By Jim Ferri
It’s that time of the year again.
We’re right on the heels of the holidays, and many travelers’ thoughts are turning to…what else, but travel.
Not so coincidentally, this is also the time of year when many publications proclaim certain destinations as the best places to travel to in the coming year. The “Best ______ in 2017” they like to tout. But how many can be “The Best”? And, importantly, what are the criteria for selection?
Almost every week during the year I read a number of travel publications, as I’m certain do many other travelers. My list runs the gamut from Travel + Leisure to Food and Travel, Condé Nast Traveler to National Geographic Traveler, the travel sections of The New York Times and the London Sunday Times, plus another half-dozen or so. I can recommend them all.
Best Places Lists
And every year I look forward to seeing their “Best Places” lists.
But over the past several years it’s become abundantly clear that the only thing these lists seem to share in common is the word ”travel.” Some lists differ wildly from others.
No editor, of course, wants to publish a story on the same destination touted by a competitor. But sometimes the places chosen by competing pubs is so different you wonder if the editors were writing about the same planet.
Obviously, selection of any destination for a “best” list is very subjective. Usually, it’s based on a writer/editor’s experience during a recent visit, or because of a major festival or another event that will take place in the coming year. That’s all well and good.
But one would expect that when major travel publications provide you with a list of the ”Best of the Best” there would be some common ground. It needn’t always be a particular place or city, but agreement on a given country or geographic area might not be too much to occasionally expect.
Best of 2017
This week I compared the “Best of 2017” articles from five publications. They were Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, and the UK newspaper The Telegraph.
The total of the best places recommended was 133. Of that number, only 5 were mentioned by more than one publication – Jerusalem, Canada, and Rwanda (each by Condé Nast and Travel + Leisure); New Zealand (Condé Nast and The Telegraph), and Bermuda (by Condé Nast, The Telegraph, and Travel + Leisure). (Lonely Planet shared no common ground with anyone, although its readers tend to look for a different vacation experience than do the readers of the other publications.)
T+L put Jerusalem on its best list since it has, according to the publication, become a culinary force in Israel. CNT found the city’s food, art, and a new hotel opening sufficiently exciting.
Both Canada and Bermuda made the lists because of major events taking place in each country. 2017 is the 150th anniversary of Canada becoming a country, and there will be plenty of activities held all over the country. Bermuda will be hosting the 35th America’s Cup race so don’t expect to find an empty room anywhere on the island.
Rwanda and Finland
On the other hand, I couldn’t help but wonder about Rwanda, well-known for its Mountain Gorillas.
It scored top points in both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure for the same reason: the impending opening of Wilderness Safaris’ upscale, six-villa Bisate Lodge. According to CNT it is “one of the most anticipated hotel openings on the continent.”
Somehow, it seems a bit odd how one hotel opening can propel an entire country to the top of the list.
(Additionally, to be fair, three publications also raved about Finland. Although they were not specifically the “same” destination, Travel + Leisure bested Helsinki, The Telegraph glowed about Hossa National Park, and National Geographic Traveler lauded the entire country. National Geographic also extolled Russia, and The Telegraph, Moscow).
Read Them All
My point is that if you’re looking for the “best” place to spend your travel dollars this year, don’t rely on the recommendation of any one publication. Read them all and compare the results and rationale for the choices.
Here are the links to follow to help put you on the road to your best trip during 2017:
The Telegraph: The 20 best destinations to visit in 2017
Lonely Planet: Best in Travel 2017
Travel + Leisure: 50 Best Places to Travel in 2017
National Geographic Traveler: Best Trips 2017
Condé Nast Traveler: The Best Places to Travel in 2017
Some of the places listed are well-known destinations. Others are so little known, or so far off the beaten track, you’re probably better off seeing other major sights in a country first.
For example, if you’re not looking for a beach destination, why travel to Vietnam’s Con Dao Islands recommended by Lonely Planet? Travel instead to Hanoi, which can be a great experience.
And if you’re in search of an outdoor experience you may want to look to National Geographic Traveler. Its recommendations on the Cloud Forests in Ecuador or the tiger sanctuaries in India might just be your cup of travel tea.