Check out Viator’s Top 50 Destinations in 2014!

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers, and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.

* * * * *

Where will you go in 2015? We can’t plan your vacations for you, but we can certainly help you narrow your wish list of destinations with our annual Top 50 Travel Destinations list. No, we don’t propose that you visit all 50 in a year – although, hey, that’s an admirable goal – merely that you take these 50 places into consideration when planning your 2015 travels.

Some of these Top 50 Travel Destinations have major events in 2015 that you won’t want to miss. Some of them are celebrating anniversaries in 2015 that make this a compelling year to visit. Some are simply places that you may not otherwise think of as great vacation destinations – and we’d like to change that.

How many of the Top 50 places we’ve selected will you visit in 2015? That’s still open to question. Wherever you end up this year, however, we hope you’ll have a splendid time. Now, in no particular order, we invite you to join us on a virtual tour of the Top 50 Travel Destinations for 2015.

Vineyards Barossa Valley, Adelaide – Australia

Barossa Valley, Australia

South Australia always shines, but the Barossa Valley is beaming. One of Australia’s oldest food and wine regions, the Barossa is criss-cut with more than 150 wineries. Some, like the heritage vines at Penfolds and Henschke, have been fruiting since the late 1800s. But Barossa is not all about history; the region also bursts with new butcheries, bakeries, breweries, cideries, creameries, and cooking schools such as Mark McNamara’s latest Food Luddite Kitchen. Travelers can ramble between standbys like Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop and recently opened accommodations ranging from the Ikara Safari tents in the Flinders Mountains to the gorgeous Japanese villas attached to the Sticky Rice Cooking School in the Adelaide Hills. Be sure to save time for Adelaide, too. The bounty of Barossa will fill your plate; a bourgeoning small bar scene fuels the night; and the Minima Art Hotel has 46 rooms, each transformed by a different South Australian artist. - Serena Renner

Vienna and Salzburg, Austria

Sophisticated Vienna, with its Baroque palaces and matchless art museums, is a city to adore at any time, but 2015 brings a series of exhibitions and celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the building of the Ringstrasse. This most elegant of boulevards surrounds the inner city and was the brainchild of the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph. Opened on May 1, 1865, it replaced the city’s former fortifications with grand palaces, the Vienna State Opera, the city hall, theaters, museums and art galleries in what was surely the grandest town-planning project of the time. Also happening in 2015, the 450th anniversary of the Spanish Riding School will see spectacular dressage performances in June in the Baroque manège. Salzburg also shares the Austrian spotlight in 2015, with the Sound of Music 50th Anniversary Celebration kicking off on Monday June 22. Events include special screenings of The Sound of Music as well as visits to city locations associated with the film. The festival culminates on Friday June 26 with a concert at the Mozarteum Salzburg, where much-loved tunes from the movie will get an airing. - Sasha Heseltine

Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park, Charleston South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina

With its hospitable, well-mannered locals, classic architecture, horse-drawn carriages, and cobblestone streets, Charleston oozes relaxed Southern charm in a way that hasn’t changed for more than a century. Modern day Charleston is a food-centric city, having been voted one of Conde Nast Traveler’s Best American Cities for Foodies. A number of new, world-class eateries have opened recently including Xiao Bao Biscuit which offers “Asian Soul Food” and The Ordinary, a gourmet oyster hall where the shucking takes place inside a vintage bank vault. In 2015, the city will host BB&T Charleston Wine + Food and the Lowcountry Cajun Festival, both featuring a wealth of local dishes. Historians will appreciate the myriad events taking place in 2015 throughout Charleston to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. Through the end of the year, visitors can experience Civil War art gallery shows, traditional battle reenactments, lectures, educational tours, and a host of other special events. - Mike Richard

Okavango Delta, Botswana

This vast flood plane in the northern part of this landlocked African country is one of the best spots on the continent to do some serious wildlife gawking. Not only because you have a great chance at spotting the Big Five (that would be lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros), but also because the area is fresh off getting the stamp of approval from UNESCO in 2014. One thing that makes the delta unique is that the Okavango River floods every year during the dry season; the result is that plants and animals have synchronized their biological clocks to the seasonal floods. The mass amount of flora that grows because of the floods means grazing herbivores are ample and it also means that carnivores are not far behind them. So, for the visitor, you can predict where and when you might spot, say, a lion or a black rhinoceros. Another reason why you might be more likely to catch site of the Big Five here is that the country just made hunting illegal. That’s right, no big game hunting is happening here anymore. The only thing people are going to be pointing at animals here is a pair of binoculars.  - David Farley

Morning in Jasper

Jasper, Alberta, Canada

Forget five star luxuries and discover Jasper’s 5-billion-star scenery. Set beneath the rugged Canadian Rocky Mountains, Jasper National Park is an UNESCO world heritage site known for its stunning landscapes. It’s also one of the planet’s largest Dark Sky Preserves, which means its limited light pollution footprint allows for unparalleled stargazing and the annual Dark Sky Festival takes place in October.  The incredible wilderness setting makes for abundant wildlife throughout Jasper National Park, too, and elk, Bighorn sheep, Mountain goats, and Black bears are all commonly spotted along the highways; however, to spot an elusive, and sadly at-risk, Caribou you’ll have to hit either the Skyline or Tonquin Valley trails, two multi-day treks that access the remotest corners of parks. Visitors step beyond nature’s edge at the Glacier Skywalk, which is the newest attraction in Jasper National Park. After an interpretive walk along a cliff-side path, step out onto the Glacier Skywalk and discover new vistas from the 918-foot-tall, glass-floored archway. It’s just minutes away from the Columbia Icefield Centre, where it’s possible to board a Glacier Explorer Bus to travel atop the Athabasca Glacier. - Jeff Bartlett

