2023’s Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor’s Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences
2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - The Year of the Great Outdoors
The past year saw travelers flocking to the great outdoors in record numbers. After being cooped up at home during the pandemic, people were eager to get out and enjoy nature again. National and state parks across the U.S. saw huge increases in visitors, with some receiving over 10 million more guests in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels. Camping also became one of the hottest travel trends, with campgrounds booking up months in advance. Glamping – or luxury camping – saw a major boost as well.
For a truly memorable outdoor adventure, consider thru-hiking one of America's iconic long trails. The 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, winding through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. 2022 marked the first time more than 1,000 people completed the entire AT in a single year. The 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail along the West Coast also gained popularity thanks to the book and movie “Wild.” Section hiking is a great option if you can't commit to the full 5 months a thru-hike requires.
National parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and Glacier saw astounding crowds, prompting concerns about overtourism. Beat the masses by heading to lesser-known parks and monuments instead. Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is filled with colorful canyons, natural bridges and petroglyphs but gets only a fraction of nearby Zion’s visitors. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado perfectly preserves insects, plants and redwoods from 34 million years ago yet remains peaceful and uncrowded.
For an off-the-beaten-path outdoor adventure abroad, trek to Tibet’s Mount Everest Base Camp, hike through Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park, or climb Mount Toubkal – the tallest peak in North Africa. Safari tours through Tanzania’s Serengeti or boat trips down the Amazon River in Peru also provide unforgettable encounters with exotic wildlife.
What else is in this post?
- 2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - The Year of the Great Outdoors
- 2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Food and Wine Escapes for the Senses
- 2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Cultural Celebrations Around the World
- 2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Road Trips Into the Heart of America
- 2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Train Journeys Through Spectacular Landscapes
- 2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Island Hopping in Tropical Paradises
- 2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - European River Cruises Through Storybook Scenery
- 2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Safari Adventures in Africa's Wilderness
2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Food and Wine Escapes for the Senses
After two years of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, 2023 is the year to indulge the senses again through food and wine escapes. For many travelers, enjoying delicious cuisine and fine vintages isn’t just a tangential part of the journey – it is the journey.
Food tourism has exploded in recent years, with travelers not just eating at restaurants but also taking cooking classes, visiting markets, touring farms and even foraging for wild ingredients. Culinary destinations like Italy, France and Japan have always been popular, but now more unexpected locales are emerging as foodie hotspots. The New Nordic cuisine revolution has put Copenhagen on the map, while Lima, Peru earned the title of Latin America’s Leading Culinary Destination seven years in a row.
Whether you’re into Michelin-starred restaurants or street food, cooking schools can help you improve your skills before your trip. Atmilk wood in Wales, The Lost Kitchen in Maine, and A Taste of Iceland offer multi-day courses immersed in local cuisine and culture. Many hotels like the Mandarin Oriental now also provide guests with private cooking lessons during their stay.
Visiting local markets is one of the best ways to dive into a destination’s food scene. Shop for cheese and charcuterie at Mercat de Sant Josep in Barcelona, pick up spices at a souk in Marrakech, or peruse porcelain-like lychees at wet markets in Singapore. Don’t miss the chance to chat with vendors and ask for recommendations on what to buy or where to eat.
Some companies like Zingerman’s or Intrepid Travel offer specialized food tours in cities around the world. But it’s also easy to create your own DIY food tour by researching blogs and magazines for the best local eateries. Just be sure to come hungry! Many restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen or Central in Lima also provide multi-course tasting menus paired with wine so you can fully experience the chef’s creative vision.
Speaking of wine, oenophiles have an entire world of wine regions to explore. Of course no wine trip would be complete without visiting heavy hitters like Bordeaux, Champagne or Napa Valley. But consider venturing beyond the usual suspects to emerging wine destinations like Slovenia, Uruguay, or the Azores islands of Portugal. Intrepid Travel’s new food and wine tours range from Adelaide to Armenia.
2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Cultural Celebrations Around the World
Experiencing a destination’s festivities and cultural celebrations allows travelers to gain a deeper understanding of local traditions and beliefs. By participating in events that hold significance for the local community, we form meaningful connections that turn a standard sightseeing trip into a one-of-a-kind immersive experience.
