We can't say we're devastated to see the end of 2016. Thanks to Trump's win, Brexit's shock and Bowie's death, the year has left us, quite frankly, a little disillusioned with the world around us. But if there's one thing that we can always count on to restore our faith and excitement, it's travel. Whether you need to get out of your head, out of your country, or a little bit of both, travel seems to solve all. So with that in mind, we present you the VIVA edit of must-visit destinations for 2017. Why these 10 in particular, you ask? Well, you'll have to read on to find out...
A relative newcomer to the tourism game, Myanmar is still in the process of opening up to us travelers, meaning it's yet to see visitor number anything like its popular neighbors, Thailand and Laos. A refreshingly untouched southeast Asian destination, Myanmar (renamed from Burma in the 80s), is littered with golden pagodas, stunning vistas, amazing markets and the friendliest local people. With over 100 ethnic groups that call Myanmar home, Burmese food is a melting pot of cultures and flavors, making way for some insanely good salads (yes, they're that tasty), noodles and curry concoctions.
It's a surprisingly large land mass that makes up Myanmar too, with the Burmese Himalaya mountains to the north, and pristine tropical islands to the south (like Thailand was when our parents were in their 20s). However the country's better known destinations are around the centre, including the ever-photogenic Inle Lake, spanning over 45 square miles with thatched-roofed villages and floating markets around its edges. But the most iconic place to visit is Bagan, characterized by thousands of temples and pagodas that were built around the 12th century, and the most magical sunrises ever.
Mind you, Myanmar hasn't always been all sunshine and gilded stupas. It's seen its fair share of political unrest with one of the world’s longest-running civil wars. But thanks to a new civilian government established in 2011, the republic is on the up and open, so get in and enjoy its splendors before the rest of the world does.
We know this sounds like a bit of a standard pick, but now is the time to get your fill of this super romantic destination and all its history, scenery and carbgasmic food (yeah, we just made that word up). Why? Because Italian authorities are beginning to get strict with visitor numbers. Both honeymoon hotspot Venice and the pastel-hued villages of Cinque Terre plan on imposing quotas or ticketed systems to deal with the crazy number of travelers that have been visiting recently. Though you might've seen both places all over your Insta feed, there's no replacement for seeing them IRL, and there's no time like the present, right?
That being said, don't neglect the rest of this European beauty either. Rome's attractions will no doubt blow your mind, Florence is home to some of the tastiest eats in the country (seriously, check out Gusta Pizza and Gelateria Edoardo), and Milan may just be the greatest shopping mecca around (that's big, given the stiff competition in these parts). But it's outside the cities that Italy's charms really become apparent. Sure, there's the Isle of Capri which is great for a day trip (especially after checking out Pompeii's ruins), but dive a little deeper and visit Lake Como up north. The upscale resort is good enough for George Clooney – he has a house there – but it's the gorgeous lakes and mountains that steal the show. The country has something to offer anytime of year too, whether you're cycling from Pisa in summer or skiing in the Dolomites in winter. You won't fail to leave Italy feeling like a smugger, fatter, but ultimately, happier, version of yourself.
No travel bucket list is complete without a once-in-a-lifetime African safari experience, and this place is just the ticket. While South Africa and Kenya come to mind pretty quick, Botswana doesn't get nearly the air time it deserves. The landlocked country has some of Africa's most varied landscapes – think desert meets woodland meets giant inland waterways. This diversity extends to the animals, where you can find lions, leopards, crocodiles and hippopotami, to name a few. The classic two areas for safari are the Okavango Delta (known for the lions) and Chobe National Park (one of the country's biggest).
