4 vacation destinations for the new year

4 vacation destinations for the new year

Koh Samui

What despicable shenanigans will the entitled White Lotus guests get up to next? Little is known about season three of the soapy HBO show, set in an ultra-luxury fictional hotel chain. But we do know its setting: Thailand.

The new season is unlikely to be released before 2025, so now is the time to book a trip, before the wild tourism boom unleashed upon Sicily (the location of season two) visits the Southeast Asian nation.

A stunning beachside Four Seasons resort has stood in for the White Lotus hotel in each of the first two seasons, and the company boasts several luxurious properties in Thailand. But our money is on the Four Seasons Koh Samui, on a lush, mountainous island in the Gulf of Thailand whose waterfall-laced, rain-forested interior tumbles down to palm groves and turquoise coves.

Visit the Koh Samui Elephant Kingdom, a sustainable sanctuary for elephants. Courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)Visit the Koh Samui Elephant Kingdom, a sustainable sanctuary for elephants. Courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)

Visit the Koh Samui Elephant Kingdom, a sustainable sanctuary for elephants. Courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)

Once a backpackers’ haunt (it makes an appearance in Alex Garland’s iconic 1996 novel The Beach), Koh Samui has turned toward the luxury market in recent decades, and 2024 will be its big post-pandemic moment, with new island infrastructure, the arrival of the Michelin Guide, and resorts dropping new spas and beach clubs like coconuts falling from the palms.

Designed by the renowned Bangkok- and Bali-based hotel architect Bill Bensley, each of the 70 freestanding lemongrass-scented villas at the Four Seasons (from $843 a night) has its own infinity pool overlooking the sea.

The tragic White Lotus heiress Tanya McQuoid would have loved it here.

Kangaroo Island

It was a lightning strike that ignited the 2020 bushfires on Kangaroo Island, a habitat for Aussie wildlife and remote-luxury seekers off the coast of

Adelaide. And it was a turn of the winds that put the Southern Ocean Lodge, one of the world’s most iconic hotels, directly in the path of the 328-foot flames.

“Heart-wrenching” is how James Baillie, who owns the resort with his wife, Hayley, describes its destruction. “I can still remember the stench of the fire.”

The couple, who first opened the lodge in 2008, made the hard decision to rebuild. “If you look on the positive side, how often do you get to do something twice?” says James. “You get to tweak the little things that you wanted to do differently.”

Southern Ocean Lodge experiences in Kangaroo Island, Australia. Courtesy of Luxury Lodges of AustraliaSouthern Ocean Lodge experiences in Kangaroo Island, Australia. Courtesy of Luxury Lodges of Australia

Southern Ocean Lodge experiences in Kangaroo Island, Australia. Courtesy of Luxury Lodges of Australia

This December, the Baillies reopen a bigger and better Southern Ocean Lodge, whose 25 airy suites (from $2,150 per night, all-inclusive) form a wavy line along a rocky bluff to maximize views of the savage sea for which the hotel is named.

Wildlife guide Craig Wickham has chronicled the stunning Kangaroo Island rebirth through documentary video. Within three weeks of the blaze, “there were birds flying and animal tracks; this is flowering, that’s blossoming,” says Wickham. His tour company, Exceptional Kangaroo Island, takes visitors to wineries uncorking their first vintages from replanted vineyards and to watch koalas brunching in rejuvenated eucalyptus forests. In a world where climate-related disasters like those on Kangaroo Island and in Lahaina, Hawaii, will only become more common, nature’s ability to regerminate from ashes feels like hope.

Normandy

The mirage forms, unbidden, on Omaha Beach in Normandy: American troops waist-high in the water, splashing forward to storm the five-mile beach in the bloodiest part of Operation Overlord, the Allied forces’ ultimately successful gamble to open a front into Nazi-controlled France.

Luxe bistro cuisine at Ferme Saint-Siméon in Normandy. Courtesy of Ferme Saint-SiméonLuxe bistro cuisine at Ferme Saint-Siméon in Normandy. Courtesy of Ferme Saint-Siméon

Luxe bistro cuisine at Ferme Saint-Siméon in Normandy. Courtesy of Ferme Saint-Siméon

Now locals walk their hounds on the butterscotch sand. Tourists will descend upon the region next year as Normandy commemorates the 80th anniversary of D-Day. An impressive, immersive reconception of the D-Day Landing Museum opened last April. Balancing the gravitas is a comfortable quilt of coastal villages, filled in with orchards and dairies famous for Calvados and Camembert.

D-Day isn’t the region’s only claim to historical significance: These obscenely scenic landscapes played a part in the Impressionist movement in painting too. The harbor town of Honfleur was a favorite haunt of Monet, who painted A Cart on the Snowy Road while staying at Ferme Saint-Siméon. Now a Relais & Châteaux inn, it still offers ultra-cozy vibes—plus steam showers and shellfish towers (from $350 a night).

Egypt

“As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold,” British archaeologist Howard Carter wrote of his 1922 discovery in The Tomb of Tutankhamen. “Everywhere the glint of gold.”

For the first time ever, a century and change after Carter uncovered King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the entire collection will be reunited at a permanent home in Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum. Chronic delays have foiled the billion-dollar state-of-the-art institution better known as the GEM, much to the chagrin of travelers. The GEM is now pinky-promise scheduled to open by early 2024.

The spectacular Great Temple at Abu Simbel is not to be missed on a trip to Egypt. Courtesy of Abercrombie & KentThe spectacular Great Temple at Abu Simbel is not to be missed on a trip to Egypt. Courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

The spectacular Great Temple at Abu Simbel is not to be missed on a trip to Egypt. Courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

The country remains a top travel destination despite violence and unrest in the Middle East. “Recent events have understandably heightened awareness,” says Stefanie Schmudde, a senior VP at the luxe travel company Abercrombie & Kent. But as of press time, “all journeys to Egypt continue to operate normally,” she says.

Even if GEM’s opening is delayed further, the company’s 10-day Egypt itinerary offers a VIP glimpse inside the museum, as well as a Nile cruise.

This article appears in the December 2023/January 2024 issue of Fortune with the headline, “Where to go in 2024.”

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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