Attending Holi, the Hindu festival of colors and love, in India is a vibrant spectacle like no other. Locals throw brightly colored powder and water over crowds of revelers while singing, dancing, and feasting on sweets. Joining in leaves you covered from head to toe in rainbow streaks, with memories to match. In Spain, the week-long festivities of Semana Santa leading up to Easter feature solemn processions and passión plays that date back centuries. Hooded penitents carry floats with religious statues through the streets, accompanied by haunting music. Witnessing this spiritual display of faith is an unforgettable highlight for many travelers.
Brazil's Carnival needs little introduction, as Rio de Janeiro's flashy samba parades attract partygoers from around the world. But experiencing smaller, more local celebrations in historic cities like Olinda provides an equally magical glimpse into this quintessential Brazilian tradition. Trinidad's Carnival rivals Rio's spectacle with its colorful costumes, steel pan music, and exuberant calypso competitions. For a Caribbean twist, head to Port of Spain or even Tobago's uncrowded southern villages.
Few events compare to Dia de Muertos in Mexico when it comes to embracing traditions around death. Voluminous marigold arches, sugar skull decorations, and parades welcome the souls of deceased loved ones back for this celebration of life. Oaxaca hosts one of the liveliest observances with food, music, and families gathering at gravesites for all-night vigils. Contrast this vibrant affair with more somber ceremonies in smaller villages for an enriching perspective.
2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Road Trips Into the Heart of America
The call of the open road never dies in America. 2021 saw RV sales hit record highs as remote work untethered people from their desks. But you don’t need a motorhome to have an epic road trip. All you need is a reliable car, a sense of adventure and some good tunes.
Route 66 is the quintessential American road trip, stretching over 2,000 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. The Mother Road connects small towns filled with retro diners, motels and roadside attractions that exemplify classic Americana. But lesser-known byways explore equally captivating corners of the country.
The Pacific Coast Highway hugs California’s dramatic shoreline for 655 breathtaking miles. One memorable stretch crosses the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge featured in Big Little Lies. Just be sure to allow plenty of time for pulling over to capture that perfect sunset photo. Further north, Oregon’s 363 mile Pacific Coast Scenic Byway follows the Lewis and Clark expedition route past rocky sea stacks, sandy beaches and evergreen forests.
Crossing straight through the heartland, the Great River Road parallels the mighty Mississippi for over 3,000 miles from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. From Native American effigy mounds to blues clubs in the Delta, this route offers an immersive journey through quintessential American history and culture.
Out west, Utah’s Highway 12 winds through striking red rock landscapes in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Nicknamed “the Million Dollar Road,” this All-American Road offers non-stop vistas around every bend.
In South Dakota, the wildlife-rich Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway ascends through pine forests and granite spires in Custer State Park. Around the next curve you may spot bison, pronghorn or bighorn sheep.
An equally majestic drive is Alaska’s Denali Highway, where vast wilderness and chances to see grizzly bears await. Or take on the beastly Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina, with 318 curves packed into 11 miles bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Train Journeys Through Spectacular Landscapes
All aboard for an unforgettable ride! Train travel conjures up romantic notions of a bygone era, when journeying was half the adventure. While planes, cars and buses might be quicker, nothing compares to seeing the world pass by from a train window. add some original train travel photos] Rail journeys allow travelers to take in stunning vistas and fascinating destinations at a relaxed pace. Rattling over mountain passes, gliding through canyons and meandering by undulating valleys, trains showcase scenery you simply can't appreciate from 30,000 feet up.
Sunrise illuminates the Swiss Alps in a warm alpine glow as the GoldenPass panoramic train slowly climbs through quaint villages and flower-filled meadows. Rumbling across viaducts and looping through spiraling tunnels, the route from Montreux to Lucerne highlights Switzerland's breathtaking landscapes. Further east, the Bohinj railway in Slovenia chugs from Jesenice alongside azure Lake Bled, crossing historic stone bridges and threading through verdant Radovna Valley's dense woodlands.
In South America, the Andes unveil their majesty and might aboard the Tren a las Nubes in Argentina. The "Train to the Clouds" departs San Miguel de Tucumán and ascends 13,000 feet through the imposing cordillera. Gazing out in awe at sheer cliff faces, glacial lakes and rocky peaks, it's no wonder why the Quechua dubbed this region the "Sierra del Cielo."
