Top Countries – 10 destinations you cannot afford to miss

1. Canada

Bolstered by the wave of positivity unleashed by its energetic new leader Justin Trudeau, and with dynamic cities that dominate global livability indices and a reputation for inclusiveness and impeccable politeness, the world’s second-largest country will usher in its sesquicentennial in 2017 in rollicking good health. Marking 150 years since confederation, the elongated birthday party promises to be heavy on bonhomie and highly welcoming to international gatecrashers. And, with a weak Canadian dollar pushing down prices, the overseas visitor should have plenty of pocket money to spend on Canada’s exciting fusion food and mysteriously underrated wine.

Turquoise, glacier-fed Lake Moraine in Canada’s awe-inspiring Banff National Park © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

Turquoise, glacier-fed Lake Moraine in Canada’s awe-inspiring Banff National Park © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

2. Colombia

Decades of civil war and violent crime meant Colombian passport stamps were once for hardcore travellers only. Fast forward to the present day, and the lost years seem but a dust speck in Colombia’s rear-view mirror. There are no world wonders, but the country’s mix of vibrant culture, nature and hospitality is a rich tapestry woven by welcoming arms. Over a decade into its dramatic about-face, this South American jewel is even expecting a visit from the world’s number-one Catholic. When Pope Francis kisses Colombian soil in 2017, it will mark the Andean nation’s first papal visit in 30 years.

Cartagena, a city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, is a treasure trove of colonial architecture © DC_Colombia / Getty Images

Cartagena, a city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, is a treasure trove of colonial architecture © DC_Colombia / Getty Images

3. Finland

Fought over by Russia and Sweden for 800 years, Finland finally gained independence in 1917. The Finns will celebrate their centenary with gusto, with events planned in every region. Expect everything from al fresco concerts and communal culinary experiences to sauna evenings and vintage-travel-poster exhibitions. There’s even a new national park, an 11,000-hectare chunk of land in Hossa, studded with pine forests and crisscrossed with rivers. With the country also playing host to the World Figure Skating Championships and the Nordic World Ski Championships this year, there’s never been a better time to discover Finland’s proudly unique culture and landscapes.

Cross-country skiing is a way of life in Finland © canadastock / Shutterstock

Cross-country skiing is a way of life in Finland © canadastock / Shutterstock

4. Dominica

Locals joke that if Christopher Columbus rose from the grave and returned to the Caribbean, Dominica is the only island he would still recognise. One glimpse of its prehistoric ferns and deserted shores, and you’ll see what they mean. For decades, an absence of shiny white beaches has helped keep at bay the resort development that has swept through other parts of the Caribbean. Coconut palms are the only skyscrapers you’ll see here. Visit before Dominica gets its first large-scale chain resorts in 2018, which will pave the way for a new era of tourism.

Undeveloped Dominica is a haven for hummingbirds and other wildlife © gydyt0jas © Getty Images Undeveloped Dominica is a haven for hummingbirds and other wildlife © gydyt0jas © Getty Images

5. Nepal

Even natural disasters can’t keep Nepal down for long. The 2015 earthquakes caused devastation, but what is most striking from a traveller’s perspective is not how much was lost but how much remains. Landmark temples crumbled, but others came through with just the odd tile out of place, and whole swathes of the country escaped serious damage, including most of the popular trekking trails. Nepal has all the skills required to repair monuments and infrastructure, but what it does need is income. By visiting Nepal now and supporting local culture and people, you could help a nation rebuild and bounce back even stronger.

A view of Mt Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal © Daniel Prudek / Shutterstock

A view of Mt Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal © Daniel Prudek / Shutterstock

6. Bermuda

The British territory of Bermuda is often mistaken for a Caribbean island, and those in the know might not correct the misunderstanding, in order to keep the place to themselves a little longer. Just 1050km off the coast of North Carolina, Bermuda is reachable from most major east-coast US cities in around two hours – a quick hop will get you a bit of Britain mixed with island flair. In June Bermuda will host the America’s Cup, where the US will defend its title. Temperate climates and favorable winds make Bermuda the perfect location for this historic sailing race – and for your next trip.

One of Bermuda’s many stunning pink sand beaches © PixieMe / Shutterstock

One of Bermuda’s many stunning pink sand beaches © PixieMe / Shutterstock

7. Mongolia

In 2017 Mongolia will raise the curtain on a brand-new capital-city airport, a state-of- the-art facility that symbolises the country’s rapid modernisation. Ulaanbaatar has been the biggest beneficiary of the economic boom, its transformed skyline bristling with glass and steel towers. At the centre of this development is a US$500-million Shangri-La complex, which will be completed by 2017, featuring a 290-room hotel, an IMAX cinema and a Hard Rock Café. Beyond the capital lies Mongolia’s stunning countryside, highlighted by Lake Khövsgöl, the Blue Pearl of Asia. In 2015 the lake was connected to Ulaanbaatar by paved road, cutting driving time by 10 hours.

Mongolia’s Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, which is just one highlight of a country packed with epic scenery © GML / Getty Images

Mongolia’s Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, which is just one highlight of a country packed with epic scenery © GML / Getty Images

8. Oman

Oman has been the ace in Arabia’s pack for a while, but with more flights than ever before and high-end hotels popping up all over the place, the sultanate looks ready to raise its game yet again. Luxury accommodation, including the award-winning duo of Six Senses on the Musandam Peninsula and Alila in the Hajar Mountains, has long had a foothold here, but glitzy properties from Anantara, Kempinski and other high-end names are also slated to open soon. The burst of construction doesn’t stop there, though – the US$120-million Majarat Oman, a futuristic theme park for families, is set to debut in 2017.

The vast Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman’s beguiling capital, Muscat © Ahmed Al-Shukaili / Getty Images

The vast Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman’s beguiling capital, Muscat © Ahmed Al-Shukaili / Getty Images

9. Myanmar

Change has been a long time coming in the nation also known as Burma, but the election of the first civilian government in half a century has all eyes on the future. No one is pretending that all Myanmar’s problems have gone away, but things are moving in the right direction, and Southeast Asia’s most secretive country is poised to receive an influx of travellers. Visiting comes with challenges, but the reward is a window onto a vanishing Asia, where the difficulties of travel are part of the appeal, and where life moves to the timeless rhythm of chanting monks and monastery bells.

Buddhist temples strewn across the plains of Bagan, Myanmar’s answer to Angkor Wat © lkunl / Getty Images

Buddhist temples strewn across the plains of Bagan, Myanmar’s answer to Angkor Wat © lkunl / Getty Images

10. Ethiopia

With its own calendar (where else can you get 13 months of sunshine?), timekeeping, script, language, cuisine, church and coffee, Ethiopia is as exotic as countries come. And whether you’re trekking through the Simien Mountains to witness wildlife that roams nowhere else on Earth, climbing to a church carved into a remote cliff face in Tigray or boating across the serene waters of Lake Tana to visit an age-old monastery, you’ll be overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape. In 2017 new airline links will make the country more accessible than ever, so be one of the first to hop on board.

A priest on the precarious route up a mountain to one of Ethiopia’s cave churches © Philip Lee Harvey / Lonely Planet

A priest on the precarious route up a mountain to one of Ethiopia’s cave churches © Philip Lee Harvey / Lonely Planet

Related posts

Leave a Comment

seventeen − 11 =

4 + 1 =