Where's everybody going in 2023?
Wondering where to go for your next summer holiday? Here are the top rising destinations for our customers in 2023.
Summer is around the corner, and if you haven't picked somewhere to spend a week or two in the sun yet help is at hand. While you've been dreaming of sandy beaches and new towns and cities to explore, we've been crunching the numbers to see which destinations are on the up with our customers in 2023.
The top twelve biggest risers this summer include unusual city breaks, exotic beaches and even some old favourites that are back in the news, so here are some suggestions for where you should be heading this year.
Tirana | Albania
Topping the list is the Albanian capital Tirana. Increasingly popular for its cheap prices and warm hospitality, Albania has seen an explosion in routes from the UK this year as more people head over to take a look. While it might not be a classic city break, its Stalinist history and Balkan heritage make it a unique place to explore.
Start at the bustling Skanderbeg Square. Named after national hero Gjergj Skanderbeg who can be seen riding horseback in the square (albeit in statue form), you'll find some of the country's most culturally significant sites like the National Historic Museum, the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet and Et'hem Bey Mosque. Then head to the Bunk'Art museums, which showcase Albania's communist history in spooky underground bunkers, and the not-so-ancient Pyramid of Tirana that's bizarre and brutal in equal measure.
Cafe culture is a big deal, and nowhere does it better than Blloku. Once restricted to communist officials, this lively area is now filled with cafes, restaurants, bars and boutiques. It's the perfect place to people-watch with an espresso and a byrek – local triangular pastries commonly filled with cheese, ragù or spinach – or sample a glass or two of Albania's fiery national drink raki with trendy locals.
And while you're there, make sure to take a cable car up Mount Dajti, which offers the best views of the city. It's the perfect spot to wander around the National Park and tuck into the picnic supplies you bought at the New Bazaar. Or take a day trip to the Albanian stretch of the Adriatic coast, which is every bit as inviting as Italy or Croatia.
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Amman | Jordan
Amman in Jordan comes a close second. A few hours from Jordan's spectacular tourist draw, the red sandstone wonder of Petra, Amman has its own appeal this year as the Jordanian currency weakens significantly against the pound making trips there much, much cheaper.
The Jordanian capital provides a perfect introduction to the Middle East. Comparatively free from the tension of neighbouring capitals like Jerusalem, but perhaps lacking the grand history and monuments of Damascus and Cairo, Amman is a relatively new invention rejuvenated by investment and immigration. Jump into the melting pot for mouth-watering baklawa, falafel and mansaf, great hospitality, huge shopping malls, live music, world-beating festivals and buzzing nightlife shaped by the city's young population.
It's a great base for visiting nearby attractions too. The Dead Sea is an hour away, and a road trip further south will take you to Petra – considered one of the Seven New Wonders of the World – and Wadi Rum, both of which you'll recognise from big-screen blockbusters like Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
It's worth pointing out that, while Jordan is one of the few Arab countries where homosexuality is not criminalised, the LGBTQ+ community face social and legal discrimination not experienced by non-LGBTQ+ people. Jordan also scores relatively poorly on the Holiday Extras Good Trip Index for press freedom and women's rights – for more info on how to have a good trip, take a look at our Good Trip Index.
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Santander | Spain
Santander might not be the first place that comes to mind when you're dreaming up an idyllic Spanish getaway. It doesn't help that much of the historic centre was wiped out by a huge fire in 1941, leaving behind a city that doesn't feel quite as pretty or historically significant as heavyweights like Barcelona, Madrid or Seville.
But plenty of beauty remains, and the city's relative anonymity means it's likely to be much less crowded than Spain's famous cities – good news for savvy travellers looking for a more relaxed city break. It still boasts plenty of impressive attractions to keep you in awe for a little while, including the Palacio de la Magdalena, Santander Cathedral – lovingly restored after the fire – and the Centro Botín. But Santander isn't so much about sightseeing as it is about laid-back walks along sleepy streets enjoying sangria and seafood specialities like rabas (fried calamari) in atmospheric tapas bars.
And that's not to mention Santander's trump card – one of Spain's most picturesque coastlines, with sweeping views over the Cantabrian sea, rugged cliffs and sandy beaches. El Sardinero is the pick of the bunch, great for swimming, surfing and laying back on perfect golden sands. It turns out city breaks don't get much more idyllic than Santander – find out for yourself before everyone else does.
