From deserted Inca trails in Argentina to the burgeoning art scene of Cape Town, we’ve selected the hottest places for you to explore in 2017.
2017 marks Canada’s 150th year of Confederation. To celebrate, the usual national park entrance fees are being waived in order to encourage people to get outside and admire the country’s diverse landscapes.
In addition to the parks, Canada will also offer free admission to national historic sites and marine conservation areas throughout 2017. The Liberal government is investing $25 million per year in the parks, with an aim to ‘protect ecosystems and species at risk’.
There are 44 national parks in Canada, but with the increasing trend for travellers seeking the most remote polar regions of the world due to the safety, sense of wilderness and spectacular scenery, we’re focusing on the area in and around the Arctic Circle.
In the far, frosty north of Canada, Sirmilik National Park offers a relatively accessible experience of the Arctic. Up here, the sun doesn’t set in the summer or rise in the winter. Orca and beluga whales coast through the frigid sea beneath the glistening ice on which the occasional polar bear rests. Pond Inlet is an Inuit community just outside Sirmilik National Park, and where travellers can stay in the luxury tents of Pond Inlet Premium Safari Camp. A little further south, Auyuittuq National Park is a terrain of granite peaks and frozen tundra. The nearby Qikiqtarjuaq – which means ‘big island’ in Inuktitut – is often called the Iceberg Capital of the North. Spot ‘sea unicorn’ narwhals, seals and even polar bears on excursions around the iceberg-strewn coastline.
Churchill is the usual jumping-off point for those who want to see polar bears. Wapusk National Park lies where boreal forest turns into Arctic tundra and has one of the world’s largest polar bear maternity denning areas. Each year, when the sea ice begins to reform, the bears migrate to the shores of the Hudson Bay to hunt. During the summer, they wait inland, and this is when you can spot the giant mammals from the safety of tundra buggies.
To see the Northern Lights, travel during the winter (November to February), when you can also go cross-country skiing. Go hiking or camping in the summer (May to August), and see polar bears in September or October, when a carpet of purple flowers blooms.
The Puna, Argentina
In the constant scramble to get ‘off the beaten track’, Argentina’s north-westerly Puna (puna comes from a Quechua word meaning a cold and remote place) is isolated, otherworldly and largely undiscovered. With new flight routes connecting the gateway city of Salta to Lima, it’s time to explore the Puna before everyone else cottons on.
The new routes to Salta are run by LATAM Airlines and connect the city to the capital of Peru, making the north-west of Argentina much easier to include in wider South American itineraries.
A new addition to the Puna is the Antofallita Oasis, opening at the end of December 2016. This is an exclusive opportunity to stay in a tiny, far-flung Andean community in restored local homes.
The Puna is located between Salta and the Chilean and Bolivian borders in the north-west of Argentina. The landscape varies between desolate salt flats, sweeping sand dunes, rust-red rock formations and teal-green lakes. It’s an unearthly spectacle that is all the more sublime for the lack of visitors the region receives.
Ancient Inca trails run through this area, empty of the tourists who rush to the famous routes through Peru. Trek or take a 4WD tour to explore the Puna from Salta to the village of Tolar Grande. The new Antofallita Oasis lodges are conveniently positioned to break up this journey and allow more time exploring the Puna.
Aside from isolated Andean communities, the only other inhabitants you’re likely to encounter are llamas and vicuñas grazing in the highlands, flamingos posing around the lakes and the occasional condor soaring overhead.
The Puna is a year-round destination, though at its chilliest in July and August.
Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa’s most beautiful city, Cape Town is an endlessly popular destination. In 2017, it will become even more desirable as it gains another world-class hotel and Africa’s first major contemporary art museum, all in one building.
The Silo will be run the brilliant team behind La Residence, Birkenhead House and Royal Malewane, with the creative hand of Liz Biden providing the hotel with the group’s signature style of classic opulence mixed with modern, striking pieces. The Silo is located in the historic 1921-built grain silo on the V&A Waterfront, a building redesigned by Thomas Heatherwick, and opens in March 2017.
