Where will you go?

Our editors choose the hot spots and rising cultural stars of the travel world for the year ahead, as we pick 24 for 2024!

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Note: This list is in alphabetical order

CITY

1. Arizona, USA

Arizona may be known as the Grand Canyon State but in 2024 all eyes are on its cities – notably Tucson’s Barrio Viejo (Old District), slated for recognition as a National Historic Landmark. Its galleries, brewpubs and cantinas are big draws, but the real jewels are the 19th-century adobe buildings that have housed families and businesses down the generations. Today, the story of Tucson is told through places such as the Teatro Carmen, which once hosted a cinema, meeting hall, boxing ring and ballroom, and is currently being renovated. In Flagstaff to the north, a new Astronomy Discovery Center opening at the Lowell Observatory will launch visitors across the cosmos from this International Dark Sky City. And state capital Phoenix celebrates a slew of anniversaries in 2024, with events planned at the Desert Botanical Garden (85th), Heard Museum of Native American art (95th) and Phoenix Art Museum (65th).

Why go? Hit the cities for local
history, dark skies and birthdays

COUNTRY

2. Australia

Imagine being able to travel back in time over half a billion years, to a moment when animal life was first emerging. In South Australia’s Ikara-Flinders Ranges, you can do just that – well, kind of – by walking among relics of the Precambrian era on Fossil Field Tours exploring little-seen parts of Nilpena Ediacara, the country’s newest national park. Roaming its amazing fossil beds, scouring the red earth and rocks for clues, provides the opportunity to discover how animal life evolved in a spot bidding for UNESCO World Heritage status. Elsewhere, you can mountain bike the 39km Remarkable Epic Trail across Mount Remarkable National Park, join tours with Indigenous Adnyamathanha guides at Wilpena Pound and drift off beneath a canopy of stars on a new ridge-top sleepout in Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. All proof that even the oldest parts of the world can learn new tricks.

It's not only our editors who think Australia is a hot destination – our readers voted it their Most Desirable Country in the 2023 Wanderlust Travel Awards!

Why go? Discover how the earliest animal life evolved

COUNTRY

3. Brazil

Brazil has been the focus of some rare positive conservation stories in recent months. Slashing deforestation rates by more than a third in the first half of 2023 was a big win, but equally encouraging is the growing number of ways visitors can engage with cultures that call the Amazon region home. Increasingly, operators are offering meaningful encounters with Brazil’s Indigenous peoples, from boating the tea-coloured Río Negro with a Munduruku guide to homestays in the jungle-set villages around Manaus, channelling tourism funds to local communities. Just as important has been efforts to put the wild back in the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland. Tours with conservationists not only offer chances to spy jaguars in their natural habitat, but also to hear the remarkable story of how the cats returned.

Why go? Because good news travels fast – and we can’t wait to visit again

CITIES

4. Capitals of Culture

We’re not saying you need to visit this year’s European Capitals of Culture – Bodø (Norway), Bad Ischl (Austria) and Tartu (Estonia) – in one trip… but wouldn’t it be fun? First up is Norway’s gateway to the red-and-white rorbuer (cod fishermen’s cabins) of the Lofoten Islands. Spare time for the city itself, though; its Modernist architecture and entrepreneurial spirit make Bodø more than just an aurora-watching pit stop. Next up is the Austrian spa town where Habsburg emperor Franz Joseph I liked to spend his summers. In Bad Ischl’s Neoclassical Kaiservilla, you can see the room where he signed the declaration of hostilities with Serbia that sparked the First World War. Finish your cultural odyssey in Estonia’s ‘spiritual capital’, Tartu, which dodged Brutalist Soviet interventions to retain its classical centre; events this year will encompass communities on its fringes, too.

Why go? Squeeze three distinctively different cities
into one incredible cultural journey

COUNTRY

5. Chile

Few countries have focused on conservation as much as Chile lately, with over 20% of its land now protected and three new national parks established in the past year alone. First was Salar del Huasco, sandwiched between Andean peaks, its salt flats home to flamingos and other birds. Then came Desierto Florido, high in the northern Atacama desert, created to protect a superbloom of 200 wildflower species that paints the desert lilac in August. Finally, Glaciares de Santiago National Park is a community-led effort safeguarding 368 glaciers in hills south-east of the capital.

Why go? To see how national
parks and communities are
working together to save Chile’s wilds

REGION

6. Deep South, USA

Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore up swathes of the USA’s southern coastline – and the area is still recovering even today. One casualty that should finally be back on track this year is Amtrak’s Gulf Coast train route, chugging between the jazz bars and French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, some 200km to the east in Alabama. The latter city’s Mardi Gras – reputedly the country’s oldest official Carnival – offers an alternative to the bourbon-fuelled hedonism of NOLA, while its oyster houses, antebellum homes and boutique-lined Dauphin Street reinforce its ‘quieter cousin’ vibe. Between them, the track skirts the Mississippi coast with stops in Pascagoula, Gulfport, Bay St Louis and lively Biloxi. Be sure to drop in at that city’s museum dedicated to ceramist George Ohr, the ‘Mad Potter of Biloxi’, for a more cultured take on the neon-lit ‘playground of the South’.

Why go? Visit Mississippi,
Alabama and Louisiana on
the resurrected Gulf Coast train line

COUNTRY

7. France

Today, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne are recognisable by their surnames alone, yet in the 19th century they were part of the ‘Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers, etc’ for good reason. Finding themselves artistic outcasts in Paris, in 1874 they responded by staging the first Impressionist exhibition, thus changing the course of art history. In the 150th anniversary year of that moment, explore their work and legacy at events in Rouen, Dieppe and Giverny, Monet’s adopted hometown, during Normandy’s Impressionist Festival (Mar–Sep). Meanwhile, the Musée d’Orsay headlines the capital’s offerings with its Inventing Impressionism retrospective (Mar–Jul). You’ll never look at a sunset in the same way again.

