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top holiday destinations for 2015
08/Jan/2015
Long-haul
Costa Rica
With its zip wires through jungle tropical forest canopies, thermal pools, volcanoes and wildlife, as well as beaches, Costa Rica has long been hailed as an adventure capital for softies, and works well as a family adventure for the over-sevens. Getting there, though, has been more of an adventure than this clean, easy Latin American country, with flights travelling through Madrid or Miami. From next November, Thomson will launch a new direct weekly flight from Gatwick, although you can only buy the flight as part of a package. If you want to stay at the stylish Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in the Gulf of Papagayo (from $400 — £255 a night) or the AltaGracia boutique lodge, due to open next year near Manuel Antonio National Park, you’ll have to take the indirect scheduled service (or cheat and fly with Thomson and forgo its accommodation).
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive at the Thomson Platinum Riu Guanacaste costs from £976 (0871 2302555, thomson.co.uk). Black Tomato (020 3553 7002, blacktomato.com) has 12 nights’ B&B from £3,500pp including three nights in AltaGracia and nine nights in San José and the Nicoya Peninsula, with BA/Iberia flights and transfers.
Nicaragua
There’s already been a return of tourism to Colombia, Haiti is set to benefit from new tours and Brazil is still on a high after the World Cup. But of all Latin America’s countries, we think the rising star is Nicaragua. If you don’t believe us, consider that flight-booking company Skyscanner, which has analysed the number of hits each country receives, puts Nicaragua sixth in a study of worldwide destinations for 2015 — not bad when you consider the more mainstream destinations of Mykonos, a Greek island, Fort Lauderdale in Florida and Australia’s Gold Coast, came above it. Its main draws are similar to those in Costa Rica — eco-tourism, backpacking adventures, zip-wiring, surfing and luxury hotels — but in a less sanitised way. Mukul, the country’s first five-star hotel, opened last year, joining a handful of luxury boutique hotels. Holiday companies are being quick to recognise the trend: Kuoni, Nicaragua Revealed, Journey Latin America, Cox & Kings and Explore have all begun tours to the country.
Details Explore (explore.co.uk) has a 13-day “Land of Lakes and Volcanoes” tour from £1,953pp with rainforest tours,the chance to learn to surf, hotels and flights
Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, India
It’s true that Rajasthan and colonial India will get a boost from both the Channel Four series Indian Summers and the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie, due out on February 27 (much of it filmed in the real hotel of Ravla Khempur near Udaipur). But our bet is that it’s India’s lesser-known regions that will be the hits of 2015. As Mary-Anne Denison-Pender, from India specialist Mahout, says, “Rajasthan has been done to death in the last 15 years. Tamil Nadu, though, now has hotels of a good standard opening, is really accessible and has so much to see and do, with culture and temples, coffee estates in the hills and great walking.” Best of the new openings is Rajakkad Estate (rajakkadestate.com), high in the hills and coffee estates of the Western Ghats, owned by the Fry family (of chocolate fame) and with all-inclusive stays from £85 a night.
Meanwhile, the star-studded Jungle Book film, due to air in October, will draw attention towards Madhya Pradesh, the area where Kipling’s famous book was set. Home to the country’s greatest jungles, it has tiger reserves at Pench and Kanha that are far more wild than those of the more famous Ranthambore National Park.
