- Lifestyle & Sports
- 29 Jan 15
Whether it’s a beautifully preserved Belgian city or the historic capital of Ethopia, in 2015 travellers are set to spread their wings as never before. Here are the destinations you can’t afford to miss.
The picturesque Belgian city, in the French speaking Wallonia region, will jointly hold the honour of Capital of Culture with the Czech Republic’s Pilsen. These days, the former mining town has become something of a digital hub, with Google having recently built a vast data centre in the area. Stunning cobbled streets, charming courtyards, wonderful architecture and galleries represent Mon’s glorious past, but what’s the big attraction for culture vultures? The 2015 programme can boast everything from gigantic pieces of modern art, such as ‘The Passenger’, to a large collection of Van Gogh’s works. Getting there is a breeze! Take a flight to Brussels and from there it’s only 50 minutes south by train for a tenner…
For almost 200 years, the Czech city, in the Bohemia region, has achieved fame for a distinctive type of beer, Pilsener, first brewed there in 1842, and as the home of Skoda cars. However, in recent times, Pilsenň has slowly emerged from the shadows of the illustrious capital, Prague. The Old Town is exquisite, but it’s the city’s welcoming citizens and goodtime atmosphere that are the real highlight. With a large student population and lots of funky bars and music venues, Pilsen is a great place to kick back and have some fun! To get there fly Dublin to Prague direct: from there it’s a two hour train ride.
The crumbling Spanish colonial era architecture of ‘Habana Vieja’ (Old Havana) is reason enough, but there’s much more to Cuba than Cohiba cigars, beat-up Buicks, Che Guevara memorials, and white rum! Despite its self-imposed exile from the outside world and the ravages of the US embargo, Cubans are open, friendly and fun-loving people. Santiago de Cuba on its eastern coast is a world away from Havana’s noisy bustle and a wonderful place to sample some live music and soak up the warm sun, whilst sleepy Cienfuegos mixes stunning period buildings with nearby paradise beaches. Getting there is easy with direct flights aplenty from Madrid and Paris to Havana.
For most of us, music festivals are places where wellies and ponchos are king! So, for something completely different, why not head for balmy California and the Empire Polo Club, home since 1999 to the Coachella festival. In 2015, AC/DC and Jack White will be amongst the headliners, but good luck seeking tickets: this April’s shindig sold out in 20 minutes. Much like our own Electric Picnic, there’s lots to see beyond the main stage with sculptures, art installations and avant-garde offerings around every corner. Take a flight to Los Angeles and head due east 150 miles to the arid Coachella Valley. Amtrak trains will take you most of the way…
The Caribbean island of Hispaniola is home to two nations, the former British colony, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the first Independent nation in Latin America. In 2010, Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake, a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. But its brave citizens are slowly rebuilding this proud country from the ruins. From stunning tropical beaches and paradise islands to sumptuous cuisine, citadels and native art, Haiti is a veritable feast for the senses. It’s also the home of voodoo! One-stop flights are available from Paris to the French-speaking Haitian capital of Port au Prince via New York.
This year, Malaysia will celebrate its ‘Year of Festivals’ with a diverse range of spectacular events dotted throughout the Southeast Asian archipelago. The festivals will champion the numerous traditions and passions of the Malaysian people, including events dedicated to kite-flying, venomous wilderness animals, traditional orchestra, theatre and cuisine, to name but a few. If you’re lucky enough to make the trip in 2015, make time to explore some of the nation’s treasures, including the exquisite Perhentian Islands, the Iban longhouse communities of Sarawak or experience Orang-utans in the wild in Northeast Borneo. Fly from Dublin to Dubai with Emirates and connect onwards to Kuala Lumpur.
The recent announcement that Ethiopian Airlines will fly LA to Addis Ababa, with a stopover in Dublin, is great news for those with a bad case of wanderlust. Whilst direct access to the Ethiopian capital will prove a huge draw, LA still remains one of the prime tourist destinations in the world, and with good reason. From the surreal sight of the beautiful people strutting their plastic selves on Venice Beach to Hollywood Boulevard, glamorous Rodeo drive and Disneyland, the ‘City of Angels’ has lots to keep your eyes, ears and wallet occupied. Music lovers should pay homage to their heroes on the infamous Sunset Strip, home to such legendary venues as the Whiskey a Go Go, Roxy and the Rainbow. This is where everyone from The Doors to Guns N’ Roses first made their mark…
Later this autumn, fans of the oval ball, including thousands of us Irish, will descend on merry old England for the eighth installment of the Rugby World Cup. The spiritual home of English rugby is arguably the West Country, where historic clubs like Bath and Gloucester do regular battle with the big daddy of the English club scene, Leicester Tigers. The Leicester City stadium will host a number of World Cup pool games, but visitors to the East Midlands city should take some time and also sample its rich history. Settled in Roman times, Leicester retains baths and many ruins from this era; another jewel in its crown is the King Richard III visitor centre. The life and death of the controversial king, immortalised by Shakespeare, is celebrated in this world-class facility. Fly from Dublin to East Midlands airport and from there Leicester is less than 20 miles by road.
YELLOW SUBMARINE, ARGENTINA
In the pristine waters off the Valdes Peninsula, in southern Argentina’s Patagonia region, travellers can experience some of nature’s largest creatures in all their splendour. The Yellow Submarine specialise in semi-submersible trips around the Peninsula where southern right whales, sea lions and other oceanic mammals are daily visitors. Unlike most companies touting ‘whale encounters’, Yellow Submarine are a little special, offering views of these phenomenal mammals from their underwater viewing deck. Then, when the whales start to breach the surface waters, everyone simply heads upstairs to the upper deck! However, this part of the world isn’t easy to get to. Fly from Spain to Buenos Aires and connect internally, or, if time’s no issue, take a bus journey through the splendid Argentinian countryside and onwards to Patagonia, home of jaw-dropping views of the snow peaked southern Andes.
RIMUTAKA CYCLE TRAIL, NEW ZEALAND
The Rimutaka cycle route is a 115km-long trail that connects Wellington and Wairarapa on the southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. Its meandering route takes cyclists through sections of magnificent scenery and places of historic relevance. The route is packed with majestic sea views, gentle mountain climbs, vineyards and, of course, endless acres of grazing sheep. Whilst hardcore cyclists may wish to complete the trail in a day, others take a week or more to uncover its charms. With regular picnic and swimming spots along the route, there’s no need to rush. However, though worth the effort, it’s quite the journey. Fly Emirates to Sydney via Dubai and connect onwards to Wellington with Air New Zealand.