We can’t wait to bid farewell to armchair travel and take to the skies again. To inspire global wanderlust, we’ve rounded up a list of life-changing, must-do travel destinations and experiences (think chasing the Northern Lights, sunrise at the Taj Mahal, and swimming with stingrays in Antigua) to add to your bucket list and New Year’s resolutions.
Travel Resolution: Verona Opera, Italy
Add to Bucket List: Held at the circa 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheater, Arena di Verona, the Verona Opera Festival is considered one of the most cherished and memorable events in Italy. Spectators bring small candles to light as soon as dusk falls and the lively performances begin. This year plays host to operas are Turandot, La Traviata, Aida, Nabucco, and Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci against a backdrop of three-dimensional sets, bright colorful lights, and enchanting operatic sounds that can be heard all the way at the back. The festival takes place from June 19 through September 4.
Best Hotel in Verona: Due Torri Hotel sits in the historic center of romantic Verona near the church of Saint Anastasia, an easy eight-minute drive from the amphitheater. Empire-style classic rooms feature hand-crafted marble, Murano glass lamps, and warm tones that spread throughout the walls and bedding. You can also enjoy panoramic views of the city on the restaurant terrace as you indulge in quintessential Italian classic cuisine.
Travel Resolution: Venice Carnival, Italy
Add to Bucket List: Known for its lavish costumes and masks, the Carnevale di Venezia, or Venice Carnival, dates back to the 13th century when the first public event took place. Enjoy live music, dances, parties, and performances by musicians, jugglers, and acrobats who take to the streets for all of Venice to enjoy. St. Mark’s Square is where the action, plays, and award ceremony for best-masked costume take place. This year the carnival runs from January 30 through February 16 but the hot tickets are giovedì grasso and martedì grasso, (aka fat Thursday and Tuesday), which take place right before Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of Lent.
Best Hotel in Venice: To elevate your carnival experience stay in a luxury hotel with views of the Venetian Lagoon and Royal Gardens and the Baglioni Hotel Luna, a one-minute walk from St. Mark’s Square, answers that call. Suites are ornate with gilt accents and guests are treated to a complimentary gondola ride. Dine at Canova Restaurant, a warm and cozy restaurant reminiscent of 18th century France located a few steps from the entrance of San Marco Square. We recommend trying one of their signature recipes such as Seabass Cubes with potatoes cream and saltwort.
Travel Resolution: Bullfighting Season in Madrid, Spain
Add to Bucket List: Madrid’s annual bullfights take place every Sunday evening at 7 pm from mid-May until October. Disclaimer: the sport is controversial as the bulls die, so do your research to decide if it’s for you or not. The best time to visit is May during Las Fiestas de San Isidro when there are daily bullfights along with flamenco dancing, open-air concerts, and fireworks. A typical bullfight features a paseíllo (parade), three toreros (bullfighters) dressed in traditional traje de luces (called “suit of lights” because of the sequins and gold). The entire event lasts around two hours and no, it is not for the faint of heart.
Best Hotel in Madrid: A 19th-century palace located in the cultural heart of Madrid, Palacio de los Duques Gran Meliá has an Elizabethan-style façade and historic garden where you’ll find Coroa Royal Gallery & Garden, a casual restaurant where you can enjoy cocktails, tapas, and special dishes of the day. Honoring the property’s sense of history and culture, the guest rooms are inspired by Las Meninas, a famous oil-painting by Diego Velázquez with clean lines and gold, white, and bronze accents. If you’re looking for complete exclusivity, join the RedLevel for access to the pool, terrace, private lounge, and more.
Travel Resolution: Singapore Grand Prix
Add to Bucket List: Part of the Formula One World Championship, the Singapore Grand Prix is the first night race, taking place on the Marina Bay Street Circuit from October 1st – 3rd. Experience the high octane adrenaline rush by sitting trackside in one of the event’s luxurious suites, where the drinks and food flow as the racing cars whizz by. If you’re not a total racing enthusiast, you’ll definitely get into the entertainment action with live performers from the likes of Gwen Stefani and Swedish House Mafia.
