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Best Trips 2015

National Geographic Traveler presents the New Year's must-see places. Whether it’s India’s literary hub or Switzerland’s mountain majesty, these 20 go-now destinations will send you packing.

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The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2015

best-places-to-travel-in-2015

“Fez is multilayered, multifaceted,” says resident Tara Stevens. “Every time I go out the front door, I discover something. This is a city on the cusp of change—and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”

Stevens, a British food writer, and American Stephen Di Renza are behind Fez’s stylish Restaurant No. 7, which hosts a rotating series of guest chefs. They’re part of a group of expats restoring riads and encouraging experimentation—along with enterprising locals like Anis Sefrioui, who recently unveiled Hotel Sahrai, with 50 contemporary rooms overlooking an infinity pool and a light-filled spa with elaborate latticework.

The world is getting smaller, but the chances of having an extraordinary new experience are only increasing. We’ve identified 50 standout destinations, based on industry news and trends, with input from contributing writers, A-List travel agents, and our new local experts . These are the places changing the travel map, whether it’s an emerging arts hub in Germany or a quiet stretch of sand in the Caribbean.

Travel + Leisure: Best Countries for Solo Travelers

So where else can 2015 take you? The panda capital of Chengdu, China, is appealing to a broader range of travelers with a new 72-hour no-visa policy and a packed lineup of hotel openings: Six Senses, Fairmont, and Swire’s Temple House. In Japan, meanwhile, the dollar has hit new highs—good timing for powder buffs who can also now use Vail’s Epic Pass at Hokkaido’s Niseko United resort.

And you may be surprised by what’s brewing close to home. We selected a dozen destinations in the U.S., including Houston, for its ambitious food scene, and Miami, where the spotlight has turned to the Mid-Beach neighborhood. The latest art-centric 21c Museum Hotel will open its doors in Durham, NC, a once-sleepy college town that now thrums with fair-trade coffee shops, micro-distilleries, and some of the best barbecue around.

What inspires a trip varies from person to person, of course. But as a head start, we’ve mapped out 12 months’ worth of places with the kind of “it” factor that Fez’s Tara Stevens describes.

Travel + Leisure: Stocking Stuffers for Travelers

Fez, Morocco

For more than a decade, Marrakesh has been the Moroccan destination on everyone’s list. Fez, about 240 miles northeast, was often an afterthought. But slowly, quietly, a sophisticated scene is taking root. It started with expats and locals restoring riads , and continues as hotels, restaurants, and galleries pop up. The biggest news is the Hotel Sahrai , with a hip rooftop bar and 50 rooms, many overlooking an infinity pool. Other notable places to stay include the medina’s Karawan Riad , whose seven renovated suites offer a modern alternative to more traditional riad hotels, and Palais Faraj , a 19th-century palace transformed by architect Jean-Baptiste Barian. On the culinary front, Restaurant No. 7 is making waves with a rotating series of acclaimed guest chefs. It’s the brainchild of British food writer Tara Stevens and American Stephen Di Renza, part of a group of expats who are encouraging experimentation. So far, overdevelopment isn’t an issue. Whether this will last—especially with the 2015 debut of an upgraded airport, set to accommodate 2.5 million passengers, five times the current volume—is anyone’s guess. Don’t wait to find out. This is the moment to see Fez. Find out more about T+L’s top pick for 2015 .

Catskills, NY

The region that welcomed Jewish families in the ’50s, hippies in the ’60s, and soon, perhaps, casino gamblers is also making room for a new tribe: hip, design-crazed travelers. A string of stylish B&Bs have opened, many of them by transplants from Manhattan and Brooklyn (call them “hicksters”) who value buzzwords like local, authentic , and handmade . Among them are the bohemian-chic Hotel Dylan in Woodstock, the Arnold House in Livingston Manor, with its tavern and diminutive spa, and Phoenicia’s Graham & Co. , where the retro amenities include Tivoli radios, bonfires, and a badminton court. Area farms provide the ingredients for inventive restaurants like Table on Ten , in Bloomville, which just added a trio of whitewashed rooms upstairs. The blackjack tables—and a few megaresort proposals that envision the return of the area’s Borscht Belt heyday—may be only a few years off, so now is the time to enjoy fly-fishing , hiking, antiquing, microbrewery-hopping , and other placid pursuits.

Rotterdam, Netherlands

If Amsterdam is a study in old-world elegance, then the scrappier port city of Rotterdam is all big, futuristic ambition—and its constantly unfolding city center has become one eye-popping explosion of style. The latest attraction, and reason enough to visit, is the MVRDV-designed Markthal , an igloo-like horseshoe that houses 96 stalls (Dutch cheeses to Moroccan spices, reflecting the polyglot city), 20 shops, nine restaurants, and 228 apartments. It also happens to feature Holland’s largest artwork: a trippy nimbus of mammoth, tumbling fruits and vegetables arching across the market ceiling on 4,500 aluminum panels. Other recent starchitect landmarks include the multipurpose Rotterdam Central Train Station and native son Rem Koolhaas’s nhow hotel , sitting like a pile of stacked metal boxes on the south bank of the Maas River, the city’s reigning cultural hub. After visiting the neighboring Netherlands Photo Museum and the lipstick-red New Luxor Theater , toast a trip well-taken with a Dutch Blossom cocktail in the hotel bar.

Travel + Leisure: World’s Most-Visited Tourist Attractions

Puerto Plata, D.R.

Far from the resort-clogged beaches of Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic’s less-frequented northern shore has remained largely under the radar. But developments slated for 2015 in Puerto Plata are bound to lure well-heeled sun-seekers. First up is The Gansevoort , offering three-bedroom apartments with private pools and four-bedroom penthouses equipped with rooftop hot tubs. Later in 2015, Aman Villas will become the second Caribbean outpost from Singapore-based Amanresorts and the first golf-integrated Aman Resort. It’s the first phase of a development that aims to introduce some 400 residential villas, along with sports and equestrian facilities. Each is a welcome departure from the island’s cookie-cutter all-inclusives—and a promising sign of what’s to come in the luxury circuit.

Wasatch Mountains, Utah

You can craft a linear story arc from the first edition of Robert Redford’s film festival in 1984 to the summer 2014 purchase of Park City Mountain Resort by Vail Resorts—the behemoth operator’s second recent foray into Park City (it bought the Canyons in 2013). Along the way a small mining town became a cauldron of Olympic athletes, Hollywood’s A-list, and luxury hotel brands like St. Regis and Waldorf Astoria. But a ski region blessed to have won the geographical lottery—seven world-class resorts span three parallel canyons in the rugged Wasatch Mountains, all within an hour’s drive—remained second fiddle to neighboring Colorado, whose star has shined brighter. That’s about to change. Where Vail’s vaunted Epic Pass goes, a legion of loyal snow junkies follows. The new year brings new restaurants, high-speed chairs, and lifts, including one that connects Canyons to PCMR, making it the largest ski resort in the U.S. And the industry is buzzing over a proposal that seems headed for approval called One Wasatch, which would link all seven ski areas in a European-style mega-network spanning 18,000 acres and 100 lifts. The project will have major tourism implications, introducing a new flock of riders to what locals proudly declare on their car license plates: the greatest snow on earth .

Read the full list HERE.

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Best Places to Travel in 2015 (PHOTOS)

TravelandLeisure.com

The world is getting smaller, but the chances of having an extraordinary new experience are only increasing. We've identified 50 standout destinations, based on industry news and trends, with input from contributing writers, A-List travel agents, and our new local experts . These are the places changing the travel map, whether it's an emerging arts hub in Germany or a quiet stretch of sand in the Caribbean.

And you may be surprised by what's brewing close to home. We selected a dozen destinations in the U.S., including Houston, for its ambitious food scene, and Miami, where the spotlight has turned to the Mid-Beach neighborhood. The latest art-centric 21c Museum Hotel will open its doors in Durham, NC, a once-sleepy college town that now thrums with fair-trade coffee shops, micro-distilleries, and some of the best barbecue around.

Read on for our picks, and join the conversation with hashtag #bestplaces2015.

tourist places in 2015

--By T+L Staff

See All of the Best Places to Travel in 2015

More from Travel + Leisure: Best Christmas Attractions in London Most Important Travel Trends of 2015 World's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions Best Stocking Stuffers for Travelers Best Gift Ideas for Travelers

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The 51 Most Beautiful Places in the World

By Caitlin Morton

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park Brazil

Massive glaciers, staggering mountains, plains dotted with wild animals: Our planet sure is incredible. In fact, when looking at the most beautiful places in the world, it can feel impossible to decide where to visit next. The islands of Southeast Asia? The deserts of the Middle East? How about the countless travel-worthy sites right here in the United States ?

While pinpointing all of Mother Nature’s greatest hits could take a lifetime, we think these 51 staggering landscapes and awe-inspiring wonders—from Antarctica to Zimbabwe—need to move to the very top of your travel list. Whether you’re looking for beaches, forests, or national parks , you’re sure to find your new favorite destination below.

This gallery has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

Amazon

Covering roughly 40 percent of South America , including parts of Brazil, Peru, and Colombia, the Amazon is the largest rainforest on the planet, and home to more than 40,000 plant species and 1,300 bird species alone. But be sure to visit the winding rivers and diverse wildlife while you can— climate change (along with man-made fires ) is increasingly whittling away the habitat every day.

Angel Falls Venezuela

Angel Falls, Venezuela

Venezuela overflows with natural wonders, including the world’s highest waterfall: the 3,212-foot cascades (that’s 19 times higher than Niagara Falls) of Angel Falls, located in the UNESCO-protected Canaima National Park. Bonus: Pixar animators used the location as inspiration for Paradise Falls in Up —so you know it’s good.

Antarctica

That’s right, we put an entire continent on here. Although 99 percent of Antarctica is covered with ice, the landscape still manages to be stunningly diverse—surreal blue glaciers, active volcanoes, the rough waterways of the Drake Passage, and 360-degree views of untouched snow. And those views are made even better when an emperor penguin or humpback whale makes an appearance.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove Japan

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Japan

Every traveler should experience the ethereal glow and seemingly endless heights of this bamboo grove on the outskirts of Kyoto . The experience even extends beyond the visual realm: In 1996, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment included the sounds here—wood creaking, leaves rustling—as one of the top 100 Soundscapes of Japan.

Atacama Chile

Atacama Desert, Chile

Have you ever dreamed of exploring the moon? A trip to Valle de la Luna in Chile’s Atacama Desert is a much shorter flight. Years of erosion have left behind jagged peaks, dry riverbeds, and a landscape startlingly similar to that of our favorite celestial body.

Avenue of the Baobabs Madagascar

Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

Separated from continental Africa by 250 miles of water, Madagascar is adventure personified. The island nation’s secrets include giant moths, bug-eyed lemurs, and places like the surreal Avenue of the Baobabs, where the centuries-old trees reach heights of nearly 100 feet.

The Azores Portugal

The Azores, Portugal

Roughly 900 miles off the coast of Lisbon , this Portuguese archipelago can inspire wanderlust with a single photo. The verdant valleys, steep oceanside cliffs, rows of blue hydrangeas, and scattering of waterfalls make the Azores a paradise worth exploring . Just make sure you visit before everyone you know beats you to it.

Banff National Park Canada

Banff National Park, Canada

Easily one of the most beautiful spots in Canada, Banff National Park overwhelms with views of the Canadian Rockies and a regular cast of animals. The park is also known for its abundance of beautiful lakes , including Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and glacial Lake Minnewanka—each more pristine than the last.

Boulders Beach South Africa

Boulders Beach, South Africa

Located on the False Bay Coastline about 17 miles south of Table Mountain, Boulders Beach shows off the famously beautiful landscapes of Cape Town: bright blue water, granite boulders, and even penguins. Many people swim here just a few feet away from the adorable African penguin community, but feel free to just sit back and admire the sprawling coastline as well.

Cameron Highlands Malaysia

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

It’s hard to pick just one beautiful spot in geographically diverse Malaysia, but the Cameron Highlands might be the winner. Located in the state of Pahang, the 275-square-mile region is home to the largest tea plantations in the country—a place of fuzzy green hills rolling into the distance, where you can also explore butterfly gardens and strawberry farms.

Cappadocia Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, an area in Turkey where entire cities have been carved into rock, is pretty incredible on its own. But whenever hot air balloons pepper the sky—with many floating up right at sunrise—its beauty level literally skyrockets.

Caucasus Mountains georgia best solo vacations 2023

Caucasus Mountains, Georgia

For adventurous travelers who have grown tired of the crowded mountain trails in the Alps or or reservation-only vineyards in France, Georgia has everything you need and then some (yes, including wine). The best way to witness the diversity of the country’s terrain is on its hiking trails , which wind through the Greater Caucasus mountain range dividing Europe from Asia.

Cliffs of Moher Ireland

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Few places exemplify the raw, untamed beauty of Ireland’s west coast like this natural wonder, which tops 702 feet at the highest point. And while you might know them better as the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride , in reality, the cliffs are located just south of Galway.

Zhangye National Geopark

Danxia Landform Geological Park, China

These striped, multicolored mountains are Mother Nature's answer to Photoshop. Red sandstone and mineral deposits have been stacking in China's Danxia Landform Geological Park for more than 20 million years, causing the surreal layered effect.

Denali National Park Alaska

Denali National Park, Alaska

Despite controversies over name changes and a shrinking elevation , Denali’s beauty is worth braving the extreme low temperatures. Make a road trip out of your visit, seeing as much of the 6 million acres of shimmering lakes and jagged mountains as you can.

Ètretat Normandy best beaches in France

Étretat, France

Located along France’s Alabaster Coast, the pebble beach of Étretat is popular among sailors and surfers. But most visitors come to this stretch in Upper Normandy for one reason: The famous chalk cliffs and arched rock formations. At various points along Étretat's 80-mile stretch, you’ll find natural sculptures that have inspired travelers and artists (most notably Claude Monet ) for ages.

Lapland Finland

Finnish Lapland

If your travel fantasies aren’t complete without a snowy setting, be sure to add Finnish Lapland to your list. While this northern region of Finland is lovely during the warmer months, try to plan your visit between November and March, when the trees are covered in thick layers of snow, huskies are eager to pull you around on a sled, and the Northern Lights are most likely to make an appearance.

Galpagos Islands

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Do we really have to explain the allure of the Galápagos? If you can, make it a priority to visit this of-another-time stretch of Ecuador, with dinosaur-like giant tortoises lumbering through the tall grass and real-life blue-footed boobies. (Pro tip: A cruise is definitely the preferred way to explore the islands; Celebrity Cruise’s Xpedition ferries just 100 passengers and holds nightly lectures by naturalists from Galápagos National Park.)

Grand Canyon Arizona

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, often called one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is on most travelers’ lists for a reason. Plan to hike some of the park’s most scenic loops —like Horseshoe Bend and the South Rim Trail—to get views of the rocky badlands of the Painted Desert, Navajo Nation, and even a waterfall or two.

The Great Barrier Reef Australia

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Although the Great Barrier Reef (aka the largest living thing on Earth) can be seen from space, the best vantage point belongs to the avid snorkelers and scuba divers who visit each year. If you must resurface, do it at the Whitsundays—namely Whitehaven Beach, often considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Greenland

Greenland is icy, mysterious, and one of the most naturally beautiful places on the planet. And he world's biggest non-continental island is so much more than glaciers (although they are spectacular)—think magnificent fjords, colorful villages, fields of sheep, and that ever-alluring midnight sun.

Most Beautiful Places in the World Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, located in northeast Vietnam , is beloved for its blue waters and spread of limestone islands, all occupied by tropical trees and wildlife. Board a Chinese junk boat to experience the beauty (and associated myths and stories) of the mist-shrouded emerald basin for yourself.

Isle of Skye Scotland

Isle of Skye, Scotland

With fairy pools and endless undulations of hills, the magical Isle of Skye is the stuff dreams are made of. While the nature here is timeless, the island also has a food scene that’s totally modern—we can’t think of a more beautiful place to sample Michelin-starred cuisine.

Lake Bled Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

There's a reason Lake Bled is one of Slovenia 's most popular sites. With its emerald waters, vistas of the surrounding Julien Alps, and Disney-like castle high on a hill, you won't be short of picture-perfect views if you venture here.

Lake Como

Lake Como, Italy

This 56-square-mile Lombardy jewel has been attracting summer vacationers since ancient Roman times. Today, it’s as popular for its natural beauty as it is for its luxury hotels—and George Clooney sightings, of course.

Lake Tekapo New Zealand

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

While purple, pink, and blue-hued lupin flowers may not be native to New Zealand (they hail from North America), they really do seem to bloom most vibrantly on the Oceanian nation’s South Island. At Lake Tekapo, in particular, the flowers juxtapose against the backdrop of the crystal clear water to create one of the country’s most stunning vistas.

Machu Picchu Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

While the intricate stone ruins of Machu Picchu are the work of 15th-century Incans, the site’s natural setting makes it even more alluring. Perched atop the flattened peak of a mountain, the ancient Wonder of the World benefits from the famous backdrop of Huayna Picchu, lush green surfaces, and a barrier of Andean peaks that, despite the landmark’s fame, makes you feel like you've stumbled upon a secret.

