Orlando with can’t-miss experiences, including performances and food trucks.
Cape Canaveral, an hour east on the coast, is also now home to Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex, a 50,000-square-foot, multilevel addition to the Kennedy Space Center that’s full of interactive exhibits. And that’s to say nothing of the full lineup of planned rocket launches travelers can check out over the course of 2023.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to visit the theme parks, especially to catch the final months of Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebration, which includes a reimagining of Epcot with that park’s first-ever roller coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and the spring 2023 debut of Tron: Lightcycle Run in the Magic Kingdom.
Disney World is also home to the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, a “Star Wars”-themed journey unlike any other. The immersive, interactive two-night hotel experience (ahem, space mission) opened in early 2022.
Walt Disney World Resort isn’t the only theme park behemoth elevating the park experience in 2023. Universal Studios Florida opened the thrilling VelociCoaster ride just last year, and it’s keeping the excitement up with an all-new theme park, Epic Universe, already under construction. It will deliver new rides, themed lands, hotels and restaurants.
TPG tip: If you are one of the millions of travelers who rent a car in Orlando each year, there is a new 7-Eleven on the airport property where you can refill your tank at retail prices and make a pit stop to grab snacks for your journey. —By Summer Hull
Oslo: Europe’s coolest art capital
Best for art and design lovers seeking new city-shaping museums and hotels.
Norway continues to claim the attention of travelers, but in 2023, all eyes are on the capital city, which is finally ready to flaunt its latest investments in the arts and hospitality.
Across from the white, angular slashes of the opera house’s Carrara marble ramps and staircases is the curving 13-story tower housing the new Munch Museum, which opened in 2021. Even more imposing is the sprawling new National Museum, now one of Europe’s largest art museums, which houses works from Edvard Munch’s iconic “The Scream” to masterpieces from European artists like Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse.
This fall also saw the debut of Sommerro, an art deco hotel packed with contemporary art collections curated by museum director and art critic Sune Nordgren, along with 1930s works by Norwegian master Peter Krogh — including a mosaic feature in the restored public baths, which opened in November. There’s more to come from the boutique hotel and cultural center next year, including the addition of Villa Inkognito, an 11-suite retreat in a former 19th-century residence.
You can even bookend your trip to Oslo by venturing farther south to Kristiansand, where Kunstsilo, a modernist Nordic art museum, will debut next year inside an award-winning functionalist silo from the 1930s.
TPG tip: It’s never been easier to explore beyond Oslo thanks to a flurry of new flights and cruises. Low-cost carrier Norse Atlantic (which began operating in 2022) continues expanding its reach in the U.S. by offering a number of promising nonstop routes, including one between London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) that’s coming next year. Norwegian airline Widerøe is connecting Bergen to four new European cities next summer as well. For those interested in heading north, Norway’s oldest cruise company, Hurtigruten, is restarting the Svalbard Express next year, while Viking and Disney have announced new itineraries to the remote Arctic region. —By Melanie Lieberman
Jordan: Connections by air, land and sea
Best for travelers who want a taste of the ancient world at the heart of the modern Middle East.
Home to some of the world’s oldest pieces of history, Jordan is on many travelers’ bucket lists, especially now that there are several new additions on the way. In 2023, this Middle Eastern country is channeling its renowned hospitality to welcome travelers via new flights and a host of new hotels and experiences.
In the capital city of Amman, The Ritz-Carlton is the latest luxury hotel to join the gaggle of points-friendly properties near the city’s 5th Circle landmark. Lavish white interiors and crystal chandeliers bedazzle the new hotel, which has 194 rooms and 34 suites with floor-to-ceiling views of the capital’s sand-hued buildings. Next summer, Radisson will pump up its Middle East portfolio with Radisson Blu Hotel, Amman Galleria Mall. And across the red sand desert, the Crowne Plaza Resort Petra will reopen after a 10-year renovation and expansion.
Northwest of Amman, the former ancient trading town of Al-Salt became Jordan’s sixth and latest UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its reputation as “the city of tolerance and urban hospitality.” History and design fans can explore touches of European architecture alongside the city’s distinct yellow limestone facades. This city is also a new stop on the Jordan Trail’s Thru Hike. Launched in 2017, the trail offers the chance to spend 40 days hiking through eight regions that, together, traverse the entire country. Originally connecting 52 villages, it’s recently been upped to 75 different communities.
