Whether you’re travelling solo or as part of a group, 2022 is officially the year of getting back out there. But after so long cooped up, where should ‘there’ be? If you’re planning on going large in terms of your travel plans, read on – as award-winning travel writer and Flash Pack advisor Jonathan Thompson gives us his personal picks to earmark for this year’s big trip.
1. Yucatán, Mexico
Rich in Mayan history, awash with lush rainforest and fringed by tropical beaches, Yucatán – out on the distant tip of Mexico’s south-eastern tail – is about to have a major moment. In particular, the state’s capital, Mérida, has emerged as one of Latin America’s hottest cities, thanks to a buzzing food scene, a raft of new boutique hotels and a packed calendar of cultural events. Now is the time to go, before everyone else hears about it…
When to visit: December-March
Eat this: Dulce de papaya. This deliciously sweet Yucatán dessert is made from papaya, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla – served soaked in syrup.
Do this: Visit Chichén Itzá, a jaw-dropping complex of Mayan ruins 75 miles east of Mérida.
2. Quebec City, Canada
The most European-looking city in North America, this Canadian gem has always been a fantastic long weekend break from New York – and it’s about to become a similar option for Brits, with the first direct London flights starting in May 2022. The fairytale-like Château Frontenac Hotel is still the best place to stay, with the twisting cobblestone streets around its base making for some awesome shopping. Don’t miss the recently renovated Saint-Roch neighbourhood too, with its hipster-friendly bars, cafes and restaurants.
When to visit: June to September and December to February.
Eat this: Poutine, Quebec’s cure-all comfort food made from chips, gooey cheese curds and gravy. The greatest hangover antidote ever conceived.
Do this: Via Ferrata at Montmorency Falls. What’s not to like about climbing a roaring waterfall as a beautiful city unfolds behind you?
3. Chefchaouen, Morocco
If you’ve done Marrakech but are curious to see more of Morocco, you could follow everyone else to Essaouira this year, or you could get ahead of the curve by checking out Chefchaouen. Known as the Blue City, it’s the country’s most Hispano-Moorish influenced town, resulting in unique, gob-smackingly beautiful streets, squares and alleyways that look equal parts Jodhpur and Mykonos. It’s about to become North Africa’s next big thing, so head there now before prices start to soar.
When to visit: March to May and September to October
Eat this: Chicken Bastilla, a traditional savoury pie made with thin, folded warka dough.
Do this: Check out the Cascades d’Akchour, a series of mindblowing waterfalls a short drive from the city, where you can take a dip in spectacular rock pools.
4. St. Petersburg, Florida
The St. Petersburg you don’t need a Russian visa to visit, this subtropical gem is also a lot warmer than its European namesake. In fact, it holds the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive days of sunshine ever (a sizzling 768) – and it’s officially home to the best beach in America. Toss in a major arts scene, with more than 30 museums and galleries headlined by the world class Dali Museum, and you have a Cinderella city hiding in plain sight behind its curvier sisters, Tampa and Orlando.
When to visit: Year-round.
Eat this: Mezcal infused-oysters. A St. Pete speciality, you’ll find these in quite a few places, but arguably the best is The Oyster Bar on Central Avenue.
Do this: Flyboarding, a sport somewhere between surfing and trampolining, as you’re rocketed 30ft into the air on powerful water jets.
If you’ve ever dreamed about visiting the land of the Pharaohs, now’s the time. Not only is Cairo’s long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum (which looks incredible) finally due to open in 2022, but the country is also marking the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 – which might not be open to the public for much longer, so see it while you can. Meanwhile, the reopening of Luxor’s Avenue of the Sphinxes after 2,500 years is also a major sight to behold – one of many in the pharaoh’s spectacular ancient capital.
When to visit: March to May and September to October.
Eat this: Fiteer Baladi, a type of buttery Egyptian pizza.
Do this: Take a felucca trip down the Nile. The traditional wooden sailing boats are the best way to travel for a few hours – or even a few days – on the Nile.
6. Costa Rica
It’s no surprise that Costa Rica is a perennial favourite with Flash Packers – it’s a destination that ticks every box with a flourish, from an exhilarating food and drink scene to amazing outdoor adventures. Not only is the country now fully open to travellers again, but it also recently won Tripadvisor’s prestigious Best National Park in the World award, for Arenal Volcano National Park – one of the country’s top hiking destinations.
When to visit: November to May.
Eat this: Spicy black bean soup known as Sopa Negra.
Do this: Ziplining. Costa Rica is one of the best destinations in the world to swoop through the tree canopy like a superhero, and there are multiple amazing options to choose from here.
