Kruger Shalati’s suspended pool (Photo: Courtesy Kruger Shalati)

Where to Travel Next: The Best Trips for the Explorer on Your List

Our experts sought out epic adventures in every landscape, from new desert outposts to off-the-grid wellness retreats, with plenty of trails, beaches, and base camps—all perfect to give or get

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

As I write this, the Delta variant is raging through the U.S., and here in New Mexico, another mask mandate has gone into effect, requiring everyone to once again cover their faces in public indoor spaces. Like most of you, I was vaccinated last spring, and afterward I enjoyed a summer in which the world reopened and seemed to return to a blissfully abnormal sense of normalcy. Now it feels like we’re back where we started. In fact, a colleague recently posed a question that gave me an immediate—and depressing—sense of déjà vu: Should we still go ahead with this issue’s annual Best Trips of the Year coverage, considering everything that’s happening in the country and around the world?

The first time we wrestled with that question, in March 2020, I recall several weeks of hand-wringing with senior editor Erin Riley and deputy editor Mary Turner, who have deftly handled Outside’s travel coverage during the pandemic. This time, though, the right answer feels immediately clear: of course we should. It’s true that a resurgence of COVID-19 will force all of us to make difficult decisions about whether to travel in the months ahead. It’s also true that the pandemic hasn’t dulled Americans’ desire for adventure—if anything, the longing to explore the world again when it’s safe has intensified. We saw a glimpse of this pent-up demand over the summer, in the form of overflowing crowds at our national parks, record-breaking airline bookings, and twice as much travel-related search traffic on Google. Travel may be on pause again, but our collective need to plan epic trips will never let up.

That explains why we decided to move forward with this idea-laden travel feature, with 30 awesome trips around the globe. It also explains why, despite the pandemic’s return, we’re excited to announce a new 2022 partnership with Modern Adventure, a company run by a savvy team of travel veterans who design unique itineraries around the globe. We’ve joined forces to offer four classic, life-list trips—in Alaska, the French Alps, Chilean Patagonia, and Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Each inaugural departure will be accompanied by an Outside editor. That’s good news for me: I’ll be heading to Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska with some of you next August for seven days of backpacking. And it’s great news for Outside+ members, who get a $200 discount on booking. (Scroll down or go here to read more about the trips and for information on how to sign up.)

Meanwhile, don’t worry: if you miss out on these four inaugural expeditions with our editors, Modern Adventure is also offering additional departure dates for Alaska, Chilean Patagonia, and Nepal in 2022 and 2023. After all, no one knows what the travel outlook will be next year, but that shouldn’t stop us from dreaming big. —Christopher Keyes, editor in chief

Desolation Sound (Photo: Courtesy Klahoose Wilderness Resort)
Klahoose Wilderness Resort (Photo: Regan Hatley)

Sunshine Coast, Desolation Sound, British Columbia

For a totally immersive experience of Indigenous culture, spend a few nights on a remote stretch of Canada’s Pacific coast at Klahoose Wilderness Resort. Located on the First Nation tribe’s territory, under the shadow of the Coast Mountains near Toba Inlet, the area is one of the province’s best destinations for viewing grizzly bears. Accessible only by boat, the lodge feels worlds away from Vancouver, which is roughly 100 miles south as the crow flies. The major difference between Klahoose and most other B.C. wilderness lodges is that its activities—from sea kayaking to bear viewing to rainforest hikes—are guided by Klahoose First Nations members, who share their deep knowledge of the region and traditional teachings with clients.

In 2020, the small tribe (there are 400 members, most of whom still live in the nearby village of Squirrel Cove) purchased the property, formerly known as Homfray Lodge, and updated the rooms with tribal artwork and other Native touches. At the end of a day exploring, jump off the resort’s dock into the warmest water north of Mexico—at times as high as 75 degrees—the effect of a shallow convergence of seas and tides within the sound. Then indulge in a meal featuring locally sourced seafood such as salmon, mussels, oysters, and clams. All-inclusive three-night packages, with boat transportation from the town of Lund, from $2,045 —Stephanie Pearson

3 Spear Ranch (Photo: Courtesy 3 Spear Ranch)
3 Spear Ranch’s lobby (Photo: Courtesy 3 Spear Ranch)

Dubois, Wyoming

An unlikely team of Juilliard School grads and U.S. buzkashi players (think polo, but with a goat carcass for a ball) oversee the adventure excursions at 3 Spear Ranch, located in the Wild West town of Dubois, 90 minutes east of Jackson. The eight-cabin, 1,700-acre property was recently purchased and renovated by Creed Garnick, an actor and former bull rider who hails from one of the oldest ranching families in the state. You won’t find nose-to-tail trail trots here. By day, wranglers guide you on one- to five-hour-long horseback excursions tailored to riders’ abilities. At night you’ll soak in hot springs, dine on local game, and listen to live folk music on the lawn. From $400 —Jen Murphy

