Thrill-seekers: The Azores, Portugal
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The Azores, an archipelago made up of nine volcanic islands located 1360 kilometres off the coast of Portugal, is among this year’s hottest destinations. The islands’ incredibly diverse and unique natural features, ranging from steep cliffs and ravines to lush scenery, pristine lakes, dramatic surf, stunning waterfalls and thermal springs, make them the adventurous traveller’s dream with activities including kayaking, surfing, horseriding, paragliding, windsurfing, mountain-bike riding, canyoning, sailing, hiking and diving. On down days, explore quaint towns, join a whale-watching tour or bathe in hot springs.
Cruise fanatics: the polar regions
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Spot awe-inspiring icebergs, make landfall in remote locations, try sea kayaking and see wildlife such as whales and seals on an Arctic or Antarctic cruise. Polar bears can be spotted in the north and penguins in the south as larger cruise liners traverse the Arctic and more ships head for Antarctic waters in 2017. If luxury cruising is more your style, consider booking a voyage on the new Crystal Endeavor – the world’s first purpose-built polar-class mega yacht which is due to set sail for the Arctic and Antarctic regions in 2018.
Dedicated golfers: Cape Wickham, Tasmania
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Cape Wickham Links, a stunning new golf course on Tasmania’s King Island, is already being touted as one of the best in Australia and, according to Golf Digest, is one of the top 25 courses in the world. Remote, rugged and unspoilt, King Island provides a stunning backdrop for the 18-hole course, which features sand dunes and ridges, undulating greens (two of which sit on the coastline) and expansive ocean views. The final hole follows the dramatic curve of Victoria Cove beach. When you’re not giving your clubs a workout, indulge in the produce for which the island is renowned. Photo courtesy Larry Lambrecht Photography
Culture vultures: Aarhus, Denmark
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There’s never been a better time to immerse yourself in the culture of Denmark. The country’s second-largest city, Aarhus, has been named 2017’s European Capital of Culture, along with Pafos in Cyprus. The city and its surrounding municipalities will be celebrating with a schedule of hundreds of events throughout the year including festivals, exhibitions, concerts and talks. One of the big drawcards is the 29th Aarhus Jazz Festival, when more than 230 concerts will take place over eight days in July.
Rail enthusiasts: Peruvian Andes
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If you’re looking for an amazing train journey this year, you may want to reserve a cabin on Belmond’s new luxury sleeper train. The Andean Explorer is set to make its debut in May 2017, offering one- and two-night journeys across the Peruvian Andes. There are ensuites for guests and separate lounge, dining and observation cars – all impeccably finished. Start or end your journey in the historic city of Cuzco, visit the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Arequipa, where you’ll get a chance to explore Colca Canyon, home of the giant Andean condor.
Cycle tourers: Cuba
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Travel to Cuba is on the rise. One of the biggest drawcards is the nostalgic and authentic atmosphere, and there’s no better way to experience it than by bicycle. The roads are relatively quiet, there’s lovely sea and bush scenery, there aren’t too many hills and you can stay in bed-and-breakfasts along the way, meeting the spirited people that populate the country. This year, it’s time to satiate your curiosity about all things Cuban.
Inquisitive divers: The Tuamotus
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Everyone’s heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora but for your next exotic diving destination, consider French Polynesia’s Tuamotu Archipelago. Yes, there are lagoons and beaches with the most turquoise of turquoise waters, picturesque deserted sandbars and perfectly poised palm trees but it’s underwater where The Tuamotus reveal their most inspiring scenes: fascinating coral gardens, passes filled with a myriad of reef fish and sharks, and even a manta ray cleaning station. Amazing diving and snorkelling can be accessed from four (there are 77 in total) of the most popular islands: Fakarava, Manihi, Rangiroa and Tikehau. Alternatively, you might like to consider a live-aboard cruise – the newest addition to the local fleet, the French Polynesia Master, sets sail this year.
