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The Hottest Travel Destinations for 2017

1/12/17 by Samantha Larson

As 2017 kicks off, the next 360-plus days lay out before us like the pages of a story that has yet to be written. Which means they’re ready for you to start dreaming up the adventures that await—and we’re here to help inspire the journey. With input from several top travel resources and experts in the industry, we came up with a list of the hottest destinations that you won’t want to miss out on in 2017. From marvelous architecture in Old Town Havana to a thriving Asian metropolis to seemingly infinite adventures in our neighbor to the north, here are our suggestions for some top-notch travel in the new year.

1. Cuba

Photo opportunities abound in Old Town Havana.
Photo opportunities abound in Old Town Havana. Bryan Ledgard

With longstanding U.S. government regulations continuing to loosen, the island nation became a lot easier for Americans to visit in 2016—so now is the time to see it, before it gets too crowded (or before the regulations change again). While some might still find it easier to book their trip with a travel operator that’s well established in the country and familiar with current U.S. travel restrictions, it’s now entirely possible to arrange the journey independently. New direct flights to Havana from major cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami on Alaskan Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and other airlines make it even more convenient.

While it’s definitely worth spending some time exploring Havana’s colonial architecture, galleries, and salsa clubs, keep in mind that there’s a lot more to the country, too. The cities of Trinidad and Santa Clara provide a glimpse into the island’s fascinating culture and history, and nature lovers will find a treasure trove of biodiversity in Cuba’s coral reefs and forests.

2. Seoul, South Korea

Seoul has officially secured its spot as a true destination city in Asia.
Seoul has officially secured its spot as a true destination city in Asia. travel oriented

With a population of 25 million, the country’s capital, Seoul, is a bustling powerhouse of a city, with skyscrapers stretching into the clouds, trend-setting fashions, innovative restaurants, and avant-garde galleries. Seoul has become so huge, state-of-the-art, and cool that by comparison, even New York City starts to seem like a small town. And when travelers need a break from the metropolis, South Korea’s lush countryside, Buddhist temples, and relics in Hyangilam, Boriam, and Sujongsa offer some relaxed respite.

3. Cartagena, Colombia

The sun sets on Cartagena, a must-visit city in Colombia.
The sun sets on Cartagena, a must-visit city in Colombia. Igvir Ramirez

Colombia often evokes images of violence, but in recent years the country has finally emerged out of its long-running civil war as a beautiful, vibrant nation. In fact, visiting Colombia this year is a way to honor peace after its president, Juan Manuel Santos, won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. The romantic city of Cartagena, a muse to novelist Gabriel García Márquez, is perhaps Colombia’s most iconic destination. Nestled within colonial stone walls on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena offers charming colonial architecture, fresh seafood, white sand beaches, plenty of sunshine, and, of course, a sizzling nightlife.

4. Canada

The Bugaboos in Alberta are a mecca for outdoor adventurers.
The Bugaboos in Alberta are a mecca for outdoor adventurers. Runemaker

Help Canada celebrate its 150th anniversary by seeing some of the world’s most beautiful and pristine wilderness. The vast country is an outdoor paradise, and each province offers its own distinct adventures: Head to Alberta to see the jaw-dropping granite spires of the Bugaboos or one North America’s most magnificent parks, Banff National Park, Nova Scotia to see the stunning Atlantic coast from Cape Breton, or British Columbia for some of the best skiing and mountain biking around (Whistler, we’re looking at you). Canada’s cities are also destinations within themselves: Foodies flock to Montreal, coastal Vancouver draws scores of active types, and Calgary has reinvigorated its longstanding music scene with the July 2016 opening of Studio Bell, home to the National Music Center, a marvelous, 160,000-square-foot homage to Canadian music. Wherever in Canada you go, you’re sure to fall in love with the local offerings, and of course, the friendly locals.

5. Lisbon, Portugal

The turquoise beaches of Portugal are often far less crowded than their counterparts in other European countries.
The turquoise beaches of Portugal are often far less crowded than their counterparts in other European countries. Guillaume Galdrat

Portugal is often overlooked in favor of neighbors like Spain and France. But this Mediterranean gem has long been a favorite among savvy travelers for architecture that rivals that of Barcelona, wine as tasty as its Alsace or Bordeaux counterparts, and beaches on par those of Mallorca or the French Riviera—all at a fraction of the cost. Start your trip in the capital, Lisbon, where you can tour historic cathedrals and dine on seafood at world-class restaurants, then head out to explore the country’s rolling mountains, vineyards, and beaches. For an even more off-the-beaten path adventure, spend a few days exploring the Azores, a cluster of sun-drenched islands off Portugal’s west coast.

6. Cape Town, South Africa

With a rugged coastal landscape, Cape Town is an ideal destination for active-minded travelers.
With a rugged coastal landscape, Cape Town is an ideal destination for active-minded travelers. Loren Kerns

If your idea of a good vacation includes adrenaline-pumping adventures—think diving with great whites or rock climbing up a local mountain—followed by an afternoon spent tasting premier South African wines or craft brews, then Cape Town is for you. With all manner of outdoor pursuits within easy reach, from surfing to mountain biking to hiking, Cape Towners are an especially fit bunch. Follow their lead by hiking to the summit of iconic Table Mountain, a flat-topped landmark that juts right from the city and makes for a tough but brag-worthy excursion. The September 2017 opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa this year, which will be the biggest museum to open on the continent in 100 years, will add a big splash of culture too. Some art experts say the museum, designed by Heatherwick Studios, will create a seismic shift in the country’s contemporary art world. Another bonus for U.S. visitors? The strength of the dollar against the rand, making for a supremely affordable trip once you arrive.

7. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is certainly known for its music scene, but it boasts plenty of other reasons to visit.
Nashville is certainly known for its music scene, but it boasts plenty of other reasons to visit. Susan Sharpless Smith

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible from parts of the United States, and Nashville is the biggest American city in its path. But even if you can’t make it for the eclipse, Nashville is well worth visiting any other time of year. The city’s star continues to rise, thanks to its unforgettable culinary, nightlife, and music scenes. Don’t miss the chance to eat classic Southern soul food at Arnold’s Country Kitchen or the local fare at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. And, of course, no trip to Music City would be complete without seeing a show (or several) and checking out the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.