Scandinavian-inspired design (Photo: Courtesy Corey Gaffer)
Wild Rice (Photo: Courtesy Corey Gaffer)

Bayfield, Wisconsin

Self-care is the heart and soul of Wild Rice, a retreat center on the south shore of Lake Superior near the sailing and kayaking haven of Bayfield. Everything about the place is healing, from the Scandinavian-style buildings to the locally sourced meals provided by on-site restaurant Novo. Wild Rice founder Heidi Zimmer designed the daily programming to focus on three pillars: expression, movement, and nourishment.

Check out a course called “Tracking Wonder: the Art and Science of Creative Living,” try out a writing or arts week, or sign up for a meditation and yoga retreat. Each day Novo delivers provision bas­kets, so you can enjoy an en suite breakfast or a picnic lunch along the shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake. All rooms—two-person Rice Pods, four-person Nests, and family-size Tree Houses—are warm, light-filled spaces that have perfectly framed views of the surrounding forest. From $190, two-night minimum ­—S.P.

(Modern Adventure)

The Outside–Modern Adventure Classics

Travel with Outside editors on these four adventures of a lifetime

There’s a reason Alaska, Patagonia, Everest Base Camp, and the French Alps are at the top of every traveler’s bucket list: the stunning terrain and adventure history are so iconic that there’s simply no substitute. We partnered with the outfitter Modern Adventure to create these four custom trips to our favorite destinations, experienced the best way we know how: by getting into the landscape and heading for the wildest, most remote corners. Better yet, each inaugural journey will be anchored by an Outside editor, who’ll share campfire stories and give you the lowdown on gear, fitness, and travel trends.

You’ll be in good hands with Modern Adventure, a company run by active-travel experts who provide off-the-beaten-path itineraries and guides with deep knowledge and local connections. What’s better than an epic journey with a small group of people who love the outdoors? Secure your spot soon; we expect the trips to fill up quickly. And don’t worry if you miss out on the trips with our editors, there will be additional departure dates for the trips to Alaska, Patagonia, and Nepal in 2022 and 2023. We can’t wait to head into the wild with you.

Become an Outside+ member for a $200 discount off the trip price.

Katmai National Park and Preserve (Photo: Courtesy Chris Simons/Modern Adventure)

1. Alaska: Deep Backcountry

Guest Outside editor: Christopher Keyes, editor in chief
Inaugural trip date: August 15–21, 2022
Price: $5,700 | Outside+ price: $5,500

Few adventures bring you face to face with Alaska’s immense beauty so viscerally as blazing your own trail through the remote wilderness of Katmai National Park and Preserve. Here you’ll find volcanoes soaring above salmon-choked rivers and brown bears feasting on berries. The only way in and out is by boat or plane; what happens in between is trekking at its best. This seven-day, ten-person trip for experienced backpackers will show a side of the state that few have seen.

It begins with a floatplane that departs from the hamlet of Port Alsworth and drops you deep inside Katmai, landing wherever the pilot can safely touch down. You’ll set a pick-up spot about 30 miles away, shoulder a pack full of food and survival gear, and set out across the treeless tundra. No two trips are ever alike. Typically, groups begin near Kukaklek Lake, at the headwaters of the Alagnak River, and walk six to eight miles per day, with up to 2,000 feet of elevation gain, to reach Mirror Lake, an area rich in wildlife. There are no trails, so exactly how you get there depends on weather, visibility, and how rugged your group is. Do you circumnavigate that 3,000-foot peak or head right over it? At night you’ll camp wherever you get tired and share in the ­cooking duties.

The rewards for working this hard include a look at some of the densest populations of brown bears on the planet—­multiple sightings are nearly guaranteed—and herds of curious caribou that thunder across meadows to check you out. “I’ve visited every state except Alaska, and backpacking in Katmai represents a life-list opportunity,” says editor in chief Chris Keyes, who’ll be joining you. “I cannot wait to share my passion for the outdoors—and Outside—with readers participating on this amazing trip.” Be forewarned, however: the sound of the plane coming to fetch you at journey’s end will be distinctly jarring to the wild person you’ve become. 

