It’s a big world out there – so how on earth do you work out where you should go for your next holiday? Don’t worry: we’ve narrowed down the best adventures for the year ahead.
1. Cuba: Find a hidden paradise
At the end of August the first scheduled flight from America to Cuba for 50 years took off from Fort Lauderdale. It was a historic moment, and within the next few years it’s expected that around 110 flights will fly from the USA to Cuba. Which means you have to go there now, before the island gets too crowded. Luckily, most of the throngs of tourists will be heading to Havana. We say book yourself on a flight to Cayo Coco – a beautiful resort area on a paradise archipelago in the north of the island. You’ll be right by the Parque Nacional Caguanes, a gorgeous ecological reserve famous for its caves (there are around 100), abundance of wildlife (flamingos, pelicans and monkeys), mangroves and coral keys.
When to go: Early summer, to avoid the hurricane season.
2. Vancouver, Canada: 150 years of history
Often named Canada’s best city and, indeed, one of world’s finest places to live, Vancouver joins the rest of the country in celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s formation throughout 2017. The government has put aside £160 million to make the most of this banner year, which will feature all sorts of events in the major towns. In Vancouver, however, the highlight will be an 11-day mid-summer festival at Larwill Park.
When to go: The 1 July is to Canada what 4 July is to America, and when many of this year’s celebrations will take place. One of the summer’s highlights is a flotilla of 40 tall ships sailing Canadian waters in honour of the country’s nautical heritage.
3. Los Angeles, USA: Elementary, my dear
You don’t really need a specific reason to go to LA, but if the idea of Hollywood, Santa Monica and Disneyland don’t make you smile (tip: check your pulse), try putting your British accent to good use at the Marriott LAX Hotel for the first ever official Sherlocked convention outside the UK. Previous events in London have seen the cast and creative team of the hit BBC show in attendance, and already lined up for the LA gathering are Sherlock writer Steven Moffat and producer Sue Vertue.
When to go: 26-28 May for three sleuthing-packed days. sherlockedusa.com
4. Paphos, Cyprus: Capital of culture
You’d be right in assuming that an island built for romance – think Blue Flag beaches, legends aplenty (it’s meant to be where Aphrodite was born) and turquoise seas – is unlikely to top a list of the coolest arty destinations. But in 2017 the charming harbour town of Paphos becomes Europe’s Capital of Culture, so get ready for a year of dance, music, art and food. Things kick off on 28 January, and top picks include the culinary project Paphos Garden Of Tastes (February), Eco Art (May to August), which will fuse ecology and art, and The Many Faces Of Venus (September to December), looking at stories surrounding the goddess of love.
When to go: The main event is on 1 July: a boat parade with dazzling light shows and music. pafos2017.eu
5. Algarve, Portugal: A dog’s life
Swimming with turtles, snorkelling with Nemo and co, splashing around with dolphins… the latest water craze is taking a dip with a dog. In the Algarve, Portuguese Water Dogs have helped local fishermen for years by herding fish into nets, couriering messages between boats, and rescuing gear (or people) that might have fallen overboard. These beautiful dogs have even developed webbed toes to help them glide through the water faster. They nearly became extinct in the 19th century when fishermen started to use more advanced equipment, but thankfully a local businessman has made it his mission to protect them. Stay at the Conrad Algarve hotel, and you can go on a swimming trip with these cute canines.
When to go: Late summer, when the water is still warm but the crowds are cooling down.
- Canine capers: The Portuguese Water Dog became a presidential pooch when a young pup called Bo joined the Obama family in the White House in 2009.
6. Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain: Far and ride
The Menorquín horse is the island’s mascot. There are 3,000 of these black beauties, whose tempers make them great for riding – and there’s never been a better time to saddle up. Two years ago a lot of effort went into upgrading the Camí de Cavalls (Horses’ Path), a 13th-century 184km coastal route encircling the island. Pack your swimming gear: the route winds past secret beaches such as lovely Cala Rafalet. Try the Menorca Horse Riding school near the capital, Mahon.
When to go: Coincide with the fiesta of Sant Joan (23-24 June) with jousting and horses parading through the streets of the Ciutadella.
7. Mexico: Make way for mezcal
Planning on sipping margaritas on your holiday to Mexico? Don’t let us stop you – but do try some mezcal too. Dating back some 2,000 years, tequila’s misunderstood little sibling is making long-overdue waves in the spirits world. Into craft drinks? Mezcal is as artisanal as you can get. It’s made from hand-harvested agave which is slowly roasted in an underground oven made from volcanic rocks. The cooked agave is then ground with stone wheels, fermented with natural yeast and distilled three times in copper alembic stills, before being aged in American oak barrels. Delicious.
When to go: Anytime, but early summer is particularly charming.
- In the drink: If you see a bottle with “con gusano” on the label, that means “with worm”. Don’t worry, it’s not actually a worm, it’s a larva that usually lives in the agave plant.
8. Rhodes, Greece: The hipster’s new hangout
When Thomas Cook was looking for a chic new kind of holiday for young couples who valued style, music and – let’s be honest – first-rate facial hair, it created Casa Cook, a cool resort on the Greek island of Rhodes that launched in summer 2016. The result is not your typical beach holiday: it takes the best of Ibiza and Mykonos to create something that’s little short of a hipster paradise. Relax in a hammock, enjoy food spruced up with herbs from the Casa Cook gardens, rent a bike to explore the island or hire a guide to hike up Tsambiki mountain: it’s entirely up to you.
When to go: Whenever you need it. Sign up for Casa Cook’s yoga classes and leave ready to take on the world.
