Another year dawns, promising another 12 months brimming with potential when it comes to travel.
Our priorities might be different in terms of trips – some of us plump for hiking through untouched landscapes, while others are all about experiencing destinations through the unique prism of their food scenes – but The Independent’s travel team are all equally excited by the prospect of exploring new corners of the world in 2024.
Some places are obvious contenders for our hard-earned tourism pounds thanks to big, showstopping, landmark events; some are less attention-grabbing, but have piqued our interest thanks to more understated, under-the-radar charms that offer the allure of bigger-name rivals without the crowds.
Whatever manner of wanderlust you’re currently experiencing, here’s our selection of destinations to sate it for 2024: from world-class cities to blissfully rural regions where nature reigns supreme.
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“Build it and they will come.” The 2024 version of that aspiration is: put a place on the map by launching a night train, and see who turns up. Until French Railways (SNCF) announced that Aurillac in southern France would be the next destination for a sleeper service, I harboured no ambition to visit the prefecture of the Cantal department. Now, though, I can barely wait to board the train at Paris Austerlitz for a 13-hour, 350-mile overnight journey through the heart of France to Aurillac. This garrison town, population 28,000, is perched at 600m above the Mediterranean – which is 160 miles away. It is protected by a ninth-century chateau (though the Volcano Museum it houses appears closed until June). Aurillac is also well placed for a journey south to the coast – via the amazing Millau Viaduct, which I have yet to cross. A visionary transport secretary may be a mere aspiration in the UK, but France’s ministre des transports, Clément Beaune, sees Aurillac as just the start in reconnecting the nation de nuit. Simon Calder
OK, I’ll hold my hands up – I live in Kent. But I rarely stray further than my town of residence, Folkestone, or the surrounding coastal spots, something that’s definitely going to change in 2024. That is, in part, due to some major wine tourism openings happening in the next year. Opportunties to swill and swallow will increase when Domaine & Evremond in Kent premiers its first fizz in September – the first time a Champagne House, in this case Champagne Taittinger, has planted its own vines in the UK – along with the launching of a winery visitor centre in late 2024. Tudor Peacock has also opened as a Kent wine emporium offering tastings, events and a wine bar in a Grade II listed building in the village of Chilham; plus Wine Tours of Kent is running new Twilight Tours. Helen Coffey
I’ve wanted to return to Norway since chasing the Northern Lights from Tromso to Svalbard in early 2019. Nordland has been firmly on my go-to list since then, a county strewn with mountains, forests and lakes that bonds southern Norway with the remote north, cut through by the border of the Arctic Circle. The largest town in the region, Bodø, is one of the European Capitals of Culture (the first above the imaginary Arctic line), with a bumper programme of more than 1,000 events. I’d use Bodo as the gateway to the rest of Nordland, making journeys through the phenomenal Lofoten archipelago (over the meandering E10 road, via the bridges and undersea tunnels that carve up the Norwegian Sea), as well as hiking around fjords, visiting Sami landmarks and, of course, hoping to see the aurora borealis. If you want a show-stopping place to stay, the architecturally magnificent Six Sense Svart, on the Helgeland coastline, is due to welcome guests in 2024. Benjamin Parker
When South Sudan separated from Sudan, Algeria became Africa’s biggest country. International tourism has hardly troubled the nation, but it is gradually opening up – with a visa-on-arrival arrangement for visitors accredited with a local travel firm. In 2023 I visited for the first time and found classical ruins devoid of other tourists and the breathtaking eastern city of Constantine – a joy after the hard work of appreciating the capital, Algiers. But I have yet to explore the much-praised second city, Oran, with its spectacular Mediterranean location and mix of Islamic and French architecture. SC
Prague, Czech Republic
The capital of the Czech Republic is hardly a “hidden gem”, and yet I have somehow never managed to make it to this famously beautiful city, with its baroque and Gothic architecture, charm-steeped old town and castle, and wallet-friendly food and drink options. That’s set to change in 2024, when an extended sleeper train service will make it far easier for this flight-free travel editor to reach by rail. From 25 March, European Sleeper will broaden its existing night train connecting Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin to finish up in Prague. HC
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
In December 2023, the Tren Maya, 900 miles of partially elevated railway that chugs through Mexico’s’ Yucatan Peninsula (crossing five states), carried its first passengers, and should be fully operational by February 2024; it was travel writer Laura Sanders who grabbed my attention ahead of the inaugural trip with her comprehensive overview to all things Mexico mega train. What the new £22.5bn route represents is an easier way of getting to the heavy hitters that visitors love, such as Chichen Itza and Tulum, but also less-seen ruins, many overgrown with jungle, and Pueblos Magicos, culture-rich hubs officially recognised as “magical towns” – all while travelling in a train carriage, which beats a bus any day. There’s been controversy in Mexico over the environmental and social impact of such an enormous transport project, so my advice is to tread lightly and try to support local communities as you step off at some of the 34 stations. BP
Niagara Falls, Canada/US
On 8 April 2024, the Great American Eclipse will sweep across North America from the Pacific to the Atlantic. During the course of that magical Monday, the “path of totality” in which the moon blots out the sun will cross alluring locations from Mexico to Canada. While eclipse guru John Mason will be in southern Texas to maximise the chance of clear skies, I have instead bought a C$25 (£15) rail ticket from Toronto to Niagara Falls on the appointed morning. The aim: to dodge the eclipse-hunting traffic and find a location whose surroundings will make up for any disappointment if the weather is overcast. This concept worked for Dieppe in 1999 – a great day out on the beach beneath the cliffs, despite the untimely presence of cloud cover. And with New York State a few steps away across the Rainbow Bridge (from Canada, not Dieppe), I have a choice of nations from which to witness the greatest natural show on (and off) earth. SC
Already an incredibly attractive city break prospect thanks to its proximity to the UK, the French capital gets an extra injection of va-va-voom for tourists in 2024 thanks to its very high-profile hosting of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics this summer. Tickets are still being released for various events for reasonable prices, but even you don’t manage to get of a slice of the sporting action, it’s worth going just to soak up the atmosphere – plus the City of Light is always a beguiling setting for a chic weekend away. And it’s just a 2h 16m hop on the Eurostar away from London. HC
When I was younger, we never really went on holiday. Growing up in west Dorset, we lived where people wanted to go on holiday. It captivates me still, though I’ve moved away, from the county’s gigantic golden cliffs to the rolling hills that inspired Thomas Hardy. With a wonderful baby boy getting (terrifyingly) close to making an entrance, I’m excited to whisk the little man out of London and give him an early West Country fill. Dorset is brilliant for children of all ages – offering a swannery, steam train, Monkey World, fossil hunting, long days on the sand (or pebbles) – and has more than its fair share for adults, such as consistently good places to eat (Dorshi in Bridport, The Ollerod in Beaminster) and plenty of decent places to lay your head. It will be a getaway of apple cake and Black Cow vodka between nappy changes and lullabies – and I can’t think of a better place to do it. BP