Additional trip date: August 22–28, 2022
$5,400| Outside+ price: $5,200

Join us on the adventure

The French Alps (Photo: Hemis/Alamy Stock Photo)

2. French Alps Grand Traverse

Guest Outside editor: Jeremy-Miles Rellosa, gear review editor
Inaugural trip date: September 11–22, 2022
Price: $7,400 | Outside+ price: $7,200

In 1786, a doctor in Cha­­m­onix named Michel-­Gabriel ­Paccard and a local crystal hunter, Jacques Balmat, teamed up to become the first two people ever recorded to stand atop 15,770-foot Mont Blanc, a feat that inspired cen­turies of exploration in the French Alps. But there is an even better way to see these beautiful mountains that doesn’t involve risking your life. Start at Megève, near Chamonix, and amble and eat your way 100 miles down to Sospel, a hillside village near Monaco. It takes ten days to complete the trek; on most of them you will log up to eight hours of hiking, with 1,500- to 4,000-foot climbs on dirt footpaths that have served shepherds, tradesmen, and armies for centuries. Come evening, you’ll arrive in picturesque villages where a hot meal and a warm bed await.

If your legs get too tired—or your belly too full—a few cable car rides along the way will lessen the pain. “I am excited to experience the beauty of the French Alps with our readers, though secretly I’m coming along just for the food,” says Jeremy-Miles Rellosa, the Outside editor joining this trip. Yes, the gooey raclette cheese, delicious local red wine, and stunning mountain views will undoubtedly leave you in awe, but this trip is also designed to hit the nooks and crannies of the French Alps that remain unknown to many North Americans, like the 12,650-foot Grande Casse massif of Vanoise, the nation’s first national park. By the time you arrive at the coast, you may want to turn north and walk back to where it all began. Or stay put and soak in the Mediterranean Sea.

Join us on the adventure

Chilean Patagonia’s majestic mountains
Chilean Patagonia’s majestic mountains (Photo: Courtesy Arto Marttinen/Modern Adventure)

3. Chile: Northern Patagonia

Guest Outside editor: Erin Riley, senior travel editor
Inaugural trip date: November 11–23, 2022
Price: $6,000 | Outside+ price: $6,400

On the list of time-­honored destinations, Patagonia, with its glacial peaks whittled into fantastical spires, ranks at the top. “I count Chilean Patagonia as a dream-list trip and can’t wait to share trekking days with the group on this all-time classic,” says Erin Riley, who oversees Outside’s travel coverage. Deciding which corner of the 400,000-square-mile region to see can be challenging, so Modern Adventure sorted that out for you.

You’ll start in Aysén, in northern Patagonia, where towering peaks, raging rivers, and national parks spread out across one of the country’s least populated areas. This 11-day itinerary samples the dramatic landscapes of two of Chile’s lesser known parks, with a day of rafting the Baker River to round it out. You’ll hike anywhere from three to ten miles per day and sleep in guesthouses, panoramic domes, and backcountry base camps. The adventure begins near the town of Coyhaique, about a thousand miles south of Santiago, with a 10.5-mile trek into 554-square-mile Cerro Castillo National Park. You’ll then cross over 4,265-foot Piñón Pass and ascend through forests to camp under the hulking basalt walls of 7,605-foot Cerro Castillo. Ditch your pack for a quick jaunt up to New Zealander Camp, a base for climbing expeditions, before heading down to a hot meal and a cozy room in Villa Cerro Castillo.

Be on the lookout for old gaucho camps as you make your way to General Carrera Lake, which at 1,923 feet is the 11th deepest in the world. After crossing it by ferry, you’ll trek into the new ten-million-acre Patagonia National Park, created by Kristine and Doug Tompkins. (Doug cofounded the North Face in the 1960s and adventured throughout Patagonia with his friend Yvon Chouinard.) At the end of the trip, celebrate in the town of Chile Chico and feast on endless barbecue. Oh, and that dark spot you saw in the grass on day six? That really was a puma.

Additional trip date: February 4–16, 2023
$6,200 | Outside+ price: $6,000

Join us on the adventure

En route to Mount Everest Base Camp (Photo: Clubnik/Shutterstock)

4. Mount Everest Base Camp

Guest Outside editor: Matt Skenazy, features editor
Inaugural trip date: October 4–20, 2022
Price: $9,500 | Outside+ price: $9,300

Huge peaks, gripping mountaineering his­tory, and a deep sense of spirituality are major draws to the Himalayas. But getting to know the Nepali people is what makes trekking here one of the greatest joys you will ever experience. Of all the mountain routes, nothing beats the journey to Everest Base Camp, at 17,600 feet. This 17-day, yak-assisted trip includes 12 days of trekking, with breathtaking views of world-famous peaks, like 27,940-foot Lhotse and 22,494-foot Ama Dablam. But it goes deep on Nepalese culture, too. You’ll linger in the village of Namche with artists who create devotional paintings called thangka.

