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My 16 year old son and I have just finished the Cradle Mountains & Walls of Jerusalem walk and, while driving home, we were reflecting on why it was so rewarding and so much fun.
We expected spectacular scenery and plant life, and they were spectacular. We expected challenging terrain and weather, and they were challenging. We didn't expect such exceptional guides and that is why I am writing to you.
Tim is obviously a very experienced, capable and knowlegeable guide and I probably can't tell you anything you don't already know about him. He is a thorough professional. We always felt safe but challenged. I was impressed with his efforts in finding us interesting things to see and do in the Walls when the weather didn't allow us to visit the usual places. I also thought he handled the stop-over in Mole Creek due to flooding with a good combination of leadership and humour and it turned out to be a trip highlight!
So, the thing is, the environment we visited was every bit as spectacular, challenging and rewar ding as we had hoped for. What made this holiday exceptional was your wonderful guides.My son and I have thanked them, but we wanted to let you know as well.
Top 10 Destinations in 2017
With the start of a new year, it is natural to reflect on the adventures and experiences which have highlighted and shaped your past and to start looking at what you want 2017 to become. Will 2017 be the year you visit a new continent? Learn how to ask for directions in a new language? Point your boots in the new direction of a new untrodden trail?
If you're looking for ideas of where to visit in 2017, look no further! We consulted our most well travelled staff to ask them which of the Lonely Planet's "Best in Travel" destinations are at the top of their bucket list to visit in 2017...plus we added a couple of incredible destinations for the more exotic traveller that didn't make the Lonely Planet cut!
Top Image: Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada - Photo credit Parks Canada
1. Canada (#1 Best Country 2017)
Celebrating its 150th Birthday
Pristine and sparsely populated, with vibrant cities, diverse cultures and landscapes of staggering beauty, Canada is an outstanding travel destination. Canada really is nature’s playground, with its snowcapped peaks, unspoiled forests, labyrinthine coastline and isolated islands.
Canada will be bursting with celebration for its 150th birthday, which is on 1 July 2017. The landmark anniversary will also see visitors enjoying free entry to National Parks across the country throughout the year. Parks Canada was a world first when it was established in 1911 and today the system looks after more than 200 National Parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites in every province and territory. Also targeted to be completed in time for the celebration are the final sections of the Trans Canada Trail, the world’s longest network of recreational trails.
With 47 National Parks and Reserves, dozens of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, thousands of lakes, a handful of sublime mountain ranges and the longest coastline in the world, it’s no surprise the nation has topped Lonely Planet’s 'Best Countries to Visit' in 2017.
Panoramic view of the 'lost' Inca ruins of Choquequirao.
One of the most remote Inca ruins in Peru
Though the World Heritage site of Machu Picchu has been drawing travellers to Peru for years, its sister city, Choquequirao, is the one making headlines now.
Choquequirao is one of the most remote Inca ruins in the Peruvian Andes, hidden across the deep Apurimac Valley. Incredibly, two-thirds of this site is still covered in jungle and archaeologists are clearing it to reveal more of the spectacular lost city. At three times the size of Machu Picchu, Choquequirao only sees a dozen visitors per day, so you can truly feel like Indiana Jones discovering these ancient Inca ruins for yourself.
However, with a cable car set to be built within the next few years, this is likely to change. The cable car will be able to transport up to 3000 visitors per day to the ruins, with a travel time of only 15 minutes compared to the current four day round trip hike.
One of our favourite alternative trails in Peru is the Inca Rivers Trek. Walk through ancient cloud forest and over spectacular high passes to the 'lost' ruins of Choquequirao. The journey continues to Patallacta, providing a stunning and rarely seen view of Machu Picchu from the opposite side.
Ama Dablam looms large in the distance.
Coming back stronger than ever
Nepal is a place that is very close to our hearts, it is where our story began in 1975 when we commenced our operation of trekking holidays in the Himalaya. Nepal is rich in many things...the world's highest mountains, fertile valleys, peaceful villages, and a gentle culture that will capture your heart. It’s no wonder why it is so easy to fall in love with this beautiful and captivating part of the world.
Nepal has so much to offer for both trekkers and mountaineers. Walk across lush foothills and through remote villages in the Annapurna Region, tackle the bucket list historical trail to Everest Base Camp or challenge yourself on our five month long Great Himalaya Trail Traverse or a mountaineering expedition such as Mera Peak, Island Peak or Lobuche East.
Since the catastrophic earthquakes in April 2015, Nepal is slowly rebuilding its crumbled homes, schools and landmarks. Tourism is the country's single largest industry and now, more than ever, the people of Nepal need something back from us. You can make a difference to Nepal's recovery by simply visiting the country. Trekking through Nepal has a flow on effect throughout the country, from porters in small villages, to taxi drivers in Kathmandu and cafes in Jomsom.
Camel crossing in Mongolia. Image credit: Cam Cope
A place like no-other
With its unspoiled scenery, fascinating history and generous people, Mongolia certainly is a remarkable and compelling travel destination. Scenes of expansive steppe grasslands with the occasional yurt, rugged glacier capped peaks, young nomadic children saddle-less on horseback and clear alpine lakes will stay etched in your mind for eternity.
Despite the draw of modern life, hundreds of thousands of Mongolians continue to live a nomadic way of life that goes back at least a millennium. However, many are starting to migrate to the cities, being lured by the prospect of jobs in the booming mining and construction industries. As a result, the traditional nomadic lifestyle and rich cultural traditions formed during centuries of nomadic life are under threat.
As Mongolia lurches into the future, one can only hope that the traditions of one of the world’s last remaining nomadic populations will be preserved for future generations. We are grateful to work with the legendary adventurer Tim Cope, bringing you several unique opportunities to trek through Western Mongolia in the footsteps of the nomad to experience this culture firsthand.
