To celebrate 30 years of Wanderlust - the UK's leading independent travel magazine - our editors have carefully curated a list of the 30 hottest countries, cities and regions to visit in 2023.

Where will you go?

Countries

In 1973, the Bahamas finally gained independence from the British Empire; 50 years on, it is celebrating as only the islands know how: wildly. The usual festivities go longer and harder this year, with Junkanoo at the heart of things. The festival takes place across the Caribbean but is thought to have originated in the Bahamas, when West African slaves began donning homemade masks on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The modern-day equivalent is a colourful riot of music, costumes, dancing and parades, and is also set to take over the streets on July’s National Day this year. For more context, Nassau’s informative Pompey Museum elaborates on the horrors that preceded the party. Elsewhere, events will span the 16 main islands year-round (bahamas.com), and for the first time ever, daily flights from the UK ensure that there’s no excuse not to join in, so get ready to dig out your best party clothes.

On 1 January 1993, what was formerly Czechoslovakia split into two – one half became Slovakia; the other turned into the Czech Republic. When we think how familiar Prague’s cobbled maze of Gothic spires and Baroque libraries have become, it’s amazing to think they were still locked behind the Iron Curtain around the time Wanderlust was starting up. However, while the bulk of the festivities take place in the well-trodden capital, where the National Museum is a good place to brush up on history, travelling deeper lets you see just how much has changed here. The longest pedestrian bridge in the world – the spectacular Sky Bridge 721 – opened to the public in 2022 at Králický Sněžník, and the revival of ‘timber rafting’ (an old method for transporting wood) in Český Krumlov now lets you drift its waters in peace. Add to that the Pilsners and underground labyrinth of Bohemian Plzeň, the wineries of Moravia and the rise of the ‘peat spa’ in the north-west town of Třeboň. Na zdraví.

Direct flights between the UK and Guyana begin for the first time on 27 March 2023. For years, South America’s only English-speaking nation was not only difficult to reach, but once there, a lack of infrastructure meant penetrating the jungle that makes up 87% of its interior was just as tricky. Fording deep into its forests still isn’t easy, but trips via riverboat, 4WD or light plane are opening up one of the world’s last great wildernesses, where 800 bird species scatter pristine jungle bursting with jaguars, giant otters and a species of frog smaller than a fingernail that lives its entire life inside a single flower. From the Gothic Revival sights of capital Georgetown to the thundering waters of the single-drop Kaieteur falls, there’s plenty to see and a new wave of facilities making it easier than ever for travellers to do so. 

Since British Airways restarted its non-stop flights between London and Buenos Aires earlier than expected (at the end of 2022), we’ve been itching to return to the capital’s barrios, dance floors and necropolises. Just seeing how its streets filled with revellers after the country’s recent success at the World Cup only added fuel to the fire. However, the travel spotlight looks to be shifting this year from Buenos Aires to Argentina’s second city, Córdoba, as it celebrates its 450th anniversary. Festivities aside, the city has long lived in the shadow of the capital despite its youthful vibe and a horde of architectural wonders, including its truly grand Spanish Baroque cathedral. It is also the gateway to a region filled with Jesuit monasteries and the majesty of the Sierras de Córdoba mountain range, where condors soar over the peaks. We also recommend paying a visit to the rather unexpected sight of the German Alpine-style town of Villa General Belgrano, where you’ll never go short of a strudel.

We missed it. After almost three years of being closed to travellers, Japan reopened its borders in October 2022. The current weakness of the yen also makes 2023 the perfect year to rediscover an old favourite – though you won’t be alone in doing so. Skip the busier stops for Shikoku, one of the lesser explored islands, whose 88-temple pilgrimage trail is among the better ways to escape the crowds. Elsewhere, the newly opened Shinkansen line between Fukuoka and Nagasaki introduces a part of Kyūshū that has more to explore than the tragic Second World War history by which most travellers know it; meanwhile, the return of the newly renovated Seven Stars sleeper train lets you see the rest of the island in luxury. In fact, there are exciting new arrivals everywhere. In spring 2024, Yokohama Museum of Art will reopen after a fresh makeover, as will Tokyo’s Instagram-friendly teamLab Borderless digital art museum, now in a new underground venue in Odaiba. Lastly, one of the best new stays to catch our eye is the canopy-high Zenbo Seinei on Awaji Island, between Shikoku and Kobe, which has its own 100m-long treetop meditation deck.

