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We all know that the last couple of years haven’t exactly been ‘normal’ when it comes to travel. But the good news is that this year - finally - holidays are properly back with a bang. To celebrate, we've rounded up the best places to travel in 2023.
The world is open and adventures are plentiful. You just need to decide where you want to go.
To give you a helping hand, we’ve rounded up the best places to travel in 2023. We’ve listed below something for every kind of traveler, from new flight routes to exciting hotel openings, city centenaries to holidays inspired by popular television shows. There are relaxed sunshine breaks and active ones - and even a must-try getaway right here in the UK. So whether you're looking for the best places to visit in Europe or a fun UK staycation, you're in the right place.
Now, time to get booking…
The 10 best places to travel in 2023
If you watched season two of The White Lotus, there’s a fair chance you’re now lusting after a holiday to the beautiful sun-soaked isle of Sicily. The Four Seasons Resort San Domenico Palace (opens in new tab) - perched dramatically on a hillside in colorful Taormina - is as much a star in the cult television series as the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge, who plays the eccentric Tanya McQuoid. Sip a drink at the atmospheric bar after a day of exploring the town’s pretty piazzas and ancient Roman amphitheater.
But Sicily isn’t the only hot Italian destination for your radar this year. Romantic capital Rome is getting a fresh injection of style with a renovation of the famed Colosseum. A new high-tech floor will let visitors walk in the footsteps of the gladiators for the first time in centuries. The city sees the opening of several new luxurious stays in 2023, too, including branches of the Bulgari Hotel (opens in new tab), Six Senses (opens in new tab) and Nobu Hotels (opens in new tab). Even if you can’t justify splurging on an extravagant room, you can pop in for a bowl of heavenly pasta in the restaurants or visit the decadent spas.
Top tip: Want to eat like a local? Then you need to try the best traditional Italian dishes, specific to the area you're visiting. In Rome order a ‘pizza alla pala’ - a thick-based pizza sold by the wedge as a casual street food. In Sicily, sample arancini; delicious fried rice balls stuffed with different fillings.
It was one of the last countries to reopen to international tourism following coronavirus restrictions, but Japan is worth the wait. This year will be the first time in years holidaymakers can enter to enjoy the spring cherry blossom season, and so there’s no better time to plan your visit.
Your gateway is Tokyo - the country’s bustling, neon-clad capital filled with quirky shopping, bountiful kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi restaurants and buzzing karaoke bars. But the countryside beyond holds a magic kind of charm. Visit nearby Hakone on a day trip to relax in traditional hot springs, called onsen, or take in the giant stone Buddha statue near the seaside in atmospheric town Kamakura.
Then, hop on the shinkansen, also known as the ‘bullet train’, bound for Kyoto - the home of geishas, serene tea ceremonies and hundreds of atmospheric temples and shrines. The city is a complete contrast to Tokyo, with its bamboo forests and waterways lined in sakura (cherry blossom), but this is perhaps Japan at its most enchanting.
Top tip: Late March to mid-April is prime cherry blossom season in Japan, but it can also be a busy and expensive time to visit. If you want to save, September can be a good time to visit, as is February. Or try mid-to-late October for beautiful autumn leaves in hues of red and orange.
3. Gothenburg, Sweden
Sweden’s second city might not have the rambling royal palace of capital Stockholm, but it’s got another major asset: a beautiful nearby archipelago, easily reachable by public transport from the city center and a haven for walkers. The city is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2023 (postponed from 2021) which means a host of special events, from exhibitions to a summer music and food festival.
The perfect size for a weekend, Gothenburg has plenty of culture; an art museum (opens in new tab) stuffed with works by Picasso and van Gogh, and beautiful botanic gardens lining the city’s canal. It’s also home to a romantic retro amusement park, Liseberg (opens in new tab), featuring traditional fairground rides with a Scandinavian twist; as much entertainment for nostalgic adults as it is for children. Take time to explore the cobbled historic shopping and cafe district, Haga, stopping off for coffee and a warm cinnamon bun - a Scandi tradition known as fika. And of course, make some time to browse the shops; Scandanavian clothing brands are world-famous for a reason.
Top tip: When you’ve had your fill of the city, head out to the archipelago. An easy bus ride and ferry journey away from the center, Hӧnӧ island has seafood restaurants, cute boutiques and a beautiful west coast with pink-tinged boulders.
