Follow the sun
The cold and dreary winter months call for one thing only and that’s combing the internet for the best Black Friday holiday deals and booking your epic trip of the year. Yes, the one that’ll make all your friends comment, and cry, over your wanderlust-inducing photos and that will leave you feeling all Eat, Pray, Love about life. Here are the top travel destinations of 2017, with sun – and fun – guaranteed.
If you fancy yourself an outdoorsy character, you’ll reach fresh air nirvana trekking through the Simien Mountains or climbing to a church that’s been carved into a cliff face in Tigray. And, if you’re an animal lover, be ready to witness wildlife that you’ve never come across before. Water babies, make sure to boat across Lake Tana to take in the landscape en route to visit a remote monastery. And, this year, more and more airlines are flying to Ethiopia so go on, what are you waiting for?
The adage goes that locals believe if Christopher Columbus came back to life and visited the Caribbean, Dominica would be the only island he’d still recognise. Basically, envision deserted beaches, lush ferns and prehistoric foliage where the sky is sea blue and the sun is always shining. The island is set to get its first large hotel chain resort in 2018 so visit it before its coconut palms are overtaken by skyscrapers.
Cape Town may be famously beautiful for its natural scenery (hello Table Mountain) but what was once a laid-back, outdoorsy getaway is now getting a reputation for its cultural and culinary credibility. Local food markets, historic wine estates and experimental cuisine are on the rise, and this September, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa will open and be the largest museum of contemporary African art.
So many recent political changes in the nation previously known as Burma mean that this once secretive Southeast Asia country is welcoming more tourism. Aung San Suu Kyi’s led National League for Democracy came into power back in November 2015, which marked the first civilian government in 50 years, and is slowly bringing change to a country which once was under military rule. The result? A country that is now warmly embracing change and travellers.
Think of a Hungarian break and you may think of sparties (the adults-only pool parties inside the capital’s giant spas FYI) in Budapest but look past the capital and you’ll find Debrecen, the country’s second-largest city now becoming an international destination in its own right. Rich in history, and home to the beautiful Hortobágy National Park, the region has a mix of old traditions and a burgeoning art scene, complete with lively festivals.
As if Justin Trudeau wasn’t enough of a reason to want to visit Canada, the world’s second-largest country is well-regarded for its liveability and general quality of life and happiness. This year marks 150 years since confederation so will highlight its history. Oh, and now that the Canadian dollar is fairly weak, tourists’ holiday funds will pack a punch – all the more reason to try out their fusion cuisine and underrated wine scene.
Back in 1917, Finland gained its independence from a time when Russia and Sweden were fighting over it, so 2017 will see the country celebrate its centenary in style. Expect outdoor concerts, sauna evenings and art exhibitions across the land. Or, get in touch with your inner Viking by perusing their many national pine forest parks (including the 11,000 hectare one in Hossa which recently opened its gates or the Nuuksio National Park) and twisty rivers.
Forget Trump for a minute and remember that America is still full of beauty and hope – and really does have something for everyone. For an alternative and green visit, head to Portland, the country’s sustainable, ethical city that values quality of life and global awareness way above the rat race. Go hiking up Mount Hood or Willamette Valley from June to August for that real summer American into-the-woods experience. Or, go beyond Los Angeles’ reputation for celebrities, health fanatics and highways, and enjoy the city’s newfound catering for pedestrians, thanks to their tube expansion that’s making it easier than ever to get from Downtown to Santa Monica. Or, end your summer season at Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a hidden treasure in middle America filled with beautiful towns and villages, complete with lighthouses, coastlines, lakes, forests and waterfalls.
Visiting Venice in the early autumn months means you’re getting to see the city, once riddled with tourists, in a whole new light. Once a day trip from nearby (and mainland) Treviso and Mestre, more and more locals are renting out their homes to allow for late-night strolls and nightcaps at local bars. Make sure to visit canalside Cannaregio, once known as the Venetian ghetto, which is now filled with restaurants and shops that all the locals enjoy – and the tourists don’t quite know about yet…
Despite the heartbreaking 2015 earthquake, Nepal remains a stunning place to visit, with some untouched landmark temples and popular trekking trails still standing. With all the talents and skills to repair, what the locals really need is income and the tourist industry is a big moneymaker for the country so you can expect a very warm welcome. Heading there later in the year means increased mountain visibility and a lower rate of pollution and dust thanks to the just gone monsoon rains so it’s ideal for hiking. Not that much of a walker? Just enjoy their two major festivals, Dasain and Tihaar, instead.
A nation of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman has long been the tourism trump card of Arabia, with flights and high-end hotels in abundance. If its luxury accommodation in the middle of a dessert or alongside the Persian Gulf you’re after, this is the place. While the port capital, Muscat, has plenty to see with the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the Muttrah quarter and Labryrinthine souk, you can also escape the hustle and bustle (and futuristic theme park set to make its debut this year) by heading to the Bedouins-inhabited Wahiba Sands.
Once tainted by civil war, crime and a drug scene, Colombia has slowly returned to being a destination for colourful and vibrant culture and hospitality. Major hotel companies have already opened up in its capital Bogota while its Caribbean coast boasts the city of Cartagena, complete with colonial architecture and nature. Plus, this year Pope Francis is visiting the country which marks the nation’s first papal visit in over 30 years, and you know what they say, if it’s good enough for him…