The 17 Best Places to Travel in 2017
From Africa and Asia's hottest beachfronts to the most underrated U.S. cities.
BY Carrie Goldberg | Jul 14, 2017 | Travel
In 2017, you're going to need your passport—and your sense of adventure. Our top destinations to visit this year will have you heading out on safari, exploring historic Eastern Europe and South America, tapping into Scandinavia's natural wonders, sunbathing on the beaches of Asia and Africa, and discovering hidden gems both at home and abroad. We tapped our bucket lists, insider knowledge, and industry experts for the 17 destinations to have on your radar when planning this year's getaways, adventures, and retreats. Here, the best places to escape to in 2017. Ready, set, jet.
1. NEW ZEALAND
There is far more to New Zealand than the set of Lord of the Rings. Yes, the landscape is beautiful—the beaches are pristine, the mountains are dramatic, the countryside is idyllic—but it's the food, wine, under-the-radar shopping, and quirky culture that keeps repeat visitors (and locals) coming back for more. We highly recommend spending a week in the spring travelling down the country's truly magical wine trail. Starting in Napier, you can either drive yourself or take a tour down the North Island before crossing the Cook Straight on a car ferry to Picton, where you'll pass through the famous Marlborough Sounds to end in Blenheim.
If you're a nature lover, The Queen Charlotte Track is one of New Zealand's best hiking spots. For those who don't like camping, there is a variety of luxury accommodation and dining available along the track, complete with water transport services that will transfer your luggage each day. For skiing, head straight to the South Island and marvel at the mountains in Queenstown and Wanaka. Cosmopolitans and country-lovers alike will adore Auckland. While there, shop Karangahape Road (K' Road to locals and those in the know), Grey Lynn and Ponsonby.
Where to Stay: Many of the wineries have accommodation on site—we recommend Black Barn Luxury Retreats and Craggy Range Vineyard Cottages in the Hawkes Bay area, Vynfields in Martinborough, and French Fields in Marlborough. If you're on the Queen Charlotte Track, don't miss staying at the Bay of Many Coves, only accessible by boat or walking the track. While skiing, we recommend a stay at Matakauri Lodge. Simply love finding unique places to stay? Take your pick from Treetops Lodge and Estate, The Boatshed on Waiheke Island, Hapuku Lodge and Treehouses, or Minaret Station. While in Auckland, stay at Hotel DeBrett or choose an interesting AirBnb just outside the city. In Wellington, try Ohtel and take in the harbor views and world-renowned museums, like Te Papa, before shopping and eating along Cuba Street.
When to Go: The time of year you visit (June-September is winter; December-February is summer) will determine the kind of trip you take, so think ahead to what excites you most.
You may have jokingly (or perhaps, literally) considered a move here as of late–but as it turns out, there are many reasons to escape to the Great White North. The country celebrates its 150th birthday this year, and is full of exciting perks as a result. Montréal (which turns 375 this year) is flexing its muscles as one of the world's most exciting culinary scenes, influenced by its European roots and infused with flavors from its diverse, multi-cultural population. Don't miss out on a visit to Le Filet or Les 400 Coups while you're in town, and look out for Marconi and Joël Robuchon's new Canadian outpost that are both set to open this year. If you're more of a nature lover, head to Banff for one of the most epic bike trails you'll ever ride. Before you venture out, be sure to pick up a Discovery Pass, which gives visitors free access to any of the vast country's national parks (there are over 200 of them!) including Banff and Prince Edward Island. If it's art you're after, Toronto's Museum of Contemporary Art will open the doors to its expanded location this year, along with the unveiling of The Bentway, their answer to Manhattan's High Line.
Where to Stay: Fairmont boasts 18 hotels across the country with one soon to open in Montréal, and each is more impressive than the next. Montréal is home to a Ritz Carlton as well as Hotel Le St. James and the St. Paul Hotel, which are both boutique in size, but the former boasts a grander feel while the latter is sleek and contemporary. In Toronto, the Park Hyatt, Four Seasons and Shangri-La are pretty much foolproof.