Nearly 75% of Jordan is covered in pomegranate-hued sand, but head south and the watercolor greens and blues of the Red Sea emerge. Here, cruising is making waves in a country renowned for its mystical desert landscapes. Emerald Cruises recently debuted its first oceangoing yacht the Emerald Azzurra, which sails from the famed seaside city of Aqaba to Athens, Greece. Next year, Windstar Cruises is following suit by launching new itineraries from Amman to Athens and Athens to Dubai, with a stop at Aqaba.
TPG tip: Hopping on a flight to Jordan from select North American cities has just gotten easier. United has launched its first-ever direct flight from Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport (AMM), which departs three times per week. Last summer, Royal Jordanian Airlines, a Oneworld member, also launched a new route from Amman to Toronto via Montreal, and it will be increasing frequencies to Chicago, Detroit, Montreal and New York in the spring and summer of 2023. —By Katie Lockhart
American waterways: Rediscovering our backyard
Best for travelers craving a nostalgic way to see America’s small towns.
There’s something charming about life along the water — and we’re not talking about the swanky condos overlooking Miami Beach or Malibu, California’s Billionaires Beach. Think instead of historical small towns like Natchez, Mississippi, and Muskegon, Michigan, as well as industrial cities like Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Chicago, which have long relied on the nation’s waterways.
American lakes and rivers remain key commercial arteries, but the cruise industry has turned them into some of the world’s top leisure destinations as well thanks to a slate of new, offbeat itineraries that are only going to draw more passengers in the coming years.
Although Great Lakes and U.S. river cruises have been around for more than a century, 2023 could be one of the best years yet to sail domestically thanks to lines like American Queen Voyages, American Cruise Lines, Ponant, Viking and Pearl Seas Cruises, which are adding more capacity and itineraries along the Mississippi, Ohio, Columbia and Snake rivers; the Great Lakes; and the Chesapeake Bay.
Viking’s new expedition arm rolled out its first two ships, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, which both spent time sailing the Great Lakes in 2022. Next year, travelers can look forward to two new vessels, American Eagle and American Glory, from American Cruise Lines, too. The ships will debut along the East Coast and sail exclusively domestic itineraries, while the line will also roll out the longest river voyages to date: 23-day sailings on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
If you book a domestic cruise, you’ll see unexpected sides to major cities like Cincinnati, where the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center provides a sobering experience, as well as Detroit, which is a staple on many Great Lakes voyages, and New Orleans along the Mississippi. You might also visit towns such as Madison, Indiana, home to stately houses and a historical saddletree museum, that you might not have heard of otherwise. With more itineraries rolling out over time, there will be plenty more destinations to discover along America’s waterways.
TPG tip: If you’re looking to engage your competitive spirit, book American Queen Voyages’ Kentucky Derby Cruise on American Countess. During the sailing on May 3, 2023, the boat will go head-to-head against two other vessels in Louisville, Kentucky’s Great Steamboat Race, part of the annual Kentucky Derby Festival. —By Ashley Kosciolek
Los Angeles: In-person events are the hottest ticket in town
Best for travelers seeking a new side to the City of Angels.
Events for sports enthusiasts and tech acolytes will draw big crowds to Los Angeles next year.
In January, the College Football Playoff National Championship will kick off at SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, and the 123rd U.S. Open Championship golf tournament will be held at the Los Angeles Country Club in June. A third major event, the 40th Annual Breeders’ Cup horse racing world championship, will gallop out of the gate at Santa Anita Park in November. The venue sits across the street from the still-new Le Méridien Pasadena Arcadia.
You’ll also want to get your virtual reality headset ready, because E3 is getting back in the game, live and in person this June at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The video game industry’s biggest annual event was held virtually in 2021 and canceled outright in 2022.
It will at long last be easier to get around Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), too. After three years of construction, the Automated People Mover at LAX will finally open, connecting all terminals, the Metro Rail and a new rental car center. This state-of-the-art train will reduce travel time both to and within the airport.
Even frequent visitors will find exciting new places to bed down in LA since eight major hotels opened in 2022, including the Hyatt-branded tommie Hollywood, The Shay in Culver City and the adjoining Hyatt Place and Hyatt House LAX/Century Blvd. Two Marriott hotels — a Moxy and an AC — debuted downtown in the 38-story Fig + Pico tower, which sits across from the convention center and Crypto.com Arena. A few blocks away, a $1 billion, Frank Gehry-designed mixed-use development called The Grand LA also opened. Here, you’ll find Hilton’s splashy Conrad Los Angeles and four new restaurants from chef José Andres.
