5 original destinations for 2015

It’s the time of year when we in the travel industry stare deep into our crystal balls, peer at the tea leaves and read the runes (and do a bit of considered research, naturally) to predict the delectable destinations that we think will hit the heights in 2015. These can be completely new places around the planet that have opened up thanks to new transport links, or old classics that have been dusted down and re-invented for a new generation. Whichever or wherever, they just need to be places that make you feel ‘this is why I travel’. Here are my five favourites for 2015.

Japan

Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics and the government hopes to boost Japan’s visitor numbers to 20 million to tie in nice and numerically with the Games. Olympics or otherwise, this is quite simply one of the great destinations on the planet and we urge you not to go in 2020 – go now! For an extraordinary cocktail of new and old, rural and urban, relaxed and frenetic, the main island of Honshu combination of Tokyo, Kyoto (the ancient capital) and the beautiful landscapes of Hakone (home of Mount Fuji) is perfect ‘beginner’s Japan’.

Mount Fuji, Japan

But there’s more; so, so much more. The word count won’t allow me to do justice to the food, but suffice to say you may never eat better. The bullet train network means you can explore from the tip of Hokkaido island – home of ski resorts, excellent trekking routes and Sapporo beer – to the volcanoes and onsen hot springs of Kyushu island, hundreds of the miles to the south west. Wherever you end up, you must stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn complete with tatame walls, futon beds and 10-course gourmet kaiseki dinners, for the authentic Japanese hospitality experience.

Nicaragua

Costa Rica’s northerly neighbour Nicaragua might not get the plaudits, but we suspect it’s set for big things. Central America brings a lot to the party, and with the (admittedly big) exception of Mayan ruins, Nicaragua has got the lot, from volcanoes, lakes and beaches to extraordinary wildlife, beautiful colonial cities and surfing.

Makul, Nicaragua

Best of all, Nicaragua is the largest of the Central American countries but with far from the largest visitor numbers so you can often find special spots with no-one around. The highlights? Vast Lake Nicaragua with its hundreds of volcanic islands and the colonial gems of Granada and Leon, two of the oldest European cities in the Americas. The place to stay is the seriously luxurious Mukul, on the Pacific Coast, arguably the finest beach retreat in Central America.

Madagascar

Kooky doesn’t come close. Madagascar is out there on its own as a truly, well, out there destination. Why? Well, for starters 80% of the species on the island – both flora and fauna – are endemic. That includes loveable lemurs of various shapes and sizes and six of the eight species of that iconic African tree, the baobab. The so-called ‘upside-down tree’ is extraordinary, but nothing compared to the tsingy landscapes synonymous with Madagascar. These bizarre regions of serrated micro-mountain ranges appear in various places throughout the country in either a vivid termite-mound red or slate grey and can sometimes be viewed from above on rope bridges.

Lemurs, Madagascar

So far so original, but the icing on the cake – the country’s coastline – is more conventional tourist territory and dotted with impossibly beautiful islands and beaches to compare with the very finest in the world. A stay at Anjajavy or Tsaranbanjina (another big plus – the brilliant names!) would be worth the trip alone, but in combo with the other quirks, Madagascar is a winner for 2015.

Romania

It’s only a matter of time before Romania starts beeping loudly on the travel radar. What’s so surprising is that it’s taken so long to happen. Prince Charles may not be the first person you’d imagine to have spotted a trend, but he’s had a place in Transylvania for a few years now, and we can see the appeal. This is a time warp of a place, where horse and cart is the preferred mode of transport for many; with bears, wolves and lynx roaming among the woods, meadows and peaks of the Carpathian Mountains. Transylvania is also home to some of the finest fortified medieval villages anywhere in Europe, where several communities – Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons and Romany gypsies – lived cheek by jowl for centuries, casting nervous glances over their shoulders for marauding hordes from the east.

Street in Romania

Away from the Transylvanian heartland, the Danube Delta – where the mighty river eventually empties into the Black Sea – is an extraordinary waterworld where millions of migratory birds congregate. It’s like being in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, but on the edge of Europe. Another truly special destination in a truly fascinating country.

Antarctica

It’s a century since the heroics of Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton, with their eventual arrival at the South Pole, but one hundred years on the pole still exercises a magnetic attraction for many. While Antarctic cruises to the continent’s coastline have been a staple for adventurous (and well off) types for a while, we’re excited about a range of new ways to explore the South Pole itself. The new generation of Antarctic trips involve flights into the heart of the vast land mass, avoiding the need for a (potentially rough) sea crossing from Latin America.

Penguins in Antarctica

From there it’s possible for time-poor bucket listers to take another flight direct to the South Pole, or for the more adventurous to cross-country ski – like the original explorers – the last 60 miles from the 89th degree of latitude. It doesn’t get much more rewarding, and will provide dinner party chat for months to come.

Tom Barber is Co-Founder of Original Travel.

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Comments (5)

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  1. I really like the idea of exploring places that are a bit undicovered and not on everyone’s bucket list – they are often cheaper but have just as much to offer as the better known places

  2. noel says:

    I love your 2015 predictions since I’ve only been to Japan and have the rest on my bucket list for a long time. Maybe 2015 will be the ticket to tick off a few more of these – too bad they are all on opposite ends of the world.

  3. Anna Parker says:

    I love that Prince Charles is leading the charge on Romania! He’s a savvy chap! I have Japan on my bucket list, in the spring to see the blossom. So much more than a city break, much like what Singapore can offer

  4. These all sound fabulous places to visit, all appealing for different reasons. I couldn’t pick a favourite but describing a place as kooky immediately grabs my attention so maybe Madagascar would be the place to start.

  5. Ursula Lake says:

    Definite food for thought, I had seven different places listed on my guide for 2015 but the ones here sound great too! So many interesting places to visit.

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