Where To Go Next: 17 Hot Spots for 2017

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A romantic spot at Blenheim Castle, the childhood home of Sir Winston Churchill, England

So, where to go next? We’ve chosen some of what we believe will be the 17 for 2017 hot spots.

Of course, we don’t go it alone. Along with the Zoomer picks, we’ve asked some of the industry’s Canadian experts to tell us where their frequent travellers are heading in the new year.

And, although 2016 was a bit of a difficult year, particularly for Europe, Canadians haven’t lost their wanderlust. They’re risk takers, booking far-flung, exotic as much as they are playing it safe with old familiar places, including right here in Canada.

Need another reason to just go? Online hotel booking search engine Booking.com has released its latest study, in which almost half (49%) of people surveyed said a holiday brings them more happiness than their wedding day, while more than half (51%) prefer travelling over going on a date with their partner. That’s what we call Wanderlust winning over, well, just plain lust.

Staycations take on a whole new meaning for our great country in 2017, as it celebrates its 150th birthday. And the world is invited. In fact, #Canada is trending on just about every expert list we checked.

Let’s get the #travel party started. Here, click through to get our countdown of our where to go next – 17 for 2017 hot destinations.



The Get-There-Before-It-Changes Hot Spots

A sense of urgency to get there before the winds of change: Brexit and a still possible Grexit in the making, suggest that the countries that pretty much book-end Europe – the United Kingdom and Greece – and Cuba (ab0ve), opening up to the U.S. market, combined with its bigger beaches/bang for your buck appeal continue to fascinate travellers. The drop in the British pound versus our Canadian dollar makes the UK affordable (sort of) and Greece has never been more inviting to travellers. They just do hospitality right.



#17 Cuba

This island, known for its all-inclusive resorts and pristine beaches offers a few other reasons to visit, including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other island in the Caribbean. Plus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent visit and the pending open relationship with United States has put Cuba on the map. And, according to Virtuoso, the global network of luxury travel agencies, in its 2017 Virtuoso Luxe Report, Cuba tops the list as both an emerging destination and one in danger of losing its distinctive character. gocuba.ca



#16 Greece

Greece is a Hall of Fame destination. Its warm people, warmer sunshine and well-honed level of hospitality all help to overcome the country’s economic woes. Its open-arms welcome to the refugee crisis, which resulted in a Nobel Peace Prize nomination – for a country! – shows a people with compassion and generosity, able to rise above. Opa! www.visitgreece.gr



#15 The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland

Brexit has made Britain (www.visitbritain.com/ca/en) one of the hottest topics of 2017. And, it has impacted the British Pound in a way that makes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland much more appealing and affordable. London is worth the splurge, with some of the best hotels and restaurants on the planet. Paired with a vast array of free galleries and museums, well, pip, pip, cheerio. For more on London’s hottest hotels, click here.


The Bucket Listers 

We asked Cris David, President of Insight Vacations Canada where his guests are going next. “There are some very clear destination trends for the year, some a continuation of trends we have been seeing and others a little surprising,” he says.

The Zoomer Take: Even though Insight Vacations is a luxury tour company, David’s list includes more wallet-friendly destinations.


#14. Iceland

Known for its natural wonders, dramatic landscapes and Reykjavik’s up and coming cosmopolitan lifestyle, the sudden, intense surge in demand for this destination that started last year is continuing for 2017. If anything, Iceland is growing in popularity and they are continuing to receive an overwhelming amount of tourist arrivals. But it’s not just Insight or Zoomer that says so. Hotel search engine Booking.com says Reykjavik is the number 1 destination trending globally on the company’s search list. www.visiticeland.com



#13. Portugal

Spain and Portugal have been very hot in 2016 and they remain among Insight’s most popular destinations. “This year, however, we are seeing the standalone Portugal tour, Country Roads of Portugal, surging ahead as a hot ticket in its own right,” says David. From the sunny beaches of the Algarve to the vineyards of the Douro Valley, travellers are beginning to discover the laid-back charm of the “other” Iberian nation, he adds. Click here for Zoomer travel editor Vivian Vassos’ tour through Lisbon



#12. Peru

In Sacred Valley, “enjoy the stunning scenery and panoramic views, then watch as a local shaman performs a centuries-old ritual just for you and expresses reverence to the Earth,” says David.  In Cusco, meet Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, an expert in traditional weaving, to learn how the TreadRight Foundation is helping protect this ancient skill.

Wallet-friendly alert! According to David, the Treasures of the Incas itinerary for Peru has come down in price by about $1,700 dollars for 2017 and the market seems to recognize the incredible value it offers – “there are four times as many guests booked already as we had the entire year in 2016!” It is a second-to-none luxury experience in a relatively accessible exotic destination, making it easy for people to cross Macchu Picchu off their bucket lists. visitperu.com



Zoomer’s pick:

#11. New Zealand

We’ve got a soft spot for New Zealand (don’t fret, Australia! We’re thinking about you, too). And this year even more so, as Auckland, the country’s largest city and one of our top picks for 2016, hosts the World Masters Games, where you can spot Zoomer-aged athletes set world records in sports. Besides, New Zealand is also a top draw for outdoor adventure enthusiasts. www.newzealand.com. Click here for more Zoomer travels in New Zealand and Australia.



