Holidays 2016

January 2, 2017 12:00 pm
Updated: January 5, 2017 9:07 am

Best travel destinations: Top 17 trips to take in 2017

Colombia is featured in the 2017 travel guides of both the Lonely Planet and National Geographic Travel.

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One of the best things about the new year is trip-planning for the 365 days ahead.

In our quest to ensure you get the best bang for your travel buck, we reached out to the top travel bloggers, magazines and tour companies for their number one 2017 pick of where to go in 2017.

Whether you’re a beach bum, a backpacker, or an urban explorer — there’s something out there for everyone.

WATCH: What are the cheapest places for Canadians to fly?

Here are the 17 places we think are most worth exploring in 2017:

1. Canada

You don’t have to trek far to enjoy this world renowned travel destination, which has so much to offer coast-to-coast and is finally getting the props it deserves.

The Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide publisher, as well as the New York Times both placed our country at the top of their lists of must-visit destinations this year.

WATCH: An overview of why Canada is awesome

National Geographic also just listed Banff, a crown jewel of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, as one of the world’s top 21 travel spots.

Vogue, meanwhile, called Canada’s Prairies “vaguely exotic, totally obscure, and an absolute must-visit destination.”

The magazine focused its praise on Saskatoon, a.k.a. “The Paris of the Prairies,” as well as Winnipeg. The latter is home to the world’s first human rights museum and a growing number of foodies (we hear the Deer+Almond is definitely worth checking out if you visit).

Another big reason to explore Canada in 2017: it’ll be its 150th birthday, and access to all the national parks will be free.

READ MORE: Road trip! Your guide to uncover Canada’s hidden gems

2. Morocco

This gateway to Africa has been recognized by National Geographic and the New York Times, which named Morocco a top pick for adventurous young travellers.

It’s “culturally rich, easy to get around and budget-friendly,” the Times explained.

Lonely Planet agrees, including it in its list of 12 “best value” destinations.

Make sure to check out Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh, and the coastal town of Essaouria, “where you can eat fresh-off-the-boat seafood” on its piers,” says the Times.

“If time permits, you can even head by camel into the desert.”

A stop in Morocco’s all-blue gem, Chefchaouen, is another must-do.

3. Sri Lanka

Two top travel bloggers chose Sri Lanka as their must-see country.

Matt Stabile, of theexpeditioner.com, has noticed the country emerge as a favourite among travellers following years of civil war. For an island so small, he says, the country has so much to offer.

“From the ancient ruins of civilizations past in the cultural triangle in the Central Highlands, to the beautiful beaches and once-in-a-lifetime game encounters in the national parks in the South — there really is something for every type of traveller here.”

The vibrant countryside is also “filled with waterfalls and amazing hikes,” added Matt Kepnes of nomadicmatt.com.

Sri Lanka’s other big draws for Kepnes are that the locals are super friendly, the food is delicious, and travel in the country is cheap.

He says you can often find inexpensive flights there through Emirates and Qatar Airlines.

4. Namibia

 

Kristin Addis of bemytravelmuse.com believes the African country is the ultimate escape.

“If you like to be outdoors, love adrenaline activities, and enjoy the beach, it really is perfect. You can sand board, skydive, and surf all in the same day.

“The contrast of the bright orange sand and the corn blue sky is so unique, and the night stars are so clear and stunning. It really is a special place. Plus, when it’s winter in North America, it’s warm and summery down there.”

Sweetening the deal is that Lonely Planet chose Namibia as a top pick for value, explaining “Namibia’s dollar… has been depreciating in value against many currencies for a few years, making now an opportune time to experience this amazing country.”

5. Bulgaria

If you’re looking for something different in Europe, Maria Stoyanova of travellingbuzzblog.com suggests heading east and going off the beaten path.

She chose Bulgaria for its “unspoilt charm, gorgeous mountains and nature, amazing Black Sea coast, authentic culture and architecture and centuries old history.”

Stoyanova recommends checking out “the vibrant capital” Sofia, the bohemic town of Plovdiv, doing a hike in “the beautiful mountains,” as well as making a stop in Nessebar and Sozopol on the Black Sea.

READ MORE: Eastern Europe and luxury hostels — tips for the thrifty traveller

Jeremy Scott Foster of travelfreak.net adds the Balkans in general are “one of the most underrated travel destinations.”

“Places like Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Bosnia are wildly unique and interesting places, unlike any other part of the world. Not only are the Adriatic coastlines opulent and extraordinary, but it’s a budget-friendly location for all travellers.”