Not only is Bhutan reopening to tourism in 2022 – it’s also reopening the legendary Trans-Bhutan trail for the first time in more than half a century. Used by armies and traders for thousands of years, the trail spans 250 miles from the east to the west of this famously friendly Himalayan country, connecting fortresses – called ‘Dzongs’ – as well as 400 historic sites along the way. Multiple sections are achievable on their own (by foot or mountain bike), while for the truly intrepid traveller, the entire trail can be hiked in around a month.
When to visit: September to December.
Eat this: Ema Datshi. The national dish of Bhutan is a delicious spicy stew made with onions, chilli peppers and locally produced yak cheese.
Do this: Archery. Bhutan’s obsession with archery is well documented (it became the national sport in 1971) and the mountain kingdom is the perfect place to perfect your pulling prowess.
Lonely Planet recently named Slovenia in its top five countries to visit in 2022, praising this Eastern European gem for both its focus on sustainability and its lush, naturally alluring landscape. If you like the sound of that, head straight for the regal capital, Ljubljana, with its many bridges, magnificent castle and riverside restaurants, before moving on to the pretty lakeside town of Bled, which booking.com recently recognised as one of the most welcoming cities on Earth.
When to visit: April to September.
Eat this: Kremna Rezina. Heavenly layers of custard, cream and puff pastry.
Do this: Swim Lake Bled. The iconic swim from lakeshore to magical island is a rite of passage for all visitors (and, thankfully, easier than it looks).
The spectacular Incan citadel of Machu Picchu remains one of the world’s most sought-after sightseeing spots, but there continue to be murmurings from the Peruvian government about significantly decreasing visitor numbers. If you haven’t ascended into the Andes to see this ancient wonder for yourself, then now is the time – and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better all round trip than the awesome Flash Pack itinerary, which somehow manages to tick off all of Peru’s highlights in a little over a week, including a mouth-watering exploration of Lima’s epic restaurant scene.
When to visit: May to October.
Eat this: Ceviche. The freshest, zestiest, tastiest examples of this marinated Peruvian fish dish are to be found in Lima – the ceviche capital of the world.
Do this: Take a mountain bike ride across the Sacred Valley. The best way to access more remote sections.
10. The Azores
They might be a tiny string of volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic, but the Azores are quietly becoming an unlikely design hub.
Ponta Delgada, the capital of this neon-green volcanic archipelago, is at the heart of a budding design hotel movement – producing stunning properties like Furnas Boutique Hotel & Spa and Pico do Refugio. Meanwhile, the islands as a whole – which will become way more accessible in 2022 with new direct flights – continue to feel like the love child of Hawaii and New Zealand, with cascading waterfalls, emerald cliffs, world-class surfing and a blossoming wine scene.
When to visit: April to September.
Eat this: Cozido das Furnas. A traditional chicken, sausage and pork stew cooked in volcanic soil.
Do this: Whale-watching. The Azores is one of the best places in the world to spot sperm, fin, and minke whales up close.
11. New Orleans, USA
The Big Easy has always been America’s cocktail capital, and now it’s mixing things up again, with a wave of exciting new post-pandemic bars opening – plus a major new museum dedicated to the art of mixology, Sazerac House. The grand three-story building on the corner of Canal and Magazine Streets, contains all manner of interactive exhibits dedicated to the city’s revered cocktail culture. And once you’ve slaked your thirst for history, you’ve earned a long, cold drink at one of the latest hotspots – including Peychaud’s, Midnight Revival, Bijou and The Chandelier Bar.
When to visit: September to May.
Eat this: Seafood gumbo, which is Cajun super fuel.
Do this: Take a Swamp Boat Tour. It’s a fun, affordable way to experience New Orleans’ famous swamps and bayous (and spot alligators).
In 2021, Uzbekistan marked its 30th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union with a slew of new projects to make it more accessible than ever. This year, visitors to the fascinating country will enter via the beautiful new airport terminal at Samarkand, while the country’s sleek high-speed train network is expanding to the ancient Silk Road town of Khiva, so visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site will no longer require hours in a car weaving through desert dunes. Other significant 2022 openings include the Silk Road Samarkand Complex (which will house restaurants, cafes, and the country’s first five star hotel), as well as the renovated State Museum of Arts in the capital, TashKent.
When to visit: April to May and September to November.
Eat this: Manty, which are juicy dumplings stuffed with minced meat, fat and onions.
Do this: Visit the Golden Ring; the ruins of 50 ancient fortresses recovered from the sands in the ancient oasis of Khwarezm.
