The 40 best trips for your 2023 bucket list
We're celebrating our 40th birthday, so here's our top 40 picks for a great trip in 2023.
Holiday Extras turns 40 in 2023, so we've picked 40 destinations we think you should see this year.
Lots of our top picks are places like Kotor in Montenegro, Dakar in Senegal or Tirana in Albania – fascinating destinations that broke out last year and are seeing more visitors than ever thanks to new routes and newfound popularity.
Some are the stars of our Good Trip Index – places like Sweden, Costa Rica or Finland where it's easier to have an ethical, sustainable trip. Others are places that finally reopened after protracted lockdowns, like Japan, New Zealand and Australia, and we've been keen to get back.
And all promise an adventure that will make 2023 a year never to forget.
1. Isla Holbox | Mexico
Our first pick as we go into 2023 is Isla Holbox. A tropical island that's just a few hours north of Cancun, Holbox provides relaxed vibes, great weather and plenty of natural beauty.
Holbox is the perfect place to go off the grid. The island is car-free, phone and wifi signals are spotty at best and Google Maps doesn't recognise many of the sandy pathways that connect the island. This means you'll have no choice but to put your phone away and relax on pristine white sands while taking in views of the crystal-clear waters.
You'll find excellent bars and restaurants in the island's only town, Holbox – specialties include, lobster, pizza and tacos. The island is also part of Yum Balam, Mexico's largest ecological reserve, so there are plenty of natural wonders to explore. Watching the bioluminescence at sunset, where spectacular blue flashes light up the shores, is a sight to behold.
2. Kuusamo | Finland
From hot to very, very cold, Kuusamo in northern Finland was another big riser in 2022. That's because new direct routes from London with TUI mean it's possible to get right up into the snow of Lapland in the winter and visit Santa.
Finland is 4th on our Good Trip Index, a great responsible travel destination, so for a winter adventure in the snow this is our top tip.
3. Gjirokastra | Albania
Some of our top picks are easier to get to than ever. That's not the case for Gjirokastra, an almost comically-inaccessible medieval town inbetween the Gjerë mountains and the Drino river, more than three hours from Tirana, the Albanian capital, or an hour from the northern Greek border.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the medieval town is home to unsually well-preserved Ottoman architecture, overlooked by a spectacular fortress and the perfect base for exploring the nearby countryside.
This year's bucket list includes two Albanian destinations – Gjirokastra and the capital, Tirana. Albania has been much in the news in 2022, and it's always interesting to see for yourself the places being talked about.
4. Milos | Greece
The Greek Islands have been far and away the biggest winners of the changes in UK travel habits after the travel lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Remaining open throughout much of 2020 and 2021's summers, British holidaymakers got a taste for the islands and now we just keep going back.
Milos is a remarkably unspoiled island, home of the Venus de Milo as well as caves, beaches, boat tours, catacombs, an ancient ampitheatre and a Venetian castle. Slightly tricker to get to than the main tourist islands – you either change in Athens or take a ferry and hop from island to island – Milos is best seen slightly outside high season. April and October are great times to visit, as you get the peace and quiet of a smaller island to yourself.
Our guides to the Greek islands
Discover our favourite Greek islands to visit this year...Find out more
5. Kotor | Montenegro
Kotor in Montenegro is an increasingly popular destination for UK holidaymakers. A beautiful old town on the Adriatic coast largely free of the cruise ship traffic that overfills nearby Dubrovnik, it's a chance to explore the coast without the crowds.
There are relatively new routes from the UK to Tivat, but the smart traveller flies to Dubrovnik, sees the sights there and then hops overland by bus to Kotor, over the Montenegro border, to settle in for a stay in this quieter, scenic resort.
6. Abruzzo | Italy
Pescara airport in Italy was one of the fastest-rising destinations in 2022 as holidaymakers flocked to this hidden corner of Italy – Abruzzo, tucked away on Italy's east coast.
The region is home to many of Italy's best medieval and Renaissance towns, as well as three national parks that mean approximately a third of the area is made up of protected nature, the largest concentration of wild flora and fauna in Europe.
But the thing Abruzzo is also known for is being cheap. The food is almost all locally grown (and therefore relatively sustainable), and the largely rural region is renowned as the cheapest place to live or visit in Italy.
7. Chişinău | Moldova
Eastern European city breaks are on the up, and the Moldovan capital Chişinău is no exception. The city suffered during WWII and the tragic earthquake that hit in 1940, so the Soviet Union rebuilt much of it from scratch. What you'll see today is a reflection of this – earlier grand architecture, brutalist modernism from the later Soviet period and the odd relic of pre-WWII Chişinău.
