Opt for Albania over the Maldives in 2024 and the Congo over Rwanda – at least that’s what the travel pros are saying.
A team of industry experts have offered their predictions on the less popular destinations that they believe will become hot spots over the coming year thanks to their natural beauty, unique culture and accessible price points.
Along with Albania and the Congo, some of the more off-beat locations that made the list include Bhutan, South Korea and Grenada.
Here are the less-traveled places that experts think are going to become all the craze in 2024, in case you need some inspiration ahead of planning your next vacation.
Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, boasts ski slopes on its doorstep and the largest Nordic spa in the US
New York-based Alexandra Avila, who is the founder of travel PR firm REYA Communications, says Alaska has already started luring in more travelers thanks to its dramatic landscapes and increasing number of luxury lodgings.
The globetrotter recommends checking into Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, which boasts ski slopes on its doorstep and the largest Nordic spa in the US.
Avila said: ‘This spot is definitely the new crown jewel in south-central Alaska.
‘I also appreciate that they make the spa an inclusive experience, being conscious with their marketing embracing all body types and races. It’s a refreshing break from the typical spa marketing we see out there.
‘It also being a phone free space, makes people feel more comfortable around others and forces them be in the moment and embrace nature.’
For thrill seekers, Avila said the resort ‘also launched this past summer their Veilbreaker Skybridges, a two to three hour-long experience for people of all skill levels, with two suspended bridges suspended 2,500 feet above the valley floor and spanning 600 feet.’
She added: ‘Explorers will have a true sense of adventure with stunning vistas of Alaska’s wild landscape from harrowing heights available in the summer months from July to September.’
Gorilla trekking in the Congo is said to offer a more unique experience over Rwanda and Uganda
Award-winning safari travel company Go2Africa says the Congo Basin is a spot nature-lovers should consider in 2024.
They said that gorilla trekking here offers a more unique experience over Rwanda and Uganda as the ‘gorillas share their home with forest elephants, buffalos, and hundreds of bird species.’
The Congo is also home to Africa’s oldest national parks, the Odzala-Kokoua, which was designated in 1935.
Furthering its appeal, a new luxury camp called Kozala Zamba is set to open in 2024 from the Bensley Collection.
The Congo is currently ranked ‘Level 3’ on the US State Department’s travel advisory section, with travelers instructed to ‘reconsider travel’ due to crime and civil unrest.
However, Go2Africa insisted that they have a brigade of in-country experts who are on hand to offer up-to-date, relevant information to ensure safe travel.
Views over the Kyambura Gorge in Uganda, where the chimpanzees are the star attraction
Avila said next year will be an exciting year in the chimpanzee world as Jane Goodall turns 90 in April.
The travel expert highlighted that Goodall visited Uganda, ‘where the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) continues to work on the conservation of wild chimpanzees in the Albertine Rift.’
She noted that Kibale National Park has the largest population of chimpanzees where JGI operates.
In addition, this area will also be home to a new luxury lodge from Volcanoes Safaris.
Avila concluded: ‘This will be their fifth lodge catering to great ape tourism, and their second to offer chimp trekking.
‘Two hours away is the Kyambura Gorge where JGI and Volcanoes Safaris have developed a partnership to focus specifically on an isolated family of chimpanzees under threat.’
Bhutan reopened its borders in September 2022 to international guests following the pandemic
The Kingdom of Bhutan is having its moment, Avila said, ‘having been one of the last countries to reopen after COVID and since introducing their Sustainability Development Fees to reinvest and preserve their land and culture.’
Bhutan, which is guided by the philosophy of ‘Gross National Happiness,’ reopened its borders in September 2022 to international guests following the pandemic.
The country unveiled a new tourism strategy, underpinned by transformations in three key areas – ‘enhancements to its sustainable development policies, infrastructure upgrades and the elevation of the guest experience.’
The Kingdom also went about raising its Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) from $65 to $100 per person, per night, with the funds helping to support a range of economic, social, environmental and cultural development projects.
Avila recommended checking into the five-star Gangtey Lodge, which is perched above a nature reserve.
She said that the resort recently launched a new wellbeing retreat for travelers ‘looking to leverage the natural and spiritual gifts the country offers.’
Travel entrepreneur Bruce Poon Tip said South Korea offers ‘a wealth of traditional culture, incredible food, and exciting experiences for travelers’
Bruce Poon Tip, who is the founder of travel company G Adventures, predicted that South Korea will come into its own in 2024.
He explained: ‘With Asia trending since its reopening, South Korea has proven a welcome surprise in terms of its popularity with numbers doubling in 2023 compared to 2019.’
The travel expert said the country has been helped by popular culture such as K-Pop and K-dramas.
Some of the other lures include ‘a wealth of traditional culture, incredible food, and exciting experiences for travelers.’
G Adventures runs an eight-day Best of South Korea trip with some of the highlights including a city tour of Seoul, a visit to a folk village, as well as learning about the somber history of North and South Korea and taking an excursion to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two.
Uzbekistan has seen a 53 per cent increase year over year, also usurping 2019 by 16 per cent
Poon Tip said Uzbekistan – and the ‘Stans in general – have become quite the hotspot as people look to check off big ‘bucket list’ destinations and get further afield to lesser-known countries.
The globetrotter reveals that Uzbekistan has seen a 53 per cent increase year over year, also usurping 2019 by 16 per cent.