On day five, you’ll get your first views of 29,035-foot Mount Everest and also meet Kancha, the last living Sherpa guide from the first successful expedition to the top of the world, in 1953. On day eight, you’ll stop in Dingboche, a Sherpa settlement at 14,400 feet. The highest point on the trek is 18,209 feet, the summit of Kala Patthar, which you’ll reach on day 11. Your head guide is a third-generation Sherpa climber who has led Himalayan treks for 20 years.

Most nights you’ll stay in tra­ditional teahouses, where limited solar power often means early bedtimes—a blessing, we promise. Once you arrive at Base Camp, you’ll get a firsthand view of where climbers begin their summit push. And you won’t have to hike all the way out. From Namche Bazaar, a private helicopter will take you to Dwarika’s Resort in Dhulikhel, near Kathmandu, where you’ll rest up among fragrant forests. “I’m looking forward to experiencing the high peaks I’ve been reading and writing about for decades,” says Matt Skenazy, Outside’s features editor. —Tim Neville

Additional trip date: November 19–December 7, 2022
$9,000 | Outside+ price: $8,800

Join us on the adventure

A private patio at AutoCamp Russian River (Photo: Courtesy Johnie Gall)

Russian River Valley, California

If you prefer wine après adventure, consider a trip to Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. An hour north of San Francisco, this region’s 15,000 acres of vineyards are surrounded by beaches and ancient redwoods. The small town of Guerneville is an ideal base for ­exploration, not to mention eating and drinking. Pick up prosciutto and fig sandwiches at Big Bottom Market to fuel a day of hiking among the planet’s tallest trees in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, two miles north.

Prefer coastal views? Drive 20 minutes west and tackle the 8.9-mile out-and-back Kortum Trail, which follows craggy cliffs from Goat Rock to Wright’s Beach. Back in Guerne­ville, reward your efforts with a champagne toast at Korbel Winery or a tasting of the region’s famed pinot noir and zinfandel at tiny biodynamic producer Porter-Bass. New places to stay include AutoCamp’s fancy glamping tents and tricked-out Airstreams (from $142), a 15-minute walk from Main Street and the Russian River. Or book a night at the recently opened Stavrand (from $446), a 21-room hotel surrounded by redwoods. —J.M.

The historic chapel at Bishop’s Lodge (Photo: Courtesy Auberge Resorts Collection)
A lodge bedroom (Photo: Courtesy Auberge Resorts Collection)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Once a spiritual retreat owned by the first arch­bishop of Santa Fe, Bishop’s Lodge has been reimagined by luxury group Auberge Resorts into a retreat of a different kind. The 100-room hotel manages to capture all that the area has to offer. Diversions include 317 acres that border Santa Fe National Forest, gem and sound therapies at its healing-arts studio, an Orvis fly-fishing shop that provides complementary casting classes on an adjacent pond, and an updated Southwestern look that will make you want to hit the shops and galleries downtown, a five-minute drive away. From $1,039 —Erin Riley

Bai San Ho (Photo: Frederik Wissink/Courtesy Bai San Ho/Zannier Hotels)

Phu Yen Province, South Central Vietnam

There’s something about hotelier Arnaud Zannier’s properties that feels straight out of a fever dream, from the views of the Namibian veld at the oasis-like Omaanda to the collection of stilted villas at Phum Baitang, near Angkor Wat, that were inspired by traditional Cambodian rice-farming homes. His latest project, Bai San Ho, has 71 villas overlooking a remote coral-filled bay in Vietnam’s Phu Yen province. Each room exhibits his signature attention to detail: quirky local artifacts, beautiful rattan furniture, and earthy colors and textures. Go on a bike ride through fishing villages, paddleboard or kayak the coastline, or explore the nearby islands. From $415 —E.R.

Hamilton Pool in Texas Hill Country (Photo: Matthew Johnson)
A dish at Collective Retreats (Photo: Courtesy Collective Retreats)

Wimberley, Texas

The Hill Country of central Texas has never been short on adventure options—mountain biking through oak forests, climbing on limestone cliffs, and paddling down lazy spring-fed rivers. The hang-up has always been access, with more than 95 percent of the state’s land in private hands. Luckily, a few of the area’s sprawling ranches have wised up to their recreational potential, including the 225-acre Montesino Ranch, home to glamping outfitter Collective Retreats (from $359; open September through mid-June). Located in Wimberley, just 45 minutes southwest of Austin, the retreat has 12 canvas tents, all of which overlook a canyon along the Blanco River Valley. One of the best reasons to base yourself here is Collective’s culinary wizardry—think crusted venison prepared with a juniper coffee rub or agave-grapefruit marshmallows roasted into s’mores.