Hobart, Tasmania

We agree with Lonely Planet; the time to visit Tasmania is nigh. With its wild and rugged scenery and thriving artisan food, drink and art scene, the entire West Virginia–sized island is worth a “squiz,” as they say in Australian. If you have to settle in one place, Hobart is the center of antipodean action here. The Museum of Old and New Art hasn’t stopped shocking people since opening in 2011. It’s now a cultural icon that hosts a full lineup of events including Mona Foma and its winter counterpart, Dark MoFo, which will celebrate its third wacky year in 2015. Hobart is also surrounded by three prominent food and wine regions, becoming increasingly renowned for whiskey and cider; island escapes abound like the new Bruny Island Long Weekend; and uncharted territory is never far off. In 2015, the second stretch of the Three Capes Track will enable hikers to venture 20 miles deeper into Tasman National Park. - Serena Renner

Inverness, Scotland

Inverness, Scotland

Scotland hit the headlines in 2014 thanks to its much-publicized bid for independence, but although it’s officially remaining part of the UK, it’s fair to say that Scots have a newfound love for their home country and 2015 is all about celebrating its individuality. Discover Scotland’s impressive natural heritage by hiking through the Highlands, climbing the UK’s tallest mountain or cruising along Loch Ness; tuck into delicious Scottish salmon or traditional haggis in celebration of the 2015 Year of Food and Drink; or attend the biggest event of the contemporary art scene at Glasgow’s Tramway gallery – the prestigious Turner Prize, presented in Scotland for the first-time ever. Fans of Scotland-based hit TV series Outlander will also be in for a treat in 2015 – as the hotly-anticipated second season hits screens, you’ll be able to travel back to 18th-century Scotland on a tour of Outlander filming locations. - Zoe Smith

Torres del Paine, Chile

Chile’s most well-known national park in the depths of Patagonia has soaring granite towers, milky azure lakes, wide-open vistas and glaciers from the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. In recent years, Torres del Paine, the 927 sq. mile park has become more accessible due to a new road from Puerto Natales, the closest nearby city. The park is home to herds of the llama-like guanaco, and the rhea, South America’s answer to the ostrich. There are also foxes, kingfishers and seldom-seen huemules (tiny Andean deer) and pumas. Visitors can enjoy the park in a number of ways, traversing subpolar Magellanic forests and Patagonian steppe on a 5 day hike called the W, or the one called “the circuit,” that takes 8-9 days, and circles the Paine massif, part of the mountain chain in the park. Even in just a one-day trip, visitors can see two glacial lakes, Nordenskjold and Pehoé, and get to the large waterfall in the park called, appropriately, Salto Grande. Since Chile dropped the $160 reciprocity fee for US Passport holders in 2014, you can use that cash to finance your trip to the park, and have a large celebratory dinner when you emerge again. -Eileen Smith

Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area

Jiuzhaigou Valley, China

Located in Sichuan province, the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, or Jiuzhaigou Valley, should be on your travel radar for its picturesque beauty of lush forests, impressive waterfalls and glistening lakes. As China endeavors toward cutting its carbon emissions by 2020, however, Jiuzhaigou is also blazing the trail for biodiversity conservation and environmental awareness in China by advocating eco-tourism. Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1992 and a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997, the area is home to many endangered plant and animal species, including the beloved Giant Panda. Environmentally friendly hotels are dotted throughout, and a ‘green’ tourist bus will drop you off at boardwalks to explore on foot where traffic cannot reach. To delve further into the alpine surroundings (and away from the crowds), Zharu Valley, in particular, is the designated eco-tourism zone within the national park. Visitors are restricted in number with access only via guided treks to the tranquil surroundings and furthermore, into one of the nine Tibetan villages that occupy the region. With China’s carbon reduction efforts in full effect and Jiuzhaigou first in line to support a greener future, the area can confidently look forward to welcoming many more generations of visitors to come. - Emily Chu

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Canadian metropolis on Lake Ontario is having a moment. A recent building boom – at one time there were more construction cranes in the city than in the rest of North America combined – has resulted in making Toronto much more vibrant and dynamic. New hotels, such as the new flagship location of the Four Seasons, and the 45-floor, 567-guest-room Delta South Core, have freed up some room space for a city that was suddenly lagging in hotel rooms – testament to this city’s popularity. There is also a burgeoning restaurant scene, as acclaimed chef David Chang opened up an outpost of his Momofuku franchise in the Shangri La Hotel and French chef Daniel Boulud fired up the burners on his first north-of-the-border endeavor in the Four Seasons. And if there’s one time of year you might want to touchdown in Toronto, go in mid-July when the Pan Am and Parapan Am games hit the city. Athletes from Buenos Aires to New Brunswick will be competing against one another, filling the city with an international spirit of fun and games. - David Farley

Boulevard in San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico

While Puerto Rico’s government has fumbled to manage the island’s economy properly, the past few years have been a boom time for travel to America’s Caribbean outpost, thanks to enthusiastic, colorful magazine spreads touting the island’s cuisine (showcased in a growing number of food festivals) and architecture (take, for just one example, the recent renovation and reopening of the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, originally built in 1919). But it’s beyond the attractions featured in glossy pages where you’ll find the most interesting people and places in the island’s capital, San Juan. The once gritty neighborhood of Santurce lures visitors not only for its well-advertised hotspot restaurants, José Enrique and Santaella, but also for food trucks, an annual street art festival, Santurce es Ley, and hole-in-the-wall, locals-know-best spots like Club 77, a mid-size venue for both Puerto Rican rock bands and visiting jams from the mainland. - Julie Schwietert Collazo

