Travel tips from the top: this year’s best new positive travel experiences

Top journalists from The British Guild of Travel Writers pick their top travel experiences of 2014

When travelling the world is your nine-to-five, you’re in the know for the best places to go. So the suggestions of the 270 members of The British Guild of Travel Writers (BGTW) should not go unheeded. These destinations have all been earmarked by the BGTW for their creative contribution to the experience of travellers, while at the same time demonstrating social and environmental responsibility: the winners enhance a destination, they don’t destroy it. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next trip, check out these award-winning experiences.

WIDER WORLD WINNER: The High Line, New York

The High Line is the creative recycling of an elevated freight railway that runs for more than a mile and a half along Manhattan’s West Side. Built in the 1930s to serve the area’s dairies, bakeries and factories, by the 1990s it had become derelict and was a blight on the neighbourhood. But on the tracks, untouched and unnoticed by humans for twenty years, nature created a meadow, a wildlife habitat, a green oasis where hundreds of native plants flourished.

Two local men formed Friends of the High Line to try to find a sustainable use for it and to raise money to save it. Since 2009 this elevated park has opened to the public in stages, the most recent on 21 September 2014.

Free and completely accessible, with 90 percent of its $3m (£1.9m) annual operating budget raised through thousands of donations from New Yorkers, it is today both a community resource and visitor attraction. By 2011, it had already contributed more than $2bn (£1.2bn) in regeneration and development to what had been a dilapidated neighbourhood.

Visit for a free guide filled with alternative ways to experience New York City and State.

EUROPE WINNER: Andreasstrasse Memorial & Education Centre, Germany

It takes real guts to reveal the truth about the recent past – especially when people who lived through it are still alive.

The Andreasstrasse Memorial and Education Centre in Erfurt – which depicts life in the former East Germany – is not an easy place to visit. Entering the former prison, turned memorial, is claustrophobic and haunting. But the displays are important, not just to remember the past, but in the way they resonate with recent events in the Middle East and around the world, too. The exhibit is a reminder that, in the end, the reunification of Germany was marked by a peaceful revolution. The turmoil of the Wall falling is displayed alongside signs reading Keine Gewalt: No violence.

UK WINNER: King Richard III Visitor Centre

In 2012, one of the most extraordinary discoveries of recent times was unearthed. The final resting place of King Richard III had been lost for centuries, until suddenly, under the paving stones of a Leicester council car park, his bones were finally found.

The archaeological dig found his body – battle-scarred and hunched from scoliosis – on the first day of building work, but it took weeks for DNA tests at Leicester University to establish his identity. The council took a leap of faith and bought an empty building beside the grave with the intention of turning it into a visitor centre if the body was confirmed as his. Luckily for them it was, and the £4m centre opened on 26 July this year.

The centre’s lower floor explains Richard III’s life and death. The upper galleries bring to life the detective story behind the dig and show how contemporary science (DNA testing, carbon dating and facial reconstruction) allowed his body to be identified. Finally, back downstairs, you see his grave – the site covered with glass.

Tourism to Leicester, and Leicestershire, went up by more than six percent following the discovery – the visitor centre was essential, acting as a hub, attracting visitors and then dispersing them across the city and to the wider region.

On 26 March 2015 Richard, the last Plantagenet, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral. A burial, finally, fit for a king.

An edited version of this article appeared in the British Guild of Travel Writers Newsletter:

Positive Travel is edited by Aaron Millar. He writes about adventure travel, and personal development through exploring the world, at The Blue Dot Perspective