With so many “where to go in 2017” lists popping up, it’s hard to tell what’s hype and where to find bona fide good travel. We’re weighing in. We’ve been to the places you’re reading about and will tell you straight, as a friend would, what the real deal is. Often what makes a good read and a memorable photo doesn’t translate into a vacation you’d want to take when you consider the logistics of getting there, how much there is to do in the area and where you’ll stay. This is why we came up with the “where NOT to go in 2017” list. It’s filled with alluring alternatives to the world’s greatest hits.
Trade: Golden Triangle
Go Instead: Central India
We have a soft spot for the Golden Triangle. Its desert forts and treasured temples (the Taj Mahal!), opulent palaces you can actually stay in, the best jewel and textile markets in the world, and its sheer expansiveness skyrockets it to the top of travel lists. But discovering the wonders of the Golden Triangle also comes with dust and navigating India’s notoriously chaotic cities. After Absolute Travel’s Sasha Lehman spent two weeks tracking tigers and staying in luxury tents in Central India, we were introduced to a different side of India. Central India hosts nine (that’s nine!) national parks. The highest density of tigers in the country are found here. In addition to tigers, you can spot many other species including leopards, sloth bears, wild dog, incredible bird life and Gaur—the highly endangered, largest bison species in the world. There are unique UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Khajuraho, whose temple carvings and structures are totally different than what is found anywhere else in the country. You can also see the works of world-renowned tribal artisans and learn about the traditional artwork that decorates local homes. Plus, there are luxury tented safari camps built on land buffering tiger reserves and rural villages. You can even stay in a fortress palace on the banks of the sacred Narmada River. Get in touch with our India expert.
Trade: Maasai Mara
Go Instead: Laikipia
The Maasai Mara is iconic with its sweeping Serengeti dotted with kopjes and snow-capped Mount Kenya looming in the background. This is why so many people want to visit, which can mean safari pileup. Consider Laikipia. With Mount Kenya on one side and the Great Rift Valley on the other, Laikipia is just as awesome and far less visited. It’s a protected wildlife corridor which means stellar game viewing including elephant matriarchs and lion packs. It’s one of the few areas in Kenya where wildlife numbers have increased in the last twenty years. Our Africa expert, Daniela Bonanno, says you can track wildlife along ancient migration trails and learn what it takes to protect them. What you won’t see are trains of safari vehicles marring your view. Get in touch with our Kenya expert.
Trade: St. Barts
Go Instead: Jamaica
St. Barts has long been considered the epitome of a chic Caribbean getaway, where the jetset crowd heads for sun and restoration. We’ll never turn our noses up at white-sand beaches, artful cocktails, and sunning by the pool. Yet, if we can get it with a twist, we’re all the more excited. This is where Jamaica comes in. No longer a resort-only spot, Jamaica has had a total revival in the last couple years. Food hunters will fall for the resurgence of local fare and burgeoning food-culture tours. Of course, the music scene is always thriving (Jamaica gave us Bob Marley, after all). And, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to sign on to an all-inclusive resort to go: there are amazing boutique properties including longtime favorite GoldenEye. Get in touch with our Caribbean expert.
Trade: The Usual Circuit
Go Instead: Coast & Surf
Ask most people to list the reasons to visit Peru and you’ll hear Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, Cusco and Lima. These are all must-dos. But, our Peru expert, Robyn Mark, tells us, “there is so much more to Peru beyond the usual circuit. There are amazing beaches and surf along the northern coast that are totally overlooked. You’ll stay in beach-chic boutique hotels and have miles and miles of sandy coastline to walk.” You can bookend your beach time with visits to Arequipa and Titicaca. In Titicaca you can visit the reed villages—villages that are floating on Lake Titicaca’s surface—by boat and marvel at the Andes in the background. In Arequipa try some of the best Andean cuisine in the country and take in the baroque architecture with three towering volcanoes surrounding you. Get in touch with our Peru expert.
Trade: Cherry Blossom Season
Go Instead: Fall Foliage
You heard it here first: fall foliage is the next big thing in Japan since cherry blossom season. Okay, we’re kidding around. But really, fall foliage in Japan is something to wonder at. Our Japan expert Brian Lonergan (currently on his eighth visit to Japan with his 20-month-old son!), advocates that those who are having trouble planning a year in advance for cherry blossom season or securing their first-choice hotels and guides consider going for fall foliage instead. You won’t be disappointed. Big tip: if you’re thinking of visiting Japan for fall foliage, book your trip the January before to ensure you get the best hotel reservations and phenomenal guides. Get in touch with our Japan expert.
