The Best Smart Luxury Destinations for 2023
Sail the Nile like a Pharaoh, lounge like a White Lotus star, and spot lions from your private pool: All these experiences and more made our list of the best smart luxury destinations for 2023. So, rest up over the holidays, then ready your passport — the new year is sure to bring adventure (with indulgent touches, of course!) in droves.
Ahead, the best smart luxury destinations to visit in 2023.
Few landmarks capture the imaginations of world travelers quite like the ancient pyramids of Egypt, and thanks to a less-tumultuous political climate — plus a handful of new attractions, including the highly anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum — 2023 is the year to visit this bucket-list-worthy destination.
The best way to experience Egypt is on a luxury sailing with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, which is set to debut a new itinerary as part of its Generations collection geared toward families of all ages. As part of the value-packed, all-inclusive voyage, you'll enjoy seven nights aboard an all-suite ship plus a four-night stay at The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo.
HBO’s hit show, The White Lotus, is filled with self-absorbed tourists, flawed hotel staff, and even a dash of deadly decadence; however, it does make us want to travel. With season two taking place in Sicily, the Mediterranean island is sure to be huge for travel in the coming year. San Domenico Palace, Taormina, a Four Seasons Hotel (where the show was filmed), is already fully booked months in advance.
Savvy travelers will find equally memorable stays at The Grand Hotel et Des Palmes, a 19th-century villa that has hosted poets, princes, and musicians (Wagner composed here). Alternatively, check into the Excelsior Palace Palermo, which will reopen in the historic heart of Palermo later in 2023 following renovations. Also, for the best value, consider visiting in the off-season (basically any time except Christmas, Easter, or the months of June-September), when you can take advantage of discounted room rates and fewer crowds.
Santa Barbara, California
Calling all oenophiles (or anyone interested in sustainable sipping): Head straight to Santa Barbara. This coastal city in central California, known as the "American Riviera," boasts its very own Urban Wine Trail comprised of over 20 wineries. Also, Natural Coast, the first natural wine festival that’s all about Central Coast wines, will hit Santa Barbara in spring 2023. Not into wine? Drift Santa Barbara, a new boutique hotel that's centrally located along State Street, offers an incredible on-site tequila and tapas bar called Dusk. Beyond beverages entirely, access to one of Santa Barbara’s most mysterious mansions is coming in 2023, when public tours of the 1937-era Bellosguardo begin.
Stretch your dollar even further by visiting in the winter, when crowds are fewer. The weather is still warm and sunny (average temps hover around 65 degrees), and you'll be able to save hundreds on luxury stays at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara and El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel. Both properties are also offering seasonal promotions, featuring perks ranging from free breakfast and resort credits to complimentary spa treatments and waived resort fees.
As of October 2022, Thailand has lifted its last remaining COVID-19 restriction, and visitors are no longer required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. With the destination once again fully open, travelers will be free to fill the hundreds of new high-end hotel rooms found in the bustling capital city of Bangkok at a fraction of the price due to the low cost of living. Plan your visit anytime between May to October (AKA Bangkok's low season) for can't-miss prices on incredible accommodations and excursions.
Anyone looking for funky design and creative takes on Chinese and Mexican cuisine (yes, in Thailand!) should check out The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon, which opened this past summer. Or, hang tight for Thailand’s first Andaz property (set to open in late 2023), which will overlook the city’s leafy Lumphini Park. Similarly, the capital’s first Aman hotel, slated to debut around the same time, will serve as an urban oasis. According to its website, the Aman Nai Lert Bangkok will rise from a “verdant sanctuary.”
Visiting the Land Down Under? GOOOAAALS!: especially if you head there during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which takes place from July 20 through August 20. After kicking off in New Zealand, the fun continues in Australia, with matches in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney. Also, speaking of Sydney, the city will take a page from Austin, Texas’ book by hosting its own SXSW events for the first time ever from October 15 through 22.