Festival goers: The United States
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There’s a festival for music lovers of every description in the US of A. From multi-day extravaganzas with international headline acts to more alternative, niche-genre events, music festivals occur year-round. Some of the major ones include: South x Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas (March); Coachella in Indio, California (April); New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in Louisiana (May); Pitchfork (July) and Lollapalooza (August) in Chicago, Illinois; The Governors Ball in Randall’s Island Park, New York (June); and Burning Man in Nevada (August).
Family vacationers: Morocco
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It might not be the first place you’d consider, but there are plenty of reasons why Morocco is a great country to take the clan. It’s not too expensive, offers a truly exotic holiday, is easy to travel to and open to tourism. Make the most of your trip by picking a family-centric resort (outside of the numerous properties in Marrakech, Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort in El Jadida, Robinson Club Agadir and Club Med Yasmina in Tetouan are other popular options) and be prepared to set out from the cities to experience tours of the Sahara Desert, visit a Berber village or camp in the Atlas Mountains.
Budget jetsetters: Montenegro
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Europe can be daunting for those on a budget. Break up your trip with a stay in Montenegro – the country that’s climbing the Balkans’ best tourist destinations list. It’s got a dramatic coastline, rugged mountains, historic towns and makes for an interesting cultural experience. Wander through the atmospheric medieval towns of Kotor or Budva and see the natural wonders of Lake Skadar National Park or visit the charming islet of Sveti Stefan (the Aman Sveti Stefan resort is frequented by the super-rich and only open to guests) and explore the Porto Montenegro marina in the Bay of Kotor where luxury yachts are berthed.
Keen hikers: Colombia
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Hot South American destination Colombia is the home of the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) trek, an experience that’s on the to-do list of many a spirited trekker. Located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, the 46-kilometre round-trip takes four to five days and traverses the thick jungle of a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve to the site local tribes call Teyuna. Made up of terraces and circular plazas, the ancient city is said to be approximately 650 years older than Machu Picchu and is much less crowded than its more famous counterpart. It’s possible to do the hike with a group led by indigenous guides who still live in the area.
Happy glampers: Western Australia
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If you’re after an adventure without giving up the creature comforts, head to Western Australia for a unique glamping experience (we’re talking a proper bed, ensuites and private decks). There’s a basic set-up at Karijini Eco Retreat in Karijini National Park in the Pilbara, while the Ramada Eco Beach Resort, south of Broome, has simple but well kitted-out eco tents and villas. In the Margaret River region, you’ll find charmingly furnished domes at Mile End Glamping, and at Sal Salis in the Cape Range National Park, near Exmouth, you’ll find eco-luxe safari tents complete with ocean views. Also keep an eye out for the beach tents at Pinky’s Eco Retreat and Beach Club opening this year on Rottnest Island. Photo courtesy Archie Sartracom
Wine tasters: USA
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As New World wines become more popular, Americans are embracing winemaking in increasing numbers. Venture outside California’s Napa Valley and head to other areas such as Sonoma County, making sure you stop by the city of Santa Rosa. Or try Walla Walla, on the eastern side of Washington, where you can also enjoy beautiful scenery and cycling. If you’re in Portland, Oregon, there are more than 500 wineries in the Willamette Valley, and in upstate New York, a drive up to the Finger Lakes region reveals plenty of up-and-coming wineries to visit.
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Entertain the idea of an affair with Hungary in 2017. The capital Budapest is already known as the Paris of the East and the country’s second-largest city Debrecen is steadily opening its doors to more international travellers with a recently modernised airport and new airline connections better linking the country to Europe and beyond. There’s a nostalgic romance about these cultural hubs, with their classic architecture, grand museums and galleries and pretty nature reserves. Consider exploring both cities while you’re in the country; it’s less than three hours’ drive between Budapest and Debrecen.
Sailing buffs: Bermuda
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Head to Bermuda, where the hosts of the 35th America’s Cup (held in June) are preparing to welcome a flood of international visitors. Enjoy the unique British-American vibe, the pink-sand beaches (Horseshoe Bay is a must), water activities, historic buildings and interactions with the friendly, down-to-earth locals. There are lots of accommodation options for groups and many have been freshly updated in the run up to the Cup, including the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club and Cambridge Beaches.
