2017 travel hot list

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While keeping it local might be great for a long weekend, now and again we feel you should spread your wings a little further. So we’ve spun the office globe and picked out our selection of the world’s hottest destinations you should pack your bags for right now...

Have an Expo preview in Astana
 

Our neighbours in Dubai are planning for a World Expo unlike any before, but it will first take the mantle from Astana. Despite being the world’s ninth largest country, Kazakhstan will, for many, be forever linked to the comedy character Borat. The arrival of the Expo in 2017 (www.expo2017astana.com) will bring luxury hotel openings and hordes of visitors to this developing landlocked country.
What to see: The Expo has led to an architectural overhaul with many photogenic new structures. None, however, can compete with the slanting circus tent-like mall, Khan Shatyr.
Where to stay: In June, The St. Regis Astana (www.starwoodhotels.com) will significantly add to the luxury hotel selection in the new Khazak capital.
Getting there: Etihad flies to Astana from Dhs1,690*. Approximate journey time is 4.5 hours.

Fly around the world to enjoy Auckland

Providing you can handle spending nearly an entire day in the air, you will land at one of the world’s most beautiful spots. If the volcanic cones, rainforests, thermal springs and vast grasslands around Auckland, New Zealand, don’t appeal then you might need to look to other planets for your kicks from now on.
What to see: Take extra memory cards for your camera. It takes only around ten minutes to walk to the top of Mount Eden. Sit a while at the top and look down on Auckland city.
Where to say: Trips to New Zealand have become a byword for outdoor pursuits and breathtaking countryside. Bed down in some boutique digs at Hotel De Brett (www.hoteldebrett.com).
Getting there: Etihad flies to Auckland with a stop in Brisbane, Australia, from Dhs4,250. Approximate journey time is 18-plus hours.

Be enticed by both sides of Budapest

An ambitious traveller ticks off cities with the casual ease of a foodie moving through a menu. Hungary’s capital doesn’t sit as high as Rome, Paris or London on the European must-see list, but if you’re looking for somewhere new with a big history you will not be disappointed. The flight time is reasonable and, once there, you’ll discover a stunning city with some cracking bars and restaurants, as well as some wonderfully friendly locals.
What to see: Thermal baths are a big part of Budapest life but we doubt your fellow bathers would appreciate you getting the long lens out. Instead, head up to the citadel for an absolutely stunning view of the two cities within a city – Buda and Pest.
Where to stay: With opera, theatre and the arts being so prominent in Hungarian culture it seems only fitting to stay in boutique hotel the Aria (www.ariahotelbudapest.com).
Getting there: Qatar Airways flies to Budapest with a stop in Doha, Qatar, from Dhs3,140.Approximate journey time is seven hours.

Get arty in Cape Town
The sunshine, safaris and natural beauty are well documented, but 2017 will see Cape Town step out as a global modern art destination. The spring opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa will rival London’s Tate, Paris’ Louvre and New York’s MoMA as cutting-edge cultural hubs.
What to see: Cape Town is gloriously photogenic. From above or from street level it looks great. When the Zeitz (www.zeitzmocaa.museum) opens up it will be another view which demands to be snapped.
Where to stay: Right on the V&A Waterfront the new One&Only (www.oneandonlyresorts.com) has almost the perfect location for any type of Cape Town excursion.
Getting there: Emirates flies to Cape Town from Dubai from Dhs3,860. Approximate journey time is 9.5 hours.

Banish the blues in Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen in Morocco is a lesser-explored town that stands out as one of the prettiest, not to mention Instagrammable, places you could ever visit. Buildings, steps and walls are coated with a sky-blue hue and a 500-plus year heritage has been adapted to become a hipster getaway. Daily direct flights to Casablanca are making it easier than ever to reach the quaint town filled with cool cafés, farmers’ markets and freshwater pools to cool down in.
What to see: The town itself is the only artefact you need. Stroll among the winding alleyways snapping as you go.
Where to stay: Stay right in the medina in a blue-tinged guesthouse such as Casa Perleta (www.casaperleta.com) to get the feel of this relatively sleepy corner of Morocco.
Getting there: Etihad flies to Casablanca daily from Dhs2,340. Approximate journey time is 9.5 hours. You can then reach Chefchaouen by bus or train.

