Meet the Winners of the 2017 Travelers' Choice Awards

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Meet the Winners of the 2017 Travelers' Choice Awards
We at AFAR are always excited to share our picks of the places we think you should explore in the coming year. But last year, for the first time, we also asked you to tell us where you want to go in 2017. After all, you are some of the world’s best travelers, and we know you’re always out there exploring and traveling deeper in the coolest destinations. More than 10,000 of you cast your votes—scroll through the slideshow to see the winners (and check out the list of 125 finalists here).
By Aislyn Greene, AFAR Staff
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    Travelers' Choice Awards: 2017 Winners
    We at AFAR are always excited to share our picks of the places we think you should explore in the coming year. But for the first time, we also asked you to tell us where you want to go in 2017. After all, you are some of the world’s best travelers, and we know you’re always out there exploring and traveling deeper in the coolest destinations. More than 10,000 of you cast your votes—scroll through the slideshow to see the winners (and check out the list of 125 finalists here).
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    BEST INTERNATIONAL CITY: Barcelona
    Full of history and of innovative spirit, Barcelona is all about work-life balance. Catalans love to work almost as much as they love to play, and, around town, visitors will find restaurants, cafés, and theaters packed with a mix of locals, expats, and tourists. The weather is mild enough for palm trees and droves of parrots, and there are loads of experiences for travelers, from outdoors enthusiasts and shoppers to foodies and art aficionados.
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    BEST COUNTRY: Italy
    Italy is the seat of modern civilization, with an unrivaled storehouse of Renaissance art and home to some of the world’s most popular foods. Whether you go for the art, the food and wine, or the ancient history (or all of the above), you'll find so much more. As reader Kim Talbott-Stone put it: “What could be better than eating fresh pasta and drinking wine while perched at the top of a cliff overlooking bright blue waters, surrounded by history and lemon trees? Nothing.”
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    BEST U.S. STATE: Hawaii
    Nearly 2,000 miles from the nearest continent, Hawaii has always lured travelers seeking paradise. Polynesian explorers first paddled into the islands between 300 and 500 CE. Tourism is now the state’s largest industry, and most travelers are familiar with stock photos of hula, leis, and surfboards. But as with most idylls, there’s much more to discover beyond the pages of glossy brochures.
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    BEST U.S. CITY: Charleston
    The streets of Charleston are lined with palmetto trees that harken back to the 19th century. The locals are polite in khakis or pearls, and cocktail hour is well-observed. We think reader Jacquelyn Hollis put it best: “Whatever you want, you can get in Charleston. And hospitality? They invented the word.”
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    BEST ISLAND: Cuba
    Cuba: The newly accessible country (at least for Americans) got top billing on your ballots. Ready to visit? Check out our insiders’ guide to the country.
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    BEST TOUR OPERATOR: Wilderness Travel
    Wilderness Travel has been leading adventurous travelers to the far reaches of the globe for 30-plus years. In 2017, you can pick from more than 200 trips, including a rugged trek to Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, a cruise to Antarctica to make all your penguin-watching dreams come true, and a cultural quest to explore the ancient voodoo traditions of tribal West Africa.
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    BEST DANUBE RIVER CRUISE: Viking River Cruises
    Travelers chose Viking River Cruises for its small ships, elegant cabins, Austrian and Hungarian food, and expert crew. Viking will offer nine different Danube trips in 2017.
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    BEST MEDITERRANEAN SEA CRUISE: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
    The majesty of the Mediterranean is matched by Regent’s immersive programs (including lectures run by the Smithsonian Institution) and lavish ships. It has dozens of Mediterranean voyages to match any whim: Try a week-long cruise from Venice to Rome, or splurge on a 17-night trip from Venice to Barcelona.
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    BEST INTERNATIONAL HOTEL, BARCELONA: Mandarin Oriental
    The Mandarin Oriental Barcelona aims to impress. The red carpet leading to the hotel’s striking façade, created by designer Patricia Urquiola, sets the bar high for guest’s expectations. The plush public areas carry an air of Asian opulence and grandeur, thanks to the hardwood floors and delicate ivory decor, while the 120 guestrooms and suites feature strong, crisp lines and sophisticated color schemes. From the plump armchairs and cloudlike beds to the iPod docks and toiletries by Shanghai Tang and Acqua di Parma, the experience here is 100 percent deluxe.
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    BEST INTERNATIONAL HOTEL, LONDON: The Savoy
    The Savoy was built in 1889 by English agent Richard D’Oyly Carte to accommodate wealthy American patrons who came to see the venue’s celebrated Gilbert & Sullivan operas. In years since, the hotel has welcomed everyone from Winston Churchill to Coco Chanel, Frank Sinatra, and Charlie Chaplin—who is commemorated, along with four other famous guests, in a theatrical Character Cocktail at the hotel’s decadent Beaufort Bar. But unlike some of London's other historic hotels, the Savoy is not one to languish in the past. It completed a $350 million renovation in 2010, in time to celebrate its 125-year anniversary.