For a while it felt like it might never happen, but Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum appears to be finally opening its doors in 2023. The jewel of the world’s largest archaeological museum is its collection of 5,000 artefacts found in the tomb of the boy king, Tutankhamun, by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. It seems rather fitting that in the 100th year of this find that people should once again be able to see these treasures on show, even if recent discoveries have shone an unflattering light on Carter, who is said to have stolen some of them to sell privately. Hopes are high, too, for the completion of the country’s first high-speed railway, set to connect the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, which means travellers will no longer have to catch flights between the Pyramids of Giza and Luxor’s Valley of the Kings, 650km away, where the wealth of generations of Pharaohs still spills out across the sands.

The Aboriginal Referendum has been announced for some time in 2023, as Australians go to the voting booths to decide whether or not to add a permanent Indigenous voice to Parliament. It arrives on the heels of nearly 10,000 sq km of land being returned to Aboriginal peoples in Queensland and Western Australia in 2022, as well as a wave of travel experiences opening up opportunities for Indigenous communities. ‘Discover Aboriginal Experiences’, launched by Tourism Australia in 2020, now connects travellers to 185 tours led by Aboriginal guides, and we’re seeing more groups like the Indigenous-owned Budj-Bim Cultural Landscape Tourism, which operate walking tours run by local Gunditjmara around the UNESCO-listed Budj Bim National Park. These supplement groundwork laid down by older groups such as Maruku Arts, a collective of 900 Aboriginal artists that has been operating in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park for 30 years.

Come April, it will have been 50 years since the death of Málaga-born artist Pablo Picasso, a man whose fame made even his name a byword for high art. While his attitude to women has caused a recent re-evaluation of his legacy, few doubt his artistic influence. The latter is what the upcoming cross-border anniversary between Spain and France will focus on. As well as talks and lectures, 42 exhibitions will largely be held across the two nations in 2023, with Bilbao’s Guggenheim, Paris’s Centre Pompidou and Madrid’s Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia at the centre of some of the most anticipated events. The latter in particular is home to Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, one of his defining works, which captured the horrors of war that would soon be unleashed across late-1930s Europe. A much-anticipated exhibition held at the museum later in the year will delve into the artist’s formative period and how he came to create such a work.

Germany’s cultural calendar is packed for 2023, and much of it has us excited. One of the more unusual highlights is the 150th anniversary of the UNESCO-listed Völklingen Hütte ironworks – the only surviving blast furnace of its era. Its rusting iron and cement structure remains a thrilling site to explore amid the lush backdrop of the Saarland region. In Hamburg, the belated 60-year celebration of the arrival of The Beatles (pre-fame) takes place in 2023; you can make the most of it by booking a stay at Nhow, the city’s most enticing soon-to-open hotel, set within the historic St Pauli bunker. In Berlin, the controversial Humboldt Forum museum complex is also finally now open, with a major exhibition looking at artist Edvard Munch’s time in the city. And lastly, the Bavarian State Opera looks back on five centuries of classical music with a series of concerts in Munich.

The belated re-opening of India to travellers was one of the most anticipated events of last year, with e-visas once again available. The north-east of the country is looking particularly exciting in 2023. First up is the launch of the world’s longest river cruise, set to ford the Brahmaputra River between Varanasi and Assam, while last November welcomed the new Donyi Polo Airport to the difficult-to-reach Arunachal Pradesh region, home to India’s largest monastery, Tawang, and miles of untouched trails. A spate of new roads is also making it easier to reach the city of Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir, with a raft of hill stations and luxury stays now set to open up this historically fragile region. Lastly, the launch of Ladakh’s first Dark Sky Reserve (Hanle) and the 50th anniversary of conservation icon Project Tiger are just two more reasons to book now.