Best Hotel in Singapore: Raffles Singapore, which opened its grand doors in 1887, is one of the few remaining great 19th century hotels in the world. This National Monument recently underwent a meticulous, multi-phase restoration ushering in a new era of grandeur for the iconic hotel. Sip cocktails at the literary-inspired Writers Bar or head to the Long Bar where the famous Singapore Sling was invented in 1915, before sauntering over to the property’s new restaurants La Dame de Pic, BBR by Alain Ducasse and 兿yi helmed by renowned celebrity chefs Anne Sophie-Pic, Alain Ducasse, and Jereme Leung. We also highly recommend Afternoon Tea in the breathtaking lobby, shopping at the refurbed Raffles Arcade, and indulging in a pampering treatment at the new Raffles Spa.
Travel Resolution: See the Northern Lights, Lapland, Finland
Add to Bucket List: Located in the Arctic Circle, Lapland averages about 200 nights a year making it the best place to see the Northern Lights, a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors that lights up the night skin. If you’ve ever wondered what causes this illuminating natural wonder, it’s actually a collision of gas particles in the earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere causing the incredible colors. Fun fact: The Northern Lights are also known as Aurora borealis, or translation “dawn of the north,” and the Inuit Alaskan’s believe they represent animal spirits.
Best Hotel in Lapland: What better way to see the Northern Lights than by sleeping underneath them in an insulated igloo, which is an experience to remember offered at the experiential Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos. Electrically heated glass roofs will keep you toasty in your bed as you cozy up under the covers enjoying this amazing vantage point to witness Aurora Borealis. If you prefer to sleep inside the SnowHotel, it’s worth noting your bed is made from snow and ice (we’re not joking). The room may be freezing, but reindeer furs and sleeping bags intended to keep you warm in extreme conditions are all part of this bucket list experience. If you’re up for more experiential resort action read all about our favorites here. The igloos and hotel open seasonally from December through March.
Travel Resolution: Stingray City, Antigua
Add to Bucket List: If you’ve ever dreamed of swimming with stingrays in the Caribbean, Stingray City in Antigua is the answer to your prayers. These unique ocean creatures are actually very friendly and gentle, so you can expect to feed, pet, and stand by them. The sand is pristine white and the water is crystal clear, so swimming and snorkeling alongside these beautiful creatures will make for amazing underwater images that are bound to impress and inspire your Instagram followers.
Best Hotel in Antigua: With 87 luxury beachfront villas, Carlisle Bay Antigua invites guests to instantly switch to island mode. Each of the contemporary designed villas is equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows to provide breathtaking views of the sparkling turquoise waters and lush rainforest surrounding the property. The CARA Organic Beauty Spa also promises to enhance the chill factor with heavenly massages, body scrubs, and facials based on the spa’s philosophy of health, wellbeing and feeling fantastic.
Travel Resolution: Pyramid Sound and Light Show, Cairo, Egypt
Add to Bucket List: Take a step back to ancient times by experiencing the Pyramid Sound and Light Show, where the legacy of Egypt is brought to life. The history of the great kings – Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaura – is narrated by the sphinx, unraveling ancient secrets about how the pyramids were built. Epic.
Best Hotel in Cairo: On the banks of the River Nile, the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza in the heart of Cairo, offering access to the pyramids, a 1,000-year-old market, a 12th-century Citadel. Rooms offer epic views of the Nile, Cairo’s dramatic skyline, and come with a desert-inspired beige, white, and tan color scheme. Enjoy sunset and dinner at Bullona, the hotel’s sleek Mediterranean meet middle eastern restaurant. You can also enjoy the onsite spa’s signature treatment, Secrets of a Legendary Beauty–a Cleopatra Bath Ritual of hydrating milk, honey, and rose petals.
Travel Resolution: Sunrise at the Taj Mahal, India
Add to Bucket List: Sunrise is the best time to visit the Taj Mahal when there are fewer tourists and the morning light turns the mausoleum into a soft shade of golden pink. A truly magical experience, the Taj Mahal is one of the ultimate symbols of love, it was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 to house his and his wife’s tomb. The ideal time to travel to India to view the iconic Taj Mahal is March through June when the skies are clearest.
