A YEAR OF ADVENTURE
The Best Places to Travel in 2023
As the year draws to a close, our thoughts drift to all the adventures we have had over the last 365 days, and where we might travel in 2023.
Many destinations around the world are simply timeless. They are the constant classics of travel, never disappointing, always breathtaking and an absolute joy to visit, whether for the first time or the twenty-first.
There are others that gain celebrity, through the media, specific events or the acutely-focussed lens of Hollywood. But these have never been our prerogative. Rather, we search for those locations that inspire, that bring freedom, that are exceptional in their quietude, not for their excessive popularity.
Though not entirely unknown, there are several destinations to which we are excited to travel in 2023, offering new lodgings, increased conservation and a world of wonder far from the madding crowd.
The new lodging offerings, increased conservation efforts and a world of wonder, we are excited to present our top places to travel.
So come with us around the world as we explore nine of our top destinations to travel in 2023.
- South Luangwa, Zambia
- Great Barrier Reef & Daintree Rainforest
- The Garden Route, Cape Town
- Laikipia County, Kenya
- Sossusvlei, Namibia
- Leh, Ladakh
South Luangwa, Zambia
Zambia draws inspiration for improvement from the past mistakes and actions of other countries to create a sustainable and propitious model for tourism. This has allowed it to evolve from little more than the location of Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya, and into a stand-alone destination for incredible safari experiences and wilderness immersions.
Over the last decade, Zambia’s conservation efforts have excelled, bringing with them tourism and development all carefully managed to benefit wildlife, environment and communities. Zambia has had the advantage of hindsight, learning from the mistakes and actions of other countries to create a sustainable, propitious model for tourism.
One of the primary draws of Zambia, and South Luangwa in particular, is that it is the birthplace of the walking safari. While many parks and conservancies across Africa can be explored on foot, South Luangwa has some of the finest walking guides and diverse landscapes through which to wander.
When combined with the Luangwa River and the abundance of life it attracts, this region is second to none for walking safaris, and yet there is so much more to enjoy. Cruises and canoes upon the waterways, birdwatching and photographic hides, camp-outs in the wilderness and falling asleep under the stars; Zambia doesn’t follow the convention of a Maasai Mara game drive, and it is in this that its uniqueness lies. From waterways to groves of ebony trees, baobab forests to arid plains, there is a fantastic diversity to explore.
All this is impeccably complemented by a reserved portfolio of luxury camps and lodges that place you in the heart of the wilderness with no compromise for comfort. Perhaps not of the standard of some of Africa’s finest establishments, Zambia nevertheless continues to elevate its standards, and this combination of uniqueness, abundance and luxury places South Luangwa firmly at the top of our list.
Though Ecuador has been on the tourism radar for many years as the gateway to the Galapagos, the mainland is quickly making a name for itself as a luxury travel destination.
This fascinating country has a wonderful array of attractions to explore, from lofty snow-capped volcanoes to glacial lakes, historical cities and tropical coastal towns. Though Peru is often considered the home of both the Inca and their antagonists the Conquistador, Ecuador shares in this history, a major trade route for the former and a vital seaport and stronghold for the latter.
The capital of Quito is a wonderfully charming city, boasting centuries-old architecture, superb traditional and contemporary cuisine and a living history that tells of its patchwork past of conflict, culture and creativity.
But it isn’t only historical cathedrals and man-made archeological wonders that create such appeal in Ecuador. On the periphery of the Amazon rainforest, one can experience tribal encounters, fascinating river cruises and sightings of rare and endangered species. Gaining elevation, the scenery changes dramatically, and expansive grasslands give way to pristine lakes, which in turn are surrounded by towering volcanoes and mountains.
For nature lovers, Ecuador is home to many animals rarely found anywhere else in the world. The nation is the most prolific bastion of the endangered Andean condor, the world’s largest flying bird, and puma stalk guanacos across the grassy plains of Cotopaxi National Park. Here, you can also find rare spectacled bears, timidly dwelling in the shadow of the nation’s largest active volcano
With hot springs high in the mountains, the bustling oceanside city of Guayaquil, hundreds of impressive waterfalls and a consistent annual climate, the diverse, fascinating and wonderfully inviting Ecuador is far more than the gateway to the Galápagos.