The intriguing terrain of the Indian Himalaya, Ladakh
Welcome to 'Little Tibet'
Ladakh translates to “Land of the High Passes’ – and it certainly merits this name with its multitude of towering mountain ranges, river valleys and high plateaus. Unique and remote, the traditional culture of Ladakh derives from Tibetan Buddhism evidenced in the many centuries-old monasteries that are found in almost every village throughout Ladakh. Also known as 'Little Tibet', this area of northern India has sought guidance in religious matters from Tibet since the 13th century.
Wildlife is also abundant in the mountains, and whilst trekking it is common to see Blue Sheep, Ibex, an occasional wolf, wild yaks, marmots, chukors, and birds of prey such as the Golden Eagle and the Iammergier. Though a rare site, Ladakh is also home to the elusive Snow Leopard for those game to sneak a peek in the winter months.
Read more about the infectious nature of the Indian Himalaya from our interview with trekking legend and Lonely Planet author, Garry Weare.
Intricate designs adorn the walls of Shah Mosque in Esfahan, Iran. Image credit: Richard I'Anson
Romance in the Persian Empire
Speak to any person who has had the pleasure of visiting Iran and watch their eyes light up!
Iran has a long history of 7,000 years and prospered as the “Great Persian Empire”. There are plenty of 'must-see' icons such as capital Tehran; Shiraz, home of the famous Poets Tombs; Persepolis, an incredible example of the rule of the Achaemenid Empire; Yazd, the second most ancient city in the world; and Isfahan, famous for its ancient bridges, mosques, minarets and tree-lined avenues.
For anyone that loves discovering a new culture through its cuisine, travelling through Iran is entering a culinary paradise. Prepare for your Iran holiday with this list of the top 10 Iranian dishes to taste.
Those looking for a more active holiday can climb the mythical peak of Mount Damavand, a mountain peppered into Persian poetry as a symbol of the resistance to foreign rule.
Witness the unexpected on a unique journey through Iran with world-travelled journalist and 'inquiring mind' George Negus in April 2017 or see it through the lens with Lonely Planet photographer Richard I'Anson in May 2017.
Incredible Wahiba Sands in Oman. Image credit: Oman Ministry of Tourism
Rich culture, ancient history, diverse landscapes
Once the seat of a wealthy empire whose power and influence stretched throughout Arabia and as far as India and East Africa, Oman is an endlessly fascinating destination combining rich culture, ancient history and diverse and dramatic landscapes.
Oman doesn’t boast many ‘firsts’ or ‘biggest’ in a region that is all about grandstanding. What Oman offers instead is a very rich culture and embracing society that prides itself on its ancient trading past and the promise of a highly educated future. This offers travellers an opportunity to experience a progressive Arab land, without the distorting lens of accessible wealth, unlike many of its neighbouring countries.
Its charming low-rise towns and friendly, welcoming locals, make Oman a great choice for those who seek a modern Arabia, whilst still experiencing its ancient soul.
With flight routes expanding and a burst of construction scheduled for new luxury hotels and a futuristic theme park, visit Oman now before change sets in.
Walking the Waitukubuli National Trail in Dominica
The Caribbean’s best kept secret
For many, the Caribbean conjures up images of white sandy beaches lined with all-inclusive resorts and crystal blue waters strewn with mega cruise ships. Yet Dominica, known as ‘the nature island’ remains relatively untouched, with pristine beaches, virgin rainforest, beautiful waterfalls and a mountainous interior.
It is a fantastic destination for trekking, being home to the famous Waitukubuli National Trail. The trail winds through the Morne Trios Pitons National Park and showcases the best of Dominica's nature, culture and local lifestyles. Beyond trekking, there are an abundance of natural hot springs all over the island to soak in as well as plenty of water activities such as kayaking, whale watching and some of the best diving spots in the world.
You’ll need to head to Dominica to experience this untouched natural beauty soon, as it’s set to get its very first large-scale chain resort in 2018, paving the way for a new era of tourism in Dominica.
A taste of traditional Asia
A country that was closed to tourism owing to a repressive military reign, Myanmar is a stunning nation that almost seems lost in time, untouched by signs of globalisation. Since opening its borders to travellers in 2012, this will no doubt change with Myanmar rapidly growing in popularity.
Blessed with cultural riches and striking natural beauty, Myanmar is a surprising travel destination with so much to offer. A place of ancient cultural traditions and great ethnic diversity, with the generous spirit of the Burmese people rising above the country's challenging history. It's popularity will only continue to grow with travellers who want to see the traditional ways of Asia, where life moves to the timeless rhythm of chanting monks and monastery bells.
From exploring the Buddhist temples, Hindu shrines and colonial architecture of Yangon, to admiring the golden temple of Shwedagon Pagoda and the gold leaves and gemstones that adorn its walls; from drifting amongst the floating villages of the tranquil Inle Lake to basking in the surreal ancient temples and pagodas of Bagan, Myanmar has a whole world to offer the adventurous traveller.
Music and dancing are very popular in Colombia, here we are witnessing the popular Cumbia dance.
Diverse landscapes and an extraordinary culture
Colombia is an emerging South American destination that should definitely be on your radar. For decades it was haunted by civil war and crime, but fast forward to 2017 and this is number two on Lonely Planet’s list of must-visit countries. Next year is an especially historic time for Colombia - Pope Francis will visit the country, the nation’s first pope visit in 30 years.
From modern cities, handsome colonial towns and remote villages to sunny beaches, lush jungles and the forest-clad peaks of the Andes, there is so much to see and do in Colombia!