SL's Top Countries to Visit this Year

From the Mayan temples of Mexico to the beauty of Bolivia and the people of Papua New Guinea, our experts hand pick the best destinations to visit in the coming months.

The largest and least-visited nation in Central America begs to be explored in 2017. While broadening flight routes are opening Nicaragua up to the world, for now, the country’s gorgeous colonial cities and picture-perfect beaches remain some of the most unspoiled in the region.

For adventure travellers, Nicaragua offers the best of Central America for a fraction of the costs you’ll find in neighbouring countries. Sloth-spotting in dense rainforests, epic surfing trips, remote eco retreats and excursions to nineteen different volcanoes are just a few of the intrepid activities you’ll find in “Costa Rica without the crowds”.

Until now, many visitors have been kept at bay by Nicaragua’s reputation as dangerous – something that is simply no longer valid. The same travel precautions should be taken here as elsewhere in Central and South America, but you’ll generally find Nicaraguans to be overwhelmingly kind, hospitable and welcoming.

 

This country is so much more than the usual suspects: Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos. Try Copper Canyon instead, a larger and arguably more beautiful canyon than the Grand Canyon.

The southern jungles are loaded with Mayan temples. Colonial cities remain packed with pastel-coloured buildings and Spanish architecture. The food changes from state to state. Mexico City is cosmopolitan, European, and decidedly Latin.

When you're there make sure you consider the state of Oaxaca. Oaxaca City, a beautiful colonial city, boasts some of the best food in the entire country. A few hours away are the beach towns of Huatulco and Puerto Escondido - perfect for your St Anton travel bag.

And then there's Tulum. Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the perennial spring breakers' favourite, Cancun, the Mexican town of Tulum has become a popular travel destination with celebrities and the fashion elite.

With white sands and beautifully clear waters, top-notch restaurants and beach clubs, and activities that range from swimming in stunning cenotes to visiting preserved Mayan ruins, it's clear to see why Tulum ends up on so many bucket lists. 

 

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. 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 this coming September, it will mark the Andean nation’s first papal visit in 30 years.

 

While cashed-up honeymooners will always want to head to Bora Bora or Moorea, there's more to French Polynesia than those famously romantic – and famously expensive – locales. In 2017, set a course for the out-islands, to places like Rangiroa in the Tuamoto Islands, which is an almost-uninhabited paradise, or the Marquesas, where it's as much about adventure as romance.

If you're lucky enough to be in the main island of Tahiti at the right time, check out the Billabong Pro surf tournament at Teahupo'o, known as the world's "heaviest" wave.

Just make sure you take your Bora Bora travel bag!

 

 

With annual visitor numbers barely reaching a million, it’s safe to say the world has yet to discover Bolivia. Make 2017 the year you explore one of South America’s most overlooked destinations.

Trekking through the astounding biodiversity of the Bolivian Amazon, blazing through the surreal salt flats of Salar de Uyuni or climbing craggy mountains blanketed in snow – all these unforgettable experiences come crowdless and remarkably cheap.

October also marks fifty years since the death of national hero Che Guevara, whose last steps can be retraced along the “Che Trail”.But if there’s one thing not to miss in 2017, it’s the rising tide of La Paz’s wrestling Cholitas.

This is a movement through which Aboriginal women have taken back a once derogatory term in the name of self-empowerment, battling against gender roles, discrimination and male machismo one thespian match at a time.While on the whole you’ll find a renewed sense of vigour driven by growing national prosperity, keep in mind that Bolivia has faced some serious droughts as of late. It’s important to travel in as sustainable a way as possible, and there’s a plethora of eco-friendly initiatives to help minimise your footprint.

 

 

This is a water lover’s paradise. The sea surrounding the Philippines hits that high note of perfect blues and greens - just like our Mustique travel bag! The scuba diving is world-class, and the people are welcoming and looking to make friends.

The air pricing and length of travel are the biggest issues here. Traveling for a full day to get there can be rough on the body. Keep in mind, though, that once you arrive, everything is incredibly cheap. A massage is £5. Taxi rides are less than £3. Four-star resorts run less than £40 a night. And a plate of lechon (pork) for an entire family costs £10.

Go to the island of Bohol, it’s perfect for beach bums. There’s loads of affordable diving options, boat tours, and snorkelling, and it’s just a short ferry ride to Cebu for the casinos and nightlife.

 

 

Australia's closest neighbour has plenty to offer travellers adventurous enough to make the journey there in 2017 – and those numbers are sure to increase with cruise lines adding Milne Bay and Kokopo to their itineraries. For first-time visitors, the best of PNG is celebrated at its annual events: celebrations like the Mask Festival in Kokopo, the Mount Hagen Cultural Show, and the Canoe and Kundu Drum Festival in Alotau.

This month's Mask Festival will be one of the most popular events on the calendar.



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.