This feature is brought to you by Qantas, who are proud to play a part in bringing travellers together with the people they love from around Australia and across the globe.
To celebrate our mates over at Qantas turning 95, we’re counting down our top 95 destinations of the future to launch them into another brilliant near-century. Pooling our expert brains trust of AWOL staff and writers, we’ve come up with a jam-packed list of destinations to consider for your future holiday – whether they’re cities, countries or experiences, or it’s something that’s just becoming popular, accessible or affordable.
Yesterday, we brought you destinations #70 to #46 – from Seville in Spain to the El Questro Gorge in Western Australia – today it’s another batch of must-see places and experiences that you’ll instantly want to add to your bucket-list.
#45 Kangaroo Island, SA
A stopover on our #89 destination, the Southern Ocean Drive, Kangaroo Island definitely deserves a visit of its own. It’s Australia’s third-largest island behind Tasmania and Melville Island, and is positively teeming with beautiful wildlife. You’ll spot kangaroos (obviously), penguins, echidnas, seals, koalas and emus that all roam around their home naturally – and where better to do it from than this stunning luxury wilderness escape? #HotelGoals.
#44 Horizon Festival, Bulgaria
We’ve heard of Europe’s famed music festivals, food and drink festivals and sports events, but how about combining them all? Horizon Festival in Bulgaria does exactly that – a festival of skiing with over 75km of slopes, but also more than 120 DJs, champagne bars and food banquets, raves in abandoned hotels and thermal pools, paintball wars, bowling and many more activities that they’re managing to squish into six days. It runs from March 12-17 next year, but if you’re really keen you can rock up three days early and there are after-parties at the end of the festival if you can survive such a bender! Sign us UP.
#43 Sri Lanka, Asia
It’s been off the tourist trail due to a civil war that only ended in 2009, but now’s a brilliant time to go to the island country just off south-east India. If you’re a tea fan that’s all the excuses you need – there are tea plantations abound, and their tea is just otherworldly. The country is home to an incredible mix of cultures from Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as Portuguese, British and Dutch influences – and with eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, tropical rainforest beaches and the world’s oldest living tree, it’s a place of diversity and universal interest.
#42 Bungle Bungles, WA
We get it – Australia’s a big place! It’s pretty tricky to discover everything, but how this landmark in Western Australia went unnoticed for so long is beyond us. Sitting in the depths of the Kimberley, the sandstone domes of the Bungle Bungles in Purnululu National Park were only discovered by European Australians in 1983 – that’s 32 years ago. The Bungles look like huge beehives, and are perfect for shorter hikes in the nearby Cathedral Gorge, overnight hikes or longer camping trips when you just want to be at one with nature.
#41 Patagonia, South America
If you want to go to the edge of the earth, this is the place for you. Covering parts of Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is the region at the southern point of South America. It’s pretty rugged and empty, but that’s where Patagonia’s beauty lies – in its vast, untouched naturalness. It’s a different sort of holiday – but one you’ll remember for life, with the region’s soaring icy peaks and stunning rivers. Its most bizarre fact? It’s the only place in the world where Welsh is spoken outside of Wales, with about 5000 native speakers.
#40 Cloud 9, Fiji
You know what’s cool? Fiji. You know what’s also cool? Pizza. Combine them both and you’re bound to have a pretty good time. Cloud9 is quite literally a wood-fired pizzeria floating on the impossibly blue ocean off the Fijian coast – with a well-stocked bar, diving board and sunbeds for you to snooze the food coma away. You can book the floating slice of heaven for a wedding, too – just one question, are you allowed to marry the pizza too?
#39 Pacific Crest Trail, California
It’s peaked in popularity since Reese Witherspoon spent two hours looking wistful on it in the film Wild, but hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico through the US to Canada, is a dream that not many people achieve. To through-hike it takes about five months – you encounter everything from the Californian desert to the snowy peaks of Washington. It’s not an easy trek physically or mentally, but as some amazing bloggers have shown, the trek will change the way you think for the rest of your life. Go on, challenge yo’self.
#38 Mudgee, NSW
Look, everyone loves a good wine region. Fermented grapes, endless cheese boards – what more could you want? Well, you’re in for a treat, with one of Australia’s best but lesser-known wine regions, the Mudgee in NSW. Just three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Sydney, it’s the perfect weekend trip – working your way through all the wineries and restaurants until you think you might actually turn into a grape. Mudgee also has a hidden gem: a Yum Cha restaurant that’s famed for its brilliant dumplings.