The Croatian Coast

Remember when the Balkans were inflamed with violent in-fighting? We barely do, either. Twenty years ago this year, the bloody three-year conflict between neighbors Croatia and Serbia ended. It didn’t take long for Croatia, or at least its 1,100 miles of coastline and equal number of islands, to recover. Croatia joined the European Union in 2013 and it’s not looking back. The Dalmatian Coast, as most of the country’s coastline is called, has since become a major tourist draw. And the gem of the Adriatic, the one place any discerning traveler has to see, is Dubrovnik, located in the southwest part of the country. Imagine: white limestone pedestrian streets, and rickety red-tiled houses crammed into a space encircled with 80-foot-high walls right on the Adriatic Sea. There isn’t a check-list of things to do here. It’s all about strolling the streets of Stari Grad, or Old Town, and relaxing by the sea, perhaps with a glass of Croatian rakia, or plum brandy. Factor in some of the most luxurious hotels in the region, restaurants serving just-off-the-boat seafood and you’ve got a memorable spot to enjoy a beautiful blend of culture, history, and azure-colored sea. - David Farley

Streets of Cuenca, Ecuador

Mainland Ecuador

Many people only visit mainland Ecuador as a quick stopover on the way to Galapagos; however it warrants a trip of its own. One of the most biodiverse countries in the world, in Ecuador it’s only a matter of hours travel from the snowcapped Andes to the Amazonian rainforest or a coastline perfect for surfing. Don’t speak Spanish? Not a problem. There are many hotels, hostels and tour operators that accommodate English speakers. And while Ecuador opens travelers with open arms it isn’t overridden with tourists. There is no established tourist trail and it’s still possible to have authentic experiences without feeling like you are being herded from one town to the next in a generic experience. It’s a country of contrasting landscapes, warm smiles and exotic experiences. It’s a country you should visit before the rest of the world discovers its beauty. - Ayngelina Brogan

Orlando, Florida

There’s no shortage of theme parks and attractions in Orlando. But Florida travelers are always looking for something more, bigger, and better! In 2014, the city revealed one of the world’s most anticipated attractions – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Diagon Alley™ at Universal Studios Orlando. Harry Potter fans can now visit real-life replicas of the Leaky Cauldron™, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and Ollivanders™ wand shop. Spring 2015 will see the grand opening of I-Drive 360 – a massive, new entertainment complex featuring Madame Tussauds Orlando wax museum and Sea Life Orlando aquarium. At its core, the park will also include an observation wheel modeled after the famous London Eye. Appropriately called The Orlando Eye, this massive ride will take visitors 400 feet above the complex in self-contained, air-conditioned glass cars. It promises the best views in all of Central Florida, reaching as far as Cape Canaveral on a clear day! - Mike Richard

Duomo square of Milan

Milan, Italy

Milan isn’t an uncommon stop on many Italy itineraries, but it’s usually just an entry or exit point thanks to the city’s major international airport. Dig a little deeper in this northern Italian city, however, and you may find some reasons to stop and stay awhile. Of course there’s the many-spired Duomo (you can climb to the top and walk on the roof), and one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous pieces of art, “The Last Supper” fresco in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. But some of the reasons to visit Milan are fleeting, only available for a short period of time. In 2015, one of those reasons is Expo 2015 (the latest iteration of the World’s Fair, which is held every five years), to be held in Milan from May through October. The massive event is called “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” and sub-themes include such things as food safety, food scarcity, and food as it relates to culture. It will be an opportunity to see how different countries plan to address these issues, while sampling some possibly futuristic foods. Milan Expo 2015 will be in a purpose-built fair grounds in the nearby Rho district, easily accessible via public transportation. - Jessica Spiegel

England (Outside of London)

As one of the world’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan and fashion-forward capital cities, London has always been top of the itinerary for travelers to Europe and there’s plenty going on in the upcoming year all around England. Start with a visit to the legendary Stonehenge, where archeologists have recently uncovered 17 previously unknown monuments around the landmark, then head to Oxford where Lewis Carroll’s former university city will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland with a series of special events, exhibitions, concerts and performances. Back in London, the British Library will be hosting a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta and the 2015 Rugby World Cup finals will be held at Twickenham Stadium. - Zoe Smith

Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

“Dig, if you will, the picture,” was the first line to Minneapolis native Prince’s smash 1984 hit “When Doves Cry.” He wasn’t necessarily talking about his hometown but he could have. After all, dig, if you will, this city of 400,000, which has some recent additions that make it the Midwest’s coolest metropolis: the city’s modern art museum, cutting-edge Walker Arts Center (www.walkerarts.org), was spiffed up by ultra-hip Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron; the historic Guthrie Theater (www.guthrietheater.org) moved into a new building designed by Jean Nouvel; the Twins have a handsome new baseball stadium downtown (the Vikings state-of-the-art new football stadium will be ready in 2016); and theater is alive and well here (Minneapolis has the third most theater productions in the United States). Hungry yet? The City of Lakes knows how to feed, especially recently: the newly re-opened Travail Kitchen & Amusements, located just north of the city in Robbinsdale, serves up avant-garde cuisine at its best and acclaimed chef Gavin Kaysen, the erstwhile top toque of New York’s Café Boulud, has returned to his hometown to open Merchant. It’s enough to make the non-local purple with envy. - David Farley

