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Something strange is going to happen to me on December 28. I'm going to return home from Christmas holidays in Mexico and I'll have no travel plans . Zero, zip, zilch, nada

Kind of weird, because for the last two years, I've constantly had travel to look forward to. For 10 months I planned a destination wedding in Cuba, followed by a 3-week honeymoon in South America, and then there was an epic California desert festival and subsequent road trip home through the USA. Oh, and I went to northern Spain with Trafalgar, swoon

Don't get me wrong, I'm not whinging (first world problems, am I right?), but if you're like me - always open to travel inspiration and drooling over the next best destination - you'll no doubt be pleased by our top 7 trip picks for 2017.

Daydream on... 

 

South Africa's adventurous side:

Johannesburg - Safari - Cape Town - Southern Coast

south africa zebraMy name is Yanickcamps bay south africaFlickr/Loren Kerns (CC by 2.0)

Why you should go: Working in the travel industry, I'm always asking agents where they've been lately and which destinations are their favourites. One of the most well-travelled people I know once told me hands-down, her favourite country is South Africa. It's an easy place to love: safari, wildlife, a shining coastline, and a fruitful wine region.

Can't-miss highlights: A safari in Kruger National Park at a luxe bush lodge and city trip to drop-dead gorgeous Capetown (do not skip the colourful Malay Quarter). Go underground at the spectacular Cango Caves, spy a caravan of passing whales at Cape Agulhas and visit the penguin colony at Betty's Bay for an exercise in overwhelming cuteness. 

Who should go: This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so bring the entire family. No one will be more excited than your kids about spotting the Big 5, cheetahs, wildebeests and more. Seeing it through their young eyes will make it that much more magical. And yes – when done right, it's perfectly safe.

 

Northwest India's romantic Rajasthan:

Delhi - Agra - Jaipur - Udaipur - Mumbai

jaipur rajistanPixabayChai IndiaIgor Ovsyannykov

Why you should go: India is diverse, spiritual, spicy and restless. It is also a place of contrasts: modern and ancient, urban and rural; hectic and peaceful, oppressively hot and pleasantly cool; luxurious and poor, refined and raw. India has a habit of oscillating between opposites, which is the ultimate siren's call for adventure-seeking travellers. 

Can't-miss highlights: Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar, and a rickshaw ride through Old Delhi, visiting the Palace of the Winds and Amber Fort in Jaipur, the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort in Agra, and a jeep safari in rural India. 

Who should go: The traveller who isn't afraid to fall head-first into an exotic whirlwind.

Usually, I'd tell first-time travellers that they may want to consider other, more beginner-friendly countries. Even well-travelled explorers may find India daunting – and rightly so. Why? For many (myself included), the idea of travelling India independently is overwhelming; I wouldn't know where to start. If you're still keen on India (of course you are!) it's a great country to save for guided travel. Here's one such itinerary: Leisurely Rajasthan with Mumbai. Want to travel with purpose? Add a ME to WE India extension. 

 

Thailand's storybook hinterland:

Bangkok - Kanchanburi - Sukhothai - Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai

ThailandHarvey EnrileAyutthayaPixabay

Why you should go: Northern Thailand sits perched on the verdant foothills of the Himilayas, while the nation's interior is steeped with ancient history. Unlike the party island-studded south, this is the storybook side of Thailand: a lush hinterland shrouded in deep jungle, containing elephants, temples and hill tribes. 

Can't-miss highlight: The buzzing streets of Bangkok, shopping a lively floating market, taking a Thai cooking class, visiting Sukhothai (the ancient capital of Old Siam), strolling the historic city of Ayutthaya (a UNESCO heritage site), a visit to Wat Doi Suthep temple, which overlooks all of Chiang Mai, and meeting Hmong and Lahu hill tribes. 

Who should go: Anyone and everyone. The Land of Smiles is accessible and enjoyable; not to mention it has a pleasant climate, a limitless buffet of mouthwatering cuisine and heaps of culture. It is the perfect introduction to Asia travel and a great jumping-off point to neighbouring Southeast Asian countries. Come to think of it, I've never met a person who didn't love Thailand.

