Why follow the all the 2024 ‘hot destinations’ lists when you can uncover equally beautiful destinations minus the tourist throngs? Here is Luxury Travel’s list of incredible places to visit that might not be ‘on trend’ but will reward you to no end
If you’re interested in travel, it’s at this time of year that your social media and lifestyle news feeds probably start to become flooded with lists of the ‘hottest’ destinations for the year ahead. While it’s fascinating to find out the latest travel trends and which destinations will have a bumper year, it’s these same destinations that may well be saturated with fellow tourists looking for the next big thing.
With over-tourism and sustainability a genuine concern in the global travel industry, and Virtuoso’s latest Luxe Report survey revealing that avoiding over-touristed destinations is one of Australian and New Zealander travellers’ key travel motivators, why not shun the go-to destinations of the year and find an alternative, quieter place to explore?
Considering Paros? Try Milos
Everyone knows the chalk white walls and royal blue roofs of Santorini, and the smaller island of Paros has come up on multiple lists this year as the new Cyclades sensation thanks to its close proximity (and easy ferry journey) from Mykonos and Santorini. But if you’re looking for an even quieter alternative to these islands than Paros, consider Milos. A 40-minute flight from Athens, or a two-hour ferry ride from Santorini, Milos boasts some of the finest beaches and most dramatic coastal landscapes in Greece, aquamarine waters, captivating whitewashed towns, historic sites and superb seafood. It’s a mystery how this island has managed to evade the mass tourism fate of its fellow Cycladic islands – not that we’re complaining.
Considering Italy? Try Slovenia
Italy is still the number one most popular destination in the world for Australian tourists. Needless to say, there will be crowds when you get there. For fewer people but all the good looks, head to nearby Slovenia, instead. If you haven’t seen photos of this beautiful country’s fairytale-like Lake Bled by now, Google it, then make 2024 the year you witness it in the ‘flesh’.
Slovenia has long been one of Europe’s most underrated and overlooked countries, with its neighbours Italy and Croatia attracting more than their fair share of the tourist pie. Since gaining its independence from Yugoslavia in the ’90s, Slovenia has seen burgeoning art, nightlife LGBTQ and dining scenes, with Michelin-starred chef Ana Roš’s two-star countryside restaurant Hiša Franko has trailblazed the area’s ultra-local, farm-to-table movement. Fun fact: Slovenia is the only nation on the European continent to claim four major geographic regions: The Alps, Mediterranean Sea, the Pannonian Plains, and the Karst limestone plateau. Go. Go now.
Considering Sicily? Try Ischia
Still in Italy, if Season 2 of The White Lotus had you dreaming of a holiday in Sicily, you’re not alone. 2024 will likely see plenty of keen tourists arriving on this Italian island’s shores to experience a taste of beachside bliss. But if we know anything about Italy, it’s that this country has no lack of spectacular sandy destinations – and one such under-the-radar place is the island of Ischia. This small, 45-kilometre long volcanic island in the Gulf of Naples has long been seen as the poor man’s Capri, but in fact, Ischia is where the Italians holiday – and who are we to question them? This is where to go if you’ve ‘done’ Amalfi, Cinque Terre and all the usual glamorous and charming Italian seaside spots and are looking for a similar natural setting with a lower-key vibe (not to mention, amazing thermal spas).
As for where to stay, it’s go to be the luxe Hotel Mezzatorre, a thermal spa hotel situated on its own private estate on the northwest tip of Ischia, overlooking its own private bay. The quiet, charming seaside towns of Lacco Ameno and Forio are minutes away, while the picturesque fishermen’s island of Procida, which was Italy’s 2022 Capital of Culture, is a short ferry ride away, making it a must-do day trip.
Considering Iceland? Try Norway
Perhaps the least explored of the Scandinavian trio (Norway, Iceland and Finland), Norway is home to dramatic fjords and breathtaking landscapes, and is also peppered with a slew of inviting luxury wilderness lodges that are sure to tickle your fancy, including a new property from sustainability hero brand, Six Senses (Six Senses Svart – under construction).
You’ll know about the nation’s sauna culture and obsession with health and wellness, but luxury tour operator A&K has also pinpointed a handful of new attractions worth checking out. The Arctic Circle city of Bodø (jumping off point for the Lofoten Islands) has been marked out as European Capital of Culture for 2024, while in the capital of Oslo, Art Deco-style hotel Sommerro is adding the exclusive 11-suite Villa Inkognito to its offering in April. Art lovers, don’t miss the impressive Munch Museum on the Bjørvika waterfront, which opened its doors without a fuss during the pandemic and now houses 26,000 of the famous artist’s works (yes, including ‘The Scream’).