Chişinău makes for a great long weekend away. As well as having a rich, turbulent history to learn about, the food and nightlife are a real treat. You'll find a thriving cafe culture, superb wineries nearby and many street festivals throughout the year that bring the city to life. And thanks to its central location, the rest of Moldova is just a day trip away, so it's the perfect base to explore the country.
8. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of our biggest exotic Good Trip destinations – 32nd on the index for strong press freedoms and a good record on human rights and LGBTQI+ equality. If you're looking for a week away on a sunny beach paradise with a clear conscience, only Aruba scores higher.
9. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has recently reopened to UK holidaymakers after a period of political instability. Until the end of 2022, the FCDO carried a warning advising against non-essential visits. The situation here is still fragile, so it's more of an adventure holiday for the seasoned traveller than a hassle-free beach break.
But that said, it comes with many advantages. Still relatively tourist-free after the troubles, you'll have the resorts to yourself. The currency fared even worse than the pound last year (true only really of Sri Lanka, Turkey and Ghana), so your money will go further.
And if you're confident looking after yourself off the beaten track, it's a stunning country filled with both natural wonders and ancient ruins to explore – see our video below for what we saw last time we visited.
10. Pristina | Kosovo
Holidaymakers want to see new places. As the cost of living crisis bites this winter, some want to do it on a budget. Enter a wave of newer city breaks through the Balkans and east. Podgorica, Tirana, Iaşi – and Pristina, the Kosovan capital.
Kosovo is Europe's newest independent state, born in 2008 and still luxuriating in the novelty, with a monument declaring the country 'newborn' a centrepiece of the capital.
The city houses an architecturally remarkable library, regarded by commentators as either the ugliest or most beautiful in Europe (according mainly to relative fondness for elaborate concrete brutalism). It's also noted for its cafe culture, relaxed vibe and as a base to explore the rest of Kosovo.
11. New Zealand
9th on our Good Trip Index and therefore one of the very few long-haul destinations scoring highly for responsible travel, New Zealand is a bucket list destination for many UK travellers. It's also a mecca for Lord of the Rings fans, who flock to see the filming locations scattered around Peter Jackson's Middle Earth.
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12. Sardinia | Italy
One of the big travel themes for 2023 is exploring new, hidden corners of familiar destinations. Now Sardinia, a whole island in the Mediterranean, is hardly hidden – but as a potential winter sun destination for British visitors, it's surprisingly recently that its popularity has surged as people looked beyond the Canaries and Madeira for other options.
13. Rijeka | Croatia
Croatia's overlooked third city Rijeka is another hidden gem that rewards a more difficult itinerary than popular stops Dubrovnik, Split or Zagreb. A beautiful coastline, fascinating old town, hillside castles, a cathedral, delicious cuisine, maritime history and Roman ruins – this is a classic European city break off the beaten track, which you'll therefore be able to enjoy in relative peace.
14. Swedish sommarstuga
Sweden comes out top of our Good Trip Index, with great scores for sustainability, women's rights and press freedom. Our advice is to do as the Swedes do – go in summer, rent a sommarstuga (or lakeside cabin), and spend a week or two relaxing on the water while Sweden enjoys the relative warmth of the Scandinavian summer.
Sweden Travel Guide
Sweden takes the top spot in our Good Trip Index, meaning it's the greenest, safest and most welcoming country in the world. According to us at least.Discover more...
15. Boa Vista | Cape Verde
Cape Verde has rocketed in popularity as a tourist destination since we visited in 2017. Boa Vista is an island with its own desert, world-class beaches and resorts, whale watching and ancient tombs to explore all with the reliable weather off the African west coast in one of the safest and most stable destinations in this part of the world.
16. Agadir | Morocco
On the up in 2022, Agadir is a beach resort on the North African coast that comes in quite a lot cheaper to visit that the usual resorts along the Costa del Sol. It also has the added bonus that you can head out and explore Morocco while you're there.
It's definitely a beach resort rather than an adventure, but for an affordable week in the sun it's proving more popular than ever with Brits who might once have spent the same week in Spain, France or Italy and now want to explore further afield.
17. Melbourne | Australia
Closed for 2020 and again in 2021 to all but the most determined visitors, Australia's zero-Covid policy took Melbourne off the tourist map for two solid years. That's why in 2022 it was our single highest-rising destination.
