As we look to the start of a new decade, we’ve recalibrated the reasons why we travel, where we travel, and how we travel. The list of destinations we’ve collated below—after much deliberation and (sometimes) heated discussions—defines a new consciousness to travel going forward. Some of these gems may be a train ride away from you, or they may serve as your big trip of the year—the one where you fly to a faraway culture or to an underrated destination or even offseason to a beloved city. Either way, we hope you feel the joy of traveling with purpose.
OAXACA CITY, MEXICO
A colossus for history, gastronomy, and colorful manifestations of indigenous culture, Oaxaca is less than 500 kilometers to the south of Mexico City and isn’t strained by over-tourism. The centuries-old city is intensely attractive thanks to majestic churches and refined plazas, earning it a UNESCO World Heritage badge. A former hilltop capital of the Zapotec civilization, this multicultural hub has, in recent times, attracted bohemian expats and artists, drawn to its mild, semitropical climate, handsome Spanish colonial architecture, rich craft traditions, and thrilling art scene. Expect both galleries and satirical street art, upscale restaurants and a local food scene that proudly showcases Oaxaca’s mix of colonial and pre-Columbian food history and trendy mezcalerias. Nestled in the historical city center of Oaxaca, our new property Hotel Escondido Oaxaca is a sublimely alluring, handcrafted testament to the Mexico of yesterday and of the present moment—and is the perfect springboard to this fascinating city.
THE BERKSHIRES, U.S.A.
It all started when the Boston Symphony Orchestra decamped to the Western Massachusetts countryside from June through August in the mid-1930s to host a season of open-air concerts, transforming The Berkshires into New England’s premier summer spot for the culture driven. The landscape is dappled with charming villages, verdant farms, thick forest, and crumbling stone walls. This region has long been a haven for artists, musicians, writers, and revolutionary thinkers who’ve fled the claustrophobia of New York City or Boston to set up sanctuaries in the serene countryside. Thanks to the influx of these intellectuals, a bohemian atmosphere persists in the folk festivals, bookshops, farmers markets, and art galleries that grace the winding country roads. Discover this culture and nature at Tourists, a clever update on the classic American roadside motor lodge, hovering on the banks of the Hoosic River in the heart of what is now called “Art Country,” a nexus of world-class cultural institutions, including MASS MoCA and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
YAMBA & ANGOURIE, AUSTRALIA
A small town on the northern coast of New South Wales, Yamba is fast becoming a hub of critically acclaimed restaurants, thanks to locals who have returned from working abroad or from big Australian cities. Add to that its spectacular beaches, surf, wildlife, and café culture and you have an unbeatable year-round destination. Yamba and its neighbor Angourie, a 10-minute drive away, are two coastal outposts that have really come into their own. Yamba, a seven-hour drive from Sydney and three-hours from Brisbane, has six beaches with large swathes of empty white sand just a short stroll from the town center. In the winter, the nearby Yuraygir National Park coastline is perfect for whale watching and, in the summer, dolphins trail alongside swimmers. The next-door hamlet, Angourie with its two coffee shops, one restaurant, and a population of a few hundred, is tiny, but it’s worth a visit for the Green and Blue pools—former quarry sites that have since filled with water and are great for swimming. While Yamba is changing for the better with more food, drink, and entertainment options, Angourie is charming for exactly the opposite reason: surrounded by a national park, it can’t get bigger.
Please note that New South Wales has been affected by bush fires but is still worth considering for travel later in the year. You can find safety updates here and also support the NSW Rural Fire Service here.
Portugal was named Europe’s Leading Destination in the 2019 World Travel Awards. So why is this southern European country so beguiling of late? Outside the cities, Portugal’s beauty unfolds in all its startling variety. Over 800 kilometers of coast offers up many places to soak up the splendor. Gaze out over dramatic end-of-the-world cliffs, surf stellar breaks off dune-covered beaches, or laze peacefully on sandy islands fronting calm blue seas. Then there is the undeniable charm of its capital, Lisbon, which won the Green Capital award in 2020 for its strong commitment to sustainable urban mobility, green growth, waste management, and eco-innovation. With its mild winter climate, Lisbon also makes for a great off-season destination. Porto, just a few hours away by train, is a UNESCO site thanks to its historic city center. In total, Portugal is home to 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites, one of which includes the Douro wine region—best explored from the minimalist masterpiece Douro41 Hotel & Spa, which is positioned halfway between Porto and the wine region.
CHUMBE ISLAND, ZANZIBAR
A speck of fossilized coral in the Indian Ocean, Chumbe is one of the many islands of the Zanzibar archipelago, scattered off the coast of mainland Tanzania. The surrounding reef is formed by more than 200 types of coral and home to 370 different species of fish, as well as to several resident hawksbill turtles. Winner of a number of awards for sustainable tourism, Chumbe lets you enjoy the island, knowing you will have zero impact on the environment. Visitors to the protected coral reef are limited to those who stay on the small island, though day passes can be arranged a few days in advance, provided the eco-lodges aren’t fully booked. To protect the reef, no scuba diving is allowed and snorkeling only when the tide is sufficiently high. All profits from tourism have been put into local conservation projects. On the main island of Zanzibar—a 45-minute boat ride from Chumbe—Zuri Zanzibar is an ecologically and socially sensitive village-like property, combining modern and traditional design vernacular.
Wedged between France and Spain, Andorra is one of Europe’s best kept secrets. The sky-reaching peaks of this tiny nation offer by far the best ski slopes and resort facilities in the entire Pyrenees. In the warmer climes, there’s outstanding walking, ranging from easy strolls to demanding day hikes in the Principality’s higher, more remote reaches, where you can wander for hours, almost alone. The tranquility of nature is something to behold in the mountains of Andorra, where L’Ovella Negra Mountain Lodge beckons with a high-altitude slice of slowed-down escapism and pared-back design. Sometimes only accessible by snowmobile, the property entices guests with communal activities to show them the glacial way of life in the Valley of Incles.
The least populous of Japan’s four primary islands, Shikoku exists in a dreamy, under-the-radar state far removed from Tokyo’s neon lights. Shikoku is a time capsule where fishermen still cast nets into clear rivers and traditional wooden architecture dots the peaks and valleys. The island’s 88 temples are as diverse as the terrain in between—from the popular Ryozenji aglow in lantern light to Iwamotoji, its main hall ceiling covered in 575 miniature artworks. It is also home to legendary udon noodles and movie-inspiring onsen and provides the setting for Japanese literary giant Natsume Soseke’s classic, Botchan. An island synonymous with natural beauty and the pursuit of spiritual perfection is the fitting backdrop for Tadao Ando’s new Setouchi Retreat Aonagi. The Pritzker Prize-winning architect draws light and air into vast spaces, evoking the infinity of traditional Zen poetics.