Mt Tarnaki at dusk in New Zealand

Where to Go in 2022: The Most Exciting Destinations to Explore This Year

Our editors selected the top spots for your next year in travel

If 2021 was the year of diving headfirst into travel, 2022 is the year travelers will be planning their trips more thoughtfully than ever before. Endless months of rescheduled dream vacations allowed us to reflect on the reasons we love to explore and the joy and fulfillment travel brings to our lives. Now, as we navigate the many ways the world has changed in the past two years, one thing is sure: our appreciation for travel is at an all-time high. 

This year, TripSavvy’s editors compiled a list of the top destinations that intrigue and excite us. Some, like New Zealand, are reopening to tourism after extended border closures. Others, like West Virginia, have elevated their outdoor offerings to a whole new level. They all offer unique experiences that remind us why we love to travel and inspire us to start dreaming about that next life-changing trip. These are the flourishing spots that need to be on your radar right now.

People on a beach at sunset in Dakar with large white text that reads "Dakar"

Photo: Geraint Rowland Photography / Getty Images

The city of Dakar is a fascinating contradiction. It is at once a cosmopolitan and up-and-coming seaside rendezvous: locals pack its beaches at sunset with al fresco fitness classes; international workers and surfers sip cocktails infused with hibiscus tea known as "bissap" at its surf shacks; Dakar Fashion Week, founded by the designer Adama Ndiaye, known as Adama Paris, features some of the continent's edgiest couture.

But it also feels like a work-in-progress: gated mansions sit on unfinished dirt roads as construction workers pave them with cobblestones piled in horse-drawn wagons; diesel fumes salt the air from its thousands of jalopy taxis. Everything, from the leaves of acacia trees to your sneakers, is rusty with the red Saharan dust called harmattan, which blows through like a snowstorm between November and March.

Teranga is the civic motto here. It means "a sense of welcome" or "good hospitality" in Wolof, the local language of this francophone former French colony, and it is a personal philosophy for many Senegalese. And so they have welcomed creative entrepreneurs like the singer Akon, who is building Akon City, an $6 billion ultra-modern metropolis on its outskirts, that he has promised will be a real-life "Wakanda," but which locals skeptically see as a boondoggle.

Teranga drew in Kehinde Wiley, the artist. He was so charmed on a layover that he returned to establish Black Rock, a multi-disciplinary artist residence on a cliff of volcanic rock, to "galvanize growing artistic and creative energies that exist in Africa," according to his mission statement. 

But despite the energy of the new, Dakar's traditions beckon. HLM market in the eastern part of the city is a bazaar of thousands of colorful fabrics—fashion is practically a local sport here—and legions of tailors to make custom garments on the spot. On Sundays, the surfers drawn here by the classic movie "Endless Summer," which was shot here in part, clear out for sheep and goats, whom their keepers bathe in the Atlantic Ocean. It is part grooming, part spiritual practice in this predominantly Muslim country.

At nightfall, fishermen pull in white grouper (locally called "thiof"), and women grill it for picnicking couples straight on the beach; eat it with fonio, an ancient local grain that celebrity chefs like Marcus Samuelsson, an Ethiopian-American, are touting as the next quinoa. Or you can go for the more glamorous fare at Seku-Bi, a brand new boutique hotel in the city center where Naomi Campbell stays when she's in town. Either is good sustenance for clubbing, which starts ultra late here.

The city's history calls out: the bucolic Ile de Gorée, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a quick ferry ride past fishermen in brightly colored wooden skiffs off the coast. Deceptively pretty, it is where enslaved persons were stockpiled before making the deadly Middle Passage. A small portal in a cell there looks back at Senegal's shore, the last glimpse of home for kidnapped Africans, known now as "the Door of No Return." It is powerful to look through it at Dakar today. — Sarah Maslin Nir

Zurich skyline with large white text that says Zurich in the scene

Photo: Unsplash

While Switzerland's touristic roots primarily lie in the country's Alpine climate and landscapes, visitors would be remiss to skip the country's cosmopolitan cities—most notably Switzerland's largest city, Zurich.

