With 2024 just around the corner, we've been debating the destinations to watch in the coming year. One thing we're all seeking from future travels? A sense of space: big-sky destinations are in hot demand as we head into 2024, with horizon-stretching expeditions in countries such as Mongolia and New Zealand on our radar. Swapping screen time for vast open spaces and awe-filled natural topography has never been more appealing. But it's not just mountain vistas we're highlighting. As always, our eyes are on smaller cities and lesser-known locales. Instead of Oslo, we're checking out Bodø; rather than hitting Japan's big cities, we're considering its rural edges. Here are the hottest destinations to travel to in 2024.
The hottest destinations to explore in 2024
Northern Territory, Australia
In 2024, we'll be swerving Sydney's surf scene and the coffee mecca that is Melbourne in favour of Australia's rugged Northern Territory, aka the Red Centre, for a proper outback adventure. Whether you fly into the desert town of Alice Springs - which offers a feast of Aboriginal art and the chance to feed baby roos at The Kangaroo Sanctuary - or the territory's capital, Darwin - home to tropical gardens, expansive beaches and street art galore - the real reason you're here is to answer the call of the wild. To do so safely, book a tour with award-winning guide Anna Dakin. The founder of The Artist Expedition Society and its offshoot, Art Tours of Australia, Dakin will share her vast knowledge of the region's flora, fauna, geology and indigenous culture as you visit mighty natural wonders including Uluru and King's Canyon, with overnight stays at boutique beauties such as Sails in the Desert and Discovery King's Canyon. She'll also offer you the chance to sleep under the stars in a swag and tap into the power of these startlingly remote landscapes on a Paint the Night by Moonlight workshop - an experience that will resonate long after you've dusted the red desert dust off your hiking boots.
For a serious hit of feel-good endorphins - and who couldn't do with more of them? - Costa Rica is hard to beat. One of the most biodiverse places on the planet, the Central American country is home to lush rainforest, wildlife-rich beaches and one of only eight whale heritage sites in the world, with humpbacks from both hemispheres using the surrounding waters as breeding and birthing grounds. In 2024, we'll be making tracks to the under-the-radar Osa Peninsula. Starting at Drake Bay, in the north, we'll be donning snorkels to explore the Reserva Biológica Isla del Caño, off the coast of the uninhabited Caño island, then heading to Puerto Jiménez on the Pacific Coast, gateway to Corcovado National Park, to hang out with sloths, monkeys and a rainbow of indigenous birdlife. To stretch out aching muscles, we'll then be hitting the yoga mat at new stay Nereus Retreats, before dining on vibrant plates made with organic local produce. At sunrise, it's coffee on the beach and - if you're lucky - front row seats to baby turtles making their maiden voyage to the sea.
Calling all adventurers: Jordan's only coastal city, tucked between arid, sandstone mountains and the deep blue waters of the Red Sea, is sending out a siren song for 2024. You'll find it at one end of the new 675km-long Jordan Trail, a hiking (or cycling) route that stretches along the desert country's coast all the way to Umm Qais. With the Aqaba Marine Reserve located only a few kilometres south of the city proper, promising colourful corals and a circus of fish species to wised-up snorkellers and scuba divers, this laid-back destination is set to become the epicentre for the Middle East's burgeoning adventure industry. Petra is only a 90-minute drive away, and the Mars-like strangeness of Wadi Rum is even nearer. Blisters have you stuck in town? There's lots to explore: the historic old town offers fragrant spice souks and an ancient fort, and the city is a lodestar for traditional Jordanian cuisine. Fuel up pre-hike with shawarma wraps, still-sizzling falafel, and spiced sayadieh, a seared fish dish local to the city. Hotels here tend to be a bit glitzy: avoid the big names with a booking at Bratus.