Definitely the most underrated of Nordic countries, and arguably the most beautiful, Finland is regularly ranked as one of the world’s happiest places. It’s also the location for one of Flash Pack’s most innovative new trips – Finland’s Secret Island. This adventure-packed four-day Lapland odyssey involves chasing the Northern Lights on husky sleds and reindeer sleighs, as well as trying your arm at snowmobiling – and your legs at cross-country skiing. You’ll experience all of this while staying at the boutique Hotel Vartiosaari, located on a private island in the Arctic Circle that was actively used by Finnish defence forces during World War Two.
When to visit: December to March.
Eat this: Karjalanpiirakka, which are sweet Finnish rice pies.
Do this: Take a husky sled ride. Racing across the icy tundra behind a pack of well-trained dogs imparts a sense of wild freedom like no other.
There are few better places to recharge and re-centre than in the middle of Africa, and Rwanda, in particular, is about to have a major moment. Gorilla trekking during the dry summer months remains the biggest draw here – and now there are a handful of new hotels offering enticing packages to solo travellers, too. Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House are both crazy beautiful places to stay, and regardless of whether you’re alone or travelling with friends or family, they will divide you into groups of eight, based on fitness levels, and take you into Volcanoes National Park on the lookout for the magnificent mountain gorilla.
When to visit: May to October.
Eat this: Brochettes. The Rwandan version of a kebab skewer, with sizzling chunks of beef, chicken and goat dunked in a spicy tomato mix, then grilled over open flames until they’re almost black.
Do this: Kayak Lake Kivu. There are two brilliant towns situated on Lake Kivu – Gisenyi and Kibuye – which make for awesome bases as you explore this gorgeous body of water.
Fast becoming the most popular travel destination in the Middle East, Jordan will be instantly familiar to science fiction fans – with Hollywood blockbusters Dune, The Martian and Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker all being filmed in the spectacular Wadi Rum area. The real headline act, however, remains the old Nabatean capital of Petra (and the best way to access it is by hiking the secret back door route into the ancient sandstone city with Flash Pack). Don’t sleep on the modern-day capital of Amman, either: a dynamic 21st Century metropolis which is well worth visiting en-route to Petra and Wadi Rum, particularly if you book a lesson at the stereotype-squashing Beit Sitti cooking school.
When to visit: March to May and September to November.
Eat this: Mansaf, a dish of tender meat layered with paper-thin flatbread, served on heaps of steaming, aromatic rice.
Do this: Floating on the Dead Sea. This surreal, serene experience is something that everyone must try once in their life.
16. Charleston, South Carolina
One of the oldest cities in the US, Charleston has made a bold bid to confront the darker parts of its past, with the International African American Museum opening this year. The museum will examine Charleston’s role housing one of the largest slave ports in the New World, as well as highlighting and celebrating contemporary Black culture. Meanwhile, cosmopolitan, modern-day Charleston goes from strength to strength as an awesome city break destination, with its historic district boasting plenty of new places to stay, dine, and further explore the city’s origins. This includes luxury hotel The Loutrel, refined southern restaurant Lenoir and upscale champagne and cocktail bar, Bourbon & Bubbles.
When to visit: March to May, and September to November.
Eat this: BBQ. Whichever way you slice it, BBQ is king in the Carolinas, and Charleston has some superb spots to try it.
Do this: Learn to Shag. The traditional Southern dance is still practised here – and you can take shagging lessons with charismatic local instructor Linda Walker.
17. São Paulo, Brazil
Brazil marks its bicentennial of independence in September 2022, and the capital city of São Paulo will be at the centre of the celebrations. More sleek, sophisticated and style-forward than Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo is the biggest city in South America, and a major arts and culture hub. New flights connecting the city with major US hubs like Dallas and Chicago this year means this Brazilian beauty is more accessible than ever. In particular, check out the new Rosewood São Paulo, housed in the heart of the city’s Cidade Matarazzo, which is set to become a major destination hotel.
When to visit: September to March.
Eat this: Irado à Paulista. This traditional dish is made with rice, sautéed kale, fried plantains and pork chops.
Do this: Visit the Mercadão. São Paulo’s Municipal Market is full of life, colours and flavours.
18. Oslo, Norway
Things are hotting up in the Norwegian capital, where June will see the opening of the long-awaited National Museum – showcasing more than 5,000 items and set to be the largest art museum in the Nordic countries. It will join the award-winning new MUNCH museum (which opened in October 2021) at the heart of Oslo’s incredible waterfront regeneration project. Book a room at award-winning design hotel The Thief and steal yourself away to explore this spirited Scandinavian city for the weekend – just two hours’ flight from London.
