We’ve just passed ‘Blue Monday.’ Yes that’s right, the beginning of this week was apparently the most miserable day of the year – the Christmas festivities are now just a faint memory and the summer still feels a very long way off ugh. So to inject a little cheer into the long dark days we’ve been wondering where to head to this year. Cewe Photoworld, the UK’s leading provider of award-winning photo books, prints and gifts has just released the Top 10 most Instagrammed places in the world and they challenged us to create our own list of bucket list places. Not ones for liking all the usual tourist haunts, here’s our personal under-the-radar travel destination bucket list for 2017…
Becky – Lofoten Islands, Norway
Being a huge fan of all things Scandinavian, Norway and more specifically the Lofton Islands are on my 2017 travel list. An archipelago anchored above the Arctic Circle and steeped in Viking history, no where does the midnight sun shine to greater effect than on these beautiful islands. Known for its distinctive and dramatic unspoilt scenery, Edgar Allen Poe described the seas around as ‘lashed into ungovernable fury… the bed of waters seamed and scarred into a thousand conflicting channels bursts into frenzied convulsion – heaving, boiling, hissing’. On land, the scenery is equally as beguiling with deep purple mountains, sheltered bays, green meadows, bright fishing boats and rust-red wooden clapboard cabins on stilts mirrored in turquoise blue sea. Also a haven for wildlife watchers, I’ll have the chance to see puffins, eagles and seals – my idea of heaven!
Scott – Palermo, Sicily
The capital of the Italian island of Sicily is often overlooked as a travel destination but it’s a place I’d put on my travel list for this year. Offering a rustic and authentic taste of real Italy, the city is known for its unmissable architecture, vivid street life and a great choice of alfresco restaurants and bars. The old town is full of artisan shops, baroque palaces, a 12th-century Palermo Cathedral and a huge neoclassical building which provides an ornate home for wonderful opera performances. Being a bit of a foodie I’d head for the bustling local markets and find some traditional restaurants to sample some of the delicious Sicilian cuisine.
Beth – Mendocino, California
The travel destination on my 2017 travel list is Mendocino, California. I fell for Northern California’s alluring charms on my road trip there a few years back but this is the place I would love to return to. Here tabletop headlands carved below by massive sea caves – and adorned with barns, lighthouses and cliffside inns – provide a truly spectacular backdrop to the famously beautiful sunsets. The town itself has a quaint arty vibe with colourful Victorian homes and independent shops. The surrounding landscapes are no less charming – the Mendocino Headlands State Park blankets the edges of town and gentle trails lead to secluded coves where you can spot spouting whales and surf-riding sea lions.
Lee – Aveiro, Portugal
My choice would be Aveiro, Portugal which is a city located on the west coast of Portugal set along a lagoon called Ria de Aveiro. Smaller and less in-your-face than its more famous rival Porto, this Portugal city remains firmly under the radar as at travel destination but yet is one of the most unique and inspiring cites in the country. Wrapping itself around the edge of the Ria de Aveiro, a shallow coastal lagoon rich in birdlife, its known for its network of canals navigated by colourful boats (which were traditionally used to harvest seaweed) – cruise the canals on a hand painted ‘moliceiro’, admire the fabulous Art Nouveau architecture, or spend the day photographing the colourfully tiled buildings dotted all over this charming town. It’s often called the Venice of Portugal but it has its own unique identity, and I know I certainly won’t be jostling with the same kind of crowds as in Italy.
Emma – Bagan, Myanmar
High on my travel hit list for 2017 is Bagan, Myanmar, in fact it tops it. The ancient city in central Myanmar (formerly Burma), located southwest of Mandalay is dotted with thousands of ancient stupas and temples spread across the dry green plains of the Irrawaddy River in central Burma. This place arguably competes with its more famous rival the Angkor Wat in Cambodia for the title as one most extraordinary archaeological sites in Asia and is filled with ancient splendour. On my planned itinerary is the 11th century Shwezigon Pagoda, Wetkyi-In Gubyaukgyi, a cave temple with exquisite murals and the Ananda, an architectural masterpiece with standing Buddha images whose facial expressions change depending on where you view them!
Al – Woodstock, South Africa
Being a wine lover, I’ve wanted to visit South Africa for a while now and Woodstock a suburb of Cape Town is a place on my travel hit list. Initially a hotbed for drugs and crime, Woodstock has changed dramatically and is now filled with trendy restaurants, cool shops which have cannily made good use of the converted and revamped warehouses, abandoned buildings and even a disused brewery. Peppered with art galleries, murals at every street corner and pastel painted houses, Woodstock is apparently the perfect place to embrace your inner Picasso and also having a fondness for all things alternative and artisan this place is right up my street!
Holly – Hokkaido, Japan
My choice for my 2017 bucket list is the northernmost of Japan’s main islands. Hokkaido is known for its dark brooding volcanoes, natural hot springs (onsen), sprawling blue lakes bountiful supply of fragrant fresh air. Often considered by the Japanese to be the country’s last frontier, it’s an area filled with vast unspoilt vistas, untouched wilderness and some of the most picturesque traditional villages in the country. For overseas and Japanese travellers alike, Hokkaido offers an enticing range of riches that manifest a rarely seen side of Japan.
Gary – Bologna, Italy
I really want to head to Bologna this year, I love absolutely everywhere in Italy for all the obvious reasons – the food, culture and architecture – and the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region located in northern Italy is one place I haven’t visited yet. Known for being Italy’s capital of gastronomy as well as its seemly endless rows of terracotta medieval buildings adorned with miles of porticoes, its definitely a place on my bucket list. The streets and elegant squares are lined with arched colonnades, alfresco cafes and medieval and Renaissance structures and its rich culinary history has ensured its nickname as the La Grassa (the Fat One) – apparently its restaurants are said to be the best in Italy!