Faroe Islands

There are few places in Europe as remote and uncharted as the Faroe Islands and archipelago’s unique location will be its biggest draw in 2015, as it’s one of only two places in the world to view the Total Solar Eclipse of March 20th from land. Europe won’t see another eclipse until 2026 so it’s worth the journey to witness the natural phenomenon, but there’s also plenty to see and do on the Faroe Islands while you’re there. The 18 small islands, found halfway between Iceland and Norway, are home to the smallest capital city in the world, Torshavn, as well as an expanse of mountains, moorlands and coastal cliffs ideal for hiking, climbing and horse riding. Visit for the eclipse in March and you’ll also have a chance to view the Northern Lights, as well as paying a visit to the famous bird cliffs of Vestmanna, home to around 300 different bird species including Puffins, Guillemots and Gannets. - Zoe Smith

Victoria at dusk

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Craft beer? Local wine? Cool restaurants? Long-known for its British heritage – from the manicured Butchart Gardens and to the ritual of afternoon tea – British Columbia’s capital city of Victoria has morphed into a promising destination for lovers of food and drink.  This compact seaside city has a growing craft beer scene; schedule your visit around Victoria Beer Week (March 7-15, 2015) for a wealth of sipping events. If wine is more your thing, plan a day of touring and tasting at the wineries surrounding the city. Foodies can graze through the treat-filled Victoria Public Market, then check out contemporary restaurants, from Ulla to Zambri’s, along with down-home favorites like the Jam Café or Pig BBQ. Victoria’s position at the southern tip of Vancouver Island makes it a great base for outdoor adventures, too. Rent a bike and cycle along the shore, head out on a whale-watching cruise, or take in the buskers on the city’s bustling Inner Harbour. And if you plan your day right, you’ll still have time to smell the roses at Butchart Gardens and relax over a cup of tea. - Carolyn Heller

Denver, Colorado

Marked by a UFO-like canopy, Denver’s historic Union Station officially reopened in July. The transit hub — designed to feel like “Denver’s living room” — features such restaurants as the Mercantile by celebrated local chef Alex Seidel as well as shops, a bike depot, bars that let patrons take drinks out into said “living room” and the railway-themed Crawford Hotel. Citywide, more than 90 new restaurants, breweries and distilleries opened in the second half of 2014 alone, including Leopold Bros new four-acre distillery modeled after a German brewhouse and Nickel, the newest dining concept to hit Hotel Teatro. If that’s not enough, downtown has a new bike path; an art hotel is in the works; the light rail tracks are inching closer to the airport; and, in case you were sleeping, Denver has become the epicenter of legal pot in America, giving new meaning to Denver’s moniker, the Mile High City. - Serena Renner

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Regarded as the gateway between East and West, Hong Kong is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. It offers local culture, world-class cuisine, and a variety of historical sites and natural landscapes worth exploring. Getting to Hong Kong will be even easier – and cheaper – from some destinations within Asia. Hong Kong’s low-cost carrier, HK Express, is slated to increase flights, including additional service on the newly launched Tokyo (Narita) – HKG route. Hong Kong’s culinary scene continues to be a trendsetter, with bars like Quinary earning a spot on Drinks International World’s 50 Best Bars, and the number of three Michelin-starred restaurants rising from four to five in 2014. This year, take in the views of Hong Kong from a new location. In December, Hong Kong welcomed the Hong Kong Observation Wheel. Located near the Star Ferry pier on Hong Kong Island, this Ferris wheel offers some pretty spectacular views on the 20-minute ride. If you’re a Disney fan, 2015 is the year to visit Hong Kong Disneyland – September 12th marks the park’s 10th anniversary. Hong Kong Disneyland is scheduled to debut a new Disney Princess attraction maze and/or meet-and-greet area in conjunction with the 10th anniversary celebration. - Erin DeSantiago

Kerala, India

Celebrated for its beautiful landscapes and year-round pleasant weather, heavenly Kerala is worlds apart from the hustle and intensity common to more heavily touristy parts of India. This southern state is characterized by lush expanses of jungle, gorgeous stretches of cliff-lined shores, and a large network of peaceful lagoons that connect many of Kerala’s most charming towns. It’s also India’s prime spot for traditional Ayurvedic massages and health treatments, and Kerala’s variety of activities—which range from backwater cruises to traditional Kathakali dance performances to elephant festivals—make it an ideal destination for travelers of all ages. It’s also an ideal spot for solo female travelers, and has the country’s highest female literacy rate. Best of all, India recently introduced tourist visas on arrival for citizens of over 40 countries, making it easier than ever to plan a visit. - Margot Bigg

Pullen Park, Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

CNN ranked Raleigh, North Carolina as the #3 fastest growing city in the country. With that expansion, the city’s craft beer and urban biking cultures have grown exponentially. As the undisputed home of bluegrass music, it’s now the ideal destination for a unique brewery, biking, and bluegrass combo tour. Raleigh’s growth has also spawned a thriving gourmet food scene. The city is now home to, not only Carolina’s best BBQ, but dozens of world-class eateries, including one of the country’s only true Laotian-owned restaurants. A number of unusual, family-friendly, food-related festivals – including the Krispy Kreme Challenge, Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo, and the bizarre BugFest – will return in 2015. It’s also among the few cities in America that offers free admission to all downtown museums. The best part is that it’s still well under the mainstream travel radar, meaning thinner tourist crowds and extremely affordable hotel and attraction prices. - Mike Richard

