Best holiday destinations for 2015

Well done, you've made it all the way through January and survived the post-Christmas drizzle. Now, with half-term looming and most of the year yawning ahead of you, plan your 2015 holidays with our pick of this year's hottest destinations

 Herbie's Cuban cousin does his Prince Charles impression | Image: James Draven

Cuba

In light of the ongoing talks between the USA and Cuba, tour operators are seeing an increase of interest in holidays to Cuba, with Responsible Travel announcing that enquiries have doubled, making it their most popular destination of this year so far.

As much famous for the chipped charm of its crumbling fascades and rambling streets plied by hordes of meticulously maintained 1950s American automobiles as it is for its history, culture and beautiful beaches, there’s a real sense that tourists are keen to see the country before it changes forever and freer trade relations with the US allows more international influences onto the island.

The dramatic increase comes as the relationship between the USA and Cuba is reported to be becoming friendlier, with Barack Obama calling on the US Congress to end the 50 year trade embargo to Cuba, and the highest-level of talks in over a decade concluding between the two nations.

For more information, visit: www.responsibletravel.com

 

Haiti

It’s been five years since a mammoth 7.0-magnitude earthquake decimated Haiti, and left the Caribbean creole country in chaos, keeping most international travellers away ever since.

Port-au-Prince has since risen from the rubble though, and new developments such as the Marriott Haiti Port-au-Prince, opening in March 2015, will be the country’s first 4-star, internationally branded hotel, promising stunning mountain views, superfast Wi-Fi and upscale amenities in all of its 175 guest rooms.

Adventure and sustainable travel tour operator, G Adventures, are also launching five tours starting in February 2015, and highlights include visiting Cap-Haïtien and its famous Citadelle Laferrière, a UNESCO-designated mountaintop fortress; learning all about rum at a local distillery; meeting a voodoo priest and shopping for voodoo artefacts at the Iron Market; cliff-diving and swimming in the turquoise Bassin-Bleu pools and discovering the massive caverns and underground landscapes at the Marie-Jeanne cave.

For more tour information, visit: www.gadventures.co.uk

 

Two of Kelimutu's three-coloured lakes, being uncooperatively one-coloured | Image: James Draven

Flores

Let’s be honest: Indonesia’s Bali is overrun and Lombok overrated, and both have been blighted by ugly tourist development, ever-more gaudy in the former and dilapidated in the latter.

The island of Flores isn’t on most travellers’ radars, despite being the gateway to Komodo National Park, home of the eponymous dragons: the world’s largest living lizards that grow up to 10ft long.

These aren’t the island’s only draw though: snorkelling or diving with majestic manta rays, beachside spa treatments and Kelimutu volcano, with its cluster of three colour-changing crater lakes are worth the trip alone, even if it weren’t for the area’s famous megafauna.

Labuan Bajo Airport has recently had its runway extended to accommodate airliners and a brand new terminal constructed, which – at the time of writing – is operational but as yet unfinished. This, along with improving transport infrastructure, should see Flores become Indonesia’s next en vogue destination.

For more information, visit: www.florestourism.com

 

Nicaragua

In spite of its colonial charm, sulphurous mysticism, beaches, volcanoes, rainforests and reefs, Nicaragua had failed to shake off the war-ravaged reputation of long-past conflicts until recently.

Lured by low prices and the range of new accommodation – from 2013's Mukul Resort appearing as the country’s first five-star hotel, to a host of new boutique boltholes set to open in 2015 – eco-tourists are starting eschew firm favourite Costa Rica for the country’s northern neighbour.

For more information, visit: www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk

 

"It's like talking to a brick wall," protested Marie's husband | Image: James Draven

Perth & Fremantle

Australia’s most remote city – and one of the world’s most isolated – is much less visited than its east-coast rivals. Rarely making it onto even backpacker itineraries, Perth – and annexed port city, Fremantle – have something of a reputation as expensive cities, owing to their status as gold mining hubs, with fly-in-fly-out monied miners pushing up the cost of the cities' packed-to-the-rafters accommodation.

However, in 2015, new affordable accommodation, such as Fremantle Prison YHA, opening in April, which features jail cells converted into bedrooms; and an Ibis Styles, opening in July, will make budget travel possible, and a glut of new luxury developments will drive top-end prices down too.

Conversely for a city where the streets are paved with gold, Perth's local CAT buses, the four routes of which run like veins throughout the city's Free Transit Zone, cost nothing. That’s right, travelling around Perth is free, so you can eschew taxis and tours and see the city’s sights incognito, and blend in with the locals.

Add this to the fact that there are new, trendy cafes, bars, and dining options springing up all the time, the local council is supporting the burgeoning arts scene, and nearly $1 billion of private and public investment will see additional commercial, retail and public spaces established and restored throughout Fremantle, and 2015 is looking like a great time to visit.

For more information on, visit: www.experienceperth.com

Return Economy flights with Qantas from Heathrow to Perth start at £633. Visit: www.qantas.com.au

 

New Zealand

It feels like New Zealand has been basking in the warmth of Mount Doom’s all-consuming fires for decades now, with Peter Jackson’s fantastic Lord of the Rings trilogy showcasing the country’s incredible landscapes in the noughties, and his cynical, money-grabbing Hobbit series maintaining the spotlight on the country today.

New Zealand has always been a stunning destination, but its current tourism boom owes a lot to the works of JRR Tolkien, and this year is set to be no different.

2015 marks the 60th Anniversary of the completion of Lord of the Rings series of books, with The Return of the King hitting shelves on 20 October 1955, giving fantasy nerds another excuse to follow in the footsteps of Frodo’s fellowship. Not that we'd need an excuse to visit such an awesome location.

For more information, visit: www.newzealand.com

 

Barry would go to any lengths to get a seat on the train | Image: James Draven

Japan

Asia receives more than its fair share of British visitors each year, but Japan, with its reputation of being super expensive, has never been highest on UK holidaymakers’ hotlist.

It’s something of a myth that cities like Tokyo are phenomenally pricey, with prices comparable to London’s and deals on food, drink and accommodation to be found throughout the city, but with a 30% decrease of the value of the Yen against the Pound, 2015 surely has to be the best time in years to visit.

For foodies, February is the perfect time to try out the culture and food of Kyoto City thanks to the Kyoto Restaurant Winter Special promotion running throughout the month.

The annual event offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy five-star Japanese food at affordable prices with 151 restaurants across Kyoto offering special menus. The event aims to give visitors a culturally enriching gastronomic experience as they taste various types of Japanese food, from tofu to kaiseki, and from sushi to tempura. Visitors should look for the fixed price “Winter Special Menu” at participating restaurants.

For more information on, visit: www.kyoto.travel

 

Oman

If the name, Oman, conjures up images of endless parched deserts, perhaps dotted with faceless shopping malls full of zombie-esque shoppers, then think again.

Oman crams huge biodiversity within its diminutive borders and is a dream destination for outdoor adventurers, offering lush, greenery in its tropical south, alpine adventures and coastal dolphin-watching opportunities right on the capital’s doorstep, enough caves and canyons to satisfy even the most potty potholers, and – yes – sand dunes to belligerently bash in your 4x4.

For more information on, visit: www.omantourism.gov.om

 

Singapore

Celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year, Singapore gained independence in 1965, and is marking its 50th birthday with a year crammed full of events and festivities, making it a top destination for 2015.

For those who think the island city-state is little more than a huge shopping mall, devoid of any personality, take a look at our guide to the silly side of Singapore.

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