Philly has been all over our socials recently, with New York transplants raving about its raw, rising-star energy - from the city's galleries and art crowd, to a colourful, creative food scene led by some of America's hottest young chefs. Forget that ubiquitous cheesesteak: the Pennsylvanian city won more James Beard Foundation 2023 awards than any other US destination. That, combined with its banging craft beer scene and up-and-coming bar offering is whipping up a serious buzz. You'll want to make early reservations at some of the big names, including Kalaya, Cantina la Martina and Friday Saturday Sunday. Missed out? Try one of the city's leading bars instead. Our favourites are Andra Hem, Superfolie and Hop Sing Laundromat. The city's art scene is gearing up for a big year, too. From a packed calendar, we'd pick the Philadelphia Museum of Art's In The Right Place exhibition as a must-see: a curation of some of America's best photographers, including Barbara Crane and Carol Taback, in one place. To stay? Try Yowie, a playful Queen Village hotel from the city's homeware queen, Shannon Maldonado, or hold tight for the opening of the 50-key Hotel Anna & Bel, a former asylum set to be transformed into a boutique stay.
Sayōnara, Tokyo. If you're heading to Japan in 2024, we'd recommend following in the footsteps of Japanese urbanites fleeing the big cities in search of rural tranquillity. Post-pandemic (and with remote work on the rise), a steady flow of fresh-faced young professionals are striking out to bucolic idylls, bringing new ideas (and home comforts) with them. Case in point? Ishikawa, the prefecture perched across from Tokyo on Honshu Island - an extension of the Hokuriku-Shinkansen line, due in March, is set to make access to the rural Kaga area much easier (hello, onsen towns). For a stay that's a perfect example of the re-population movement, try Auberge Eau Feu. This former elementary school - closed due to low enrollment - has been transformed into a minimalist, 12-key stay next door to the Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute (open for tastings) and surrounded by rice paddies. Award-winning chef Shota Itoi and his team (average age 27) serve up multi-course feasts featuring regional produce, including ingredients foraged from the area - think tempura loach, butternut squash three ways, and snow crab sushi.
You heard it here first: blue zones are set to be 2024's hit wellness trend. Dotted across the world, these hallowed regions are locations where people tend to live longer than average. So, whether it's communing with grannies in Japan's Okinawa or seeking out the feel-good nature experiences of Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula, life-extending adventures will be coming in hot next year. Europe's only blue zone is Ikaria, in the eastern Aegean, a Greek island whose inhabitants typically live to be 90 or older. Just don't expect pious island life to be the secret to a long innings - there's no yoga at dawn or collagen-filled smoothies in sight. Ikaria's craggy central hills and postcard-ready beaches are rumoured to have been the birthplace of Dionysos, the Greek god of wine - something that has filtered down into an island-wide appreciation of letting your hair down. Today, Ikaria is famous for its wild Panigiri parties. Held on saints days, these hedonistic local events combine food, wine and traditional dancing in a boisterous, exuberant celebration of life. Socrates was once quoted as saying that wine "moistens the soul"; we hear Ikarians agree.
Busan, South Korea
Sure, Seoul is bidding for our attention this year, with its expanded art museum, and the opening of the Seo-Seoul Museum of Art, as well as the Seoul Museum of Photography, but if we had to pick one place to visit in 2024, it would breezy Busan. South Korea's second largest city is a clash of tradition and modernity: you'll find Seoul's bright lights and high-tech living interwoven with the spiritual tranquillity of the country's less hypersonic corners at ancient sites and tranquil temple structures, all backdropped by ocean views and kissed with a salty sea air. Home to some 3.5 million people, the city is as much a pull for Korean travellers as it is those visiting from abroad, thanks to its sandy beaches, top-notch seafood and diverse hillside neighbourhoods. Get your bearings with a visit to BUSAN X the Sky - an observation deck in the city's tallest tower. Back on terra firma, make a beeline for Haeundae beach, the city's iconic sandy stretch. Graze on local fish cakes as you stroll along it to Cheongsapo, a small fishing village where you can sit down for a grilled seafood lunch. Make time, too, to visit Museum 1, a pixelated party of digital art installations.
