‘World’s Greatest Places’, by TIME
To compile this list of the top spots to visit this year, TIME solicited nominations from its international network of correspondents and contributors, with an eye toward those offering new and exciting experiences. The result is 50 far-flung and familiar spots, from Giza and Saqqara in Egypt, where the long-delayed Grand Egyptian Museum is finally revamped and reopened, to the gastronomy hot spot of Dijon, France.
Of the 2023 list, TIME editors write: “The travel industry is back in full swing in 2023, but not without notable shifts in how and where we wander. Steeper costs and increased interest in sustainability and authenticity are reshaping the landscape.”
This year’s list also includes reporting to help readers navigate the sometimes chaotic travel industry – from what to do when something inevitably goes wrong at the airport, to how cruises have changed since the pandemic, to how to score the best flight and hotel deals and more.
Highlights from the TIME 2023 World’s Greatest Places:
Tucson, Arizona – “There’s something revolutionary cooking in America’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Last year, Barrio Bread’s Don Guerra won the James Beard Award for outstanding baker, and he’s on a mission to revitalize Arizona-grown heritage grains. First brought here by 17th-century Spanish missionaries, white Sonora wheat now crops up on the menus at restaurants like Maynards and the just-opened Bata and even in a Southwestern-inspired Hefeweizen from Borderlands Brewing Co. In the coming months, the brewery is set to open a handful of new dining concepts with Top Chef alum Maria Mazon, who’s expanding beyond her popular BOCA Tacos y Tequila with a mini empire that now includes a tortilleria where you can pick up a bottle of her blazing chiltepín salsa, made with America’s only wild native chili pepper.”
Luang Prabang, Laos – “Turquoise waterfalls, Buddhist temples, and sunset boat trips on the Mekong are just a few of Luang Prabang’s highlights. Despite its remote location in the jungled mountains of Laos, the former royal capital is not just for backpackers. After a two-year border closure, a new $6 billion high-speed railway from China to Thailand now runs from the Chinese city of Kunming to the Laotian capital, Vientiane. The train turns the once 12-hour bus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang into a scenic two hour trip.”
Dijon, France – “Dijon has long been one of France’s great gastronomic cities. While almost all its namesake mustard is now manufactured outside the city, globetrotting gastronomes still frequent Dijon’s Michelin-rated restaurants, such as William Frachot and CIBO, and the famous food market, Les Halles Gourmandes. In 2022, Dijon rose to further prominence with the launch of its Cité de la Gastronomie et du Vin. Inside the former Hôtel-Dieu—the city’s historic hospital—visitors enjoy the region’s food and wine through tastings and courses at Ferrandi Paris school of culinary arts and École des Vins de Bourgogne, among other eateries. A pedestrian wine trail links the complex to the railway station.”
Jeju Island, South Korea – “As South Korea’s largest and most developed resort island, Jeju has long been the go-to domestic holiday destination among locals. But in 2022, one of Netflix’s biggest K-dramas, Our Blues, brought the island a new level of international visibility….After closing for two years, international air travel to Jeju resumed last summer, bringing tourists from Bangkok, Singapore, Taiwan, Osaka, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, many of whom beeline to the island casinos. To meet rising demand, new resort offerings include the JW Marriott Jeju Resort and Spa, the Parnas Hotel Jeju, and the luxury resort complex Amber Pure Hill located 1,640 feet above sea level and featuring a dramatic ocean-view infinity pool.”
Loango National Park, Gabon – “Called “Africa’s Last Eden,” Gabon, sandwiched between Congo and Cameroon on the continent’s central Atlantic coast, may not have an ecotourism infrastructure like hotspots Botswana or Kenya. What Gabon does have, however, are 13 unspoiled national parks that cover 10 percent of the country… Loango National Park…is one of the few places on the planet where rainforest meets ocean, which means that in those 380,000 acres, visitors can see an extraordinarily diverse array of animals from water to land to sky, including elephants, leopards, humpback whales, buffalo, gorillas, leatherback turtles, 355 bird species, and the “surfing hippos” that wowed President Obama in last year’s “Our Great National Parks” streaming docuseries.”
Musanze, Rwanda – “Musanze is the largest city in northern Rwanda and the gateway to Volcanoes National Park—home of rare mountain gorillas—which recently announced its expansion from 62 to 76 sq. mi. by 2027, an endeavor that will reduce human-wildlife conflict by 80%. A limited number of $1,500 daily gorilla-trek entry fees enable farmers and reformed gorilla poachers to make a living, while not encroaching on the animals’ habitats. The opening of the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Gorilla Doctors campus, both of which invest in the conservation and research of endangered mountain gorillas, have brought global attention to the area.”
