American Express Spotlights Where to Go Next: The Top Trending Destinations for 2023

Post Published October 14, 2023

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American Express Spotlights Where to Go Next: The Top Trending Destinations for 2023

According to American Express Travel's 2023 trend report, unexpected and under-the-radar destinations are shaping up to be some of the hottest spots for travelers this year. As wanderlust takes hold after years of pandemic-related restrictions, people are seeking out fresh places that offer a sense of discovery. The well-trodden paths of tourism are giving way to roads less traveled.

American Express highlights several surprising destinations that are garnering interest for 2023 and beyond. Take Uzbekistan, for example. This Central Asian country was once part of the Silk Road and is brimming with Islamic architecture, ornate madrassas, azure-tiled mosques, and expansive steppes. Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva are among the fabled cities that conjure images of camel caravans laden with spices and silk. Yet Uzbekistan has been mostly overlooked by tourists - until now. Intrepid travelers keen for authentic cultural immersion are starting to realize its enormous potential.
Up-and-coming destinations closer to home include Tulsa, Oklahoma and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tulsa offers an unhurried blend of Art Deco buildings, good eats, indie music, and bluegrass rhythms. The city's Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street in its 1920s heyday, is undergoing major revitalization. Milwaukee often gets overshadowed by Chicago, but this Midwestern gem holds its own with brewery tours, ethnic eateries, and a stunning lakefront setting. Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood is also gaining attention for its jazz clubs, galleries, and soul food joints.

The allure of visiting somewhere fresh and unexplored isn't limited to landlubbers. Cruisers are also seeking new horizons, quite literally. Expedition-style cruises to remote polar regions like the Arctic and Antarctica have been selling out, indicating strong demand for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Closer to the equator, destinations like French Polynesia, the Seychelles, and the Maldives are being rediscovered as tranquil paradises after the pressures of recent years.
Of course, tourism needs to be carefully managed to avoid detrimental impacts. Savvy travelers increasingly want authentic connections with local people and cultures in a mindful, sustainable way. Consulting conservation groups like the Rainforest Trust when visiting sensitive environments can help ensure your travels do more good than harm. Supporting local businesses and artisans benefits local communities.
Why are off-the-radar destinations having their moment? For many travelers, the joy of discovery fuels their wanderlust. Opening up the atlas and exploring lands yet unknown - far from crowded hotspots - promises to refresh the soul. Discovering hole-in-the-wall eateries with tables spilling onto dusty streets, talking to cloth merchants in an Old City bazaar, losing yourself in labyrinthine medinas - this is the essence of adventure travel. Immersing yourself in little-known cultures and terrains far from home has immense appeal after years of COVID-related confinement.
In our hyper-connected world, tales spread quickly of up-and-coming destinations worth checking out. Social media influencers and travel bloggers have helped put surprising spots on the map, like Cape Verde's Boa Vista island with its sand dunes and kite surfing. Pristine, low-key beach destinations appeal after crowded venues have lost their luster. And remote natural areas like Patagonia exert their pull as serene sanctuaries.
Of course, great deals and incentives in lesser-visited destinations sweeten their appeal. Colombia, Egypt, and Rwanda are among the places offering visas on arrival and other incentives. Travel companies are featuring exotic locations in their ads, putting them in the public eye. Improved infrastructure is also making once remote spots more accessible.

What else is in this post?

  1. American Express Spotlights Where to Go Next: The Top Trending Destinations for 2023 - Unexpected Places Rising in Popularity for 2023 Travel
  2. American Express Spotlights Where to Go Next: The Top Trending Destinations for 2023 - Off the Beaten Path Locations to Explore This Year
  3. American Express Spotlights Where to Go Next: The Top Trending Destinations for 2023 - American Express's Picks Show Travel is Heading to Surprising Destinations
  4. American Express Spotlights Where to Go Next: The Top Trending Destinations for 2023 - Get Ready for Adventures to New and Unusual Destinations This Year