Dublin, Ireland

The Celtic Tiger—Ireland’s roaring economy that diminished to a meow in 2008—may long be over but the Irish capital seems to have done the best with what it has. And by that, we mean, they’re looking intrinsically inward. The Guinness is still flowing. The poets are still penning beauty on the page. And the Gaelic folk songs are still pouring out of pubs. But there’s a lot of freshness happening. The new Marker Hotel, for example, located in the up-and-coming Docklands neighborhood (also home to the Bord Gáis Energy Theater, designed by Daniel Libeskind), has brought some fresh elegance to the hotel scene. Chapter One, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the country, is still firing on all burners. But now the rest of the dining landscape has taken a decidedly Gaelic turn with restaurants doing their best to out-Irish each other. And that’s not a bad thing. Restaurants like M. Mulligan Grocer and the Hot Stove are churning out Emerald Isle-inspired fare with a twist: black pudding croquettes, toffee-glazed pork belly or Irish Sea salmon to go with your Guinness, anyone? - David Farley

Colorful gondolas in Venice

Venice, Italy

Italy’s famous canal city is also famous for its flooding. We’ve been told for decades that Venice is sinking, and that someday it will be entirely underwater, but a massive engineering project nearing completion may change that dire prediction. The MOSE Project began in 2003 with construction in the three inlets from the Adriatic Sea to the Venetian Lagoon, and is slated to be complete in 2016. The ingenious design is installed mostly on the sea floor, with huge panels that can be raised when the water level goes up, blocking the sea from flooding the lagoon. MOSE is an Italian acronym that is also intended to call to mind the story of Moses parting the Red Sea. There have been successful test runs of the MOSE panels, and – barring further delays – it should be up and running officially in 2016. A visit to Venice in 2015, then, is your last chance to see it under construction. The best place to see the construction is the Lido di Venezia, but in the future the design is such that you won’t see the panels the vast majority of the time. You may see the panel tops during winter flooding periods, but then – assuming everything is functioning as it should be – you can just give thanks that your feet are dry in Venice. - Jessica Spiegel

Lake Tahoe, California

Pop Quiz: what area is home to the largest concentration of ski resorts in North America? If you said Lake Tahoe, congratulations, smarty-pants. Tahoe has more chairlifts and combined miles of terrain parks than Colorado has in the entire state, but that’s just a fact–not bragging. As for the snow with which to enjoy this winter playground, El Nino will take care of that as he’s predicted to return this year, bringing plenty of rain, which translates to snow in the mountain regions. In addition to what skiers and riders are predicting to be a huge snow year, it’s also a year of updates and renovations at the resorts. Experience the new snowcat tours at Homewood Resort; explore the newly designated Pacific Crest Bowls at Alpine Meadows; take advantage of the first Google Glass app for skiers at Squaw Valley and celebrate Sugar Bowl’s 75th Anniversary while enjoying the $20 million in improvements at the resort. 2015 is the year to shred the pow in Lake Tahoe. - Katie Coakley

The metropolis of Osaka

Osaka, Japan

Japanese cuisine has finally been getting the attention it deserves. UNESCO has recently added Japanese cuisine to its cultural heritage list for things in the world that are precious enough they need protecting. And Michelin, that veritable, star-stamping restaurant guidebook, has bestowed enough stars on Japan to make it a culinary universe. In total, the country has 28 three-starred restaurants – that’s the most in the world (one more than France, in fact). And nowhere is Japanese cuisine more renowned than in the eating-focused city of Osaka. The recent Michelin guide granted the eastern Japanese metropolis a star to a whopping 76 restaurants – the most one-starred eateries in the guidebook. The city invented the type of restaurant called kappo – a diminutive spot with stools and a long counter bar with the chef cooking before everyone – which the culinary world has since adopted, from Atera in New York City to Water Library Thonglor in Bangkok. At Nakamura, one of those many one-starred restaurants, the kappo chef might serve up a seafood curry with saffron rice or shiso-leaf-wrapped grilled beef tongue. Or sit down at Kigawa, the seminal kappo spot, where many well-regarded chefs have trained. Here you might eat a delicately cooked piece of pork loin paired with oysters. Whatever it is, you’re eating a taste of Japan, one of the finest cuisines in the world. - David Farley

Vilnius, Lithuania

All set to join the Eurozone come January 1, 2015, Lithuania is the last of the Baltic siblings to do so, completing its journey from Soviet satellite to full member of the EU. Topping the 2015 lists of places to travel*, with a swathe of other awards (cleanest air, most cost-effective destination, in the top ten of ethical tourist destinations) and despite a reputation as the weekend ghetto for messy Euro-stag parties, its capital city of Vilnius is actually one of dazzling Baroque beauty, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and overflowing with stylish, cosmopolitan street life. Having shrugged off Communism, contemporary Vilnius curls around Europe’s biggest and most untouched medieval center. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town is crammed with a mélange of ornate Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance façades, pink fairytale churches and winding cobbled streets, all watched over from above by the Higher Castle. Combine all this history with compelling museums acknowledging Lithuania’s mournful past, an edgy nightlife thanks to its student population, and a high-end designer shopping district and you’ve got 2015’s perfect European weekend destination. - Sasha Heseltine