Great Barrier Reef & Daintree Rainforest
Australia as a whole has numerously been lauded as one of the foremost destinations to travel in 2023.
Selecting one location to highlight across the entire intriguing and stunningly beautiful nation is impossible, suffice it to say that one should not visit Australia without venturing to the world’s only convergence of two UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites.
Beginning on land, the Daintree rainforest is staggeringly fascinating. Millions of years older than the Amazon, home to over 400 endangered or threatened species and a living, Jurassic-era time capsule, it is exceptionally biodiverse and humblingly immense, both geographically and botanically. Wandering amongst the world’s tallest tropical trees, one can find a plethora of amphibians and reptiles, with tree kangaroos, fruit bats and other smaller mammals sharing the forest floor. It is also possible to find cassowarys, though these missing links between dinosaurs and birds are notoriously aggressive and should be avoided.
Breaking through the dense foliage, one emerges onto white-sand beaches and an azure ocean stretching to the horizon. In these pristine waters lies the Great Barrier Reef, home to several thousand species of fish, and itself prehistorically old. The world’s largest reef system predominantly lies far offshore, with outer islands and boat charters being the best ways to access it.
From glass-bottomed boats, snorkeling on the surface or diving into this alien world, it is possible to observe one of the most incredible ecosystems anywhere in the world. It is also one of the few locations on the planet that are home to nautiluses, a cephalopod that has remained unchanged for millions of years. Whether an ocean lover or landlubber, it is impossible to not be utterly captivated and awe-struck by the reef and its kaleidoscope of inhabitants.
Morocco has been a well-travelled destination for hundreds of years. Spice traders, pirates, crusaders, pilgrims, explorers and drug-trafficking surfers have all passed through its terracotta alleyways and sandy expanses over the centuries, and its appeal to the more adventurous of travellers has never wavered.
Contemporary Morocco maintains its timeless old-world charm, with daily life changing little in decades. While it has always held an element of opulence, Morocco has today become a wonderful fusion of the old and the new, classical medinas impeccably transformed into elegant hotels with their distinctive central courtyards and water features.
This fusion is never better embodied than on the plate, and gastronomists will marvel at the exploration of the tastebuds available at every level, from the street food served in the souks to internationally-awarded fine-dining establishments taking the iconic flavours of Morocco into new realms.
The marketplaces and thronged alleyways ooze culture and tradition, hand-beaten brass ornaments, colourful textiles and a constant mist of aroma wafting from conical towers of red, yellow and ochre spices all sharing space in the labyrinthine lanes of Marrakech and Fez.
And with it all, the solitude of the Sahara can instantly transport you from chaos to serenity in a second, oases surrounded by date palms and spectacular properties sharing the protected valleys and foothills of the Atlas Mountains.
Morocco is the perfect marriage of dynamic adventure and first-class decadence, as thrilling as it is indulgent, making it a wonderfully appealing destination to travel in 2023 for almost any audience.
The Garden Route, South Africa
Cape Town and its neighbouring winelands often gain much of the attention of South Africa’s southernmost coastline, but just around the corner, on the warmer Pacific coast, lies a 124-mile (200km) winding road that takes in breathtaking ocean views, quaint towns, national parks and more deliciously fresh seafood than even the hungriest cape fur seal could ever want for.
The Garden Route is well known by locals; Cape Town residents will migrate east for the weekend, enjoying the uncrowded beaches, wilderness hikes and superb restaurants. Here, too, you can find the crisp New-World wines so synonymous with the Southern Cape but little of the pomp and pageantry of the more famous vineyards and wineries.
In the right season – from June to December – humpback and Southern right whales can be seen breaching in the deep-blue ocean, while on land, the district begins with the wonderfully remote Anysberg National Park and culminates in the Garden Route National Park, home to elephant, leopard, genet, caracal and numerous bat and antelope species.
The wending trail also provides the opportunity to see the Marine Big Five – the South African fur seal, Southern right whale, African penguin, great white sharks and bottlenose dolphins, with Boulders Beach – the best location to see African penguins – being a short detour from Cape Town to the Garden Route.
