Frommer's' Best Places to Go in 2015

Vacationers hang out on a pier in Belize John Rawlinson/Flickr
When Frommer's editors set about coming up with our annual list of the world's top destinations, we didn't take the task lightly. Travel is all about adventure and discovery, and the world is brimming with worthy contenders. Our staff are invested, so meetings were passionate. Ultimately, after much lobbying, discussion, and deliberation, we had to draw the line at 15 destinations.  
 
With great reluctance on our part, as that number left plenty of esteemed honorable mentions off our final list. We love Arles, France, hometown of artist Vincent Van Gogh, which will mark the 125th anniversary of his death with a brand new museum devoted to him. There's Shanghai, where both a new Disneyland park and Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas will being drawing mass tourism 2015. And we're bullish on Denver, that booming Rocky Mountain town, where light rail is expanding, old buildings being revitalized, and a budding breed of cannabis tourists are causing some old-timers to scratch their heads under their cowboy hats. 
 
We love travel, so there will always be countless places that we think you should go and where your own discoveries lie. But we think that 2015 in particular is the best time to discover—or rediscover—these 15 sensational places.

Note: To read our list of Best Places to Go in 2016, click here.
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The Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, Vietnam Thái Nhi/Flickr
Occupying more than 965 square miles of Ha Giang Province in Vietnam on the northern border with China, this is the country's first geopark. The karst landscape upcroppings are simply stunning—much more dramatic than the vaunted area around Sa Pa. Since its designation in 2010, the region has come into its own and it's ready for regular tourism. Access roads have been upgraded and word of its spectacular scenery is getting round fast. The first high-rise hotel is  under construction, but visitors should get here in 2015 to admire the region while it still remains relatively pristine.
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South Dakota, United States of America Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival
Each year, the buffalo of South Dakota are rounded up at Custer State Park to have their health checked and get sold at auction. 2015 will be the 50th year of this hard-to-fathom spectacle (above) where the sound, smell, and rumble of 1,300 of the Great Plains' great beasts stun those lucky enough to travel to witness it (and some 20,000 do). Beasts of a different sort--motorcycle enthusiasts—are marking a birthday of their own in Sturgis, where their legendary Motorcycle Rally hits 75 in August; some 1 million bikers are expected to rival the rumble of the buffalo during that event. For most people, the state has been a little too remote to visit, but they've been missing a lot: the gorgeous greenery of the Black Hills, the bleak jagged maze of Badlands National Park, the windswept cemetery of Wounded Knee, and the eerie Cold War bunker of the disused Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
 
But suddenly, South Dakota got more accessible. More people are flying into South Dakota than ever before (mostly to Sioux Falls or to Rapid City, near Mount Rushmore—which in October marks the 90th year since Gutzon Borglum started blasting it), and the state's gasoline prices are cheaper than the national average, which has also gone lower. Excuses are melting away. Seeing the best-kept secrets of South Dakota is cheaper than it has been for a while, and the big events of 2015 mean now's the time to do it.
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It was one of the most notorious and ill-fated campaigns in history: The British, eager to occupy Constantinople (Istanbul) during World War I, sent boys who came from its far-reaching empire to fight for the Crown. Gallipoli was an eight-month deathtrap. A quarter million Allied soldiers were lost, and the numbers on the Turkish side were just as awful.
 
The campaign marked the first major military action for both Australia and New Zealand as independent nations, and the fact their boys were essentially sent as cannon fodder and achieved no significant gains has always been powerfully symbolic for those countries: They stood on their own, died, and found no shame in failure. The battle shaped not only a generation but also a national identity.
 
The date of the landing, April 25, is so important Down Under that it's honored as a  memorial day, Anzac Day, so it stands to reason that the site has long been a major draw for Australians and New Zealander. Few of them visit that region of the world—within reach of Greece, modern-day Istanbul, and the coastal towns where Paul wrote his books of the Bible—without paying tribute to such sacrifice. 
 
Forget about being there to commemorate the actual day; the Australian government, in cooperation with New Zealand and Turkey, held a lottery for tickets. But the other 364 days of 2015 will host thousands of pilgrims from the other side of the world as they visit the blood-soaked crucible in which the modern identities of their nations were forged. There's no better time to learn about that heritage.
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Asheville, North Carolina, United States of America Courtesy of Asheville CVB
Everyone's talking about Asheville. Is it the gentle Great Smoky mountains and their National Park nearby, beckoning hikers and nature photographers? Is it the crunchy bohemian culture, the burgeoning community of artists? It might be the walkable historic downtown full of style-within-reach boutiques, evolved Southern cooking (like at the River District's 12 Bones, pictured above), and Malaprop's, one of America's great independent bookstores. Whatever the reasons, Asheville's national profile has risen to qualify it as the Austin of the East—accessible, youth-friendly, affordable, and the place to go for a sweet lifestyle. 
 