#37 St Petersburg, Russia
Russia might not be at the top of your priority list, but the world’s biggest country is full of imperial charm and grandeur you’re unlikely to see anywhere else – and it’s only four hours’ flight from London. It’s a canal town, sometimes called ‘Venice of the North’, and you can travel by boat or stroll across the city’s 342 bridges. With its stunning architecture and huge arts scene, particularly Russia’s ballet culture, make sure you visit some of the theatres around the city to see the world’s best dancers. Head to the city during summer and you’ll experience the ‘White Night’ phenomenon, where the sun barely sets and the nights are balmy and bustling.
#36 Cascadas De Agua Azul, Mexico
Literally meaning ‘blue-water falls’ en Español, Agua Azul is a series of bright blue waterfalls in south-eastern Mexico, about 70km from San Cristóbal de las Casas. Aside from the stunning waterfalls, there are some fantastic walking tracks, traditional Mexican restaurants and cafés – oh, and we did mention you can swim right under the waterfalls.
#35 Albania, Europe
It’s not a place many people know about, but Albania’s extraordinary history alone makes it somewhere everyone should try and visit. You couldn’t get in as a tourist until the fall of communism in the ’90s – and now since 2005, tourism has increased by over 740%. It’s not hard to see why: the unspoilt countryside and of Albanian Alps (complete with wild boars, goats and rabbits), picturesque and secluded beaches and the colourful, youthful capital of Tirana are fascinating to visit. It’s a country you need to truly engage with to visit – chatting to locals and learning their way of life is the only way you’ll get anywhere … and that’s the whole fun of it!
#34 Lord Howe Island, NSW
It wins plenty of tourism awards, but Lord Howe Island isn’t as well known as it should be. That’s probably partially due to its rule of only allowing 400 people at a time, but at less than two hours’ flight from Brisbane and Sydney we should be queuing to get there. Abundant in heavenly beaches, wellness resorts and adventure programs, a hike-able mountain and more than 500 species of fish, it really is a tropical paradise. The best bit? There’s no mobile service – so leave the iPhone at home and go clear your head.
#33 Murray Art Museum Albury, NSW
It might surprise you to learn that some of Australia’s regional towns not only have arts scenes, but thriving arts cultures in such high demand they’re opening new galleries all the time. Albury has recently opened MAMA, a modern art gallery with local and indigenous art from around the Murray River area as well as travelling exhibitions such as Impressions of Paris and Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon. Couple that with the fine dining spots that seem to be popping up all over the Albury/Wodonga area and you’ve got yourself a cosmopolitan regional centre. You go, Albury!
#32 Kotor, Montenegró
The best way to describe Kotor is like Croatia, but without the commercialised tourist scene. Come summer, the Montenegrin town, nestled among mountains and a corner of the bay, fills with yachts as any Balkan port might, but hold the Eurotrash – the architecture, history and old charm surrounding Kotor is enough to counteract all that.
#31 Sayulita, Mexico
In the late 1990s Sayulita was still known as a quiet fishing town. Now it’s still an ‘off-the-beaten-track’ type of tourist destination, but come summer it’s full of holidaymakers. With everything from jungle canopy tours to horse riding, snorkelling and amazing beaches for beginner and advanced surfers, Sayulita is a little slice of paradise on the west coast of Mexico. Full of quirky little local art galleries and little restaurants and cantinas, it’s the perfect relaxing beach location where many Mexicans themselves go to holiday – that’s how you know it’s good.
#30 Daintree National Park, QLD
You want eco-tourism? We’ll give you eco-tourism! The Daintree is the biggest continual stretch of rainforest on the Australian continent, and is a World Heritage site as well as the traditional home of the Kuku Yalanji people. As you’d expect it’s chock-a-block full of flora and fauna – kangaroos, platypi, bandicoots, frogs, echidnas – you name it! Stay at eco-lodges, take environmentally conscious tours of the rainforest and generally just put civilisation on mute while you explore one of Australia’s unique and breathtaking regions, right at the tip of the country.
#29 Benin, Africa
It’s probably not a country you think a lot about, but the small West African country of Benin might surprise you. One of many French African nations, it’s very tourist-friendly compared to some of its more unstable neighbours. It’s hardly a luxury getaway – there’s no denying it’s a developing country, but the spirited people, stunning variety of landscapes and mix of rich an untouched culture makes it a winner. With Afro-Brazilian influenced cities, tropical beaches and rugged national parks, exotic North African cuisine and its current inexpensiveness, there’s never been a better time to go – this place is about to be discovered bigtime.
