Thanks to the rise of cheap flights and even cheaper beer, we’re taking more trips away than ever before (see Instagram for the heavily-hashtagged proof). But if you’ve found yourself arriving at your destination only to be surrounded by people from the exact town you left, it can feel like you’ve never left at all.
To help you avoid Groundhog Day: International Edition, we’ve done a round-the-world recce. Below you’ll find the best places to visit in 2017, both overseas for those who want to experience some culture (or, y’know, sunshine), and at home for those who just can’t get on board with a 1:1 exchange rate. Happy trails.
Best For: Foodies
Fancy swapping your chow mein for something more… interesting? Thanks to its Portuguese-Chinese heritage, Macao boasts one of the world’s oldest fusion cuisines, blending the area’s traditional dishes with southern European, Indian, African, South American and Malaysian flavours to create unique Macanese dishes that are worth travelling across the globe for.
Only half an hour’s drive from Hong Kong, Macao has 19 Michelin-starred restaurants and 10 Forbes-approved hotels, a feat matched only by Paris. If that wasn’t enough to lure you to China’s south coast, this year Macao also sees the opening of The 13, billed as the world’s most luxurious hotel. Treat yo’self.
Best For: Culture Vultures
Lisbon’s climate alone could see it take a top spot on the hottest summer destinations. With an average of 12 hours of sunshine a day and chances of rain close to zero, you’re likely to pick up a decent tan in Europe’s westernmost capital – but you can also pick up some cultural nous, too. Boasting three UNESCO-listed attractions and the newly opened Museum for Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), you can learn some historical knowledge with a sip of some traditional Ginjinha.
July and August see the temperatures soar, with NOS Alive and Jazz em Agosto music festivals adding the perfect soundtrack to the sunsets.
Best For: Indecisiveness
When it comes to off-the-beaten-track destinations, Lonely Planet know a thing or two. So it stands the Croatian capital in good stead that it’s recently been crowned the brand’s Best Destination in Europe for 2017.
Topping the list of outstanding, underrated and overlooked places, the booming inland city hits the sweet spot between Berlin-esque edgy city breaks and sun-splashed Spanish escapes, with historic squares brimming with coffee and cocktail drinkers mixed with Brutalist architecture and a thriving street art scene. Plus, thanks to the newly opened airport, it’s easier to get to than ever. It’ll have you at zdravo.
Best For: Northern Soul
If it’s a weekend break you want, an industrial city in Yorkshire might linger somewhere around the bottom on your list of must-sees. However in recent years, Leeds has marched proudly into the 21st century, earning its stripes as a serious hotspot (and a place in Lonely Planet’s top 10 European destinations).
Without losing sight of its heritage, the county’s largest city has become a cultural hub with one of the UK’s finest craft beer scenes, a growing foodie reputation and thriving nightlife. This year also sees the reopening of the city’s premier art gallery and the 50th anniversary of Leeds Carnival, making it the perfect time to join the party.
Best For: Cliche-Free Romance
Thinking of treating your significant other to a trip to Paris? Tear up the Eurostar ticket – it’s time to catch a ferry. Gotland is Sweden’s largest island and home to UNESCO World Heritage site Visby, a destination that picks up brownie points like air miles. Rose-covered cottages, fairy tale towers and turrets, twisty cobblestone streets and charming old-world shops make the entire town feel like a Disney film set.
As if that wasn’t enough, a short boat ride away is Gotska Sandon National Park, which despite being in Sweden manages to feel like a tropical island, complete with azure waters lapping upon the shoreline, sand dunes and miles of beach – (almost) all to yourself. Sorry Paris, we’ve met someone else.
Port Lympne, UK
Best For: Going Back To Nature
Going on safari may be your dream holiday, but if the closest you’re getting to the plains of Africa this year is watching The Lion King, you can now experience some of that Serengeti magic a little closer to home. Port Lympne is a safari park in Kent, set within 100 acres, where accommodation runs from boutique stately home to safari-style tents and lodges that offer 30-mile views from your private balcony, interrupted only by the odd big cat.
Best For: Travel Hipsters
Probably the only time you hear about Moldova is during the Eurovision Song Contest – but that’s all set to change. Currently one of Europe’s least visited countries, the travel industry is finally waking up to the hidden joys of this tiny country, nestled in between Romania and Ukraine.
As cheap flights to the capital city of Chisinau become more frequent, it’s emerging a popular weekend break, surrounded by unspoilt countryside, cliff-perched monasteries and fascinating wine tours. Head there now to be one of the first to experience its undiscovered charm and your very own Shangri-La.
Best For: Costa Del Solo
So you’ve done Barcelona, you’ve done Madrid, heck you’ve even done Benidorm – so you’ve done Spain, right? Wrong. Set in the unique region of Galicia, which proudly boasts its own language and culture, Santiago del Compostela (the city’s full name) is like no other Spanish city you’ve ever visited. Hidden away in the country’s northwestern corner, it’s the final stop on a trail of centuries-old pilgrim routes, and features some of the best food and nightlife the country has to offer.
A short journey away is Galicia’s wild coastline, full of inlets, cliffs, beaches, islands and fishing ports, offering you the best of both worlds – perfect for a short-haul trip.
Best For: Heaven On Earth
Considered the last great Himalayan kingdom, Bhutan is still a traditionally Buddhist country – but one that has carefully embraced globalisation. Priding themselves on a sustainable approach to tourism in line with the Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness, international visitors pay a minimum tariff of around £200 per day. While this may seem steep, it’s possibly the only all-inclusive country in the world – it includes your accommodation, food, transportation and an official guide.
Peppered with unique architecture, high-altitude trekking trails and stunning flora and fauna, this paradise in the clouds is well worth the hike, both financial and literal.