This time of year, every year, all kinds of lists start popping up on your news feed – things like: “Top 10 Movies of 2016”, “Top Celebrity Romances of 2016,” or the more forward-looking things like, “Best Haircuts for 2017” and “10 Ways to Be Happier in 2017”. In the travel industry, it’s all about the next “hot” destinations. Where is the next best destination for all the wanderlusters out there?
I’ve taken the liberty of combining the world’s most respected travel publications’ lists for the top travel destinations of 2017 and made a list of the top 20 that they most agree on. I sorted through about 300 suggested destinations for 2017 and whittled it down to 20 destinations that most travel experts agree will be a great place to go in 2017. Plus, I included a bonus #21 that I think most of you will appreciate. [By the way, I totally geeked out over this excel-based qualitative analysis project, because it allowed me to use skills acquired from my former career as a military and competitive intelligence expert.]
So here, goes. Here’s your expert list of locations to make vacation plans for in 2017.
#20) Oman – increasing flights to Oman and new luxury hotels make this culturally rich and safe destination in the Middle East a great place to visit, especially during the cooler winter months.
#19) China (Hangzhou, Shanghai, Suzhou) – completely doable for a 6-10 day vacation starting in the hub of Shanghai, you can experience a variety of historical and modern highlights in these three eastern China destinations that form a triangle on the map. After experiencing the city life of Shanghai, take a bullet train to Suzhou to see some of the UNESCO-designated gardens. Follow this with a trip to Hangzhou to see the beautiful lake and bamboo forests.
#18) Ecuador (Guayaquil and the Cloud Forest) – most famous as the gateway to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador has plenty to offer on its own. Guayaquil is traditionally the starting point for Galapagos visitors and has been getting some major tourism upgrades such as new parks, hotels, and museums. Farther north (north of Quito), is the Cloud Forest, a birder’s paradise.
#17) Switzerland (Canton Uri, Bern, Gstaad, Lake Lucerne) – yearning for stunning landscapes, delicious cuisines, and sophisticated cultures? Between the mountains, the lakes, the combination of Italian and German languages and food, Switzerland may be your dream vacation. For that Alpine beauty that you dreamed about when reading “Heidi” as a kid, visit Canton Uri, Gstaad, or Lake Lucerne. For some city life with medieval charm, visit Bern.
#16) New Zealand (Queenstown, Taranaki) – this is probably not a surprise to anyone, as New Zealand has long been known for its stunning landscapes. After your adventures in Queenstown, take a trip to Taranaki (a place that only 2% of international tourists visit) – perhaps the Portland of New Zealand, their motto is “A Little Bit Out There.”
#15) South Africa (Cape Town and Cradle of Humankind) – a popular destination for 2016, South Africa remains on the list this year with new interest in the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO site which holds some of the world’s oldest and most important paleontological artifacts.
#14) Zimbabwe – Botswana – Namibia – wild animals, wild landscapes, and ancient cultures all come together in these Southern African nations along the Okavango Delta. Whether hiking to a waterfall or on a safari, these destinations are unforgettable.
#13) Bermuda – showing up on nearly every list, I have to say this was a bit of a surprise to me, as I usually just associate it with tropical cruises. Bermuda has upped its game in the past few years. Preparing to host the America’s Cup, investing in hotel renovations, fine dining, and loosening restrictions on foreign investment has all helped Bermuda to become the next hot tropical destination in the Americas.
#12) Australia (Adelaide, Noosa Heads, Perth, Bellarine Peninsula) – all situated on the southern half of Australia, some are better known than others. Australia was also popular in 2016, but here are a couple lesser-known gems to check out for 2017. For an upscale beach experience near Brisbane, check out Noosa Heads. Want to go where the locals go? Local Melbournians go to the Bellarine Peninsula to relax on the coast.
#11) Japan (Kanazawa, Tokyo, Kyoto, Okinawa, Kyushu, Hokkaido) – Japan has also been a popular place to vacation, especially in 2016, but here a few places to focus on for 2017. With a bullet-train extension from Tokyo lessening the travel time to Kanazawa, it is becoming a more popular place to go. There you can eat more affordable sushi than Tokyo and visit old wooden teahouses and samurai residences. Another affordable trip from Tokyo is to Hokkaido, a place where you can enjoy the mountain and ocean views.
