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Watching the sunrise at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA
From epic landscapes and cultural reawakenings to conservation initiatives and family favourites, National Geographic Traveller’s Best of the World list is back with 35 destinations that should be on your radar for 2023. Across five categories — adventure, culture, nature, family and community — our list highlights some of the most exciting and exceptional experiences on the planet, with 25 entries selected by the global editors of National Geographic Traveller and an additional 10 from the UK edition.
Introducing the categories:
Skyline of Busan, South Korea at dusk
1. Appian Way, Italy
The revival of Europe’s ancient ‘superhighway’ is a pilgrimage route through history
If all roads lead to Rome, this ancient highway built 2,300 years ago was the mother of them all. Stretching for 360 miles from the heart of Italy’s capital to the port of Brindisi on the Adriatic, the Via Appia (nicknamed Regina Viarum — the Queen of Roads) was trod by ordinary citizens, marching soldiers, and glitterati from the Latin poet Horace to the gladiator-tussling Emperor Commodus.
Neglected after Rome’s fall but never forgotten, the road is undergoing a renaissance as the Italian government seeks to retrace, uncover and restore the ancient cobblestones, transforming the Appia into a walkable route for modern travellers. The goal is a pilgrimage through history, with stops at scenic villages and archaeological sites as well as planned overnight accommodation at the end of each day’s journey.
2. Busan, South Korea
From craft breweries to Asia’s top film festival, South Korea’s second largest city is fuelling a cultural boom
Cinema is a communal experience in Busan, Korea’s second largest city, which has hosted one of Asia’s most prestigious annual film festivals for nearly three decades. In 2022 the Busan International Film Festival held screenings in 14 neighbourhood venues across this seaport of 3.4 million people.
Before performances, movie lovers can grab a craft beer or coffee — Busan is celebrated for its artisan brewers of both beans and hops — or stroll through Citizens Park, a redeveloped US military base (the city played a strategic role in the Korean War). Opened in 2014, the park is a 133-acre retreat in the middle of downtown, planted with more than one million trees and shrubs, comprising 97 species in all.
3. Longmen Grottoes, Henan Province, China
VR technology is generating renewed interest in one of the largest collections of stone statues in the world at this UNESCO World Heritage site dating from the 4th century
Can ancient artistry from the Tang Dynasty thrive in the 21st-century metaverse? The Longmen Grottoes in China’s Henan Province offer a clue. More than 100,000 figures devoted to the Buddhist religion, primarily sculpted between the fifth and eighth centuries AD, are tucked inside countless caves within limestone cliffs rising above the Yi River. In 2021 Henan TV showrunners used the UNESCO World Heritage site as a backdrop for their acrobatic dance programme Longmen King Kong (the title refers to a Buddhist champion, not a large gorilla). The show’s whizz-bang special effects combined with the spectacular statues became a countrywide sensation.
But the use of high tech at the grottoes isn’t just for entertainment. Archaeologists are using 3D printing to reconstruct damaged statuary, and scientists are applying digital scanning to create a 3D map of the site.
King Tut’s new home at Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum debuts
The debut of King Tut’s magnificent new home on the 100th anniversary of his discovery — and a string of recent archaeological findings — is reigniting global interest in Egypt. Dramatic and modern, Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) will be located in Giza at the edge of the Pyramids, “the perfect museum in the perfect setting,” says Fredrik Hiebert, the National Geographic Society’s Archaeologist-in-Residence, who started his career in Egypt and is currently supervising National Geographic’s virtual, multimedia exhibition Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience.
“It’s like the Egyptians built another pyramid to display all the golden treasures of Tutankhamun, many of which were hidden in the basement of the [old] Cairo Museum,” he says. “It’s going to become a destination museum and will change the way people visit Egypt.”
5. Charleston, South Carolina
South Carolina’s largest city addresses a grimmer aspect of its history with the opening of the International African American Museum
A new year shines a light on an old wrong in Charleston. Known for its Low Country cuisine and walkable urbanism, South Carolina’s largest city addresses a grimmer aspect of its history when the International African American Museum opens on 21 January. The building is located on Gadsden’s Wharf and faces Charleston Harbor, where ships brought 100,000 enslaved Africans in chains to North America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nine galleries tell harrowing tales of the Middle Passage and the horrors of plantation life. But they also uncover stories of the triumph of the enslaved and their enduring cultural contributions, including a section devoted to the Gullah Geechee people who live along the Atlantic coast from the Carolinas to Florida and continue some of the African traditions of their ancestors.
