The New York Times has just included Greece, Australia and Cyprus in its list of 52 places to explore in 2017, and although it was Canada that topped the places to visit in the new year, Cyprus, the multilayered island with a compelling culture, lifestyle and landscape, featured at number 21 on the prestigious list.
The story of Cyprus’ tumultuous past is told through its historic sites, Roman ruins, multifaceted museums and dusty urban streets − however, according to the newspaper, it’s the city of Paphos that’s expected to play an important role in 2017.
Cultural and culinary renewal on a Mediterranean island
“The Cypriot city of Paphos has prepared a slew of events for its role as a 2017 European Capital of Culture. But the entire island boasts renewed attractions, especially in Nicosia, where the A.G. Leventis Gallery opened its collection of over 800 artworks in 2014. The renovated Altius Boutique Hotel and trendy hot spots like Cook Shop, To Elliniko Ouzomezedopoleio and the Pivo Microbrewery offer new lodgings, food and drinks in the capital,” writes Evan Rail for The New York Times thus giving Cyprus a very high ranking compared to last year, when the enchanting island didn’t manage to win a spot on the prestigious list.
Just below Cyprus, Australia features at number 22, with the Great Barrier Reef that stretches for more than 2,000 kilometres along the Queensland coastline also being referred to as the main attraction for the country for 2017.
A natural wonder is imperilled, but tourists can help
“Increased sea temperatures, caused by climate change, El Niño and other factors, have caused extensive coral bleaching, mostly in the northern sections of Australia’s 1,430-mile-long Great Barrier Reef. The world’s largest living organism — a mosaic of some 2,900 coral reefs and 900 islands — faces serious threats, but conservation efforts are bearing fruit, and visitors can play a role in saving the reef. A turtle rehabilitation center on Fitzroy Island welcomes volunteers, as does the Lizard Island Research Station, and a host of other citizen science groups. And new or recently refurbished resorts on Hayman, Orpheus, Pumpkin and Lizard Islands offer idyllic places to explore this fragile, extraordinary natural wonder,” writes Dave Seminara on behalf of the publication, making Australia, and particularly the Great Barrier Reef, appealing to all international visitors and giving the charming ‘Down Under’ a much better ranking from last year, when the massive continent only just made the list, second to last, at number 51.
“Australia is a blessed country with many natural, cultural, and human-made tourism resources, rich nature and unique wildlife and is a destination for visitors all year round. It most certainly deserves to be on the list,” says Greek-born tourism professor at University of South Australia, Dr Marianna Sigala in an interview with Neos Kosmos.
According to the professor, whether it’s hiking, climbing or trekking in the Victorian Alps, Blue Mountains, Snowy Mountains, Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, or exploring the red centre and its attractions (Uluru, Kings Canyon, Alice Springs, Kakadu National Park, Flinders Ranges), Australia caters for different kinds of tourism and can satisfy any taste and preference.
“Tourists of all ages and different tastes or preferences can find unique experiences to live, learn and take away with them after visiting Australia,” says Dr Sigala, before highlighting a few of the main attractions of this rich continent, starting from the scenic routes visitors enjoy; driving down coastal Great Ocean Road including the 12 Apostles, the Gibb River Road, Gunbarrel Highway, Oodnadatta Track and Stuart Highway.
With extreme landscapes, cosmopolitan cities and rich heritage, Australia seizes the imagination. The most iconic scenery can be found in the Outback, the vast fabled desert that spreads west of the Great Dividing Range into the country’s epic interior. Vivid blue skies, cinnamon-red earth, deserted gorges and geological features as bizarre as the wildlife it comprises in a unique ecology. Kakadu National Park, that caters for outback adventure travel, is another unique attraction, as are the countless nature activities in the Northern Territory.
“There is indeed so much to do and see in Australia. The list is endless and it ranges from Aboriginal art to visiting the award-winning Mona Museum in Hobart (Tasmania), exploring the tropics and coastline of Broome and Kimberley Islands, swimming in the famous beaches of Surfers Paradise and Bondi Beach, relaxing on wine tour experiences in the Barossa and Clare Valley, McLaren Vale, Margaret River, Hunter Valley and eating fresh seafood at Port Lincoln. Of course, nothing beats the most picturesque port on earth, Sydney Harbour and its Opera House or the sea life experience of the unique Great Barrier Reef, the dense rainforests of the world-heritage-listed Wet Tropics and amazing islands like Hamilton Island, Mary island, Phillip Island, Byron Bay and the famous Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.
Further down the prestigious list and only a breath away from Cyprus and Australia, Greece features at number 28, mainly due its thriving arts and cultural centres.
A post-crisis art boom in an ancient capital
“Prices have dropped, but the Greek debt crisis has not dampened Athens’ thriving arts scene. Recent years have seen a surge of galleries, collectives and non-profit art organizations built for leaner times, like Radio Athènes, which hosts pop-up lectures and performances, and the immigration-focused Nomadic Architecture Network. In October, the renovated EMST National Museum of Contemporary Art opened in a former brewery, while the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, designed by Renzo Piano, opened in August. Athens will co-host the 2017 edition of Documenta, the influential art exhibition held in Kassel, Germany, since it started in 1955,” writes Charly Wilder for The New York Times.
According to Greek travel expert and chief editor at Travel Daily News, Vicky Karantzavelou, 2017 is indeed predicted to be a great year for Greece as far as tourism is concerned, irrespective of the fact that − in her opinion − the public sector’s inability to perform its duties will continue to be a hurdle, making the country’s general infrastructure unsatisfactory.
“The pre-bookings show an increase from all the major markets. Greece is a safe country and despite the crisis, tourism is booming and will continue to do so mainly due to the fact that the Greeks know how to give authentic hospitality and unique experiences to the guests,” Karantzavelou explains to Neos Kosmos, while she admits enticing tourists to visit the country during the winter months has always been a great challenge.
“It is very difficult to increase tourism throughout the year in Greece, mainly because the country is embedded in most people’s minds as an ideal destination for summer holidays and it is difficult to convince visitors to draw away from this perception.
“More strategic planning and action needs to be implemented in order to promote Greece as a 12- month tourist destination,” the tourist professional concludes. Interestingly, despite all the uncertainty in Europe as well as the ongoing financial and refugee crisis, Greece still managed to climb up 19 spots from last year’s 47th.
The first five countries to visit according to The New York Times:
You can view the full list at www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/travel/places-to-visit.html?smid=fb-nyt…