We already know where's popular in 2023. New exotic beach packages like Gambia. Relatively unspoiled city breaks outside the Eurozone like the Albanian capital Tirana. Bargain sunshine such as Sharm-el-Sheikh, Enfidha in Algeria and the ever-popular Turkish riviera. Travel is booming this year, and these are the places already up.
But where's next? If you don't just want to follow the crowd to somewhere already on the rise but get ahead of them to the next big adventure, you need to know what makes new destinations popular.
We looked at the common factors that made the recent winners so popular. We found that most of the biggest winners were countries where the currency is performing weakly against the pound, so trips there have got cheaper, beating the cost of living narrative at home.
Where did everybody go?
Gambia, Cuba and Jordan were just some of the rising stars for UK holidaymakers in the first part of 2023.
Most were on the warm southern periphery of the Eurozone - partly because outside the Eurozone is where your pound will buy more holiday, and partly of course because the tit-for-tat post-Brexit passport queues, visa-waivers and biometric scans won't hold you up as you fly into Morocco, Egypt or especially Turkey (where it's actually easier to travel than it was in 2019 because they scrapped their old visa system during the pandemic).
And some are places that have new routes in place or that the big tour operators have identified themselves as excellent bargain beach break options, so they're offering loads of new packages. Dakar in Senegal and Banjul in Gambia are up simply because TUI is flying there.
So where's the next big holiday trend? Using those tested criteria, we can look ahead and see six very likely candidates.
1. Buenos Aires | Argentina
Like Turkey and Egypt before it, the Argentinian real has collapsed against the pound, to approximately a fifth of its 2019 value. Searches are therefore way up for Argentina as a destination. Officially, £100 will buy you about 18,000 real. In reality, a hundred US dollars, if you're willing to haggle and use the local black market, will get you about twice that in cash. Or you can pay by credit card at a special government-mandated "tourist exchange rate" intended to bring visitors in and get a highly preferential rate.
Hyperinflation has crashed the currency and created (yet another) debt crisis, and while that makes Buenos Aires attractive to tourists, it is causing understandable political and social upheaval for Argentinians. That said, Argentina remains one of the safest places to visit in South America. Compared to ever-popular Brazil next door, whose cities have some of the highest crime rates in the world. Buenos Aires is as safe as most European city breaks and one of a handful of places in South America where the FCDO and US state department align in not recommending extra caution to visitors. It's also reasonably high up our Good Trips Index, sitting in 46th place, especially unusual for such an exotic location
The "Paris of South America", Buenos Aires is 14 hours away direct with BA, or cheaper (and longer) with stopovers. The city itself is a vast melting pot of Argentinian culture and cuisine, so take in the centuries-old neocolonial architecture of Plaza de Mayo, the colourful - and eminently grammable - neighbourhoods of La Boca or Chinatown in Belgrano, Recoleta Cemetery, San Telmo market and of course a tango class or show.
The city is also a base from which to explore not just Argentina but also take a quick day trip across the bay to Montevideo in Uruguay. You can even get to Iguazu Falls if you're willing to spend 18 hours on an overnight bus or £300 on a connecting flight.
The Holiday Extras Good Trip Index
Leave only footprints, take only photos by picking destinations you can visit sustainably and responsibly.
2. Bay of Kotor | Montenegro
Montenegro is something of an anomaly in Europe. It uses the euro not by joining the Eurozone but by unilaterally adopting the currency and informing the EU that it had done so (it pulled the same trick with the Deutschmark years earlier and was forced to make the switch when the Germans did). The capital, Podgorica, is less than three hours away but the country is still outside the EU, and Tivat, where we recommend you actually fly in, is also a comfortable, short-haul, direct flight away.
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Why is Kotor going to be huge? For all the usual reasons. The bay is a natural wonder dotted with islands, and the main tourist haunts offer either budget accommodation in beautiful ancient townhouses and palaces or purpose-built luxury resorts strung along the beaches of the Adriatic coast. The whole region is unspoiled, and free of the cruise ships that tip out thousands of visitors in nearby Dubrovnik. And Montenegro is still cheap - using the euro means the local currency is strong and stable against the pounds, but food, drink and accommodation are very affordable.
Just as Banjul or Dakar were opened up to the mass market by TUI, Kotor is destined to be a big hit this year because the now-largest tour operator in the UK, Jet2, has piled in to offer package holidays there this summer. So you can fly there as part of a package and have it all done for you - or of you want to package it yourself, may we recommend the flight to Dubrovnik and then a short and gentle drive (or bus) down the coast road from Croatia, thus picking up a night or two in another stunning medieval town to kick off your holiday.
3. Kandy | Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has recently emerged from a long period of instability and civil unrest, but having come out the other side it is keen to welcome international visitors back and very affordable for those who take up the offer.
After its troubles Sri Lanka is, inevitably, very affordable. Local hospitality is eager for foreign money, hasn't yet filled up to its previous capacity, and prices have fallen accordingly. Most of the way to the other side of the world, this is clearly an adventure for travellers accustomed to taking care of themselves, not just another week on the beach - but if that's your idea of a great trip, this is your year to head out to Sri Lanka.
We visited back in 2016 and saw the temples, the Kandy rail route, the food and the culture of Sri Lanka - see our video above or travel guide below for what to expect if you join us.
Our guide to Sri Lanka
We visited in 2016 - see what we found and recommend for your trip
4. Abruzzo | Italy
Some places are going to be popular this year because the big tour companies have decided to fly there. The Italian region of Abruzzo is better suited to travellers looking to make their own affordable itinerary.
Italy is up in Google destination searches this year - top of the list, in fact, above even Argentina where a holiday is approximately a fifth of the price it was five years ago. Of our top-booked destinations, Florence is in the top ten, the only traditional European city break to have gone up rather than down. Paris, Barcelona, Prague and Krakow all wane in popularity vs trips to lesser-known Tirana, Craiova and Rzeszow.
Enter Abruzzo. Renowned as the cheapest region of the whole country, its four provinces are famous for local, sustainable food and drink cheaper than anywhere in Italy. About half of the region is made up of nature reserves and protected parks, so it may deserve its reputation as "the greenest region in Europe". The region contains preserved medieval and Renaissance cities, the Trabocchi coast and the walled provincial capital of L'Aquilla. In the winter you can even ski.
Flights are to Pescara - with Ryanair from Stansted it's two and a half hours for about £50.
Our guides to Italy
We've got original video guides to all the major Italian citybreaks - take a look
5. Kwazulu Natal | South Africa
One more currency that's performing weakly against the pound, thus making holidays here a fair bit cheaper than your standard beach break in Spain or Greece. South Africa is experiencing problems with energy security - that's driving inflation up, and the currency down. The rand is now worth 25% less than it was five years ago - not the sort of falls that we've seen in Lebanon or Argentina, true, but compared to the euro or dollar, a clear saving.
Safety is often a concern in the major cities here. Less so on safari - so head out to the savannah with the guides and lose yourself searching for South Africa's spectacular wildlife. Kwazulu Natal is one of the current hotspots for sustainable safaris, where care for the animals and the environment take priority, and compared to other safari destinations relatively affordable, especially given the new strength of the pound here.
Our spring is South Africa's autumn, so April and May see the transition from the wet season to the dry, relative cool, and fewer visitors. We're expecting travellers to spot the bargain soon and head out there in April and May, so if you're looking for a safari this year, now's a great time to head out to South Africa.
Where to go in April
We think South Africa's at its best in April - see our guides to the best destinations every month