Cities

The year 2023 is when we see what Copenhagen is made of – literally – as it dons its UNESCO World Capital of Architecture crown. It’s a lot more exciting than it sounds, with the city set to open up a number of otherwise hidden nooks to the public – many of them for the first time. Open House Copenhagen invites you inside some 40 off-limits buildings in March, ranging from palaces to technical installations, unravelling the stories behind each. At the heart of a year-long events programme is the Danish Architectural Center, which also hosts the intriguing Made in Denmark exhibition that charts the country’s design journey from Viking  villages to Flying Tiger in less than 1,000 years. Speaking of innovation, Noma – widely considered as the pioneer of avant-garde gastronomy – turns 20 in November. If you’re lucky enough to bag a table, it will change your idea of what food even is. Or perhaps try its closest Copenhagen rival: Geranium. This was Denmark’s first three-starred Michelin  eatery, and even snatched the title  of ‘World’s Best’ from Noma in 2022.

The Belvedere, Vienna’s stately Baroque palace, honours its 300th anniversary in 2023 by delving into its huge collection of Gustav Klimt works to look at the artists (Van Gogh, Matisse) who inspired the man at the forefront of Viennese Modernism (exhibition: Feb-May). It is curated in tandem with Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum and promises to be one of the highlights of Europe’s cultural calendar. But it’s not the only anniversary in town. The city also marks 150 years since the World’s Fair arrived, thrusting Vienna onto the international stage. To celebrate, the Wien Museum will reopen (Dec) for the first time since 2020, plus there will be a new addition to Prater Park, as Panorama Vienna (a 360-degree exhibition space) finally replaces the old rotunda that went up in flames in 1937. And if that’s not enough, the Viennese ball season returns for the first time in two years, so brush up your tux and grab your opera glasses.

One of the more exciting ongoing projects in a nation currently rebuilding itself from the inside out is the restoration of Jeddah’s 7th-century, UNESCO-listed Al Balad neighbourhood. It was here that wealthy merchants commissioned lavish town houses with colourful balconied windows. They were constructed higher and higher because the old city walls (torn down in the 1940s) prevented any expansion of the city. Around 650 mansions – some of them over 500 years old – now pack an area of 2.5 sq km in size, making for an invaluable resource of traditional Hejazi architecture. Sadly, many are in a poor state and are now leaning heavily. The restoration of those in the worst condition and ongoing rejuvenation of the area is inspiring, and with a raft of traditionally designed boutique hotels set to open in the year ahead, we can’t wait to check in on the district’s progress.

We knew this would be an auspicious year when the ‘Sydney Modern Project’ (as it is still known) finally swung open its doors in the dying days of 2022. This long-awaited standalone expansion to the Art Gallery of New South Wales is the city’s most anticipated cultural event since the Opera House, which is also in the news in 2023. The latter celebrates its 50th anniversary with a giddy lap of honour that includes a performance of the play Amadeus, starring Michael Sheen, and a gig by Nick Cave. Clearly 1973 was a busy year, because it has also been a half century since the first Australian Gay Pride Week, which is just one of many reasons why WorldPride, the two-week-long celebration of all things LGBTQ+, lands in Sydney (Feb-Mar) in 2023, trailing parades, parties and a bevvy of gigs and shows in its wake. Nor is this the only prestigious international event to land here. Later in the year, Texas’ SXSW film and music festival branches out for the first time to Sydney (Oct), and there’s the FIFA Women’s World Cup final at Stadium Australia to look forward to in August, as women’s football finally starts to command the attention its male counterpart takes for granted.