6. Vilnius, Lithuania
Lithuania’s capital marks 700 years
The Lithuanian capital will be 700 years old in 2023 and it’s throwing its own year-long party to celebrate. Public events will draw attention to a variety of arts, educational and green initiatives, including an invitation to both visitors and locals to help plant more than 100,000 trees around the city and create an urban forest in its Ozas Park. At the Lithuanian National Museum, a new interactive pavilion depicts the city as it was 200 years ago. Spoiler alert: it looks familiar in many respects, thanks to the many well-preserved gothic and Renaissance buildings found in Vilnius’s Old Town. This historic neighbourhood, with its cobblestoned streets, outdoor cafes and collection of baroque churches, is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval centres in Eastern Europe.
7. Hauts-de-France, France
A culinary focus sees the northernmost French region celebrate its heritage and terroir in 2023
Food, glorious food… and drink, too. Haut-de-France is the European Region of Gastronomy for 2023 (a label awarded by the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts & Tourism). After feasting on its fresh seafood, craft beers and Flemish recipes, you’ll be in little doubt as to why.
This is France’s northernmost region, bordering Belgium, and it’s a place where ‘local’ and ‘seasonal’ were a way of life long before they became menu buzzwords. Think of Maroilles cheese, fresh endives, Chantilly cream, or finger-lickingly gorgeous gaufres (thin, honeycombed waffles traditionally sold outside churches), just for starters.
Today, the heritage and terroir of Hauts-de-France has been taken to new levels by dynamic young chefs and restaurateurs, and culture vultures can work up an appetite exploring the galleries and markets of Lille, or touring a stunning, little-known coastline.
A herd of wild African elephants gather in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
8. Scottish Highlands
A rewilding movement to restore the original landscape of the Highlands aims to replant and restore native species as part of a countrywide sustainability initiative
The windswept Scottish Highlands are celebrated for their austere beauty, but the sheep-scoured landscapes are in fact the result of human interference. In ancient times, Scotland’s glens and hills were covered by the great Caledonian Forest. But centuries of logging and overgrazing devastated the ecosystem. Now a move to return the Highlands to its original woodlands, by reintroducing former flora and fauna in a process called ‘rewilding’, is gathering steam — with major strides to come in 2023.
The non-profit organisation Trees for Life is opening a centre in Dundreggan to educate the public on the concept of rewilding. Above Inverness, the 23,000-acre Alladale Wilderness Reserve has already planted nearly a million trees, and the Affric Highlands project will start restoring 500,000 acres stretching from Loch Ness to the west coast in a 30-year initiative.
A longtime leader in sustainable tourism, Slovenia is now developing green gastrotourism biking routes visiting farms, vineyards, cheesemakers and other food producers
Widely recognised for being a leader in sustainable tourism, Slovenia has already cooked up a number of eco-friendly tours under its seven-year-old, countrywide Green Scheme. Now it’s added a new item to the menu: the Slovenia Green Gourmet Route. This 11-day, 10-destination food trail is intended specifically for bicyclists.
“Bikers can reach a lot of remote [countryside] to discover that each [cow] pasture will produce a unique cheese,” says Jan Klovara, one of the trail’s developers. The route spans the country, from the capital, Ljubljana, through the Soča Valley, with its Alpine views, to the cave-studded Karst Plateau, and along the Drava and Sava Rivers.
Cyclists use the Slovenian train system to go point to point and their own pedal power to navigate bike-safe rural roads, before sitting down to dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant in cities like Maribor, celebrated for its local and Serbian cuisine.
10. Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
The rugged frontier legend of Texas comes to life in a landscape that’s full of surprises
It’s located in the Lone Star State of legend, yet only 400,000 people visited Big Bend National Park pre-pandemic — nearly 10 times fewer visitors than Yellowstone received, reports Robert Draper, a National Geographic contributing writer. This remote and arid part of west Texas nurtures more cactus species than any other national park, as well as birds such as roadrunners and bright yellow Scott’s orioles, and mammals such as javelina. But encounters with wildlife seem different in the desert. “They remind you that life is at the same time precious and where you least expect to find it,” Draper writes. “Above all, life in the Chihuahuan Desert that comprises Big Bend’s 1,252sq mile expanse is stubborn and easily misunderstood but also impossible to forget.”