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Zadar | Croatia
Two years ago Zadar was an emerging Croatian city break, attracting tourists in the know who wanted to explore a medieval Adriatic coastal city without Dubrovnik's ferries, crowds and prices. As Zadar's popularity has grown more routes are now heading out there, but it's still pretty quiet as city breaks go so there's time to explore in peace.
A trip to Zadar's historic centre will reward you with ancient, beautiful landmarks from the ruins of the old Roman Forum to the stunning Cathedral of St Anastasia complete with a Venetian bell tower, which you can climb for panoramic views of the city. That's not to mention the excellent restaurants. Paklenica National Park is within easy reach too 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.
Zadar's a great stop-off if you plan on driving down the stunning Dalmatian Coast, which stretches from the island of Rab down to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. Along the way you could visit Split, Dubrovnik and plenty of UNESCO-listed sites, plus the route's easier now thanks to the new bridge from Komarna to Pelješac that keeps you in Croatia and bypasses queues at the Bosnian border.
Montréal | Canada
Bilingual Montréal in Quebec is proudly French, and you'll find all the perks of a Parisian and North American getaway combined. Old Montréal and its cobblestone streets, stunning architecture and charming shops and cafes has a European atmosphere, while Mount Royal Park was designed by the architect behind Central Park in New York and offers the best views of the city's skyline.
The city's famous for its food and its festivals. Parisian-style bistros sit side-by-side with vibrant food markets, microbreweries and delis, so you're bound to find something you like. A must-eat is poutine, a perfect harmony of cheese curd, gravy and french fries, as are the smoked-meat sandwiches and fresh bagels you'll find in delicatessens and bakeries around the city.
Summer's probably the best time to visit as that's when most of the festivals happen. Travel in June for the city's famous jazz festival, July for a giggle at Just For Laughs and August for the eclectic Osheaga Music and Arts Festival and Montréal Pride – Canada is second place on our Good Trip Index for LGBTQ+ travel, and Montréal welcomes the LGBTQ+ community with open arms.
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Turkish Riviera | Turkey
The Turkish Riviera gets more popular every year. As prices continue to fall relative to the pound, more resorts spring up along the warm coast and holidaymakers take advantage of beaches as good as anywhere in Europe but outside the post-Brexit paperwork of the Eurozone. Turkey is actually easier to visit than it was before Brexit since they cancelled the need to buy a visa on arrival.
İzmir, Antalya and Bodrum are all up this year, and from any of the three airports you can head along the coast to explore the little resorts looking out to sea. Ölüdeniz is a great place to start, as it's home to arguably the country's whitest sands and calmest waters. And history buffs should check out Ephesus, an ancient Greek and Roman city complete with the ruins of a grand theatre, library and the Temple of Artemis – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
If you're travelling to Turkey, be mindful that it's firmly in the bottom half of our Good Trip Index, scoring poorly for LGBTQ+ travel, press freedom, human freedom and women's rights. If you'd like to explore destinations with a higher score, take a look at the top 40 performers.
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Iași | Romania
Two Eastern European city breaks are up this year – Iași in Romania and Kaunas in Lithuania. Both are lesser-visited cities in their respective countries, and both are renowned as local cultural capitals, so visitors who have already seen Vilnius and Bucharest, or just want somewhere a bit quieter to appreciate art and architecture in peace, are making the trip.
Iași's highlight has to be the Palace of Culture, a neo-Gothic former royal home set on impressive grounds complete with fountains and perfectly manicured gardens. Nowadays you'll find the Moldavia National Museum Complex across its 365 rooms, which includes four fascinating museums – the Ethnographic Museum, the History Museum, the Art Museum, and the Science and Technical Museum.
There's plenty to see elsewhere too. It's nicknamed the 'City of a Hundred Churches', so you're in luck if exploring intricately designed cathedrals and monasteries is your kind of holiday. Or, take a stroll through Copou Park – Romania's oldest public park – to escape the bustle of the city and admire the diverse range of plants in the adjacent Botanical Gardens, home to 800 different varieties of roses.
Tokyo | Japan
For most of the last three years Tokyo was closed to visitors, so inevitably now Japan has reopened to the world visits are up. This summer Tokyo is among the fastest-growing destinations as adventurous visitors make up for lost time and head out to the capital.