#10) Spain (Seville, Malaga, Madrid, Barcelona) – again, no stranger to people’s buckets lists and very popular in 2016, Spain is a diverse country with a lot to explore. One new destination to consider is Malaga, especially if you are an art-buff – after all, it is Picasso’s birthplace.
#9) Caucasus (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia) – called Transcaucasia, these three countries can be pleasantly toured in 8-10 days. The three countries are completely different in culture, language, and religion, but all offer stunning landscapes and a crossroads between Europe and Asia. Georgia witnessed an uptick in tourism in 2016 and its neighbors probably will in 2017 as well.
#8) Morocco (Marrakech, Tamuda Bay, Soura) – if you’re like me, when you think of Morocco, you think of “Casablanca.” While Humphrey and Lauren are not waiting for you there still, Morocco is a gem to be seen. For some relaxation in an upscale coast resort town, visit Tamuda Bay. But, if its city life you want, visit vibrant, Marrakech.
#7) Peru (Chan Chan, Choquequirao, Pisco Province) – people are starting to realize that Machu Pichu is not all Peru has to offer. Aside from its world-class cuisine, there are more ruins to behold that require less advance planning and have fewer crowds: see Chan Chan and Choquequirao.
#6) Argentina (Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Salta, Patagonia) – if you like beef, wine and/or mountains, Argentina should be on your list. I definitely plan to hike to Patagonia and then gorge on beef and wine someday. One lesser-known place to check out is Salta in Northwestern Argentina. It has everything from jungles, to volcanoes, to vineyards, to salt flats.
#5) Portugal (The Azores, Lisbon, Porto) – the most “in” destination of 2016 is still on the list for 2017. Portugal now has $799 flights from JFK-Lisbon making it more accessible. Aside from Lisbon and the amazing Azores, Porto is still quite affordable and offers all the culture, scenery, and food one hopes and dreams for in a European town.
#4) California (Northern Wine Country, Saint Ynez Valley, Yolo County, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles) – the only American state on this list, California is a no brainer, but I must draw your attention to a couple of hidden treasures. Yolo County in Northern California has a burgeoning wine and beer scene, while Saint Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County offers what you would hope and expect from a California destination: good food, wine, museums, shopping, and beautiful outdoors.
#3) India (Central India’s National Parks, Ulley Valley/ Ladakh, Hampi, Rajasthan) – India has long been a travel destination for those longing to find their spiritual center or to be inspired by the vivid and diverse cultures; however, India is also a place of majestic landscapes and rare wildlife. Central India’s National Parks and the Ulley Valley offer some rare opportunities for wildlife viewing and/or hiking in the Himalayas.
#2) Canada (Banff, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia) – all right, maybe this will surprise you, maybe it won’t. I was only surprised because usually these lists are full of exotic locations and Canada is just so…well behaved. However, I have been longing to make a pilgrimage to Banff for some time and love, love, love British Colombia so I can’t say I’m totally surprised that Canada is #2 on this list. One place I hadn’t thought much of is Prince Edward Island. Now that I am aware of its storybook appeal (“Anne of Green Gables” is based there), I’m fully intrigued.
#1) Scandinavian Countryside (Norway, Finland, Sweden) – I have a three year-old daughter; therefore, I’m fully aware of how beautiful and amazing the Norwegian Fjords are (thank you, “Frozen”). However, I never fully realized how doable a Norway/ Finland/ Sweden trip could be. We’re talking: Northern Lights, thermal springs, Viking history, and sleek/ practical design. What’s not to love!? [P.S. I think we all have a friend that took a trip to Iceland in the last year who posted pictures on their Facebook account of blue lagoons and made us totally jealous. Time to make them jealous and hit up more Scandinavia than they did! By the way…it’s totally doable in two weeks.]
BONUS: Arizona – being an American, I wanted to throw some more “merica” on this list and Arizona happened to come in at 21. A few experts mentioned the luxuries of Scottsdale, but I’m going to just take this over and tell you to visit Sedona, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon if you have not yet. I lived in Arizona a couple of times and still have family there. Unless you are looking for a relaxing spa/golf/ retreat, bypass Phoenix and Scottsdale and head for Sedona. You won’t regret it.
Have you always wanted to go to one of these places, but have no idea where to start? No problem. I am here to help plan a customized, stress-free vacation to one of these bucket-list destinations.
Lets get started on this today! All you have to do is fill our trip planning form and we’ll start a conversation on how to make this happen for you.
Happy New Year and Happy Wanderlusting!
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