Settled by Romans in 15 BC, Zurich has since transformed into a global financial center and transit hub, often a layover destination for visitors going elsewhere in the country. But next time you're passing through on your way to St. Moritz or Lucerne, slow down and take in all that's new in this easily accessible city.

Opened in September 2020, the Lindt Home of Chocolate welcomes children and adults alike to discover the magic of one of Switzerland's most significant exports. Creamy Swiss milk chocolate is the star of the show here, as visitors can gawk at a giant chocolate fountain, see the production process, and stuff their suitcases with souvenirs at the largest Lindt chocolate shop in the world.

With your sweet tooth satisfied, you could spend weeks on end immersing yourself in the arts in Zurich. Tonhalle Zurich, the city's 1,455-seat concert hall, reopened last September, and the stunning acoustics—among the best in the world—haven't disappeared. New nearby is LUX Restaurant & Bar, situated lakeside with a spacious terrace breathtaking views of the Swiss landscape. (Don't miss the spectacular Sunday brunch, where dishes like crispy duck bao and eggs benedict on a homemade bun are so good that you might be momentarily distracted from the views.)

In the industrial part of the city, art lovers have welcomed Licthalle Maag, the first permanent museum in Switzerland to show only immersive exhibitions. Viva Frida Kahlo remains on display through the end of February, with two more exhibitions planned for 2022.

And if you've been waiting to take in one of Switzerland's most important art collections, there's no better time than now. The Kunsthaus Zürich's David Chipperfield-designed extension opened in October, firmly situating the museum as one of the best in Europe. It boasts the most important impressionist collection outside of Paris, the largest dada collection in the world, and an extensive archive of native son Alberto Giacometti's works.

During your stay, shell out the Swiss francs for the Zurich Card—a travel pass that's good for either 24 or 72 hours and includes unlimited travel on the city's public transport network (including the cable car and the airport), free entrance to more than 40 museums, discounts on shopping, and extra treats in some of the city's best restaurants.

And before you depart, spend some time at the airport—Zurich has (wisely) followed in the footsteps of Singapore and other cities which have turned their airports into stand-along destinations. Riken Yamamoto's futuristic and bright Circle complex opened in November 2020, a sprawling modern development home to shopping, dining, office space, and two new Hyatt hotels. — Laura Ratliff

Image of a palm tree covered island surrounded by water with large white text that reads "Panama" in the scene

Photo: John Crux Photography / Getty Images

The isthmus of Panama is a destination that travel brochures cannot do justice. It boasts over 1,400 islands and innumerable paradisiacal destinations, but perplexingly, it doesn't invite quite as much fanfare as neighboring Costa Rica and Colombia. Acquainting yourself with Panama will be easier than ever in 2022, however, with Copa Airlines' recently relaunched Panama Stopover program, allowing travelers can explore the country for up to seven days on the way to or from any of Copa's 80 destinations at no additional costperfect for dabbling in the year's action-packed schedule.

Panama has committed to a five-year sustainable tourism master plan and beckons purpose-driven travelers to explore all of its extraordinary biodiversity and untapped corners. In early February, the capital city hosts AdventureNEXT Latin America, highlighting the adventure experiences on offer with positive environmental and social impact. After that, water babies can pack their bags, but not plasticas Panama was the first Central American country to ban theseand head over to the Caribbean coast for Bocas Invitacional, the first international bodyboarding competition and cultural event in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, which kicks off on Feb. 15, 2022. The event promises Afro-Caribbean music, calypso dancing, community, and beach clean-ups. While in Bocas (as the region is affectionately called), get away from it all at Bastimentos Island's Azul Paradise, a secluded water bungalow resort with swimmable azure waters, eco cred, and an unhurried pace. From May to October, the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park is the place to be for whale watching in all its turquoise glory.