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park Brazil

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil

The geography of Brazil's Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is like nothing else on the planet. The rainy season (which hits around early June) fills every trough with water. The effect is not unlike an M.C. Escher print: the scene resembles either a drowned desert or a sandy lake, depending on how your mind's eye frames what it's seeing.

Milford Sound South Island New Zealand

Milford Sound, New Zealand

New Zealand is no stranger to breathtaking landscapes, particularly on the west coast of the South Island. Case in point: Milford Sound, a mountainous fjord where you can live out all of your Lord of the Rings fantasies.

Most Beautiful Places in the World Mt. Fuji

Mount Fuji, Japan

It’s hard to pick the single most beautiful place in Japan , but 12,388-foot Mount Fuji just might take the prize. Visit Lake Kawaguchiko in the spring for some of the best views of the mountain and cherry blossom trees —a postcard-worthy sight if we ever saw one. Or if you’re an avid hiker, plan a trip for mid-July until the end of August, when the snow melts enough to allow access to Fuji’s summit.

Best Places to Travel in August Kilimanjaro Kenya

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Africa’s highest peak seems more striking than a lot of other famous mountains, because it’s an ancient stratovolcano that’s not part of any mountain range. That means the 19,000-foot summit drops down to vast, flat plains on all sides, making it a mirage-like blip on Tanzania’s widespread topography. As an added bonus, the peak requires no technical mountaineering skills to summit, so even novice hikers can cross this item off their bucket list.

Namib Desert Namibia

Namib Desert, Namibia

With its otherworldly landscapes and populations of rhinos, giraffes, and elephants, the Namib Desert is like nowhere else on Earth. In fact, its red sand dunes and skeletal trees might make you think you’ve been transported to Mars instead of Southwest Africa.

Hawaii Na Pali Coast

Na Pali Coast, Hawaii

Kauai has one of the world’s most gorgeous coastlines , with towering waterfalls and isolated crescent beaches. Just be prepared to put in a little effort to soak up its wonders: Na Pali can only be seen from a helicopter, catamaran, or a rather grueling hike.

Okavango Delta Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

The lush Okavango Delta—a 49-million-acre river delta in northern Botswana—is like a real-world eden, where cheetahs, zebras, buffalo, and rhinos roam freely. Visit during Africa’s winter (summertime in the Northern Hemisphere), after the rains—the savanna’s grasses are low, while growth along the waterways attracts tons of wildlife.

Palawan Philippines

Palawan, Philippines

With its blue lagoons and limestone cliffs, it’s easy to see why Palawan is consistently voted one of the best islands in the world by our readers. It is also home to the otherworldly Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that travels five miles through an underground cave system.

Pamukkale

Pamukkale, Turkey

The 17 tiered pools of Pamukkale (“cotton castle” in Turkish) are as beautiful as hot springs get. The stacks of white travertine (a form of limestone) overlook the city of Denizli, and the still 94-degree Fahrenheit waters perfectly reflect the cerulean Aegean sky.

best Caribbean islands St. Lucia Pitons

The Pitons, St. Lucia

The scenery of St. Lucia can be summed up in one jaw-dropping site: a duo of striking spires known as the Pitons. The two volcanic peaks—Gros Piton and Petit Piton—are the most iconic landmarks on the island, and visitors can enjoy them in a variety of ways. A singular experience has to be actually hiking the mountains, an activity which takes the better part of a day. Or, if you prefer to keep your feet at sea level, plop a towel down at Sugar Beach, set dramatically (and conveniently) between the two Pitons.

This image may contain Nature Outdoors Cliff Ocean Water Sea Shoreline Coast Mountain Cove Cave and Promontory

Playa de Las Catedrales, Spain

As a destination on Europe's Iberian Peninsula, Spain is renowned for its island paradises and semi-remote sand beaches. We're particularly big fans of Playa de Las Catedrales, a small stretch of sand on the Galician coast where natural stone arches form a walkable "cathedral" at low tide.

Reynisfjara Iceland

Reynisfjara, Iceland

If the moon had a shoreline, it would probably look something like Reynisfjara. Just a 20-minute drive from Vik in southern Iceland, jet-black sand and spectacularly shaped basalt columns make this beach one of the most impressive sites in an already impressive country.

Salar de Uyuni Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Southwest Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, and is about as surreal as landscapes come. When dry, the flat is a sheet of blindingly white salt tiles. During the wet season, the shallow lake mirrors the sky, creating a dreamy illusion of infinity.

Most beautiful places in America Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park, California

This central-Californian park is home to some 8,000 colossal sequoia trees —the gentle giants of the tree world. “General Sherman,” a tree named for the Civil War general, is the hero of these treasured acres: It stands 275 feet tall and 25 feet wide, making it the largest known single-stem tree on the planet.

Serengeti National Park Tanzania

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Tanzania’s portion of the Serengeti is the ideal location for an African adventure. Visit between January and March to witness the wonder that is the Great Migration, an iconic phenomenon that sees 1.5 million wildebeest sweep through East Africa on an annual, 1,200-mile cycle.

Svalbard

Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard, the northern archipelago off the coast of Norway, is known for spectacular Northern Lights viewing opportunities—the sky is pitch black all day and night from October through February, due to its position within the Arctic Circle. Svalbard is also celebrated for its wildlife, including polar bears and arctic foxes who live out their days among the deep fjords and sheets of ice.

Torres del Paine National Park Chile

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

With its granite pillars, azure lakes, and steppes spotted with grazing guanacos, Torres del Paine is one of the most impressive sites in the entire Southern Hemisphere. It also happens to be an extremely popular destination for hikers: The ultra-ambitious can travel the Full Circuit—crossing the entire park—in nine days.

Aerial view drone shot of rice terrace in Tegallalang Ubud in Bali Indonesia.

As crowded as Ubud can get, the town is only minutes from dozens of quaint villages and peaceful countryside vistas. Rent a motorbike or bicycle at your hotel and get lost in the villages, tangerine groves, and rice paddies—all of which are kept alive by farmers who tend the terraces just as previous generations have done for millennia.

Uluru

Uluru, Australia

No matter how you choose to view the 700-million-year-old Uluru (or Ayers Rock)—from above by hot air balloon, across the desert on a motorcycle—witnessing its majesty should be on every traveler's list.

Sea of Stars Vaadhoo Island Maldives

Vaadhoo Island, Maldives

The beaches at Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives have received their fair share of online swooning, and for good reason. The bioluminescent phytoplankton in the water’s reefs emanate a dazzling blue glow, making it look as though the stars have somehow found their way down to earth for the night—a phenomenon that has aptly become known as the “Sea of Stars.”

Valle de Cocora Colombia

Valle de Cocora, Colombia

Valle de Cocora is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Colombia —and that’s saying something. The park (about a 7-hour drive west of Bogotá ) is filled with the tallest palm trees in the world at nearly 200 feet, which look even more incredible set against the backdrop of misty green hills and craggy mountains.

Victoria Falls Zambia and Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Nothing compares to standing in front of the world’s largest waterfall, which stretches in length for a full mile. Visit between February and May (after the region’s rainy season) for the clearest views of the 500 million liters of water that pour over the falls every 60 seconds.

Wadi Rum Desert Jordan

Wadi Rum, Jordan

With its cliffs, caverns, natural arches, and Mars-like red sand, it’s no wonder Wadi Rum is so beloved by both tourists and directors. ( Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian , and Rogue One are just some of the many movies that have been filmed here.) The site is just as stunning at night, when the sky transforms into an incomparable blanket of stars.

Wulingyuan Scenic Area China

Wulingyuan Scenic Area, China

“Scenic” might be an understatement here: This 100-square-mile attraction in China’s Hunan Province contains thousands of sandstone pillars that are nature’s version of skyscrapers—some even stretch taller than the Empire State Building’s midpoint.

tourist places in 2015

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The 15 Coolest New Tourist Attractions

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tourist places in 2015

The year of 2015 is promising to take monumental steps forward in technology, science and innovation and tourist attractions are benefitting from this trend. With more people traveling than ever before, older attractions are reinventing themselves and offering visitors new exhilarating experiences. From the new floor in the iconic Eiffel Tower to a bicycle path turned glow-in-the-dark; tourism imagination is at its fullest. Besides the revamped tourist attractions are a number of fabulous brand new attractions including state of the art museums focused on helping our planet, sustainable distilleries and skyscrapers and cable cars that can whisk visitors up mountains at lightning speed. From an ice tunnel in a large glacier to what feels like the top of the world in New York City; visitors around the world have no shortage of epic and cool new tourist attractions to explore. Join us in discovering the top 15 coolest new tourist attractions in 2015.

15. Shanghai Tower -Shanghai, China

Set to be the second tallest tower in the world, the Shanghai Tower could not be left off this list of coolest and most amazing attractions of 2015. Towering over the Huangpu River with 125 stories the shape of the tower is most unique. With a curved façade and a spiraling form the tower provides nine indoor zones for public visitors offering 360 degree views of the city. Each zone is home to its own atrium with gardens, cafes, restaurants and retail space.

Sustainable design is at the heart of the Shanghai Tower and at the center of its design is the second skin that wraps around the building creating the atriums that help reduce the heating and cooling efforts needed for the building. Other features include water conservation practices, wind turbines and extensive landscaping. The tower truly represents the future in the way cities are being created and is redefining the role of skyscrapers in big cities. The building is set to be the second tallest only for a short while as the Ping An Finance Centre in Shenzhen is set to surpass it in 2016. Regardless of whether it is the second, third or tenth tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower features unique components and a breathtaking design that can only truly be appreciated in person.

TonyV3112 / Shutterstock.com

14. Eiffel Tower Glass Floor -Paris, France

One of the attractions on our list that has been re-vamped into one of the coolest new attractions of 2015 is the infamous Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. To celebrate the 125 th anniversary of Paris the Eiffel Tower went through a 40 million dollar face lift and includes a new museum, solar panels and a dizzying glass floor. The museum tells the story of the history of the museum through seven screens while the solar panels will help produce hot water and energy for the tower.

The main new attraction here and the one that has everyone talking is the glass floor located on the first floor, almost 200 feet above the ground. Visitors will feel as they are literally walking on air as the non-slip coating applied to the see through panels allow people to walk, lay, sit and take “selfies”. If you didn’t think you were scared of heights take a jaunt up to this unique twist on an already iconic tourist attraction and step out onto the glass floor; this addition only makes us want to visit the Eiffel Tower even more.

Eiffel Tower looking up

13. Flyway Taiwan -New Taipei City, Taiwan

One of the most exciting attractions on our list takes place in New Taipei City in Taiwan, amongst the rolling green hills and breathtaking landscapes. Flyway, a company founded by a man from California is set to open in spring of 2015 offering a two hour zip-line canopy tour. With over ten cables to whiz down through the forests and over valleys as well as swings, rope ladders and “free fall” experiences there is no shortage of adrenaline rushing activities.

Located on the eastern edge of Taipei, Taiwan this is not for the faint-hearted. Visitors that have done zip-lining before should think twice about skipping this tourist attraction as the varying landscapes, professional commitment and interesting course offers something very different than the typical jungle zip-line experience. The trend-crazy island of Taiwan is full of beauty, lush green rolling hills and the perfect choice to go flying through the air Tarzan Style at one of the coolest attractions set to open in 2015.

Valley Taipei Taiwan

12. Bombay Sapphire Distillery -Laverstoke, United Kingdom

When one of the most iconic gin brands in the world creates a distillery with a visitor’s center it promises to be amazing and out of this world. Bombay Sapphire has managed to transform a 300 year old paper mill that sits amongst a conservation area with over a thousand years of history into a state-of-the-art sustainable distillery. The renovated Laverstoke Mill showcases the natural beauty and heritage of the site while letting visitors see the unique Vapour Infusion distillation process.

The two giant greenhouses showcase the botanicals that Bombay uses in their gin and are composed of 793 individual pieces of glass. The Dakin Still House lets visitors get up close and personal to the distillation process while the Botanical Dry Room will invigorate your senses and uncover your preferred tastes. The Mill bar is where the tasting happens and all the drinks can be tailored individually depending on your botanical preference.  A combination of incredible history, beautiful glass architecture and some of the best gin in the world makes this our number twelve coolest attraction of 2015. Discover the village of Laverstoke; home to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery.

lev radin / Shutterstock.com

11. Whitney Museum of American Art -New York City, USA

The largest column-free museum gallery in New York City is set to open in spring 2015; The Whitney Museum of American Art has packed up its collections and moved to its new location. Situated in the meatpacking district between the High Line and Hudson River in Manhattan the building promises to include approximately 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space. The special exhibit section is set to encompass 18,000 square feet making it the largest column free gallery in NY.

The cantilevered entrance creates a large public space where visitors can see views of the Hudson River, the park, industrial structures and mingle with others that are passionate about art. The education center that is part of the Museum includes classrooms, a 170-seat theater, conservation lab, reading room and black box with adjacent outdoor gallery for performances, film and video. Combined with a retail store and choice of restaurants; the new and improved Whitney Museum of American Art looks to be one of the coolest attractions of 2015.

Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com

10. One World Observatory -New York City, USA

The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere is the size of six statue of liberty’s stacked one on top of each other and is set to open in the spring of 2015. The One World Observatory occupies floors 100-102 at One World Trade Center spanning 120,000 square feet. Not only does the observatory offer a spectacular 360 degree view of New York City, surrounding waters and iconic landmarks but offers dining options, a gift store and interactive exhibits.

Visitors will first experience a multimedia gallery of the construction and engineering of this fabulous attraction. They are then whisked upwards 102 floors in just 60 seconds; the fastest elevator ride in the world. The observatory includes the “See-Forever” theater which shows a film celebrating the city of New York. A fun fact about this building; architects and designers built the tower to the specific height of 1,776 feet, to represent the year the US Declaration of Independence was signed. One World Observatory promises to be one of the hottest tourist attractions of 2015 and should be on your list of places to visit.

Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

9. Sapa Cable Car, Sapa -Vietnam

The world’s longest and highest cable car is set to open in Vietnam in 2015. The three rope cable car system is designed to take people from the foot of Fansipan Mountain to the top in just 15 minutes. In the past only avid hikers could make the two to three day trek to the top. The summit of the mountain is described as the roof of Indochina and offers stunning views across the landscapes below to those who have been unable to view it from the top in previous years.

The sleepy hill station of Sapa will be transformed into a high attraction tourist spot making some residents uneasy about the number of visitors trekking through their culturally diverse environment. Other residents however are looking forward to it; some residents have never been to the top as the trek is too hard while others plan to open restaurants and markets for the visitors. The cable car will be able to carry a maximum of 2,000 people per hour up the mountain with 35 people per car; that is the same amount of people that stood atop the mountain last year, total. The longest and highest cable car is set to open in time for National Day in the fall of 2015 and is certainly going to be a unique attraction.

Hoang Cong Thanh / Shutterstock.com

8. Springfield at Universal Studios Hollywood, -Los Angeles, USA

For anyone who has watched the legendary TV show “The Simpsons”, this new attraction coming to Universal Studios Hollywood is sure to be one of the coolest attractions on the list for you. The town of Springfield is being re-created in Hollywood, modeled after the already popular Simpsons attraction in the Orlando Park. Universal Studios Hollywood is home to the very popular Simpson’s ride which is a medium-level thrill ride with gut busting humor and outstanding displays.

The new attraction promises replica eateries including Krusty Burger, Luigi’s Pizza, Phineas Q. Bufferfat’s 5600 Flavors Ice Cream Parlor, along with Moe’s Tavern and the Duff Brewery. Slide up to the bar at Moe’s Tavern and grab a Duff Beer and make a prank phone call. Or visit the Kwik-E-Mart and indulge in a Squishee frozen drink. Other attractions include Mr. Burn’s mansion and the nuclear power plant. It seems as designers have stuck to the true essence of the show and have worked hard to make the iconic TV show come to life. Whether you spent years watching the show or have only watched one episode this attraction is sure to delight any visitor to the park.

Supannee Hickman / Shutterstock.com

7. TITLIS Rotair -Engelberg, Switzerland

Whether you visit Switzerland in the winter or the summer this brand new attraction is going to be something you want to do. The TITLIS Rotair is one of the world’s only revolving gondolas and it transports visitors to the summit of Mount TITLIS. Passengers load onto the gondola at the middle station located in the town of Engelberg and take a short five minute trip up to 9,926ft; the top of the summit. Passengers are provided with 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape; steep rock faces, snow covered mountain peaks, and deep glacial crevices.

