Must-See Places: The 15 Best Destinations To Visit This Year

By Kari Wilhelm
Travel Writer in Frankfurt
© Oleg Znamenskiy/Shutterstock.com | Namibia

Countries, cities and islands bursting with newly-unveiled cool, brilliant architecture, art and food scenes, new access to breathtaking nature reserves, and a continuing trend for amazing flight prices to trending destinations – anyone who isn’t packing their bags in 2017 have only themselves to blame

There are many ‘top lists’: top tens, gold lists, best of lists and must-see lists (like Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure, CNN, National Geographic, Harpers Bazaar – to name just a few). But in ours, we tell you not only 15 of the most trending destinations, but also Why you should see them in 2017 and When you should visit them…….. Which ones do you most want to see?

Kazakhstan: Exposing a new side while hosting Expo 2017

The former Soviet state in Central Asia is known for vast steppes, the Caspian Sea, its richness in resources and, of course, (much to the chagrin of many a Kazakh) Borat – but as a tourist highlight? Not so much.

kazakhstan
kazakhstan ©Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £24Flights starting at £292

Why now?
All that is about to change. Hordes of people will be travelling to Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, this year for Expo 2017, and with its theme of ‘Future Energy’, a lot of countries, governments, companies and all the people involved are going to suddenly have Kazahkstan placed large upon their maps. As well as a developing infrastructure that makes travelling here easier, the fact that the rest of the country wants to get rid of its oil state image and present itself as an eco-retreat on the Silk Road should tickle any world explorer’s fancy. In line with this, the species-rich Tian Shan Mountains became a UNESCO World Heritage site last year. Trekking these mountains is an absolute must for anyone who likes their holidays adventurous.

When?
While the winters are bitterly cold in Kazakhstan; the summers are lovely, so it is recommended to visit between May and September – the Expo will be held in summer.

✈ Birmingham – Astana, 7 – 19 June, flights starting at £366

✈ London – Astana, 10 – 18 June, flights starting at £292

Hotel suggestion: Brown Hotel starting at 37€

Seoul: Inner-city greenery that’s good for the soul

The capital of South Korea is for sure the hippest amongst Asia’s mega metropolises. Hardly any other city is as up-to-the-moment when it comes to sophistication and tech savviness as Seoul. For all you Snapchatters and Instagramers, there is free WiFi in all public places meaning you can constantly post something new; just don’t forget to look outside the lense sometimes.

seoul
Seoul ©Nattee Chalermtiragool/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £21Flights starting at £374

Why now?
Seoul is a green city with a high quality of life, in fact, a while back it famously tore down an inner-city motorway, giving life back to the river that ran beneath it and turned the whole thing into a park. This year, the last part of the Seoul Skygarden will be unveiled; a 17-meter high ex-bypass that has been converted into a half-mile long garden full of native plant species. As well as running alongside galleries, tea houses and cafés, flower shops, street markets and greenhouses, you have a magnificent view of the four mountains surrounding Seoul: Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan and Inwangsan. You can just imagine how many likes these images are going to get?

When?
From September to mid-November it is pleasantly warm in Seoul without the oppressive midsummer heat (and the typhoon season is over; bonus!). Spring (mid-April to the end of May) also has ideal conditions; however, this is the most popular time for Japanese tourists visiting Seoul, which pushes the prices up somewhat.

 London – Seoul, 31 May – 15 June, flights starting at £416

 Manchester – Seoul, 3 – 25 June, flights starting at £432

 Birmingham – Seoul, 6 – 20 June, flights starting at £374

Hotel suggestion: Citadines Han River Seoul starting at £50

If you’re after a hotel to go with your flight but aren’t sure which part of the city you should book in, try KAYAK Heat Maps – check out tip number 2. Click on ‘Show map view’ in the top right-hand corner of the results page and once you’re there start filtering by what you want to do. Shopping? Nightlife? Food? The map will show you the best areas according to your choices and all the hotels available in them. Never stay in the wrong place again!

