From chic city breaks and wine-tasting in rustic châteaux to jungle-trekking and waterfall cannonballing
January, is a cruel mistress. Every morning feels like waking in the middle of the night, the daily commute is the epitome of bleak and you’re trying to cut down your red wine intake to at least an NHS-approved amount.
For me, the only cure for the January doom is booking a holiday or two (or three, or four). Holidays give you something to look forward to, they change the way you see the world and they help to put everything into perspective. There isn’t a worry in the world that can’t be made slightly less scary by a swim in an azure sea or a sweaty, awkward dance with a handsome local.
Peruse our list of the best travel destinations for 2017 below. From chic city breaks and wine-tasting to jungle-trekking and waterfall cannonballing, you will find something that makes you running for your Globe-Trotter and passport.
Photo credit: Cayley Mitchell
Why? When you think of Colombia what springs to mind? Probably cocaine, corruption and the smash Netflix show Narcos. Well, that’s so not the case anymore. Since the death of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar in 1993, the country has transformed into one of the hottest travel destinations in Latin America.
What you MUST see… The capital Bogota is on the rise with new restaurants, hotels, bars and micro breweries opening all the time. Plus the street art is off the hizzle. It is still a little rough around the edges, though, so be careful where you walk late at night.
Medellin (pronounced meh deh jEEn) is becoming one of the coolest places in the country with wild nightlife and insanely delicious food. Plus you can go paintballing in Pablo Escobar’s old mansion, which is all kinds of awesome.
You cannot make a visit to Colombia without seeing Cartagena, a colourful colonial town with horse-drawn carts and friendly locals. Nestled on the Caribbean coast, it’s a great base for visiting the stunning Playa Blanca.
Top tip: The Lost City in Colombia's Sierra Nevada mountains is being dubbed the new Macchu Picchu.
2 . Malta
Why? You may have noticed on Instagram that every blogger worth their Aspinal passport holder has been posing all over sunny Malta recently. It’s a popular filming location (Game of Thrones fans will recognise some of the towns and villages), plus Brad and Ange honeymooned here in happier times (sob). So make like the A-list and catch a few of the 300+days of sunshine that this Mediterranean island basks in.
What you MUST see… The capital, Valletta, is a World Heritage City and is charming with narrow streets and colourful balconies. If it’s a party you’re after, head to Strait Street, where sailors back in the day came to drink beer and enjoy their ‘free time’ with the ladies of the night. The shady characters have long gone, but 150 bars remain, and the cobbled streets make for a fun bar crawl.
For something a little more romantic, take a stroll through the nearby town of Mdina. Or take the ferry to the relaxed, laid-back island of Gozo for a peer through the famous Azure Window and take in the crystal blue sea.
Top tip: Go wine-tasting. Think delicious Chardonnay and Syrah, plus some funky grape varieties you can’t get in the UK.
Read more: InStyle's Destination Guide to Malta
Previously called Burma, this up-and-coming Asian destination is like Cambodia used to be before it got so tourist-heavy. We love the vibrant cities and lush jungle treks (there are beautiful beaches, too), but it’s the people that really make this a place that you’ll daydream about again and again. The locals are warm, friendly, kind, funny, curious and helpful. Humanity at its best.
What you MUST see… Bagan is a place unlike no other with over 4000 pagodas and temples dotted across the plains. Rent an electric bike, whizz through the greenery, climb onto the roof of an ancient stupa and watch the sunset. Just beware of the free-roaming cows!
The three-day, two-night trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake will take you through some of the most beautiful rice paddies and jungles we’ve ever seen. You’ll wind through remote villages and be greeted by the cutest kids and the most welcoming locals. If camping isn’t your thing, one-day treks are available.
Top tip: Talk to as many locals as possible. If they can speak English (and even if they don’t), it’s these moments that will MAKE your trip.
Why? Sunshine, sand (pink, sometimes) and diving. Bermuda is surrounded by reefs meaning it is one of the best scuba destinations in the world. The colonial towns are pretty and there are plenty of luxe hotels and restaurants, but don’t come here for the nightlife - hop on the two-hour flight to New York for that. Bermuda is all about the relaxed vibe.