For a luxurious safari adventure, try Rovos Rail's overland journeys from South Africa to Tanzania or Namibia. Observation cars and outdoor balconies allow wildlife spotting between indulgent meals, cocktails and plush suites. Cruising through the untamed bush and watching elephants lumber across the tracks makes the relaxing pace worthwhile.
The Rocky Mountaineer follows historic routes through Canada's magnificent Rockies, providing front-row views of rugged peaks, cascading waterfalls and teal glacier lakes. Its two-day Vancouver to Banff journey highlights the stunning scenery between the Pacific coast and Alberta badlands.
2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Island Hopping in Tropical Paradises
Island hopping allows travelers to discover the idyllic beaches, lush jungles, and exotic cultures of multiple dreamy tropical destinations in one epic trip. With turquoise waters beckoning from Malaysia to the Maldives, planning an island-filled itinerary might seem daunting. But focusing on a specific region helps narrow down the paradisiacal possibilities.
Southeast Asia offers over 25,000 islands to tempt beach lovers and jungle trekkers alike. Thailand boasts rugged limestone karsts rising from the sea in Krabi and Phang Nga Bay, home to hidden lagoons like those in The Beach. Hop a ferry from the resort island of Phuket to uninhabited Racha Yai for world-class snorkeling and dive sites without the crowds. Foodies flock to Penang in Malaysia for fiery street eats, while chill-seekers head to the Perhentian Islands’ palm-fringed beaches and luxe resorts.
In Indonesia, Bali’s yoga retreats, temple-filled jungles and perfect surf beckon the spiritually inclined. But leave time to also explore Java’s ancient Buddhist and Hindu sites like massive Borobudur before heading to the beach bliss of Gili Trawangan. With sparkling white sand beaches and vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life, this tiny island epitomizes tropical serenity.
The Philippines dazzle with over 7,000 islands offering everything from underground rivers to volcano trekking. Palawan combines all the highlights – jungle waterfalls, World War II shipwrecks, secret lagoons, and the world’s best island in El Nido. Its towering limestone cliffs, crystal waters and remote beaches live up to the heavenly hype. For small town charm, Boracay’s powdery White Beach will restore your faith in paradise lost.
In Fiji, Robinson Crusoe fantasies come to life on private island resorts like Turtle Island. But beach bums on a budget flock to the Yasawa Islands chain where thatched bure bungalows line stretches of sugar-soft sand fringing vibrant reefs. Relaxation seekers indulge in affordable massages while adventure seekers dive with hammerhead sharks.
The Cook Islands serve up 15 isles scattered across nearly 2 million square km of Pacific Ocean. Rarotonga combines jungle covered volcanic peaks with 32 pristine beaches and vibrant Polynesian culture. Aitutaki‘s aquamarine lagoon is so stunning it borders on ridiculous. One Foot Island offers the iconic "I’ve been to paradise" sign photo opp. Through it all, the pace of life unfolds slowly by “Island Time.”
Farther east, Tahiti and her islands leap straight from Gauguin paintings with glimpses of Bora Bora's iconic overwater bungalows. But the equally alluring Tuamotu Archipelago oozes tranquility with coral ringed motus and pink sand beaches. Neighboring Moorea entices with rugged peaks presiding over pineapple plantations and traditional Tahitian fare like poisson cru.
2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - European River Cruises Through Storybook Scenery
Gliding along waterways that have captivated artists and writers for centuries, European river cruises transport you through the pages of a storybook. Romantic castles and medieval villages line the banks, as if lifted from a fairy tale. Around each bend, a new spire or turret peeks into view. Vine-clad hills roll gently in the distance, dotted with the occasional grazing sheep or cows. Tranquil and timeless, drifting through this magical landscape feels like stepping into a painting.
One picturesque voyage many find enchanting is the Danube River cruise from Budapest to Passau. This storied route inspired Strauss’ famous Blue Danube waltz with good reason. Leaving the grand Hungarian capital, pastel-hued Art Nouveau buildings eventually give way to Slovakia’s forested hillsides. In ancient Bratislava, the 15th century Bratislava Castle crowns a rocky bluff overlooking the river. Further along, Austria enchants with abbeys, vineyards and the Wachau Valley’s apricot orchards.
The fabled city of Vienna dazzles with opulent Habsburg palaces and regal boulevards. Melk Abbey's gilded Baroque library inspires awe before arriving in Passau, where imposing St. Stephen's Cathedral houses the world's largest church pipe organ. From urban capitals to rural villages lost in time, it's easy to see why this journey captivates.
