Saturday 24 June 2017

Back to work blues? Check out the 50 most hip places to visit in 2017

Travel 2017

Will 2017 be the year you go on safari to Africa and spot elephants on the foothills of Kilimanjaro?
Will 2017 be the year you go on safari to Africa and spot elephants on the foothills of Kilimanjaro?
St Barts in the Caribbean is a low-key heaven
Couple on the beach of sea
You'll love the food and festive atmosphere of New Orleans
You'll savour the peace and inspiration of Skellig Micheal
Cuba is on the cusp of major change, so don't hesitate if you want to experience old Havana
Why not try Valencia's classic charms?
Is the outdoor heaven of Mongolia calling?
Fancy dancing on the streets down Mexico way?
Will you set your heart on a trip to the Big Apple in 2017?
Take off on a cruise, you will love it
When planning your holiday, don't forget the eternal city of Rome
Las Vagas can be a blast

Emily Hourican & Andrea Smith

From lazing on a tropical beach to jumping right in on an activity-packed break - we asked Emily Hourican and Andrea Smith to draw up a bucket list of some of the most luxurious and to-die-for breaks that you should plan for the year ahead. Start dreaming!

Child-Friendly

Majorca, Spain

Biggest of the Balearic islands, Majorca has the (considerable) virtue of being a fairly short flight away, with more reliable weather than mainland Spain. May and October should both be a very appealing 22-23 degrees (which means you can do the dreadful but irresistible thing and take the kids out of school during the off-season). With plenty of white-sand beaches, but also the kind of serious mountains that make a mockery of our highest peaks - Puig Major is a hefty 1,445m - there is plenty of outdoorsy stuff to do here. And if you base yourselves at the Falcon and Thomson Holiday Village, you can add value to that: six pools, two SplashWorld Resorts, kids club, a heap of sports, including archery and a climbing wall, a stage academy, and many, many bars and restaurants. falconholidays.ie; spain.info

Norway

Now that we are finally getting over our obsession with sun and sea to the exclusion of all else, it's time to investigate the family-friendly possibilities of Scandinavia. Norway is currently doing good things in adventure activities, probably best suited to slightly older kids. Try something that combines kayaking in the UNESCO-listed fjord of Geiranger, hiking through glaciers and a drive along the spectacular Panorama Road along the Nordfjord - with a visit to the fishing village of Kalvag and a trip through the gloriously scenic Strynefjell Mountain pass, where you can spot wild reindeer. Stay in mountain cabins or pretty hotels along the way, eat wonderful local food, and get to grips with why the world is always raving about Scandinavia. evaneos-travel.com

Turkey

Ok, this is very much the indulgent end of family holidays - the type you sink into after a busy year - and nonetheless lovely for that. The Hilton Dalaman Sarigerme Resort & Spa, in Turkey, does a fine job of spoiling you and the little ones rotten. On a white sandy beach on the gorgeous Aegean coast, the resort has a rather grandiose 18 pools, an aquapark, a kids club and a teens club and an on-site petting farm. Go turtle watching, try out a full range of water sports, spot birds of prey or wallow in the Dalyan Mud Baths, as well as all the usual swimming, sunbathing, eating, drinking, and generally making very merry. hilton.com

Umbria, Italy

If you want more of a solo run than a resort holiday, Pian di Cascina in Umbria, Italy, should do the trick. This is a 17th century farmhouse converted into seven flats, of which five are large enough for families, and offers privacy with the possibility of conviviality. Splash pool, sandpit, mini croquet, badminton and fine views of the Abruzzo mountains will take care of the days, while twice-weekly dinners hosted by owners Paul and Isabel - home-cooked traditional local fare using their own olive oil, fruit and vegetables - should see the nights out in style. Add in the possibility of fresh bread delivered every morning to your door, along with homemade lasagne any night of the week, and all should be in order for perfect relaxation. avillainumbria.com

Brittany, France

Travelling with young children has its very own joys and discomforts, but many of the latter are neutralised by avoiding planes, in favour of boats and trains. Going to France with Brittany Ferries means the journey becomes part of the holiday, starting as soon as you're on board. With a pool area, games room and two cinemas, the Pont-Aven is pretty much a floating play zone, and far less stressful than a flight. Once you arrive, drive off to your campsite, or Brittany's various water parks, aquariums and interactive museums, quickly and comfortably. "Are we nearly there yet?" "Yes!" brittanyferries.ie

Foodie Destinations

Lyon, France

Lyon may be France's third biggest city, (or second, if you believe those who say it has overtaken Marseilles), but it makes a convincing claim to being the gastronomic capital (although I doubt that goes down without a fight). In between the winding medieval streets, magnificent basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere and many fine municipal buildings, the city is dotted with restaurants, from the Michelin-starred serious contenders, to tiny bouchons, decked out with cheery red-and-white checked tablecloths. There are heaps of local specialities, many featuring offal, and including quenelles de brochet, salade Lyonnaise (a salad with bacon and eggs? What genius!) and delightful marrons glaces. Try Le Canut et Les Gones (lecanutetlesgones.com), where Japanese head chef Junzo Matsuno has added his stamp to the traditional fare.

