Despite an ongoing pandemic, many borders have been reopened. More are expected to follow this year, so now is the time to start planning your trip.
From urban centers full of culture to pristine wilderness away from the crowds, here’s a look at travel destinations to explore this year.
Find out about the latest travel requirements and restrictions before booking.
Lombardy, identified as the first Covid hotspot in Europe, was the hardest hit area of the boot. In normal times, with fewer tourists than Rome and Tuscany, this affluent area offers quaint and often overlooked cities like Bergamo and Brescia with fashionable Milan in their hearts. Notable sights include the Duomo di Milano, a Gothic cathedral from 1386; Navigli, the canal district known for its bohemian atmosphere; and Castello Sforzesco next to Parco Sempione.
In southern Lombardy, medieval villages such as Pavia and Mantua adorn the landscape and paint a picture of provincial life. In the north, the postcard motif of the Italian lake district glitters in the foothills of the Alps and highlights beautiful holiday resorts such as Como, Bellagio and Stresa.
But for all its beauty, the food is a major draw in Lombardy as a whole; This region regularly receives the most Michelin stars in Italy.
From October onwards, Finnish Air increased its direct flights from Miami, Los Angeles and New York to Arlanda Airport, opening more doors to Sweden, the country that will take first place in the Global Sustainable Tourism category in 2020.
Stockholm is the country’s pristine, cultured capital and features one of the most picturesque old towns in Europe, Gamla Stan. Meanwhile, Södermalm, or “Söder” for the locals, captures the essence of Stockholm’s creativity and spirit. At the end of 2021, the city unveiled the interactive Avicii Museum and the SPACE Hub in a seven-story center for digital culture, honoring the life and talents of musician and DJ Tim Bergling.
But Alex Minnis, COO of Off the Map Travel, a UK luxury tourism agency, recommends Gothenburg, a maritime city on Sweden’s west coast. “Gothenburg is also a beautiful city that is known for its award-winning sustainability,” says Minnis. He suggests the Haga district for shopping, breweries, restaurants and “the biggest cinnamon buns you can ever find”.
Lapland is a world away from the cities and an arctic wonderland that encourages travelers to get offline. “Swedish Lapland is one of the most sparsely populated areas in Europe, with vast 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 tour operator with Based in Melbourne. If you are lucky and plan your trip properly, you will experience the Northern Lights, which are most commonly seen in winter.
Coachella Valley, California.
Mid-century modern design and the glamor of Old Hollywood are hallmarks of Palm Springs, the cosmopolitan oasis of Coachella Valley. But if there’s a reason to explore the valley’s nine different cities, it’s a commitment to wellness. Located in the Colorado Desert between the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains, the vast region promises countless places to recharge your batteries, including several newcomers.
In Indian Wells, the Miramonte Resort & Spa will be new to the market in early 2022 with a $ 9 million renovation. Sensei Porcupine Creek, a 230-acre private estate turned spa retreat, will invite guests to Rancho Mirage later in the year.
Desert Hot Springs is home to some of the purest hot and cold springs in the world due to an underground aquifer. Many of the city’s properties, like the recently premiered Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis, have healing, natural mineral pools.
And for the more adventurous, a new 1.5-mile trailhead opened in December 2021, connecting the Coachella Valley with the Long Canyon Trail Route in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is 800 acres of ethereal land where the Colorado and Mojave deserts converge, an idyllic place to camp, wildlife watch, or relax.
Nestled in the Andes, this small island nation is known worldwide for sustainable tourism and biodiversity, especially on the Galapagos Islands. Still, visitors should take their time to explore the country’s other treasures.
“While the Galapagos Islands are a constant draw with their unique wildlife and experiences like snorkeling with playful sea lions and hiking with giant turtles, Ecuador has a lot to offer on the mainland,” said Brian Tan, CEO of Zicasso, a luxury travel company in Mountain View, California.
At Mashpi Rainforest Reserve and Lodge, “you can hike with a guide in a pristine rainforest, swim in waterfall pools with no one around, and then return to a five-star luxury ecolodge,” explains Tan.
Nature is close to the colonial cities of Quito and Cuenca, which are worth a few days for the historical architecture alone. However, both cities promise a supply of culture and delicious food.
“Foodies are pleasantly surprised by the diverse and complex cuisine, from traditional dishes to Michelin-quality dishes that combine unique local ingredients with modern techniques,” says Tan. “Art lovers will find plenty to discover, from indigenous art to modern art by one of South America’s most respected artists, Guayasamín.”
For travelers craving pristine beaches and a tropical climate without the crowds, the Maldives is high on the list. With no restrictions or required quarantines and a widely dispersed area, the destination is all the more tempting.
“The island nation’s remote location and the fact that its tourist activities are almost entirely outdoors makes it the perfect haven for travelers to escape to in 2022,” said Andrew Williams, a Houston-based travel consultant at the Ovation Travel Group.
Williams reports that some travelers are attracted to the water sports while others find world-class spa treatments and yacht cruises around the surrounding islands and atolls.
Resorts like Waldorf Astoria, Four Seasons, The St. Regis, and other big names are represented, Williams says. And this year Alila Kothaifaru will debut Maldives. With 80 all-pool villas overlooking the water, the property can be reached in less than an hour by seaplane from the capital, Malé.
AlUla, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia started issuing visas for the first time in 2019, and AlUla opened to international tourism in the fall of 2020, preparing to become a world-class travel destination.
“AlUla is the cultural jewel of Saudi Arabia and one of the last unexplored travel destinations in the world,” said Amr AlMadani, CEO of The Royal Commission for AlUla.
At approximately 8,700 square miles, this “open-air museum the size of a small country” is located in the Medina region. The labyrinthine old town, the ancient cities of Dadan and Hegra – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and an abundance of tombs and monoliths promise tourists a glimpse into the 200,000-year history of AlUla.
Eco-friendly, wellness-focused brand Habitas recently unveiled an outpost, and a Banyan Tree property will come up later in 2022. Maraya, the largest mirror-clad building in the world, is a multifunctional venue for concerts and events. The masterpiece rises from the sand and reflects the otherworldly landscape of the desert, while the roof creation by star chef Jason Atherton, Maraya Social, offers a panoramic view of the Ashar Valley.