Leading travel companies reveal the top five destinations to travel to in 2023.
“Known as the Nature Island, Dominica (pronounced Dom-i-NEE-kah) is often confused with the Dominican Republic. We don’t expect that to happen much longer,” says Lonely Planet. “Though historically a lesser-visited island in the Caribbean, Dominica is now served by direct flights on American Airlines from Miami.” Luxury resorts, such as Kempiniski which opened in 2019, are also beginning to open their doors on the island.
This is the first time Dominica has been honored as a top travel destination in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel collection. This year marks the 18th annual collection of the world’s hottest destinations, and the must-have travel experiences for the year ahead. Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2023 recommends 30 must-visit locations around food, journeying, connection, learning and unwinding.
“We are incredibly honored to be considered as one of the top destinations to unwind by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel,” said Colin Piper, Discover Dominica Authority’s CEO/director of Tourism. “This recognition is a true testament to our beautiful island and the growth in tourism we’ve experienced in recent years. To be recognized by such a prestigious publication, as one of the top destinations to unwind, solidifies our stance in maintaining the island’s natural environment while still creating authentic experiences for travellers, whether seeking adventure or relaxation.”
Each year, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel lists start with nominations from Lonely Planet’s community of staff, writers, bloggers, publishing partners and more. The nominations are then whittled down by their panel of travel experts to just 30 destinations. Each is chosen for its topicality, unique experiences, ‘wow’ factor and its ongoing commitment to sustainability, community and diversity.
“2023 is shaping up to be an exciting year to get out and explore. With much of the world firmly on the road to recovery, travellers are looking for different locations and experiences, and we know Dominica will not disappoint,” says Tom Hall, vice president of Lonely Planet.
2. St Kitts
St. Kitts is rich in history, culture and adventure and with a raft of new openings – from new resorts to the launch of a Rummelier culinary programme – it is another Caribbean island on the radar for 2023. Easily reached from the UK, there are twice weekly (Wednesdays and Saturdays) direct flights from London Gatwick with British Airways.
New accommodation openings include: Sunset Reef St. Kitts – a new luxury boutique hotel, which opened in August 2022. Located on Palmetto Point, you can stay in one of the seven luxurious suites and enjoy personalised chef experiences, a swimming pool, yoga deck, fire pits and botanical gardens. Small but perfectly formed, the resort is all about tailored living, and also can be rented in its entirety for stays with extended family or groups of friends. It is also a pioneer on the island when it comes to sustainable luxury.
Ramada by Wyndham St. Kitts Resort is another new opening, which launched in October 2022. The resort – with 280 rooms – offers a personalised hotel experience, five restaurants and bars, a wellness spa and a dedicated butler service.
KOI Resort Saint Kitts, a Curio Collection by Hilton, on Half Moon Bay, opened just before the pandemic. The chic, 102-room resort has a pool terrace overlooking the ocean, a gym and spa, and a choice of three dining options. The hotel has a minimalistic design, with each guestroom boasting floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the incredible setting.
Coming soon is the launch of St. Kitts’ Rummelier programme. The unique offering will give travellers to St. Kitts the opportunity to become a certified “Rummelier” by joining two classes taught by renowned Kittitian rum producers and owners on the island.
The three-hour Rummelier programme will include two separate classes. The first stop at Wingfield Estate, St. Kitts’ oldest distillery, focuses on the theory and history of rum production methods on the island. The second class takes place at Spice Mill, on Cockleshell Bay, with the founder of Hibiscus Spirits showcasing rum-blending methodology, and cocktail-making.
Other new culinary experiences for visitors to savour include the recently opened Four Way Restaurant and Bar, which is open for lunch and dinner and serves a mix of local and international cuisine, and the Indian Summer Restaurant, in Frigate Bay, which opened in May 2022.
What’s more, St. Kitts’ neighbouring islands of St. Eustatius (Statia), St. Maarten, and Saba have also opened up to tourism thanks to the Makana Ferry, adding St. Kitts to its list of affordable ferry destinations in October 2022.
Mexico is in the spotlight with a raft of new openings and offerings. First up, is the much-anticipated return of Maroma, A Belmond Hotel, the storied hideaway in the beating heart of the Riviera Maya. Nestled between 200 acres of lush tropical jungle and the secluded white sands of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, the legendary property will be completely reimagined with Mayan culture at its core – and will be the first, extensive transformation within Belmond’s North America portfolio under LVMH ownership. This new chapter of Maroma will reveal 10 new waterfront suites, a nature-focused wellness experience in partnership with Guerlain, ground-breaking sustainability initiatives and a new gastronomic era under Mexican-born executive chef Daniel Camacho.
Riviera Maya itself is also awash with new openings. Following the recent opening of Waldorf Astoria Cancun and Casa Chablé, the St Regis Kanai Resort will open in early 2023, followed by Riviera Maya Edition at Kanai. The last section of the Mayan Train project, which will connect Tulum to Cancun, is also slated to open by the end of next year.
Known for its community tourism travel offerings, G Adventures has expanded its offering in Mexico, with nine new trips for 2023. “With a 91 per cent rise in UK bookings, Mexico has proven an increasingly popular option for travellers wanting to make the most of the activities, great food and fun vibe,” says the company. “G Adventures’ new trips get travellers away to more undiscovered locations, making them perfect for travellers who want a taste of the country but not the crowds.”
