From Portugal to the Namibian deserts, explore our top recommended destinations for 2017.
1. Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway, & Sweden
Lovely Scandinavia has always had a top-notch reputation, but it’s only been the past few years where it truly gets to shine. Lapland remains one of the best regions in the world to see the fabled Northern Lights. If Vikings and history hold your interest, Copenhagen and its surrounding historic ruins are a bit of a dream. Take a languid train from Oslo to Stockholm and let the charm of trendy cafes and experimental cuisine entice you.
Catch it while it’s still hot–Cuba is enjoying enthusiastic travelers from the USA thanks to government deregulations in 2015-16. Close to 2 million visitors explored the island in the first half of 2016 alone. But hop on the Cuba train quickly–some people fear that the Trump administration will lead to, once again, tight visa restrictions.
Namibia is a bit of an odd-duck on this list, but for longtime safari aficionados, it should come as no surprise. The arid landscape is a perfect place to spy desert elephants, see the endangered black rhino and climb up in a hot balloon.
Portugal tends to be overlooked in favor of its spicy neighbor Spain, but this small country has its own unique draws. A world-renown cuisine, small-scale cities, and sleepy ambiance attract the leisurely traveler. And if that’s not enough, perhaps the warm Mediterranean weather, world-class surfing beaches, and UNESCO architecture will draw you near.
5. South Africa
South Africa is a diverse cultural and geographical landscape sure to be a fit for every type of traveler. From luxury game drives in Kruger National Park, to market-browsing in Jo’berg, to trekking up Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain. Speaking of Cape Town, look out for the opening of Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, as well as its accompanying luxury hotel The Silo. Though not a small country, thanks to South Africa’s density and diversity, relatively you can see quite a lot in a short visit.
France’s support has suffered a bit thanks to recent safety concerns, but it’s charm has not. Escape the well-trodden paths of Paris and Nice for a moment and use this opportunity to explore the countryside. Why not take to the small towns of Provence, or go wine-tasting in the Champagne region?
Yes! Iceland has once again made the cut. Iceland’s popularity has soared in the last 5 years, drawing visitors from places as diverse as North America and Malaysia. Chances are, you or someone you know have driven a car around the Golden Circle, or hopped on a tour to the Glacier Lagoon. What’s next in store for the Island of Fire and Ice? Traveling to more off-beat corners, like the West Fjords and the Vestmannaeyjar Isles.
Elegant and pristine Ljubljana is just the gateway to greater Slovenia, the “playground of Europe.” Here, you can try out all sorts of fun activities, like white-water rafting, hang-gliding, and spelunking in the largest karst in Europe. The capital displays a complex history, with architectural styles ranging from Roman, Venetian, Viennese, French and Czech. The architect Jože Plečnik, designer of Prague Castle, is responsible for many of the bridges and parks in Ljubljana. Don’t forget to try the superb local wine, which is aged in earthenware jars lined with beeswax, an ancient tradition that has carried over to today.
Many don’t realize that Bermuda is so accessible, just 2 hours from most major cities on the USA east coast. Temperate weather and locals make for an easy-going, relaxing destination. Hamilton Princess & Beach Club is receiving a major overhaul, adding art collection, spa, and restaurant headed by James Beard Award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson. And in June Bermuda will play host to the world-famous sailing race America’s Cup, attracting quite the A-list–so don’t wait, book your hotels now.
Mongolia is a country to watch in 2017, as the capital is enjoying some major new improvements this coming year. Ulaanbaatar is investing in a spanking-new airport, and the $500-mil Shangri-La complex, complete with hotel, IMAX and Hard Rock Café. Don’t neglect the countryside–visit the legendary Gobi desert or walk along the banks of Lake Khövsgöl.
Myanmar has been a budding favorite for the past couple of years, so keep a lookout for this jewel in the travel magazines. Inle Lake and the Valley of Pagodas remain one of the more eye-catching destinations in SE Asia. The challenges of navigating Myanmar are gradually vanishing, but along with it, its untouched allure. So go early before the crowds!
Ecuador is occasionally overshadowed by its popular offshoot the Galapagos. But in the port city of Guayaquil, colonial architecture meet a fun riverfront promenade with playgrounds, galleries and museums. The new Ferris wheel affords some beautiful views of the colorful town below.
In spite of its golden stupas, postcard-perfect waterfalls and handmade paper markets, Laos remains the quiet neighbor to the ever-popular Vietnam and Thailand. In 2016, it received a visit of Barack Obama, shining a well-deserved light on the blend of traditional and faded modern in Luang Prabang and capital Vientiane. Laos is a sleepy destination, great for a revitalizing getaway, with thick jungle, rolling hills, crumbling temples, and the muddy Mekong.
14. River Cruises in North America
Travelers are typically surprised on domestic river cruises, which often go above and beyond to offer unique educational and themed fun. Whether you’d like to cruise the Great Lakes, wander down the Columbia River Gorge in the Pacific Northwest, or journey roundtrip Nashville on the Mississippi River, chances are there exists a steamboat or a small ship to take you there. River cruises are typically comfortable, unhurried, and enriching week-long chances to learn about untold Americana history.
Images: Shutterstock. Copenhagen/LaMiaFotografia; Trinidad, Cuba/Sabino Parente; Porto, Portugal/Kotomiti Okuma; Etosha National Park, Namibia/Efimova Anna; Colored Beach Huts, Cape Town, South Africa/Richard Cavalleri; Sully-sur-Loire Chateau/Viacheslav Lopatin; Goddafoss Waterfalls/Puripat Lertpunyaroj; Ljubljana, Slovenia/Matej Kastelic; Flatts, Bermuda/EQRoy; Mongolia Palace Ulaanbaatar , Mongolia/toiletroom; Luang Prabang, Laos/apiguide; Guayaquil, Ecuador/Mark52; Steamboat Natchez/starryvoyage