Where to travel in 2024: the best alternative destinations

An alternative to Agra, Udaipur offers a fairytale setting
An alternative to Agra, Udaipur offers a fairytale setting
From skiing in Niseko to snorkelling in St Kitts, look beyond the traditional, well-known holiday spots to these hidden gems for your next getaway

As the end of another year sails into view, travel plans for 2024 start to take shape.

An estimated 700 million tourists travelled internationally in the first seven months of 2023, according to UNWTO – and while not quite the pre-pandemic record highs of 2019 (1.46 billion), it was 43% higher than in the same period in 2022.

Experts are optimistic about a continued travel rebound in 2024, with Airport Council International World predicting a milestone in global passenger traffic recovery to surpass 2019 levels.

With demand high, making travel plans sooner rather than later seems a sensible approach – but with the world your oyster, where to choose?

For those looking to hit the hottest destinations, Expedia Group has released its travel trend analysis for the coming year – predicting the top 10 most popular international destinations.

Expedia predicts that travellers are most likely to jet set to destinations popularised in fan-favourite TV shows and movies, including Paris, as seen in the recently aired Emily in Paris, and the Florida Keys, the location of series Bad Monkey.

“More than half of travellers say they’ve researched or booked a trip to a destination after seeing it on a TV show or in a move,” the report states. “In fact, tavellers say TV shows influence their travel decisions more than Instagram, TikTok, and podcasts.

Among other destinations likely to prove popular in 2024, Expedia cites Thailand, which featured in White Lotus, Season 3; South Korea, as seen in Squid Game; and Greece, the location for recently released film My Big Fat Wedding 3.

Also listed were destinations featuring in films and series set to premiere in 2024, including Australia, which features in future film Furiosa, in addition to Malta, as seen in Gladiator 2 and Romania, the location of Wednesday, Season 2.

Malta is expected to be a popular destination in 2024

For an increasing number of travellers, however, popular destinations are not what they are looking for.

According to research by American Express earlier this year, 89% of respondents say they want to travel to destinations they have never visited before, while 68% say they pride themselves on finding places to go before they become popular.

Little surprise then that the just-released annual American Express list of 10 trending destinations goes beyond the traditional, well-known vacation spots to uncover hidden gems and new experiences.

The list is based on Amex card member bookings and curated recommendations from the company’s 7,000 travel consultants.

The trending locations, driven by Gen Z and Millennial, reveal a desire by travellers today to explore beyond traditional hot spots and take ever-more immersive experiences.

“People are looking for new experiences and to immerse themselves in the local culture when they travel,” said Audrey Hendley, President of American Express Travel. “Whether you crave a new adventure or just want to beat the crowds, this list is a great place for every type of traveller to find their next vacation destination.”

Among alternatives to popular destinations, the list points to the sweeping biodiversity of the Seychelles rather than the Maldives – and if planning a European skiing trip, to the charming Swiss ski town of Zermatt rather than the popular Italian Dolomites.

Here are the top ten trending destinations for 2024.

1

Adelaide Hills, Australia

While many choose to holiday in the popular Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Adelaide Hills is an alternative destination. Located just outside of Adelaide, this wine region delivers not only some of Australia’s finest cool-climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, but great cuisine to boot – with plenty of restaurants, tasting rooms and cellars. There are charming villages to visit and plenty of nature hikes, including to the top of the 2,385-foot Mt. Lofty.

2

St Kitts and Nevis

This two-island Caribbean nation also delivers on dual experiences with a combination of stunning beaches and lush rainforests. Nevis is quieter, more low-key and delivers an abundance of nature trails, while St Kitts – a quick ferry ride away – is livelier with a long stretch of oceanfront bars and restaurants. See the sights by train aboard one of the last railways in the West Indies. Both islands have a laid-back vibe, beautiful beaches, friendly locals and great food – a mix of French, Indian and Caribbean influences.

St Kitts and Nevis offers beautiful beaches and lush rainforest trails

3

Udaipur, India

As a low-key alternative to popular Indian hotspot Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, the city of Udaipur in Rajasthan does not disappoint. Dubbed the ‘white city’ due to its many marble palaces, Udaipur is unmatched in India for fairytale romance with its many fantastical palaces and temples. The arts are celebrated here with many bazaars selling all sorts of handicrafts and street art filling the streets, from folk dances to puppet shows. There are boat rides on Udaipur’s iconic Lake Pichola, walking tours of the Ranakpur temple, and horseriding in the surrounding countryside.

