The excitement of the festive season is over and it’s time to look towards the year ahead. Holidays are usually at the top of everyone’s to do list when planning for a new year and many a day is spent dreaming of all the potential adventures of the next twelve months. But where should you jet off to this year? What countries are certain to offer the wow factors for your next vacation? The LuxPad has selected ten destinations that should be top of your list to visit in 2017…
One of the last great adventure destinations in Asia according to Visit Mongolia, the country is currently enjoying a surge in tourism after being closed off to visitors for most of the 20th Century. With a famed nomadic culture, Mongolia offers a true chance to get back to nature and sleeping in a traditional herder’s ger (yurt) is one of the most popular activities to experience whilst there along with horse riding, trekking and learning about the country’s rich heritage. With a stark contrast between the country’s rural areas and the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, a trip to Mongolia is certain to be unique and with a new international airport set to open in early 2017, it is only going to get easier to get there in future.
Whilst we recommend spending at least one night in a traditional ger, the rest of a stay in Mongolia can be spent in the lap of luxury in one of the capital’s grandest hotels. In the heart of the city centre, the Shangri-La is just a stone’s throw from the city’s top attractions such as Government House and Great Chinggis Khaan Square and many of the suites offer views of the square, Nayramdal Park or panoramic vistas of the northern part of the city.
With 290 guest rooms, the hotel also includes a selection of fine dining options to sample some of Mongolia’s finest dishes and the main restaurant also boasts a unique open-theatre kitchen which is the only one of it’s kind in the city. The perfect spot from which to experience both the rural and urban adventures Mongolia has to offer, the Shangri-La offers every home comfort with a rich and diverse country to explore on its doorstep.
Further reading on Mongolia:
Breath-taking in both summer and winter months, if you are only going to explore one Scandinavian country in 2017 make sure it’s Finland. An outdoor adventure wonderland, the country is criss-crossed with national parks to trek, hike or dog sled through and the Northern Lights dance across the sky from September to March. Finland’s cities also hold a huge draw with their design finesse and technological innovations and of course let’s not forget that Finnish Lapland is also the legendary home of Santa Claus himself. Also the home of the natural phenomenon the midnight sun in June and July where the sun rarely sets, the country’s landscape is one which will never be forgotten.
Opening in November 2016, the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel is the distinctly grown-up and luxurious accommodation at SantaPark. Offering an indulgent break from the festivities of the vibrant Christmas-themed theme park, the hotel allows you to enjoy the frenetic activities without compromising on style and it is also perfectly located to explore the vast wilderness of Lapland before retiring to your luxurious wooden cabin for the evening.
With floor to ceiling viewing windows, guests can sleep under the dazzling lights of the Aurora Borealis and look out onto the snowy wilderness over a glass of mulled wine. Decorated with classic Scandinavian style and the odd luxury touch, each cabin is a haven from the bitter cold, yet still a memorable experience in itself.
Located in central east Africa, Rwanda is one of the smallest countries on the African mainland, however due to the atrocities of the mass genocide that took place in 1994 the country has been forever etched into the world’s consciousness. Emerging from under the dark cloud of the events, in recent years the country is quickly becoming one of the best spots in Africa to visit. Known as ‘Le Pays des Mille Collines’ (Land of a Thousand Hills), tourism is one of the key factors buoying Rwanda’s economy according to Lonely Planet and the shining star of the country’s tourism industry is the chance to track rare mountain gorillas through the volcano-shadowed national park.
Opening in June 2017, Bisate Lodge will be situated in a natural amphitheatre made from an eroded volcanic cone. Overlooking the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes, the dramatic peaks are punctuated by afro-alpine forests and the lodge will hold just twelve guests in six luxurious suites. Offering warmth and comfort amongst rural Rwanda, the lodge will maintain strict environmental principles and will be one of the best bases to experience everything the national park has to offer.
Just a short drive from the Volcanoes National Park’s headquarters from which daily treks depart, there are ten habituated gorilla groups to be tracked and guests are invited to participate in the park’s biodiversity conservation efforts to aid in their reforestation and rehabilitation projects. Other local attractions include the iby’wacu cultural village, the twin lakes of Buhondo and Burera and the lava tunnels of the Musane Caves.