American Express Spotlights Where to Go Next: The Top Trending Destinations for 2023

Getting off the beaten tourist track holds tremendous allure for many travelers who crave fresh experiences beyond crowded hotspots. Venturing into the travel unknown often rewards intrepid explorers with eye-opening adventures and cultural encounters not found along well-trodden trails. While renowned destinations have their appeals, hidden gems that most tourists miss can provide equally rewarding and memorable journeys.
Seeking out under-the-radar destinations requires more research, planning and self-reliance compared to showing up at a pack of must-see sites with thousands of other travelers. It means consulting locals, guidebooks and travel blogs to pinpoint spots beyond the usual tourist orbit. Travel companies specializing in lesser-known locations can also provide invaluable advice. The rewards include bragging rights over friends who visit the same old places.

Visiting lesser-known locales often provides more opportunities for meaningful interaction with local people, when not elbowing through swarms of fellow travelers. Locals may be more welcoming and appreciative of visitors showing interest in their hometown's hidden delights. Exploring backstreet neighborhoods and hole-in-the-wall cafes offers glimpses into everyday life. Encountering few other tourists allows for a more authentic experience of regional heritage and culture.
Travelers yearning for beautiful but secluded beaches will find bliss in Mozambique's tiny Quirimbas Archipelago, with idyllic islands dotted across aquamarine waters. Colombia's Pacific coast has equally spectacular swathes of sand far from the crowds. Seekers of exotic wildlife can bypass packed African safaris for wild encounters in India's Kanha or Bandhavgarh National Parks. Bhutan provides a deeply spiritual Himalayan adventure.
History buffs bypassing Rome and Athens can immerse themselves in the imposing ruins of ancient Persepolis and Pasargadae in Iran, or the jungle-shrouded temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Road trippers eschewing packed U.S. national parks can hit the open road in Big Bend National Park in Texas or Canyonlands in Utah.
Urban explorers can skip jam-packed cities for rewarding detours to Fez, Morocco with its medieval labyrinths, or peninsular Valletta, Malta's pint-sized capital packed with Baroque architecture. The spicy cuisine and rattling streetcars of New Orleans offer an immersion in Dixieland culture far from crowded East and West coast metropolises.

Seeking out festivals and celebrations beyond typical tourist events also adds an element of discovery. Visitors mingling with locals celebrating the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico or Brazil's Carnival in off-the-beaten-path Olinda find themselves immersed in incredible cultural experiences.
Safety is an important consideration when journeying beyond popular tourist centers. Review travel advisories and avoid border areas with security issues. Risks are inherent in remote areas far from hospitals. Hiring local guides provides added security along with their expertise. Learn key phrases in the local language. Carry extra food, water, cash, phone chargers and first aid supplies.

American Express Spotlights Where to Go Next: The Top Trending Destinations for 2023American Express's annual Global Travel Trends report reveals that wanderlust is steering travelers towards fresh horizons in 2023. After years of pandemic pressures, people yearn to explore lesser-known places that promise a sense of discovery. According to Audrey Hendley, American Express Travel's President, "Travelers are seeking out destinations that may be off the beaten path but deliver rich cultural experiences outside of crowded hotspots."

American Express highlights several unexpected destinations rising in popularity that savvy travelers have on their radar. Take New Mexico's vibrant city of Albuquerque, for instance. While Santa Fe hogs the tourism spotlight, visitors to the Duke City will find an enticing blend of nature, culture, and cuisine. Set against the rugged Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque offers a vibrant mix of Native American and Hispanic heritage. Old Town's adobe plazas transport you to the 17th century, while modern murals transform downtown buildings into colorful canvases. The city's affordable art scene thrives thanks to Georgia O’Keeffe's legacy. Outdoor enthusiasts have easy access to hiking trails, hot springs, and ballooning over the Rio Grande. Award-winning farm-to-table restaurants serve up green chile-infused specialties.