Considering Paris? Try Budapest
Paris is hot in 2024 thanks to the Olympic Games, but if you’re looking for a taste of the City of Love with far fewer crowds, you won’t be disappointed in Budapest. Parts of the city of Budapest look so similar to Paris, in fact, that it is often used as the location of films set in Paris. Its architecture spans art nouveau, neoclassical, gothic and baroque styles, so design and history buffs will have plenty to explore, while wellness enthusiasts will love the city’s mineral-rich thermal baths.
2023 marked the 150-year unification of Buda, Pest, and Obuda, and the Chain Bridge, with its spectacular panorama of Buda Castle and Parliament was recently restored. But beyond its history, Budapest is simply a really fun, cool and dynamic city that is a pleasure to explore. It has a thriving youth and arts culture, and the foodie scene is as delicious as it is diverse. If you’ve never been, put it on your list for the year ahead.
Considering Mallorca? Try Corsica
Rising from the Mediterranean Sea like an indomitable fortress, the spectacular island of Corsica is like no other part of France, and continues to fly under the radar for Australians seeking a Mediterranean island holiday. Located north of Sardinia, off the western coast of Italy, this glorious French island territory is only 215 kilometres long and 81 kilometres wide, but offers a breathtaking array of natural and cultural attractions from rugged mountainous terrain to sun-drenched bays, beaches and seaside villages, bucolic valleys, forests and dramatic hilltop hideaways.
Calvi, on the island’s northwest coast, is a charming city of cobblestone streets, restaurants, shops and art galleries, and take your pick of almost 200 white-sand beaches and secluded coves dotted around the island. A world away from the glittering French Riviera, Corsica has its own unique customs, language and character – along with excellent food and wine – delivering an intimate holiday experience in a monumental setting.
Considering Tahiti? Try New Caledonia
For an idyllic island experience with that touch of je ne sais quoi, there is always Tahiti in French Polynesia. But in 2024, we are keen to shift gears and head to New Caledonia for plenty of so Frenchy, so chic vibes (and fewer people to block our ocean views). New Caledonia has been overshadowed by its South Pacific neighbours for many years, with luxury travellers not missing the fact that the island country’s luxury hotel offering has always been incredibly limited. But with the launch of InterContinental Lifou Wadra Bay Resort in the South of Lifou, there’s a compelling reason to give this beautiful island destination a red hot go.
Considering Fiji? Try Palau
Located in Micronesia, untouched Palau – a Pacific Island nation made up of over 300 islands – is home to breathtaking jungles, world-class diving and stretches of powder-soft white beaches. So why are Aussies not going there? The reason is simple – it’s historically been extremely hard to get to. Thankfully, local air operator Air Niugini has now introduced weekly flights from Brisbane via Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, making a visit to this destination far more likely. While it’s not a mere three-and-a-half hours from the east coast like a flight to Fiji is, the paradisiacal nature of this place makes the journey well worth the extra effort. Not to mention, you’ll probably have every beach to yourself – a rarity these days. Stay tuned for a feature article from one of our contributing writers on this special destination.
Considering the Kimberley? Try the Pilbara
If Western Australia’s enchanting Kimberley region has been on your bucket list for a while, you’re not alone. This incredibly unique region has been getting plenty of attention in recent years for its unique natural beauty replete with ancient rock formations and spectacular waterfalls. Indigenous immersion is at the heart of a trip to the Kimberley, and luxury cruise operators such as True North have really put this West Australian region on the map, with PONANT also voyaging in the region beginning this year.
But further south, another region boasts beautiful ancient natural landscapes dating back 3.5-4.3 billion years, vibrant swathes of red earth and one of the world’s largest collections of Aboriginal engraved rock art – the Pilbara. Spanning 500,000 square kilometres – twice the size of the United Kingdom – the Pilbara is huge – and hugely rewarding. Think: deep rocky canyons leading to peaceful plunge pools in the beautiful Karijini National Park and hundreds of islands with dazzling white beaches and untouched coral gardens on the Dampier Archipelago and Mackerel Islands.
Considering Tasmania? Try Kangaroo Island
Tasmania has been on-trend for both domestic and international travellers both post- and pre-Covid, and for good reason. But in 2024, why not explore another (smaller) beautiful island? Kangaroo Island off South Australia’s coastline made Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2024 list this year, and we think it’s safe to say you won’t run into any tourist crowds there… yet.
Kangaroo island was devastated by the 2020 bushifires, which resulted in the demise of much-loved luxury eco-hotel, Southern Ocean Lodge. There’s not better place to stay now the spectacular lodge has been rebuilt from the ground up, and you can expect unbeatable local produce, abundant native wildlife, natural experiences, and some of the nation’s most pristine beaches on a visit here, too.