There is no bad place to stand as the gondola does a full rotation up to the top and offers great views from any position. At the top another adventure awaits visitors as the Glacier Cave is free to walk through, as is the adrenaline pumping suspension bridge that is Europe’s highest suspension bridge and offers breathtaking lookouts into the abyss. The Glacier Park is also accessible from the summit and one should try the quick and slippery snow tubes or minibobs that take you down the hill; while a magic carpet waits to pull you back up. A chocolate shop, a watch store and a breathtaking Mountain view; what more could you want?

prosiaczeq / Shutterstock.com

6. Langjökull Ice Tunnel in Langjökull Glacier – Iceland

Deep in the heart of the country’s second largest ice cap; Langjökull Glacier near Reykjavik an underground tunnel is being dug for the sole purpose of letting visitors get up close and personal to the ice and educating them on such matters as global warming. Set to open in June 2015 visitors will be privy to exhibitions, information, restaurants and even a small chapel for those wishing to marry in the midst of the dense ice. Make sure to bundle up in this tourist attraction though!

Visitors will get a chance to walk through the tunnel and observe the varying ice levels and colours. From the newer white ice to the colder blue ice visitors will get a better understanding of how the glacier formed. The size; 200-300 metres long at 30 metres below the surface makes it the largest man made ice structure in the world. Lights are installed on the walls of the tunnels and numerous nooks and dens will house information about the glacier and global warming. Guided tours will be available and will require a short trip aboard an 8-wheel truck across the glacier to reach the entrance to the tunnel. Discovering the layers of ice, finding out how they formed and witnessing a truly spectacular man-made creation is what awaits you at Langjökull Ice Tunnel.

Langjökull Ice Tunnel Iceland

5. Starry Night Bicycle Path -Nuenen, Netherlands

One of the most unique tourist attractions created for this year is located in Nuenen, Netherlands. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaard has created a glow-in-the-dark bike path with swirls of patterned lights that are based on Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night. The pattered lights look remarkably like the falling stars in the painting. This kilometer long stretch was made in tribute to the artist who passed away 125 years ago. Van Gogh was born and raised in the Dutch County of Brabant and spent a couple years working and living in the city of Nuenen.

The glowing path is created with a combination of special paint that gathers light through the day and LED lights that charge throughout the day from a solar panel. The result is a breathtaking display that is entirely self-sufficient and remarkably poetic.  The path is part of the 335-kilometer Van Gogh Cycle Route that is free to use and open to the public all year round. Discover this beautiful piece of art that pays tribute to the great artist while you wander the breathtaking country of the Netherlands.

Photo by: Ferdinand van Oostrom

4. BioMuseo -Panama City, Panama

The BioMuseo or the The Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life as it’s actually called is located in Panama City, Panama and is number four on the list of the coolest attractions of 2015. The museum was designed by Frank Gehry, world-renowned architect whose works have been cited as the most important works of contemporary architecture of our time. The building is brilliantly colored with each panel painted a different color and overlooks the Pacific Ocean at the front and the entrance to the canal from the back.

Inside visitors will find a plethora of exhibits to explore. Keep in mind that as of January 2015 the museum was open but still not fully completed. An overview of the biodiversity of Panama starts you off and there is an audio guide available in Spanish and English to guide you along. The movie theater boasts screens on the floor, ceiling and three sides taking you into the rainforest and nature. Visitors should look forward to the aquariums that are set to open in 2015 and will offer a look at the difference in the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans. A beautiful piece of architecture loaded with education on Panama this is one spot you shouldn’t miss out on.

Photo by: BioMuseo Panama

3. The Yellow Submarine -Península Valdés, Argentina

One of the newest and coolest attractions of 2015 has taken an older attraction and turned it into something new and exciting. Whale Watching is a popular activity for tourists to do in certain parts of the world but there is often the complaint that only the backs of the whales can be spotted as they breach up for air. Lucky visitors will watch as the spectacular mammals jump and play but this is rare and unseen most times. A company in Argentina has solved this problem and taken whale watching to a new level with a chance for visitors to go underwater.

Yellow Submarine is the first company to build a semi-submarine specifically designed for watching whales and sea lions. The submarine offers visitors the chance to walk around on the outdoor upper deck or go down to the underwater lower viewing area. Watch as the whales and sea lions glide right past the viewing windows and feel as if you are truly diving amongst them. You will want to head here from September-December for the high season where the whales are in abundance. As you watch the enormous majestic whales glide right beside you it will be easy to understand why this attraction made our top 15 list.

Photo by: Yellow Submarine

2. Museum of Tomorrow -Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil’s “Marvelous Port” program is revitalizing Rio’s urban waterfront district and at the forefront of this project is the Museum of Tomorrow. The museum’s focus is on science and the sustainable and ecological future of our planet. Set on the highly prominent Pier Maua, the gleaming white sculptural structure extends 300 m into the sea and is surrounded by water on three sides. A recreation area, park and 5-and-a-half acres of gardens along with pools of recycled rainwater also surround the building.

The roof is made with huge steel structures shaped like wings that help control the climate and act as solar panels. This sustainable museum has a floor space of over 5,000 square meters with four main areas of exhibits, interactive games, and projection screens. The idea behind the museum is to connect science with everyday life and to recognize that we must be proactive in environmental practices. This breathtaking piece of architecture promises to dominate the downtown waterfront while offering a unique look at our planet and the history of humankind in regards to it. Just in time for the 2016 Olympics, this museum is a treat for the eyes and mind.

Photo by: Museum of Tomorrow

1. Markthal -Rotterdam, Netherlands

The first covered market hall in the Netherlands has opened after five years of construction and promises to be something unique and special. Starting with the design, the building is a massive arch that was designed by Dutch architects MVRDV. It houses a public market with 96 fresh produce stalls, 20 hospitality and retail units and 228 apartments. The breathtaking building holds the biggest piece of artwork in the Netherlands inside of its arches; a colorful mural consisting of oversized images of the produce one will find inside, flowers and insects.

The motto of Markthal is “work, live, shop and enjoy it” and it certainly offers visitors the chance to do all of that. From well-known bakeries to local producers to a cookery school this extraordinary piece of art and retail space is truly one-of-a-kind. A staircase in the center of the market offers visitors the chance to learn about the history of food and witness the artifacts that were found during the excavation of the site. Open 7 days a week with over 1,200 underground parking spots anyone is welcome to enjoy this space at anytime. The quality and uniqueness of the design coupled with the endless amounts of choice for food, drink and shopping makes this our number one coolest destination of 2015.

Gerard Koudenburg / Shutterstock.com

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1 Person Day Leisure Lifestyle Outdoor Summer Travel Without People

The 30 Best Trips of 2015

Don't plan any vacations before reading this year's Best of Travel winners.

1 Person Day Leisure Lifestyle Outdoor Summer Travel Without People

Heading out the door? Read this article on the Outside app available now on iOS devices for members! >","name":"in-content-cta","type":"link"}}'>Download the app .

Warning: unless you’re an annoyingly carefree bon vivant with a hefty trust fund, reading our annual Best of Travel awards may trigger a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the pathetic state of your mundane life. There are so many cool places to go, you’ll think as you scroll through our 30 epic selections. And not enough time! Why am I stuck at this desk! Do not panic—this is a totally natural reaction. And that’s the beauty of our annual awards.

Outside has been covering the adventure-travel beat for nearly four decades, and our two veteran Best of Travel writers, Tim Neville and Stephanie Pearson, have spent months poring over the latest trip offerings and scouring the globe to uncover surprising new ideas. We know this beat, and now we’ve narrowed your choices of hotels, destinations, and outfitters from approximately 10.6 million to 30. The final choice is still on you, but the task is at least manageable. Or maybe you’ll get that trust fund. — Chris Keyes

1. Best Island: Bermuda

Wide-open Bermuda beach.

A subtropical archipelago of 181 volcanic islands, Bermuda won the bid to host the 2017 America’s Cup , thanks to near perfect North Atlantic sailing conditions. Beyond wind, the British Overseas Territory, just a two-hour flight from New York City, has 75 miles of pink-sand beaches interspersed with jagged limestone cliffs, many of which are perfect for deep-water soloing and hucking into the Atlantic from the top. Stay at Elbow Beach , a 50-acre hideaway with a private stretch of sand on the southern shore (from $455).

2. Best Dive: Cuba

Amérique Cuba Flickr Lieu Vacances

Already sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as an educational tour, this 11-day live-aboard yacht excursion helps fund research 
and conservation work by trip leader David Guggenheim, a marine scientist, underwater explorer, and founder of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Ocean Doctor . The location: Gardens of the Queen National Park , an archipelago of 250 coral and mangrove islands, located 60 miles off Cuba’s southern coast, that Fidel Castro established as a marine protected area and a no-take fishing zone. Only 1,000 divers are allowed each year, so you’ll be one of the few to see whale sharks, sperm whales, sea turtles, goliath groupers, and some of the most pristine coral reefs anywhere on the planet. The package includes a chartered flight from Miami and a night at the five-star Hotel Parque Central in Havana. From $7,474.

3. Best Street Food: Austin, Texas

Austin Barton Springs Matthew Johnson Picnic Park Texas food trailer

The scene here is so fast-paced that today’s sweet chile chicken lollipops at Tommy Want Wingy or kimchi fries at the Korean-Mexican fusion truck Chi’Lantro may be gone tomorrow. (Though we sure hope not.) Hit eight trucks in one location at the Barton Springs Picnic Park, and find more worth seeking out at AustinFoodCarts.com and FoodTrailersAustin.com .

4. Best River Trip: Fiji

Fiji's Upper Navua River Gorge.

Lined with vertical cliffs and cascading waterfalls, the 18-mile-long Upper Navua River Gorge on Viti Levu is like a tropical Grand Canyon, which is why OARS formed Rivers Fiji and worked with local landowners, villagers, a timber company, and the Native Land Trust Board to establish the 10.5-mile Upper Navua Conservation Area in 2000. Bask in the fruits of their labor by paddling this pristine Class II–III warm-water river lined with swaying palms. As long as you’re here, add a couple of days kayaking the Middle Navua, sea-kayaking and snorkeling among the coral gardens of Beqa Lagoon, and sprawling out on white-sand beaches. $2,899 for eight days.

5. Best of the Wild West: Montana

bison bison montana buffalo

Since 2001, the nonprofit American Prairie Reserve has been working to restore the northern great plains to the pristine condition Lewis and Clark found them in more than 200 years ago. The resulting reserve, in northeast Montana, is now 305,000 acres. The aim is to reach 3.5 million by 2030, creating a U.S. Serengeti and the largest wildlife park in the lower 48, where herds of elk, mule deer, and bison thrive. But don’t wait to go. You can sleep under the stars now at the 11-site Buffalo Camp ($10), four miles north of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge , and take a DIY mountain-biking safari on old ranch roads, passing grazing bison and scanning the skies for American kestrels, Sprague’s pipits, and Swainson’s hawks. Or paddle the Missouri River past pioneer homesteads and historic tepees to Kestrel Camp , a set of five luxurious yurts, each with AC, a hot shower, and a veranda for sundowners (from $4,800 for six days).

6. Best Place to Tie One On: Portland, Maine

Oxbow Brewing in Portland, Maine.

The other Portland may have the microbrewery rep, but it distributes its beers to half the country. Many of the best brews in Portland, Maine, can only be quaffed here. Oxbow , a classic American farmhouse brewery, just opened a tasting room downtown where you can try local favorite Space Cowboy, a low-alcohol ale, and full-flavor European-style beers like the Continental. Then head to Novare Res , one of the country’s best beer bars, with 33 rotating taps, including roughly ten Maine brews. Or join Summer Feet Cycling , which offers two-and-a-half-hour tours along the Old Port area, with stops at distilleries and breweries like Rising Tide and Urban Farm Fermenting (from $59).

7. Best Splurge: Greenland

greenland

Natural Habitat Adventures ’ brand-new eco base camp, with high-thread-count linens, hot showers, and a gourmet chef, is as close to a luxurious safari-style camp as you can get in these parts. Set on Sermilik Fjord at the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet, one of the least explored regions of the Arctic, the camp is within view of 5,000-foot peaks that plunge into the sea. Why pay top dollar to sleep in polar bear country in temperatures that barely hit the fifties in August? Because as Olaf Malver, the Danish camp founder who has spent 26 years exploring this coastline, says, “You will be dazzled by its dizzying beauty, strength, and simmering silence.” Guests can take guided ten-mile hikes through tundras, kayak among humpback whales, and visit Inuit villagers who live by centuries-old traditions. From $8,995 for nine days.

8. Best Way to Get Strong Quads: San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Colorado rock drop.

Elevation, elevation, elevation. That’s what I recall about the seven-day hut-to-hut mountain-biking trip through the San Juans, from Durango, Colorado, to Moab, Utah. Much as I want to write about the towering vistas and cascading ribbons of singletrack, you have to reach them first, and my memory of the 200-plus-mile ride is the 25,000 feet of elevation gain. The pain is worth it, with climbs ending at huts with glorious views. Note that these aren’t your gorgeous, timber-pegged cabins—they’re two-by-four-and-particle-board huts, hauled up on trailer frames. But you’re not here for raclette and a hot-stone massage; you’re just happy that you don’t have to carry your own food, water, and shelter. The cabins are well stocked, including cold beer and a warm sleeping bag on a soft pad. A couple of suggestions: carry the hut system’s maps; where it says singletrack option, take it; and read the log books (some of the comments are hysterical). When you get to Geyser Pass Hut at the end of day six, start smiling, because you’re at the top of the La Sal Mountains, and a 7,400-foot descent, aptly named the Whole Enchilada, awaits. As do the Colorado River, Moab, and a Milt’s malted and cheeseburger. — Dave Cox

9. Best New Jaw-Dropping Hotel: Alila Jabal Akhdar, Oman

Lunch al fresco.

Oman is one of the most peaceful and stunning nations in the Middle East. Start your exploration of the vast Arabian Peninsula at this luxurious oasis amid date, peach, and pomegranate trees, perched at 6,500 feet on the edge of a deep gorge in the Hajar Mountains. Ffrom $325.

10. Best International Adventure Hub: Chile

awe beauty in nature chile cloud dramatic landscape forest lake landscape magallanes y antartica chilena  mountain mountain range outdoors patagonia region scenics torres del paine national park tranquil scene turquoise wilderness

Running 2,610 miles north to south, Chile is the longest country in the world, and 80 percent of it is covered by mountains. With vast wild spaces like 650,000-acre Patagonia National Park (which opened to the public this year), pristine rivers with big trout, classic old-school ski areas, and pisco sours and damn good wine, it’s hard to go wrong. Consider these dream itineraries: (1) Fly into the capital city of Santiago, then work your way south to 370,000-acre Yendegaia National Park in Tierra del Fuego. The former cattle ranch opened in 2013, but very few people have been lucky enough to explore this swath of untouched glaciers and peaks. Be one of the first to take it all in on a 16-day boat-assisted hiking and sailing epic with Chile Nativo ($8,000). (2) Mid-country, two hours south of Santiago in the Millahue Valley, stay at the brand-new Viña Vik , a 22-room retreat and wine spa in the middle of an 11,000-acre vineyard with stunning views of the Andes (from $1,200). Mountain-bike the 65 miles of vineyard roads, then laze by the infinity pool. (3) Eleven hundred miles north in the Atacama Desert, explore the lunar landscape on horseback, relax poolside at the luxurious Tierra Atacama (from $1,350 for two nights, all-inclusive), then set out after dark to Ahlarkapin Observatory to view the universe through the clearest sky on earth.

11. Best SUP Odyssey: Belize

A SUP trip with Island Expeditions in Belize.

With the 180-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef, this laid-back country has long been a heaven for divers and snorkelers. It just got better with the world’s first lodge-to-lodge paddleboarding trip. On this guided adventure with Island Expeditions through Belize’s 118,000-acre Southwater Caye Marine Reserve , you’ll paddle four to eight miles per day through calm turquoise waters, jumping off to snorkel where spotted eagle rays and barracuda glide in reef areas too shallow for motorboats. You’ll visit with researchers at Smithsonian’s Carrie Bow Caye Field Station to learn about reef biology, stop for a beachside fresh-catch lunch at a Garifuna fishing camp, night-snorkel at Southwater Cut (a deep channel where the coral blooms after dark), and sleep in rustic overwater bungalows on tiny Tobacco Caye and in the seclusion of private Southwater Caye, 12 acres ringed by white sand in the Belize Barrier Reef. $1,829 for six days.

12. Best Place to Get in the Car and Go: India

color image curves india kashmir ladakh landscape mountains photography roads snow switchbacks

Mention driving in India to veteran travelers and they’ll recount white-knuckle cab rides and six-hour traffic jams. But on a ten-day driving trip with Mercury Himalayan Explorations , you and a caravan of like-minded adventurers gain access to crowd-free luxury lodging and villages far from the tourist hordes. You’ll pilot a Mahindra Scorpio (an Indian four-wheel-drive SUV) up to 90 miles a day, charging through the dirt roads of the Himalayan foothills or over the sand dunes of Rajasthan. A mechanic will be right behind you for on-the-fly repairs. From $1,500 for ten days.

13. Best Beaches: South Carolina

Kayaking with Coastal Expeditions.

