Where will you travel in the coming year? We’ve rounded up the 17 travel destinations we’re most excited about for 2017, our interest piqued by new attractions, easier access, great exchange rates and more. From a Middle Eastern wonderland to an underrated California wine region, these up-and-comers have plenty to offer.
1. Washington, D.C.
Whether you love or loathe the incoming administration one thing is for sure, 2017 is shaping up to be another big year for Washington, DC. Inauguration Day is expected to bring millions to the nation’s capital and hotel rooms are already costing an arm and a leg. We say skip the cold and instead come in the spring when cherry blossoms turn the landscape into a blur of piercing pink hues. DC has grown into a hip town over the past decade (Thanks, Obama!) so raise a glass at cocktail joints like Barmini and strap on a bib at top-nosh eateries, including Kinship and Bourbon Steak, but save the most room forculture. DC’s museum scene, including the new National Museum of African American History & Culture, is why our nation’s capital rules—regardless of who’s in office.
2. United Kingdom
In the same way we wait for Black Friday to snag the best deals on home appliances, travelers have been waiting with baited breath for a cheaper U.K. Thanks to Brexit, that day has arrived. With the U.S. dollar strengthening against the pound (1.27 to 1 US dollar as of this writing), now is the time to shove all vacation plans aside and make a U.K. trip a top priority. Our recommendations include at least few days in London with its dizzying jumble of irresistible neighborhoods, nightlife and free museums. Save a few days for side trips to Oxford, Bath, Stratford or Brighton. The Scottish countryside, meanwhile, is a fairy tale dreamland of rolling hills and rustic castles—not that you shouldn’t save time for culturally rich Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well.
Tiny Iceland is so remote and otherworldly in its geography that many Americans fail to realize how close to the U.S. it actually is. A round trip flight from New York’s JFK takes less than six hours and Iceland Air entices North American travelers en route to mainland Europe with free stopovers for up to seven nights. So why go? There are so many compelling reasons, actually. Reykjavik is a small but cosmopolitan European city where the locals party until dawn on weekends and where menu items like puffin and whale are commonplace. Outside the city there is the famed Ring Road, a highway that circumnavigates most of the country and loops in fjords, glaciers, natural hot springs and so much more. Take the drive in winter and you may just see the Northern Lights.
4. Paso Robles, CA
California’s Central Coast is making the case that wine enthusiasts needn’t focus all their attention on overpriced and overcrowded Napa Valley anymore. Indeed, the more than 400 wineries dotting the countryside north of Los Angeles all the way up to San Francisco are the oldest in the state and produce some damn fine varietals. The inland city of Paso Robles has it all: a perfectly walkable downtown, close proximity to nature (not to mention other Central Coast towns and cities), tucked away luxury accommodationslike the Hotel Cheval and Allegretto Vineyard Resort, a farm-to-fork movement exemplified by restaurants like Artisan and Thomas Hill Organics and legendary wineries including JUSTIN Winery and Eberle.
Remember when we derided our neighbor to the north as a funny little cultural backwater? That’s because we hadn’t bothered to visit. Then word got out that cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver were just as cool as their U.S. counterparts, the natural landscapes in provinces like British Columbia, Alberta and elsewhere just as beautiful and the people just as friendly—if not more so. Over the years, the Canadian dollar has waxed and waned against ours but it just so happens to be weak enough right now that the entire country is basically 25% off. Our top recs? Banff National Park is staggeringly beautiful, Queen Street West is Toronto’s hippest ‘hood, Montreal never goes out of style and Prince Edward Island in summertime is simply sublime.
6. Mid-Beach Miami
You could be forgiven for never venturing beyond South Beach’s over-hyped confines. The shopping is great, the Art Deco hotels pretty and the restaurants along Lincoln Road continue to impress. But you won’t be forgiven for very long. The scene is creeping north to Mid-Beach and the secret is officially out. The Faena district, a six-block project that comprises the Faena Hotel, Casa Claridge and new retail, has pumped new life into the area but it’s hardly alone. The Freehand Hostel and its popular cocktail den the Broken Shaker has made backpacker lodging cool again, the sprawling Fountainebleau is Miami’s answer to a Vegas resort and brunch at SoHo House is unreal. If you care to leave the beach, zip across I-195 and check out the new Miami Institute of Art.
Caribbean junkies circumnavigating the region in search of the next great destination need not look any further. If you’ve exhausted Puerto Rico, Punta Cana, the ABCs, the Virgin Islands and elsewhere in the region, there’s still a country with your name on it. With the conflicts of the latter half of the twentieth century now behind it, Colombia is opening itself up to the world and boy does it have a lot to offer. Stroll the cobblestone streets of coastal Cartagena, stare up at the world’s tallest palm trees in the Cocora Valley, learn about the coffee bean in the estate-filled city of Selento and enjoy high-altitude adventures in Bogota, the capital. But don’t forget to pack your swimsuit: Those Caribbean waters will come a calling and Colombia has beaches galore.
8. St. Louis, MO
There was a time in the 19th century when a battle raged between St. Louis and Chicago over which would be the preeminent city of the “west.” Chicago may have won that battle, but counting out the Gateway City is a fool’s errand. Not only does it have better weather—if only marginally so—but it’s a compact and likable place boasting all kinds of treasures, including the shops, eateries and art galleries of the lively Central West End, the red brick town homes of historic Soulard, brew tours of Anheuser-Busch, the incredible—and completely indescribable—interactive City Museum and so much more. So why go now? Because the already underway CityArchRiver Project will soon bring new hiking and running trails, a concert space and new museum to the feet of the city’s biggest icon—the towering Gateway Arch.