Start your day with a plunge into Jacob’s Well, a 140-foot-deep spring, and cap your afternoon with a float in the Blanco’s crystal-clear waters. Or just stroll around Wimberley, home to vintage shops, artist galleries, and excellent BBQ joints like Creekside Cookers, run by pitmaster Kelly Evers. The town also has a handful of wineries. The Duchman Family Winery, a Tuscan-villa-inspired estate, doesn’t exactly feel like Italy but definitely doesn’t feel like Texas. That’s the best way to describe Hill Country these days, too: it’s Texas, without exactly being Texas. —Ryan Krogh

Alaskan peaks (Photo: Crystal Sagan)

Valdez Guides, Alaska

When freeride pioneer Doug Coombs launched Valdez Heli-Ski Guides in 1993, Tsaina Lodge was a grubby base atop snowy Thompson Pass, where rowdy freeskiing bums would grab cheap beers and pitch their tents in the parking lot. But then former client Jeff Fraser bought the heli operation and lodge in 2011, and he ushered in a more discerning crowd, with touches like a hot tub and a wine ­cellar stocked with cult cabernet. Heli drops, which cost just $15 back in the day, now run between $500 and $5,000.

Not wishing to price out the diehards, Fraser recently introduced a public package, which may be the best deal going in heli-skiing: $6,500 for an entire week, a price that includes everything from copter drops to lunches. Instead of overnighting at the now cushy Tsaina, you’ll sleep in Valdez. The helipad’s location near the lodge means you’ll still have access to some of its amenities, such as dining on filet mignon and king crab legs before a shuttle takes you back to town. The biggest difference, notes Fraser, is that you’ll share your heli with four groups. With Mount Dimond delivering a 6,200-foot descent right in Tsaina’s backyard, it’s difficult to avoid getting your powder fix—and at a fraction of the cost. —J.M.

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The bar at Kruger Shalati (Photo: Courtesy Kruger Shalati)

Kruger National Park, South Africa

The new Kruger Shalati hotel seems suspended in time above the Sabie River in Kruger National Park, the largest and most biodiverse game reserve in South Africa. This one-of-a-kind, 24-room luxury property is built into a refurbished 1920s steam train, located at the exact spot on the Selati Bridge where the locomotive that transported the park’s first guests stopped overnight 100 years ago. In addition to historical charm, rooms have exquisite views of the riverbed below, which is a gathering spot for birds and wildlife, including crocodiles, hippos, buffalo, and elephants. To get even closer, take the two daily game drives into the depths of the park. Escape the heat with a dip into Shalati’s pool, which hangs cantilevered in midair, or order a frozen cocktail in the bar car. From $610 —S.P.

Enchantment Resort (Photo: Courtesy Enchantment Resort)

Sedona, Arizona

We optimize every part of our lives, so why not our outdoor excursions? The 218-casita Enchantment Resort recently opened a facility dedicated to the kinds of activities enjoyed in surrounding Boynton Canyon. Its 4,000-square-foot Trail House has a 3D topographic map of the area’s 300 miles of trails, screens adventure films, rents mountain bikes, and even sells gear. The resort also employs 28 guides, many of whom spent years working with the Forest Service to create the region’s trail network. From $380 —E.R.

Patio suite at AWOL (Photo: Courtesy Read McKendree)
Provincetown, Massachusetts (Photo: Courtesy Lark Hotels)

Road Trip: Rhode Island to Maine

The only thing ­better than your favorite beach hotel is a string of them along the Northeast coast. Lark Hotels, a company known for giving iconic buildings a modern upgrade, has more than a dozen properties in New England. We mapped out a road trip that takes in four of them, each of which offers great outdoor access. Start at the Block Island Beach House (from $360) in New Shoreham, Rhode Island.

Reserve a spot for your car on the Block Island Ferry in Narragansett, and once you disembark, drive to this grand old Victorian, which originally opened as the Surf Hotel in 1876. More than a cen­tury later, it’s still the only place to stay facing Crescent Beach, where good shore breaks can be found on the south end. Stop off at the hotel’s Surf Shack at sunset for a crisp frosé. Once you’re back on the mainland, it’s 147 miles to Blue Inn on the Beach (from $310) on Massachusetts’s Plum Island. With expansive outdoor decks and beachfront lounge chairs, this 13-room retreat is hard to leave behind. Parker River Refuge, a 4,662-acre wetland on the island’s northern tip that serves as a migration habitat to some 300 species of birds, is worth a visit, as are Newbury Port’s charming coffee shops and restaurants, just a ten-minute drive away.

