For many Americans, summer 2022 is the season of revenge travel.
They’re willing to go a little farther and spend a little more than they normally would on a summer holiday to ensure they have an unforgettable trip. Revenge travel is all about making up for time lost and opportunities missed because of the pandemic.
I’ve identified the top places for Americans to do just that. These are places that won’t show up on the average person’s bucket list, but they each provide a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.
Each of these destinations is open for tourism and looking to welcome visitors back right now.
1. Turks And Caicos
There’s no better place to have a luxury, post-pandemic travel experience than Turks and Caicos. This string of sandy cays in the Atlantic Ocean serves up total relaxation in the form of white-sand beaches, cerulean waters, and a laid-back island atmosphere. All of this lies just a quick flight from Miami.
Aside from postcard-worthy beaches, Turks and Caicos has a pristine coral reef that’s perfect for scuba diving. You can practice almost any kind of watersport here, from parasailing to paddleboarding, or spend your time exploring the territory’s 32 uninhabited islands by small boat or yacht. Deep waters are just minutes from shore. For sport fishermen looking reel in big game, this is a dream destination.
Turks and Caicos is undeniably a place to indulge, with world-class beach resorts, acclaimed golf courses and spas, and high-end gastronomy. All this luxe comes at a cost, though: A couple’s weeklong stay at a beach resort, including dining out, horseback riding, and a half-day boat trip, can come to US$9,000.
But one lesson of the pandemic has been to seize opportunities when they present themselves, and for those looking for total escape, Turks and Caicos is tough to beat. Right now, Americans need to be fully vaccinated with two doses of an approved vaccine to come here.
2. Azores And Madeira, Portugal
Two alternatives to the more touristed beaches of Portugal’s mainland are the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira. Found 870 and 600 miles from Lisbon respectively, these unique islands almost force you to disconnect while you immerse yourself in raw nature.
Known as “the Hawaii of the Atlantic,” the landscape of the Azores is dominated by peaks and valleys sheathed in green. A cornucopia of natural attractions is available across the nine islands that make the Azores up, from geysers to waterfalls, fine-sand beaches to thermal baths. Portugal’s highest mountain, Mount Pico with its 7,700-foot peak, is found here.
Madeira, on the other hand, is known as “the floating garden of the Atlantic” because of the lush laurel forests and exotic flowers that grow in abundance. Madeira has won the award for the world’s best island destination more than a handful of times, while this year, Porto Santo Beach and Seixal Beach were rated the best in Europe.
On both of these archipelagos, all kinds of outdoor recreation opportunities are at your fingertips. Hiking along Madeira’s levadas (stone irrigation channels built as early as the 15th century), birdwatching, fishing, sailing, scuba diving, and whale and dolphin watching are just a few of the activities you can enjoy.
Because of the dollar’s current strength against the euro, Americans have enhanced spending power in the eurozone this summer.
To visit the Azores, you’ll need to show proof of vaccination, a negative test (either a 72-hour PCR test or 48-hour rapid antigen test) or a certificate of recovery from COVID-19 if you’re arriving direct from abroad. Madeira does not impose any entry restrictions on visitors.
3. Kotor, Montenegro
Just down the coastline from better-known Dubrovnik in Croatia is the tiny town of Kotor, Montenegro. Nestled at the base of a craggy inlet, overlooking the sparkling Adriatic and backed by towering mountains, the views from Kotor alone justify the trip.
The town itself delivers Old World charm in spades. Encircled by ancient city walls, it features a concentration of historic buildings that makes it the best-preserved medieval town in the Mediterranean. The Old Town, full of narrow cobblestone lanes, squares, and markets is a UNESC
Modern marinas and a geography that lends itself to adventure sports (hiking, rafting, etc.) are also available from Kotor. While more tourists will go to Croatia this summer, Montenegro is more affordable with similar views and Adriatic ambiance.
Montenegro has dropped all entry requirements related to COVID-19—no vaccines, tests, or health screenings required—making travel easy right now.
4. Ceará, Brazil
Brazil is a country of beach-lovers. While most international visitors flock to Copacabana and Ipanema, Brazilians spend their vacations in Ceará, a state northeastern Brazil with 370 miles of soft, sandy shore.
You’ll find a beach to suit every taste here, from city beaches developed with amenities to isolated outposts backed by high white sand dunes to wind-whipped strips where you can practice kite- or windsurfing.
