Ah, January. That glorious time of year when you have the maximum amount of holiday allowance to plan with (and you might have even have carried a few cheeky days over from 2016). While you may already have a few places in mind, we think these are the 15 key destinations you should be looking at to make the most out of the new year.
1. Havana, Cuba
The 2017 vibe
It’s gone from being a destination for only the most adventurous of travellers, to the hottest of holiday destinations. The big draws of Cuba are the fascinating history, colourful architecture, scenery and Caribbean coastline, not to mention its nightlife and streets filled with classic 1950s cars.
As the country is rapidly changing, now’s a good time to experience Havana’s slightly rough-around-the-edges character. Cuba’s tourism industry is still in its early stages, so it’s best to be a little flexible with your travel plans.
In the past, your only option might have been staying in the homes of locals. But new and refurbished hotels have recently opened around Havana, so you don’t have to do without a little bit of luxury.
- The International Book Fair of Havana (10th-17th February). The country’s biggest cultural festival, and you can see international authors as well as art exhibitions and concerts.
- The Festival del Habano Cigar (27th February-3rd March). Even if you don’t smoke, tours of tobacco farms and cigar factories are some unusual sightseeing options. Plus, there’s a solid line-up of concerts from local musicians.
Approximate flight times from London: 9 hours
Currency: Cuban Convertible Peso
Weather: Cuba has a year round warm, tropical climate. The best time to visit is during the dry season of November-April.
2. Reykjavik, Iceland
The 2017 vibe
Reykjavik is the world’s most northern capital city, and a good place for a stopover en route to the USA or Canada. Iceland’s volcanic landscapes recently featured in Game of Thrones and the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, and will be on screen in 2017’s Fast and Furious 8 and Justice League.
In 2017, the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is opening of a brand new luxury hotel, spa and restaurant. Drop by on the way to or from the airport, it’s the country’s most famous attraction (and one of the 25 wonders of the world, according to National Geographic).
You’ll find plenty more inspiration for a visit in our 21 Reasons You Should Definitely Go to Iceland.
- The Winter Lights Festival (2nd-5th February): expect art installations and late night swimming in the city’s famous swimming pools.
- Sónar (16-18th February): the spin-off of the Spanish electronic music festival has Fatboy Slim, Moderat and De La Soul on the line-up.
- Secret Solstice (16-18th June): 72 hours of non-stop daylight and a line-up headlined by The Foo Fighters and The Prodigy.
- Iceland Airwaves (2nd-6th November): the city’s longest running festival. For the first time in 2017, it’ll also host gigs in Iceland’s second city, Akureyi, found in the north of the country.
Approximate flight times from London: 3 hours
Currency: Icelandic Krona
Weather: Very changeable. Temperatures peak at 14 degrees in July and August and hit a low of -3 in February. Pack for all seasons, whatever time of year you’re going.
If you want to see the Northern Lights, your best chance is between September and March (and be sure to check out our blog on Where Are the Best Places to See the Northern Lights? before you book).
3. San Francisco, USA
The 2017 vibe
2017 is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, and San Francisco – the home of the 1967 hippie gathering – will be celebrating in a big way, with art exhibitions, concerts and other events throughout the year.
Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz are all a must-see if you’re visiting for the first time. But if you’ve been there and done that, head down to the SOMA/South Beach neighbourhood. There’s a real buzz around there thanks to recent openings like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the 21st Amendment Brewery.
And it’s arguably never been easier to get to San Francisco Bay area from the UK either, with new flight routes to the nearby city of Oakland having been introduced in the past year.
- The Summer of Love anniversary events run throughout the year. Most events happening between June and September, peaking with a free concert in Golden Gate Park in June.
- The Union Street Festival (3rd-4th June) is one of San Francisco’s most famous street festival. You’ll find most of them during April-October. Perhaps the most famous being
Approximate flight times from London: 10 hours and 30 minutes
Currency: US Dollar
Weather: Temperatures are fairly settled throughout the year. August averages around 14 degrees and 10 degrees in January. However, July and August are the driest months.
4. Madrid, Spain
The 2017 vibe
If you haven’t been for a city break in Madrid yet, make 2017 your year. The Prado Gallery and Retiro Park will keep you occupied during the day, and the bars and restaurants will keep you up long into the night. Try the ground-breaking Spanish-Asian restaurant, DiverXO.