France was also voted the Most Desirable Country for Culture in the Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards 2023, reaffirming its position on our Editors' Hot List.

Why go? To explore the birth of
the 19th-century Impressionist
art movement all over again

COUNTRY

8. Germany

August marks 250 years since the birth of one of Germany’s most influential painters, Caspar David Friedrich. A pioneer of the Romantic movement, drawing on emotion and the power of nature, many of his pieces reimagined the landscapes around Dresden, where he lived and died and where some of his works are being showcased this year. A major exhibition at Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie is among other shows across the country, including at Hamburg’s Kunsthalle. A fitting tribute would be to explore the UNESCO-listed Elbe Valley on foot, hiking the Painter’s Way between historic villages still hinting at the Industrial Age, and the distinctive sandstone outcrops that inspired Friedrich’s masterpiece Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.

Why go? Celebrate the life
and works of a Romantic master

COUNTRY

9. India

A literary landmark this year is the 130th anniversary of the first publication of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Though the India-born English writer penned these tales while living in leafy Vermont, USA, he was inspired by an 1831 report of a child raised by wolves near Seoni in the Wainganga Valley – where the villainous tiger Shere Khan meets his fate in the book. Seoni sits between the tiger reserves of Kanha, Satpura and Pench, and it was the latter that inspired the setting of Kipling’s classic book. Evoke his tales on a walking safari along the dusty jungle trails of Satpura, tiger spotting in less-visited Pench or on a night safari in the forested Satpura Hills, where you might encounter a black bear (Baloo’s descendent?). If you’re wildly lucky, you might even spot the area’s resident black panther, fittingly named Bagheera.

Why go? Follow in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling to explore the tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh

COUNTRY

10. Japan

Sixty years ago, Japan’s first shinkansen (bullet train) was rolled out in record time for the 1964 Summer Olympics, hurtling between Tokyo and Osaka. Even today, there is no better way to explore the hill country of central Honshu than on that original Tokaido service. But you needn’t end there. This year, an extension to the line from Tokyo to Kanazawa will continue along the north coast to the scenic port city of Tsuruga. There are also plenty of new ways to take it slower in Japan this year. JR East has mooted the launch of sightseeing services exploring the historic castles and cherry-blossom-scattered hills of the southern Tohoku region in spring 2024. And in autumn, JR West has plans for a train traversing the ‘Middle Country’ of western Honshu that is set to change its route depending on the season – so time your visit according to your interests.

Why go? Ride the rails in a special year for Japan’s shinkansen… then take it slow

COUNTRY

11. Kazakhstan

If you’ve ever longed to see someone firing an arrow using their feet while doing a handstand, the World Nomad Games might just be your Woodstock. Now, ten years after the first edition was staged in Kyrgyzstan, the games come to Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, featuring events ranging from wrestling to bone throwing. The sight of trained eagles hunting stuffed toys is one you won’t soon forget, but you’ll also find classes on traditional crafts, a Kazakh food festival and a museum exploring the nomad cultures gathered here. Direct Air Astana flights between London and Almaty also open up the wild south-east, a land where the singing sand dunes and painted rocks of Altyn-Emel National Park are by no means the most mysterious sights.

Why go? For the wildest sporting event this side of the Tian Shan Mountains

REGION

12. Midwest, USA

With more and more people travelling for astronomical phenomena, North America is surely this year’s hottest ticket. A total solar eclipse will track diagonally through the continent on 8 April – the last here for 20 years – crossing the USA between Texas and Maine. The path of totality bisects the Midwestern states of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio – where Cleveland’s lakeside will offer front-row seats and plenty of context during a three-day festival, and cruises on the Great Lakes will allow you to enjoy the eclipse in serenity. The phenomenon itself lasts only four minutes, but it provides the perfect excuse to explore a region too often overlooked. From kayak tours beneath the bridges of Cincinnati to treks across the Cuyahoga Valley, in Ohio alone there’s plenty to do that’s out of this world.

Why go? Chase an eclipse while exploring the USA’s little-seen flyover states

COUNTRY

13. Mongolia

If the ongoing Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan) exhibition in Nantes has whetted your appetite to learn more about the largest contiguous land empire in history, then the recently opened Chinggis Khaan National Museum in Ulaanbaatar will blow your mind. Mongolia is now easier to reach than ever since the capital’s new international airport opened in 2021. More direct flights from the US and Europe, plus the easing of visa restrictions, have opened up the country further still. Now an array of stays – such as Three Camel Lodge in the Gobi, and Yeruu Lodge in the far north – are adding a dash of luxury to the wild steppes and arid desert. And that’s aside from such unique experiences as the Golden Eagle Festival of Bayan-Ölgii and exploring the taiga of Khövsgöl Nuur NP on horseback.

Why go? New flights, cultural attractions and luxury stays in wild settings

COUNTRY

14. New Caledonia

Watching the South Pacific sun glint off the pellucid lagoons of New Caledonia, you might reflect that you’ve arrived in paradise. The UNESCO-listed waters, reefs, lagoons and atolls of this remote French territory in the South Pacific, home to manta rays, humpback whales (Jul–Sep) and pristine coral, are a playground for visitors and wildlife alike. And the opening of the InterContinental Lifou Wadra Bay Resort, slated for April 2024, provides a luxurious new base from which to explore the Loyalty Islands and outer archipelago. The reopening of the expanded Museum of New Caledonia promises more insights into the indigenous Kanak people who make up nearly half the country’s population, while a new flight connection to Fiji through the latter’s national airline enables smoother access.

Why go? New flights, museums and stays