Fortaleza, Ceará’s capital, is the epicenter of cultural activity in the state. It’s the fifth biggest city in Brazil, home to 2.7 million people and famous for its buzzing nightlife. Yet it retains that quintessential Brazilian beach town feel, most notably along the Beira Mar Avenue boardwalk where you can watch fishermen sell their daily catch or ever-active Brazilians playing futsal on the sand.
For those after a more laid-back atmosphere than Fortaleza, there are quaint fishing villages along Ceará’s coastline. Canoa Quebrada is a resort town with a wide beach backed by red cliffs. It was discovered for tourism by hippies from Europe back in the 70s and has retained that free spirit feel to this day.
Because Ceará is a domestic tourism destination, prices are low for visitors from North America who typically have more spending power. The current strength of the U.S. dollar against the Brazilian real further enhances the savings for Americans.
To enter Brazil as a tourist, you must be fully vaccinated. If you have a health condition that prevents you from getting vaccinated, you’ll need to show a negative 24-hour PCR or antigen test before boarding your flight.
Malta is one of the smallest countries in Europe, but it packs a punch with fascinating history and culture, unique attractions, and stunning natural scenery, plus a loaded summer events calendar.
Its capital, Valletta, is the smallest in Europe at less than half a square mile in size. Yet it’s a historical treasure trove with a landmark or monument on every corner. It got facelift when it was crowned the European Capital of Culture in 2018, which saw many of its older buildings restored.
Beyond the capital, the rugged coastlines of Malta, Gozo, and Comino (the three main islands that make the country up) conceal sandy Mediterranean beaches, secluded bays, dramatic cliffs, and quaint fishing harbors.
Malta ticks a lot of boxes: it’s safe, with friendly locals and a great climate, and English is one of its official languages. During summer months, it comes alive with events like the Malta International Wine Festival (in June) and the Malta Jazz Festival (in July).
To come to Malta this summer, you’ll need to be fully vaccinated or provide a COVID-19 recovery certificate or negative 72-hour PCR or 24-hour rapid antigen test. If you can’t meet these requirements, you will have to quarantine on arrival for 10 days.
6. Salta, Argentina
Salta, a province in northwestern Argentina, stands out for its Mars-like desert landscapes, strong Andean culture, high-elevation vineyards, and picturesque capital city, also called Salta. Known as “Salta La Linda” (“Salta The Pretty”), the capital has some of the most striking Spanish-colonial architecture in the country, including well-preserved parks, churches, and squares.
It’s a cultural hub—a place where you can sample delicious regional cuisine and learn about local art, history, and archaeology in the many museums. Attending a peña—a traditional folk music concert—is an unforgettable way to connect with local culture. These involve Spanish guitars, drums, violins, and audience participation in the form of clapping and stomping along.
If you’re here in August, you can also witness the Pachamama celebrations, dedicated to Mother Earth and based in Andean mythological belief.
With its wide-open spaces and incredible rock formations, Salta Province attracts fans of outdoor recreation. Hiking, cycling, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and more can be done in this rugged landscape. The start of summer in the United States corresponds with the start of winter in Argentina, but temperatures are milder here than in other parts of the country, so time spent outdoors is still enjoyable.
Argentina recommends that visitors get tested 24 hours before they arrive, but it does not impose any vaccination or testing requirements. You will have to fill out an electronic statement with information about your vaccination status and declare whether you have any COVID-19 symptoms.
7. Caño Cristales, Colombia
Known as “The Liquid Rainbow,” a visit to Caño Cristales is an experience you won’t soon forget. This technicolor river runs red, green, yellow, blue, and black at various parts because of algae that grow along the riverbed.
Making the experience even more special, the algae only blooms at certain times of the year, meaning the correct timing of your visit is critical. The good news is that this summer, specifically July through October, is the perfect time to go.
Caño Cristales is found in La Macarena National Park, a densely jungled area where you can get a taste of the megadiversity that Colombia is famous for. Kayaking in the river, you can spot as many as 400 species of bird that call the park home, as well as monkeys and pink river dolphins.
Part of the reason Caño Cristales is a once-in-a-lifetime experience is that it’s not easy to get to. It involves an arduous multi-day journey over land or more likely a charter plane from Bogotá. Right now, Americans can enter Colombia with a vaccine pass or a negative 72-hour PCR or antigen test.