When to Go: Summertime promises the best climate to comfortably explore and enjoy the outdoors. Fall's vibrant colors will amaze you, and its balmy temperatures may be your preference for hiking and biking. Early September is for art lovers–that's when the Toronto International Film Festival takes place. The dead of winter and springtime will likely be too cold for most, but those who are open to braving borderline negative temperatures will no doubt enjoy cozying up in Montréal's chicest dining spots and cocktail lounges.
Finland is an astounding natural beauty. Explore its snow-covered landscape in the winter and marvel at the Northern Lights, great lake views and its green forestry in the summer. With tourism initiatives (like FinRelax) aimed at getting you to chill out and unwind in its lush landscapes, visitors are encouraged to enjoy the country's jaw-dropping natural wonders and refreshing saunas. Beauty fiends will love this country's obsession with health and wellness–trust us, the Finnish sense of calm could rival Indonesian zen. If you are looking to tour Helsinki (as you should, it's marvelous) this is the year to do it; Finland celebrates 100 years of independence on December 6th and the capital city will be partying all year long. Take a day to enjoy its unique costal geography punctuated by glistening bays and sharp inlets. A visit here places you right in the heart of Scandinavia, which means quick, easy visits to bustling neighboring must-sees like Stockholm and Oslo. Not yet as popular as its cohorts (but its place on many a must-visit list will change that soon), Finland benefits from far fewer crowds but just as many delights.
Where to Stay: Stay at the friendly HavsVidden hotel–you won't be disappointed with the incredible Baltic Sea views at this stylish and chic eco-friendly property. While there, you can sail down from various Scandi seaports or board a super short flight from Stockholm or Helsinki into Mariehamn, where you'll be driven a scenic 45 minutes up to HavsVidden, just off the Havsviddsvägen trail. Bursting with open-air activities both on and off shore, the HavsVidden is prepared for everything from incredible wreck-diving to unforgettable wildlife and nature experiences. If you're planning a visit in summertime, book a room at the buzzy St. George, which plans to open in Helsinki this year, or at its sister property Hotel Lilla Roberts.
When to Go: Depends on what you're into, this country has something to offer year-round. – Tom Marchant, Founder of Black Tomato
4. PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA
We've gone as far as to dub the 'Burgh America's Most Underrated City–and for good reason. It's not the first thing you think of when dreaming of a weekend getaway, innovative food scene or art hub, but it delivers on all accounts in droves. If it's an arts and culture scene you're after, you're in luck. Pittsburgh is the birthplace of Andy Warhol, and the Andy Warhol Museum features the largest collection of his work. Foodies will likely not be able to get through this city in one weekend, but highlights include Umami, an unexpected Izakaya spot in Lawrenceville, located right near Pittsburgh culinary star Justin Severino's Cure and Morcilla. In downtown Pittsburgh, Mexican hotspot täkō, and new-American standouts like Meat & Potatoes and Butcher and The Rye are also highlights. To work off your one-too-many bites, walk and shop around Shadyside, where Pittsburgh's designer boutique, Choices and top-notch vintage shops like Eons and Hey Betty! are located.
Where to Stay: Hotel Monaco in Pittsburgh's downtown area is our go-to, and reliable considering it bears the Kimpton name. If you're on the hunt for something a little more indie, the Ace Hotel in East Liberty based out of a landmark building that once was a YMCA (its gymnasium is just as it was back in the day) fits the bill and has a chic restaurant and a Stumptown-brewing coffee shop on its ground floor.
When to Go: Spring, summer and fall are the best times to spend a long weekend in town, and the warmer months offer options to frequent the city's rooftop bars and biergartens. Winter here, like most of the East Coast, is brutal.
There's a renaissance happening in Portugal, a land made famous by explorers–and modern-day, well-heeled travellers are taking notice. Despite its cultural riches, Portugal never reached the same level of tourism popularity that its neighbor Spain has enjoyed for decades. But the westernmost country of continental Europe has everything a traveller could want: great food, fabulous art, robust history, sensational wine and a bustling contemporary culture scene that's reshaping the country's international reputation as a hotbed for creativity. Highlights of time in Portugal include exploring the cities of Lisbon and Porto, which beautifully marry their ancient histories and contemporary cultures; the lush, vineyard-filled Douro Valley; the fairytale town of Sintra and the pristine, rugged beaches of Comporta.