Eager roadtrippers: Ring Road, Iceland
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Iceland’s Ring Road, also known as Route 1, runs around the country, covering more than 1330 kilometres. It will lead you to all of the country’s major attractions, from glaciers and lakes to fjords and volcanoes. You’ll need at least seven days but 10 will allow for more time to take in the sights. As well as the many quaint towns along the way you’ll see awe-inspiring landscapes and can take quick detours to sights such as the Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Skaftafell and Dettifoss waterfalls, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, the Asbyrgi Canyon and Mývatn Lake. Remember to watch out for sheep and deer.
Island resorters: Kokomo, Fiji
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Kokomo Island Resort, Fiji’s newest private island sanctuary, is not one you should allow to linger on your bucket list for too long. Tick it off with friends and family in one of the sprawling hilltop residences (with up to six bedrooms), the beachfront owners’ residence or choose one of the smaller beachfront villas. All have incredible water views, infinity pools and landscaped gardens. Prices include island transfers, meals and services including private dining, access to the gym and wifi. The island is located on the Great Astrolabe Reef so is a haven for scuba divers and snorkellers.
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Break up your flight to explore the malls and souks of Dubai, the stopover city that’s definitely worth taking an extra suitcase for. All the better if your trip coincides with the annual month-long Dubai Shopping Festival, held at the beginning of the year, when there are discount offers, pop-up markets, events and prizes to be won. But it’s not all about shopping – as well as being hubs for shopping and dining, malls double as leisure centres and resorts. At the Dubai Mall, for instance, you’ll find an ice rink, an aquarium and a games arcade, and at the Mall of the Emirates, there’s a family entertainment centre, a cinema and even indoor skiing.
Wellness retreaters: Costa Rica
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The burgeoning wellness travel industry is taking off and some destinations around the world are early adopters. The famously laid-back nation of Costa Rica is one of them, launching a PR campaign in 2017 extolling the virtues of the country’s “pura vida” (pure life) lifestyle. Whether you’re seeking a luxury escape to indulge in treatments, simple digs to practise yoga or trips to the country’s best healing hot springs, there’s a plethora of health retreats, spa resorts and wellness tours to choose from. On the small and exclusive side, you may come across El Alma Soul Retreat; for a truly secluded hideaway, Asclepios Wellness and Spa could top your list; and Anamaya Resort is certainly worth a “namaste” for yoga enthusiasts.
Snow chasers: North America
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If you’ve always wanted to hit the powder at the largest resorts in North America, now is the time. Since Whistler Blackcomb is now part of the Vail Resorts portfolio, their Epic Pass for 2017-2018 makes the continent even more of a drawcard. As well as Whistler in British Columbia, you can access big-name resorts such as Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Park City across six states in the United States – Colorado, California and Utah in the west and Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan in the midwest. Get set for some serious snow action. Passes go on sale March 2017. Photo courtesy Robin O'Neill
Wildlife lovers: Rwanda
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Measures to protect wild animals and a push to improve ecotourism make now the perfect time to visit Rwanda. For an unforgettable wildlife experience, hike in Dian Fossey’s footsteps and explore the impressive jungle landscape of Parc National Des Volcans. It’s one of the few places where you can see mountain gorilla families in their natural habitat. In the scenic Akagera National Park visitors can see elephants, buffalo, zebra, hyenas, leopards and lions, while the mountain rainforest in the lush Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to chimpanzees and a dozen other primate species. When it’s time to unwind, you can go birdwatching on the beach or take a dip in Lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes.
Beach devotees: Croatia
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With Stiniva beach on the Croatian island of Vis recently declared the best in Europe by European Best Destinations, Croatia is the place to go, bucket and spade in tow. As well as the tucked-away cove of Stiniva on Vis, a gem of an island about two hours from Split, there are similarly impressive beaches to be found on other Croatian islands and the mainland; one thing they all seem to have in common is crystal-clear blue waters. Standouts are Pecine Beach in Rijeka, the headland of Zlatni Rat in Brač with its golden shifting sands and the bay at Sakarun on the island of Dugi Otok.