Also new downtown is the Sixth Street Viaduct, a 3,500-foot-long bridge with an accompanying 12-acre park with walking and bike trails. Spanning the Los Angeles River, this bridge connects downtown’s Arts District with the Mexican food hot spot, Boyle Heights.
TPG tip: The Los Angeles Dodgers are considered the early-odds baseball team to beat in the 2023 World Series, so we recommend keeping an eye out for autumn points deals at downtown LA hotels near Dodger Stadium. —By Melanie Wynne
South Africa: More flights to wildlife sites
Best for nature lovers dreaming of visiting the Rainbow Nation.
South Africa has a wealth of natural and cultural riches that travelers never tire of exploring, from the Big 5 of safari lore (elephants, lions, leopards, hippos and buffaloes) to the historic steps of Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom.” One thing the country has been lacking, however, is direct flights to both Cape Town and Johannesburg via multiple U.S. carriers.
In mid-December, Delta will commence a triangle service, flying the Airbus A350 from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo International Airport (JNB) and then on to Cape Town International Airport (CPT) with a nonstop return from there. And through a special arrangement with the Department of Transportation, United is now offering nonstop flights between Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Cape Town International Airport (CPT) using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. This is in addition to its nonstop services from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to both Cape Town International Airport (CPT) and Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB).
When they arrive, travelers will find new safari lodges opening next year in some of the best wildlife-viewing destinations. The Tswalu concession in the southern Kalahari Desert is South Africa’s largest private reserve — and it’s less than two hours away by plane from both Cape Town and Johannesburg. There are few lodges here, though, so the new Loapi Tented Camp opening in 2023 is truly notable. With just six modern, eco-friendly tented micro-camps that are perfect for privacy, it will feel like you have the remote savannah all to yourself as you head out on private ranger-led safari drives to spot African wild dogs and desert black rhinos.
Also set to open in 2023 is The Homestead, a sustainability-focused luxury lodge in the secluded Nambiti Private Game Reserve. Nestled into the mountains of malaria-free KwaZulu-Natal, the lodge is around a three-hour drive from either Johannesburg or Durban. In addition to a dozen sleek safari suites with expansive wilderness views and butler service, expect electric safari vehicles for game drives and innovative energy-saving touches as part of the lodge’s larger conservation efforts, such as grass-planted roofs and a solar farm.
TPG tip: Plan a trip around South Africa’s epic music festivals, including Johannesburg’s Afropunk Festival on Constitution Hill, the seat of the country’s lawmakers, in December. In March, the largest music festival in sub-Saharan Africa (the Cape Town International Jazz Festival) takes center stage. And AfrikaBurn, South Africa’s answer to Burning Man, sets up on the Eastern Cape in April. —By Melissa Klurman
Rome: The Eternal City shines anew
Best for history buffs and hotel enthusiasts itching to discover ancient ruins amidst modern luxury.
In 2023, Rome’s full historical heritage will be front and center for visitors to enjoy.
A project to open the Sacred Area of Largo di Torre Argentina (where Julius Caesar was assassinated) via a series of elevated walkways is slated for completion next summer. The archaeological site near the Pantheon was unearthed in the 1920s but has been inaccessible for decades. It joins The Mausoleum of Augustus, which reopened in 2021 following an 8 million euro ($8.2 million) restoration, as one of the ancient sites newly accessible to visitors.
Additionally, the Museo dell’Arte Salvata (the Museum for Rescued Art) opened in 2022. Here, precious antiquities that were returned to Italy after being plundered from archaeological sites and trafficked on the black market to auction houses, private collections and even institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are on display. The exhibits will change, but you might see sculptures, ancient coins or even an amphora painted with erotic scenes that dates back to the sixth century B.C.
But there are new, modern developments luring luxury travelers back to Rome, too.
The arrival of international brands like W, Soho House, The Hoxton and Mama Shelter, plus boutique hotels like The First Musica and Umiltà 36 have heralded a contemporary hotel boom. Next year’s openings will up the ante even more, with arrivals by Six Senses, Edition, Bulgari and Nobu, as well as a renovation of the 19th-century Palazzo Naiadi, a neoclassical landmark on Piazza Della Repubblica, by Anantara.
