From tracking jaguars in Guyana’s jungle to celebrating Finland’s centenary, discovering remote beaches in Albania to dune-bashing in the Oman desert, travel writer Mary Novakovich picks the best spots around the world for you to discover in 2017
With millions of us combatting the winter blues by booking our summer getaways in January – the first two weeks are the busiest time of the year for travel companies – travel writer Mary Novakovich picks the ultimate holiday destinations to inspire your 2017 travel plans.
1. For the eco-enthusiast: Guyana, South America
On the edge of the Amazon, this former British colony is a paradise of untouched tropical rainforest and wetlands. Catch the dry seasons either in spring or autumn and make tracks for Kaieteur Falls – at 250m, they’re the world’s highest single-drop falls and still largely unheard of. Visit Iwokrama, a research station where you can head out in search of jaguars, or book into Karanambu, an eco-lodge in the south where you can spot giant otters swimming downstream.
2. For the thrill-seeker: Muscat, Oman
With temperatures rarely dropping below 25°C, the beautiful Omani desert is the perfect place to chase the sun. Here ‘dune-bashing’ is a national pastime, so join the locals on a wild 4×4 drive across the sands, explore the Al Kasfah hot springs or climb Jabal Shams (Sun Mountain), the highest peak in the Arabian Peninsula, rising to 3,000 metres. Afterwards, barter your way through Muscat’s spellbinding souks where you can buy anything from native frankincense to mosque alarm clocks.
3. For the foodie: Tasmania, Australia
Australia’s island state is now a leader in the farm-to-table movement. The rural landscapes produce some of the most delicious organic food and wine, creating a surge in eateries and foodie markets to rival London’s hipster scene. Take a culinary tour of the island and stop by one of the smallholders that double as cookery schools and restaurants, while some of the tastiest bites can be found at the local roadside stalls. Or visit a winery to sample the island’s famous pinot noir and sparkling wines.
4. For the beach lover: Saranda, Albania
Often overlooked, this corner of the Balkans is home to stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites and some of Europe’s most tranquil beaches. Locals love Saranda for its countless unspoilt beaches along the 476km coastline. Check out the white pebbly cove at Bunec, where there’s only a smattering of laidback hotels, while popular Dhermi stretches far enough for you to find a peaceful spot even in the height of summer.
5. For the outdoorsy type: Muskoka, Canada
A nature-lover’s dream, Muskoka is a beautiful collection of lakes, rivers and islands between Georgian Bay and Algonquin Nature Park in Ontario. Go from January to March to try sledding, ice fishing and snowmobiling, or go in the spring when you can kayak, canoe or paddleboard through the crystal-clear waterways. There are also plenty of mountain bike trails and zip line and aerial parks to try, while the emerging craft beer scene is the perfect reason to take a break.
6. For the culture vulture: Helsinki and beyond, Finland
Finland is celebrating 100 years of independence from Russia with a year-long jamboree. Explore art and photography exhibitions commemorating the country’s history, go along to a classical concert – book the Savonlinna Opera Festival this summer, held in the magical setting of the medieval Olavinlinna Castle – or try ice-skating and traditional outdoor saunas. Plus, there are new spots to admire the Northern Lights, including a treehouse hotel in Rovaniemi and glass villas in Kemi.
7. For the city breaker: Cadiz, Spain
Love Barcelona? Try laidback Cadiz on the Spanish south coast. Said to be the oldest inhabited settlement in Europe, the centre is all elegant Andalucían architecture and traditional squares, where you can tuck into fresh seafood or sip cocktails in the many flamenco bars. Go during the vibrant carnival at the beginning of March, when the locals dress to impress and dance to upbeat ‘alegrías’ (flamenco songs) in the cobbled streets.
8. For the history buff: Paphos, Cyprus
Greek goddess Aphrodite’s mythical birthplace is a popular spot for history buffs, but with the city being named European Capital of Culture this year, there are plenty of must-visit events, including jazz concerts, historical exhibitions and film screenings. Many events will take part in the amazing Paphos Archaeological Park, a UNESCO site with remains from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, with many performances honouring the goddess herself.
9. For the island lover: Marettimo, Italy
If lazy island life is your thing, head west from the Sicilian port of Trapani to Marettimo, the last island in the archipelago. The tiny harbour with its blue and white houses is just the right balance of sleepy and bustling – there’s only one village, a handful of cars and a couple of local restaurants serving cooling granitas and seafood spaghetti. In the hillside beyond there are Roman, Byzantine and Norman ruins, pine forests and rocky coves to explore, or you can take a boat trip to one of the island’s hidden beaches.
In need of a January mood boost? Try our nutritionist’s pick of the five foods that can make you feel happier.
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