All year round, once-in-a-lifetime feats await water-loving visitors to the sunny bridge of the world. Visit Panama to hike from ocean to ocean via the Camino Real, a route along which precious gold and silver were transported before the Panama Canal and Panama Railroad were built. Treat yourself to a catamaran tour of the boisterously blue San Blas Archipelago that's rumored to have one enchanting island for every day of the year. Bask under a never-ending stream (50 to be precise) of waterfalls at Santa Fe National Park in the Veraguas province. Some of the cascades are thunderous; others are meek—all are visit-worthy.

The capital, Panama City, also offers opportunities for dipping. Veracruz, the nearest sandy beach, is a mere 15-minute drive from downtown. The closest dreamboat island, Taboga, is just a 30-minute ferry ride away, and it once lent its good looks and tranquility to a then-unknown French painter by the name of Paul Gauguin. Bay-facing rooftop pools adorn Panama City's numerous skyscrapers and the old town's new developments, including Hotel La Compañía, Casco Antiguo, a living museum dating back to the 17th century. The 88-room luxury hotel swings open in March and will be the first Central American hotel to join Hyatt's Unbound Collection. Be sure also to relish the fruits of the sea while in the capital, which packs a powerful foodie punch. The toasted yuca with tuna carpaccio is just one of many lick-the-plate-great seafood dishes at Casco Antiguo's Fonda Lo Que Hay, which has a revolving menu and a no-reservations policy. — Rosie Bell

Two girls in traditional hanbok walking down a street past traditional houses. With large white text that reads "South Korea" in the scene

Photo: Prasit photo / Getty Images

If the popularity of BTS, “Squid Game,” and dalgona-flavored treats is anything to go by, South Korea is set to be a hot new tourist destination. And it’s well-deserved. Seoul, the capital city, has so much to offer that you could easily spend weeks exploring the city’s many delights, but the rest of the nation is just as worthy of your precious vacation time. As trite as it sounds, the offerings are so diverse there is truly something for everyone. 

Aiming to indulge in the glory that is Korean cuisine? You’ll be spoiled for choice from the moment you clear customs in Incheon. Want to visit a beloved volcanic island with some of the best tangerines you’ll taste? Jeju is waiting. Itching to get out in nature? Korea’s national parks have challenging hikes and breathtaking scenery, not to mention 21 ski resorts for winter sports lovers. Love to learn about the history and culture of a place? Beyond exploring the dozens of museums, Korea is dotted with lovingly maintained temples and palaces.

When you factor in the affordable prices on food and clothes, efficient transportation system, and welcoming people, the real question is why wouldn’t you head to South Korea as soon as possible? 

The JW Marriott hotel group also has its eyes on South Korea as a top destination: the company expanded its Luxury Collection brand into the country with the opening of Josun Palace last May. Later this year, it plans to open a wellness center resort on the lush Jeju Island. (If you wanted a more traditional stay, Josun Palace takes its cues from its neighbor, Chosun Hotel, one of Korea’s first luxury hotels.)

During much of 2021, the country prepped for the return of tourism by investing in infrastructure and accessibility. At the beginning of the year, Korail debuted a brand new, eco-friendly high-speed train and launched a new route from Seoul to Andong, the birthplace of soju. The new train cuts travel time in half, giving you more time to enjoy the delights of Andong, like one of their famous open-air heritage museums or the Andong Folk Festival. 

In September 2021, the Seoul Tourism Organization expanded its accessible tour bus and van services to foreign residents and tourists. Self-guided and planned tours in vans have variable costs, while planning tours on the Danurim buses is free, taking people to major tourist hubs in Seoul. This service is only for people with disabilities, the elderly, and infants. The accessible buses and vans are just one portion of the Seoul universal tourism scheme, a multi-stage effort to make Seoul accessible for all tourists.

