New Zealand: Winner of Top Destination 2015

Wanderlust Travel Awards 2015: THE WINNERS

29th January 2015

Where is the world's top destination? Which country is the one to watch? Where is the loveliest international airport – and which airline is the best to fly with? The Wanderlust Travel Awards 2015 reveals all...

In 2014, we asked our readers to tell us their favourite destinations, airlines, airports, gear, guidebooks – and more – in our annual Travel Awards Survey. The results were announced by TV presenter and keen traveller Julia Bradbury at the Destinations Show 2015 in Olympia, London, on 29 January – and you'll find them all below...

How it works: For many of the survey questions (eg 'Which countries have you visited in the last year?'), we asked readers to list up to four entries and score each one on its merits. The final positions were based on an average score for the entry (converted to a percentage) – so the results are based on satisfaction rather than the number of votes. In categories where no percentage is shown, the results were simply based on the number of votes cast for each option. 

Thankyou to everyone who took the time to share their opinions with us – good and bad – to give us a true picture of what travellers really think.

Top Country

1. New Zealand 97.78%
2. Namibia 97.37%
3. Ethiopia 97.27%
4. Bhutan 97.14%
5. Zambia 96.36%
6. Oman 96%
7. Costa Rica 95.43%
8. Laos 95.25%
9. Myanmar/Burma 95.16%
10. Vietnam 94.56%

It's done it! Rising to number two last year after three consecutive years at number three, New Zealand has hit the top spot and has finally been crowned Wanderlust readers' Top Destination – and deservedly so.

For such a small country, it sure packs a lot in. From the sprawling countryside and pristine beaches of the North Island, to the dramatic peaks and thrill-inducing South; New Zealand is one spectacular playground. The North is home to the Tongariro National Park, where the country's newest and most active volcanoes are found – snow-capped and shrouded in Maori legend.

The South goes all in; from the sky-piercing Mount Cook to the pyramid-like peaks of Milford Sound. It has glaciers, fiords and an endless supply of high-adrenaline adventures – enough to leave any visitor breathless. There's also more than enough to satisfy curious wildlife enthusiasts with fantastic whale (and dolphin, and albatross, and fur seal)-watching opportunities at Kaikoura, and the kiwi population of Stewart Island. 

Top Emerging Destination

1. Papua New Guinea 100%
2. Mongolia 97.5%
3. Montenegro 97.5%
4. Iran 97.14%
5. Bolivia 95%

Due to its idyllic setting, natural variety and rich cultural heritage, Papua New Guinea is fast becoming the go-to destination for an array of activities. The tropical country has highlights aplenty – from its delicate and unspoiled coastline to vast jungles teeming with endemic species. It is also home to countless highland tribes who, between them, have a collection of around 820 languages.

The diving off Kimbe Bay is up with the best in the world, with untouched reefs and fascinating wrecks that remain from the Second World War. It's also a haven for trekkers with a variety of coastal, jungle and mountain trails, and the challenging summit of Mt Wilhelm at 4,509m. And then there's the animals: if tree kangaroos and giant leatherback turtles aren't your cup of tea, Papua New Guinea has over 700 bird species, including 38 glamorous birds of paradise.

Top City

1. Luang Prabang 97.14%
2. Bagan 95%
3. Stockholm 94.74%
4. Kyoto 94.29%
5. Hoi An 94.12%
6. Vancouver 93.85%
7. Berlin 93.51%
8. Rome 93.13%
9. Vienna 92.86%
10. Krakow 92.5%

Luang Prabang is never far from the top spot in this category – proof of its enduring charm, and the bevvy of treasures and unique experiences that await every traveller. Last year's Top City winner, Bagan, takes a close second place – proving that not only are our readers an intrepid bunch, they have fantastic taste, too. Congratulations also to Stockholm, a newcomer to the shortlist.

Top UK Destination

1. Lake District
2. London
3. Cornwall
4. Scottish Highlands
5. Edinburgh
6. Peak District
7. York
8. Northumberland
9. Snowdonia
10. Yorkshire Dales

The Lake District scooped the top spot in 2014, and this year is no different: we'd defy to to find a lovelier spot in the UK with as much variety, outdoor activities and dramatic landscapes than England's largest national park. London is the highest-ranking city, and we're chuffed to see Edinburgh and York near the top, too. Fancy discovering the Lake District for yourself? See our guide to an eco-friendly short break, or win a Cicerone guide to the Lake District's Low Level and Lake Walks in this week's competition...

