In preparation for the upcoming year, National Geographic Traveler has curated a list of the most thrilling destinations in 2024. From the Albanian Alps to the Akagera National Park in Rwanda, these diverse locales promise exciting adventures and cultural experiences.
Europe’s Rising Star: Albanian Alps, Albania
For an unconventional European adventure, the Albanian Alps beckons with its intriguing Ottoman and Communist history and burgeoning tourism scene. Accessible through new air routes, this destination offers hikers an exhilarating experience amid jagged karst peaks, spruce forests, and vibrant wildflowers. Ryanair and Wizz Air have expanded routes, making the capital, Tirana, more accessible than ever.
Gastronomic Delights in Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Emilia-Romagna is the heartland of Italy’s gastronomy. It takes center stage as the Tour de France kicks off its first stage from Florence to Rimini next summer. Cyclists and food enthusiasts can explore Bologna, Parma, and Modena on self-guided itineraries. The Ciclovia di Dante also offers a challenging 139-mile trail from Ravenna to Florence. With its culinary prowess and scenic landscapes, Emilia-Romagna is a must-visit destination.
Europe by Train: The Night-time Railway Renaissance
Europe’s sleeper trains, once in decline, are experiencing a renaissance, with Austrian rail operator ÖBB leading the revival. New routes, including Paris to Berlin, and innovations like Midnight Trains’ “hotel on rails” promise a return to the golden age of rail travel. The Orient Express La Dolce Vita sleeper train will roll out six itineraries across Italy. This train can provide a stylish and nostalgic experience.
Nordland, Norway: Off-Grid Innovation in the Arctic Circle
Nordland, a region of glaciers and picturesque landscapes, anticipates the opening of Six Senses Svart, the world’s first energy-positive hotel, running entirely off-grid from solar power. With its celebration as one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2024, Nordland promises adventurous travelers artistic and musical events. Travelers can also enjoy outdoor activities like mountain biking and dog sledding.
The Euros, Germany: Art, Culture, and Football Fever
Germany gears up for the 17th UEFA European Championship in mid-June. This sports event attracts football enthusiasts to cities like Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin. Beyond the matches, visitors can explore Dortmund’s National Football Museum, Leipzig’s free museums, and Dresden’s Caspar David Friedrich exhibition, marking 250 years since the Romantic painter’s birth.
Valletta, Malta: A Mediterranean Film Set with Epic Views
Valletta, Malta’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, becomes a cinematic canvas again as Ridley Scott works on the sequel to Gladiator. The Mediterranean city’s historic charm, battlements, and cathedral domes provide a picturesque backdrop for films like Napoleon. With a new gladiatorial blockbuster in the making, Valletta invites visitors to explore its unique charm.
Lima, Peru: Culinary Capital Continues to Shine
Lima remains an undisputed culinary destination, boasting two restaurants in the top 10 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Maido and Central have garnered international acclaim for their Nikkei cuisine and innovative use of indigenous ingredients. Beyond Michelin-starred venues, rooftop bars in Barranco and Miraflores, like those at Hotel B and AC Hotel, offer a taste of Peru’s diverse culinary landscape. Starting in December, LATAM Airlines will enhance accessibility to this gastronomic haven with direct flights from Heathrow.
New York State, USA: Centennial Celebrations and Museum Openings
In 2024, New York State commemorates the centenary of its parks, with Niagara Falls unveiling the Heritage Gateways Project and Great Lakes 360 at the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. Meanwhile, New York City opens the American LGBTQ+ Museum, highlighting global and local LGBTQ+ history. As the world focuses on Paris in 2024, Lake Placid’s new Olympic Museum takes center stage, showcasing the town’s Winter Olympics history.
Dominica: Sea Kayaking Adventure Along the Waitukubuli Sea Trail
Dominica, known for its wild interior, introduces the Waitukubuli Sea Trail, the Caribbean’s first dedicated sea kayaking route along the West Coast. With 14 stages covering sculpted cliffs, hidden beaches, and fishing villages, this trail complements Dominica’s commitment to adventure tourism and low-impact experiences.
Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico: Unveiling Ancient Cultures in Maya Heartland
The discovery of the lost city of Ocomtún in the Yucatán Peninsula adds a new dimension to experiencing the Maya civilization. The Camino del Mayab hiking and biking route also provides a contemporary connection to the ancient culture.