The Palmetto State has over 200 miles of coastline and an ample supply of gorgeous beaches, with comfortable water temperatures from May through October. Start in Charleston and head 20 miles north to uninhabited Bulls Island, part of the stunning 66,000-acre Cape Romaine 
National Wildlife Refuge, for a hiking or kayaking tour with Coastal Expeditions (from $40). Farther north lies Pawleys Island and its laid-back beaches, and three miles north of there is our favorite stretch of the state: Litchfield Beach. The northern end is the protected Huntington Beach State Park . You won’t find any putt-putt here, just wide-open white sand for miles.

14. Best Small Cruise: Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

Moulton on Doubtful Sound.

As my wife and I planned our South Island road trip, the big debate was: should we do an overnight cruise into Doubtful Sound on a 70-person, three-masted sailboat? We didn’t really think of ourselves as cruising types. Then we looked at pictures of Doubtful Sound, which seemed too stunning to be real: ridiculously lush forest clinging to sheer cliff walls, pods of dolphins, towering waterfalls. So we booked the trip with Real Journeys . While we did some unbelievably cool stuff while we were in New Zealand, including helicoptering into a swanky lodge in the Southern Alps, the defining moment came during a rainy afternoon on that boat. Temperatures were in the mid-forties, and we had just returned from a short sea-kayaking excursion, wet and cold. But when I saw a few of my fellow cruisers (who, it should be said, were mostly young and adventuresome) lining up to jump off the rear deck, I stripped down to my skivvies, climbed onto a platform, and launched into the scrotum-searingly cold water. And then I did it again. My wife looked at me like I’d lost my mind. And maybe I had, at least temporarily. From $310.—SAM MOULTON — Sam Moulton

15. Best Comeback Country: Sri Lanka

A tent at the Aliya Resort.

The first decade of the new millennium was rough on Sri Lanka, with a devastating cyclone, the tsunami, and a 26-year civil war that ended in 2009. Today, this largely Buddhist island in the northern Indian Ocean, with 8,000-foot peaks and 830 miles of coastline, has bounced back big time—foreign travel grew 19 percent in 2014. There’s no shortage of fun to be had at these base camps: Book a deluxe safari-style tent at Aliya Resort and Spa in the center of the country and hike to sacred rock Sigiriya (from $221). Cape Weligama , a brand-new clifftop hotel on 12 lush acres, 30 minutes east of the port city of Galle, hovers 100 feet over the Indian Ocean, with mountain biking, diving, and paddleboarding nearby (from $767). On the east coast, the village of Arugam Bay, sandwiched between miles of beaches and an inland tropical jungle, has consistent right breaks. Rent a beach cabana at the Stardust Beach Hotel (from $38). Twenty miles south is Yala National Park, with herds of elephants and solitary leopards.

16. Best Outfitted Trips: Anywhere with Wilderness Travel

archipelago belau micronesia oceania palau republic of palau

This 37-year-old team in Berkeley, California, dreams up more than 30 unique trips across 75 countries every year and is known for pioneering adventures that other outfitters copy later—kayaking tours through remote stretches of Tierra del Fuego, the world’s highest trek (at 23,000 feet) across Tibet—and doing it all with an eye toward supporting locals and minimizing environmental impact. But what makes Wilderness Travel truly exceptional are the company’s trip developers and guides. Take Barbara Banks, a polyglot who’s spent 23 years with the company traveling hundreds of thousands of miles setting up local connections. (Norwegian ferry captains know her so well, they’ll make unscheduled stops to allow Wilderness Travel groups to disembark directly at their waterside hotel after a day of hiking fjords.) Some recent new trips: sea-kayaking and camping on isolated beaches in Palau, visiting little-seen pyramids in Sudan, and tracking desert lions in Namibia with Flip Stander, a Ph.D. who has spent decades living among the big cats.

17. Best Domestic Adventure Hub: North Carolina

Bible Bike Bible Bike Magazine Editorial Hi-Res: Bike Mag North America Submitted: Aurora

Take California, make the mountains greener and the beaches and restaurants less crowded, and replace all the digital millionaires with hospitable southerners, and you get North Carolina. On the coast, you’ll find some of the East’s best breaks on the Outer Banks, and stand-up paddleboarders cruise through the 160,000-acre Croatan National Forest , filled with salt estuaries and flooded pines. In the west, there’s world-class singletrack and road riding in the Blue Ridge mountains (pros like local Matthew Busche of Trek Factory Racing train for the Tour de France here), 96 miles of Appalachian Trail, and some of the country’s best whitewater at the Nantahala Outdoor Center . That’s to say nothing of cities like Asheville, Wilmington, and Chapel Hill, which are full of farm-to-table restaurants, local breweries, and great music venues. Where to start your trip? Get a room at the two-year-old Aloft hotel in Asheville (from $159) and mountain-bike the Big Avery Loop, a challenging 13-mile romp through rhododendron tunnels and way-off-the-back rock steps. Or rent a house on the Outer Banks in the spring or fall and learn to surf with the folks at Real Watersports (from $100).

18. Best Base Camp: Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia

Dusk at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp.

Yes, getting to Namibia involves at least a full day of travel, but the payoff is worth it: no other landscape is like the surreal Skeleton Coast, which was carved out of lava rock 130 million years ago. One excellent way to see it is via Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp , a fly-in oasis that opened last August on the banks of the Hoanib River in one of Africa’s most extraordinary wildlife-viewing regions. Desert-adapted rhinos, elephants, and other charismatic megafauna like springbok (a gazelle) linger near the camp’s spacious, fire-warmed common area and eight luxury safari tents (think pitched canvas roofs, big decks, and twin-bed interiors). A small plane can drop you off near the shipwrecks and seal colonies at Mowe Bay. From $500.

19. Best Road Biking: California

Marin-bound on the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden State has 800 miles of coastline and half a dozen mountain ranges—and you can ride practically all of it year-round. From coastal tours like the supported eight-day, 525-mile California Coast Classic from San Francisco to Los Angeles, to foodie-friendly tours along the back roads of Sonoma (visit sonomacounty.com for routes, rentals, and outfitters), to epic climbs like the five passes and 15,000 feet of elevation gain through the Sierra Nevada during the annual Death Ride ($135), California has greater variety than just about anywhere. Get route maps online at the California Bicycle Coalition , or sign up with an outfitter like Pure Adventures . Its supported, self-directed six-day tours from Yosemite to San Francisco or through Death Valley National Park let you decide where to ride, sleep, and eat, but a leader in a van sets up snack stops and water refills and hauls your gear. It’s like an egoless, six-cylinder domestique ($1,495 for six days).

20. Best Place for a Meal in Ski Boots: Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

The Bavarian Lodge in Taos.

After a morning spent charging Taos’s famously steep West Basin chutes, there’s no better place to refuel than the Bavarian Lodge ’s festive outdoor deck. With its waitstaff in dirndls and lederhosen, German fare, and view of Kachina Peak, this ski-in, ski-out chalet is about as close to the Alps as you can get in the southern Rockies. I start with the soft-doughed pretzels and house-made sweet grain mustard. They’re the perfect warm-up for the goulash, bratwurst, or spaetzle (a German version of mac and cheese) and an Asam Bock, a beer on tap from Germany’s Weltenburg Monastery . On powder days, I often don’t end up at the Bavarian until dinner, which is served inside the log-built lodge, where you can still dunk bread in cheese on fondue Tuesdays during the winter. If I’m sleeping in one of the Bavarian’s four luxe suites, waking up to easy access to Taos’s new Kachina lift , which expands the mountain’s lift-served advanced terrain by 50 percent, is heaven. During summer, trails to Williams Lake and New Mexico’s highest peak—13,159-foot Wheeler—are right out your door.— Mary Turner

21. Best Urban Upgrade: Philadelphia

Mid-Atlantic North America Pennsylvania Philadelphia USA

It may be better known for its cheesesteak, hoagies, and underdog sports teams, but lately the City of Brotherly Love has been gaining ground as an outdoor town. This year it’s launching a bike-share program and adding three miles of multi-use trails to its 220-mile citywide system. In 2014, it transformed 20,571 square feet of cemented wasteland into Dilworth Park . You can even do paddleboard yoga along the Delaware River with Aqua Vida (from $45).

22. Best Outfitted Trips for Families: Anywhere with Bicycle Adventures

Region1 Region 1 Wallace rail trail Hiawatha route of the hiawatha biking northern

Roughly 10 percent of Bicycle Adventures ’ trips are now geared specifically toward families with preteens in tow. This year the Washington-based company launched three multi-day rides in Oregon, Idaho, and South Dakota that follow car-free bike paths and pass through kid-captivating areas like Mount Rushmore and Idaho’s Trail of the Hiawatha, with stops for ice cream, rafting, and swimming holes. Have younger kids? They’ll pedal tag-alongs hitched to adult bikes, and toddlers and infants can ride in provided trailers. From $2,295.

23. Best Place to Eat and Drink Yourself Silly: Scotland

Chef Michael Smith.

A decade ago, when restaurants like Noma ushered in a Scandinavian culinary renaissance, a bunch of Scots headed north and took jobs in those kitchens. Now they’ve returned to make use of their homeland’s nearly 6,800 miles of coastline, abundant mushroom and strawberry harvests, and massive beef industry. Which is part of the reason the country named 2015 the Year of Food and Drink . Just about every town has at least one restaurant with a creative menu. To experience the best of it, go to the Three Chimneys , on the edge of Loch Dunvegan. Chef Michael Smith serves Sconser king scallops, Skye blackface lamb, and lobster from practically right out the door. And don’t forget to take in a Scotch distillery tour.

24. Best Places to Stretch Your Budget: Japan, Europe, and Brazil

Powder days in Japan just got a little cheaper.

With the economy bouncing back, the dollar is getting stronger—especially in these three destinations, where the exchange rate has steadily improved over the past 12 months.

Three nights at the ski-centric Furano Prince

  • February 2014: $260
  • February 2015: $220

One-week tour with Cycle Italia

  • February 2014: $4,000
  • February 2015: $3,395

Three nights in the Amazon at Pousada Uacari

  • February 2014: $850
  • February 2015: $750

25. Best Deal: Kolarbyn Hostel

Kolarbyn's sauna on Skärsjön lake.

These 12 huts , located about 80 miles west of Stockholm, are made from wood and earth (you can pick blueberries off the roof) and set you up in the middle of a spruce forest straight out of Endor. Spend your days napping, hiking, or paddling nearby waterways, and end them with a visit to the floating sauna on Skärsjön lake. $120.

26. Best Effort to Mitigate That Carbon Footprint: Indianapolis International Airport

Indianapolis International Airport.

Air travel is tough on the environment. So it’s nice when there are initiatives like the IND Solar Farm . Last year, workers more than doubled the number of solar panels at Indianapolis International Airport to 76,000—enough to power 3,210 homes for an entire year.

27. Best Safari: Kenya

The Earthpod rooms at Lewa House blend into the Kenyan landscape.

Outside GO’s 11-day Ultimate Conservation Safari was put together by owners Sandy and Chip Cunningham, who lived in Kenya for five years, in response to a simple truth: Africa’s most worthwhile destinations are often some of its most vulnerable. You’ll visit three remarkable locations on the cutting edge of both conservation and accommodation in the wildest sections of East Africa. Take Campi Ya Kanzi, nestled in the shadow of Kilimanjaro, which has exclusive access to 300,000 acres of wilderness with lions, elephants, zebras, and giraffes, and not a single tourist in sight. You’ll be hosted by local Masai and sleep in a lavish tent without the humming generators that mar other properties—the camp gets 24-hour power from solar. The trip culminates in a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s elephant orphanage, where young pachyderms that have lost their parents to poaching are fostered. You’ll get a once-in-a-lifetime, up-close look. From $9,585.

28. Best Viral-Video Opportunity: Bay of Fundy

Humpback whale, Bay of Fundy.

Go with Seascape Kayak Tours on a sea kayak with pods of humpback whales in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick. From $85. 

29. Best Airbnb Property: Mary May’s

Mary May's, Montana.

A morning spent at this carriage house outside Bozeman, Montana, presents a dilemma. Do you fire up the professional range, swing open the French doors, and have a leisurely breakfast? Do you head out and explore the property’s 100 acres of trails and trout waters? Or do you hop in the car for a quick trip to Yellowstone? There’s no easy answer, but few places let you experience as much for so little. $125.

30. Best Surf Trip: Baja, Mexico

1 Person Background Baja California Beach Color Day Figure Full Body Shot Leisure Lifestyle Male Man Mexico Mist Noe DeWitt Ocean Sand Sea Shore Splash Standing Surf Board Surfboard Surfer Surfing Travel Vertical Water Waves Whitewash

There are lots of ways to enjoy Mexico. But I’ve found that the very best is to cross the border in a 4×4 truck with surfboards, a few extra tanks of gasoline, and a couple of bottles of mezcal. If you don’t count the border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali—and, frankly, you shouldn’t—the Baja peninsula has a population of just over two million spread across 55,000 square miles. That’s fewer people than Houston. The region’s 2,000 miles of wild and desolate Pacific coastline are littered with fantastic, almost always empty surf. Many of the most famous breaks—Quatros Casas, Scorpion Bay—now have hostels and other amenities on the bluffs, but the rule of thumb is that the farther you get from San Diego, the more challenging and rewarding it becomes. You get to work for your dinner: spear-caught fish for ceviche and a lobster as big as a small dog. Lodging options that far south are limited—we slept in tents or our truck bed—so if you go, remember that when the wind starts whipping and the night gets cold, dead yuccas burn hotter than tumbleweeds. — Matt Skenazy

More of Outside's 2015 Best of Travel

  • Gear: The 5 Best Pieces of Gear for the Road
  • Guides: 5 Travel Guides You Need to Know
  • Coming Soon: The Best of Travel Runner-Ups
  • Bars and Restaurants
  • Budget Trips
  • Exploration
  • Hiking and Backpacking
  • New Zealand
  • Outfitted Trips
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Trips of the Year
  • United Kingdom
  • Water Activities

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Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine

15 Places to Travel in 2015

By Jennifer Dombrowski 13 Comments

Each year we look forward to planning our own travels and since we’ve got a community of readers that love to live a life of adventure, just like us, we know you do too! Our 14 places to go in 2014 was such a hit with you all last year, that we’ve once again done our research and put together 15 places to travel in 2015. From our line up of raw destinations where seal hunting is still very much a way of life to uber chic city breaks, these destinations are culturally rich, inspiring, and exciting right now.

Milan plays host to Expo 2015, once upon a time named the World’s Fair. Milan actually hosted the World’s Fair back in 1906 and learned a thing or two. There has been huge preparation for the 1.1 million square meter fair grounds that are plotted out like a classical Roman metropolis for the “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” themed exposition. Many of the exhibits will be food focused and will feature everything from the future of the honeybee to how food will be packaged in the future. Full event info at Expo2015.org .

Travel Tips

When to go: The Expo 2015 takes place from May 1 to October 31, 2015. May and October just so happen to also be some of the most pleasant months to visit Italy when the weather is favorable and temperatures are comfortable.

How to get around: International flights are available to Milan Malpensa Airport. The city also has an excellent subway system for getting around. Download the Milan Metro app for iPhone to help you plan your route around the city.

Where to stay: The Four Seasons Milan is in the heart of Milan’s haute couture fashion district and steps away from the Teatro all Scala opera house. The hotel is housed in a restored 15th century convent with fantastic spa, fine dining, and beautiful courtyard gardens that will make you forget you’re in the heart of the Euro-chic city.

Insider Tip: Tucked away in one of Milan’s many hidden courtyards, Il Salumai di Montenapoleone is one of the city’s best restaurants. Located in the heart of the couture houses, it’s the place to see and be seen. But be sure to book one of the coveted tables in advance.

2. Abu Dhabi

Dubai rose from the sand with all the glitz and showiness of the Las Vegas Strip, but Abu Dhabi has been decidedly making a slower and less flashy entrance to the party. Abu Dhabi is becoming a cultural center in the UAE with the first Louvre Museum outside of Paris set to open this year and the Saadiyat Island Cultural District luring art aficionados with new museums, performing arts, and beautiful architecture. Of course, like its neighbor, Abu Dhabi still offers world-class shopping, fine dining, and adult playgrounds like Ferrari World.

When to go:  Abu Dhabi enjoys sunshine year round, but temperatures can soar to 49°C (120°F) in June and July. November to April are the most pleasant months to visit, and you can escape winter in the northern hemisphere.

How to get around: The best way to get around Abu Dhabi currently remains by car and the highways are easy to navigate. The city is too spread out to walk, but the public bus system is easy to use. Taxis are also relatively affordable and you can flag them on the street.

Where to stay: The Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri resort is situated on a beautiful private stretch of beach and many rooms have a stunning view of the Grand Mosque. With the CHI Spa and some of the finest dining restaurants right on the hotel property, you will hardly want to leave the luxe resort.

Fun Fact: Once a royal hunting preserve, cheetahs, hyenas, Arabian oryx, and thousands of other animals now run wild on Sir Bani Yas Island.

3. Thailand

Thailand continues to attract a diverse array of travelers and offers an array of experiences. It’s modern capital, Bangkok, eases Westerners in to the culture and traditions of South East Asia. No matter whether a relaxing beach holiday or adventurous rock climbing experience are your dream vacation, Thailand has something to offer for everyone.