Rome will also see increased airlift from the U.S., with three daily seasonal flights (up from two) on Delta from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport (FCO) and a new daily seasonal route from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Fiumicino Airport (FCO) on United, both of which will launch on May 25.
TPG tip: The best way to explore the Eternal City is on two wheels. Just in time for the 2023 season, Scooteroma is revamping its popular Street Art Vespa Tour and debuting a brand-new experience focused on the city’s oft-overlooked early 20th-century art and architecture, such as the iconic Vittoriano Emmanuel II National Monument in Piazza Venezia. —By Laura Itzkowitz
Bangkok: Setting the table for an epic comeback
Best for passionate foodies and arts aficionados.
For the last few years, Bangkok has been quietly setting the stage for a monumental rebound once the travel floodgates reopened and international tourists returned en masse.
On the Chao Phraya riverfront, a luxury hotel revival led by Capella and Four Seasons outposts has been underway since 2020. Both properties house destination restaurants, including soulful Thai at Capella’s Phra Nakhon and the swanky Buenos Aires-themed BKK Social Club at the Four Seasons. This summer, Hong Kong’s Mott 32, plus five other dining outlets, arrived at The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon around the corner. Early next year, Southeast Asia’s first Soho House opens in Bangkok with multiple bars and restaurants (plus a 39-foot outdoor pool), and an Aman will follow in the coming years.
Hotels aren’t the only places for tourists to experience the energy of Bangkok’s evolving culinary scene. Innovators all across the city are transforming it into the world’s next great food destination. Just this year, a former monk opened Small Dinner Club, which serves offbeat dishes like dessert tom yum, while mixologists at Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar craft boozy, zero-waste concoctions starring an individual element like coconut or squid.
The 2023 Michelin Bangkok guide features 35 starred restaurants (five more than last year). Additionally, both Samrub Samrub Thai and Raan Jay Fai ranked on the World’s 100 Best Restaurants list in 2022. Buzz is gathering around watering holes like No Name Noodle, which opened in 2022 and serves just 35 bowls of Japanese soba per day, and chef Arnaud Dunand Sauthier’s just-opened, alpine-inspired restaurant Maison Dunand as well.
Bangkok’s art scene is also reawakening. Just before the pandemic, 31-year-old Mook Attakanwong founded ATT 19, an exhibition space in a former Chinese school where works broach once-taboo topics like mental health. At Aurum The River Place, exhibits range from street art to a subway car installation.
Airlines are putting flights to Thailand back on their schedules, too. Air Canada’s seasonal route from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Bangkok running through March 24 is the first nonstop from North America in more than a decade. Just don’t forget to make those restaurant reservations first.
TPG tip: Spend a few days hiking through tropical, UNESCO-listed Khao Yai National Park and stay in a Bill Bensley-designed heritage train car suite at the brand-new InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, which is located just a 2.5-hour drive away from Bangkok. —By Kathryn Romeyn
Panama: Leading the way with homegrown tourism
Best for adventure seekers looking to explore an untouched paradise.
Panama might be best known for its famous canal, but in 2023, all that changes for the Central American country, as previously untouched areas become more accessible to travelers. The country is a hotbed of biodiversity and an eclectic blend of cultures unlike any other in the region. Now, it’s easier than ever to experience it all.
Launched in August 2022, Panama’s community tourism network, SOSTUR, is a digital platform connecting travelers with rural communities and local tourism businesses. Travelers planning a visit for 2023 can select tours across 10 pilot communities in remote corners of the country. Experiences range from agritourism farm visits to sloth watching in the jungle.
Hikers will love exploring the pristine southern coast of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, which is brimming with tropical flora and fauna, natural caves and hidden beaches. Next year, the tour operator Azuero Adventures — based in the rural village of Cambutal — is introducing its Cerro Hoya Mountain Expedition, a six-day adventure that includes a three-day camping tour in Cerro Hoya National Park, home to some of the last areas of primary jungle on the peninsula.
Bookend your trip with a few days in the capital and a stay at the stylish new Hotel La Compañia, part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection. Also in the city’s Casco Antiguo colonial district is the new Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo, an Accor-affiliated property slated to open before the end of the year. It has a desirable location on the water’s edge and unobstructed city skyline and Pacific views.