Top Tour Operator

1. Bamboo Travel 99.57%
2. Selective Asia 99.09%
3. Holiday Architects 98.9%
4. TransIndus 98.33%
5. Llama Travel 98.3%
6. Wildlife Worldwide 96.84%
7. Journey Latin America 95.29%
8. Audley Travel 95.13%
9. Ramblers Worldwide Holidays 94.29%
10. Trailfinders 93.66%

Our readers travelled with over 380 tour operators last year – and we received bucketloads of feedback on every one. The top 10 all received over 93% satisfaction rate – an overwhelming success, and a real seal of approval. After winning last year's Top Tour Operator, Bamboo Travel is in first place once again, closely followed by a varied line-up of Asia, wildlife, South America and hiking specialists – testament to our readers' eclectic tastes and love of adventure.

Top Airline

1. Singapore Airlines 93.22%
2. Air New Zealand 92.94%
3. Eva Air 89.47%
4. Emirates 88.18%
5. Qatar Airways 85.83%
6. Eithad Airways 84.85%
7. Cathay Pacific 82.14%
8. Malaysia Airlines 82.11%
9. KLM 81.91%
10. Turkish Airlines 81.74%

Hospitality and reliability are paramount in the Top Airline category – and perennial favourite Singapore Airlines (first place 2009-2013) serves up both in abundance. Last year's winner Air New Zealand came in at close second place – and Taiwan-based Eva Air is a newcomer to the short list.

Top Worldwide Airport

1. Singapore Changi 94%
2. Copenhagen Airport 89.47%
3. Helsinki Airport 89.33%
4. Zurich Airport 88.24%
5. Hong Kong International 87.17%
6. Amsterdam Schipol 84.29%
7. Beijing Airport 81.82%
8. Keflavik Airport 81%
9. Vancouver Airport 80.65%
10. Auckland Airport 80%

Changi Airport in Singapore has been our readers' favourite international airport since these awards began. It's got a fantastic satisfaction rate, and a host of efficient, friendly amenities to keep you entertained while you're waiting to fly. An all-round lovely airport.

Top UK Airport

1. Newcastle International 86%
2. Southampton Airport 83.2%
3. Edinburgh Airport 79.19%
4. London City 78.82%
5. Birmingham International 78.81%
6. Bristol International 78.29%
7. Manchester Airport 77.03%
8. London Heathrow 76.15%
9. London Gatwick 74.18%
10. Glasgow Airport 73.33%

Southampton, London City and Newcastle International have been battling for the top spot for years, so we were pleasantly surprised to welcome Edinburgh Airport into the top three.

Top guidebook series

1. Cicerone 81.26%
2. Dorling Kindersley 81.08%
3. Lonely Planet 80.92%
4. Bradt 79.94%
5. Rough Guides 77.51%
6. Insight 74.79%
7. Footprint 74.62%
8. Trailblazer 69.71%
9. TimeOut 69.64%
10. Frommers 68.42%

Cicerone have over 320 hiking, biking and climbing guidebooks to their name – and our readers love them. This is Cicerone's second winning year, proving that if you know your niche, you'll go far (all the way to the top, quite literally!) You could win a Cicerone guide to the Lake District's Low Level and Lake Walks in this week's competition...

Top Equipment Brand

1. Rab 90.96%
2. Páramo 88.77%
3. Rohan 87.3%
4. Berghaus 84.82%
5. Montane 84.81%
6. Patagonia 84.78%
7. Salomon 84.14%
8. Arc'Teryx 83.83%
9. Jack Wolfskin 83.81%
10. The North Face 83.03%

Our readers know their gear, so crowning Rab as their favourite is a huge accolade. Páramo is another enduring favourite; the brand scooped 'Best Waterproof Jacket' and a special mention for its Men's Maui Trousers in the Wanderlust Gear of the Year 2015 awards, too. Want to try out third-place gear brand Rohan for yourself? Get 10% off any online Rohan purchase with our exclusive discount code WL47.

Top TV or Radio Programme

1. Sacred Rivers with Simon Reeve
2. The Mekong River with Sue Perkins
3. Life Story
4. Great British Railway Journeys
5. Great Continental Railway Journeys
6. Wonders of the Monsoon
7. Downton Abbey
8. An Idiot Abroad
9. Anthony Bourdain
10. Coast Australia

Simon Reeve was at the Travel Awards in person to collect his gong for Sacred Rivers – after all, he's a Wanderlust favourite. Over the past three years, he's bagged the top spot for Australia, Indian Ocean and Tropic of Cancer – so we can't wait to see what he's got in store for us next... 

Travel Blog of the Year

'Why I'm addicted to cycle touring', by Ed Shoote

Ed's account of the ups and downs of cycle touring is touching, entertaining, and full of enthusiasm for adventure – so it's no surprise that it received the most web traffic out of all of this year's Blog of the Week posts. You can read all of our Blog of the Week posts here – which one is your favourite?

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