Hot–and Cool–Destinations for 2017

Whether you’re after an epic train journey, a camel trek through the desert, or just want to kick back on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, I’ve compiled a list of five of the best—and occasionally unexpected—destinations for 2017.

Torngat Mountains National Park. Credit Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Torngat Mountains National Park. Credit Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

CANADA

In 2017, our neighbor to the North turns 150 years old, and Canada will be blowing out the birthday candles in a big way. The capital of Ottawa will celebrate with a series of pop-up events and performances dubbed “Ignite 150,” with blazing Canada Day fireworks on July 1.

Canada Day fireworks over Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. Credit Canadian Tourism Commission

Canada Day fireworks over Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. Credit Canadian Tourism Commission

Not to be outshone, nearby Toronto is opening the Museum of Contemporary Art in autumn, and it is developing a new community space akin to New York’s High Line called The Bentway. This revitalized one-mile corridor will bring new life to the area under Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, with the first phase scheduled to launch in July.

Feeling fit? Stretch your legs with one of four Country Walkers walking tours, or go free-wheeling with TDA Global Cycling, which is rolling out a 5,600-mile cross-country bicycle tour along the Trans-Canada Trail. The first leg begins on June 3, and the final leg finishes on September 8. You have the option of signing up for any of the five legs individually or committing (gulp) to the entire tour.

The final leg of TDA Global Cycling’s cross-country bicycle tour of Canada takes in the coastal beauty of the aptly-named Gaspe Peninsula. Courtesy TDA Global Cycling.

The final leg of TDA Global Cycling’s bicycle tour of Canada takes in the coastal beauty of the aptly-named Gaspe Peninsula. Courtesy TDA Global Cycling.

If cruise control is more your speed, consider One Ocean Expeditions (OOE), which features a trio of small ship cruises along Canada’s east coast. In 2017, OOE introduces the 11-day “Labrador and Torngat Explorer” voyage, with stops at Torngat Mountains National Park, Gros Morne National park and remote bays and fjords. In 2016, Labrador also opened the Mealy Mountains National Park, encompassing glacier-carved mountains, boreal forest and dramatic waterfalls.

Torngat Mountains National Park. Credit Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Torngat Mountains National Park. Credit Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

BERMUDA

Famed for its pale pink sands and turquoise sea, Bermuda is a perpetual favorite for a beach break — but there’s an extra incentive to visit in 2017. In June, the country will host the America’s Cup, a prestigious race founded in 1851 that attracts the best sailors and yacht designers in the world.

Clear teal-blue waters lap at Bermuda’s coastline. Courtesy Bermuda Tourism.

Clear teal-blue waters lap at Bermuda’s coastline. Courtesy Bermuda Tourism.

Bermuda is extending the gang plank (the maritime version of the red carpet) for the race, which will see Oracle Team USA defend their title for “the oldest trophy in international sport.” A new mega-yacht marina is being built on Morgan’s Point, which extends into the Great Sound where the sailing will take place, and the America’s Cup Village at the Royal Naval Dockyard should also provide great viewing prospects alongside a heady mix of entertainment, with live concerts, bars and restaurants.

Sunbathers on Bermuda's Horseshoe Bay. Copyright Amy Laughinghouse.

Sunbathers on Bermuda’s Horseshoe Bay. Copyright Amy Laughinghouse.

The Hamilton Princess and Beach Club is the official hotel partner for the America’s Cup, with a waterfront location on Hamilton Harbour providing more opportunities to watch the action. The property has just unveiled a two-year, $100 million renovation, with a private beach club, 60-berth marina, Marcus’ restaurant by chef Marcus Samuelsson, an exhale spa, and an art collection with works by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Nelson Mandela.

The Hamilton Princess and Beach Club, which has its own marina, is the official hotel partner for the 2017 America’s Cup. Courtesy Hamilton Princess and Beach Club.

The Hamilton Princess and Beach Club is the official hotel partner for the 2017 America’s Cup. Courtesy Hamilton Princess and Beach Club.

PERU

Peru may already be high on your bucket list, but 2017 offers plenty of reasons to nudge it up yet another notch. In May, the Belmond Andean Explorer–South America’s first luxury sleeper train—will debut with one and two night journeys. With 24 en-suite cabins, the service will speed across the Peruvian Andes on one of the highest railway journeys on earth, from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa.

A crowd gathers in front of the Church of the Society of Jesus in Cusco, Peru. Courtesy Richard James Taylor/Belmond.

A crowd gathers in front of the Church of the Society of Jesus in Cusco, Peru. Courtesy Richard James Taylor/Belmond.

LATOUR also offers a fast-paced package for travelers who are pressed for time – “Machu Picchu for the Weekend.” The package includes flights from JFK, two nights’ accommodation, a drive through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a Vistadome train ride to Machu Picchu and a guided tour of the Incan ruins, concluding with a tour of Cusco.