Madrid’s also a popular choice for LGBT travelers. The Chuecha district is full of gay-friendly shops, bars, clubs and the world’s biggest Pride festival. In 2017, they’re celebrating 40 years of Pride in Spain, and Madrid will be hosting WorldPride (23rd June-2nd July). There’ll be a week’s worth of events, including live music and sport competitions, closing with a parade that’s expected to attract 3 million people.
You’ll find more inspiration for a visit in our guide to the Top 5 Things to Do in Madrid
- WorldPride (23rd June-2nd July)
- The Mad Cool Festival (6-8th July) will be headlined by the Foo Fighters, Green Day and Kings of Leon.
Approximate flight times from London: 2 hours and 20 minutes
Weather: Madrid’s high altitude mean that it has a particularly changeable climate. Temperatures in the summer can top 40 degrees, and dip down to 2 degrees in the winter. Spring and Autumn have the most comfortable temperatures, but are also the rainiest months in the city.
5. Perth, Australia
The 2017 vibe
Perth might just be one of the most remote cities in the world.
If it’s nature you’re after, you’ll like Perth’s sandy beaches and King’s Park – one of the largest city parks in the world. You can also drive down to the lush vineyards of Margaret’s River, or sail over to Rottnest island. Keep your eyes peeled for a Quokka – a cute little marsupial which is only found in Western Australia.
Perth is also big on music. It’s the home of the Perth International Arts Festival – Australia’s longest running festival, and they claim to have the largest amount of rooftop bars in the country.
- Australia Day (26th January): Perth hosts the country’s biggest celebrations, finishing with a massive fireworks display.
- Perth Comedy Festival (26th April-21st May): one of the world’s leading comedy festivals. The 2017 line-up features David O’Doherty, Paul Foot and Stephen K Amos.
- Perth International Arts Festival (10th February-5th March): acclaimed theatre, music and art including some of the very best shows from Edinburgh. Its opening event in King’s Park will have light projections exploring Australia’s history.
- Fringe World Festival (20th January-19th February): the place to discover new talent.
Approximate flight times from London: 17 hours and 40 minutes
Currency: Australian Dollar
Weather: Perth has more days of sunshine than any other Australian capital. During its summer months (December-March) the climate is hot and dry, with an average maximum temperature of 30 degrees. Winter is cooler and wetter, but still comfortable, with temperatures averaging 8-19 degrees.
6. Cape Town, South Africa
The 2017 vibe
Cape Town is known for its beautiful scenery, including Table Mountain and an excellent selection of beaches along its two coastlines. And in 2017, it’ll be known for its art.
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa opens in September. Described as Africa’s equivalent of the Tate Modern, it’ll take over the V&A Waterfront’s Grain Silo building, which has been a recognisable part of the city’s skyline since 1921.
The top floors of the building will be also home to a brand new luxury hotel, The Silo, which is set to open in March.
- The Ultra Music Festival (24th February) is the biggest rave in town, with David Guetta headlining.
- Cape Town International Jazz Festival (31st March-1st April) is one of the world’s biggest jazz festivals. Laura Mvula and 90s girl group En Vogue will be performing this year.
Approximate flight times from London: 11 hours and 50 minutes
Currency: South African Rand
Weather: The warmest temperatures are in February and most sunshine in December. The coldest month is June, with average temperatures of 13 degrees, while July is the wettest month.
7. Jersey, Channel Islands
The 2017 vibe
Need to refresh and recharge after 2016? You’re not the only one. Spa holidays are predicted to be one of the big things in travel in 2017.
Jersey is a good bet for a spa holiday. The island has an excellent selection of luxurious spa hotels, gourmet restaurants, incredibly fresh seafood and loads of food festivals throughout the year. It also has enough hours of sunshine to make the most of the beaches.
The flight time from London is less than one hour, and shops accept the British pound as currency (so no need to keep an eye on the exchange rates).
- The Channel Islands Heritage Festival (8th April-10th May): this year’s festival is devoted to the myths and legends of the Channel Islands.
- Tennerfest (1st October-12th November): for 6 weeks, menus in some of the island’s best restaurants start from (you guessed it), a tenner.
Approximate flight times from London: 50 minutes
Currency: UK Pound and Jersey Pound
Weather: Jersey has warm seas and hours of sunshine, and its temperatures remain fairly comfortable all year round (compared to the UK at least) – averaging at 6 in January and 17 in July.
8. Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark
The 2017 vibe
The Danish coined the concept of “Hygge” (roughly speaking, appreciating the cosy feeling you get from life’s more simple pleasures), which probably explains why Denmark is officially the happiest country in the world.