A vibrant city covered in street art, the best coffee you'll ever drink, quirky shopping lanes to explore, amazing culinary spots, little penguins (yes penguins!) and the real home of Aussie rules football – you won't be stuck for things to do. Plus Melbourne is the perfect spot to take a road trip down the Great Ocean Road. Our top tip: hire a campervan and stay overnight at the beautifully wild Johanna beach.
18. Holidaying in the UK
With cost of living increases on everyone's mind and energy prices going through the roof, now is a great time to swap a more expensive trip abroad to a cheaper one in the UK. Always wanted to explore the spectacular Scottish Highlands, surf on the Cornish coast or visit iconic cities like London, Edinburgh or Manchester? There's plenty to discover right on your doorstep.
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19. České Budějovice | The Czech Republic
Love really elaborate castles? Already seen Neuschwanstein? Head to Hluboká Castle in the Czech Republic and enjoy a lesser-known masterpiece of eastern European architectural whimsy.
Hluboká Castle stands outside České Budějovice, the capital of South Bohemia. On the banks of the Vltava River, the city was founded in the 13th century as a royal city and its location on the river between Prague and Linz made it prosperous enough to build the squares, castles and civic architecture that now make for a delightful city break.
20. Innsbruck | Austria
A clear winner from our Good Trip Index, Austria is a great place to visit with clean records on human rights and sustainability, coming 6th on our index.
In winter, Innsbruck has one of Europe's best Christmas markets. It's also a great base for skiing in the Austrian mountains, meaning the city is growing fast in popularity for the winter months.
21. Zadar | Croatia
There's never been a better time to explore the Dalmatian Coast, stretching from the island of Rab in Croatia down to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. Traffic jams at the Bosnian border have long been causing a nuisance, but you can now get around this by taking the newly opened bridge from Komarna to Pelješac, keeping you in Croatia and on the open road.
If you're driving down this dramatic coast make sure to stop off in Zadar, one of the fastest-rising destinations of 2022. Its historic centre is full of ancient, beautiful landmarks – from the ruins of the old Roman Forum to a stunning cathedral fit with a Venetian-era bell tower.
That's not to mention the excellent restaurants. Plus Paklenica National Park is within easy reach with its astounding lakes, waterfalls and caves. It's a paradise for rock climbers thanks to the plethora of grand canyon gorges ready to be scaled.
Much like Costa Rica, you can have an exotic adventure in Uruguay and leave with a clear conscience. Uruguay comes in at a respectable 39th on our Good Trip Index, the highest of any South American country, and scores particularly highly for LGBTQI+ rights.
First-timers should head straight to the capital, Montevideo, which is home to almost half the country's entire population. It's a vibrant, historic city alive with art, theatre and music, from buzzing tango bars to booming beachfront clubs.
Those looking for a good time may also want to check out Punta del Este and its picture-perfect beaches, where it's quite likely you'll brush shoulders with celebrities in glitzy restaurants and world-famous nightclubs.
23. Mytilini | Lesvos, Greece
Not the last Greek island to make our bucket list, Lesvos offers everything you need for a relaxing escape. Think wide sandy beaches that stretch for miles, crystal clear waters and some of the most therapeutic hot springs in Europe.
We recommend spending some time in Mytilini. There are plenty of historic sites to see in the capital, including the Statue of Liberty (a bronze statue erected in 1930 not to be confused with the lesser-known New York monument), magnificent churches and an impressive castle.
After exploring the Museum of Modern Art, which houses works from Matisse and Picasso, head to one of many ouzeries for a glass of the famous Greek export, ouzo.
24. Rodez | France
It may be the elegance of the French Riviera that first comes to mind when we think of the South of France, but we reckon the lesser-known medieval city of Rodez is well worth a visit.
The capital of the Aveyron department is vibrant with colour thanks to the local pink sandstone used in many of its historic buildings. Rodez Cathedral, for example, boasts an intricate design with a flamboyant Gothic tower, and you'll find diverse architectural styles sitting side by side in the Old Town, from medieval to Renaissance.
There are plenty of excellent museums to explore, too. Discover the remarkable collection of carved prehistoric menhirs at the Musée Fenaille, sculptures and paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries at the Musée Denys-Puech, or head to the Musée Soulages to admire works from Pierre Soulages, one of the finest French artists of the later 20th century.
25. Kigali | Rwanda
Towards the end of 2022 direct flights from Gatwick to Kigali, Rwanda's capital city, were made possible. A newsworthy destination last year, 2023 is a great time to look beyond the headlines and discover this beautiful country.
The main reason people head to Rwanda is for Volcanoes National Park, home to some of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas. A safari through the 'land of a thousand hills' is an experience you'll never forget, but make sure you fully explore Kigali before your adventure. This vibrant city is a cultural hotspot, from music and film festivals to fascinating museums.
