From emerging destinations to old favourites offering exciting new experiences, here is a hand-picked list of 23 best destinations to sort out your travel plans for the new year.
23 Best Destinations To Travel In 2023:
1. Alberta, Canada
Dotted with more than 600 lakes, and the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks with glaciers in the west and Waterton Glacier International Peace Park in the south, Alberta is home to some of the most scenic regions in Canada. The glaciers and turquoise lakes of Banff and Jasper National Parks are enthralling in summer. In winter, this destination offers some of the best skiing in Canada. Banff is abundant in wildlife, with grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, caribou, and elk; sightings are common when driving along the main highway that runs through the park. Yet another aspect of an Alberta visit is indigenous tourism, a more immersive experience that allows travellers to directly interact with the indigenous population and hear their authentic stories.
2. AlUla, Saudi Arabia
Stunning natural rock formations and gorgeous canyons characterise AlUla, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia. This ancient region’s unique cultural and historical past has been traced back 2,00,000 years, making it a melting pot of societies from the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean region, and central Asia. A hidden gem until recently, AlUla deserves a top slot in your bucket list. With the finest luxury hotels set amidst beautiful, rustic locales and a chock-a-block events calendar for 2023, the Royal Commission for AlUla ensures enough reasons to visit for every traveller. Noteworthy events in 2023 include Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo 2023 (January 27-28), Saudi Arabia Cycling Tour (February 1-5), AZIMUTH music festival (September 22-25), and AlUla Wellness Festival (September 26-October 16).
3. PhuQuoc, Vietnam
Better airline connectivity with Vietnam has given travellers from India the opportunity to cover a greater swathe of this South East Asian neighbour, going beyond Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Ha Long Bay. One of the new stars of Vietnam tourism is the country’s largest island PhuQuoc, an enchanting place of white sand beaches, emerald forests dotted with waterfalls, rock pools, and caves. Locally known as “Pearl Island,” more than half of PhuQuoc is protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The luxury resorts here tilt towards sustainability, making it a haven for responsible travellers. The best souvenir is the destination’s famous fish sauce—buy it at a traditional fishing village like Ham Hinh, while indulging in fresh seafood.
4. Halkidiki, Greece
Quaint seaside villages juxtaposed with Byzantine towers and ancient monasteries give Halkidiki a special place in this country of sunny charm and unparalleled history. Located in northern Greece, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the mainland. Halkidiki, itself a peninsula, has three beautiful smaller peninsulas: Kassandra, Sithonia, and Mount Athos. The monasteries of Mount Athos can be viewed from the sea—this peninsula is not open to the public—by taking a boat cruise. Halkidiki’s pristine beaches like Sani, NeaPotidea, Karidi, and Glarokavo are great for water sports. For a hyper-local trip, head to the forests of Mountain Holomontas and sign up to play beekeeper for a day; the experience includes creating your own beeswax candles and tasting fresh honey products.
5. Lima, Peru
Over the past few years, Peruvian cuisine has drawn global admiration, and the capital Lima has firmly established its place among the world’s top culinary cities. Each year, there are new award-winning restaurants and talented chefs to attract the gourmet crowd. Positioned between the Amazon, the Andes, and the Coast, the city has the most scenic sunsets, bluest skies, and incredible farm-to-table cuisine made with the finest produce. Great influences—African, Italian, and Japanese—from immigrants to this South American capital city have left an indelible mark on the local cuisine. Beyond gastronomy, Lima is also rich in cultural experiences, owing to its heritage of the ancient Inca Empire and as the gateway to the world-famous Machu Picchu ruins.
6. Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Among the gems in the royal state of India is the “blue city” of Jodhpur. With iconic spots like Mehrangarh Fort, which was built by Rao Jodha in 1460 and now hosts eclectic concerts and New Year’s Eve parties, and the luxurious Umaid Bhawan Palace, a real palace partly converted into a hotel, with its Indo-Saracenic, Classical Revival and Western Art Deco styles captured in Makrana marble and Burmese teak, Jodhpur showcases the full glory of royalty. More erstwhile royals are now opening their palace gates to travellers, giving them a glimpse of the regal lifestyle and heritage cuisine. Farm-to-table initiatives enable new-age Jodhpur farmers to marry local ingredients with global cooking techniques, creating a novel experience for guests.
7. Queensland, Australia
Look beyond the Great Barrier Reef, and you’ll find rainforests, scenic mountain ranges, and sprawling deserts in Australia’s second largest state, Queensland. While the south boasts glitz and glamour, theme parks, and the famed Gold Coast beaches, the north-east has the rugged charm of the Australian Outback. The capital city, Brisbane, has a host of cafés, a bustling nightlife, lush forests at Mount Coot-tha, pretty islands in Moreton Bay, and a bohemian vibe at West End. But 2023 is especially exciting, as it has been declared the ‘Year of Accessible Tourism’. In the run-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the ‘Towards Tourism 2032’ strategy is facilitating infrastructure development and technology investment for travellers with disabilities.
8. Manchester, England
The city of Manchester dons many hats. Soccer fans will associate it with Manchester United, one of the most revered teams in the world. Food lovers will rave about its thriving restaurant scene. Heritage buffs love its historical significance and museums, with special mention of Manchester Art Gallery, Central and John Rylands Libraries, Northern Quarter street art, and Manchester Craft and Design Centre. The newly opened Castlefield Viaduct is making headlines currently—this green and open space is quite special, as this 19th-century railway bridge in the city’s cultural heart has been redeveloped into a 330-kilometre sky park. Manchester was the world’s first industrialised city; now it is gaining a reputation as one of the best cities in Britain, with something for everyone.
9. Emerald Coast, Florida
The Emerald Coast in Florida comprises different towns, including Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa, and Destin, and gets its name from the emerald-green water along the Gulf of Mexico. From family beaches to quieter ones, this coastal belt of multiple destinations has some of the best holiday spots. For the best beach for swimming on Emerald Coast, head to Henderson Beach State Park, which has sugar-white sands and the calmest waters during summer. For pristine beaches without crowds, the longish drive to Navarre Beach is definitely worth it.
The country that first set the metrics for Gross National Happiness has recently reopened its doors to the world, offering the most incredible travel opportunities. The Trans-Bhutan Trail promises to show you a hidden side of this beautiful Himalayan kingdom, which has been carefully protected in a sort of time-warp and is the planet’s only carbon-negative nation. Now you can see parts of it that were used to traverse the mountainous region during the Silk Route-era. The 403-kilometre Trans-Bhutan Trail, open to a limited number of tourists, winds through temple-studded valleys, undulating mountain ranges, and thick, hilly forests. En route, you’ll find the dzong fortresses and sacred sites used by pilgrims. While the entire stretch requires 36 days to cover, there are shorter itineraries.
11. Alpbach, Austria
Located at the foot of Mt Gratlspitz, Alpbach has been declared the “most beautiful village of Austria.” It is also a stellar skiing destination. The Ski Juwel Alpbachtal-Wildschönau connects the skiing areas of the Alpbachtal valley and Wildschönau, offering 113 kilometres of slopes and three toboggan runs. Summer in Alpbach reveals a very different kind of beauty, with tree-lined valleys, forests, lakes, and mountains. The Path of Contemplation is an easy circular walk, just short of four kilometres, that takes you through part of the forest lined with art installations. The picturesque village and its surroundings are a hiker’s dream, with a wide selection of trails. While walking amid all the colourful Alpine flowers, shrubs, and herbs, you can spot the edelweiss, Austria’s national flower.