Guayaquil, Ecuador: The gateway to Galapagos deserves a second date

Normally, Guayaquil suffers the fate of a one-night stand. Most visitors, who use it as a gateway to the Galápagos Islands, stay one night and leave very early the next morning without looking back, on a mission to see some turtles (ok, that last bit isn’t at all typical).

guayaquil
Guayaquil ©Jess Kraft/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £24Flights starting at £445

Why now?
This tropical harbour town actually has a lot to tempt tourists to stay a little longer and is becoming a promising hub of food, culture and entertainment. Restored colonial buildings pepper the waterfront, not totally legal markets offer bargains galore and a fantastic fusion of South American and Asian food can be found everywhere. To discover the city’s green spaces head somewhere like Parque Histórico Guayaquil, which has seven hectares of flora and fauna, historic buildings and a former cocoa plantation. Take time to explore Malecón 2000, the city’s boardwalk, lined with galleries, gardens, shops, museums and bars.

When?
Ecuador is located on the equator making it an exciting destination all year round. From January to February and from July to August are the high seasons for tourists.

 London – Guayaquil, 25 May – 3 June, flights starting from £445

 London – Guayaquil, 8 – 22 June, flights starting at £576

 London – Guayaquil, 14 – 30 September, flights starting at £464

Hotel suggestion: Apart Terrazas Guayaquil Suites & Lofts starting at £42

Madagascar: Making a move towards eco-tourism

This immense island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique is home to thousands of animals and species that can not be found anywhere else in the world (none of them voiced by David Schwimmer).

madagascar
Madagascar ©Gil.K/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £30Flights starting at £619

Why now?
A total of ninety per cent of the flora and fauna of Madagascar is totally indigenous to the island and found nowhere else in the world. Due to climate change and encroaching environmental pollution, this biodiversity is increasingly threatened. So, now is the time to see lemurs, fossa or the falanuk, and let the impending threat to their existence kick your green-self into gear. New flights from Johannesburg make the journey easier, new eco-luxury resorts such as the Miavana, which opens this April, ensure a sustainable, green and first-class stay. There is also a range of volunteer programmes available where you can combine the ultimate adventure with community development or conservationism.

When?
If you want to see as much of the country as possible, you should plan a visit in May or September – when the weather is stable and pleasant over most of the island.

 London – Antananarivo, 14 – 27 June, flights starting at £619

 London – Antananarivo, 5 – 26 July, flights starting at £642

 London – Antananarivo, 13 June – 4 July, flights starting at £625

Hotel suggestion: Hôtel Restaurant La Ribaudière starting at £25

Canada: Celebrating 150, all year long

The world’s second largest country is home to urban cities dotted between spectacular, untouched nature found in its numerous national parks.

canada
Canada ©Matt Thomason/Unsplash.com

Accommodation starting at £50Flights starting at £317

Why now?
Canada has something to celebrate this year: Many moons ago, the individual colonies formed a single country. 150 years later, Canada would like to show just what a good idea that was and has rolled out the red carpet for the tourists. Throughout the year, the more than 200 national parks and historic sites are offering free admission. And, of course, the cities aren’t going to be outdone with many a celebration of their own. Ottawa, the capital, has all kinds of events on throughout the year, rivalled only by Montreal, who will also be celebrating its 375th birthday in tandem, meaning it has twice as much partying to do. It’d be rude not to join.

When?
From July to mid-September is the best time to hike in the national parks. The winter season runs until mid-May and starts again in mid-November. Canada’s cities, however, have their appeal all year round.

London – Montreal, 10 – 23 September, flights starting at £340
Birmingham – Montreal, 29 May – 5 June, flights starting at £453
London – Ottawa, 10 – 20 May, flights starting at £317
Manchester – Ottawa, 8 – 23 May, flights starting at £458

Dubrovnik: Hold the door! Get in before everyone else does

If the world is your oyster then it makes sense to head to Dubrovnik, A.K.A The Pearl of the Adriatic.

dubrovnik
Dubrovnik ©lIhor Pasternak/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £19Flights starting at £46

Why now?
For a long time, Dubrovnik was a pretty well-kept secret (well, popular but never overcrowded). The grand old city is one of the most beautiful sights constructed by people, even if seeing it for the umpteenth time. The mishmash of Gothic, Baroque and Rennaissance architecture is a visual feast. Rather than clashing, however, the entire city is bonded together by its marble streets, red tiled roofs and the shimmering blue of the Adriatic.