Akagera National Park, Rwanda: Celebrating 90 Years of Wildlife Restoration
In a remarkable journey of restoration, Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, covering 433 square miles of swamps, savannah, and woodland, celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2024. Ravaged after the 1994 civil war, efforts spearheaded by the Akagera Management Company have revitalized the park. Lions and black rhinos reintroduced in 2015 and 2017, along with white rhinos in 2021, showcase conservation triumphs. The park now flourishes with giraffes, elephants, leopards, and a thriving bird population. Beyond wildlife, the park’s educational program hosts 2,000 schoolchildren annually, providing employment opportunities for guides, rangers, and anti-poaching staff.
Andrefana Dry Forests, Madagascar: Expanding a Unique World Heritage Site
Madagascar’s Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, known for its surreal limestone pinnacles, will expand its UNESCO World Heritage boundaries in 2024. The addition of the Andrefana Dry Forests, notably Tsimanampetsotsa National Park in the southwest, enhances this unique environment. Home to fewer species than the East Coast rainforests, the dry forests boast endemic flora and fauna, including the critically endangered Verreaux’s sifaka lemur. The expansion aims to protect Madagascar’s distinctive biodiversity, drawing attention to the rich ecosystems in the country’s western region.
Sierra Leone: Gateway to West Africa’s Natural Beauty
Sierra Leone emerges as a burgeoning tourist destination with upgraded infrastructure. Freetown’s international airport underwent a major overhaul in 2023, facilitating easier access to the country. Boasting sandy beaches, a mountainous plateau inhabited by chimpanzees, and community-led projects like Bureh Beach’s surfing school and Tasso Ecotourism Project, Sierra Leone showcases its natural allure. The nation’s commitment to sustainable tourism is evident in Tasso Island’s rescue program for the endangered Timneh grey parrot. New accommodation options, including Freetown’s Toma and the upcoming Hilton, promise luxurious stays. Travelers can also visit Estuary Resort which offers new chalets and a pool, enhancing the country’s appeal to global travelers.
Asia and Australasia
Sikkim, India: The Himalayan Destination Emerging from the Shadows
Nestled between Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, the Himalayan state of Sikkim is stepping into the limelight. Despite its small size and late airport introduction in 2018, 2023 witnessed the resumption of direct flights from Delhi and Kolkata. This destination sparked a surge in domestic tourism. Trekkers and nature enthusiasts are drawn to the region’s pristine landscapes, offering trekking opportunities, ancient monasteries, and vibrant festivals. Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak, adds to the allure of the 10-day Goechala trek. Sikkim also offers shorter walks that reveal glaciers, rhododendron-covered hillsides, and the elusive red panda.
Tainan, Taiwan: Celebrating 400 Years of Heritage
Taiwan’s oldest city, Tainan, commemorates its 400th birthday in 2024, unveiling a rich history influenced by Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, and Japanese occupations. Beyond its historic architecture, including the Old Japanese Martial Arts Academy and the Qing-era facades of Shennong Street, Tainan boasts a culinary scene featuring prawn-rich danzai noodle soup and unique delights like ‘coffin bread.’ The city’s quadricentennial celebration promises a spotlight on its captivating heritage. Travelers can enjoy events and festivals showcasing its cultural tapestry during the upcoming year.
Xi’an, China: The Terracotta Army’s 50-Year Legacy
In 1974, farmers unearthed the Terracotta Army, a 2,200-year-old wonder guarding the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Xi’an, the historic capital, marks the 50th anniversary of this monumental discovery. While the ancient pyramid remains unexcavated, Xi’an invites visitors to explore its rich cultural tapestry. From the Shaanxi Archaeology Museum to the mist-draped peaks of Guilin, China’s cultural resurgence awaits exploration, making Xi’an a compelling starting point for an enriching journey through the nation’s history and landscapes.
Victoria, Australia: The Great Victorian Bathing Trail Beckons
Venture beyond Australia’s famed beaches and embark on the Great Victorian Bathing Trail in Victoria. This 560-mile road trip connects thermal springs and sea baths, showcasing the state’s history of open-air bathing. Already featuring spots like the Alba Thermal Springs and Spa and Metung Hot Springs, the trail plans two additions in 2024: Phillip Island Hot Springs and the 12 Apostles Hot Springs and Resort. Positioned as the largest hot springs complex in Australia upon completion, the 12 Apostles Hot Springs will offer 150 rooms and 3,363 square meters of bathing facilities, drawing on natural hot springs. This 2024 must-visit destination is ideal for those seeking a unique road trip blending wellness with Victoria’s coastal beauty.
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