10 Places I’m Hoping To Visit In 2017

Yesterday I shared my five favorite places I visited for the first time in 2016. As I explained, I travel differently than most — for me travel is about the journey, because that’s my “job.” That being said, I do everything I can to experience places as well, even if just for a couple of days.

Since it’s still the beginning of the year, I figured it would be for me to set some goals of places I’d definitely like to visit in 2017. I’m not suggesting that these are the 10 places in the world that I absolutely, 100% most want to see. Rather I’m trying to be realistic. Some of these are places that are a pain to get to that I still really want to visit, while others are places that really interest me, that just happen to fit in very well with one of my airline review trips.

With that in mind, here are 10 places I’m hoping to visit for the first time in 2017 (in no particular order), with a brief explanation of why:

1. Paro, Bhutan

I’ve always in passing been curious about Bhutan, though Ford is the one who put this near the top of my list of places to see. The landscape looks gorgeous, and there are even a couple of Le Meridien hotels there, so it’s a place where I can review some points properties.

Le-Meridien
Le Meridien Thimphu

2. Kathmandu, Nepal

This is connected to Bhutan. You need to fly Druk Air to get to Paro, and they fly out of Kathmandu, among other cities. I’ve long been interested in Nepal, and while I realize there’s probably more interesting stuff to see in Nepal than the city, I figure this is a good start.

3. Zanzibar, Tanzania

Park Hyatt recently opened a property here, which made me do some further research on Zanzibar.  The island seems interesting, and I’ve heard good things from people who have visited.

Park-Hyatt-Zanzibar
Park Hyatt Zanzibar

4. Beirut, Lebanon

I’ve visited most of the major cities in the Middle East, though not Beirut. I’ve heard it’s one of the most vibrant cities in the region, so I can tie this into a review of Middle East Airlines.

5. Tel Aviv, Israel

I think this one is obvious. I’ve never been to Israel, which is long overdue. The current EL AL first class fares between London and Tel Aviv are causing me to finally plan this.

El-Al-First-Class-101

6. Tallinn, Estonia

I’ve heard Tallinn is gorgeous, and it’s quite easily accessible from Helsinki. I was hoping to make it there the last time I was in Helsinki, though I didn’t have time.

7. Kigali, Rwanda

I really want to review RwandAir’s A330 that flies between Dubai and Kigali. But this isn’t a trip I want to take strictly for review purposes, but also because I’d like to visit Kigali.

rwandair-business-class

8. Windhoek, Namibia

Air Namibia flies from Frankfurt to Windhoek, and I’ve been wanting to review them. Beyond that, Namibia looks stunning. I realize most of the beauty of the country is outside the city, so I hope to make some excursions from there. But I figure this is a good starting point.

9. Machu Picchu

I’ve been wanting to visit Machu Picchu for years, but never seem to make it. I really need to finally do it this year — there are great Starwood properties in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley and it’s not that tough to get to Cuzco.

Tambo-del-Inka-2
Tambo del Inka in the Sacred Valley

10. Greenland

I’ve come to realize that I prefer nature to cities when it comes to vacations. I visited Iceland a few years ago, and visited Svalbard last year, so now want to visit Greenland, as I explained in a previous post.

Singapore-First-Class-777 - 71
Greenland from above

Anyone have any thoughts on the above places? What’s on your 2017 travel bucket list?

Comments

  1. AHH…Bhutan 🙂 when my godfather semi-retired he was hired as a consultant by the Bhutanese government to do some kind of restructuring of something…can’t remember the details lol. He spent 3 months there and said it was incredible. I tried to visit while he was there but was never able to make it happen. I hope you go.

  2. Ben, South America is definitely not on your priority list, haha. Except for Machu Picchu. It’s true that SPG and Hyatt’s best hotels are not located here in Brazil, but there are tons of nice places to visit, especially on the coast. If you like beaches, Jericoacoara and Fernando de Noronha are just two of the nicest ones here.