 

Spain, sunny side up:

Madrid - Toledo - Seville - Grenada - Valencia - Barcelona

Alhambra PalaceVictoriano IzquierdoalhambraPixabay

Why you should go: Do you love losing yourself in the narrow, crooked roads of Medieval towns? Do you swoon for candle-lit tapas bars, alive with music that spills into the night? Do you appreciate laid-back ease and a life well-consumed? Well, my friend, you might just be Spanish at heart.

Can't-miss highlights: Take in a fiery flamenco performance in Seville, tour Granada's impressive Alhambra Palace, peer into the reflecting pools of Generalife's water gardens, explore Gaudi's Gothic la Sagrada Familia, and dig into savoury Catalan specialities. 

Who should go: Sun-seekers, lovers of Moorish architecture and people who like to wine and dine their way through a country. 

 

Stand at the top of the world in Scandinavia:

Norway - Finland - Sweden

tronheimFlickr/Gunvor Røkke (CC by 2.0, edited)lapland finland snow northern lights aurora borealisFlickr/Martin Criminale (CC by 2.0)

Why you should go: Some people think that coconuts and white-sand beaches are what make a vacation. To that I say: "Pfffft." Travelling through Scandinavia marries spectacular nature with authentic culture. Plus, there's standing on top of the world beneath a midnight sun while musing on Viking lore. Cool.

Can't-miss highlights: Sailing by dramatic fjords, ogling eccentric stave churches, and standing in awe at Laksfoss Falls. Cross the Arctic Circle to admire spectacular Northern Lights, and dine on a reindeer farm in the Finnish Lapland while learning about the Sami people. 

Who should go: The active traveller who wants to fulfill a Nordic odyssey, or those who want something totally different the next time they travel Europe. 

 

Greece's cultural side:

Athens - Olympia - Delphi - Kalambaka - Meteora

meteora greece monasteryPixabaydelphi greecePixabay

Why you should go: Stand in the Athens Agora and close your eyes; this is the cradle of Western Civilization and the birthplace of democracy. With millennia of history, a visit to Greece is an exceptional opportunity to live and breathe human history. 

Can't-miss highlights: Trace ancient footsteps in Athen's historic Acropolis, Parthenon, Temple of Zeus, and visit the stadium where the first modern Olympics took place. Look upon Agamemnon's Royal Palace (yes, the same Agamemnon from the Trojan War), the ancient sanctuary of Delphi, and the mind blowing monasteries of Meteora.

Who should go: History-lovers who can't sit still. Bright idea: digest all that history on an island-hopping excursion through the Aegean Sea before heading home. 

 

Rediscover the Balkans:

Croatia - Bosnia and Herzegovina - Montenegro

montenegroPixabayCroatiaDominik Lange

Why you should go: If 'Balkans' evokes 1990s conflict, it is high time to revisit this reinvented (and trending) region. Today's Balkans are charming Medieval cities that hang precariously on Adriatic cliffs; they are emerald landscapes and waterfall-fed lakes; and they are a riviera dotted with open-air dining and islands that hug the coast.  

Can't-miss highlights: Meandering Dubrovnik's postcard-perfect alleys, visiting the longest and deepest fjord in Southern Europe and getting back to nature at Plitvice's crystal clear lakes. Admire Zagreb's Gothic architecture, explore the Sarajevo War Tunnels and Diocletian's Palace (a UNESCO heritage site that doubles as Split's town centre). 

Who should go: The Euro-travel enthusiast who wants to explore the best of historic-urban-meets-natural-beauty in Eastern Europe. 

 

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Feeling inspired? Trafalgar offers trips to each of our 7 top picks. What can you expect on a guided vacation with Trafalgar? Effortless travel, (literally, just show up!) authentic experiences complete with culinary discoveries, experts in all destinations and insider experiences and fun with locals and fellow travellers. SAVE NOW: travellers booking by January 12, 2017 can save up to 10% on the land port of their trip with an Early Payment Discount. 

        

         

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