From San Antonio, Texas, to Salento, Colombia, these are the destinations that should be on everyone's list this year.
By Mark Johanson, Men's Journal
From San Antonio, Texas, to Salento, Colombia, these are the destinations that should be on everyone's list this year.
Why now: The impeccably restored Union Station is at the center of two major developments in downtown Denver: the new train line to Denver airport and the soon-to-return Ski Train (which ceased service in 2009). The latter will link the city with Winter Park Resort in two traffic-free hours starting January 7.
What to see: Set foot outside Union Station and you'll enter into the LoDo neighborhood. Denver's once gritty urban core, it's become the city's crowning achievement in urban revitalization, with trendy coffee shops, café-lined streets, and craft beers flowing from every bar tap.
The Peruvian Amazon
Why now: Drone lovers take note: Rainforest Expeditions has just launched a new Wired Amazon project in the Peruvian Amazon that lets everyday "aero-botanists" fly drones over the canopy to help collect data on native flora and fauna. You can then log-on to the project website back home and continue working remotely as a citizen scientist.
[post_ads_2]What to see: The Wired Amazon project takes place in the Tambopata National Reserve, a 5,800-square-mile protected area south of Puerto Maldonado created in 1990 to protect the forests adjacent to the rivers Heath and Tambopata. The area is rich in biodiversity, with opportunities to view 90 species of amphibians, 103 species of mammals, and more than 1,300 types of butterflies.
Why now: When it opens this January the ultra-modern New Ulaanbaatar International Airport is expected to increase arrivals into the Mongolian capital from just over a million last year to more than 2.5 million in 2017. The rapidly developing city of Ulaanbaatar will also unveil a rash of new hospitality projects, including the $500 million Shangri-La Centre, replete with a luxury hotel, shopping complex, and state-of-the-art sports club.
What to see: Beyond the capital, Mongolia has made a name for itself in recent years as an eco-tourism and adventure travel mecca with ample opportunities to go horse trekking into the wild with nomadic herders and sleep in traditional gers (yurts).
Why now: The Dinaric Alps are one of Europe's least explored mountain ranges. But these towering peaks in the Western Balkans will become much more accessible to foreign hikers in 2017 when, for the first time after years of development, the 1,200-mile Via Dinarica trail will be completely mapped with detailed stage information.
What to see: This spectacular new hike is, at its heart, a cultural corridor that links together ancient trading routes and more recent military paths through seven countries along the Balkan Peninsula. Expect astounding views of the Adriatic Sea and remote stays with isolated communities who still practice many old-world traditions.
Why now: San Antonio currently attracts more college-educated millennials than its trendier neighbor to the north, with some analysts predicting that the old Alamo City may soon become "the New Austin."
What to see: Beyond the restaurants of the River Walk and the recently added World Heritage Site at the Alamo, San Antonio is branching out with hip new neighborhoods like the Pearl District. Once a 23-acre brewery complex, Pearl boasts more than 300 apartments, as well as a hotel, acclaimed eateries, and more than a dozen independently owned shops.
Why now: With a 20 percent increase in foreign arrivals across the last seven years, the Sichuan capital of Chengdu ranked No. 2 on the latest MasterCard report highlighting the fastest-growing destinations in the world. United recently launched non-stop flights from San Francisco, making it easier than ever before for Americans to visit.
What to see: Home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, this city in southwestern China lures foreigners with the chance to view these endangered animals in a natural habitat. Chengdu also boasts the largest building in the world and some of the spiciest food in China.
Why now: The $144m Ferrari Land theme park will open in April 2017 at PortAventura World near Barcelona, offering a 1,650-foot racetrack, 180-foot-tall bounce-back towers, Formula 1 simulators, and the chance to experience an ultra-fast pit-stop tire-change, among other adrenaline-fueled features created together with the iconic Italian brand.
What to see: Ever wondered what it would feel like to be an F1 driver and experience the rush of accelerating to 112mph in just five seconds? Find out on Europe's tallest and fastest rollercoaster, the 368-foot Vertical Accelerator.