Next, go explore the magical Makgadikgadi Pan. One of the largest salt flats in the world, it's situated in the country's northeast, and really is breathtaking. Jack's Camp, which sits right on it, with billowing white Moroccan tents, is not just one of the country's most romantic camps, but lets you hire quad bikes to explore the otherworldly surroundings. Another must is checking out Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a feel-good eco-safari destination with a difference. So, why is 2017 the year to go? Well, the wildlife is second to none with 40 percent of the country set aside as a protected conversation area, but the country is also one of the most peaceful in Africa, according to the recent Global Peace Index. Win, win, win.
We know, we know – out of all the countries ending in 'land', it's probably Iceland that's on your radar, not this up-and-coming Nordic getaway. But bear with us, because the Danish territory is as beautiful as it is rugged. Though just a short flight from Copenhagen or Iceland, upon arrival to the icy island you'll feel worlds away. That's not surprising because there's literally no roads between towns here (thank God for dog sleds). But what there is in place of usual infrastructure is some crazy dramatic landscapes – kayak through the fjords in Nuuk (the capital), check out the dramatic icebergs in Ilulissat, and gaze at the Northern Lights for hours.
Combine these landscapes with a dash of ice fishing, polar bear spotting and whale watching, and you've got one bloody cool (literally) destination on your hands. It's definitely charming and rustic; a theme that extends to the accommodation offerings. If you ask us though, you can't go wrong with chic Hotel Hans Edge or Hotel Kulusuk, with epic fjord views. You'll have the freshest fish of your life here. So with Iceland starting to get inundated with crowds, this is where you'll want to escape to in 2017. Get on it, ASAP.
Cuba needs little explanation. Though the rest of the world has known how bloody beautiful this Caribbean island is for quite some time, Americans are finally getting in on the action (Obama, don't go). Just an hour flight from Miami, you'll find yourself in the world of cigars, vintage cars, and a whole lotta rum. But the capital, Havana, is more than just this, with streets full of stunning Spanish colonial architecture. Check out art museums that really aren't boring (e.g. Bellas Artes), gorgeous antique bookstores, and arty markets aplenty. After a big night out (brush up on your salsa, ASAP), get a room at Hotel Conde de Villanueva, a renovated mansion with a dreamy cigar bunker.
Don't stick to just the capital, however. Head to Baracoa, Cuba's first settlement, for its famous white chocolate – cocoa trees grow here in abundance. Then head to the highest point on the island, Pico Turquino, for a cheeky mountain hike, before taking a well deserved rest at one of the nation's crazy beautiful beaches. Varadero is usually the resort people pick, but we advise going to lesser-known Playa Larga, a diving paradise with the clearest waters, like, ever. The last place on your must-go list is Trinidad, a town with the prettiest architecture, dazzling water views, and a nightclub in an actual cave. What's not to love? FYI, you need a tourist visa to explore here, and, as an American, should really book through a travel agency like Intrepid Travel or Insight Cuba.
United Arab Emirates
Okay, when we say United Arab Emirates, what we really mean is the epicenter of luxury shopping and skyscrapers, Dubai. It's a must and if you Google "Dubai's world's largest" then you'll quickly realize why. Not only did the desert paradise just open the world's largest indoor theme park, but it's also home to the world's largest indoor ski resort, the world's most luxurious hotel, AND the world's largest man-made island. So basically, anything you can do, Dubai can do bigger and better.
In classic Dubai style, there are even more outlandish openings scheduled for 2017, including an actual rainforest being built inside a new hotel and the world's first nature-inspired mall (we're not quite sure what that means yet either). If you do want a break from the glitzy marinas, constant shopping and city beaches, get your adrenaline pumping with a cheeky skydive. When you're done gawping over the custom-built coastline, hit up any of the many Michelin-starred restaurants, party on down at the new Nikki Beach Club, then hit the hay in one of Atlantis hotel's insane underwater suites.
We know what you're thinking and yes, Machu Picchu is just so wondrous you could see nothing else in Peru and leave the country happy. But we're here to encourage a bit more exploring because the South American gem is brimming with places you'll wanna visit next year. For starters, there's the Amazon, the lush rainforest covering a whopping 60 percent of the country. There's also Colca Canyon down south (one of the world's deepest canyons), and the beach town of Minorca that's home to some of the continent's best surfing.
