Here we are again! Our annual list of the 100 most exciting destinations and experiences for the next 12 months. Technically, we should say bi-annual, as we skipped 2020. But then, so did you. And everyone else on the planet, essentially. If we had done the 100 last year, it would have been a list of the best supermarkets you could go to, and suggestions of where to find toilet paper.
But this year — sometime — we’re all going to spring from our traps, metaphorically and in some cases literally, and go somewhere. Maybe several somewheres. Anywhere but where we’re standing/sitting/balled in the fetal position currently.
Will you go across the United States? We have suggestions. Jonesing for foreign lands and unique experiences? The world is your oyster and we’re that tiny little fork you always think you won’t need but you usually wind up using. Two of the smallest populated countries on Earth, Scotland and Norway, provide six entries on the list, with Norway registering a perhaps surprising four choices. Here at WONDERLUST we find the cold, northern climate bracing! And their glorious, if short, summers all the more satisfying. And we love a dramatic landscape.
Between those two destinations lie the Faroe Islands, and they make the list again.
We have islands on our list that are not very close to anywhere, or convenient, but, hell, you live once. What do you want on your gravestone — “Was Never Inconvenienced”? We have great places to eat and stay and visit (and, um, leave), and experiences that range from the gloriously indolent to the most rigorous. Go ahead and combine those! That’s what we’d do. At WONDERLUST, we’ve always got one eye on a place to lie down…
And, once again, as we peel back the planet’s glories and mysteries for you, we are proud to say that nowhere in this article do we ever use the phrase “Instagram worthy.”
— Bob Guccione, Jr.
Airplane Landing on a Beach, Barra, Scotland
Last year we told you about the world’s shortest flight, so let’s return to Scotland, and the same airline, for the only flight scheduled to land on a beach. If any other flight you’re on lands on a beach, you are most probably in trouble. But with Loganair, you’re right on time and in the right place. You’ll be on Barra, a small but beautiful island in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, where three-quarters of the 1,200 or so population speaks Gaelic, an ancient language that came over from Ireland some 1,600 years ago. Barra is about an hour and a quarter plane ride from Glasgow, 140 miles away. The plane itself is tiny, and noisy, and renowned for being able to take off and land on short runways.
The flight is consistently voted the world’s best airport approach, which is deliciously ironic, to call two miles of white sand and a hut-sized terminal (with a cafe!) an airport. Local intelligence tip: If you see a windsock flying, it’s to let the island’s cockle pickers know the beach is in runway mode!
The beach landing requires a low tide (duh) so every day the tiny plane flies at different times, and you can, if you want to do a same day return, have either a short or fuller day to cruise around the island. Or you could stay overnight and see the place properly. Why wouldn’t you do that? Stay at either a traditional Crofters Cottage, a multi bedroomed house within yards of the beach, which rents by the week, or the Barra Beach Hotel, right on the beach, with an excellent restaurant, and of course, go to sleep to the sounds of the waves.
— Bob Guccione, Jr.
Miss Wong Cocktail Bar, Cambodia
Miss Wong Cocktail Bar is located in Siem Reap in the north of Cambodia. Modeled to recreate the speakeasies of the 1920s, it is the creation of a radio journalist from New Zealand, Dean Williams, who said “I wanted a place where people could chat and not be drowned out by loud music, a place where customers feel like they are away from the hustle.” As you walk through a doorway under the red lanterns and slide into an intimate booth to await your preferred beverage — say, a Mocha Martini or an Indochine Martini — know that all cocktails are made with liquors infused in house. With Louis Armstrong playing quietly in the background, you could be forgiven believing you had walked through a time-warp.
– Camilla Paul
Samurai Sword Fighting, Japan
Whether it was old kung fu movies from the ‘70s or anime dramas, or a strange affinity for kabuki shows, you’d be pretty hard pressed to find someone who has not only been impressed by Japanese Tate swordsmanship, but have probably also, let’s be honest here, imagined having The Bride’s level of skill in Kill Bill. But lacking a time machine to feudal Japan, and a higher-than-likely possibility that the police would be called should you try to practice your swordsmanship in public, the Japan Tate-do Association not only offers lessons in this highly stylized theatrical style of Japanese sword fighting, but also gives you the chance to spar against foes in a feudal setting, learning the way of the blade the way ancient masters did. For both the novice, and the more experienced, whoever the hell the more experienced are — where did they come from? — Naniwa Samurai Ambassador, the head honcho, will provide an in depth and exhilarating experience.
— Jay McClure
These days, veterans retire to a number of places. Maybe Alaska (where one in ten residents have served in the military) or a sunny place like Florida. However, what if you were a Roman soldier two thousand years ago? With enough years of service, you could have been granted a luxurious plot of land in the desert colony of Thamugadi, known today as Timgad in Algeria. This forgotten city was swallowed by the sands of the Sahara centuries ago. The wind and dunes served as archaeological formaldehyde until the ruins were unearthed again in the late 1700s. In fantastic form, ancient mosaics, public toilets, baths, and an amphitheater await you. You might really get a kick out of those old stone toilets. The town’s grandiose and intact gateway is emblematic of Algeria’s timeless beauty and rich past.
The largest nation in Africa, Algeria is bountiful with Mediterranean beauty. History teams up with diverse geography to offer travelers all sorts of dazzling sights. For example, there is the Basilique Notre-Dame d’Afrique. The church is an epic display of Neo-Byzantine architecture, overlooking the Bay of Algiers (a little inlet of sea just across from Spain). This is the kind of place one might bring a lover to propose. According to the basilica’s website, “The dome which rises to 48 meters is surmounted by a cross of 4 tons.” That’s when they knew how to build, eh?
A primarily Muslim country, it may be foolishly evident to say that Algeria is brimming with breathtaking mosques. Centuries old, these homes of worship conjure up the old saying that I’ll always read in my mother’s voice: If these walls could talk…The Djama’a al-Kebir (Great Mosque of Algiers) was built in 1097, and images of it throughout the centuries match what you’ll see today.
Established in 1082 by the Almoravids, another sacred landmark is the Great Mosque of Tlemcen. About 20 years prior to the mosque’s construction, the Almoravids were born from a unification of native Berber tribes. They would reign around modern Morocco and Algeria for about a century and develop artistic styles that’d define culture for decades. A restoration in 1136 is said to have sullied this gem’s Almoravid style. Modernists!
Byzantine, Almoravid and Roman elements don’t give the whole picture of Algeria’s historical diversity. There are Spanish coastal fortresses too. Moorish and Ottoman influences are scattered around the country. Numidian sites await to remind you that the Mayans and Egyptians weren’t the only ones getting funky with their tombs. Numidia was an ancient Berber kingdom.
Despite all the beauty, Algeria can be dangerous and is experiencing some serious instability right now. Its oil market hurts and the country’s economy is suffering. Protests surrounding political corruption, called the Hirak Movement, continue today as the Algerian people seek reform. In November 2020, a European Parliament resolution called for the Algerian government to stop civil right intrusions and release journalists. Algerians are presently trying for a better future.
Both the United States and Canadian government recommend not visiting over terrorism concerns. That’s not going to be the opening line of any tourism pitch! So whereas we couldn’t be more enchanted with this glorious, history and culture steeped country, we have to say proceed with great caution, and know what’s going on there before going. It seems strange in the age of Covid to not have that be the main concern for travel. But hopefully in the next 12 months it will be safer to go. Be also aware that the country has anti-LGBT laws.
— Tristan McKenna