From the Maine to Fiji, here are our favorite trips from 2017.
At AFAR, we truly practice what we preach about travel, which is to take advantage of every last vacation day and make every trip an opportunity to learn more about the world. Our company encourages each and every one of our employees to take a trip via our travel stipend program, so each member of our staff can experience a place they’ve never been before. Needless to say, we log a lot of miles each year, and 2017 was no different. Here are 12 places we loved.
“I did not expect to fall in love with Budapest in 2017. The city was my last stop on a multi-day cycling cruise down the Danube with Backroads/AmaWaterways, and going in, my only plan was to soak in the legendary baths in the 48 hours I’d be there. But the city dazzled me immediately. On our first night, we did an evening sail down the river, which sounds touristy but is, in reality, enchanting (that architecture! those lights!). Post-sail, I spent a night in an Airbnb in the Jewish Quarter, ate my weight in harira (chickpea soup) and semolina cakes heavy with orange-blossom syrup, and soaked in the famous Gellért Baths, fantasizing about my next (much-longer) visit.” —Aislyn Greene, senior editor
“I didn’t do any long-haul trips this year because I had a ton of weddings to attend (including my own!). But a visit to Portland, Oregon, to see my cousin and her kids at the end of July was the perfect way to spend a summer weekend. Sunny skies and warm weather perfect for a backyard picnic, fresh blueberries to pick, indie bookstores to scour, and surprisingly glorious vegan frozen yogurt to nosh on from Eb & Bean!” —Sara Button, editorial assistant
“This surprises me, but when I think back on this year, the first place that pops into my mind is Postojna Cave in Slovenia. It surprises me for two reasons. First, I never thought I was that into caves. But it’s an incredible place. Miles of beautiful rock formations and these huge, high-ceilinged spaces, all inside the earth. It’s wonder-inducing. Second, it’s a very touristy place—but that’s partly why it's so interesting. Millions of people go there each year. There have been tourists going there since 1819—the caves had electricity in them before London did. And it’s still fun. No, you are not wandering alone through untouched secret underground lairs, but you are seeing an incredible place that could have easily been destroyed if not treated with care. They’ve figured out a way to create an experience that millions of people can find satisfying. In these times when we worry about places getting overtouristed, there are probably some lessons to learn from a place that has had 100 years to figure things out.” —Jeremy Saum, executive editor
“I’m a big safari nut, so the 2017 trip I cherish the most is Botswana. I love how the landscape changes dramatically from deserts to deltas; the wildlife sightings were some of the best I’ve ever had. At the gorgeously refurbished Duba Plains Camp, which is located in the heart of the Okavango Delta, I saw my first kill in the wild, and then a couple of days later I hopped a flight into the Kalahari Desert to spend the night at Jack’s Camp, a very special place where you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time (at night, I heard lions roaring from my lantern-lit tent). On the same trip, I went on a mobile safari in the Moremi Game Reserve with Natural Selection Safaris and slept in a fly tent for the first time. There is nothing more exhilarating than having nothing between you and the wilderness, save for some mosquito netting—everyone should experience that feeling at least once in their life.” —Jennifer Flowers, deputy editor
“I am big champion of bees—and a serious lover of honey. This summer I spent a few memorable days in Tuscany, rolling through great sunny swaths of sunflower, acacia, and rosemary, and along the way consuming as much miele della Toscana as I could stomach. This region and its talented bees produce some of the world’s best honey, and it’s best slurped raw, right from the cells of a freshly cut honeycomb.” —Matthew Phenix, consumer travel news editor
“I didn’t do much traveling this year because I was planning a wedding, but even if I had traveled a lot, my pick would be my honeymoon in Fiji. The Fijian hospitality was especially excellent at one particular resort, Namale. It’s not your average all-inclusive—far from it. There, the staff greeted us by name. We stayed in one of the 19 bures and villas on the property, and the resort’s clientele is mostly comprised of couples, so we only saw about 30 or so other guests during our stay. We got to know many of them, too—each evening, the resort has cocktail hour followed by local entertainment, which ranges from kava ceremonies to a meke, or a Fijian welcome ceremony. Every meal was made with local ingredients—including some produce from Namale’s own farm—and even our daily room service breakfast was included. Staff members plan a special ‘surprise’ dinner for every party staying at the resort. For us, they planned an evening in a candle-lit cave by the ocean with surf and turf and champagne. My husband and I have vowed to go back one day.” —Danielle Walsh, senior editor
“Honestly, I have to say Maine was the best place I visited this year. In just a few days, we were able to experience the bustle of a classic New England town, watch a bald eagle defend its nest against a hawk, and romp in Portland before everyone else discovers that it’s kind of arrived. It helps that I have specific food-related memories of each place—roasted pistachio oil in Rockland, a legit whoopie pie in Camden, a brown butter lobster roll from Eventide in Portland that was so good I almost cried. Topping that off with the serenity of floating in a lake with no one around really sealed the deal for me. I’m already trying to figure out when I can go back.” —Nicole Antonio, associate managing editor
Sydney and Melbourne
“I knew my year was off to a great start when I got to spend my New Year’s Day in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. After a dip in Avalon Beach, we hiked up Barrenjoey Lighthouse for an amazing view of the bay. Throughout my time there, I loved exploring Coogee to Bondi Beach, riding on Sydney’s extensive ferry system, and swimming in many of the incredible ocean pools. After our visit in Sydney, we hopped over to Melbourne where we explored the alleyways, coffee shops, and rooftops. I’m already plotting how I can get back soon.” —Samantha Juda, audience development manager
Norway and Denmark
“This year, I traveled to Scandinavia for my first (but definitely not my last) time. We visited Norway and Denmark, and I was blown away by both countries. The most memorable part of the trip, though, was the time we spent in Copenhagen. We were lucky enough to be in the city during the celebration of its 850th birthday, which just so happened to coincide with Copenhagen’s annual CPH Art Week. We went to the incredibly cool opening of Chart Art Fair at Charlottenborg Kunsthal, an exhibition gallery located directly across from the city’s iconic canal in Nyhavn. We also attended a free outdoor concert (and were told the performer was considered to be the Danish version of Vanilla Ice!). Of course, we did some classic Copenhagen activities, too. We rented bikes and explored the ever-trendy Nørrebro district, enjoyed a laid-back meal at Papirøen (a street food hall), toured the Danish Museum of Art & Design, and did plenty of shopping at flea markets across the city.” —Sarah Buder, editorial assistant
“Like many travelers, I went to Cuzco to get to Machu Picchu; but when I go back, it’ll be for Cuzco itself. Friends who had visited told me to expect a typical trekking town—full of backpacker accommodations and catch-all Western cuisine restaurants. But apparently, since they’ve been, the city has changed a lot. I spent a few days in a bohemian Airbnb in the artsy, white-walled San Blas neighborhood. There, I explored the cobblestone streets and ducked through colorfully painted doors into funky vintage shops and boutiques filled with locally designed jewelry, bags, and alpaca knitwear. The rest of the time I spent hopping amongst vegan restaurants that made this non-vegan swoon, chic wine bars, and third-wave coffee shops. In fact, when I get back, I’ll probably spend most of my time sitting in the window of the second-floor coffee shop, L’Atelier Café Concept, soaking up that magical mountain light and watching the people wandering below.” —Maggie Fuller, assistant editor