5 Budget-Friendly Destinations to Visit in 2017

Dec 14, 2016

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It’s never too early (or too late!) to start planning your next great trip and we’re happy to report there are plenty of places to visit in 2017 that are perfect for any budget, making travel more accessible than ever before. These five up-and-coming hotspots also offer lower prices when it comes to lodging, food and other activities, letting you — and your wallet — start off the year right.

1. Sri Lanka

Why Now: While Sri Lanka’s ongoing civil war had discouraged most travelers from visiting since 1983, the country has been slowly rebuilding itself since the conflict ended in 2009. People around the world are beginning to see Sri Lanka for its true colors: a beautiful place filled with stunning beaches, ancient temples and eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s first ancient capital dating back to 4th century. A rise in eco-friendly surf and yoga retreats has also helped put it on the map for travelers lately.

Unawatuna isn
Unawatuna Beach isn’t just fun to say, it’s also beautiful and home to many sea turtles. Image courtesy of Gorazd Bertalanic via Getty.

Pinch Those Pennies: Curry with a side of fresh coconut in Sri Lanka will cost you less than $1.50 on average. Stay at The Green Rooms, a popular surf lodge with beachfront cabana huts and outdoor showers starting at just $29 per night (you read that right).

Splurge: Once you get here, one of the most expensive things you’ll have to pony up for are entrance fees — it costs $25 per person to get up close to the Anuradhapura Temples, for instance.

Don’t Miss: Sigiriya, an ancient volcanic plateau that many consider to be the eighth wonder of the world. Over time, the rock has been used as all sorts of things, including a Buddhist monastery, a palace and a fortress — you’ll see 18 frescoes of ancient gods and rituals along the walls as you wander around it.

2. Cuba

Why Now: Although Cuba isn’t necessarily the cheapest destination on this list, it’s still relatively reasonable, especially in comparison to pricier cities like New York or London. Many airlines launched nonstop flights from the US to Cuba in 2016, making it easier — and cheaper — than ever to visit this incredible island nation. In December, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean were both approved to launch itineraries sailing to Cuba and will begin doing so in early- to mid-2017 — you can also get there on Fathom’s ship Adonia, which visits Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba during a seven-day adventure at sea.

Visit Cuba while airfares are still reasonable. Image courtesy of Darrel Hunter.
Visit Cuba while the airfares are still reasonable. Image courtesy of Darrel Hunter.

Pinch Those Pennies: Staying at an Airbnb, whether you’re visiting Havana or a smaller town like Trinidad or Cienfuegos, is a solid money-saving option — in fact, one of my favorite Airbnb stays of all time was in Trinidad because of its charming rooftop and outrageous views, not to mention it was only $35 per night. Speaking of rooftops, head to the top of the Bacardi Building in Havana for an impressive look at the city and nearby malecon (sea walk) below for about a buck.

Splurge: A night at historic Hotel Nacional or posh Hotel Saratoga will cost you upwards of $200 per night, but can be worth it to experience a little slice of history — or to escape the intense Cuban heat at a fancy-looking pool. Treat yourself to a big dinner out at La Guarida, with several courses and cocktails from $50 per person.

Don’t Miss: Cueva de los Peces, a natural saltwater swimming hole that’s 70 meters (about 230 feet) deep and free to visit. If you find yourself en route from Havana to Trinidad or Cienfuegos, stop by, grab a snorkel and check out hundreds of species of fish that are natural to the area.

3. Morocco’s Small Towns

Why Now: Morocco’s been on our travel radar for a while now thanks to easy access via low-cost carriers from European hubs like Paris, London and Madrid. Aside from larger cities like Casablanca, Fez and Marrakesh, smaller, more off-the-beaten-path cities like Essaouira, famous for its whitewashed buildings and super-chill seaside vibes, and Chefchaouen — located on the other side of the country and known for its idyllic blue-hued buildings — are also worth a look. Spend some time wandering through the blue city’s labyrinth-like medina or hike to the Bridge of God, a rock formation located near the Oued Farda river.