One of the big highlights for 2024, Poon Tip said, is the ‘stunning’ Center for Islamic Civilization in Tashkent, which is set to open its doors in April and joins the Center for Contemporary Arts, which was opened in 2019.
These will serve as ‘two new cultural hubs set to attract the attention of travelers.’
On G Adventures’ Highlights of Uzbekistan trip, a range of locations are ticked off, including the desert Chashma Complex, a pilgrimage site in the territory of Nurata, and Aydarkul Lake.
G Adventures offers a seven-day Highlights of Portugal trip from Lisbon to Porto
According to G Adventures, Portugal has seen stand-out growth with traveler numbers tripling since 2019 and up 33 per cent compared to 2022.
The travel experts said that some of the reasons for visiting ‘this European gem’ include ‘affordability, fantastic food culture and history.’
They added: ‘New direct flights to Porto from New York, Boston and Toronto with Azores Airlines will also give travelers more options to get there from summer 2024.
‘We say go before it gets even more popular, as its star looks set to continue to rise.’
G Adventures offers a seven-day Highlights of Portugal trip from Lisbon to Porto, with some of the activities including a performance by Portuguese folk music artists in one of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods and a tour around the picturesque town of Sintra.
Grenada offers ‘unspoiled landscapes’ for ‘adventure seekers, nature lovers, and beach dwellers’ to enjoy
Travel experts from Two Nights In – which serves as a luxury travel agency providing a VIP-style booking service – said that the relatively quiet Caribbean island of Grenada is on the radar of many luxury travelers for 2024.
In 2024, they revealed that there will be two hotly anticipated hotel openings, including the Six Senses La Sagesse and Beach House by Silversands Grenada.
The Six Senses resort will include 56 two-level pool suites and 15 villas, while Silversands will offer 28 purposely-designed accommodations.
In terms of the island’s offerings, the Grenada tourism website says that its ‘unspoiled landscapes appeal to adventure seekers, nature lovers, beach dwellers, families seeking fun and adventure, couples looking for romantic getaways or destination weddings, or busy, stressed out, hardworking people in search of escape and relaxation.’
Montana makes for a perfect winter getaway, thanks to ‘upgraded infrastructure and brand new luxury accommodations’
Another location on the Two Nights In team’s ‘hot list’ for 2024 is Montana.
They said the mountainous western state makes for a perfect winter getaway, thanks to ‘upgraded infrastructure and brand new luxury accommodations.’
Their top pick in terms of resorts was Big Sky, which they said ‘gives Aspen, Vail, and Jackson Hole a run for their money as one of 2024’s top luxury ski spots.’
One of the hottest new hotels to land will be the One&Only Moonlight Basin, which marks the first luxury One&Only property in North America.
The mountain resort is set to offer 73 rooms and suites, 19 private villas, a ski lodge and a spa, as well as 62 lavish private residences.
The experts from online travel agency Booking.com said that Albania is ‘Europe’s answer to the Maldives’
The experts from online travel agency Booking.com, said Albania is the trending beach escape for 2024 due to its ‘azure waters, impressive mountains and affordability for all types of travelers.’
They even went as far to say that the small country is ‘Europe’s answer to the Maldives’
They recommended heading to the ‘underrated seaside gem of Vlorë’ in the southwest, which they say is the ‘starting point of the Albanian Riviera and a great base for road trips to explore up and down this sunny coast.’
In terms of things to do, the experts said: ‘By day, visitors can stroll along the palm tree-lined promenade, revive in Narta Lagoon, or enjoy a boat trip to the small but stunning Bay of Grama.
‘By night, this historic city comes alive in the vibrant old town bustling with boutique shops and eateries.
‘Vlorë is also emerging as a culinary destination: foodies will savour the taste of Italy just a hop across the Adriatic, which blesses the local cuisine with fresh seafood the star of the show.
‘For a day trip, head to Tirana, a two-hour drive north, for an Albanian Cooking Class to immerse in local traditions and make tavë kosi (tender lamb baked with rice in a spiced yogurt sauce) – an emblematic dish and soul food at its finest.’
Panglao in the Philippines serves up ‘white sandy beaches, world-class diving locations and abundance of outdoor activities’
The Booking.com team also highlighted the Philippines as a hot destination for 2024.
The archipelago off the coast of Vietnam consists of more than 7,000 islands and islets but the experts recommend plumping for Panglao.
They say the tiny tropical island serves up ‘white sandy beaches, world-class diving locations and abundance of outdoor activities.’
It is also positioned as the Philippines’ greenest destination, with an eco-friendly airport, activities that respect the environment and South Farm and a new 22-acre site that provides organic produce to hotels and showcases local crafts and culture, from farming and fishing to weaving.
The experts added: ‘This hidden gem is a slice of paradise, and ideal for travelers who want to enjoy the replenishing natural wonders of laidback island life while preserving its ecological integrity.’
The most popular resort on the island is Alona Beach, ‘known for its lively nightlife, or its more mellow neighbour Danao Beach is lined with coconut palms and the promise of smaller crowds.’
The outcrop can also be used to explore nearby islands with the travel pros recommending the Bohol Island-hopping Tour, which takes visitors to two islands and the waters of Balicasag Island Marine Sanctuary where they can discover underwater gardens, and even spot dolphins.