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Travel is more challenging now than it has been in a long time. Borders tentatively reopen only to slam shut again. A once-simple visa on entry is replaced with piles of paperwork. And the whole world is brushing up on the Greek alphabet whenever a new variant makes headlines.
Still, though, amid all the darkness that has defined the pandemic, there are some glimmers of hope.
Perhaps the lesson travelers can take into 2022 is that exploring the world is a privilege, not a right. This year’s crop of dream places to visit reflect that mindset – from national parks to remote islands to lesser visited spots, mindfulness and respect for the Earth are part of the journey.
When Orville and Wilbur Wright first got their small plane aloft in 1903, it seems unlikely they would have imagined a world of scores of jetliners a day connecting the world’s great cities or an eyeball scan replacing a paper passport.
When we look back on how far we’ve come, it makes us more grateful for where we are.
Let’s all try to channel a sense of wonder if and when we’re able to travel in 2022 and beyond.
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Not only is the twin-island nation blessed with miles and miles of pristine white and pink sands – Antigua famously has a beach for every day of the year – its also lays claims to the longest running Sunday party in the Caribbean, which takes place at restored military lookout Shirley Heights.
Barbuda, the smaller of the two islands, was famously one of Princess Diana’s favorite vacation spots, while veteran actor Robert De Niro co-owns a resort in the area with Australian billionaire James Packer.
Cricket is a massive deal here, so the England Tests, which are being held in Antigua in 2022, are one of the most anticipated events of the year. The official test match between England and the West Indies will take place at the stadium named after Antiguan cricketing legend Vivian Richards in March.
Antigua and Barbuda has been gaining recognition for its sustainability efforts in recent years thanks to a number of successful green initiatives. Single-use plastics are banned, while the “Green Corridor,” a collection of environmentally friendly hotels, resorts and businesses has been established across the southwest coast of Antigua. – Tamara Hardingham-Gill
BISSAGOS ISLANDS, GUINEA-BISSAU
Made up of 88 islands, of which just 23 are inhabited, this magical archipelago situated around 48 kilometers off the Guinea coast of western Africa is as unique as it gets.
The Bissagos Islands are run by a matriarchal society where women possess all the power. Here women choose their husbands, propose marriage, build their own homes and run the households.
The few tourists who are able to visit the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve are rewarded with immaculate beaches, expansive natural parks and calm blue waters.
The cluster of islands, which can be accessed by boat, ferry or light aircraft, also holds an extraordinary abundance of wildlife, including protected or rare species like the Nile crocodile, the common bottlenose dolphin and the African manatee, as well as about 500 species of birds.
Hurtigruten Expeditions, the company that founded expedition cruising in 1896, has added its first-ever African adventure to its 2022/23 lineup, with the Bissagos Islands among the list of destinations on the itinerary. – THG
CAPE BRETON, NOVA SCOTIA
Connected to the Canadian mainland by a mile-long causeway, Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island is famed for its scenic vistas and historic sites.
Spread over 10,311 square kilometers, it’s no tiny dot in the ocean, either.
Island highlights include Cabot Trail, a scenic two-lane byway that snakes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where lush green hills and rusty red cliffs tower over rugged beaches; the impressive 18th-century Fortress of Louisbourg, once the capital of a French colony and today a living history museum; and culinary offerings, from modern fine dining to traditional community lobster suppers.
Why go now? In recent years, Canada has taken important steps to develop and promote indigenous tourism and Cape Breton is no exception. Visitors can immerse themselves in traditions of Cape Breton’s Mi’kmaq – a First Nations people who have lived in Canada’s eastern Maritime region for over 10,000 years – through a variety of offerings from the island’s five First Nations communities. – Karla Cripps
A long, thin strip between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, Chile is a world leader in ecotourism and an outdoor adventurer’s paradise.
In northern Chile, the Atacama is the place to go. Valle de la Luna features otherworldly landscapes, rock formations and surreal, colorful sunsets. Speaking of color, see vivid pink flamingos at Chaxa Lagoon. Both are located within Los Flamencos National Reserve.
Want something even wilder? Then head farther south to the Patagonian wilderness. Torres del Paine National Park is considered one of the crown jewels of Chile’s park system. Its glaciers, waterfalls and wildlife are renowned.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization named two Chilean places in its list of “Best Tourism Villages” in 2021, which promotes sustainable development. They are Pica, known for its citrus fruits and hot springs, and Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in world.
2022 will mark 300 years since the Dutch arrival to the South Pacific island of Rapa Nui (AKA Easter Island). Famed for its giant stone faces, this special territory of Chile has been closed to visitors during the pandemic. But it’s set to reopen to tourists in February. – Forrest Brown
Colombo is usually misunderstood from the beginning.
Despite being Sri Lanka’s biggest city, it isn’t the capital (that would be Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, which is a great fact to break out at your next pub quiz), and many travelers skip it over in favor of the island’s gorgeous beaches and tea farms.
But in 2022 it’s time to pay attention to the city’s underrated design destinations, including late architect Geoffrey Bawa’s home, which is now a mini museum and guest house called Number Eleven. The next year is bringing a spate of promising new hotels to the city, including properties by Amari, Grand Hyatt, Marriott, Sheraton and ITC.