12. Khao Lak, Thailand
Located in the Phang Nga province of Thailand, Khao Lak is nearly a 20-kilometre stretch, with white sandy beaches surrounded by forested hills. It is an ideal escape for those looking for some peace and quiet in an otherwise cacophonous Thailand. The region is in close proximity to snorkelling and diving spots like Similan and Surin and some of the prettiest islands in Thailand like Phi Phi Islands and Phang Nga Bay. It is also an ideal base for day trips to the Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park. If you happen to visit in March, be a part of the Turtle Festival where young turtle hatchlings are released back to the sea at Thai Muang National Park Beach. Do not miss Takua Pa, a charming old town with well-preserved Sino-Portuguese buildings, just 25 minutes from Khao Lak.
13. Fukuoka, Japan
If you’re planning a trip to Japan to savour the country’s exquisite cuisine, you must add Fukuoka to your itinerary. Its vast culinary offerings include the renowned Hakata ramen and the incredible mobile food scene. Due to this region’s proximity to Seoul, influences from Korea and China add complexity and variety to the cuisine. Signing up for a food tour is the best way to eat your way through Fukuoka. From fine yakitori cooked streetside to party menus at the hottest bars in Oyafukodori, there are plenty of gastronomic itineraries. If you have a checklist of the food and drinks that you’d like to sample in Fukuoka, there are companies that will happily custom-design tours for you.
14. Sicily, Italy
If movies have inspired travels in the past, web series lead the way to exotic destinations in current times. Sicily, the populous Italian island once associated with The Godfather-ish gang rivalry, has had a major image makeover. Showcased so beautifully in OTT series like The White Lotus and From Scratch, the island is seeing packed hotels in the post-pandemic tourism seasons. While Sicily is known for its beautiful beaches, merging into the deepest blue ocean, its awe-inspiring architecture and ancient cathedrals, its fresh food and romantic drives through the undulating countryside, local businesses are thankful to OTT platforms for revealing the loveliest parts of the beautiful island to the whole world and, thus, adding Sicily to the bucket list of best destinations for world travellers.
15. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Raja Ampat Islands are an archipelago comprising hundreds of forested islands, pristine beaches, and coral reefs teeming with marine life. This tropical paradise off West Papua in Indonesia is a year-round destination. It is home to more than a thousand species of fish and 75 percent of corals known to man. Huge manta rays, gorgeous patterned carpet sharks, and pygmy seahorses attract divers and snorkellers from all over the world. The marine diversity is complemented by the endemic bird species, including the crimson bird of paradise that lives on Waigeo Island. The natural beauty of turquoise water lagoons and misty hills is accompanied by Raja Ampat’s rich heritage in the form of rock paintings on Misool Island. This is practically untouched territory, just waiting for you.
Known as Europe’s sunniest destination, Malta is said to enjoy 300 days of sunshine. While Maltese farmers are showcasing farm-to-table concepts by reviving old techniques and traditional produce, talented chefs are working hard for Michelin-star status, putting Malta on the global gastronomy map. Maltese wines, too, are earning recognition, and the newly launched Wine Trail is inspiring enthusiasts to explore the vineyards. Given its many attractions, this Mediterranean archipelago comprising Malta, Gozo, and Comino is becoming one of the best destinations for multi-generational trips. As families and friends come together to make up for the time lost due to the pandemic, Malta positions itself as the perfect getaway, offering a beautiful combination of food, wine, culture, and history.
17. Gir, Gujarat
Seeing a lion in the wild is usually equated with a trip to Africa, where this big cat is the king of the jungle. But Gir National Park is home to majestic Asiatic lion prides, making this corner of India the only place in the world, outside Africa, to have lions in their natural habitat. Naturally, this is one of the most important protected areas in Asia. The steady growth in the number of travellers to Gir has led to the demand for sustainable luxury resorts, hotels, and eco-lodges in this region. The highlight, of course, is the safari through thick forests, where chances of seeing lions and leopards are very high, besides sightings of foxes, mongoose, and blackbuck.