Looking for a real adventure in 2023? You may never have considered South American country Guyana, but with new British Airways flights launching from March 2023, it’s set to be this year’s trendiest destination for intrepid travelers.
The biggest draw is the scenery - wonders like Kaieteur Falls, the world’s largest single-drop waterfall, and boat rides along the Rupununi river where you can spot rare wildlife such as giant otters and jaguars. But as an added bonus there are also lovely eco-lodges, where you’ll be immersed in the natural landscapes. Historic, relaxed capital Georgetown is fascinating to visit too.
The most memorable moment, however? A wander along the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway (opens in new tab), a rainforest-clad suspended bridge system with portions up to 30m in height and 154m in length. Its lofty platforms are the perfect place for spotting some of Guyana’s 800-plus species of birds, from the large silver cocoi heron to the bright red-and-green macaw. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars.
Top tip: Booking with a tour operator will be your best bet, as they’ll craft an expert itinerary for you and include guides and transfers. Journey Latin America (opens in new tab) and Wanderlust Explorers (opens in new tab) both have 15-day trips visiting wildlife spots, Kaieteur Falls and Iwokrama.
5. Loire Valley, France
Looking to discover a new corner of France, beyond well-trodden Paris? Consider the Loire Valley, one of France’s least-visited - and most underrated - regions. This European hidden gem has everything you could look for in a French holiday, from opulent chateaux to delicious wines, vineyard tours and beautiful cycling routes. Not to mention a host of chic new hotel openings in the past two years that give fresh reasons to visit.
The area is large - about 300km in length - so unless you’ve got a week or more to explore, don’t try to see it all in one visit. Highlights for first-timers include Blois, Chambord and Amboise for superb chateaux; at the latter, you can also visit the grave of famed artist Leonard da Vinci. Meanwhile, Chaumont-sur-Loire’s serene landscaped grounds and contemporary art collection are not to be missed. Its annual International Garden Festival (opens in new tab), held from April to November, draws visitors from around the globe.
Looking for a very special stay? Recently opened Loire Valley Lodges (opens in new tab), a collection of designer treehouses in the forests of Touraine, and the grand Fleur de Loire (opens in new tab) in Blois are both glamorous spots that attract stylish weekenders from Paris.
Top tip: The Loire Valley is especially famous for producing excellent wines from Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc grapes. Try a tasting in Amboise at Caves Ambacia (opens in new tab), where you can sip sweet Vouvray wines that have aged for decades in the local cellars.
6. British Columbia, Canada
Soaring mountains and great open seas; dense forests and rich wildlife ranging from birds to bears - Canada’s far western province holds timeless appeal. If you’re looking for your first big adventure abroad in a few years, British Columbia will deliver jaw-dropping natural wonder, culture and active fun all in one tidy package.
Fly into Vancouver, a friendly seaside city with beaches and sprawling parks. From here the peaks of Whistler are just a short drive away - a hikers’ paradise in summertime - but if you’re looking for an experience that combines scenery with one-of-a-kind culture, try Haida Gwaii, an archipelago further north that’s blanketed in temperate rainforest. Here from indigenous Canadians you can learn the ancient stories of the land, stay in cozy oceanfront cabins and look for sea lions and whales.
Meanwhile, back down south on Vancouver Island, you can kick back in Tofino, a laid-back surf town with more beautiful scenery. Or tour the historic provincial capital Victoria, bursting with pretty 19th-century architecture.
Top tip: If you want to spot local wildlife, the best time to visit is in late spring through to early autumn - when bears are out of hibernation and Pacific Gray Whales migrate. However, if you’re a keen skier or looking for an unforgettable winter snow holiday, winter is a great time, when the slopes of snow-capped Whistler Blackcomb resort are ready for action.
It might be home to some of the world’s most impressive ancient history, but this year Egypt is on the must-visit list thanks to its newest attraction: the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza. Years in the making, this will be the world’s largest archaeological museum and contain countless treasures, including the finds from Tutankhamun’s tomb (which, as it happens, was discovered exactly a century ago).
Gateway capital Cairo will naturally make it onto your agenda, of course; its historic corners, like the Babylon Fortress, are fascinating. But most of the true highlights lie beyond. In Giza, witness the grandeur of the pyramids; explore the statuesque Abu Simbel in Aswan and, in Luxor, discover the glory of the pharaohs. Soaking it all in is endlessly rewarding, but also exhausting - so, at the end of your trip, nothing beats a few days of unwinding at a Red Sea resort such as Sharm El Sheikh.
