My Take on the NYT 52 Places to Go in 2017 – All of Them

Of the many annual ‘places to go’ lists, the New York Times 52 Places to Go in 2017 is one of the few to take a few chances among its picks. Several years ago Iraqi Kurdistan was a selection.

Newfoundland and Labrador Canada

A way to consider a list is will reading it inform you? Does the list make the case for destinations that need a case made or a reappraisal?

Or, is the list an annual recycling of the most popular countries without a coherent argument?

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Countries in 2017 are a collection of countries either fantastically popular for decades or countries ‘discovered’ several years ago and now already inundated beyond their capacity: Canada, Colombia, Finland, Dominica, Nepal, Bermuda, Mongolia, Oman, Myanmar, Ethiopia.

If you pay attention at all to travel media, these are all well-worn except Dominica, one of my Caribbean favorites. Lonely Planet used to the publisher that covered the whole world. Two ownership changes have greatly diminished it.

Let’s turn to the NYT list which to me only has one turkey: Dubrovnik. Beautiful, yes. Also completely swamped by tourist crowds from black yoga pant-wearing NYU students to 50-person groups disgorged from massive cruise ships. Go anywhere else on that coast. Bay of Kotor is a personal favorite.

  1. Canada – excellent lead choice, the currency is way down to the USD. In the past year we have made multiple Toronto trips, plus we have been in the east to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and the west to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper in Alberta, and Vancouver and Victoria.
  2. Atacama Desert, Chile – magnificent, moonscape stretch of the world up to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni.
  3. Agra, India – more than the Taj Mahal, including Fatehpur Sikri.
  4. Zermatt, Switzerland – I’ll take it sight unseen that Swiss skiing is good.
  5. Botswana – safe, prosperous country with some of the best safari on offer. The best 1-2 day starter safari is is heading from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Chobe National Park in Botswana.
  6. Dubrovnik, Croatia – as noted above, unless you want to see wall to wall Lululemon, head elsewhere.
  7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – haven’t been, looks great.
  8. Tijuana, Mexico – making a comeback and with the cool skyway from San Diego to the airport, you can pick up interesting flights such as nonstop AeroMexico to Shanghai.
  9. Detroit, Michigan – I am a Midwestern boy so I won’t take a cheap shot.
  10. Hamburg, Germany – a winter evening wander I had after a business meeting in the deserted city was atmospheric.
  11. Marrakesh, Morocco – don’t spend your entire Morocco trip in chaotic markets, get out to the magnificent countryside and archaeological sites.
  12. Greenville, South Carolina – I confused this with Asheville, North Carolina as the trendy spot too far from good flight service.
  13. Pedregal, Ecuador – the country is one of my South America favorites and I would like to explore more, especially as long as Venezuela’s cowboy country is offline.
  14. Penzance, England – I confess: I watch Poldark.
  15. Osaka, Japan – mega-city more approachable than Tokyo and gateway to Nara, Kyoto and hot springs town Kinosaki-onsen.
  16. Stockholm, Sweden – I enjoy the vertical leveling of the waterways, streets and roads.
  17. Sikkim, India – isolated gem with air and rail links soon to replace the difficult to arrange helicopter and dusty overland slog.
