Visit these 10 rising vacation spots before they get too popular

By Sally French | NerdWallet

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Vacations to popular destinations can sometimes feel like you’ve been sucked into a tourist trap rather than immersed in a new culture.

Given that, you might seek a vacation spot that has a track record of tourist appeal, but remains off the mainstream’s radar — for now.

American Express Travel’s 2024 Trending Destinations list offers a lineup of 10 destinations that fit that bill. Using global AmEx Card Member bookings through the American Express Travel portal, the report highlighted locations with major increases in bookings from 2019 to 2023.

Here are 10 places from the report that are on the rise, in alphabetical order:

1. Adelaide Hills, Australia

Adelaide Hills, Australia. (Getty Images)

While Australia is usually best known for its beaches, crocodiles and the Outback, don’t overlook its vibrant wine country. Adelaide Hills, a region in South Australia, is all about rolling vineyards, charming villages and world-class wineries.

Adelaide Hills is already booming, marking a record $272 million in visitor spending for its fiscal year ending in June 2023, according to the region’s tourism bureau. That’s more than 1.3 million day trips made, and 737,000 nights spent by tourists.

2. Bodrum, Turkey

Bodrum Castle in Turkey. (Getty Images)

To get the energy of Santorini without the crowds, consider Bodrum, Turkey. Tour the Bodrum Castle for a taste of history, swim in Bodrum’s pristine waters or go diving among the beautiful coral reefs.

3. Cervo, Italy

The ancient borough of Cervo, a town in the province of Imperia, Italy. (Getty Images)

Cervo offers what you might expect from an Italian vacation, including boutiques from Italian fashion designers and Michelin-star meals. But it also offers a lovely mix of luxury and laid-back charm — all without the high tourism numbers of other Mediterranean regions like the Amalfi Coast.

4. Niseko, Japan

Niseko, Japan. (Getty Images)

Travel to Japan as a whole is rising in popularity. The country is the fastest-growing travel destination globally among Generation Z and millennials, according to AmEx Travel, witnessing a 1,300% increase in travel bookings from 2019 to 2023.

But where in Japan should you go? Nestled on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, the resort area of Niseko is especially delightful in winter, particularly for skiers and snowboarders. But it’s not just about action — there’s room for relaxation, too.

Stay warm by soaking in Niseko’s onsen hot springs or sample ramen from one of the many cozy noodle shops.

5. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel Church in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. (Getty Images)

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, stands out for its cobblestone streets adorned with candy-colored houses and its ornate church in the town square. While there, don’t miss sipping on a Mezcal cocktail.

According to AmEx Travel, from 2019 to 2023 the city has seen a 57% increase in bookings among Generation X and baby boomer travelers — and a 400% increase in bookings among Gen Zers and millennials.

6. Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.

Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Getty Images)

Santa Fe is the only U.S. destination on the list, and it’s certainly one worth visiting. Largely known for its art scene, it’s also excellent for dining and outdoor activity.

Lately, big things are happening that could make Santa Fe more appealing than ever. For example, construction is set to begin on the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum downtown this year, with a plan to reopen in 2026. For modern art, there’s Meow Wolf, which has 70 rooms of immersive art from local and community artists.

7. The Seychelles

The Seychelles. (Getty Images)

The Maldives tend to get all the love among travelers seeking crystal clear waters and sandy beaches. But there’s a similar archipelago in the Indian Ocean that you shouldn’t overlook. Many well-traveled folk actually consider the Seychelles to be the better of the two, citing reasons like more outdoor activities and secluded beaches.

It’s also generally cheaper. At the time of writing, average hotel room rates in the Maldives span about $800 to $1,300 a night depending on the season and day of the week, according to travel fare aggregator Momondo. Average nightly rates in Seychelles range from $600 to $1,100.

8. St. Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis. (Getty Images)

If you’re visiting the Caribbean in 2024, consider Saint Kitts and Nevis. On the two islands (which are considered one country), you’ll find lush rainforests, soft sand and turquoise waters. Activities include exploring the island’s colonial past at Brimstone Hill Fortress, (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) or wandering the colorful streets of its capital, Basseterre.

You might also bathe in the hot springs or climb Mount Liamuiga, the island’s highest peak.

9. Udaipur, India

City Palace and Pichola Lake in Udaipur, India. (Getty Images)

With its majestic palaces reflected in shimmering Lake Pichola, Udaipur, India, is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the East.” The city has bazaars selling handcrafted textiles, jewelry and other wares. For a little exercise, climb to Mehrangarh Fort, which was built on sandstone hills 400 feet above Jodhpur.

10. Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt, Switzerland. (Getty Images)

With chalets, car-free streets and views of the Matterhorn, Zermatt is your quintessential Swiss village. It’s best known for its skiing, which you can do year-round. In fact, some national ski teams train here in the summer.

Sally French writes for NerdWallet. Email: sfrench@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SAFmedia.
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