Due to a certain, extremely popular, television show, that may or may not contain dragons and imaginative ways to kill off its characters, Dubrovnik has suddenly been thrust right into the public eye, and the tourist floodgates have opened. Get there now, before even more people catch on.

When?
The climate is warm and temperate in Dubrovnik all year round, but summer it is, of course, the most beautiful season of all. The warmest month is July with average temperatures of 25 degrees.

Edinburgh – Dubrovnik, 25 April – 4 May, flights starting at £76
London – Dubrovnik, 16 – 19 May, flights starting at £46
Manchester – Dubrovnik, 5 – 12 June, flights starting at £86

Accommodation suggestion: Guest House Fontana starting at £40

Destination St. Petersburg: The calm before the World Cup storm

The city on the banks of the River Neva is only the second largest in Russia but is regarded by many as the most beautiful.

st-petersburg
St. Petersburg ©Ruslan Kerimov/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £15Flights starting at £189

Why now?
Russia is a country you can enjoy on a relatively modest budget, but as interest in tourism to the country rises ahead of the 2018 World Cup, there is sure to be an equivalent rise in prices in general. Take advantage of the calm before the storm and use 2017 to finally visit the Hermitage Museum, shop on Nevsky Prospect or take a trip to the Catharine Palace to see just a few of the incredible treasures St.Petersburg’s has to share.

When?
From the end of May to the end of June, the otherwise often icy temperatures are pleasantly warm – in addition, the famous white nights in which the sun only briefly passes can be experienced.

Manchester – St. Petersburg, 19 – 25 May, flights starting at £189
London – St. Petersburg, 1 – 6 June, flights starting at £196
Birmingham – St. Petersburg, 19 – 26 June, flights starting at £215

Accommodation suggestion: Mark Inn starting at £57

1967- 2017 in San Francisco: Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

These days, this Californian city on the Pacific coast is most well known for its high-tech industry. One simply need look a little deeper to find that it is also America’s most diverse, charming and artistic city.

san-francisco
San Francisco ©Chris Leipelt/Unsplash.com

Accommodation starting at £57Flights starting at £355

Why now?
50 years ago, the word ‘hippie’ and the city of San Francisco become synonymous – a whole generation of came to the city to celebrate the “Summer of Love”. In 2017, the city will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the summer of 1967. Any flower children among you, old or new, must make the pilgrimage to San Francisco. There are going to be amazing exhibitions dedicated to hippie culture, a trove of concerts and festivals, and a slew of theatre and street performances. In addition, specialist bus or walking tours are being offered, most of them lead by the ‘old-school’, authentic flower power progenitors who you share the personal insights into this incredible city and period of history.

When?
For your Summer of Love, you’re best off going to San Francisco, with flowers in your hair, between June and August – when the weather is pleasantly warm with a summer average of 22 degrees.

London – San Francisco, 8 – 13 June, flights starting at £424
Manchester – San Francisco, 18 – 29 June, flights starting at £447
Edinburgh – San Francisco, 5 – 9 June, flights starting at £355

Hotel suggestion: Adrian Hotel starting at £59

The Azores, Portugal: The land that time forgot

These Portuguese islands in the Atlantic Ocean unite the passionate lifestyle of Portugal with a rugged and primal natural landscape which enthrals any visitor to these lands.

azores
The Azores ©Vicky SP/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £40Flights starting at £143

Why now?
Volcanoes, thermal springs, Mediterranean villages, spectacular cliffs, underwater paradises and a lust for life – scattered over nine islands that are just a stone’s throw away from Europe. Why the Azores have been overlooked for so long is a mystery to us, but now that they are discovered, the Azores hype is inevitably driving the prices and number of visitors up. Last year already saw an increase islands of 31 percent in visitors to the island. But with prices still low when compared to most of Western Europe, the villages, coasts and hiking trails not over-crowded with tourists and the restaurants serving excellent wine and fresh seafood its little question as to why we suggest you beat the rush.