When to go: Songkran is the Thai New Year and it is happening April 13 – 15, 2015. It’s basically one giant nationwide water fight, and being that April is Thailand’s hottest month, it’s no doubt a welcome relief from the heat.

How to get around: When in Thailand, do as the Thais do and hop on a tuk-tuk! As for traveling between locations, Air Asia offers inexpensive flights around the mainland and to the islands. Despite Air Asia’s recent crash of QA8501, we found the airline to be an enjoyable experience and continue to recommend it.

Where to stay: Anantara is a Thai based luxury resort company and each property is unique. We’ve had the pleasure of staying at eight Anantara resorts worldwide, include Anantara Bangkok Riverside , Anantara Bangkok Sathorn (which is home to the fantastic ZOOM rooftop bar), Anantara Golden Triangle , Anantara Koh Phangan , and Anantara Bophut Koh Samui . Making our rounds with a few days at each made for a fantastic two-week Thai holiday.

Insider Tip: The Taling Chan floating market is worth the trek out to it from Bangkok. While we saw mostly junk at many of the other markets we visited, Taling Chan was mostly food based and is mainly frequented by locals. It’s small, though an expansion was in the works, but tasty!

Stuttgart, Germany

Photo courtesy of Travel With Bender

4. Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart may not be as popular as German destinations like Munich, Berlin or Dresden, but the capital of Baden-Württemberg surprises and delights visitors with a variety of attractions. Car lovers can discover 125 years of automobile history at Stuttgart’s car museums. Stuttgart also boasts one of the top Christmas markets in Germany and you can soak up some culture at the world famous Stuttgart Ballet.

When to go: The Cannstatter Wasen (Stuttgart Beer Festival) is a worthy rival to Munich’s Oktoberfest, though often overlooked by tourists. Visit the two-week long festival from September 25 – October 11, 2015.

How to get around: Stuttgart is easily accessible via Germany’s trains and travel within the city is easy using the buses, trams, underground, and light rail systems.

Where to stay: Stuttgart is an international hub for car dealers and home to several car museums including Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. Car lovers won’t want to miss sleeping in a hotel room tricked out to look like the iconic Route 66 or a vintage car wash at the V8 Hotel . (Read our full review of the  V8 Hotel here .)

Fun Fact: Oenophiles will want to head to Stuttgart, which has a wine history that dates back to 3AD. It’s the only German city with a municipal wine estate and it covers 17.5 hectares.

Insider Tip: Ritter Sport Chocolate is made just south of Stuttgart, in a small town named Waldenbuch. Kids can craft their very own Ritter Sport chocolate bar at the Chocoworkshop (reservations required).

5. Tanzania

The Serengeti put Tanzania on the map, but less popular parks like Tarangire are worth adding to your safari itinerary. Conservations efforts are also underway to help convert hunting areas in to game reserves, curb poaching, and secure animal corridors. Low-impact camps like Tarangire Treetops are forging relationships with the Maasai people by employing them and adding to guests’ cultural experiences. And don’t let 2014’s ebola outbreaks scare you away – Tanzania is far, far away from any areas affected.

When to go: We absolutely loved visiting Tanzania in February. It’s not high season, so we often didn’t see another soul, except at the popular Ngorongoro Crater. The Great Migration is also happening and seeing the thousands of wildebeest and zebras on the Serengeti Plains is something you won’t soon forget.

How to get around: Elewana’s SkySafari includes air transport via a private Cessna Grand Caravan, an executive class plane with luxurious individual leather bucket seats that holds just nine passengers. Instead of spending days on horribly bumpy roads between parks, we took to the air and often flew over herds of elephants and wildebeest before landing smack in the middle of the wild.

Where to stay: SkySafari has a variety of glamping experiences from the thousand year old trees with treehouses at Tarangire Treetops to a tented camp along the Grumeti River where hundreds of hippos grunt. Take a look at our SkySafari experience here .

Fun Fact: Tanzania boasts having the tallest mountain in Africa and also the fourth tallest volcano in the world.

Cuba

Photo courtesy of Indiana Jo

With Obama announcing major changes to US – Cuba relations, intrigued Americans finally have reduced travel restrictions and can explore Cuba. While many of our non-American friends have been free to explore and report that Cuba is just as stuck in time as we all dream it to be, there are new luxury golf resorts (which were formally banned under Fidel Castro), airport improvements and a renovated port with additional space for luxury yachts.

When to go: Cuba has a hot and sunny tropical climate. The dry season is November through April, but even if you go in the rainy season (May through September) the rain comes down hard and fast before the sunshine breaks through the clouds and dries everything out again.

How to get around: G Adventures offers a 15-day small group trip that traverses the small island nation. Dance the salsa in Havana, sunbathe on the breathtaking beaches Cuba is known for, and ogle the classic cars in the colonial squares. Of course, you can explore independently and it is fairly straightforward to rent a car

Where to stay: Situated in the heart of Old Havana, the Iberostar Parque Central is as close you’ll get to luxury in Cuba, at least for now. After a stay in Havana, which is a must, head to one of Cuba’s breathtaking beaches for some fun in the sun. Check out the Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort & Spa , which is situated on the Hicacos Peninsula and surrounded by about 20 kilometers of pristine beaches.

Fun Fact: Baseball is by far the most famous sport in Cuba, which was introduced to the country by American sailors who came in to port on trading ships in the 1960s. Check out the league’s calendar and go to a game!

Geirangerfjord, Norway

Photo courtesy of Travel. Experience. Live

After several trips to Norway we have no idea why, but Norway has long had to compete with other more “fashionable” European destinations for visitors. Since the hit Disney film, Frozen fans have been flocking to Norway to see Elsa and Anna’s Arendelle. It doesn’t actually exist, but Norway’s stunning fjords, charming stave churches, and super cute reindeer served as the inspiration for Frozen’s artists.

When to go:  To see Norway actually frozen, head there in the winter. The Northern Lights dance in the Polar Night from September through March and you can even get up close with real life reindeer. Of course, the fjords are green and stunning in the summer months. Basically, we’re saying there’s never a bad time to go to Norway!

How to get around: For a true Frozen experience, Adventures by Disney has a fantastic itinerary in which you’ll follow in the filmmaker’s footsteps with hiking and river rafting Norway’s breathtaking terrain. The 8-day itinerary takes care of everything from transportation and hotels to activities. If you’re seeking a more adults-only trip, you can travel independently using the trains or rent a car.

Where to stay: We’ve found the Scandinavian Radissons to be chic and luxe. Bergen served as the inspiration for Arendelle and you can check out the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Bergen . Steps away from the harbor and picturesque Bryggen district, you’ll feel like Elsa every morning as you step outside. You might even want to break out singing Let It Go!

Insider Tip:  The best vantage points are from the top of Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken. You can hike between the two, which is a typical way a local spends an active day.

8. Puerto Rico

A new law encouraging wealthy Americans to invest money in Puerto Rico for a tax break has spurred an uptick in luxury tourism to the island territory. Before that, nearly 5 million tourists would pass through San Juan each year from cruise ships. They barely stray from the beaten path and they don’t know what they’re missing. Coffee connoisseurs will especially appreciate the many coffee plantations and array of drinks brewed from locally sourced beans. Top it all off with stunning beaches – why wouldn’t you want to go?

When to go: The shoulder season from mid-April to June is a perfect time to visit Puerto Rico. The busy winter tourist season has just ended and prices are a little lower with hotels as inexpensive as $80 per night. Weather is still quite nice until the rainy season sets in come June.

How to get around: San Juan is easily navigated on foot and by using the bus. For venturing further afield, a rental car is the best best. Be sure to have some spare change for the occasional toll.

Where to stay:  Billionaire (demonstrating smart investments is why he is a billionaire) John Paulson owns two luxury resorts: the newly opened Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan and the St. Regis Bahai Beach an hour to the east. The St. Regis is on a coconut plantation and is Puerto Rico’s only AAA Five Diamond Resort.

Insider Tip: You might love pina coladas (and getting caught in the rain), but the rum, anise and fruit juice concoction known as the chichaíto (cheeh-chah- ee -toh) is the drink to order, especially after dinner, in Puerto Rico.

9. Lower Manhattan

Although New York City has long been a top urban US travel destination, many travelers fail to venture below 34th Street. But amazing things are happening in just one square mile in Lower Manhattan and it’s well worth spending the majority of your next trip to NYC in this up-and-coming area. Many of New York’s most famous landmarks like Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty are in Lower Manhattan and the insiders at Walks of New York will introduce to the rest. And don’t forget to eat your way through Chinatown and Little Italy with some of the best and cheapest eats in Manhattan with Ahoy New York Food Tours .

When to go: I have two favorite times to be in NYC: the spring and during the holidays. In Spring, the sun is shining and spectacularly warm on your face. The green spaces are blooming with colorful flowers and there couldn’t be a more pleasant time to stroll outside.

How to get around: Walk! The best way to explore Lower Manhattan is on foot. But you can easily use the subway to quickly get uptown or take a cruise out to the Statue of Liberty.

Where to stay: Located on the waterfront and with panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty, the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park is the place to be when staying in Lower Manhattan.

Insider Tip: The High Line is one of NYC’s beautiful green spaces and is best explored on a sunny day. The elevated park has gourmet food carts, sun loungers, art and water features. You almost forget you’re in the bustling metropolis of NYC while peering down upon it.

10. Portugal

Portugal has long been a bargain destination in the Mediterranean. Prices have stayed relatively the same over the last five year period. While oenophiles flock to Italy and France for their famous wines, you can get more bang for your buck in Portugal’s Douro Valley. With terraced vineyards creeping down the riverbanks, the region is stunning and you can spend your days sailing and sipping port.

When to go: Spring and autumn are the best times to visit the Douro Valley. The vines will be green and flowers in bloom. If you visit in September, you can take part in the harvest and even stomp grapes by foot at some of the wineries.

How to get around: The Douro Valley is best explored on the river or by rail. In the summer months, there is a historic train service . And if you’re looking for a more adventurous trip, you can even kayak the river.

Where to stay: You can take a multi-day river cruise, staying right on the boat. Or stay in the heart of the Douro Valley at CS Vintage House , a former 18th century wine estate with fabulous views and a spectacular pool.

Insider Tip: I ndulge in the port and chocolate gourmet tasting in CS Vintage House’s Wine Academy. Chocolates handmade by the hotel’s in-house pastry chef accompany a white port, a 10 year old tawny port, a 40 year old tawny port, and a late bottled vintage port.

11. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is still a best-value European destination for a city-break with low prices and a stable exchange rate. Renaissance and art-nouveau architecture provides a romantic backdrop to an increasingly hip destination that Danube River cruisers continually rate as their one of their favorite spots. There is plenty to do for every kind of traveler from caving for the more adventurous to sipping Hungarian wines for the wine lover. Check out these Top 12 Things to Do in Budapest .

When to go: Budapest is lovely at any time of the year, though the fall colors are gorgeous and temperatures quite lovely in October.

How to get around: Budapest is an easily walkable city and for attractions a little further afield, Budapest has a a tram system. Castle Hill is also accessible by funicular.

Where to stay: The Intercontinental Budapest is located in the heart of the city and river view rooms have gorgeous views of the Chain Bridge and Castle Hill. Many attractions are within walking distance and a tram stops just steps from the hotel’s entrance.

What to eat : Hungarian food is hearty. Think goulash soup, stews, and game dishes like rabbit and goose leg. Budapest is also known for its delicious cakes; visit Cafe Ruszwurm, Budapest’s oldest confectionery that still operates as a coffee house to try some of the best cakes in the city.

What to drink: Spend an afternoon learning about Hungarian wines from sommelier and connoisseur Gábor Nagy at Faust Wine Cellar . You sip wines from all around the Eastern European country and probably go home with a few to enjoy while reminiscing on your trip.

12. Greenland

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may not have actually been filmed in Greenland (the village of Hofn on Iceland’s South Coast served as the setting for the karaoke bar-slash-helipad in the movie), but it certainly fueled our already curious interest in Greenland. We got our first taste of exploring Greenland a few months ago on a day trip to Kulusuk . The rawness of it left us wanting more and with more companies offering cruises and expeditions, Greenland is more accessible than ever before.

When to go: Greenland is not as green as it’s name would imply. Have you heard the expression “Greenland is full of ice and Iceland is very nice” before? Greenland can suffer some harsh winters, making access by ship or flight nearly impossible. Most companies that offer Greenland trips do so in August and September.

How to get around: Don’t except to rent the red or blue car that Walter Mitty did in Nuuk. There are no roads to connect the villages and most Greenlanders travel by boat or dog sled. You can easily explore multiple villages and natural sites on one of Quark Expedition’s multiple Greenland tours. If we were to pick one, we’d choose Greenland’s Far North .

Fun Fact: Nearly 80% of Greenland’s land mass is covered by an icecap and glaciers. The Ilulissat Icefjord is the largest glacier outside of Antarctica and the ice-free land is only about the size of Sweden.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Photo courtesy of Beyond My Door

13. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana regularly appears on the lists for the most affordable European capital cities to visit, and though Slovenia is mainly known for its natural wonders like Like Bled, the capital is worth a visit. The city with a name most people can barely pronounce, let alone spell, makes for a perfect city break. Beautiful alabaster bridges span the river that snakes through the heart of the city and Baroque buildings dot the squares. From street food to upscale eateries, foodies will be pleasantly surprised with Ljubljana’s food scene.

When to go: Fall is a fantastic time to visit when the trees are turning shades of gold and red. The national dishes, like mushroom soup, take the bite out of the crisp air. One of the city’s biggest cultural events also takes place each November: the Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFE).

How to get around: Ljubljana is an easily walkable city, but if you want to explore further afield than the compact old town, hop on one of the Bicikelj rental bikes from the 32 stations across the city.

Where to stay: Luxury lovers will appreciate the three saunas, three bars, and garden at Ljubljana’s most luxurious hotel, the Antiq Palace Hotel and Spa . The spacious elegant rooms will make you feel like a noble family reigning in the grand old days.

Insider Tip: There is a great hike just 10 minutes from the city for those looking to commune with nature on your city break. Take the city bus number 8 (Gameljne) to Smarna Gora for a hike up to the two camel shaped peaks. It’s steep, but the hike only takes about 20 minutes and offers spectacular views over the city.

14. Ardeche, France

Known as the Grand Canyon of Europe, the Ardeche in the south of France is one of those places that should be kept a secret, but is just too beautiful not to share. While the south of France typically brings to mind images of yachts moored at the most exclusive beach clubs in St. Tropez and celebs strutting their stuff on the infamous red carpet of the industry-only Cannes Film Festival, Ardeche has a decidedly different vibe. It’s an adventurer’s dream with via ferratas , white water kayaking, and riverside camping.

When to go: September is a perfect time to go. The summertime crowds have left and the temperatures are just perfect for comfortably hiking, climbing, and kayaking.

How to get around: This part of France is best explored with a car to reach the gorges where you’ll find via ferrata routes. You can also take a multi-day kayak trip down the river and camp along the way.

Where to stay: There are many four and five star camp grounds along the Ardeche River, but if you seek a little more luxe comfort after days climbing and kayaking, Hotel Berneron in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc makes an excellent base for exploring the region.

Insider Tip: Vogue isn’t just a fashion magazine. It’s a real village in the Ardeche and it’s on the list of France’s most beautiful villages. With the chateau dominating the village, a labyrinth of cobbled alleys and staircases, and the crystal clear Ardeche River flowing beneath, it’s no wonder and it’s well worth taking some time out from outdoor adventures to stroll around. 

15. Bagan, Myanmar

Myanmar, formerly Burma, was only officially opened up to international tourists and journalists in 2011. Since, it’s been touted as the next big tourist destination, though Myanmar is definitely still rough around the edges. ATMs, previously either absent altogether or only available to locals, have popped up around the country and hotels are even offering wifi. Things are changing quickly and though it can be a bit tricky to get around, Myanmar is very worth the efforts to get an unfiltered look at Southeast Asia.

When to go: The best time to go to Myanmar is between November and February, when it is the driest and coolest.

How to get around: International flights are available to Mandalay or Yangon. There are trains, buses, and boats, and domestic flights all available to travel between Myanmar’s cities including Bagan. Domestic air carriers (as of 2013) still operate in an archaic fashion by simply confirming your ticket with an email. Air Bagan is able to accept payment via the internet, though make sure you have your confirmation printed out.

In Bagan, options are bicycle, e-bike, traditional horse and cart, or taxi. Not to be missed is ballooning over Bagan for a birds-eye view as the sun illuminates the stupas in shades of gold and pink.

Where to stay: Blue Bird Bagan Hotel is located at the edge of New Bagan and the archeological site. The rooms are spacious and luxurious and there’s even a lovely on-site pool and restaurant. The hotel also has bicycles and e-bikes for rent or can arrange a horse cart to get around.

What to eat: Burmese curries are rich and flavorful. Vegetable curries, like pumpkin or eggplant, are particularly delicious.

