12 holiday destinations to explore in 2023

Your next overseas adventure starts here. Inspire your wanderlust with these top 12 travel destinations

Your next adventure starts here

There’s no doubt that Kiwi travellers have had it tough over the past few years. But as the Māori proverb goes, “As an old net withers, another is remade.” If you’re ready to forge new travel dreams for 2023 and beyond, you’ve come to the right place.

With international travel back in full swing, we’ve curated a list of 12 captivating destinations to explore in the years ahead. From Europe to Central America and everywhere in between, these are our picks for the best places to travel and the best times to go.

Best places to travel in December, January and February

Summer is a great time to spend in New Zealand, with countless domestic travel opportunities to enjoy. But if adventure is calling beyond our shores, it can also be a thrilling time to travel overseas.

Here are three of the best places to travel in December, January and February.

1. Berlin, Germany

Best for: Captivating Christmas markets the whole family will love.

With snow-lined streets adorned with an endless sea of lights, Christmas in Berlin looks and feels a lot different to the Kiwi summer. When it comes to Christmas festivities, Germany is hard to beat and its capital Berlin is the star at the top of the tree.

Berlin hosts the country’s largest range of Christmas markets, with over 100 to choose from throughout the city. The Spandau, Alexanderplatz, Gendarmenmarkt and Red Town Hall markets are some of the best, where you’ll find everything from luxury shopping to ice skating rinks and fairground rides for the little ones.

2. Quebec, Canada

Best for: Nature, history and world-class skiing.

Quebec and Montreal are North America’s only French-speaking cities, giving them a distinctive cultural identity and making them some of Canada’s most popular attractions for travellers. With its charming plazas, cobbled streets and sprawling museums, Quebec City is a must-see for lovers of history and nature.

The Montmorency Falls are just 15 minutes from Old Quebec and are actually 30 metres higher than Niagra Falls! If you’re looking for snow during New Zealand’s off season, you’re in luck. The nearby Le Massif de Charlevoix is often named one of the most underrated skiing resorts in North America.

3. Oaxaca City, Mexico

Best for: Foodie adventures in a charming colonial setting.

With its vibrant street art, picturesque colonial streets, famous food scene and gorgeous natural surroundings, Oaxaca is undoubtedly one of Mexico’s most popular cities for tourists. Pronounced “wa-ha-ca”, it houses a massive variety of restaurants where you can test your palate with traditional favourites like mole, tlayuda and grasshoppers.

Winters in Oaxaca have pleasant warm days and cool evenings, and also host several festivals. Be sure not to miss the Day of the Dead celebrations if you’re travelling in November.

Best places to travel in March, April and May

Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere means spring has sprung up north, with temperatures creeping up and businesses preparing for the summertime crowds. Here are three destinations where you can take advantage of the so-called “shoulder season”.

4. Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Best for: Biodiverse jungles teeming with wildlife.

Costa Rica is a Central American paradise famous for its biodiversity. Over half a million species call the small country home, and a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast could have you meeting many of them up close.

A seemingly endless variety of birds including toucans and macaws, playful troops of monkeys and even the much-loved sloths live in the National Park, which spans lush rainforests, mangroves, beaches and coral reefs. Being the smallest National Park in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio is easily explored in a single day.

You’ll find plenty of other activities to enjoy once you’re finished with your nature walk, such as ziplining, horse riding, surfing and shopping in nearby towns like Quepos.

5. Kyoto, Japan

Best for: Experiencing an age-old Japanese tradition.

It’s safe to say that Kiwis have a love affair with Japan. With its delicious cuisine, modern cities and breathtaking scenery, it’s easy to see why travellers young and old find something to adore in the Land of the Rising Sun.

If you’re interested in the country’s traditions or have a soft spot for flowers, it’s hard to beat April in Kyoto when the famous cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Enjoying the cherry blossom season is an ancient practice called “hanami”, and the historic city of Kyoto is one of Japan’s best places to indulge. Check out the popular hanami viewing spots of Maruyama Park, Kyoto Botanical Garden and the Philosopher’s Path.

6. Cyprus, Mediterranean

Best for: Impressive Mediterranean landscapes and historical sites.