Hear that? It's the sound of a cultural renaissance resonating through the valleys. This small, proud country is roaring in full voice at the moment: the Welsh language is weaving through music (check out Roughion, Gwenno and Rona Mac) and, in kitchens spanning the peaks, valleys and coastal curves of the country, ancient foodways are being rediscovered and reimagined as foraging the land revives old relationships. For a taste of it, head to lauded restaurants such as Gareth Ward's Ynyshir, where intense flavours and DJ-curated playlists combine to provide a theatrical dining experience. The best way to explore the country and its cultural uptick in 2024? Via its various walking trails. Hikes along the winding Wales Coastal Path offer a slow, meandering exploration of the country's beautiful shorelines. Head to the Gower Peninsula, hiking boots on, to take in some of the country's most striking scenery. Don't miss a dinner at Hywel Griffith's Beach House in Oxwich. With its natural stone walls, and sand dune surrounds, the restaurant plates up fresh produce picked, grown and caught locally.
Photo credit: Kathrine Sørgård and Kontrafei Media
Set to be the European Capital of Culture in 2024, this lesser-visited Norwegian city is primed with a packed calendar for the year ahead, ensuring the Nordland destination puts its best foot forward during its time in the limelight. Suitably for a city wrapped by glaciers, peaks and with daylight hours that flex and stretch with the seasons, much of Bodø's upcoming cultural offering embraces the great outdoors: the Kjerringøy Land Art Biennale will showcase artwork outside museums, highlighting artists' use of the natural world to create art. Indigenous experiences are also taking off in the city: for 2024, the city's Nordland Museum will transform into a Sami-focused experience. The 2024 cultural programme also showcases ÁRRAN 360°, an interactive digital film created by Sami creatives that shares the stories of the indigenous communities in the area. Originally part of an extended programme at the Venice Biennale's 59th International Art Exhibition, the project has now put out an open call for other young Sami filmmakers to get involved. Book a room at the soon-to-open Wood Hotel Bodø. Located a 15-minute drive from the city centre, this architecturally striking property will offer 360-degree views of the city and the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
Such is the pull of this wild, rugged country on travellers right now that the New York Times recently ran an article investigating why so many young people were heading out here. Once you see Mongolia, the reasons become clear. This is a land of sky-stretching vistas and vast, uncompromising landscapes; in our digital times, is it any wonder we're seeking to escape the pixelated minutia of our lives for ego-humbling experiences in the world's most remote places? Whether it's driving through the windswept steppes or riding horses towards the Gobi Desert's far-off horizon, Mongolia makes our list for everything it represents in our fast-paced, furious world: a chance to slow down, switch off and breathe. Luckily, the country is well aware that its far-flung escapism is hot property right now: new openings are popping up all over the place. For a flavour of what's in vogue, try Yeruu Lodge.
The Balkans are back, and while everyone else is checking out the high peaks and verdant valleys of Albania, we're heading over to the tiny country of Kosovo. Here, too, the pull is the country's incredible landscapes, but unlike in the more developed Balkan regions, Kosovo's USP is its rustic charm. You'll want to bring hiking boots: trails crisscross its sweeping peaks, tumbling waterfalls and jaw-dropping gorges. Alternatively, take to two wheels. In 2024, the Trans Dinarica Cycle Route opens for business, a vast, 2,000km route linking eight Balkan countries, including Kosovo. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Kosovo War, too, making a trip to this much reimagined country a must.
The French Polynesian idyll of Tahiti gets a bad rap for being a fly-and-flop destination packed out with well-heeled honeymooners and silver-haired cruise crawlers. Our advice? Don't listen to the noise: with 188 islands to explore, the country's lesser-known spots, like Huahine, Taha'a, Fakarava and Raiatea, offer a totally different experience to any of that. Life here is famously colourful, from the blue waters and tropical flora to the kaleidoscope of marine life and coral beneath the waves. For real rusticism, head to the lagoon-surrounded Huahine (actually two islands connected by a bridge), a 40-minute flight from Tahiti. For something a little livelier, try Taha'a (although we doubt there's ever anything too rowdy for the island's two policemen to deal with). Traditional guesthouses in the country, called pensions, offer an intimate and more affordable alternative to hotels - you'll stay in a beach-facing bungalow and dine on home-cooked dinners created by a host family. Our favourite? Pension Anahata on Taha'a, where ocean-gazing bungalows sit on a beautiful private beach. Keep an eye on Teahupo'o village, too: it's set to host the surfing competition for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Ecuador is no quick culinary city break destination: 2,850m high, and stretched out like a blanket of buildings between five volcanoes, this sky-high Andean city requires travellers to put in some legwork to experience its dining scene, but we're here to say it's worth it. Despite the historic architecture of the Ecuadorian capital - all cobblestone streets and candlelit monasteries - the food offering is forward-thinking, with a roster of young chefs spearheading an experimental scene that's looking to get as hot as Lima's. First up, there's Rodrigo Pacheco, whose interest in native ingredients - all grown within rewilded forests or sourced from the country's indigenous communities - has made the hyper-seasonal menu at his greenhouse-inspired Foresta the city's hottest. Then, there are the inventive dishes on offer at the 2020-opened Somos. Diners at the La Carolina district restaurant sit beneath a colourful art mural by Ecuadorian artist Apitatán as they scoff Alejandra Espinoza's moreish manaba cheese-filled sweet plantain balls, coconut shrimp empanadas and mahi-mahi crudo.