  3. Bhutan is still one of my most memorable travel experiences. The landscape is stunning and the people warm and friendly. The landing at Paro Airport (which I’m sure you know) is pretty amazing too!

  4. When you go to Israel, make sure to go to Jerusalem!!! It’s a quick bus ride and it’s a must see if you’re already going to be in Israel.

  5. Namibia is an incredible place. Although you’re right that much of the beauty is outside of the city, Windhoek is still a fascinating place with tons of history and culture. I’d recommend driving (or hiring a guide, preferably) and touring through Etosha, Waterberg, and Swakopmund.

  6. Ever considered the Faroe Islands? It’s not Greenland, but the tourist infrastructure looks a little more accessible.

  7. There’s a superb £232.00 business class return from LHR – TLL which allows you to fly the finnair A350 on a SH route to HEL followed by a regional hop to TLL.
    This would be good should you change your mind and want to requalify for exec platinum.

  8. Try the Himalayan Indian state of Sikkim, wedged between Bhutan to the East and Nepal to the West. Sikkim is like Bhutan, except more snow-covered. You could actually do a contiguous Bhutan-Sikkim-Nepal trip in one fell swoop and visit nearby Darjeeling (where the tea comes from) in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, from which you can view Kangchenjunga (the world’s third highest mountain) and access the Zemu glacier at the foot of it. It’ll be hard for an American to arrange visas for all three states, but it should be significantly easier with your German passport.

  9. If you end up visiting Kathmandu, I’d highly recommend the restaurants OR2K (vegetarian) and Mahaaja (Japanese).

  10. The boarding music for Air Bhutan is awesome. Please find out if it is available for purchase. The country is beautiful. We stayed at Como Uma Paru and it loved it. Don’t miss hiking to Tigers Nest.

  11. Nepal is a beautiful country and Kathmandu certainly worth visiting. There is PLENTY to see in the city, and then of course there’s the Everest flight. I cried seeing all the destruction after the earthquake. The general population has so little, and the buildings and monuments that were destroyed weren’t just ikd, they were cornerstones of their religious life. How would Jews feel watching the Wailing Wall come tumbling down? Heartbreaking. But the people are friendly and the values abound.

  12. Tallinn is gorgeous and well worth a visit. I did a cruise with my extended family last year and all of us loved the city. It’s smaller, but the people are friendly and there is quite a bit to see.

  13. Spent about 10 days in Namibia over the holiday season. It was indeed a very beautiful country with a lot to see OUTSIDE of Windhoek. If you are time constrained, you should try to at least get to Swakopmund – an interesting German colonial town a few hours drive from Windhoek – from where you can catch a scenic flight over to the sand dunes and the skeleton coast, a must see. Windhoek has a Hilton which is quite nice for where it is (they served Oryx meat in the lounge, btw), and right next to it another better Hilton is being built as we speak.

    It just happens that I will be visiting Greenland for 2-weeks in August. Unfortunately it’s not a place where you get to use points/miles 🙁

  14. Yes, Tallinn is a really nice city to visit. The new Hilton Tallinn Park is lovely, there are numerous excellent restaurants and overall it’s a great place to see.

  15. I highly recommend Tel Aviv during the gay pride parade–it is the only country in the ME with their own celebration. Israel is such a small country (8 hours north to south and just a few hours E to W) that I would spend time there seeing the whole country! Eilat (in the south) is great for a relaxing vacation on the Red Sea (also easy access to Petra in Jordan). The north has beautiful landscapes great for hiking. Jerusalem has so much history and really interesting architecture- very cool dichotomy of old and new.

  16. Kathmandu is a great choice and plenty to do there. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t visit other parts of the country. Plus, the Hyatt Regency is one of my favorite hotels in the world and an absolute bargain in points.

  17. Hi Ben,

    Been following your blog for quite a while now but this is my first comment on a post that I have made.