The route is a delightful combination of coastal vistas, culinary excellence, charming towns and a little taster of safari and, though far from a hidden secret, is underpopulated enough to provide a refreshing sense of pure escapism. Though little more than a weekend addition to a more extensive African itinerary, the Garden Route is an unforgettable inclusion to safari travel in 2023.
Laikipia County, Kenya
Much awaited rains have breathed new life into the region, while conservation efforts, property refurbishment and philanthropic work have united to provide visitors with luxury accommodations and exceptional game viewing.
The neighbouring Meru and Samburu counties are equally as worthy of travel in 2023, but with Laikipia at their centre, one can enjoy premier properties conveniently located to enjoy the very best of the entire region.
Laikipia has a wealth of nature, and its rolling landscapes create small and abundant valleys that form enclaves for numerous species. This somehow makes wildlife viewing more tangible; a zebra seen on the wide-open plains seems closer, almost more ‘real’, when seen weaving along riverbeds and through the rocky outcrops and thicketed gullies of Laikipia. The vast herds may be absent, but the diversity expands exponentially, with plains animals living alongside the more desert-dwelling species; elephant, zebra, leopard, gazelle and a small lion population meet oryx, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe and striped hyena. Endangered species have also been carefully nurtured in the region; black and white rhino, cheetah, aardwolf, wild dogs, Grévy’s zebra and even the melanistic black leopard.
Culture is also strong in Laikipia, the Maasai the most predominant amongst several tribes, and across the border, travellers can visit the Samburu people. Many of the camps of the region employ traditional Maasai trackers, but to further immerse in these fascinating cultures, village excursions are easily arranged, happily accommodated and truly authentic.
Laikipia is timeless, many property owners being third or fourth-generation expatriates who have worked alongside the local tribes for decades and have now turned their attention to the conservation of this precious Garden of Eden.
If Africa is on your list of travel in 2023, Laikipia should most certainly factor into your itinerary.
Part Martian landscape, part African safari, Sossusvlei presents one of the most impactful vistas in the world. The ashen desert floor is punctuated by blackened skeletal camel thorn trees, low-lying shrubs and immense, deep-orange sand dunes, all blanketed in an almost iridescently-blue sky.
On this confoundingly impactful canvas, uniquely-adapted animals scrounge for water and sustenance. Elephant, giraffe and cheetah, more often associated with Africa’s grassy plains, have evolved the ability to go without water for days at a time and squeeze every skerrick of moisture from the few victuals that exist in this arid wilderness.
In the world’s oldest desert, unchanged but for the infinitesimal inching movements of the windswept dunes for over 55 million years, the serenity is intoxicating. Even the most photographically averse visitor will be inspired to pick up a camera, the stark contrast of colours and tones simply irresistible.
Sossusvlei, somewhat unappeallingly and misleadingly, translates as ‘dead-end marsh’, though the region is often one chapter of a very-much connected itinerary and little rain falls on the chalk-white desert floor.
The uniqueness of Namibia‘s landscape and fauna are equally rarified and offer some of the best opportunities for seeing scarce creatures, including bat-eared foxes, oryx, ostrich, brown hyena and a variety of curious and fascinating insect and reptile species, sought out and shared by knowledgeable expert guides.
Add to all of this dawn balloon flights and unsurpassable sunsets, incredible architecture and exceptional luxury in a handful of superb lodges and tented camps, and Sossusvlei’s appeal for travel in 2023 is easy to see. And yet, only when you experience it for yourself will you realise that any preconception or expectation is assured to be vastly underestimated.
When one considers Mauritius, the mind often wanders to palm-fringed white-sand beaches melting into the purest turquoise waters imaginable. And honestly, who could refuse such a pristine tropical paradise?
But Mauritius is more than a contemporary Robinson Crusoe fantasy.
Despite falling within continental Africa, Mauritius is a fusion of cultures, with Chinese, Dutch and French influences distinctly evident, echoes still resonating from more than 200 years of spice trade.
Stunningly picturesque, the vast majority of hotels and properties have established themselves on the iconic Mauritian image of idyllic island life. Ocean activities, golfing, or simply finding peace and calm, allowing time to wash by like the gently-lapping waves, there is plenty to do, including absolutely nothing.