Where to Stay: The Six Senses Douro Valley is a game-changer of a hotel for the entire country and staying there is worth a special trip to Portugal.
When to Go: Portugal, like all of Europe, is ideal in shoulder seasons. But it is truly great all year round–it's pleasant in winter and the summer is great for exploring the beaches of the Algarve region. Fall is gorgeous for vineyard hopping, and spring, like any European city, is absolutely lovely. – Melissa Biggs Bradley, CEO & Founder of Indagare.
6. INDIA'S GOLDEN TRIANGLE
India is a vast country rich in culture, color, history, generosity and tradition. If you're visiting for the first time or returning for another taste, the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) will expose you to its metropolitan, historic and romantic sides. India is by no means subtle–it packs a punch in every way–from its breathtaking landmarks to its cuisine–and westerners will find it a shock to the system sprinkled with a magic touch that leaves them wanting more. Delhi is India at its most modern, with nightclubs, thriving businesses and bustling markets (where bargaining is more culturally expected than paying full-price).
Agra is home to one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Majal, which is best seen at sunrise when the crowds are still lined up in droves, but as slim as they'll get. Jaipur's magical forts look straight out of a fairytale. When you're there, make sure not to miss Nahargarh Fort (go just before sunset to view the fort and then watch the sun set over the roof's sprawling city views) and Amer Fort, which sits atop a hill and is only accessible by jeep or elephant ride. When in Delhi, be sure to dine at upscale traditional hotspots like Bukhara and hit the down after dinner; this metropolis is packed with chic restaurants, fun cocktail and hooka lounges and dance parties when darkness falls.
Where to Stay: ITC Hotels offers luxury accommodations across the country and specifically the Golden Triangle, including a resort getaway in Gurgaon, the ITC Grand Bharat, A Luxury Collection Retreat just outside of Delhi. Oberoi Hotels offers ultra-luxurious offerings across India as well, and its Agra property is practically the Taj Mahal's next door neighbor.
When to Go: October is Diwali, the festival of lights, and Holi, the festival of colors that celebrates the arrival of the spring season falls in mid-March. It's best to visit at some point during or between them; the weeks of Diwali and Holi promise festive parties, and the warm, humid weather that the country experiences year-round is much more manageable through the fall and winter.
For the nature buff, Rwanda is a must-see. Known as the "Land of a Thousand Hills" with its extremely photogenic landscapes and famous tea gardens, the country is full of natural wonders. Volcanoes National Park, home to fascinating golden monkeys and half of the world's gorillas still living in the wild, is a must-visit attraction. This is the time to splurge on a luxury trip planner; Ker & Downey and Wilderness Safaris provide luxurious safari tours that will get you up close to the country's abundant wildlife. Nyungwe Forest National Park, the largest mountain rainforest in Africa, shelters more than a quarter of Africa's primate species. Rwanda's captial, Kigali, offers budget-friendly to five-star accommodations and is home to attractions like Akagera National Park and the Presidential Palace Museum.
Where to Stay: Nyungwe Forest Lodge is situated on a working tea plantation on the edge of the Park and is designed to fit within its beautiful natural surroundings. Other popular places to stay include three resort towns on Lake Kivu–Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu–Rwanda's largest freshwater lake and one of the African Great Lakes. This June, Bisate Lodge will open near Volcanoes National Park; its pairing of luxury accommodation with one of the country's prime wildlife-viewing regions is a game-changer.
When to Go: Winter–spring and fall get get rainy, which deters the gorillas from staying out in the sun and the warmest times of year make spending hours outdoors tough to enjoy. – Jeremy Jauncey, Founder & CEO, Beautiful Destinations.