26. Sharm el-Sheik | Egypt
Sharm el-Sheik may well be the perfect beach holiday destination thanks to year-round sunshine, glorious sandy beaches and crystal-clear Red Sea waters. On the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, this vibrant city offers a rich culture, stunning natural beauty, and a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy.
It's one of the world's greatest diving spots – the Ras Mohammed National Park's famed reefs will introduce you to all manners of sealife, from hammerhead sharks and barracudas to pretty coral trees. It's also a great place for a hike. Nearby Mount Sinai is well worth a trip, where you can visit the ancient monastery of St. Catherine and explore the many trails that lead to the summit of the mountain.
Egypt scores dead last on our Good Trip Index, scoring especially poorly for human rights, press freedom and LGBTQI+ rights – below are some alternative winter sun recommendations that fare better on our responsible travel index.
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27. Rent a converted van
If you've scrolled TikTok or Instagram for long enough, you'll have seen the #VanLife trend grace your feed, where people have converted vans into plush tiny homes fitted with beds, kitchens and even showers so they can tour the world in style. Sounds idyllic, right?
Well, why not get in on the action by renting one of these converted vans, or even DIYing your own, and hitting the open road? Not being bound to a hotel on your travels gives you the freedom to go wherever you want whenever you want, opening up a world of wanderlust opportunities.
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28. Iaşi | Romania
Romania's 4th-largest city Iaşi is youthful and full of life, boasting five universities and a bounty of cultural attractions. The highlight has to be the Palace of Culture, a neo-Gothic former royal home built between 1906 and 1925 set on impressive grounds fit with fountains and perfectly manicured gardens. Across the 365 rooms you'll find four fabulous museums – the Ethnographic Museum, the History Museum, the Art Museum, and the Science and Technical Museum.
Elsewhere, there are beautiful churches around every corner in the aptly nicknamed 'City of a Hundred Churches', plus plenty of reminders about its Jewish past – the 17th-century Great Synagogue, Mountain Hill's Jewish Cemetery and the excellent Jewish Museum are all worth a visit.
There's no shortage of green spaces too – Iaşi's Botanical Gardens with its 800 different rose varieties and Copou Park, the city's oldest public park, make for ideal picnic spots.
29. Dakar | Senegal
Dakar, the capital of Senegal, has emerged as a budget alternative to the Canary Islands, and now has direct flights courtesy of TUI. It's five hours vs the four-and-a-half you'd take to Tenerife, and for a little extra time in the air you get the same reliable sunshine in a more exotic location, the chance to tick a new country off the bucket list and the same standard of service you'd expect from any resort.
The frenetic energy of Dakar's bustling streets is intimidating but equally infectious. Horse-drawn carts and shiny SUVs compete for space on packed roads, hip-hop and dizzying mbalax music blares through phones, radios and nightclubs and vendors vie for your attention in lively markets, where you'll no doubt come away with wares you didn't know you needed.
Those looking to escape the noise can do so on the endless stretches of sandy beaches that bless Dakar's coast, which happens to be a secret surfing paradise.
Senegal does however score poorly on our Good Trip Index, coming 116th in the world. This is partly because of weak scores for women's and LGBTQI+ rights, but also due to not being included in a number of the indices that make up our table.
30. Malham Cove | Yorkshire, UK
For this one we're heading up to the stunning Yorkshire Dales. This awe-inspiring curved cliff face rises 80 metres above the rolling hills and green woods of the countryside.
This unique landmark has been inspiring artists and authors for hundreds of years, but you might have seen it most recently featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One – where the main characters camped on top of the cliff's limestone 'pavements'.
31. The Wizarding World
Exclusive to Holiday Extras, it's now possible for Harry Potter fans to combine a trip to see the Cursed Child with a visit to the Warner Bros. Studio tour.
Ordinarily complicated to coordinate dates, this package lets visitors pick consecutive days for both, packaged with a hotel, and thus makes it a breeze to head down to London and see the whole thing in one go.
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See the Cursed Child and the Warner Bros. Studios Tour in a single, convenient visit.The magic starts here
32. Berlin | Germany
The opening of a new sleeper train from Brussels to Berlin, stopping off in Amsterdam and Rotterdam on the way, is about to open up more sustainable European travel opportunities. From 25th May 2023, you'll be able to catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels, stop off for a quick beer, then sleep your way to Berlin, arriving the next morning for breakfast in the German capital.
