A northern neighbor is a world to explore.
Canada is huge — the second-largest country by area. It’s also a world unto itself, with cosmopolitan cities, barely explored natural wonders and everything in between. And this is the year to visit: In honor of the 150th anniversary of its confederation, when the original colonies came together as one country, Canada is rolling out the welcome mat. All of the country’s more than 200 national parks and historic sites are offering free admission through the year, from the turquoise lakes and mountain peaks of Banff in Alberta to the rolling dunes and red sandstone cliffs of Prince Edward Island along the Atlantic Coast to the newest reserve, the glacial-rounded Mealy Mountains in Labrador. Meanwhile, in the capital, Ottawa, a full year of celebration is planned; more events will be on offer in Montreal, which turns 375. And did we mention the exchange rate? A weak Canadian dollar means American travelers get more for their money. So 2017 offers an ideal time to go north.
New ways to explore the world’s highest desert.
The Atacama draws adventure seekers and stargazers to its vast, otherworldly landscape of wind-carved dunes and kaleidoscopic salt lakes. Sunrise balloon rides, which started in August, reveal its staggering beauty from above. The luxurious, recently renovated Explora Atacama hotel reopened in December; overnight rates include guided desert excursions and nighttime access to the hotel’s on-site observatory, equipped with one of Chile’s largest privately-owned telescopes.
Beyond the Taj Mahal, new attractions beckon.
Navigating the stunning, sprawling Taj Mahal will get easier when an orientation center opens this year, but 2017 also promises new reasons to venture beyond: Nearby streets have been repaved; the Agra Pavilion, a glass-walled dining complex, will host more than a dozen vendors and restaurants; and the Mughal Museum, a collaboration with the architect David Chipperfield and Studio Archohm, has broken ground. In addition, India’s fastest train and longest expressway now cut travel time from Delhi and Lucknow.
Click and drag to see the Matterhorn
New reasons to get close to the Matterhorn.
Zermatt, neighbor to the legendary Matterhorn, has been luring active travelers since 1898, when the Gornergrat train — Switzerland’s first electric cog rail — began operating. In time for the rail’s 200th anniversary, the five-star Riffelalp Resort, on the edge of a 7,290-foot-high plateau facing the Matterhorn, reopened in December with updated rooms and ski-in and ski-out access. Higher up, at Riffelberg, a permanent open-air theater will open this summer with performances of “Romeo and Juliet on Gornergrat.”
Old lions, new digs in the heart of the Okavango.
If you’ve seen an African wildlife documentary in the last 30 years, chances are good that the filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert had a hand in it. This spring the Jouberts, National Geographic explorers in residence, along with the company Great Plains Conservation, will open Duba Plains Camp, a luxury tented camp in a private 77,000-acre portion of the Okavango Delta that’s rife with lions, elephants and species specific to northern Botswana like the red lechwe. Expect safaris on boats with built-in camera mounts (when water levels allow) and a chance to see the descendants of Ma di Tau, the star of “The Last Lions.”
New ways to enjoy a gem on the Dalmatian Coast.
With its limestone-paved streets and 80-foot-high walls surrounding Old Town, this star of the Dalmatian Coast has long been able to rest on its aesthetic laurels — you might recognize it as King’s Landing on “Game of Thrones.” In recent years, though, it has been adding to the luster. This summer, the city is starting an electric-scooter sharing program, allowing for locals and visitors to zip up and down the coast to more private beaches. The four-star beachside Hotel Kompas is a comfy addition to the scene, and the long-awaited renovation of the grande dame Hotel Excelsior will be finished in June. The new restaurant Portrait is serving elevated takes on Dalmatian fare in Old Town.
Click and drag to explore
A total solar eclipse amid natural splendor.
On Aug. 21, the continental United States will experience a total solar eclipse for the first time in 38 years. The eclipse will cut a diagonal swath across America, but city lights and overcast skies can be obstacles to prime viewing. A good bet is Grand Teton in Wyoming, which will get a generous two minutes and 20 seconds of darkness. If you miss the eclipse, you’ll still be surrounded by the jagged peaks, mountain lakes and wildlife of a pristine national park in its summer glory.
Trading an unsavory reputation for a great food scene.
Though still rough around the edges, this fast-growing border town is on the rise, with a luxury condo boom and a new $60 million bus rapid transit system. Tijuana is also having a culinary renaissance, fueled by craft breweries, stylish coffee shops and globally informed restaurants that range from Telefónica Gastro Park’s hipster food trucks to bustling Baja Med spots like La Querencía in the riverside Zona Río neighborhood.
