Dust off your passport: where to travel in 2022

By Katie Stone

Reading time: 12 minutes 

Kiwis may be avid travellers, but most of us have chucked aside any plans for overseas trips. The changing nature of the COVID situation has meant that the logistics of leaving the country are almost too daunting to consider.

But there is still hope that we may step on foreign soil in 2022. We have places to see, family to visit, and bucket lists to tick.

At the time of writing, each of the destinations described below had been declared open for 2022 (pending COVID protocols).

By Katie Stone

Reading time: 12 minutes 

Kiwis may be avid travellers, but most of us have chucked aside any plans for overseas trips. The changing nature of the COVID situation has meant that the logistics of leaving the country are almost too daunting to consider.

But there is still hope that we may step on foreign soil in 2022. We have places to see, family to visit, and bucket lists to tick.

At the time of writing, each of the destinations described below had been declared open for 2022 (pending COVID protocols).

So – where’s good to go?

Cook Islands 

With sixteen idyllic islands and some of the most untouched beaches in the world, the Cook Islands are quite a star in the South Pacific’s crown. White sand, cerulean lagoons, palm trees … it’s hard to believe this tropical wonder is just a hop and a skip over the water!

Rarotonga is the most visited of the islands, best known as a holiday and wedding destination. But Aitutaki is possibly even more charming. Surrounded by coral reefs and boasting an incredible turquoise lagoon five times the size of the island itself, a visit to Aitutaki could certainly help you forget about the troubles of the outside world.

When to go 

The Cook Islands boast a tropical climate, with a hot, humid, and rainy season from December to April (26-30°C on average) and a cooler and relatively dry season from June to August (22-27°C). The busiest months are usually around July to August when Australians and Kiwis are looking to escape winter. May, September, October, and November are recommended for those who can handle hot-but-tolerable daily temperatures and want to avoid the crowds.

What to do

The Cook Islands are famed for their snorkelling, diving, swimming, and glass-bottom boats. Tours will take you to prime snorkelling spots rich in sea life, but you can also snorkel almost everywhere in the lagoon surrounding Rarotonga.

Cultural tours bring you closer to the country’s people and lifestyle. There’s also a healthy nightlife and endless ways to sample the local cuisine.

Estonia

With Baltic beaches, offshore islands, and one of Europe’s most well-preserved medieval cities, Estonia is fast becoming a tourist destination. But it’s still a more affordable option than many other European hotspots.

Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia is home to more than 2,000 islands – many of which are completely untouched and unexplored. The most famous of these are Hiiumaa, Kiknu, and Saaremaa, which are rich in ancient charm.

The Old Town of Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is believed to be one of the best-fortified cities in Europe. It’s an incredibly intact 13th-century city plan of medieval and Hanseatic origin, bordered by 66 towers of the Walls of Tallinn. Then there are the famous Estonian bogs, which cover a fifth of the mainland area and support much unique flora and fauna.

When to go

May to September is the warmest time of year and a top time to visit. The nights are never really dark, which is great for partying, and the summer days are perfect for visiting the bogs. Spring and autumn are much cooler but each is rather beautiful (remember to pack wet weather gear!). Winters are particularly severe, with temperatures dropping to below zero.

What to do

Whether exploring the city or tramping through the natural landscape, Estonia has plenty of opportunities to get out and about. Guided city tours are readily available for those who want to learn about the country’s history, and Tallinn has an excellent array of lively bars. You can wander the old city walls, chow down on Estonian black bread, explore the Russian orthodox cathedral, or study the birds at Matsalu National Park.

Belize

With almost 400km of Caribbean Sea coastline, ancient Mayan ruins, and jungles ringing with the call of howler monkeys, Belize is not your average holiday destination.

As the cradle of the ancient Maya Civilization, Belize is a hotspot for historians. The lack of industrial development means that nature is abundant, and Belize is home to the world’s only jaguar preserve. There are also around 100 islands scattered over the coast, some inhabited, some not.

When to go

Belize’s peak season is from late November to mid-April when the weather is fairly dry. It’s busy, but the warm temperatures and clear skies are generally preferred to the high humidity of April-May. Rainy season in September and October is quieter, but many businesses close down during this time.

Caye Caulker locals, Belize

What to do

Opportunities for adventure are endless. Cave-tubing and ziplining are some of the most coveted activities, along with scuba diving and snorkelling. The Great Barrier Reef runs the length of the country from Mexico in the north to Guatemala in the south. The entire coast is within protected waters, with some of the best diving in the Caribbean. There’s also The Great Blue Hole: a gigantic cave in the ocean some 500 feet deep.