    Bhutan : Incredible and a must visit. The best properties to stay in Bhutan are the UMA chain . A good second choice would be TAJ Tashi which has recently announced a co branded loyalty program with St. Regis.

    ZANZIBAR: Again a beautiful undiscovered place with interesting history and beautiful beaches and mist importantly lovely and friendly folks.

    BEIRUT : Been there many years ago . Was a great holiday……. beautiful city……. gorgeous people …….amazing nightlife ……. was called the Paris of the Middle East. I believe it’s terrible now and not worth visiting after the long war.

    KATHMANDU : A must visit for the historic Hindu temples ….. the shittiest airport in the world I must say though.

    What’s probably even more exciting is taking a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla which is an experience of a lifetime and from Lukla taking a chopper to the Everest base camp for a Champagne Breakfast…

    You must experience the take off and landing at Lukla !!

    TALLINN : Non Stop partying and fantastic nightlife and friendly people .

  18. Great list. Since I’ve learned so much from you and your website, here’s my two cents about some of the places on your list that I have visited.

    Kathmandu has many wonderful sights to see – you should spend at least 3 days there. Take a short 1-2 hour flight on Air Buddha that takes you from Kathmandu to see Mount Everest and back. Dwarika’s hotel is considered the best there – it’s interesting, but does not compare to an Aman or other top notch hotel.

    Zanzibar is mildly interesting. It’s known for its old stone town, which is nothing spectacular.

    Beirut is pretty, on the sea. Take a day trip to Baalbeck (sometimes spelled Baalbeck) to see the ruins. There’s a Four Seasons there as well as a Relais & Chateaux property, Albergo. Both are nice.

    Tel Aviv – not very interesting. Jerusalem is a short drive away. Plan a few days to see all that Jerusalem has to offer. So much history and sights to see in Jerusalem. Jaffa borders the south of Tel Aviv and is interesting – you can see it in a few hours.

    Machu Picchu is a must – one of the world’s top sights. Stay at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge – the only hotel at Machu Picchu.

    Have a great time and I look forward to your trip reports.

  19. How could I missed out Israel :
    My favourite amongst all of the places you have listed.

    Visiting Jerusalem is a truly spiritual experience…….. a city that is the birthplace of three important religions…… though I belong to neither of these ……. this place has some tremendous positive energy which can’t be explained but must be experienced .

    While this may sound cliched …….. a dip in the DEAD SEA is well worth the experience !

  20. 6) You can get there directly from WAW, too. Actually LOT will fly their 787 there once, on 23rd of Feb.

  21. How do you handle passport control in Israel? I was under the impression that if you get a stamp there, there’s no going back to most of the Arabic countries?

  22. I wouldn’t go to Bhutan to stay at le Meridien. There are a few places in the world where you let go of points and choose an amazing hotel experience instead. Maldives is also one of those places 🙂

  23. Please please please leave the city in Namibia. The whole desert country is gorgeous, especially along the coast in places like Luderitz, Swakopmund, Henties Bay and Terrace Bay on the Skeleton Coast. It might be one of those trips where you want to give yourself just a little bit more time and you will be glad you did. Etosha park is also amazing, although can be replicated somewhat in South Africa in the Kruger National Park. Enjoy it!

  24. Great list Ben! There are a couple of places on your current top 10 list that are on mine as well. I know this is beginning to sound like an echo chamber, but one recommendation I have is to focus on Jerusalem instead of Tel Aviv, when flying to Israel. Ben Gurion airport is really an airport for Jerusalem just as much as it is for Tel Aviv, as it’s just a short 35 minute (and up to an hour with traffic) drive away from Jerusalem.

    I’m 20, I’ve been to 49 countries (46 were in the past 18 months), including 7 Middle Eastern ones and I’ve studied in Jerusalem for 2 years. In my opinion Tel Aviv isn’t that special to experience, and even looks pretty run down aside from the beach area near the Sheraton, which is kind of nice. The area in and around the old city of Jerusalem, on the other hand, is remarkable and definitely worth spending more time.