9. Stockholm, Sweden
Life just got a little sweeter (or should we say Swede-er) since the U.S. and Swedish governments inked a joint deal in 2016 to open a pre-clearance facility at Stockholm‘s Arlanda Airport. This means shorter wait times, faster connections and more direct flights to various U.S. airports. Basically, it will bring more visitors to Stockholm and that’s a good thing. The elegant capital is built atop 14 islands and its Old Town is as narrow and charming as they come. Their lodging and food scenes are both out of this world and the tens of thousands of islands that comprise the Stockholm Archipelago beg for a weekend retreat. Note: Visit in 2018 to experience the new ABBA virtual reality experience, which has the quartet collaborating for the first time in decades.
10. Abu Dhabi, UAE
A lot of travelers tend to focus on UAE’s other luxury-laden futuristic city, Dubai. But Abu Dhabi‘s upcoming Saadiyat Cultural District will make sure its larger neighbor doesn’t rest too much on its gilded, diamond-encrusted laurels. The civic development slated for a 2017 completion promises to bring to Saadiyat Island a new Guggenheim museum—reportedly the largest Guggenheim in the world—as well as an Abu Dhabi outpost of Paris’ famous Louvre, a national museum and a performing arts center. Of course, the stunning architecture of these projects alone would be reason enough to add Abu Dhabi to your 2017 travel plans.
Beautiful, affordable Philippines with its pristine beaches, reefs, Chocolate Hills, volcanoes and other bucket-list attractions, justgot a lot more accessible to US travelers. Philippine Airlines recently expanded its US presence by adding three non-stop flights between Cebu and Los Angeles per week, while continuing its existing service between Manila and cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Honolulu and Guam. With more than 7,000 islands to explore, you’ll want to start researching this trip now.
12. Bosnia and Herzegovina
One point of entry into fascinating Bosnia and Herzegovina is via its teeny weeny coastline—just 12 miles long to be exact—and if all you did was spend a couple days sunbathing and frolicking in the Mediterranean from the coastal town of Neum you’d leave happy. But there’s so much more to Bosnia and Herzegovina, not that we’d expect you to know that. The country has largely been hidden from public view thanks to the military conflicts of the mid-90s that happened as part of the breakup of Yugoslavia. These days it’s opening its eyes to tourism. Visit the capital city of Sarajevo to see where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated (the event which sparked World War I), idle around picturesque Jajce and Travnik and discover majestic Sutjeska National Park.
If your enduring image of this East African country is the brutal civil war that killed hundreds of thousands in 1994, the time to remember—while also looking forward—is now. Now that Rwanda is recovering, one way to do that is to visit Gishwati-Mukura National Park, established in 2016 as the country’s fourth national park. Gishwati Forest flourished until refugees from the genocide flowed into the area and began deforestation that devastated much of the land. Today, it boasts all kinds of biodiversity including exotic flora and fauna and all kinds of monkeys. Elsewhere around the country are gorilla safaris in Volcanoes National Park, breathtaking Lake Kivu and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre where the remains of more than a quarter million genocide victims are interred.
14. Papua New Guinea
Set on an island in the southwestern Pacific, Papua New Guinea’s pretty out of the way and once you get there, there hasn’t traditionally been much tourism infrastructure. In short, only the boldest of travelers were reaping the rewards of this incredibly culturally and biologically diverse country: Think unspoiled beaches, coral reefs, volcanoes, rain forests and fascinating Highlands tribal cultures. But that’s changing with additional cruise lines adding ports like Milne Bay and Kokopo to their itineraries. Paul Gauguin and Ponant are just two lines that now service the remote nation.
The Caribbean is now the fastest growing travel market, according to the World Tourism Organization, and while it’s usually the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Jamaica that occupy top rankings, little Nevis is starting to make waves. White sand beaches, relaxing hot springs and scenic hikes have lured visitors here for ages, but the Caribbean gem’s recent popularity can at least in part be attributed to a renewed interest in the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (thanks, Broadway), who lived on the island as a child. Fans can check out the Museum of Nevis History, housed in the two-story Georgian home where Hamilton was born in 1757.
16. Uttar Pradesh, India
India is so vast and diverse, it’s no wonder generations of backpackers have opted to spend months exploring it. But even if you have just a week or two, you’ll want to add the state of Uttar Pradesh to your highlights list. The world’s tallest religious skyscraper, the Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir, is under construction there, and at 700 feet—complete with a theme park, museum and helipad—it’s not a visit you’ll soon forget. While the Hindu skyscraper is not slated for completion until 2022, Uttar Pradesh is arguably India’s most mystical state already, so there are plenty of other ways to get your spiritual fix, from India’s holiest city, Varanasi, to domed Buddhist shrines and the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna, two of India’s holiest rivers.
17. Merida, Mexico
If you’re ready explore the Yucatan beyond its resort-heavy coastal hubs of Cancun, Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen, then Merida is for you. The cultural capital is attracting more and more visitors with its sophisticated dining, great hotel options, top-notch museums and proximity to Mayan ruins. Merida’s a great walking city to boot, its narrow colonial streets lined with 17th- and 18th-century haciendas, not to mention the always-bustling Plaza Grande, beautiful churches and photo-ready markets. And don’t worry—if you’re still jonesing for the beach afterward, the crystal waters of Cancun are just a 3.5-hour drive away.