Natural swimming pool of Isalo National Park, Madagascar


Surfers have been heading to places like Hawaii and Australia for decades, lured by famously great waves (not to mention fabulous scenery). But serious surfers are always looking for the next big surf destinations – and, in 2015, one of those places is Madagascar. The island nation off the eastern coast of the African continent has a whopping 3,000 miles of coastline, and the beaches are well-known to visitors, but Madagascar was only added to the International Surfing Association’s membership in 2014. Surfing in Madagascar is featured in a new documentary about the sport, “Ghost Wave.” Local surfers say the waves are on par with Indonesia, and – perhaps most intriguingly – uncrowded. As you might expect for an emerging tourist destination, some of the best places to go surfing in Madagascar are a little tough to reach without a local guide. The good news is that the surfing is great year-round. - Jessica Spiegel


2015 is the year of luxury hotels for Dubai. Many prestigious brands are opening opulent properties in the area – including Versace and Paramount Studios. Hoteliers opening new luxury properties include Langham’s first resort in the Middle East and Starwood, slated to open a St. Regis, flagship W, and a new Westin complex next year. Marina 101, a residential and commercial building, will become the tallest hotel in the world and the second tallest building in Dubai, behind Burj Khalifa. The first 33 floors will be home to a 5-star Hard Rock Hotel while floors 34 to 100 will be residential and hotel apartments. The 101st floor will feature a club lounge, restaurant, and Hard Rock merchandise store.  Dubai’s airport continues to climb the ranks as one of the best airports in the world, especially for those with long layovers. New flights are being added regularly, and if you’re looking at a trip that includes a layover in Dubai, check out Emirates’ interesting stopover packages. Emirates is offering a special 48-hour stopover package that includes a complimentary visa, hotel, transfers, and more. - Erin DeSantiago

Historic buildings in the French Quarter in New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

2015 will mark the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating visit to the Gulf Coast. While the aftereffects can still be seen in many places, the city of New Orleans has risen from debris and continues to prove that good can come from destruction.  Over the past 10 years, New Orleans has experienced a boom in building, both repairing the areas that were flooded after the levees burst as well as new construction that illustrates New Orleans’s draw as a metropolitan destination with a rich history and an eye to the future. Filmmakers, writers, actors and musicians continue to flock to the Big Easy, adding to the already artsy vibe that emanates from the picturesque squares. Big name festivals like Jazz Fest and iconic favorites like Mardi Gras continue to draw the crowds, but New Orleans continues to grow and evolve. If you haven’t visited New Orleans post-Katrina, use 2015 to celebrate the soul of the city. - Katie Coakley


After the momentum of Visit Malaysia Year in 2014, the southeast Asian country has been building up to what is set to be an exciting year for visitors. This year’s MyFest will see Malaysia celebrate its diverse cultural and religious communities and traditions with various festivals taking place across the nation – and will be encouraging its visitors to join in. Many of Malaysia’s religious festivals center on some of the country’s top places of interest, making 2015 the ideal time to visit popular attractions such as the Batu Caves – the most popular Hindu shrine outside India and the focus of the Thaipusam festival at the start of February. The celebrations will continue throughout the year, with more than 200 cultural festivals plus performance art and music events taking place around the country. Of the many things that will entice visitors to Malaysia in 2015, the more practical benefit of it remaining a low-cost option will undoubtedly be one of them. With this on its side, plus the country’s year-long celebrations, festivals, and events, 2015 looks set to truly be the year to visit Malaysia. - Kirsty Stuart

Cabo Pulmo Bay, Baja California

Baja California, Mexico

After suffering through a tough year of natural disasters, Baja California, Mexico is definitely ready for and in need of tourism. With an emerging culinary and wine scene, and new resorts popping up all over the region, 2015 is the year to go before everyone discovers Baja’s charms.  The region suffered a lot of damage from Hurricane Odile in October, but resorts have reopened and the international airport is gearing up for increased flights in 2015, with carriers like Alaska, Delta, and Spirit adding new routes. Two brand new golf courses combined with a planned JW Marriott opening should keep Los Cabos busy in 2015.  In December, SeaPort Airlines started direct flights from San Diego International Airport to San Felipe, a small city on the northern Baja Peninsula. Flights are also available from Burbank Airport (via San Diego) to San Felipe as well. A massive landslide closed the Tijuana-Ensenada toll road in late 2013, a major artery for tourists visiting the region. Good news for travelers wanting to drive to Baja again – the road just reopened in mid-December. - Erin DeSantiago

Tromso, Norway

Norway’s majestic fjords, snowy peaks and fairytale castle famously inspired Disney’s megahit Frozen and with a new animation short, Frozen Fever, due next Spring and a Frozen musical hitting Broadway in the not-so-distant future, what better time to discover the real-life Arendelle? As the self-proclaimed ‘capital of the arctic’, Tromso makes a good place to start – a frozen wonderland with herds of free-roaming reindeer and one of the best places in the world to view the dazzling Northern Lights. Make the most of the snow with a husky sled or snowmobile excursion, take a magical reindeer sleigh ride to Lapland to visit the ancient Sami tribes or cruise around the glistening fjords, where you can spot orcas and humpback whales gliding through the icy waters. - Zoe Smith