See pandas in Chengdu

Even the most mean-spirited of people can’t fail to have their hearts melted by the adorable beast that is the panda. As the official home of the planet’s cutest bears, Chengdu offers numerous ways to get close to these formerly critically endangered creatures. However, there is more to this city than just pandas so go exploring and you’ll find some incredible teahouses and some of China’s top nightlife, thanks to the presence of a burgeoning student population. Archaeology fans will have a field day with a visit to the Jinsha site discovered in 2001.
What to see: No trip to Chengdu would be complete without a plethora of panda pictures and if you visit the Panda Base, you can even become a keeper for the day and have a chance to feed one of them its dinner.
Where to stay: With its ideal location near the city centre and airport and within striking distance of the Panda Base, you really can’t go far wrong with the Kempinski Hotel Chengdu (www.kempinski.com), especially if you’re looking for some five-star luxury.
Getting there: Etihad flies to Chengdu from Dhs1,610. Approximate journey time is 7.5 hours.

Act like a king in Dubrovnik

There are many reasons why the Adriatic Croatian coastal city’s Old Town is witnessing record visitor numbers. Not least among them is the fact that it is the filming location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. No special effects are needed when you have 15th and 16th century fortress walls and picture-postcard marina views to fall back on.
What to see: A cable car takes tourists from the city walls to the summit of Mount Srd behind. From here you will have views of the sea and terracotta roofs of Old Town that would please a king, queen or dragon.
Where to stay: A renovated 16th-century house, St Joseph’s (www.stjospephs.hr) captures the history of Croatia with the modern finesse of a boutique hotel in a capital on the cusp of a tourism boom.
Getting there: Turkish Airlines flies to Dubrovnik from Dhs3,050. Approximate journey time is 12 hours, changing in Istanbul, Turkey.

Soak up culture in Hull

As the UK City of Culture for 2017, Hull (www.hull2017.co.uk) is a hotbed of artistic endeavour this year. Some 365 days of art, theatre, performance and sustainable culture are being curated in the Yorkshire city. Expect nights of opera on the iconic Humber Bridge, the Turner Prize in the refurbished Ferens Art Gallery, poetry and music festivals throughout the year and a facelift for a much-maligned city ready to grasp its moment in the spotlight with both hands.
What to see: The often provocative Turner Prize is one of global art’s signature moments and will be hosted in Hull this year. Time visits to catch the free art from late September.
Where to say: Within walking distance of museums and galleries and located on the developing dock and fruit market district the Holiday Inn is a perfectly central and efficient spot (www.hihullmarinahotel.co.uk).
Getting there: Etihad flies to Humberside Airport from Dhs3,110. Approximate journey time is 11 hours, with a change in Amsterdam.

Have a true Time Out experience in Lisbon

We’re slightly biased towards Lisbon. You might think it’s because of the steep streets, character-filled buildings, developing art scene and bustling contemporary culture. But, we know it is none of those things. It is not even the dreamy custard tarts which seem to power Lisbonites. No, it’s because it is home to the Time Out Market Lisboa, an historic hall filled to the brim with foodie stalls curated and celebrated by Time Out Lisbon. We want one here, too.
What to see: The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (www.maat.pt) opened in 2016 and has managed to elbow its way into the list of must-see attractions in an already incredible city.
Where to stay: The rooftop pool and sundeck, plus the huge spa with views of a lovely botanical garden, are the big draws for guests at the Epic Sana Lisboa hotel (www.lisboa.epic.sanahotels.com).
Getting there: Emirates flies from Dubai to Lisbon from Dhs3,360. Approximate journey time is 8.5 hours.

Enjoy Asia without the sand in Laos

Journalists like to play the game of finding the next big thing or unexplored corners of the globe. It is hard to look beyond Laos as a future favourite. Probably because the landlocked nation has no coast it has been overlooked in favour of neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. Barack Obama visited in September 2016 and the nation is expected to become more accessible as attempts are made to woo tourists with upscale hotels.
What to see: With its ornate dragon statues and Gallic-tinged flourishes to traditional Asian architecture, the capital city of Vientiane is more mellow than hectic neighbours and all the more visitor-friendly for it.
Where to stay: Riverside views of the Mekong River, colour-themed rooms and an acclaimed restaurant next door make the Beau Rivage (www.hbrm-laos.com) stand out.
Getting there: Etihad flies to Vientiane from Dhs2,380. Approximate journey time is nine hours, with a stop in Bangkok, Thailand.

Look for tigers in Madhya Pradesh

Safari holidays are popular, but 2017 could see a shift from the well-worn routes of Kenya and South Africa. If you’ve always preferred the sight of a tiger to a lion then consider central India for breathtaking wildlife. The region of Madhya Pradesh is the setting for The Jungle Book and last year’s box-office smash film has raised interest in the area.
What to see: Thanks to intense wildlife preservation programmes, tiger populations in the area are slowly increasing. Visit a park such as the Kanha Tiger Reserve (www.kanha-national-park.com) to see the largest cat species in its natural habitat.
Where to stay: Get a sense of Jungle Book country and conservationist lodging at a comfortable venue such as the Kipling Camp (www.kiplingcamp.com).
Getting there: Jet Airways flies to Raipur from Dhs1,624. Approximate journey time is seven hours, with a stop in Mumbai, India.