But come 2017 there's a cool new attraction: a cable car will begin operating to make Choquequirao more accessible (the Inca ruins here are both larger than Machu Picchu and way less known). Alternatively, you can trek to these ruins – it'll take a cool six or seven days, but the mountains views are insane. While we're on the subject of adventures, you can now stay in a capsule hanging from a mountain (cheers, Airbnb). Last but not least, 2017 is the year that the capital city Lima finally gets the foodie acclaim it so deserves. Here your culinary options are endless but you should start with upscale cevichería, La Mar Cebichería, or Amazonian produce-inspired eatery, Malabar. Lima has more than its fair share of culture, too, as well as edgy galleries, buzzing clubs and a killer street art scene to boot.
O Canada. For far too long this beautiful beast of a country has been in the shadow of its boisterous southern neighbor. But no longer, as 2017 is the year where people start to seriously consider moving permanently to Canada's dazzling national parks (did we mention they'll all be free?). It's also time for the country's massively underrated cities and welcoming attitude (Trudeau over Trump, always) to get a little recognition. Canada will also be turning 150 years old in 2017, so celebrate by partying hard in Montreal, the nation's creative heart, taking a road trip through the awe-inspiring Rockies or heading west for some unparalleled skiing in Whistler.
Don't neglect the biggest city, Toronto, either – not only is it just an hour or so from the iconic Niagara Falls, but you can dine in Drake's restaurant and check out arty boutique hotel, the Gladstone. All in all, there's never been a better time to be charmed by one of the world's most polite nations.
It's high time that South Korea got the praise it deserves, and 2017 promises precisely that. The Asian nation has been under the radar for some time now, but its crazy bustling capital, combined with a plethora of nature-filled getaways just outside it, earns it a place on this list. Seoul is one of those places where the overused "old meets new" and "East meets West" cliches couldn't be more spot on – old school temples sit right next to soaring skyscrapers, and the overall city buzz is infectious. Aside from visiting the famous Gyeongbokgung Palace and National Museum, you have to fully immerse yourself in its food scene. Yes, there's some insane street eats, but the poop-themed cafe and sheep cafe are not to be missed either.
Continuing the theme of weird shit to do in Korea, we suggest the good old Boryeong Mud Festival. During the last two weeks of July you can mud wrestle until you heart's content. Plus, you can take a day trip to North Korea's border, which is something well worth boasting about. If you're visiting in winter, then seriously consider checking out the country's ski resorts, too. Surprisingly, there's a ton of them, but we recommend High1 Resort for the purest powder. But get in next year because PyeongChang country (up north) will be prepping to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. Sweet.
Out of all the countries listed so far, Colombia is the hardest to sum up in a paragraph or two. It's also got the most questionable rep of all, but there's way more to this South American beauty than drugs, prostitutes and more drugs. The landscape is as varied as it is stunning, packed with rainforests, mountains and coffee plantations (mmm coffee). The cities have so much character that your lack of iPhone storage will become a genuine problem. The capital, Bogota, is modern and buzzy, while the town of Cartagena is definitely the prettiest and quaintest, full of cobbled streets and cute cafes. Though the city of Medellin was once labelled the world's most dangerous, it's now a certified hotspot for clubbing.
From Cartagena, one lesser-known must is the nearby island of San Andrés. The water is crystal clear and you get to stay in the abandoned mansion-turned-hostel, Paraiso Secreto. That's right, cool hostels reign supreme here, even though there are plenty of boutique hotels. Just take Casa Elemento, for instance. Home to one of the world's largest hammocks (overlooking lush mountains, no less), they offer a ton of tours from waterfalls to coffee plantations. With safety seriously improving in recent years, Colombia is one hotspot to keep your wanderlusting eye on.