Where do you find spectacular and life-changing destinations that are without the hordes that have become commonplace in so many destinations worldwide, particularly in Europe? Last week in Forbes, I asked some travel experts about where people are going. This week, I asked the same gurus about their choices for where to go next. I was looking for off-the-radar destinations they love, places to go before they get discovered.
“I almost don’t want to ruin it for myself, but the Canary Islands,” said Christopher Prelog, President of Windstar Cruises. “There’s warm weather and sun in a location infused with African and European culture. There’s much to offer, but it is still under the radar, especially for American travelers. This destination has it all – beaches, volcanoes, exceptional food, and culture, and it’s easier to get there now with direct flights from New York. Windstar has some new sailings in 2024, with additional offerings in 2025.”
For Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s Vice President, that destination is Uzbekistan in Central Asia. “It has some of the best-preserved historical remains of the Silk Road, plus dramatic mountains and a lively, up-and-coming capital in Tashkent,” he said. “It’s easy to get around by train, affordable, and several direct flights per week from New York, plus connections through Seoul and Istanbul.”
The “Stans” also ranked high in the estimation of Shannon Stowell, CEO of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. For Stowell, it’s “Kurdistan, a super special place still on few people’s life lists. The authenticity and kindness of the people with an astounding history make it a wonderful place to go. I’ve been in 2009 and 2017, the latter trip with my 16-year-old son.”
Andy Levine, President of DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co., singles out South Africa, which he says “ features that rare combination of amazing scenery, over-the-top luxury hotels, and a dynamic food and wine scene. There’s a vast diversity in landscapes with beaches blending seamlessly into mountains and vineyards.”
Asia remains high on the list of travel professionals seeking new horizons.
“We were smitten with nearby South Korea on a trip there this past June,” said Lisa Leavitt of Active Travels, a Boston-based Virtuoso travel agency. Leavitt says that she and her family enjoyed “exceptional food and visits to 15th-century places in Seoul, wonderful seaside food markets in Busan, charming historic villages like Jeonju, and the requisite overnight in the mountains at a Buddhist monastery to meditate at sunrise. The K-culture and beauty products are a big draw too. The South Koreans were also incredibly gracious and welcoming.”
India, a bucket list destination for some, also holds a lot of surprises, even for the well-traveled.
“More than 400 Backroads staff and I just recently got back from our annual staff bike ride, and this year it was in Rajasthan, India,” said Tom Hale, President of Backroads. “Biking in India enables you to experience India differently.”
Asia aside, Hale also said Backroads was rolling out two new trips in 2024 that were off the beaten path to the Azores and Tasmania.
“Both are slightly off the radar, but they’re also a big draw for people seeking active adventure travel,” Hale said.
Jennifer Tombaugh, President of Tauck Tours, says that “on my personal bucket list is our new Namibia trip that includes a Bushman guided walk in the Namib desert, a climb on the big red dunes of Sossusviel, and a behind-the-scenes visit—including meet-and-greets with baby baboons—at Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary.”
Cari Gray of Gray & Co. has the last word since she takes some of the world’s most well-traveled people to destinations that are genuinely out there, around the next corner, or otherwise untrammeled. She has a short list for her travelers in 2024 that includes the “quiet Priorat vineyards in Spain, which are great for biking and hiking, and staying at the new Mas d’En Bruno.” Gray also singles out mountain villages just a one-hour flight north of Athens with “stone bridges, clear water to raft, truffle dogs, horseback riding in old growth forest.” She likes the new Vestige Son Vell and the Menorca Experimental hotels in Menorca. She also nods at the Southern Hemisphere, especially the “northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand, where the new Flockhill Lodge is getting rave reviews.”