Trade: The Amalfi Coast
Go Instead: Puglia
Cotton-candy beach umbrellas. Vintage jet boats. Private seaside villas. We get it, the Amalfi coast is nothing short of a throwback Hollywood romance. But, hear us out. It’s popularity equals lots of bodies exactly during the time you want to visit: summer. So, we’re trading it in for the shier, more relaxed Puglia. Puglia has everything you want in an Italian summer fling, without the high maintenance. You’ll find food made with love: you can learn to make your own fresh burrata or eat platefuls of orecchiette pasta made from heritage recipes. You can walk olive groves filled with two-thousand-year-old trees with cliffs that drop off into the ocean. There are UNESCO World Heritage Cities and plenty of coastline with quiet beaches. Get in touch with our Italy expert.
Trade: United Arab Emirates
Go Instead: Oman
Those looking for authentic culture and age-old traditions of the Arabian Peninsula may be disappointed searching between the skyscrapers and glitzy malls of the Emirates. Here’s where you’ll find them instead: Oman. There are impressive forts and castles surrounded by palm groves and sand cliffs, markets that have been active for centuries and continue to trade camels and daggers today, semi-nomadic communities living at the desert’s edge beneath massive sand dunes, real-life oases and wadis to explore alongside guides who have grown up discovering the desert’s secrets. All this and some of the most inventive properties we’ve stayed in. Rather than the high-rise monoliths of Dubai, you can paraglide into Six Senses Zighy Bay or perch on the edge of a ravine at Alila Jabal Akhdar in the remote Hajjar Mountains. Get in touch with our Oman expert.
Trade: Siem Reap
Go Instead: Banteay Chmaar
Siem Reap never fails to captivate visitors. It’s mysterious and downright stunning. But what if we told you there was a place with even more intrigue? Visiting the newly uncovered ruins of Banteay Chmaar is an adventure of Indiana-Jones proportions. As our Cambodia expert, Holly Monahan, says, “Banteay Chmaar is like Angkor Wat but the ruins are still untouched and barely visited.” Think crumbling temples moldering into enormous tree trunks with carvings peeking through the suspended roots. You can still do Siem Reap. Then, take a helicopter to Banteay Chmaar and see both from a bird’s eye view before touching down to explore on foot. Chances are you may be one of the only visitors wandering through the forgotten temples. Get in touch with our Cambodia expert.
Trade: Costa Rica & Nicaragua
Go Instead: Guatemala
Don’t get us wrong, we’re always up for a laid-back, palm-tree, big-surf, feet-in-the-sand type of vacation. Just the type you’ll find in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. But, if you’re looking for something culturally rich and untrodden, go to Guatemala. When Absolute Travel’s Meghan Black sent us photos of the volcanic Lake Atitlan with its crystal blue waters and towering volcanoes, we were ready to trade coconuts on the beach for epic hiking and zipping between tiny lakeside villages by boat. Leslie Overton, Absolute Travel’s family travel expert, raved that it’s a totally unexpected family travel destination. The best place to begin your family trip in Guatemala is Antigua. She told us about a just-renovated historical private family villa in the heart of Antigua. It’s the perfect base from which to explore the UNESCO World Heritage city. If you’re interested in cultural or artisan engagement, few places beat Guatemala on this front. You can learn backstrap weaving from women-owned and operated cooperatives, design your own boots incorporating vintage textiles with third-generation boot makers, and learn about medicinal gardens and healing while taking in stellar views of Lake Atitlan. Ask our design expert Meghan–she’s just back. Get in touch with our Guatemala expert.
Go Instead: Sudan
“Sudan was the mysterious adventure I’ve been waiting for,” Absolute Travel’s Sudan expert, Matt LaPolice, says. Did you know: it has more pyramids than Egypt, the Blue and White Niles convene in Sudan, and the hospitality is unexpectedly stellar? If you do nothing but explore the pyramids, it’s worth the visit. You’ll have them practically to yourself—no lines or crowds here. Go inside and, unlike in Egypt where the paintings are roped off and faded from human breath and touch, the pyramid paintings in Sudan are nearly as vivid as the day they were made. After, you’ll venture into the desert, which rivals Jordan’s Wadi Rum and Morocco’s Erg Chebbi in terms of landscape and scale. You’ll wake in your luxury camp to views of nothing but a sea of sand and slow-moving camel trains. This is just the beginning. Get in touch with our Sudan expert.
Go Instead: By Land
Think Galápagos travel and you likely think cruise. Times are changing. Skip boarding a cruise and enjoy the freedom of seeing the Galápagos from luxury land lodges. You’ll spend your days on private-yacht excursions to deserted beaches, kayaking with sea turtles, and cycling over volcanic islands. You’ll see tons of wildlife including blue footed boobies, sea lions, tortoises, and giant lizards, yet you won’t be beholden to the schedule of a ship or confined to close quarters. Instead, in the evenings you’ll retreat to your decked-out under-canvas tent or gorgeous suite. Get in touch with our Galápagos expert.
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