Experts at National Geographic Traveler magazine have released their picks for the best destinations to visit in 2015 that include the ‘original Machu Picchu’ and a living landmark of ‘human genius.’ This year, experts chose 20 destinations based on criteria such as sustainability, culture, authenticity, timeliness and superlativity. For the first time, the publication also reserved a spot for readers, inviting travelers to nominate their pick via social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. Here’s a selection of destinations deemed the new year’s ‘must-see places’ by National Geographic Traveler:
1 Haida Gwaii, Canada
As the most remote archipelago in Canada, Haida Gwaii (which means ‘Islands of the People’) is perhaps Canadian wilderness and serenity at its best. Made up of a collection of 150 islands off the coast of British Columbia, the area tells the story of the country’s rich aboriginal heritage through towering cedars, coves, and ancient wood carvings. Nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts can also look forward to fairy tale rainforests covered in carpets of green moss and thousand-year-old, ancient trees.
“The quiet is what strikes people here most on Haida Gwaii,” says NatGeo Traveler.
1 Koyasan, Japan
Next year, a monastic complex located two hours south of Osaka will mark its 1,200th anniversary. Travelers looking for respite and calm from the pulsing energy of Japan’s densely packed cities may want to consider making a trek out to Koyasan, described as the “austere heart of Japanese Buddhism” and one of Japan’s most pristine and sacred sites. Guests can stay at one of the temples and participate in early morning chants accompanied by cymbals, gongs and incense, while they detox their minds and body with monk-prepared, vegetarian meals.
1 Mont Saint-Michel, France
NatGeo calls the Benedictine abbey a “feat of human genius” for having been built in the middle of a bay, amongst treacherous tides between the 11th and 16th centuries. But as one of the most visited landmarks in France -- it receives 2.5 million visitors every year -- the UNESCO World Heritage Site has suffered major degradation including damaging sediment build-up. In 2015, a massive restoration project that includes a pedestrian bridge and the construction of a dam is expected to be completed.
“For about a thousand years, travelers have gasped when the Abbey of Mont St. Michel has loomed into view...What makes the sight transcendent is the play of light, sky, and weather that can shift hourly here off the coast of Normandy.”
1 Choquequirao, Peru
It’s not nearly as well-known as Machu Picchu. But there’s another ancient Incan site in Peru that features temples, plazas and fountains, also in the clouds at 9,800 feet (2,990 meters). And as NatGeo Traveler points out, the Peruvian government is considering building a tramway to the Choquequirao in a bid to lure visitors away from the crowded Machu Picchu, which has been showing the strains of mass tourism with worrying damage to the ancient site.
1 Reader’s Choice: Faroe Islands
Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, between Scotland, Norway and Iceland, Faroe Islands is made up of 18 islands. And it’s also only one of two places in the world (Svalbard being the other), where people will be able to experience the solar eclipse in its entirety March 20, 2015.