The 14-day Viva Mexico: Ancient Ruins & the Mayan Riviera trip, for example, takes travellers from Mexico City to Tulum, and visits the Alebrijes Artisan Community to learn more about how Alebrijes figurines integrated themselves into Oaxacan/Mexican folklore.
Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, says while 2023 is set to be the year of full recovery, it’s important travel companies keep their eye on the ball when it comes to sustainability. “Our Where to Travel list this year, which includes Mexico, focuses on value and giving back to local communities. There’s still a lot of pent-up demand for travel, and people have discretionary income from not travelling for two years, but the economic uncertainty is still present. Travellers have changed what they are looking for – travel is building back differently, and better. It’s going to be so important to continue with that focus no matter what happens economically this year,” says Poon Tip.
Known for its immersive take on travel, Black Tomato has also predicted that Mexico will be ‘one to watch’ for 2023, but this time identifying the Sea of Cortez as a must-see.
“The Sea of Cortez is becoming one of the best destinations for conservation efforts and we’re pioneering a new family-focused conservation trip in this stunning part of Mexico,” says Tom Marchant, founder of Black Tomato. “In the Pacific Ocean, and separating the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland, the area hosts several incredible hotel properties and boat charters, along with exceptional opportunities to experience whale shark season, from November to April, and Gray Whale season, from early February to mid-March.”
He continues: “Central to the importance of conservation are the coral reefs, which offset carbon fixation, prevent beach erosion and provide food, housing and shelter to many important marine species. And the time to visit these vibrant seascapes is now. On this luxury family trip, exhilarating adventure and blissful beachside relaxation will be the order of the day.”
Its 10-night family trip in the Sea of Cortez is aimed at families and has an acute focus on meaningful conservation efforts, further expanding the company’s educational ‘Field Trip’ repertoire. This will include a hands-on experience with a major non-profit Coral Reef Restoration Project, building and cleaning the racks for corals and snorkeling to observe the coral gardens and witness the impact of this work first-hand.
“On this luxury trip, families will then take a private boat ride and meet up with a local whale shark researcher and private naturalist guide for a La Paz Private Whale Shark Snorkeling and Espiritu Santo Island (a UNESCO site) experience. Learning about their role in the ecosystem, mating and migratory habits will make for an unforgettable experience – especially when swimming side by side with these gentle giants in beautiful turquoise waters. After a gourmet picnic lunch on a secluded beach, you’ll then head to the local sea lion colony, where you can jump in the water to snorkel with these playful creatures. This adventure will also include three nights exploring the Sea of Cortex aboard your own private Turkish Sailboat,” describes Black Tomato.
Also due to open in 2024 is Chablé’s fourth property – Chablé Sea of Cortez – with luxury villas to stay in and design inspired by the ocean seascape and desert landscape surrounding it.
The Wild Frontiers team of travel experts has earmarked Japan as a top destination for 2023.
“Japan is back and it’s definitely open for business!” says the company. “After two and half years of being closed to overseas travellers, the relaxation of rules was drip-fed over the summer. First, only for escorted groups, with a daily entrance cap. A few months later, they welcomed travellers on ‘non-guided package tours’. But with the economy taking a hit from these restrictions, the government even resorted to encouraging young people to get out and drink (remember eat out to help out?), before finally, Japan opened its doors fully on 11 October 2022.”
Wild Frontiers offers a tailor-made tour to the country – Classic Japan, which allows travellers to explore Tokyo, including the sacred and historic sites of its Edo-era heritage. The trip also takes in the mountain passes of the Hida region, where you can stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan. The journey then takes guests on towards Takayama and Kanazawa, to see the beautiful Kenroku-en Garden, before moving on to Kyoto. The itinerary also includes Hiroshima, to visit the poignant setting of its Peace Memorial Park, before crossing by ferry to the sacred island of Miyajima, home to the Itsukushima Shrine and offering one of the finest views in Japan.
Black Tomato’s picks for where to travel in 2023 also includes Madagascar – one of the world’s most biodiverse and conservation-minded areas, with a richness of endemic flora and fauna. With an improved infrastructure and accessibility, it’s becoming the next great place to harness travel to educate a future generation, says the company.
“To help combat threats to the ecological makeup of Madagascar, responsible travel plays a key role in funding and educating travellers, importantly the younger generation, through new first-hand experiences that give back. Madagascar is also perfectly suited to family travel as there are no age restrictions or dangerous wildlife,” says Black Tomato.
The immersive travel company is currently developing new conservation-focused experiences on the Island of Nosy Manampaho, to see the most important breeding grounds for native seabirds (Sooty Tern) in Madagascar that haven’t been accessed before – a critically important new conservation experience.
Additionally, a new trip will include multiple days spent aboard a fully crewed catamaran around the beautiful archipelago of Nosy Be. Travellers will be able to take part in responsible sports, like fishing and diving, and explore blissfully remote beaches and vibrant coral reefs.
“Madagascar is well known for its conservation efforts for lemurs, but we rarely talk about the possibility of blue safaris – until now,” says Tom Marchant, founder of Black Tomato. “Recently discovered sightings mean we can now take you on the search for Whale Sharks (from September to December) and on the hunt for Humpback Whales (from August to October). So if you’re unsure of where to go on vacation this year, why not dive deep into Madagascar’s enchanting islands (or the surrounding waters, at least).”
Black Tomato recommends staying at Time + Tide Miavana. Between treasure hunts on the island, cooking classes, searching for lemurs in the forest, introductions to scuba diving, and even spa treatments – the team really goes the distance to keep families and child engaged on this beautiful private island.