There are more Mayan ruins per square mile than in any other country in the world: more than 600 sites discovered so far.

Moldova

Moldova may be the least-visited country in Europe, but it’s ideal for those who want to get off the proverbial ‘beaten path’.

Wedged between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is famous for its ancient monasteries, wild countryside, and world-class wine. It’s an underrated gem, and even better for its relative lack of tourists.

Bendery Fortress, Moldova

Moldova is also the poorest country in Europe, which makes it comparably affordable by European standards.

When to go

April or May is ideal for visiting Moldova. The temperatures are mild, and the flora and fauna are abundant, so it’s the perfect time for hiking and bird-watching. Spring is equally impressive but much wetter – so be sure to take an umbrella. Winters are mild and relatively dry, which is great for enjoying hot bowls of Moldovian zeama (chicken noodle soup). Then there’s the delight of watching Moldova’s Independence Day on August 27, which is a fantastic way to experience true Moldovian culture.

What to do

Wine should be on the agenda for all visitors to Moldova. With 148,500 hectares of vineyards producing more than two million hectolitres of wine a year, Moldova is one of Europe’s best-known wine sources. Wine tasting tours and underground cellars are a must-do.

The capital city of Chisinau is famed for its beautiful parks and historical buildings. There are also plenty of restaurants and art galleries and a thriving nightlife. An hour away, the ancient ruins of Orheiul feature fortifications, baths, caves, ruins, and monasteries dating back as late as the Dacian tribes of 2000 years ago.

Slovenia

This former Yugoslavian country is alive with natural wonders, Venetian Gothic architecture, and adventure. The turquoise Lake Bled is of postcard perfection, and there’s an abundance of hiking trails and caves scattered throughout the country. The capital of Ljubljana is perfect for budding photographers: it’s a compact little city filled with rustic wooden shop fronts and cobblestone passageways dating back to the 1800s. Oh, and the wine flows here, too!

Lake Bled, Slovenia

When to go

Slovenia has delights year-round, so it really depends on what activities you want to pursue.

Summer is the peak season for tourists because it’s the perfect time to enjoy the lakes, rivers, and stunning Adriatic coastline. Autumn’s mild temperatures are ideal for hiking the Slovenian Alps, while the winter months draw keen skiers. Spring, however, is generally the quieter time of year, which is worth keeping in mind if you want to explore the country uninhibited.

What to do

Step back in time in Ljubljana Old Town and explore the city’s many cafes and bars. If you’re feeling adventurous, hit the lake for water sports, or check out Postojna Cave – Slovenia’s most popular tourist attraction and one of the world’s largest karst landforms. For a dose of the slopes, hit the Julian Alps and stay the night at the Ticarjev mountain hut. Or, taste the wine of Maribor’s Old Vine, the oldest vine in the world. Over 400 years old and noted in the Guinness World Records for still bearing grapes, the descendants of this great vine are grown all over the world.

The Maldives

It may not be the cheapest destination, but the Maldives certainly won’t disappoint. This tiny archipelagic country lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India in the Indian Ocean, and it’s quite a world of its own.

The Maldives

Described as the most romantic place on earth, it’s also the ultimate escape for a little solitude. The sapphire waters are rich with marine life and the white sand beaches make for long lazy days of relaxing. Overwater villas are scattered all over the islands and waking up to the sound of the ocean around you is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

When to go

As a tropical climate, the Maldives has two seasons: dry and sunny, and wet and sunny.

November to April offers the nicest weather, with less rain and more sun. This also means it’s the busiest and most expensive time to visit. But because the resort has its own island, it’s fairly easy to escape the crowds. May to October is the rainy season, but also best for surfing and ‘cheaper’ deals.

What to do

Rest and relaxation are priorities for most travellers, but there are still plenty of other activities to keep you occupied. Swimming and snorkelling in the stunning lagoons is a must: you’ll find yourself surrounded by tropical fish and well-preserved coral beds.

In the capital city of Malé, the Fish Market provides a fascinating insight into local life. Enormous tuna, grouper, octopus, and many other incredible species are on display.

The Grand Friday Mosque, the largest in the country, is also worth visiting. Even more impressive is the centuries-old Old Friday Mosque, an incredibly beautiful structure of coral stone chiselled in Quranic script.

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