  18. Île de Porquerolles, France – no idea on this one. Next week I go to Nice, Monaco and Corsica.
  19. Madagascar – lemurs and exquisite Afro-French food at bargain rates. Tana is a rare enjoyable African capital. Logistics still are awful.
  20. Sanya, China – no, no, no. Chinese go there for a beach vacation because it is more convenient than better places.
  21. Cyprus – see the painted monasteries in the interior, the divided capital, and the Turkish-controlled east to get past the British retirement communities.
  22. Great Barrier Reef, Australia – go beyond Cairns. Use Etihad Guest or Singapore KrisFlyer for short hops on Virgin Australia to places like Hamilton Island.
  23. Minneapolis, Minnesota – my beloved hometown. Yay!
  24. Kingston, Jamaica – I am a bit skeptical and have not visited Jamaica beyond a quick stop in Montego Bay. Not many Caribbean cities are fun for more than a few minutes.
  25. Comporta, Portugal – 1-hour from Lisbon and unknown by the Ryanair flyers? Excellent.
  26. Kazakhstan – of the 5 ex-Soviet ‘stans, this I rank as the least interesting, though collectively they are one of my favorite regions in the world.
  27. Gabon – in Africa, limited tourism usually means mega-prices. I was in Gabon in May. Attempting to arrange anything is difficult and way beyond my budget.
  28. Athens, Greece – I went for the first time last year and loved its grit as much as its history.
  29. Northwest Puerto Rico – I have only been to San Juan and the northeast.
  30. Chiang Mai, Thailand – sounds like it is still a good vibe despite its many years on the backpacker radar.
  31. Napa Valley, California – I suppose it never gets old.
  32. Puerto Escondido, Mexico – I am not a beach expert, though I love to eat, eat, eat in Mexico.
  33. Sedona, Arizona – each time I want to visit the state my wife says for that length of flight she wants to go to California.
  34. Madrid – my favorite old-world European capital.
  35. Ketchum, Idado – another of the cluster of western US states I have not visited.
  36. Maldives – if you do it, do it all the way to have a great experience.
  37. Calabria, Italy – the toe of the boot is overlooked and I assume as delightful as anywhere else in Italy.
  38. Antequera, Spain – ‘Spain’s Stonehenge’? Interesting.
  39. Lofoten Islands, Norway – last year I tried Norway in January and decided round the clock dark is not as novel as I expected. Next time I will go in summer.
  40. Iberá Wetlands, Argentina – I know nothing about this region.
  41. Istria, Croatia – the kind of place to visit when you smartly eschew Dubrovnik.
  42. Placencia, Belize – Belize has a lot of variety on offer and good tourist infrastructure.
  43. Langtang Region, Nepal – Nepal is a once in lifetime must-see.
  44. Bozcaada, Turkey – after many transits, in 2017 I plan to properly travel Turkey.
  45. Birmingham, Alabama – when I commuted to Atlanta in 2010-2012, the trend-setters were starting to drift to Birmingham.
  46. Sacred Valley, Peru – so much more than Macchu Picchu.
  47. Laikipia, Kenya – I have only been to the parks near Nairobi such as Hell’s Gate.
  48. Busan, South Korea – great city, don’t miss the United National cemetery, and then continue on your South Korea tour up to Gyeongju.
  49. Portland, Oregon – I have never been yet keep trying to persuade my wife for us to move there.
  50. Budapest, Hungary – like Prague, without the max museums and mojito bars. The Museum of Terror is one of the most well-presented, harrowing museums in the world.
  51. South Bronx, New York – I suppose.
  52. Ryuku Islands, Japan – I don’t tout Okinawa, though am open-minded on the others.

