From a Scandi city break to the Hawaii of Europe, here’s where you should spend your summer.
An archipelago city known for its frosty winters and sustainable ethos, Helsinki is the latest Scandinavian capital to become a magnet for design-obsessed travelers, and while it’s not quite Copenhagen just yet, it is home to a fresh crop of excellent restaurants and coffee shops—many designed by Studio Joanna Laajisto and clustered in the stylish Kallio district. Take IPI Kulmakuppila, a favorite of locals thank to its frothy coffee and rye toast brunches. The city has placed itself firmly on the global art map with The Helsinki Biennial, too, while the Hotel St George is a trove of Finnish art, with more than 400 original works dotted around the hotel.
Vast and varied Canada is home to an abundance of national parks, wildlife and energetic cities. Landscapes range from glacial lakes—some of which are home to Inuit communities—to arid regions such as Alberta, where hoodoos reach skywards. Adventurous types can rock climb around Lake Louise in Banff National Park, marvel at polar bears and grizzlies in Nova Scotia or simply embark on a road trip via the thrilling Sea-to-Sky Highway, which runs from West Vancouver to Whistler. This year also sees the launch of Prince Edward Island’s new 435-mile hiking trail, which winds its way past more than 100 beaches, while Disney’s Peter Pan and Wendy was shot along the coast of Newfoundland in clapboard village and whale-watching country.
Much like Japan, the borders of this pocket-sized kingdom in the foothills of the Himalayas were sealed off throughout the pandemic, giving the country time to finesse its tourism strategy, which prioritizes the preservation of both its otherworldly landscape and cultural traditions. This is the Land of the Thunder Dragon, whose breath shrouds Buddhist monasteries clinging to steep cliffs in a mystical fog. It’s famously not the most affordable holiday destination, but with the spruced-up Trans Bhutan Trail (a jaw-dropping 250-mile pilgrimage route dotted with historic and religious sites), it’s well worth blowing the budget for.
Occupying the southeastern tip of the Korean Peninsula, the port city of Busan calls to mind Miami – its high-rise buildings suddenly giving way to golden beaches. It’s more laidback than Seoul thanks to its coastal setting, with many Koreans coming here to switch off and reconnect with nature—trekking into its pine-studded hills on paths that take hikers past historical monuments such as the Cliff Carvings of Seokbulsa. Back in the frenetic city proper, the vendors at Gwangbokdong Food Street plate up some of the world’s best street food. Stay in Nampo, which is near all the best sites (including a string of remarkable Buddhist temples and Gamcheon Culture Village), and try to plan your trip to coincide with the Busan International Film Festival, which showcases the city’s creative streak and pulls in directors, critics and film stars from around the world.
Namibia’s creative conservation efforts are successfully restoring native wildlife numbers across the country; this ancient land now boasts the world’s largest population of cheetahs and black rhinos. A dramatic landscape of craggy mountains, canyons and rippling dunes makes for dramatic road trips where podcasts are seldom required, while serious waves along the country’s Atlantic coastline lure in intrepid surfers. A host of rustic yet luxurious hotels foreground the country’s raw beauty, too – see the Shipwreck Lodge and Hoanib Valley Camp, where jaunts into the desert tracking elephants, giraffes and antelopes outdo the Disney-style safaris found elsewhere for thrill factor. But it’s the night sky that bowls over most Namibia newcomers.
Just two hours outside of Lisbon and roughly the size of Belgium, Portugal’s Alentejo region is a place governed by timeless rhythms, where hilltop towns perch above wildflower meadows and locals feast on rustic fish stews beside the unspoiled Atlantic coastline. Inland, wine lovers can sample rich, velvety reds, produced in vineyards that combine innovative techniques with a viticulture tradition that dates back to the Romans, and book into farm-to-fork restaurants, such as the newly opened Restaurante da Herdade do Esporão, to feast on the land’s treasures.
Formerly dismissed as the birthplace of mass tourism in the ’60s, this Balearic island is shining a light on its craft heritage, with creatives from London, New York and beyond drawn by its artisanal traditions and dramatic architecture. Its creative redemption is best observed at Casa Balandra, a palm-framed artist residency and guesthouse where both established and emerging talents can make and mingle, and the Fundació Miró, where Joan Miró’s work is presented in his former home and studio. This year will see art-forward Hotel Corazon finally open its doors, while the pitch-perfect reimagining of a historic Mallorcan mansion in Palma, Sant Francesc Hotel, and its country outpost in sleepy Santanyí, Can Ferrereta, are just two of a cluster of integrity-driven, design-forward hotels to check into on the island.
A land of ancient rituals and futuristic cities, steaming onsens and desert islands, Japan has finally reopened its border to foreign visitors. Tokyo’s exhilarating, high-rise maze now features a spruced-up Okushibu neighborhood where a late-night café culture is taking hold, with Aman opening two new properties in the Toranomon-Azabudai development. Meanwhile, Kyoto’s craft traditions and geisha rituals endure amid a shake-up of the city’s hotel scene by newcomers such as The Hotel Higashiyama, and the Okinawa Islands are finally getting the attention they deserve from international travelers. Ishigaki, in particular, is a stellar choice for knockout beaches with superlative snorkeling.
A series of nine Portuguese islands cast adrift in the middle of the Atlantic, the so-called Hawaii of Europe can now be accessed via a four-hour direct flight. Surrounded by whale migration paths, with daily trips chugging out into the blue, the spectacular landscapes here are the result of volcanic eruptions. Hikes around the island of São Miguel take in waterfalls, crater lakes and dense cedar forests—and often finish with a hearty Cozido stew, cooked underground using thermal heat. Meanwhile, Pico will appeal to wine lovers thanks to its stunning vineyards, and pretty Terceira (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is at its most lively during the Sanjoaninas festival in May.
Known for its musical pedigree, Christmas markets and Habsburg history, Austria’s capital has witnessed the opening of some bar-raising hotels recently. The Rosewood Vienna launched in a former bank last year – offering up a masterclass in clean, classic décor—while Hotel Josefine is putting a kitschy spin on Art-Deco design and Hotel Gilbert is embracing Scandi style. Hotels aside, 2023 marks the 150th anniversary of the Vienna World’s Fair, with a feast of cultural events planned in celebration, while masterworks by the likes of Gustav Klimt will go on display as part of the Belvedere Museum’s 300th anniversary. If there was ever a time to go to Vienna, it’s now.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.