What you MUST see… Our top 3 favourite beaches in order of amazingness:
Horseshoe Bay Beach - one of the most buzzing beaches in Bermuda
Atwood Bay - tucked into a cove and totally hidden. Only those who know, know.
Elbow Beach - pale pink sand and perfect swimming conditions
Top tip: Treat yourself to a stay at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club - it’s just undergone a $100 million overhaul.
Sure, there’s beautiful architecture. Sure, a stroll along the Garonne river is lovely. But, let’s be real, the vin is what we’re about. 2017 is the year it just became even easier to get to Bordeaux with the new LGV Sud-Ouest line connecting the city to Paris in just two hours.
What you MUST see… We’ve never been one for museums, but the La Cité du Vin is basically the Guggenheim for grape-lovers. Hell, it’s even shaped like the swirl of wine in a glass. More than just a dusty history of wine, this place holds regular expert-led wine tastings, has a simulator boat ride and there are 3D vineyards.
Top tip: The two-hour wine tasting course — available in English or French — at Maison du Vin de Bordeaux is brilliant.
Photo credit: Suzannah Ramsdale
6. New Orleans
Why? We’re going to put it out there: New Orleans is the most magical city in the States. Sorry, NYC. With heaps of character, creole flavours and jazz in every bar, there is a lot to love about NOLA.
What you MUST see… It’s all about the French Quarter. While Bourbon Street is basically like Clapham High Street on a Saturday night (though still worth a look for the sheer hilarity), the rest of the French Quarter is buzzing in a good way. Head to the Spotted Cat to watch locals swing dance - it has the InStyle stamp of approval.
Take a short Uber across town to visit the Garden District, which is the super-posh neighbourhood. You can do a self-guided - and slightly stalkerish - tour of all the famous mansions in the area. Sandra Bullock lives there, but our favourite is the Joseph Carroll House on First Street, where Mark Twain once partied (N.B. there is a super cute dog living there atm).
Top tip: Head to Cafe Du Monde, which is world famous for its delicious and sugary beignets, plus amazing people-watching.
Why? If you go to one place this year, go here. It is about to blow up as a travel destination. This place has it all: jungles, waterfalls, temples, luxury (if you look for it) and the friendliest people. One thing it doesn’t have is beaches, being a land-locked country, and all. But who needs a beach when you have the mighty Mekong and Nam Song rivers to swim in and tube down.
What you MUST see… For excellent food and a taste of the high life, head to the UNESCO-protected ancient city of Luang Prubang. There’s a Rosewood hotel set to open in 2017 so head there for luxe living, pop into Tamarind restaurant for delicious Laotian cuisine (they have a brilliant cookery school, too), then finish off at Utopia, a unique bar with the genius tagline ‘zen by day, groovy by night.
After you’ve lived it up in LP, venture to the small town of Vang Vieng, famous for blue lagoons, drunken tubing and parties at favourite backpacker bar Sakura.
Finish off your trip with a lazy, hammock-dwelling weekend on the Four Thousand Islands in Southern Laos. Once you’ve been here, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with the rest of South East Asia.
Top tip: Jump into the crystal waters at the Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prubang. The perfect hangover cure.
Why? For a quick and cheap - so cheap - weekend break, Granada is the one. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit this Andalusian gem.
What you MUST see… The main attraction is the Alhambra, a palace-cum-forte-cum-World Heritage site overlooking Granada and with great views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The main Alhambra palace is the super-famous part, but we found the nearby gardens of the Palacio de Generalife (tickets will give you access to this too) so much more serene.
The best thing about Granada is the generous free tapas you get given with every drink you order. You never have to buy dinner! Sit in the sun, order a glass of Ribera del Duero wine and let the tapas flow.
Top tip: Climb up the hill to Mirador San Nicolas for a sunset session overlooking the Alhambra. Perfect.
So, that's 2017's vacay sorted.