Considering Thailand? Try Sri Lanka
It has been a tough few years for Sri Lanka, with the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks on Catholic churches in 2019 followed in quick succession by the pandemic and incredible economic uncertainty. If recovery tourism is an incentive for you, consider visiting Sri Lanka in 2024.
The country has made a significant investment in luxury hotel and wellness development throughout the country recently, with La Vie Hotels having refurbished three properties in Colombo, Kandy and Galle, and Resplendent Ceylon launching Reverie – a collection of laid-back boutique properties – just last year. Art deco-inspired The Charleston opened just this month in the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort. Sri Lanka is home to incredible beaches that are often overlooked in favour of those of Thailand and Indonesia (arguably a mistake), rich cultural heritage, amazing wildlife and friendly, welcoming people.
Considering Japan? Try China
Anyone who is anyone seems to have visited Japan in 2023, and the nation’s tourism is set to continue rocketing. But did you know that beautiful eco-retreats and lodges are cropping up all over regional China? The Chinese countryside is being rediscovered, with antique-filled village guesthouses and mountainside design hotels set to attract the international luxury travel set – if they can be convinced to visit. Tourist visas and regular international flights have returned for the first time since the pandemic, so now is a great time to see the Land of the Dragon before everyone else.
Considering Kenya? Try Botswana
With 2024 marking the 30th anniversary of The Lion King and the release of the new live action prequel, Mufasa, Kenya is on plenty of Disney fans’ radar as a top destination for 2024. But for something really special and a little different, plan for Botswana, instead. Best known for the Okavango Delta – one of Africa’s most jaw-dropping natural reserves, not to mention the incredible zebra migration, this lesser-travelled African nation is experiencing a new wave of luxury safari lodge openings. This includes the ultra-exclusive eco glamping experience North Island Okavango by Natural Selection (who is also opening a lodge in the Moremi Game Reserve in May) and Sitatunga Private Island, to name a few.
Considering the UAE? Try Saudi Arabia
Move over, Dubai. As the cover destination of Luxury Travel’s December 2023 issue, it’s all eyes on Saudi in 2024. Open to non-religious tourism for just four years, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is beyond anything we’ve ever heard, with a slew of futuristic hotel and resort developments of such ambition it is hard to comprehend. The Kingdom is aiming for 100 million visitors by the start of the next decade, and ancient AlUla is its flagship project. There, you’ll find a starkly beautiful region rich in ancient sites contrasted with contemporary architecture and a peppering of luxury desert resorts. NEOM, in the country’s northwest, includes Sindhala Island, an island dedicated to luxury resorts, and Trojena, the Middle East’s first outdoor ski destination. This is truly out-of-the-box thinking, and we are totally intrigued.
Considering New York City? Try New York State
New York City is New York City, but head north and catch a whiff of that New York State fresh air and you might find yourself wondering why you’ve never visited before. The bucolic Hudson Valley is on our radar in 2024, having seen a surge in hospitality projects since 2020, including Habitas-on-Hudson, Inness, and Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection, perched at the foot of the Shawangunk Mountains. In May, The Front Boutique Hotel in Port Jervis will open boasting an expansive restaurant and access to 80 kilometres of walking trails; and in the spring, The Ranch, a wellness retreat, opens its first East Coast property.
Considering Nashville? Try Memphis
Best known for its rich musical legacy as the birthplace of blues, soul, and rock ’n’ roll, Memphis is a party destination not to miss. Nashville might be trendy right now, but Memphis’ appeal is timeless, and recent years have seen an increased supply of high-end hotel rooms along with development along the riverfront. Not to mention, history buffs will love learning about the city’s deep civil war roots, musos can visit a reimagined Graceland, which underwent a USD $45 million expansion in 2018, and foodies will quickly discover a city moving beyond its barbecuing roots into a thriving gastronomic scene peppered with new restaurants, breweries and distilleries. Go and get your groove on.
Considering Antarctica? Try the North Pole
Much like its polar opposite Antarctica, the Arctic is one of the world’s last great wilderness refuges, and climate change is putting this extreme yet fragile and vulnerable environment (and its wild inhabitants) at great risk. Eco-conscious icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot from cruise line PONANT now ventures far beyond the point that other Arctic cruises usually go, charting a course into seldom-seen sea ice to the geographic North Pole, with blue, rorqual and beluga whales, polar bears and high arctic gulls a regular sight. There is a mysterious yet magnetic world on offer, so why not make this your polar trip of 2024, instead of Antarctica?