Sweden is celebrating its 500th anniversary and monarch Carl XVI Gustaf’s 50th jubilee this year, which makes royal capital Stockholm the place to be, especially on National Day (6 June) when locals mark the moment Gustav Vasa was crowned the first Swedish king in 1523. The grand celebrations at Skansen open-air museum will only be matched by the Royal Swedish Opera marking its 250th anniversary with a free National Day concert in Hagaparken, just north of the capital. It all coincides with Stockholm’s stint as a European Capital of Gastronomy in 2023, as a wealth of food events pop up across the city. Elsewhere, a trip to the birthday-candle store is also required in Gothenburg, which celebrates its 400th anniversary (this was actually in 2021, but Covid got in the way) with a busy summer calendar. Among the star attractions is a five-day festival in new district Frihamnen taking place in June, while a litany of distinguished institutions, such as the art and maritime history museums and the botanical garden, will be honouring their centenaries with special shows.

It has been 60 years since one of the most famous speeches in history was made on the steps of Washington’s Lincoln Memorial by Martin Luther King Jr (MLK), who would announce his “dream” to the world. It came at the culmination of the African American Civil Rights’ march on Washington on 28 August 1963, as 250,000 people congregated on DC’s National Mall. Six decades later, his words are as necessary as ever. To mark the occasion, six newly commissioned pop-up monuments will be erected in August to honour historic moments in the Mall’s past. In the meantime, the National Museum of African American History & Culture will be the first port of call for many eager to learn more about the struggles of the Civil Rights era, while MLK’s memorial will also undoubtedly be busy. Spare a moment, too, for the first full exhibition by the online National Women’s History Museum, which will shine a light on important Black feminists within the movement at the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library in March.

Literary buffs can dust off their passports as Accra gets ready for its year as a UNESCO World Book Capital. You don’t have to look far for why that might be the case. Festivals such as Pa Gya! (Oct) draw writers from across Ghana and Africa to the capital, while its annual Book Fair is the largest literary gathering on the continent. As much as anything, it’s an excuse to explore a colourful and increasingly popular city where murals and colonial architecture mingle on street corners; markets (Keta, Makola) take over entire blocks; fish-shaped coffins fill galleries; and where music invades every nook of the city.

The award for 2023’s oldest city anniversary surely goes to Vilnius, which clocks up 700 years in late January. Things kick off on the 25th of the month in honour of when the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Gediminas, first sent letters to Europe’s heads of state naming Vilnius as his capital. There are events running across the calendar, with late January seeing the arrival of a lights festival; installations will scatter the Old Town and draw visitors into one of the continent’s best preserved medieval centres, all under the gaze of Gediminas’s castle. Later in 2023, Vingis Park hosts the free As Young as Vilnius music festival (Jul), and across the year are a slew of exciting events: look out for opera nights, a performance art biennial, an intriguing exhibition on the collapse of the Soviet system, and a pavilion showing how Vilnius looked 200 years ago.

We all strive to travel greener, and one way to do so is to visit places of a similar ethos. One such city is Tallinn, which has been named the European Green Capital for 2023. It has some ambitious aims, including launching a carbon-neutral bus system by 2035 and achieving full net-zero emissions by 2050. It’s also packed with sights that lend themselves to a low-impact stay: Old Town’s atmospheric cobbles are easily explored on foot, there are fine bog walks at Mukri and Pääsküla, and the city’s 2,100 hectares of protected land translates into grand parks and gardens. The land surrounding the Tsarist palace of Kadriorg (now an art museum) and the Botanic Garden take the eye in particular. A trip to Tallinn Bay is also worthwhile, with hikes among the trails of the Paljassaare Peninsula revealing glimpses of the Highland cattle that the city “employs” to keep the landscape here in check. 

This year is the 150th anniversary of the founding of Hungarian capital Budapest, when the towns of Pest, Buda and Óbuda joined together. Festivities will run year-long on the banks of the Danube, and there are plenty of ways to get in touch with the capital’s past. Look out for the reopening of the Chain Bridge to pedestrians; this linked Buda and Pest for the first time in 1849, and from its centre you can see Buda Castle, with its vast network of tunnels and caves, on the west side of the river, and the colourful Parliament buildings to the east. Hopes are also high that the oldest Turkish baths in the city, Király, an octagonal chamber dating back to the 16th century, will reopen after renovation in 2023, though there are plenty of historic soaks in the capital to warm your bones in the meantime.

Regions