Since Delta launched three new routes from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Orlando International Airport (MCO) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport (PTY) late last year, it has gotten that much easier for many flyers to visit Panama.
TPG tip: If you’re flying to Panama on Copa Airlines, the nation’s flag carrier, consider upgrading to see the new Copa Club lounge in Tocumen International Airport (PTY)’s new Terminal 2. It’s a sprawling 21,500-square-foot space with buffet-style dining, leather loungers, a dedicated family entertainment area and a bar. —By Jordi Lippe-McGraw
Bhutan: A legendary trail reopens
Best for adrenaline junkies craving both nature and culture.
When Bhutan reopened for tourism in September 2022, it also unveiled the highly anticipated Trans-Bhutan Trail, an ancient footpath that stretches for 250 miles across the country. Over the previous two years, the trail was carefully restored by people from around the country, connecting the popular western area with the less-traveled eastern edge of Bhutan.
For decades, hiking has lured mountaineers to Bhutan. The tiny Asian kingdom has exceptional trails, especially through the Himalayas, such as the famous Snowman Trek, a demanding 216-mile hike considered one of the toughest in the world. The newly restored Trans-Bhutan Trail, by contrast, has sections that can be tackled in single or multiple days, so it’s more beginner-friendly. Hikers wind through forested mountains, rice paddies and bustling villages with new campsites and homestays along the way. While there are still challenging tracts, the intention is to open parts of the country that are less touristed.
As a commitment to a more sustainable tourism strategy, the country also implemented a new, higher $200 daily tourism fee. The tariff (which replaces a daily $65 fee) funds various economic, social, environmental and cultural developments and is partially intended to limit tourist entries to manageable numbers. It also means travelers no longer need to purchase packaged trips, which allows more flexibility to book preferred hotels and tours.
The country has no shortage of luxury lodges (Aman, Como and Six Senses all have properties here), and more are on the way. Next year, andBeyond will unveil the new Punakha River Lodge on the banks of western Bhutan’s Mo Chhu River in a bucolic, rice-growing region. It will have tented suites and two villas designed in a traditional Bhutanese architectural style.
TPG tip: Along with the new daily tourism fee, travelers have to adhere to a number of rules, which include hiring a local guide (in certain areas) and not self-driving. The upside is a guide can unlock the country’s history and reveal its storied heritage. The roads are also extremely steep and winding, so having someone navigate them for you is a major plus. When planning your trip, keep in mind that there are no direct flights from the U.S. to Bhutan. Most travelers transit via Bangkok or Delhi, both of which have direct flights with Drukair to Paro International Airport (PBH). —By Mary Holland
Mexico’s Pacific Coast: Stylish new destinations emerge
Best for swimmers, surfers and sybarites who appreciate design-driven beach resorts.
The roughly 1,200-mile stretch of mainland Mexico’s Pacific Coast from Nayarit to Oaxaca is famous for the resort destinations of Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Zihuatanejo. But swanky new hotels, major infrastructure improvements and breathtaking natural scenery have brought three very different areas along it into focus for 2023: Riviera Nayarit, Costalegre and Riviera Oaxaqueña.
Beginning just north of Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit is undergoing one of Latin America’s biggest luxury hotel booms. This 65-mile string of resort communities includes Punta Mita, already home to Four Seasons and St. Regis properties, as well as the surf town of Sayulita and, farther north, the up-and-coming Mandarina and Costa Canuva developments. Recent openings include the Conrad Punta de Mita, Secrets Bahia Mita, One&Only Mandarina and Auberge Resorts’ ultra-exclusive Susurros Del Corazón. Rosewood Mandarina and Costa Canuva’s Ritz-Carlton Reserve Riviera Nayarit are coming soon, along with the VidantaWorld theme, water and nature park.
The dramatic headlands and secluded beaches of the 60-mile Costalegre, which is 2.5 hours south of Puerto Vallarta, have drawn celebrities to enclaves like Careyes for decades. The region is about to take off with the opening of a new airport in Chalacatepec and continued improvements along the winding coastal artery, Highway 200. The posh Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo opened in November 2022 with 157 open-air rooms and suites, and the famed Las Alamandas boutique resort recently completed a top-to-bottom renovation. There’s also the continued expansion of the 36,000-acre Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, home to a posh 40-room eco-resort with a Byzantine design.
