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Now is the time to start planning your travels in 2017. As such, there are a number of travel sites and publications announcing their picks for the best places to go next year – this list is what we feel truly tops them all.
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Nepal was hit by some devastating earthquakes in 2015, and while some landmark temples crumbled, many still remain, managing to escape severe damage. After all, the country is home to over 3,000 temples, 1,200 monasteries and, of course, 12 of the 14 tallest mountains on the planet, including the highest of all, Mount Everest, and those aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Plus, the Nepalese still have the same uniquely gregarious nature they’ve always had, something that led them to be named the “nicest people on Earth,” in several travel surveys. If you’re thinking about ways of volunteering to help repair structures that were damaged, consider that the nation has all the skills needed right there, but it could definitely use the cash.That means that simply by visiting, you’ll be helping to contribute to the rebuilding efforts.
While you’re there, if you’re the adventurous type, you can take a trek through the Himalayas, stopping at the tea houses and lodges along the way to rest, or explore Nepal’s sacred Hindu and Buddhist temples, like Pashupatinath, Budhanilkantha, and Manakamana.
As Lonely Planet, which named Canada as its top country to visit in 2017, noted, the nation turns 150 years old next year, which means, visitors will find all sorts of festivals and events to celebrate. If you’ve always wanted to visit some of the country’s great national parks like Banff National Park in Alberta or Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, 2017 is the time, as Parks Canada is waiving the entrance fees all year to celebrate. It’s also a great excuse to check out lesser-known but no less breathtaking destinations like Newfoundland, with its especially friendly people, gorgeous scenery and abundance of wildlife, or even go polar bear spotting in Manitoba in the fall. No matter what the season, Canada offers it all – and often, much less expensively too, due to the weakened Canada dollar.
While Ireland is at or near the top of many travelers’ bucket lists, the Emerald Isle has been attracting fans for another reason: it’s been the setting for a number of scenes in Star Wars. “The Force Awakens” featured Skellig Michael, a tiny isle that houses the ruins of an ancient monastery lying about eight miles off the Kerry Coast, in the final scene when Rey (Daisy Ridley) extended a light saber to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). 2017’s “Episode VIII” is sure to draw even more visitors, with its opening scenes shot in County Kerry and other scenes filmed in County Clare, Cork and further north in County Donegal. HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” has had an impact on Northern Ireland too, with scenes shot throughout the region.
If you want to enjoy an experience that doesn’t include hordes of other tourists, plan to go in 2017, before tourism numbers increase even more, ideally outside of the summer months – May through mid-June or mid-September through early October is often just right for a perfect mix of pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
Guatemala is often overlooked by travelers, though it offers a long list of bucket list-worthy attractions, including Tikal National Park, home to one of the largest Mayan cities ever uncovered and ruins that rival the likes of Machu Pichu, charming colonial towns like Antigua, and stunning natural sights like Lake Atitlan. The likely reason so many have avoided it is because of crime and corruption, but things are changing in this Central American nation, thanks to its new president, elected in 2015. You’ll find Antigua to be a lovely, safe place to visit with a number of upscale hotels. Stroll its cobbled streets, wander past brightly-colored storefronts, towering cathedrals and tree-lined parks, and check out the outstanding arts and crafts markets too. If you’re up for a big adventure, take the five-day hike to El Mirador, one of the remote archaeological sites in Peten.
Finland is another country celebrating a milestone birthday next year. It was battled over by Russia and Sweden for 800 years, and finally gained independence in 1917. The nation has announced that its centennial will be “the most significant commemorative year for a generation of Finns and people with Finnish roots all around the world, with events kicking off on New Year’s Eve and running throughout the year. Check out Finland’s capital, Helsinki, a shopper’s paradise, home to everything from high-end fashion to innovative home décor and design, including large department stores like Stockmann as well as smaller, luxury boutiques, and if you want to experience its remote wilderness regions, head to Lapland, where you’ll find lots of opportunities for peace and solitude, including the chance to hike for weeks without running into another human, and to view the northern lights with little light pollution to interfere.
In 2010, only about 300,000 visited the nation of Myanmar, also known as Burma, passing over its beauty due to its myriad of problems. While those haven’t completely gone away, things have definitely been moving in the right direction. In 2013, the number of foreign arrivals reached over two million, and they’ve been on the increase, coming to visit its abundance of magnificent temples, pagodas and historical sites, as well to soak up the sunshine on picturesque, often isolated beaches found in Chaung Tha, Ngwesaung and areas near Dawei, renowned for solitude and scenery. Another highlight is Inle Lake, where you can hop aboard a boat tour to explore one of the dark cave pagodas and watch a sunset as it reflects off Shwedagon Paya.
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Known as “The Nature Island of the Caribbean,” Dominica is still so undeveloped that the locals have joked that if Christopher Columbus were to rise from the grave and return, it would be the only one that he’d still recognize. An island for nature lovers and romance seekers, its incredibly lush landscape includes volcanic hot springs, countless rivers and waterfalls, unspoiled rainforest and impressive natural swimming holes – if you get there early enough, if you might even be able to enjoy one all to yourself. While there isn’t much in the way of glistening white sands, that’s what’s helped keep the throngs of tourists at bay, at least for now. Plus, you can still enjoy places like Black Sand Beach, where leatherback, hawksbill and green turtle sanctuary together.
For those seeking the ultimate in wilderness travel, there are few better places than the Gates of the Arctic National Park. It’s one of the finest wilderness areas on Earth, and straddles Alaska’s Arctic Divide in the Brooks Range, America’s northernmost chain of mountains. While you’ll need to go in the summer and have survival skills as there are no facilities, roads, trails or established campsites, you will be able to spend your nights camping under the stars and your days hiking through breathtaking scenery, watching out for wildlife like caribou, grizzly, wolverines and more. If you don’t think you’re up to the task on your own, you can always hire a local guide or join a guided trip offered by a handful of outfitters in the region.
Lofoten Islands, Norway (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Norway’s Lofoten Islands are renowned as one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world. In the summer, the quaint fishing villages sit among a backdrop of soaring mountains with jagged peaks that reflect the fiery glow of the midnight sun. Located just above the Arctic Circle, if you can manage a visit during this season, it means never seeing the sun set over the pristine white beaches that border clear emerald waters. Schedule some time with a local fisherman, and then try your luck at traditional fishing while enjoying plenty of good conversation along with amazing views, or paddle out in the water on a kaya, checking out the varied islands, exploring villages, and sampling local delicacies along the way.