Despite a persistent pandemic, many borders have reopened. More will likely follow this year, so it’s time to plan the trips.

Ranging from urban centers bursting with culture to unspoiled wilderness away from the crowds, here’s a rundown of the destinations to explore this year.

Before booking, check the latest travel requirements and restrictions.

Lombardy, Italy

Lake Como in northern Lombardy, Italy.

Martin Holovsky, Unsplahs

Identified as the first Covid hotspot in Europe, Lombardy has been the most affected area of ​​the boot. Normally, with fewer tourists than Rome and Tuscany, this well-heeled land offers quaint and often overlooked towns like Bergamo and Brescia, with fashionable Milan at its heart. The most notable attractions include Duomo di Milano, a Gothic cathedral dating from 1386; Navigli, the canal district known for its bohemian atmosphere; and Castello Sforzesco adjoining Parco Sempione.

In southern Lombardy, medieval villages such as Pavia and Mantua dot the countryside, painting a picture of provincial life. To the north, the postcard-perfect Italian Lake District sparkles in the foothills of the Alps, showcasing charming resort towns like Como, Bellagio and Stresa.

But beauty aside, food throughout Lombardy is a big draw; this region regularly collects the highest number of Michelin stars in Italy.

Sweden

Gothenburg, Sweden.

Goteborg Co and Steampipe Production Studio

Beginning in October, Finnish Air has increased direct flights from Miami, Los Angeles and New York to Arlanda Airport, opening more doors to Sweden, the country leading for sustainable global tourism in 2020.

Stockholm is the country’s pristine and cultured capital, featuring one of Europe’s most picturesque old towns, Gamla Stan. Meanwhile, Södermalm, or “Söder” for locals, captures the essence of Stockholm’s creativity and spirit. At the end of 2021, the city inaugurated the interactive Avicii museum and the SPACE Hub, which pays homage to the life and talents of musician and DJ Tim Bergling, in a seven-story center dedicated to digital culture.

But Alex Minnis, COO of Off the Map Travel, a UK-based luxury travel agency, recommends Gothenburg, a maritime city along Sweden’s west coast. “Gothenburg is also a beautiful city to visit, known for its award-winning sustainability,” says Minnis. He suggests the Haga district for shopping, brasseries, restaurants, and “the biggest cinnamon buns you’ll ever meet”.

A world far from the cities, Lapland is an arctic wonderland encouraging travelers to step off the grid. “Swedish Lapland is one of the least populated regions in Europe, with vast expanses of wilderness, unspoiled forests and many moose, bears and wolves roaming the woods,” says Stefan Hellmuth, Global Product Manager at Intrepid Travel, a small adventure travel agency based in Melbourne. If you are lucky and have planned your trip well, you will notice the Northern Lights, most often visible in winter.

Coachella Valley, California

Sensei Porcupine Creek in Coachella Valley, California

Tanveer Badal Photography / TANVEERBADAL.COM

Mid-century modern design and old Hollywood glamor are trademarks of Palm Springs, the cosmopolitan oasis of Coachella Valley. But if there’s a reason to visit the nine distinct towns in the valley, it’s a commitment to wellness. Located in the Colorado Desert between the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains, the region spans countless places to recharge, including several new additions.

In Indian Wells, the Miramonte Resort & Spa will debut in early 2022, touting a US $ 9 million renovation. Sensei Porcupine Creek, a private 230-acre estate turned into a wellness retreat, will invite guests to Rancho Mirage later this year.

Desert Hot Springs is home to some of the purest hot and cold springs in the world due to an underground aquifer. Many of the city’s properties, such as the newly established Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis, have healing natural mineral pools.

And for the adventurous, a new 1.5-mile trail connecting the Coachella Valley to the Long Canyon Trail in Joshua Tree National Park launched in December 2021. 800-acre ethereal terrain where the deserts of Colorado converge and Mojave, Joshua Tree is an idyllic place to camp, watch wildlife, or unplug.

Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador, downtown.

Tracy kaler

Nestled in the Andes Mountains, this small island nation is globally recognized for its sustainable tourism and biodiversity, especially in the Galapagos Islands. Nonetheless, visitors should allow time to explore the country’s other treasures.

“While the Galapagos Islands have been a constant draw with its unique wildlife and experiences like snorkeling with playful sea lions and walking with giant tortoises, Ecuador also has a lot to offer on the mainland,” said Brian Tan, CEO of Zicasso, a luxury travel agency. company in Mountain View, California.

The Mashpi Rainforest Reserve and Lodge is where “you can hike a pristine rainforest with a guide, swim in cascading pools without anyone, then return to a luxury five-star ecolodge” , explains Tan.

Nature is close to the colonial cities of Quito and Cuenca, each worth a few days just for the historic architecture. However, both cities promise a stock of delicious food and culture.

“Foodies are pleasantly surprised by the diverse and complex cuisine, from traditional dishes to Michelin-quality meals that blend unique local ingredients with modern techniques,” said Tan. “Art lovers will find a lot to discover, from indigenous art to modern art by one of South America’s most renowned artists, Guayasamín.”

The Maldives

The beaches and the blue sea of ​​the Maldives.

Pixabay

For travelers avid for pristine beaches and a crowd-free tropical climate, the Maldives is at the top of the list. With no restrictions or quarantines required and a remote location, the destination is all the more tempting.

“It is the perfect oasis for travelers to escape to in 2022 due to the remoteness of the island nation and the fact that its tourism activities are almost exclusively out of town,” says Andrew Williams, consultant. Houston based trips with Ovation Travel Group.

Williams reports that some travelers are drawn to the range of water sports, while others find appeal in the first-class spa treatments and yacht cruises around the surrounding islands and atolls.

Resorts like Waldorf Astoria, Four Seasons, The St. Regis and other big names are represented, Williams says. And this year, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives will make her debut. With 80 all-pool villas overlooking the water, the property can be reached in less than an hour by seaplane from the capital, Male.

AlUla, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia first started issuing visas in 2019, and AlUla opened up to international tourism in the fall of 2020, preparing to become a world-class destination.

“AlUla is the cultural gem of Saudi Arabia and one of the world’s last unexplored destinations,” said Amr AlMadani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

Covering an area of ​​around 8,700 square miles, this “small country-sized open-air museum” is located in the Medina region. Its labyrinthine old town, the ancient towns of Dadan and Hegra – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and a treasure trove of tombs and monoliths promise tourists a glimpse into AlUla’s 200,000-year history.

The eco-friendly, wellness-focused Habitas brand recently unveiled an outpost, and a Banyan Tree property will be available later in 2022. Maraya, the world’s largest mirror-clad structure, is a multifunctional place hosting concerts and events. The masterpiece rises from the sand, mirroring the otherworldly desert landscape as star chef Jason Atherton’s rooftop creation Maraya Social reveals a panoramic view of the Ashar Valley.