The blue-hued city of Chefchaouen. Image courtesy of AGF via Getty Images.
The blue-hued city of Chefchaouen. Image courtesy of AGF via Getty Images.

Pinch Those Pennies: Asilah and Oualidia are both quiet seaside towns far from the typical tourist shuffle. There really isn’t much to do here but relax on the beach, stroll the sleepy streets or visit the local souk — but that’s what makes this such a great escape. Plus, accommodations in most hotels here can be reserved for as low as $50 per night depending on the season and your room preference.

Splurge: The Lina Ryad and Spa in Chefchaouen is known for suites that feature gorgeous city and mountain views — the spa sports traditional Moroccan Hammam treatments and an indoor pool, while room rates start at about $135 per night.

Don’t Miss: Tafraoute is a stunning Berber village located in the country’s Souss-Massa-Drâa region. Expect to be met with goats and shepherds — if you’re into serious rock climbing, the nearby mountains will certainly make an adventurous excursion.

4. Bulgaria

Why Now: Bulgaria is constantly called Europe’s cheapest country and Sofia, one of the cheapest capital cities on the continent to stay in. Still, tourists are slow to flock to this Eastern European paradise and are heading to Prague and Krakow instead, which is precisely why you should go, and soon. Sofia isn’t the only city worth visiting though — Bulgaria is full of amazing natural wonders ranging from the Seven Rila Lakes (pictured at the top of this post) to Zlatni Pyasatsi Beach on the Black Sea.

The majestic Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria. Image courtesy of Ullstein Bild via Getty Images.
A look at St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria. Image courtesy of Ullstein Bild via Getty Images.

Pinch Those Pennies: Take the Free Sofia Walking Tour, which leaves daily at 11:00am and 6:00pm from the Palace of Justice, for a guided look at some of Sofia’s best monuments and architecture, like St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral (pictured above). You’ll discover all sorts of surprises about the city during the tour, like how Roman ruins lie beneath your feet.

Splurge: While rates at some of Sofia’s hotels start as low as $25 per night, you may as well spend a little extra on lodging — consider staying at the Magic Castle Hotel if you’re looking for a boutique stay with real character (from $60 per night) or at the Sofia Hotel Balkan, a Category 2 Starwood Luxury Collection property with rates starting at $110 or 4,000 Starpoints per night.

Don’t Miss: Bulgarian winemaking dates back to ancient times and visitors can sample and buy it in five different regions, the biggest being the Danubian Plain in the northern part of the country.

5. Ecuador

Why Now: In 2016, JetBlue launched nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Quito (UIO) with fares are as low as $158 each way. Petrol is relatively cheap within the country, so using chartered taxis and buses to get from Quito to other hotspots, like Baños and its natural hot springs, won’t cost much. Ecuador recently revamped its train system as well — brave the mountainous Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose Pass), with its hairpin curves and steep descents, for a truly memorable ride.

The Devil
Ecuador’s Devil’s Nose train ride may be the most complicated pass in the world. Image courtesy of KalypsoWorldPhotography via Getty Images.

Pinch Those Pennies: Eating in Ecuador is an extremely economical experience, with most street food, like hearty stews, available for less than a dollar. A meal at a local restaurant, on the other hand, will cost just a few bucks, or you can grab a week’s worth of fresh fruit and vegetables from the market for about $10 if you’d rather prepare it yourself. Ecuador also accepts the US dollar, so you won’t have to worry about exchange rates or changing money.

Splurge: Expeditions to the neighboring Galápagos Islands might be among the priciest things to do in Ecuador (most cruises run at least several thousand dollars per week) but are well worth it to have the trip of a lifetime — and all the bragging rights that go along with it.

Don’t Miss: Ingapirca, the largest Inca archaeological site in Ecuador, known for its Temple of the Sun ruins.

Which places are you excited about visiting in 2017? Let us know in the comments, below.

Featured image of the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria courtesy of Tsvetelin Dobrev via Getty.

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