Bolstered by the wave of positivity unleashed by its energetic new leader Justin Trudeau, and with dynamic cities that dominate global livability indices and a reputation for inclusiveness and impeccable politeness, the world’s second-largest country will usher in its sesquicentennial in 2017 in rollicking good health. Marking 150 years since confederation, the elongated birthday party promises to be heavy on bonhomie and highly welcoming to international gatecrashers. And, with a weak Canadian dollar pushing down prices, the overseas visitor should have plenty of pocket money to spend on Canada’s exciting fusion food and mysteriously underrated wine.
Turquoise, glacier-fed Lake Moraine in Canada’s awe-inspiring Banff National Park © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet
Decades of civil war and violent crime meant Colombian passport stamps were once for hardcore travellers only. Fast forward to the present day, and the lost years seem but a dust speck in Colombia’s rear-view mirror. There are no world wonders, but the country’s mix of vibrant culture, nature and hospitality is a rich tapestry woven by welcoming arms. Over a decade into its dramatic about-face, this South American jewel is even expecting a visit from the world’s number-one Catholic. When Pope Francis kisses Colombian soil in 2017, it will mark the Andean nation’s first papal visit in 30 years.
Cartagena, a city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, is a treasure trove of colonial architecture © DC_Colombia / Getty Images
Fought over by Russia and Sweden for 800 years, Finland finally gained independence in 1917. The Finns will celebrate their centenary with gusto, with events planned in every region. Expect everything from al fresco concerts and communal culinary experiences to sauna evenings and vintage-travel-poster exhibitions. There’s even a new national park, an 11,000-hectare chunk of land in Hossa, studded with pine forests and crisscrossed with rivers. With the country also playing host to the World Figure Skating Championships and the Nordic World Ski Championships this year, there’s never been a better time to discover Finland’s proudly unique culture and landscapes.
Cross-country skiing is a way of life in Finland © canadastock / Shutterstock
Locals joke that if Christopher Columbus rose from the grave and returned to the Caribbean, Dominica is the only island he would still recognise. One glimpse of its prehistoric ferns and deserted shores, and you’ll see what they mean. For decades, an absence of shiny white beaches has helped keep at bay the resort development that has swept through other parts of the Caribbean. Coconut palms are the only skyscrapers you’ll see here. Visit before Dominica gets its first large-scale chain resorts in 2018, which will pave the way for a new era of tourism.
Undeveloped Dominica is a haven for hummingbirds and other wildlife © gydyt0jas © Getty Images
Even natural disasters can’t keep Nepal down for long. The 2015 earthquakes caused devastation, but what is most striking from a traveller’s perspective is not how much was lost but how much remains. Landmark temples crumbled, but others came through with just the odd tile out of place, and whole swathes of the country escaped serious damage, including most of the popular trekking trails. Nepal has all the skills required to repair monuments and infrastructure, but what it does need is income. By visiting Nepal now and supporting local culture and people, you could help a nation rebuild and bounce back even stronger.
A view of Mt Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal © Daniel Prudek / Shutterstock
The British territory of Bermuda is often mistaken for a Caribbean island, and those in the know might not correct the misunderstanding, in order to keep the place to themselves a little longer. Just 1050km off the coast of North Carolina, Bermuda is reachable from most major east-coast US cities in around two hours – a quick hop will get you a bit of Britain mixed with island flair. In June Bermuda will host the America’s Cup, where the US will defend its title. Temperate climates and favorable winds make Bermuda the perfect location for this historic sailing race – and for your next trip.
One of Bermuda’s many stunning pink sand beaches © PixieMe / Shutterstock
In 2017 Mongolia will raise the curtain on a brand-new capital-city airport, a state-of- the-art facility that symbolises the country’s rapid modernisation. Ulaanbaatar has been the biggest beneficiary of the economic boom, its transformed skyline bristling with glass and steel towers. At the centre of this development is a US$500-million Shangri-La complex, which will be completed by 2017, featuring a 290-room hotel, an IMAX cinema and a Hard Rock Café. Beyond the capital lies Mongolia’s stunning countryside, highlighted by Lake Khövsgöl, the Blue Pearl of Asia. In 2015 the lake was connected to Ulaanbaatar by paved road, cutting driving time by 10 hours.