London – Ponta Delgada, 5 – 9 June, flights starting at £159
London – Ponta Delgada, 6 – 13 May, flights starting at £143
London – Ponta Delgada, 3 – 10 June, flights starting at £165

Accommodation suggestion: Residencial Sete Cidades starting at £49

When?
From June to October – when you can hike on land and head out on the water for whale watching. High season is July and August.

Have you ever used KAYAK Explore to search for flights at the time you most want to travel?? Simply click on the ‘Dates’ field and filter by ‘Anytime’, by season or by month; add your maximum budget and Explore will show you the best flights worldwide for you. Click any price you like on the interactive map and start booking. Warning: there is an acute danger of wanderlust! 

Tokyo: If you want a vision of the future

The capital of Japan is perennially popular and constantly cutting edge. If you want to take a look into the future, you must go to Tokyo.

tokyo
Tokyo ©Clay Banks/Unsplash.com

Accommodation starting at £33Flights starting at £328

Why now?
‘Lost in Translation’ introduced a different side of Tokyo to a lot of western viewers that the futuristic vision many of us had, but as Tokyo starts preparing for the Olympic Games, which will take place three years from now, the city has started looking back to the future again. New hotels such as the Setouchi Aonagi, which is jam-packed with art, and changing the skyline and in the underground more train connections are being added in a bid to make Tokyo an even more well-oiled machine. The closer the games get, the more expensive Tokyo will become – so this year is the best time to see the Imperial Palace, Shibuya or the Cherry Blossoms.

When?
April is cherry blossom time in Tokyo but any time – apart from July to September when the city is hot, stuffy and uncomfortably crowded – is a good time to visit.

London – Tokyo, 31 May – 13 June, flights starting at £345
Birmingham – Tokyo, 30 April – 11 May, flights starting at £328
Glasgow – Tokyo, 2 – 11 May, flights starting at £358

Accommodation suggestion: Tokyo Hikari Guesthouse starting at £61

Destination Morocco: The magical kingdom

The kingdom in the north-west of Africa is a short trip from the UK yet the moment you step off of the plane you know you’re in a completely different world.

morocco
Morocco ©Alexandru Nika/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £16Flights starting at £63

Why now?
In a continent where stability shifts from foot to proverbial foot, Morocco remains resolute and is always in favour with travellers seeking the exotic. In a little over 3 hours you can be in Marrakech, a city with a surprise around every corner, or maybe you’d prefer Essaouira, no longer just a haven for hippies; which, like the previously exclusive adobe of the eccentric, Tangier, is showing a whole new side of itself ripe for exploring. On top of this, the growth in new hotels and amenities for tourists is becoming better day by day.

When?
That depends on the region – May to October is the best time to travel to the west and north of the country, where 26 degrees is the average temperature. At this time of year, the rest of morocco is uncomfortably hot with temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees being the norm. For south and east Morroco, March to May, as well as October and November, are the best times to travel.

London – Marrakech, 25 September – 6 October, flights starting at £63
Bristol – Marrakech, 9 – 23 May, flights starting at £97
Liverpool – Marrakech, 19 – 23 June, flights starting at £89

Accommodation suggestion: Riad le Coq Fou starting at £56

Destination Botswana: Clean conscience safaris in Africa

Botswana has the largest population of elephants in Africa and in recent years has become a leading destination for sustainable and ecological tourism.

botswana
Botswana ©Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £36Flights starting at £587

Why now?
Since Botswana banned trophy hunting and hunting safaris the only things being shot are photos. If you want to experience an ethical safari with your conscience clean, Botswana is the right place to be.  The fact that Air Botswana has partnered with Qatar Airways has also greatly improved the accessibility of the country. If you have the means, you should definitely check out the Duba Plains Camp in the Okavango Delta, where you’ll be in the very landscape that Beverly and Dereck Joubert’s documentary ‘The Last Lions’ was filmed.

When?
Winter, from May to November, is dry and has pleasant daytime temperatures, but can be very cold at nights. In the hottest months, September to November, the vegetation withers away, but this can provide amazing views with a high possibility of seeing all the animals you hope to as they gather at the remaining water holes.

