Do you believe in too much of a good thing? Can you get tired of gelato? Bored with the white sand beach that mesmerized you the first time you saw turquoise Caribbean waters?
If that’s you, don’t worry. You’re normal (maybe not the gelato part). While I think pretty much all travel is good travel, I do believe in shaking it up once in a while. Today’s post is for you wandering hearts, you travelers seeking new horizons, you vacationers who want fresh photos that prompt the question: “Wait, where were you?”
If you loved Italy, head to Croatia.
Ever wondered where Italians like to get away from it all? Here’s the big secret: Croatia.
This month, I’m planning four Italian itineraries. Each is distinct, a custom way to explore one of the most romantic countries in the world. There’s a reason “the Boot” tops so many travelers lists: The food! The culture! Art, music, ancient cities — and that romantic language, of course. Italian holidays are classic, and I don’t think the country’s appeal will die. But I do think there’s room for more destinations at the table. And my first suggestion for Italophiles is to look over the waters of the sparkling Adriatic. What’s that mountain-backed coastline over there? Croatia.
Croatia sits a few hours’ boat ride across the sea from Ancona, Bari, Pesaro, Pescara, Trieste and other Italian cities. Though it’s recently crossed the radar of travel trendsetters (the European Travel Commission called it “a royal choice for a holiday”), Croatia still feels like a hidden gem. Sixteenth-century Dubrovnik (the backdrop for Game of Thrones) has welcomed an influx of tourists in the last few years, but you can easily get off the beaten path. Croatia's lush wine country rivals Tuscany. Its glittering waterfall country is perfect for hiking and swimming close to nature. And as you are ferried across its diverse islands (arid Brac anchors 1 million olive trees while sandy Hvar boasts lavender fields and luxury resorts), you won’t regret switching out Ciao! for Zdravo!
If you like Costa Rica, try Panama.
These neighbors have a lot in common. Both offer spa and wellness retreats set high in green mountain country. And both include stunning biodiversity. Somehow, Panama has stayed a bit more tucked away. There are fewer tourists, which means pristine beaches and hundreds of unspoiled islands. Panama is small enough for you to include city, mountain, and beach backdrops. The San Blas islands off the glittering coast of Panama are elusive, tiny dots of paradise accessible by sailing expedition, small plane, or a Jeep-and-water-taxi adventure. Have I convinced you yet? If you’re under the magic spell of Costa Rica, consider a detour to the secluded sands of Panama before everyone else gets there.
If you pine for Switzerland, head to Slovenia.
Lake Lucerne or Lake Bled? (If you have all the time in the world, I’d love to show you both!) If you long for an authentic, local experience, Slovenia’s Lake Bled has all the alpine village charm with a little less press coverage. A medieval castle perched on a nearby hillside guards the lakeside town. Take an rowboat ride over the morning-misted waters to the island at the center of the lake. There, you can climb 99 steps to to a picture-perfect church (and the stuff of Instagram dreams).
But that’s only comparing two villages. The truth is, Switzerland and Slovenia have a lot in common. Both will wow you with majestic snow-capped mountains. Both feature a long list of adventure sports and locales. Slovenia isn’t called the “Switzerland of the Balkans” without reason. I have a feeling this boutique European destination is about to have a big moment, so why not say you were there in the beginning?
If you’re dreaming of Botswana, consider Namibia.
This last pair is a little special. As with every country on this list, I’d love for you to see both these stunners. But when it comes to Botswana and Namibia, I’m hoping to highlight the similarities and differences so you can decide which one works for you.
First, they’re both safari destinations (and you know I'm up for any and all safari talk after my own anniversary trip to South Africa). But look past the surface? You’re weighing the pros and cons of two very different destinations. Botswana will awe you with its wildlife. And from exclusive remote lodges to sprawling conservation lands replete with luxurious amenities, you can’t go wrong with Botswana.
Wait though — before you set your eyes on a classic safari in Botswana, look at photos of Namibia. Yes, really, Google it. Describing the wild, magic beauty of Namibia’s deserts and rocky landscapes is impossible. There, you’ll still see a startling variety of animals around the watering holes. There, you’ll also cool off in private pools and warm yourself at night around fires beneath southern star constellations. According to Vogue, “Namibia isn’t most travelers’ first African vacation; it tends to be the destination of choice for a savvy third- or fourth-time visitor.” I agree that Namibia’s big skies and extreme landscapes aren’t as widely advertised to first-time adventurers. But that doesn’t mean it isn't a spectacular introduction to African safariing for those who also want to go seal-watching on the coast, indulge in candlelit dinners on sand dunes, and experience the crazy diversity of Namibia.
Looking for more destinations about to burst on the luxury travel scene? Get in touch! If you let me know your wanderlust dreams, I’d love to create another post of side-by-side inspiration.