    I’m actually guessing that was your real intention (to list Jerusalem, instead of Tel Aviv), but you (understandably) didn’t want to get into the politics of referring to Jerusalem as in Israel or not

  25. While in Tanzania, how about taking a trip to the Serengeti? I would love to see that trip report. I’m hoping to go there someday.

  26. Lucky, Rwandair’s A330 service out of Dubai will go back to the B737-800 due to poor loads from April. You may want to fly on the A330 before the B737 comes back.

  27. @Susan

    That impression is false. I’ve had absolutely no issues traveling to Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE, along with Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia in the past 18 months, all with a two page Israeli student visa in my passport. That’s aside from the fact that Israel doesn’t stamp passports anymore and I only had a visa because I was staying longer as a student.

    However, with a few countries, like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, I’ve read that it is their policy not to allow people with Israeli stamps into the country. As I said though, that won’t be an issue for tourists to Israel, as they don’t get a stamp and it will also no longer be an issue for me, as I just got a new passport!

  28. Agree that you have a very low focus on South America. Yes, not many SPG or Hyatt properties there but amazing places to visit in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, etc… Also a chance to try LATAM routes and planes.

  29. To put visiting Tel Aviv into perspective – If you travel to Iceland, how much time would you spend in Reykjavik? If you travel to Peru, how much time would you spend in Lima? If you travel to Costa Rica, how much time would you spend in San Jose?

    Tel Aviv is the same – a perfectly fine city, but it would be a very poor use of your limited time in Israel. There are too many “nowhere else in the world” things to see in Israel (particularly Jerusalem but elsewhere too) to spend time in what is essentially a Middle Eastern version of Miami.

  30. I’ll second David’s recommendations on Namibia. Swakopmund, Dead Vlei/Sossussvlei, Etosha, Fish River Canyon should be on your list. Happy to share info with you about our trip there, which was unforgettable. Outside of Windhoek, be prepared to spend a lot of time driving on the road. Things are not close to each other.

  31. Tallinn is fantastic, but identify what cruise ships are in port – it can get overwhelmed by cruise passengers, so do try to capitalize on evenings after the cruise ships leave.

  32. Tallin is really worth it. It’s a place where you’ll need about 1/2 days to visit the city. If you stay more you’ll want have to plan some trips around Estonia as well.
    You could get to Tallin from Helsinki using a prop or a ferry.
    The other decent options I know of are Lufthansa from Frankfurt or Aeroflot from Moscow. From time to time Aeroflot uses one of their Sukhoi Superjets 100 (the newest Russian plane; it’s totally safe to fly it. No need to worry), which I think would be interesting to try.

  33. if for whatever reason you’re only doing a one way on the TLV run, then make it TLV-LHR, and not LHR-TLV, so you can take advantage of LY’s TLV first class services and lounge. Far more on offer they have at LHR. For TLV hotel, i would recommend the Hilton if you have the points. For Jerusalem, hotel, use the Waldorf Astoria. Personally i love the King David but its overrated of what they charge.

  34. Impressive list of destinations. Only one I have been to is Israel. Tel Aviv is ok as noted, but Jerusalem is really where you want to spend the bulk of your time.

  35. Visiting Nepal, there is plenty enough to see in the city unless you are looking for some “naturesque experience”. The airport is not in a very condition, however, traveling around is simple enough and there is a lot of history. Paro can also be connected through India, Bangkok and Singapore. When you do get to Nepal there are plenty of oneworld/star alliance/skyteam flights to go to many major cities in Asia. Turkish Airlines flies their newer A330-300s on the route four times a week and usually have very good award availability (which is my preferred way of getting back to the US or Europe).

  36. Please go to at least namche bazaar (2 day hike from lukla) if you’re going to Kathmandu. Going just to the HR in Kathmandu (while probably the nicest/biggest hotel in the country) is not a true representation of this country.