Best Hotel in Agra: The Oberoi Amarvilas, less than a mile from the Taj Mahal is a luxury hotel inspired by Mughal palace designs, think fountains, terraced lawns, reflection pools, and pavilions. It’s hard to beat seeing the Taj Mahal up close at dawn, but you can also admire it from every room here, especially those that come with a private balcony. Given the hotel is located in what used to be the capital of the Mughal Empire, it’s befitting that you should sample the recipes passed down from the Mughal Emperors’ kitchens at the property’s five-star restaurant, Esphahan.
Travel Resolution: Cherry Blossom Season in Kyoto, Japan
Add to Bucket List: Japan’s legendary cherry blossom season signals the arrival of spring and the season of renewal. The epitome of beauty and romance, visit Kyoto the last week of March to mid-April to see these fluffy cloudlike pink and white flowers in full bloom when they take over the city’s parks and temples. Some of the best locations to enjoy the cherry blossoms are the Path of Philosophy, a path between the Ginkaku-Ji and Nanzenji Temples lined with hundreds of cherry trees, and in the district of Arashiyama, on the outskirts Kyoto, where cherry blossom trees stun against a backdrop of mountains, bridges, and ponds.
Best Hotel in Kyoto: Set in the mountains, along the Oi River in Arashiyama, sits Hoshinoya Kyoto, once a mansion for the 17th-century tycoon Suminokura Ryoi, it’s now a tranquil resort with private guest pavilions that overlook the river. Your immersive journey begins with a 15-minute boat ride down the river past kingfishers flying downstream to your hotel check-in. In quintessential Japanese style, the bedroom walls are covered with Kawakami wallpaper and gold pattern detailing that changes color throughout the day. Cuisine inspired by the season and created with produce from local farmers allows the resort’s head chef Ichiro Kubota to create truly unique flavorsome dishes like charcoal-grilled lake gudgeon with sweet soy sauce or clam salad with a citrus vinaigrette.
Travel Resolution: WorldPride, Copenhagen
Add to Bucket List: One of the best places in the world to celebrate equality and love is WorldPride in Copenhagen and Malmö, which runs from August 12th – 22nd. The outlandish event sees people come together from all over the world, proudly waving their rainbow flags, in support of the LBGTQ community. City Hall Square, in the middle of Copenhagen, is where the opening and closing ceremony happens and there’s also plenty of colorful events like performances by well-renowned artists, epic parties, cultural events, a Human Rights Forum and the annual WorldPride Parade on August 21st throughout the city’s villages.
Best Hotel in Copenhagen: A trip to Copenhagen isn’t complete without a visit to the Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park and garden with restaurants, cultural happenings, and of course, beer. What better way to experience them than by staying at the Nimb Hotel located inside the park. The hotel is an eclectic mix of Arabian nights style and the nostalgia of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale (by the famed Danish author H.C. Anderson) with elaborate chandeliers, bird motifs, and a whimsical palette of mauve, white, and grey. When it comes to dining options, try green dining (a focus on fresh, local produce, organic greens, and sustainability) at Gemyse, classic French at Nimb Brasserie, sweet treats at Cakenhagen, and champagne at Bar.
Travel Resolution: Sydney Mardi Gras
Add to Bucket List: There are a million reasons to visit Sydney; its iconic harbor, beautiful beaches, fabulous international food scene, terrace houses, happy laidback people, and well, we could go on. Not that you need a reason to visit, but a fun time of the year to go is February when the weather is perfect and the city explodes with gay pride as it hosts its annual Mardi Gras Festival (Feb 19th – March 7th), which draws a huge international crowd. Every day there’s parties, events, and celebrations but the main spectacle is the Mardi Gras parade where colorful, outlandish floats and equally outlandishly dressed members of the LGBTQ community take to the inner city Sydney streets of Paddington and Darlinghurst in an exhilarating display of love, pride, and unity which culminates in a massive dance party usually headlined by world-famous gay icons at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Best Hotel in Sydney: For postcard-worthy views of Sydney Harbor, the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and a short 15-minute drive to the city’s iconic Bondi Beach, stay at Four Seasons Hotel Sydney. The luxury high-rise hotel is chic, modern with epic views of the harbor, city skyline, and historic The Rocks district, an outdoor pool and spa, and a sky-high bar and restaurant, yep with more jaw-dropping views.