The joy of visiting new destinations and the excitement that travel brings makes sure that people keep searching for seductive and alluring destinations year after year. Some are made immortal by their rich history or incredible nature, but others managed to leap out of oblivion and catch the public eye. 2015 was one such year.
Many destinations opened their borders to tourists for the first time in decades and this gave the world new places to see and explore. Our review of the year 2015 features the right mix of the traditional and the modern, places that have always existed in bucket lists and places that are learning to take their first steps in the world of travel.
Porto, Portugal (above image)
Lisbon attracts a lion’s share of the travelers visiting Portugal, but Porto has begun coming out as a major European travel destination as well. Located on the banks of the sleepy Douro, Porto’s UNESCO-listed historic center is its main charm. Home to countless medieval era churches, ancient squares, architectural beauties, historical buildings and tumbling alleys, every corner in this area has its own story to tell, countless folklores to narrate and beautiful experiences to present. As the birthplace of the famous port wine, Porto is a must-see for wine lovers as well. 2015 also saw travelers become more aware of Porto’s cultural awakening in the form of the World of Discoveries Museum, restaurants, boutiques and galleries.
Maramures is always alive with traditions that have been long forgotten in the rest of Europe. The use of modern-day machines is restricted to a bare minimum and the locals really believe in doing everything by hand. Located at a distance of 300 miles from Bucharest, this special piece of paradise doesn’t feel so unique just because of the absence of machines. It feels so unique because of its natural beauty, lazy rivers, haystack-filled fields, beautiful bike trails and UNESCO churches dating back to the 17th century. Maramures is a place that believes in the use of wood. From gates and motifs to farm tools and houses, just about everything here is made using wood. The best time to visit Maramures is in the months of May and June, when the place is full of wildflowers or in the month of September thanks to the presence of festivals such as the Chestnut Festival and the Onion Festival.
Did you know that the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul alone manages to attract as many as 91,250,000 visitors each year?!? That alone means that this unique city, straddled between Asia and Europe, is always full of tourists. And we’re not even considering other city jewels such as the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Sultan Ahmed Mosque! You cannot explore a single neighborhood in this iconic city without coming across a hotel preparing its entrance to welcome visitors nor can you miss out on that glitzy in Zorlu Centre, home to office space, a performing arts center and a shopping mall. Istanbul takes in the best of both continents and presents a unique culture that manages to keep up with the times without losing sight of its ancient roots.
Old Havana, Cuba
With President Obama recently announcing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the country has suddenly been cast into the spotlight as people try and grasp its unspoiled beauty and old-world charms before it is too late. Old Havana has emerged as a thriving cultural hub and stylish B&Bs such as Casa Alta are ensuring that travelers have just about everything they need for a fun-filled adventure.
New York, USA
New York never seems to go out of style. No matter how many times you visit this amazing place, you always come across something new to see and do. Change is always afoot in Big Apple. New stores are launched by the day and countless events keep locals and tourists busy. And if you’re visiting the city for the first time, you simply cannot miss out on its iconic charms such as the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Museum of Modern Art and the Grand Central Terminal.
Muscat, the capital of Oman, may be located very close to Dubai and its glitzy charms, but it feels like a trip through time and space. A far cry from those flashy malls and hotels, Muscat represents every image that comes to mind when you read The Arabian Nights. There are hardly any high-rises in the city and nothing disturbs your views of white-washed villas, beautiful palaces, ancient forts and gold-domed mosques. Better yet, Oman is also blessed with outstanding natural beauty, including one of the most mesmerizing coastlines in the world.
Although places like Paris take away all the glory, Corsica has managed to see a steady increase in its number of visitors thanks to its vibrant scenes, rich history, a dramatic coastline and a largely untouched interior. Corsica has been a part of France ever since the year 1768, but it still manages to retain its Italian flavor, thereby giving birth to an entirely unique culture. A trip to the historic La Maison Bonaparte is a must, but if you’re really looking to see all that Corsica stands for, you need to make a trip to its interior regions. Olive groves and sleepy villages dot the isolated valleys and hiking trails lace huge forests of pine and oak. The ideal time to visit the city is between the months of September and October, when activities such as horseback riding, biking and hiking are at their beautiful best.
Malaga’s credentials as a serious travel destination get a much-needed boost thanks to the development of the Pompidou Center, the first outpost outside of the City of Light. Malaga has always been considered as the ideal place for a cultural break and this reputation also gets a boost with the introduction of The Cube, a magnificent glass building housing a magnificent permanent modern art collection. The Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology is another attraction that is new to the city. And it isn’t just about culture. Malaga also has exciting adventures in store for foodies, beach bums and shopaholics.
What was once a remote town in Switzerland has now transformed into a world-class travel destination that attracts more than 1 million visitors each year. Zermatt presents a car-free wonderland where sunbaked shoppers search for unique souvenirs and luxe brands and nature loving tourists search for the perfect camera angle to capture those fascinating wonders. Zermatt’s main attraction, the Matterhorn, isn’t the highest peak in the Swiss Alps, but it boasts of a beautiful triangular shape, which makes it one of the most photographed attractions on the planet. The Kirchstrasse Bridge is an ideal location to see sunrise views of the mountain.
Andaman Islands, India
The Andaman Islands are a cheaper but equally alluring alternative to Maldives. This archipelago of islands belongs to India and it presents a perfect paradise of clear blue sea and glittery golden sands. What makes a trip to the Andaman so special is that the islands are literally unspoiled by civilization and have been allowed to run wild for years. The best thing to do here is to lose yourself, spend time on the beach and play with coconut shells. If you’re searching for a new beachy adventure that also takes you back in time and are trying to enjoy bragging rights of visiting the destination before everyone else around you, the Andaman is where you need to be!
The growth of travel means that the world continues to become a smaller place with every passing year. Old destinations give way to new ones and traditional favorites continue to attract visitors from all over the world. Whether it’s the fashionable glamour of NYC, grand attractions of Istanbul or the newly opened borders of Cuba, each destination in this list, which were the hottest travel destinations in 2015, promises an adventure of a lifetime, despite the fact that we’re now in 2016! 😉