Why now: A host of new attractions has given this vast region of upstate New York a fresh outlook on life.
What to see: Wild Walk is an elevated pathway through a forest canopy that opened last July in an 81-acre nature reserve near Tupper Lake. Meanwhile the Adirondack Rail Trail is a 34-mile-long bike path along an old train line between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake that's currently in the final planning stages.* The latter is the first step in what could be a 90-mile recreational trail connecting Lake Placid with Old Forge.
Why now: The 1990s cult classic Twin Peaks returns to the small screen in 2017, promising to once again steep audiences in the evergreen landscapes of Western Washington.
What to see: Director David Lynch returned with many of the original cast members to the small towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend to shoot the surprise third season of Twin Peaks against the foothills of the Cascade Range. Check out the filming locations before using the area as a launch pad for trips to Western Washington's top attractions, such as Mount Rainier National Park.
Why now: Japan's northernmost island has never been easier to visit thanks to a futuristic bullet train that now links its southern port city of Hakodate with Tokyo in just four hours.
What to see: Powdery white snow is the main attraction in this mountainous island, which contains 20 percent of the country's landmass but just 5 percent of its population. Skiers and snowboarders from across Asia flock to Hokkaido for both its top-notch resorts (like Rusutsu and Furano) and innumerable backcountry opportunities. Home to six major national parks — and dozens of hot spring bathing facilities — the forested island is equally enticing after the snow melts.
Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park
Why now: The Karisoke Research Center celebrates 50 years of groundbreaking work in mountain gorilla conservation this February, and tour operators in the area will pay tribute to its creator, Dian Fossey (who was murdered at the facility 30 years ago), in a variety of ways. For example, Volcano Safaris will inaugurate a new Dian Fossey Map Room to explore the enduring legacy of the American primatologist.
What to see: Gorillas are the main attraction in this remote corner of Africa along the Rwanda-Uganda border, and safaris out to see them (as well as chimpanzees) run throughout the year.
Why now: Nashville is the largest city wholly within the path of a total solar eclipse that will sweep across the United States on August 21. Meanwhile, the iconic Ryman Auditorium celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2017 while the nearby Country Music Hall of Fame turns 50. Both promise packed calendars and big stars to mark the occasions.
What to see: Beyond all the cowboy boots and neon lights, Nashville is building a name for itself as a millennial mecca with fashionable neighborhoods like The Gulch, 12 South, and East Nashville brimming with brewpubs, wacky ice-cream parlors, and hipster coffeehouses.
Kangaroo Island, Australia
Why now: The 38-mile Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail opened to the public in October linking three nature reserves in the southwestern corner of this flora- and fauna-rich island near Adelaide. This splits the journey up into five days by overnighting at the four designated campgrounds along the way.
[post_ads_2]What to see: You can search for Australia's most curious creature at the Platypus Waterholes, stare off into the sea at Cape Younghusband, and dive into the subterranean world at Kelly Hill Caves. The trail also provides access to some of the island's most iconic landmarks, including the geologically bizarre Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks.
Why now: Canada is gearing up for a big bash in 2017 in honor of its 150th birthday and nowhere will the revelry reach such a fever pitch as in the capital city. Ottawa plans a year's worth of "bold spectaculars, immersive experiences and all-out celebrations," including a citywide picnic and a summer-long Inspiration Village highlighting the culture of each province and territory.
What to see: Festivities aside, Ottawa boasts an attractive riverside setting, soaring Gothic Revival architecture and vibrant street markets. You can go whitewater rafting down its namesake river in the summer or skate atop the world's largest rink (Rideau Canal) each winter.
Why now: The City of Brotherly Love is creeping out from the shadows of nearby Washington and New York with a fast-growing population that's introduced craft breweries, high-end restaurants, and new green spaces. The main reason to visit in 2017, however, is to view the new Museum of the American Revolution.
What to see: This massive museum in the historic heart of Philadelphia will explore the American Revolution by showcasing its distinguished collection of objects, artifacts, and manuscripts, including the tent George Washington used as his wartime command center. History buffs from across the nation are expected to make a pilgrimage here once it opens on April 19.