In late 2015, the $175 million, employee-owned New Belgium brewery turns the formerly forbidding French Broad River district into cyclable parkland for beer lovers, and as the company actively stimulates the growth of farmers' markets and the local River Arts District, it's helping push Asheville over the line from a pleasant mountain burg to a Great American Town where it's a pleasure to hang out for a while. Soon, the Brewery will join nearby Biltmore Estate (nearly 1 million visitors a year) in attracting vacationers with tours. And the facility isn't alone; Asheville now supports more breweries per capita than anywhere else in America. It's even rising as a center of American arts. The first Hunger Games movie was filmed nearby, the Brevard Music Festival gathers more steam each summer, and Edie Brickell and Steve Martin just wrote a new bluegrass musical set in the city; Martin has a home in the area.
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Malaga, Spain BogdanMigulski/Flickr
With miles of shoreline, a rich culture, and an average January temperature of 63 degrees, Málaga, on Spain's southern coast, has a lot going for it—except relatively few tourists are, which qualifies it as a find. Paris' Centre Pompidou selected Malaga as the site of the first "Pop-Up Pompidou." The art museum open in the spring and will be the capstone of the resurgence of Andalucia's second-largest city. The transformation began in 2011 with the opening of both the Palmeral de Las Sorpresas, an elegant seaside promenade that replaced the gritty working waterfront, and the Museo Carmen Thyssen, a showcase of 19th- and early 20th-century Spanish paintings. The city has become a great option for travelers who want to enjoy the cultural offerings of a vibrant city, but still be close to the Costa del Sol beaches. Malaga is also increasingly a popular site for longer stays. According to InternationalLiving.com, a publication dedicated to international retirement, properties rent for as little as $650 a month, a meal of tapas goes for about $4. Sun, culture, beaches, and affordable prices earn Málaga a spot on our 2015 list.
 
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Argentina Dimitry B./flickr
In December 2012, one U.S. dollar purchased 4.80 Argentinian pesos. Two years later, in December 2014, it bought 8.5. Precipitous drops like that are terrible news for locals, but they're a boon for tourists who suddenly find their options unshackled and that a dream destination has been made affordable. Thanks to rates like that, international travelers may experience Buenos Aires and the rest of this this rich country—and help out by spending liberally at restaurants and shops as they do it. 
 
This is how Arthur Frommer puts the importance of Argentina as a 2015 holiday destination: "The steak dinners you buy are remarkable and cheap; the tango lessons are presented everywhere; the nightspots and varied evening performances (concerts, opera) are wonderfully entertaining; and the country is quite safe for people wandering about at night. Some 400,000 Americans visit Argentina each year, and that figure is bound to skyrocket in the face of a weakend currency that makes all normal tourist expenditures some 30%-or-so cheaper than used to be the case."

Explore Frommer's' coverage of this fascinating destination (including Perito Moreno Glacier, pictured above) by clicking here.
 
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Belgium Project Hougoumont
We may see Belgium as a place for chocolates and European democracy, but our forefathers knew it for its terrible wars, and in 2015, the anniversaries of two of them collide, making the pretty little country a nexus for history buffs. First, we're observing the century mark since some of the Great War's worst events (including the Second Battle of Ypres, when Germans launched the first chlorine gas attacks and 105,000 men were killed or wounded) were entrenched in the Flemish landscape. 
 
But there's another deep well of history for tourists in Belgium in 2015. June marks the 200th year since of the Battle of Waterloo, when Napoleon's ambitions of European empire met with their you-know-what, and a score of commemorative events here, in Brussels, in France, and in Britain lead up to the anniversary. There will be fireworks, marches, and a healthy mounting of that military curiosity, the full-dress re-enactment by obsessed volunteers. Previously derelict Hougoumont Farm, an epicenter of the battle, has been restored and will re-open to visitors looking precisely as it was on that day—you can still peek through holes in the brick walls through which soldiers thrust their weapons and murdered each other.
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Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico Robert Wilson/Flickr
Rent an SUV for this one, because Chaco Canyon, once the center of a far-reaching culture, feels at times as if it's where the desert holds its breath; it can only be accessed by taking a washboarded dirt road for miles off the paved highway. That remoteness, three hours west of Santa Fe, is why it's such a idyllic escape—the clear night sky is among the best in the continental United States—and why it's being threatened without much notice by the rest of the country. 
 
