After much calculating, percolating and triangulating, we’ve compiled our list of the world’s top places to visit in 2015. As we enter a year unencumbered by Olympic Games or World Cups we can focus our attention—without distraction—on truly trending destinations across the globe. The following countries, regions and islands are poised to be the location of your next holiday—some are emerging favorites, while others will undoubtedly earn you serious bragging rights.
Don’t see a destination you’ve been eyeing for next year? Stay tuned for our definitive list of the top 10 cities to visit in 2015.
It’s no secret that Japan’s weakening yen is turning the Land of the Rising Sun into a good-value destination for foreign travelers, but the big reason to visit next year is the inauguration of a brand new bullet train route.
The Hokuriko Line will open up the gorgeous city of Kanazawa—the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, and its surrounding coastal fishing villages. Like a hidden Kyoto, the area has long been a place of reverence, largely due to its elaborate feudal history that spawned dozens of impressive castle complexes and wooden temples. The Ishikawa region is also the perfect place to stay a traditional Japanese inn, called ryokan—try Beniya Mukayu.
With its spate of new boutique hotels, the Caribbean is swapping its all-inclusive reputation for a more down-to-earth attitude. Smaller accommodation is making it easier than ever to feel like local in destinations that once seemed like tourist traps, but why not check out an isle that’s never fallen victim to corporate claws.
Google Saba, a veritable emerald spire near Sint Maarten, and we can almost guarantee that you’ll be searching for flights shortly thereafter. A municipality of the Netherlands, the island never saw rampant development due to its inhospitably vertical (read: ridiculously scenic) terrain, and today its protected house reefs offer some of the top scuba diving spots on the planet.
Although the French have been hip to the treasures of Brittany (Bretagne) for quite some time, the nation’s westernmost region remains delightfully devoid of outsiders. During the 19th century it lured dozens of prominent painters, who sought inspiration from the area’s ethereal light.
Today, Brittany has become France’s nouveau Riviera, complete with its very own collection of sleepy beachside villages that burst into vivid life during the summer months when the glitterati descend. Some even say that Brittany bests the Cote d’Azur with its surplus of luxury spas offering unique hydrotherapeutic treatments.
Santa Catarina, Brazil
There could not be a better time to visit Brazil. Visitors will benefit from the efforts to clean up crime and boost local infrastructure for 2014’s World Cup while successfully evading the upcoming onslaught of tourists for Rio’s 2016 Olympic Games.
The southern state of Santa Catarina is Brazil’s rising star for international travelers who flock to this South American Ibiza for its party-prone cities and postcard-perfect beaches. Almost half the state is protected as park preserve while the coastal areas boast some of the best resorts in the world, like the popular Ponta dos Ganchos.
It’s been a pretty bad year for Kenya, and the sharp decrease in tourism has put local conservation efforts in peril. But there’s no concrete reason not to visit Kenya this coming year and help support rehabilitation efforts with your foreign dollars.
It’s still home to the world’s most spectacular wildlife display, the Great Migration, which unfurls along the plains of the Mara Triangle: the Maasai Mara National Reserve and a surrounding necklace of fertile conservancies. Kenya has many additional virtues beyond safari-ing, of course, like a scenic coastline, roaring cities, and plenty of other oddities.
With a little bit of everything rolled into a country the size of Massachusetts, Belize is Central America’s darling destination. While the beaches and atolls are an undeniable draw of holidaymakers, it’s the interior that’s next year’s main attraction.
Dramatic Mayan ruins dot the western rainforest between rambling coffee plantations that are stepping up their distribution and giving Costa Rica’s beans a run for their money.
Charming stone villages lead the way up to the mystical Rila mountain range located southwest of Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. The famous Seven Rila Lakes is one of the country’s best-known walking circuits, which takes in a group of scenic glacial ponds that are poetically named for their physical qualities, like The Eye and The Tear. The region is crowned by the luminous Rila Monastery, a crucial place of worship for Eastern Orthodox worshippers, that was founded over a thousand years ago.
The Philippines’ tourism board has decided that 2015 is the year to visit the nation of islands, and despite the obvious marketing ploy, we’re very much on board. Drawing upon its mix of influences—from Mainland China to Spain and Mexico—the Philippine dinner table boasts an eclectic assortment of dishes including adobo (meat cured in vinegar) and bibingka (coconut cake).
The biggest draw, however, are the superlative white-sand beaches and crystalline waters—like the one on your screen saver—that can be found on practically every islet from up-and-coming Palawan to popular Boracay. An increase in direct flights from several new destinations means that it’s never been easier to make this sun-kissed archipelago your next getaway.
Brigham Young was definitely onto something when he sought to build his Mormon “Zion” in the rugged hinterland of Utah. Often dubbed America’s national park capital, the southern half of the state has five stunning preserves—from the easily anthropomorphized rock formations at Brice Canyon to the snaking fissures at Canyonlands—all within a stone’s throw from another. To the north you’ll find some of the best skiing on offer in America. With over 500 inches of powder a year, snow bunnies flock to the 14 state-of-the-art resorts like Alta, Deer Valley, and Park City. Johnny-come-latelies fear not, there’s still plenty of Utah to discover.
Central Asia is the world’s largest swath of land that’s largely ignored by travelers. However, this collection of mega-countries colloquially known as the “Stans” is a veritable trove of geological and historical wonders. The last vestiges of the Silk Road curl through fallen kingdoms like Samarkand, in present-day Uzbekistan, with its tiled minarets.
Kazakhstan, which is itself larger than the entirety of Western Europe, is vast realm of thirsty Mongolian steppe, while Kyrgyzstan soars to the heavens with evergreen forests and skulking snow leopards. Turkmenistan and Tajikistan round out this massive cultural cauldron that sits at the crossroad of China, India and the Middle East.