Welcome to 2015 and another year of incredible travel choices. Every time I write an article, I go to great lengths to avoid publishing what I call Typical Travel Stories.
While it would arrogant (and, likely, inaccurate) for me to say that the list of great destinations below is better than any other list, here’s my top picks regardless and I welcome your feedback on the choices as well as your picks.
Which of these unique destinations would you most like to visit in 2015?
Where it’s at: About two hours north of Tbilisi, Georgia (by bus).
Why you should visit: The hike to Gergeti Trinity Church, which sits in the shadows of Mt. Kazbeg, Europe’s second-highest peak.
Where it’s at: 90 minutes from Tokyo, Japan (by train).
Why you should visit: Nikko is just a short distance from ultra-modern Tokyo, but its vast collection of ancient temples set amid an imposing forest make it feel trapped in the distant past.
Where it’s at: 5-8 hours from São Luis, Brazil by bus/4×4.
Why you should visit: See below…
Where it’s at: That’s a controversial question.
Why you should visit: In spite of their difficult history and present situation, the Palestinian people are among the kindest and most gracious in all the world, to say nothing of the beauty of their land.
Where it’s at: About 5-6 hours from Colombo, Sri Lanka (by bus).
Why you should visit: Unlike many of Asia’s other ancient capitals, Anuradhapura is practically devoid of tourists – at least for now.
Where it’s at: In the middle of fucking nowhere.
Why you should visit: See below.
Located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea, in Indonesia’s West Papua province, Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, and the smaller island of Kofiau.
Where it’s at: About two hours north of Kigali, Rwanda (by bus).
Why you should visit: Most people come here to see mountain gorillas – and you should too – but the opportunity to become part of a local East African community is the true highlight.
Where it’s at: About 3-5 hours north of Bucharest, Romania (by train or bus).
Why you should visit: Although the importance of the Dracula legend is misunderstood by tourists and overplayed by certain locals, Brașov is the best place to discover Transylvania, even if you can’t be bothered with vampires.
Where it’s at: About an hour from Banyuwangi, Indonesia (by motorbike).
Why you should visit: It’s a volcano that spews blue fire in the middle of the night.
Valle del Cocora
Where it’s at: About two hours from Salento, Colombia (by collectivo).
Why you should visit: Buried in the heart of Colombia’s Coffee Triangle, this is one of South America’s most scenic and invigorating hikes.
Where it’s at: About one hour from Montréal, Québec by plane.
Why you should visit: Lobster, seabirds and evergreen forests that go on forever, to name just a few reasons.
Where it’s at: On the shores of the Caspian Sea, less than 4 hours by plane from most of Europe. It is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region.
Why you should visit: Although the capital of Azerbaijan bills itself as the next Dubai, this eclectic city evokes dozens of other iconic places around the world, particularly Paris.
Where it’s at: About two hours north of Helsinki, Finland (by plane).
Why you should visit: You can buy land there for next to nothing.
Where it’s at: Halfway between Guayaquil and Quito, Ecuador (by train or bus).
Why you should visit: The Andes Mountains, namely the Nariz del Diablo, a.k.a the Devil’s nose.
The Texas Hill Country
Where it’s at: Just to the west of Austin or San Antonio, Texas.
Why you should visit: I’m way too biased to answer this since I’m from Texas.
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who’s been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as “CNNGo” and “Shanghaiist” along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.