Copenhagen is the country’s fairytale-pretty capital. You might already have heard of Noma, the restaurant whose locally-sourced menu earned it the title of the best restaurant in the world. But in 2016, the Michelin Guide declared the intimate Geranium to be even better. It was the first restaurant in Copenhagen to earn the top honour of three stars. And a thriving craft beer scene is also developing in the city.
You’ll find plenty more reasons to visit in our list of 22 Things to Discover in Copenhagen.
Its second city, Aarhus, is 2017’s European Capital of Culture. One of the highlights we’re most keen on is the Royal Danish Theatre staging a viking epic on the grass-covered roof of the Moesgaard Museum – one of the city’s most striking buildings.
- Roskilde (24th June-1st July) is Denmark’s biggest music festival, headlined this year by The Weeknd and Arcade Fire. It’s just under half an hour from Copenhagen.
- NorthSide (9th-11th June) in Aarhus features performances by Radiohead, The 1975 and Bastille
- The Aarhus Jazz Festival (15th-22nd July)
- SPOT (4th-7th May): showcases Scandinavian talent in Aarhus.
Approximate flight times from London: 1 hour and 40 minutes to Aarhus, 1 hour and 50 minutes to Copenhagen
Currency: Danish Krone
Weather: The warmest temperatures are in August, with an average high of 17 degrees, and the most sunlight hours are in July. Its coldest month is January, with an average temperature of 0 degrees.
9. Helsinki, Finland
The 2017 vibe
Finland are celebrating 100 years of Finnish Independence this year. So it’s going to be party time.
Finnish singer, Saara Aalto also put the country on the map at the end of 2016, finishing second in the X Factor and winning the hearts of her adopted nation. And while it’s one of our favourite winter destinations we think it’s got more to offer than winter sports, huskies, reindeer, Father Christmas and the Northern Lights (although that’s not a bad list to begin with).
- The World Figure Skating Championships (27th March to 2nd April)
- As part of the centenary they’ve created a new National Park in Hossa for 2017, they’ve got special events planned for each season with a day for spring, summer, autumn and winter, to celebrate the countries connection to nature.
- Flow Festival (12th-14th August), a boutique festival with Lana Del Rey and Aphex Twin on the lineup.
Approximate flight times from London: 2 hours and 50 minutes
Weather: In the winter expect temperatures of minus 20 and super short days. Summer can easily get into the 20s – and the 30s are not unheard of. This will be peak time.
10. Newquay, UK
The 2017 vibe
The TV Show Poldark caused a media storm when it returned to the small screen in 2015. And while Aiden Turner stripping off caused the majority of the headlines, the glorious Cornwall scenery still managed to hold its own. So much so you can now go on locations tours. It’s also really easy to fly there, so rather than face a long train or car journey – you can jump on a plane and have more time to explore one of the finest coastlines in the world.
- Boardmasters Surf and Music Festival (9th-13th August): Combine Newquay’s love of surfing spots with its rather good pubs and clubs. Not at the same time.
- Polo on the Beach (19th-21st May) will see the horses take their turn on the sand – and they have a cool after-party as well.
Approximate flight times from London: 1 hour
Currency: UK Pound
Weather: August is the warmest time to get into the water. Like all British summer weather, it’s always variable, but if you can’t go swimming, you can go for strolls along one of the best coastlines in the world.
The 2017 vibe
Thailand is having a coronation in 2017: the new Crown Prince is set to take the throne. This is a big deal as the general population don’t have much information about their new monarch.
If you’re a backpacker, good news: there’s going to be a new rail link to Cambodia, further opening up this part of South East Asia. Searches for Thailand holidays continue to grow and if 2017 is anything like 2016 people will begin booking their holidays in January.
- A new Intercontinental Hotel in Phuket with a branch of Ibiza instituion Cafe del Mar. This will really add to the island’s beach clubbing scene.
- The annual Songkran Festival takes place in April across the whole country. This traditional water festival is their version of New Year. You’re going to get very wet.
Approximate flight times from London: 11 hours and 15 minutes to Bangkok, 12 hours to Phuket
Currency: Thai Baht
Weather: Thailand has three seasons, but we recommend going between November and February. It’s still hot but not stifling (there’s less rain too) – however it remains warm and tropical all-year-round.
12. Kingston upon Hull (Hull), UK
The 2017 vibe
It’s all happening on the Humber in 2017. Hull has been designated UK City of Culture, so there’s going to be loads going on.
