Women Who Travel

Women Who Travel Podcast: The Best Places to Go in 2024

Host Lale Arikoglu sits down with colleagues Arati Menon and Sarah James to take you behind the scenes of our annual list.
Women Who Travel Podcast The Best Places to Go in 2024

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It's a new year, which means it's time to stop daydreaming and start planning your travels for the next 12 months. Can't decide where to visit? Read on to find out the best places to go in 2024—from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Accra, Ghana—as well as the process behind making our selections according to Condé Nast Traveler editors Arati Menon and Sarah James.

Lale Arikoglu: This feels hilarious to be interviewing two people that I talk to every day.

Hi, I'm Lale Arikoglu with a new episode of Women Who Travel, where I'm getting to talk to my very own colleagues and Condé Nast Traveler, traveler editors, Arati Menon and Sara James about the 24 best places to go in 2024.

Arati and Sarah, could you introduce yourselves and talk a little bit about what you do at Condé Nast Traveler?

Sarah James: So, I'm Sarah. I'm the Deputy Digital editor. I'm in London, so I work across Condé Nast Traveler UK online.

LA: And Sarah, I will say, you also seem to know every single restaurant publicist in London 'cause last time I was home, you hooked me up with some amazing meals.

SJ: Yeah, food is my, my jam. So I've been to every restaurant, either myself or I send a team, yeah. Anyone needs a recommendation, condénasttraveler.co.uk.

LA: [laughs] And Arati, talk a little bit about what you are doing for Traveler, and how you're working with all the different Condé Nast Travelers around the world.

Arati Menon: So, hi. Yes. I'm Arati Menon, and I'm the Global Digital Director at Condé Nast Traveler. I live and work in New York with Lale, and work very, very closely with her.

LA: Yeah. Well you don't live with me. Sometimes it feels like we live together.

AM: [laughs] We practically do. That's a little bit scary.

LA: I think I spend more time with you than I do with literally anyone else.

AM: Probably. And then go home, and continue our conversations.

LA: [laughs] Exactly.

AM: Which is a little bit scary and we know each other's wardrobes intimately and what we are doing for Sunday brunch, et cetera, et cetera. But um, back to work, I work with an incredible team of editors and writers, not just in the US but across our teams in different markets. It's like the UK, I work with Sarah really, really closely as well as editors in Spain and the Middle East and India and China. I co-lead this list each year with my wonderful colleague, Megan Spurrell. And yeah, excited to be here and, uh, to be talking about it.

LA: So much of how I travel is shaped by working at a travel magazine, but I'm interested to know kind of how you came into it and how that informs the decisions you make as travel editors.

AM: So for me, a lot of my proclivities and inclinations as a traveler have stemmed from my earliest memories of travel. For instance, I have a deep, deep fondness for train travel and slow travel. And that's because my parents made it a priority for us to go on a lot of different train trips.

LA: And Sarah, what about you?

SJ: When I was a kid, you know, you don't really get to choose where you're going. My parents would take me back to the same corner of France every year, and I was desperate to go to Disney World. They must have been so annoyed. [laughs]

LA: Oh my God. I did the same thing, 'cause I'd, I'd get taken to Turkey every year-

SJ: Yeah.

LA: ... and I would just complain. "I want to go to Disney World."

SJ: Yeah. I would just complain.

AM: Have either of you been to Disney World?

SJ: No. Never. Because now that makes me wanna cry. [laughs]

LA: Uh, exactly the same. Never been. Now understand why my parents never wanted to take me, but I resented them as a 7-year-old.

I have to say that this year's best places to go list is the biggest and the best and the most interesting. And I apologize to all of my former colleagues who worked on it in the past, but how on earth do you set about even narrowing down a short list of what is gonna appear on best places to go?

AM: We put a call out to our writers and contributors to pitch us what they think will be the most exciting destination in 2024, anchored with really, well, newsy news.