Award-winning sustainability programmes conserve natural wonders of this volcanic archipelago known for whale-watching and thermal springs
A land born of fire but now engulfed in green, the Azores is working to secure its future. This volcanic island chain in the middle of the Atlantic is an autonomous region of Portugal, located about 1,000 miles off its coast.
With four of its nine islands UNESCO biosphere reserves — and recognised by the World Wildlife Fund as an oasis for 28 whale and dolphin species — the Azores take sustainable tourism seriously. It became the world’s first archipelago to be certified by EarthCheck, an Australia-based international advisory board and green tourism leader that conferred the award in 2019. The Portuguese territory is now focusing on conservation and biodiversity protection, air and water quality, and preservation of Indigenous heritage.
A locally led movement is restoring endangered species, creating wildlife corridors, and developing community-owned tourism projects
The southern African country of Botswana continues to confront a series of threats to its expansive, wildlife-rich national parks and game reserves, ranging from poaching to overtourism. But new anti-poaching efforts, voluntourism and community-based outreach are helping alleviate some of the pressure.
In the Tuli Block, a wilderness on Botswana’s eastern border that holds leopards, brown and spotted hyenas and a large elephant population, rangers are installing advanced technology in the 270sq mile Central Tuli Game Reserve. A Dutch organisation called Smart Parks developed low-power sensors that transmit radio data back to a central station, alerting rangers to poachers and their vehicles or even tracking the movements of animals themselves.
Botswana is also responding to a new generation of visitors. “Since Covid our millennial travellers have become more interested in meaningful human connection,” says National Geographic explorer Koketso ‘Koki’ Mookodi. “Expect to see more craft-based tours and village homestays being planned.”
A new route from British Airways shines a light on one of South America’s smaller nations
Thick Rainforests, sprawling savannahs, magical mountain ranges and epic rivers — Guyana may be one of South America’s smaller nations, but it packs a big punch for nature-lovers, and from March 2023, will be connected by British Airways flights from London Gatwick (via St Lucia).
Go to get truly off-grid. Similar in size to the UK, Guyana is home to fewer than a million people, and river, off-road or air transport are often the only routes into the heart of it all. Natural highlights range from jaguars stalking dense forests to giant anteaters on the savannahs, harpy eagles in the skies and wow-moments like Kaieteur Falls, one of the world’s highest single drop waterfalls (and twice as high as Victoria Falls). The number of eco-tourism experiences and community-run lodges is growing, too.
Citizen science is playing a part in Tanzania’s new conservation drive
The evolution of sustainable travel is underway in Tanzania. No longer content with staying at environmentally friendly lodges or visiting local community groups, a new generation of travellers is getting hands on with conservation and following scientists into the field thanks to the advent of citizen science travel.
At the forefront of the trend is Asilia Africa with its pioneering Usangu Expedition Camp, which opened in June 2022 and is set in the lush wetlands of Ruaha National Park. Patrolling the park in safari vehicles powered by molasses, guests play an active role in protecting wildlife by assisting field researchers, planting camera traps and building the park’s photo library of lions, leopards and rare African wild dogs. The citizen science approach has proved so successful that Asilia will replicate the experience at its sister camp, set to open in June 2023, in Nyerere National Park.
Hiking outside Queenstown, New Zealand.
15. New Zealand
The country that invented bungee jumping rekindles adventure excitement post-pandemic
The country that brought you bungee jumping is bouncing back from the pandemic. On New Zealand’s South Island, a re-energised Queenstown is again welcoming adventure travellers from all over the world. They come to this lakeside town of some 15,000 for skiing, as well as year-round hiking in the deservedly named Remarkables range. But bicycles should be generating the most excitement. By 2025, the Queenstown Trails Trust aims to complete a network of recreational and commuting bike lanes and paths that will link up workplaces, schools and other urban spaces. The network’s shining star: an 80.7-mile biking route called the Queenstown Trail, one of New Zealand’s Great Rides. Starting on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, the ride pedals east from Queenstown to Gibbston.