Birmingham – Gaborone, 7 – 17 May, flights starting at £616
Manchester – Gaborone, 1 – 12 June, flights starting at £623
London – Gaborone, 6 – 15 September, flights starting at £587

Madrid: Food, art, pride, repeat

The Spanish capital is a paradise for cultural cosmopolitans and food enthusiasts with its lively art and restaurants scene as well as an unfailingly excellent nightlife.

madrid
Madrid ©Farbregas Hareluya/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £31Flights starting at £42

Why now?
Foodies probably know Madrid for its incredible Spanish food, but as more and more international restaurants open up we see that the city can do so much more than just tapas. The Amazónico, for example, mixes Indian and Brazilian cuisine, while the Michelin-starred DiverXO has been awarded three stars by Ibero-Asian. A trip in summer, coinciding with World Pride Madrid, one of the largest LGBT festivals in Europe, will show you the character of the city at its best, with celebrations, festivals, art exhibitions, sporting events and so much more being hosted throughout of the city.

When?
From May to September the temperatures and the climate are dry and pleasant. Pride is the 23rd of June to the 2nd of July and is this year celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first Pride demonstration in Spain.

London – Madrid, 7 – 14 June, flights starting at £44
Birmingham – Madrid, 18 – 21 June, flights starting at £42
Manchester – Madrid, 6 – 10 May, flights starting at £50

Hotel suggestion: Hotel Madrid Las Rozas starting at £35

Namibia: The ultimate outdoors experience

Desert, lions, cheetahs and meerkats, all under the clearest night sky you may ever see. This country in Western Africa is a paradise for nature lovers.

namibia
Namibia ©Oleg Znamenskiy/Shutterstock.com

Accommodation starting at £54Flights starting at £544

Why now?
Namibia is one of Africa’s more expensive destinations, but prices have taken a dip lately and a trip to the West African country is worth taking before the prices hike back up. Try surfing the huge Sossusvlei dunes for a unique experience, or head to the Etosha National Park for a hike, a safari or both. Whatever you do Namibia will blow your mind.

When?
Avoid the South African and European school holidays, especially at the end of December and through January – flights are considerably more expensive then. In addition, during the winter months from May to September, more agreeable temperatures and a drier climate prevail than in the humid summer.

London – Windhoek, 30 May – 9 June, flights starting at £563
London – Windhoek, 19 June – 4 July, flights starting at £552
London – Windhoek, 23 August – 7 September, flights starting at £544

Accommodation suggestion: Discovery Guest House starting at £63

Do you want to do some exploring on your own plan? Find a comfortable and cheap car with KAYAK: Choose your drop-off locations and the driver’s age and start your search.

Destination Hamburg: The best of the old meets the best of the new

The second largest city in Germany has long been a popular destination with Brits, ever since the Fab 4 came here in the 60s. But this time let’s put The Beatles aside and check out what the newest musical addition to the city is.

hamburg

Elbphilarmonie Hamburg ©Robert Katzki/Unsplash.com

Accommodation starting at £45Flights starting at £30

Why now?
The construction of the Elbphilharmonie is finally finished and it is touted to become the Northern Hemisphere’s Sydney Opera House. It’s sleek yet imposing architecture is impressive and quickly becoming iconic but don’t forget it’s a concert hall first and foremost. In fact, some visitors are rumoured to have cried tears of joy due to the perfect sound generated by the building’s acoustics. The “Elphie” is the gateway to the HafenStadt, a quarter that has been completely rebuilt in recent years, complete with chic restaurants such as the Kaiserperle, and futuristic office buildings and apartment blocks. A fascinating contrast to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Speicherstadt, the warehouse district of old Hamburg.

When?
From May to August, summer in Hamburg is sublime.

London – Hamburg, 19 – 23 April, flights starting at £30
Manchester – Hamburg, 1 – 5 May, flights starting at £46
Edinburgh – Hamburg, 5 – 8 May, flights starting at £78

Accommodation suggestion: Apartment-Hotel Hamburg Mitte starting at £80

Note: These rates are based on search queries made on KAYAK.co.uk on March 24th, 2017. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available.

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