For those who want to hit a few spots in the region, G Adventures offers an eight-day Montenegro sailing trip from Dubrovnik, Croatia for $1,599.

6. Slovenia

Two travel bloggers showered Slovenia (home of America’s next First Lady) with their praises.

“Gorgeous scenery, historic buildings, off the beaten track, similar to Croatia but much cheaper and less busy,” Tamara Elliott of GlobeGuide.ca said of her choice.

She says the country’s compact size makes it easy to explore in just a week. Her standout spots to see include: the emerald Soča River Valley in the Julian Alps; Predjama Castle, which juts out of a cave; and the Postjana Cave system, which is one of the world’s most diverse karst cave systems and home to the so-called “human fish.”

The most iconic spot in the country, in Elliott’s eyes, is Lake Bled. It’s famous “for its steepled church perched on a forested island, surrounded by sparkling blue water.”

And of course who could forget Ljubljana, the capital renowned for its café culture and beautifully-preserved Old Town.

“There’s so much to see and do for people of all ages around the city and every day there’s a new alternative trend popping up where you’d least expect it. Think cat cafes, bars under bridges and graffiti paradise,” said Melvin Böcher of traveldudes.org.

Among his favourite things to do in the eco-friendly city: stand-up paddling down the river, kayaking, bike tours, food tours, and caving.

7. Norway

Lloyd and Yaya, the guys from handluggageonly.co.uk, are really into Norway, which they believe is “one of the most beautiful, friendly and awe-inspiring destinations in all of Europe.”

“Don’t forget to include one of the world’s prettiest train journeys on the Flam Line, which literally climbs the dramatic mountains,” they told Global News.

“If you’re looking for an authentic Norwegian coastal town, make sure to head to Alesund where you’ll be able to explore many of the stunning fjords that are in the beautiful region.”

Christy Woodrow of ordinarytraveler.com adds the Scandinavian country is “an adventure-lover’s dream destination.”

“Visiting in the winter provides opportunities to view the stunning Northern Lights,” she said, “Travel during the summer months is perfect for hiking, kayaking and waterfall chasing.”

She offers some tips on how to save money when travelling in Norway on her blog.

8. Finland

This northern European nation will celebrate a century of independence in 2017. So if you’ve ever wanted to visit, now is the time.

“The Finns will celebrate their centenary with gusto, with events planned in every region. Expect everything from al fresco concerts and communal culinary experiences to sauna evenings and vintage-travel-poster exhibitions,” writes Lonely Planet, which ranked Finland third on its list of top countries.

“There’s even a new national park, an 11,000-hectare chunk of land in Hossa, studded with pine forests and crisscrossed with rivers.”

Finland will also play host to the World Figure Skating Championships and the Nordic World Ski Championships in 2017, no doubt helping it land a spot on National Geographic‘s coolest hot spots to check out.

9. Netherlands

If  you’re a fan of art and design, a trip to the Netherlands might a good fit.

Adam Groffman, from TravelsofAdam.com, has his sights set specifically on Eindhoven in the southern province of Brabant.

“The city is the birthplace of Philips electronics and lighting, and as such, it holds an important place in design history,” Groffman said.

“With the annual Dutch Design Festival each October, the city is one of those places where creativity flourishes — not to mention that the year 2017 marks 100 years since the beginning of the modernist De Stijl art movement. So the Netherlands is planning a lot of great events to promote Dutch design.”

He personally loves the Van Abbe Museum and its contemporary art collection, the Kazerne restaurant and gallery, the new Stadsbrouwerij craft brewery and the “super hip Strijp-S area with its shops, galleries, restaurants and converted lofts — once part of the Philips factory and now converted into a creative and cultural hub.”

10. Iceland

While some travellers might think Iceland has had its moment, a Contiki survey of 5,000 people revealed it is the most desired destination for 18 to 35-year-olds in Canada for 2017.

Everyone apparently wants to bathe in Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon. The balmy, self-cleansing water is filled with silica, algae and minerals that make it “a killer natural skin regime.”

WATCH: Why Iceland is the first pick on everyone’s bucket list

Just don’t forget to bring a parka.

The country has a cold oceanic climate, with average year-round temperatures hovering around of 0°C.

11. Wales

While the U.K. isn’t exactly off the beaten path, few tourists make it past London.

For those keen to capitalize on the British pound, which has plunged more than 18 per cent since the Brexit vote on June 23, Matt Long of LandLopers.com proposes a trip to Wales.

