Following the truism that it’s never too early to plan a vacation, a host of leading travel sites and magazines like Lonely Planet, National Geographic and Travel & Leisure have come out with their picks of the hottest new tourist destinations for 2015. Some sites are yet to officially open, yet for those looking for a mixture of fun, history and adventure, these destinations are certain to get on to most people’s bucket list at some point. Here they are:
King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester, UK: In August 1485, King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth and buried by the Grey Friars, a Franciscan Holy order, in their church in Leicester. In 2012, Leicester City Council, the University of Leicester and the Richard III Society began a search underneath a car park to find King Richard III’s remains. Five months later, they confirmed that a skeleton unearthed was Richard III’s, thanks to DNA sampling of Richard’s descendants and carbon dating of the bones. The Visitor Centre was opened last year and apart from the grave, an exhibition explores the now-deceased English king’s life and the mysteries surrounding it, including whether he ordered the murder of his nephews, if he was actually cut down by a group of knights while charging towards Henry at Bosworth Field and the story behind his twisted spine, associated with his death.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Florida: Orlando has the world’s largest and most visited theme parks, and now there’s one more. Actually, two. Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, Florida, which pay homage to the incredibly successful Harry Potter franchise. The flagship attraction at Islands of Adventure is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which has been built within a recreation of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It takes riders on a simulated tour of the castle and its surrounding grounds. Visitors initially walk through the castle, interacting with various characters and props from the Potter series, including a speech from Dumbledore and directions from Harry, Hermione and Ron before boarding a ‘magical bench’ for a theme-park-type ride around the outside of the castle, using a combination of simulated flight, as well as encountering realistic animatronic versions of the Whomping Willow, a horde of dementors, giant spiders, the Hungarian Horntail Dragon and a Quidditch match. The second park opened last year in the adjacent Universal Studios Florida theme park with a replica of the Hogwarts Express, which ferries visitors between the two parks. Apart from the themed rollercoaster, other attractions are themed around London and Diagon Alley.
One World Observatory, New York City, US: The spire of the tallest building in the western hemisphere houses an observation deck that will open later this year and will provide unique, panoramic views of New York City and beyond from three floors from above 1,250 ft. The guest experience will include exhibits and dining options, including a sit-down restaurant. Visitors will board one of the five dedicated state-of-the-art elevators that will be among the fastest lifts in the world to ascend to the top of the building in approximately 60 seconds. The venue will feature cutting-edge digital technology, dining options, a gift shop, special events space and a theatre, where visitors will learn about the building of One World Trade Center, also called Freedom Tower, near the site of the Twin Towers, which were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.
Cape Canopy Tour, Elgin Western Cape, South Africa: This is a four-hour zip-line wilderness tour of the Western Cape, which opened in August 2014. Mainly for the fit and adventurous, the tour provides beautiful aerial views of waterfalls, valleys and the wilderness. South Africa was also ranked as one of Lonely Planet’s top value destinations for 2015.
The Yellow Submarine, Peninsula Valdes, Argentina: This is a semi-submersible vessel that takes visitors underwater on a whale-watching tour at the well-known breeding ground for the endangered species of whales. This first-of-its-kind experience, which opened last year, has viewing windows on its narrow underwater cabin, allowing viewers to get unique views of the whales.
The Smithwick’s Experience, Kilkenny, Ireland: Brewery tours are dime a dozen in Scotland and Ireland, but this one is pretty unique, as it features actors recreating the medieval origins of the brewing process of Smithwick, Ireland’s oldest beer. The multimedia tour at the historic brewery opened last year.
Caminito del Rey footpath, Garganta del Chorro, El Chorro, Spain: This is for extreme adventure sports enthusiasts only since it is one of the world’s most treacherous hiking routes. It was closed for a multi-million-euro safety makeover and reopened last year. It provides a path 100 m above ground, which boasts breathtaking views of the Gaitanes Gorge and the Guadalhorce River.
BioMuseo, Panama City, Panama: This is world-renowned architect Frank Gehry’s first design for Latin America, opened just a few months ago. The biodiversity museum is the first of its kind for the country, with a six-acre botanical park and an aquarium. Panama has some of the world’s most diverse and exotic species of plants and animals.
Rimutaka Cycle Trail, Wellington/ Wairarapa, New Zealand: For hardcore cyclists, this trail, set to open in March, is 115-km-long and one of New Zealand’s 22 new ‘Great Rides’, and covers some spectacular countryside and rugged terrain. It will be the longest cycle trail in the country, if not the world.
Hong Kong Observation Wheel, Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong: Inaugurated last October, this 60-m-tall giant Ferris wheel offers sweeping views of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong’s iconic skyline.