SJ: This is the first year we've really tried to take this list and make it sort of really robust all across the world, wherever you are, if you are in Australia, when you're not leaving that part of the world in 2024, there's still so many places on this list that you can go to. We have teams in Spain, Dubai, India getting those recommendations that only a local person would know really, like rooting down into a destination and finding the coffee shop or the artist that, that our readers would love to hear about and love to be inspired by.

AM: We're talking about 2024, and each of these destinations is in one way or another, some louder, others quieter, but are having their moment in 2024.

SJ: I was just gonna say the other thing. All of these places offer luxury and that doesn't necessarily mean swanky new hotels, although sometimes it does. It might mean the luxury of taking your time slow traveling somewhere, or getting into nature and exploring a landscape. I think all of them have to offer that kind of exceptional, incredible opportunity for the traveler that they want to grab hold of.

AM: We have a process and a framework, and are very clear about why we are picking what we are picking and the fact that we are all signed on to this sort of vision mission of picking the most diverse. And again, not just geographically diverse, it's also a sort of diversity of some of these milestones. So it's not just the big luxury openings, it's the, it's the launch of, uh, of a new, uh, but very historic cycling route. Or it's the ability to traverse a landscape previously inaccessible or it... Or sometimes it's just a waterfront park that is gonna allow you to, um, explore and experience the city differently. Or an camp track, train route that connects two very important Southern American cities that haven't been connected for years. So, it really is about offering people opportunities in that sort of, in their backyards but further afield and things that are not just sort of fancy and expensive and bucket listy.

LA: I'm really glad that you said not fancy and expected and bucket listy.

AM: Does anyone say fancy anymore?

LA: I say fancy. [laughs]

SJ: Fancy.

LA: But I mean, I was gonna say this might be the wrong crowd, so, um, [laughs] to test that one. Um, but I say fancy and you know, Condé Nast Traveler, we're known for having a lot of fancy places on our website and in our magazine.

SJ: Yeah.

LA: But I had... When, you know, when I was preparing for this, I had jotted down a bunch of things I wanted to talk to you both about and budget and accessibility from like a budget perspective as one of them for me, you know, when you're plotting out the year and where you want to go, there's firstly, there's only so many vacation days and, you know, you are kind of within the limits of your own kind of financial boundaries.

AM: Mm-Hmm.

LA: But, you know, I think... How, how important is it to make it budget-friendly and also I think I like to have fun with that as well? Sarah, I'm interested to know how you were factoring that in and thinking about it for yourself as a traveler as well.

SJ: I think... Things are hard. Times are hard. Travel is expensive. It's something I certainly think about every time I do exactly what you're saying. It's December I'm thinking, "Okay, 2024, what does this hold for me?" The way I travel tends to be kind of picking my one big trip. This is what I'm gonna spend my money and my annual leave on. And then the rest of my travel will be a bit smaller, a bit more budget-friendly. But I think the joy of this list is that, I mean, first of all, it really depends who you are calling your sort of regular traveler. What's expensive for me would be a trip to Japan. Whereas, to someone who lives closer to Japan, that might be a lot easier. For me, taking a trip to Yorkshire or Scotland is hugely inexpensive. Um, I can do that, you know, very excessively in terms of time and money. So the fact that we have these continent trips, you can kind of pick and choose based on, on what your budget looks like.

One of my favorite stories in this list is actually Kosovo. And that is not an expensive sort of story that we've told that at all. It's all about these hiking and cycling routes. So they're opening these new cycling routes going through the Gjeravica, I think is how you pronounce it, mountains. You go past waterfalls, you go through caves. It's not luxury in the traditional sense in that you're not staying in a, in a four seasons or a six senses as amazing as those properties can be. It's luxury in that you get to see these pristine landscapes. You get to be in nature. You get to spend time going slower and rooting down and understanding what makes a country tick. So I think in terms of budget, there's kind of something for everyone. There's kind of something, if you're looking to blow the budget birthday honeymoon, you wanna go wild. And there's something for if you just wanna see the world without remortgaging your house.