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  • Tyler

    Completely agree with Dubrovnik- so overrated

  • rurhrurh

    You slam Lonely Planet, but then make inane passing comments on places (most in the list it appears) you haven’t been? Lame.

  • Inane or no, NYT doesn’t put together huge guides for each and my quick takes are advertised exactly as quick takes.

    If you count the exact place down the specific town/village I have been to 24, if you count the country/region of which they are reasonably part (such as other parts of Wyoming, but not saying US means Wyoming) add another dozen or so, depending how you want to argue, if you count whole country, that is 52. Compare that to the entire NYT travel writer staff that combined to make the 52. The point I argued is precisely that the NYT list teaches travelers of virtually any experience some new things while many lists like the Lonely Planet one offer little new beyond the standard press drumbeat. The old Lonely Planet was not like that as a bookshelf of their pre-2011 titles at my apartment attest.

  • rurhrurh

    Hmm. That’s a lot of words. But I’ve never read “I know nothing about this region” in any Lonely Planet publication or destination list. Or on any other “travel blog” for that matter. Ever. What’s the point?…

  • Joeheg

    What’s the thought on Okinawa? Was thinking of visiting but can’t find anything besides the fancy hotels.

  • Joeheg – the main island is much more built up than you might expect and the main tourist cluster is geared towards Japanese families with children, big resorts, aquarium, that sort of thing. If that is not your thing (not mine, at least), Naha is a pleasant town, Shurijo Castle is good for a visit, Tsuboya Pottery street is a nice stroll. The main tourist strip in Naha allows you to try interesting local foods you won’t see elsewhere in Japan. Driving around
    Nakagusuku Castle Ruins and Nakamurake Residence are my favorites.
    There is a not a lot of WWII remnants to see. The middle section of the island dominated by the US base is drive-through area. If you drive all the way to the northern point you get rugged scenery. I would go back to get to some of the other islands.

  • So you the prefer the many travel publications and blogs that research
    from a computer screen without setting foot anywhere near the destination and pretend as if they have been?

    I have been to
    many places in the world. Many more I have not. I have not been to that particular
    region of Argentina and not going to do a disservice to my readers to pretend otherwise. The point is intellectual honesty.

    If you have questions about the nearby Misiones country around Posadas, both the Argentinian
    and Paraguayan sides, I am happy to guide you from experience.

  • tommyx

    THANKS for your comments. all appreciated!

  • TWoK

    I am lucky enough to have lived in Okinawa 13 years, so by all means if you visit I’ll try and meet up.

  • Jamie

    I wish I hadn’t cancelled the paper while we were traveling. Would’ve been nice to have the physical copy of the travel section to read this stuff in.
    That’s interesting to hear about Birmingham. We had an overnight there on our road trip return from Florida. Didn’t see any of the city at all, but decided to pay an extra $15 to stay at the Hyatt Regency at the mall instead of another Hyatt Place. While I realize you are talking about real travel here and not just the inside of hotels, I was super impressed by the hotel. It was objectively nice, not just “nice for a hotel attached to a mall”. Pro tip, park at the mall for free and walk into the hotel parking garage, instead of paying for hotel parking.
    Might have to go back and actually spend some time in Birmingham itself.

  • Brenton

    Grand Teton and Yellowstone are insanely beautiful. It’s like switching from a tube tv to HD, everything looks clear and sharp and more brightly colored than any other mounts I’ve ever been to.

  • rurhrurh

    If you’re going to promote your travel opinions online you can’t be so thin-skinned when you get opinions regarding your posts in response. I actually don’t prefer ANY kind of blog. I prefer – as I’ve done for 30 years travelling independently through all seven continents – to explore and experience for myself. I appreciate your desire to report honestly, but there are a plethora of blogs purporting to do the same thing. I personally think they’re not worth more than a cursory glance. Travelling isn’t about ticking boxes – it’s about exploring within yourself, while experiencing outside yourself. Being “guided” by travel blogs is the former. But I’m happy to give you kudos for sharing experiences you’ve actually had. Enjoy the road.

  • shonuffharlem

    Do you mean one hour from Lisbon?

  • Yes, corrected, thank you.

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  • Greenville, SC has a surprisingly nice downtown and the park there is first rate.

  • ABC

    Madrid – my favorite old-world European capital.
    Why?
    Been there a few times. Maybe I missed something.

  • Something about that sunny, elegant, towering historic core appeals to me, and the trio of museums, too.

  • BBQ?

  • My daughter has some food allergies so we’re generally not too adventurous when traveling, but I’ve heard there are some good places there. I think it comes down to whether or not you like the SC BBQ style. It’s pork BBQ with a vinegar/mustard sauce. I love it, YMMV.

  • stvr

    I love how you slam the guy who’s been to 186 countries for being ill-informed about which travel destinations to visit…

  • rurhrurh

    Glad you do – except you’re wrong.

  • Robert Weisberg

    I like your comments on the places you have been to. Botswana souds interesting. My first safari was in Pilanesburg National Park two years ago.

  • Robert Weisberg

    One of my underrated places to visit is Vienna, Austria. The hotels are great. The food is great. Prices are less than most Western European cities. I have not been to Salzburg of the Austrian Alps yet. Hotle service tends to be excellent. The coffee, cake, wienerschnitzel, etc amazing.

  • Robert Weisberg

    Agreed. And Stefan has been to some crazy places.