Though travel isn’t back in full swing just yet, South Korea is one destination that just keeps getting better and better. — Sherri Gardner

Elevated view at valley in sunlight, West Virginia with large white text that says "West Virginia" in scene

Photo: Robert Stough / Getty Images

John Denver was ahead of his time when he sang that West Virginia was "almost heaven." The state has always been revered for its rich natural beauty, but in recent years, West Virginia is finally getting the recognition it deserves as a great place to visit and live. This is especially true for remote workers who take advantage of the Ascend West Virginia program, which offers $12,000 and an outstanding year-long outdoor recreation package to relocate to the state. The timing has never been better since the first phase of the Elk River Trail opened with 37 miles of forested trails running along the Elk River in Central West Virginia. The mountain state is also home to America's newest national park, New River Gorge, with camping, fishing, white water rafting, hiking trails, and jaw-dropping views of one of the most ancient rivers on the continent. All four visitor centers, a fishing area, and many trails and vistas are wheelchair accessible.

West Virginia is also home to a growing culinary scene, including craft breweries, homegrown distilleries, and restaurants like the Vagabond Kitchen in Wheeling, focusing on modern takes on traditional Appalachian fare with dishes like smoked chicken cornbread casserole and butternut ravioli with beetroot pesto. It's comfort food at its best, with ingredients sourced from local farms and artisans. Just don't leave the state without partaking in a pepperoni roll—a local staple found at nearly every convenience store and bakery counter.

West Virginia was front and center for many of the most critical moments of the nation's history, and the state has done a remarkable job preserving that heritage. You'll' find many places steeped in lore, like John Brown's Fort at Harper's' Ferry National Park, the site of an abolitionist raid and federal standoff. It's one of the 24 restored buildings from the 19th century onsite, alongside hiking trails, jaw-dropping views, and a fascinating visitor center. The walls of the 160-year old Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston have lived through Civil War raids and barbaric medical treatments, and many believe it's haunted. A guided tour of the building is a must if you're in the area.

There is perhaps nowhere that West Virginia's past and present come together more beautifully than in the state's vibrant arts scene. There are countless studios around the state showcasing artists creating traditional Appalachian glass, pottery, and jewelry along with contemporary artists forging new rituals of their own. If you happen to be traveling along Highway I-77 through Beckley, you'll find the work of over 2,800 artists on display at Tamarack Marketplace, so be sure to leave some extra room in your suitcase.

If you're planning your visit, Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs encompasses the best that West Virginia has to offer. Surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, the views are stunning year-round. This is a historic hotel, initially founded in 1858, with an award-winning golf course, a casino, and a mineral spa. In the first quarter of 2022, another hotly anticipated hotel, The Schoolhouse, is scheduled to open in White Sulphur Springs, transforming a historic schoolhouse building into the world's first fully-accessible hotel. Each of the 30 rooms will be wheelchair accessible, because it isn't "almost heaven" until everyone is included. — Tamara Gane

Doha skyline with boats on the water with large white text that says DOHA in the scene

Photo: Fitria Ramli / EyeEm / Getty Images

Qatar is currently the most buzzing place in the Middle East. Hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the country's infrastructure has been growing at a rate that warrants several visits simply to appreciate the changes that can take part in such a short time. While it is rare that you'd look at a football stadium as a piece of architecture, some of the world's best architects have been given free rein here, and the results, such as the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah by Zaha Hadid Architects, are superb. 

Apart from the nation's football fever lies its art scene. Qatar has invested money into world-class museums more than any other Arabian country, with the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art firmly at the top, alongside incredible public art installations that stand unrivaled. From the numerous artworks from top artists such as Small Lie by KAWS and COSMOS by Jean-Michel Othoniel within Hamad International Airport to the minimalistic but breathtaking East-West West-East installation by Richard Serra with its four large steel plates standing in the middle of the desert, there is art wherever you look.

The design hub Mshereib is becoming the city's trendiest quarter, with M7 at its heart, hosting superb design exhibitions, such as Christian Dior Designer of Dreams, on view until March 31, 2022. Within the quarter's minimalist architecture lies the elegant Mandarin Oriental Hotel, steps away from the cafes and art galleries, as well as Souq Waqif, the traditional souq, or marketplace, where you can shop, learn about falconry, and get up close and personal with not only Arabian thoroughbred horses but also thoroughbred camels. For a more boutique stay, head to Souq Waqif Hotel Qatar by Tivoli, spread across several townhouses for an intimate experience.

