Our Favorite Condé Nast Traveler Stories of the Year

From epic travelogues to charming essays, these are the stories we hope you didn't miss in 2023.
The Best Cond Nast Traveler Stories of the Year
Brandon Hoogenboom/Unsplash

Working at a travel publication can be dizzying—in a year, we go so many places, write so many stories, and publish a lot of content. At times, it can feel like we've run out of world to cover: If you've been there, we've probably done that. But that's of course not the case, and certain stories are an especially powerful reminder of the many stones that remain unturned; that there are many ways to take a trip, either to a familiar place or somewhere markedly overlooked, and tell a completely new story about it.

To honor these pieces and their authors—be they on staff, or part of our wide network of talented contributors—our editors have looked back on the past 12 months and plucked out the stories that moved them most. The list is far from all encompassing, but we hope that these travel stories will give you just a taste of this year's highlights—and capture your imagination the same way they captured ours. Consider them pre-boarding reading material for your winter trip.

All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

“In Paris, Asian Creatives Are Challenging What French Culture Can—and Should—Be” by R.O. Kwon

Joann Pai

“I’ve always loved R.O. Kwon’s writing—The Incendiaries has a permanent spot on my nightstand (so does Kink, but not, you know, for that reason)—so I was ecstatic to hear that the magazine had sent her on assignment to write about French Asians making waves in Paris’s artistic, culinary, and cultural landscape. Once the story came in, I was not at all surprised—indeed, I was very pleased—to read both Kwon’s thorough reporting on this particular social moment in a city I love, instigated by communities with which I share identities, and also her own meditation on why this matters to her in particular. This feature from our December 2023 issue is the kind of travel writing that drew me to Traveler in the first place: a clear-eyed writer with a stake in the space and the situation, elegantly balancing pathos and logos, as she puts you in her shoes and transports you to the scene from wherever you’re reading—and of course, while offering stellar restaurant recs.” —Matt Ortile, associate editor

‘On a Family Journey to Morocco's Southern Coast, a Writer Reckons with His Homeland's Religious History’ by Saki Knafo

Catherine Mead

“This piece by Saki Knafo ran at the very start of 2023 and it’s been living in my head ever since. On a journey through his family’s homeland of Morocco, Knafo sets off to the southern Anti-Atlas Mountains in search of greater connection with his own Jewish heritage and a better understanding of the family stories he was told by his father as a child. Gorgeously written and filled with characters both present and lost to the past, it’s a poignant and fascinating examination of the importance of generational storytelling and how it shapes us.” —Lale Arikoglu, articles director

Making Memories in a Wintery Jaunt Through Quebec” by Rivka Gelchen

Kam Vachon

“I love a piece that encourages me to consider somewhere in an entirely new way. Canadian-born writer Rivka Gelchen journeyed through the far reaches of Quebec during the colder, shorter months of winter, when most of us would go lengths to stay away. Her road trip (achieved with a sturdy set of snow tires) takes her through petite museums, centuries-old distilleries, sugar shacks, and cozy provincial inns and restaurants. It is an itinerary that spotlights the best and least expected of the area now, but underscores how the province’s exceptional past still influences Quebec today, taking her piece to a depth not often scaled in travel writing, with her singular flair for storytelling. After reading it, you too may be inclined to head north in the deep of winter.” —Erin Florio, executive editor

Wherever You Go, Eat at the Hot Dog Stand” by Amy Cavanaugh

Sebastien Cordat/Unslapsh

“When we worked on our Roadside Americana package, it became clear that Amy Cavanaugh knew the country through its hot dog stands. She wrote about Flo’s (est. 1959) in Maine, for example, where a tangy onion relish and celery salt might make you forget about lobster rolls for a moment. But she also knew about the family-run carhop Jim’s Drive-In in West Virginia, where coleslaw is the popular topping, among many others. Her deep-in-the-links intel finally got its day in the sun with this charming story, in which you, the reader, get to see the country through these humble institutions. They’re the kind of places that always sear themselves in my memory better than any landmark or museum on trips of my own—it’s an absolutely charming read.” —Megan Spurrell, senior editor

Examining The Human Need to Leave a Mark” by Betsy Andrews

Near Cedar Pass on Highway 240, a 39-mile loop that winds its way through South Dakota’s Badlands National ParkDempsey Hall

“It’s very easy to get excited about a splashy story focused on a far-flung destination. It’s harder, at least for me, to day dream about lesser-exalted places closer to home. Like South Dakota, say. But Betsy Andrews with her beautifully written and at times spot-on hilarious piece about a late spring road trip through the Badlands had me longing for wide open plains, prairie dog towns, and even a very specific American brand of kitsch.” —Rebecca Misner, senior features editor

“The Best Places to Go in 2024” by Condé Nast Traveler editors

Courtesy Weber Arctic

“I didn't work on our Best Places to Go List this year; therefore I can shout about how excellent it is this year (well done, team!)! So diverse, so considered, so expertly and painstaking curated and reported—and all packaged with punchy moving images and quick takeaways. My colleagues tapped into the smartest travel minds all over the world (many of which are in our own set of seven global offices) to produce a list whose originality and insight reflect the gargantuan effort that went into its creation. Read it as encouragement on where to travel next year. I, for one, am headed to the Kimberley in June.” —E.F.

