After consulting CNN’s experts around the world about their favorite spots, 17 of the best places to travel in 2017 are…
CNN Travel | Katia Hetter, Karla Cripps, Peter Shadbolt, Barry Neild and Marnie Hunter
Lobster suppers near the rocky red shores of Prince Edward Island. Panda-cuddling and Sichuan food in Chengdu. Big waves and raw blues at Senegal’s secret surfing spots.
After consulting CNN’s experts around the world about their favorite spots, we’ve put our heads together and chosen 17 of the best places to vacation in 2017.
1. Prince Edward Island, Canada
With Canada celebrating its 150th birthday in 2017, there’s no finer excuse to head to the birthplace of the nation, Prince Edward Island. Travelers are falling in love with the island’s rocky red shores and picturesque fishing villages all over again thanks to several new TV and movie productions of the Lucy Maud Montgomery classic, “Anne of Green Gables.”
The best way to explore the island’s capital, Charlottetown, is on foot.
Many of the highlights are in the historic downtown core including the Charlottetown Province House — the famed government building where the Charlottetown Conference took place in 1864. It was here that a small group of elected officials gathered to discuss the possibility of joining the region’s independent provinces to create a singular nation.
Three years later, Canada’s Constitution Act was passed by British Parliament and a new country was born. Upscale restaurants have multiplied on the island in the last 10 years, taking advantage of the excellent local produce. But there’s nothing quite like an old fashioned lobster supper — a massive gathering traditionally held in a cavernous community hall that ends with a table full of empty shells and butter-coated fingers.
2. Penang, Malaysia
Another country celebrating a big milestone is Malaysia, which turns 60 in 2017. The best way to celebrate a birthday? Food, of course.
The Malaysia island of Penang is arguably one of Asia’s best street food destinations. It offers a mix of traditional Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes, as well as fusion cuisines such as Baba Nyonya, or Peranakan, which incorporates regional ingredients and Chinese and Malay cooking methods.
All of it can be found in hawker centers and shop houses throughout George Town. Combine this with the city’s collection of historic buildings in various styles, from old English colonial mansions to classical Chinese shophouses and Islamic mosques, and you have a city made for walking and eating.
With Pope Francis expected to visit to Colombia this year, a peace accord has brought even more prosperity and visitors to this bustling South American nation. From the sizzling bean-to-coffee scene in Bogota to Medellin’s sophisticated architecture and Cartagena’s defensive fortifications dating back to the 16th century and its packed arts scene, Colombia has arrived.
Some of the world’s finest coffee beans are grown here, and coffee aficionados love to do the farm-to-café tours. But there’s no need to leave the cities to get a good cuppa. The capital city of Bogota features baristas at La Devocion and Bourbon Coffee Roasters to rival those in Paris or Rome. And the beans are grown in Colombia.
Sophisticated public architecture shines in Medellín, where a renaissance in design and infrastructure has produced buildings such as Giancarlo Mazzanti’s Parque Biblioteca España, the most famous of a half-dozen libraries in the city. A gondola-like public transit system transport residents and visitors alike to the city’s public rail system.
Once you’ve explored the UNESCO site at the port of Cartagena — an essential link in West Indies trade — Colombia’s most popular national park is less than an hour away. Diving at Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Park is one of the best ways to spot the soft coral, sea lilies and other sea life.
All eyes will be on Bermuda as it hosts the 35th America’s Cup race in 2017. The America’s Cup, which began back in 1851, will take place for the first time in Bermuda’s Great Sound in May and June. Challengers will compete in Bermuda’s Great Sound for the right to challenge defending champion ORACLE USA, which last defended its title in 2013.
Don’t want to wait for the internationally renowned boat races? There’s no reason to wait.
Just a two-hour flight from the US East Coast, the British Overseas Territory is a 24-mile archipelago with stunning beaches and cultural mix of British, America, West Indian, African and other cultures.
After undergoing a $100 million renovation, the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club will be the America’s Cup host hotel. The hotel and berths at its new marina will be hot commodities next summer, as will reservations at the hotel’s new Marcus Samuelsson restaurant, Marcus’ Bermuda.
5. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, United States
Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument became a National Park Service site in August, just as the National Park Service celebrated its Centennial.
Even though it’s in its infancy, the 87,000-acre national monument east of Baxter State Park is already open. That’s because Burt’s Bees co-founder and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby’s foundation donated $80 million worth of land and funds to the park service with assistance from the National Park Foundation, with promises of $20 million more.
Despite Maine’s harsh winters, the park is open year-round. “You can come in the winter and enjoy miles of trails for cross country skiing or snowmobiling or visit in spring with the emerging green in every direction, rising brook trout, and swollen rivers,” said Lucas St. Clair, Quimby’s son and president of her foundation.
“In summer there are fantastic hikes through the lush cool forests and endless opportunities to take a cool dip in one of the beautiful ponds, rivers, and streams, while you can see the most beautiful colored leaves in the fall,” he said. “This place truly has something for everyone.”
6. Isaan, Thailand
Chiang Mai? Bangkok? Phuket? Been there, done that. Those looking for a piece of Thailand that’s still largely unexplored by the international market should head for the northeast region, referred to as Isaan.
This vast section of Thailand is equipped with excellent infrastructure that includes several domestic airports and a range of upmarket hotels.
You know that sticky rice and papaya salad that’s all the rage in trendy New York restaurants? Here’s where it comes from. Along with plenty of other fantastic dishes that are among the country’s best — provided you can handle a bit of spice. It’s impossible to see it all in one visit so you’ll have to pick and choose.
There are also ancient Khmer ruins outside Buriram, mountainous national parks in Loei and Bronze Age artifacts in the UNESCO-listed Ban Chiang Archeological Site. And that’s just scratching the surface. You’ll just need to come back for more.
For many, 2016 went down as one of the worst years in recent history. Whether you’re still mourning the passing of your favorite entertainer, your fellow man’s decisions at the voting booth or ongoing violence around the world, we could all use a dose of happiness right now.
That’s where Bhutan comes in.
Not only does this mountainous Buddhist nation focus on happiness as a national indicator but by some accounts is the world’s eco-friendliest nation. As of 2016, it was reported to be the world’s first carbon negative country. There’s an incredible amount of scenery, culture and excellent food spread across every corner of this tiny Himalayan country.
With Bhutan, a tour is essential the kingdom officially targets “high value, low impact” tourism.This means the first step in planning any trip to Bhutan is to visit the Tourism Council of Bhutan website for a list of regulations required of all visitors.
8. Chengdu, China
Panda cuddling and Sichuan food. Need we say more? Chengdu has long been one of China’s most popular cities thanks to these two hot draws. The fact that it was named a UNESCO city of gastronomy a few years ago didn’t hurt either.
In recent years it’s bolstered its appeal by adding a variety of high-end hotel brands such as Kempinski, the Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis as well as innovative restaurants that capitalize on the area’s culinary roots.
Now, back to those pandas. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is where you can get up close with the black and white cuties. Open for educational tours, it’s home to more than 80% of the world’s giant pandas. To avoid the summer rainy season and enjoy warm temps, the best time to visit is March to June and September to November.
9. Aarhus, Denmark
Copenhagen and Stockholm have always been high on the checklist of the world’s foodies and fashionistas, but Denmark’s second city of Aarhus is the overlooked wallflower to its more glamorous Scandinavian cousins. All this, however, could be about to change.
Aarhus is the European Capital of Culture in 2017 and has big plans for the year ahead.
From its redeveloped dock area to its cobbled 14th century old town streets, Aarhus has reinvented itself as the mini-break capital of northern Europe. Food, culture and art are all due to get a Danish makeover this year under the Capital of Culture theme of “let’s rethink.”
“Aarhus 2017 is going to be a creative tour de force with new works, special commissions, premieres, major events and festivals,” says Aarhus 2017 Managing Director Rebecca Matthews.
