Last month, Lonely Planet published their Top Ten Cities To Visit in 2015. These are the ten cities they picked:
- Washington, DC (USA)
- El Chalten (Argentina)
- Milan (Italy)
- Zermatt (Switzerland)
- Valletta (Malta)
- Plovdiv (Bulgaria)
- Salisbury (England)
- Vienna (Austria)
- Chennai (India)
- Toronto (Canada)
To be honest, the list felt somewhat random to me. With some cities, I can see why they’re on the list (Valletta for example, which is totally underrated in my opinion, and is featured in a detailed post on Globetrottergirls.com here), but with others, I feel like they are completely arbitrary picks, and both Latin America and Asia are undervalued – and Australia has been ignored entirely, while more than half of the list is made up by European cities.
So I decided to put together my own list of cities I think you should visit in 2015 – and if you feel like visiting some of them next year, make sure to check out Contiki’s new destinations as well as its classic tours which include four of the places I suggest.
Please let me know what you think about my picks in the comments below, or share your own Top 5 or just one must-visit city for 2015 with me!
1 Cusco, Peru
I haven’t written much about Cusco yet but it will get a full feature here soon – It had been a long time since I had been enchanted by a city as much as I was by Cusco earlier this year. Surrounded by the green Andean Mountains, and set around a spacious Plaza De Armas (main square), it is the picture-perfect Spanish-colonial city. It was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in order to preserve the one-of-a-kind mix of Inca culture, Killke culture (the ethnic group that populated the area prior to the Incas) and Spanish colonial influence. Especially the San Blas neighborhood, set on a hill and lined with narrow alleyways and little squares, churches and cute restaurants, had me pull out my camera over and over again. San Pedro market, the city’s main market is one of the cleanest and best organized ones I’ve come across in Latin America, and I loved shopping for quinoa and other grains there, as well as Andean scarves and llama wool gloves to take home as souvenirs.
And then there’s Machu Picchu of course, the famous lost Inca city high up in the Andean Mountains that is the main draw for most people to visit Cusco. My recommendation: make sure to spend a few more days in this beautiful city and take in its beauty.
Lonely Planet voted for Vienna, but I say visit Innsbruck! The city has one of the most spectacular settings in the entire Alps, nestled in a valley between the towering snow-covered Alpine mountains on each sides. If you happen to fly into Innsbruck, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most breathtaking landings in the world. A half hour drive out of the city brings you to some of the most stunning scenery in Austria – think snow covered mountain peaks and green Alpine meadows that would make Heidi squeal with joy. The city itself combines traditional Austrian architecture with a young student vibe where you find tons of bars, pubs and coffee shops. As long as the sun is out, restaurants and cafes put chairs and tables outside – even in the winter. Innsbruck is a mecca for anyone who loves outdoorsy activities, attracting hikers in the summer and turning into a skier’s and snowboarder’s paradise in the winter.
3 Mexico City
Mexico City’s capital just doesn’t get enough love, but it remains one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever been to. I remember that before my first visit, the thought of exploring a 20 million people metropole seemed quite daunting, but thanks to the excellent subway system and walkable historic center it is actually easy to navigate the city. The amount of world-class museums, accessible art (murals by Mexico’s great muralists in particular), diverse neighborhoods and incredible food markets make Mexico City one of the most vibrant cities in the world. When you need a break from the busy city environment you can take a break in Parque Chapultapec, a giant park right in the city, or head to the outskirts of Mexico City, where you find quaint neighborhoods such as San Angel, Coyoacan or Xochimilco, which still have the charm of little villages with leafy town squares and cobble stone streets.
4 Valletta, Malta
Valletta is one of Europe’s smallest capitals and is nothing like a typical capital city. The tiny capital (population just over 6,000) is surrounded by a massive, still intact city wall, erected in the 16th century by the Knights Of St John who built Valletta. The city is filled with ocher colored houses, many of which feature colorful wooden balconies. Surrounded by the Mediterranean on three sides and set on a hilltop, you have magnificent views over the sea and the harbor from almost any point in the city. Just looking down on one of the long streets of Valletta’s grid layout will have you hold your breath. The city is rightly UNESCO World Heritage site, and I will feature it in detail in a photo post later this week.
5 Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane is another highly underrated capital – even though it is one of the prettiest capitals in all of South East Asia. With its quiet, laid-back vibe it is worlds apart from bustling Bangkok or hectic Kuala Lumpur, but in Laos, people usually head straight to Luang Prabang. Admittedly, Luang Prabang is a showcase city with well-preserved French-colonial architecture, a fabulous night market and tons of boutique hotels and delicious eateries, but Vientiane has the prettier temples, the better river sunsets and a less touristy feel to it.