From a remarkably cold winter and a new comet to the closure of an immensely popular UNESCO World Heritage Site, the past year in travel has seen some ups and downs. In 2023, we covered travel news that helped our readers hit the road while staying up to date. From travel warnings to potential brand-new national parks, our top travel news from 2023 showed us which topics interest our TravelAwaits readers the most.
Our most popular travel news stories from the U.S. occurred in Florida, but international news seemed to really concern our readers this past year, whether it was the closing of an ancient ruin in South America or celestial events occurring outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
Let’s take a second to look back at the travel news that piqued our readers’ interest the most this past year, and then look ahead at 2024.
Peru Closes Machu Picchu To Visitors
In late 2022, Peru’s President Pedro Castillo was impeached due to corruption. Spurring countrywide protests, the political issue caused civil unrest and forced the Ministry of Tourism to close the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu — a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Demonstrations near the ruins caused rail damage to nearby trains and forced the Cusco airport to suspend operations. The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Peru and urged visitors to “exercise increased caution due to civil unrest.”
Luckily, the disruptions did not last very long and Machu Picchu was reopened on February 12, 2023.
Farmers’ Almanac Predicts Very Cold Winter In Canada
Our readers like to stay in the know regarding one specific topic over any other: the weather. Every year, the Farmers’ Almanac releases its extended weather forecast for the U.S. and Canada. From an unusually warm winter in 2022 to a sizzling summer in 2023, TravelAwaits readers proved once again that they’re interested in the weather.
This year, though, it wasn’t any of the U.S. forecasts that made the list of top travel news stories. Indeed, the Farmers’ Almanac Winter Weather Forecast for Canada is the next story on our list. While readers scoured to see the upcoming winter’s potential outcome, they were told that “The BRRR Is Back!” — not unlike the U.S. forecast.
According to Canada’s winter outlook — and this is still relevant for the upcoming 2024 winter — the eastern part of the country will be chilly and stormy with a “wintry mishmash.” The central region will be “bitterly cold,” and the west will be seasonally cold, or very cold, with snowfall and wetness.
April’s Lyrid Meteor Shower Could Bring Up To 20 Meteors An Hour
“The Lyrid meteor shower occurs each year in April when Earth passes through the debris trail of a comet called C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered on April 5, 1861, by A. E. Thatcher,” said Jim Fulcher. “The comet takes 417 years to orbit the sun.”
One of several annual celestial events, the Lyrid meteor shower serves as an introduction to the springtime. Not specific to any region, the meteors are visible from anywhere that has dark skies and low levels of light pollution.
From meteors and comets to blue moons, our readers loved the astronomy news this year — as you’ll see later on in this list.
Orca May Return To Ocean After 50 Years In Captivity
One of the more somber stories on this list, Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium had heaps of hope this past April when it was announced she’d be returning to her home waters in the Pacific Northwest. In partnership with the seaquarium, an animal rights organization, and philanthropist Jim Irsay, Lolita was set to return sometime this year.
The original plan was for her to return during a gradual process so as to not aggravate her sickness, which was the main reason she was leaving the seaquarium in the first place. With even greater hopes to return to her mother — a 95-year-old killer whale still said to be living in Puget Sound waters — Lolita was supposed to live the rest of her life as a free creature.
Unfortunately, Lolita was unable to complete the journey back to her original home and passed away in August. A heartwarming story that ended in sadness, it’s a stark reminder of the preciousness of endangered species worldwide.
Great White Sharks Located Near Swimmers Along California Coast
Just a few states below Lolita’s home waters in Washington State, another aquatic visitor made a splash this summer. Instead of killer whales, it was juvenile great white sharks that stirred up a commotion this time.
Thanks to a study from California State University Long Beach Shark Lab, “hotspots” of juvenile great whites were found in multiple areas near Southern California. Luckily, it was only juveniles reported to have been in these waters back in the summer; great whites are known as “juvenile” from birth to about 6 years old.
