TIME Travel

The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2015

Robin Thom

Presenting 50 incredible destinations for 2015. Where will you go this year?

“Fez is multilayered, multifaceted,” says resident Tara Stevens. “Every time I go out the front door, I discover something. This is a city on the cusp of change—and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”

Stevens, a British food writer, and American Stephen Di Renza are behind Fez’s stylish Restaurant No. 7, which hosts a rotating series of guest chefs. They’re part of a group of expats restoring riads and encouraging experimentation—along with enterprising locals like Anis Sefrioui, who recently unveiled Hotel Sahrai, with 50 contemporary rooms overlooking an infinity pool and a light-filled spa with elaborate latticework.

The world is getting smaller, but the chances of having an extraordinary new experience are only increasing. We’ve identified 50 standout destinations, based on industry news and trends, with input from contributing writers, A-List travel agents, and our new local experts. These are the places changing the travel map, whether it’s an emerging arts hub in Germany or a quiet stretch of sand in the Caribbean.

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So where else can 2015 take you? The panda capital of Chengdu, China, is appealing to a broader range of travelers with a new 72-hour no-visa policy and a packed lineup of hotel openings: Six Senses, Fairmont, and Swire’s Temple House. In Japan, meanwhile, the dollar has hit new highs—good timing for powder buffs who can also now use Vail’s Epic Pass at Hokkaido’s Niseko United resort.

And you may be surprised by what’s brewing close to home. We selected a dozen destinations in the U.S., including Houston, for its ambitious food scene, and Miami, where the spotlight has turned to the Mid-Beach neighborhood. The latest art-centric 21c Museum Hotel will open its doors in Durham, NC, a once-sleepy college town that now thrums with fair-trade coffee shops, micro-distilleries, and some of the best barbecue around.

What inspires a trip varies from person to person, of course. But as a head start, we’ve mapped out 12 months’ worth of places with the kind of “it” factor that Fez’s Tara Stevens describes.

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Fez, Morocco

For more than a decade, Marrakesh has been the Moroccan destination on everyone’s list. Fez, about 240 miles northeast, was often an afterthought. But slowly, quietly, a sophisticated scene is taking root. It started with expats and locals restoring riads, and continues as hotels, restaurants, and galleries pop up. The biggest news is the Hotel Sahrai, with a hip rooftop bar and 50 rooms, many overlooking an infinity pool. Other notable places to stay include the medina’s Karawan Riad, whose seven renovated suites offer a modern alternative to more traditional riad hotels, and Palais Faraj, a 19th-century palace transformed by architect Jean-Baptiste Barian. On the culinary front, Restaurant No. 7 is making waves with a rotating series of acclaimed guest chefs. It’s the brainchild of British food writer Tara Stevens and American Stephen Di Renza, part of a group of expats who are encouraging experimentation. So far, overdevelopment isn’t an issue. Whether this will last—especially with the 2015 debut of an upgraded airport, set to accommodate 2.5 million passengers, five times the current volume—is anyone’s guess. Don’t wait to find out. This is the moment to see Fez. Find out more about T+L’s top pick for 2015.

Catskills, NY

The region that welcomed Jewish families in the ’50s, hippies in the ’60s, and soon, perhaps, casino gamblers is also making room for a new tribe: hip, design-crazed travelers. A string of stylish B&Bs have opened, many of them by transplants from Manhattan and Brooklyn (call them “hicksters”) who value buzzwords like local, authentic, and handmade. Among them are the bohemian-chic Hotel Dylan in Woodstock, the Arnold House in Livingston Manor, with its tavern and diminutive spa, and Phoenicia’s Graham & Co., where the retro amenities include Tivoli radios, bonfires, and a badminton court. Area farms provide the ingredients for inventive restaurants like Table on Ten, in Bloomville, which just added a trio of whitewashed rooms upstairs. The blackjack tables—and a few megaresort proposals that envision the return of the area’s Borscht Belt heyday—may be only a few years off, so now is the time to enjoy fly-fishing, hiking, antiquing, microbrewery-hopping, and other placid pursuits.

Rotterdam, Netherlands

If Amsterdam is a study in old-world elegance, then the scrappier port city of Rotterdam is all big, futuristic ambition—and its constantly unfolding city center has become one eye-popping explosion of style. The latest attraction, and reason enough to visit, is the MVRDV-designed Markthal, an igloo-like horseshoe that houses 96 stalls (Dutch cheeses to Moroccan spices, reflecting the polyglot city), 20 shops, nine restaurants, and 228 apartments. It also happens to feature Holland’s largest artwork: a trippy nimbus of mammoth, tumbling fruits and vegetables arching across the market ceiling on 4,500 aluminum panels. Other recent starchitect landmarks include the multipurpose Rotterdam Central Train Station and native son Rem Koolhaas’s nhow hotel, sitting like a pile of stacked metal boxes on the south bank of the Maas River, the city’s reigning cultural hub. After visiting the neighboring Netherlands Photo Museum and the lipstick-red New Luxor Theater, toast a trip well-taken with a Dutch Blossom cocktail in the hotel bar.

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Puerto Plata, D.R.

Far from the resort-clogged beaches of Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic’s less-frequented northern shore has remained largely under the radar. But developments slated for 2015 in Puerto Plata are bound to lure well-heeled sun-seekers. First up is The Gansevoort, offering three-bedroom apartments with private pools and four-bedroom penthouses equipped with rooftop hot tubs. Later in 2015, Aman Villas will become the second Caribbean outpost from Singapore-based Amanresorts and the first golf-integrated Aman Resort. It’s the first phase of a development that aims to introduce some 400 residential villas, along with sports and equestrian facilities. Each is a welcome departure from the island’s cookie-cutter all-inclusives—and a promising sign of what’s to come in the luxury circuit.

Wasatch Mountains, Utah

You can craft a linear story arc from the first edition of Robert Redford’s film festival in 1984 to the summer 2014 purchase of Park City Mountain Resort by Vail Resorts—the behemoth operator’s second recent foray into Park City (it bought the Canyons in 2013). Along the way a small mining town became a cauldron of Olympic athletes, Hollywood’s A-list, and luxury hotel brands like St. Regis and Waldorf Astoria. But a ski region blessed to have won the geographical lottery—seven world-class resorts span three parallel canyons in the rugged Wasatch Mountains, all within an hour’s drive—remained second fiddle to neighboring Colorado, whose star has shined brighter. That’s about to change. Where Vail’s vaunted Epic Pass goes, a legion of loyal snow junkies follows. The new year brings new restaurants, high-speed chairs, and lifts, including one that connects Canyons to PCMR, making it the largest ski resort in the U.S. And the industry is buzzing over a proposal that seems headed for approval called One Wasatch, which would link all seven ski areas in a European-style mega-network spanning 18,000 acres and 100 lifts. The project will have major tourism implications, introducing a new flock of riders to what locals proudly declare on their car license plates: the greatest snow on earth.

Read the full list HERE.


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