From natural wonders to up-and-coming hot spots, here are 25 places to inspire you to travel in 2017.
Antigua and Barbuda
With a recent airport overhaul, strategic location, many beautiful beaches (one for every day of the year, the ads boast) and new UNESCO World Heritage Site—the exquisite walled Georgian-style Naval Dockyard — Antigua has positioned itself as a fantastic base for Caribbean exploration. It's a fine scenic "entry-level" destination for travelers seeking the quintessential beach experience with minimal hassle: English-speaking, U.S. dollars accepted, plentiful nonstop flights from the East Coast.
Cape Town, South Africa
A renewed appreciation of Cape Town’s diverse cultures and traditions is fueling a cultural renaissance, reflected in its cuisine and arts. Take, for example, the opening of theZeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africain September 2017, destined to be Africa’s largest contemporary art museum. Top that off with its spectacular natural setting in the shadow of Table Mountain, vineyards less than an hour away, and a weak rand (sorry, Capetonians – but it’s great for the rest of us), and Cape Town is fast becoming one of the world’s top destinations.
RELATED: 10 non-traditional safari adventures
In the last 15 years, the city has poured millions of Euros into getting its luster back, giving its neoclassical facades a serious spruce-up, creating large pedestrian-only swaths of street crisscrossing the city, and investing in state-of-the-art transport. Graced with a resplendent 18th-century historic center — the world's largest urban area to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site — Bordeaux's spectacularPlace de la BourseandGrand Théâtremake an elegant backdrop for a slew of sleek new contemporary buildings. Most notable is the recently openedCité du Vin, a high-tech romp through the history of wine and wine-making that many are calling the world’s first wine theme park.
Yorkshire, the largest of England’s counties, is also one of its most romantic, offering windswept moors, charming market towns, historic stately homes, and brooding ruins. At its heart is the beautifully preserved city of York, still retaining its medieval walls and streets and home to the towering cathedral ofYork Minster, the largest Gothic building in Northern Europe, and theNational Railway Museum. Vanbrugh’s Baroque masterpiece Castle Howard (immortalized in the film and television versions ofBrideshead Revisited) is a day trip from the city. But much of Yorkshire’s appeal lies in its great outdoors, from the rugged expanses of the North York Moors, where you’ll find the dramatic ruins ofRievaulx Abbey, to craggy fishing villages like Robin Hood’s Bay that cling like barnacles to the cliffs above the North Sea coast.
Minho Region, Portugal
Portuguese often cite the lesser-known Minho region as the most beautiful part of the country. Largely overlooked by foreign visitors, Minho’s lush green landscape is characterized by forest-covered hills, deep river valleys, unspoiled sandy beaches, and pretty towns where life appears to have changed little over the centuries. It also takes in the unforgettableParque Nacional Peneda-Gerês — Portugal’s only national park, where granite villages, rolling rivers, and Roman roads are scattered among thick oak forests inhabited by wild ponies, eagles, and prowling wolves.
Denver is often the entry point for visitors heading up the Colorado Rockies to get in some valuable ski time. The only problem is that many people’s experience of the Mile High City rarely goes beyond what they see through their rental car’s windshield. And it turns out they’re missing a lot. Over the past few years, the city has undergone an impressive food renaissance seen in the multitude of food halls and breweries that have opened up, includingAvanti Food & BeverageandThe Source, which is undergoing an expansion that will include aNew Belgiumbrewery in early 2017. It’s also become the nation’s capital forrecreational weed(giving new meaning to the phrase “Rocky Mountain High”). But it wouldn’t be a real visit to Denver without exploring the great outdoors.City Parkmakes it easy to get in touch with nature, with 314 rolling acres that include a public golf course, gardens, lakes and theDenver Zoo.
In urban centers Vientiane and Luang Prabang, aUNESCO World Heritage Site, Buddhist temples stand side by side with vestiges of French colonialism. The cities are the place to sightsee, shop, and eat. The pace of life is slow, and cycling along quiet back streets is a lovely way to get around. In Vientiane, gilded 3rd-century stupa Pha That Luang gleams in the sharp sunlight, as do the nearly 7,000 Buddha statues atWat Sisaket Museum. In Luang Prabang, take in the impressive gilded carved wood at 16th-century Wat Xieng Thong before tucking intokhao jie pâtéon a scrumptious baguette. In both cities, give in to the urge to fill your suitcase with beautiful fair-trade textiles made by female artisans.