Served by two smaller airports, including the recently expanded Puerto Escondido International Airport (PXM), Riviera Oaxaqueña is increasingly appealing to visitors seeking an easygoing, mindful vibe (think: yoga retreats and eco-conscious architecture). Grupo Habita’s new Hotel Escondido and Hotel Terrestre offer understated luxury, while Puerto Escondido’s adults-only Casona Sforza is an idyllic end-of-the-road beach retreat. And just down the coast, the artsy and diverse villages of Mazunte and Zipolite (with its LGBTQIA-popular, clothing-optional beach) are blissful beach towns for chilling out.
TPG tip: The anticipated early 2023 completion of the Barranca Larga-Ventanilla Highway, which traverses a 10,000-foot-high mountain pass, will cut the drive time from Puerto Escondido to the historic town of Oaxaca, with its art galleries and renowned restaurants, from seven hours to less than three. —By Andrew Collins
Kenya: Africa’s top ecotourism destination
Best for wild-at-heart travelers seeking adventure and eco-friendly luxury.
Kenya has long been the standard bearer for sustainable tourism in Africa. The emergence of wildlife conservancies in the 1970s not only prevented poaching and illegal trade but also ushered in a new era of community involvement.
In 2023, Kenya’s ecotourism movement will forge ahead with bold new initiatives to protect what is arguably the greatest safari destination on Earth. Kenya’s emblematic mountain bongo (a critically endangered, notoriously shy type of antelope) will be repatriated to Mount Kenya from a preserve in Florida in a project spearheaded by the Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust. Sanctuaries within Mount Kenya National Park will also provide refuge to endangered black rhinos and draw on the knowledge and engagement of local Masai communities.
Points travelers will soon have even more reason to add the East African nation to their travel wish list. In 2023, Marriott will debut its first high-end safari lodge on the continent: the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge. Its location, at the heart of Masai Mara National Reserve, will ensure optimal wildlife viewing; the park is home to a staggering inventory of more than 450 animal species, including the Big 5. The lodge will feature 20 classic safari-style tents with canopy beds, stone tile floors and Masai-inspired prints and fabrics. Marriott has committed to hiring 50 individuals from the Masai community, too.
Beyond the Masai Mara, Amboseli National Park is home to an extraordinary density of wildlife thanks in no small part to conservation efforts such as the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. Today, the park is one of the best places on the planet to see long-tusked elephants, as well as giraffes, eland, zebras and wildebeest in large numbers. Debuting in November 2023, Angama Amboseli will comprise 10 luxury tented suites located within Kenya’s first community-owned conservancy, the Kimana Sanctuary. All tents will frame views of Mount Kilimanjaro, but the main draw here, no doubt, will be the once-in-a-lifetime elephant encounters.
TPG tip: The Billionaire Resort & Retreat Malindi, an erstwhile A-list hangout that opened to the masses in 2022, offers the ultimate safari and Indian Ocean combination without any grueling border crossings. Located in Malindi (75 miles north of Mombasa, Kenya), the resort’s opulent villas and gorgeous infinity pool overlook a private white sand beach you won’t want to miss. —By Caroline Lascom
Turks and Caicos: Getting out in the archipelago
Best for sun seekers and beach lovers.
Beyond the white sands and aquamarine waters you’ll find around the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos offers exciting developments, including new hotels and cruise facilities, plus better airports that will make some of its previously remote islands much more accessible. So, it should come as no surprise, then, that Turks and Caicos has seen the fastest-growing travel demand by Americans year over year, according to TripAdvisor’s Fall Travel Index.
To help with the influx of inter-island and private flights, the new South Caicos Airport (XSC) on South Caicos Island — the easternmost island in the Caicos group — will complete construction in June 2023. The government will also break ground on a new-and-improved international airport for Providenciales in early 2023, a project expected to cost $300 million.
Visitors will have plenty of new accommodation options, too. Andaz Turks & Caicos Residences at Grace Bay is targeting a spring 2023 opening and will be the first Andaz-branded resort and residential property in the Caribbean. Also coming in 2023, The Shore Club is adding eight six-bedroom pool villas to its iconic Long Bay Beach property. Travelers can also look forward to boutique-style suites and panoramic views of Grace Bay Beach at The Bight Hotel and Providenciales’ newest resort and marina, South Bank Turks & Caicos, both of which are in the pipeline.
