“This special issue (December/January 2017 issue) takes readers on a globe-spinning journey to 21 of the world’s best destinations,” says George Stone, National Geographic Traveler, editor-in-chief. “We think this year’s list represents a carefully curated selection of forward-leaning places that reveal the bright future of travel. This list is all about exploration and discovery.”
Let’s take a look at the best nature destinations making this exclusive list:
1. Kauai, United States – An aerial tour delivers breathtaking views of the Na Pali sea cliffs and waterfalls. Island hikes lead through canyons, lush landscapes, and forests. Wai Koa Loop, a new five-mile trail, winds through North America’s largest mahogany forest.
2. Finland – Reindeer safaris, snowshoeing, and the spray of Northern Lights in Lapland are part of Finland’s charms. The relatively small country harbors 12 wilderness areas, six national hiking areas, and 40 national parks, the newest of which is Hossa Hiking Area.
3. Baja California, Mexico – In the waters off the Baja California peninsula, diving delivers close encounters with elephant seals, white sharks, and manta rays with wing spans of more than 20-feet. The region’s marine national parks include Cabo Pulmo, Guadalupe Island, Revillagigedos Archipelago, and San Ignacio Lagoon.
4. Banff, Alberta, Canada – One of Canada’s most beautiful parks, Banff National Park offers woodland hikes, turquoise-blue lakes, and rugged mountain peaks, as well as hot springs soaks and upscale accommodations.
5. Cloud Forests, Ecuador – Among the abundant birds flitting through the fog-shrouded slopes of Chocó’s cloud forest are hundreds of jewel-colored hummingbirds. Air plants (epiphytes) and other vegetation grow along the misty trails.
6. Via Dinarica, Western Balkans – A new map traces the 1,000-mile trek along the Via Dinarica, a path that follows ancient trade routes through the Dinaric Alps. Trekkers can stay overnight in shepherd settlements and small villages. National Geographic Traveler quotes tour operator, Thierry Joubert, Green Visions, based in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as saying “The Via Dinarica has replaced politics with nature. What could be more beautiful?”
7. Tiger National Parks, Central India – Explore the Jungle Book’s real landscape. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s wild tigers – 3,890 in 2015 – reside in India. Central India’s Madhya Pradesh national parks are home to many wild tigers. It’s easier than before to see the wildlife as India Railways’ new Tiger Express tourist train goes to tiger-rich Bandhavgarh and Kunha parks.