New Orleans, USA

New Orleans is rightly famous for many things - music, culture, being the place where the South gets its sleaze on - and its food is right up there. On every street corner, cafes and restaurants compete as to who has the best gumbo, the best po'boys, the best beignets and muffuletta. Locals will talk with reverence of a certain spot that does chargrilled oysters with a twist (head for Acme Oyster House acmeoyster.com) and send you miles out of your way to try Mother's red beans and rice on any given Monday (mothersrestaurant.net). Do not resist. Go with the flow of the Big Easy, mixing French, Caribbean, African, and American influences into one giant, glorious culinary melting pot. Once British Airways begin to fly direct (from March 2017), getting there will be that bit easier.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is noisy and busy, filled with the roar of motorbikes and buzz of street vendors. The Old Quarter, with its 36 streets, somewhat surprisingly filled with French-style colonial villas, is where to head, and street food is the thing here. Coffee Street has a multitude of places offering classic ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk), of which Cong Caphe (congcaphe.com) is probably the best. Then, delve between embroidered silks and delicate ceramics, for bun cha (grilled pork, rice vermicelli and a dipping sauce). Close by, the Chau Long market teems with stalls, dishing up robust banh xeo (egg crepes), and best of all, banh cuon, (steamed rice crepes filled with minced pork, shallots and mushrooms).

Lima, Peru

The foodie world has been talking about Peruvian cuisine for some years now - by which they mean the new culinary wave that began in Lima, and is still at its best there. The city is thronged with bars, cafes and restaurants serving local takes on ceviche (head for Cala, by the sea: calarestaurante.com), lomo saltado and cuy (guinea pig), along with delicious pisco sours (pisco, fresh lime juice, sugar, egg white and Angostura bitters). But there is far more than food here. As you wander the streets, spot the huacas, pyramids made of adobe-brick, among the new high-rise apartments and offices - these date back to hundreds of years before the magnificent Machu Pichu, along with a host of new galleries, shops and boutique hotels. This is a thriving, thrusting city. visitperu.com

Fez, Morocco

Increasingly hailed as Morocco's culinary capital, Fez - always something of a spiritual capital, and home to the oldest university in the world - doesn't give up its secrets easily. There are far fewer tourist-friendly restaurants and cafes than Marrakesh, but perseverance is richly rewarded. Food is less formal here, with the narrow alleyways of the Medina - itself a UNESCO World Heritage site - offering everything from sheep heads to baghrir (a kind of Berber pancake), and heaps of fresh spices. There are many quirky cafes and exciting little restaurants, along with traditional riads. The Palais Amani (palaisamani.com), a pretty boutique hotel, has the honourable objective of serving the kind of traditional dishes found in Moroccan homes, cooked using produce from the market around the corner, while Maison Bleu (maisonbleue.com) does a rich and traditional banquet of salads, tagines and couscous, along with good live music in the evenings. visitmorocco.com

Romantic

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Couple on the beach of sea
 

The Orient Express

The words "Orient Express" have always conjured up an almost perfect vision of romance - elegant men in black tie, women in evening dresses wandering through exquisite carriages while the countryside of Europe flashes by.

The beautiful art deco Venice Simplon Orient Express runs overnight from Venice to London, through Alpine meadows and past Italian villages, and manages to be just as glamorous and glorious as the most incurable romantic could hope for. This is a refined kind of spectacular; elegant and unforgettable. belmond.com/venice-simplon-orient-express

Bucuti Beach, Aruba, Caribbean

Tripadvisor voted the Caribbean Blue Bucuti Beach resort the most romantic hotel in the world, and we can see why. There's the extraordinary blue of the ocean as it tumbles on to the 14 acres of white sand that make up Eagle Beach, the hotel's relaxed but impeccable approach, the possibility of dinner in a private cabana by the water and - whisper it! - no kids.

