From Portugal and the Azores to Canada (yes—all of it), these 17 editor-endorsed destinations are the best places to travel this year.
Photography: Getty Imageswww.cntraveler.com
It's the Great White North's 150th birthday, and Canadians have graciously invited us to celebrate. Start by signing up for the free Discovery pass that gives anyone (not just Canadians) free entry into all of its national parks in 2017—we’re eyeing Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan or Point Pelee National Park near Ontario. But Canada’s cities are truly having a moment. Montreal is redefining itself as a food city worth the flight (it's only an hour in the air from NYC). Toronto is taking the Iceland approach and encouraging travelers to extend their layover via AirCanada’s new free up-to-seven-day stay. And the Rocky Mountaineer, a train that winds from Vancouver to Jasper without Wi-Fi, might just be the world’s best tech detox. —Meredith Carey
If this election season has taught us anything, it’s that there's still so much value in having conversations with our neighbors. This year, we’ll be heading into America’s Midwest to explore cities and towns that rival anything on either coast. Minneapolis said goodbye to Prince, but will honor his memory with a museum opening in his Paisley Park estate. Indianapolis is holding city-wide events to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of native son Kurt Vonnegut; meanwhile, its food and craft beer scenes are exploding—Milktooth is one of Traveler's best restaurants in the world—and it's preparing for the 2018 arrival of the 21c hotel group, which has a way of anointing places bona fide destinations. Speaking of Vonnegut, the renowned author’s heart was never far from the Midwest: “We are America’s Great Lakes people,” he wrote. “Her freshwater people, not an oceanic but a continental people.” —Lilit Marcus
In some ways, 2016 was the year Americans finally started going to Cuba again after a half-century away. But as more and more travelers from the United States visit the island, the new frontier is getting beyond Havana and exploring some of Cuba’s smaller cities for a more authentic experience. JetBlue now flies to Santa Clara, Holguin, and Camaguey; American to Cienfuegos and Varadero. While you still need to get a visa and visit for non-touristic reasons, the recent death of Fidel Castro only highlights how much this country continues to change, and while we can, we should get to know it better. —L.M.
It was a good year to be Zika free. Just far enough north to avoid the virus that rocked much of the Caribbean, Bermuda became the 2016 escape portal for Americans in the Northeast—and the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club, fresh off a $100 million July reboot, welcomed a new wave of travelers with its pop art and infinity resort pool overlooking the harbor. Chef Marcus Samuelsson's new 'Marcus' restaurant is one of the top hotel—and Hamilton—draws; we're also partial to the Newport, a nautical gastropub in the Fairmont Southampton, and the beachside cocktail-and-seafood lunch at The Reefs. In 2017, the island—just a ridiculously short two-hour flight from the New York area—will host yacht devotees for America's Cup, so we'll be back again, long after Zika has left our vocabulary. —Laura Dannen Redman
Athens has always been known as an old city—that’s nothing new. Instead, what is new is its burgeoning status as a modern arts capital: Look no further than the recently opened, Renzo Piano-designed, $623 million Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, which houses the National Opera and the National Library of Greece, sits on the biggest park in Athens, and is the first public building in Greece to achieve a Platinum LEED certification. The National Museum of Contemporary Art also partially reopened in a renovated brewery after a 12-year closure, and in April, the city will co-host documenta, the exhibition of modern and contemporary art that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany (it's the first time the hosting duties will be split between two cities). Book a room in the shadow of the Acropolis at the new-as-of-2015 AthensWas boutique hotel, and make time for a souvlaki (or three) at O Kostas, which serves the best in town. Though it’s long played second fiddle to other European capitals like Rome, and merely seen as a stopover point on the way to, say, Corfu, Athens has once again arrived. —Katherine LaGrave
First it was Iceland. Everyone in our office was going to Iceland. Then South Africa. Now, it's Scotland—four of us went this fall alone, and came back asking for more time off to go back. “I didn’t see enough,” was the refrain. For some, the cities were the draw—the medieval lure of Edinburgh, with a "New Town” from the 1800s, but a food scene that's so contemporary, it makes Brooklyn look behind the times; or the gritty-but-great art and music scene of Glasgow, where underground is sometimes better than aboveground. Then there’s the reaches of the Highlands, from Oban up to the Orkneys, plus dozens of islands, some known for their whisky, others history, still others their white-sand beaches (no joke). The year 2017 marks the year of History, Heritage, and Archaeology in Scotland, which means it's time to explore the standing stones (made famous, for better or for worse, by Outlander), discover your roots, and find your tartan. And now, with new nonstop Delta flights form New York-JFK to Edinburgh, it's easier than ever to get there. —L.D.R.