Venture from the manicured lawns and crisp, white sun loungers of the more prescribed Mauritian vacation, and one can find a world of wonder. Escape the mainland to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Île aux Aigrettes to view endemic species, including Mauritius’ star resident, the giant land tortoise; hike to the summit of Le Morne Brabant to witness the natural phenomenon that is, or at least appears to be, a waterfall beneath the ocean; take time to wander the charming streets of Port Louis, the island’s capital where you will find culture, craft and tantalising Creole-inspired cuisine. The jungle interior is filled with stunning wildlife and spectacular waterfalls rising beyond the uppermost flames of the Statue of Liberty.
Little can deny that Mauritius remains first and foremost a coastal destination. The perfect azure waters of the Indian Ocean stretch like an undulating turquoise canvas as far as the eye can see, and the fine, white sand embraces the emerald island like a delicate fringe of icing sugar.
Yet while it is the primary reason for visiting the country, it is far from its sole appeal, and this intriguing dichotomy of characteristics makes Mauritius an ideal choice for those wishing to escape the cold, but do more with their vacation than recline on the beach, gently melting away under a tropical sun. History, culture, wildlife, adventure, and two vastly different worlds above and below the ocean collide in a polarity of wonder and beauty. When planning your travel in 2023, Mauritius should most certainly be on the shortlist.
Leh, Ladakh, India
Travel in 2023 will be filled with inspiring destinations, unusual cultures and spectacular landscapes. One destination in particular that fulfills all of these criteria is Ladakh.
Located far to the north of India and bordering Nepal, this remote territory is a more convenient alternative for those wishing to explore the Himalayas and experience Buddhist culture. As our India expert Viji Krishna shares, “Ladakh is most famous for breathtaking landscapes, crystal clear skies, the highest mountain passes, thrilling adventure activities, Buddhist Monasteries and festivals. Due to its geographical and cultural similarity to Tibet, Ladakh is sometimes described as ‘Little Tibet’.”
The capital city of Leh is both home to the province’s primary airport and immersively cultural, with ancient buildings, marketplaces, and friendly faces radiating warm hospitality to each and every visitor.
Leh is brimming with history and Buddhist monuments, and these are often placed high on the hillsides forming the caldera-like valley in which Leh nestles. The austere 400-year-old Leh Palace stands sentinel over the city, formerly allowing the royal family to watch over their minions in the valley below. Today, visitors can wander the empty corridors and explore the many viewpoints offering bird’s-eye views of the city and sweeping panoramas of the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance.
Tsemo Castle similarly presents an exceptional perspective, and provides visitors with a captivating introduction to Buddhism, with impressive statues of the Buddha and an adjoining monastery that are profoundly moving regardless of one’s personal beliefs.
The Shanti Stupa is another religious monument, and while respect for the local traditions should be observed, it provides one of the most captivating sunset vantage points in the world.
Surrounding Leh are an array of hiking trails, glacial mountain lakes, the world’s highest – and most-hair-raising – navigable road, and seas of sand dunes. Nubra Valley is resemblant of the Sahara, its rolling dunes said to once have been the ocean floor before the Himalaya rose from the depths. No desert is complete without a camel or two, and here in the Nubra Valley can be found the hairy bactrian camel.
So distinctly different is Ladakh, it is almost otherworldly to visit. Time, nationality, cuisine and every semblance of familiarity dissolve into the impossibly expansive clear-blue skies, negating preconception and inspiring a level of escapism that few other destinations can deliver.
Recent travel trends have seen a distinct move away from indulgence and extravagance and towards experiential journeys and multi-faceted explorations providing a greater connection to destinations, their wildlife and their inhabitants, though there is, of course, numerous opportunity to combine both aspects. Travellers are also placing value in the power of tourism, to not only provide unforgettable, sometimes life-changing experiences, but also to positively impact those places they choose to wander, leaving them, even in the smallest of ways, better than when they arrived.
Whatever your desires for travel in 2023, the coming year is a time for discarding conformity and opening your mind to the possibilities of the world.
Talk to your Travel Designer today to discover a different side of travel in 2023.