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    BEST INTERNATIONAL HOTEL, PARIS: Four Seasons George V
    The George V flagship of the Four Seasons chain, lives up to its billing as a palace, an official tourism category introduced in 2010 requiring establishments to “embody French standards of excellence and contribute to enhancing the image of France throughout the world.” Set in a 1928 art deco building, the hotel boasts a regular clientele of bona fide royals. The staff includes a team of flower designers led by an art director who worked on Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. There’s also a dedicated concierge for children ordering up pint-sized bathrobes and private pastry-making lessons in the Michelin-starred kitchen.
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    BEST INTERNATIONAL HOTEL, ROME: St. Regis
    The St. Regis is palatial and uncompromisingly opulent. Opened by Carlo Ritz in 1894, the St. Regis belongs to a particular category of five-star hotels in Rome in which Old World glamour is alive and well. While the current trend in town is toward boutique hotels and converted townhouses, the. In the century (plus) since opening its doors on the crest of the Quirinal hill, the hotel has remained a beacon of luxury, and indeed many of the hotels on the nearby Via Veneto, Rome’s luxury hotel row, take their cues from this long-established pioneer.
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    BEST INTERNATIONAL HOTEL, TOKYO: Mandarin Oriental
    The Mandarin Oriental fills the top floors of Tokyo's Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower and explores the themes of woods and water. It’s designed as a single large, living tree. The entrance at the base of the tower represents the base of the tree, with rock-clinging, glassy sheets of water suggesting waterfalls that cascade from the mountains to nourish the roots, while the walls of the elevator wall resemble the inner rings of a tree trunk. The top floor, the tree’s canopy, evokes an image of treetops, with fabrics, carpets, and floors suggesting leaves and branches. Views from rooms and public areas include the Imperial Palace Garden to the west, Tokyo Skytree and Sumida River to the east, and Tokyo Bay in the distance to the south.
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    BEST U.S. HOTEL, CHARLESTON: French Quarter Inn
    The French Quarter Inn opened in 2001 and took its neighborhood's name and used it as inspiration for the hotel’s opulent decor and signature services. Guests arrive to an atrium with an elaborate wrought-iron staircase that rises in a spiral from the ground level and is topped with a large skylight. Champagne awaits guests upon check-in, and the rooms are decorated in vibrant shades of red, gold, and black, with toile bedspreads and damask upholstered furniture.
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    BEST U.S. HOTEL, NEW YORK: Park Hyatt New York
    The Park Hyatt opened its doors in August 2014, occupying 25 floors of a 90-story tower on West 57th Street. There is an emphasis on art, with over 200 museum-quality pieces on display in both the common areas and the spacious rooms. An artistic personality continues with a nod to neighbor Carnegie Hall through an exclusive soundtrack playing on underwater speakers in the indoor swimming pool, provided by the iconic concert hall. A swim in this pool—25 floors above bustling Midtown Manhattan—is a highlight of the hotel, along with cocktails in the cozy Living Room bar and a classic steak for two at the Back Room at One57.
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    BEST U.S. HOTEL, SAN FRANCISCO: The Fairmont San Francisco
    The Fairmont offers outstanding views in a luxury environment, located on a hilltop crest in Nob Hill. It is famous for its bar, the Tonga Room, which has a faithful following. The views are gorgeous; my room in the corner had a great vista all the way past Alcatraz Island. Take some time to wander the halls, which are filled with movie and celebrity paraphernalia, from visits to the Tonga Room to movies filmed on location to stars who stayed at the hotel. Be sure to check out the restaurant—the chef has four honeybee hives atop a rooftop garden!
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    BEST U.S. HOTEL, SEATTLE: The Four Seasons
    The west-facing bay views are reason enough to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel in the center of downtown Seattle. That, and the unbeatable location: across the street from the Seattle Art Museum, and right next door to Pike Place Market. Tasteful minimalist decor; floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Elliott Bay or neighboring towers; modern, elegant appointments in the rooms (and enormous bathtubs!); and an outdoor infinity pool that exploits the setting—all these touches add up to one of Seattle’s best hotels.
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    BEST U.S. HOTEL, NEW ORLEANS: The Ritz-Carlton
    The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans first opened its doors in 2000 after a $250 million overhaul of the then-shuttered Beaux-Arts buildings. After Katrina, the property underwent a second renovation, which included the expansion of its spaand the addition of a private entrance for Club level guests. This is a Ritz-Carlton, so you can expect the same (high) level of service and luxury—think ornate furnishings, sumptuous linens, and a $3.5 million art collection—as at other properties within the brand. But the property isn’t just another Ritz. Bellmen wear seersucker, the bistro serves po’ boys, and there’s live jazz in the lounge.
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