There’s little cooler than a Scandinavian capital—we see you, Stockholm, Oslo, and Helsinki. Yet if 2016 was the year for biking down city streets and lounging in design hotels, 2017 is all about adventuring into the countryside. Thanks to new stopover programs, the temptation of affordable transatlantic flights (hi, Norwegian Air), the arrival of a year-round ice hotel, and Finnish tourism initiatives inviting travelers to well, just relax, it will be easier than ever. Try a 100-mile Swedish road trip from Gothenburg to the border with Norway, or skip Sweden and tackle Norway via fjord (the best way, in our opinion). Finland? Swap nightlife for nature with a five-step process meant to transform each visitor into a new person. If that doesn’t speak to the spirit of the new year, we don’t know what does. —K.L.
Around the turn of the last century, critics around the world were predicting that Portugal, specifically its capital Lisbon, would become the world's next design capital. Then 2008 happened—and the global recession hit Portugal extra hard. Artists and architects either quit creating because of lack of financial support or left the country; major development projects were shelved. Then, thanks to progressive city planning initiatives that encouraged the arts and design—a citywide contest last year in Lisbon, for example, saw innovators going head-to-head to win the chance to redesign 31 of the city’s famous plazas—that bounce-back is at its height, evident in the groundbreaking architecture on every corner and abandoned factories turned into exhibition halls and artist collectives. The new Museum for Art, Architecture, and Technology opened on the banks of the Tagus River in October. An entire town on the outskirts of the capital has turned itself into a haven for bibliophiles. But it’s not only about Lisbon—and TAP Portugal, the country’s airline, recognizes that. Earlier this year, the airline made the transatlantic jaunt even easier, introducing $799 round-trip tickets from New York-JFK to Lisbon that included a free optional stopover in Porto. Consider, alternatively, a stopover in the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic with a revamped airline and astonishing diversity of terrain; with its mountain-jungle-beach combo, it may supplant Iceland as the next place everyone's visiting. —Sebastian Modak
Having celebrated 25 years of independence in 2016, Croatia is seeing a major uptick in tourism (thanks, in part, to Game of Thrones), and it’s easy to see why. Destinations like Hvar and Dubrovnik are already on travelers’ radars, so now we’re telling people to branch out to one of the country’s many islands and remote fishing villages. A three-hour ferry ride from Split is Vis, a small, mountainous island best explored by scooter, where you’ll find fresh seafood, tranquil coves, and zero crowds; but you can also hop on a different ferry and head to Korcula Island instead. Its wine trails have grown in popularity; we can't get enough of the dry white wine. Try to pack in Istria, too: Not too far from Trieste in Italy, it is known for both its fine food and first-century Roman amphitheater. And back near Split, Brad Pitt will soon open a luxury resort in Zablace, promising (or threatening?) to transform the small town’s beach into a hive of activity. Get there next year, before the paparazzi does. —Lale Arikoglu
Beachy Tel Aviv gets a lot of love, but Jerusalem is proving it has way more to offer than religious sites and ancient monuments. The Latin-fusion food scene is blossoming—Burrito Chai in the Mahane Yehuda market is a hot ticket on Saturday nights (bonus: it’s kosher)—while the cocktail scene is about to get an important addition when the J’lem outpost of Brown Hotel opens, complete with a new bar in a onetime underground cistern, in March. Our readers also named Jerusalem one of the world's top six art cities this year, celebrating its contemporary art scene. Check out Kayamuta, whose installations deal with environmental issues—think moving, luminescent trees—and sometimes include hands-on workshops to illustrate how the natural world informs the artistic one. In a desert city, it never hurts to look ahead. —L.M.