While away the days beneath blue skies, with a cocktail by the pool or exploring Aruba's many charming spots. caribbeanblue.ie/bucuti-beach-resort

St Barts, Caribbean

Sticking with the Caribbean (and why wouldn't we?), St Barts is peaceful, pristine, and of course a favoured haunt of jet-setters ever since the 1960s. Here, low key is the thing - no cruise ships, no high-rise apartments, no fast food brands, no hustlers (except the Russian oligarch kind), just turquoise sea, white sand, and maybe a flash of Beyonce on a yacht. The Hillside Bungalow at Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France ticks both the discreet and romantic boxes perfectly. Perched on a hill overlooking the Baie des Flamands - one of the island's finest beaches - the Hillside Bungalow is serene and lovely, tucked away amid lush vegetation, with mighty views of the ocean and the kind of privacy honeymooners like. chevalblanc.com

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento's esoteric heyday may belong to the era of Keats, Byron and Goethe, all of whom were enthusiastic visitors, but it is impossible not to love this pretty Italian town perched high on a cliff overlooking Ischia, Capri and the beautiful Bay of Naples. Stay at the Grand Hotel Capodimonte (capodimontesorrento.com) with its five waterfall pools and well-angled terraces, and acknowledge that la dolce vita is more an art form than ever here, whether it's a couple of chilled limoncellos after dinner or a wander through winding streets with gelato in hand. The beach itself is no great shakes, so the thing to do here is get out in a boat; go diving, sea fishing or simply drift.

River Cruise

For those who like their romance at a relaxed pace, a Uniworld river cruise is the thing. The pace is gentle, the level of luxurious comfort unbeatable, with the possibility of visiting spots of interest along the route, or, equally, doing nothing much at all except drifting, drink in hand, along a river, watching the world go by from the top deck. Food is invariably excellent, and pleasingly abundant, and you can pick from rivers across Europe and beyond, including India, China and Egypt. This is romance andante. uniworld.com

City breaks

Porto, Portugal

It's all about Porto this year. It's Portugal's second city, where medieval streets wind sharp and steep, broken up by blue-tiled 14th-century churches, art deco theatres and wispy bridges designed by Gustave Eiffel. The city is eminently walkable, and indeed the best of it is to be found in the streets, bars, cafes and little restaurants, serving huge plates of chicken-and-rice-stew, or doorstep sandwiches with pork, smoked sausage, bacon and steak, all topped with an egg and a thick layer of cheese, both of which are city specialities. Don't miss the 15th-century Igreja de Santa Clara, while gorgeous beaches are a very attractive few minutes away. Swim, surf, try some simply grilled fish and a glass of white or ruby port. Aer Lingus has recently introduced Porto as a new destination, so getting there is now perfectly easy. aerlingus.com; visitportugal.com

Copenhagen, Denmark

Now that the Noma effect has settled, it's easier to see that Copenhagen is not just a one-spot shop, but rather a lively hotbed of foodie activity and enterprise. The city now has some of the best coffee in Europe, a dynamic wine movement and restaurants that push hard to create new culinary experiences. Try Amass (amassrestaurant.com), which is best reached by water bus, where you might be served wild goose with smoked apple, celery root and pickled mugwort, or burned sugar ice cream with sweet potato and cep mushroom. Or head for the restaurant at the Arbejdermuseet, (arbejdermuseet.dk), the Workers' Museum, recommended by Rene Redzepi, for "solid classic Danish fare" and wonderful pastries.

Verona, Italy

Nothing in Italy is really off the tourist trail, but Verona has more claim to being so than any other comparable city. This was the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, yes, but also The Taming Of The Shrew and, obs, The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, and is an exciting mix of Roman and Renaissance buildings, with plenty of cultural capital. Avoid the spurious Casa di Giulietta and head instead for the vast Roman amphitheatre, known as the Arena, the Piazza delle Erbe and Porta Borsari, the many-arched Roman gate, originally the main entrance to the city. During the summer, an open-air performance of any opera by local hero Verdi in the Arena, is about as magical as it gets. tourism.verona.it/en

New York, USA

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Will you set your heart on a trip to the Big Apple in 2017?
 