Kayaking in Sitka Harbor, Alaska


Ever since 1875, when the first passenger pleasure cruise visited the Inside Passage, cruise ships have been the preferred means of travel around the mist-shrouded coastlines of Juneau. Recently, however, an increase in the number of Juneau-bound airlines has made the area more accessible, and after fishing the waters of Alaska’s capital or hiking its forested trails, independent travelers can use the ferries to travel on their own schedule. Strangely enough, RV rentals are increasing in popularity in these small island communities, since you can easily put an RV on the ferry and have budget accommodation at night. The growing ease of transport aside, Alaska remains one of our perennial favorites for its scenery, wildlife, and culture. When visiting Southeastern Alaska in summer, watch grizzly bears hunt for spawning salmon near Wrangell or Admiralty Island, and learn about totem poles and Tlingit culture in Ketchikan or Sitka. Just remember to pack a jacket when you visit—as the cool weather is a welcome escape from the sweltering summer heat. - Kyle Ellison

Lima, Peru

Tourists flock to Peru to walk the Incan trail – a journey that ends at the ancient ruins of Machu Pichu. Or they head to Cusco, an ambient town known for its potent elevation sickness. Both locations have filled a lot of bucket lists. But there’s another trail in Peru that is worth walking: the food trail. Peruvian cuisine has come a long way and some global food and restaurant observers think restaurants in Lima have hit a zenith with serving local but creatively executed fare. Chef Gaston Acurio, for example, is an international star, exporting his La Mar Ceviceria all over the planet; his flagship spot, Astrid Y Gaston, is renowned, serving up dishes like pan-seared scallops topped with agave and crispy garlic and sea urchin accompanied by algae from the Andes and hearts of palm from the Amazon. Likewise, La Central, where Virgilio Martinez pays culinary respect to the food of this country, has put a twist on Puruvian cuisine; the restaurant reached number 15 in San Pellegrino’s list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (Astrid Y Gaston, by the way, wasn’t far behind at 18). All this means that Peruvian cuisine is finally getting global recognition. And also that you get on a flight this year to Lima before every table in town is booked. - David Farley

Sunset on the Willamette River, Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

The Pacific Northwest is peaking in popularity. With nine new hotels as well as the Central Loop street car coming online in 2015, Portland will do doubt turn heads this year. The Central Loop will traverse the Tilikum Crossing, the city’s first bridge built since 1973. Constructed for modern Portland, only public transit, pedestrians and cyclists can cross the Crossing; the Bridge Pedal in September offers the first chance for bikes to test it out. In other cycling news, the first 30 miles of the Columbia River Gorge bike trail opens in 2015 with the remainder slated for 2016. Several Portland neighborhoods such as Northwest 23rd are witnessing a resurgence; a growing urban wine scene is rivaling that of beer and spirits; and new coffee tours are sharing Portland’s third-wave buzz with caffeine connoisseurs from around the world. - Serena Renner

Transylvania, Romania

Be sure to pack the garlic when heading for Transylvania; Romania’s wild frontier is tucked into the heart of the country touching the Carpathian Mountains. Bram Stoker’s 1897 vampire novel Dracula may be fiction but his writing was based on the superstitions of centuries in Transylvania thanks to the bloody exploits of 15th-century warlord Vlad the Impaler, who murdered 80,000 of his subjects on long spikes. The new movie Dracula Untold, released in 2014, goes part way to telling Vlad’s real backstory. These days, thanks to an influx of cash after Romania joined the European Union in 2014, Transylvania is capitalizing on Vlad’s reputation and the region’s tourist industry is burgeoning. Get there ahead of the crowds as vampire tourism is drawing in travelers to the little-known but gorgeous Baroque towns of Bra?ov, Sibiu and Sighi?oara. As well as offering sophisticated city life, mysterious castles – Vlad’s former home of Bran Castle is yours to buy for $47 million – Saxon villages, and spa resorts fed by thermal springs, Transylvania is a paradise for open-air lovers, with ski-ing in the Bucegi Mountains, cycling and hiking trails, climbing in Piatra Craiului National Park and potholing in the Bihor hills. - Sasha Heseltine

Spanish Square in Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

Travelers have long been drawn to Spain’s Seville. The southern city captivates with its tangle of tiny streets and alleys that are lined by buildings adorned with ornate rot-iron balconies. From old-fashioned bullfighting to soulful flamenco, Seville exudes zesty and traditional Spanish culture. But these days, it rises as a top destination to visit for a new reason: it is a set for the highly anticipated fifth season of Game of Thrones. Filming has already wrapped at Seville’s Alcázar, a Moorish palace and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once a royal residence, the Alcázar’s gardens, reflecting ponds, and tiled courtyards will serve as Game of Thrones’ Kingdom of Dorne. Filming not only takes place in the city of Seville but also in other locations within the Andalucia region, including the bullring in the village of Osuna. Indeed, whether you wish to discover a quintessential slice of Spain or to immerse yourself in the fictional world of Dorne, Seville is an especially intriguing place to set your sights on for 2015. - Erin Ridley

Atlanta, Georgia

Since hosting the Centennial Olympics in 1996, Atlanta has continued to grow as a world-class city and the hub of the contemporary South. While the arts and culture scene continues to thrive, there has been a need for outdoor recreation, social spaces and a cohesive community feel. Enter the Atlanta BeltLine, a multi-decade urban planning project that makes Atlanta a must-visit destination in 2015. Similar to the High Line in New York, but on a larger scale, the Atlanta BeltLine will ultimately create a network of parks, multi-use trails and transit that will connect 45 neighborhoods through a 22-mile trail around the city. Constructed along a historic railroad corridor, the completion of the Atlanta BeltLine is 25-year project with a target completion date of 2031. However, four trail segments are open and four new or renovated parks are now open for public enjoyment, making Atlanta one of our top picks for 2015. - Katie Coakley