In the same building, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) will open in September 2017. This is one of the most hotly anticipated openings in the art world for several years. The museum is a not-for-profit venture funded by the Jochen Zeitz (the former CEO of Puma), who is also donating his entire collection of contemporary African art.
At the foot of Table Mountain, Cape Town resides on South Africa’s south-eastern coast where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Outside the city lies one of the world’s best and most scenic wine regions, peppered with beautiful, lavish retreats.
Looks alone are not the only attraction. Cape Town is home to several thriving scenes from fine dining and craft beer to art and design. Cape Town’s foodie landscape covers everything from top-end tasting menus at the famous Test Kitchen to street eats such as bobotie samosas in the Cape Malay district of Bo Kaap.
Aside from wining and dining, visitors to Cape Town can call upon the tiny penguins that congregate at Boulders Beach, go surfing, watch great white sharks breach in False Bay, spot southern right whales cruising down the coast, hike in the mountains, learn about the often-troubled history of this region and visit the prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 years on Robben Island.
Cape Town is at its best during the summer from December to March, but it receives sunshine throughout the year and even in the dead of winter the average temperature rarely drops below 13°C/55°F.
In January, British Airways will launch their first direct flights from London Heathrow to Santiago, Chile’s capital. With the South American nation becoming easier to access from the UK and Europe, it’s the perfect excuse to visit.
This will be the longest direct flight that BA runs at 14 hours and 40 minutes, and will operate four times a week, starting on 3rd January 2017. It is also the first direct flight from the UK to Chile and only the second option to travel direct from Europe (Iberia fly from Madrid).
Chile is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world, a skinny nation running 2,670 miles north to south and just 217 miles at its widest point. The landscape ranges from the arid Atacama Desert to the epic, snowy peaks of Torres del Paine in Patagonia. There are fertile winelands and glittering fjords; simmering hot springs and towering volcanoes; caves ‘marbled’ by water and ancient forests.
For any active traveller, the options in Chile are endless. You might go hiking around the mountains of Torres del Paine or kayaking in the Aisen Region. Cycle around the winelands outside Santiago or go horse riding in the Lake District.
There’s more to Chile than just jaw-dropping scenery. Easter Island’s moai statues tell a sad, strange tale of islanders who devised their own end through mass deforestation. The island of Chiloé is steeped in myths and folk legend. Whales, penguins and sea lions populate the coastline, and on the plains of Patagonia, you can spot guanacos, eagles, rheas and even the Patagonian puma.
Spring and autumn see less visitors in many places and fine conditions throughout. The season for Patagonia is October to April.
The weakened pound makes the UK a great value destination. Usually a strong currency, the pound has taken a hit following the vote to leave the EU earlier in 2016. Against the dollar and the euro, its value has decreased, making tourists’ money go much further.
Looking on the bright side, this is good news for the UK’s tourism industry. London is an expensive destination and the rest of the UK isn’t too far behind. If goods and services become even slightly better value for tourists, it’s an incentive for more people to visit in 2017. A further impact is a projected increase of domestic tourists as Europe becomes more expensive for Brits.
The UK is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For such a small nation, there is an incredible diversity of culture, language and dialect.
London is one of the world’s most exciting capitals, where ancient history and cutting-edge modernity are interwoven throughout the sprawling city. To the south of London, the Kent wine region is producing sparkling wine that has topped Champagne in recent blind tastings. The Cotswolds countryside is criss-crossed with rambling trails and dotted with enormous stately houses. The sublime Lake District is where Wordsworth ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’.
Stags look out over Scotland’s wild Highlands where castles crumble and the white-sand, windswept beaches are lapped by crystal-clear water. Spend Hogmanay in Edinburgh, listening to pipers playing on the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town. Discover the burgeoning adventure travel scene in Wales and visit the UNESCO-protected hexagonal basalt columns on Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway.
The UK is best visited in summer (June to September), when the weather is (usually) warm and sunny. Spring and autumn are also great times to travel, with crisp, bright days and less tourists.
