New destinations, new discoveries: Here’s seven places you should visit in 2023

Jean Carmela Lim

September 27 marks World Tourism Day. And, with air travel finally returning to pre-pandemic levels in the US and Europe during 2022, what better time to celebrate travel and tourism?

The aviation industry is certainly seeing a comeback in commercial air travel, with hundreds of new routes launched during this year. Dozens of new routes were established in August 2022 alone.

New routes are always exciting because they open up the possibility of exploring new places.

So, that is why for World Tourism Day 2022, AeroTime has selected seven unique destinations that airlines have recently announced they will fly to.

Guangzhou, China

Who flies there: Uganda Airlines from Entebbe. Starts October 2022.

Guangzhou, China. Image: People Image Studio /

Guangzhou is a port city located northwest of Hong Kong, and it was the largest harbor in the maritime Silk Road during the Tang and the Song Dynasty. 

The maritime route connecting Guangzhou and the Persian Gulf via the South China Sea and Indian Ocean was the largest offshore route at the time. 

Guangzhou is still an integral trade hub today. China’s oldest and largest trade fair, The Canton Fair, is held in Guangzhou every year. If you’re a little entrepreneurial or just want to see the latest in global import, be sure to catch the fair from October 4 to November 15, 2022.

If you’re a foodie, word has it that Guangzhou has the greatest number of restaurants in all of China. Guangzhou is the birthplace of Cantonese cuisine, and it has more than 100 Michelin-rated restaurants.

Bengaluru, India

Who flies there: Qantas / Emirates / Akasa. Started during the third quarter of 2022


Bangalore Place, Bengaluru Image: Saiko3p /

Also known as Bangalore, Bengaluru is referred to as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ and is considered a high-tech megacity. Bengaluru has a very young population (29% are below the age of 35), so its nightlife and party scene is very much alive and colorful, and pub crawl tours are quite popular in the city.

If you’re not much of a party animal, there are plenty of historic sites in Bengaluru to visit, one of which is the sprawling Bangalore Palace, owned by the Wadiyar royal family. Built in 1874, the palace is considered an architectural grandeur and houses a number of renowned 19th and 20th century paintings by famous Indian artists.  

And if you get the feeling that Bangalore Palace looks a little familiar, it is because the palace was modeled after the UK’s Windsor Castle.

Xi’An, China

Who flies there: Jazeera Airways (via Bishkek). Started September 2022


Mount Huashan in Xi’an image: Jean Carmela Lim

If you love history and adventure, Xi’An is a destination not to be missed. Xi’An is the capital city of China’s Shaanxi province, and is also the eastern end of the Silk Road, which stretches all the way to Constantinople. 

Xi’An is most known for the Terracotta Army Museum, an archeological site where you can see the collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The role of these soldiers was to guard the mausoleum of the emperor, so he could still have ‘bodyguards’ even in the afterlife. Fun fact: Although the terracotta soldier’s faces were made from eight basic shape molds, not one of the soldier’s faces is the same.

Not many people know that Xi’An is also home to Mount Huashan, known to hikers as one of the most dangerous trails in the world. So if you’re a daredevil, this is one route not to be missed! 

After you’ve had your fill of history and perilous hikes, be sure to stop by the Muslim Quarter in Xian, definitely one of the world’s most interesting snack alleys. As Xi’An was the eastern end of the Silk Road, you can see and taste the Muslim influences in its cuisine, certainly a must-try for curious foodies.

Cook Islands

Who flies there: Air Raratonga, from Tahiti. Started August 2022.


Cook Islands. Image : Victoria Bryan

Named after Captain James Cook, The Cook Islands is a nation of 15 islands in the South Pacific and is part of the realm of New Zealand. It is located between French Polynesia and American Samoa, and has a population of more than 17,000.

The main island is Rarotonga, which is 32 kilometers in circumference, so it takes less than 20 minutes to reach anywhere on the island. 

The Cook Islands may be one of thousands of islands in the world, but this is possibly the only island nation to be largely untouched by modernization. For one, there is a law in the Cook Islands that restricts buildings to be no taller than a coconut tree, so the place definitely gives off the vibe of an untouched paradise. 

The islands are abound with turtles, so If you love marine life, you should not miss the chance to take a snorkeling tour. There are three types of turtles in the Cook Islands: green back, hawksbill and loggerhead. There are more than a hundred green back and hawksbill turtles living in the islands, so swimming with turtles is not a rare experience. 

Be sure to go take a guided tour so the turtles are kept safe among the snorkeling tourists.

Tahiti, French Polynesia

Who flies there: Air Rarotonga from the Cook Islands. Started August 2022.


Pineapple plantation in Tahiti. Image: Jean Carmela Lim

Sure, Tahiti isn’t exactly a rare and unique destination, and is in fact known as a choice for honeymooners. But what many might not know is there is far more to experience in Tahiti than romance and overwater bungalows. 

Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia and is just one of the 118 islands in the nation. However, the entire group has been known collectively as the islands of Tahiti.

Tahiti has been a French colony since 1880, so there is a distinct French influence across the islands.

While Tahitian is spoken by locals, French is the official language of the islands, and the Franco influence also extends to its cuisine. And this is what makes Tahiti an unexpected but amazing food destination.