Cultural tip : Despite the hot weather, even in the “cooler” months, shorts are not acceptable attire. Pants are preferable or pick up a longhi as a souvenir and to wear. Shoes also must be removed when entering temples, so flip flops are easiest.

Fun fact: When you think of wine-making, Southeast Asia probably doesn’t even come to mind. But wine-making is a popular industry in Myanmar. You’ll find Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Inle Valley White Wine as some of the most popular.

This article contains some affiliate links. When you book hotels on Booking.com , Agoda or Anantara through our affiliate sites, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. It just helps us keep things running here at Luxe Adventure Traveler!

Loved this post? We love when you share our content! ~ Jen & Tim

About Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is an independent travel publisher and an American expat who has lived in Bordeaux, France since 2016. She previously lived in Northern Italy in a small village near Venice for seven years where she fell in love with wine and wine tourism. She is an award-winning travel writer. She is also a travel correspondent on Traveling on the American Forces Radio Network. Luxe Adventure Traveler was named one of the top travel blogs to watch by the Huffington Post and TripAdvisor, and has been featured by top publications such as National Geographic, CNN, Buzzfeed, and Business Insider. Jennifer's photography has also been featured on publications such as USA Today and Travel + Leisure and on the Travel Channel.

Ryan Biddulph says

January 17, 2015 at 9:07 PM

Awesome list Jennifer and Tanzania sounds like a winner! So much wildlife and so much beauty. I like how they’re working the locals into the mix too; it’s fun when everybody’s prospering from the riches and beauty of the region. Glad you visited during non peak season too; it’s simply the best way to enjoy paradise because when you’re there with the locals and the animals you’ll have an authentic, quiet, peaceful experience.

We’re doing Bali in 2 weeks and it’s still well into low season; more beach space for us 😉

Loving the list guys, I appreciate you putting it together!

You also gave me quite a nudge to set up a Tanzania trip. It’d be later on this year or perhaps next but the wheels are turning 😉

Jennifer Dombrowski says

February 2, 2015 at 11:05 AM

Bali sounds fantastic! We haven’t made it there yet.

Do plan that trip to Tanzania, Ryan. It’s one of the best trips we’ve ever been on. There is just nothing like seeing the animals just do their thing in nature. It’s been nearly a year since our safari and we can still vividly remember even the smallest details.

Alexis Kensey says

January 18, 2015 at 3:51 AM

YES TO NORWAY– it is amazing. everyone should go. It really is like frozen. I even want to go back again. Also so happy that my Favorite city, Budapest, is on here. That’s a city that everyone needs to visit in Europe.

February 2, 2015 at 11:07 AM

Budapest is our favorite European city too, so we might be a bit biased. Norway is amazing and I’m glad that it is now on more people’s radar, even if it did take a cartoon to put it there. The natural beauty is breathtaking.

Shikha says

January 18, 2015 at 11:05 AM

Love this post! Somenter great tips here, I didn’t know much about Greenland, Any Dhabi and Greenland but absolutely loved Tanzania, Cuba & Slovenia – I wish I had known your inside secret about that hike at the time though!

Heather says

January 19, 2015 at 9:40 AM

Norway and the Stuttgart beer festival are definitely on my list for 2015!

Fabiana says

January 23, 2015 at 2:44 AM

I love how you tool the time to write tips and more info about each place. It is a lot more useful this way. Ilove it!

Greenland is in my list for this year. I can’t wait.

January 28, 2015 at 10:54 AM

Glad you enjoyed the post, Fabiana! When are you heading to Greenland?

January 25, 2015 at 2:40 PM

Can I choose all of them? 🙂 Amazing list.

January 27, 2015 at 1:08 PM

The Brinkmanns says

February 1, 2015 at 1:48 PM

Great post!! Would love to see more about Greenland especially!

February 2, 2015 at 3:13 AM

Great information and choices. We haven’t been to Milan yet, we’ve always skipped it when visiting Italy. (I know it’s shameful) but we were just waiting for a reason and with Expo 2015 happening, maybe now we have our reason 😉 I love many of your choices, particularly Greenland. Out of everywhere we’ve been, this is one of the spots that really lives up to the hype and is void of too many tourists.

February 2, 2015 at 11:10 AM

Let us know if you head to Milan, Deb! We’re a short fast train ride away. 🙂 Greenland was on my radar already, but your trip there and the stunning photos made me want to go all the more. We only got a teeny-tiny taste on our day trip and I am so intrigued. I hope we get to experience more of a country that is often overlooked.

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How to Travel in 2015

tourist places in 2015

By Katie Parla ,  Christopher Solomon ,  Dave Seminara ,  Elaine Glusac ,  David W. Lloyd and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

  • Jan. 7, 2015

­There are plenty of exciting places to go this year, but there also will be new ways to get there. Here are a few of our favorites.

Heli-Skiing

On the 50th anniversary of heli-skiing’s birth, head to British Columbia, home to CMH Heli-Skiing, the sport’s gorilla, with 11 lodges sprinkled across unreal mountain ranges, and CMH Bugaboo Lodge, whose bar and living area have been renovated for the winter. Can’t spare a week? CMH and others now offer shorter options to attract a younger, busy clientele.

Australia’s national rail is debuting an extended four-day transcontinental journey beginning in Darwin and ending in Adelaide. The 76-hour trip through the Australian Outback includes stops at Katherine and Alice Springs and a new excursion to Coober Pedy’s remote and cavernous opal mine, which will celebrate its centennial this year.

Fifty years after the introduction of the world’s first bullet train, Japan’s Shinkansen, new high-speed rail lines are opening all over the world. In 2015, high-speed train services are scheduled to connect Rome and Milan; Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey; Beijing and Hong Kong; Seoul and Busan, South Korea; and Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Scotland completes an almost 300-million-pound project to restore an old train line linking Edinburgh to the Scottish Borders this summer, making it easier than ever to get there. This is the first time in more than half a century that there will be trains running on this track, which was once one of the few ways of connecting the Scottish Borders area with the rest of the country.

As interest in Myanmar has grown, so have cruise routes on its central Irrawaddy River, linking the country’s largest city, Yangon, to its biggest tourist draws, including historic Bagan. Sanctuary Retreats just launched the new 20-suite Sanctuary Ananda in November. This October, Avalon Waterways will introduce the Avalon Myanmar, with 36 window-walled suites.

Stunning Halong Bay features almost 2,000 limestone islands jutting out of the sea off the coast of Vietnam. Expansive aerial views of this emerald-green seascape are now possible on scenic seaplane flights , leaving from the capital, Hanoi. After landing on the water, visitors can board a luxury wooden boat for an overnight cruise.

A previous version of this article ​referred incorrectly to Paris-to-Barcelona service. It started in December 2013; it is not beginning service this year.

How we handle corrections

Come Sail Away

Love them or hate them, cruises can provide a unique perspective on travel..

 Cruise Ship Surprises: Here are five unexpected features on ships , some of which you hopefully won’t discover on your own.

 Icon of the Seas: Our reporter joined thousands of passengers on the inaugural sailing of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas . The most surprising thing she found? Some actual peace and quiet .

Th ree-Year Cruise, Unraveled:  The Life at Sea cruise was supposed to be the ultimate bucket-list experience : 382 port calls over 1,095 days. Here’s why  those who signed up are seeking fraud charges  instead.

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Dipping Their Toes: Younger generations of travelers are venturing onto ships for the first time . Many are saving money.

Cult Cruisers: These devoted cruise fanatics, most of them retirees, have one main goal: to almost never touch dry land .

  • Smart Living

The 10 Best US Travel Gems of 2015

tourist places in 2015

Travel site Lonely Planet released its 2015 list of the destinations in the US that travelers need to make top priority to visit this year. From offbeat small towns to mountain regions and cities vibrant with culture and life, this roundup will have you reaching for your suitcase before you can even get to the end. Source: Shutterstock

Queens, NYC

Queens, NYC

New York's largest borough is still its best-kept secret from tourists but has plenty to offer for visitors to the area. Queens is known for its diversity and is home to unique restaurants, an amazing art scene, and craft breweries like SingleCut Beersmiths and Finback Brewery — notorious for its highly creative brews.

Rockaway Beach is a summertime attraction that offers sand and surf without the trek all the way to the Hamptons, and you'll pay way cheaper hotel rates than you will if you stay in the city. Visit newly renovated museums like the Museum of the Moving Image and learn about the history of film, television, and video. The options are endless!

Western South Dakota

Western South Dakota

For lovers of small-town charm and natural beauty, Western South Dakota is the perfect place to visit. With sprawling grasslands where buffalo and wild horses roam, the area is an idyllic representation of America. Mount Rushmore attracts millions annually, and Custer and Badlands State Parks can't be missed.

Western South Dakota is loaded with American history, so visit Indian reservations, battle sites, and memorials, like the famous Crazy Horse mountain carving. For machine-loving travelers, plan your trip to fall during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally , and join 500,000 bikers for the ride of a lifetime.

New Orleans

New Orleans

The vibrant Southern city is unlike any other in America. With a rich history, an unparalleled music scene, extensive nightlife, and famous food, it's a place that has everything tourists could want and more.

For people looking for lots of action, Mardi Gras is the time of year to make your trip to the Big Easy. Otherwise, explore the city when it's in a more normal groove, and venture in to the historical French Quarter or take in the city's unique art scene. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, so zydeco, jazz, and blues clubs can't be missed.

Colorado River Region

Colorado River Region

The Colorado River begins in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, then winds its way through Utah and Arizona, where it famously cuts between the Grand Canyon.

Rafting down the river is a bucket list must-do, and different parts of the region show off snaking turns, snow-capped Rockies, the desert, and miles of nature untainted by man. Horseshoe Bend , pictured above, is one of the area's most notable spots to see.

North Conway, NH

North Conway, NH

North Conway is a town tucked away from big-city life, and it holds endless outdoor adventures. It is quintessentially New England in all ways, with breathtaking Fall foliage and fresh air, optimal skiing options, and endless Summer activities on the water of the Saco River.

Bretton Woods offers winding hiking trails, and the Conway Scenic Railroad gives rides on old-fashioned trains between North Conway and the neighboring towns of Conway and Bartlett. Travelers can stop on the ride to feast on cider donuts at White Mountain Cider Company or enjoy a meal on the train itself.

Indianapolis

Indianapolis

The city is known for the incredible Indianapolis Motor Speedway and affinity for all things car-related, and it is also home to a thriving sports scene.

Literature-lovers will want to head straight to the Vonnegut Memorial Library , which pays homage to the famed author who was born and raised in the city. Indianapolis is also home to the country's largest children's museum , so if your travels involve little ones, this is a perfect family destination.

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

With Reedy River rushing through the town and the Blue Ridge Mountains close by, Greenville is definitely one of the hidden gems of the South. Falls Park is located downtown in the city's historic West End, and people gather there to work, play, and celebrate the city.

The area boasts of six state parks , and if you ever wanted to find out what moonshine tastes like, you can sip it at Dark Corner Distillery in town. Don't miss the countless museums, restaurants, and independently owned shops that line the picturesque streets of Greenville.

Oakland, CA

Oakland, CA

The culture of San Francisco has spilled over into neighboring Oakland and taken on a life of its own. "Brooklyn by the Bay," as it's known by some, has an amazing food scene, along with can't-miss Art Murmur events and art showcases on Telegraph Avenue each first Friday of the month.

The weather in Oakland is typically warmer and sunnier than in San Francisco, so farmers markets and days by Lake Merritt are almost always an option for travelers and residents alike to enjoy. The diverse city is packed with amazing food trucks and reasonably priced restaurants, and the local history is surprisingly rich.

Duluth, MN

Hikers, bikers, skiers, kayakers, and lovers of the great outdoors need to hop on a plane to Duluth, which is set between Lake Superior and the mountains.

More than 150 Olympians hail from the area , and with a 296-mile hiking trail and beautiful scenery no matter which way you turn, it's no wonder people want to spend all of their time outdoors here. The city itself has good eats and great breweries popping up all over the place.

Mount Shasta Region

Mount Shasta Region

Mount Shasta, or "white mountain," is a snow-capped volcano that lies at the end of the Cascade mountain range in California. A spiritual place for many, including naturalist John Muir , it's also a popular attraction for climbers and hikers. The peak is surrounded by beautiful lakes — Lake Siskiyou, Lake Shastina, and Castle Lake among them. Several small towns are nearby, where visitors can enjoy the comforts of charming bed and breakfasts and California cuisine.

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Smithsonian Best Small Towns 2015

A Smithsonian magazine special report

The 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2015

From sea to shining sea, our top picks for the most amazing American small towns to see this year

Bess Lovejoy

Best-SmallTown-1072x804.png

When it comes to places to take a vacation, it’s easy to think of America’s big cities: Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Miami. But America is filled with wonders that are less heralded but no less magnificent, from the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest to the moss-draped bayous of the South. Along the way, there are sparkling caves, thundering waterfalls, quirky festivals, historic buildings, inspiring art and world-class food — all packed into towns with a smaller population than many college campuses.

For the fourth annual version of our list, we once again worked with the geographical information company Esri to sort the nation’s small towns (those with a population under 20,000) according to their number of cultural attractions, historical sites, nature opportunities and food-and-drink destinations, then researched to find the places commemorating important anniversaries, openings, renovations, recoveries and other milestones in 2015. Think of this list not as a ranking but as a menu, with something for every taste—whether it’s country bluegrass, Florida’s white beaches or Alaska’s blue mountains.

( See our Best Small Towns lists from 2014 , 2013 , and 2012 )

1. Estes Park, Colorado

tourist places in 2015

Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Estes Park has beckoned visitors since the 1860s, when an inspired Welshman named Griff Evans established a local dude ranch. Today the town serves as base camp for Rocky Mountain National Park , which marks 100 years of existence in 2015. A year of wilderness-themed art exhibits, classes, films and concerts celebrates the park’s highlights—which include some of the tallest mountains in the continental United States and more than 300 miles of hiking trails . The park’s sights and sounds are particularly stunning in the fall, when the leaves blaze with color and bull elks fill the air with haunting mating calls .

While the town of Estes Park itself is relaxed (elk have been known to wander downtown streets), there are marked touches of class—notably the historic Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s book The Shining . This April, the hotel is adding a giant hedge maze , the result of an international design competition to create one honoring the maze in the film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick, who actually filmed external shots at a lodge in Oregon and used a soundstage for internal shots. (Neither hotel ever had a maze until the Estes Park addition, confusing some horror fans). Visitors can also enjoy several new breweries and a new distillery, or just meander the scenic riverwalk alongside the Big Thompson River—but watch out for the elk.

2. Nantucket, Massachusetts

None

Nantucket's location helped build its fortunes during the whaling era, but also leaves "the Little Gray Lady of the Sea" vulnerable to nature's fury. January's Winter Storm Juno left residents encased in snow and ice, plunging the whole island into darkness after a storm surge hit a power station. Reward islanders’ perseverance by visiting this summer, when the cobblestone streets will come alive with people but there’s still peace and quiet to be found on the beaches. The town’s Whaling Museum (a restored 1840s candle factory) unveils a two-year exhibit this April on the sinking of the whaleship Essex , whose destruction by a sperm whale in 1820 inspired Moby-Dick as well as Ron Howard’s upcoming film In the Heart of the Sea (based on Nantucket resident Nathaniel Philbrick’s book of the same name). The only known artifacts from the disaster—a piece of twine, a sketch by a survivor—will be on display, alongside props and costumes from the movie, which opens in December. One of the museum's other big draws: A 46-foot-skeleton of a sperm whale that washed ashore on New Year's Day 1998.

But you don’t have to be into whales to visit Nantucket: its quaint houses and picturesque harbor have also drawn artists for decades (stroll the waterfront for their work on display at local galleries). In 2015 the Artists Association of Nantucket celebrates 70 years, and in June they open the Nantucket Visual Arts Center —celebrating with a week of classes, art demonstrations and the unveiling of a new sculpture garden.

3. Stuart, Florida

None

Perched on the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern hemisphere, the St. Lucie Inlet, Stuart is surrounded by opportunities to revel in nature and the arts as well as indulge your inner history buff. See the sea turtles on warm summer nights at the nearby Hobe Sound Nature Center, (gently) touch a stingray at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, or visit the House of Refuge—a former haven for shipwrecked sailors operated by the United States Lifesaving Service and now a beautiful historical museum. Stuart also boasts the newly renovated Lyric Theatre, a former silent movie palace now hosting concerts and art-house movies. And this July, Florida’s “Treasure Coast” commemorates the event that gave the region its name—the 1715 hurricane that struck Florida’s east coast, sinking 11 Spanish galleons laden with New World silver and gold. The summer, area events include a two-day conference at the Vero Beach Museum of Art (about an hour north of Stuart), lectures and public exhibitions.