New York is, of course, the city that never sleeps, so if it's adventure you're after, you've come to the right place. You can enjoy iconic Big Apple experiences like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, taking in a Broadway show, and enjoying a horse and cart ride through Central Park. If you're an early bird, the new "sunrise experience" at the Empire State Building will allow you to take in 360-degree views of the city from the 86th floor observatory as the sun comes up. For the latest secret speakeasy, check out The Last Word in Queens, which has a shop front and entrance area just like a regular suburban hardware store. Once behind the thick red velvet curtains at the back, you'll find a 1920s prohibition era-styled cocktail lounge. Those seeking a fun night's accommodation can stay in a converted yellow taxi through Airbnb. It's parked in Long Island City in the borough of Queens and has a full-sized bed. nycgo.com, aerlingus.com

Valencia, Spain

You may be familiar with Madrid, Barcelona, Seville - so now try Valencia. A bustling port city on Spain's southeastern coast, where the Turia river has been diverted and the former riverbed converted into a charming park. A jumble of art nouveau, Gothic and Renaissance buildings sit side-by-side with contemporary creations, most notably the City Of Arts and Sciences, a glass-and-steel dome-shaped structure. Take in the Museo de Bellas Artes, the Bioparc and a dish of paella, which began life here. Better again, go in March when the Fallas festival, a celebration of light, colour and fire recently declared an Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, takes over the streets for five firework and gunpowder fuelled days. spain.info

In Ireland

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You'll savour the peace and inspiration of Skellig Micheal
 

Lighthouse Keeping, Donegal

Is there anything more romantic, more evocative, than a lighthouse? We are blessed with many, but Fanad Head lighthouse in Donegal in particular stands out, voted as one of the most beautiful in the world. Visit for a day, learn the history of the lighthouse and keep an eye out for whales and dolphins. Better still, book into one of three lightkeeper's cottages, all beautifully converted and sleeping up to four people. Open fires, free-standing baths, and the most beautiful views in the world. fanadlighthouse.com; wildatlanticway.com

Sliabh Liag cliffs, Donegal

The sea cliffs at Sliabh Liag are the highest in Europe, with some standing three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher. So what are you waiting for? For the hardy, consider doing the full walk, otherwise drive to the car park, leave the car, walk the last few kilometres, and take a very deep breath. This is not for the faint-hearted. Below, the Atlantic Ocean and Donegal Bay, across, the Sligo Mountains, around you, sea birds, mountain heather and the cleanest air in Europe. You can also get your fix in reverse, as it were, and view the cliffs from the sea via Sliabh Liag Boat Trips. wildatlanticway.com

Waterford Greenway

For cyclists, families and anyone keen on a bit of unspoiled perambulating, the Deise Greenway in Waterford will open the next 22km stretch in March, bringing this spectacular re-imagining of the old railway line to 46km in total, running from the quays of Waterford all the way to Dungarvan. Along the way, take in the gardens at Mount Congreve, the Durrow and Kilmacthomas viaducts, and the brick-lined Ballyvoyle Tunnel. Walk, cycle, admire. deisegreenway.com; irelandsancienteast.com

Galway

There is so much to do in Galway, it's hardly surprising that it has officially been designated European Capital of Culture 2020. A day trip to the Aran Islands is must-do activity, as is walking down Shop Street and listening to the traditional tunes being played. For a luxury experience, stay at the four-star Ballynahinch Castle Hotel in Connemara, which is set in a 450-acre estate of woodland, rivers and walks. It offers hiking, fly-fishing, tennis, biking and clay pigeon shooting. Why not cycle down the Sky Road, or take a trip out to the promenade in Salthill? After all that activity, you could soothe your aching muscles with a saltwater bath at Connemara Seaweed Baths, where the seaweed is hand-cut daily and is full of essential nutrients and minerals. Bliss! ballynahinch-castle.com; wildatlanticway.com

Cork

There are heaps of reasons to visit Cork, but food is right up there with the best of them. From the English Market (englishmarket.ie), an enclosed 18th-century market bursting with food stalls, cafes and restaurants, to the Cork Butter Museum, Jameson Distillery and Franciscan Well Brewery, along with the many, many good restaurants, cafes, farmers markets and delis along the way, this is foodie central. And that's before you've even left the city. Really, it's just a question of how much ground you want to travel. cork.ie

New Destinations

Mongolia

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Is the outdoor heaven of Mongolia calling?
 

Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world and is famed for being rugged and remote. Now that a brand new airport will open this year in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, it will become much more accessible. This is the time to visit before Ulaanbaatar becomes too modernised as a result of overseas investment. Half of all Mongolians live pastoral lifestyles, and like them, you can stay in a ger (yurt) in the country. If you don't fancy roughing it, you could always stay at an upmarket Nomadic Journeys ger camp. If you want to experience nature at its finest, cycle through Mongolia's wild, unspoiled landscapes or visit Lake Khuvsgul, known as the Blue Pearl of Asia, which is surrounded by magnificent mountain peaks and majestic forests. nomadicjourneys.com; visitmongolia.com

The Amazon

The Manu Classic, in Peru, is a bucket-list type of holiday - the sort you save for, and remember forever. A guided journey into the heart of the Amazon, specifically tailored for families, it links travellers with the Crees Foundation, an innovative non-profit conservation, research and education organisation operating in the depths of the Peruvian Amazon. Between guiding tourists and educating local communities about the value of the rainforest, Crees ticks a lot of impressive boxes. Try the new five-day Manu Classic journey into the heart of the rainforest, keeping an eye out for spider monkeys, otters and wild boars, then spend time at the Learning Centre where kids can help out by checking camera trap footage, take a dip in the hot springs of Aguas Calientes, then leave feeling you have done yourself, and the world, some good. crees-manu.org

Aruba

A tiny Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is only 20 miles long and 10 miles wide. It has more sunny days per year than any other island in the Caribbean and is also outside the hurricane belt. The award-winning Bucuti Beach Resort is situated at Eagle Beach, listed as one of the Dream Beaches of the World. It's adults only, so there will be no pesky kids spoiling the dreamy ambience. You can gaze into each other's eyes in peace as your personal waiter serves you dinner in a private cabana on the powder-white sands, or you can watch free movies under the stars. If you can bear to tear yourself away, the resort is centrally located to the cute main town of Oranjestad. caribbeanblue.ie

Connecticut, USA

Now that Aer Lingus has introduced a direct flight to Hartford, Connecticut, you can be strolling around the New England state in a mere seven hours.

Hartford has become hot again, thanks to its starring role in the recently-revived Gilmore Girls. Alas, the chocolate box-perfect town of Stars Hollow where Lorelai and Rory live is merely fictional, but you can visit the pretty Washington Depot instead, as it's the town that inspired the award-winning Warner Bros series.

Always ahead of the cultural curve, Connecticut is home to amazing art galleries, theatres, museums and modern architectural marvels. The Mark Twain House & Museum is situated in Hartford, and it's where the author lived when he wrote his Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer adventures. Inviting vineyards and craft breweries offer adventures of their own, with wine tasting, beer sampling festivals and trails taking place all year round. aerlingus.com, visittheusa.com

Iran

Iran is set to become a tourism hotspot for world travellers again, following the lifting of sanctions under the 2015 nuclear agreement. With airlines such as British Airways launching direct flights from the UK, now is the chance to enjoy Iran's stunning beaches, exceptional landscapes and ski slopes. History buffs will love the country and its historical sites dating back to the Persian Empire. Evaneos Travel has devised an 11-day package for those keen to explore the country, which will see you visit the cities of Yazd, Shiraz and Isfahan, also known as Iran's Triangle Tourism. You'll take in its palaces, museums, bazaars and temples, and visit the UNESCO World Heritage Centres of Persepolis and Pasargadae. Check out the Isfahan Music Museum, described as a love letter to Iran's rich musical heritage as it showcases more than 300 instruments. evaneos-travel.com

Adventure

Mexico

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Fancy dancing on the streets down Mexico way?
 

If the sound of fiesta fireworks, passionate people and a busy outdoor life appeals to you, Mexico might just be your 2017 destination. Thrill-seekers will adore Xplor, Riviera Maya's natural adventure park, where you can fly above the jungle on 14 zip lines (one of which is the highest in Latin America). Take an amphibious vehicle that's as happy on water as on land to explore the nearby forest, caves and caverns, or just go rafting on the river. If you prefer your activities to be a little less dramatic, check out Playacar's 18-hole championship golf course, which was designed by world-famous designer Robert von Hagge. If you're feeling flush, why not try your luck at the casino, or check out the myriad performances that take place daily by circus acrobats, international ballroom dancing stars, Mexican guitar artists and traditional Mayan dancers.

falconholidays.ie

Polynesia

This year's big Disney hit, Moana, features a headstrong Polynesian heroine - and it's sparking interest in the Polynesian Triangle, a region of the Pacific Ocean containing 1,000 islands anchored by Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island.

One of the most remote places on earth, it includes paradise islands like Bora Bora, famous for its turquoise lagoon protected by a stunning coral reef; and the Cook Islands, the ultimate chill-out retreat with their crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches.

