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The Best Travel Experiences Fodor’s Editors Had in 2023

2023 was a wonderous year of travel for Fodor's editors.

Whether it was walking with cheetahs in South Africa, putting our best fashion foot forward in Spain, or ogling at the views while riding the Rocky Mountaineer between Moab and Denver—this year was full of adventures for the Fodor’s team. In 2023, Fodor’s Editors traveled near and far for work and pleasure, discovering wonderful experiences along the way. Here are some of our favorite travel experiences of the year.

INSIDER TIPWant more travel inspiration? Check out Fodor’s 2024 Go List with our picks for destinations to visit in the New Year.


1 OF 9

Walking With Cheetahs in South Africa

About three hours outside Cape Town is one of the best (and few) places to safari on the Western Cape. The Sanbona Wildlife Reserve sits on what is known as The Little Karoo and has a conservation mission to protect the local flora and fauna.

Not only does Sanbona aim to repopulate the delicate ecosystem, but it is also working to reintroduce wildlife to the region, such as wild cheetahs. I stayed at the Gondwana Lodge during my honeymoon earlier this year and was blown away by the accommodations. Flanked by the Anysberg Mountains and Bellair Dam, Gondwana is a wonderful stay offering fantastic game drives that brought my husband and me up close to elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, and even the elusive rhino. Speaking of cheetahs, during a walking safari in Sanbona, we saw a mother cheetah and her cubs sunbathing mere feet away!

Nikki Vargas

2 OF 9

An Adventure in Northern India

This fall, I went on an adventure to Northern India. I rode rickshaws through the back streets of Delhi, watched carpetmakers and silk weavers thread knots on their looms, devoured bowls after bowls of curried mutton, and witnessed a powerful ceremonial ritual on the shores of the River Ganges.

I must have drunk gallons of masala chai, even while sweating buckets! It was a transformative, humbling experience that forced me to feel rather than think. I already can’t wait to go back.

Yoojin Shin

3 OF 9

A Swanky Hotel in Barcelona, Spain

I love a comfy travel outfit as much as the next girl, but I knew that when I went to Barcelona, Spain, I’d have to pull out all the style stops. And if I was going to bring my boldest fashion sense, I’d need a backdrop to match my fashion. A stay at ME Barcelona provided the creative inspiration I craved–the hotel’s dynamic energy is showcased in everything from the dramatic furnishings to the staff’s chic fashion.

And while the aesthetics are key selling points of the stay, the real bonus is the hotel’s Aura Concierge, “a cultural insider friend” who facilitated VIP experiences worthy of my fanciest fashions, including skip-the-line tickets for Sagrada Família, reservations for Paradiso, and VIP experiences at Casa Batlló and Hospital del Sant Pau. An all-around swanky stay.

Rachael Levitt

4 OF 9

One of My Favorite Countries: Chile

My husband and I have a tradition of spending Thanksgiving abroad, and this year we traveled to Chile, one of my two favorite countries in the world. First, we headed south to Chiloé Island for three nights at the impossibly charming Hotel Palafito Alma Chilote (palafitos are the over-water stilt houses for which the island is famous), where we watched sea lions and Chilean dolphins from the private veranda of our Scandinavian-chic room.

We followed this with two days (and two earthquakes) in Valparaíso, taking in the mind-bending street art and testing our strength, hiking up its many, many hills. Once we returned to Santiago, we blew our dining budget on the truly revelatory 14-course tasting menu at Boragó, currently ranked in the top 30 restaurants in the world.

Jennifer DePrima

5 OF 9

The Kentucky Derby More Than Lives up to the Hype

My favorite travel experience of 2023? Going to the Kentucky Derby! I’d always been fascinated by watching the spectacle on TV, but nothing, and I mean nothing, prepares you for the real thing. Louisville is BUZZING; you feel it from the moment you get into town to your last sip of a mint julep.

I just loved the overall vibe—the fashion parade of ladies in their flowery dresses and over-the-top hats and gents in seersucker suits and straw boaters, the anticipation once you’ve made it up to the window and placed your bet, the thunderous sound of hooves flying around the track, the insanely loud roar of the crowd.

Oh, and I tried cheesecake-on-a-stick, which turned out to be quite the conversation starter. Alas, no winning exactas for me but my big takeaway? The Derby more than lives up to the hype.

Jill Fergus

6 OF 9

The Rocky Mountaineer Did Not Disappoint

I had two memorable trips this year. The first was by train, when I rode the Rocky Mountaineer from Moab, Utah, to Denver, stopping in the middle at delightful Glenwood Springs. I love trains, and this one (and the food, scenery, and company) didn’t disappoint.

But more recently, I spent two wonderful weeks in Portugal, a place I’d never been to but now can’t wait to return to. My favorite hotel was in Sintra: the charming Lawrence’s Hotel, the oldest hotel on the Iberian Peninsula, an idiosyncratic yet truly hospitable place with cozy rooms and a labyrinth of stairways.

Doug Stallings

7 OF 9

I’m Hooked on Nashville, the Music City

Nashville was such a pleasant surprise! From experiencing the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival to the melt-in-your-mouth croissants at the Butter Milk Ranch, wandering around the Frist Museum, discovering the Hatch Show Print shop, and a few nights at the super-cool Bobby Hotel (there’s a bus on the rooftop bar and a resident dog), I’m hooked on the Music City. Another surprise? A weekend with my pre-teens at Hersheypark and the Hershey Lodge. I’m not a big rollercoaster fan, but they loved every minute of it, and happy pre-teens mean happy parents.

Alexis Kelly

8 OF 9

I Want Everyone to Go to Detroit

My 2020 travel goal is to see way more of the United States, and this year, I fell a little in love with the city of Detroit. Everyone in the travel world was talking about it as the “next Brooklyn” (eye-roll) a decade ago, but that hype has died down since the pandemic. But don’t mistake that for a city that has lost its spark or cool: Detroit is filled with fascinating history, cool architecture, and incredible food of every cuisine you can imagine, all without the buzz-killing crowds and prices that most major cities are dealing with at the moment.

It’s also home to one of my new favorite hotels: the Detroit Foundation Hotel, a former firehouse that’s now a boutique hotel with a Detroit-first-ethos that regularly highlights local entrepreneurs and helps guests navigate the city with ease. I want everyone to go to Detroit, but I also kinda want everyone to stay away so the city doesn’t lose the down-to-earth spirit that makes it so great.

Amanda Sadlowski

9 OF 9

Kyoto Is Fulfilling in a Way That All Travels Should Be

I love Asia. In 2023, I had a full range of experiences on the continent, from a week in Sri Lanka to a luxury cruise from Singapore to Dubai. But my favorite destination, hands down, is Japan. I spent two weeks in the country—my second time there—with a friend, and it was fulfilling in a way that all travels should be.

We drank sake with locals at a streetside bar in Kyoto, ate at hole-in-the-wall ramen places, shopped at vintage stores, strolled through a garden in Kanazawa, and slept on tatami mats in Aizu. It was a day trip to Fukushima that reminded me of how much the country has suffered over and over again and how it keeps rebuilding itself. I can’t wait to go back and have more cream pan and curry pan.

Apeksha Bhateja