Depending on where you go for a game, you could have your pick of new hotels, including Vibe Hotel Adelaide, Dorsett Brisbane, The Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne, or 25hours Sydney. Before you book, though, check each property's site to see if they're offering any grand opening specials, which is quite common.
Like New Orleans and Nashville before it, Memphis is in the midst of a boutique hotel boom. An ode to the bohemian energy of the Overton Square neighborhood, The Memphian is filled with funky style, including tiger art and sculptural giraffes clutching chandeliers from their mouths — and that’s just at the rooftop bar!). Also, keep in mind that the city is still somewhat of a hidden gem, which means you'll want to travel here sooner rather than later (read: before these swanky hotel rooms, food and drinks, and entertainment offerings start to rise in price).
Also filled with interior eye candy, Arrive Memphis boasts an all-day bakery plus a shuffleboard bar that hosts a weekly league. It's also telling that Hyatt chose Bluff City for the first location of its new Caption hotel concept, which is devoted to gathering spaces for both locals and visitors: Caption by Hyatt Beale Street Memphis opened in June 2022.
Known as "The Nature Island," the hidden-gem isle of Dominica has new eco-chic offerings for travelers looking for luxury and sustainability. The recently opened Coulibri Ridge is an off-the-grid tropical resort that stands out for its use of alternative power technologies to minimize environmental impact. Accommodations here feature personal ocean-facing terraces, outdoor rain showers, and private pools.
American Airlines recently added even more direct flights from Miami to the island, upping the frequency from twice-weekly to daily. This makes it easier than ever to enjoy Dominica’s rainforests and waterfalls — along with its nine active volcanoes and 365 (!) rivers. Also, the island is yet to be discovered by the masses (for the most part, at least), which means you won't find jacked-up food and drink prices or tourist-heavy bars and restaurants. Instead, travelers can enjoy authentic cuisine featuring locally sourced ingredients.
After two-and-a-half years of pandemic restrictions, Japan is finally open to independent tourists. Niseko, located on the northern island of Hokkaido, is primed to be 2023’s coolest ski spot. And, when you consider the fact that December through February is the most affordable time to visit the country, you'll want to book your ticket here, STAT.
Overseas travelers will finally have the chance to take advantage of Niseko Hanazono Resort’s new 10-person gondola (complete with individual leather seats!), as well as a new beginner run (called Juicy Fruit) and a new intermediate course (Colly’s Folly). Aman Niseko, a 61-room wellness retreat, will launch later in 2023. In the meantime, travelers can check out the new Sansui Niseko, a ski-in/ski-out hotel that offers mineral-rich onsen baths.
When it comes to destinations with safari lodges, South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania may spring to mind first, but a new pair of particularly alluring wildlife experiences in Zambia makes it the place to be in 2023. At Lolebezi, which is set within Lower Zambezi National Park, guests wake up to river sounds right outside their rooms. Even cooler? They also get to stay within a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s famous for its leopard population. Activity highlights here include game drives, walking safaris through acacia woods, river cruises, and fishing.
Puku Ridge is also new and offers indulgent luxury with mindboggling access to wildlife: sometimes at the same time. Tents have private decks with plunge pools that overlook a flood plain where elephants, lions, baboons, and giraffes are known to roam. As such, it's entirely possible to spot these majestic animals while enjoying a relaxing soak.
Baja California Sur, Mexico
Baja has been blowing up in recent years, and we're not talking about Cabo. In the state's capital, La Paz, Baja Club Hotel offers easy access to "The World's Aquarium" (which is what Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez) without Cabo's crowds and costs. Additionally, Fairmont Hotels plans to open Fairmont La Paz Puerta Cortés in 2023. This property will feature a spa and a "wellness village" — plus several beachfront dining options and three outdoor pools.
On the other side of the peninsula, Paradero Todos Santos truly leans into its reputation as Cabo’s chilled-out cousin. The hotel offers cacao ceremonies, gardening sessions, and rooms with rooftop stargazing nets.
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