By Kissa Castañeda
Jan 21, 2022
“Where should I go in 2022?”
We’re betting you’re trying to answer this question by balancing pandemic practicalities with a sense of worldwide wanderlust. Allow us to throw a third factor into consideration: the best time of year to maximize your experiences of some of the coolest places on Earth.
That is to say, with the world–finally, hopefully!–at my fingertips in 2022, where I decide to go should depend at least in part on when I want to travel, a decision that will greatly assist in my advance planning, which some say is the best part.
No, really: A widely cited 2010 psychological study found that the happiest part of a holiday is anticipating and planning it, as opposed to when you’re actually lying in that hammock with the sun on your face and a cocktail in hand.
So, we’ve put together this list of 12 amazing experiences, one for each month of the year, so you can start mapping out your next sojourn for optimum enjoyment. Whatever happens, science says thinking about going should be enough to put a smile on your face.
Do an epic temple run in Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Cambodia has recently reopened its borders to vaccinated international travelers, which means it’s now possible to make that pilgrimage to Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world–and if you get there early enough in 2022, the magic will be multiplied by the lack of crowds. Here, you can learn more about the Khmer Empire, see the statues and bas-reliefs of Bayon Temple up close (restoration work is said to finish this year), and marvel at the sculptural tree roots intertwined with ancient ruins at Ta Prohm.
It’s an open secret that one must visit Angkor Wat at sunrise, and while it might make sense to explore the 200-hectare site on your own, booking a guided tour is recommended to gain a deeper insight into the UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as to access extras like a sunset cruise on the moat of Angkor Thom. Better yet, tap a specialist travel company like Inside Asia, whose “Into the Heart of Cambodia” tour starts at Angkor Wat then takes you to the forgotten temples of Banteay Chhmar two hours away, and ends at the capital Phnom Penh.
Celebrate the Year of the Tiger in Yunnan, China
From the Silk Road to the Great Wall, there’s no shortage of blockbuster destinations in China. Less trodden but equally impressive is Yunnan, called “the land south of the clouds” for its mesmerizing landscapes and a region known to be the most diverse in terms of people, cuisine and climate.
Our pick is the Old Town of Lijiang, a charming area located 2,400 meters above sea level. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has narrow, cobblestone streets lined with traditional Nakhi buildings, and the entire town is hugged by peaks including the imposing Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Whether it’s a meditation session with a Taoist Master or a taste of prized Yunnan black tea, Blue Sky Escapes creates immersive itineraries in Yunnan, a destination they’ve long championed. If you’re hoping to welcome the Year of the Tiger with a bang, don’t miss the trek to the Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s deepest and most spectacular canyons.
Go island-hopping in style in the Maldives
Courtesy of Patina Maldives, Fari Islands (2)
It’s hard to think of a better way to cure pandemic anxiety than a trip to the Maldives. Blessed with spectacular white-sand atolls, impossibly clear waters, and plenty of overwater villas to pick from, this island nation is a giant blue reset button for the mind, body and soul.
Following the maxim of traveling less but staying longer, it’s smart to split your precious time between several resorts, which is exactly the idea behind Fari Islands. This sprawling paradise on the North Male Atoll currently houses two luxury resorts–the first-ever Patina property and the opulent Ritz-Carlton–with a Capella Maldives planned for 2023. In this luxury mini-archipelago, you can hide away in your private villa, plug into a livelier scene at the Fari Beach Club, and get a creative awakening at the site-specific James Turrell art installation. There’s no room to get hungry either, with 17 bars and restaurants spread across the four islands.
Experience an artistic sojourn in Setouchi, Japan
Art immediately springs to mind when one mentions Setouchi, thanks to the world-famous Benesse Art Site Naoshima, which houses a strategically placed Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin and dozens of works by renowned artists such as David Hockney and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
With the pandemic putting a pause on many art events, the return of the Setouchi Triennale in 2022, running from April 14 to November 6, is one of the most compelling reasons to visit the southwestern islands of Japan. However, it would be a mistake to focus on the art alone. The best way to properly explore the many islands in the tranquil Seto Inland Sea is to set sail with Guntû—a stunning vessel with 19 wood-paneled cabins, a six-seater sushi bar, and a wonderful hinoki bath on board. This luxurious “floating ryokan” is pricey, but it’s truly one-of-a-kind.
Choose your own road trip in Sri Lanka
You can have it all in this teardrop-shaped island: beach holiday, safari expedition, spa retreat and historical excursion all manageable drives away from each other. We suggest crafting your 2022 road trip with specialists like Lightfoot Travel to cover more ground. For instance, their “Classic Sri Lanka” itinerary takes you to the tea plantations of the Hill Country, the ancient monuments in the Cultural Triangle, as well as on a wildlife safari in just over two weeks.
A thread you should weave into any road trip you curate is exploring the legacy of the country’s most famous architect, Geoffrey Bawa. The father of tropical modernism left a handful of structures dotted throughout Sri Lanka, the most impressive of which is Lunuganga Estate, his country home. If you can, time your trip during Vesak Full Moon Poya Day (Festival of Lights) on May 8, as the entire country lights up for a week to celebrate this Buddhist festival.
Sail Indonesia’s fabled islands aboard the Dunia Baru
Courtesy of Dunia Baru (3)
We’ve all enjoyed a slower pace of life over the last two years but if you’d like to dial it down a notch further, then charter the Dunia Baru. The 51-meter-long, two-masted luxury phinisi yacht is the perfect setting for a snail-paced voyage–yep, slow travel is the name of the game in 2022–and a comfortable way to traverse the rich waters of the Indonesian Archipelago.