LA: I love that you say that, Sarah, because, you know, I'm guilty of this too, which is that when I think of the word budget, I have like very specific images of what budget travel or a budget holiday looks like.

SJ: Mm-Hmm.

LA: And it's very limiting. It's very unimaginative on my part. Um, and I think of it like some of the most memorable and beautiful places I've ever stayed have actually often not been luxurious in any way. Like, one of my favorite places I've ever been to, and given I had to get there and that was expensive because it was in Japan, but it was this tiny little Rio can on a hiking trail in the middle of nowhere that had like four rooms. And my room was one of those very simple Rio can rooms where it was just like a futon on the floor and this incredible view of the mountains and the forests and that was it. And I think of it every day.

SJ: I think you are really getting the experience. It's, you know, it's not about staying somewhere where a butler and 17 Michelin star restaurants necessarily. It's about understanding a destination and the people that live there. Those are the most memorable travel experiences. And yes, it costs money to get to Japan, you're right. But once you're there, you don't have to be spending thousands and thousands of pounds a night.

AM: I love that we're talking about sort of what, what does luxury even mean. And I'm thinking of things like... You know, I was talking to... I'm in India at the moment with, with my parents in, in a city called Hyderabad in Southern India. And I was talking to a friend of mine who is Indian, and has an Indian passport, and she's, she's been talking about how hard it is to travel with, um, visa wait times, um, sort of being really, really, uh, insurmountable. And I'm thinking about sort of passport privilege and, and I... It makes me think of calling out Mongolia, which is one of the destinations on our list, doing away with visas for a year and a half. And granted, of course, you still have to go, get to Mongolia, and it's no cheap trip. But, you know, there's... Luxury can mean so many things. Luxury could mean not having to get a visa, and visas are very expensive. I used to have an Indian passport. I can tell you that I spent a lot of money on Visas.

LA: Stay with us as we keep traveling to some of the amazing places we picked.

AM: Detroit has this really ambitious waterfront park development that's gonna change the city's waterfront and how both locals and travelers will experience the city.

LA: You mentioned the waterfront in Detroit, and you kind of emphasized that nothing really gets on this list without there being a level of newsiness to it. Why is having something new so important?

AM: Newsiness is important because it helps people make picks, right? When you think about how three years ago, we were all stuck in our homes, watching TV and, uh, mixing too many gin tonics for ourselves and, and sort of being really, really burdened by how complicated the world was and, and, and think about us now. And, and, and of course the world is still very complicated and often troubled, but we have this wonderful luxury of being able to travel and pick again and go far-flung places and dust off those bucket lists. And so I think that having it anchored in newsiness helps people pick from a million different, you know, options. But when I say new, i- it- it's often a new or revisited or revamped, so yeah.

LA: You mentioned how complicated the world is. At the moment, it feels like, "Well what's the point of a list like this when there's so much sorrow and complexity happening across the world?" Ho- how, how can this list make people feel hopeful about the world?

SJ: I think there is some-

LA: Big question, sorry guys.

SJ: Let me just explain the world to you.

LA: [laughs] Yeah. Sarah, can you just, just fix it for me? Thank you.

SJ: I think there is so much hope in this list, and I was thinking about how many of the places on this list are doing truly amazing things with sustainability that don't just boil down to planting some trees. You have places who are doing amazing coral reef conservation in Mauritius, in Botswana, and you have these amazing community-owned concessions, which are kind of opening up the land and giving it back to the people who, who it belongs to, basically.

And one of my favorite stories in this list is, um, about Accra in Ghana. It talks about, um, these amazing food movements. It's called the Ghana Food Movement. Um, and I mean, I'll read you what it says. It says a network of food change makers intent on servicing the sexy and sustainable food. Um, and it's all about kind of indigenous menus, championing local people, doing amazing things with early ingredients, ancestral ways of eating. Um, and I think traveling to these places and, and getting to know these stories which are making a huge difference for the planet, for communities is, is one of the best outcomes of travel.