By Giving Up My Need for Perfect Hair, I Learned to Lean Into My Travels by Betsy Blumenthal

Debs Lim

“The story that left me questioning my own travel habits the most this year was about hair. Yes, hair. It’s an essay about all the important moments, big and small, that we can miss out on if we let fear or insecurities hold us back. Once we let an experience pass us by, we may never get that time back. And doing so leaves us with a feeling we all try so hard to avoid: regret. Betsy Blumenthal explores this idea beautifully by recalling the many summer days down the Jersey Shore when she skipped the beach with her family to avoid getting her hair wet (and the subsequent five hours of re-drying and re-styling that would follow if she did). When Blumenthal’s dad passed away in 2017, she couldn’t believe she let the need for perfection keep her from getting in the water with her dad for all those summers. Now when she travels, there’s no adventure—or body of water—she won’t dive right into.” —Meaghan Kenny, associate commerce editor

In Charleston, Leaving Nostalgia Behind” by Latria Graham

Squire Fox

“Latria Graham, a seventh generation South Carolinian, wrote one of my favorite feature stories that we ran in the magazine last year. Her important, powerful piece is a fresh look at a complicated city that is often talked about and described in very uncomplicated, one-dimensional ways—charming, foodie hotspot, historic. In this story, on the eve of the long-awaited opening of the International African American Museum, Graham revisits Charleston to find a city actively confronting its traumatic past while celebrating its present.” —R.M.

Can Vacation Sex Save a Relationship? Catherine Cohen Investigates” by Catherine Cohen

Wind moving curtains on open balcony window in modern hotel bedroomSimon Skafar/Getty

"Nobody's fun anymore. What ever happened to fun?! I’m so bored I could die,” says Lexi Featherston seconds before rolling her ankle and falling to her death from the high-rise window she’s only just opened to enjoy a smoke. If Sex and the City accurately observed that prudish dreariness was taking over the culture all the way back in 2004, imagine how massive the problem has since become! When the intrepid Lale Arikoglu told me she was commissioning comedienne Cat Cohen for an essay on vacation sex, my reaction was an inverse of Lexi’s—I was flung, as though harnessed to a bungee, to a skyscraper’s top and declared, “We are so back!” So much about travel—hotels in particular, but also just the exploration of the new and different—is sexy, and if there’s one time that people have sex, it’s when they’re on vacation. That our magazine can have a little fun with that fact made me smile." —Charlie Hobbs, editorial assistant

A Celebration of Roadside Americana by various writers

Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH/Alamy

“A large chunk of my childhood was spent traversing the country in a giant van. My mom likes to remind me that I’ve seen nearly every state, even if I don’t remember it. Our Guide to Roadside Americana stirred up those early memories for me, evoking nostalgia with every delightful pitstop, from Caroline Eubanks’ story about US-41 (aka, the South’s Route 66) to Ashlea Halpern’s impassioned ode to Buc-ee's. This package has also inspired me to start planning a cross-country road trip for myself—a grown-up version, complete with stops at as many dive bars as possible, care of Lale Arikoglu’s drool-inducing story about the undeniable allure of dive bar food.” —Mercedes Bleth, global associate director of social

“A Different Kind of Summer in Paris” by Caitlin Gunther


“I have an affection for personal narrative essays—and having worked with writer Caitlin Gunther for a few years now, have found joy (and introspection) in her words, both as a reader and editor. As someone who loves Paris deeply, and returns to it regularly, it was moving to read this deeply personal account of her shifting relationship with a city that she suddenly found herself “trapped in.” Forced to become reacquainted with it, she looks for pockets of adventure and pleasure—her little daughter in tow—and inexorably finds the boundaries of her Paris expanding. It's a particularly interesting read for anyone who believes they have an immutable love for a city, only to find that connection changing over time.” —Arati Menon, global digital director

