For years now, I’ve been asking some of the smartest people in travel about what’s on their radar for the coming years. These super-agents know what they’re talking about, keeping their ears on their clients’ interests, their eyes on their own adventures in every corner of the world and their fingers on the pulse of the industry.
But this uncertain year, as I was getting into it, something dawned on me: What’s the big rush? This places aren’t going to evaporate. If right now doesn’t make sense, there will be a time in the coming years when it makes more sense than ever.
I tapped a few of the people I check in with every year. Tom Marchant co-founder of luxury travel company Black Tomato. Jennine Cohen is an adviser with the newly rebranded adventure travel company Uncharted and the cofounder of Women Travel Leaders. And Andrea Ross is a travel coach at the newly formed Kaanect, which helps people travel more consciously. Here’s what’s (alphabetically) on their radar.
“Bend is to Oregon, in many ways, what Aspen is to Colorado,” says Marchant: “Well-heeled, brimming with vibrant restaurants and shops, enveloped by a veritable outdoor mecca and supported by a talented artistic community. This laid-back, under-the-radar enclave is full of character and host to a steady lineup of seasonal activities, from festivals to concerts, bike races to brewery hops. But it’s the natural world that is truly the draw from fly fishing, mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and even explore lava tubes to learn more about what makes the soil of the area so unique.” Black Tomato’s new trip combines Bend and the Willamette Valley, with lava tube cave expeditions and helicopter tours.
Cambodia and Thailand
“While Thailand officially opened November, we see early 2022 as the optimum time to visit,” proclaims Ross, who was based in Cambodia for many years. “By then they will be truly open with services available, but the crowds won’t have come back en-mass. Cambodia is also opening this month, and the idea of seeing Angkor Wat without the crowds is amazing. I will say, we also want to get travelers back to Southeast Asia to help the drivers, guides and communities on the ground. We can’t wait to get travelers back, both to enjoy these countries without the crowds, but also to be a positive part of their regrowth and recovery!”
Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland
“Next year marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the Irish Constitution, and along with it, “a new wave of elevated experiences and service are arriving,” notes Marchant. “The Rock of Cashel, one of the most spectacular and iconic landmarks in Ireland, is a sight to behold. While the locale has long held an appeal for tourists, it was rarely more than a day trip as part of a larger itinerary. But there really is so much more to see, and this region is brimming with character, from local artisans, family-owned woolen mills and distilleries to one of the finest horse training establishments in the world. Warmth and authenticity radiate from every corner, and with an exciting new Relais & Chateaux hotel opening in the spring of 2022, there is no better time to visit this truly wondrous part of Ireland.”
“Considered to be stable and safe, Costa Rica rebounded quickly from the pandemic and continued to steadily develop this past year in the luxury and adventure segments,” explains Cohen. “Six Senses, One & Only and the new Nihi are all set to open in Guanacaste, as are more luxury global hotel brands. Travelers are flocking to this ‘blue zone,’ which also happens to be known as one of the happiest countries in the world, to enjoy its microclimates, volcanoes, wildlife, and beaches. But there are still places to see the authentic local flavor of Costa Rica that put it on the map of one of the world’s most biodiverse destinations and leader in sustainable travel in the first place. A great new way to access the incredible wildlife of Costa Rica is through the new Boena Wilderness Lodges which is under entirely Costa Rican ownership.
The Galápagos, Ecuador
“After a year of being closed, the Galápagos is finally open, and the marine and land wildlife is more prolific than ever!” proclaims Cohen “One of the most impressive marine landscapes in the world got even better. The president of Ecuador even recently announced at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow the expansion of the Galapagos Marine Reserve by 60,000 square kilometers, which is a very important step for the protection of endangered marine species.” Uncharted works with an array of yachts that support conservation efforts and initiatives, the most exciting being the Aqua Mare, the first true small boutique luxury yacht in the Galapagos,with a small carbon footprint and a great guide to guest ratio.
“We’ve long admired the gorgeous Caribbean island of Grenada for its under-the-radar appeal, with powdery shores and sensorial stimulation on arrival, where the sweet air smells of sea salt, nutmeg, and mace,” says Marchant. “But now more than ever, the massive popularity of the Caribbean makes Grenada primed to be the ‘in-the-know’ place to visit, with so much more to do than a ‘fly and flop’ on the beach. Miles of unfettered beaches juxtapose with rich, virgin rainforests that are ripe for intrepid experiences and opportunities to give back, with two notable luxury hotel openings, from Six Senses and Kimpton, that make this hot for the coming years.”
Mexico is many countries in one—and much more than sitting on the beach,” says Cohen, who recently moved to the country. “With thriving new artisans, vibrant modern bazars and markets and a modern culinary scene, it’s hard to look past this gem in adventure and luxury travel that’s right in our own backyard.” Plus, “Mexico was the only country on the planet that kept its borders open during the global pandemic. While the rest of the world stopped, Mexico thrived in a major way with international digital nomads moving in and a new wave of young Mexican artists and entrepreneurs moving back, which brought the country an influx of sophisticated international influence and attention.” A huge number of exciting new hotels will be opening soon.
“There are more ways than ever to connect the vast landscapes of Patagonia,” notes Cohen. “Between Chile and Argentina, there are a number of new sustainable hotel projects from both large players like [the ever-expanding] Explora to smaller lesser known independent brands such as Barranco in Chile and Posta de los Toldos, which has you exploring Patagonia’s emerging Azul region. And more and more new conservation initiatives are coming online in 2022, such as Rewilding Argentina.”
Puerto Rico Islands
“While the main island of Puerto Rico is lovely (and a quick and cheap flight from the United States), if you want a more undeveloped destination, the island of Vieques, off the eastern shore of the main island is the perfect escape,” explains Ross. “Accessible by small plane or ferry, it’s as remote as easy-to-get-to can be! Horseback riding along the beach, diving above gorgeous coral reefs, kayaking through the world’s largest bioluminescent bay—you get the remote feeling of a tropical paradise with the ease of domestic travel. I visited with the kids this October and we just loved this sweet little island.”
“Transylvania is steeped in an extraordinarily rich history, and this year, Romania welcomes its ninth UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Roșia Montană Mining Landscape. The area has seen a recent uptick in interest from clients, and Romania is in fact the most bio-geographically diverse country in the EU, and one of the best places in Europe to go wildlife watching. A lack of luxury lodging options has made Transylvania cumbersome for some travelers, but now that has changed. The newly opened Bethlen Estates, a vividly reanimated, luxurious ancestral manor house, is where to stay. The brainchild and vision of Gladys and Nikolaus Bethlen, the wife and son of the late Count Miklos Bethlen, they have made it their life work to keep their ancestral ties alive and help preserve the region’s unbelievably important biodiversity.Rustic elegance, and top-notch service and amenities make this one to watch.