A recently completed dock extension at the Grand Turk Cruise Center can now accommodate larger cruise ships, so it’s bound to be a port of call on more itineraries. Additionally, $1 million in grants has been distributed to water sports operators and beach vendors to accommodate the projected increase in cruisers.
TPG tip: For the first time since the pandemic, a full lineup of events is planned for Turks and Caicos in 2023. This includes the weekly Island Fish Fry at Bight Park and legendary events like the Conch Festival, the Valentine’s Day Cup on Middle Caicos, the Caribbean Food and Wine Festival and the largest festival in Turks and Caicos, Maskanoo, a cultural celebration started by enslaved people in the 19th century mocking the wealthy islanders’ costume balls. —By Devorah Lev-Tov
Charleston, South Carolina: A new museum casts light on a dark past
Best for diving deeper into a much-loved city.
Yes, we know. Charleston on a “best of” travel list is a lot like saying “florals for spring” — universally popular but hardly groundbreaking. But in 2023, the International African American Museum will open in Charleston, heralding a new era for cultural tourism in the city. In the works for the past two decades, the museum officially opens its doors on Jan. 21.
The museum will be a powerful lens on the past and is fittingly located at Gadsden’s Wharf, where slave ships docked in Charleston Harbor and thousands of enslaved Africans first set foot in North America. The museum is raised off this now-hallowed ground on 18 pillars, each 13 feet high — a monumental structure designed by renowned architect Henry Cobb.
Inside, exhibits explore both the history of enslavement and the stories of African Americans in South Carolina’s Lowcountry from the past through the present. There’s a genealogical center here as well. Outside, the African Ancestors Memorial Garden includes a reflecting pool facing the harbor and a soundscape that explores the diverse range of African languages.
Beyond the IAAM, Charleston is welcoming new nonstop flights to several cities. Breeze Airlines continues to roll out new flights, including two weekly nonstops each to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and six direct flights per week to Provo Airport (PVU) in Utah, which all commenced in November. Earlier in 2022, Breeze rolled out daily nonstops to Orlando International Airport (MCO) and New York’s Westchester County Airport (HPN).
On the hotel front, travelers can stay at the historic Charleston Place hotel, which is under new ownership as part of the Beemok Hospitality Collection and in the midst of a $100 million renovation. Mills House Charleston in the city’s French Quarter recently emerged from a complete refurbishment as the city’s first Canopy by Hilton property. The Loutrel, a new luxury hotel in the heart of Charleston’s historic district, is also worth checking out thanks to its multiple dining venues.
TPG tip: Spoleto Festival USA presents more than 150 performances of opera, dance, theater, classical music and jazz spanning two full weeks from Memorial Day through the beginning of June. It’s a fun time to plan a visit, and there are numerous hotel package deals available. —By Melissa Klurman
Ecuador: Coastal towns capture the limelight
Best for travelers searching for new destinations to unlock with points.
Though Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, and remote Galapagos Islands may be the first to come to mind, exciting developments along the country’s Pacific Coast are drawing a new wave of adventurers to unexpected corners of the nation.
In March of 2022, Kontiki Expeditions launched expeditions aboard the exclusive M/S Wayra, a nine-stateroom yacht that bears the distinction of being the first “water-based” Small Luxury Hotels of the World member, which partners with World of Hyatt. That means travelers can earn Hyatt points while exploring such seldom-visited ports of call as the surf spot San Mateo and Isla de la Plata, often referred to as an inexpensive alternative to the Galapagos.
Travelers eager to connect with Ecuador’s overlooked coast can also take advantage of the country’s increased airlift: LATAM resumed its route between Miami International Airport (MIA) and Mariscal Sucre Quito International Airport (UIO) in October with daily flights, making it altogether easier for Americans to reach Ecuador. American Airlines has also increased the frequency of its flights between Miami and Guayaquil, the gateway to Ecuador’s beachy coastline.
Even Ecuador’s most famous destination, the Galapagos, continues to see significant travel industry investments. Earlier this year, Ecuador’s president expanded the protected Galapagos Marine Reserve by more than 23,000 square miles. Months later, a former boutique eco-friendly hotel was reborn as Royal Palm Galapagos, a Curio Collection hotel, making it possible for travelers to redeem Hilton Honors points in the Galapagos. Standard award nights start around 80,000 points, putting the islands well within reach for many travelers with points and miles stashes.