Tahiti may be an island destination, but does bread and pastries really well. Even small roadside bakeries in the islands produce the freshest, fluffiest croissants, baguettes and pain au chocolat. 

And when you pair the freshest seafood, which is abundant in Tahiti, with local ingredients and French cooking, you get a remarkable cuisine guaranteed to linger on your palette. 

One of the best Tahitian dishes is Mahi-Mahi in Tahitian vanilla sauce, a classic French Polynesian recipe made with rum and coconut. One of Tahiti’s islands, Taha’a is called the ‘Vanilla Island’ for its abundance of French Polynesian vanilla. 

Vanilla was introduced in Tahiti in 1848, and Tahitian vanilla is known for its plump size and fruity aroma with distinct notes of black cherry and tart plum. Top chefs around the world prefer Tahitian vanilla for its ‘darker’ notes and when you’re in Tahiti, aromatic vanilla is ingrained in its Polynesian dishes. 


Who flies there: Aeroexpress Regional from Budapest. Started September 2022.


Cluj-Napoca in Romania Image: Pani Garmyder /

Cluj-Napoca is a city in northwestern Romania, and is the unofficial capital of the Transylvania region. The city is over 2,000 years old so expect plenty of historical walking tours around landmarks. 

It is also one of the academic centers of Romania, home to 11 universities. With more than 100,000 students living in Cluj-Napoca, it is the country’s second most populous city center.

Cluj-Napoca is the perfect base to explore the historical region of Transylvania, and one of the most popular day trips is to Corvin Castle & Alba Iulia Citadel. Corvin Castle is a 15th century Gothic architectural structure, and Alba Iulia is the former capital of Transylvania.

Constructed in 1440, Corvin Castle is one of Europe’s largest castles and was designed as a defense fortress against the Ottoman Empire. Word has it that Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned in this castle during his exile. The castle may be majestic and grand, but it also served as a prison for criminals. There’s also said to be a bear pit inside the castle where unfortunate prisoners were thrown. 

The castle is just one of the many landmarks you can see in Cluj-Napoca. The city has plenty of Gothic style historical structures such as the Franciscan Church, Saint Michael Church, and the house of Matthias Corvinus, a historic visual arts center.  

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia  

Who flies there: Malaysia Airlines from Singapore. Started August 2022.


Mount Kinabalu, Kota Kinabalu Image: PaulWong /

Formerly known as Jesselton, Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Malaysia’s Sabah state in the northern part of the island of Borneo. Colloquially referred to as ‘KK’, it’s a coastal city surrounded by rainforest and is renowned for its natural and cultural landmarks. 

If you’re an avid hiker and nature enthusiast, you might be interested to know that Kota Kinabalu is home to Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in Malaysia and Borneo, with an elevation of 13,435 feet. The mountain has been given UNESCO World Heritage status because it is home to 6,000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and more than 100 mammalian species. 

Tip: only 150 hikers per day are permitted to climb Mount Kinabalu so be sure to secure a pass in advance.

The culture in Kota Kinabalu is different from the rest of Malaysia, so another popular place of attraction is the Mari Mari Cultural Village. The open-air museum allows visitors to get a peek of old Borneo life through different traditional houses of the five major ethnic groups in Sabah. 

Despite being one of Malaysia’s fastest growing cities, Kota Kinabalu is a great place to visit if you’re after a laid back trip centered in culture and nature.

San Salvador, El Salvador

Who flies there: Arajet from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Started September 2022


San Salvador, El Salvador   Image: Cyan Studio /

San Salvador is the capital and the largest city of El Salvador. The city has a very hilly terrain with an average elevation of 659 meters.  

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, and is surrounded by 23 active volcanoes. One of El Savador’s top attractions is climbing the Santa Ana Volcano. Located within the Cerro Verde National Park, Santa Ana is known for its stunning turquoise colored crater that hikers can view when they reach the top. 

If you love coffee, you’ll be thrilled to know that El Salvador has some of the highest quality coffee beans on the market, and there are tons of coffee day tours which will take you to the best plantations in the country. You will learn about (and taste) the different coffee roasts, and you can also take beans to brew your own El Savador coffee at home.

Central America is known for historical ruins such as the famous Teotihuacan in Mexico, or Tikal in Guatemala. The problem with visiting these majestic sites is they are almost always crowded. If you want to enjoy a more private and quiet tour of Central American ruins, you can visit the Mayan ruins in El Salvador such as Tazumal, San Andres, and Parque Arqueologico Cihuatan. These can easily be visited from San Salvador via day trips.

Have you been to any of these destinations? We’d love to hear your travel experience!


author avatar
Jean Carmela Lim
Journalist[br][br]Jean is a member of AeroTime’s editorial team, working as an aviation writer and based in Manila, Philippines. Previously, she worked in operational aviation roles in Manila, Philippines and Seoul, South Korea before moving to Australia to work in corporate and government travel. In 2012, Jean established her own luxury and adventure travel blog, Holy Smithereens. She is also a contributor for World Travel Market London, one of the biggest annual events in the travel sector. She covers trends and issues in hospitality and luxury travel for a B2B market, interviewing key personalities in the industry.
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