Got the travel itch? National Geographic has suggested 25 top destinations throughout the world for those looking to explore in 2023.
The recommendations, released Oct. 26, range from traditional U.S. destinations such as San Francisco and global travel hot spots including Egypt to ecotourism locations and lesser-known sites such as Choquequirao, Peru, the sister city to historic Machu Picchu.
“With our team of travel experts and editors, we took a deeper dive into places all over the globe that are providing experiences that are unique and beneficial for both locals and travelers: locations where visitors ultimately sustain and support – not damage – the destination’s environment and community,” said Amy Alipio, senior editor at National Geographic Travel, in a statement announcing the destinations.
“We also worked hard to provide lesser-known gems on the list, equally inspiring alternatives to destinations that have become overcrowded,” she said.
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San Francisco made the list as a top family destination. (National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler’s editorial teams broke down their recommendations into five categories – family, adventure, culture, nature, and community – with five destinations in each category.)
Utah was listed as a site notable for adventure; Charleston, South Carolina, was chosen for its cultural efforts. Big Bend National Park in Texas earned its spot for natural scenery; and Milwaukee was included as one of five places with extraordinary conservation, sustainability and ecotourism initiatives.
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Switzerland, Colombia among recommended family trips
Switzerland, with a public transport network that includes a cookie train and a chocolate train, is among National Geographic’s five best destinations to “educate and illuminate” travelers.
Colombia was chosen for its rich biodiversity, which lends itself to birdwatching and wildlife watching. The Manchester Museum helped the English city, home of the Manchester United Football Club, make the list. Turtles abound in Trinidad and Tobago – making the Caribbean nation a mecca for turtle tourism.
Among the highlights that landed San Francisco a spot: a new Crosstown Trail, created by volunteers, covering 17 miles of the city.
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For adventure, Austria, New Zealand and Peru are places to go
For those seeking “adrenaline-soaked adventures in 2023 and beyond,” the magazine suggested the remote Inca ruins of Choquequirao in southern Peru.
Peruvian officials are spending $260 million to build a cable car making it easier to access the ruins. But tourists who want to see them now can make the journey over 18 miles of walking paths.
Other sites for “your next big adventure” on the list included the western states of Austria, which have created the Bergsteigerdörfer, a network of mountaineering villages where travelers get a more authentic Alpine experience.
Closer to home, Utah has five national parks and eight national monuments making it “an adventurer’s dream destination,” National Geographic said.
Mexico’s Revillagigedo National Park – nicknamed “the Galapagos of Mexico,” National Geographic says – is a haven for divers.
Skiing, hiking and bicycling make New Zealand’s South Island a year-round adventure destination.
For culture, look to Egypt, Italy, and South Carolina
Italy is always a desired destination for tourists seeking to christen themselves in culture – some go for the food alone. One of the recent developments cited by National Geographic to make it a 2023 travel consideration: Italian officials are restoring the Appian Way, which runs 360 miles from Rome to southern Italy.
Egypt, too, remains an exotic place to travel; a timely consideration: the upcoming opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which houses King Tut’s tomb.
“It’s going to become a destination museum and will change the way people visit Egypt,” said Fredrik Hiebert, the National Geographic Society’s archaeologist-in-residence, in the article.
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Other cultural hotspots designated by National Geographic: South Korea’s second-largest city, Busan, which has an annual film festival and a burgeoning craft beer and artisan coffee scene; and the Henan Province of central China, where the Longmen Grottoes house scores of Buddhist sculptures – the largest is more than 56 feet high – dating back to the 5th century.
A cultural highlight helping earn Charleston, South Carolina a spot on the list: the International African American Museum, opening in January. The museum is located near the city’s harbor, which served as a slave trading port.
Connect with nature in Big Bend, Botswana and Scotland
Big Bend National Park in west Texas provides visitors with epic vistas, plus “more cactus species than any other national park,” as well as birds and other wildlife, said the magazine in including the park among its “under-the-radar treasures.”
“Big Bend National Park brings to life the frontier legend of Texas – but the landscape will also surprise you,” the magazine said.
“We Texans knew it, but it seems the rest of the world is tuning in,” noted the Austin American-Statesman on the park’s designation.
There’s also various cultures found in the 118-mile park, which sits just north of the Texas-Mexico border and south of towns such as Marfa and Alpine.
Other “wild escapes for nature lovers” National Geographic recommended included Botswana, where overtourism is being replaced with voluntourism. The southern African country is home to many game reserves and national parks. Slovenia, known for its eco-friendly tours, has a new Green Gourmet Route, an 11-day bicycling trail for foodies, the magazine said.
In the Scottish highlands, travelers can see how the country’s northwest region is “rewilding” its landscapes with more trees and reintroduced wildlife. And the Azores – nine islands off the coast of Portugal – are “an oasis for 28 whale and dolphin species … (that) takes sustainable tourism seriously,” Nat Geo said.
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Milwaukee and Greece among smart tourist spots
Milwaukee was included in the list’s community category, for less-visited destinations “that stand out for community-led conservation efforts; groundbreaking work in ecotourism, sustainability, and inclusive travel; and meaningful ways for travelers to give back.”
The article calls Milwaukee “a Great Lakes city to watch,” wrote the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, noting that Nat Geo complimented how it “combines a blue-collar, back-thumping energy with a close-knit creative community.”
Destinations highlighted include the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Riverwalk, the Deer District (and the 2021 World Champion Milwaukee Bucks), neighborhoods like Bronzeville and the Historic Third Ward, the Public Market, the Art Museum and, of course, breweries.
The magazine’s other less-visited destinations included Greece’s Dodecanese islands where locals aim to involve locals in traditional trades such as fishing and winemaking that also serve as sustainable tourist diversions.
A new travel highlight for Laos? A recently-launched bullet train that connects 260 miles of the Southeast Asian country for domestic and international tourists.
Tourists continue to heed the call of Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo, who before the COVID-19 shutdown urged travelers to visit the West African country to connect with their African roots. And in Alberta, Canada, Indigenous tourism is a growing pursuit with parks such as Elk Island National Park offering guided hikes and Cree crafting workshops.
“From craft breweries and Asia’s top film festival in Busan, South Korea, to women-led Indigenous tourism in Alberta, Canada, and the densest leatherback turtle nesting ground in the world in Trinidad and Tobago, this year’s list reminds us that there is still so much out there to explore and experience.” said Nathan Lump, National Geographic’s editor-in-chief.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.