American Express also spotlights underrated Milwaukee as a 2023 standout. Although perennially overlooked in favor of nearby Chicago, Wisconsin's largest city deserves more fanfare. Situated on Lake Michigan's shores, Milwaukee delights visitors with cultural attractions like the stunning Santiago Calatrava-designed art museum, brewery tours, and a revitalized culinary scene. The Historic Third Ward's boutique hotels, galleries, and converted warehouses offer urban flair. The Bronzeville neighborhood nods to the city's jazz heyday. Milwaukee's festivals celebrate everything from music to motorcycles.
American Express travel consultants also encourage clients to look south and discover Panama's charms. Though best known for its canal, this diminutive country offers rich experiences beyond this man-made marvel. The fast-growing capital Panama City lures visitors with a heady mix of gleaming skyscrapers, colonial sites like the Casco Viejo, rainforests teeming with wildlife, and beautiful beaches ringing the coastline. Isla Taboga's Olympic views and car-free streets evoke a tropical Brigadoon. Those wanting to connect with nature can kayak around Bocas del Toro's mangrove islands, surf at Santa Catalina, or hike through trails at Soberanía National Park. Panama's mélange of cultures is reflected in its diverse cuisines. With reliability rare in the region, Panama makes it easy to immerse yourself in Latin American appeal.
American Express says travelers wanting to dive into culture are also increasingly drawn to Qatar and Oman. Both Arabian Peninsula countries promise exotic adventures coupled with stability. In Qatar, the capital Doha melds atmospheric souks with striking modern architecture and museums showcasing Islamic art and couture fashion. Visitors can learn falconry, dune bash in 4x4s, or relax at beach resorts. Neighboring Oman enchants with fortress towns, colorful souks, and rugged scenery that served as backdrop for Lawrence of Arabia. Oman's welcoming citizens share their love of poetry, oud music, and artisanal crafts. Swimming with dolphins and turtles in the fjords of Musandam Peninsula and camping in Sharqiya Sands add outdoor thrills.
American Express travel agents observe soaring interest in visiting African countries regarded as pioneering standouts. Forward-looking Rwanda impresses with sustainability, social progress, and opportunities for gorilla trekking - without huge tourist crowds. Ghana's friendly citizens, Afrobeats music, slave castles, and national parks offer immersion in West African culture. Once-overlooked Cape Verde tempts with stunning beaches, Creole cuisine, and the alluring islands of Sal and Boa Vista. South Africa remains a powerhouse with abundant wildlife, vineyards, epic scenery that ranges from the Garden Route to the Kalahari Desert, and reinvented cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Travel industry experts at American Express point to emerging destinations close to home garnering buzz too. Oklahoma no longer flies under travelers' radars thanks to creative culinary culture in Oklahoma City and musical legacies in Tulsa. Memphis with downhome barbecue joints, Civil Rights sites, and Sun Studio's rock n' roll mythology deserves more fanfare. Understated Milwaukee keeps attracting notice for its festivals, museums, ethnic eateries and brewpubs. Even offbeat Albuquerque gains esteem for outdoor adventures, hot air ballooning and indigenous influences.

American Express Spotlights Where to Go Next: The Top Trending Destinations for 2023 - Lesser-Known Spots Highlighted as Top Places for Vacations in 2023

As wanderlust takes hold after years of pandemic pressures, an increasing number of travelers are seeking out fresh and undiscovered vacation spots beyond the crowded staples. Lesser-known destinations highlighted as top places for getaways in 2023 promise adventures beyond the tourist trail, with opportunities to connect authentically with local cultures.

