A round-up of the most stunning under-the-radar destinations to visit in 2023
November has just drawn to a close and the damp, miserable weather that has accompanied it has all but extinguished our balmy memories of the glorious summer sunshine. Whether you were reclining in Corfu, or surfing in the turquoise waters of Polzeath, the heat of summer has well and truly vanished. With only the gaiety of Christmas to brighten up the dreariness of the winter months ahead, your mind may already be drifting to your sun-seeking activities for 2023. Perhaps next year, you want to branch out past your usual haunt and explore an entirely new destination and discover new local delicacies, architecture or landscapes. Well, to kick-start your imagination with thoughts of al-fresco dining, aperitives in the golden rays of dusk and water sports in cobalt waters, we have compiled a short, succinct list of the destinations that will be flying under the radar of many in 2023. These temperate locations are sure to have you forgetting about the brisk climes that are enveloping the UK at the minute and will undoubtedly make you want to book your ticket immediately!
Transylvania in the summer
Photo: Mr Porter
As you may have seen on our Instagram recently, Transylvania is a new gem in Europe. Evidently trying to evade its spooky and haunted reputation, the locals who live on the lush slopes of the Carpathian Mountains, and the bountiful pastures in the valleys are ushering in a wind of change for the Romanian region. By removing the veil of superstition that hangs over the area, the locals are revealing a place rich in culinary delights, jaw-dropping landscapes, bustling cities and stunning castles. For pure Transylvanian cuisine, we would suggest visiting Restaurant Sergiana; a place that prides itself on honouring their traditional gastronomy. A side not: make sure to order the jumari! To get a feel of the awe-inspiring nature that is on offer in Transylvania, the Thunderstruck Rocks found within the Metafileri Mountains are not to be missed. Meanwhile, the city of Cluj Napoca is a gateway to Transylvania’s metropolitan lifestyle, and contains countless historical sites, to indulge your passion for both history and culture. Finally, no trip to the region would be complete without a visit to Bran Castle, the mythological home of Count Dracula. The beautiful fortress stands guard over the Bran Gorge, and offers stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape, as well as a fascinating back-story.
Habitas resort in Bacalar
Photo: Conde Nast Traveller
For something more far flung, and more exotic, then Bacalar in Mexico may be for you. Far more secluded, and less well known than its famous cousin Tulum, Bacalar is Mexico’s best kept secret. With sultry waters, and a pristine tropical landscape, Bacalar is desolate of the crowds you may associate with other Mexican resorts, and this is in part due to its pledge to ensure the regions sustainability, so you can be assured of a relaxed and quiet stay! Because of its latitude, you may want to visit this winter as a way to escape the grey gloom of January and February. Simplicity is king in Bacalar, and with its thatched beach huts and piers that jut out into the ocean, its beauty is overwhelming. There are a range of eco hotels that are scattered along the coastline, and our go to would have to be the design orientated bolthole: Habitas. Alongside Bacalar’s natural features, you can also explore Mayan ruins that serve as poignant reminders of both Mexico and South America’s fascinating past.
The Baroque Town of Varaždin
Photo: Culture Trip
Croatia has become a magnet for tourists across Europe in the last few years, and understandably so. Visually and aesthetically, Croatia is on equal footing with the most striking Mediterranean locations, and coupled with its relative affordability, it is no wonder that Croatia is a firm favourite for summer trips. However, the overwhelming majority of tourists visit Dubrovnik or Split. This is no bad thing, however Croatia has so much more to offer, including the old capital city of Varaždin, which sits on the banks of the Drava River. From 1756 to 1776 Varaždin served as the capital for Croatia, and to this day still retains its Baroque magnificence, with a variety of charming cafés and bars, as well as a plethora of cultural activities that have led to Varaždin being referred to as ‘Little Vienna’. There is an abundance of places to dine, although we would suggest you visit Bedem; an inviting, cosy establishment producing indulgent dishes at an affordable rate. For rooms, the Park Boutique Hotel is a tranquil retreat; perfect after a long day exploring the winding streets of Varaždin.
The Harbour Front at Nafplio
Photo: National Geographic
Steer clear of all the Greek hotspots next summer, and venture to the picturesque Peloponnese port of Nafplio. An architectural paradise, the variety of the buildings on show is mesmerising, ranging from neoclassical structures, Venetian castles, and antiquated monuments. The city’s complex history intertwines Ottoman, Venetian and Ancient Greek influences, which has helped to shape the beauty of Nafplio, and has ensured that it is one of the most stunning and romantic destinations in Greece. The city boasts a stunning promenade, which looks out upon the Bay of Argolis, and there you can find a wealth of cafes, bars and art galleries. Meanwhile, a trip to the Karonis winery, found deep in the heart of Nafplio’s old town offers the opportunity to try a vast selection of the local Nemea and Mantineia wines. For a flavour of local Greek plates, then I Gonia Tou Kavalari will ensure a genuine experience, which will include dishes like shrimp saganaki and fried marida fish, all of which will be accompanied by uplifting Greek music, and lashings of local red wine.
You may think that the French Riviera needs little coverage, and with destinations like St Tropez, Nice, Cannes and Monaco that would be understandable. However, look below the surface and you will discover an array of quaint, undiscovered French villages and towns that are truly unique, and fly under the radar. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is such a town. Far removed from the glitz and glamour of the Côte d’Azur, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is slow paced, relaxed and not to mention exceedingly charming. Its maze-like streets twist and turn, adorned by countless eateries, bars and cafes. An unpretentious, unassuming sophistication blanket the small town, making for an idyllic location to enjoy the sumptuous Riviera. A must visit is the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole monastery, renowned due to Van Gogh painting both ‘The Starry Night’ and ‘Irises’ there. For a restful night sleep, we would recommend the cosy, yet chic Mas Valentine Hotel, found just 1km from central Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.