Famed for the ancient civilisation of the Incas, Peru has long been a top tourist destination for those looking to explore the historic monuments left behind such as the mountain-top citadel of Machu Picchu. What might not be as widely known as this popular bucket-list destination, is that Peru is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Much of the ancient societies that built the country can still be seen today through customs passed from one generation to the next. A country filled with vast and varied landscapes, Peru. Travel have stated it contains eleven ecological regions and 84 of the world’s 117 types of ‘life zones’ making each stop on a trip to Peru an entirely new destination to explore.
One of the best ways to experience the rich landscapes of Peru is by train and last year Belmond launched South America’s very first luxury sleeper train, The Andean Explorer. One of the highest train routes in the world, the train winds through Peru’s breath-taking countryside taking in vibrant cities and natural wonders.
Traversing the heights of the Andes, The Andean Explorer’s track spans the ancient Incan capital of Cusco all the way to the reflective beauty of Lake Titicaca. On the way is Colca Canyon, the city of Arequipa – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the La Raya Mountain range and the tranquil port city of Puno. Transporting just 48 people at a time, the indulgent sleeper cabins are accompanied by a lounge and observation car to watch the dramatic landscapes sail past and a dining car to experience sumptuous local cuisine before exploring your final destination.
The second largest country in the world, Canada offers a host of pristine landscapes to discover and 2017 will be an extra-special year to visit due to the Canadian Confederation anniversary celebrations which will be taking place countrywide. Marking 150 years since three colonies were joined to form the single country, Canada Day is celebrated every year on 1st July but in 2017 the festivities will span the whole year starting on 31st December 2016. From snow-topped mountains with some of the world’s best winter sports activities, to dense forests, sparkling lakes and even beaches, the Canadian landscape is a diverse and never-ending adventure and this is before the country’s glittering cities are taken into account. From the mountain-surrounded West Coast seaport of Vancouver, to the mostly French-speaking Québec City to the East, Canada is littered with many bustling metropolises each with their own charm.
Described as the ultimate in wilderness luxury, Sonora Resort can be found in one of Canada’s most alluring and pristine environments. Surrounded by rich vegetation, blue waters and wildlife, the resort is accessible by helicopter or seaplane from Vancouver and boasts all manner of experiences, activities and amenities to make the most of the Canadian countryside.
With rooms, suites and villas to choose from, each space features panoramic views of Sonora Island and the hotel is known for its mouthwatering menus created by Chef Lukas Gurtner and wine cellar stocked with top wines from around the world. With wildlife viewing, hiking and biking trails, fly fishing and helicopter tours just a few of the top activities guests can take part in, you will leave Sonora feeling like you have truly immersed yourself in Canada’s natural beauty.
Further reading on Canada:
Oman has been listed as one of the top places to venture to in the Middle East for a while now and its appeal only seems to be growing year on year. A less opulent option than popular Dubai or Abu Dhabi, Oman may not boast many ‘first’ or ‘biggests’ which the other regions have in spades but according to Lonely Planet what it does offer is a rich heritage, embracing society and a strong sense of identity built on pride of its ancient frankincense-trading past and a confidence in a highly educated future. With historic traditions and Bedouin charms still ruling supreme, Oman is a chance to experience the natural beauty of the Middle East from sandy deserts and mountainous landscapes to sparkling blue coastlines without the excessive opulence of many other nations in the area.
The ideal place to discover the rugged beauty of Oman, the Six Senses Zighy Bay Resort is situated on the northern Musandam Peninsula and is inspired by a traditional Omani village setting. Set amongst mountains on one side and the Zighy Bay beach on the other, it is a spectacular spot to spend a holiday in Oman and offers a feeling of relaxation due to the resort’s remoteness and spa facilities coupled with the excitement of the outdoor activities also on offer.
Consisting of just villas and suites, the resort has won numerous awards and top highlights of a stay at Zighy Bay include Shua Shack Beduoin dining opportunities under the stars, diving and snorkelling off of the coast and perhaps the most unique – paragliding over the bay from the top of Zighy Mountain.
7. The Azores, Portugal
An archipelago off of the coast of Portugal consisting of nine volcanic islands, The Azores have been hailed as Portugal’s answer to Hawaii and has also been deemed the ‘new Iceland’ due to the soaring popularity it is currently experiencing with tourists. Very much a case of go before it becomes a saturated tourist spot, Europe’s most westerly territory is filled with lush vegetation and natural lakes under clear blue skies. Now benefiting from more relaxed flight restrictions, it is easier than ever to fly direct to the islands and there is nowhere else in Europe where this type of landscape can be experienced.