While Qatar is openly cosmopolitan, with top international restaurants, there is nothing quite like sampling the local cuisine to get a feel for a country. For lunch on the run, pop into one of the many small restaurants and juice stalls within Souq Waqif and ask for a traditional machboos rice dish. For a more sophisticated experience, head straight to Jiwan, inside the desert rose-shaped National Museum of Qatar, for delicious Qatari fusion food with a great view across the entire city.

In preparation for the anticipated influx of visitors in 2022, several new hotels are being opened to complement the city's already superb choices. In Lusail, just north of Doha City Centre, the dual-brand Fairmont Hotel and Raffles Hotel & Residences coming to the open circle building this year will dominate the skyline of Lusail, alongside the city's first Rosewood Hotel Lusail, whose sleek décor is inspired by coral.

Wherever you look, Doha offers an intriguing mix of modern amenities and experiences enhanced by local culture and traditions. — Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey

Hiker stands on Roy's Peak with hands in the air overlooking mountain range. Large white text reads "New Zealand"

Photo: Worawat Dechatiwong / Getty Images

When New Zealand's borders closed in March 2020, few Kiwis imagined they would still be closed almost two years later. Now, as the world enters a third pandemic year, New Zealand is tentatively looking to open again to international visitors, albeit in a staged, controlled manner. With more than 90 percent of adult Kiwis vaccinated, mask mandates for most public indoor settings, and vaccination mandates covering workers in many public-facing roles, when the borders open, vaccinated visitors can be confident that travel in New Zealand will be about as low-risk as possible during an ongoing pandemic.

But where to go? A logical way to plan a trip is to pick either the North Island or the South Island, as doing them both justices would take a month or longer.

With the capital (Wellington), the largest city (Auckland), and the bulk of the country's population (4 million out of 5 million), the North Island is a logical choice for travelers who want to see and do a lot in a shorter time. While many visitors fly into Auckland and travel south from there–to well-known favorites like Waitomo, Rotorua, and Wellington–in 2022, it makes sense to head north to Northland.

In an era of Covid-related closures, the Northland city of Whangarei will see the opening of a fabulous new museum in February 2022: the Hundertwasser Art Centre. The Austrian-born New Zealand artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) spent the last two decades living in the rural Bay of Islands, north of Whangarei. His plans for Whangarei's art center weren't realized in his lifetime but have been followed meticulously over the last few years. The tiled, gold-domed museum at Whangarei's Town Basin marina rivals any of his buildings in Vienna and will contain exhibits on Hundertwasser's art and the Wairau Māori Art Gallery. Previews of the on-site Aqua Restaurant and Bar give it rave reviews.

Te Waipounamu, the South Island, is the island of choice for those who prefer immersion in nature. The snow-capped Southern Alps form the island's backbone, providing the rivers, glaciers, ski fields, hiking and mountain biking trails, and incredible views. The lack of international tourists has been challenging for remote tourist-oriented towns such as Queenstown, Franz Josef, and Mt. Cook Village.

Hiking enthusiasts have an extra reason to visit the South Island in 2022: the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track in Southland/Fiordland is a step closer to becoming one of the Department of Conservation's dedicated Great Walks of New Zealand. The pandemic has led to delays, and the three-day trail may not be inaugurated into the Great Walks list until 2023-24, but it can still be hiked. Beat the crowds by getting in early in 2022.

If that sounds like hard work, some R&R in Queenstown may be preferable. With views across Lake Wakatipu and to the Remarkables range from many west-facing rooms, you don't even need to fling yourself off a bridge (bungee jumping), down a river (rafting) or waterfall (canyoning), or into the skies (paragliding) to experience Queenstown's best. Five-star Hulbert House Boutique Hotel offers the kind of understated luxury that many travelers love about New Zealand.

If New Zealand's been on your bucket list for years, this is the year to scratch that itch. — Elen Turner