No work, all play in Miami, OK**

New daily flights from Dubai to Fort Lauderdale makes South Florida (and the US) more accessible than ever for UAE travellers. With its beaches, golf courses and the throbbing, Latino-influenced nightlife of Miami, south Florida is a favourite holiday destination of America and distinctly different to the theme park-powered Orlando to the north.
What to see: Take an airboat ride across the everglades to see alligators in their natural habitat, shoot the street art of the world famous Wynwood Walls (www.thewynwoodwalls.com) and see a city rise from the water on MacArthur Causeway.
Where to stay: Art Deco has defined Miami and South Beach for decades and The Raleigh (www.raleighhotel.com) is a fine example of the architectural style.
Getting there: Emirates flies from Dubai to Fort Lauderdale from Dhs3,630. Approximate journey time is 16 hours.

Find an island paradise in Palawan

Get away from busy Manila and there are dozens of spots for beach breaks and secluded island life in the Philippines. While Cebu is a well-known destination, fly further West of the capital for an inexplicably under-rated gem. Palawan is widely regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful islands and beach-lovers with a penchant for turquoise waters and limestone caverns won’t disagree.
What to see: Underwater and rugged cameras were invented for idylls such as Lake Barracuda in Northern Palawan. Brave the jungles and lagoons for incredible snaps.
Where to stay: The Funny Lion (www.thefunnylion.com) has: a) a fine name; b) kayak trail; and c) luxury, boutique rooms. What else could you wish for?
Getting there: Philippine Air flies to Busuanga from Dhs3,170. Approximate journey time is 13 hours, with a stop in Manila.

Have a historic city break in Prague

There is not a single city-break box that the Czech capital Prague leaves unchecked. With castles, galleries, wide open squares, food and heritage that would make even Paris sit up and take notice it also has the remnants of the Iron Curtain which give a view to how much it has changed in recent generations.
What to see: Prague is the fifth most visited European city after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome and could be the most pedestrian friendly. Walk from the historic Charles Bridge to Prague Castle and Old Town Square for a free museum tour.
Where to stay: Old, near a castle, close to the bridge and with the stamp of quality that comes with a Starwood hotel, the Augustine (www.augustinehotel.com) is chock-full of character and style.
Getting there: flydubai flies to Prague from Dhs1,260. Approximate journey time 6.5 hours.

Get into hot water in Reykjavik

The world’s most northern capital, Reykjavik, in Iceland, is high on city charm and rugged outdoorsy beauty. It is a quirky destination – many residents believe in elves, there is no McDonald’s and the chain’s last burger and fries is kept in a glass box as a museum exhibit. It also has beauty, culture, art and originality to spare.
What to see: Around 45 minutes out of the city is Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com). Considered one of the 25 wonders of the world the geothermal lake is heated by lava and rich in minerals giving a soothing, and very photogenic, hue to the body.
Where to stay: Reykjavik’s first five-star hotel is under construction and Scandinavian style is apparent at the new boutique Canopy by Hilton (www.hilton.com) property made up of six connected townhouses.
Getting there: Etihad flies to Reykjavik from Dhs3,190. Total flight time is approximately 13 hours with a stop at London Heathrow.

Skyscrapers and nature in Toronto

Canada (as we now know it) turns 150 years old this year and marches on in its quest to be named the world’s coolest country. Use Toronto as your base and you can have a city break with attractions including the epic CN Tower, loads of contemporary art, trendy cuisine and hipster charm while still being within axe-throwing distance of beautiful lakes and mountains.
What to see: Escape the city and make the 90-minute drive to Niagara Falls for arguably the world’s best photo opportunity. Helicopter tours over the waterfall give visitors Superman-like views. Just make sure you hold that camera tightly.
Where to stay: The trendy neighbourhood of Yorkville is the epitome of new Canadian cool and in The Hazleton (www.thehazletonhotel.com) it has a boutique style icon.
Getting there: Etihad flies to Toronto from Dhs4,790. Approximate journey time is 14.5 hours.

* All flight prices are made on an estimation using airline websites and a sample date of February 1. Check for updated prices.
**Yes, we used a Will Smith lyric.

By Will Milner
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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