Where to go when in 2022
Travel expert Laura Millar breaks down the best reasons to go abroad over the next six months....
Starting at the end of the month, Birmingham will be hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, thrusting this booming, West Midlands city into the global spotlight. Featuring every sport you can think of, from cricket to judo, as well as para championships, its venues will be spread throughout the region, including the more rural surrounds of Cannock Chase forest and Sutton Park. The city itself, crisscrossed by a network of canals, has much to offer, including its avant-garde public library, striking Bullring centre and cool speakeasy bar culture.
Thirty years ago this month, in 1992, Slovakia declared itself a sovereign state and began negotiations with the Czech Republic to disband what had been Czechoslovakia. Today, it’s a thriving central European country with much to offer visitors, from fairy-tale castles (don’t miss the Unesco-listed ruins of Spiš, which perches above the town of Spišské Podhradie, or the turreted, Romanesque, lemon-yellow Bojnice) to hikes through the scenic Tatra Mountains. Spend a day in the Dobšinská Ice Cave, deep within a mountain, to observe stalagmites, stalactites and semi-frozen waterfalls.
BA has launched two new summer seasonal routes to the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, situated nearly 900 miles west of Lisbon in the Atlantic Ocean. An archipelago of nine volcanic islands, its biggest is São Miguel, and BA flights to here start on Saturday 2 July, and a weekly flight to Terceira on Sunday 10 July. Expect lush, green, mountainous terrain and opportunities for whale-watching, soaking in hot springs, and swimming with wild dolphins.
Take off to Jamaica
On 6 August 1962, Jamaica finally tasted freedom after 300 years of British rule, and stepped, blinking, into the light of its hard-won independence. This historic day is celebrated with street parades, cultural displays, and a grand gala at the National Stadium, where revellers don clothing in the blacks, greens and golds of the Jamaican flag. To visitors, the island offers a paradise of white-sand beaches – some of the most popular include Montego Bay, Negril and Ochos Rios – spectacular waterfalls – don’t miss Dunn’s River Falls or Blue Hole – and a spicy food and drink scene. Is there anything finer than a helping of hot jerk chicken paired with a chilled Red Stripe, or a rum cocktail to wash down a plate of ackee and saltfish? Keep your senses alert with a cup of best Blue Mountain coffee, and you’ll be the last one standing at an outbreak of street dancing in the island’s capital, Kingston. Once home to author Ian Fleming, Jamaica showed off her finery to viewers in last year’s Bond blockbuster, No Time To Die, having appeared regularly in 007 films such as Dr No and Live and Let Die. Before you visit, try to catch Cool Runnings to find out that it was based on a true story when, in 1988, Jamaica was the first tropical country to send a bobsled team to the Winter Olympics. And why not?
Take off to North America
The phrase ‘leaf peeping’, to describe the practice of observing the changing colours in the leaves on the trees with the season, is said to have originated in Vermont in the 1900s, evolving from the term ‘leaf-peeker’. It was common back then, and is even more so now, for people to flock to the forests and woods of New England (made up of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) to see the spectacular transformation from plain greens to shimmering golds, oranges, ochres and scarlets. But why does this happen here? Essentially, a large percentage of trees in the region, particularly the sugar maples, produce a specific pigment that results in these brilliant, vivid shades. The colour changes start in the north, in the higher areas of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire around mid-September, stretching down to northern Rhode Island and Connecticut by mid-October. Grab your camera, and get ’gramming.
The crown jewel of the Balearics is not just for party people. In fact, Ibiza is possibly at its best as the clubbing season starts to wind down. Temperatures are still warm, the beaches have more space, and it becomes easier to bag a table at sensational sunset spots such as Cafe del Mar, Cafe Mambo, or Hostal La Torre. A crop of hot new hotels adds to the appeal. Style mavens will love the polished concrete floors, oversized rattan lampshades and dark wooden window slats of Oku, near San Antonio, while retro fans will adore the vintage look and 1970s feel of the blond wood, beiges and browns that run throughout the Riomar in sleepy Santa Eulalia. Catch some rays at secluded sanctuaries such as Es Canar, Pou d’es Lleo, or Cala Pada.
While temperatures will start to fall in Qatar’s capital, Doha, in November – reaching a more manageable 28°C compared to summer highs of 40°C – excitement levels will reach fever pitch as the 22nd FIFA World Cup kicks off. With a profusion of new places to stay, the country is rolling out the red carpet to visitors. In between matches, visit the recently opened National Museum of Qatar, designed by French starchitect Jean Nouvel to look like a desert rose; admire the sweeping, modernistic mosque in Education City; and take in centuries of artworks at the stunning, IM Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art.
Over in Cairo, a highly anticipated project was first announced as far back as 1992, its architects chosen in 2003 and construction finally started in 2012. The completion of the Grand Egyptian Museum, set to cost nearly $1bn, has been set back and delayed several times over the past ten years but all signs point to this month being the moment the world has been waiting for. Situated on the Giza plateau of the Nile Valley, near Cairo, it will house the largest collection of Tutankhamun relics ever displayed, in a state-of-the-art, glass and concrete space overlooking the Great Pyramids, designed by Irish architecture firm Heneghan Peng. Visitors will be greeted by a 30ft-high, 91-ton statue of Ramses II, and will be able to browse more than 100,000 artefacts, including Tutankhamun’s funeral mask and gold-plated coffins (he had three). More than five million people a year are expected to walk through the doors. Fingers crossed it’s finished on time.
There’s something special about heading to New York City at Christmas time. The big stores are decked out in festive finery – check out the reliably maximalist window displays at Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s – and there are plenty of places to stop off for a breather if it all gets too much. Take tea and cake at the iconic Russian Tea Room, or revive yourself with a glass of fizz and half a dozen oysters at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Late-night cocktails at the classy, old-school Bemelmans Bar will feel like a fine reward for your shopping efforts.
At the Everglades National Park’s dedication by President Harry S Truman on 6 December 1947, he made the following address: “Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water but as the last receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in this country.” He may well have said ‘the world’, because the ecosystem formed by this natural region of tropical wetlands in southern Florida is not currently found anywhere else on earth. Populated by wildlife including the American alligator, Florida panther, eagle, fox, peacock, skunk and turtle, it’s an endlessly incredible place to explore.