Parts of Chaco's rugged canyoned landscape shelters well-preserved 1,200-year-old ruins of buildings that were the largest buildings in North America until the 1800s. Some of them are protected by the Department of the Interior as a National Historic Park. But other sections, and unexcavated ruins controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, are being nibbled away by leased oil and gas development. New fracking methods—drilling sideways, pumping chemicals into the earth—is chewing into the ground and underneath it, with revenue going to state and federal governments. The increased industry is also polluting the clarity of the sky. The effect of fuel exploration and mining on the purity of this fragile land has yet to be determined. But destruction of heritage and soiling of natural resources are two things you can't reverse once you've let them happen.  
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Austria rogerwollstadt/Flickr
It's hard to believe that the movie The Sound of Music was released 50 years ago—and it'a also hard to believe that despite being bewitched by it in their childhoods, so many travelers have yet to visit gorgeous Austria. Well, the anniversary of that beloved film is the ideal moment to hit baroque Salzburg, where the exteriors were shot. See the Felsenreitschule (the rock stadium where the Von Trapps made their escape), the "Do Re Mi" steps in Mirabell Gardens, and the lakeside Schloss Leopoldskron (which stood in for the Von Trapps' backyard). In July and August, the town also hosts one of the world's most important annual music festivals.

Vienna, Austria's capital, has a lot more going on, including the 150th anniversary of the opening of the monumental civil planning feat of the Ringstrasse, lined with glorious opera houses, museums, and governmental buildings that will be marking the occasion by throwing open their doors to mount a cavalcade of exhibitions and events. 
 
And in May, Vienna will host the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest. Never heard of it, Americans? In 2014, the annual show was seen by 195 million people—while the Super Bowl, despite being the most-watched in history, got only 111.5 million. When you're hosting an event that attracts 84 million more sets of eyeballs than the Super Bowl, it's definately your year.
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Washington, D.C., United States of America U.S. Department of Agriculture
Congress may not being doing much in Washington, but there's a jammed slate for vacationers. In 2015, DC will honor Abraham Lincoln by recognizing the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and of his shocking assassination. Ford's Theatre, the site of the deed, is again a working playhouse and it plans a year-long tribute including a display of what the President and First Lady were wearing that night, the contents of his pockets (including a $5 Confederate note), the bloody sleeve of actress Laura Keene, and John Wilkes Booth's fateful deringer (it's smaller than you think). Lots more precious Lincoln artifacts are being trotted out around town, including the coach he took to the play that night (at the National Museum of American History), a re-creation of the funeral train, and more events at the top of the Mall at the Lincoln Memorial.

Across town, the Textile Museum reopens in a bigger and better location on George Washington University's campus; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial debuts in a park at the bottom of Capitol Hill; the National Law Enforcement Memorial Museum opens on E Street; and new restaurants, bars, and hotels continue to erupt in revitalized neighborhoods such as the Southwest Waterfront, the Atlas District, NoMa, Mount Vernon Square, and the Mount Vernon Triangle. The year will also have a distinct profile in vacation snapshots since the cast iron dome of the U.S. Capitol is enshrouded in 1.1 million pounds of scaffolding during a much-needed restoration project scheduled to last until the 2017 presidential inauguration.
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Cunard Line GaryBembridge/Flickr
Not a single destination but three that are in constant motion, in 2015 Cunard marks 175 years of sending its liners across the seas. There are few other brand names that have been as long-lived: When British-Canadian Samuel Cunard accepted his first transatlantic shipment on a paddle steamer, Martin Van Buren was U.S. President and Queen Victoria was a svelte 21 year-old. Always a business to stand on ceremony—after all, it's the last oceangoing company to offer routine passage between New York City and Southampton and require formalwear for several nights of every voyage—Cunard is marking the milestone by studding the calendar with spectacular events. The most gawkworthy will occur on May 25, when the three current Cunard vessels (the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria, and the Queen Elizabeth) will rendezvous in the Mersey in Liverpool (which made our list last year), the city in which the service started and where its former headquarters is still a city landmark. 
 
On July 4, the Queen Mary 2 will re-create Cunard's first transatlantic crossing, enabling passengers to board in Liverpool for the first time in nearly half a century, making 2015 another great year for Liverpool, too. And on voyages throughout the year, maritime historians and experts will be on board to deliver seminars and talks on the history of ocean liners and Cunard's pivotal role in world travel, generating a bonanza of information for travel nerds. Such intellectual "enrichment programs" are a hallmark of Cunard, a distinction that would set it apart from the hedonistic party atmospheres of lesser cruise names even if the line didn't have 175 years of heritage to wear proudly in its neatly pressed lapel.
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London, England The British Library
It's another banner year for London, which has a way of piling on the milestones and major events like no other city we know. In April, Royal Baby Number Two is expected to make an auspicious arrival. Expect partying. Then in September, the London Underground will begin running 24 hours a day, enabling people to drink and play in the central city without having to cut their evenings short at 11:30pm to rush for the last Tube home. Expect serious, fall-down partying. That same month, on September 11, Queen Elizabeth will officially become Britain's longest-reigning monarch by passing Queen Victoria's record of 63 years and 216 days. Expect a lot more partying with lots more flags. 
 
