Eighteen ultimate destinations, journeys and culture highlights for 2017

BEST EUROPEAN CITY

Lisbon

Magnificent historic buildings, ornate churches, brooding castle on a hill, great food, friendly people and shockingly easy to navigate plus, according to our tuk-tuk driver, no good reason for terrorists to blow bits of it up are among the advantages to visiting Lisbon. Yes, you read that right; tuk-tuks are thriving in Portugal's hilly coastal capital. Hugely underrated and great fun, especially in the buzzy old quarter down towards the port.
See visitlisboa.com

BEST ART MUSEUM

The Louvre Abu Dhabi

In November, the Louvre Abu Dhabi finally opened its doors, showcasing works from its Paris namesake and a dozen other French galleries, as well as pieces drawn from its own collection. Like Hobart's MONA, the juxtaposition of artworks from different cultures and eras delights and challenges - but nothing beats popping out at the end under the museum's Jean Nouvel-designed star-spangled silver dome.
See louvreabudhabi.ae

BEST PEOPLE (AND DOG) WATCHING

Wander through one of Buenos Aires' many parks and you'll see professional dog-walkers (paseador de perros) taking up to a dozen pedigree pooches out while their apartment-dwelling owners are at work. Amazingly, the dogs lie down obediently together outside cool cafes when the walkers stop for a coffee and a chat - no fighting or barking allowed.
See turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar

A professional dog walker on the streets of Buenos Aires.

A professional dog walker on the streets of Buenos Aires. Photo: Alamy

BEST ALL ROUND ADVENTURE DESTINATION

The Yukon, Canada

While sparsely populated, the wild territory of northwest Canada known as the Yukon is an adventurer's paradise. Each year the region hosts the Yukon Quest, a gruelling 1000-mile dog sled race alternating between the capital Whitehorse and Fairbanks Alaska. While it's this spectacle that often draws the crowds, it's also possible to have your own adventure of a lifetime. Watch the Northern Lights from a cabin, visit picturesque goldrush towns, tear through wooded backcountry on a snowmobile, trek the Chilkoot Trail and even drink a cocktail with a severed human toe in it.
See travelyukon.com

BEST UNDERRATED AUSTRALIAN BEACH

Tweed Coast, NSW

While Byron's Main Beach heaves with beach goers, and it's hard to find a spare patch of sand on the glittering Gold Coast to the north, somewhere in between lies 37 kilometres of pristine, crowd-free coastline. The Tweed Coast's long sweep of pandanus fringed sands are postcard perfect, and surprisingly have escaped the attention of mass beachgoers. The stretch from Cabarita Beach (home to the renowed Halcyon House) to Kingscliff in the north is particularly fetching.
See tweed.nsw.gov.au/Beaches

BEST US TOWN

Woodstock, New York

Get out of New York City and head directly to the Catskills, which is undergoing a rejuvenation. Motels are being converted, diners hipsterised (try the Phoenicia Diner just out of town) and there's streets full of cool bookshops and boutiques. Plus there's great hikes and lakes. And nearly 50 years after the Woodstock Festival it's still the preferred sanctuary for a new generation of musicians with recording studios galore.
See woodstockchamber.com

BEST VISITOR FRIENDLY ART GALLERY

Historic Salts Mill in Shipley, Yorkshire

This gallery not only houses a permanent collection of David Hockney's work - within its immaculately restored spaces you can shop for books, art materials, contemporary homewares and jewellery, antiques and posters. There are two stylish restaurants and a caf?? and you can even hire bikes onsite to explore adjoining Saltaire village, built in 1853 to house the Mill workers. A grand day out.
See saltsmill.org.uk

BEST RIVER REVIVAL PROJECT

San Antonio River, Texas

The famous 24-kilometre San Antonio River Walk - already a world leader in urban park design - has picked up the 2017 Thiess International Riverprize award for its conservation and recreation efforts. After a $US530 million upgrade the River Walk now has more walking, cycling and paddling routes, more art installations, improved aquatic and riparian habitats, and better connections between cultural attractions.
See sara-tx.org

BEST REMOTE REGION

Shaktihimalaya, India

With its wild landscapes, Buddhist monasteries and peaceful vibe, it can seem as though Ladakh isn't part of India at all. Although this high-altitude desert bordering Pakistan and China opened up to foreigners only in the 1970s, today visitors are flocking in search of adventure (snow leopards roam the region) and sheer serenity. Those after a high-end experience can stay in local homes transformed via a hip makeover.
See shaktihimalaya.com

Lamayuru monastery in Ladakh, India.