And I just think there's a lot of fun to be found in this list. So in that same Accra story, it talks about the club scene and the sort of West African music scene and these amazing festivals like, um, Afro Futures. I know in the Asia list we talk about how I will do anything to bring up Taylor Swift, how Taylor Swift is gonna like revitalize the Singaporean sort of gig tripping economy for the first time. And I think there is so much joy to be found in just traveling for fun and to be silly and to have a good time. And that's enough a lot of the time.

LA: Well, then I really like what you were saying about this food movement and Accra, because, you know, it's talking about sustainability, and it's getting people to kind of challenge themselves and think about eating and living sustainably, but it's through actually a really enjoyable experience.

SJ: Yeah, 100%. I promise you, if you eat at any of these places on this Accra story, you'll, you'll be better.

AM: I do love the fact that one, you both bring up a cry. I feel like that is the hot ticket item and I feel like we are all gonna have to fight over who gets to go there first. And another really fun mention, uh, for me, we have Santa Fe on our list and-

LA: Oh my God, I, I-

AM: I know you wanna go here too. [laughs]

LA: Well, no, I've been, and I've been to Zozobra, and it's-

AM: You have?

LA: Yes. Okay. Talk about it and then I'll tell you about my experience.

AM: Okay. So Santa Fe obviously has held its own for a while, and it's known for its wonderful adobe style architecture, and then it has all these wonderful art institutions. And actually, in 2024, it's gonna see the first ever indigenous fashion week that'll showcase Indigenous designers and artists, which can be very, very exciting as well as an indigenous contemporary art fair, et cetera. But 2024 also marks the hundredth anniversary of the Burning of the Zozobra, which Lale, you've been to. Very jealous. But it is a much loved kind of, uh, cultural affair and essentially, uh, and Lale, you can tell us more, but there's this 50 foot effigy called Old Man Gloom, and it is stuffed with, let's call them paper glooms. It's sort of like parking tickets or, uh, onerous paper- paperwork, like, uh, things that bring you sadness or make you mad, like divorce summons and things. And you set it all light and it's super cathartic for everyone. So I really, really wanna go and I, I think again, a few of us are gonna have to fight over who gets to go first. But tell us how much you love Zozobra.

LA: Okay. Well, I love New Mexico, and I love Santa Fe. And, you know, when I first moved here, I ended up befriending, and they're still my friends, these triplets from Santa Fe, um, who then had-

AM: I love the story already.

LA: ... all of these other friends from Santa Fe that had moved to New York. So weirdly, I've ended up knowing loads of people from there. Everyone who's grown up there is very cool, um, is one of my takeaways. And I've been to a couple of weddings there. My friend, Dustin, one of, one of the triplets has now moved back. Um, so I've had some great excuses to go. And I did go to Zozobra in 2019, and the effigy is as large as it looks in the pictures or even more. It's a true spectacle. And it's, you know, it's out in the desert. Well, I mean, it's in town, but the town- you know, San- Santa Fe's in the desert, everyone of all ages comes out and you get to burn your gloom as part of the tradition.

But I love everything about Santa Fe, you know. It's the food and the landscape and the sort of access to the outdoors. Again, like being from the UK, I've just, the first time I went there, it felt like I was on Mars. It's just, it's one of my favorite places in the world.

What are the destinations that you are most excited about visiting this year? Which are the ones that you are going to be fighting other editors to make sure-

AM: [laughs]

LA: ... you get to go on assignment to?