  37. Beirut Beirut and Beirut
    The best hotels Phoenicia Intercontinental and i can get you special recommendation with VIP treatment

  38. Freddy Mercury was born in Zanzibar. Just a fun fact for you, Lucky. Everyone else has given great suggestions.

  39. Vikram Mohan
    You know Germany is a beautiful country but unfortunately the war destroyed it.
    You have to go to Beirut and see and not rely on history of more than 24 years.
    Justvto let you know Beirut was on CNN list city to absolutely visit,Conde Nast best city list so plwase do some research.

  40. Bhutan is very interesting. But the altitude is no joke. In almost 3 weeks there I never did get used to it. It’s worth spending a week or two to see more of the country. Takes a long time to get around because there’s just one narrow “highway” across the country that hugs the mountains.

  41. Nice Lucky! I was in Kathmandu last July and am considering doing a study-abroad program in Bhutan, so it seems we have similar tastes for travel (in the sense that we’re open to pretty much anything). I’m pretty sure there is an Aloft opening in Kathmandu this June as well so you’d probably stay there. I flew Thai Airways business class to get to KTM, but Turkish, Qatar, Etihad, Korean Air, and SilkAir are several other airlines that you could redeem miles for (Although my TG business class ticket was so cheap I just paid cash for it.).

  42. Kigali is a nice, if boring city. Try to get up to Musanze, in the northwestern part of Rwanda, and trek with the gorillas. The short drive there is also incredibly beautiful, and illustrates why Rwanda is called the “Land of 10,000 Hills.”

  43. Tel Aviv is a great city. Don’t understand why so many people here are putting it down. Great beachfront, very lively, lots of art and culture, food, amazing gay life of course. Visit both that and Jerusalem.

  44. Ben, I’m an American travel agent of Lebanese heritage that has loved your blog and reviews for some time now. I’m thrilled to see Beirut on your list of places to go in 2017, and I apologize in advance for whatever ridiculous experience you may or may not have when flying MEA. They’re not a bad airline per se, but I remember the famous Forrest Gump quote every time I fly with them. You really never know what you’re gonna get.

    That said, I can give you tons of advice and recommendations for Beirut, and I’d be honored to show you around if your visit happens to overlap with one of the 3 trips to Lebanon I already have scheduled for 2017! I know it’s not always easy to work out and that you get the same advice for almost every destination, but please try to give yourself a few days in Lebanon to get out of the city and experience some of the amazing stuff the country has to offer.

  45. Nice list lucky I’ve been to Zanzibar when I was stationed in Tanzania for work a few jobs ago. The seafood is amazing I would stay away from any meat products besides fish there is no consistency. Zanzibar is a beautiful place with welcoming people as well have a great time.

  46. If u go to Windhoek u can take an ATV and ride the sand dunes. It was an awesome experience. Also the town is strange in that it’s all German. The supermarket we went too had a lot of German imports and the vendors even spoke some German. Germany did colonize the country at one point. Beautiful country. Tel aviv also amazing city. We r going back in August. A lot of the other cities u listed are ones on my list which is a very short one.

  47. Smh about two things here…first, Kathmandu itself is hardly worth a visit. The mountains are the attraction–seeing them from the ground and not just from in the air. If you’re not gonna trek you should skip Nepal (unlike Bhutan, Tibet, and India).

    Secondly, I personally think that it’s embarrassingly sad that your travel list originates more from what posh flights you want to fly and what posh hotels you want to stay in rather than any merits of the destinations.

  48. Susan,

    I have personally not had a problem but a few of my friends have had issues entering countries in the Middle East post their trip to Israel.

    Israel now offers something called a paper visa which is not stamped onto your passport for this reason.

    When you apply for a visa this special request needs to be made and I have been using this paper visa on my last two visits there.

  49. The Tambo del Inka in the Sacred Valley is superlative. My entire family loved it. But it’s all the more outstanding if you spend several days there recovering after hiking the Inka Trail!

