14. OAXACA CITY, MEXICO
The history-steeped town is more intriguing than ever
Oaxaca’s heritage runs through the lifeblood of the city, with everything from its food to its textiles steeped in tradition. It’s no surprise, then, that chefs, artisans and designers flock to its rainbow-hued streets to sample spices, finely made handicrafts and lashings of mezcal mezcal mezcal.
Last summer, cactus-and-white-stone minimalist Casa Criollo opened on the same site as the much-lauded Enrique Olvera restaurant. More recently,
Escondido Oaxaca, from beloved Mexican brand Habita, launched its latest design-focused hotel with old-world-meets-modern-grandeur vibes (quarry stones, ochre walls and heaps of terracotta). Further afield, an hour south of Puerto Escondido in the fishing village of San Agustinillo, you’ll find Monte Uzulu – 11 boho rooms by architect Mariana Ruiz and other designers, with sun-slathered terraces and rooms filled with macuilí wood furniture, colourful cotton textiles and intricate basketwork handmade by local craftspeople.
The best way to gulp down Oaxaca’s vivifying delights is with in-the-know guides – such as non-profit
En Vía, which offers trips to visit local artisans who are part of its microloan programme, or Oaxacking, which organises immersive and bespoke food, drink and craft tours. And although Oaxaca is Mexico’s mezcal heartland – with snuggled-away bars filled with hundreds-strong libraries of the spirit and mezcalerias serving up innovative cocktails and ultra-small-batch tasting flights – a new trend for corn whiskey is also muscling in. Distillers are buying up native corn from indigenous small-plot farmers in the Central Valleys and turning it into a more mellow drink. GETTY IMAGES / UNDINE PRÖHL
Hot hotel openings abound in the South-east Asian sanctuary
In the coastal enclave of Bãi San Hô, overlooking a near-deserted sweep of pearly sand, you’ll find the much-awaited new property from forward-thinking Zannier Hotels. Spearheading a flurry of hot arrivals in
Vietnam, this clutch of smart-but-unshowy stilted wooden villas, located in Phú Yên, one of the country’s most biodiverse regions, looks set to do what the group’s duo of Namibia stays did in 2018 and 2019 – open quietly and draw in the cool crowd quickly.
railway travel is also steaming into South-central Vietnam in 2021, with the launch of a boutique 12-seater carriage on a daily return route between Da Nang and Quy Nhon. The wood- and marble-strewn Vietage train has been developed by high-end hotel group Anantara to serve guests riding between its luxe outposts in both cities. Trundling through peaceful rice fields and winding along jagged coastlines that jut out as if they were broken teeth, the train offers free-flowing wine, a three-course supper and spa treatments.
But as well as the country’s more lustrous offerings, community-based tourism is finding its feet here, too. In the pristine Ngoc Son Ngo Luong nature reserve – sometimes described as Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs – local operators are working alongside a Spanish NGO to bring in conservation funds and valuable work for isolated Muong villagers. As a result, visitor numbers are increasing by 45 per cent year-on-year and rates of illegal logging and poaching have decreased by 90 per cent since 2011.
12. THE BERKSHIRES, USA
The low-key Hamptons alternative comes into its own
The Berkshires might not have the flashy allure of the Hamptons, but this once down-on-its-luck corner has been slowly reinventing itself, emerging as an arty refuge for creatives from the busy surrounding cities. Thundering across Massachusetts’ undulating western stretches, the mountainous region – a three-hour drive from
New York and Boston – is where avant-garde culture meets farm-to-table dining. Once home to free-roaming bison and expansive untapped wilderness, the breezy Berkshires now shelter pockets of farmland, New England autumn foliage and picturesque towns to rejuvenate burnt-out weekenders.
The former industrial cotton-mill city of North Adams is quickly settling into its new creative identity. Home to a sparky food scene, cool new places to stay and art establishments such as Mass MoCA, it also has plans for museums by Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel, a 110-room hotel, a craft distillery and a wave of exciting new restaurants. In nearby Williamstown, you’ll find The Clark Art Institute, where classic Renaissance pieces rub up against outré modern sculptures. One of the coolest places to stay in North Adams is
Tourists, a mid-century motor lodge turned contemporary rustic-chic hotel, with a restaurant serving up food inspired by Native American, Welsh, Italian and Lebanese cultures. Just out of town, life has been breathed back into Greylock Works, a former mill now hosting yoga classes, farmers’ markets and DJs, with a hotel to come. GETTY IMAGES / GENEVIEVE HUBA / R’EL DADE / MARCUS LLOYD / JEFF-GOLDBERG /PETER CROSBY
11. EAST AND WEST SUSSEX, ENGLAND, UK
Arty arrivals make the charming counties more alluring than ever
From the rippling hills of the wild
South Downs to the cobblestone streets of storied Rye, these two charming Sussex counties glint with the kind of natural beauty that delivers an endless cache of serenity and soul-soaring sea views. But now, a raft of new openings and developments are making this pretty part of the UK an even bigger draw.
