For many people January is time for making new year resolutions, but for me it’s time to look over my bucket list and make travel plans for the year ahead. I was recently checking a list of countries I already visited (36 countries so far!) and figuring out where to head next. I have been to some really cool and exotic places, from Bali and Morocco to Iceland and Central Asia. But today, I am sharing my and other travel bloggers’ top picks for exotic places you should put on your 2017 travel list.
p.s. all photos belong to contributing bloggers (unless indicated otherwise)
I went to Kenya twice and really fell in love with the country, inspiring me to write three blog posts. It is one of those countries that has got it all! Located in the Great Rift Valley and with the Indian Ocean coastline, it has some of the best safari parks and natural reserves, pristine beaches and breathtaking mountains. Lake Nakuru National Park will leave nature lovers at awe not just because of its safari wildlife (get up-close and personal with giraffes, zebras, rhinoes and monkeys), but also biggest flamingo population in the world! Beach bums should head to resort town of Malindi or much quieter Lamu Archipelago.
But what made my two trips truly special is the time I got to spend with the Maasai tribe and get to know their culture and traditions. I was even lucky to run into Maasai warriors (famous for their bravery and fierceness), a rare occasion even for a Kenyan.
2. Kakslauttanen, FINLAND
Ok, I haven’t been to Finland (yet!) but this Arctic experience is at the top of my bucket list. I have discovered this glass igloo resort by chance and then a fabulous vlog by the Bruised Passports duo has inspired me to visit it even more. This is probably one of the most exotic winter destinations out there. Imagine during the day going on a husky or reindeer safari or snowmobile ride through a magical snow-covered forest.
And at night watching Northern Lights in the comfort of your own glass igloo or snuggling by the fire in a wood cabin. It’s a definite must for snow lovers like myself!
Place to stay: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
By Robert Grabczewski, Wander Junction
Cuba is one of the few places on Earth where you can still experience something left from the old-school times but filled with Latin rhythms, rum, smell of cigars, tropical breeze and red Chevrolets with white leather seats.
Cuba is full of life whether you dance yourself to death with salsa in Casa de la Musica in Havana or in the bizarre Discoteca las Cuevas in Trinidad. In every corner you visit, you will be festinated by Cuba’s diversity of constantly hungry young culture cut from the western world pushing the boundaries of creativity. Music, art and atmospheric street’s life, uprising and rising eyebrows diversity of Santa Clara, jaw-dropping turquoise beeches of Cayo Guillermo or falling apart old colonial houses in the centre of capital, are just a few to mention.
It is now or never, in post-Castro Cuba with the US opening its borders, it’s literally last minute to taste still full flavoured, vibrant and energetic island of Cuba.
Place to stay: Hostal D’ Cordero (Santa Clara)
by Lisa Grabelle, Hilton Mom Voyage
5. La Boca Beach, ECUADOR
By Emma Dodd, Wandering the World Barefoot
From the spice souks of Amman to riding a camel in the desert and trekking to the Treasury in the Nabataean city of Petra, Jordan is a tantalizingly exotic destination to visit. While many people are put off traveling to the Middle East at present, Jordan is a safe place and comes complete with a warm welcome from the locals.
Make a trip in 2017 while tourist numbers are low and be sure to get off the beaten track in Petra and explore some of the more than 800 monuments that lie beyond the Treasury.
Place to stay: Rum Stars Bedouin Camp at Wadi Rum
7. Gili Islands, INDONESIA
Take a trip to the Gili islands, and you will find yourself surrounded by white sand beaches, sparkling turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees, asking yourself – could it get more exotic than this?
Gili islands are three little coral islands located just off Bali and are a perfect choice for couples, solo adventurers, and groups of friends. There are no motorized vehicles on Gili and the only means to access them are by boat or helicopter. Gili T is the largest of the three islands and most people travel around it by foot, bicycle, goat or horse carriage.
Each island is surrounded by coral reef, and it is very common to spot sea turtles and colorful fish even close to the shore. So try snorkeling or scuba diving!
When not at sea, rent a bike to travel around the island and have a taste of freshly grilled fish, or chill at the sunset bars with hammocks and bean bag chairs waiting there for you. Mmm, a trip to remember!
8. SRI LANKA
This lush island to the south of India is still less discovered but a gorgeous place to visit. Majestic mountains with waterfalls and scenic views surround amazing beaches for relaxation and surfing.
Sri Lanka offers unique experiences unlike anywhere else! For example, eat lunch with elephants wandering around at the Pinnawala Elephant sanctuary or hold a wild cayman during a tour on the Bentota River. Sri Lanka is a place of adventure, but it’s also a place of luxury on a budget!
Just make sure you know some things like: they drive on the left side of the road (and crazily, by the way!), the rainy season is from May to September, and every price can be haggled for.
Place to Stay: Earl Regents Resort
9. Sahara Desert, MOROCCO
A list of exotic destinations to visit in 2017 wouldn’t be complete without including the ever mystical Moroccan Sahara Desert. Erg Chebbi near Merzouga is home to the largest sand dune in this enchanting natural wonder. The best way to enjoy the desert is to trek 1-2 hours within, heading towards Liberia. From here you’ll see the most spectacular sunset and sunrises that explode with colors you didn’t know nature could produce. If you’ve dreamt of midnight walks across sand dunes as you gaze at the galaxies and make a wish every minute on a shooting star then this destination must be on your travel agenda for the year.
You’ll wake up to the rising sun and be greeted at the camp with fresh pancakes and orange juice followed by Berber drum circle and dance party before you pack up your camel and trek for over an hour back to Merzouga.
Place to stay: book a tour with Khamila Tour
10. TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
By Suzanne Bhagan, Hot Foot Trini
By Brigitte van de Pas, The Life and Times Of A Dutchie Abroad
Oman is the pearl of the Gulf, combining breathtaking desert landscapes, mountains and wadis with thousands of years of history. Discover the traditional Gulf culture and the rich Omani heritage and experience the famous Arabic hospitality. A beacon of peace in an otherwise turbulent region, tourism to Oman has steadily been increasing over the past few years. A tourist is no longer a novelty, but Oman remains unspoiled and authentic.
12. ST. MAARTEN
By Damayanti Bhattacharjee, Diary of a Not So Skinny Girl
Paradise on Earth – that’s the only expression that comes to mind when the airplane slowly descends over the Caribbean Sea and lands in Princess Juliana airport. St. Maarten/St. Martin has something for everyone. There are a lot of fun things to do – hanging at the beach, adventure sports for the brave heart and lots of duty-free shopping for the ladies.
The beaches are amazing. Standing at Maho Beach and watching a plane land is probably one of the most unique experiences of my life.
While in St. Maarten, do enjoy some mouth-watering Caribbean cuisines, try out the spare ribs, stuffed cab backs and local curries in the Grand Case.
Place to stay: Book Airbnb flat on the Dutch side