Next, head 54 miles up to Maine for a stay at AWOL (from $189), which opened in August in Kennebunkport, within strolling distance of the harbor. The 30 cabin suites are set in a pine grove in the middle of town, within a short walk or drive of the area’s many beaches. Your last stop is Whitehall (from $119), a beautifully renovated, 36-room hotel 100 miles north in Camden, Maine. This nearly 200-year-old onetime sea captain’s house has welcomed a king, an American president, and countless celebrities. It now hosts guests interested in hiking nearby 780-foot Mount Battie, sea-kayaking the rugged coastline, or fishing for striped bass on the saltwater flats and backcountry channels from Casco to Penobscot Bay. Room prices vary by hotel and season; for the lowest rates, book directly online. —S.P.

CampV (Photo: Courtesy Casey Nay)

Naturita, Colorado

A desert glamping retreat in a former uranium boomtown, CampV feels like an adventurous take on pre-Zuckerberg Burning Man. The 120-acre property, one hour west of Telluride, was once a 1940s mining camp. Now you’ll find Belle tents, retro RVs, and historic cabins, as well as trippy art installations and local-chef-led cookouts. There’s also access to amazing trails, like the nine-mile Shamrock Loop, for views of the snowcapped San Juan Mountains. Join sound-bath gong-immersion sessions and catch jam-band performances. Camping from $30; cabins from $155 —J.M.

The largest of Hegra’s tombstones, Qasr al-Farid (Photo: Courtesy Lance Gerber)

To Go or Not to Go?

Saudi Arabia wants to attract adventure travelers. It’s a stunning country, but there are
a few concerns.

Until recently, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country more than three times the size of Texas, was famously insular, only allowing in Muslim pilgrims headed for Mecca or business travelers. But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan—an effort to ­diversify the economy away from oil, draw in outside investors, and open the nation to tourists—is an initiative to change that. Part of his strategy is to attract well-heeled travelers by establishing modern resorts at the edges of ancient civilization.

A key area of development is Al Ula, a region in the northwest once part of the 1,200-mile Incense Route, a historical trading superhighway that connected Oman and Yemen to the Medi­terranean. Until now its preserved tombs, heritage dwellings, and towering monuments, some of which date back 200,000 years, have been off-limits to outsiders. But a $20 billion investment, which includes airport expansions, new accommodations, and outdoor activities, is turning the exotic landscape into a hot-list destination.

This fall, Habitas Al Ula (from $500), a minimalist luxury hotel, opened its doors near Hegra, an ancient Nabataean ­archaeological wonder and a Unesco World Heritage site built 2,000 years ago by the same Arab tribe that constructed Petra in Jordan. Hike through pictograph-laden rock formations and work up a sweat biking the sandstone hills, or ex­plore ruins from the little-known Dadanite and Lihyanic civilizations. Coming next: the Red Sea Project, an effort to develop 120 miles of coastline and 90 islands into a world-class diving and snorkeling site.

The question is whether you should visit a country with a reputation for repressing dissidents, women, and human-rights activists—and whose crown prince has been linked to the death of a prominent journalist. Some would argue that the more visitors are able to witness life there and support locals through tourism, the sooner change may come.

If you do go, however, be sure to read about the country’s cultural protocols, which include observing a certain dress code and refraining from taking photographs of people without their permission. —S.P.

Fresh Coast Cabins (Photo: Courtesy Fresh Coast Cabins)
Isle Royale National Park (Photo: Stephanie Vermillion)

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

This 132,018-acre park is one of the country’s least visited for a reason. Located in Lake Superior, the archipelago can only be reached by ferry or seaplane. Once you arrive, there are a limited number of places to stay if you aren’t looking to camp: a 60-room lodge, a few National Park Service–managed shelters, and, as of this spring, Fresh Coast Cabins, the passion project of a couple of longtime Upper Peninsula residents who know the park better than most. The nine structures, located on the northernmost point of Keweenaw Peninsula, make for an ideal base camp from which to explore the park’s 165 miles of trails. From $145 —E.R.

North Carolina’s Outer Banks (Photo: Katie Slater)

Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Outer Banks is a water lover’s paradise, with the Atlantic side of the barrier islands serving up some of the East Coast’s best surf and Pamlico Sound acting as a kiteboarding incubator. Now you can add oystering to the Banks’ portfolio. Decades after poor water quality and overharvesting dec­imated its wild oyster populations, a new breed of farms have reinvigo­rated the long-standing tradition. Follow the NC Oyster Trail, a grass­roots effort that links together markets, restaurants, and festivals, as well as tours of farms where oysters are grown in floating cages, where you can grab some drippingly fresh ones from the source. Stay at one of the eight cabanas at Watermen’s Retreat (from $215) on Hatteras Island and you will be within strik­ing distance of leg­endary surf breaks and Slash Creek Oyster Farm. Come ready to master kiteboard­ing; Water­men’s shares space with Real Water Sports, one of the world’s top kite schools. —Graham Averill 

