(CNN) — It’s never too early to start planning next year’s big trips.
National Geographic is also getting off to an early start, releasing its World’s Best list of 25 must-see destinations for 2023 in late October.
Respect – for people and their cultures, for the land and its conservation – is an overarching theme of the list, which is divided into five official categories.
The hope is that 2023 will not just be a great return to travel, but also a rediscovery of wonder, said Amy Alipio, editor of National Geographic Travel.
“Because when you’re impressed with something, you treat it with respect. And that spirit is something we want to encourage with this roster,” Alipio said.
The list focuses on destinations that have community-led conservation efforts, healing and heritage journeys and ways for travelers to give back as well as places that do important work in ecotourism, sustainability and inclusive travel.
A young nang keo dancer performs in Luang Prabang, the former imperial capital of Laos now accessible by high-speed train.
Kike Calvo/Nat Geo Image Collection
A look at the community
National Geographic introduced a new category to this year’s list, replacing “sustainability” with a broader “community” category.
“It’s about broadening the focus on people who are looking for sustainable destinations and the different ways that are showing up, making travel more accessible to supporting local businesses,” Alipio said.
Sustainability has been integrated a little more into each category. The other four categories are nature, culture, adventure and family.
The five destinations listed under “community” represent a diverse range of strengths.
Ghana is listed as an important destination for black heritage travelers in West Africa.
Alberta, Canada also makes the list.
“They’ve been a leader in Indigenous tourism, essentially allowing travelers to learn about the stories and ways of life of First Nations here in North America,” as well as their vibrant contemporary cultures, Alipio said.
In Laos, a new high-speed train is making the country more accessible to visitors and providing economic opportunities for locals.
The Great Lakes city of Milwaukee, Wis., is listed in part because it has “really supported its creative community,” Alipio said, citing Bronzeville, which is opening a cultural center focused on African-American art.
And in the Greek Dodecanese Islands, Karpathos is a benchmark for sustainable tourism with female leadership.
Big openings, small crowds
The list is not without great novelties. The highly anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum outside Cairo features in Egypt’s appearance on the 2023 list in the “culture” category. And Charleston, South Carolina will soon be home to the International African American Museum, which is slated to open in January.
The wilderness of the United States makes the list in two categories, with an emphasis on getting away from the crowds.
Utah, where five national parks are huge draws, features in the “adventure” category in part for its efforts to direct tourists to some of its lesser-known areas to combat overtourism.
Slovenia, a ‘longtime leader in sustainable tourism’, combines cycling routes with visits to wineries, cheese makers and other food producers in a way that earns it a place in the ‘nature’ category with a culinary bonus .
The Scottish Highlands, the dazzling volcanic archipelago of the Azores in Portugal and Botswana are also on the “nature” list for their conservation and sustainability efforts.
Young sperm whales in the waters around the Azores. The Portuguese archipelago is on National Geographic’s list of the best in the world in the “nature” category.
Andy Mann/Nat Geo Image Collection
Family, adventure and culture
Colombia was in the spotlight with the Disney movie “Encanto,” making it a timely pick for the “family” category. In California, San Francisco’s Crosstown Trail is another great place for family adventure.
Speaking of “adventure,” this category also includes Choquequirao, Peru, an Inca site rivaling Machu Picchu that is becoming increasingly accessible and driving economic development.
And New Zealand, long the capital of adventure, is on the list as excitement grows with the resurgence of travel.
The Austrian Alps also offer great opportunities for adventure within the Bergsteigerdörfer network of 29 mountaineering villages.
Asia, which has been slower to reopen after the pandemic, features prominently in the “culture” category. Busan, South Korea appears in the craft beer offerings category at Asia’s Best Film Festival.
As China remains closed to international tourism, its Longmen Grottoes in Henan province are also on the ‘culture’ list as new technologies draw attention to one of the largest collections of stone statues in the world. world.
Elephants graze among the lush waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, which appears in the “nature” category.
Beverly Joubert/Nat Geo Image Collection
National Geographic’s World’s Best 2023 list:
Appian Way, Italy
Busan, South Korea
Longmen Grottoes, Henan Province, China
Charleston, South Carolina
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Revillagigedo National Park, Mexico
Dodecanese Islands, Greece
Trinidad and Tobago
San Francisco Crosstown Trail, California
Manchester, United Kingdom