Lamayuru monastery in Ladakh, India. Photo: Shutterstock

BEST BOOKSHOP

Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

It's been said this neo-gothic, art nouveau and art deco beauty in Porto's ancient Vitoria district was an inspiration for J.K. Rowling's fantasy Harry Potter series. There's enough Hogwarts to this magical emporium to believe it. The 1906 building is a living door to history with its intricate decoration, friezes, busts and bronze bas-reliefs of Portuguese literary figures, magnificent crimson art nouveau double-helix staircase, stained glass skylight and, oh yes, books - 60,000 of them, some in English. Plus coffee shop.
See livrarialello.pt

BEST OLD TRADE ROUTE ADVENTURE

Tea Horse Road, China

Following ancient pathways carved by traders from the tea-producing regions of Yunnan in China to the Bay of Bengal, via Tibet, the Tea Horse Road provides a memorable modern-day journey through some of the world's most spectacular mountain scenery. This is also a fantastic way to get acquainted with ethnic Tibetan culture - the food, the religion, the customs - which spreads far beyond the borders of that famously disputed territory.
See worldexpeditions.com

BEST FORTIFIED CITY

Mdina, Malta

The early Arab capital of Malta sits on an inland outcrop with commanding views. Fortified walls enclose an almost perfectly preserved medieval and baroque town of meandering alleys, honey-coloured stone and sunlit squares. The cathedral is colourful with coats-of-arms and frescoes. Settle into seventeenth-century palazzo The Xara Palace for an old-world feel, spectacular views and a Relais & Ch??teaux restaurant serving fine Maltese and Mediterranean cuisine.
See visitmalta.com and relaischateaux.com

BEST WALKING TOUR

Galle Fort Walks, Sri Lanka

"Sri Lankan history is like a Game of Thrones," says tour guide Shanjei Perumal, "and no one saw the White Walkers coming." This unique tour of the Galle Fort - including Shanjei's pop-culture-friendly explanation of colonialism - is the perfect introduction to local history and culture. Shanjei tailors his tours to guests' desires, with everything from architecture to street food becoming the focus of a stroll through Sri Lanka's most charming city.
See gallefortwalks.com

BEST GARDEN

Jardin Exotique, Monaco

This fabulous garden is surprisingly overlooked, perhaps because it perches high on the cliff-side aloof from Monaco's glamorous port. Its collection of cactus and dry-climate plants is wonderful, though it's easy to be distracted by plunging views over the Mediterranean, Monte Carlo and royal palace. Caves beneath provide another wholly unexpected collection, this time of stalactites and stalagmites. This is Monaco's best-kept secret, and a must-see.
See jardin-exotique.mc

A garden of cacti and succulents in Jardin Exotique de Monaco.

A garden of cacti and succulents in Jardin Exotique de Monaco. Photo: Shutterstock

BEST TUSCAN HILLTOP TOWN

Radicofani, Italy

Like people, certain places stand out. This elevated old town and medieval fortress, rising above the rolling Val D'Orcia landscape and visible for miles around, is a Tuscan town in perfect form. Over summer join laidback locals in Piazza San Pietro on the sunny church steps, at the caf?? bar or on a park bench with a view. The best way to find yourself in Radicofani is as a cycling pilgrim on the Via Francigena.
See utracks.com

BEST HISTORIC NEIGHBOURHOOD

Teahouse district, Kanazawa

Though Kyoto's famous teahouse district, Gion, is often filled with far more gawkers than geishas, in Kanazawa, a few hours north-east, it's a different story. Though the city boasts three separate teahouse districts, each with paved pedestrian streets lined with beautiful, traditional wooden buildings, the visitor numbers here are far lower than Kyoto, meaning you'll be able to enjoy the tranquility these areas were originally designed for.
See jnto.org.au

BEST LAKE

Tegernsee, Germany

Though hunkered just 48 kilometres southwest of Munich in the much-visited Bavarian Alps, beautiful Tegernsee has few international visitors, leaving you with a pleasing sense of being among local weekending Germans. Pretty towns flank the lake, cupped in verdant hills. Kick back at glamorous Leading Hotels of the World property Seehotel ??berfahrt right on the lakeshore's fine walking paths and you'll be in a happy, flower-draped place.
See tegernsee.com; lhw.com

BEST LESSER-KNOWN RUINS

Uaxactun, Guatemala

Tikal is Guatemala's version of Chichen Itza, an impressive set of Maya ruins that attracts an impressive set of crowds. What's less well-known is that 23 kilometres further north, in the middle of a national park, is another set of ruins called Uaxactun, which hardly anyone ever visits. An overnight stay with Chimu Adventures includes a sunset drink on top of a Maya temple and a delicious, locally-prepared meal.
See chimuadventures.com

The ancient Maya site of Uaxactun north of Tikal El Peten, Guatemala.

The ancient Maya site of Uaxactun north of Tikal El Peten, Guatemala. Photo: Alamy

CONTRIBUTORS: Keith Austin, Andrea Black, Elspeth Callender, Ben Groundwater, Brian Johnston, Nina Karnikowski, Katrina Lobley, Sally Macmillan, Rob McFarland, Sheriden Rhodes, Louise Southerden, Alison Stewart, Kerry van der Jagt, Guy Wilkinson