The small island republic of Cyprus sits in the Mediterranean Sea and has become a must-see for travellers looking for picturesque coastlines, unique cuisine and distinctive culture. The country has historical and natural attractions in equal measure, like the archeological sites of Nea Paphos and the Tombs of the Kings, and natural wonders like Aphrodite’s Rock and Cape Greco.

Summertime in Cyprus is typically hot and dry, but the spring months can deliver more pleasant conditions. April is regarded as the greenest month when Cyprus’ wildflowers and fields are at their best.

Best places to travel in June, July and August

If you’re a passionate powder hound, there are few places better than New Zealand in winter. However, if you’re missing those lazy beach days and late sunsets, these three destinations could be the key to your endless summer.

7. Porto, Portugal 

Best for: A classic European holiday in an authentic and charming city.

If you’re planning to escape the Kiwi winter for Europe’s sunny shores, Porto in the north of Portugal is a strong candidate to host your adventure. Lakeside outdoor dining, long warm evenings, easily-accessible beaches and eye-catching architecture are just a few of the things that make this city special.

Porto’s medieval riverside district is one of the most photogenic cityscapes in Europe, with towering church spires peeking over a colourful maze of houses and cafes. The city’s food isn’t to be ignored either, with classic Porto staples like francesinha sandwiches and port wine.

8. Isle of Skye, Scotland

Best for: Astounding scenery and plentiful outdoor adventure.

The Isle of Skye is steeped in legend, harkening back to an age when fairies darted through fields and warrior clans traversed the lands. The island in Scotland’s west has castles and ruins dating back centuries, but even more breathtaking than its history is its natural scenery.

You’ll be awe-struck by its imposing snow-capped mountains, icy Lochs, untouched beaches, cascading waterfalls and endless meadows blanketing its rolling hills.

However, they don’t call the Isle of Skye the “Misty Isle” for nothing. Much of the year can bring seriously cold and wet conditions, which is why the summer months from June through August are its most popular.

9. Biarritz, France

Best for: Chic city streets and plentiful surfing beaches.

Biarritz in Southern France’s Basque Country has been a holiday hotspot for over 100 years, when the Parisian elite would vacation by its shores. Today, this chic coastal town is sometimes called “French California”, due to its quality surfing, charming swimming beaches and laidback attitude.

It’s hard to talk about Biarritz without making mention of its many great waves, including Cotes des Basques, Grande Plage, Anglet and world-class Hossegor to the north. In fact, it’s considered to be the birthplace of surfing in Europe.

Out of the water, you’ll find eclectic Basque cuisine in the town’s many restaurants, a range of boutiques, and easy buses south into Spain’s northern cities like San Sebastian.

Best places to travel in September, October and November

The Kiwi spring is also considered a shoulder season for some of the world’s most popular travel destinations. Here are three places to visit in September, October and November.

10. South Pacific Cruise

Best for: Pleasant spring conditions for reclining on deck.

An endless blue sea, tropical shores, sunchairs by the pool and a good book - overseas cruise holidays can be the ideal way to recharge the batteries with an easy and stress-free travel experience.

The Kiwi spring sees pleasant conditions for cruises to the South Pacific. Itineraries like this 11-day trip on P&O include stops in the Tongan port of Nuku’alofa and the Fijian port of Denarau.

11. Rome, Italy

Best for: Ticking off bucket-list attractions without the summer crowds.

Roman summers can be chaotic with bustling tourist crowds clogging streets and taking the shine off sightseeing. However, the summer crowds start to thin come September and hotels revert to their lower mid-season rates.

The Kiwi spring can be the perfect time to enjoy big-name tourist attractions like the Trevi Fountain and Colosseum with a fraction of the crowd and more pleasant temperatures. But take note, the weeks leading into winter can become cold and wet so time your visit carefully.

12. New York, USA

Best for: Seeing Central Park in New York’s favourite season.

If you’ve ever listened to Billie Holiday’s famous song “Autumn in New York”, you’ll know that fall in the city is widely adored for its cosy atmosphere and pleasant temperatures. For travellers, this also means cheaper accommodation and fewer tourists, making it one of the best times to explore the Big Apple.

Autumn transforms Central Park into a wonderland of rich yellows, reds, maroons and browns as the park’s 18,000 trees ditch their summer greens. Renting a bike and meandering through its many trails while enjoying the scenery is a great way to get a real taste of Autumn in New York.