Venturing off the beaten path requires more research and planning compared to showing up at a pack of famous sites thronged with crowds wielding selfie sticks. It means consulting insider guidebooks, travel blogs and local social media influencers to pinpoint hidden vacation gems. But the rewards can be immense in terms of bragging rights and amazing memories.
Steering clear of packed tourist centers provides more chances for meaningful interactions with local people. Locals tend to be more welcoming and appreciative when visitors take a genuine interest in their hometown's underrated attractions. Exploring side alleys, mom-and-pop shops and hole-in-the-wall eateries frequented by residents offers glimpses into everyday life. With few other travelers around, you gain a more authentic sense of regional customs, heritage and flavors.
Seeking out festivals and celebrations beyond mega tourist events also enhances the sense of discovery. Mingling with locals celebrating their hometown's lesser-known cultural festivals and religious observances offers an eye-opening experience. Whether it's Riga's solstice celebration Jāņi in Latvia, the vibrant Hindu harvest festival Onam in Kerala, India or lively Día de Muertos festivities in Oaxaca, Mexico, these community events provide an incredible immersion in traditions.
Avoiding packed beach resorts leads to blissful vacations along secluded stretches of sand you might have all to yourself, apart from a few local fishermen. Maverick travelers sing the praises of pristine and peaceful beaches on Mozambique's remote Bazaruto Archipelago, the wild solitude of Punta Allen along Mexico's Riviera Maya coastline, or Caño Cristales in Colombia with its rainbow-hued river.

Seekers of exotic wildlife bypass crowded African safaris for close encounters in hidden gems like Satpura National Park in India, where tigers, leopards and sloth bears still reign supreme. Exploring Chilean Patagonia's little-visited slice of wilderness promises penguin parades along with majestic mountain scenery. For a truly off-grid Arctic adventure, voyaging to Greenland allows you to hike across the tundra, kayak between icebergs and observe polar bears in their natural habitat.
History buffs can trade busy Rome and Athens for immersion in well-preserved ancient sites few tourists set foot in. Uzbekistan’s Silk Road cities like Samarkand and Bukhara transport you back to medieval times when camel caravans traversed these crossroads. The monumental remains of Baalbek in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley showcase exquisite Roman craftsmanship. In Guatemala, the jungle-shrouded ruins of El Mirador reveal the grandeur of the enigmatic Mayan civilization at its peak.
Road trippers seeking peaceful desert drives far from congested national parks can hit the open road in California’s Amargosa Valley passing through ghost towns, or take in the stark beauty of India’s Rann of Kutch. Big Bend National Park in Texas offers breathtaking hiking beneath the Chisos Mountains and stunning night skies for stargazing.

Urban explorers seeking cultural immersion beyond packed capitals can discover Fez’s atmospheric medieval medina maze in Morocco, Portugal's Porto and its postcard-perfect River Douro waterfront, or Korea’s enchanting Andong with its traditional wooden hanok houses and mask dancing. Wandering the cherry blossom-lined philosophers' path in historic Kyoto presents a serene side of Japan sans the crowds.
Savvy travelers wanting to avoid surplus tourists while still journeying to renowned destinations can venture to Angkor Wat's lesser-visited temples, view Egypt's ancient wonders in underrated Luxor, or tour magnificent sites like Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany during the off-season. Even Italy's tourist hotspots like Venice, Florence and Rome still have hidden corners to savor local life once you stray from the usual circuits.
With enriched cultural experiences a priority nowadays, destinations praised for warm hospitality and preserving their heritage draw interest too. Travelers highlight Oman for its millennia-old mudbrick towns and Bedouin traditions, as well as abundant adventure options like camping under desert stars. Visitors welcome Rwanda’s balmy climate, sustainability success and chances to observe gorillas in their misty habitat. Friendly Slovenia enchants with majestic peaks, turquoise rivers and charming outdoor cafes perfect for trying breaded postrženek pancakes.
Closer to home, U.S. travelers enthuse over hidden vacation havens like North Carolina's untrammeled Outer Banks barrier islands, with their windswept beaches and maritime forests. Oahu's North Shore beyond Honolulu dazzles with untamed natural scenery, juicy shrimp trucks and bohemian surf towns. Offbeat spots near famous attractions also allow you to avoid crowds, like hiking through waterfalls and swimming holes in Sabino Canyon near Tucson instead of congested Grand Canyon.