#28 Fire Island, USA
Sitting just off the south shore of Long Island in New York, Fire Island is one of the world’s most famous LGBTIQ holiday destinations. Apart from being a summer holiday fave of much of the Broadway theatre community (Tina Fey stays there during summer, FYI) because of its proximity to Manhattan and the rest of New York, the island is is full of entertainment – whether you’re part of the LGBT community or not. Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming perform at the one of the many beach bars, clubs are lively and a-plenty,and the hotels are extravagant and gorgeous. Plus, you can leave Manhattan and be there in two hours. Brilliant.
#27 Fäviken Restaurant, Sweden
Look, some restaurants are worth travelling for – and Fäviken in remote and barren northern Sweden is less of a restaurant and more an experience. For a start, it only takes 12 diners in at a time – so you have to get an elusive seat first. All the ingredients are locally sourced: fished for, foraged or hunted in the vast land surrounding the restaurant (which you can stay at, too). The meal? Oh, it’s just a 20-course affair, 30 if you count the in-between snacks. Chef and mastermind Magnus Nilsson serves luxuriously simple food made with extravagant – and often terrifying – ingredients, and it’s certainly an experience every foodie should have once in their life.
#26 Flores Island, Indonesia
Flores was almost unheard of until a decade ago, but is fast become a serene and quiet tourist destination (no Kuta-style nightclubs here). Ten years ago, the discovery of a bunch of skeletons belonging to an early species of hobbity-human (that’s the scientific term) really put the small island on the map, and tourism has skyrocketed from there. With its volcanic terrain and perfectly blue water where you can catch your next meal, you might as well be sailing through the Mediterranean, just an hour-and-a-half on a plane from Bali.
#25 Newcastle, NSW
It’s not usually considered pretty remarkable, but the city just two hours north of Sydney is killin’ it at the moment. After the Renew Newcastle project took hold, the harbour town gained a whole new culture, and with no shortage of brilliant little coffee shops, markets and ocean swimming holes, you can explore for days. The city also has an amazing foodie culture, so bring your empty stomach – and the time to go is definitely October, when Newcastle hosts the aptly-named This Is Not Art festival. Really, though, go whenever you like and Newcastle will pleasantly surprise you.
#24 Panama City
The capital of the central American country has been touted as the ‘new Las Vegas’, but there’s much more to Panama City than that. It’s Central America’s most ‘cosmopolitan’ city, and with its mix of cultures is full of surprises. From a sleek, shimmery skyline to the underground bars that fill the cobblestoned streets, you can even take your pick of a Pacific or Caribbean beach if you’re up for a day trip. Though it’s a modern metropolis, nature and history are never far away, with canals, ancient ruins and rainforests with howler monkeys, sloths and toucans just a short trip out.
#23 Ham Tin Beach, Hong Kong
Hong Kong is full of fast-paced, exciting metropolises – but what you really want to do next time you’re there is head off the beaten track a bit. Ham Tin beach is the perfect place to do that, and discover more of the country while you’re at it. You need to drive to Pak Tam Au in the northeast, then it’s a one- or two-hour hike to the beach. As a reward for all that walking, you’ll be swimming in water that looks like it’s been put through an Instagram filter while staring at a seemingly infinite mountainous horizon. Worth the hike, we reckon.
#22 The Old Clare Hotel, Sydney
Look, we know Sydney isn’t exactly an underrated travel destination, but its hippest new hotel is definitely something to write home about. It used to be an unremarkable, cheap-and-cheerful uni bar, but has turned into the boutique hotel of your minimalistic-furnishing dreams (complete with rooftop pool, panoramic views and a day spa opening early next year). The best bit, though, is the three new fine dining and Michelin-starred restaurants in the hotel: Automata, Silvereye and the Kensington Street Social. Better book yourself in for three nights, just to cover it all!
“But AWOL, Banksy isn’t a place!”, you’re shouting. Well that’s very astute of you, but hear us out. Banksy’s put his own unique stamp on a bunch of interesting locations – from Dismaland, the theme park he made this year, to the street art he has dotted around the world, and you can even take Banksy walking tours of Bristol, the guerrilla artist’s UK hometown. There are plenty of other artists whose work is a journey to go and see, from the near-abandoned Doel in Belgium to the lawless state of Christiania in Copenhagen – take yourself on an arty adventure STAT.
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR THE FINAL INSTALMENT
(Lead image: Image by Peter H from Pixabay)