Travel's Best for 2015
Photo By: Walter Bibikow
Photo By: The Washington Post
Photo By: Image Source
Photo By: Karl Lehmann
Photo By: Matthew Micah Wright
Photo By: Anne Marie Fox
Photo By: Franz Marc Frei
Photo By: Antonio Pistillo
Best Country to Keep Watch On: Cuba
Airlines, hotel chains, cruise companies and US travelers alike are all hopeful for an official removal of the travel ban on Cuba after President Obama’s announcement of plans to re-establish diplomatic ties with the Caribbean country. With the possibility of this once-difficult-to-visit destination’s rigid travel restrictions easing up, our dreams of mojito-fueled nights of salsa dancing in colorful, classic-car-lined streets will be that much easier to attain.
Best Meal-to-Go: Beefsteak
Move over, bacon: Veggies are getting the celeb-chef treatment this year. Chef José Andrés is taking on the trend of fast-casual restaurants and opening a vegetable-focused chain in early 2015. It’s called Beefsteak (named after a type of tomato, for those who don’t know) and will serve up healthy food, fast. While steering away from calling it a vegetarian restaurant, Andrés wants merely to make meat the side dish for once and celebrate the unsung power of vegetables while bringing wholesome food to the masses.
Best Under-the-Radar Destination: Guatemala
While other Latin America countries have been more on the radar for travelers — especially Mexico and Costa Rica — Guatemala hasn’t received the tourism spotlight it deserves. With 33 volcanoes, a World Heritage Site in the city of Antigua, Mayan ruins, and the mystical volcano-ringed Lake Atitlán, Guatemala is brimming with intriguing history, colonial grandeur and outdoor adventures that will keep every type of traveler intrigued. Take in the breath-taking beauty of Guatemala at Casa Palopo, a boutique hotel with panoramic views of Lake Atitlán and 3 majestic volcanoes across the shore.
Best Reason to Take a Cruise: Total Solar Eclipse
Think all cruises are the same? How about a cruise to see a rare eclipse? A total solar eclipse on March 20, 2015, will be visible from the remote Faroe Islands, between Norway and Iceland. Several companies are offering cruises to witness this rare event, which will not happen again until 2026 and, if you’re lucky, could include another awe-inspiring show from Mother Nature — the northern lights. With pricey tickets selling out for a phenomenon that lasts no more than 2 minutes, 47 seconds, we imagine there will be many prayers made for a clear day.
Best Extreme Sport: Volcano Boarding
With new luxury eco-resorts cropping up, Nicaragua seems to be on every travel list for 2015. There’s 1 extreme sport in particular here that’s catching our attention: volcano boarding. Racing down an active volcano at speeds of up to 30 mph on a wooden sled — sounds like a life highlight, right? That is, if you don’t fall. Adventure junkies should proceed with caution and wear protective gear, because you don’t want to get cut by volcanic ash on a tumble.
Best Outdoor Adventure: Hike the Pacific Crest Trail
Hollywood isn’t the only one trying to re-create Cheryl Strayed’s Wild journey; throngs of fans inspired by the best-selling author’s 1,100-mile solo trek are hitting the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the country’s longest and wildest thru-hikes, in record numbers. With the film adaption of <i>Wild</i>, we expect 2015 to usher in even more rookie hikers on the PCT. Embracing the growing interest, the Pacific Crest Trail is sharing fans’ stories and even Strayed’s exact route, so you can follow in the author’s footsteps. We suggest wearing better-fitting boots, though.
Best Reimagined Destination: Haiti
A Caribbean island nation with a vibrant Creole culture and stunning beaches, Haiti was a hot travel destination back in the 1970s, when the Clintons even honeymooned there. Now, 5 years after the devastating earthquake that shook the country, curious travelers and sustainable travel companies are trying to put this often-overlooked and feared destination back on the tourism map. Using local suppliers in an effort to keep money in the country, G Adventures is one of the pioneering companies that firmly believes tourism can be a force for good in Haiti — and it’s launching 5 Haiti trips in 2015 to prove it.
Best US Comeback City: New Orleans
Marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2015, New Orleans is celebrating its resiliant nature and welcoming travelers more than ever as it looks forward to its tricentennial in 2018. So if you haven’t been to Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest or eaten your way through the city, overindulging in beignets and shrimp po’boys, don’t go another year without visiting America’s comeback city.
Best Travel Gadget: Apple Watch
With the highly anticipated Apple Watch going on sale in 2015, the travel world is gearing up to support wearable technology. A watch that doubles as a smartphone is the latest advance that will make it easier to plan and manage travel. Hotels, airlines and travel companies are now offering smartwatch apps that let you check in, book flights and download boarding passes … all from your wristwatch. With a hands-free device, it’s that much easier to score fleeting travel deals on the go, too.
Best Travel App/Website: EatWith.com
With the rising success of peer-to-peer websites such as Airbnb, start-ups are popping up using similar concepts but connecting travelers to foodies around the world. One of our favorites, EatWith.com, connects hosts who love to cook with travelers who want a taste of local cuisine. From a 9-course meal on a family farm in Florence, Italy, to sampling typical Peruvian dishes in the Andes Mountains, what could be a better way to experience a destination than to connect with locals over a homemade meal?
Best Destination Wedding Spot: Florence, Italy
With some of the world’s biggest celebrities — including most eligible bachelor George Clooney and internet-breaking Kim Kardashian — tying the knot in Italy in 2014, brides-to-be are imagining their own Italian fairy-tale weddings. Feel like a superstar yourself by saying your “I do’s” at the luxury hotel Il Salviatino, an exquisitely restored, 15th-century villa perched on the hillside of Fiesole with sweeping views of Florence and the rolling Tuscan countryside. Even if your groom isn’t George Clooney, you couldn’t have dreamed of a more romantic wedding destination.