There are so many amazing destinations that it can be hard knowing where to travel to next. If you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve come up with our pick of the best luxury destinations for 2017. From beach retreats to city breaks, there’s hopefully something for every taste. Of course, it’s entirely subjective so we’d love to hear if you think there’s anywhere that we should add to the list!
BEST LUXURY DESTINATIONS – AFRICA
South Africa has always been popular for its superb wildlife and vibrant restaurant scene but exchange rates make it particularly favourable to visit right now. If you’re looking to see the Big Five – buffalos, elephants, leopards, lions and rhino, then you stand a very good chance on a safari here. Many of the game reserves are malaria-free, as an added advantage. Yet South Africa is also a mecca for its whale watching in Hermanus and cheeky baboons at Cape Point. The Garden Route takes you past unspoiled beaches at Plettenberg Bay as well as world-class wineries.
BEST LUXURY DESTINATIONS – ASIA
With ANA’s new direct flights from Chicago and New York to Haneda, it’s much easier to reach Tokyo. There’s also a new bullet train from Tokyo to Hokkaido, making the North of Japan much more accessible. Many luxurious new hotels such as Aman’s pared down Amanemu are opening up and the upcoming 2020 Olympics will place Japan even further in the spotlight. If you’re visiting Tokyo, Japan Greeters is a great way to meet the locals on a complimentary guided tour of the city’s attractions.
There are concerns that The Maldives may be sinking due to climate change and that many of the islands will vanish within a number of years. Many of the islands are less than 1 or 2 meters above sea level and the soft soil is another contributing factor to the erosion of the land. The area of Baa Atoll has UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status and other atolls have applied for it. The world’s largest all-glass underwater restaurant, Hurawahli, is an excellent place to admire the sealife and hotels such as The Four Seasons have established marine conservation projects.
Mongolia might seem like an unusual choice as a holiday destination yet it is opening up to tourism thanks to the imminent opening of Nubia, aka New Ulaan Baatar International Airport. For such a huge yet sparsely populated country, it has a surprising number of high-end hotels such as the Kempinski Khan Palace and the Shangri-La. Follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan across the steppes or grassland, for a trip like no other. You’ll encounter dzo, a cross between cattle and yak, as well as camels in the Gobi Desert. Stay for a night or two in a round tents known as ger or yurts for a true taste of life as a nomad.
BEST LUXURY DESTINATIONS – CARIBBEAN
For white sand beaches, impressive ruins and friendly locals, Mexico is hard to beat. A new Caribbean resort area, Mayakoba, has been designed in close collaboration with biologists and geologists to integrate into the environment. Luxurious hotels including the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba Suites, Fairmont Mayakoba and Andaz Mayakoba lie next to stunning beaches and mangroves. There’s a world-class golf course created by Greg Norman and El Pueblito, a charming market square inspired by a traditional Mexican village. It’s an easy transfer from Cancun yet the resort’s eco charm is an oasis of calm.
BEST LUXURY DESTINATIONS – CENTRAL, NORTH & SOUTH AMERICA
This country in Central America has an interesting mix of cultures. Although English is the official language, Creole and Spanish are both spoken in certain regions. There’s a wealth of natural attractions including dense jungle and the Great Blue Hole, named by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 diving sites in the world. The ancient Mayan temples of Belize are well worth a visit and there are daily flights from many cities in Latin America, Canada and the States. Ecotourism is popular here and there are some stunning hotels and private villas dotted around the island.
Things are hotting up in Bermuda, as this island in the Saragossa Sea will play host to the 35th America’s Cup race in June. It’s well known for the famous shorts and also for its world-class golfing and stunning pink sand beaches. Although you might think that it’s in the Caribbean, it’s actually part of British North America. If you’re lucky, you might spot the rare Cahow, Bermuda’s national bird that was thought to be extinct for nearly 300 years until it was rediscovered in 1951. The island is zika-free and there’s an abundance of luxury accommodation. In the words of Mark Twain, “You can go to heaven if you want. I’d rather stay in Bermuda.”