SJ: I have two answers to this. One is very predictable, is Yorkshire in the UK. I'm completely obsessed with food and Yorkshire is having this incredible foodie moment. There are so many sorts of Michelin mentions, but then there's also these amazing little pubs, um, and, and cafes, which are really serving sort of good old, hearty northern grub using the best produce in the area. Um, my other one is actually from one of the localists, it's from Europe and it's Bodo in Norway. I'm one of those people that I guess always associated going on holiday with being warm. I think maybe that's a British thing. I'm not... I'm never warm here. Um, and I just associate it with-

LA: It might be. I'm still a bit like that-

SJ: Yeah.

LA: ... Even now, although I did go to Montreal in the depths of winter last year, I highly recommend it. It was great.

SJ: Well, this is the thing. I always thought I wanted to be in my bikini, drinking a pina colada in the sun. And I think partly because of what's happening in the world, not to go back to guilting anyone for going anywhere. Um, you know, we saw this summer there were so many wildfires and it's making kind of peak summer travel in Europe. Quite difficult and unsustainable in lots of ways. And I think we're seeing this real trend for something we are calling cocationing, which is kind of seeking out colder destinations, colder climbs. And Bodo is this tiny arctic fishing village. It's been named the European capsule of culture for 2024, which I think is the most northerly, it must be the most northerly, um, city that's ever had that. It's a gateway to the Lofoten Islands, which again is amazing for food. You can see the Northern Lights and I can't think of anywhere I'd like to be more than freezing cold immersed in that nature and kind of getting to see what the Arctic Circle has to offer.

LA: And Arati, can you narrow it down to two? I'm gonna make you.

AM: The Magdalena River in Colombia. It is the largest and one of the most important waterways. It is the country's sort of economic artery, but also sort of the cultural heart. And for the first time ever, via a river cruise company called AmaWaterways, there will be two new ships that will debut voyages up the river and, uh, leading people up to a UNESCO designated city called Mompox. And, um, along the way you sort of really witnessed life on the shoreline and passed by several historic and cultural landmarks. And I think that's probably high on my bucket list.

I also really want to go to... I've been wanting to go to Guatemala for a long time, um, and, uh, you know, somebody who loves design and local craftsmanship, I think there's a lot going on there. Obviously, there's, uh, Mayan ruins, and beautiful jungle and, and really, really rich indigenous history, but there's also new infrastructure for tourism, right? So hotels, and, and historic properties that have been converted into really interesting boutiques and, and cafes, et cetera. So Guatemala is also on my list.

And, you know, the one thing that we haven't talked about is, is that the cool thing that this list does is that it also features, uh, neighborhoods within cities and towns. And so we try to go as micro as possible. So there's a revitalized Chinatown in Bangkok, and I've been waiting for a reason to re- return to Bangkok.

LA: More ideas on where to visit this year coming up.

SJ: I'm trying to remind myself.

LA: Me too.

SJ: [laughs] Um, the Cyclades is on this list in Greece, which I have been lucky enough to go to. And it's funny because the Greek islands are kind of a hero destination in the UK. People love Greece. They always have, I think they always will. It's sort of that ultimate summer bleached out, blissed out paradise of islands, big and small of, of places like Santorini, which has amazing hotels and restaurants to the really sort of off the beaten in track one. And you can spend days getting to some of these Greek islands. You know, there's one ferry and it takes seven hours and you can only go once a week. Some of them are sort of closer to Turkey. They all have these kinds of different influences as, as so many islands do.

Um, Santorini is such a sort of eye roll destination to, to bring up. Um, it's, it's not exactly unexpected, but um, it's an amazing island. It's really beautiful, and they're doing really hard work, kind of stopping tourism there. And I think I'm desperate to go back to Greece, always trying to squeeze in a little trip.

AM: The one destination that I've been to repeatedly, but I'm very excited to return to in March is Singapore. So when you think of Singapore, you are thinking of the impressive skyline and big city lights. And Sarah just talked about Taylor Swift's very low-key visit to Singapore in 2024. So you're thinking big and dazzling and beautiful and modern and a little bit kind of sterile. But I love that the writeup about Singapore focuses on the green belts, the parks, the landscaping, and the, the, the cycling routes and cycling infrastructure and all these. And I think it's called a green network. It's sort of a connector between parks.