Liz has a long way to go if she wants to surpass the Magna Carta, though. The document that supplied the tenets of modern democracy turns 800. Events will be held all over the world (see a list at magnacarta800th.com/events). Only four copies of the 1215 agreement between the king and his subjects survive, and in early February, they will be in the same room at the same time. That's fascinating enough, but from mid-March through August, the host, the British Library (above), will also be gathering landmark documents the Magna Carta inspired, including Thomas Jefferson's handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence (the British are cool with it now) and an original ratified copy of the United States Bill of Rights. Not everyone is going to stampede to Europe to lay eyes on 800-year-old documents on calf skin, but for fans of legal history, civil rights, and the miracle of heritage preservation, events like this don't come much bigger.
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Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania Murky1/Flickr
In June 2014, UNESCO World Heritage put the Selous Game Reserve on the list of World Heritage sites that are most endangered. Why would a reserve ever be considered at risk? Because at more than 19,000 square miles, the area is impossible to seal against poachers. Elephant and rhinoceros populations have plummeted 90 percent—90 percent!—since 1982. A third of Selous' elephants, or 25,000 animals, were killed between 2009 and 2013 alone.

The slaughter has been so unsustainable, it is now predicted that elephants will be close to extinction in Sub-Saharan Africa within 10 years, and by 2018, rhino deaths will surpass rhino births, making extinction a mathematical certainty. This qualifies Selous as the most depressing "get there now" Top Destinations designee we've ever named.
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"Send him to Belize". That was the euphemistic advice given to lead character Walter White in the final season of TV’s Breaking Bad by his lawyer Saul, who felt that Walt should bump off his cop brother-in-law. Immediately after the episode aired, the Belize Tourism Board issued an invitation to the cast for all-expense paid vacations.

No word on whether any of them took advantage of the offer, but it shone a light on this emerging touristic powerhouse, which is one of the most life-affirming (not death inducing) destinations on the planet. Most often compared with the far larger Costa Rica for its large swatches of virgin rainforest (some 50% of the country is blanketed in them with 80% of those protected by law), the country has the same sorts of natural adventures its bigger compatriot does—from ziplines to bird watching to watersports (both on rivers and in the ocean) and enthralling hikes. 

Since Belize has far more Mayan sites, its a better choice for the traveler who wants to mix culture and history in with their green time. Over the course of a week, you might find yourself scaling ancient Mayan pyramids or swimming into caves once used by the Mayans for ceremonies. In the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave in the Cayo region, centruies-old pots and the skulls of victims of ritual sacrifices have been calcified to the floor. (So it turns out an ancient Walter White actually did send someone to Belize.) Prime dving and snorkeling spots also give his tiny country a thriving beach culture—the opening image for this year's slideshow was taken in Belize.

For the adventure traveler, there are few countries as satisfying or as suprisingly beautiful as Belize, so visit it before the rest of the world realizes what it's missing.
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It's no secret that Yellowstone is one of the most awe-inspiring places to visit in the United States. But in 2015 and 2016, vacationing here will be a more comfortable, contemporary experience. That's because the Park's hospitality facilities are undergoing a major overhaul to the tune of $134 million in renovations and new builds. The historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel (designed by Robert Reamer, the man behind the Old Faithful Inn) has been restored to its Colonial Revival grandeur. Meanswhile, ecologically sound, Western-chic lodges are being erected where the dingy, 1960's era Canyon Lodges and cabins used to be. The modular units are being fabricated in Boise and trucked in by summer, so construction noise and disruption should be minimal.

Of course, no one goes to Yellowstone for the hotels. And though we can't guarantee you'll be in for a geothermic show, visitors who headed here in 2014 certainly got one. Steamboat Geyser, which is both the tallest geyser in the world and the park's most unpredictable (it went for 50 years once without erupting), popped its cork spectacularly last year; the park felt a significant quake; and Fountain Freight Drive (a loop road) melted in places due to increased heat. Beyond the magma, mud pots and fumeroles, Yellowstone's fauna is thriving: the 2,219,789-acre park—it's larger than Delaware and Rhode Island put togethe—is home to gray wolves, bison, moose, elk, pronghorn, two types of bears, and 322 species of birds, making this America's best safari.

And finally, now there's a new reason to go in winter, too. Revised regulations allow one group per day to snowmobile into the park without hiring a guide, which lowers touring costs dramatically.

Which destinations did we choose for 2014? Revisit our choices here.
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