From Bhutan to Kyrgyzstan: 20 top travel destinations to visit in 2020
We round up some of the world’s most exciting destinations for the year ahead
With 2020 upon us, many people will be looking forward to the year ahead and making those all-important travel plans. Whether you're looking for more sustainable destinations, something off the beaten track or just a bit of travel inspiration, here are 20 of the most exciting places to visit in 2020...
Why go in 2020? It's set to be included in the Michelin guide
Surrounded by Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy, Slovenia is a small but perfectly formed destination that’s just beginning to make a name for itself, despite the long-running popularity of its neighbours. Set between the Alps and the Adriatic, Slovenia is all about long walks, flower-dusted meadows and glass-like lakes. The country has many natural attractions, such as the Piran hiking trails and Postojna Cave. It’s also big on sustainable travel, with new cycling trails and forest glamping experiences, too, in the pipeline. Slovenia is also getting noticed for its fine dining, with chef Ana Ros recognised as one of the world’s best, and a host of new restaurants opening in the capital, Ljubljana - get there before the reviewers do.
Why go in 2020? To visit the Grand Egyptian Museum
After several delays, Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open its doors this year. The sprawling centre is beside the Great Pyramid of Giza and will be the world’s largest museum to be dedicated to one civilisation. It’s also close to the newly opened Sphinx International Airport. Elsewhere, Egypt’s first long-distance hiking trail opened last year and is becoming a favourite for adventure travellers.
Why go in 2020? Emirates has launched flights to Mexico City
Travelling to Mexico from the UAE has become a lot easier since Emirates began flying to Mexico City from Dubai through Barcelona in December. The Mexican capital is a thriving hub of culture, cuisine and history. See Unesco-listed structures in the historic centre and wander by ancient cathedrals and remnants of the Aztec empire. Don’t forget about the food: from tasty pambazo and camote to spicy corn chilaquiles, the largest city in North America has a booming culinary scene.
Why go in 2020? To get caught up in Olympic fever
The country is hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics and more than 600,000 visitors are expected to travel to the country. Join the excitement by planning a Japan trip, but skip the crowds in the big cities and head instead to the Yamaguchi Prefecture, where you’ll have the place almost to yourself. Being the westernmost region of Honshu, Yamaguchi is known for its beaches, beautiful cherry blossoms and historic Samurai districts.
Why go in 2020? The world’s greatest show is in town
Dubai Expo 2020 is nearly upon us. Running for 173 days from October until April 2021, the event promises to be “the greatest show on Earth” with almost 200 countries set to take part. The UAE will make history as the host of the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East. Elsewhere, Dubai’s Museum of the Future will be opening in October and the Zaha Hadid-designed ME by Melia Dubai hotel is also gearing up for its much-anticipated launch.
Why go in 2020? To spot mountain gorillas
The World Economic Forum recently named Rwanda the safest country in Africa, which is good news for a place in the process of building its tourism industry. It has secured a reputation as the go-to for mountain gorilla-spotting opportunities, but Rwanda has plenty more to offer, from seeing the big five on safari in Akagera National Park to marvelling at lava-filled craters at Volcanoes National Park. The One&Only Gorilla’s Nest resort in the lush Virgunga volcano range opened at the end of 2019 and is the ideal place to stay for a wildlife adventure.
Why go in 2020? Follow in the footsteps of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Pakistan in October last year, there has been a renewed interest in the country that is set to increase in popularity as it hosts the 2020 World Tourism Forum in Islamabad. While Pakistan has been plagued by years of fragile politics, and you need to have your wits about you in some parts of the country, other areas are safe to visit. Known for its mountains, including five of the world’s 14 highest peaks, Pakistan is a prime candidate for adventure travellers. Easier visa applications and the lifting of restrictions on movement make the country one to watch this year.
8. Sri Lanka
Why go in 2020? It's a second-chance for the island
Touted as the country to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet, Sri Lanka instead suffered a shattering blow when a major terror attack took place in Colombo, its commercial capital, in April. But, after months of avoidance, tourists are slowly beginning to return to the country and several nations have lifted travel restrictions that were issued in the aftermath. New hotels are set to open this year including Haritha Villas in Hikkaduwa, Teardrop Pekoe House in Kandy and the Alila Koggala near Galle. Sri Lanka is ready for its second coming, so visit now before the crowds return.
Why go in 2020? It's recovered from a natural disaster and is on a climate-resilient crusade
Tiny Dominica lies in the eastern Caribbean and is one of the world’s least-visited places. In 2017, it was wrecked by Hurricane Maria, but has worked hard to recover. With sandy beaches, tropical rainforests, rocky landscapes and huge volcanoes, the island also attracts responsible holidaymakers, thanks to its mission to become the first climate-resilient country in the world. Luxury travellers will like the newly opened five-star Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski, while scuba fans should visit in July for a festival dedicated entirely to diving.
Why go in 2020? Tbilisi’s renovations are complete
Despite its tiny size, Georgia is home to no less than 12 different climate zones, making it one of the most ecologically diverse destinations in the world. With direct flights available from Dubai to Tbilisi, the country is within easy reach and has been busy remodelling itself. Gone are the former Soviet spaces and abandoned buildings; instead you’ll find new boutique hotels, art galleries and restaurants. Orbeliani Square, the capital’s main artery, reopened last year after two years and millions of dirhams’ worth of renovation work; the city also has two new pedestrianised zones.