Brighton, the newest seafront Soho House looks set to unlock its doors on Madeira Place – although exact dates are yet to be confirmed – while Sea Lanes, the UK’s first national open-water swimming centre of excellence will transform the former Peter Pan site on Madeira Drive in spring 2021. In West Sussex, classy Ashling Park will open luxury lodges – made from natural materials including wood from the South Downs National Park – and a helipad among its award-winning sparkling-wine vineyards. Nearby, the latest outpost of the nooks-and-cooks Pig hotels – the eighth in the litter – will launch, complete with its own vines, in the South Downs in summer 2021.
Beyond that, landmark creative project Waterfronts will herald a new way to experience the stirring coastline between the South Downs and the Thames Estuary. The big-budget collaboration between
England’s Creative Coast and some of the region’s most exciting galleries will see seven site-specific art commissions explore the borders between land and water. The world’s first art geocache trail will also work with a group of locals to lead visitors on a GeoTour through the enlivening, salt-cloaked landscape of the south-east coast.
10. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, CARIBBEAN
The low-fi side to this Caribbean nation
The Dominican Republic might be known for the bombastic resorts that line Punta Cana on its eastern tip, but look again and there’s another slower, quieter side. Our attention was already piqued when
Playa Grande Beach Club opened its shell-studded doors five years ago, closely followed by the Amanera, which incorporates the healing traditions of the region’s indigenous Taíno people in its wellness rituals, on the same northern shore.
More recently in the capital,
wabi sabi stay Fixie Lofts arrived in 2020. ‘When we first visited the historic district three years ago we sensed there was a change underway, like the transformation we’d seen in Panama City and Cartagena,’ says co-owner José Luis Mejias. The husband and wife team sensitively preserved the crumbling building, enlisting local craftspeople to weave rattan chairs for the laidback lounge and cast 90 terracotta pots for the cactus garden beside the courtyard pool. It’s just the kind of creatively minded, locally rooted project that’s part of a sea change in the Caribbeanright now.
GETTY IMAGES / COURTESY OF MIDUNU
9. HELSINKI, FINLAND
The Scandi city emerges as a cultural hotspot
Forget the magnificent architecture and superb waterfront dining spots, if there’s one thing
Helsinki has in spades, its steely-eyed focus. In 2018, the city ploughed more than 99 million euros into its arts and culture scene, bolstering an already meaty offering of museums, concert venues and galleries. The result is a truly world-class cultural city – exciting enough to rival Cophenhagen and Stockholm – filled with genre-busting design spots and fringed by Baltic archipelagos which leave a satisfyingly salty taste in the air.
The newest art museum Amos Rex – pooling like molten silver below the functionalist Lasipalatsi – is a place where art and urban culture combine; while the long-standing Kiasma contemporary art wing of the Finnish National Gallery (once considered inelegant, now alluring) hosts cutting-edge exhibitions, showcasing the work of Finnish, Nordic and international artists. As part of a further 10-year plan, the coal-fired Hanasaari B power plant will be transformed into a large-scale cultural hub in 2024 (we’re getting Tate Modern vibes), attracting some of the world’s most exciting artists.
Elsewhere, there are bracing sea pools on the far reaches of the South Harbour (summer concerts are staged behind the pavilion) and a raft of alternative, outdoor museums, including the forest-filled island of Seurasaari, in Helsinki’s inner archipelago. Traditional celebrations are rolled out here come Midsummer and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Suomenlinna sea fortress shoulders cafés, restaurants and a brilliant little microbrewery.
GETTY IMAGES / TUOMAS UUSHEIMO
8. AMAZON RAINFOREST
The beautiful but beleaguered region needs the support of eco-conscious travellers more than ever
With its flooded woodlands and riverways coiling like fat anacondas, the Amazon – which stretches across much of north-western Brazil and extends into
Peru, Colombia and other parts of South America – has been described as the lungs of the earth. It represents the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world and is home to at least 10 per cent of the planet’s known animal and plant species. But rampant fires, logging, gold-mining and deforestation still pose seemingly unrelenting threats to this crucial natural environment.
