Avid travelers, intrepid adventurers, and culture enthusiasts eager to make up for lost time are circling their calendars for this year and beyond. But with the masses also looking to vacation with friends and family, the world’s most in-demand travel destinations and experiences are likely to be busy and crowded. Here’s a look at some of the world’s best under-the-radar travel options.
Historic Hot Springs and Via Ferratas in the American West
Active travelers looking to take their adventure game to another level are seeking out via ferratas (Italian for “Iron Way”), climbing routes that employ steel cables, rungs, and ladders affixed to natural rock formations. One of America’s newest and most expensive via ferratas is found at Castle Hot Springs, a historic resort north of Phoenix that has been revitalized in recent years to become one of the country’s most luxurious destination resorts. After walking across a 200-foot long aerial walkway high above the cactus-strewn canyon floor, guests recover in one of three therapeutic hot spring pools, with temperatures reaching 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Visitors to Colorado can explore the 720-mile, Historic Hot Springs Loop, which incorporates five inviting destinations in the western part of the state. The 19 hot springs facilities offer unique features such as vapor caves, hot pots, terraced pools, and gigantic travertine formations. Highlights include the charming alpine town of Ouray, known as the “Switzerland of America,” and historic Pagosa Springs, which offers a convenient base in The Springs Resort & Spa, where guests enjoy access to 24 soaking pools ranging from 83-114°F. Overlooking the picturesque San Juan River, the pools are filled with mineral water from the resort’s “mother spring,” which has been measured to 1,002 feet deep, making it the world’s deepest measured geothermal hot spring.
The tony ski town of Telluride offers one of the country’s most jaw-dropping via ferrata routes, thousands of feet above the town’s famed boxed canyon. Guides are not required, but with its challenging course, featuring metal ladder rungs bolted onto a sheer cliff face, not to mention gorgeous views of Bridal Veil Falls, the course is not for the faint of heart.
Luxe Tropical Wellness in Lanai
The Hawaiian island of Lanai, which gets only a fraction of the visitor traffic received by neighboring Maui, is famously owned by the tech mogul Larry Ellison. Travelers often feel like they have the island to themselves, as crowds are rarely found across its pine-clad forests or glimmering shoreline. Ellison’s newest contribution to the island, Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort, is a secluded wellness enclave that distills preventive health science, data, and research into simple paths for everyday living. Guests can explore untouched wilderness, burn off calories in an outdoor adventure park or via myriad fitness and movement classes, and refuel with meals by Nobu, highlighting sustainable, local ingredients. Or guests can venture over to the island’s other destination resort, the oceanfront Four Seasons Resort Lanai, where the stunning grounds contain memorable spaces for R&R, namely stunning lagoon-style pools and museum-quality botanical gardens.
Next-Level Thrills in Alaska
Best known for its world-class salmon fishing, the majestic town of Ketchikan is home to Salmon Falls Resort. Situated at the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s iconic Inside Passage, the resort offers numerous intriguing activities, most notably float plane fishing in which, after a scenic chartered flight, guests land in remote spots to enjoy one-of-a-kind guided fishing experiences. Due to a lack of cruise ships and a decrease in charter fishing excursions, the wildlife watching and fishing is better than ever. The resort’s other bucket-list experiences include bear watching tours, wildlife watching boat safaris, salmon cooking demos, and wine pairings with salmon roe.
Located in a remote spot in Alaska’s Denali National Park, the Sheldon Chalet attracts big spending mountaineers—three-night packages cost around $35,000 for two guests, inclusive of a helicopter “flightseeing” tour, gourmet meals, five-bedroom luxe accommodations, all gear and equipment, and more. Once properly fitted with a climbing harness, snowshoes, helmet, and poles, guests attend the chalet’s glacier school. (No previous mountaineering experience necessary.) Others may simply prefer to relax around the fireplace or warm up in the sauna with views of Denali’s summit.
Situated 60 miles west of Anchorage, Tordrillo Mountain Lodge lures adventurers with its heli-skiing and other hair-raising pursuits; owner and heli-ski pioneer Mike Overcast opened the lodge with Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe. Guests can tackle the only via ferrata in Alaska, or go bear viewing in a vintage 1956 Turbine Otter plane.