16. Choquequirao, Peru
An adventurous trek to the remote sister site of Machu Picchu is becoming more accessible
One of the most remote Inca sites in the Peruvian Andes, the ruins of Choquequirao are reserved for the hardy few who put in the effort to reach it. Those who make the trek to the sprawling complex can do so only on foot, zigzagging up and down steep paths for 18 miles to reach its 10,000-foot elevation, suspended between the high Andes and the jungles below.
But change is coming to rock the ‘cradle of gold’, the meaning of Choquequirao in the Quechua language. New infrastructure plans are expected to boost visits to Machu Picchu’s sister city.
Pre-pandemic, Machu Picchu had more than 1.5 million visitors annually, according to Peruvian tourism officials. Choquequirao counted fewer than 9,500. To increase accessibility, the Peruvian government has committed to spending $260 million (£231.12 million) to build a cable car spanning three miles between the town of Kiuñalla and the archaeological site.
17. Utah, USA
This popular adventure state is boosting its lesser-trafficked areas to combat overtourism
With five national parks and eight national monuments, Utah is an adventurer’s ultimate playground. But outdoor lovers tend to visit only a small and iconic group of destinations, such as Zion National Park. Now the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation has created an innovative grant programme to help fund new outdoor recreation projects throughout the state, including the Zion National Park Forever Project.
In Zion, known for its dramatic narrow canyons and towering sandstone cliffs, work began in 2022 on a new visitors centre on the park’s east side. The hope: to draw some of Zion’s annual five million visitors away from the crowded main south entrance and popular trails like Angels Landing. In addition to the sustainable visitors centre, plans include 30-plus miles of new mountain biking trails and 40 miles of hiking trails outside the east entrance.
18. Austrian Alps
The cross-country Bergsteigerdörfer network of 36 mountaineering villages focuses on local life and culture.
To save a mountain range, it sometimes takes a village. Since 2008 an association of high-altitude hamlets located in Central Europe’s Eastern Alps have banded together to promote their small communities to the world’s adventure travellers interested in mountain hiking, biking and climbing, as well as winter sports like cross-country skiing and ice climbing.
Called the Bergsteigerdörfer, or the ‘Mountaineering Villages’, the network is concentrated primarily in Austria’s western states, including Tyrol and Carinthia, with additional member towns in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Slovenia. The Bergsteigerdörfer works to protect villages’ culture and traditions while preserving mountain landscapes from overdevelopment. Rejecting large-scale tourist projects like sprawling ski lodges and peak-scaling cable cars, the Bergsteigerdörfer villages, now numbering 36, put greater emphasis on green or sustainable mountain tourism.
19. Revillagigedo National Park, Mexico
The ‘Galápagos of Mexico’ protects one of the largest aggregations of sharks and oceanic mantas in the world
Some 300 miles off the southern tip of Baja California Peninsula lies a national park steeped in superlatives. Revillagigedo National Park, a 57,000-square-mile Mexican marine reserve, is North America’s largest fully protected underwater park. It offers sanctuary to the continent’s greatest concentration of tropical marine megafauna, from hammerhead sharks to humpback whales, earning it the nickname ‘the Galápagos of Mexico’. And the waters surrounding its four main islands are fast becoming a mecca for scuba divers.
“The park is one of the few places, if not the only place on the planet, that you can have intimate interaction with giant oceanic mantas,” says marine biologist and underwater filmmaker Erick Higuera. He says the mantas, which can weigh up to 3,600 pounds and attain a wing span of 27ft, seem to like the feel of the divers’ oxygen bubbles on their bellies. The bottlenose dolphins that inhabit the park’s waters also show curiosity toward humans and will often swim up to and investigate divers.
20. Sierra Sur, Oaxaca, Mexico
Oaxaca’s epic trail gains in popularity for visitors seeking Indigenous connections
Oaxaca is celebrated for its folk art and vibrant cuisine, but there’s more to be sampled in this subtropical Mexican state than black pottery and moles. Travellers searching for meaningful and respectful cultural exchanges with members of the 16 recognised Indigenous peoples are lacing up their hiking boots to venture into the agrarian heart of the Oaxacan interior on foot.