2017 will be an exciting year for Canada with the 150th anniversary of the confederation and the 375th anniversary of Montreal. There’s a multitude of visitor activities planned, and entrance to the country’s national parks and historic sites will be free throughout the year. Canada Day is on 1 July and celebrations will be taking place in Ottawa, with a fireworks display on Parliament Hill and a street party, as well as Vancouver, Charlottetown and many other cities. Moreover, the exchange rate is very favourable for many travellers.
This island is one of the most atmospheric in the Caribbean. Cuba is famous for its pastel streets and vintage cars but its lush mountain landscapes and abundant wildlife are equally impressive. With the country opening up to tourism in increasing numbers, the time is ripe to see it before it changes for ever. Infrastructure has improved considerably over the last few years and it’s worth getting out of Havana to see some of the other 15th century cities and the attractive countryside. The Sagua-Baracoa Mountains is a tropical rain forest with many species of birds and the Jardines del rey archipelago is home to the second largest coral reef in the world.
It’s true that the coastal state of Oregon is worth a visit for its breathtaking scenery, yet there’s another great reason to visit this year – a total solar eclipse on 21 August. The moon will pass in front of the sun and momentarily turn daytime into night. It’s an extremely rare occurrence and whilst it will be visible in a number of states, viewing should be particularly favourable here. There are a number of viewing parties planned including one at the State Fairgrounds in Salem. Oregon’s largest city, Portland, is famous for its foodie scene, farmers markets and Willamette Valley wineries.
BEST LUXURY DESTINATIONS – EUROPE
This beautiful city in Andalucia has always been a favourite with visitors to Spain. It will now be even easier to reach it from the UK from the beginning of February when a new thrice weekly easyJet flight from London Gatwick will join the existing twice-weekly British Airways flight from London City. We wrote a post about whether it is best to visit the Alhambra by day or by night, but whichever you choose, this Moorish masterpiece won’t disappoint. Granada is also well known for its tapas and is a good gateway to the rest of Andalucia including Seville and lesser known gems like Carmona, Jaen and Ubeda.
This elegant German city has many attractions for the visitor interested in the arts, including the new concert hall, Elbphilharmonie which is due to open in January. It’s a perfect place for a weekend break, with a huge lake for boating and a thriving food scene. Take a look around the UNESCO World Heritage listed Warehouse District, and if you have time, the picturesque riverside suburb of Blankenese is well worth a visit. The charming Hotel Louis C. Jacob is close by, and houses a Michelin starred restaurant.
Fans of Game of Thrones are not the only ones flocking to Iceland in their droves. Famous for its dramatic landscape, it’s also a real foodie destination and the people are among the friendliest that you’ll ever meet. From February, a new Air Iceland flight will connect Keflavik International Airport to Akureyri. This northern area of Iceland will be known as the Diamond Circle. It includes many spectacular attractions such as Dettifoss waterfall and Lake Mývatn. Of course, the famous Golden Circle in the south is not to be missed for its waterfalls and geysers. The capital, Reykjavik, is also worthy of your time – don’t miss the view from the top of Hallgrímskirkja, the striking Lutheran church.
Another one for Game of Thrones afficionados, Northern Ireland combines spectacular scenery with charming locals. West Ireland and in particular the Wild Atlantic Way is the setting for Star Wars Episodes VII and VIII. Both regions are known for their outdoor pursuits so whether you’re into walking, cycling, fishing or clay pigeon shooting you’ll love it here. As for Dublin, the city is compact yet has the largest city park in the world, Phoenix Park. Make time to visit Farmleigh, the official Irish state guest house, before heading back into town for a Guinness and a boxty, an Irish potato pancake in the lively Temple Bar area.
BEST LUXURY DESTINATIONS – MIDDLE EAST
Oman is an intriguing mix of tradition and modernity. Explore the picturesque capital of Muscat and its Grand Bazaar or take a desert safari by camel or 4×4. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try quad biking or sand-boarding. There are many upscale hotels such as Alila, Anantara and Six Senses as well as a soon to be opened theme park, Majarat Oman. A drive along Wadi Ghul, Oman’s Grand Canyon, will lead to Jebel Shams, a 3000 meter mountain peak with superb views over the surrounding area.
We hope that you like these suggestions of the best luxury destinations and have inspired your wanderlust.
Which countries would you add to the list and where are you dreaming of travelling to in 2017?