The History and the Ancestry

The search for our roots continues to spark an interest in homecomings, while lest we forget is still top of mind. Plus, the year 2017 will see some significant anniversaries, particularly in the European World War sector, in which France will hold the largest part of the spotlight. The First World War battles significant to Canadians include Vimy Ridge (France) and Passchendaele (Belgium); and Dunkirk (France) all hit the 100-year mark; as does the raid at Dieppe (France) during the Second World War. For a cruise trip through World War I history, click here to read our story, Remembrance.



#10. Ireland – and Scotland, too

There is a huge appetite among Canadians to explore these destinations, possibly driven by ancestral connections, says Insight’s David. While Ireland (top of page) has been huge for several years, Scotland (above) is surging big time for 2017, possibly due to the drop in GBP vs CAD and related price decrease. www.ireland.com/en-ca; www.visitscotland.comTo read about Zoomer’s adventures, click on Ireland and Scotland.



#9. France

…and War Memorial tours. The Vimy Ridge centenary in May 2017 is a hugely significant event for Canada, says David, and all the tours and departures featuring the memorial sites of the Normandy coast around that time are extremely popular.

For Second World War history, try your luck on the river. Avalon Waterways offers river cruises perfect for history buffs, featuring destinations important to the Second World War and the museums and exhibits that honour it, sailing in France this summer: Paris to Normandy for WWII Historians (July 11); Grand France for WWII Historians (July 11). Even if you’re not a history buff, there’s something about French café society we just can’t get enough of. www.avalonwaterways.ca/; call 1-800-268-3636 or see your travel agent. ca.france.fr

The Bigger Bang for Your Buck Bucket List Hot Spots

Bigger bang for your buck continues to trend, as the loonie is trading low against its US counterpart, so South Africa, India (above), and other destinations in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, which recently crowned its new king, and Japan – where Kyoto is trending globally as the number 5 city searched for on hotel search engine Booking.com, are strong contenders for travel dollars. The travel directors at Trafalgar Tours gave us a sneak peek at where their guests are heading in 2017. www.trafalgar.com/can

The Zoomer Take: these destinations have the double appeal of being affordable bucket list destinations; we’ve added a few of our own picks to this list.

#8. South Africa

New for this year is a South African Adventure where families can search for the “Big Five” in Kruger National Park or find fresh tracks left in the sand by a family of lions on a safari. Trafalgar’s South African Adventure is a 13-day exploration through this wild and unique destination.

Tully Luxury Travel is also a big believer in Africa, from safaris to bespoke city tours. Click here for Zoomer’s Cape Town tour.



#7. India

India is a new destination for Trafalgar in 2017 but is showing to be a popular choice for travellers, says the company. Trafalgar’s first itinerary exploring the riches of India with stays in vibrant cities such as Jaipur and Mumbai and the chance to see how #JoinTrafalgar is helping Delhi’s street children through its support of the Salaam Baalak Trust. Hotel search engine Booking.com says Mumbai, India, is the number 7 destination trending globally on the company’s site. www.incredibleindia.org




#6 Japan

Japan continues to be a best-selling destination for Canadians in 2017. With the value of the Canadian dollar going further in Asia, Canadians are showing keen interest in travelling to Japan and the rest of Asia, too. And the gardens. In Japan, Kenrokuen is considered by experts to be the third most beautiful garden in the country. If this is third, then all I can say is the first and second must be mind-blowing. If you go www.ilovejapan.ca. Air Canada has daily flights to Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita; business class offers Vancouver celebrity chef David Hawksworth’s culinary creations. Editors’ tip: Haneda is closer to Tokyo’s centre. www.aircanada.com. Want to read more about Zoomer’s adventures in Japan? Click here.



Zoomer’s Picks:

#5 Thailand

Aside from the spiritual, Thailand is also a country of food, of nightlife, of beaches, of wellness, of Southeast Asian culture come together. Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim all share the country, in a peaceful, respectful manner. The political climate has eased – Thailand is among the few countries that seem to function better under military rule, a rule that also respects their revered King, newly crowned after the passing of his beloved father in late 2016, above all else. Can’t speak the language? No worries, the guides at Smiling Albino are fully fluent in Thai. www.smilingalbino.com; North America toll free: 1-877-THAIWAY (842-4929); Calgary: 1-403-668-9455; www.tourismthailand.org. For more on Thailand, click here.