Temples of Bagan, Burma, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

Whether you call it Burma or Myanmar, you’ve no doubt heard about the rush of intrepid travelers headed for the Southeast Asian nation in the last few years. Since the end of the country’s military dictatorship in 2011, tourist numbers have been increasing dramatically – but there are still far fewer tourists in Burma than in nearly any other part of Southeast Asia. If small crowds alone are not enough on their own to make you want to investigate the cost of airfare, then take a look at the spectacular landscape of the ancient city of Bagan. It’s the primary tourist destination in the country at the moment, with good reason – it dates from the 2nd century, and the Bagan Plains are dotted with so many temples and stupas it’s been compared to the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia. The visa process for Burma seems to change frequently, but so far it’s become easier with every change. The tourist industry in Bagan and elsewhere in the country is growing, too, so there are few excuses left to leave Burma off your list. - Jessica Spiegel

Downtown Los Angeles, California

Downtown Los Angeles once thrived with grand movie palaces and ornate Broadway theaters. Then, residents left for the suburbs and the area was left chipping and peeling for decades. But in the last few years, theaters have come back to life and Art Deco landmarks have been transformed into inviting eateries, bars and design shops. The ultra-hip Ace Hotel — opened in the former Texaco offices adjacent to the Spanish gothic United Artists Theater that Ace restored — and Scandinavia-transplant Acne Studios are two indicators of the neighborhood’s new cool. The revived Grand Central Market is another not-to-miss attraction, and the highly anticipated Broad Museum is set to finally share foot traffic with the curvaceous Walt Disney Concert Hall in late 2015. - Serena Renner

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam is Amsterdam’s cooler little sister, or perhaps the lovechild of Amsterdam and Berlin. After being flattened by bombs in WWII, the city reinvented itself. Where once the quintessential tall houses stood, surreal avant-garde architecture and modern art installations popped up. Walking around the city, your eyes are drawn by neon lights, pretty canals, striking statues, seas of bike bikes, quirky shop windows, cozy cafes, smoky bars and street art. There are more than 30 museums dotted around the city, many of which are situated in the museumpark. One of the most famous is the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, a contemporary art museum filled with masterpieces by Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Magritte, Mondrian and Dali. Over in Delfshaven, which managed to escape the bombs, you can visit old shipyards, warehouses and windmills, or simply relax at one of the many bars and cafes that lace the waterways and canals. On 29 July 2015 it will be exactly 125 years since Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) died. The Van Gogh Europe Foundation, a collaboration of around 30 organizations is seizing this opportunity to honor the Dutch artist under the theme ‘125 years of inspiration’. The full program hasn’t been released, but I should imagine something would be taking place in Rotterdam — even if it’s independent to the VGEF’s celebration. - Emma Knock

New Zealand

The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies continue to put New Zealand on our radar, and with the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, moviegoers will get another dose of New Zealand’s natural beauty. In addition to the drool-inducing scenery, however, a recent rise in Tolkien-themed tours means visitors can spend an entire vacation exploring Middle Earth. Enjoy a morning stroll through the Shire while exploring the set of Hobbiton, and journey to some of the removed hill stations that were the dramatic setting for fight scenes. Or, if sports are more of your passion than movies, New Zealand will be hosting the Cricket World Cup this upcoming February and March. Cricket fans from across the globe will descend on Christchurch and Auckland, with additional matches in Wellington and Napier, as well as Hamilton and Nelson. Add in the wine and adventure tourism, and New Zealand remains one of our favorite destinations into 2015. - Kyle Ellison

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada

Even the most seasoned Las Vegas found it hard to keep up with all the city’s changes in 2014. Several smaller, hip hotels joined the Strip scene alongside but drastically different from the established mega-resorts. Highlights include Delano, a gaming-free boutique hotel at Mandalay Bay; SLS Las Vegas, which opened in Sahara’s former footprint; and The Cromwell, the first standalone boutique property on the Strip. Celebrity chefs are still opening restaurants at a blistering pace, including many in these new properties. Downtown Las Vegas has gone through an incredible renaissance over the past couple years, and visitors can’t miss a stop at the Downtown Container Park, featuring local retail shops in repurposed shipping containers, and Fremont Street Experience, a classic favorite with a brand new zip line running the length of its spine. Open-air pedestrian spaces are increasing in popularity right now, and this past year The LINQ and the Monte Carlo promenade both opened with al fresco dining, free entertainment and retail stores that open to the sidewalk. Several new attractions have also opened in Las Vegas in recent months, including the VooDoo Zip Line, which is strung nearly 500 feet above the ground between the two towers of Rio and the High Roller, the world’s highest observation wheel. - JoAnna Haugen

Akureyri, Iceland

In recent years, Iceland has exploded in popularity. This tiny island of 300,000 people now receives nearly one million visitors each year, and most come between June and August, when the days stretch long past midnight. The streets of Reykjavik feel downright crowded and it can be hard to escape the lines of tourists and tour buses at every beautiful waterfall, glacier, and volcano. To see more of rugged, remote Iceland, head north to the second-largest city, Akureyri. Home to a university and situated against gorgeous backdrop of fjords, it makes a great base for exploring the wonders of the island’s northern side, including the small whaling town of Husavik, the thundering power of Dettifoss waterfall, the majesty of the Asbyrgi canyon, and the geological moonscape of Lake Myvatn (which offers a much less crowded version of the south’s Blue Lagoon). For Game of Thrones fans, there’s even more reason to go – nearby is where many of the scenes from the beloved show were shot. - Katie Hammel

Civil War cann

Show more