Words by Katharine Sohn
It’s a new year, with big new plans and bold new destinations to start finally ticking off the list. But for this year, it’s about going beyond the norm, to the alternative, to the more off-radar. From dancing with cowboys in the Wild West to strolling the bright lights of a buzzy far-east hot spot and feasting in the UK city that yes, is quite literally having a moment, here are the top 10 destinations we have on our hit-list for 2024.
1. Seoul, South Korea
If bright lights, high fashion, big bowls of noodles and pop-culture pow-wows are what you’re seeking, South Korea is your answer. We had our eyes glued (and jaws dropped) with Squid Game (a new season is returning this year), riding the K-wave into all things this country has to offer – boy bands, skin care and kimchi. Travel will be easier – the South Korean government is waiving the K-ETA requirement for travellers from 22 countries in an urge to lure in more K-pop lovers. The capital is also a good place to get an introduction to the country – with its future-facing architecture, strong food scene and cultural calendar (Gucci will hold its Cruise collection at the Gyeongbokgung Palace). If you have the time, it’s worth heading to busy Busan, the ancient site of Andong and to meet the underwater women divers of Jeju island who spend hours harvesting shellfish.
2. Manchester, UK
Going well beyond being an industry city – and the home of the Gallagher brothers – this northern city, generally known for its redbrick raunchiness, has seen a slur of sophisticated spots set up its creative scene. The biggest of late is Factory International, a multi-conceptual space for arts and culture (and a nod to its former site of Granada Studios and nearby Hacienda nightclub who rocketed bands like New Order and Stone Roses into the limelight), while bigger entertainment hubs include Co-Op live – a mega music stadium backed by Harry Styles – and the Fashion Gallery at Manchester Art Gallery. It helps that Chanel just held their Metiers D’Art show there in 2023. It would be remiss not to dive head first into the city’s food scene though – from natty wines, super-sized pizza slices, pretty pastries and lots of third-wave coffee shops.
Stock Exchange Hotel
3. Syros, Greece
We can’t ignore the hype, the Cyclades are just the place to go during the summer. Hopping from magical Milos and sweeping Sifnos over to foodie Tinos, but as these islands gain popularity, there’s almost more meaning in seeking out the lesser-known; the more wild and remote alternatives. That’s why we have our sights set on Syros – there are fewer ferries each week, which means fewer waves of visitors, plus in the off-season, it will really be you and the ship-owning families who stay through well after when the beach bars close. We love Django Gelato for their fig sorbet, but it often sells out in minutes so get there early.
4. Wyoming & Montana, USA
Jackson Hole might better be known for its saddle-up skiing and high-altitude Teton trekking, but it’s recently been luring in a more plaid-shirt wearing crowd who are in town for its dialled-up food scene, Ansel Adams approved views and small town charm. Neighbouring state Montana is equally seeing fans of Paramount’s Yellowstone TV series parading around Bozeman in their smartest cowboy boots with a coffee in hand. Those seeking the outdoors head out to the park for wildlife spotting, wildflower wandering and hot spring soothing, while those in town for longer seek slower stays on cool dude ranches and morning hiking through the mountains. Let’s not forget those Americana scenes at the rodeo… More hotel openings mean more eyes are on this part of the US but it still manages to remarkably fly under-the-radar in comparison to its Colorado hotspots next door.
Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa, Wyoming
5. Sri Lanka
With the pound (and US dollar) to rupee conversion being so strong, now is the best time to start planning a full-throttle trip to Sri Lanka. From beaches to jungle, there’s a real mix of adventure and soul-searching to be had. Early this year will see the long-awaited return of the Galle Literary Festival, and the old fortified city will also host a brand new food festival, Gourmet Galle, travelling across the coast of the country for 12 weeks from January until March, showcasing 12 chefs and 12 venues. Adventure seekers should head inland to the Pekoe Trail, a new network of over 300 kilometres of hiking routes that run through tea plantations, tiny villages, holy shrines and more.
Sri Lanka Hotels
6. Upstate New York, USA
First it was Hudson, the Catskills and the Finger Lakes, now it’s Rhinebeck, the Adirondacks and every small town in between. And with this string of striking countryside in such close proximity to the city, it’s no wonder creatives, hoteliers, chefs and the everyday urbanite are flocking out of the concrete jungle. This year, it will be the centenary of the founding of New York State Parks (Niagara Falls is the place to be) with lots of park entry discounts and celebrations, while the ever popular Storm King Arts Centre sees new hospitality pavilions on site. Plus, in April, areas of the state will be in the path of totality for the solar eclipse. Grab your specks.
The Adelphi Hotel
In desperate need of a break from the winter slog? Then head to Egypt. The best time to discover the wonders of this desert destination is in early spring, before the sizzling temperatures begin to sweep in. And it can be overwhelming deciding between Cairo’s city chaos or slowing down on the Nile, visiting retro Luxor or swimming in the Red Sea. Kick off with a culture hit in the capital at the country’s largest new arts space – and estimated to cost $1 billion, opening in spring 2024 – the Grand Egyptian Museum which will spotlight Tutankhamun’s treasures and the land of the Pharaohs. Then head east, to Hurghada for deep sea diving and sun seeking.
La Maison Bleue
8. Paris, France
Paris is always a good idea. And it feels a bit superfluous to big-up the City of Lights as a destination to visit when there’s always so much happening. But this year, with the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, there’s plenty more going on than the classics. We’ll see her most tip-top sites on show later this summer – volleyball under the Eiffel Tower, swimming in the Seine – and a whole host of shiny new hotel openings. What would we do? Spend a long weekend sipping on natural wine and ice cream at Folderol, before an art fix with the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton and scooping up all the chocolate mousse at Chez Janou.
All eyes, and hearts, were on the North African country after they suffered from one of the worst earthquakes the world has seen of late. And now, it seems that cities including Marrakech and Tangier are bouncing back with a new energy. Free-spirited travellers flock to Tangier for its laid-back vibes – the Rolling Stones spent quite some time here – while creatives and artists are finding new stories to tell in the former imperial capital. With a new sense of spirit, now is the time to support Morocco the most, getting deep under its skin. We’re also seeing the spotlight shifting ever so slightly to the capital, Rabat. Leading architect studio Zaha Hadid will finish the Grand Theatre of Rabat this year, plus the much-postponed Mawazine music festival will return. Let’s just hope Rihanna makes an appearance.
10. South Island, New Zealand
Now this is a destination for thrill-seekers, big walkers and adventure goers. And it’s hard to know where to begin when heading to New Zealand’s vast and incredibly diverse South Island. Direct flights to Auckland and Christchurch now fly from Los Angeles and San Francisco – the more recent New York to Auckland was also a welcome addition. Later next year, the country will welcome its 11th Great Walk – a 38-miler along the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track, with strong views over Fiordland. Over in Queenstown, the nine-mile Wharehuanui Trail will welcome locals and trail trekkers to jot from Arrowtown (skiers will be familiar with this quirky gold-rushing town) to Arthurs Point. Pack your hiking boots.
New Zealand Hotels
Katharine Sohn is a travel and lifestyle writer, photographer, trip curator and creative consultant. She recently spent a few months on the Cycladic island of Andros in Greece creating, crafting and cooking at hospitality brand Mèlisses. You can normally find her between the Cotswolds and East London. She has written for both print and digital spaces of Condé Nast Traveller and helped run and successfully launch the social channels and newsletter at Loupe UK, a new site from ex-Condé Nast Traveller editors.