Despite a protracted pandemic, many borders have reopened. More are likely to follow this year, so the time to plan trips is now.
Ranging from city centers filled with culture to pristine wilderness removed from crowds, here are a glimpse of destinations you can explore this year.
Before booking, check the latest travel requirements and restrictions.
Identified as the first Covid hotspot in Europe, Lombardy was the hardest hit area by the boot. In normal times, with fewer tourists than Rome and Tuscany, this well-populated area offers picturesque and often overlooked cities such as Bergamo and Brescia, with fashionable Milan at heart. Excellent attractions include the Duomo di Milano, a Gothic cathedral from 1386; Navigli, the canal district recognized for its bohemian vibe; and Castello Sforzesco, adjacent to Parco Sempione.
In southern Lombardy, medieval villages like Pavia and Mantua pepper the countryside and paint a picture of provincial life. To the north, the postcard-perfect Italian lake district glistens at the foot of the Alps and highlights lovely holiday towns such as Como, Bellagio and Stresa.
But apart from all the beauty, the food throughout Lombardy is a significant attraction; this region consistently harvests the most Michelin stars in Italy.
As of October, Finnish Air increased direct flights from Miami, Los Angeles and New York to Arlanda Airport, opening more doors to Sweden, the nation in first place for Global Sustainable Tourism in 2020.
Stockholm is the country’s pristine cultural capital, showing one of Europe’s most picturesque ancient cities, Gamla Stan. Meanwhile, Södermalm, or “Söder” for the locals, captures the essence of Stockholm’s creativity and spirit. In late 2021, the city launched the interactive Avicii Museum and SPACE Hub – honoring the life and talents of musician and DJ Tim Bergling – in a seven-story center dedicated to digital culture.
But Alex Minnis, COO of Off the Map Travel, a UK-based luxury tourism agency, recommends Gothenburg, a maritime city along Sweden’s west coast. “Gothenburg is also a beautiful city to visit, known for its award-winning sustainability,” says Minnis. He suggests the Haga district for shopping, breweries, restaurants and “the biggest cinnamon buns you could ever come across.”
A world away from cities, Lapland is an Arctic wonderland that encourages travelers to step off the net. “Swedish Lapland is one of the least populated areas in Europe with large wilderness areas, pristine forests and lots of moose, bears and wolves roaming the forests,” says Stefan Hellmuth, Global Product Manager at Intrepid Travel, a small adventure travel company with base in Melbourne. If you are lucky and times their turn right, they will experience the northern lights, which are most often visible in winter.
Coachella Valley, California.
Mid-century modern designs and Old Hollywood glam are trademarks of Palm Springs, Coachella Valley’s cosmopolitan oasis. But if there is one reason to take in the valley’s nine separate cities, it is the commitment to wellness. Located in the Colorado desert between the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains, the sprawling region promises countless places to recharge, including several new additions.
In Indian Wells, Miramonte Resort & Spa will re-debut in early 2022, announcing a $ 9 million renovation. Sensei Porcupine Creek, a 230-acre private estate that has become a wellness retreat, will invite guests to the Rancho Mirage later this year.
Desert Hot Springs houses some of the world’s purest hot and cold springs due to an underground aquifer. Many of the city’s properties, such as the newly awarded Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis, have healing, natural mineral pools.
And for the adventurous, a new 1.5-mile trailhead that connects the Coachella Valley with the Long Canyon Trail Route in Joshua Tree National Park, launched in December 2021. Joshua Tree is an 800-acre ethereal plot where the Colorado and Mojave deserts meet. idyllic place to camp, experience wildlife or unplug.
Located in the Andes, this small island nation is globally recognized for sustainable tourism and biodiversity, especially in the Galapagos Islands. Still, visitors should set aside time to explore the country’s other treasures.
“While the Galapagos Islands have been a perennial attraction with its unique wildlife and experiences like snorkeling with playful sea lions and giant tortoise walks, Ecuador also has a lot to offer on the mainland,” said Brian Tan, CEO of Zicasso, a luxury travel company in Mountain View, California.
Mashpi Rainforest Reserve and Lodge is where “one can hike in a pristine rainforest with a guide, swim in waterfall pools without anyone else nearby and then return to a five-star luxury eco-lodge,” explains Tan.
The nature is close to the colonial cities of Quito and Cuenca, each of which is worth a few days for the historic architecture alone. However, both cities promise a store of culture and delicious food.
“Foodies are pleasantly surprised by the diverse and complex cuisine, from traditional dishes to Michelin-quality meals that blend unique local ingredients with modern techniques,” says Tan. “Art lovers will find plenty to discover, from native art to modern art by one of South America’s most respected artists, Guayasamín.”
For travelers who like unspoilt beaches and a tropical climate without crowds, the Maldives ranks high on the list. With no restrictions or required quarantines and a remote location, the destination is all the more tempting.
“It’s the perfect oasis for travelers to escape to in 2022 due to the island nation’s remote location and the fact that its tourist activities are almost exclusively outdoor-based,” says Andrew Williams, a Houston-based travel consultant at Ovation Travel Group.
Williams reports that some travelers are lured by the many water sports activities, while others find appeal in first-class spa treatments and yachting around the surrounding islands and atolls.
Resorts including Waldorf Astoria, Four Seasons, The St. Regis and other big names are represented, Williams says. And this year, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives will make her debut. With 80 villas with all pools overlooking the water, the property can be reached in under an hour by seaplane from the capital Malé.
AlUla, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia began issuing visas for the first time in 2019, and AlUla opened for international tourism in the fall of 2020, making it ready to become a world-class destination.
“AlUla is the cultural gem of Saudi Arabia and one of the last unexplored destinations in the world,” said Amr AlMadani, CEO of The Royal Commission on AlUla.
At approximately 8,700 square kilometers, this “small country-sized open-air museum” is located in the Medina region. Its labyrinthine old town, the ancient cities of Dadan and Hegra – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and a crowd of tombs and monoliths promise tourists a glimpse of AlUla’s 200,000-year history.
The eco-friendly, wellness-centered Habitas brand recently unveiled an outpost, and a property from Banyan Tree will arrive later in 2022. Maraya, the largest mirrored structure in the world, is a multifunctional venue hosting concerts and events. The masterpiece rises from the sand and reflects the desert’s above-ground landscape, while Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton’s roof creation Maraya Social reveals panoramic views of the Ashar Valley.