While 2023 was certainly a bustling year for global travel with an estimated five billion people travelling by air, 2024 presents a fresh palette of destinations to colour your adventures.
Now’s the time to make 2024 your year for travel. According to Antoinette Turner, Flight Centre South Africa’s General Manager, it’s wise to book flights and accommodation at least six months in advance when travelling internationally. The question is, where to go? Here are the top 10 destination picks for 2024, handpicked by Flight Centre South Africa’s Travel Experts.
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 8 hrs 10 mins; Cape Town – 9 hrs 20 mins*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: Beyond its opulent skyscrapers (it’s home to the world’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa) and sprawling malls, Dubai boasts a rich culture, desert landscapes, and adventure sports. It’s also family-friendly – the kids will love running wild at LEGOLAND Dubai and KidZania.
Unforgettable Highlight: Dune bashing in the desert followed by a traditional Bedouin dinner under the stars.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “Experience old Dubai by visiting the Gold and Spice Souks – offering a closer look at both the city’s rich past and gleaming present.”
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 10 hrs 20 mins; Cape Town – 11 hrs 15 mins (to Istanbul)*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: Turkey straddles two continents, spilling over with Asian and European influences, historic sites (including those of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires), and stunning landscapes. Plus, it’s an affordable choice for South Africans. At the time of writing, 1ZAR would earn you 1.42TRY.
Unforgettable Highlight: A magical hot air balloon ride over the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia at sunrise.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “Don’t miss the grandeur of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the chance to shop for souvenirs and strike a bargain at the local bazaars.”
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 11 hrs 25 mins; Cape Town – 11 hrs 45 mins*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: Amsterdam, the ‘Venice of the North’, is famous for its enchanting canals, historic houses, and vibrant arts scene (you can admire iconic works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Vermeer, and more).
Unforgettable Highlight: Cycling along the canals and visiting the Anne Frank House, a poignant piece of WWII history.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “Spring, in April and May, is the best time to visit Amsterdam. This is the time of year when the tulip fields are in full bloom. The colours are truly mesmerising.”
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 13 hrs 50 mins; Cape Town – 16 hrs 55 mins*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: Bali is a tropical paradise perfect for barefoot luxury. It also boasts verdant terraced rice paddies and a deeply spiritual culture.
Unforgettable Highlight: Exploring the ancient Uluwatu Temple, perched high on a clifftop overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “Visit Ubud, the island’s cultural heart, and take a traditional cooking class to dive deep into Balinese cuisine.”
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 11 hrs 10 mins; Cape Town – 12 hrs 10 mins*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: London is a global city steeped in history with a pulsating contemporary arts and music scene. It’s full of diverse neighbourhoods for every type of traveller, from Shoreditch’s hipster hangout vibes to the historic charm of Notting Hill.
Unforgettable Highlight: Watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, followed by a leisurely cruise on the River Thames.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “Take advantage of great public transport connectivity across the city, and consider staying at a hotel or guesthouse on London’s outskirts to stretch your rands even further.”
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 10 hrs 40 mins; Cape Town – 11 hrs, 10 mins (to Lisbon)*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: With its historic cities, sun-kissed beaches of the Algarve, and world-famous Porto wine, Portugal is every holidaymaker’s dream.
Unforgettable Highlight: Traversing the cobbled streets of Lisbon on the iconic Tram 28.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “Foodie and wine lover? Head north to Douro Valley and indulge in wine tasting at the picturesque vineyards lining the river.”
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 13 hrs 40 mins; Cape Town – 14 hrs 40 mins*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: Dublin is Ireland’s spirited core. It’s brimming with historic pubs (celebrated for their delicious pints and pub grub), literary legacy, and welcoming locals.
Unforgettable Highlight: Listening to live traditional music in the iconic Temple Bar pub.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “Explore the nearby Wicklow Mountains for a scenic escape and a taste of Ireland’s untamed beauty.”
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 13 hrs 40 mins; Cape Town – 15 hrs 50 mins (to Athens)*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: Greece offers a blend of ancient ruins, sun-soaked islands, and a culinary journey like no other.
Unforgettable Highlight: Watching the sunset over the Aegean Sea from the clifftop town of Oia in Santorini.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “Visit the lesser-known islands of Anafi or Naxos for peaceful, pristine beaches and authentic Greek hospitality.”
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 13 hrs 55 mins; Cape Town – 17 hrs 10 mins (to Bangkok)*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: Most people who visit Thailand intend to ‘fly and flop’ – after all, the tropical beaches are so dreamy it’s practically impossible to tear yourself away. The country also offers mouthwatering cuisine and exotic wildlife (be sure to visit only ethical and responsible animal sanctuaries).
Unforgettable Highlight: Attending a full moon beach party on Koh Phangan or exploring the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “For a unique experience, spend a night in a floating bungalow in the serene Khao Sok National Park.”
Flight Duration: Johannesburg – 10 hrs 50 mins; Cape Town – 11 hrs 55 mins*
Why it’s bucket list-worthy: Paris, the City of Lights, exudes romance, art, and gastronomy (the city’s home to an estimated 130 Michelin-starred restaurants, along with countless cafés exuding its legendary café culture).
Unforgettable Highlight: A picnic by the Seine River with a view of the Eiffel Tower. This experience is especially magical at night when the famous landmark sparkles for five minutes every hour on the hour until 11 pm.
Antoinette Turner’s Top Tip: “Avoid the queues by visiting the Louvre Museum during late hours on Wednesday or Friday – it only closes at 9:45 pm.”
As the curtain draws on 2023 and the dawn of 2024 beckons, the world opens up with many mesmerising destinations just waiting to be explored. Where will 2024 take you?
*These are estimates of flight durations. They will vary from airline to airline and whether you’re flying non-stop or multi-stop flights.