Sri Lanka does have its share of delicious curries, but don’t assume that the food is the same as in neighboring India.
Start the day by filling up on egg hoppers heaped with coconut sambal at the Palmyrah’s lush breakfast banquet, head to the Pettah Floating Market to stock up on bananas in nearly every color of the rainbow, and end the day watching the beach sunset at the Galle Face Hotel sipping a grapefruit-infused take on a Negroni at the aptly named Traveller’s Bar. Everything tastes better paired with the island’s own ceylon teas.
Tour company Urban Adventures provides necessary historical context on the country’s Sinhalese, Tamil and Malay cultures alongside the eats. – Lilit Marcus
Thought Lyon was the capital of French cuisine? Not so fast – Dijon has always been a huge foodie hub. The biggest city of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region is a glorious mishmash of timber-framed houses, magnificent 18th-century palaces and a soaring Gothic cathedral – but it’s also one of France’s gastronomic capitals.
Fittingly enough, May 2022 sees the opening of the Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie et du Vin in Dijon – a 70,000 square meter renovation of historic buildings from the 16th to the 18th centuries, turned into a complex devoted entirely to French food and wine.
New opening aside, there are plenty of other reasons to put Dijon on your to-do list. Venture out into the surrounding vineyards of the Burgundy region – Beaune, half an hour south, is a top-tier wine town. Hit the Les Halles food market, designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, he of tower fame) to sample the region’s best ingredients. Go mustard tasting at La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot, going strong after 180 years, and try the gingerbread from Mulot et Petitjean, baked here since the 18th century.
Food and drink aside, there’s the stunning Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, where over 130,000 works of art are stored in the neoclassical Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. – Julia Buckley
DISKO BAY, GREENLAND
Whales, colossal icebergs, a fast-moving glacier and a whole lot of dog sleds define Disko Bay, on Greenland’s western coast.
The town of Ilulissat, with its colorful houses, makes a great base for exploring, not least because it neighbors Ilulissat Icefjord. This dramatic fjord is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, partly because of its jaw-dropping splendor, and partly because of the scientific studies that have taken place here over the past 250 years, which helped scientists understand the impact of climate change.
The enormous icebergs that populate Ilulissat Icefjord stem from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier – local boat trips available in Disko Bay offer a chance to marvel at the icy scenes, and encourage travelers to consider why this region is sometimes called climate change’s “Ground Zero.”
Another boat trip will take you to Disko Island, with its striking black sand beaches, while back on the mainland, there’s the recently opened Ilulissat Icefjord Centre to explore.
This new attraction seeks to educate visitors on the importance of the ice in the Disko Bay area, as well as champion the stories of the Inuit people – who’ve lived off land and sea in the region for thousands of years – and examine the ballooning impact of the climate crisis. The building is an attraction itself, designed by Danish architect Dorte Mandrup as a riot of glass, steel and curves that blend into the staggering landscape.
As tourism grows in Greenland, there are several airport projects in the works – including a new air hub in Ilulissat. The goal is to make it easier for international travelers to explore the beautiful country in coming years, while also dispersing visitors around the country to avoid overtourism. – Francesca Street
GABON NATIONAL PARKS
The Amazon gets more press, but the Congo Basin – sometimes called “the lung of Africa” – is the world’s second-largest rainforest and is also a precious resource under threat from deforestation. More than 10% of Gabon, on Central Africa’s Atlantic coastline, is given over to its 13 national parks – and they’re all celebrating their 20th anniversaries in 2022.
Accessible only by the Trans-Gabon railway or private plane, Ivindo – this equatorial country’s newest UNESCO World Heritage site – comprises nearly 300,000 hectares of parkland crisscrossed by blackwater rivers, featuring impressive rapids and glorious waterfalls. Its remoteness means parts of the site are still to be explored, but the creatures that make their home here include gorillas, leopards, mandrills and pangolins, as well as the critically endangered forest elephant.
Loango National Park offers big-game fishing in the estuary and at sea, while Minkébé, at 7,000 square meters, is the country’s largest. Pongara National Park has beautiful untouched beaches where leatherback turtles lay their eggs between November and March, while dolphins and humpback whales can be spotted in the dry season between July and October. – Maureen O’Hare
A few years ago, Jordan’s spectacular rock-carved ancient city of Petra was in danger of becoming a victim of its own success as the tourism industry threatened its delicate structures and lured Bedouin locals away from their traditional ways. Years of regional unrest followed by the pandemic mean Petra is now crying out for crowds.
Visitors will surely return to this gem, but there are opportunities to explore Jordan more sustainably. Other archaeological treasures, like the ruins of Jerash and Umm Qais deserve to be seen.
There’s also the vast expanse of the Wadi Rum desert, best enjoyed with Bedouin guides who can share their knowledge of working in harmony with the epic landscape. A side trip for a salty float in the Dead Sea is also still worth it, not least to observe another delicate ecosystem under assault from modern life, this time rampant water extraction. – Barry Neild