You'll love the people, as Polynesians love to share their culture, customs and history through their well-preserved traditions, particularly those revolving around music, dance and the importance of family. trailfinders.ie

China

China is famous for its Great Wall, but adrenaline junkies are drawn to the country because of the unique experiences it offers. The latest is jumping over a 1,000ft high cliff at Wansheng Ordovician Theme Park, which is located south of Chongqing. If that appeals, you will be strapped into a harness and thrown into freefall down into the abyss. Less dramatic, but still not for the faint-hearted, is the "invisible" bridge that is suspended high between two mountains. The dramatic glass-bottomed bridge with reflective sides is designed to blend in with the landscape of the Wulingyuan scenic area in Hunan province. Then there's the 688m escalator that actually winds its way up the mountain at the Qixingzhai scenic spot, giving visitors an incredible view of the scenery. cnto.org

Kenya

If you're on one of its luxurious Kenyan safaris, Adams & Butler Africa can offer an authentic cultural experience of spending a day and night with the Samburu people, who are semi-nomadic pastoralists. You will gain insider access to their daily life and routines, and will eat with the elders at the campfire, sampling camel, goat, lamb or beef. You can walk with the women and warriors to water the animals at the wells, milk the animals and even play football with the children. You can learn about the Samburu as they move on every few months, searching for fresh pastures for their animals. Other experiences on offer include taking a flight in a helicopter over the vast plains of the Serengeti, or joining a walking safari, where you'll have the opportunity to track and observe rhino and other local animals through the bush. africanluxury.com

Nevada, USA

Nevada is mainly desert, leaving aside Las Vegas, of course, and you can take an exhilarating tour to spot the wild mustangs and donkeys, that live there. Water babes could also try stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe. If you harbour astronaut fantasies, pretend you're on the moon by taking a walk on Lunar Crater, home to lava fields, large fissures, ash piles and more than 20 extinct volcanoes. Winter sports-lovers with a yen for adventure might like to try heli-skiing, in Nevada's beautiful Ruby Mountains. It's a type of backcountry skiing or free-riding that involves travelling in a helicopter to access remote areas and slopes of virgin powder snow. A brand new lodge opens today called the Ruby 360 Lodge,which will allow guests to extend their heli-skiing experience by staying overnight at 7,000ft. helicopterskiing.com

Long Haul

Japan

With the Rugby World Cup heading to Japan in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020, now might be the ideal time to visit Japan. It's a fascinating place, because while it has one of the world's most advanced economies, its warm and welcoming people maintain a very traditional society. To experience its various flavours, Wendy Wu Tours is offering a 13-day tour that will allow you to experience the quirky side of Japan. You can watch a sumo wrestling match, meet the adorable snow monkeys in Yudanaka, try your hand at Japanese drumming, and enjoy a traditional tea ceremony. It wouldn't be Japan if you didn't visit a sake brewery, of course. Watch out for the quirky postboxes dotted around the country, including the deepest underwater postbox in the world located 33ft below the sea in the small fishing town of Susami. You can even purchase water-resistant postcards to send to the jealous folk back home.

wendywutours.ie

Cuba

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Cuba is on the cusp of major change, so don't hesitate if you want to experience old Havana
 

2017 is the year to visit the Caribbean island of Cuba if you want to experience it as it was during the late Fidel Castro's regime, because the winds of change are blowing. Now that a home internet scheme is being trialled in Havana and the first commercial flights from the US began landing last month after 57 years, outside influences may possibly change the Cuban landscape forever.

Topflight is offering flights and accommodation at the five-star Iberostar Parque Central and three-star Telegrafo in Havana, a city awash with colourful pastel houses, 1950s-era cars and Spanish-colonial architecture. It is also home to fascinating museums, a cigar factory and gorgeous craft markets. Cuba is a place of stunning natural beauty, and it also has some of the best beaches in the world. As it's the home of the salsa, rumba and the mamba, don't be surprised if you find yourself dancing on the streets. topflight.ie

Sri Lanka

For an authentic Sri Lankan experience, there's no better place to stay than the small rural village of Jambureliya at the far edge of the boundary of the district of Colombo. Boutique hotel Olcote in Ceylon is owned and run by Sri Lankan native Tess de Kretser who has lived in Ireland for almost 35 years. Her stunning boutique hotel has an extensive pool and jacuzzi area, and exotic gardens where monkeys, squirrels and beautiful birds hang out. Guests can enjoy treatments from visiting ayurvedic masseurs, or take a Sri Lankan cooking lesson from the resident cook. A selection of bicycles is available for those who would like to visit the lake and see Sri Lankan rural village life up close. There are paddy fields and rubber plantations all around the village, and it's situated very close to the big town of Piliyandala, which has a thriving market. olcoteinceylon.com, srilanka.travel

