National Geographic reveals its top destinations for 2023


(CNN) – It’s never too early to start planning next year’s big trips.

National Geographic is also getting an early start, releasing its World’s Best list at the end of October with 25 must-see destinations for 2023.

Respect — for people and their cultures, for the land and its conservation — is the main theme of the list, which is divided into five official categories.

The hope is that 2023 will not only be a great return to travel, but also a miracle of rediscovery, said Amy Alipio, senior editor for National Geographic Travel.

“Because when you’re impressed by something, you treat it with respect. And that spirit is something we want to encourage with this list,” Alipio said.

The list focuses on destinations with community-led conservation efforts, healing and heritage travel, and ways for travelers to give back, as well as places doing important work in ecotourism, sustainability and inclusive travel.

A young Nang Keo dancer performs in Luang Prabang, the former imperial capital of Laos, which is now reached by bullet train.

Kike Calvo/Nat Geo Image Collection

Looking at the community

National Geographic has added a new category to this year’s list, replacing “sustainability” with a broader “community” category.

“It’s about expanding the focus on people looking for sustainable destinations and it manifests itself in many ways, from making travel more accessible to supporting local businesses,” Alipio said.

Sustainability has been woven into every category a little more. The other four categories are nature, culture, adventure and family.

The five destinations listed under the heading “Community” represent diverse strengths.

Ghana is emerging as a major destination for travelers of black heritage in West Africa.

Alberta, Canada is also on the list.

“Indigenous tourism has been a leader in essentially allowing travelers to learn the stories and ways of life of the First Nations of North America,” and their vibrant contemporary cultures, Alipio said.

In Laos, a new high-speed train is making the country more accessible to visitors and providing an economic opportunity for locals.

The Great Lakes city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, made the list in part because it has been “supportive of its creative community,” Alipio said, citing Bronzeville, which is opening a cultural center dedicated to African-American art.

And in the Greek Dodecanese Islands, Karpathos stands out for sustainable tourism with female leadership.

Grand openings, small crowds

The list is not without great new attractions. Egypt’s long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum outside Cairo appears on the 2023 list under the “culture” category. And Charleston, South Carolina will soon be home to the International African American Museum opening in January.

The US wilderness makes the list in two categories, with an emphasis on getting away from the crowds.

Utah, where five national parks are a big draw, appears in the “adventure” category in part because of its efforts to direct tourists to some of its lesser-known areas to combat over-tourism.

Visit Utah has a page dedicated to responsible travel that asks visitors to consider their impact, including: “Do I do what I can to avoid crowded places?” State parks, including Dead Horse Point and Goblin Valley, are close to Utah’s five spectacular national parks.
Big Bend National Park in Texas is listed in the “nature” category. Although Big Bend had a record 581,000 recreational visits in 2021, it was still far less visited than some of the most popular national parks in the United States. Yellowstone received 4.9 million visitors and Great Smoky Mountains National Park received 14.1 million recreational visits in 2021.

Slovenia, “a long-time leader in sustainable tourism”, the cycle route combines visits to vineyards, cheese makers and other food producers, earning it a place in the “nature” category with a culinary bonus.

The Scottish Highlands, the fascinating volcanic archipelagos of Portugal’s Azores and Botswana also make the ‘nature’ list for their efforts towards conservation and sustainability.

Young sperm whales in the waters surrounding the Azores.  The Portuguese archipelago is on National Geographic's Best in the World list "nature" the category

Young sperm whales in the waters surrounding the Azores. The Portuguese archipelago is on National Geographic’s Best in the World list in the “nature” category.

Andy Mann/Nat Geo Image Collection

Family, adventure and culture

Colombia has been in the spotlight with the Disney movie “Encanto”, and it was the right choice for the “family” category. In California, San Francisco’s Crosstown Trail is another perfect spot for a family adventure.

Speaking of “adventure,” that category also includes Choquequirao (Peru), an Inca site to rival Machu Picchu that’s becoming increasingly accessible and fueling economic development.

And New Zealand, the longtime adventure capital, joins the list as excitement builds over the travel renaissance.

The Austrian Alps also offer great opportunities for adventure within the Bergsteigerdörfer network of 29 hiking villages.

Asia, which has been slower to reopen since the pandemic, stands out in the “culture” category. Asia’s premier film festival in Busan, South Korea is featured in the Artisan Workshops category.

While China remains closed to international tourism, the Longmen Grottoes in Henan province are also making it onto the “culture” list as new technology draws attention to the world’s largest collection of stone statues.

For more information on National Geographic’s Best in the World list, visit their website.
Elephants graze among the lush waterways of Botswana's Okavango Delta. "nature" the category

Featured in the “Nature” category, elephants graze among the lush waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

Beverly Joubert/Nat Geo Image Collection

National Geographic’s 2023 World’s Best List:

CULTURE

Appian Way, Italy
Busan, South Korea
Longmen Grottoes, Henan Province, China
Egypt
Charleston, South Carolina

NATURE

Highlands of Scotland
Botswana
Slovenia
Big Bend National Park, Texas
the Azores

ADVENTURE

New Zealand
Choquequirao, Peru
Utah
Austrian Alps
Revillagigedo National Park, Mexico

COMMUNITY

Dodecanese Islands, Greece
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Alberta, Canada
Laos
Ghana

THE FAMILY

Trinidad and Tobago
San Francisco Crosstown Trail, California
Colombia
Manchester, United Kingdom
Switzerland