With the world back at our fingertips, we’re anxious to explore as much as we can this year. Our lists have only gotten longer since a significant stretch of downtime, and we could only check so many boxes off in 2021 and 2022. The world is full of places and cultures to savor, which is why we love travel so much. We limited ourselves to one place per continent for this list, only because we have to draw the line somewhere.
You’ll find a convergence of cultures in the northwest corner of Africa. From Morocco’s northern tip you can almost reach out and touch Spain, and the Spanish, French and Portuguese have had a heavy influence in Morocco’s history. The country has deep ties to the Arab world, and its contacts with the Middle East go back hundreds of years before Islam to Phoenician colonization. The Romans played a big role, too, and ruins are scattered throughout the coastal regions. Marrakech is a city of gardens, riads and souks. Chefchaouen is awash in blue, with buildings throughout painted brightly. The Atlas Mountains are a panoply of greens and browns, with one valley spectacularly adorned in pink when the roses bloom in May. It’s a colorful place, and one well worth visiting.
The seat of the Republic of China since defeat at the hands of the communists shortly after World War II, Taiwan has developed a unique culture that is a mix of aboriginal, Chinese and Japanese elements. With nearly 25 million inhabitants, it packs about 1,700 people into every square mile. At 1,671 feet, Taipei 101 in the capital city briefly held the title of world’s tallest building, though now it’s struggling to remain in the top 10. Street food is the hallmark of Taiwanese dining, with tofu, rice, pork and vegetables all enjoying starring roles. Outside the city are temples in gorgeous natural settings reminiscent of a much older way of life. Portuguese sailors on their way to Japan in 1544 dubbed Taiwan Ilha Formosa, “the beautiful island,” and you’ll see why along the coastal road or hiking through the forests and along the cliffs of Taroko Gorge National Park.
Italy is annually the top destination for Americans. Croatia has surged in popularity in recent years. Austria is great for lovers of river cruising, skiing and culture. At the confluence of those countries, with Hungary to its east, Slovenia packs a lot into a small space. It has alps with some of the best fall foliage you’ll find anywhere. It has Lake Bled, one of the most picturesque spots on the planet. It has a burgeoning gastronomy scene, with three wine regions and 10 MIchelin-starred restaurants. “It is a must-go destination because of the talented culinary masters who transform ingredients of the highest quality into unique culinary creations,” the Michelin Guide says. It has thermal spas and contains part of the Istrian peninsula, known for beautiful coastal towns and olive groves in the interior. The core of Ljubljana, the capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to the architecture of Jože Plečnik.
There really is no place like New Zealand. Sure, there are some spots that will remind you of alpine Europe, some that will remind you of the tropics and some that are straight out of Middle-earth. But you’ve never seen anything that packs all the natural beauty, adventure and culture. You’re most likely to arrive in Auckland on the North Island. It’s New Zealand’s largest city, and ranked among the most livable cities in the world. It’s also a gateway to beaches, vineyards, islands and Hobbiton, with original sets from the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies. In Rotorua, you’ll encounter the fiery volcanic activity the Ring of Fire is famous for, along with the unique culture of the Maori people. Rotorua is also one of New Zealand’s great adventure spots. The adventure only ramps up on the South Island, where you can scale Franz Josef Glacier and climb or bike mountains in Wanaka before you reach Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world.
It’s mind-blowing how truly spectacular that much ice can be. It doesn’t hurt that there are also penguins, leopard seals, whales and Antarctic birds on and around all that ice. You can take a long hike or go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on the seventh continent and kayaking among orcas in the waters offshore. Antarctica is a truly wild place, and that’s just how we like it.
Most people visit by ship, but there are many different vessels that travel to Antarctica. For the more adventurous, there are expedition ships that have simple accommodations but offer plenty of opportunities for exploration in zodiacs and kayaks, with more chances to see wildlife going about their daily routines. There are luxury ships with lavish suites and gourmet food. You can even travel to Antarctica by private jet and stay in a private
camp on land in a heated pod.
In Bogota, Colombia’s capital with a population around 8 million and an elevation of almost 9,000 feet, you’ll find an eclectic mix of colonial heritage and street art with bustling boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. Cartagena, in contrast, sits at sea level and is a key Caribbean port. There, you’ll explore the fortress of San Felipe, hiding underground tunnels and passageways behind its sturdy walls, and peruse the artisan area of Las Bovedas, arches built into the city walls, which previously served as an armory and a prison but now houses boutique shops. In the Andean region, visitors can enter San Agustin Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is considered the world’s largest necropolis. No less impressive is the natural wonder of Caño Cristales, known as the “river of five colors” and the “liquid rainbow” because of the spectacular hues of yellow, green, blue, black and red from underwater plants that bloom after the rainy season.
With coasts on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean and a rainforest with a volcano in the middle, Costa Rica is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Whether you want to surf or relax on the beach, bike through cloud forest or ride a zipline past it, brave the white water in a raft or relax in a volcanic hot spring, you can do it in Costa Rica. Get your fill of sea and sun on the Peninsula Papagayo, enjoy the nature reserve in Manuel Antonio National Park then head to the Arenal Volcano area for horseback riding, canopy tours, even a hot air balloon ride. There’s no shortage of wildlife in one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, and bird watchers will be able to check dozens of species off their lists. Those who have been to Costa Rica know that pura vida isn’t just a slogan, it’s a way of life.