It’s time to start thinking about planning your dream trip next year. So where should you go?
We looked at major developments, cultural trends, and global festivals to find the hottest places to travel around the world in 2015.
From the Philippines to Peru, here are the best places to travel next year.
Japan will become a bargain destination for travelers.
Tourism in Japan has taken a hit since the 2011 tsunami hit the country’s coast and ricocheted into a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Since then, the Japanese government has cleaned up the countryside and launched a massive public-relations campaign encouraging tourists to come visit. Pair that with a sharp decline in the value of the Japanese currency, and you get a country that’s ripe for tourism.
Traditionally one of the most expensive countries in the world, Japan is quickly becoming a bargain destination that’s luring in travelers looking for a deal. More than 11 million visitors have traveled to Japan so far this year, with more expected. Most tourists are heading to Tokyo, which is also busy preparing for the 2020 summer Olympics.
Lima, Peru, will be the foodie capital of South America.
Lima, Peru has been slowly building its reputation as a city for foodies, cementing its status most recently when the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards gave the coveted top spot to the city’s Central restaurant. In total, eight of 50 restaurants on the prestigious list were in Lima.
The Peruvian city is home to everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to hole-in-the-wall cevicherias that will continue to draw in foodies from around the world.
“Frozen” fans will flock to Norway to seek out Elsa and Anna’s fictional Arendelle.
“Frozen” has made over $1.2 billion for Disney, and with its increased merchandising andrumors of a sequel, the “Frozen” craze will only continue to grow. Set in Arendelle, a fictional kingdom in Norway, “Frozen” shows a gorgeous landscape of lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and fjords. Fans of the animated film are now seeking out real-life Arendelle in Norway. The country has seen a huge growth in tourism since the release of the film, with tour operators reporting a 40% increase in sales.
Bergen, a city on the west coast, was the inspiration for the film. Voss is also popular with fans for its nearby fjords, glaciers, rivers, and lakes. With its small fishing villages and breathtaking cliffs, the Lofoten Islands will also attract Frozen fans.
Iran will be the new tourism hotspot in the Middle East.
Iran is becoming a tourist hotspot, with tour operators reporting significant increases in tourists booking trips to the Middle Eastern country. Perhaps that’s because of a slight thaw in its relationships with the West, or simply because of the allure of exploring a little-known destination with few other tourists around.
Note that Americans are allowed to visit Iran, but they must travel with an official tour guide or get their itinerary approved by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Travel within Iran is considered safe if you tour responsibly, even though the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning to the country.
The country is home to ancient cities with breathtaking mosques and gorgeous natural landscapes. Popular cities with tourists are Isfahan and Tehran, but people also travel to see the ruins at Persepolis, the tombs at Shiraz, and the beaches on the Caspian Sea.
River cruises will be popular in Europe and elsewhere.
Forget the massive, personality-devoid cruise ships. The river cruise industry is booming these days. These cruises offer a more refined, intimate, and cultured experience than the behemoth ocean liners. They also allow guests to embark right in the center of the cities, and enjoy riverbank scenery the entire ride.
Luxury cruise-ship operator Viking River Cruises has carved a niche for itself as the top river-cruise ship company. It offers cruises all over the world, filled with unique cultural activities like lectures, language lessons, and demonstrations like cuckoo-clock-making, that are meant to shed light on the destinations visited. Even the food aboard the ship reflects the local culture, showcasing regional specialties from each destination.
Namibia’s beauty will draw tourists to Africa.
With its diverse wildlife, colonial architecture, and stunning landscape filled with mountains, deserts, and beaches, Namibia is hands-down one of the most picturesque countries in the world.
It’s also one of the safest countries in Africa and was named the hottest travel destination of the future by LoveHomeSwap. Travelers can go on safari, compete in the grueling Namib Desert Challenge, or explore the country’s vast sand dunes.
Canberra, Australia, will attract new expats looking for an easy life.
Canberra, Australia’s capital city, was named the best place to live in the world by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to the New York Times.
Located in southeastern Australia, Canberra doesn’t have the glitzy buildings and beautiful beaches of Sydney, but it does feel quainter and more peaceful — even though it’s the country’s capital. The city is set on an artificial lake and is home to Australia’s Parliament House and High Court, as well as several great cultural institutions like the National Gallery and National Museum.
Berlin, Germany, will continue to be the most hipster city in Europe.
It’s no secret that Berlin is one of the coolest cities in Europe, but it’s only recently that it’s really blown up as the quintessential hipster destination. The center of all that? Kreuzberg, a central neighborhood that straddles both east and west Berlin.
Visitors to Berlin can check out some hipster hotspots, like White Trash fast food, an ironic restaurant, club, and tattoo parlor; Meschugge Berlin, a nightclub that feels like an Israeli dance party; and Stattbad Wedding/Stattbar, a nightclub inside an old swimming pool.
Palawan in the Philippines will be the top island destination in the world.
Widely regarded for its beauty, Palawan was named the best island in the world by Conde Nast Traveler this year.
The small island is home to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, one of the new seven natural wonders of the world. It also has gorgeous beaches and clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling, diving, and swimming. With more direct flights to Europe, America, and Australia planned on Philippine Airlines, Palawan is sure to see more international visitors next year.
Travel within Lithuania will get easier next year.
Lithuania will join the eurozone in 2015, which means that travelers will be able to use a convenient, continentwide currency.