Each felled tree and forest fire affects the communities who call this place home and while it might seem an understandable reaction to stay away, studies have shown that, when done well, eco-tourism is the most profitable long-term strategy for providing sustainable employment for locals and protecting the jungle and its fantastical flora and fauna.
An adventure here means bedding down on local house boats, camping in the tangled, dew-soaked jungle, and visiting community schools and indigenous villages. That’s not to mention the huge amount of
wildlife to be spotted, from rare pink dolphins to jaguars and chattering spider monkeys swooping through the tree canopy. Eco-lodges abound in the rainforest and new offerings for 2021 include Aqua Nera, the river-cruise outfit’s latest boat, which will glide along the piranha-filled Peruvian Amazon. Visit during the wet season (February to May), when waterway navigation is easier and you’ll find the riverbanks populated with migratory birds, while mating season brings the surrounding greenery alive with a cacophony of courtship sounds.
7. ACCRA, GHANA
Africa’s brightest city is shining
Few places on earth feel as energetic as Ghana right now, as its young creatives reimagine the country’s role on the global cultural scene. In the heady city of Accra, among the cool crowds and the burgeoning diaspora, there’s a growing sense of ownership of Ghanaian traditions when it comes to arts, music and fashion.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed. Dior’s most recent menswear collaboration – sure to become one of the most talked-about collections of the spring-summer 2021 season – involves a partnership with Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo. Seduced by the same swagger, a design-savvy crew has started to suss out Accra too. You’ll find them browsing the seafront Artists Alliance or Gallery 1957 for dazzling contemporary West African artwork. They can also be spotted eating whisky-marinated kushiyaki at Santoku, or gathering at ‘spots’ in Jamestown to nibble on kelewele (deep-fried plantain). In the evenings they’ll have bagged a table at Midunu’s forward-thinking Nomadic Dining supper club, run by innovative chef Selassie Atadika. The pop-ups – which have taken Atadika’s fusion food everywhere from Cape Town’s Design Indaba festival to banquets in Hong Kong – are held every quarter in secret locations around the capital. Each dish is inspired by Atadika’s extensive travels around the continent, with a focus on seasonal ingredients and sustainability. Expect to find grains such as sorghum and millet on the menu, alongside imaginative offal and fine seafood, all executed with the boldness that encompasses this increasingly exciting city.
GETTY IMAGES / COURTESY OF MIDUNU
6. THE KIMBERLEY, AUSTRALIA
Adventure travel on an epic scale
Australia has taken a battering in 2020. With hotels, lodges and campsites poised to reopen after some of the worst wildfires in modern history, the whole country was forced to retreat into strict lockdown when the coronavirus pandemic struck. But with luck, a Herculean effort and the support of visitors who are aching for its inimitable landscapes, 2021 should see the country emerge stronger than ever.
Clinging to the far north-western reaches of Australia,
the Kimberley is a sparsely settled place where the dust glows blood-red and aquamarine seas are teeming with sharks and saltwater crocodiles. Vast landscapes make this one of the most enticing adventure spots for 2021 – the region is almost three times the size of England, with fewer people per square metre than almost any other place on earth. Whether you’re heli-hiking to uncover ancient rock art, driving along the winding Gibb River Road or being pummelled by the waters of the mighty Horizontal Falls, marvel at the fact that these stirring landscapes have been well-trodden by Australia’s First Peoples for tens of thousands of years.
