The top 10 destinations to watch for 2017
The hottest places to travel for the year ahead
words by Laura Fowler
The sunbleached Golden State has not shone this brightly since the revolutionary 1960s. In Trump’s America, California is a safe haven for New Bohemians, flocking here for the sunshine and sustainable way of life. Within California, rootsy migrations are riffling across the state, a kind of deurbanisation as hipster-hippies from the cities move into the hinterlands of desert and wine country, putting down roots, making dreamcatchers and mucking out chickens. The otherworldly Joshua Tree National Park is a promised land for musicians, a creative community where the beat goes on long after neighbouring Coachella is over. ‘These tiny towns in the high desert are this generation’s Big Sur,’ says LA musician Brian Smirke, who has created two cool boho hideaways in Joshua Tree. ‘It’s full of like-minded artists and adventurers who have a common appreciation for the beauty of the desert.’ Across the way, Palm Springs is buzzing again like it’s 1959.
Something similar is happening in the north of California, where Sonoma County and the city of Healdsburg is being hailed as the new Napa Valley. ‘The little city, 65 miles north of San Francisco, is the secret darling of American foodies,’ writes Sybil Kapoor in her piece on Healdsburg and SingleThread, the most hotly anticipated restaurant opening in the USA in recent years. Unlike Napa, its flourishing food scene is all about the farm-to-table ethos, where left-leaning artisans and smart San Franciscans champion the small and slow and the idea of living off the land. New direct British Airways flights from London to Sacramento are opening up this region of northern California for a whole new generation of Brits yearning to wear flowers in their hair, 50 years on.
Here’s a new year’s resolution you’ll be happy to keep: go somewhere you’ve never been before – and for 2017, make it Cambodia. Go to Angkor Wat, one of the world’s eternally great wonders which far exceeds all the hype – then head for the coast. Cambodia’s southern coast is gearing up to be the hottest beach destination in South-East Asia for travellers looking for something a bit different. It is dotted with hundreds of tiny islands, perfect tropical idylls with white-sand beaches lapped by clear turquoise seas. The people are the sweetest. And there’s barely a soul around.
Independent travellers should rock up at Rabbit Island, which is super-lo-fi and laidback, with rustic wooden beach huts and cobbled-together beach restaurants where you eat fried crab with your toes in the sand.
At the top end, Song Saa has for the past few years been the superlative beach resort. But hey – two more wondrous new places to stay opening in 2017. Alila Villas Koh Russey is a new all-villa resort on its own island, with a stunning two-kilometre beach, 15 minutes by boat from the coast. In May, Six Senses Krabey Island will have 40 pool villas, and it’s the under-the-stars outdoor Cinema Paradiso and up-to-the-stars observatory that really set it apart.
Credit: Visit Denmark
Hygge was one of 2016’s more joyous trends. Heaven knows we need a good dose of it, even while we may not entirely understand it. The Danish concept – pronounced ‘hoo-gah’- is the culture of cosiness and that lovely warm feeling you get from a hug, say, or holing up somewhere serene and devastatingly stylish, and preferably candlelit.
With this in mind, we’re all going on a hygge holiday in 2017. Denmark is regularly voted one of the world’s happiest countries. The quality of life is exceptional. All those handsome Danes, smiling with their perfect teeth as they cycle home to their perfect houses.
A city break in Copenhagen is a fine thing for the soul. So much style and beauty, and a dose of good fresh air. Denmark’s second city, Aarhus, near the beaches on the east coast, makes an interesting alternative, particularly in 2017 when it is a European Capital of Culture. A year-long programme of cultural events adds to Aarhus’s already exciting art scene (the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum will host its first Triennial in April) and regenerated docklands are abuzz with bars and live music.
Perhaps the most exciting scene of all in Denmark right now is the food. Sixteen Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen alone (including Noma, frequently named ‘best restaurant in the world’); three in Aarhus; more in the country inns set beside lakes and fjords. The food is sensational, drawing on the very best local ingredients and presented as works of art; and the interiors are divine. Hygge indeed.
Credit: Chris Caldicott
Film-set-unreal Hampi is devastatingly romantic. In the wilderness of Karnataka in South India, it is an ancient ruined city, a UNESCO site of 550 monuments and temples, and one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the world: serene and surreal, with its intricately carved temples, empty and crumbling among giant red-gold boulders and banana trees.
Hampi has been on the hippie hitlist forever. A few hours by train or car from Goa, it is hardly remote – and yet it is mainly backpackers and die-hard Indiaphiles who make the pilgrimage there. The drawback was that, until recently, there were few appealing places to stay (the stone cottages of Boulders were our digs of choice).
Now the gap-year wonder has come of age. At last a proper luxury hotel has opened, The Orange County Hampi, built in the style of a palace from the days of the 14th century Vijayanagara Empire and set in 300 acres. Suites are huge, with canopied beds and sculpted windows and decidedly un-14th-century Jacuzzis. And we have also heard rumours about a new luxury tented camp popping up in the not-too-distant future. Suddenly a week in Hampi is a very appealing option – enough time to slow down, to marvel at the beauty and splendor, contemplate the landscapes and life itself….
It’s a land of epic adventures, Canada. Breathtaking scenery on a mountainous scale, the colours hyper-real, the air clear and full of light. Wildlife astounds. Travellers always, but always, return singing its praises.
Yet somehow it gets overlooked, strong-and-silent Canada, shouted down by its bolshy little neighbour. But who’s winning now? Canadians are chipper as anything, buoyed by their popular Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. They welcome all comers with their great big outdoorsy arms, and are infectiously jolly – exactly what we need right now.
Its cities are dynamic, looking upwards-and-outwards, full of thrusting young people getting excited by burgeoning food scenes and outdoor pursuits. The current exchange rate makes it all the more affordable, too. And in 2017 they intend to celebrate their 150th anniversary of confederation with a year-long series of parties and cultural happenings, and a lot of fireworks.