The schedule includes four not-to-be-missed “mega” events, 13 “full moon” night experiences and over 350 featured events. All this in a city where you can get anywhere on a bicycle.
It’s home to some of the world’s most prestigious vineyards and châteaux, it consistently ranks as the “best place to work” among France’s frazzled workforce and is as synonymous with shucked oysters as New York is with bagels.
There’s not a lot to dislike about Bordeaux, which, despite its grand and somnolent atmosphere, has been the object of Parisian ardor for many years.
“Paris is trapped in this commuter cycle — we call it “metro boulot dodo” (metro, work, sleep) — so the south of France is seen as this repository of old French charms; good wine, good food and good friends,” says French travel writer Emmanuelle Eyles.
It gets even better. By the middle of the year, it’ll be possible to reach some of the best French wines and food in just two hours by train from Paris. That means that a Paris-based traveler could practically commute to the city at the center of France’s best wine regions, leaving before 9 a.m. and returning after 9 p.m.
Add to this the recent opening of Cité du Vin — the immersive wine-lovers’ experience set in a spectacular modern building that looks like wine swirling around a glass — and Bordeaux is beginning to shake off its reputation as a France’s “sleeping beauty.”
Avoid the rush in July and August when the streets are hot and full of tourists. Instead, visit in May and June or September and October when crowds ease but the wine harvest season is still in full swing.
Iceland’s stylish Reykjavik has been cooler than a glacial lagoon for several decades, but recent sharp increases in tourist numbers are beginning to take their toll. While the capital’s center is being swallowed by cuddly puffin shops, the rest of Iceland, beyond the main geysers-and-waterfalls day trips, is still far from being overwhelmed.
Road trips up the country’s western edge rival the relatively busier southern coastline for stop-the-car-and-gawp-at-the-epic-landscape moments, within easy distance of Reykjavik.
Recently opened attractions that make use of Iceland’s geological wonders continue to wow those willing to travel the extra miles to see them.
Into The Glacier, a tour now entering its third year, takes visitors on an extraordinary journey through frozen tunnels carved deep under Langjökull, Iceland’s second largest ice cap. Also new on the scene is the spectacular lava chambers of Víðgelmir, Iceland’s largest cave, which began regular tours in May 2016.
There’s no shortage of other superlative attractions, not least Glymur, Iceland’s highest waterfall, the photogenic lighthouse at Akranes, the islands of Breiðafjörður and the perfect scenery of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, often called Iceland in miniature.
The tiny Mediterranean country — once one of the Cold War’s most forbidding Stalinist redoubts — has been Europe’s best-kept secret for the better part of two decades.
Sunny, cheap and with mile after mile of pristine beaches and unspoiled wilderness, Albania has made much of what it has after it emerged blinking into the daylight of freedom in the ’90s. With a similar food culture to nearby Greece, but often at less than half the price, Albania is continuing to bloom in 2017.
The country is finding a second life for some of the thousands of bunkers and pillboxes that dot the country, dilapidated testaments to the paranoia of its former Stalinist strongman Enver Hoxha. On the outskirts of the capital Tirana, Bunk’Art has transformed Hoxha’s underground complex into a cultural center.
Some rooms tell the story of the Albanian dictator through displays and artifacts, other rooms are left disquietingly empty. At the heart of the complex is a large underground auditorium, designed for Hoxha’s government in hiding, but now repurposed as a hall for jazz concerts.
New parts of the massive complex are set to be reopened to the public in 2017. Expect underground art, literally.
13. Amman, Jordan
If the threat from Middle East instability is enough to strain the cash registers on the high streets of London and the boulevards of Paris, spare a thought for Jordan. Despite its proximity to the world’s most troubled region, it’s still considered relatively safe.
And there’s even more to attract visitors this year: Amman has been named the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2017 and — with a wealth of historic sites that stretch back to the inception of Islam — it is set to showcase some of the glories of Islamic culture and art.
Music is a part of this rich seam. And during the holy month of Ramadan (from May 27 to June 24 this year), Citadel Hill, with its sweeping views of downtown Amman, hosts a cycle of prestigious night-time concerts and recitals of classical Arab music.