4. Traverse City, Michigan

None

The lakefront climate and rich soil around Traverse City have encouraged two especially delightful crops: wine and cherries. Located in one of the top wine-producing regions of the Midwest, Traverse City is surrounded by dozens of wineries and tasting rooms, including the just-opened Bonobo Winery (owned by Traverse City native and HGTV host Carter Oosterhouse and his wife, actress Amy Smart). Other new attractions include The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park , a former state mental asylum farm currently being transformed into 25 acres of gardens with an emphasis on native plants, such as Shenandoah grass and Virginia sweetspire, and part of a larger project to repurpose the once-massive hospital into a series of restaurants, shops, offices, classrooms and greenspace.

The area also offers plentiful hiking, biking, skiing and lakeside activities (the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore , declared part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 2014, is especially known for its towering dunes.) When it’s time to refuel, partake in some of the city's many cherry-oriented specialties, from salsa to sausage—a variety of which are on offer at the city’s biggest event, the Cherry Festival each July. 

5. Cooperstown, New York

None

Some know Cooperstown best for baseball—the much-derided, but still thriving, myth says the game itself was invented there by Abner Doubleday in the 1830s, 100 years before the National Baseball Hall of Fame arrived in town—but Cooperstown's scenic beauty and cultural attractions make it more than just a beacon for sports fans. In 2015 the Glimmerglass Opera (one of the nation's biggest summer opera festivals) celebrates its 40th anniversary with productions of Mozart’s The Magic Flute , Verdi’s Macbeth , Vivaldi’s Cato in Utica and a new children’s opera, all performed on the shores of Otsego Lake. "Glimmerglass," by the way, is the name the town’s native son, author James Fenimore Cooper, bestowed upon the lake in his Leatherstocking Tales —and it's also the name of a beer produced by the acclaimed local Belgian-style brewery, Ommegang.

6. Port Townsend, Washington

None

This Victorian seaport town is one of the jewels of the damp-but-gorgeous Pacific Northwest, with a heavy emphasis on the locally grown, the handcrafted and the quirky (the recent opening of the farmers’ market featured a parade of a dozen goats). Alongside the highly browsable indie shops and restaurants packed with local food, visitors come to enjoy Fort Worden , a 19th-century army-base-turned-state-park that boasts a plentiful event calendar thanks to local arts organization Centrum . The fort’s new executive chef, Lou Bair, (yes, the fort has an executive chef) will continue the emphasis on locally-sourced food, offering cooking classes and a new pub, Taps at the Guardhouse (opening in June). Aside from the bevy of learning opportunities nearby—the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, School of Wooden Boat Building, Maritime Center and Marine Science Center, to name a few—Port Townsend’s real draw is the great outdoors; it’s the gateway for Olympic National Park , a Unesco World Heritage Site, where the misty peaks and spectacular old-growth rainforests include some of the last land to be explored in the lower 48.

7. Calistoga, California

None

Calistoga may be the only American city named for a spoonerism. Hoping to capitalize on local geothermal waters, in 1866 town founder Sam Brannan (California's first millionaire) declared that he wanted to make the place "the Saratoga of California," which tipsily tumbled out as "the Calistoga of Sarafornia." The name stuck, and Brannan still looms large around town—the just-renovated Indian Springs , California's oldest continuously operated spa, recently opened its first restaurant, named Sam's Social Club in his honor. The Brannan Cottage Inn , built by the man himself in 1860, also just renovated and reopened, offering guests relaxed Victorian chic. The northernmost town in the Napa Valley, there's also food and wine galore in Calistoga, including at new French bistro Evangeline, helmed by multiple-Michelin-starred chef Brandon Sharp. Visitors hoping to enjoy local bounty would do well to plan around the annual Harvest Table Event in September, when a 1,000-foot-long table with food from 20 local restaurants is set up in the middle of a downtown street.

8. Sevierville, Tennessee

None

Dolly Parton refers to Sevierville as her hometown, and the country star's namesake amusement park, located just seven miles from downtown, celebrates its 30th season this year with renovated facilities, a new resort and a series of energetic festivals. But Sevierville is also just a few miles from America's most-visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains , which offers great hiking and wildlife viewing amid green valleys and historic structures—including one of the best collections of log buildings in the eastern United States. Outside the park, adventurers come for the ropes courses and zipline tours (14 zipline companies operate in the area), while amateur spelunkers can enjoy the colorful caves and underground river at Forbidden Caverns. History lovers, meanwhile, should note the historic houses, churches and plantations, plus the 19th century covered bridge, as well as the Tennessee Museum of Aviation, featuring aircraft from World War II and other major conflicts.

9. Boonville, Missouri

None

Settled by sons of Daniel Boone, who established their salt business nearby, Boonville is home to hundreds of historic locations—from 2,000-year-old Native American burial grounds to the 1860s Rivercene Mansion, built by a wealthy riverboat captain and now a graceful bed and breakfast. There are also sites associated with the Sante Fe Trail, the Civil War and Jesse James, not to mention the Katy Trail —the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad converted into the nation's largest rails-to-trails project, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. 2015 also sees the 40th anniversary of the Missouri River Festival of the Arts , held August 27-29 at Thespian Hall, the oldest theatre still in use west of the Allegheny Mountains and a former Civil War hospital. One of the nation's most extensive collections of antique Mitchell cars and wagons also just opened up at the Mitchell Antique Motorcar Museum , while a little further out of town, you can meet the Budweiser Clydesdales at their 300-acre breeding facility, Warm Springs Ranch .

10. Saint Simons Island, Georgia

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The Spanish came to the islands off the southeast coast of modern-day Georgia 400 years ago seeking gold, but it's the area's natural radiance that's said to have inspired the name “Golden Isles.” Today, the tourists usually come looking for golf, but the pristine salt marshes (some of the most extensive in the U.S.), abundant wildlife and historic sites make it more than just a resort for the sport of kings. Visit the ruins of the British colony at the Fort Frederica National Monument, see the location of the decisive battle that ended the Spanish claims on Georgia, or explore one of the oldest churches in America at the 275-year-old Christ Church Frederica. St. Simons is also home to a storied, if unmarked, site known as Ebos Landing, where a group of slaves rebelled by drowning themselves in a creek in 1807. (In African American oral tradition, the slaves actually escaped death by transforming themselves into buzzards and flying back to Africa—a story that inspired Toni's Morrison's Song of Solomon , among other works.)

There are several other sites on the island connected to the Civil War , and you can tour historic plantation slave cabins in the process of being restored to their original appearance. For something slightly more modern, climb to the top of the St. Simons Lighthouse and Museum (built in 1872) or marvel at the magnificent trees on the Avenue of the Oaks . If it's golf you're seeking, the Sea Palms Resort just completed a multimillion-dollar restoration with the addition of a restaurant, alongside a flurry of expanding properties throughout the Golden’s gorgeous chain.

11. Edenton, North Carolina

None

North Carolina's first colonial capital and a popular stop-off on the way to the Outer Banks, Edenton came in high on our list of towns packed with historic sites—almost the entire town is listed on National Register of Historic Places. A four-year restoration of the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse (built on stilts, it seems to float above the river) just wrapped up, while other history-rich hot-spots include the Penelope Barker House , site of the first organized political action by American women (a group of 46 local ladies made worldwide headlines in 1774 when they signed a petition to boycott British tea). The town is also staying true to its roots with an expanding small farm and local food movement. In January, the Inner Banks Inn opened a farm-to-table restaurant, The Table, while the Heritage Farm Fest in June will explore the county's agrarian life pre-1950 with a variety of demonstrations from local farmers.

12. Bayfield, Wisconsin

tourist places in 2015

Mother Nature is the undeniable draw in Bayfield, where the otherworldly magic of the ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has drawn record visitors the past few years after intense periods of sub-freezing temperature made them accessible via ice in 2014. Even in milder winters, however, some of the caves are still viable destinations. The archipelago of 22 islands inside Lake Superior also boasts old-growth forests and nine historic lighthouses in addition to the colorful red sandstone cliffs (which are accessible by boat when temperatures heat up). But the outdoors aren't the only game in town: The blue-striped Big Top Chautauqua , a 900-seat tent theater, celebrates its 30th year in existence in 2015, with a lineup that includes Patty Griffin, Garrison Keillor, Lyle Lovett and Arlo Guthrie (himself celebrating the 50th anniversary of the event that inspired "Alice's Restaurant"). Meanwhile, there’s wineries, galleries, berry farms and apple orchards to tour, plus many other intriguing new attractions: a bar in an old creamery, an organic restaurant, kayak tours and a route for intrepid “ice bikers”—not bad for a town with a permanent population under 500 people.

13. Nashville, Indiana

None

Sometimes called “Little Nashville” after the identically named metropolis in Tennessee, this bucolic, woodsy Midwest town is paradise for country music fans and art lovers alike. Though the Little Nashville Opry (which would have celebrated its 40th anniversary this year) burned down under mysterious circumstances a few years back, there's no shortage of music in the air, from campfire jams at wineries and coffeehouses to the oldest continuously running bluegrass festival in the world, Bill Monroe Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival , just a few minutes away. (Developers are also working on rebuilding the Opry as you read this.) One of America's important regional arts colonies , Nashville also has many galleries, including one of the oldest in the nation: the Brown County Art Gallery. You can even tour the art-filled historic home, restored gardens and log cabin that belonged to the founder of colony, impressionist artist Theodore C. Steele. Nashville’s also a great place to bone up on traditional skills, from banjo strumming to broom-making, or to simply enjoy the fall color on 20 miles of tree-lined roads at Brown County State Park .

14. Put-in-Bay, Ohio

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This tiny village on South Bass Island played an important role in the War of 1812—its bay was the base for U.S. naval commander Oliver Hazard Perry and his fleet during the pivotal battle of Lake Erie, now commemorated with the only peace memorial in the National Park system. Located five miles from the Canadian-American border, Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial celebrates 100 years of existence this year. (Climb to the top for panoramic views of surrounding states.)

Townspeople commemorate the events of 1812 every September with Perry's Victory Heritage Fest, featuring music, art and a recreation of an 1812 military encampment. This summer also marks the start of five years of visits from the U.S. brig  Niagara , a historic replica of one of Perry’s ships that will offer tours, sailing trips and the chance to learn old-fashioned seamanship skills. Perry's Cave (where the commander found drinking water for his men) also offers historic tours, while Crystal Cave across the street features the world's largest geode, sparkling with pale blue celestine crystals. During Prohibition, revenue from tours of the cave helped save the fortunes of the state's oldest family-run winery, Heineman's; located just above the cave, the winery is still open for tours and tastings. One thing you won't see many of in Put-in-Bay: cars, since many residents and visitors prefer to get around this laid-back hamlet by golf cart instead.

15. Whitefish, Montana

None

Whitefish scored tops on our list for small towns in Montana, and it's a short drive to the more than a million majestic acres of Glacier National Park —a great place to see some conservation success stories, as well as challenges. Alongside over 130 lakes and 700 miles of trails, Glacier is home to three species recently recovered from the brink of extinction: the gray wolf, bald eagle and peregrine falcon. In fact, all the carnivores Lewis and Clark spotted here back in 1804 are still there. But not everything's so well-preserved: only 25 of the park's gorgeous glaciers remain , down from the 150 that existed in the mid-19th century. If climate change continues, at least one model predicts that all the park’s glaciers could disappear within decades.

You can tour the park on a rebuilt fleet of 1930s red rollback buses that traverse the Going-to-the-Sun Road, or stay at one of the many historic hotels located inside the park (many built by the Great Northern Railway, which sparked development of Whitefish itself in the early 20th century). There's also exceptional hiking, fishing and skiing nearby, notably at Whitefish Mountain Resort, which offers a unique treetop canopy tour through the forest. Closer to the heart of town, take advantage of the independent shops and funky restaurants of Central Avenue and the Railway District, where converted railway worker homes have become unique boutiques.

16. Thibodaux, Louisiana

None

Louisiana marks two dire anniversaries this year: ten years from Hurricane Katrina and five years from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. And while New Orleans will get much of the attention, nearby Thibodaux, located in one the state's oldest parishes, helped host the displaced from New Orleans and surrounding areas after the storm. (The city’s Nicholls State University hosted more than 1,000 evacuees .) Meanwhile, the local fishing industry is still feeling the effects from the Deepwater spill , alongside other regional impacts on wildlife.

Thibodaux is full of opportunities to get to know this resilient corner of the country, from the moss-covered graves of St. John's Historic Cemetery to the plantation ruins at Laurel Valley Village (the largest surviving 19th/20th century sugar cane plantation complex in the nation). Take a swamp tour on the bayou to see alligators and turtles, or learn about Cajun life at the Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center (note the special Monday night Cajun jam sessions). And if you'd rather experience Louisiana flavor of a different kind, tour and sip at Thibodaux's first craft distillery, Donner-Peltier Distillers , where the whiskey, dark rum and sugarshine is made from local rice and sugar cane.

17. Custer, South Dakota

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Squint in Custer and you might be able to imagine yourself in the Old West, especially if you’re at the Custer State Park 50th annual Buffalo Roundup (September 25-27), when about 1,300 of the shaggy beasts that normally roam the park are herded into corrals before being moved to winter grazing territory. (Prospective cowboys and cowgirls can volunteer to help out ; tamer types can enjoy the arts festival and chili cook-off.) Gatherings of a different herd happen at the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the world's largest yearly meeting of motorcycle buffs, and the 10th Annual South Dakota Bat Festival , where biologists dispel the myths around the creatures and employ ultrasonic detectors to listen to their sounds. There's also more Old West feel with the artifacts and ephemera on display at the 1881 Custer County Courthouse (celebrating its 40th anniversary as a museum in 2015), the 50-plus buildings at Four-Mile Old West town and the Crazy Horse Memorial—the world's largest ongoing attempt to carve a sculpture on the side of a mountain. Modern-day explorers can head to Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Park (the latter is one of the longest caves in the world and is still being explored ).

18. Stowe, Vermont

None

It's not every day you can stay in a resort run by one of the first families in musical theater history, but the Trapp Family Lodge , founded by the Von Trapps of Sound of Music fame, is managed by their descendants. Celebrate the film's 50th anniversary by skiing part of the resort's 2,500 acres, sampling some of its brewery's traditional German and Austrian-style beer or taking a family history tour featuring a Q&A with one of the Von Trapp descendants. Stowe is also home to the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame (which hosts a film fest, races and other events) but it's not only about the powder here. The Vermont Arts Council has declared 2015 a "Year of the Arts” to celebrate fifty years of public funding, with events around the state. In Stowe, you can take in everything from vaudeville to Nashville at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center (located at the foot of Vermont's highest mountain), or enjoy the exhibits at the Helen Day Arts Center, where the annual outdoor sculpture exhibit Exposed melds Vermont’s famous natural beauty with artistic creations.

19. Homer, Alaska

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The dazzling displays of the Northern Lights are a perpetual draw in Alaska, but since we're nearing the end of a solar maximum (a peak activity period for the aurora borealis) now is a particular great time to see them—not to mention appropriate, since 2015 is the UN Year of Light . Spring and fall offer the best opportunities to catch the capricious colors, and while you might have the best chance in far northern locations, Homer offers a nice mix of viewing opportunities plus creature comforts. The southernmost town on the contiguous Alaska highway system, Homer’s got elegant-but-quirky lodging and dining, plus a packed arts calendar (the Summer Music Festival is a highlight) alongside its famed sport fishing and scenery. Aside from the bald eagles, orcas and bears, visitors often remark on the entrepreneurial spirit of local residents who’ve chosen to make this special seaside city their home.

20. Vernal, Utah

None

Dinosaurs are a big deal in Vernal, where a 40-foot-tall pink fiberglass one named Dinah welcomes you to town, and in 2015 the nearby Dinosaur National Monument celebrates its 100th anniversary. But there’s more to see than just dinosaurs—alongside the 1,500 dinosaur bones embedded in the Carnegie Quarry, the monument is home to 1,000-year-old petroglyphs, historic homesteading structures and some of the darkest skies in the nation (perfect for catching those constellations hidden by the big city lights). Dinosaur National Monument also holds a special place in the history of American conservation—historians say the movement was emboldened after activists defeated a 1950s dam project that would have flooded a section in the heart of the monument known as Echo Park.

Alongside plenty of other opportunities for dinosaur-oriented learning, Vernal is within driving distance of three state parks, the watersports of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, the 50-million-year old geological formations of Fantasy Canyon, historic Old West ranches and the only building ever built by the mail —the Bank of Vernal, constructed with bricks from Salt Lake City shipped through the Parcel Post system by an ingenious businessman in 1916-17, before frantic postmasters convinced legislators to introduce weight limits.

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Bess Lovejoy | | READ MORE

Bess Lovejoy is a writer and editor who lives in Brooklyn. She is the author of Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses .

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TOP DESTINATIONS IN EUROPE

Best places to travel in 2015.

20 selected destinations competed for the prestigious title of Best European Destination 2015. After a three weeks’ period of online voting, Bordeaux is elected the Best European Destination 2015 and won this prestigious title.

Lisbon, Athens, Valetta, Riga, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Innsbruck, Milan, Brussels, Vienna, Rome, Barcelone, Istanbul and Madrid are the next best destinations for a holiday or city-trip in 2015.

We thank all the participants from Tourism Offices, community managers of social networks and the 244,696 voters who made their choice and influenced the result !