The chance to have an adventure in astonishingly unique destinations inspires many travelers’ dreams nowadays. After stressful years, people yearn to rejuvenate their souls by exploring lands seldom visited by tourists. Hidden marvels still exist off the busy travel trails that promise to awaken our sense of wonder. Seekers of the extraordinary are realizing that with proper planning, remarkable expeditions to far-flung places can happen this year. We need not wait for some distant future date. Seize the day - book your passage to places known only to intrepid explorers and indigenous inhabitants. Whether trekking to remote Incan ruins looming above the Andes, sailing an ancient dhow to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Lamu, or riding horses across Mongolia’s endless steppes, adventures that once seemed unattainable are within reach. Travelers willing to step outside their comfort zone will discover incredible destinations that deliver lasting memories. But these magic moments don’t happen by staying inside our bubble.
Preparing properly is key to pulling off once-in-a-lifetime trips. Expert outfitters proficient in navigating less-trodden lands can prove invaluable. Specialist tour operators like Wild Frontiers design amazing guided excursions to places few dare tread independently - think Iran's ancient city of Persepolis, Rwanda's jungle-clad volcanoes to see gorillas up close, or retracing the Silk Road through mystical Samarkand. Companies like Intrepid Travel combine epic adventures with meaningful cultural connections. Specialists in sights like G Adventures even enable you to choose your own adventure using their hop-on hop-off tour bus network spanning extraordinary regions from Patagonia to Mongolia. Locally-run ground handlers provide insider access. But independent travelers can also craft amazing DIY adventures with proper planning. Securing necessary visas beforehand ensures smooth border crossings. Brushing up on useful phrases in obscure languages shows respect. Packing appropriate and durable gear keeps you comfortable in unfamiliar environments. Booking guides or drivers with insider know-how prevents missteps in places with limited infrastructure. Allowing ample leeway in your itinerary helps overcome the unforeseen.

While mainstream tourists flock to Paris and Times Square, pathfinders in the know seek out the road not taken. One of life’s great privileges is discoveringplaces that feel undiscovered, where few outsiders have left footprints in the volcanic sand beaches, bushwhacked through steamy jungles to hidden waterfalls, or been awestruck by the spiritual vibe an ancient site exudes in its solitude. Though renowned destinations have their own magnetic allure, getting far off the beaten track literally puts you in uncharted territory regarding adventure. Explorers drawn to Earth’s final frontiers set sail for Antarctica's icy labyrinth of glaciers, observe wild polar bears in Canada's Torngat Mountains, and brave the Drake Passage crossing to the remote South Shetland Islands. Other intrepid travelers prefer cultural treasures set amidst stunning landscapes, like trekking to the sprawling stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe, watching the sun rise over the enigmatic moai of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), or retracing the forgotten Great Wall trek along the Hexi Corridor - one of the most underrated sections in China.

Secluded islands shrouded in legend lure adventure-seekers who enjoy their solitude too. Whether wandering moody medieval fortresses on windswept Orkney Island off Scotland, sipping rum while stargazing from a hammock on Panama's San Blas Islands, or diving with manta rays off Pate Island in Kenya’s remote Lamu Archipelago, bliss awaits travelers eager to go where few have gone before. Sylvan forest paths winding through Japan's mystical Yakushima Island seem tailored for quiet contemplation and sprawling beach paradises like Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago offer some of the planet’s most exclusive coastal real estate. Far-flung island life invokes the great explorers.

Don’t forget extraordinary adventures located in your own backyard if exotic foreign lands remain out of reach. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike into the depths of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado, where plunging 2,000 foot cliffs loom above the Gunnison River. Deeply eroded by water, this rocky chasm plunges much further into the earth than the more famous Grand Canyon and sees only a fraction of tourists. In Utah, Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef National Park presents rock monoliths and arches sans crowds. Intrepid travelers prefer wild vistas like these over busy marquee parks on summer holiday weekends. Those who delve into America's incredible natural and cultural depths will be richly rewarded. Local travel guides and conservation group resources help surface hidden gems near you ripe for exploration.

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