We won’t get into the New Year’s resolutions we’ve already broken. Instead, we’ll focus on the ones we’re confident about making real, like doing more travel around the globe. Whether it’s an up-and-coming destination, a forgotten city with a new hotel or an old favorite we simply can’t get enough of, our bags are already packed. If yours are, too, read on for expert travel tips on 2013’s top trips.
Though the Summer Olympics are over, London is still abuzz with happenings. It’s the newest city for our Forbes Travel Guide star ratings—we’ll announce those in March. London’s culture scene is thriving, too: Head to the Victoria & Albert Museum between March 23 and July 28 to see the first international retrospective of David Bowie’s career in the “David Bowie is” exhibit, which will feature everything from handwritten lyrics to the superstar’s own instruments. In February, the much-anticipated View from The Shard will welcome visitors to the 68th, 69th and 72nd floors of the Renzo Piano-designed high-rise—now the tallest in Europe. As if that weren’t enough, Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London is slated to debut in late 2013 as the brand’s first U.K. outpost. If you plan a trip before the opening, book a room at Charlie Trotter’s favorite hotel, The Lanesborough, and make reservations at Ariane Daguin’s favorite restaurant, Hélène Darroze at The Connaught.
The Chinese government tightened travel restrictions to this remarkable destination in May 2012, making it even tougher for some international tourists to obtain the elusive travel permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau. But it’s still possible, and it’s even more important to visit the spiritual land of the Tibetan people now, before the culture is entirely eradicated. The civilization that was once dominated by stunning monasteries set high in the Himalayas is being modernized—but not on its own terms. Lhasa, home to the Potala Palace—the former winter home of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is experiencing a surge of new Chinese hotels, restaurants and tourists. And throughout the region, laws have banned Tibetan traditions in favor of Chinese culture and language. So if Tibet is on your travel bucket list, consider making it a priority in 2013 before the last traces of this amazing culture are gone.
While Paris is a regular contender on travel lists, hotel enthusiasts, arts fanatics and foodies will especially want to visit the city in 2013. If you get to the City of Light before the end of March, book a stay at Kelly Wearstler’s preferred spot, Hôtel de Crillon, before its palatial doors close for a two-year restoration. Otherwise, plan to check in to the much-anticipated Peninsula Paris, which debuts in late 2013, or snag a room at Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker David Bouley’s favorite, Le Bristol. This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Paris Opera Ballet School, which will pair up with the Paris Opera Ballet to celebrate in April. Also, Opéra Garnier will honor the bicentenary of two of the great 19th-century composers—Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi—with concerts such as Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung andVerdi’s Falstaff. And you can’t leave Ivanka Trump’s favorite city without dining at L’Ami Louis, a top choice of Tastemakers Jason Pomeranc and Tom Douglas.
One of the most-visited cities in Europe, Barcelona has seen an influx of new hotels—there were 13 in 2012 alone—and Turisme de Barcelona expects visitor numbers to continue rising over the next couple of years. Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Anthony Bourdain’s favorite city has plenty going on this year: The Picasso Museum, which celebrates its 40th year, will exhibit Yo Picasso. Self-Portraits between May 31 and Sept. 1—the first major monographic exhibition of the artist’s self-portraits. It’s also a big year for sports: The Catalan capital will host the X Games (May 16 to 19) as part of the Games’ international expansion. For a taste of Barcelona, dine at one of Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Eric Ripert’s go-to restaurants—Jean Luc Figueras, Comerç 24, Casa Tejada—or Joe Bastianich’s standby, Cal Pep.
There’s never been a better time to visit Ecuador. The country’s railway system, now known as Tren Ecuador, is being completely overhauled for 2013 with several lines revamped and added, including Tren Crucero, which will link the capital city of Quito (and the gateway to the Galapagos) to the coastal town of Guayaquil. The new luxury line—which is scheduled to begin service in June— winds through the breathtaking Ecuadorian Andes and Pacific Coast powered by steam and diesel locomotives. It includes four train cars, accommodations for up to 54 passengers, upscale dining and outdoor terrace seating. Plans are in the works to connect the Nariz del Diablo line to the Cotopaxi Volcano, and if it comes to fruition, the route will be one of the steepest railways in the Western hemisphere.
For a look at 20 other destinations we can’t wait to visit in 2013, please visit here.
Photos Courtesy of oversnap, IngenuiIngenui, Luciano Mortula, Nikada and mdmworks