Located in Furnas on the biggest island of Sao Miguel, this hotel takes full advantage of the largest concentration of thermal waters in Europe, incorporating them into their in-house spa facilities. The perfect spot to unwind and leave the stress of the mainland behind, the hotel is fully connected to the nature of the Azores without compromising on luxury.
The À Terra restaurant is based on the concept of sharing and continuous service, with the food created using both great passion and expertise. Designed to nourish one’s soul, especially after a day spent in the thermal spa, the warming, homemade dishes are all made using pure ingredients and are served with the Azore’s famous laidback lifestyle in mind.
Further reading on The Azores:
Conjuring images of wild and beautiful landscapes, Ireland’s dramatic scenery is celebrated the world over and the people’s warmth is legendary. Affectionately known as the Emerald Isle, the country’s greenery really is as vibrant as expected which when combined with the towns’ and cities’ liveliness makes Ireland a destination to keep returning to. Especially ideal for outdoor lovers who want to venture to the country’s rugged mountains or take in the still-pure coastlines, there are countless natural wonders to marvel at from cave systems to the Giant’s Causeway along with colorful, charming urban areas to explore.
Regarded as one of the finest five star hotels in Ireland, the Cliff House is a 39-roomed seaside boutique hotel perched above Ardmore bay in County Waterford. With all rooms and suites sea facing and many with private balconies, there is no excuse not to soak up the dramatic views just outside the window making the hotel a fantastic way to get a real feel for the country.
The in-house Michelin Star restaurant led by Dutch Chef Martijn Kajuiter is a sumptuous bonus to the thoughtfully appointed hotel and the architecture of the building along with the luxury accommodation will ensure a stay to remember. It is also located close to the cities of Cork and Waterford to take in Ireland’s metropolitan areas too.
Further reading on Ireland:
9. French Polynesia
The quintessential tropical island paradise, French Polynesia is a collective of 118 islands and atolls with an expanse of over 2000km in the South Pacific Ocean. The most well-known of these islands are perhaps Tahiti and Bora Bora but with so many gems to discover across the region, it’s time to put some new French Polynesian places on the map. Known for moss green mountains, and jewel-hued lagoons, French Polynesia conjures images of overwater bungalows reserved for honeymooners and holidays of indulgence. However the reality is there are countless holiday options to choose from, with each resort offering a wide selection of activities for both those that are looking for a laidback beach holiday or those searching for adventure.
Famously bought by Marlon Brando after he fell in love with the island when filming Mutiny on the Bounty in French Polynesia, Tetiaroa is home to The Brando, one of the finest eco resorts in the region and hotel guests can enjoy free reign of the atoll which was once frequented by Tahitian royalty. Stretching 2.3 square miles, the atoll is formed by twelve islets with a turquoise lagoon at the center.
With its own air strip, guests are transported on private 20 minute flights from Faa’a International Airport on Tahiti to paradise, where luxuriously decorated villas meet the wonders of the island’s wildlife, flora and fauna. Encouraging guests to fully immerse themselves in the nature that surrounds them, the resort is suited to an abundance of activities to explore the landscape and lagoons and there is also fine dining & spa facilities for those much needed rest days in between.
Further reading on French Polynesia:
Lying on the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, Myanmar (formally Burma) is the largest country in Southeast Asia. Emerging from a period of political unrest and isolation in the last few years with the first democratically elected government ushered in in early 2016, there has never been a better time to visit the still beautifully traditional country. Whilst Myanmar still has many problems to fix, hope and possibilities for the future can be witnessed on each journey to the country. Despite progressing in leaps and bounds in recent years thanks to the lifting of strict media sanctions, the country remains true to its history with ancient Buddhist temples scattering the skyline of rural areas and the Myanmarese people still highly valuing traditional practices and dress.
Dating back to the 1920s, the Governor’s Residence which is part of the Belmond Group is a romantic, colonial-style mansion deemed the most timeless luxury hotel of the region. With a fan-cooled and teak armchair lined veranda, hard wood decor and a lush green garden dotted with lotus pools, it is a calming escape from the country’s bustling capital city at the end of a busy day of discovery.
With meals served alfresco on the lantern-lit verandas, spa treatments to sample at the Governor’s Oasis and traditionally designed rooms and suites to retire to, the hotel offers a taste of Myanmar’s culture and with an in-house tour and travel desk, guests can also explore the rest of the city and country with ease.
Further reading on Myanmar:
Main image credit: Rwanda – Wilderness Safaris