9. Thassos, Greece: Update your bucket list
If Machu Picchu’s a trek and Rome’s Spanish Steps seem a bit overdone, why not update your holiday wish list and stick Thassos near the top? Don’t expect decadence or skydiving with a flock of wild eagles: what Thassos has going for it is amazing views of the Aegean, friendly nightlife (this is where Greeks go for their holidays) and an eye- poppingly lovely natural pool called La Giola, the very reason why this small Greek island should be on your bucket list in the first place. Just jump on in.
When to go: May and September are good months. It’s still warm and the crowds shrink a little.
10. Croatia: Movie magic in the Med
There are lots of things to recommend Croatia as a destination: lovely seaside towns, sleepy islands and Game Of Thrones’ King’s Landing. The city of Dubrovnik served as the capital of Westeros from seasons 2-5, and this Unesco-protected gem is also set to feature in 2017’s Star Wars Episode VIII – leaked photos show some out-of-this-world scenes shot there.
When to go: Summer’s, hard to beat, but in January/February you might see Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s rumoured to be nearby as the producer of a new Robin Hood movie.
11. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The ride of your life
While the outrageously optimistic Dubailand – a 278 sq km theme park to rival Walt Disney Resort Florida – seems to be on hold, the £2.2 billion Dubai Parks and Resorts project opened in late 2016. It combines a massive Legoland (with water park), the Hollywood-inspired Motiongate, and a new Bollywood theme park. Across town, visitors to Dubai can also enjoy the new IMG Worlds Of Adventure: the biggest indoor theme park in the world.
When to go: Early summer! Any teething problems should have been ironed out, and you can still claim to have been among the first visitors.
12. Paris, France: May the Force be with you
All eyes are on Disneyland Paris in 2017 as Mickey’s European cousins prepare for their 25th anniversary. One of the biggest draws is the new Star Wars-themed Season Of The Force, a big-budget night-time spectacular. Anniversary rumours suggest a new parade and grand finale each evening, and Disney has also been updating some key attractions for this milestone year, Pirates Of The Caribbean among them (be warned, though, Pirates will be closed until the summer).
When to go: Year-round, but the actual anniversary is April and events kick off after then.
- Bright idea: A colossal 225,000 light bulbs illuminate Main Street, USA, in Disneyland Paris!
13. Orlando, USA: Hairy gorillas, hot volcanoes
Walt Disney World Resort in Florida may still be a bigger draw than Universal’s Johnny-come-lately rival, but the latter now has some incredible attractions (The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, anyone?), including a new thrill ride that puts guests on Skull Island, home to a certain King Kong. This year’s hot tip is a stunning new water park named Volcano Bay, 28 acres of Pacific island-inspired fun, thrills and relaxation centred around a 200ft volcano named Krakatau. It’s lit up by “lava” come nightfall.
When to go: Skull Island is open now, Volcano Bay is set to open in June.
14. Mykonos, Greece: The Med’s new foodie mecca
It’s been hailed as the new Ibiza – and sure, the clubs are wild – but one very pleasing aspect of the jet-set’s arrival in Mykonos is the island’s blossoming culinary scene. Try brand-new Nesaea (niceandeasy.gr) at Agia Anna, a light, airy restaurant serving creative Greek food. For a traditional experience try Kiki’s Taverna near Agios Sostis beach in the north. At this simple, wellhidden gem, everything is cooked on the giant charcoal barbecue.
When to go: May or September are the best times to visit, when the island is quieter and the sun’s not too hot.
15. San Francisco, USA: Going for gold
On 29 May 2017, the world’s most famous bridge celebrates its 80th birthday. Details of the big bash are sketchy at this stage, but expect fireworks, music and general merriment. Because, of course, the celebration isn’t just about how good the bridge looks at 80 (something we can only dream of…), but that it’s here at all. The dangerous tides, thick fog and intense winds of San Francisco Bay all conspired to make the Golden Gate Bridge virtually impossible to build. But Joseph Strauss, the chief engineer, wouldn’t be swayed. He spent over a decade petitioning supporters until the 1923 Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act was passed by the state legislature. Construction began in 1933 and was finished early and under budget – something that can hardly be said for San Francisco’s waterway link, the Bay Bridge.
When to go: Thomas Cook Airlines is celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge’s birthday in style by launching new flights from Manchester this May!
- In the picture: San Francisco’s legendary Golden Gate Bridge is the 10th most Instagrammed place in the world.
16. Naples, Italy: Active in Amalfi
The first time you take in the splendour of the Amalfi coast in person – with its tumbling, pastel-coloured houses clinging to dizzying cliffs – we’re pretty sure your first thought won’t be: “Oooh, I’d like to cycle up those steep hills!” But this picturesque spot is one of the most iconic stages of the Giro d’Italia – Italy’s version of the Tour de France – which celebrates its 100th birthday in May. Expect big crowds cheering on the cyclists when the Giro rolls in, and lots of copycats riding the winding coastal roads throughout the summer.
When to go: May for the Giro, but late September/early October is also lovely.
17. New York, USA: Brits go big on Broadway
It’s an argument (almost) as old as time: the West End or Broadway, which comes out on top? Normally we’d be team West End all the way, but the upcoming theatre season sees some very exciting new shows opening across the Atlantic. And the best have a British touch! Our top picks include Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder starring Ralph Fiennes, and Heisenberg, by Mancunian Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time), running until mid- December. But the highlight is an update of Burn This by Landford Wilson, the first show at the revamped Hudson Theatre (thehudsonbroadway.com). A gorgeous space, closed since 1968, it was recently acquired by the UK-based Ambassador Theatre Group, which hopes to use it as a home for British work on Broadway.
When to go: Tickets will be tricky to get when Burn This opens in March, so book yours for May. It also stars Jake Gyllenhaal, which, as far as we’re concerned, is a good enough to fly to New York.
Words: Louisa Johnson and Mike Peake. Illustrations: Mark Boardman