The bottom of the earth is way easier to get to now that three major carriers (United, American, and Air New Zealand) launched three new daily directs to New Zealand from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston this year. And 2017 is totally the year to get on down or return for round two (heck, even round three): The greener-than-green region of Northland just upped its luxe game with the opening of the multi-million dollar Helena Bay resort, the only luxury lodge in the country located right on the beach, which means you can take a sunrise dip with the passing dolphins right outside your room’s ocean-facing glass doors. Auckland superstar chef Al Brown continues to fuel that city's already smoking hot food scene with his latest, Depot, where you’ll wash down caught-that-day oysters with top-notch Waiheke Island sauvignon blancs (definitely tack on a day trip to vineyard hop on the island as well, which is a 30-minute ferry from the city center). Or just go straight to Queenstown, where Eichardt’s hotel right on the waterfront just launched their seriously blinged-out Penthouse Suite this month; the massive terrace overlooking Lake Wakatipu is worth the 14-hour flight down here alone. —Erin Florio
Splitting a week between Tokyo and Kyoto is already a breeze thanks to excellent train and plane connections, but a completely new bullet train—the Hokuriku Shinkansen—and its new affordable rail pass now give overachieving travelers the option to squeeze a third city onto the itinerary. Departing Tokyo, the Hokuriku zips straight across the country to Kanazawa, a UNESCO Creative City on the Sea of Japan famed for its traditional gardens, preserved geisha and samurai districts, ice cream cones topped with 24-karat gold, and temples to rival those in Kyoto. From there, the Hokuriku Arch Pass connects to the Thunderbird train to Kyoto and Osaka. The Hokuriku may be the hot transit topic on Japan’s main island right now, but come June 2017, travelers will be talking about the Twilight Express Mizukaze set to run south from Kyoto to Shimonoseki. Taking a cue from the Orient-Express, the Twilight Express will only offer private compartments complete with hotel-style bedrooms, private entertaining salons, full-size tiled bathrooms with soaking tubs, two observation cars, and an Art Deco-inspired restaurant and bar. —Cynthia Drescher
A new $150 million airport in Victoria Falls, capable of welcoming 1.5 million people a year aboard massive passenger jets, is only one of several reasons why Zimbabwe is on our 2017 list. The country is building up its tourism infrastructure despite—and, sometimes, in spite of—years of economic downturn and authoritarian governance. The same resilience is on show in the country’s conservation efforts; there's been a clampdown on poaching and biodiversity flourishes in Hwange National Park, the country’s largest game reserve. While everyone’s booking stays in the safari parks of Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and South Africa, we recommend scouting for the Big Five in much less-crowded (and often more affordable) Zimbabwe. A new under-$1,000 eight-night safari by Gecko Adventures, launching in the spring, will take you from Victoria Falls, through Hwange and into South Africa’s Limpopo province, making it possible to see the best of the country in a single stretch. —S.M.
This isn’t the first time Rwanda’s been on our "where to go next" list, but it's back now because of one of the most anticipated hotel openings on the continent. In June 2017, Wilderness Safaris’ Bisate Lodge will open in an eroded volcanic cone, just a short drive to the entrance of Volcanoes National Park, where visitors can see the critically endangered mountain gorilla. It’s also a prime example of a safari lodge making a firm commitment to conservation and community development. The hotel will have its own cooperative farm, tree plantation, and a number of educational initiatives around protecting endangered species. Additionally, after years of being all but ignored in favor of the luxury safari lodges, African cities are finally being recognized as destinations in their own right—for their cosmopolitan food scenes, grassroots art movements, and history. In many ways, Rwanda’s capital Kigali leads the charge in that respect: Some have labeled it as the “Singapore of Africa” for its clean streets, safety, and the speed at which it has grown into a major attraction for foreign investment. It’s all the more astonishing considering the country was the site of one of the worst human tragedies in history, just 22 years ago, a chapter that instead of ignoring, the country stares right in the face, through its museums and education. —S.M.
It's not like we'd ever tell you not to go to BA—but we’re primed to fly south in late 2017 for the inaugural edition of Art Basel Cities, a citywide program of cultural events that will connect local talent with the international art world. Buenos Aires restaurants and bars are also getting innovative; stop by Florería Atlántico for one-of-a-kind cocktails (access via a back door in an unassuming wine and florist shop), Mishiguene for reinvented Jewish classics, and brunch from celebrity chef Gastón Acurio’s La Mar. Book a room high above Puerto Madero after the summer 2017 opening of the 53-story, skyline-transforming Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences, which will have 159 rooms and suites and everything from a milk bar to a kosher restaurant. —Paola Singer, contributor
Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia just got easier than ever to visit. South American airline LATAM is now flying a non-stop route from Santiago, Chile to Puerto Natales, the airport nearest the park, eliminating an extra stop and nearly four hours of driving required by the usual route. After the long trip, you’ll be rewarded with the mountain, fjord, and glacier photos your phone can handle—but get there soon. Global warming is taking its toll and this southern summer has been one of the warmest, driest on record for the region. Make it a Jeep safari or let Santiago-based Upscape Travel take care of the logistics for conquering the “W trek.” Steel yourself for the journey ahead with an evening spent before the fireplaces of the Singular Patagonia, a former cold storage plant redesigned as a luxury hotel and living museum to the history of the region. —C.D.
Why aren’t more people going to Uruguay? It has gorgeous beaches that stretch for miles, terrific food including some of the world’s best beef, phenomenal small-production wines that are surprisingly affordable, and it’s an easy overnight flight from Miami, which makes it a one-stop trip for pretty much anyone in the U.S. Your first stop will be Montevideo, the seaside capital that feels like a smaller, tidier version of Rio, and your second should be the tiny town of Garzon. Best known for Francis Mallmann’s Restaurante Garzon, it’s now seeing a new wave of visitors, thanks to “Bodega Garzón, a 205,000-square-foot winery powered by renewable energy that’s on track to become the region’s first LEED certified vineyard,” as Nell McShane Wulfhart reported in our November issue. From there, press on to the country’s wild, eastern shores, where sleepy surf towns like Punta del Diablo and miles of perfectly golden beaches await. January is, after all, the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. —Paul Brady