10 things that make us happy to travel in 2023

Destinations

It’s been a turbulent couple of years for travelers. So, once again, nothing makes us happier than having our next trip to look forward to. Whether you’re traveling to learn something new, giving back in a meaningful way or simply immersing yourself in the beauty of the world, here are 10 travel ideas we’re excited about for 2023.  

1. Stays in low impact huts surrounded by nature

Thanks to improved solar technology, modern waterless toilets and small-but-luxurious, easy-to-assemble kit houses, off-grid living has gotten a whole lot better in recent years. The upshot? You can now book accommodation in the middle of a forest or field, bringing you even closer to incredible natural landscapes – and wildlife. Many of these remote huts, cabins and pods are both rustic and aesthetic. From bubble domes in Ireland to glass pods in New Zealand and tree houses in Norway, book an escape in 2023 that will allow you to really disconnect from the world – and everyone else.

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2. Learning more on an Indigenous-led tour

A new year brings a new opportunity for a truly transformative travel experience: learning firsthand from Indigenous peoples. Not only will you enrich your understanding of places you visit, a First Nations guide can enlarge your worldview and help you see the land, the sky and human history from a new perspective From the northern reaches of Canada to the outback of Australia, the variety of tours catering to travelers hungry for deeper knowledge and connection continues to grow. In 2023, you can learn from centuries-old wisdom passed through the generations by story and song while traveling by river canoe in Canada, or go “Camping with Custodians” in Western Australia at an Aboriginal community campground featuring tours from the keepers of the world’s oldest continuous culture.

With services expanding across Europe – including on Switzerland’s GoldenPass Express – 2023 is a fabulous moment for a big train trip © Shutterstock / SIRNARM USAVICH

3. Traveling Europe by train

Not since Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset hit cinemas in 2004 has European train travel been so romantic. The benefits of getting around by train are well documented – you land in the middle of a city, there are no baggage delays and (of course) train travel has a lower environmental impact than air travel. (In fact, France recently banned flights between cities connected by train in 2.5 hours or less.) The best reason to plan a train adventure in Europe? It’s a toss-up between the rolling views by day or the romance of a sleeper carriage by night. The new GoldenPass Express through Switzerland has just added carriages with large two-part windows in all three classes for dramatic mountain, forest and river vistas. Sleeper trains, meanwhile, are having a revival, with new overnight routes just added and more on the way. 

4. Setting sail with wind power 

Another “no-fly” development that makes us happy to travel: getting there by sailboat. The innovative, environmentally conscious transport group SailLink has been testing a transport route between Europe and England that relies on the power of the wind and makes sailing accessible to the general public. After a successful trial in 2022 that proved there is indeed a market for low-impact travel alternatives, plans are afoot to launch a daily service between the British mainland and the north coast of France in spring 2023. Passengers can also bring their own bikes on these Channel crossings to continue their sustainable journey after disembarking. Which turns a zero-emissions trip into a real possibility. 

A close-up shot of a colorful Union Island gecko
The tiny, magnificent Union Island gecko has been brought back from near-extinction in St Vincent and the Grenadines © reptiles4all / Shutterstock

5. Seeing near-extinct animals making a comeback

Thanks to impressive action by local communities, vulnerable animal species are making a comeback in various pockets of the world. In the Caribbean, the tiny Union Island gecko (each about the size of a paper clip) has almost doubled its population in four years, from 10,000 to 18,000. That’s thanks to the hard work of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ residents, government and local conservation groups such as Flora & Fauna International and Re:wild, who joined forces to put a stop to the poaching of this rare gem–like lizard. At the other end of the size spectrum, European bison are roaming free in Romania’s southern Carpathian Mountains again as part of a partnership between WWF Romania and Rewilding Europe. African cheetahs have been brought to India after the local Asiatic population was declared extinct in 1952. And in the USA, plans to reintroduce grizzly bears to North Cascades National Park are back on the agenda.