Prep your long-haul survival kit: we're hemisphere skipping in 2024. New Zealand is no under-the-radar destination - all those fantastical-looking, pristine landscapes are too pretty to take a back seat - but in 2024, the country's South Island is set to remind us just why the country is worth the flight. And, while the jaw-dropping topography is always a draw, it's the country's new-found design chops that have piqued our interest. Take the 14,568-hectare sheep station, Flockhill Lodge, with its intimate 28-guest size, big restaurant plans, spa and kitchen gardens. The Craigieburn Valley property's wooden eaves and pared-back, all-natural interiors are set to make waves in the design world. In the same vein, the laid-back Drift Off Grid eco-glamping set-up slated to open in Golden Bay also has us interested. Then, in Christchurch, the recent opening of the artsy Observatory Hotel has put a city break on the cards, too.
Our first inkling that the winds were stirring in Mozambique is when nobody could stop talking about Kisawa, the ultra-luxe beach retreat on the south-east African country's coast that was pairing outrageous opulence with an impressive funding model that kept the property's sister research centre, BCSS, afloat. It's just one example of how travellers' experiences of Mozambique will be conservation-led in future. Elsewhere, in the Gorongosa National Park, the first tented camp is set to open next year (Muzimu Lodge), while the new lodges amid the sand dunes at Ponta Membene are making the country's sparkling coastlines and incredible coastal safari experiences accessible for those with less cash to splash. The capital, Maputo, meanwhile, is one to watch, and with lowered entry requirements for visa-free travel for a load of countries worldwide, it's never been easier to make tracks to Mozambique.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Visitors to Tanzania normally skip its bustling capital and head straight to the sun-baked Zanzibar. Their loss. This heaving, humming metropolis - home to some four million people - is an epicentre of cultural creativity in East Africa, and between the skyscrapers, sprawling road systems, pastel colonial mansions and beautiful coastal stretches, some of the continent's hottest new tastemakers are emerging. Fuel up on Tanzanian coffee and masala chickpea toast with avocado and eggs at the Central Park Café on Barack Obama Drive, then make tracks to the Nafasi Art Space, a contemporary art centre housed in the former industrial warehouse of Mikocheni, to catch local artists working alongside international ones in active studios. The Green Room is the place to browse handmade furniture, homeware and artwork.
One travel trend that's not budging in 2024 is our lust for creative experiences: crafting has never been hotter. Post-earthquake, all eyes are on Morocco as it rebuilds its hospitality offering, and Tangier, the country's most cerebral city, is about to step into the limelight. After escaping without any significant damage from the devastating earthquake, this sensorial, seductive coastal destination is set to rival Marrakech in its allure - and artistic endeavours sit at the heart of its bid. Case in point? The design-forward New Tangier and homeware studio Djebeli. Just ask the experts over at Black Tomato - they're calling the city the "Gate to Africa" in 2024, noting that the recent move of the city's downtown seaport to a new location has allowed for a bucolic new waterside district. We're keeping our eyes on the neighbourhood. Elsewhere, new openings like the Jasper Conran-designed Villa Mabrouka, House of Augustine and La Fiermontina Ocean in Larache will give the city some much-needed new stays.