(CNN) – It’s never too early to start planning next year’s big trips.
National Geographic also got off to an early start, releasing its Best of the World list in late October with 25 must-see destinations for 2023.
Respect – for people and their cultures, for the land and its preservation – is an overarching theme in the list, which is divided into five formal categories.
The hope is that 2023 will not only be a major return to travel but also to rediscover wonders, said Amy Alibeo, Senior Editor at National Geographic Travel.
“Because when you feel intimidated by something, you treat it with respect. And that spirit is something we want to encourage on this list,” Alibio said.
The list focuses on destinations that have community-led conservation efforts, recovery and heritage trips, and ways for travelers to give back, as well as places that do important work in ecotourism, sustainability and inclusive travel.
Young dancer Nang Kyu performs in Luang Prabang, the former imperial capital of Laos which can now be reached by bullet train.
Kike Calvo / Nat Geo Image Collection. Kike Calvo / Nat Geo . Photo Collection
looking at society
National Geographic introduced a new category on this year’s list, replacing “sustainability” with the broader “society” category.
“It’s about expanding the focus on people striving to reach sustainable destinations and the different ways that are emerging, from making travel easier to supporting local businesses,” said Alibeo.
Sustainability was woven into each category a little more. The other four categories are Nature, Culture, Adventure, and Family.
The five destinations listed under the ‘Community’ heading represent a variety of strengths.
Ghana is listed as an important destination for travelers of black heritage in West Africa.
Alberta, Canada also makes the list.
“They were pioneers in indigenous tourism, essentially letting travelers learn the stories and ways of First Nations life here in North America” and their vibrant contemporary cultures, said Alibeo.
In Laos, the new high-speed train is making the country more accessible to visitors and bringing economic opportunities to local residents.
Alipio, citing Bronzeville, which is opening a cultural center focused on African American art, said Milwaukee, in Wisconsin’s Great Lakes, is listed in part because it has been “really supportive of its creative community.”
And in the Greek Dodecanese Islands, Karpathos is a prominent place for sustainable tourism led by women.
Big Slots, Small Crowds
The list is not without great new attractions. The much-anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum outside Cairo is making an appearance on Egypt’s 2023 list in the “Culture” category. Charleston, South Carolina, will soon house the International African American Museum, which is set to open in January.
The US wilderness is featured on the list in two categories, with an emphasis on getting away from the crowds.
Utah, where five national parks are a big attraction, appears in the “adventure” category in part for its efforts to direct tourists to some of the lesser-known areas to combat overtourism.
Slovenia, a “long-time leader in sustainable tourism,” pairs cycling trails with visits to vineyards, cheesemakers and other food producers in a way that makes it a place in the “nature” category with a culinary bonus.
The Scottish Highlands, Portugal’s dazzling volcanic Azores archipelago, and Botswana also make the “nature” list for their efforts toward environmental conservation and sustainability.
Small sperm whales in the waters around the Azores. The Portuguese archipelago falls on National Geographic’s list of the best in the world in the “Nature” category.
Andy Man Collection / Nat Geo Image
Family, adventure and culture
Columbia was in the spotlight with Disney’s “Encanto,” making it the right choice for the “Family” category. In California, the Crosstown Trail in San Francisco is another perfect place for a family adventure.
Speaking of “adventure,” this category also includes the Choquequirao region of Peru, an Inca site to rival Machu Picchu that has become more accessible and accessible and stimulates economic development.
And New Zealand, which has long been the capital of adventure, tops the list as the excitement grows with the return of travel.
The Austrian Alps also offer great opportunities for adventure within the Bergsteigerdörfer network of 29 mountaineering villages.
Asia, which has been slower to reopen from the pandemic, features prominently in the “culture” category. Busan, South Korea, appears in the category of shows from craft brews to Asia’s largest film festival.
While China remains closed to international tourism, the Longmen Grottoes in Henan Province also rank on the “culture” list as new technology draws attention to the world’s largest collection of stone statues.
Elephants graze among the lush waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, which appear in the “Nature” category.
Beverly Joubert Collection / Nat Geo Image
National Geographic’s Best of the World 2023 list:
Appian Road, Italy
Busan, South Korea
Longmen Grottoes, Henan Province, China
Charleston, South Carolina
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Revillagigedo National Park, Mexico
Dodecanese Islands, Greece
Trinidad and Tobago
San Francisco Crosstown Trail, California
Manchester, United Kingdom
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