Wanderlust: Top five countries to visit in 2017
Bolstered by the wave of positivity unleashed by its energetic new leader Justin Trudeau, and with dynamic cities that dominate global livability indices and a reputation for inclusiveness and impeccable politeness, the world’s second largest country will usher in its sesquicentennial in 2017 in rollicking good health. Marking 150 years since confederation, the elongated birthday party promises to be heavy on bonhomie and highly welcoming to international gatecrashers. And, with a weak Canadian dollar pushing down prices, the overseas visitor should have plenty of pocket money to spend on Canada’s exciting fusion food and mysteriously underrated wine. Sesquicentennial or not, you don’t need too many excuses to visit Canada. With vast expanses of barely trammelled wilderness stretched across six time zones, alongside a solid infrastructure and straightforward entry requirements, the country beckons like a giant adventure playground.
Main image: Turquoise, glacier-fed Lake Moraine in Canada’s Banff National Park © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet
Fought over by Russia and Sweden for 800 years, Finland finally gained independence in 1917. The Finns will celebrate their centenary with gusto, with events planned in every region. Expect everything from al fresco concerts and communal culinary experiences to sauna evenings and vintage-travel-poster exhibitions. There’s even a new national park, an 11,000 hectare chunk of land in Hossa, studded with pine forests and crisscrossed with rivers. Stroll through Helsinki’s design quarter to find clean lines, quality craftsmanship, bright pops of colour and quirky patterns. Dip into the New Suomi food scene to discover chefs breathing fresh life into traditional, foraged ingredients and age old smoking and pickling techniques. But don’t forget to join the Finns in doing what they love best: getting out of the cities and back to nature. More water than land, Finland’s patchwork of tens of thousands of lakes, pristine forests, well marked trails and cosy cabins means it’s easy to find your own slice of beautiful isolation.
Decades of civil war and violent crime meant Colombian passport stamps were once for hardcore travellers only. Fast forward to the present day, and the lost years seem but a dust speck in Colombia’s rear-view mirror. There are no world wonders, but the country’s mix of vibrant culture, nature and hospitality is a rich tapestry woven by welcoming arms. From Cartagena to Barichara, it offers some of the most cinematic colonial preservation in all of South America. Towering Andean peaks, lush Amazonian forest and enigmatic, jungle-hidden ruins draw connoisseurs of the great outdoors. Wild and windswept beaches battered by cerulean waters on two coasts lure sun worshippers, whale-watchers and beach bums to its idyllic sands. Over a decade into its dramatic about-face, this South American jewel is even expecting a visit from the world’s number one Catholic. When Pope Francis kisses Colombian soil in 2017, it will mark the Andean nation’s first papal visit in 30 years.
Image: Cartagena, a city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast © DC Colombia / Getty Images
Locals joke that if Christopher Columbus rose from the grave and returned to the Caribbean, Dominica is the only island he would still recognise. One glimpse of its prehistoric ferns and deserted shores, and you’ll see what they mean. For decades, an absence of shiny white beaches has helped keep at bay the resort development that has swept through other parts of the Caribbean. Coconut palms are the only skyscrapers you’ll see here. Visit before Dominica gets its first large scale chain resorts in 2018, which will pave the way for a new era of tourism. Eco adventurers whisper Dominica’s name as though it’s the fabled lost City of Gold, but it’s not just the environment that gets fans raving: it’s the Lilliputian guesthouses and locally flavoured boutique hotels; it’s pulling up for lunch at a charming roadside shack doling out delicious Dominican comfort food or salty-fresh seafood; and it’s mingling with friendly locals, who have quietly picked themselves up and rebuilt after a 2015 storm almost cleaved the island in two.
Even natural disasters can’t keep Nepal down for long. The 2015 earthquakes caused devastation, but what is most striking from a traveller’s perspective is not how much was lost but how much remains. Landmark temples crumbled, but others came through with just the odd tile out of place, and whole swathes of the country escaped serious damage, including most of the popular trekking trails. Nepal has all the skills required to repair monuments and infrastructure, but what it does need is income. By visiting Nepal now and supporting local culture and people, you could help a nation rebuild and bounce back even stronger. In Kathmandu and the towns of the Kathmandu Valley, rickshaws still pick their way through cobbled bazaars and temple bells ring out from hidden courtyards. Rhinos and tigers lurk among the elephant grasses in Nepal’s national parks, and rugged trails snake through villages of ancient stone houses on the flanks of the world’s highest peaks.
Image: Boats on Nepal’s Lake Pokhara © Jacek Kadaj / Getty Images
Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2017, © 2016 Lonely Planet. To read the full top 10 list of countries to visit in 2017 visit www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel. Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 also features the top 10 cities, regions and best value destinations