Start your trip in the bustling-metropolis-meets-beach-town of Tel Aviv, but then make sure to explore all that this country has to offer. It would be an unfortunate mistake to fearfully paint this country's complicated politics as war-torn. Don't be fooled; its vibrant culture, phenomenal food scene, historic landmarks, beaches and endlessly impressive hotels are too much of a draw to ignore. Be sure to tour the shuks (markets) and the historic sites in Jerusalem–a trip to Israel is definitely not complete without a visit to the Kotel, the Wailing Wall. (When you visit, cover up as you would any temple–it's a place of prayer). While in town, be sure to enjoy the food; the delicious and dynamic scene at Mahane Yehuda is not to be missed.
Then, choose your own adventure: head north to experience jeep rides and hikes in the mountains of the Golan, explore Tel Aviv and Jaffa's vibrant food, arts and cultural scene, head to the world-renowned Dead Sea spas in the desert or to Eilat for its hippie, beach vibes. Don't get overwhelmed by the various experiences this country has to offer–you may want to spend 1-2 weeks here to soak it all in, but its size rivals that of New Jersey. If you're looking to be strategic in planning out the right amount of time in each city, consult an expert like Travel Composer (Israel's premiere luxury trip planner) who can also advise on attaching a visit to Jordan (and if you do, Petra is a must) and/or Egypt, which should also be on your bucket list.
Where to Stay: Israel's ever-evolving food scene is part-in-parcel of its expanding hospitality industry–which is no longer centric to Tel Aviv. The King David Hotel is the unrivaled top of the heap in Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv's boutique hotel The Norman is redefining style and luxury in a culture that is inherently laid-back in vibe. The Efendi Hotel in Akko, an untapped area of the country but well worth a visit, feels like a mix of Moroccan, Latin and authentically Israeli styles with its low-key feel and eclectic décor. When in the desert, the Hotel Beresheet in Mitzpe Ramon is the place to book. Located 2,600 feet (800 meters) above sea level on sky-high cliffs that slope down into the desert lands of the Ramon crater, this luxury resort-meets-natural-phenomenon is the kind of experience that will have you wanting to stay forever.
When to Go: Spring time, March-May in particular, is the best time of year to visit Israel. In April through mid-June, the weather is not too hot (important when travelling in the desert) and not too cold or rainy. Passover (which usually falls in April, but like all Jewish holidays which operate off of a lunar calendar, the dates change from year-to-year) is when tickets and hotels are priciest. Unless you are looking to travelling to Israel for the holiday itself, that week is best avoided.
9. CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Cape Town is like a gawky adolescent who has discovered her beauty; the city is blooming as it shows off its splendors. Highlights of the destination include shopping at Neighborgoods market, eating at the Test Kitchen, beaching at Camps Bay, visiting the Winelands and shark diving. – Melissa Biggs Bradley, CEO & Founder of Indagare.
Cape Town is not only one of the most picturesque cities in the world, but is is also one of the most fun! As a holiday destination, it's hard to beat; there is something gorgeous to look at at every turn! If you are looking for something with a sense of history, Robben Island is an incredibly moving experience. Culture vultures will love the colorful houses and people of Bokaap, which is also very insta-worthy. For outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies there are endless options, like hiking up Table Mountain, kite surfing and swimming with sharks. If you want to take your holiday at a more leisurely pace, head up to to the wine regions and drink your way through the scenic mountainside. If you are travelling with little ones (or even if you aren't!) Boulders Beach is a fabulous walk through millions of little Africa penguins.When dining out, be sure to visit Harbor House in Kalk Bay (ask for a table by the window), The Roundhouse, La Perla, Tokara in Stellenbosch or simply pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in Kirstenbosch Gardens. – Anita Patrickson, Celebrity Stylist and Cape Town native.
Where to Stay: Ellerman House (the villas especially) and The Silo, opening in March, will be a game changer on top of the new contemporary art museum, Zeitz MOCAA (which opens in September). The Silo's sister property in Franschhoek Valley, La Residence, is also worth a visit.
When to Go: The best time of year to visit is from November to February, when it's summer in South Africa.