Bordeaux European Best Destination - Copyright Geoffroy GROULT - Bordeaux Tourisme

1. Bordeaux 

Bordeaux has always been a dynamic, cosmopolitan city and never ceases to reveal exciting, new facets of its character. The city of Bordeaux’s inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 and its bold modernism have made it a key destination for everyone interested in French culture, lifestyle... and wine!

Centre of a legendary winegrowing region, this vibrant and sophisticated city is a top gourmet and culture destination. Synonymous with fine wines, Bordeaux is one of France’s most elegant cities . 

Bordeaux’s setting on the River Garonne has made it an important port for centuries. Bordeaux is the ideal base for exploring wine châteaux of Médoc, St Emilion and Bordeaux , fringed by the largest pine forest in Europe, just 45 minutes from Arcachon Bay (famous for its delicious seafood and oysters!) and superb beaches. The Basque Country and Spain are only 2 hours away and in 3 hours you can be on the Pyrenean ski slopes.

tourist places in 2015

Lisbon is an illuminated city. The almost constant presence of sunshine and the River Tagus transforms the Portuguese capital into a mirror of a thousand colours - highlighting the city’s unique architecture and beauty .

Have fun in Lisbon, where nightlife continues till dawn. Experience calmer moments in Lisbon in the city’s parks, gardens, belvederes, cafés and esplanades. Or simply enjoy the pure pleasure of being in Lisbon , through its gastronomy, luxury hotels, spas and shopping centres.

Athens - Copyright Greek National Tourism Organisation

Athens is considered the cradle of western civilization . Over the years, a multitude of conquerors occupied Athens, and erected unique, splendid monuments - a rare historical palimpsest, evident everywhere in the city.

The contemporary urban scenery of the sprawling city reflects its exciting history, its multi-cultural modern personality as well as the infrastructure and facilities. In other words, Athens is a must destination that combines modern urban innovation with history, culture and natural beauty throughout the year.

Valletta - Copyright Visit Malta

4. Valletta - Malta 

In Malta you can span the millennia with an astonishing array of things to discover. And wherever you go, the scenery and architecture provide a spectacular backdrop. The colours are striking, honey-coloured stone against the deepest of Mediterranean blues.

Malta is holidaying as the mood takes you. And with near year-round sun , you can indulge in outdoor living at its best. And, if this were not enough, there are the other two islands - Gozo and Comino -which can be a pleasant change-of-scene during your stay.

Riga - Copyright Ikars Kublins, www.photoriga.com

The first, indelible impression that most visitors get of the Latvian capital is its majestic skyline , as viewed from the left bank of the Daugava River. 

One will find a breathtaking range of architectural styles in the historical centre. Furthermore, Riga’s wealth of Jugendstil or Art Nouveau buildings, complete with their fantastically ornate flourishes, stands out as unparalleled anywhere in the world. Proud of its heritage, it is a thoroughly modern city with a highly developed infrastructure and opportunities for a variety of activities.

Zagreb - Copyright European Best Destinations

The impressions of many foreigners who live in Zagreb, business people and tourists can be summed up in a single sentence : a large city which managed to stay romantic and safe . There are unlimited possibilities for visiting music and theatre events, art exhibitions, museums, sporting events and enjoying pleasant walks, interesting architecture, plentiful parks in the centre of the city, pedestrian zones and the atmosphere.

Spacious pedestrian zones with many open cafes with garden and street terraces scattered all over the city add to the charm of Zagreb hospitality.

Ljubljana European Best Destinations -  Copyright Copyright G. Murn www.visitljubljana.com

7. Ljubljana

What is it that sets Ljubljana apart from other cities and capitals ? A vibrant city of delights characterized by its unique historical heritage, cultural creativity, friendliness and relaxed atmosphere.

Due to its compact size, Ljubljana is a walking and environmentally friendly city, dotted with many green spaces. Nestled on a hill above the Old Town, the medieval Ljubljana Castle looks like a mighty guardian protecting the city at its foot. Even at first glance, Ljubljana seems pleasant and familiar to visitors.

Innsbruck - European Best Destinations - Copyright Innsbruck Tourism

8. Innsbruck

Picturesque and snazzy, on the pulse of nature and the city at the same time, that is how the city on the banks of the river Inn presents itself to its visitors. Innsbruck, the capital of the Alps , is a vibrant and refreshing city that combines alpine, urban and historical components in a unique way and offers a myriad of possibilities to its visitors.

It fascinates with the beauty of the nature surrounding it, its long history and traditions that are interwoven with modern elements: star architects and gourmet restaurants coin the face of this city just as much as the alpine scenery surrounding it.

Milan European Best Destinations

Milan has been interesting and vibrant at least since it was the capital of the western half of the Roman Empire. Have a look at the imposing marble Duomo , at our churches, palaces and museums. You will also be delighted by contemporary art and architecture. 

While you visit, let the atmosphere of Italy’s most modern and advanced city seep in. You will be captured by the elegance and style; by the energy and the international flair. An incredible shopping experience for all tastes and pockets, in a place where design and fashion have made their home.

Brussels - European Best Destinations - Copyright Visit Brussels

10. Brussels

Brussels, the capital of 500 million Europeans, is waiting to share its treasures and talents with you and to tell you its story. It has an ability to adapt to its visitors: no matter when you come, there’s always something happening here ; no matter how long you stay, there are several different ways to experience Brussels, each with some brilliant surprises in store.

A multicoloured heritage of the most diverse styles, a contagious creativity tinged with surrealism and humour , a sociable and epicurean art de vivre. 

Vienna - Copyright www.vienna.info

Vienna's Ringstrasse is the most beautiful boulevard in the world . Nowhere else can you find such a dense concentration of so many representative buildings, palaces and parks. 

All of these splendid buildings still have their full radiance today. An elegant promenade for the wealthy and beautiful has become a modern boulevard for everyone.  And the section of the Ring along the Danube Canal has become a hotspot: an urban bar scene and modern architecture attract a primarily young audience.

Rome European Best Destinations

The province of Rome is a matching frame for the many treasures of the capital , and the surrounding area has, more or less directly, experienced the influence of the history of the Eternal City.

A region with a great deal to offer: sea, nature, good food and villages rich in history and art. The sea, the hills, lakes, rivers and vineyards: the surroundings of Rome offer a kaleidoscope of diversity and attractions for nature lovers.

Barcelona European Best Destinations

13. Barcelona

In Barcelona , you don't have to choose between going shopping or sightseeing. Wherever you go, you'll see that shops are part of city life. And while you discover unforgettable sights, you'll be welcomed by the window displays of leading international brands, modern designer shops and traditional shops that have been there since time immemorial.

The city has set the benchmark for the international electronic music scene and dances to the sounds of the world's top DJs . It's also the perfect place for lovers of jazz, rock, Latin rhythms and pop.

Istanbul - Copyright European Best Destinations

14. Istanbul

With one foot in the East and the other in the West, Istanbul is the perfect city destination with its captivating blend of sights, sounds and colours. Admire magnificent mosques, atmospheric churches, intriguing museums and Sultans' palaces or take to the waters of the Bosphorus to enjoy fresh fish overlooking the Black Sea.

Explore the warren of streets in the Grand Bazaar  and discover the metropolis of the moment that Istanbul is today with its stylish art galleries, world-class restaurants and electrifying nightclubs. 

Madrid European Best Destinations - Copyright Madrid Turismo

Madrid is an open-minded city where culture and entertainment share a thriving space. The Spanish capital makes everyone feel right at home while providing them with some of the world’s most interesting tourist attractions.

Madrid is one of the world’s liveliest, most entertaining and vibrant cities during the day, but even more so at night. The Spanish capital does not only offer art, shopping, nightlife and excellent gastronomy but it also presents both visitors and locals with all imaginable options for leisure.

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Cirque du Soleil, Greek Festival, Pete Davidson and more happening this weekend

See a Maine State Ballet performance and get your fill of lobster rolls.

tourist places in 2015

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We know that this weekend’s forecast for the next several days is a bit on the sketchy side, with some rain forecasted.

But will that stop us from getting out there and doing a whole bunch of stuff?

Absolutely not, because it’s still summer in Maine. Plus, we all know that if you want the weather to change here, you just need to give it a minute.

tourist places in 2015

Portland Jazz Orchestra performing with Katie Oberholtzer at Congress Square Park. Photo by Christopher Andrew

Fingers crossed for tonight’s free performance in Congress Square Park from the Portland Jazz Orchestra. The music starts at 6 p.m.

See Portland Jazz Orchestra for free on Thursday

tourist places in 2015

Kal Sugatski, left, and Katherine Liccardo laugh while pausing to remember the next segment of a song while playing their instruments on a forested shoreside trail on Mackworth Island for a portrait. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Vigorous Tenderness immersive performance on Mackworth Island is Friday from 6-7:30 p.m. (Original date was today, change due to weather forecast). Advertisement

Concert series Vigorous Tenderness celebrates the change in seasons and classical music

tourist places in 2015

There’s plenty to eat at the Greek Festival in Portland. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Thankfully, the Greek Festival in Portland is beneath a gigantic tent. The festival started today and runs through Saturday. It’s also the first entry on our annual list of can’t-miss summer events .  The La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Festival also starts today and runs through Sunday.

Make it your best summer yet with these 17 events

tourist places in 2015

Sole Pane’s brioche knot on the double burger from Kennebec Meat Co. Courtesy of Kennebec Meat Co.

If Greek food isn’t your thing, maybe a burger is. But not just any burger. The Kennebec Meat Co. in Bath makes a legendary one, and it’s only available on Saturdays.

This Bath butcher shop’s burger is worth planning your Saturday around

tourist places in 2015

The lobster roll at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Still not satisfied? We’ve got two words for you: Lobster rolls! Here are seven places to get a great one, including Red’s Eats in Wiscasset and the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk.

What do you look for in a lobster roll? Here are 7 of Maine’s best, for all different reasons

tourist places in 2015

A scene from Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo show. Photo by Maja Prgomet

Let’s shift from food to Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo show at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Performances start tonight and run through Sunday. Other weekend options include Pete Davidson Friday at Merrill Auditorium and “Dancer’s Choice” tonight and tomorrow at Maine State Ballet.

See Cirque du Soleil, Maine State Ballet and Pete Davidson, all this weekend

tourist places in 2015

Lagers clink at Argenta Brewing. Photo by Amanda Bizzaro

Quench your thirst this weekend (or anytime) with a cold lager. We’ve got several ideas of where to enjoy one including Bissell Brothers, Argenta Brewery and Batson River. Cheers!

Lagers gain in popularity at Maine’s craft breweries. Here’s where to find them.

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COMMENTS

  1. 52 Places to Go in 2015

    The cover article on Jan. 11 about 52 places to go in 2015 referred incorrectly to one country that was highlighted. It is Georgia, not the Democratic Republic of Georgia. And an accompanying ...

  2. 10 top destinations to visit in 2015

    Top destinations in 2015: Milan —. Italy's fashion capital will focus on the future of food for Expo 2015, when an estimated 20 million visitors will hit Milan. Courtesy Filippo Romano/Expo ...

  3. Travel and Leisure Reveals Top 50 Destinations for 2015

    South America's Colombia and Chile each made the cut as did half of a dozen hotspots across Africa and the Middle East, while Asia and Europe combined to comprise nearly 40 percent of the list. Fez, Morocco is one of the unique standouts for 2015. According to resident and British food writer Tara Stevens, the destination is "multilayered and ...

  4. 10 most popular cities for travelers in 2015

    London will welcome 18.82 million overnight visitors in 2015 whereas Bangkok will receive 18.24 million. Not only will London have the most travelers, it's estimated to see the most visitor ...

  5. Best Trips 2015 -- National Geographic Traveler

    1 of 21. Corsica Napoleon's Soulful Island HomeTwo hundred years after Napoleon Bonaparte suffered his final military defeat, Corsica, his birthplace, stubbornly resists its own cultural Waterloo ...

  6. The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2015

    The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2015; The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2015. 7 minute read. Robin Thom. By Travel + Leisure. December 20, 2014 1:00 PM EST

  7. Lonely Planet's best in the US 2015

    As in previous years, we tapped into the expertise of Lonely Planet's US authors and editors to come up with the top 10 American destinations primed for a visit in 2015. 2015's Best in the US list includes a mix of up-and-coming destinations, old faves with new highlights and places poised to shine.

  8. Lonely Planet's top 10 cities for 2015

    1. Washington, United States —. The undisputed star of the television hit "House of Cards" and the United States' power center, Washington topped Lonely Planet's list of the top 10 cities for 2015.

  9. Best Places to Travel in 2015 (PHOTOS)

    Puerto Plata, D.R. See More of the Best Places to Travel in 2015. Far from the resort-clogged beaches of Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic's less-frequented northern shore has remained largely under the radar. But developments slated for 2015 in Puerto Plata are bound to lure well-heeled sun-seekers.

  10. The Top 20 Places to Be

    Early in 2015, the venerable New York Times published its list of '52 Places To Go To This Year'. Its reasoning rested on the observation that "Untrammeled oases beckon, once-avoided destinations become must-sees and familiar cities offer new reasons to visit."

  11. Lonely Planet's best places in Europe 2015

    Welcome to Lonely Planet's best places in Europe for 2015. 1. Akureyri, Iceland. Five years ago tourism to Iceland was low-key. Now, after a currency crash, two volcanic eruptions, and five seasons of Game of Thrones, Iceland's dramatic landscapes and distinctive culture are firmly on the map. For most visitors, that means the south of the ...

  12. New York Times Reveals 52 Places to Go in 2015

    Italy, Cuba Carry Momentum into 2015. Scheduled to host the 2015 World Expo in May, Milan takes the topspot on this year's list. But there's more than just one reason to visit Italy's second-most populous city in 2015, as a handful of urban renewal projects are set to be completed this year, giving travelers even more reason to see northern Italy.

  13. The 51 Most Beautiful Places in the World

    Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Southwest Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, and is about as surreal as landscapes come. When dry, the flat is a sheet of blindingly white ...

  14. The 15 Coolest New Tourist Attractions

    Join us in discovering the top 15 coolest new tourist attractions in 2015. 15. Shanghai Tower -Shanghai, China. Set to be the second tallest tower in the world, the Shanghai Tower could not be left off this list of coolest and most amazing attractions of 2015. Towering over the Huangpu River with 125 stories the shape of the tower is most unique.

  15. Most popular cities for tourists in 2015

    Paris, Dubai and Istanbul claimed the third, fourth and fifth spots, with 16.06 million, 14.26 million and 12.56 million visitors, respectively, expected this year. Meanwhile, New York, Singapore ...

  16. The 30 Best Trips of 2015

    15. Best Comeback Country: Sri Lanka. A tent at the Aliya Resort. (Courtesy of Aliya Resort and Spa) The first decade of the new millennium was rough on Sri Lanka, with a devastating cyclone, the ...

  17. Places to Visit in 2015

    Lonely Planet named Tasmania one of the best regions to explore in 2015. Located south of the main continent of Australia, the island-state is famous for its gorgeous landscape, wild animals ...

  18. 15 Places to Travel in 2015

    It's steep, but the hike only takes about 20 minutes and offers spectacular views over the city. 14. Ardeche, France. Known as the Grand Canyon of Europe, the Ardeche in the south of France is one of those places that should be kept a secret, but is just too beautiful not to share.

  19. How to Travel in 2015

    In 2015, high-speed train services are scheduled to connect Rome and Milan; Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey; Beijing and Hong Kong; Seoul and Busan, South Korea; and Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia ...

  20. Best 2015 Travel Destinations in US

    Travel site Lonely Planet released its 2015 list of the destinations in the US that travelers need to make top priority to visit this year. From offbeat small towns to mountain regions and cities ...

  21. Summer Travel 2015: The Nine Best Places to Go

    To host an estimated 20 million visitors for the 2015 World Expo, running May to October, Italy's style capital built a 490-acre mini-city with a lake, an amphitheater, and a series of dramatic ...

  22. World Tourism rankings

    Countries by tourist arrivals in 2019. The World Tourism rankings are compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as part of their World Tourism Barometer publication, which is released up to six times per year. In the publication, destinations are ranked by the number of international visitor arrivals, by the revenue generated by inbound tourism, and by the expenditure of ...

  23. The 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2015

    20. Vernal, Utah. (Vernal welcome sign, courtesy of Flickr user arbyreed) Dinosaurs are a big deal in Vernal, where a 40-foot-tall pink fiberglass one named Dinah welcomes you to town, and in 2015 ...

  24. Best places to travel in 2015

    20 selected destinations competed for the prestigious title of Best European Destination 2015. After a three weeks' period of online voting, Bordeaux is elected the Best European Destination 2015 and won this prestigious title. Lisbon, Athens, Valetta, Riga, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Innsbruck, Milan, Brussels, Vienna, Rome, Barcelone, Istanbul and ...

  25. Cirque du Soleil, Greek Festival, Pete Davidson and more happening this

    See a Maine State Ballet performance and get your fill of lobster rolls.