la paz bolivia

It’s not easy to narrow down next year’s destination hit list to 15 when my own is nearly triple the length – and that’s before picking the rest of the SUITCASE team’s brains. As always, new flight routes are either a catalyst for (or a result of) places being branded ‘in’ as travellers scrabble to be among the first to visit. Meanwhile there’s been a rise in the popularity of second cities, making it easier than ever to escape the crowds in even the most popular countries. Eastern Europe looks set to continue gaining traction as seasoned Euro-trippers venture further east in search of more adventurous experiences, while South America’s lesser visited countries are gaining popularity among US and European tourists alike. So without further ado, here are our top picks for 2017.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New York and LA could hardly get more popular, but cities such as New Orleans are starting to get their share of the limelight as alternative American hotspots. With its cutting-edge live music scene, hip street-food stalls and bourbon on tap, New Orleans offers something a little more earthy – and can be done quite cheaply. With British Airways launching direct flights from London in March, it looks like Louisiana is about to get a whole lotta of love. Look out for Portland, Memphis and Nashville too.

Tehran, Iran

Perhaps one of the most exciting travel developments of 2016 happened in September when direct flights launched between London and Tehran. While Iran is a country that has long been shrouded by sanctions and secrecy, it’s gradually opening to global travel – and you’re invited. From the bazaars, mosaics and Iranian funk in Tehran to skiing in the Alborz mountains and swimming in the Caspian Sea, SUITCASE went on a whistlestop tour of Iran to bring you the best bits.

Santiago, Chile

While Colombia was the South American destination of 2016, next year it’s all about Chile. Once overlooked in favour of its hipper counterparts such as Buenos Aires and São Paulo, Santiago has recently seen a gentle influx of boutique hotels and last year Saveur magazine earmarked it as the next great culinary city. With British Airways launching a direct flight from London to Santiago in March 2017, this South American sweetheart will no doubt continue to flourish.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

While not the easiest place to get to, the picturesque Mostar in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina is a city waiting to be discovered. Beyond the iconic Stari Most bridge, its cobbled streets and intriguing assortment of Ottoman and western European architecture provide a snapshot of the city’s multicultural past. The Croat-Bosniak War of the Nineties has kept Mostar largely off the tourist trail – until now. Those who make the journey will find a Balkan gem, while the drama of the region’s recent history gives it extra bite.

Helsinki, Finland

Located on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland and surrounded by water on three sides, Helsinki is our latest Scandi obsession. In winter, the area becomes enveloped in snow as it welcomes holiday celebrations, with the sounds of Handel’s Messiah wafting through the air from various symphony performances nearby. It’s also an excellent launch pad from which to chase the Northern Lights.

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Silk Road cities are fast becoming the go-to for holidaymakers wishing to get off the beaten track. It’s part of a trend for truly experiential travel; we’ve made it our goal to visit all six ‘stans’ by 2018. Set against the dramatic snow-capped Tian Shan mountains, Almaty is a good starting point, offering all the attractions of a major city without any of the claustrophobia, while its cafés and restaurants lend an oddly European vibe to the Soviet backdrop.

Muscat, Oman

Wedged between the Al Hajar Mountains and the Arabic Gulf Coast, Muscat is a city which retains an old world charm – a rarity among the ritzy, high-rise cities of the modern-day Middle East. Unfazed by keeping up with their flashier neighbours in the UAE, Omanis are known to be a laidback lot who greet travellers with open arms – make sure you’re one of them.

Warsaw, Poland

Toeing the line between a traditional Euro city break and something a little less frequented, the vibrant Polish capital of Warsaw is the place to book for a weekend getaway in 2017. A mish-mash of restored neoclassical buildings, modern skyscrapers and Soviet brutalist architecture meet a burgeoning gastronomy scene and spirited nightlife, making for a compelling mix of history and culture, while it’s less touristy than Kraków.

Cape Town, South Africa

A breathtaking city of creativity, surprises and new beginnings, Cape Town is an urban jungle like no other. From the skater boys at Sea Point and Long Street’s partygoers to the Stellenbosch winemakers and the businesspeople in Gardens, the carefree notion of coastal living and the determined drive of a bustling capital work hand in hand. A glow of excitement surrounds the mother city, and with something to do at every hour of the day or night, it’s a ticket for any traveller.

La Paz, Bolivia

Another South American destination on the up for western tourism is La Paz, the Bolivian capital resting some 3,650m above sea level on the Andes’ Altiplano plateau. If you think that’s a lofty statement, check out the recently opened Atix Hotel, the city’s first Design Hotel. Is it a symptom or cause of its rapid development? Either way, it doesn’t show signs of slowing in 2017.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

The oldest city in Europe to be inhabited continuously, Plovdiv seamlessly blends ancient ruins with romantic European architecture and cutting-edge nightlife. Various music and arts festivals are putting Bulgaria’s second largest city on the map for in-the-know cosmopolitan travellers ticking off Eastern Europe’s latest hot spots. We visited this summer to check out nearby Meadows in the Mountains Festival and, between hippies, hip flasks and plenty of electro, it’s a weekend we’ll never forget…

Oaxaca, Mexico

Seen the sights of Mexico City? Partied on the beach in Cabo? While these might be the first places that spring to mind when you think of Mexico, they don’t begin to scratch surface of the multifaceted country. One of our favourite places is Oaxaca, heralded for its ‘foodie’ status and indigenous culture. SUITCASE recommends heading to Mérida (the state capital of Yucatán) too, where you can experience rich Mayan and colonial heritage before hitting the beach among flamingos and pelicans at Isla Holbox, an island just off Yucatán’s north shore.

Bergen, Norway

While the adage “it’s always raining in Bergen” may be pretty much spot on, it’s no reason not to spend a good few days exploring Norway’s so-called second city. Embedded in the Seven Mountains, Bergen’s web of timber houses, cobbled roads and patches of greenery make strolling through its streets feel like an adventure into a bygone era. But don’t be fooled by its quaint veneer. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a youthful mentality drives the city. In fact, it’s been billed as the street-art capital of Europe.

Sligo, Ireland

We travelled to coastal Sligo for SUITCASE Volume 17: Myths and Legends. While Ireland is a country of familiar scenery, evoking stunning panoramas and ancient folktales, it is also a place you need to discover for yourself. Whether you visit in summer for an icy swim or wrap up in winter to brave the elements, be sure to put the Irish coast on your hitlist for 2017.

Seoul, South Korea

Not for the fainthearted, navigating the sprawl of Seoul’s 25million inhabitants takes patience, practicality and a sense of adventure. Indeed, those familiar with the city call it “Tokyo on steroids”. But Koreans are often one step ahead of the game, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the city trends, be it fashion, design or food. So visit Seoul, make like a local and you’ll be sure to up your style cred for the coming year.

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