Dunia Baru, whose name means “new world” in Bahasa Indonesia, sails anywhere in the country and also goes as far as Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Myanmar. The striking vessel was originally crafted by the Konjo, an ancient tribe of boat builders in South Sulawesi; it was masterfully refurbished by its new owners in 2020 and now designed to sleep up to 14 guests. Many epic experiences await—from snorkeling in Raja Ampat to exploring the Spice Islands—but you’re likely to discover that purely being in the open water aboard this superyacht is memorable in itself.
See the Horizontal Waterfalls in Western Australia
Aside from a wine journey in Margaret River or a visit to Rottnest Island to meet the lovable quokka, Western Australia is also a powerhouse of natural attractions. Flying under the radar is an impressive sight only to be found here: the Horizontal Waterfalls (nicknamed “Horries”) located in the Buccaneer Archipelago.
What is a horizontal waterfall exactly? It happens when a large volume of water is forced through the narrow gorges of the McLarty Range in Talbot Bay, creating a fast-moving gigantic tidal movement that has a waterfall effect. To fully experience this unique natural phenomenon, one can hop on a thrilling boat ride or even view it from the air. The tours are seasonal as only strong tides provide the full impact, making this fleeting natural wonder even more of a must-see for July in particular.
Escape to a private island and underwater paradise in Fiji
Scuba divers and snorkelers are spoiled for choice in the Asia-Pacific region with options ranging from the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines to the sparkling waters of Thailand’s Similan Islands. But if sumptuous seclusion and world-class diving is what you’re after, consider a trip to Fiji. Known as the “Soft Coral Capital of the World,” Fiji is also home to some of the best private islands on earth.
There’s Kokomo Private Island, a multimillion-dollar passion project of Australian real estate tycoon Lang Walker, which is located near the 100-kilometer-long Great Astrolabe Reef. Another choice is the six-hectare Dolphin Island, which exclusively hosts a maximum of eight guests who can snorkel at the nearby Vatu-i-Ra Passage. Whichever you pick, be prepared for amazing manta ray swims and coral restoration dives; maximum visibility is enjoyed from July to September.
Go on a vintage-themed scenic rail journey in Southeast Asia
We can’t think of a more relaxing way to get from point A to B than traveling on a luxury train. While Southeast Asia does not have an extensive rail network, there’s a handful of train journeys that conjure up the romance of old-world travel with decidedly 2022 amenities while offering a peek into hidden parts of the region.
The iconic Belmond Eastern and Oriental Express is top of mind for good reason. Guests spend the night in a retrofitted carriage clad in warm teak wood and silk furnishings, and the train travels from Bangkok to Singapore (or vice versa) passing through the mystical River Kwai as well as the lush greenery of the Malaysian countryside. A relatively new addition to the scene is The Vietage, which launched in Vietnam in 2020. The opulent carriages only accommodate 12 passengers, and the six-hour ride cuts through the pastoral mountainous region of Central Vietnam, taking you from resort town Da Nang to the less-discovered shores of Quy Nhon.
Experience eagle hunting in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains
It’s easy to see why Mongolia is on every adventurer’s bucket list. The country’s extreme and rugged landscape is a captivating backdrop to its centuries-old nomadic culture, which is vastly different from anything else in the world. Its primary travel season is between June to August, when travelers head out to Mongolia’s breathtaking steppes and stay in traditional ger tents.
Venturing into the glaciated Altai Mountains in October, however, allows you to encounter the legendary eagle hunters who spring to action at this time of year. Called burkitshi, the eagle hunters usually belong to nomadic clans of Khazakh descent. Customized itineraries by travel company Based on A True Story offers a unique insight into their way of life and an authentic immersion with this vanishing tribe.
Enjoy a royal visit and ride horses in the wild in Rajasthan, India
Known as the “Land of Kings,” Rajasthan is famous for its royal connections. While the list of palaces and historic forts to visit is long, you can hit two birds with one stone by checking into the newly opened Six Senses Fort Barwara. Housed in a 14th-century fort formerly owned by Rajasthani royals, the two palaces and two temples within its walls were carefully conserved and converted to become a hotel and well-being sanctuary.
Royal connections aside, Rajasthan is also an incredible safari destination and Sujan Jawai, a luxury tented camp situated in a billion-year-old granite rock formation, is just the place to see this side of the state. With a dozen indigenous Marwari and Kathiawari horses in Sujan Jawai’s stable, wandering the dramatic landscape on horseback is a wonderful way to experience the full magic of Rajasthan.
Embark on a spiritual pilgrimage in Bhutan
Courtesy of Aman (3)
If you’re searching for a destination that feeds the soul—and goodness knows 2022 might be the year to do so—look no further than the Kingdom of Bhutan. The “happiest place on earth” is home to ancient dzongs (temples), spell-binding nature and is far removed from the travails of modern life. December is a good time to do a kora, which means circular pilgrimage in Dzongkha (the Bhutanese language), by visiting various sites such as Paro, Punakha and Gangtey.
This experience can be arranged by luxury hotels Aman, Como or Six Senses, which all have lodges in different parts of Bhutan. Remember to make time for a whole-day hike to Tiger’s Nest, a monastery carved atop a rock 3,120 meters high. It’s a rewarding journey that helps you practice—and appreciate—the Buddhist philosophy of living in the present. What’s a better way to end the year than that?