Best Travel Experiences: Editors' Choice 2022


In spite of everything, we managed to have quite a range of remarkable travel experiences in the last year. We feel especially lucky to have been able to do as much as we did in 2021, considering how restricted movement was in 2020. Our travels still required a little more effort than before, but that encouraged us to savor each experience to the fullest.

Wildlife Experience of the Year: Elephants in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Elephants grazing near our safari vehicle, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Elephants grazing near our safari vehicle, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania - Photo by Andrew Harper editor

Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania is an intriguing mixture of swamps, acacia woodland and savanna scattered with enigmatic conical hills and crisscrossed by long granite ridges. Its name derives from the perennial Tarangire River, which meanders through the park into Lake Burunge. The reserve is particularly famous for the density of its elephant population, with herds up to 600 strong. Unlike other areas of Tanzania, notably the Selous Game Reserve, where the elephant population has been decimated by ivory poaching, and the survivors are terrified of humans and extremely aggressive, the Tarangire elephants have clearly not been harassed or hunted. As a result, they are astonishingly calm, and even mothers with young calves seem completely relaxed. We pulled up close to one group, turned off the engine and sat quietly to watch. After a while, the elephants had come to within 20 or 30 feet and, completely unconcerned, continued snatching up trunkfuls of grass.

Read more about Tarangire National Park »

Most Memorable Hike: Hidden Craters Hike, Big Island, Hawaii

I especially enjoyed this small-group hike led by Hawaii Forest & Trail, because it took us up the slope of Mount Hualalai on private land once owned by Hawaiian royalty (it now belongs to the Kamehameha Schools). Our affable guide, Garry, proved knowledgeable about the ecosystems around us as well as local folklore and mythology. We started in a landscape reminiscent of the Galápagos, with its scrubby trees and succulents thriving in volcanic soil. The view swept miles down the mountain all the way to the sea. Over the course of three hours, we also skirted the rims of two immense volcanic craters and traversed a cavernous lava tube. The hike finished with a descent through mature koa and ohia forests, their branches draped with Spanish moss. In some places, fog wreathed around the trees, giving the groves a mystical appearance. Such was the sweetness of the air here, it felt healthful simply to breathe.

Read more about hiking in Hawaii »

Best Driving Tour: Tuscan Road Trip

Of the various regions around the world that lend themselves to a leisurely driving itinerary, Tuscany ranks near the top. I’ve motored through the unusually beautiful landscape — an entrancing patchwork of vineyards, olive groves, old farmhouses and ancient hill towns — several times over the years, but my multiple previous visits did not dim the joy of my most recent autumn tour. I can’t imagine ever tiring of returning to such a place. Roads tend to be winding but well maintained, and each bend seems to yield a panorama even more breathtaking than the last. Part of the fun of driving yourself is having the freedom to take an unplanned turn down a promising lane, perhaps leading to a picturesque winery or a village protected by a millennium-old castle. And it doesn’t hurt that a supremely comfortable and scenic resort, usually centered on historic buildings, is never far away.

Read more about our driving tour in Tuscany »

Best Itinerary: Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania

Lions in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Lions in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya - Angama Mara

The savannas of East Africa provide a magnificent setting for a safari. The sense of scale and grandeur is incomparable. On my recent trip, I flew from Nairobi to the southeast of Kenya. There, at the edge of the Amboseli National Park, game viewing was on a private concession within a 430-square-mile group ranch owned by Maasai pastoralists. Throughout my stay, I was treated to the stupendous backdrop of 19,400-foot Mount Kilimanjaro. My next stop was in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, famous above all for its astonishing concentration of big cats. Flying from Nairobi to northern Tanzania, I first visited Tarangire National Park, renowned for its huge numbers of elephants, before driving north to the immense Ngorongoro Crater, a self-contained ecosystem with a full range of large species. Finally, I flew to Serengeti National Park and spent a few days in the vicinity of Gol Kopjes, an area particularly favored by wildlife filmmakers owing to its big lion prides and the greatest concentration of cheetahs anywhere in Africa. Few experiences can rival that of being out on the Serengeti’s short-grass plains, gazing at tens of thousands of grazing animals.

Read our editor’s full 14-day East Africa itinerary »

Best Outdoor Adventure: Swimming With Manatees, Mexico

Manatee near our paddleboard in a cenote, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Manatee near our paddleboard in a cenote, Riviera Maya, Mexico - Hotel Esencia

Hotel Esencia, between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, offers an array of outdoor adventures, but the most memorable activity of our stay was a guided excursion to the hotel’s private cenote. The outing is not advertised, but we had been given an insider’s tip by our cheerful bellman. The journey started with a 15-minute walk, past the crumbling ruins of an old hotel now occupied by immense sun-basking iguanas. Guests can see a section of the cenote from the spa, but we did not realize how massive it was until we arrived. We paddleboarded out to a cove inhabited by a group of manatees. These sizable mammals are not graceful by any means, but they are harmless and playful. Not long after we had arrived, a large individual circled us for a few minutes and even poked its head out of the water right next to my board before heading back into the mangroves. We then swam in the crystal-clear water and snorkeled back to where we had started. It was an outing I won’t soon forget!

Read more about sightseeing highlights on the Rivera Maya »

By Andrew Harper Editors Andrew Harper editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.

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