Growing in popularity is the Copalita Trail, a five-day adventure walk from the state’s southern Sierra Madres to its Pacific coast, stopping to camp, swim, and break bread in Zapotec villages. Because the trail is remote, with few intersecting roads, there is no opportunity to leave it and must be done with a guide. The journey begins in Oaxaca City where a bus brings hikers deep into the mountains. Over the next four days, hikers descend from the slopes past thick pine forests, down through coffee and bamboo plantations and into jungles, before floating down the Copalita River to arrive on the golden sand beaches near Huatulco.
The reopened Trans-Bhutan Trail traverses 250 miles across the Himalayan kingdom
After using the pandemic downturn to reflect and rebuild, Bhutan officially reopened its borders in September 2022. As a mountainous country vulnerable to climate change, Bhutan is famously committed to sustainable, ‘low volume’ tourism that benefits the local community. The increased Sustainable Development Fee of US$200 (£180) per person, per night will be put to good use funding healthcare and education for Bhutan’s citizens, planting trees, and preserving the country’s cultural heritage.
Enticing pilgrims to the Himalayan kingdom is the 250-mile Trans-Bhutan Trail, which has reopened for the first time in 60 years, allowing hikers and bikers to traverse the length of the country. The track connects previously remote communities, spreading the economic benefits of tourism while sharing entirely new insights into Bhutanese life.
Kayakers explore Anthony Quinn Bay, Rhodes, Greece
22. Dodecanese Islands, Greece
This Greek archipelago balances growing popularity with sustaining its ancient traditions
Off the Turkish coast, the Greek islands of the Dodecanese cast an alluring spell stemming from their rocky beauty and feisty history. A cast of conquerors — Romans, Ottomans and Italians — left their fingerprints on everything from the architecture to the food, but today’s invaders come not for fortune, but for selfies, at such better-known Dodecanese islands as Leros, Patmos or Kos.
But now less trafficked parts of the archipelago like Karpathos, located halfway between Crete and Rhodes, must balance between the economic need for tourism and the environmental stresses caused by it. In this arid, hilly land of milk and honey, many families keep bees and make their own butter and cheese. Karpathos’s lonely white churches, timeworn towns and ancient traditions may draw adventurous visitors fleeing the more crowded Cycladic islands of Mykonos and Santorini, but the island’s water scarcity and lack of recycling capacity pose challenges.
23. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A smaller, less expensive Great Lakes city you shouldn’t miss
Wisconsin’s biggest and liveliest city combines a blue-collar, back-thumping energy with a close-knit creative community that’s turning heads beyond the Great Lakes. (Having a winning NBA team, the Bucks, doesn’t hurt either.)
Like the 450 motorcycles displayed inside its Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee is revving its engines in 2023. Riverside promenades are being built along its three waterways (the Milwaukee, Kinnickinnic and Menomonee Rivers), and the buzzy Deer District rises from a former field of vacant lots, with hotels, concert venues and the Bucks arena. Meanwhile traditional neighbourhoods are getting fresh development projects, such as the planned arts and cultural centre in Bronzeville focused on African American art.
24. Alberta, Canada
In the Canadian Rockies, Indigenous voices connect travellers to undiscovered histories
Alberta is celebrated for its natural wonders like the Athabasca Glacier and Banff National Park, both high in the Rocky Mountains; its wide-open prairie vistas; and the glass-and-steel modernity of cities like Calgary and Edmonton. But there are different perspectives to consider in this Canadian province, part of a rethinking about how Indigenous stories are told across all of North America.
“[Travellers] who seek us out want to reconnect and refocus,” says Brenda Holder, a Cree/Iroquois guide who leads visitors on walks and workshops in the woods near Sundre, Alberta, to examine the medicinal plants her people rely upon.
Alberta’s Aboriginal sites offer touchstones into the province’s pre-European past. Visitors to Elk Island National Park, located just east of Edmonton, encounter cultural history dating back 8,000 years through guided hikes, hands-on interpretive programmes featuring prehistoric stone tools, and Cree crafting workshops.
A new high-speed train is making more of Laos accessible
The Covid pandemic closed the borders of many tourism-dependent countries including Laos. But the Southeast Asian country known for its emerald-green vistas of the Upper Mekong got a boost in domestic travel with the December 2021 inauguration of a Chinese-financed and -constructed bullet train christened the Lane Xang, Laos’ ancient name meaning Kingdom of a Million Elephants. Originating in Kunming, China, the train’s 260-mile route within Laos starts at the border town of Boten and barrels through 75 tunnels and across 167 bridges, before terminating in the capital Vientiane.