6. Making regenerative travel your goal

Could your next trip also have a positive long-lasting impact on the globe? Beyond the mission to “do no harm,” travelers are seeking opportunities to make things better. On a trip with Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE), trekkers in India and Nepal install solar technology in remote villages, bringing clean energy for lights and hot water. A portion of expedition fees pays for capital costs such as hardware and transportation, and these solar micro-grids are then owned and run by the community. In Madagascar, you can volunteer time planting trees with Planeterra’s Soa Zara on its “energy tree” project. Helping locals plant trees for firewood thus protecting pre-existing forests, which are also the habitat for endangered lemurs: could a 2023 trip deliver more than just wonderful memories?

7. Going on solar-powered safaris

Chobe Game Lodge launched the first “e-safaris” – with solar-powered boats and electric vehicles – in Botswana a decade ago. Now, electric-powered safaris are coming to other Southern African countries. In Sabi Sands Game Reserve, bordering Kruger National Park, the exclusive Cheetah Plains lodge has converted its vehicle fleet to electric, charged via solar panels. In Kenya, Lewa Wildlife camp and Emboo River Camp run solar-powered safaris with vehicles retrofitted by Kenya-based Swedish start-up Roam. The switch to electric is not just good for the environment. It has changed the experience of wildlife viewing by cutting out noise and pollution, allowing visitors to quietly creep up on wildlife and enjoy proper conversations while traveling together. 

soil and sea course.jpg
Consider a trip with impact in the new year. Soil and Sea in Portugal’s Azores offers hands-on courses on solar power, composting, regenerative farming and other sustainability-oriented subjects © Courtesy Soil and Sea

8. Discovering how to live more sustainably

Another travel experience that makes us happy is learning how to live sustainably from those who have done it – and applying that knowledge back home. Take Soil and Sea, a permaculture farm in Portugal’s incredible Azores archipelago that runs one- or two-week retreats with courses covering everything from getting into solar power and food waste reduction to composting and regenerative farming. Combine this with surfing and socializing, and you’ve got a holiday that will nourish the mind, body and soul. In Australia, the farm-based cooking school One Table Farm also hosts sustainability-based farm tours with tips on keeping chickens, making kefir (a fermented milk drink) and sourcing higher-welfare food from supermarkets. And in Wales, the Centre for Alternative Technology offers short residential courses on organic gardening, bee keeping and building a tiny house, with accommodation nearby.

9. Taking a swimming adventure holiday

Why not take your love affair with wild swimming to the next level in 2023 with a swimming holiday? Get booking in January if you want to swim between Sweden and Finland at the Swimac (Swim the Arctic Circle) race in July. On this 3000m (9840ft) swim, you’ll be crossing the Arctic Circle and swimming between time zones. Registrations also open in January for the 35th Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swimming Race in Turkey. Held in August, entrants swim 6.5km (4 miles) across the Bosporus strait from the European to Asian side of Istanbul. For something less competitive, check out tours with SwimTrek. You may find yourself swimming in the wild fjords of Oman with dolphins, or circumnavigating karst islands in the emerald green waters of Vietnam this time next year. 

10. Relaxing completely on an all-inclusive break

Years of tumultuous political and social change – not to mention the cost-of-living crisis hitting many of us – have made a sure thing even more appealing than ever. That’s why an all-inclusive holiday is looking a lot more attractive in 2023. Knowing how much money you need makes managing a budget a lot simpler, and you lose all the time-sucking stress spent comparing flights, accommodation, transfers, tours and entertainment options. All-inclusives are no longer the preserve of the bargain fly-and-flop vacationer. Top-notch accommodations from St Lucia’s luxury East Winds to the Marriot Bonvoy collection offer all-inclusive deals. And British Airways offers attractive all-inclusive holidays around the Mediterranean for different budgets. Select your criteria – then let someone else make it all happen. You deserve a break.

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