2015 is a blank canvas for you to fill with a whole new travel wish list – but what are the cities, countries, beaches and adventures that should be on your radar in the New Year? Our travel experts give you their top destination recommendations on the places you should head to.
The nation at the political heart of Europe is culturally, gastronomically, scenically and sartorially compelling. 2015 is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, which took place on a battlefield 15km south of Brussels. Look out for ‘Waterloo 200’ events including efforts to identify the descendants of those who were there.
The celebratory mood certainly didn’t leave Brazil at the end of a successful 2014 World Cup. The legacy is a country that’s more open to visitors than ever before – but without the crowds. And from street samba parties to live bossa nova along Copacabana beach, there’s plenty to cheer on.
This was the year that the United Kingdom nearly changed forever, but 2015 dawns with Scotland still on board and a national calendar that’s as packed as ever, from the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in September, to events to celebrate 800 years since the Magna Carta.
The spectacular coastline and delightfully scattered islands of Croatia will enchant. Split, the nation’s second city, was chosen by the Roman emperor Diocletian for his palace of pleasures. From here, island-hop your way to Dubrovnik, arguably the finest walled city on the Adriatic.
Ghana today offers a seductive mish-mash of 19th-century architecture and increasingly interconnected citizens. July 2015 sees the return of Panafest, Ghana’s biennial festival for pan-African culture. Big, brash and well attended, Panafest will include a parade of chiefs in full regalia and cultural events at the region’s castles and forts.
From Kuala Lumpur’s skyscrapers and the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands to ancient rainforest and luxury island resorts, Malaysia is not one place, but many – and has never been more accessible to international visitors, with a new
British Airways route to Kuala Lumpur from May.
Around 50 new luxury flagship stores have opened in Bangkok in the past year, making the city a major shopping hub in Southeast Asia. Even more exciting is the wave of hip new hotels, restaurants and ventures, such as the Yim Huai Kwang Hostel and the House of Salad – part experimental gallery, part restaurant.
The cultural offering of galleries and museums gets better every year – no wonder everyone seems to want to move to Berlin. But what’s really gripping is how sensitively this city has come to terms with and integrated its history. Thoughtful, careful restoration work gives Berlin a great feeling for history.
The Colombian capital has seen tired arts and cultural venues restored to glory recently. The once-derelict Espacio Odeón is back hosting contemporary art, theatre and film and the refurbished Colón Theatre has reopened. If you haven’t been to Bogotá recently – or at all – this might not be the city you expected.
New Londoners in 2015 will include royal baby number two, born into a capital that has a 24-hour tube - well, almost. During weekends from mid-September, most Underground lines will run through the night. Not to mention the ever-better food and nightlife arriving in gentrified residential areas from Walthamstow to Peckham.
Grunge is back in fashion, and so too is its spiritual home of Seattle, which is also America’s artisan coffee capital. The formerly niche, Gehry-designed EMP museum of popular culture has hit a new stride in creating world-class touring exhibitions - yet another quirky success story from a city that’s full of them.
Sleepy, sunny Seville has plenty of action if you know where to look. The city is anticipating a visitor boom now that filming has wrapped on Game of Thrones scenes at the Real Alcázar palace. But this Moorish fort is a treat whether or not you know your Lannisters from your bannisters.
Wild and untamed, North Chesterman Beach on Canada’s Vancouver Island is a vast stretch of sand that offers some of the best wildlife watching opportunities on the Pacific West Coast. From the beach, see pods of orcas swimming in the bay or seek out black bears along the coastline.
Everyone knows Greece’s Cyclades Islands are phenomenal for beaches. Ambeli Beach on Folegandros Island is a 90-minute boat ride from Santorini and can only reached by foot, boat or donkey. En route from Agios Panteleimonas Church, you’re treated to startling views over the rugged coastline, crystal-clear water – and no crowds.
The light, soft sands, perfect summers that feel longer every year, and the ever-clear waters of Rhodes mean that beaches here will never go out of style. Just a snorkel and mask is enough to reveal vividly colourful fish of the sort you’d associate with a long-haul holiday.
Cherating is a charming, sleepy beach town, blanketed by rainforest, on the east coast of Malaysia, 30km north of Kuantan. The sand is not the alabaster white of other parts of Malaysia, but there is a fun, easy-to-ride surf break, and you can revel in swimming or surfing in the hot water until sunset.
If you like a dash of local history with your stunning blue sea, head to Sant’Antioco in southwestern Sardinia. On the wild north coast are ruins of a tuna fishery and a picturesque lighthouse at Mangiabarche, which warns fishermen off the ‘boat eating rocks’.
Ras Muhammad National Park, near Sharm el Sheikh, is a marine reserve of rare beauty where divers can tick an iconic shipwreck off their to-do list: the evocative wreck of the British SS Thistlegorm, which sank in 1941.
A few hours south of Abu Dhabi is the authentic cultural heart of the United Arab Emirates, the Rub’ al-Khali desert, also known as the Empty Quarter. Here, in the world’s largest sand desert, adventure junkies can try their hand at dune driving or sand skiing.
Just a couple of hours from New York is the Shawangunk Ridge, also known as The Gunks. Steeped in climbing history (ascents go back to the 1930s), there are more than 1,200 routes along this 12m long ridge. The hardest are 90m high, the climber’s equivalent of a skier taking on Jackson Hole.
Where should you be planning your travels for 2015? Our panel of experts voted for the most intriguing cities, emptiest beaches and hottest hotels. See the complete Top Destinations 2015 list as seen in this month's Highlife magazine.See all 2015 Top Destinations