The list of 2017 top countries to visit continues on with Portugal, often the forgotten one for most travelers to Europe. What was once a powerhouse in sea exploration (Magellan anyone?), it fell off the radar with the rise of the neighboring Spanish, French and British empires. Thankfully though, that preserved much of its wonderful seaside towns, allowing them to remain unspoiled for future generations.
The other is South Africa, arguably the continent’s crown jewel. It has spectacular beaches, a burgeoning wine region and some of Africa’s best wildlife viewing. The country’s history and colorful culture will also provide plenty of unique experiences and attractions for visitors to explore.
2017 Top Countries to Visit, Part II
Located west of Spain, in the Iberian peninsula, Portugal’s been hailed as Europe’s next “it” destination for several years even before Christiano Ronaldo became one of the world’s most famous athletes. Its diverse landscape, vintage wineries and favorable exchange rates makes it one of the 2017 top countries to visit.
For starters, there’s Lisbon, the country’s seemingly untouched capital. Its classic streetcars, sloping streets and gorgeous river views make it one of the more laid back and romantic cities in Europe. In addition, the reinvigorated city is slowly becoming the country’s center of design and culture. Take a peek at the newly opened Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. Its graceful and futuristic architecture is easily recognizable while the exhibits themselves present visitors with an out of this world experience like no other.
Not far from Lisbon are the lovely medieval towns of Coimbra and Aviero. The former is home to the University of Coimbra, one of the most historic in Europe. Pay a visit during the school season and you’ll definitely feel the young vibe; a refreshing contrast to the multi-storied stone walls that decorates the town. Aviero on the other hand, has been dubbed as Portugal’s Venice. Positioned right smack at the edge of a coastal lagoon, the town is also popular with bird watchers and enthusiasts alike. Book a hotel by the Boco and take some time exploring the colorful houses that line the riverside on foot and indulge on a boat ride or two where you’ll get some of the best views in town.
Wine lovers will not want to miss a trip to Porto, another one of the country’s coastal town located in the Duoro valley. It’s famous for producing port, a fortified wine typically served after meals. In addition, Porto is a cosmopolitan city that features fascinating street art and cutting-edge technology. It’s also a favorite for culinary aficionados thanks to the numerous up and coming chefs pushing the limits on Portuguese cuisine.
Last but not least, there are the Azores Islands, likely the country’s best-kept secret and what cemented Portugal’s addition to the 2017 top countries to visit list. The natural and scenic beauty of these tiny islands is often described as Eden-like. Stunning lagoons, dense forests and sloping calderas pave way for plenty of adventure-laden activities ranging from hiking to deep-sea diving. What’s more, restrictions on air routes to the islands have been steadily loosening up over the past few years making it even more accessible to the leisure traveler.
For many, the gateway to Africa is by means of South Africa, located at the southernmost tip of the continent. It came to recent prominence when it hosted the world cup matches in 2010 that saw Spain won its first. After coming out of the dark period in the 1990’s, the country’s tourism steadily grew, particularly in the cultural western cape.
Perhaps the most famous of all the South African cities is Cape Town. Its iconic mountain backdrop, pristine beaches, and hip and happening art, and food scene are just a few reasons tourists come and to visit. The city also has a burgeoning art scene and if that’s of particularly interest to you, don’t miss the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA). Located in the city’s Silo District, the MOCAA is often compared to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Like Portugal, South Africa also has a robust wine region, many of which are easily accessible from Cape Town. Several companies such as Wine Flies offer full-day group or private wine tours that begin as low as $55 per person.
What countries will you be visiting in 2017? Let us know in the comments below.