Travel is always on my mind, and heading into 2017 has been no different. I've been thinking about, and researching, interesting and inspiring places to travel to that aren't as popular or well known. Us Kiwis have all been to Fiji, Raro or Gold Coast for a sunny beach escape, or ventured over to London and from there embarked on a journey through Europe, probably going as far east as the Czech Republic.
Not to say that there's anything wrong with these places; we keep going back for a reason! But I want to start travelling to less touristy places to see what they have to offer. I haven't been to any of these places yet, though all are on my bucket list, and I'll be visiting Myanmar in a few months time.
Just a warning, some of these are not for the faint hearted!
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar borders several more well travelled countries like India and Thailand, but it has managed to survive for years without a great deal of tourism by comparison.
Explore the ruins of Bagan and feel like a tomb raider, or take a tour down the famous Irrawaddy River or visit the glorious, golden Shwedagon Pagoda. I am really excited to be visiting in May, so stay tuned for my own experience of the place!
With the gorgeous Caribbean coast in the north and west, and the jungles of the continent to the south and east, the Central American country, Colombia, has a great deal to offer those who are a little on the adventurous side.
In recent years, this paradise has become a lot easier and safer for tourists to travel to. Last year the government signed a peace deal with Farc after 4 years of negotiations (click here for more info) and peace is being spread far and wide in Colombia.
If you know anything about history, you'll know that 1917 was a pretty big year for Russia. Revolution ended the 300 year rule of the Romanov dynasty, and communism took hold of the vast country. Though there haven't been any plans publicly announced for the centenary, it will be very interesting to see if something does happen. If nothing else, visit Russia and experience all the history it has to offer and find out more about the events of 1917.
Namibia is a photographers wet dream. Ironically, thanks to the outlandish orange landscape of the Kalahari Desert.
Plus there's the Skeleton Coast, the quirky old German town Luderitz, the fascinating Himba people, black rhinos, plenty of sand-dunes to board down, Fish River canyon, ancient rock carvings in Twyfelfontein and just a whole bunch of African wildlife. Brb.....booking tickets to Namibia.
Canada is by no means untouched by us kiwis. We all have a friend, or a friend of a friend, who has been to work on the ski fields.
But 2017 is making it better than ever for a visit; Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary with free entry to all its national parks. According to Parks Canada, that's "46 national parks, 171 national historic sites, four national marine conservation areas, one national urban park and eight historic canals". I struggled to find out how much that would save you, but it's a pretty cool place to visit, regardless.
With Emirates and other airlines from the middle East being a popular choice for travelling to Europe from our end of the world, more and more deals are cropping up with cities like Dubai and Doha as stopovers. But why not use them as a stopover to somewhere a little less travelled, just as historic and stunning, but perhaps a little less touristy, like Oman?
The capital, Muscat, is visually stunning with its low white-washed buildings is surrounded by desert, mountains and the Gulf of Oman. With a population barely larger than Auckland (1.5mil), it is humble in comparison to its more ostentatious neighbours, but nonetheless a place worth a visit.
I work in travel full time and my company have recently been doing a huge push of the Caribbean and the surrounding area, and I'm completely sold on Cuba!
It's an island stuck in time thanks to the Communist government which has been in place since the 1950s. Reportedly every family was given a car by the government back then, and thanks to a foreign vehicle import ban, these cars are almost all you'll see today. But tourism has been on the rise in Cuba for the last few decades, and it's a place I'd love to go to soon, while it's still in the old ways.
Japan is always a top destination for travellers, but just across the Sea of Japan, tourists are flocking to South Korea as well, though I don't think the hype has yet reached NZ. From stunning temples, to the gorgeous Busan coast, the bustling nightlife of Seoul to the sub-tropical island Jeju, this country has so much to offer. It's time to say Annyeong to South Korea!
Portugal is like the beautiful, creative, unassuming little sister of Spain. At least that's my outsider's perspective. Spain and its surrounding islands are so appealing to travellers, but if you go just a little further west, you'll discover something magical.
There are so many quirky, colourful buildings, especially in Sintra. Lisbon, is the second oldest oldest capital city in the world, after Athens, and is a great mix of the old and the new, with lively modern day culture oozing out of the streets that are older than the hills (not literally older than the hills....I think).
Of course, there are so many more places I would travel to if I could, maybe I'll get around to some more of these later in the year?!
Have you visited any of these places? Or have you got another country to recommend for people to visit in 2017?