Saint John, US Virgin Islands
Why now: The rundown facilities at Saint John's Virgin Islands National Park will get a major revamp in 2017, most notably in Cinnamon Bay, where new dining options and eco-tents will liven up the park's only official lodgings. The island is also in the midst of a major conservation battle to prevent two large marina projects from mucking up the ecologically sensitive Coral Bay Harbor.
What to see: Rent a kayak or SUP at Cinnamon Bay's water sports facility to explore the coast. Then snorkel at nearby Waterlemon Cay, hike the Reef Bay Trail to Taíno petroglyphs, and finish the day with a Cruzan rum and coke on Gibney Beach.
Why now: Colombia's historic peace accord with the FARC rebels in 2016 put an end to Latin America's longest-running guerrilla conflict, and the nation is now racing toward the future.
What to see: Equidistant from Medellin and Bogota, Salento is both the beating heart of the Colombian Coffee Triangle and the hub of a nascent mountain biking scene. Rent some wheels from Salento Cycling and try out the new 17-mile loop trail through the coffee plantations where you can reach four farm tastings, as well as scenic hilltop restaurants and tranquil riverside beaches.
Why now: Finns will celebrate 100 years of independence in 2017 in a very Finnish way with four nationwide Nature Days celebrating outdoor activities available in each season. The Nordic country also plans to designate Hossa Hiking Area as its 40th national park in honor of its centennial.
What to see: Hossa (located near the Russian border in the Oulu region) is much more than a haven for hikers; it's also ideal for fishing and canoeing, with a number of crystal-clear rivers and lakes that are easily navigable. You can similarly follow in the footsteps of Finland's Stone Age settlers and explore the shamanistic paintings they created thousands of years ago on the Värikallio Cliffs.
San Luis Potosí, Mexico
Why now: Mexico is on sale! With the exchange rate at just over 20 pesos per American dollar, it's the perfect time to explore a new side of our southern neighbor: San Luis Potosí. An open secret among domestic tourists for some time, international travelers have only recently discovered that this central Mexican state is brimming with adventure travel activities, from its high altitude deserts to its tropical river canyons.
What to see: Scuba dive into the Media Luna lagoon, raft through the turquoise rivers of the Huasteca Potosina, or rappel more than 1,000 feet into one of the state's pit caves with experienced guides from Corazon de Xoconostle.
The Northwest Passage
Why now: It's the happy result of a sad phenomenon: Warming seas have made the once treacherous Northwest Passage the latest frontier in expedition cruising. Ships like the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity ply a route from Anchorage across the Canadian Arctic to Greenland before heading south for New York City.
What to see: This spectacular waterway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans passes through a stark and little-explored landscape of rock and ice. Highlights along the way include stops at remote Arctic villages and close encounters with the imperial polar bear.
Why now: There's just a small stretch of turquoise sea separating Lombok from its superstar Indonesian neighbor of Bali, but the difference between the two islands could not be more dramatic. Long a well-kept secret, word is finally out that there are quieter beaches on the far side of the Lombok Strait, and it's never been easier to catch a direct flight here from regional hubs.
What to see: The coral-fringed Gili Islands just offshore are, without a doubt, Lombok's most popular attraction and a vital cog in the Southeast Asia backpacker circuit. Set foot on the mainland, however, and you'll enter a different Indonesia, where rural villages cower in the shadow of the 12,224-foot Mount Rinjani volcano.
Maine's North Woods
Why now: President Obama declared more than 87,500 acres of forestland in Maine's North Woods a national monument this August, the first step in a hard-fought battle to turn this forested patch near Baxter State Park into a national park. The land — now known as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument — was part of a massive donation from Burt's Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby.
What to see: This expansive park boasts fast-flowing rivers and vast boreal forests that are home to lynx, bears, and trout, among other vital species. You can set off on some of the short hikes along the 14-mile Katahdin Loop Road, go mountain biking along the gravel roads, or camp out over the summer months to experience some of the darkest skies this side of the Mississippi.