10. WARSAW, POLAND
This hidden gem is so dynamic, it's often referred to as the new Berlin. A week doesn't go by without a fashion design festival, an opening of an upscale cocktail bar in a pre-war apartment building or a glittering restaurant popping up to serve a reinterpretation of Polish cuisine (that's a far, far cry from your old kielbasa and pierogi). Yet all this newness is set amidst the grit that is Warsaw, a city that was almost entirely leveled during World War II. Warsaw's incredible resurrection is never out of mind, even if you choose to skip the history museums–but you shouldn't, since they're all new and excellent. The true source of this city's vibrance lies not in its buildings or streets, but in the city's spirit. The locals' love and dedication to being based here is palpable, so much so that a huge wave of young Polish people born in the U.S. or Western Europe are now returning to the motherland to put their modern stamp on its culture.
When to Go: If you want to see the locals at the height of their love affair with Warsaw, come in the summer months, when the city bursts outside and fills the multiple spacious parks and the banks of the Vistula River with food markets, live concerts and dance parties that keep the young and restless entertained day and night. — Sasha Vasilyuk, Warsaw-based writer and founder of mrandmrsgofar.com.
This isn't your average safari. Jungles abound here, but beaches do too, and whether on land or by sea, an overwhelming amount of indigenous species ranging from lemurs to whales are on view for the adventurous set. Almost all of Madagascar's native species can't be found anywhere else, which explains why travel junkies are quick to call it the Galapagos of Africa. New resorts emerging this year make seeking refuge in a five-star room after a day of exploring that much easier.
Where to Stay: Miavana on Nosy Ankao and the Masoala Forest Lodge, both opening this year, solve the problem visitors have faced in the past of not being able to seek luxury accommodations in tandem with once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experiences.
When to Go: The wet season is from late December through March, and it's better to steer clear of it if you plan to enjoy the island life, especially since it involves cyclones. Stick to a visit between April and November, when you'll be able to enjoy the heat without the risk of being rained out.
Japan is one of those places where everything is a full-sensory experience. Most things are taken to an extreme, be it in the perfect distillation of coffee (20 minutes for a cup at a reservation-only café), the eye-catching outfits of Harajuku teenagers in Tokyo or simply in the blinding spectacle of light and glass that make up most of its sprawling metropolis. Highlights of time spent in Japan include sushi-making classes (and the ultimate sushi dining experiences), visits to sumo wrestling matches, Ikebana flower-arranging lessons and geisha experiences. In Kanazawa, try a private calligraphy class taught by a local master and a visit to Kenrokuen, one of the top three gardens in Japan with Kanazawa Castle located across the street. It is also worth browsing Omiecho Market, especially now that the Tokyo fish market is being closed down, where you can have a class in sushi preparation. The Nagamachi Samurai District is also worth visiting as is Higashichayagai, a well-preserved geisha district.
Where to Stay: The Aman in Tokyo and Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons in Kyoto are at the top of our list, but you must also spend at least one night in a traditional Japanese inn or ryokan like Gora Kadanor Hoshinoya. Kayotei is a traditional ryokan with great decor and food.
When to Go: The best times to visit Japan is in the spring (late March through early June) and fall (September through late November). – Melissa Biggs Bradley, CEO & Founder of Indagare.
Colombia feels like five countries in one. The Caribbean coast (Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta) is a different world from the Andean interior (Bogotá, Medellín); both have a different feel than the Pacific Coast (including Cali, the country's third largest city) or the the Amazon to the South and the plains that border Venezuela on the East. Cartagena and Bogotá are both great cities with something unique to offer, but are equally dynamic.
However, one rising destination is Santa Marta, South America's oldest city. It's a four-hour drive from Cartagena at the foot of the beautiful Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and home to Tayrona National Park, known for its coastal lagoons, rainforest and rich biodiversity. History buffs can spend their time here trekking around archeological sites, and Instagrammers will fall hard for the country's colorful cityscapes. For those who are looking for a cultural dance experience, Cali is famous for its salsa music clubs.
Where to Stay: Travellers won't have an issue finding accommodations in Cartagena with Oasis Collections or Sofitel, and the new Tcherassi Hotel + Spa is a stylish spot worth visiting for those with a hankering for both luxury and high design. The Four Seasons' two properties in Bogotá are also a luxurious and safe bet. In Santa Marta, Kali Hotels, Hotel Boutique Casa Carolina and Gitana del Marare all beautiful hotels in the area.