Details Village Ways (01223 750049, villageways.com) has two nights’ full board staying in the old hunting lodge in the village of Sakata, with guided local forest walks, followed by two nights in Pench Tiger Reserve, the flight from Delhi to Nagpur, overnight rail journey, jeep safaris, but not international flights, from £647pp
Australian Outback
Although Melbourne gains attention with Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant in February to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the real action down under is going to take place in the outback. The iconic train, the Ghan, which runs from Darwin to Adelaide, will stop for the first time at Australia’s opal mining capital of Coober Pedy, with its underground houses and hotels. The new stop is part of an extended service, adding an extra day to the original three-day journey for trips from May 23 to August 22. This means more time can be spent with off-train excursions at Katherine and Alice Springs, including a spectacular dinner under the stars, and the option of a fly-in visit to Uluru, all possible on a 76-hour adventure. Add to that more flights from Virgin Australia, which starts flying three times a week between Darwin and Alice Springs and then on to Adelaide from March. For something really different, stay at Curtin Springs cattle station 100km from Uluru, which has just started offering guided walks around the base of the stunning Mt Conner on the property, often mistaken for Uluru, as well as along an ancient salt lake system. Rooms cost from A$160 (£84) a night (curtinsprings.com)
Details Trailfinders (020 7368 1200, trailfinders.com) has an eight-night, top-end trip by rail and outback wilderness holiday including a trip on the Ghan from Darwin to Alice Springs, car hire to Kings Canyon and Uluru, from £1,314pp. Wexas has three nights’ all-inclusive including off-train touring from Darwin to Adelaide from £1,959pp (020 7590 0610, wexas.com)
New Zealand
Still on a high after the final film of The Hobbit, New Zealand will also get great screen time — as well as visits from sports enthusiasts — as a result of the Cricket World Cup, held from February 14 until March 29. After an opening game for England against arch rivals Australia in Melbourne on Valentine’s day, the action moves to New Zealand in Wellington on February 20, followed by Scotland in Christchurch on February 23. But the antipodean country is also building up quite a reputation for cycling too, with a growing network of cycle trails. Next year, a new gondola will take mountain bikers to the top of Mt Ngongotaha in Rotorua, North Island, with access to a Gravity Park section, with 8.5km of tracks and jumps (newzealand.com/uk/cycling, skyline.co.nz/rotorua). Elsewhere, new routes have opened on the New Zealand Cycle Trail, including the Great Lake Trail at Lake Taupo, also on North Island.
Details For cricket tours, Sports Tour Plus (01638 717850, sportstoursplus.com) has put together a series of tours following both England and Scotland, from £2,795pp for a 16-night trip. For cyclists, Silver Fern Holidays (01636 813544, silverfernholidays.com) offers 18-day itineraries with hotels and bike hire from £2,895pp, excluding flights
Zimbabwe
For years, the travel industry would have us believe that Zimbabwe is back, but it’s never looked as promising as it will be in 2015. First up, a new 4,000m runway is about to open at Victoria Falls, upgrading it to a category 2 airport — the same as Dubai — which is expected to take 1.5million passengers a year, up from a current 500,000. This will be followed later in the summer by an expanded terminal that will increase the number of customs and immigration desks from two to 12. Announcements of direct international flights from carriers such as BA and South African Airways are expected soon — this will cut costs, as travellers won’t have to fly via Jo’burg. Add to that Wilderness Safari’s new Linkwasha Camp in Hwange, home to some of the best — and least crowded — game viewing in Africa, which is due to open in May. The icing on the cake is a new joint visa for both Zimbabwe and Zambia, which now costs $50 (£32) and will allow travellers to cross from one country to another at the Victoria Falls to compare views.
Details Expert Africa (020 8232 9777, expertafrica.com) has a two-week trip from £3,529pp including all flights, transfers, park fees and guided safaris, staying at Ilala Lodge in Victoria Falls, Linkwasha Camp and Camp Amalinda
Miami Beach
It’s not the 100th anniversary of Miami Beach that has us excited (although cultural, sports and foodie celebrations are planned throughout the year). Rather, it’s the clutch of lovely new hotels opening there. Following hot on the heels of the Como Metropolitan is the new Thompson Miami Beach, a 380-room hotel near the new Perez Art Museum with two cool pools. The contemporary Miami Beach Edition — all muted shades — has also just opened, with 28 stunning ocean-view bungalows as well as rooms. Coming soon is Nobu Eden Roc, a Nobu hotel within the existing Eden Roc, with 210 rooms, a Nobu restaurant and in-room Nobu dining.
At the South Beach end, there is more action, with Nautilus South Beach, Villa Bagatelle and Washington Park Hotel due to open soon. Our pick, though, is 1Hotels with its adults-only rooftop pool surrounded by day beds (there are also two other large pools as well as a cabana pool deck). It is taking bookings from March 10.
Details Rooms at the Thompson Miami Beach (thompsonmiamibeach.com) are from £223 and from £299 at the Edition (editionhotels.com). At 1hotels they cost from $743 (£473) a night.

Zimbabwe’s renaissance is something to behold


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