Alternatively, cruising the Upper Rhine Valley between Basel and Amsterdam traverses landscapes similarly steeped in legend. Fairytale castles like Rheinfels and Marksburg stand sentinel above terraced vineyards rising from the riverbanks. In the Lorelei Valley, the Lorelei rock's siren echoes local folklore of a jilted maiden luring sailors to their doom with her beauty.
Beyond the natural splendor, visits to charming villages like Rüdesheim and St Goar add cultural immersion. Wandering quiet cobblestone streets lined with ornate half-timbered houses feels like entering the pages of a Grimms’ fairy tale. Exploring local markets, churches, and museums provides insight into these villages’ rich histories.
During evenings onboard, regional wines, beers and cuisine further connect cruisers to each port's heritage. Between the luxurious suites, farm-to-table dining and personalized service, riverboats pamper passengers throughout their journey. With most carrying under 200 guests, these intimate cruises allow access to charming towns and tranquility captivating artists for centuries.
Gliding past this ever-changing storybook scenery instills a sense of wonder in many travelers. As one guest who cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest raved, “This was our first river cruise and it exceeded every expectation. We were simply captivated watching spectacular scenery drift slowly by from sunrise on our suite's French balcony to evenings savoring regional wines on deck. It was living in an oil painting for 15 enchanting days.”
2023's Most Memorable Travel Moments: Fodor's Top Picks for Unforgettable Experiences - Safari Adventures in Africa's Wilderness
From the thunder of wildebeest hooves stampeding across the Serengeti to the spine-tingling roar of a lion echoing through the darkness, few travel experiences compare to an African safari. Venturing into the wilderness to observe exotic wildlife in their natural habitat offers once-in-a-lifetime encounters that ignite all the senses. As Torsten Jacobi, founder of Mighty Travels, remarks:
"Going on safari was the most thrilling and humbling trip of my life. Watching a herd of elephants gracefully walk by our jeep brought me to tears. Seeing a leopard carry her cub up a tree drove home that we're just one miniscule part of nature's grand design."
The sheer abundance and diversity of wildlife never fails to amaze first-time safari-goers. Herds numbering over 1 million wildebeest, thousands of zebra, and hundreds of thousands of gazelle migrate across Tanzania and Kenya in an endless loop chasing rains and green grass. Prides of lions survey their domain with lazy indifference, waiting for the young or weak to provide their next meal. Lone bull elephants feed on acacia trees, holding entire branches with their dexterous trunks.
In protective family groups called crashes, rhinos munch grass and bark, their immense strength checked only by poor eyesight. Leopards stealthily stalk prey while cheetahs sprint after gazelles at 60 mph. Endangered African wild dogs course over the plains, working in remarkable coordination to isolate targets from the herd.
From diminutive dik dik antelope to towering giraffes, safari-goers delight in spotting diverse species most have only seen in books or on TV. And that's just the start. Colorful tropical birds like bee-eaters and rollers flit through acacia fronds while hilarious mongooses forage. Reptiles like massive rock pythons and spitting cobras lurk underfoot, camouflaged predators blending into the landscape.
Witnessing such primal behavior in Africa's untamed wilderness often leaves travelers changed. As Jacobi reflects, "I'll never forget when our guide spotted a female leopard calling to her wandering cubs as the sun set over the bush. It struck me that she was not so different from human mothers everywhere fiercely protecting their children."
Immersing yourself in the food chain's intricate dance provides perspective on mankind's relative insignificance and interconnectedness. But beyond existential awakenings, safaris also offer pure childlike joy. Seeing a baby elephant playfully flap his ears or giraffes gracefully canter by in silhouette at golden hour fulfills romantic visions of Africa. Your zest for marveling at nature's wonders is rekindled.
As Jacobi advises, go with reputable guides who know the land intimately and respect the animals. Avoid crowded jeeps chasing "Big Five" checklists. Instead connect with the park's natural rhythm on foot, by bike or canoe. Savor quiet moments like drinking sundowners on the savanna watching the sun paint the horizon in brilliant hues. Fall asleep to wild sounds serenading your tent. Then wake before dawn to explore the landscape's majesty anew in sunrise's rosy glow.