Willamette Valley, Oregon – “The wine world let out a collective gasp in 2021 when Champagne house Bollinger made its first acquisition outside of France: Not some place in Napa or Sonoma, but Ponzi Vineyards, which set the standard for Oregon winemaking back in the 1970s. The Willamette Valley had really, really made it, but for those in the know, the ascendance of the pinot noir powerhouse in Portland’s backyard seemed almost inevitable. In the past two decades, the number of wineries in the state’s first AVA has grown from 135 to more than 700 today, which has translated to a near-constant flood of new labels (such as Iterum Wines), new lodging (the nine-room bed and breakfast The Ground, opening soon), new tasting rooms (of note is Montinore Estate and its sister-brand Landlines Winery’s biodynamic tasting room), and new missions (Corollary is becoming the valley’s first sparkling-only estate this year).”
Jerusalem – “While Jesus may have traveled to Jerusalem by donkey, Solomon by mule, and the Prophet Muhammad by a winged Buraq, thousands of years later the holy city has plenty of other methods of transportation to get around, from bus to light rail to train. And today, there’s a way to see this ancient city from a new, unexpected perspective. Anyone comfortable on two wheels can now rent a bike and cycle along the newly opened Kerem Tunnel, part of the Jerusalem Ring bike path, a 42-km route that allows visitors to circle the holy city at their own pace, starting, for example, at the Biblical Zoo in the western part of the city and finishing at the Jaffa Gate in the east.”
Churchill, Manitoba – “One of the best spots to catch the northern lights is this remote Hudson Bay outpost, which sits just below the “auroral oval,” meaning the sky often dances to life in even just-fine conditions—over 300 nights a year. Winter aurora-hunting has opened up a whole new tourist season in a town that has traditionally attracted the vast majority of its visitors during the fall polar-bear migration. The massive carnivores remain big business, of course, and to get travelers (safely) up close and personal with them, Frontiers North Adventures recently unveiled its electric Tundra Buggy, a behemoth with 6-ft. tires that cruises over the ice at barely a whisper.”
Kangaroo Island, Australia – “When bushfires ignited Australia’s third largest island during the 2019–2020 season, the blazes devastated a wildlife haven. Half of Kangaroo Island burned, killing 40% of its namesake marsupials and an estimated 40,000 koalas. Researchers mourned losses among vulnerable species, from green-carpenter bees to echidnas and the sooty dunnart, a mouse-size marsupial that lives nowhere else on earth. But now visitors to Kangaroo Island will find a landscape lush with greenery. Eclipsing ruins are species signaling recovery, including the white-blossomed daisy bush and Kangaroo Island yucca, whose spiky flowers disappear for decades and bloom—a fragrant symbol of hope—only in the wake of fire.”
Phuket, Thailand – “Thailand’s most visited region—the famed beaches of Phuket—just upped its family appeal with the grand opening of Carnival Magic last September. The country’s first culturally-focused theme park, 40 acres sandwiched between verdant mountain and sandy shore, re-creates traditional festivals and market fairs found throughout the Kingdom in a dazzling array of neon lights. Kids can get their ice cream fix at Torry’s, a family-run ice cream shop in the heart of Phuket Town that uses ingredients like coconut milk and blue pea flower in the subtly sweet and umami-rich Bi Co Moi. Volun-tourism initiatives continue to be a priority on the island. The The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, for example, invites visitors to help feed the animals and provides education about elephant communication and behavior.”
Pantelleria, Italy – “Usually, nothing changes on this sleepy Italian island—a volcanic speck in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisia, buffeted by winds that have whittled its peaks into a rippling green landscape and sculpted its black lava flows into a shape-shifting coastline. People bathe in warm thermal seawater as they have for centuries; live in dammusi (North African–inspired white-domed bungalows); and grow the zibibbo grape, thought to have been brought over from Egypt by past Arabic residents. Over 80% of the island forms Italy’s newest national park, Parco Nazionale dell’Isola di Pantelleria, which opened in 2016.”
Mayurbhanj, India – “With its astonishing alpine landscapes and Tibetan Buddhist culture, Ladakh—in the farthest-flung part of North India—has enough wonders to warrant multiple visits. In 2023, India designated its first Dark Sky Reserve, in Hanle village, about 168 miles southeast of Leh, Ladakh’s capital. The village has roughly 270 clear nights a year, making it ideal for astronomical splendor. The reserve spans 414 sq. mi. and envelops much of the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary.”
Aarhus, Denmark – “Design-driven Aarhus has long embraced the sea, and this year even more so. In early summer, the city’s harbor will transform into a maritime celebration as a host of the Ocean Race, one of the longest round-the-world sailing challenges, with in-port races and other events. Aarhus’s cuisine abounds with innovative seafood, including at the Michelin-starred Substans, where you can dine on lobster from the Bay of Aarhus while taking in views of it. At Frederikshøj, awarded a second Michelin star in 2022, the playful cuisine might include truffles from Marselisborg Forest or oysters from Venø island.”
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