Getaway: your guide 2017’s hottest must-experience destinations

Make your own way in the world this year with Kendall Hill’s guide to 2017’s hottest destinations.

SRI LANKA

Silhouettes of the traditional stilt fishermen at the sunset near Galle in Sri Lanka. Photo: iStock

Silhouettes of the traditional stilt fishermen at the sunset near Galle in Sri Lanka. Photo: iStock

 

Peace has reigned on this pearl of the Indian Ocean for almost eight years and Sri Lanka is shining brighter than it has in decades.

Colombo is a hive of new hotel activity: the Shangri-La, Sheraton and Grand Hyatt are all due to debut in 2017, and there are rumours Raffles might move into the old Cargills Department Store in Fort.

However, it’s small, independent accommodation that’s turning heads around the island, from Taru Villas’ two elegant conversions of centuries-old Dutch mansions in Galle, to restored tea planters’ bungalows in the high country and chic safari lodges such as Chena Huts, sandwiched between ocean and action at Yala National Park, home of the leopard.

 

KAKADU

HOLIDAY HOTSPOTS - NT GUNLOM FALLS. IMAGE: TOURISM NT

HOLIDAY HOTSPOTS – NT GUNLOM FALLS. IMAGE: TOURISM NT

 

Perhaps because human culture at Kakadu dates back 50,000 years, some Australians tend to take it for granted, or assume there’s no rush to visit.

But the very fact that there’s tens of thousands of years of human history in this 20,000-square-kilometre park, and that the millennia are documented in rock paintings accessible to everyone, and that Aboriginal lore and learning is still passed down orally generation after generation … well, there’s nowhere else in the world where you can stand in the 21st century and experience that living, breathing bond with a culture whose unbroken links date back deep into prehistory.

Kakadu is a once-in-a-lifetime, unique-on-the-planet experience, and it’s right here in our backyard. Go see the ancestors.

 

MADAGASCAR

MADAGASCA. IMAGE: SUPPLIED

MADAGASCA. IMAGE: SUPPLIED

 

The world’s fourth-largest island is also its 10th poorest nation, and the trials of Madagascar turn many off visiting.

But this year there are 14 good reasons to reconsider: that’s how many villas make up Miavana, the just-opened private island off Madagascar’s northern tip.

The emphasis is on pampered isolation, pristine beaches and heli-transfers to the mainland in search of lemurs and the other extraordinary creatures and plants found nowhere else on Earth.

The same owners run North Island in the Seychelles, where Prince William and Kate Middleton spent their honeymoon, so expect amenities fit for a (future) king.

 

 

CANADA

A photo posted by Explore Canada (@explorecanada) on

 

Happy birthday to our northern cousin Canada, celebrating 150 years of federation in this year.

A multitude of events are planned but, frankly, spring and summer in Canada always feel like one big party – it’s going to be tough to tell the special events from everyday Canadian carousing.

Montreal and Toronto are serious party towns, so pack your good stuff and your best game – maybe head to Montreal in June for the annual jazz festival (seriously good fun) and the Ontarian capital for the International Film Festival in September.

 

PORTUGAL

A photo posted by Visit Portugal (@visitportugal) on

 

Having recently done a road trip around Portugal (see Gourmet Traveller’s December 2016 edition), I can’t recommend the country highly enough. In high summer there are tourists, sure, but much of the land has that same uncrowded, laid back, surf-sand-and-sun vibe of Australia. There are many other aspects to this overlooked European gem that are sure to appeal to Australians: the obsession with great produce and delicious food, a thriving wine culture, a love of art, music and bar crawls, and more natural and man-made beauty than you can point a smartphone at. Plus, the people are lovely. Go now before everyone gets wise to Portugal’s winning ways.

 

 

CUBA

A photo posted by Michael Rayner (@michael_rayner_photography) on

 

Now that Americans can legally board flights to Cuba (thanks Barack Obama) the long-embargoed Caribbean island is set to be invaded by its curious neighbours.

Havana’s time-frozen charm might not last long under the onslaught, so 2017 is looking like a great year to go there. Infrastructure still falls far short of demand but big-name hotels are hovering with intent,

Airbnb has signed up more than 8000 homes for holiday rentals and themed food tours explore the country’s cuisine beyond the notorious rice and beans.

There’s no sign of McDonald’s and Starbucks yet, so get there before the multinationals do.

 

 

ARGENTINA

A photo posted by Visit Argentina (@visitargentina) on

 

Buenos Aires is an evergreen capital that will knock your socks off if it’s your first time, or charm your pants off (again) if you’ve been before.

I’ve visited eight times – once for six weeks – and I still get excited about throwing myself headlong into its mixed-up, delicious mayhem. Every. Single. Time.

For my next visit, I’m thinking I should detour to Salta and Jujuy, desert frontier towns with fascinating stories to tell, and to Mendoza to drown myself in top-flight wines.

Argentina is vast and littered with landmarks, from Patagonia to Iguazu Falls to the pampas ranchlands. There really is something for everyone.

 

 

OMAN

A photo posted by Experience Oman (@experienceoman) on

 

Given the bevy of Middle Eastern airlines lavishing Australia with convenient, timely and well-priced air travel to the other side of the world, chances are you’re looking at a Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Doha stopover in 2017.

Don’t waste your time in these cultural wastelands. Tack on a side trip instead to Oman, which offers authentic Arabian Nights moments at desert fortresses and oases, dhow cruising with dolphins along the Musandam Peninsula and magical evenings in the whitewashed capital, Muscat, where the Al Hajar Mountains meet the Arabian Sea.

 

 

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