18. Cape Town, South Africa
The southernmost tip of Africa is one of the most magnificent parts of the world. Beautiful beaches along two oceans—the icy Atlantic and the warmer Indian Ocean—extend to a rugged coastline of green mountains, gorgeous vineyards with world-class restaurants, luxury shopping, and a range of adventure sports. Cape Town has an iconic symbol in the Table Mountain, part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage Site named Cape Floral Region. The unique flora and fauna found on the mountain can be explored through the numerous hiking trails. One of the most fun ways to get around Cape Town is in the sidecar of a motorbike. The cool breeze hitting your face as you ride along the coast is an unforgettable experience.
19. Ella, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, also known as the Emerald Isle, is blessed with nature’s bounty. While most travellers visit its seaside towns, a foray into the densely forested hills opens up another vista. Ella, surrounded by hills covered with forests and tea plantations, is quite the hidden gem. While hiking to the Ella Rock provides a scenic challenge, a tour of the famous Ceylon Tea Factory is a quintessential Sri Lankan experience. The Diyaluma Falls is one of Ella’s famous attractions, with several natural pools set on different levels—swimming here feels heavenly. One particular day trip that we’d highly recommend from Ella is to Nuwara Eliya, where rolling hills are covered with misty clouds and dotted with waterfalls, epitomising Sri Lanka’s rich natural beauty.
20. Cairo, Egypt
Travel+Leisure US has recommended Cairo among the ‘50 best cultural places to visit in 2023’. Ancient monuments like the Great Pyramid of Giza and the legendary Sphinx need no introduction, but Cairo also has magnificent new offerings. The recently opened Grand Egyptian Museum is said to be the world’s largest museum for a single civilisation. It is home to more than 1,00,000 artefacts, including an extensive list of Tutankhamun items and a 3,200-year-old statue of Ramses II. Even outside the built museums, one can soak in the culture of Cairo city, with its ancient mosques and churches, and the bustling bazaar of Khan El-Khalili. Less than three hours by road from Cairo is the city of Alexandria, famous for its medieval catacombs.
21. Sentosa, Singapore
Singapore’s island getaway, Sentosa, has been delighting travellers with its themed attractions, sandy beaches, luxurious spas, and lush rainforests for more than 50 years now. And, they even keep enhancing the variety of offerings to excite repeat visitors and first-timers alike. Among the new attractions are Skyhelix Sentosa, Singapore’s highest open-air panoramic ride in a gently rotating open-air gondola 79 metres above sea level, with an unobstructed view of Southern Singapore and beyond; Scentopia, a revolutionary touchless perfume-making bar, where you can take free scented tours; and the Museum of Ice Cream, where you can swim in a pool filled with sprinkles and try out plenty of sweet treats.
22. Savannah, Georgia
When you feel like moving away from the bustle of big cities in the United States, a quaint, southern city like Savannah is just the answer. This charming city combines art, period architecture, and trendy boutiques in a refreshing mix. Old Savannah trolley tours are a charming way to get around the city, while soaking in the sights and places of historical significance such as the Juliette Gordon Low Home, the Mulberry Inn, and the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. The Savannah waterfront is the bustling area of the city, with plenty of cafés and bars. Getting a taste of the local fare is best done on a food tour.
23. Martinique, The Caribbean
One of the most celebrated destinations in the sunny Caribbean, Martinique is an island best known for its crystal-clear waters, scenic vistas, rich French heritage, and lively Creole culture. Laze on its white sand beaches or get your adrenaline rush by canyoning, hiking, and horseback riding or engaging in water sports such as kite-surfing, diving, jet-skiing, or kayaking. Martinique’s exquisite Creole gastronomy is partnered by the rhythm of biguine, this island’s own brand of fusion music, and also the French Antillean zouk and Polish mazurka. If the Caribbean conjures up images of lounging with a pina colada, you must know that Martinique produces some of the best rums in overseas French territories. The rhum agricole is a style of rum distilled from freshly squeezed sugarcane juice—a great souvenir.
This story first appeared here.