Hull’s probably most famous for being the birthplace of William Wilberforce, who fought to abolish slavery, and the poet Philip Larkin. Its two Rugby League teams are two of the oldest in the country and the football team is currently in the Premier League as well.
You should make a trip across the Humber Bridge. When it was built in 1981, it was the biggest single-span suspension bridge in the world. The views are decent too (it can be a little bit windy mind you). Hull’s also home to the world’s only submarium. The Deep has sharks, rays and penguins (they’re ridiculously cute).
Need to make a call? Hull’s also the only place in the UK where the public phone boxes are cream-coloured.
- The UK City of Culture has events happening every day. They’ve split the programme into four seasons, all representing different and unique things about the city.
- Headline music acts include ELO (1st July), Britain’s Got Talent (and former Hull city council employee) Calum Scott (2nd March) and Paul Heaton (3rd June) who founded two of Hull’s most famous bands, The Housemartins and The Beautiful South.
Approximate flight times from London: 45 minutes
Currency: UK Pound
Weather: It’s the UK – so who can say? The summers should be warm, the winters will be cold and there’s always a chance of rain.
13. Ottawa and Montreal, Canada
The 2017 vibe
Canada’s celebrating its 150th anniversary of independence, when Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec all came together.
Canada is famous for its truly impressive scenery. So good news, you can get a free Discovery Pass in 2017 to visit all their national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also did a major tour of the country at the end of 2016 (their second in five years) with their family. It was one of The Queen’s favourite places too – here’s where she used to stay in Canada. And it it’s good enough for the Royal Family…
- Canada Day (1st July) – expect huge parties and festivals.
- National Flag of Canada Day (15th February): Take a look at the official Canada 150 website to see exactly what’s going on and where.
- Montreal’s 375th anniversary
Approximate flight times from London: 6 hours and 20 minutes to Montreal, 6 hours and 30 minutes to Ottawa
Currency: Canadian Dollar
Weather: The further north you go, the colder it’s likely to be – especially in the winter. It’s perishing.
The 2017 vibe
Searches for “Croatian holidays” rose in 2016 and the demand shows no signs of slowing down. The hit HBO series Game of Thrones can rightly claim a hand in this. Locations used by the tv show include Dubrovnik (Kings Landing), Split’s Diocletian’s Palace (Daenarys’ throne room) and Klis Fortress (Meereen).
It also helps that it’s really pretty. You’ve got medieval streets, fairy-tale castles and forbidding fortresses. And then you’ve got the beaches and islands – especially on the Dalmatian Coast.
If you’re looking for more tips – check out our Croatia travel guide before you head off.
- Sea Star (26th-27th May), a new festival held in Umag, a seaside town in the north-west of Croatia – directly across the water from Venice. It’s a spin off from the award-winnning EXIT festival and The Prodigy are headlining.
- The 7th season of Game of Thrones is due to air in the summer, which should spark a surge of interest in the country again.
Approximate flight times from London: Two and a half hours to Split, two hours to Zagreb
Currency: Croatian Kuna – although Croatia joined the EU in 2013, they haven’t adopted the Euro
Weather: It’s doesn’t get humid in the summer. Temperatures reach their peak in July (late 20s, early 30s) so it’s hot but not too sweaty. In the colder months you might want to stick to sightseeing in the historic cities as the islands are a lot quieter.
The 2017 vibe
Internet searches for holidays in Japan increased in 2016. Here’s some of the weirdest and most wonderful sights that you’ll only see in Japan. And their aiports are pretty good. If you’re going to Kyoto or Mt Fuji make sure you fly into the Central Japan International Airport – it’s one of the best airports in the world.
Of course you should go in spring when the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom. You’re looking at February into the start of May as the best time to see Sakura in its pink glory.
- The Brave Blossoms – aka Japan’s Rugby Union team – stunned South Africa (and the rest of the world) at the Rugby World Cup in 2015. And they’re hosting Australia as well as Ireland for the first time in 2017 as they gear up to hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
- Japan gets LEGOLAND in Aichi in April, and the first Moomin theme park outside of Finland is also opening just outside of Tokyo.
- Japan House is a cultural hub opening in London in summer 2017.
Approximate flight times from London: 12 hours to Tokyo
Currency: Japanese Yen
Weather: As Japan is in the northern hempishere, its seasons follow ours. Summer is hot and humid. In the winter it gets colder the further north you go.
What are your must-visit destinations for 2017?
We’d love to know where you’re jetting off to. Share your travel tips by leaving a comment below. Happy travels.