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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.
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.
- 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.
- Atacama Desert, Chile – magnificent, moonscape stretch of the world up to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni.
- Agra, India – more than the Taj Mahal, including Fatehpur Sikri.
- Zermatt, Switzerland – I’ll take it sight unseen that Swiss skiing is good.
- 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.
- Dubrovnik, Croatia – as noted above, unless you want to see wall to wall Lululemon, head elsewhere.
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – haven’t been, looks great.
- 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.
- Detroit, Michigan – I am a Midwestern boy so I won’t take a cheap shot.
- Hamburg, Germany – a winter evening wander I had after a business meeting in the deserted city was atmospheric.
- Marrakesh, Morocco – don’t spend your entire Morocco trip in chaotic markets, get out to the magnificent countryside and archaeological sites.
- Greenville, South Carolina – I confused this with Asheville, North Carolina as the trendy spot too far from good flight service.
- 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.
- Penzance, England – I confess: I watch Poldark.
- Osaka, Japan – mega-city more approachable than Tokyo and gateway to Nara, Kyoto and hot springs town Kinosaki-onsen.
- Stockholm, Sweden – I enjoy the vertical leveling of the waterways, streets and roads.
- Sikkim, India – isolated gem with air and rail links soon to replace the difficult to arrange helicopter and dusty overland slog.
- Île de Porquerolles, France – no idea on this one. Next week I go to Nice, Monaco and Corsica.
- Madagascar – lemurs and exquisite Afro-French food at bargain rates. Tana is a rare enjoyable African capital. Logistics still are awful.
- Sanya, China – no, no, no. Chinese go there for a beach vacation because it is more convenient than better places.
- Cyprus – see the painted monasteries in the interior, the divided capital, and the Turkish-controlled east to get past the British retirement communities.
- Great Barrier Reef, Australia – go beyond Cairns. Use Etihad Guest or Singapore KrisFlyer for short hops on Virgin Australia to places like Hamilton Island.
- Minneapolis, Minnesota – my beloved hometown. Yay!
- 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.
- Comporta, Portugal – 1-hour from Lisbon and unknown by the Ryanair flyers? Excellent.
- 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.
- 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.
- Athens, Greece – I went for the first time last year and loved its grit as much as its history.
- Northwest Puerto Rico – I have only been to San Juan and the northeast.
- Chiang Mai, Thailand – sounds like it is still a good vibe despite its many years on the backpacker radar.
- Napa Valley, California – I suppose it never gets old.
- Puerto Escondido, Mexico – I am not a beach expert, though I love to eat, eat, eat in Mexico.
- Sedona, Arizona – each time I want to visit the state my wife says for that length of flight she wants to go to California.
- Madrid – my favorite old-world European capital.
- Ketchum, Idado – another of the cluster of western US states I have not visited.
- Maldives – if you do it, do it all the way to have a great experience.
- Calabria, Italy – the toe of the boot is overlooked and I assume as delightful as anywhere else in Italy.
- Antequera, Spain – ‘Spain’s Stonehenge’? Interesting.
- 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.
- Iberá Wetlands, Argentina – I know nothing about this region.
- Istria, Croatia – the kind of place to visit when you smartly eschew Dubrovnik.
- Placencia, Belize – Belize has a lot of variety on offer and good tourist infrastructure.
- Langtang Region, Nepal – Nepal is a once in lifetime must-see.
- Bozcaada, Turkey – after many transits, in 2017 I plan to properly travel Turkey.
- Birmingham, Alabama – when I commuted to Atlanta in 2010-2012, the trend-setters were starting to drift to Birmingham.
- Sacred Valley, Peru – so much more than Macchu Picchu.
- Laikipia, Kenya – I have only been to the parks near Nairobi such as Hell’s Gate.
- Busan, South Korea – great city, don’t miss the United National cemetery, and then continue on your South Korea tour up to Gyeongju.
- Portland, Oregon – I have never been yet keep trying to persuade my wife for us to move there.
- 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.
- South Bronx, New York – I suppose.
- Ryuku Islands, Japan – I don’t tout Okinawa, though am open-minded on the others.