4

Bodrum, Turkey

An alternative to Istanbul, the port town of Bodrum (sometimes called ‘Little Istanbul’) is not only a fantastic city to explore but a great base for exploring the Turkish Riviera – which, with its white-sand beaches, is pulling the jet-set A-list to its shores, an alternative to the French Riviera. Some fo the best beaches and bays in the peninsula are accessible only by boat, which you can take from the harbour. The historic town delivers plenty of history, from the Bodrum Castle the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, filled with finds from shipwrecks. There are bustling bazaars to explore, lots of seafood, and a buzzing nightlife.

5

Porto Cervo, Sardinia

As a change from mainland Italy, Sardinia delivers a rugged landscape with rocky coastlines overlooking turquoise-green water. In the Northeastern section and the centre of one of Italy’s most exclusive shorelines, the Costa Smeralda, sits the tiny town of Porto Cervo. With its yacht-filled harbour, this pristine and picturesque coastal town delivers breath-taking views, gorgeous beaches, and plenty of great food. Hire a boat to explore the many islets and coves or head inland to visit the Bronze Age ruins and wineries.

Sardinia's Porto Cervo sits on one of Italy's most exclusive shorelines, the Costa Smeralda

6

Niseko

Described as a “slopes-forward alternative” to Sapporo, known for its famous Snow Festival, Niseko offers plenty of on- and off-piste action for skiing enthusiasts. There is terrain to suit all levels and the infrastructure offered is world-class. Niseko United comprises four resorts and over 2000 skiable acres, there is a collection of ski villages and plenty of apres-ski action, including traditional hot-spring-fed baths, known as onsen.

7

San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

Instead of opting for the popular Riviera Maya, consider travelling inland to the bohemian city of San Miguel De Allende. Named the world’s best city in 2021, San Miguel is a colourful, cultural and creative hub filled to the brim with artisanal shops, art galleries, live performances and quirky museums, like one dedicated to toys and another to ceremonial masks. The nightlife is equally colourful with plenty of rooftop bars to choose from and music and culture festivals take place here throughout the year. High-desert hiking and natural hot springs are also within reach.

Mexico's San Miguel De Allende is a colourful, cultural and creative hub

8

Seychelles

An alternative to the paradise islands of the Maldives, the Seychelles offers a similar out-of-this-world beach destination but with sweeping biodiversity and a multicultural vibe. Made up of 115 islands, some hilly and rocky, others low-lying outcrops of coral, such diversity means you can hike in the rainforest in the morning and snorkel in the crystal waters in the afternoon. The white-sand beaches here are among some of the world’s best and there’s lots of adventures here too. The bonus to travelling here is that a portion of tourism dollars is used by the government to help preserve many of the rare native species found here, including a subspecies of giant tortoise.

9

Zermatt, Switzerland

For those contemplating a European ski holiday, avoid the Dolomites, which can get very busy during ski season and head to the Swiss ski town of Zermatt. Home of the iconic Matterhorn, Zermatt is charming town steeped in tradition with many businesses run by the same families for generations. Famous for being car-free, visitors arrive by train from Geneva or Zurich and get around by walking, electric taxis or buses. Standard are high on pretty much everything here, from the cuisine (fondue, anyone?) to the infrastructure. Skiers can enjoy cocoa and end-of-day Champagne on the mountain and there is plenty of nightlife on the main street.

Access to Swiss ski town Zermatt is by a very scenic train ride

Santa Fe

Another centre of creativity and culture, US city Santa Fe is positioned as the alternative destination to popular holiday spot Sedona. Set at a high altitude and nestled at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico, Santa Fe stands out for its distinctive adobe Pueblo-style architecture, which has long inspired artists, writers and creatives worldwide. Here, you’ll find plenty of galleries filled with work inspired by the place as well as the famed Georgia O’Keefe Museum and a museum housing the world’s largest collection of international folk art. Sante Fe’s culinary landscape is equally creative. Among other to-dos, hire a bike and cycle the Santa Fe Rail Trail.

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