When to Go: This country is beautiful year-round, and is pretty much warm and season-less. Keep in mind that December-March is high season, while October and November are a bit rainy. – Jeremy Jauncey, Founder & CEO, Beautiful Destinations.
14. SĀNYÀ, CHINA
If Martinique is the Hawaii of France, Sānyà is most definitely China's Honolulu. The dynamic country's go-to beach destination wows with its white sand beaches, and the incredible amount of top-notch resorts popping up in the region are reason enough to plan a visit. The area already boasts a St. Regis, Park Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental and a Shangri-La outpost. Most recently, the Sanya EDITION hotel popped up on its shores, urging chic tastemakers to head here and forgo Bali when making layovers in Hong Kong. This beach town is more of a pristine resort-hub than a surfer's paradise, and is undeniably modern and luxe. If you've been to the Thai islands, Goa and Bali and are looking out for more of Asia's cool coastlines, Hainan Island is for you.
Where to Stay: Per our reasons to visit, there are too many to count; let your personality and travel style indicate where you lay your head and if you're on the hunt for something brand new, the EDITION or One & Only (when it opens come spring) should be your go-to's.
When to Go: Hainan Island is summery all year-round, with temperatures subtly fluctuating as seasons change. Temperatures here are highest in June, and rainy season falls from May through September. While you stand a solid change of getting great weather in the off-season, your best bets for stand out beach climates are between November and April.
There's something incredibly calming about Scotland. Don't expect much by way of wild nightlife; instead, prepare to immerse yourself in history and culture, as well as some seriously amazing views. Edinburgh, the capital city, is filled with winding roads and cheerful restaurants and shops, while Glasgow plays host to exceptional museums, galleries and music and theater venues. The highlight of any trip to Scotland, though, is the Highlands, which make for the ultimate escape. Turn off your phone and take in the breathtaking views, imposing castles and peaceful lochs.
Where to Stay: The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh is an experience in and of itself. J.K. Rowling completed the Harry Potter series here, and the grand suite she resided in has been renamed in her honor and comes complete with personalised concierge service.
When to Go: Early fall, like September-October is best, whether is crisp but not cold. – Julie Kosin, Senior Digital Editor, Social & Culture
A visit to Vietnam requires time. To understand and appreciate its stunning cultures it is imperative to slow down and let the country's impressions sink in. Today, Vietnam is undergoing a period of peace, innovation, creativity and success–and the expressions of optimism are noticeable and a delight to witness. Must-visit areas of the country include Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon), Danang, Hoi An and the central coast. Highlights of time in the country include experiencing the burgeoning culinary scene, complete with amazing street-food to rival that found in Laos, Thailand or Korea.
Where to Stay: The remote, contemporary Amano'i resort is a must. Other favorites include the Six Senses Con Dao and the Four Seasons Nam Hai. But really, the way to do Vietnam is on the Aqua Mekong cruise, where travellers can partake in cooking classes, bike tours, boat rides, visits to hill tribe villages and Vietnamese language classes.
When to Go: Although Vietnam is a relatively small country, its climates are mixed due to differences in latitude from north to south. Therefore, the ideal times of travel vary throughout the country but generally speaking, February and March are good times for a trip. – Melissa Biggs Bradley, CEO & Founder of Indagare.
17. ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
If you're a fan of Portland, Nashville, and Austin, or if you have done a stint or two at Burning Man or Coachella, Asheville is for you. This quaint spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains is home to a bustling food scene; three local chefs were nominated for James Beard Awards this year and visiting their restaurants is a must. The microbrewery scene here is expansive and evolving, and the arts culture and music scene is expanding just as rapidly, with over 200 artists showcasing their wares in the River Arts District. Think of this as North Carolina's versions of the Catskills, with a hippie vibe, hiking trails and haute versions of the types of food you want to eat to match.
When to Go: There's no wrong time to enjoy this city's up-and-coming food and beverage scene, but spring, summer and fall might be best for those looking to get the most out of its trails.
Source: Esquire US