So what’s hot in 2017? We asked an expert panel of pros who thrive and survive on travel to new frontiers. Here are top 5 best places to travel in 2017.
A forward-thinking beacon of ecotourism, this tiny West African country, which straddles the Equator, largely flies under the tourism radar. That’s both good and bad given its location between Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The former French colony has escaped the strife afflicting some of West Africa and is betting its future on green travel. The government has protected swathes of marine reserve off the coast, while national parks make up 10% of Gabon’s land mass.
Gabon will host the 2017 African Nations Cup, which will increase traveler interest and improve infrastructure.
This little-known beauty is filled with remote beaches, dense jungle, gushing rivers and wildlife such as undisturbed western gorillas and forest elephants.
Though travel isn’t easy, rewards are high. “Go in 2016 to explore wildlife-packed Ivindo National Park, Kangou Falls and Djidji River with our world-first equator-crossing trek and pack-raft expedition,” says Bodkin of Secret Compass.
When to go: May to September.
Palau archipelago is a natural beauty of emerald outcrops and light lagoons.
Called the “Serengeti of the Sea,” it’s one of the world’s premier dive spots and one of the best places to travel in 2017
A nation the size of New York City, Palau recently “protected” 80% of its ocean by creating a marine reserve larger than California. An ecotourism leader, the country has one of the world’s highest marine biodiversity populations, with 1,300 fish and 700 coral species. And then there’s mountaintop Jellyfish Lake, nature’s wildlife wonder.
Visitors can swim and snorkel amidst hundreds of thousands of venom-free jellyfish, then take to the skies on an open-door light aircraft for views of the 445 Koror Rock Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Where to stay: Palau Pacific Resort recently opened four overwater bungalows, all offering high-tech fittings and steps straight into the sea.
When to go: October to May.
3. United States: North Cascades National Park
Fondly coined “America’s best idea,” the U.S. National Parks network stretches from the remote South Pacific (American Samoa) to Alaska.
The year 2016 will toast the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, of which 409 parks exist today.
But while Yosemite and Yellowstone pull in millions of visitors annually, others remain largely unexplored.
Among these is North Cascades National Park in Washington State. Accessible yet untouched, it attracted just 24,000 visitors in 2014.
Glaciated peaks, lush valleys and virgin forests rival the Alaskan parks yet with easier access.
The park forms part of the North Cascades Range of mountains, glaciers and streams, which harbor black bears, cougars and mountain lions.
“We are excited to use the centennial to invite every American to get to know their national parks and to understand how our 100 years of experience in natural, cultural and historic conservation translate into amazing travel experiences, both far afield and close to home,” says Jonathan B. Jarvis, National Park Service director.
Undeveloped and raw, Madagascar’s got 8,000 species of animals found nowhere else on the planet — that’s 5% of the world’s biodiversity.
A land where dinosaurs once roamed, this prehistoric evolutionary cauldron is a playground for naturalists.
Visitors can hike tropical rainforests and semi-arid desert canyons, winding up on exotic sun-soaked beaches, often alone. In the east, 1,000-year-old Baobab trees, worshipped as ancestors, are backdrops to intense rural sunsets.
What’s new? Recent political stabilization is seeing an invigorating push for ecotourism. Turkish Airlines is about to launch direct flights from Istanbul.
“2016 is a time of positive change,” says Haja Rasambainarivo, co-founder of Asisten Travel.
When to go: April to November. Famadihana, a dramatic “turning of the bones” ritual held in honor of passed ancestors, takes place every year between July and October.
5. Papua New Guinea
A mirage of islands in the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea lies 160 kilometers north of Australia. It’s one of the best places to travel in 2017.
Pristine reefs, smoldering volcanoes and steaming tracts of jungle envelop a travel destination that was once mostly banished to legend and lore.
Much of the region remains a secret.
“This is an incredible destination for niche tour operators,” says Jonny Bealby, CEO of Wild Frontiers.
“We’re looking at West Papua for novelty. The Spice Islands and Indonesian Papua is undiscovered.”
Travelers visit by ship or stay on land and head out on boats for some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world, as well as to trail blaze through the lush swampy interior and world’s third largest rainforest.
When to go: May to October. It’s worth visiting during one of several annual festivals, when vibrant tribes paint their faces and don elaborate headdresses. Hypnotic performances involve boisterous dances and chanting.