Best of the World: seven destinations for community tourism in 2023 and beyond

1. Dodecanese Islands, Greece
This Greek archipelago balances growing popularity with sustaining its ancient traditions

Off the Turkish coast, the Greek islands of the Dodecanese cast an alluring spell stemming from their rocky beauty and feisty history. A cast of conquerors — Romans, Ottomans and Italians — left their fingerprints on everything from the architecture to the food, but today’s invaders come not for fortune, but for selfies, at such better-known Dodecanese islands as Leros, Patmos or Kos.

But now less trafficked parts of the archipelago like Karpathos, located halfway between Crete and Rhodes, must balance between the economic need for tourism and the environmental stresses caused by it. In this arid, hilly land of milk and honey, many families keep bees and make their own butter and cheese. Karpathos’s lonely white churches, timeworn towns and ancient traditions may draw adventurous visitors fleeing the more crowded Cycladic islands of Mykonos and Santorini, but the island’s water scarcity and lack of recycling capacity pose challenges.

2.Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A smaller, less expensive Great Lakes city you shouldn’t miss

Wisconsin’s biggest and liveliest city combines a blue-collar, back-thumping energy with a close-knit creative community that’s turning heads beyond the Great Lakes. (Having a winning NBA team, the Bucks, doesn’t hurt either.)

Like the 450 motorcycles displayed inside its Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee is revving its engines in 2023. Riverside promenades are being built along its three waterways (the Milwaukee, Kinnickinnic and Menomonee Rivers), and the buzzy Deer District rises from a former field of vacant lots, with hotels, concert venues and the Bucks arena. Meanwhile traditional neighborhoods are getting fresh development projects, such as the planned arts and cultural center in Bronzeville focused on African American art.

3. Alberta, Canada
In the Canadian Rockies, Indigenous voices connect travelers to undiscovered histories

Alberta is celebrated for its natural wonders like the Athabasca Glacier and Banff National Park, both high in the Rocky Mountains; its wide-open prairie views; and the glass-and-steel modernity of cities like Calgary and Edmonton. But there are different perspectives to consider in this Canadian province, part of a rethinking about how Indigenous stories are told across all of North America.

“[Travellers] who seek us out want to reconnect and refocus,” says Brenda Holder, a Cree/Iroquois guide who leads visitors on walks and workshops in the woods near Sundre, Alberta, to examine the medicinal plants her people rely upon.

Alberta’s Aboriginal sites offer touchstones into the province’s pre-European past. Visitors to Elk Island National Park, located just east of Edmonton, encounter cultural history dating back 8,000 years through guided hikes, hands-on interpretive programs featuring prehistoric stone tools, and Cree crafting workshops.

4. Laos
A new high-speed train is making more of Laos accessible

The Covid pandemic closed the borders of many tourism-dependent countries including Laos. But the Southeast Asian country known for its emerald-green views of the Upper Mekong got a boost in domestic travel with the December 2021 inauguration of a Chinese-financed and -constructed bullet train christened the Lane Xang, Laos’ ancient name meaning Kingdom of a Million Elephants. Originating in Kunming, China, the train’s 260-mile route within Laos starts at the border town of Boten and barrels through 75 tunnels and across 167 bridges, before terminating in the capital Vientiane.

The train’s promise: expanding tourism among the Lao themselves, who can now easily explore their country’s multifaceted heritage, including the old imperial capital, Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

5. Ghanaian
The hottest destination for Black heritage travelers in West Africa is also a vibrant creative hub

With Covid restrictions relaxed, many travelers are once again taking up an invitation that Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo had extended pre-pandemic to people with African heritage: to return to this West African country, explore their African roots and connect with its citizens. The journeys, popularized by celebrity travelers such as Danny Glover and Chance the Rapper, were often emotional ones as visitors confronted the physical remnants of the slave trade along Ghana’s coast.

“More than a return, it’s a remembering,” he says National Geographic photo editor Melissa Bunni Elian, who traveled to Ghana last spring. Elian notes that Ghana has a “strong pan-African spirit. You’ll hear afrobeats everywhere, from the taxis to the grocery store, but also reggae, Haitian zouk, American hip-hop.”

6. Nova Scotia, Canada
Canada puts a spotlight on its unique Acadian culture

The parishes of southern Louisiana have long been associated with the Acadians, France’s settlers in the New World. But the first Acadia lay further north, centered in Canada’s Atlantic Maritime provinces like Nova Scotia. French immigrants first arrived in the 1630s, only to be routed 120 years later by Britain during the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763). Beginning in 1755, ‘le Grand Dérangement’ (The Great Expulsion) saw Acadians forcibly resettled in British colonies or repatriated to France, and then to Louisiana. Allowed to return to Nova Scotia in 1764, the Acadians have defended and retained their unique culture and French language into this century. The twice-a-decade World Congress of Acadians takes place in 2024 here in the rural municipalities of Clare and Argyle.

7.Aboriginal Australia
Greater Aboriginal rights go hand-in-hand with a new wave of Indigenous experiences

This year Australians will cast their vote on whether to enshrine an Aboriginal voice in the country’s constitution. The historic referendum takes place against a backdrop of greater recognition of Aboriginal rights, with vast swathes of land handed back to Traditional Owners, and the country’s first truth-telling commission underway in Victoria.

As the cogs of government churn, a new wave of experiences owned and led by Aboriginal Australians are helping travelers delve deeper into history, culture and cuisine. Found at the end of the Great Ocean Road is Budj Bim Cultural Landscape —newly inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2019 and the first in Australia to be listed for its Aboriginal cultural value — where visitors can explore the world’s oldest eel farms with Gunditjmara guides .

Read more from Best of the World: 35 incredible trips for 2023 and beyond

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