Almost 38 million people live in Tokyo – that's more than the entire population of Canada and 11 times that of Iceland – so there's plenty of diversity across the city's 23 wards. Dive into the thriving heart of the city sprawl at the iconic Shibuya Crossing, surrounded by neon lights, ultra-modern buildings and people everywhere. Cosplay across the otaku-obsessed Akihabara district and its weird and wonderful shops and cafes dedicated to all things anime, manga and video games, then stroll through the tranquil gardens of the Imperial Palace and the forested oasis around the Meiji Shrine.
And between exploring top sights there'll be plenty of delicious food to tempt you, whether you fancy dining at one of 220 Michelin Star restaurants, slurping down a bowl of moreish ramen or grabbing a bite from one of the city's lively food markets.
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Sal | Cape Verde
For an unusual beach break Cape Verde offers the best of all worlds. Low prices, great hospitality and weather second to none are why Sal also makes the top twenty growing destinations this summer.
Discovered and colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th century and achieving independence in 1975, Cape Verde has a unique blend of African, Portuguese and Brazilian influences that really shines through in the local cuisine. Think seafood specialities like grilled fish, cachupa – a stew made with corn, beans and meat – and grogue, a traditional locally-produced rum.
Sal is the country's most popular island, which is probably because of the pristine Santa Maria beach that's perfect for swimming and water sports. If you'd prefer a relaxing beach, Praia de Santa is also on Sal and has endless golden dunes to enjoy – you might even spot turtles bobbing in and out of the crystal clear waters. And while you're on the island head to the famous natural salt mines of Pedra de Lume, where you can float effortlessly in the salty water.
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Chania | Crete, Greece
The Greek islands are ever-popular with UK holidaymakers, more so now than ever as they were almost the only places left open during the travel lockdowns two or three summers ago and lots of visitors got a taste for the islands. Crete's Heraklion has long been a favourite of British tourists but this year Chania, a smaller town on the north side of the island, is growing in popularity as sunseekers head further afield.
Chania couldn't be further from party town Malia on the east of the island. It's well known for its stunning beaches and rugged coastline and is dotted with laid-back resorts, offering all-inclusive luxury, self-catered apartments and everything in between. The old town is beautiful too – you could spend hours getting lost in the narrow cobbled streets, admiring the Venetian and Ottoman architecture and popping in charming shops and cafes.
It's a great base for exploring the rest of the island, whether you fancy checking out the ancient ruins of the Palace of Knossos or letting loose in Malia.
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Kaunas | Lithuania
As promised, Kaunas is the second eastern European city break to make our list. Lithuania's artsy second city offers everything you need for a perfect city break – historic sites, a dash of culture and vibrant bars and restaurants.
Your first stop should be the old town. Stroll through the charming streets towards Town Hall Square and admire the 16th and 17th-century houses, elegant town hall and baroque Jesuit Church that line it. Then, head to Kaunas Castle on the banks of the Neris River and explore its towers, walls and fascinating exhibitions, or marvel at contemporary artwork in the MO Museum and the works of Lithuanian artist M. K. Čiurlionis at the National Art Museum.
Make sure to take the 20-minute drive to Pažaislis Monastery too – this marble-covered baroque complex boasts beautiful frescoes and is arguably Lithuania's most significant architectural masterpiece.
Olbia | Sardinia, Italy
And finally Olbia, on the Italian island of Sardinia, is up this summer too. Historically, planes from the UK have landed at the main airport in the island's capital Cagliari, but now Jet2holidays are flying to the opposite end of the island and landing at Olbia the town is taking off.
Think of Olbia as an authentic and affordable slice of Sardinia that makes for a refreshing change to the purpose-built resorts that line the Emerald Coast. The piazzas and narrow streets in its historic centre are packed with cafes, bars and boutiques all to the backdrop of traditional Sicilian architecture. In classic Italian fashion there are ancient churches and museums to explore – the Basilica of San Simplicio, Archaeological Museum and Sacred Well of Sa Testa will tick the culture box and Pittulongu and its crystal-clear waters just a short drive away will tick the all-important laze-at-the-beach box.
While you're there you really should indulge in traditional Sicilian cuisine in restaurants and at the local market. Specialities include porceddu (suckling pig), bottarga (cured fish roe) and pasta dishes like malloreddus and culurgiones.Top