#4 Hong Kong

MasterChef Canada’s irreverent co-host Alvin Leung has brought a new currency to the Chinese culinary scene to Toronto and around the world. In Canada, the Scarborough, Ont.-raised “Demon Chef” has also partnered with the show’s first winner, chef Eric Chong, to open R&D in Toronto’s Chinatown. But it’s in Hong Kong where this master wields his sharpest knife at Bo Innovation, his three Michelin-starred restaurant. Whether you have a 24-hour layover en route to another destination in Asia or days to explore, Hong Kong offers innumerable ways to immerse yourself in its East-meets-West, Old-meets-New fusion of culture. For a local favourite, and also Michelin recognized, don’t miss dim sum at Tim Ho Wan or braised beef Hong Kong style at Celebrity Cuisine – the city is a veritable foodie paradise. And do sail the harbour at sunset. Take in the city’s skyline while on the Aqua Luna, one of Hong Kong’s remaining traditional red-sail junks. www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/index.jsp


#3 Four Cities That Never Sleep

Yes, we know that’s more than one destination, but when it comes to these great places, who can really pick a favourite? We’re looking to rekindle romance in Paris. We’ll always have Paris – and London and Rome and New York, too. These cities never lose their lustre, and 2017 will see us seeking them out again, and worth the splurge, so we’ve given them their own special treatment on our Top 17.



Paris, because, well, it’s Paris. Trafalgar global CEO Gavin Tollman shared a personal story on the City of Light: “Last year, by happenstance, we were in Paris on Friday 13th November, the night that the lights of Paris dimmed, as terror struck the heart of the city of love,” he wrote on a recent blog post. “It was a time that touched us all with a poignancy that has become a part of us. For us, having shared this impactful experience, it was more important than ever that we returned, one year on. It has, and always will be, the world’s most romantic city. And as I found once more, my passion for Paris remains resolute. Paris is a genuine canvas of natural richness of culture, art, life. Now, is the time to visit Paris. We must all play our part in rebuilding confidence in France as one of the world’s favourite destinations. I say this not in words, but action, for besides this trip, The Travel Corporation is proud to be overtly showing its faith in Paris, hosting two significant events in 2017 in the city, including in March 2017 – UNIWORLD Boutique River Cruise’s launch of its new supership, the Joie de Vivre (www.uniworld.com/en/ships/ss-joie-de-vivre/); ca.france.frRead here to get our Canadian in Paris‘ view. 



London, because there’s no shortage of award-winning cocktails and fabulous hotels, no translator necessary, free museums and galleries, and Her Majesty The Queen (Wills, Kate, bonnie Prince George and Princess Charlotte help with the multi-generational appeal, too). And because NYC-based Gansevoort Hotel Group is opening The Curtain in East London, a combination hotel and members club, and will also feature the culinary cool of Harlem-based chef Marcus Samuelsson, one of our faves. Red Rooster Shoreditch, here we come. www.visitbritain.com/ca/en. Find out more on London’s cocktails and high teas


Rome, because the city truly is eternal, la dolce vita. And because the Dorchester Collection of hotels is restoring one of its most splendid properties, the Hotel Eden, on track to reopen this April, just off the Spanish Steps. And take the kids, or grandkids, too. Read here about a Roman Holiday with Teens



New York, because the Big Apple is the apple of our eye. It’s our Pheonix rising above the ashes; our neighbour that’s overcome 9/11, and still rocking 15 years on:  Thompson Hotels’ takeover of one of the city’s original skyscrapers in “New Downtown” near the Brooklyn Bridge is now The Beekman (thebeekman.com) and Toronto-based Four Seasons has just opened its latest, in Tribeca (fourseasons.com/newyorkdowntown), a block away from One World Trade Center, complete with Wolfgang Puck’s CUT for dinner and a lap pool to swim away the day’s stress. More on what’s new in New York? Read our story here.



Closer to Home

#2 The United States, especially southern destinations such as Tennessee, Texas (Dallas, above) and California.

Closer to home, the southern United States, particularly music-culturally-rich places such as Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas, as well as North Carolina and Northern California – it’s the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love – is a big draw for those who love their tunes. And, the year 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley – and his fans will no doubt be marking it with a celebration of his life. Cosmos value-based escorted tours, is again offering its sellout Elvis & the Southern Sounds tour, an 8-day musical excursion that will take you from Memphis to Nashville. There are 16 departures of the tour next year, including a special 40th Anniversary Memorial Tour departing August 12 which includes a candlelight, graveside vigil at Graceland. visit www.cosmosvacations.ca; call 1-800-268-3636 or see your travel agent. To read about deputy editor Kim Izzo’s adventures in Nashville, click here.


#1 Canada, from coast to coast: #Canada150

With Canada‘s 150th birthday in 2017, many Canadians are looking to explore their own “backyard,” and, according to Trafalgar, the company has seen seen a lot of interest in their Wonders of the Canadian Rockies guided vacation that captures the astounding natural beauty of snow-capped mountains and glistening glacial lakes in Alberta and British Colombia.

The experts at Globus are seeing a great interest in Newfoundland and Labrador – where Celtic and Viking history and Canadian generosity and hospitality go hand in hand. The scenery is spectacular and so is the seafood – and so are we. Look for our touring around Newfoundland story in an upcoming issue in 2017. www.globusjourneys.com/tour/newfoundland-labrador/cf/