Tofana di Mezzo (Photo: Martin Zwick/VISUM/Redux)
A Dolomites rifugio (Photo: Courtesy Giuseppe Ghedina)

Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

OK, we know that the 2022 Winter Games will be in Beijing. But we’re looking down the road to 2026, when ski mountaineering makes its Olympic debut and alpine events return to the slopes of Cortina d’Ampezzo. The chic mountain village, in the heart of the Unesco World Heritage Italian Dolomites, hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956, which brought an avalanche of celebrities who stayed at the five-star Cristallo Resort and Spa (from $516). Cristallo, with stunning views of the valley and peaks beyond, is as glamorous as ever. And in preparation, the rest of the village is receiving a significant face-lift, with nine new or substantially updated hotels and chalets; a four-seat chairlift at Ra Valles, the highest ski area in Cortina; and the revival of a century-old bobsled track called Pisto Eugenio Monti.

Hotel de Len (from $411), set to open by the end of the year, will feature a rooftop spa, local cuisine, and an incredible roster of mountain excursions. No need to wait until the 2026 Olympics to visit: the outfitter Dolomite Mountains is offering a 2022 Olympic Ski Safari (from $5,211), a fully guided six-day ski adventure that includes the famously steep and dramatic Olympic and World Cup runs in Cortina, Val Gardena, Alta Badia, and San Vigilio, with overnight stays in rifugios and luxury hotels along the way. —S.P.

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Waikiki, Oahu

A stay at the newly renovated White Sands Hotel is like entering a time warp to the heyday of 1960s Hawaii, complete with throwback surf decor and a swim-up tiki bar where swings replace stools. The 94 rooms are done up in groovy tropical wallpaper, and each has a wet bar with mai tai mixers and a private lanai, perfect for sipping sunset cocktails. A rooftop of solar panels generates nearly all the hotel’s energy, making it one of the most planet-friendly stays in town, and loaner GoPros help you document your wave-riding skills at legendary Waikiki Beach, just two blocks away. From $179 —J.M.

Timberline Mountain (Photo: Timberline Mountain)

Timberline Mountain, West Virginia

Timberline Mountain Resort, in snowy ­Canaan Valley, was known for its tree skiing in the eighties. But after a headline-grabbing lift failure in 2016, the resort shut down for good three years later, ­allegedly due to struggles with maintenance. Its new owners brought the mountain back with a $16 million investment, and Timberline reopened last winter with terrain parks, an updated lodge, and two additional lifts, including a high-speed six-person chair (day pass from $85).

Although there are 100 acres and 1,000 vertical feet of varied terrain to explore, you’re here to charge through trees. There are only a couple of named gladed runs on the map, so poke around in the woods to find top-to-bottom lines that will keep you on your toes. Make a weekend of it by staying at Blackwater Falls State Park in the Allegheny Mountains. The park’s historic lodge, located on Blackwater Canyon’s south rim, is undergoing a massive renovation that’s set to wrap up in time for winter. From $150 —G.A.

East Coast Face-Off

The Berkshires and the Catskills have long been rival escapes for urbanites seeking a nature fix. Both are enjoying a revival. But while the Berkshires are going retro, the Catskills are looking to the future.

Miraval (Photo: Courtesy James Baigrie)

Old School

The Berkshires, Massachusetts

Time travel might not be a scientifically viable vacation plan, but a weekend in the Berkshires comes pretty damn close. The mix of cornfields, clapboard homes, and forested hills between New York City and Boston make for true Norman Rockwell country. And now you can go back to summer camp, too. In late 2020, luxury-wellness stalwart Miraval Resorts and Spas opened an outpost here. At the 380-acre retreat, digital devices are discouraged in lieu of a variety of back-to-nature activities, from hatchet throwing to beekeeping (from $1,500 per night, all-inclusive). Meanwhile, the region has doubled down on its pastoral splendor, with small farms adding vegetable and fruit stands, restaurants embracing al fresco dining, and old homes being converted to inns. Last year, the Granville House (from $200) opened in Great Barrington, with five rooms in a Greek Revival mansion, and the town launched an annual summer street festival featuring vendors and outdoor cafés. —G.A. 

A Piaule cabin (Photo: Courtesy Sean Davidson)

New School

The Catskills, New York

Just 48 miles west of the Berkshires, on the other side of the Hudson River, the Catskills are embracing nature in a new way, with architecturally innovative hotels that blend with their forested surroundings. At Piaule (from $499), 24 modern cabins perch on the side of a cliff, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto a canopy of northern hardwoods. Hiking, fly-fishing, and climbing at Kaaterskill Wild Forest beckon eight miles west. Or wind your way 35 miles south to Inness (from $365), which opened in July on 225 acres near Catskill Forest Preserve with 40 minimalist rooms, an organic farm, and hiking trails. Starting in spring of 2022, head to the town of Mount Tremper and check into one of 36 sleek bungalows at Aurum, which has a 40,000-square-foot Roman-style bath. —E.R. 