India

We guarantee that the colours, sights and sounds of India won't leave you in a hurry. It's a country known for its vibrant festivals, such as Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, or the amazing Pulikali Tiger Dance in Kerala, where crowds of dancing people are decorated in vibrant, colourful body paint to mimic tigers. A most popular destination for tourists is the city of Ranchi, with its revered Jagannath temple, and an increasing number of travellers are making the sacred ascent up Parasnath Hill. Betla National Park is also attracting many visitors, thanks to its healthy population of wild elephants and rare tigers. For the perfect adventure holiday, why not embark on a guided adventure tour of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra? Sunway is offering an eight-day Golden Triangle Tour, which includes visits to Agra Fort, the Taj Mahal and Jaipur City Palace. You'll also see Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated in 1948. sunway.ie

Australia

For something a little different, why not forget Bondi and Sydney and head to Queensland. Its capital, Brisbane, has been voted Australia's most liveable city and its warm climate allows visitors to experience the outdoors all year round. The tail-end of the Great Barrier Reef has some of its best assets, yet remains relatively unexplored compared to the Whitsundays and Cairns and regions to the north. The southern Great Barrier Reef is the place to witness the fascinating annual turtle nesting and hatching at Mon Repos. You can also take a day trip to Lady Musgrave Island, which rests on the edge of an 8km coral-fringed lagoon that is home to a variety of colourful marine life. For those seeking a "castaway" experience, the island offers an intriguing bush camping experience, where the only facilities are composting toilets, a compressor bunker and an emergency radio tower. ladymusgraveexperience.com.au

Cruises

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Take off on a cruise, you will love it
 

Eastern Caribbean

The Caribbean is stunning, magical and vibrant, and you can capture a great flavour of it with this seven-night Royal Caribbean cruise, which leaves from Fort Lauderdale in Florida and calls at St Maarten, Puerto Rico and Haiti. You'll be on board the Harmony of the Seas cruise ship, where you can enjoy the adrenaline rush of Ultimate Abyss, the world's tallest waterslide at sea with an impressive 100ft plunge.

Or head to the AquaTheater, which is dedicated to spectacular water shows like Grease. It's a foodie paradise, with everything from an onboard Starbucks to sushi and Mexican restaurants. Watch robots mix your cocktail at the incredible Bionic Bar, or check out the ship's seven unique neighbourhoods. Take a leisurely stroll along the lush avenues of Central Park, enjoy all the fun of the seaside at the Boardwalk, or do some window-shopping in the designer boutiques of the Royal Promenade. You won't want to leave the ship as there will never be a dull moment. sunway.ie

Mediterranean

If you want to check out some lovely places in Europe, why not will sail off on the Treasures of the Mediterranean cruise on board the MSC Preziosa, which has sweeping Swarovski grand staircases, a Broadway-scale theatre and a magical infinity pool.

You'll fly from Dublin to Rome to embark on the week-long cruise, which takes you to Sicily, Sardinia, Majorca, Valencia and Marseille. The final port is Genoa, the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus. You can explore his hometown with its pastel-coloured houses, artistic churches and lovely seaside villas, not to mention spoiling yourself in its luxurious boutiques.

The cruise ends with a three-night stay in Rome, where you can visit the Colosseum and kiss at the Trevi Fountain - well, if you're still talking to one another after a week on a boat. topflight.ie

Alaska

Alaska, north-west of Canada, is the biggest and most sparsely-populated US state, famous for outdoor activities like skiing, mountain biking and kayaking. It's a vast place so a great way to explore it is by cruise. The Travel Department is offering a 12-day trip that takes in four nights in Vancouver and Victoria. Then you will embark on a seven-day cruise on board the Norwegian Sun that will see you sailing past the beautiful mountains and glaciers of Alaska. You'll dock at Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Ketchikan, and can take optional excursions at the ports of call. The luxury ship features hot tubs, a pool, casino, spa and much more. It offers a host of dining options, including French, Italian, Brazilian and Asian, so you can bring your tastebuds on an adventure as well. thetraveldepartment.ie

Arabian Sea and the Suez Canal

Celebrity Cruises is offering a fantastic 15-day cruise that starts at Abu Dhabi and takes in Muscat, the Suez Canal, Rome and Greece. You'll be travelling on board the Celebrity Constellation, which offers a huge range of experiences. Foodies will love the cooking demonstrations and wine workshops, while you can improve your mind by attending enrichment lectures or taking Rosetta Stone language courses.