The introduction of South America’s first luxury sleeper train in May next year is reason enough to journey to Peru.
The Andean Explorer travels to Cusco, Lake Titicaca, Arequipa City and Puno with itineraries lasting either one, two or three days. Slow travel is a trend we see gathering speed, as people seek more from their trips than simply ticking off the sights. As Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, ‘It’s good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.’
In the spirit of getting off the tourist trail, there are many more treks to discover in Peru that offer an alternative to the well-trodden routes up to Machu Picchu. The Ausangate trail is one of our current favourites.
Peru is a country with endless attractions, from its ever-growing foodie scene and world-class surfing, to luxury Amazon cruises and the pièce de résistance, the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu.
Whether you want to challenge yourself with a tough, high-altitude trek or prefer the comforts of lavish trains or boats, you can travel around this diverse and fascinating country in whatever manner you choose; whichever route you pick, you can be sure it will be an extraordinary journey.
A trip in Peru might include the tasting menu at Astrid y Gastón in Lima, one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, where you can sample ‘Turkish’ guinea pig, suckling pig confit or the ‘19th century ceviche revival’. Travel to Cusco from where you can catch the train to the well-preserved ruins of Machu Picchu or begin a trek along the Inca trails taking anywhere between two and 13 days. Cap it off with three days cruising into the Amazon rainforest along the jungle-lined waterways.
Peru is a diverse country with seasons that differ according to the area. May to September is the driest period, and the best times for trekking and visiting Machu Picchu.
After the enormously destructive earthquake of April 2015, Nepal has re-found its feet, locals are optimistic and tourists are returning to this irresistible country in growing numbers.
The 7.8-magnitude quake took around 8,000 lives and destroyed villages and neighbourhoods. Most of the trails up in the Himalaya region were thankfully unscathed, and many notable religious sites – for instance, Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu – have been repaired. New hotel openings, such as the Taj Meghauli Serai lodge in Chitwan National Park, reinforce the faith operators and hoteliers have in Nepal’s tourism industry.
Tourism is crucial for Nepal, as it will provide the money for rebuilding the country’s worst affected areas; although a lot of the tourist sites have been repaired since 2015, many neighbourhoods are still rubble. Given that Nepal is home to some of the most famous and iconic sights in the world, supporting this country through tourism is no great hardship.
With topography that ranges from 59 metres above sea level in the Terai region to the peak of Mount Everest, the highest point in the world at 8,848 metres, land-locked Nepal is a hugely diverse country.
The jewels in Nepal’s crown are the great Himalayan mountains, which include eight of the world’s eight-thousander peaks (the other six are located elsewhere in the Himalayan range). This is the roof of the world and journeying to the area presents staggeringly beautiful scenes for mountaineers and trekkers alike. If trekking’s not your bag or you’re short on time, you can take a helicopter ride up to Everest Base Camp.
But it’s not just mountains and trekking. Spot the rare Asian rhinoceros in lush Chitwan National Park; discover Nepal’s most important religious sites, followed by a cocktail at a cool rooftop bar in the frenetic capital Kathmandu; meet the welcoming Nepalese locals; and go kayaking on the pretty Himalayan Phewa Lake.
High season for Himalayan trekking is October and November, but spring is when you’ll see climbers embarking on their Everest summit attempts. The rainy season is between June and September.
A much-overlooked safari destination, Zimbabwe’s new infrastructure developments make it much easier to travel around the country.
For the dry season in 2017, between April and September, Chilo Gorge guests can access the twice-weekly flights from Johannesburg – southern Africa’s biggest international hub – to Buffalo Range where a vehicle will transfer them to the lodge. These flights have previously only been available for guests of Singita Pamushana, which can now be combined with Chilo for an extraordinary safari.
A further development is the new Victoria Falls International Airport, which is due to start receiving flights in 2017, linking Zimbabwe’s biggest tourist attraction to international airports such as Johannesburg and Maun, the gateway to Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
For those in the know, Zimbabwe offers one of the most exciting safari experiences in southern Africa. With fewer tourists than its neighbours, game sightings are more or less private, despite it being one of the best countries for elephant viewing. Animals are unperturbed by the presence of humans, affording intimate sightings.
