23 places you should visit in 2015

Mount fujiShutterstock/Luciano MortulaJapan is a bargain destination this year.

Even though it’s halfway through 2015, there is plenty of time left to book an amazing trip this year.

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 this year.

Japan will continue to be a bargain destination for travellers.

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 travellers looking for a deal. More than 16 million visitors travelled to Japan last year
, with more expected this year. Most tourists are heading to Tokyo, which is also busy preparing for the 2020 summer Olympics, but there are plenty of incredible attractions all over the country.

Lima, Peru, will maintain its status as the foodie capital of South America.

A dish from Central restaurant in Lima.

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. (The restaurant also ranked at No. 4 on the venerable list of the World's Best Restaurants.) 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 continue to flock to Norway to seek out Elsa and Anna's fictional Arendelle.

The Lofoten Islands, Norway.

'Frozen' became the highest-grossing animated film of all time, and with its increased merchandising and announcement 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 is becoming the new tourism hotspot in the Middle East.

A mosque in Isfahan, Iran.

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 continue to be popular in Europe and elsewhere.

A river cruise on the Danube.

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.

Palawan in the Philippines will be the top island destination in the world.

Palawan, Philippines.

Widely regarded for its beauty, Palawan was named the best island in the world by Conde Nast Traveller last 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 snorkelling, diving, and swimming. With more direct flights to
Europe, America, and Australia planned on Philippine Airlines, Palawan is sure to see more international visitors.

Denver, Colorado, is at the forefront of weed tourism.

Denver, Colorado.

Since Colorado legalised marijuana use and began allowing the sale of recreational marijuana to anyone age 21 and over earlier this year, Denver has become a tourist destination for people who enjoy the drug. These 'weed tourists' come to frequent medicinal and recreational marijuana shops, much like oenophiles travel around the world to go wine tasting.

Some tour companies, like My 420 Tours, cater to this crowd. And several pot-friendly hotels have opened recently, including the Nativ Hotel, the city's first luxury pot hotel.

While there, tourists can also check out cultural institutions like the Denver Art Museum and Denver Performing Arts Center. There are also several local craft breweries.

Florence, Italy, will continue to be one of the world's best cities for travellers.

The Duomo, Florence.

Florence is a perennial favourite, but 2015 is sure to bring even more visitors to the Italian city, since it was recently named the world's best city for travellers by Conde Nast Traveller.

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 recently launched nonstop flights to the island from New York twice a week, and Air Canada recently announced direct flights from both Toronto and Montreal to Curacao. To accommodate these new visitors, new hotels are being built, like a Courtyard by Marriott, while others are expanding and undergoing renovations.

The Basque Country in Spain and France will be discovered by more international tourists.

The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain.

A region straddling northern Spain and France, the Basque Country has its own language, cuisine, and culture. The region hasn't registered on the mainstream tourist radar for years, but all of a sudden it seems like people are talking about it.

It's a rich region that's home to exciting museums, bustling cities, gorgeous beaches, and wine country. Bilbao is famous for its Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum, San Sebastian is known for its sprawling beaches, and Pamplona is known for its annual fiesta of San Fermin, also called the Running of the Bulls. But there are also lesser-known cities that are almost untouched by tourism, like Vitoria and Bayonne.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will gear up to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue.

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.

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland.

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, finishes airing.
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.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will attract hipsters and millennials.

Lawrenceville in Pittsburgh.

For years, Pittsburgh was thought of as a working-class, Rust Belt town, but that image is now actually working to its advantage as the city undergoes a hipster transformation. The city has a huge and growing youth population, which in turn seems to be driving a growth in tourism.

The neighbourhood of Lawrenceville is the city's hipster center, with cool shops, restaurants, bars, and breweries, like the Roundabout Brewery, the Industry Public House, and Espresso a Mano.

Ljubljana, Slovenia, will be the next hotspot in Europe.

Ljubljana is one of Europe's cheapest capitals.

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.

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