Why go in 2020? It's Lonely Planet’s number one place to visit in 2020.
The world’s biggest travel guidebook publisher chose Bhutan as the best place to visit this year, thanks to its impressive green credentials. Tourist numbers are strictly controlled, with a set daily fee that travellers need to pay. Bhutan is also a carbon- neutral kingdom that has plans to be the first fully organic nation. Satisfying the trend for remote, unspoilt destinations, the country also has some new hotels worth calling upon, including The Postcard Dewa, which comes with amazing views of Thimphu Valley.
Why go in 2020? To trek the Xuefeng Mountains of Hunan Province
Tourist numbers to China are on the up, but travellers in the remote rural Hunan Province in the country’s south-east are still something of a rarity. However, this little-visited patch of mountain land is gearing up to welcome more visitors this year when it becomes home to China’s first world-class hiking trail. Winding through the Xuefeng Mountains, the trek is split into stages, each of which varies in difficulty and can be tackled on different days. Tourists exploring the new route will pass ancient rice terraces, remote mountain villages and thick forests, and get to know the Huayao people, famous for their cross-stitching and folk song.
Why go in 2020? To see the 2020 Adventure Racing World Championships
South America’s hidden gem is full of colour, culture and history, and best of all, it’s yet to be overrun by tourists. It will host the Adventure Racing World Championships this year, welcoming the world’s best endurance athletes to race through its mountains, rivers and peaks. The landlocked country is also a wildlife extravaganza that’s quietly catching up to neighbouring Brazil as a place to celebrate carnival – on a much more modest budget.
Why go in 2020? After hitting the news when Trump announced he wanted to buy the world’s largest island, Greenland is all set for tourists
The world’s largest island was at the centre of a media storm in 2019 when Donald Trump tweeted that he’d like to buy it. Unsurprisingly Greenland rejected the offer, but it is expecting a tourism boom in the wake of all the attention. Known for its wintry landscapes packed with ice caps and glaciers, as well as its Unesco-listed sites, the territory is also a one of the best places to spot the Northern Lights or see whales. Visit during the summer to relax in its outdoor hot springs or take on a new challenge by signing up for the Polar Circle Marathon in October – it’s the only race where you can run on Greenland’s ice caps.
Why go in 2020? To stay at the first European resort from luxury hotelier One&Only
This destination has been on the travel radar for a few years now and is not going anywhere just yet. Home to more than 300 kilometres of Adriatic coastline, rugged mountains and five national parks, the small country is well worth visiting. Discover culture in Cetinje, the old capital and royal seat, visit the Budva Riviera and explore the distinctly modern capital of Podgorica – most of the original city was destroyed in the Second World War. Set to open in 2020, the One&Only Portonovi will join Montenegro’s growing luxury hotel scene.
Why go in 2020? It’s the new ‘Stan to visit
Central Asia is having a much-awaited moment and although last year was all about Uzbekistan, now it’s time for landlocked Kyrgyzstan to take the crown. Awash with natural beauty and craggy mountain peaks, the high-altitude country is also home to Issyk Kul, the world’s second-largest alpine lake. Late May to early June is a good time to visit if you want the weather to bed down in a classic Kyrgyzstan yurt, but don’t want the crowds that descend up the nation in the peak summer season. For those looking for tradition and culture, the Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association lets you discover both first-hand.
Why go in 2020? To stay in Anantara’s first North African resort
Famed for its coastline, there’s actually more than the classic beach break to be found in Tunisia, with culture, heritage and adventure all on the cards. Anantara hotels chose the country as the site for its North African debut when it opened Anantara Tozeur Resort in December last year. Only 15 minutes from Tozeur airport, the hotel is set in the desert, surrounded by palm trees and salt lake views.
18. Saudi Arabia
Why go in 2020? To be one of the first visitors to tour the country
The country has officially opened its doors to tourists and is getting set for a big year. Work on seven new giga-projects is under way, including the futuristic city of Neom and the idyllic island development that is the Red Sea Project. The Winter at Tantora festival runs until March at the historic Al Ula and includes arts, entertainment, music and even the region’s first polo match. If you want bragging rights, this is the time to go to Saudi Arabia.
Why go in 2020? Gothenburg is the 2020 European Capital of Smart Tourism
Gothenburg is Scandinavia’s largest port city, and one of two European Capitals of Smart Tourism for 2020. On top of that, it was named the world’s Most Sustainable Destination by the Global Destination Sustainability Index. It has transformed from a gritty industrial city into a pocket-sized metropolis, and visitors can expect cutting-edge design, art galleries, Michelin-starred dining and buzzy nightlife. Work is also under way on the new 35-floor Clarion Hotel Draken, which will be the city’s tallest building.
Why go in 2020? Because you might be able to
If you’ve had your fill of Earth, you’ll be happy to hear that space travel could finally be here. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is set to launch its first space tourism flights this year. Thrill-seeking explorers will go into orbit on the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft later this year after purchasing tickets that cost more than $250,000 (Dh918,125). If you would like to become a future astronaut, more tickets are set to be released later in the year.
Updated: January 1, 2020 11:35 AM