If that's not enough, the sleeper journey will apparently produce 75 fewer tonnes of carbon than the equivalent flight, making this a great route for the eco-conscious traveller.
Berlin is quite the city to wake up in. It has three UNESCO world heritage sites, three opera houses, over 180 museums, a delicious food scene, legendary nightlife and an unrivalled historical past, so you'll never be short of things to do.
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33. Kedarnath | India
If connecting with nature, rejuvenation and adventure is what you're craving, then the quaint and beautiful Kedarnath nestled high in the Himalayas deserves a place on your 2023 bucket list. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lush woodlands, the town is best known for the Kedarnath Temple, a popular Hindu shrine that's roughly 1200 years old.
Thousands of tourists make the scenic 16km trek from Gaurikund to Kedarnath every year, arriving at a peaceful area of natural beauty perfect for quiet meditation. If you're planning a pilgrimage for 2023, make sure you travel between 26th April and 14th November when the temple is open.
34. Volos | Greece
Can't decide if you want to visit the Greek mainland or one of its idyllic islands? Volos might be the answer. Volos lies on the coast of the Pagasetic Gulf, about half way between the cities of Thessaloniki and Athens. It's backed by Mount Pelion, which separates it from the Aegean sea on the other side.
It's a lively place with a busy waterfront, plenty of restaurants and a vibrant weekend nightlife. You can also take daily boat trips to the Sporades islands, including Skiathos and Skopelos.
35. Varadero | Cuba
Need a relaxing beach holiday in an exotic paradise to look forward to? Varadero, home to perhaps Cuba's best known beach, ticks all the boxes. Wide stretches of pristine white sand lines almost all 25km of the Hicacos Peninsula, which paired with the calming waters and abundance of top hotels creates a picture-perfect setting ready made for the ultimate package holiday.
You're also close to Varahicacos Ecological Reserve, a nature preserve that's been protected for almost 50 years, and Havana is only a couple of hours' drive away, so you can split your time between relaxing on the near-perfect beaches and exploring Cuba's fascinating capital city.
36. Santorini | Greece
Last but not least of the Greek islands to make our list is Santorini, which is one of the most popular of the islands for a reason. Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway, somewhere to take the family or unique black sandy beaches, you can't go wrong with Santorini.
It's blessed with spectacular views, the most iconic of which you'll find in Oia, which is adorned with whitewashed buildings, famous blues domes and the backdrop of the caldera below. Reserve a spot in a cliffside restaurant for uninterrupted views of the spectacular sunset, which you can enjoy with some delicious local delicacies.
37. Valparaiso | Chile
A few hours' drive from the capital Santiago, which you can now fly to direct from London with BA, Valparaiso is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.
It's built on 45 hills, which you can navigate using quirky furnicular lines that provide excellent views of the city. Rugged yet charming houses built using metal torn from shipping containers populate these hills, which along with the street markets and lively carnival atmosphere give Valparaiso a distinct character that's difficult to match.
Poets, painters and philosophers have long been drawn to Chile's colourful second city, so it's no surprise that you'll find some of Latin America's most impressive street art. The city also hosts one of South America's most renowned New Year's Eve fireworks display, so why not see 2023 out with a bang in arguably Chile's most unique city?
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38. Kyoto | Japan
Japan finally reopened to travellers in October last year after being closed for two years since the first Covid lockdown, so now is the time to rediscover this fascinating country.
Our favourite place when we visited was Kyoto, two hours from Tokyo on the famous bullet train. The former Japanese capital is home to temples, palaces and gardens that bloom with breathtaking pink cherry blossoms in the spring that are equally breathtaking in autumn, when fiery red, orange and gold hues take over.
Japan comes a solid 30th on our Good Trip Index, so if you're looking for a holiday that's both exotic and ethical this is a great destination.
39. Tirana | Albania
Albania's capital might not be a classic city break destination, but its Stalinist history and Balkan heritage make it a unique destination. The city has a distinctive mix of Ottoman and Fascist-era architecture, and pastel tenement buildings all overlooked by high, green mountains.
Tirana made our list of highest risers for UK holiday destinations last year as canny travellers headed out to explore 'Europe's last unturned stone'. Why not see what all the fuss is about in 2023?
The final entry sat at the top of our 2022 bucket list, and for good reason. The sheer diversity of experiences you can have in Turkey is difficult to beat.
Take a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia and marvel at the surreal fairy chimneys, or explore ancient cities like İstanbul and Ephesus packed with world-famous monuments and ruins. Relax on gorgeous beaches like Ölüdeniz or simply tuck into some of the world's best cuisine, from moreish meze to unbeatable kebabs.
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