Jordanians are famously tolerant, and while non-Muslim tourists are not expected to observe the Ramadan fast, refraining from eating in public will earn kudos.
For the night owls, Ramadan is a great time. Cities come to life when the fast breaks at sunset and many people are up most of the night, visiting friends and relatives and eating sweets and fruit.
Rwanda in the 21st century has turned a very sharp corner. From its devastating genocide in 1994 to becoming one of the safest destinations in the region, Rwanda is the phoenix of the African continent.
Today, Kigali is a highly connected and modern capital with a food culture that references some of the best that East Africa has to offer combined with its own distinctive Rwandan twist. By day, visitors can trek to find wild gorillas and by night chill in Kigali’s trendy cafes.
Black rhinos were last seen in Akagera National Park in 2007 — the result of widespread poaching — but their 2016 reintroduction aims to restore the species to its former glory. This follows a similar initiative in 2015 that successfully reintroduced seven lions into the park, bringing the species back to Rwanda after almost 20 years. The reintroduction of rhinos will cement Akagera’s Big Five status (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros) and hopes to reverse the damage caused by decades of poaching which the park says is now under control.
Just south of the equator, Rwanda’s relatively high altitude affords it a pleasant tropical highland climate, albeit with plenty of rain. Just avoid the long rainy season from March to May.
This easy-going West African country remains one of the world’s great undiscovered jewels — especially for anyone who surfs. The seminal surf flick “Endless Summer” — a grainy and amateurish surfing safari documentary — first put capital Dakar on the map in the 1960s.
But despite the notoriety of its most powerful wave, N’Gor Right, local surfers say you’d be unlikely to spot more than 20 boards here or at any other Senegalese surf spot.
Only the hardcore venture further south than the surf spots of Morocco, where the waves might be consistent — but so are the crowds. Now music has become as much a part of the scene in Senegal as surfing, and the two often go hand in hand.
Thousands of fans from West Africa and Europe flock to the annual Blues du Fleuve festival in Podor, organised by the singer Baaba Maal, the most famous Senegalese musician after Youssou N’Dour.
While last year’s event was postponed, Maal — who hopes the festival will one day become Africa’s Glastonbury — has promised a comeback in 2017. It falls around December, when the weather is cool and dry. This festival explores the music of Senegal and Mauritania, from the haunting voices of ethnic Fulaani singers to the raw and powerful tones of African guitar.
16. Houston, United States
Millions of eyeballs will be trained on Houston for Super Bowl LI in February, but the big game is far from the only thing cooking in America’s fourth-largest city. With more than 10,000 restaurants representing more than 70 different global cuisines, the Texas city is one of the most diverse spots in the United States.
Among 2017’s hotly anticipated culinary additions: Brasserie du Parc, a classic French restaurant across from Discovery Green downtown, and a new outpost in the Heights neighborhood for German beer garden King’s Bierhaus.
Eateries and residents are just two measures of the city’s rapid growth. Green space and mixed-use developments are multiplying too.
When Houston last hosted the Super Bowl in 2004, Discovery Green was a parking lot. Now the 12-acre urban park, which opened in 2008 adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center, is ready to host the Super Bowl LIVE festival leading up to the game. New hotels, high-rise apartment and condo buildings, restaurants and entertainment offerings border the park.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to experience Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, you might want to book that trip down under sooner than later. Coral across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered its most devastating die-off on record, according to 2016 reports.
Fortunately there are some wonderful eco-resorts aiding with conservation efforts. Among our favorites is the private Heron Island, which has its own ecotourism and research station.
Those in need of an urban Aussie experience will want to made the trip 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) south to Melbourne, arguably the country’s foodie capital.
Not only is it the 2017 host of the World’s Best Restaurants Awards. The Economist Intelligence Unit claims it’s also the world’s most livable city. Which means visitors get treated pretty well, too.
This article originally appeared in the CNN Travel.
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