Slow Travel” by various writers

“Slow travel” is one of those trendy terms that was quickly rendered meaningless as it spread across the internet (like its similarly well-intentioned cousins, mindfulness and wellness). It’s not an easy phrase to define, though Sebastian Modak does a fabulous job of getting to the heart of it in the package’s central piece. The confusion is due, in part, because slow travel is not a thing you can point to, it’s an act—and to truly understand what it means, you have to go out in the world and try it for yourself. These luxuriously long reads about a Machu Picchu-free visit to Peru, starbathing in Chile, and encountering a spirit bear in British Columbia are about the closest you can get to experiencing slow travel without leaving your desk (but please, do anyway). —Hannah Towey, associate editor, transportation and travel news

Jonathan Groff Came Out to His Brother After One Look at Michelangelo’s David by Charlie Hobbs

Sara Singh

“I think we could all agree that this headline alone deserves an award. But the story itself shows how, sometimes, a split-second on a trip can totally change your life—in this case, the moment in question feels both moving and almost tongue-in-cheek, like something out of a Hollywood writers’ room. I love this print series, as it always captures memorable snapshots from the travels of interesting people, but Jonathan Groff’s story was a real treat. (Plus, there’s a pasta recommendation woven in. What more could you ask for?)” —M.S.

“Condé Nast Traveler’s Luggage Week 2023: The Essential Guide to Suitcases and Bags” by CNT Editors

Emma Fishman

“This page is the culmination of months and months of testing done by nearly every person on the Traveler team. We slung backpacks over our shoulders, rolled checked bags down bumpy roads, and lifted carry-ons into overhead bins to determine the very best pieces of luggage worth buying across every category. We also photographed these bags, and got to show off some of the lovely members of our team while we were at it. If you’re debating which piece of luggage to add to your collection next, or to gift a fellow traveler, the stories featured on this page are here to help you out.” —Madison Flager, senior commerce editor

The Undeniable Allure of Dive Bar Food” by Lale Arikoglu

Collage by Andrea Edelman Kay

“This story scratched an ever-present itch of mine, for travel stories that turn the spotlight—just for a moment—on the parts of trips most of us take for granted. In this case, it’s those wee hours of the night when you give yourself up to greasy, messy, salt-bomb bar food, and the way in which doing so lets you linger long enough at a no-frills watering hole to become part of the furniture. Much like Amy Cavanaugh’s story on hot dog stands (and Ashlea Halpern’s ode to Buc-ees), it was joyously fun to read. (Did I mention there’s a Guy Fieri cameo?) —M.S.

Home, Made: Stories of Asian America by various writers

“It felt really important to me—both personally, as an Indian American, and as an editor interested in diaspora storytelling—to be able to help shine a spotlight on the diverse Asian American communities across this country. Having weathered many storms over the decades—not to mention having borne the brunt of heartbreaking racism in the pandemic years—these diasporic communities have not just survived, but their existence is more vital to our cultures than ever. From the Japanese American sake makers of California who straddle tradition and innovation to a new generation of Viet-Texans for whom phở and barbecue evoke a sense of home in equal measure, and a love letter to the small businesses that make Koreatowns across the country what they are, this story package is us raising a glass to the diasporas that make our towns and cities (and lives) what they are—abundant, layered, and delicious." —A.M.

“Sydney Is Going Greener—Here's How Sustainably Minded Travelers Can Get in on the Action” by Callie Radke Stevens

Brandon Hoogenboom/Unsplash

“For a city that is so back post-pandemic, Callie Stevens’ piece on Sydney’s sustainability places a refreshing spotlight on traveling with the environment in mind. We all know that one of the greatest allures to Sydney is the natural wonders that surround it, but Stevens’ ode is not only to the positive environmental efforts over the last few years but how travelers can have fun with it. Stevens spotlights the hip, trendy cafés, and bars in the city that have partnerships with nonprofits and commitments to reducing their carbon and waste footprint. Of course, covering all the bases, Stevens also encourages travelers to dive back into what the city offers while also fully immersing in nature and culture—whether under water, through its sanctuaries, or its one-of-a-kind native ecosystems. It’s a testament to eco-positivity in travel that actually inspired me to travel in a more eco-minded way, and to destinations where it might not be immediately apparent.” —Jessica Chapel, editorial assistant

Breaking Bread by various writers

Courtesy Birch

“In the cheeky move of sharing a package I helped edit, I can’t resist celebrating Breaking Bread because it is made up of stories, photographs, and videos from so many talented people. How could I pick just one story? Kate Nelson’s piece on fry bread, for example, offers something totally unique to that of Vidya Balanchandar’s spotlight on choon paan vans that wind through Sri Lanka. But to flip through these features and essays, to me, encapsulates the simple joy of going to a new place and seeing how they interpret something that plays a role in your daily life (in this case: bread), in an entirely unique way that you can still deeply relate to.” —M.S.