The train’s promise: expanding tourism among the Lao themselves, who can now easily explore their country’s multifaceted heritage, including the old imperial capital, Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The hottest destination for Black heritage travellers in West Africa is also a vibrant creative hub
With Covid restrictions relaxed, many travellers are once again taking up an invitation that Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo had extended pre-pandemic to people with African heritage: to return to this West African country, explore their African roots and connect with its citizens. The journeys, popularised by celebrity travellers such as Danny Glover and Chance the Rapper, were often emotional ones as visitors confronted the physical remnants of the slave trade along Ghana’s coast.
“More than a return, it’s a remembering,” says National Geographic photo editor Melissa Bunni Elian, who journeyed to Ghana last spring. Elian notes that Ghana has a “strong pan-African spirit. You’ll hear afrobeats everywhere, from the taxis to the grocery store, but also reggae, Haitian zouk, American hip-hop.”
27. Nova Scotia, Canada
Canada puts a spotlight on its unique Acadian culture
The parishes of southern Louisiana have long been associated with the Acadians, France’s settlers in the New World. But the first Acadia lay further north, centred in Canada’s Atlantic Maritime provinces like Nova Scotia. French immigrants first arrived in the 1630s, only to be routed 120 years later by Britain during the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763). Beginning in 1755, ‘le Grand Dérangement’ (The Great Expulsion) saw Acadians forcibly resettled in British colonies or repatriated to France, and then to Louisiana. Allowed to return to Nova Scotia in 1764, the Acadians have defended and retained their unique culture and French language into this century. The twice-a-decade World Congress of Acadians takes place in 2024 here in the rural municipalities of Clare and Argyle.
28. Aboriginal Australia
Greater Aboriginal rights go hand-in-hand with a new wave of Indigenous experiences
This year Australians will cast their vote on whether to enshrine an Aboriginal voice in the country’s constitution. The historic referendum takes place against a backdrop of greater recognition of Aboriginal rights, with vast swathes of land handed back to Traditional Owners, and the country’s first truth-telling commission underway in Victoria.
As the cogs of government churn, a new wave of experiences owned and led by Aboriginal Australians are helping travellers delve deeper into history, culture and cuisine. Found at the end of the Great Ocean Road is Budj Bim Cultural Landscape —newly inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2019 and the first in Australia to be listed for its Aboriginal cultural value — where visitors can explore the world’s oldest eel farms with Gunditjmara guides.
Wax palms in Colombia’s Cocora Valley.
29. San Francisco
An urban trail and a new recreation area with stunning Golden Gate views get top marks from families
In San Francisco, city kids can learn that becoming a trail hiker doesn’t necessarily mean a trip into the wild. The recently completed Crosstown Trail meanders across the city diagonally, from its southeastern corner at Candlestick Point to its northwestern tip at Lands End, winding through gardens, up hills and across urban streets for nearly 17 miles.
Along the way, the trail skirts the Presidio. This 1,491-acre military post turned popular national park offers stunning Golden Gate Bridge views and in July celebrated the opening of the 14-acre Presidio Tunnel Tops. Designed by one of the same firms behind Manhattan’s High Line, the new site is set on top of concrete freeway tunnels and buzzes with a plastic-free nature play space, food trucks and campfire talks.
30. Trinidad and Tobago
One of the most important leatherback turtle nesting sites in the world emphasizes the importance of sea turtle conservation programs
Consider that sea turtles survived the dinosaurs, but might not survive this century. Kids eager to help save the turtles — and encounter hundreds of them as well — can head to Trinidad and Tobago. With loggerheads, greens, leatherbacks, hawksbills and olive ridleys (five of the seven species of sea turtles) swimming off its shores, this Caribbean nation is a mecca for turtle tourism.
Nesting sites are found on both islands, with leatherbacks the most numerous — during the nesting season between March to August, an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 turtles mass on the nation’s shores. Trinidad’s Grande Riviere beach, on the island’s north coast, is the densest leatherback nesting ground in the world.
Turtle-watching programmes led by approved guides generate revenue to help save these creatures, which are under assault from climate change, habitat loss and plastic pollution.