  50. You should definitely visit Madagascar for vacation purposes, i’m currently based here (and done my fare share of traveling) . And it is still the most beautiful country i have visited so far. Feel free to send me an E-mail if you would like some more information 🙂 .

  51. @Justine

    Lucky’s main objective is to research premium travel products and not so much the destinations.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  52. The image you’ve put up of the “Park Hyatt Zanzibar” is actually of the Tembo Hotel next door to the PHZ. It’s more accurate to say the picture was taken *from* the PHZ.

    If you go to Stone Town, make sure to see the Turtle Sanctuary on Prison Island, nearby. I was amazed at what giant turtles can do to a head of lettuce in 10 seconds flat…

  53. Come in Greeece at summer! !!!!!!!! Excellent starwood properties and not only !!!!!! Visit mykonos Santorini sifnos and athens you will be amazed !!!!

  54. It is a fabulous idea to visit Tallinn, you will not regret it!
    You are very welcome to Estonia!
    We are here in the medieval old town (houses is 500 years old), and I think the most beautiful and compact airport.

  55. @Vikram – I think you intended to reference the Como chain, which runs the spectacular Uma Paro Resort in Bhutan? This would be my top choice too, as I’ve done a few of the Como properties and they are consistently amazing.

  56. Been to many of these and have to say Beirut is fantastic… I would suggest finding a reliable guide (not very hard) and go see the cedars in the north and baalbeck. Also jeita. Lebanon is truly a hidden gem and a gorgeous country.

    It’s not a war zone the way people who haven’t been there (or haven’t been in 35+ years) make it out to be.

  57. I stayed at the Tambo del Inka property in Urubamba and had a fantastic stay. The private train station with a daily train that takes you to Aguas Calientes is incredibly convenient.

  58. We did Rwanda (gorilla trekking) and Zanzibar in the same trip in 2015 and loved both! Fly into Dar Es Salaam and do one night (no more) at the Hyatt in Dar as our suite upgrade was incredible, overlooking the water. The ferry from Dar to Zanzibar is about a 2min drive from the hyatt and the ferry is the way to go – most luxury ferry we’ve ever been on. It felt like a first class flight with massive seats, drink service and personal entertainment/movie devices.

  59. Beirut is a must. I’ve probably been there hundreds of times and still enjoy visiting Lebanon. It’s pretty diverse and vibrant. Some must sees in the area are Beirut Souk, Zaitounay Bay (close to the Souk), and Najma Square/Solidere (not as lively as it used to be but still a must). There are also several towns like Byblos, Tripoli, Faraiya (known for skiing and sledding in the fall/winter), and Jounieh (as you can see I really love Lebanon :P)

  60. Fabulous idea to go to Cusco – Peru- south America, I just have been last week for the first time and liked it a lot. My favourite city in the last year!
    The whole country is gorgeous, especially along the southern in places like Arequipa Puno and Cusco really worth it. It’s a place where you’ll need about more days to visit the city and you will be glad you did. Vinicunca the Rainbow mountain, Inca rope bridge is also amazing.
    You could get to Vinicunca, the rainbow mountain (day trip) using local horses and horsemen from time to time, it’s safe to ride to hike 3 hours to the top 5040M,16535,43 Ft . No need to worry if you get acclimatization in Cusco 2 or 3 days prior the trip, I think would be interesting to try. Enjoy it!
    I can recommend you some very nice tour operator
    You can check out ( if thats fine to post here ) . http://www.andespathperu.com/rainbow-mountain-peru-1-day-trip/

  61. Estonia. If You have more time, please visit the best place to eat in Estonia – Põhjaka mõis. (pohjaka.ee) It’s my favourite place to bring my guests (and myself of course) out of Tallinn. And it’s on the way to the university city Tartu. Not too big and a kind of cozy and slow. 🙂 We just came back from Finland and Estonia.
    Have more good trips in 2017!

    -Maarika-

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