Plus, a new Hotel Indigo is now accepting reservations for end-of-year trips to the archipelago, unlocking IHG One Rewards points redemption opportunities there, too.
TPG tip: If an eight-day sailing along the coast isn’t enough immersion in the culture and wildlife of Ecuador, remote workers can take advantage of Ecuador’s new Nomad Visa, which launched in 2022 and allows foreign workers to live and work in Ecuador for up to 24 months. —By Melanie Lieberman
Disney Wish: The most magical place at sea
Best for travelers who want the best of Disney while exploring the Caribbean.
Disney Wish first set sail in mid-2022, but 2023 is going to be the best time to sail on the company’s first new cruise ship in a decade.
The itineraries and cabin types (ranging from a first-ever funnel suite to the cleverly designed oceanview staterooms with split bathrooms that help a whole family get ready faster by creating two distinct spaces) are now more widely available than in the first few sold-out months, but the new ship smell and sparkle remain.
Of equal importance, the staff has now had the necessary time to hit their stride with service, including on stage with Broadway-caliber reimaginings of “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin,” and in the thrilling all-new restaurants with “Frozen”- and Marvel-inspired dinners (be sure and try the sticky date pudding with vanilla ice cream while in the Worlds of Marvel and Anna’s Koldtbord with goodies like smoked salmon, sweet shrimp and dill honey mustard while dining in Arendelle).
With its three- and four-night sailings from Florida’s Port Canaveral to the Bahamas, most passengers book Disney Wish to experience the ship itself rather than the ports of call. In fact, many guests don’t even disembark in Nassau, preferring instead to take a turn on the AquaMouse slide, book a treatment at the Senses Spa or just have fun with the many Disney characters and themed spaces on board. It’s a stress-free alternative to the increasing complexity and cost of indulging in a visit to the Disney theme parks.
TPG tip: There’s the magic that’s easy to spot on Disney Wish, but then there is more waiting to be discovered. For example, if you enjoy whiskey, don’t walk past Hook’s Barbery without popping in, as the secret space is far more than just a nook for a shave and a haircut. And if you can stay up late, make your way to the Grand Hall at midnight and look up for a fun surprise. —By Summer Hull
Sydney: Global celebrations abound
Best for travelers eager to say they attended some of the biggest events in 2023.
A fabulous flock of international visitors will descend upon Sydney in February and March to celebrate WorldPride (the first in the Southern Hemisphere) mashed up with the city’s Mardi Gras festival. An opening concert headlined by — who else? — the inimitable Kylie Minogue is reason enough to hop on a flight Down Under.
In August, the city’s Accor Stadium will host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, bringing to an end a month of soccer (sorry, football) and Australia’s shared hosting of the tournament with New Zealand.
Fortunately, getting there will be easier than ever, as Qantas recently announced it would fly from Sydney Airport (SYD) to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) via Auckland Airport (AKL) in June, cutting travel times for East Coasters and heralding a new age of super-long-haul flights.
Arrivals will have a bounty of new hotels to choose from for their visit, too, including the recently opened Kimpton Margot Sydney and Ace Hotel Sydney, as well as a luxurious new Capella opening by Circular Quay early in the year and the forthcoming W Sydney set to debut in October.
Aside from all the sundry Sydney outdoor activities visitors can continue to enjoy year-round, from beach walks to BridgeClimb Sydney, travelers will also be able to explore the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ stunning (and eco-friendly) new Sydney Modern Project, which the museum has billed as “the most significant cultural development in the city since the opening of the Sydney Opera House nearly half a century ago.”
Opening in December of 2022 and overlooking the lush Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the complex will comprise both new and historical buildings, performance spaces, creative studios and terraces and gardens. It was designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architectural firm SANAA and will house specially commissioned works by both international and Australian artists along with rotating exhibitions … so, you never know what you might see on your next trip to Sydney.
TPG tip: Indigenous tourism experiences are flourishing across Australia, including in Sydney, where travelers can learn about Indigenous Australians’ way of life on a walking Dreamtime Southern X tour of The Rocks neighborhood or even book BridgeClimb Sydney’s popular Burrawa Indigenous Experience guided tour as you scale the Sydney Harbour Bridge. —By Eric Rosen