The enchanted land of Encanto has birding, Indigenous cultures and alluring coasts and mountains
Colombia’s boisterous birdlife is as colourful and tuneful as Encanto, the hit Disney animated film set in this biodiverse South American country. More than 1,900 different birds (almost 20% of the world’s avian species) live here, in places like the Perijá Mountains, making Colombia the richest roost for birdlife on the planet.
Where can families flock with them? The Northern Colombia Birding Trail, for birders both extreme and more casual, explores the country’s range of habitats. Tours with the National Audubon Society use 4X4 vehicles to visit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the planet’s highest coastal mountain range, as well as beach-blessed Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast. Visitors can spot species including the crested quetzal, Santa Marta parakeet, and the sickle-winged guan. Colombians and Wayuu Indigenous peoples work along the route as bird guides.
32. Manchester, UK
This mecca for football fans is growing as an arts and culture hub
In 2023 Manchester launches a number of attractions to encourage its post-pandemic revival. The year’s centrepiece is the spring opening of the Factory International, a new £186 million downtown cultural space designed by Rem Koolhaas’s architectural firm. Named after the local record label that made hometown bands Joy Division and New Order globally famous, the Factory will become the permanent home of the Manchester International Festival. The city’s biannual, cutting-edge arts jam showcases the best in theatre, opera and music for all ages.
The year also marks the reopening of the reimagined Manchester Museum, which features new galleries focused on Chinese, South Asian and British Asian culture and a specially designed inclusive, family-focused Belonging Gallery that showcases how humans, plants and animals thrive together. Also coming into its own is the National Trust’s new ‘sky park’ on the Castlefield Viaduct, a walkable Victorian-era railroad bridge.
A precision rail network leads to quaint Alpine towns for chocolate, hiking and skiing
On any given day, Switzerland’s transit network carries 6.6 million riders in a country of only 8.7 million people, tempting families on holiday with some unique trips on its famously punctual trains featuring spectacular mountains, classic cookies and even a Wonka-esque chocolate tour.
The Gotthard Panorama Express begins on a Lucerne steamboat crossing the city’s famous lake before boarding a train in Flüelen for a trip to Switzerland’s Italian-influenced south. A cookie train from Berne to Lucerne stops for a nibble at the Kambly bakery where kids can bake their own cookies and design a biscuit tin to take home. A chocolate train departing from Montreux starts with chocolate croissants and hot chocolate served onboard, stops in Gruyères to explore its medieval old town and world-famous cheese, and winds up in Broc for a tour of the Maison Cailler chocolate factory.
Making it all sweeter is the Swiss Family Card, a rail pass that allows anyone under the age of 16 to ride either free or at a 50% discount.
The only double-listed World Heritage Site in the UK is developing new attractions
Bath may be one of the UK’s most visited cities, but it hasn’t been resting on its laurels in recent years. After a £5.5m renovation of its Roman baths in 2011, and becoming a double-inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021 — one of 11 European spa towns — the Bath World Heritage Centre opened in May 2022, featuring interactive exhibits and displays about Bath’s history, Georgian architecture and unique geology.
But the city founded as Aquae Sulis by the Romans is not just about its ancient past. In September, Cleveland Pools, Britain’s oldest lido, reopened after decades of neglect. Situated by the River Avon, the Grade II*-listed outdoor swimming pool dating back to 1815 was restored after an 18-year campaign to restore it.
And the £20 million Bath Abbey Footprint project, which saw a complete restoration of the medieval abbey church, has neared completion with its new Discovery Centre.
35. Wicklow, Ireland
A multi-million pound treetop walk is just part of the Irish garden county’s new appeal
Wicklow is Ireland’s ‘garden county’ — similar in size to England’s Cotswolds and crammed with mountain trails for hikers and bikers, stately Palladian mansions, wild waterfalls and an underrated coast. As of this year, it’s also home to Ireland’s tallest slide and an exhilarating new walkway that gently ramps up to immerse visitors in the tree canopy itself.
Beyond the Trees Avondale is a revamped experience at Avondale Forest Park. The fully accessible canopy walk opens up birds’ eye views of an estate with over 100 tree species, while the swirling, 12-storey slide is the centrepiece of a wooden structure shaped like a giant pint of Guinness (the whoops you hear spraying about inside are from adults and kids alike).
Published in the December 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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