Llama in front of ancient inca town of Machu Picchu

Discover the majesty of Peru’s Machu Picchu in 2017. Courtesy andBeyond.

Set your own itinerary with andBeyond, which is launching their first customized Peruvian tours. The company encourages interactions with locals in off-the-beaten path destinations and offers options like a sizzling private food tour of Lima (home to three of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants), an overnight stay in a “hanging lodge,” fishing in the Amazon, and a visit to Machu Picchu.

IRELAND

Whether you’re a die-hard Star Wars devotee, a foodie, or a sucker for a scenic road trip, Ireland is emerging as a real force (ahem) to be reckoned with in 2017.

http://www.wildatlanticway.com/home

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way connects some of Ireland’s most beautiful sites, including the Cliffs of Moher, topped by O’Brien’s Tower. Copyright Amy Laughinghouse

Skellig Michael, a jagged isle off the coast of County Kerry, claimed a cameo appearance as Luke Skywalker’s hideout at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and this UNESCO World Heritage Site is rumored to play a larger role in upcoming episodes of the trilogy. After arriving by boat, you’ll have to climb hundreds of stairs to reach its ancient, abandoned monastic settlement, but you’ll be rewarded with the smug knowledge that you have walked in Skywalker’s footsteps. Just be careful you don’t tread in a steaming pile of guano; the isle is a prolific breeding ground for seabirds.

Little Skellig, seen from Skellig Michael’s old monastic ruins. Skellig Michael features in the latest Star Wars trilogy. Credit @storytravelers

Little Skellig, seen from Skellig Michael’s old monastic ruins. Credit @storytravelers

Back on the mainland, pay a visit to Skelligs Chocolate Factory, which produces some of the best choc treats in the country. In fact, Ireland as a whole is gaining ground as a gourmet destination, with 12 one- and two-starred restaurants in the 2017 Michelin Guide.

Serious chefs may opt to go the whole hog with cooking classes at Belle Isle Cookery School in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Or enjoy a more laid-back taster tour of local haunts on Fab Food Trails in Cork and in Dublin. Dublin is also home to the Guinness Storehouse, where you’ll discover how Ireland’s favorite brew is made and can learn to pour the perfect pint.

You can learn to pour the perfect pint at Dublin's Guinness Storehouse, the top paid attraction in Ireland.

You can learn to pour the perfect pint at Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse, the top paid attraction in Ireland. Courtesy Shareen Newman.

For a memorable road trip, buckle up for the recently completed 1550-mile Wild Atlantic Way, encompassing 1,000 attractions from Malin Head in Northern Ireland to the Old Head of Kinsale in the Republic of Ireland. Or kick back and let someone else do the driving aboard the new Belmond Grand Hibernian train, offering two, four and six-night journeys.

the Belmond Grand Hibernian on the line to Cork south of Buttevant, Co Cork, Ireland

The Belmond Grand Hibernian debuted its new train service in Ireland in August 2016. Credit David Noton/Belmond.

MONGOLIA

When you think of Mongolia, you may picture a vast desert dotted with a few humble yurts. Fortunately, those scenes still exist in one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries, which is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south. But in 2017, Mongolia is taking a big step towards modernization with the planned opening of The New Ulaanbaatar International Airport, located about 30 miles south of the capital of Ulaanbaatar, which should make arrivals from North America easier.

The "Singing Sands," in Mongolia's Gobi Desert. Credit Nomadic Expeditions.

The “Singing Sands,” in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Credit Nomadic Expeditions.

Travelers may be surprised to discover Ulaanbaatar’s 21st century cityscape of gleaming skyscrapers, complete with a five-star Shangri-La hotel and IMAX theater. But progress also means that Mongolia’s natural attractions are that much closer. A paved road, completed in 2015, now connects Ulaanbaatar to Lake Khövsgöl, the largest freshwater lake in the country.

Nomadic Expeditions offers an opportunity to ride a camel through Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Credit Nomadic Expeditions.

Nomadic Expeditions offers an opportunity to ride a camel through Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Credit Nomadic Expeditions.

Nomadic Expeditions offers a wide range of tours around the country, including trekking in the Altai Mountains, a camel ride through the Gobi Desert, where the company has a luxury eco-lodge, and a variety of journeys on the Trans-Siberian Express. In 2017, Nomadic Expeditions’ founder, Jalsa Urusbshurow, will also lead a special 13-day “spiritual and cultural awakening” tour (June 25 – July 7) with Robert Thurman, a Buddhist monk and scholar.

Get away from it all when you stay in a ger – a traditional lattice-work wooden structure draped in felt and canvas – at Nomadic Expeditions’ Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Each of the 40 gers are heated by a wood stove and feature a private bathroom. Credit Nomadic Expeditions.

Get away from it all when you stay in a ger – a traditional lattice-work wooden structure draped in felt and canvas – at Nomadic Expeditions’ Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Each of the 40 gers are heated by a wood stove and feature a private bathroom. Credit Nomadic Expeditions.

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