(Photo: Courtesy Adventure IO/Vuori Clothing)

Work Play

Take your vacation to the next level with an expert-led skills camp

Outwild Retreats

Sanni McCandless, a life coach and the wife of climber Alex Honnold, is among the brains behind this outdoor event series. The retreats offer a mix of trail runs, meditation sessions, and athlete-led workshops. From $695

Roam Academy

This subscription-based adventure club presents classes and workshops with outdoor icons, such as mountaineer Conrad Anker and big-mountain skier Lynsey Dyer. Many courses, including the fundamentals of gravel biking and surf preparation, are ideal for newbies. From $13 per month

Adventure IO

Two former competitive wakeboarders launched this app to connect aspiring extreme athletes with local experts. From surfing lessons with legend Damien Hobgood to basic foiling with waterman Connor Baxter, experiences are wide-ranging, and prices vary. —J.M.

North Carolina (Photo: Alexey Rotanov/Alamy Stock Photo)

Trail Fix

Test your verve on these three new routes

Mountain Biking

Legacy Bike Park, Montana

Riding mountain bikes downhill is arguably more fun than riding them uphill—one of the reasons to be stoked about Legacy Bike Park, which launched in July near Montana’s Flathead Lake and is open year-round. Shuttles run every 15 minutes to the summit of the 175-acre property, and from there you can rip 750 vertical feet on 13 trails. More reasons to be stoked? Legacy’s trails were built from scratch and offer everything from flow giggles to pucker-inducing gaps, not to mention a midmountain campground with its own pump track.


Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail, North Carolina

This 14-mile-long granite and hardwood canyon, 20 miles east of Asheville, is emerging as a popular hiking hub. Volunteers are at work on the 100-mile Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail, roughly 40 miles of which are currently open. Already in existence are 18 miles of singletrack, including the brand-new 2.1-mile Young Mountain Trail, which crescendos on a granite summit with expansive views of the gorge, Lake Lure, and Mount Mitchell.


Truckee, California

As land managers adjust to the popularity of e-bikes, Tahoe National Forest has taken a progressive stance, opening 35 miles of existing trails to pedal-assist rigs near Truckee. The 15-mile Overland Emigrant Trail is the standout, rolling through high-desert sage and hitting Stampede Reservoir. Work has also begun on 70 additional miles of ­e-bike-accessible trails in the forest, to be completed in the next few years. —G.A.

(Photo: cookelma/iStock)

In Review: The State of Travel in 2021

This year, travel came back stronger than ever. Here are the numbers to prove it. —Kevin Johnson

Private Charters Are Taking Off

146: The percentage increase in 2021 of flights flown by Wheels Up, a membership-based, pay-as-you-go charter company. The industry at large has seen exponential growth in the past two decades as the experience of commercial flying has become more unpleasant and private aviation more accessible. Grounded fleets and the safety risks posed by crowded airports and planes have only added to the burgeoning demand. With the recent acquisition of Mountain Aviation, a leading provider of midsize jets, Wheels Up now provides even more access to remote towns and ski resorts.

National Parks Continue to Break Visitation Records

Our most popular national parks keep drawing significant crowds. Between June 2020 and June 2021, these four saw the largest ­percentage jumps in monthly visits.

Acadia: 228
Yellowstone: 64
Zion: 58
Great Smoky Mountains: 8

Diversity Is on the Rise

34: The percentage of outdoor participants identifying as Black, Indigenous, or people of color who said they had their first experiences in 2020, five points higher than members of those groups already active in the outdoors.

Outdoor Recreation Exploded This Year

Biking, fishing, running, and bird-watching all ­experienced major increases in popularity from 2020 to 2021. And the surge may be here to stay: in most instances, more than half of all first-timers said they plan to continue their new ­activity as pandemic restrictions ease.

Percentage increase in participation…

Bicycling: 26
Fishing: 15
Running: 28
Bird-watching: 16

Percentage who intend to stick with it…

Bicycling: 65
Fishing: 62
Running: 61
Bird-watching: 47

Out-of-Office Hits the Road

119: The percentage increase of millennial RV travelers who booked with the rental company Outdoorsy from 2019 to 2021, as flexibility in working and living created a new class of younger RVers.

From November 2021 Lead Photo: Courtesy Kruger Shalati

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