A comeback city set to make good on its promise.
Detroit’s revitalization, after its 2013 bankruptcy filing, has long been building. In 2015, it was named a Unesco City of Design. But 2017 may be the year promise becomes reality. The new QLine streetcar is expected to open in April, connecting the central Woodward Avenue corridor some 3.3 miles between downtown and the revived New Center area. It passes through Midtown, home to the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the entertainment-focused District Detroit, where a stadium opening this fall will be shared by the Detroit Red Wings and, in a return from the suburbs, the Detroit Pistons.
A haven for architecture and design.
Zaha Hadid’s meandering promenade along the Elbe recently breathed new life into the riverfront and the nearby 19th-century Warehouse District, which made the Unesco World Heritage list in 2015. Adding to the sheen, the much-anticipated Herzog & de Meuron-designed Elbphilharmonie is scheduled to open this month. The 360-foot-tall glass structure sits atop an old warehouse, its spiky roof evoking sails and the city’s maritime past. And if all that architectural gawking tires you out, the uber-luxurious Fontenay will open later this year, the first five-star hotel in this northern German city in 18 years.
Click and drag to explore
Art at a legendary designer’s spiritual resting place.
A new museum dedicated to the work of the fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent will debut this fall in Marrakesh, showcasing thousands of sketches, couture garments and accessories. The 43,000-square-foot structure sits adjacent to the Jardin Majorelle, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary as a public garden in 2017 (Saint Laurent saved it from demolition). The much-visited attraction also houses a museum dedicated to Berber culture and the designer’s private residence, Villa Oasis.
The next Charleston?
Though small, Greenville, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, may be the next major food destination, with four big openings: Husk from Sean Brock, the Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, Jianna from Michael Kramer and the speakeasy Vault & Vator. Before feasting, enjoy the city’s many public art works along the tree-lined streets, or grab a pour over at Methodical Coffee en route to biking the 21-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail.
A natural beauty that’s still natural — for now.
The earthquake that rattled Ecuador last year mostly shattered areas where international travelers seldom go. Now man-made threats may compromise El Pedregal, a popular place for visitors before or after Galápagos excursions. The valley south of Quito is surrounded by huge volcanoes and grassy steppes where haciendas serve as bases for travelers to go hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Go before June to see the valley before new power lines encroach on condors and views.
A glimpse of ‘Poldark’ country.
Penzance, the Cornish port town in the southwest of England, is having a moment, thanks to the popularity of “Poldark,” the BBC costume drama set in 18th-century Cornwall. The new Chapel House B&B joins a local favorite, the Artists Residence, while restaurants such as the Tolcarne Inn, in nearby Newlyn, and the Shore have put Penzance on the map as a culinary destination. Perhaps the best thing to see in Penzance — aside from the scenery — is the Art Deco-inspired Jubilee pool, one of Europe’s last saltwater lidos. The enormous triangular public pool was built in the 1930s and just underwent a $3.73 million renovation.
The ultimate Japanese feast awaits.
If Kyoto represents Japan’s spirit, and Tokyo its heart, Osaka is the country’s insatiable appetite. The city’s culinary legacy is alive and at work in the neighborhoods of Tsuruhashi and Fukushima, and in the 91 Michelin-starred restaurants spread throughout the city — like Ajikitcho, specializing in traditional Japanese cooking, and Taian, with a chargrilled focus. On April 28, it will all come together at the International Festival Utage (“feast”), a 10-day food festival, celebrating flavors from Japan’s 47 prefectures.
Scandinavia need not be a wallet-buster.
Free state-owned museums will make visits to Sweden’s capital less expensive in 2017. Over a dozen dropped their hefty entry fees last year, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Swedish History Museum and Skokloster Castle. Add to that a favorable exchange rate for Americans — the krona is about 20 percent weaker against the dollar than it was two years ago — and this beautiful city suddenly looks even more attractive.
Click and drag to see the Buddha
A haven for spiritual seekers, soon more accessible.
With its first airport opening this year and its first rail link in the works, the remote northeastern Indian state of Sikkim keeps getting closer. Adventurous souls can trek Khangchendzonga National Park, a Himalayan haven of forests, valleys and mountains — including the world’s third-highest peak — that earned Unesco World Heritage status this year. Spiritual seekers, meanwhile, can pursue nirvana around the historically Buddhist land, from centuries-old Buddhist monasteries like Tashiding and Pemayangtse to the museum-like Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. And load up on spices, fruits and vegetables. Sikkim became the first fully organic state in India last year.