After a season’s break, the rejuvenated remote-luxe outpost of
El Questro Homestead will be reopening in 2021, while Western Australia’s ongoing Camping with Custodians project sees Aboriginal communities operate campgrounds, art galleries and guided tours on their own land. Elsewhere, the Dampier Peninsula – an isolated triangle of pindan piercing the Indian Ocean – offers a glut of go-slow campsites, including Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, an indigenous-owned spot perched atop crimson cliffs that jut into the Indian Ocean. A bumpy lurch south on unsealed roads takes you to Broome, an old pearling hub turned hip beach town. Here, the new Moontide Distillery makes the most of the monsoon rains that thunder down like cannon fire during the wet season, as well as local botanicals and its wonder ingredient, the gubinge fruit. At nearby Gantheaume Point, you’ll find rare snub-fin dolphins in the surf and a smattering of 130-million-year-old dinosaur footprints preserved in the amber-reef rock. And between March and early November, The Staircase to the Moon is an astonishing sight: the natural phenomenon occurs when the gleaming full moon casts a laddered pattern on the rippling mud flats of Roebuck Bay. 5. EL HIERRO, THE CANARY ISLANDS
The quiet Canary is singing louder
Shrugging off the archipelago’s unwarranted package-holiday reputation, the lesser-known
Canary Islands are stepping into the spotlight for 2021. The sun-blasted Spanish chain off Africa’s Atlantic coast – a network of black, white and butter-gold beaches – is home to awe-inspiring landscapes, from lush banana plantations to laurel forests. But instead of busy Gran Canaria and touristy Tenerife, it’s the smaller, more characterful spots that are rising to claim the Canaries’ must-visit mantle.
La Palma, the most north-westerly island, has a clutch of Renaissance palaces, charming churches and a stone town hall made out of volcanic rock. But it’s the meandering coastal roads – passing expansive calderas and swaying forests of banana – as well as its quaint pitch-roofed houses of pinky-purple, mint green, azure and ochre that leave a lasting impression. Lesser known, and therefore the island we’re most excited about, is El Hierro. A windswept idyll of Atlantic wildness – it is set to become the world’s first sustainable and self-sufficient island, ploughing eco-efforts into everything from energy to food. The mountainous terrain, which feels more like the Scottish Hebrides than anything Spanish (bar the climate), bristles with cacti and ‘living fossil’ trees, and 90 per cent of its coastline is made up of towering tar-black volcanic cliffs. Luxury here comes not in the form of flashy hotels, but of wide, open, unspoilt landscapes and tiny paradores serving up delectable small plates. Both islands are biosphere reserves (La Palma is home to subtropical forests), meaning large swaths are strictly protected. But this makes them a haven for birdwatchers, botanists and hikers, who come for El Hierros’ Bimbape rock carvings and the intense elevations of the Camino de Jinama trails.
4. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Modernist minimalism takes root in the desert
When it was announced that
Dubai would be the site of the Middle East’s first World Expo, there was no doubt that the City of Gold would pull out all the stops. Billions were ploughed into a vast host site double the size of Hong Kong island, and various feats of engineering were put in place (including the steel-domed Al Wasl Plaza, which transforms into a 360-degree projection surface at the push of a button). What could not be anticipated, however, was that a global pandemic would set the entire project back a year. But 2020’s loss is 2021’s gain. Now it is slated to launch in October 2021, and all hands are on deck to ensure plans are as tight as a fiddle string.
But as the city is busy flexing its organisational prowess, a whole host of design destinations are cropping up in the surrounding UAE. From brutalist hotels to minimalist converted clinics, these cafés, hotels and art sites are a far cry from the usual opulence of the Emirates. In Dubai itself, the understated Jameel Arts Centre takes its inspiration from traditional Sha’abi houses, while the exterior of multidisciplinary event space Concrete, tucked into the Al Quoz creative hub, has been dressed in polycarbonate cladding and glass and mirror aggregates, and
Form Hotel, located in the Al Jaddaf neighbourhood, is as pared back as possible. Finally, the ME Dubai hotel, which has the appearance of a gigantic misshapen cube, opened in March 2020 and is the only hotel anywhere to have both its architecture and interiors designed by late visionary Zaha Hadid. In Sharjah, the Sharjah Art Foundation is a clustered mix of historic Emirati architecture, modern skylights and glass façades, while clean-line concrete and gleaming glass shelter Random International’s magnificent Rain Room installation on a low-key city street. But it’s the Maliha desert’s strikingly simple Al Faya Lodge, a five-room boutique hotel and saltwater spa on an old petrol-pumping site, that is really setting the bar for the emerging sleek aesthetic, with locally sourced stone allowing it to hunker unassumingly in the stark surrounding of rugged mountains and sand.
3. MELIDES, PORTUGAL
With pristine sands, tiny village squares and, well, very little else, Melides is
Portugal but not as you know it. Right in the middle of the untouched Alentejo coast, this low-key rural hillside village is already being hailed as the new Comporta by those in the know. But there’s little in the way of boutique hotels and trendy art galleries here. Instead, deserted beaches and miles of vineyards, rice fields and cork oaks are slowly drawing in clued-up artists.