To many Westerners, Kiev is an “exotic” enough destination, and although it may seem to lie at the fringes of Europe, it is a truly European city. Kiev is a unique mix of ancient monasteries, monumental Communist-era buildings, and history that continues writing itself as we speak. Any itinerary must include 11th-century Eastern Orthodox Monastery of the Caves with its gilded domes and underground catacombs. Nearby, in contrast, visitors should check out the Motherland Monument, a Soviet war memorial of mammoth dimensions. Pinchuk Art Centre, the largest private contemporary art museum in Eastern Europe, is a 21st-century affair.
This small town steeped in both history and contemporary art has been steadily gaining notoriety. TheChinati Foundation, founded by sculptor Donald Judd, put Marfa on the modern art map when it opened in 1986; today, downtown boasts a thriving gallery scene anchored byBallroom Marfa(which also oversees Prada Marfa) andMarfa Contemporary, both of which host exhibitions of cutting-edge work by an international roster of artists. But Marfa isn’t just about the art; it’s also an ideal base for exploring the Texas borderlands. About an hour’s drive south, theFort Leaton State Historic Sitesits at the entrance to the vastBig Bend Ranch State Park, whose dramatic landscape easily rivals the more famous national park to the east, but has far fewer tourists. After a day of driving or gallery-hopping, visitors have their choice of stylish accommodations for every budget, and dining experiences ranging from food trucks to rustic upscale restaurants likeStellina.
Wellington, New Zealand
New Zealand’s artistic side is often overlooked in favor of its dramatic landscapes and extreme sports. But if you’re looking to inject some culture into a Kiwi holiday, plan to spend a few days in the capital city ofWellington, which is getting plenty of buzz right now. “Welly” is the epicenter of New Zealand’s film industry thanks to theHobbitandLord of the Ringsfranchise, earning it the nickname Wellywood. But a creative vibe permeates the entire city, from the concept storeGood as Goldto single-origin bean coffee shops such asMemphis Belle. Welly is home to big cultural institutions such asTe Papa, the national museum of New Zealand, but art is also happening on a smaller scale thanks toCity Gallery Wellington, which focuses on contemporary works, andEnjoy,an artist-run public gallery. And foodies can rejoice, as Wellington is a culinary hot spot with a thriving artisanal coffee, craft brew, and cocktail scene.
Conveniently set halfway between Berlin and Prague, Saxony has undergone a profound transformation in the quarter century since German reunification and has now returned to its rightful place as one of the country's most important cultural centers. Its capital,Dresden, is home to half a million people and splendid state museums like theOld Masters Picture Gallery(which houses such masterpieces as Raphael'sSistine Madonna), with collections dating from Saxony's medieval heyday as an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire. The BaroqueSemperoper, one of the world's best opera houses, is another highlight in Dresden, a city that literally rose from the ashes after being leveled in the waning days of World War II.
Alaska is celebrating two major anniversaries in 2017 — first and foremost is Denali National Park and Preserve’s Centennial. Denali turns the big 100 on February 26, 2017, and will start its celebration over the winter, but wait until summer to hike, flightsee, and shuttle bus into the 6 million-acre wilderness, home of the continent’s tallest mountain. The summer will see special events, guided ranger tours, and other festivities. The second anniversary commemorates the sesquicentennial of Alaska’s transfer from Russia to the United States. The hand-off happened on Oct. 18, 1867, known as Alaska Day, inSitka. Along the Inside Passage, and a stop on many Alaska cruises, Sitka is replete with Russian and Alaska Native history. Start a tour atCastle Hill, where Alaska was formally handed over to the U.S., then visit Russian OrthodoxSt. Michael’s Cathedral, see precious Alaska Native art atSheldon Jackson Museum, and gaze at the awesome totems on the famed Totem Trail inSitka National Historical Park.
For the rest of the 2017 go list, including the secluded wonders of Madagascar and the fascinating two-sided history of Edinburgh, Scotland, visit Fodor's.