Explore the capital city of Vilnius, whose historic center is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or relax on a beach at the Curonian Spit National Park. There are also historic castles and museums filled with treasures all over the country.
South Africa will become a more affordable destination for budget travelers.
Traditionally, South Africa has been an expensive destination to visit, but recent currency fluctuations mean that it’s becoming a cheaper destination for tourists.
An upgraded public-transportation system, new hotels, and new urban infrastructure projects like the Fan Walk will make Cape Town much more tourist-friendly. Even safaris to Kruger National Park seem to be more affordable now. For even better discounts, visit in the spring or fall (March to May, September and October), when it’s not peak tourist season.
Florence, Italy, will continue to be one of the world’s best cities for travelers.
Florence is a perennial favorite, but 2015 is sure to bring even more visitors to the Italian city, since it was recently named the world’s best city for travelers by Conde Nast Traveler.
It’s a historic jewelbox that’s full of incredible art, museums, shops, and restaurants. The Duomo, the city’s main cathedral, is the most iconic tourist attraction here, but there are tons of other world-famous spots, like the Uffizi museum, the Accademia (home to Michelangelo’s David), and the Ponte Vecchio.
Curacao will be more accessible from North America with new direct flights.
Curacao is a gorgeous Caribbean island that’s tucked between Aruba and Bonaire. But until recently, it was pretty inaccessible, as there were few direct flights from major international destinations. Now that’s all about to change.
Jetblue just launched nonstop flights to the island from New York twice a week, and early next year, Air Canada will launch direct flights from Montreal to Curaçao every Thursday. To accommodate these new visitors, new hotels are being built, like a Courtyard by Marriott, while others are expanding and undergoing renovations.
Hainan will be the hot new beach destination in China.
Located in the South China Sea at the southernmost tip of China, Hainan Island is one of the fastest-growing tourism destinations in the country. It has seen a huge increase in hotel-room capacity in the last few years, and it plans to keep building new hotels and increase international flights. The majority of tourists come from China and Russia, but Hainan has been embarking on a campaign to attract more international tourists.
The beaches are the main attraction here, but there are also several historic temples, tombs, and forts. It’s also a big surfing destination that’s hosted the Hainan Wanning International Surfing Festival for three years in a row.
Tasmania, Australia, will lure adventure travelers.
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, heritage estates, premium wines, and some of the best mountain biking in the world.
Adventure travelers will love exploring Tasmania’s rugged coastline and wilderness. In 2015, the second stretch of the Three Capes Track will open, allowing people to trek through the bush on foot and explore places like the sea cliffs of Tasman National Park.
But Tasmania isn’t just for adventurers. Foodies and oenophiles will enjoy tasting the excellent cool-climate wines, while couples will find plenty of opportunities for romance.
Queens, New York, will become one of the best food cities in the world.
Queens, New York has gotten some attention recently. As prices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have gotten so high, people are rediscovering this sometimes overlooked New York City borough. Queens is one of the most diverse urban areas in the world. It’s home to immigrants from over 100 countries who speak more than 138 languages. All that diversity means one thing: great food.
Head to Flushing for Chinese, Astoria for Greek, or Little India in Jackson Heights for Indian food. There’s also amazing Czech food at the Bohemian Hall in Astoria, incredible Dominican food in Elmhurst, and succulent Jamaican cuisine in Queens Village, to name just a few neighborhoods. Chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern told us that Queens is the best food city in the world.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will gear up to host the 2016 Olympic Games.
The World Cup may be over, but Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is still in prep mode as it gears up to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
The city will use all of the new arenas, hotels, shops, and restaurants that were built to accommodate the international crowds who came for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. But 2015 will be a relative bargain, since visitors won’t have to contend with the crowds who will descend on the city for the Olympics in 2016.
Northern Ireland will get more attention from ‘Game of Thrones’ fans.
Croatia saw a huge boom in tourism after the hit series “Game of Thrones” filmed several seasons there, so it’s only natural that Northern Ireland, another filming location for the show, will see similar results after Season 5, which is filming there, airs. Northern Ireland doubles as Westeros, the kingdom featured in GoT. The Stangford Castle Ward Estate in County Down doubled as Winterfell and the Dark Hedges in County Antrim doubled as Kings Road.
The UK country is full of incredible natural wonders, like the Giant’s Causeway and the Slieve League Cliffs, as well as ruined medieval castles like Dunluce Castle.
Myanmar will become even more accessible to tourists.
A few years ago, Myanmar opened its doors to the public for the first time in years. Since then, the Southeast Asian country has slowly been developing its infrastructure, building new hotels and restaurants, and improving roads and buildings. The country still has a long way to go, but that hasn’t stopped millions of travelers from around the world from visiting.
Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is the major city, but tourists also tend to visit Bagan, where they can go hot-air ballooning over incredible ancient temples. The country has more than 1,250 miles of coastline, and some of the best beaches in Asia.
Ljubljana, Slovenia, will be the next Croatia.
Sandwiched between Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and Austria, Slovenia is a small country that hasn’t really been discovered by tourists — yet. It’s a beautiful country with great food, historic cities, and stunning landscapes, and it’s also one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe.
Ljubljana, the capital, is one of the most underrated destinations in Europe, with a quaint Old Town, beautiful bridges spanning the Ljubljanica River, and a historic castle that towers above the city.