“Juveniles like warm water and the safety of shallow areas for protection and access to their favorite food: sting rays on the shore line,” said TravelAwaits contributor Christy Karsten.
What Will Be The Next U.S. National Park? A Look At 7 Contenders
In 2020, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve became America’s newest national park. Since then, readers and travelers have been eager for news of the park service’s next installment. This past summer, we took a look at seven potential candidates for America’s next national park.
“The U.S. is full of worthy candidates, but national parks are created through congressional legislation, and there are many considerations — including available infrastructure such as roads and restrooms,” said National Geographic. “Community advocacy can help fuel the effort. With strong local and federal support, some sites stand a good chance of becoming America’s 64th national park.”
Expert TravelAwaits contributor and avid national park goer Jim Fulcher covered the following parks:
- Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
- Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
- Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
- Chiricahua National Monument
- Shawnee National Forest
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
- Tongass National Forest
While the newest park could be any one of these, or none of them, our readers were interested to read about which lucky location could have the honor of joining some incredible U.S. landmarks.
Popular Florida Spring Closed To Visitors For Six Months
Back to Florida for our next story about a beloved vacation excursion closing for over half the year — Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, Florida. Made up of Pretty, Big, and Little Sister Springs, the wildlife refuge was closed for a canal-stabilization project to improve the surrounding habitat for the springs’ native manatees.
Closed from April 1 until November 15, the project was calculated to start and end before the beginning of manatee mating season, which lasts from November to April. Located in a wetlands habitat in Kings Bay, Three Sisters Springs has since reopened to visitors.
Newly Discovered Comet Expected To Be Brighter Than Stars
Another celestial event on the list, the arrival of Comet/2023 A3 won’t occur again until later in 2024, but it deserved the early coverage for good reason.
Discovered this past February, the comet — otherwise known as Tsuchinshan-ATLAS — takes 80,000 years to orbit the sun. Named after Purple Mountain in China, where the comet was first photographed, it “should be at its closest to Earth on October 13, 2024,” said Jim Fulcher, according to EarthSky.
U.S. Warns Tourists To Avoid Certain Areas Of Mexico
Not unlike the complications in Machu Picchu, early 2023 saw a lot of unrest in Mexico as well, but for even more dangerous reasons. When the story of American tourists kidnapped in Mexico, two of which were killed, made headline news, the U.S. State Department was quick to warn future visitors of Mexico’s potential dangers.
“Violent crime — such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery — is widespread and common in Mexico,” the State Department explains. “The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico, as travel by U.S. government employees to certain areas is prohibited or restricted. In many states, local emergency services are limited outside the state capital or major cities.”
Offering visitors various cautions in specific areas around Mexico, the State Department urged Americans not to travel to places like Colima and Sinaloa. Visitors were told to reconsider traveling to “Baja California (where Tijuana is located), Chihuahua, Guanajuato (where Guanajuato City is located), Jalisco state (home to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta), and Sonora.”
While the State Department did not caution travel to all of Mexico, it wouldn’t be the first time civil unrest has led to a travel warning in America’s neighbor country to the south.
The Dangerous Situation Happening In Cancun
Focused solely in the resort state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located, February saw even more complications in Mexico as the result of a new rideshare policy in the area.
“The problem is that taxi drivers, who are protesting that Uber has begun operations in Quintana Roo, have repeatedly blocked the main road from the airport to Cancun’s Hotel Zone,” said TravelAwaits’ Jim Fulcher. “At other times, cab drivers have allegedly thrown rocks at Uber drivers, and fights have allegedly broken out between taxi and Uber drivers in the street.”
Taking away from local taxi drivers, a two-sided conflict arose, and tourists were in the crossfire, pushing the U.S. State Department to release yet another warning for people traveling to Mexico.
Looking Ahead To 2024
With yet another year in the books, we are left to wonder what’s next. We hope our TravelAwaits readers are strapping in for yet another year of travel. Want a preview of what might be in store? Check out our travel trend forecast for 2024.