“From budget to luxury, Wales has a lot to offer and it’s very much under the radar of the casual tourist,” he said.

“With stunning coastlines and rolling green hills… not only is this a nature lover’s dream destination, but there’s plenty to do if you love adventure travel, food exploration or cultural immersion.”

Make sure to take a stroll around historic Cardiff. Or if you’re an adrenaline junkie, get your blood pumping with some coasteering (i.e. climbing, jumping or swimming) in the Irish Sea.

12. Colombia

Fancy a trip to South America? Cartagena, Colombia is on National Geographic‘s radar.

The country also ranks second on Lonely Planet‘s list, with the guidebook calling the South American country the “ultimate comeback kid.”

“Decades of civil war and violent crime meant Colombian passport stamps were once for hardcore travellers only. Fast forward to the present day, and the lost years seem but a dust speck in Colombia’s rear-view mirror,” the guide says.

“The country’s mix of vibrant culture, nature and hospitality is a rich tapestry woven by welcoming arms. Over a decade into its dramatic about-face, this South American jewel is even expecting a visit from the world’s number-one Catholic.

“When Pope Francis kisses Colombian soil in 2017, it will mark the Andean nation’s first papal visit in 30 years.”

13. India

India has much more to offer than the Taj Mahal.

Katie McKnoulty of thetravellinglight.com recently fell in love with the town of Bundi in northern India’s Rajasthan province.

“Small enough to navigate with ease yet bursting with abandoned forts, ancient stepwells, and palaces left untouched from the last days of the maharajas, it’s a great place to venture slightly off the typical tourist trail,” she told us.

She stayed at the “charming” family-run Bundi Vilas, “beautifully decorated and set in a heritage haveli mansion on top of a hill looking out to Bundi’s blue buildings below.”

14. Cambodia

The people in Cambodia have been described as some of the nicest you’ll ever meet, and its sights some of the most breathtaking.

Travel interest is sure to be piqued after ancient cities were found hidden beneath the jungles near Angkor Wat this year.

G Adventures offers a nine-day tour of the country from $1,299.

15. Nepal

Nepal — which received a visit from Prince Harry in 2016 — is still rebuilding a year-and-a-half after a colossal earthquake struck the south Asian country.

It lands in the top spot of Lonely Planet‘s list of “travel bargains” for 2017.

“It remains a fabulous choice for budget-conscious travellers, who can access the best of its world-famous trekking routes and underrated wildlife for well south of USD$50 a day,” the travel site writes.

“Visitor numbers are slowly recovering and the time is ripe to get back to Nepal’s mighty mountains; wherever you go, you’ll receive a warm welcome, as your visit brings much-needed income to communities getting back on their feet.”

16. Bhutan

This small kingdom in South Asia, sandwiched between the foothills of the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean, is all the buzz after hosting a couple high-profile visitors this year: Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton.

The royals would have enjoyed the mountains, which dominate the region, as well as “wonderful forests, hidden treasures like the Buddhist temples and waterways.”

Bhutan has a couple big achievements to be proud of. It’s the world’s first carbon negative country, as well as the happiest country in all of Asia (based on a global survey by Business Week) and the eighth happiest in the world.

Happiness is actually encoded in law there. In 1729, it was declared that “if the Government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist.” In 1972, the king declared Gross National Happiness to be more important than Gross National Product.

“The people of Bhutan take this so seriously that they have hand-painted signs throughout the country offering life-affirming mantras, such as ‘Life is a journey! Complete it!’ and ‘Let nature be your guide,'” according to the Mirror.

A 10-day Bhutan trip with G Adventures will cost you $3,199.

17. Nevis

Last but not least, Canadians looking to warm up over our long, cold winter might want to consider this tiny Caribbean island.

Nevis is unspoilt, relaxed, and easy-going,” said Charli Moore of wanderlusters.com

“Wide open spaces and a rich cultural heritage implore visitors to ditch the clichéd holiday itinerary of all-inclusive sea, sand and sun, and instead immerse themselves in the real Caribbean.”

Nevis is the epitome of relaxation, with not even a single traffic light.

The more active sun-seekers could spend a day scaling the 3,232-foot Nevis Peak.

“Perfect for all levels of climbers,” Moore assured. “Those who reach the top will be rewarded with unparalleled views that stretch out across the sea.”

SOUND OFF: Where do you plan to go in 2017? Share your own top travel destination in the comments section below.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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