Top 10 Must-See International Travel Destinations for 2015
We want to help you plan your 2015 vacation, so we scoured the globe to come up with this list of the 10 best vacation spots in the world for 2015.
10. Paris, France
Paris boasts an embarrassment of ooh-la-la-worthy attractions, from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre. But it’s the city’s meandering, impossibly charming, and highly walkable neighborhoods that make it feel truly magical. Spend some time at a sidewalk cafe in St.-Germain-des-Prés, shop the Left Bank bouquinistes, and take an evening stroll beneath lamplight in the 7th Arrondissement, and it’s easy to see why millions of visitors leave the city saying Paris, je t’aime.
9. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic isn’t exactly undiscovered, but that’s no reason you shouldn’t make it your next Caribbean vacation. With miles of gorgeous beaches, scores of all-inclusive resorts, and a string of sleepy fishing villages, the DR has relaxation down to a science. Vibrant cities such as Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata offer shopping and entertainment, plus plenty of spots to sample regional cuisine. Serious hikers will want to make the trek up Pico Duarte, the highest point in the Caribbean at roughly 10,000 feet.
Madrid’s funky younger sister features a sparkling coastline and loads of eclectic, surrealist architecture by hometown hero Antoni Gaudí. Admire the dripping Gothic spires of the still-unfinished La Sagrada Familia cathedral and stroll through the technicolor mosaic-tiled Parc Güell to see Gaudí’s work up close. For some of Europe’s best people-watching, grab a lounge chair on Nova Icaria beach or hit the pedestrian-only thoroughfare known as La Rambla.
7. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is Latin America’s top destination for adventure. Though the country’s beaches are sublime, its heartbeat is the rainforest, where you can zipline beneath jungle canopy, cross suspended bridges high above the forest floor in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and hike in the lush countryside surrounding the Arenal Volcano. The rainforest is also home to a diverse blend of wildlife including anteaters, red-eyed tree frogs, scarlet macaws, and white-faced monkeys. Stay in a sleepy surfing village along the coast or in a treehouse tucked away in the jungle.
Once you get past the 17-hour flight from the West Coast, Thailand rewards visitors with gorgeous beaches, historic cities, and extremely affordable accommodations. Bangkok is worth at least a day so that you can see the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and the Chatuchak Flower Market, among other dazzling sights. Further afield, Ko Phi Phi and Koh Samui are known for their exquisite beaches—though you’ll have to share the sand with tons of tourists. For secluded beaches and a taste of Thai paradise, trek to an island like Ko Chang or Ko Adang.
5. New Zealand
The key to New Zealand’s allure for travelers is the diversity of its terrain—where else can you see glaciers, volcanoes, snow-capped mountains, hot springs, and fjords in one weekend? Whether cavorting in the hot springs of the North Island or cruising past towering waterfalls in Milford Sound on the South Island, you’ll find that New Zealand is one of the world’s great natural playgrounds. A more cosmopolitan side is on display in the cities of Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
4. Machu Picchu, Peru
For about 500 years, Machu Picchu remained largely untouched, until an American historian stumbled upon the ruins in 1911. Today, the 15th-century Inca settlement—nestled on a mountain ridge high in the Andes—is an international tourist attraction. Archaeologists who’ve studied the ruins believe the sprawling city is divided into three sections: agricultural, urban, and religious. At the heart of the mysterious settlement sits the Sacred Plaza, a testament to the fine craftsmanship of the Incas with its precisely cut stones that have weathered the centuries.
While traveling through Vietnam, spend at least a day or two in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). The country’s two major metropolises bookend the narrow country to the north and south. Both cities offer unbeatable street food, vibrant outdoor markets, and ancient temples. Pop into the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater in Ho Chi Minh City to catch the famous water puppet show set to live music. For a break from the hustle and bustle, head to the postcard-worthy coastal villages peppered along the South China Sea, including Nha Trang and Da Nang. Still need a reason to visit? The exchange rate is very favorable for American travelers right now.
An often overlooked tropical destination, Belize shares real estate on the Yucatan peninsula with Mexico. But the country is much less developed than its neighbor to the north, meaning visitors can expect to find unspoiled rainforests, pristine beaches, and plenty of wildlife. It’s home to some of the best dive sites in the world, including the Great Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole that’s more than 400 feet deep. You can stay on the mainland or one of the dozens of picturesque islands scattered off the coast.
For the sake of crossing items off your bucket list alone, Iceland is one of the best vacation spots in the world. On this tiny island afloat in the North Atlantic, you can hoof it across the Falljökull glacier, tilt your head to the sky and marvel at the ethereal glow of the Northern Lights, and revel in nearly 24 hours of daylight in the summertime. Leave time to swing by the Blue Lagoon for a hot soak in milky, mineral-rich waters.
Want to travel without a passport this year?
Jorie would love to bend your ear about historic cities, national parks, and wildlife encounters. She's determined to visit Louisiana soon—her 50th state.