When to visit: April to September.
Eat this: Herring. Norwegians love their herring, and will serve it in hundreds of tasty ways, from the classic pickled version in vinegar to more elaborated creamed or curried variants. The best spot to sample them is the famous Engebret Café – the oldest restaurant in Oslo.
Do this: Explore the Viking Ship Museum. The city’s best-known museum contains some incredible finds, including three of the world’s best preserved Viking ships.
19. Easter Island, Chile
2022 marks 300 years since Dutch explorers first set foot on Rapa Nui’s mysterious shores on Easter Day – which is how the 64-square-mile volcanic landmass acquired its name. Finally reopen to fully vaccinated travellers as of February 2022, there is plenty to check out on the UNESCO-listed island, from its 900 monolithic moai stone statues to increased access to its remote north shore – and the newly rebranded Nayara Hangaroa luxury hotel, which reopens in May 2022 and will allow guests to take self-drive ATV tours to iconic attractions like the massive Ranu Kau crater, the Orongo ceremonial village, and Anakena beach at their own leisure.
When to visit: April to June, and October to December.
Eat this: Curanto. Meat, chicken, vegetables and seafood cooked atop hot stones placed in a hole in the ground, then covered with plantain leaves.
Do this: Watch the Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki. Dawn is particularly spectacular at this spot, as the sun rises perfectly over 15 of the best restored moais on the entire island.
20. Banff Lake Louise, Canada
Currently enjoying its best snowfall for 65 years, Banff Lake Louise – located inside protected, pristine Banff National Park – has attracted the attention of frustrated skiers and snowboarders worldwide. Not only is the snow falling softer and deeper up here than anywhere else, but there’s also a new 480 acres of skiable terrain to explore (Lake Louise’s West Bowl). Plus the fact that Banff boasts one of the longest ski seasons in the world, thanks to its altitude and latitude, and that its primary hotel, the Fairmont Banff Springs (aka “The Castle in the Rockies”) recently had a £20 million facelift. So, if you’re hungry for powder between October and May, look no further than Canada’s remarkably snowy north.
When to visit: October to May.
Eat this: Fondue at the Grizzly House. A local icon, the Grizzly House has been serving ‘exotic’ fondue on Banff Avenue (think venison, alligator and rattlesnake) for over 50 years. It also has phones at each table, so you can call your fellow diners to enquire where they purchased their salopettes.
Do this: Caving. Just because Banff Lake Louise has world class skiing on its mountains doesn’t mean you shouldn’t delve beneath them too. The resort is also home to Rat’s Nest Cave – one of the longest caves in North America, which you can delve into with local specialists Canmore Cave tours.
Tropical Honduras, formerly a divers’ and bird-watchers’ paradise, has emerged post-Covid as a major eco-tourism hotspot. In 2022, the Cayos Cochinos Foundation will launch a series of eco-tours allowing travellers to participate in reef clean ups, help to monitor baby turtles and even join treks to spot and chart the pink boas which are endemic to this country. While you’re here, you’ll have an embarrassment of amazing new accommodation options to choose from, including the heavenly new Paraiso Boutique Hotel on Utila, and the Grand Roatan Resort, which will reopen after major renovations in mid-2022.
When to visit: December to April.
Eat this: Sopa de Caracol, which is conch snail soup (way nicer than it sounds).
Do this: La Ceiba. This incredible city needs to be on your itinerary – it is both the “Eco-Tourism Capital of Honduras” and the “Entertainment Capital of Honduras”. In other words: good, clean fun.
22. Utah, USA
The mind boggling beauty of Utah’s fiery, otherworldly landscape has been an open secret for some years now – particularly when it comes to its “Mighty Five” National Parks (Moab, Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef). But this year there’s a new way to enjoy it, after glamping company Under Canvas opened not one but two safari-style sites right in the heart of the action – at picturesque Lake Powell and inside Zion itself. Not only do all of the tents feature elevated decks and private bathrooms, but they’re also an excellent way to replicate the A-list experience at Utah’s nearby super-resort, Amangiri, without coughing up A-list prices.
When to visit: April to June and September to November.
Eat this: Fry sauce. Utah’s signature condiment – a tasty, tangy dip you’ll find on everything from salads to burgers.
Do this: Hike the Narrows. Rapidly becoming one of the most famous trails in America, the Narrows involves hiking (and sometimes swimming) through some of Utah’s most insanely tight – and insanely beautiful –slot canyons.
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Photos: Getty, Flash Pack, Faris Mohammed, Joao Tzanno, Carlos Zacapa and Thomas Griggs on Unsplash