If they seem too serious, why not attend fun dance classes or chill out in the hot tub? While you're cruising through the Suez Canal, you'll be able to photograph the beautiful sites and historic wildlife. Situated along the shores of the Red Sea, Aqaba is best known for its phenomenal snorkelling and diving. This seaside resort town also offers an array of desert activities, along with offering glimpses into its ancient history and heritage. celebritycruises.ie

Northern Lights

Seeing the colourful Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in person is probably on most people's wish-lists.

The Aurora is an incredible light show caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun, that enter the Earth's atmosphere and collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen. The lights generated are spectacular, but they can be elusive as they depend on weather conditions and visibility. This short cruise on the MS Nordkapp provides a great chance of success.

Departing in February, it leaves from Tromso, Norway, which lies 69 degrees above the Arctic Circle. The cruise will travel to Kirkenes, where you can visit the famous ice hotel or hop on a snowmobile. While you're in Tromso, you could go on a whale safari, try snowshoeing or enjoy an unforgettable experience of reindeer sledding. And all the time, you'll be hoping the magical lights make an appearance. travelbroker.ie

Activity

Finland

2017 is definitely the year to visit the little hidden gem that is Finland, as it will be celebrating the centenary of gaining its independence this year. And much like Ireland over the past year, the Finns have a slew of celebratory events planned in all areas, including concerts, sports, festivals and sauna evenings. Helsinki, the capital, is a vibrant seaside city, and its coast offers a new attraction this year as the island of Vallisaari is finally open to the public.

Depending on the time of year you visit, you can admire the Northern Lights, pay a visit to Santa in Lapland - or even enter the World Wife Carrying Championships.

Yes, this event, held annually in Sonkajarvi, requires a man to carry a woman around a 253-metre-long track that features a water obstacle. Sure what else would you be doing on your holidays? abbeytravel.ie, visitfinland.com

Las Vegas

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Las Vagas can be a blast
 

When it comes to activity holidays, Las Vegas unsurprisingly tops the list for its fabulous experiences. Music lovers will be spoiled for choice with artists like Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, Elton John and Rod Stewart performing there.

You can tour the Neon Museum, take a trip down the Hoover Dam, ride the heart-stopping Big Apple roller coaster at New York New York hotel, admire the giant sea creatures at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, and take a gondola ride at the Venetian hotel. Adrenaline junkies can take in the sights below by taking the Slotzilla zipline across the sky in downtown Las Vegas. You'll hardly have time to fit in all the amazing restaurants on offer, not to mention visiting the casinos for a flutter. If you want to do the downward dog with a difference, yoga sessions are now available aboard the High Roller ferris wheel at The Linq with the Strip as a backdrop. visitlasvegas.com

Canada

Canada is celebrating 150 years of Confederation this year, and plans to celebrate it with a programme of events and festivals, much of which will centre around the capital Ottawa. As part of the celebrations, the government announced earlier this year that there will be free entry to all national parks this year. If you're there in July, you can enjoy fine dining 150ft in the air at the Sky Lounge. Outside of the capital, you can go polar bear spotting in Manitoba, explore the rugged coastline of Nova Scotia or visit Prince Edward Island, where Anne of Green Gables is set. Stay at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta's Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and enjoy the wonderful wildlife and scenery. fairmont.com/lake-louise, ottawa2017.ca

The Falkland Islands

We remember the Falklands for the war of 1982, when the British beat back the Argentine invasion force. However few people know about the wild beauty of this remote island archipelago in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, where the islanders still fly the Union Jack.

Journey Latin America is offering a 14-day trip that begins in Santiago and includes an amazing week-long trip to the islands. The bird and animal population on the Falklands outnumbers the human inhabitants by 10-1, and you will visit Pebble Island, home to huge penguin colonies.

The trip takes in the capital, Port Stanley, which looks like a small English town 50 years ago. You'll also spend a few days in Chilean Patagonia, exploring the wilderness where just a few rough roads cut through a frost-bitten landscape of glaciers, icy pinnacles and luminous lagoons. www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk

Jamaica

Jamaica is not just the home of blue skies, palm-fringed beaches and reggae music, you know? Adventure-loving travellers will adore the fabulous range of activities on offer there, from a hair-raising foray into ghost hunting at Rose Hall, to the unforgettable experience of swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Cove. If you fancy the idea of riding horseback through the waves of the Caribbean Sea, you've come to the right place. Active types might like to scale the famous Dunn's River Falls, go river rafting or take a jeep safari. Music fans will probably be able to tick the music pilgrimage to 9-mile to see Bob Marley's house off the bucket list. Falcon Holidays has a range of packages to suit all in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril. falconholidays.ie

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