Top tip: A Nile cruise is another fantastic way to explore this ancient country, and in luxury and splendor too. But do note for some of the best - say, with Viking Cruises (opens in new tab), which launches its new ship Aton this year - you’ll need to book a year or more in advance to secure a place as they sell out quickly.
Beautiful scenery never goes out of fashion. Which is why, if you’re looking for an outdoor break this year that lets you experience pure, unadulterated wilderness, then Iceland is your place.
For a remote experience, head to Snaefellsnes Peninsula, north of the capital of Reykjavik. Set at the base of a volcano, overlooking the sea, self-catering Glacier Lodge (opens in new tab) is a comfy hideaway. When you aren’t observing the night skies - Iceland is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights - explore the vast nearby scenery of cliffs, cute fishing towns and dramatic peaks.
Or try Iceland’s south coast: a land of rushing waterfalls, glacier-topped mountains and black-sand beaches. In daylight, journey to seaside Vik to enjoy its otherworldly basalt columns, or explore the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón. Then curl up at wood-lined Hotel Ranga (opens in new tab) for a soak in the alfresco hot tubs, pool in the games room or a flaky cod feast in the gourmet onsite restaurant.
Top tip: Love to spa? Don’t forget to visit Iceland’s Blue Lagoon (opens in new tab), a soothing hot spring just about a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik. The thermal waters shimmer a bright turquoise blue thanks to a high concentration of silica, a natural compound that is excellent for your skin.
Basking under rays in the south Caribbean Sea, Aruba is a hot ticket this year - least of all because British Airways will begin flying there from March 2023 (naturally making it one of the best places to visit in March!). And it’s about time; this compact Dutch-influenced island has all you’re probably looking for in a Caribbean break, from beautiful soft beaches to fresh seafood.
Because the island is small, you can see the sights - from capital Oranjestad to the rambling Arikok National Park - in hardly any time at all, which leaves plenty of time for R&R on your sun-drenched lounger. Pack a few page-turner novels and settle in at west-facing Eagle Beach, low-key and perfect for sunset hour, or Palm Beach, lined with resorts.
When it’s time for a bit of refreshment, hit the water. Hadicurari Beach in the north of Aruba is known for its winds, making it ideal for windsurfers and kite surfers. Or you can approach the waves more gently, signing up for a sunset boat trip instead.
Top tip: For such a small island, Aruba has a lively nightlife scene, ranging from beach bars to casinos and cocktail lounges. If you want to keep things more low-key, choose a resort away from bustling Palm Beach.
10. Manchester, UK
The experts at Lonely Planet named Manchester as a ‘best in travel’ destination for 2023 - the only UK city to bag this honor - and it’s little wonder why. With the Manchester Museum (opens in new tab) soon reopening after a facelift and a new Factory International (opens in new tab) building on the way to exhibit the creative arts, there’s plenty of buzz happening in this British center, making it easily one of the best UK weekend getaways.
You’ll have to explore the Northern Quarter, of course; a neighborhood full of trendy restaurants, cool shops and galleries, as well as street art and cafes. Contrast it with an architectural turn around Albert Square, which has a neo-gothic town hall and an impressive central library to enjoy.
The hotel scene has gotten seriously exciting of late, too. Check into the plush Stock Exchange Hotel (opens in new tab), set in a Grade-II listed building and with a restaurant by celebrity chef Tom Kerridge. Or make a booking at the soon-to-launch Treehouse Hotel Manchester (opens in new tab), a playful brand opening near Manchester cathedral this spring.
Top tip: Stock up on handmade homewares, textiles or jewelry at Manchester Craft and Design Centre (opens in new tab) in Northern Quarter. With more than 20 studios on site, you can see artisans at work as well as shop for local goodies.
The Travel Editor of Woman & Home and Woman's Weekly, Alicia has spent more than a decade writing about the world's best holidays and has visited more than 50 countries for her work. She is a regular contributor to The Sunday Times, National Geographic Traveller, Evening Standard, The Independent and Decanter magazine, among other titles, and was named AITO Travel Writer of the Year in 2023.
While she originally hails from Canada, Alicia lived in France and Japan before settling in the UK. Her favourite travel destination is still Tokyo - the mix of lively karaoke bars, delicious sushi and amazing shopping draws her back for visits again and again. She's always counting down the days until her next trip.
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