But while the cool crowd is already testing the waters – famous homeowners in the area include Philippe Starck – the area remains blissfully unshowy: you’ll still find locals passing the time with syrup-slow card games. Think of Melides as
Joshua Tree or Byron Bay before anyone else caught on; a remote creative haven untrammelled by travellers.
That said, there is some development here – Christian Louboutin is currently building a boutique hideout near the centre. Until then, pop into the butcher’s to pick up a roast chicken for lunch, then spend the afternoon dipping your toes in the waters at Praia da Galé, a stretch of beach with natural sandstone sculptures, a few snack shacks and lolling lifeguards, and not much else.
2. YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND, UK
The booming northern county bolsters its arty credentials
As well as being a (rather large) land of brooding moors and moody coastlines,
Yorkshire has long been an important arty enclave, with its renowned sculpture triangle and a long love affair with heritage artists such as Henry Moore, David Hockney and Barbara Hepworth. But beyond the famous names, a real grassroots arts resurgence is underway in God’s Own County. Crumbling old mill sites, converted churches and arboretums are being repurposed, regenerated and filled with studios, artisanal shops and restaurants. Holmbridge Mill – a redeveloped textile mill in pretty Holmfirth – is developing a new studio space for lease to local sculptors, painters and illustrators. Creative takeovers are also planned for Left Bank Leeds, a lofty-ceilinged converted Grade II-listed church, and London-based gallerist Johnny Messum recently set up a new outpost in Harrogate, while Leeds’ multi-million bid for an international cultural festival in 2023 means focus is firmly set on the county’s ever-evolving artistic credentials.
But it’s the highly anticipated, who-knows-when-it-will-happen, development of Bretton Hall at Yorkshire Sculpture Park that has everyone in a tizzy. Overseen by art juggernauts Hauser & Wirth, the hotel project will add to their pioneering galleries in Hong Kong, London, New York, Somerset and beyond. If the sumptuous arts-and-crafts vibe of the dazzling
Fife Arms in Braemar is anything to go by, this is sure to put Yorkshire on the international map. 1. SLOVENIA
Michelin-starred food and old-world wine make this an exciting up-and-comer
It’s somewhat mind-boggling that Slovenia – tucked between old favourites
Italy and Croatia – hasn’t been overrun already. After all, its turquoise rivers, glacier-fed lakes and soaring, snow-capped peaks are pretty enough to make even seen-it-all sorts weak at the knees. The country’s most famous landmark, Lake Bled, is more peaceful than any of Europe’s better-known lakes. But for now, at least, it remains blissfully unbusy; a place of wide-open spaces, splendid solace and restoratively pristine air.
But it’s the sustainable food practices and carefully considered old-world techniques that mean Slovenia is making itself known as a big-hitting foodie hotspot. And the hubbub is well-deserved – 2020 saw the launch of its first Michelin Guide, in which six restaurants – including Hiša Franko, helmed by Ana Roš of
Chef’s Table fame – were awarded a total of seven stars. You’ll find future-focused Alpine dishes on Roš’s imaginative menu – from goat’s-milk croissants stuffed with rosehip to roebuck sashimi with juniper and chestnut – while one-starred Dam in Nova Gorica serves exquisite local seafood.
This all comes ahead of Slovenia’s real moment in the spotlight, having been named the European Region of Gastronomy for 2021. Emphasis here falls firmly on ecological farming and sustainability – the capital Ljubljana is one of the greenest cities on earth – with locally sourced ingredients harvested from Adriatic salt pans, grown in gardens, foraged from meadows and turned out by the country’s ever-productive bees. Oenophiles are getting a whiff of its potential, too, with a staggering 52 grape varietals producing award-winning amber and natural wines. Zorjan’s Dolium Muscat Ottonel was recently named the world’s best orange wine by Decanter, and whole parts of the country – including the Lendava route in the east – are dedicated to the drink. In fact, the globe’s oldest vine grows in the Slovenian city of Maribor, and you’ll even find a sleek restaurant and wine bar, Strelec, on the top floor of the historic 12th-century Ljubljana Castle.
When it comes to bedding down, the folks behind Michelin Plate-awarded Pikol restaurant, a favourite of in-the-know foodies in Nova Gorica, have transformed the site into a
floating glamping village. Here, you can hole up in cabins on the lily-flecked lake, emerging only to trek around the surrounding forests and tuck into sea-bass carpaccio.