In Mana Pools, you can visit the ox-bow lakes that attract crocs, hippos and elephants on walking safaris or in canoes. Much of this area is only accessible on foot, which has helped it remain unspoiled and wild.
Combine a safari in the Zimbabwean bush with a visit to ‘the smoke that thunders’, Victoria Falls, for sundowner drinks on the Zambezi River, white-water rafting and microlight flights across the falls. Straddling the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, the waterfall is arguably the most scenic in the world.
The best time for game viewing is between April and October, during the dry season. Victoria Falls is a year-round destination.
Cambodia is upping its private island and hotel game with several new luxury openings in 2017. Once a fairly rough-and-ready destination frequented mainly by backpackers, the country now has an ever-increasing number of high-end, award-winning resorts. With more options spread across the whole country, Cambodia has become a destination to visit in its own right, rather than an add-on to other Southeast Asian destinations.
Prior to 2017, the eco-friendly Song Saa Private Island was the only luxury island resort in Cambodia, but it now has rivals in the Six Senses Krabey Island and Alila Villas Koh Russey, both of which are due to open in 2017. In Phnom Penh, Rosewood will open its newest hotel, the building of which will resemble a rising dragon.
Most people travel to Cambodia simply to see the greatest relics of the Khmer Empire, the famous Angkor Wat and the rest of the Angkor complex. Although this is a must-visit site, there’s so much more to Cambodia than just the temples.
Phnom Penh is a high-energy, sometimes chaotic capital, but it is home to several historic sites that aid an understanding of the country. The Royal Palace is a grand, ornate building on the banks of the Tonle Sap River, and the official residence of King Sihamoni. S-21 was where thousands of people were incarcerated between 1975 and 1978 during the brutal Khmer Rouge reign. More than 17,000 prisoners were taken to the Killing Fields, just outside Phnom Penh, which is also open to visitors and provides an important reminder of the atrocities Cambodians endured so recently.
On a more uplifting note, the Gulf of Thailand is littered with beautiful islands that see a fraction of the tourists who visit the shores of neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. Unwind in a private pool villa, indulge in a spa day, and watch the world go by from these sleepy, private shores.
Cambodia’s dry season runs from November to May, though it’s still possible to travel throughout the rest of the year. July to September are the wettest months.
The Outback, Australia
The Australian outback has always been a tempting destination in which to escape from the trials and tribulations of the modern world, but there’s an added incentive to visit next year with the magical Field of Light installation having been extended until March 2018.
The installation was created by artist Bruce Munro, who used over 50,000 stems topped with solar-powered illuminated spheres. The installation was originally inspired by Uluru when Munro visited in 1992. The Field of Light has since travelled around the world, starting in the field behind his Wiltshire home, before returning to the place where the idea was born in 2016.
Uluru is the centrepiece of the outback. Located slap-bang in the middle of Australia, the giant rock – the world’s largest – was of enormous significance to the Aboriginal people, for obvious reasons. It dominates the horizon in a landscape of flat, barren desert and is one of the world’s most recognisable sights. Watching the sun set behind Uluru is a skin-tingling moment. A guided walk around the perimeter of the rock (it’s highly disrespectful to climb it) affords a chance to learn about the Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime.
The surrounding outback is beautiful in its vast emptiness. As we continue to seek remote areas, places like the outback really come into their own; with so much undeveloped land, there’s no chance this region will ever become overrun with visitors. Spend your time here hiking around Kings Canyon for high views of the surrounding desert, enjoying the silence, and gazing up at the most dazzling starry skies. Up in the ‘top end’ of Australia, Kakadu National Park is the size of Slovenia and the country’s largest park, with waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art and lush vegetation topping giant, burnt-orange cliffs.
The central outback around Uluru is a year-round destination, but dry season (June to August) is the best time to visit the Northern Territory.