So I mean, just kind of turning a known destination on its head or, or just when you think you know a destination, you actually don't. And I think that's the beauty of, of, of these lists and other lists like these, is that just when you think you absolutely know something and you've been, many times, there's always a reason to, to revisit. So I'm very excited to go back to Singapore because I will be boarding the Eastern Oriental Express as it returns to Southeast Asia and, and I will be aboard heading into the forest of Malaysia for a couple of days. So that's something to look forward to.

LA: I'm riddled with jealousy on that one, I have to say.

AM: [laughs]

SJ: [laughs]

LA: What are just some of the, like, you know, just for people to visualize, uh, what are just some of those like drop dead gorgeous landscapes? Because also, this list is so visual, like, one of the things we haven't talked about is actually as a reader, when you go through it, it's so beautiful to look at.

SJ: The landscape's are pretty special. I think French Polynesia is hooked around the fact that it's gonna host the 2024 Paris Olympic Surfing. I mean, it's 118 islands. It's beautiful. It's absolutely gorgeous. You also have the Kimberley in Australia, which is kind of one of the world's last wild places. It's amazing waters, cliffs and ancient sites. And there's a lot of infrastructure opening up there that will allow travelers to kind of see it for the first time in a way that doesn't take from the region that kind of gives back, which is really exciting. And the one which I just lost over basically every day is always gonna be the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

You can't get much more drop dead gorgeous than these planes. And it's got these zebras running through water. And if we're talking about places that are kind of as far away as my flat in central London, that's it. That's, that's where I wanna be right now.

AM: I, I think about Quebec a lot, and growing up we did a lot of, um, wildlife anchored travel. Uh, and so wildlife spotting is a big thing for me. And the beauty of Quebec's northernmost landscapes and just the access to wildlife. Um, everything from polar bears, to caribou. And then, you know, you enjoy them in the, in the presence of Inuit guides and people that have lived on these lands, protected these lands for- forever so long. And you're hearing their story, and you're seeing things through their eyes. And so there's many of these First Nations-led experiences in Quebec that make it one of, one of my favorite destinations on our list. And, speaking of landscape, it is absolutely stunning because a lot of these islands are unpopulated as well.

LA: All right, last question. What was a place that ended up on the cutting room floor that almost made it, that you're still thinking about?

SJ: So I felt very strongly about Valencia in Spain. There were more places with sort of stronger news, bigger things happening. I was kind of obsessed with Valencia based on vibes, but I'm still holding out hope for Valencia 2025.

LA: Yeah, I'm always for judging something based on sheer vibes.

SJ: [laughs]

LA: Unfortunately, I feel like that's what I tend to do in pitch meetings a lot where I then have to justify why I'm pitching a story and I'm like, "I don't know the vibes."

SJ: It's how I live most of my life.

LA: Yeah, really.

SJ: Just, just vibes.

LA: Well, thank you so much for talking through this fascinating list and giving me an even longer personal list of where I want to go in 2024. If people want to follow along with your travels and see where you end up and read your work, where can they both find you on the internet?

SJ: Um, you can find me @SarahKateJames_ on Instagram.

AM: And you can find me on Instagram as well. It's A-R-A-T-I M-E-N-O-N. So that's where you follow along when you see that Lale, Sarah, and myself all end up in Accra at exactly the same time.

LA: Yeah, we'll be there.

SJ: [laughs]

LA: We'll be there partying. Can't wait. All right, thanks guys.

Next week, a trek with charismatic camels across Morocco, from the desert to the mountain is truly a slow travel experience.

I'm LA, and you can find me on Instagram at Lale Hannah. Our engineers are Jake Lummus and Gabe Quiroga. The show's mixed by Amal Lal. Jude Kampfner from Corporation for Independent Media is our producer. See you next week.​