Are we surprised so many of them have gorgeous beaches?

By Tracey Minkin
August 19, 2019
Uruguay's José Ignacio. Photo: ElOjoTorpe/Getty
  ElOjoTorpe/Getty Images

How does a fall or winter getaway trip to Uruguay’s glamorous, just-under-the-radar beach town of José Ignacio sound? If you’re already dreaming of this pale-sand Hamptons of the Southern Hemisphere, you’re not alone: Uruguay has just landed at the top of Virtuoso’s Hot 10, the international travel agency network’s assessment of destinations with the biggest increases in year-over-year bookings among U.S. travelers.

The Hot 10 is part of the Virtuoso Luxe Report, a look at the buzzing world of upscale travel, which was released at Virtuoso Travel Week 2019, an annual gathering of the network’s thousands of luxury travel advisors and providers from around the world.

Beach life in Uruguay. Photo: Domino/Getty Images
  Domino/Getty Images

Uruguay landed at the top of the Hot 10 with a surge of 286% in year-over-year bookings. The South American country's mild climate, award-winning wineries, and adventure opportunities “make it a sought-after destination for the season,” said Misty Belles, Managing Director, Global Public Relations for Virtuoso. "There are new restaurants and venues underway everywhere to support a generation of younger travelers, who also enjoy the great vineyards and beaches,” added Pam Walker of Walker Adventures, an affiliate of Travel Experts, a Virtuoso Agency. 

Perhaps not unexpectedly, the luxurious and beach-perfect destination of the Maldives came in as the second-hottest destination for the coming season, with a 171% increase in bookings from last year. The far-flung destination--26 atolls of more than 1,200 islands, which lie in the midst of the Indian Ocean to the south and southwest of India--continues to innovate with staggering luxury stays, including an underwater villa and glamping in a beach-based bubble. "The Maldives offers the best island paradise experiences possible when it comes to truly exotic, luxury experiences," says Leah Winck of First in Service Travel, a Virtuoso Agency. "There have been strong visual marketing campaigns, great promotional airfares to Male (the main island), and a stronger sense of travelers--both couples and families--wanting to go farther away. No other island chain offers what the Maldives does."

Justin Nicholas

Malta, the historic and highly cultured Mediterranean island with some of the most colorful beaches in the world, continues to heat up with bookings, and landed at number 3 on Virtuoso’s Hot 10. (No wonder: It was one of our Top 10 European islands for travel in 2019.)  

Photo of Ghajn Tuffieha, Malta, by Chiara Salvadori

Romania and Egypt rounded out the top 5, but it’s the surge of travel to Puerto Rico, landing on the Hot 10 in 6th place, that reminds that this rich cultural, historical, culinary (and beachy!) destination deserves to thrive as it continues to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017. According to Virtuoso, there’s a 120% increase in bookings to the island compared with last year, and that’s a trend worth emulating. "Puerto Rico is trending now as it’s being reborn after the hurricane," says Jonathan Phillips of Cassis Travel Services, a Virtuoso Agency. "Since then, Americans have had tremendous empathy for the people of the island. New hotels and restaurants are emerging and her beaches have been restored to their pristine former condition. It’s a young, vibrant destination with fantastic food, music, dancing and smiling faces."

If you’re dreaming of a whole new approach to Christmas this year, Puerto Rico goes crazy for the holiday and is a fantastic place to celebrate. (And if you can’t wait until Christmas, consider this incredible insider culinary tour we’re crazy about that’s this November).

Beach in the Condado neighborhood of San Juan
Tracey Minkin

Rounding out the Virtuoso Hot 10 for the season are Rwanda (7th place), Qatar (8th), South Korea (9th) and Norway (10th), home to some of the most stunning cruising on the planet along with treasures like this dreamy little cottage on the country’s sunniest island.

Courtesy of Airbnb