20 Best Places to Travel in 2020
New decade—new destinations!
Fact: More people are traveling the world today than ever before. According to the latest data from the United Nations' World Tourism Organization, 1.4 billion tourists embarked on international trips in 2018, which represents a 6 percent increase from the previous year. Fast forward to today and the world of global tourism is at a major turning point—especially when you account for exciting new cultural offerings and off-the-beaten-path destinations on the rise.
That said, are you looking to make a big trip this year, but don't know where to begin? If so, we've compiled here all of the latest and greatest places to travel in 2020, which include old favorites (bonjour, Paris!), countries that may not be on your radar yet (hello, Belize!), and some of the best options closer to home that are sure to surprise you. So read on, and don't forget your passport!
Home to the oldest desert on earth and one of the world's few international dark sky reserves, Namibia is coming into the spotlight thanks to a few new lodges that are making it more accessible to travelers. Last year, safari operator Natural Selection opened Shipwreck Lodge on the remote Skeleton Coast and Hoanib Valley Camp, and in March they'll debut the new Kwessi Dunes camp in the NamibRand Nature Preserve. Plus, andBeyond's Sossusvlei Desert Lodge just reopened on a private concession in the Namib Desert.
The region that forms the heel of Italy's boot has long been a favorite summer vacation spot for Italians, but it's coming onto the radar of Americans who want to get off the beaten path. Last year, Puglia saw the debut of two exciting new hotels: Masseria Torre Maizza by Rocco Forte Hotels in the northern part of the peninsula and Palazzo Daniele, a member of Design Hotels on the southern end, near where the Ionian and Adriatic Seas meet. In between, there are olive tree fields, vineyards, glittering beaches, and charming villages like Polignano a Mare and Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rent a villa by The Thinking Traveller and bring the whole family.
Chilean Lakes District
Just north of Patagonia, the Chilean Lakes District should be on every nature lover's bucket list. Active travelers can go hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, fly fishing, and stargazing. It's going to be especially incredible to be there on December 14, 2020, when a total solar eclipse will occur over the town of Pucón. The best way to experience the region is with a stay at andBeyond Vira Vira, a luxurious lodge on an organic farm with a backdrop of glacial lakes and snowy volcanoes.
Audrey Hepburn famously said, "Paris is always a good idea," and we tend to agree. In 2020, a slew of new openings is making the City of Light especially exciting. The Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection, a contemporary art museum, is slated to debut in June inside a former trade center restored by award-winning architect Tadao Ando. Beaux-Arts department store La Samaritaine, which closed in 2005, is being redeveloped as a complex comprising ultra-luxe hotel Cheval Blanc, new boutiques, and a fine-dining restaurant by a Michelin-starred chef. And just outside the city, travelers will be able to spend a night at the Palace of Versailles when Airelles opens its highly anticipated hotel, Le Grand Contrôle.
The highly anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum is finally opening in 2020 and when it does, it's going to be a major boon for tourism. The $1.1 billion, 5.2 million-square-foot museum near the Pyramids of Giza will be the world's second largest museum and the largest dedicated to a single civilization. Use it as a jumping off point to discover the ancient temples of Luxor, the tombs of the Valley of Kings, and the Nile River with its hidden treasures. A tour operator like Extraordinary Journeys can help you plan the trip of a lifetime with an expert Egyptologist.
Denmark's capital has long drawn foodies, design lovers, and people fascinated by the Danish concept of hygge, but now there are even more reasons to go. The completion of a new metro line means the city is better connected than ever and its picturesque square Kongens Nytorv has finally reopened after a seven-year closure. The Museum of Copenhagen will also reopen in 2020 and the old post office near Tivoli Gardens will be transformed into an urban resort on a scale the city hasn't seen before.
The 2020 Olympics are putting a spotlight on Tokyo, but there's much more to see and do in Japan. Kyoto, a city beloved for its historic charm, just got a new art museum and has another on the way. Plus, new hotels by Ace and Aman are sure to attract more travelers in 2020. But if you want to get off the beaten path, head down to the southernmost island of Kyushu. There, the resort town of Beppu—known for its many natural hot springs—just welcomed its first international five-star resort, the InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa, which boasts both public and private onsens with jaw-dropping views of the glittering Bay of Beppu below.
British Virgin Islands
After being devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the British Virgin Islands are finally back and ready for primetime. In late 2018, Sir Richard Branson's private island resort, Necker Island, reopened after a multimillion-dollar renovation. This month, Rosewood Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda—founded by conservationist Laurance Rockefeller—will finally reopen following a complete renovation. For the ultimate island-hopping adventure, charter a yacht with the Moorings.
Galway is Ireland's third city to be named a European Capital of Culture, and it's planning a year's worth of programming to celebrate, starting with an Opening Ceremony in February. Perched on Ireland's wild western coast, Galway has a long history as a city of artists, bohemians, and mavericks. Consider planning a trip during the Galway International Arts Festival in July, when there will be performances by the Pixies, the Flaming Lips, and Sinéad O'Connor.
Luang Prabang, Laos
One of Southeast Asia's underrated gems, Luang Prabang is celebrating 25 years as a UNESCO World Heritage site this year. Its charm lies in the way the city's French colonial architecture and Buddhist heritage coexist. Located on the mighty Mekong, it's also a more laid-back alternative to Asia's hectic megacities. Though it's popular with backpackers, you can find more upscale accommodations at the new Avani+ Luang Prabang, which is housed in former French officers' barracks just steps from the night market.
The nation's capital is set to be a battleground leading up to the election in November, but there are plenty of other reasons to visit. Leaving politics aside, Washington has always had an amazing collection of free museums, but if you haven't made it to the National Museum of African American History and Culture yet, it's about time you go. The waterfront is also being redeveloped as one of the city's most exciting new neighborhoods. The first phase of the Wharf brought Anthem concert hall, an InterContinental hotel, exciting restaurants like Officina, and shops to the area.
One of the most popular islands in the Caribbean, St. Bart's is also making a comeback after the 2017 hurricanes. A favorite of jetsetters and Francophiles, its capital Gustavia is full of designer shops, trendy restaurants like La Guérite, and bars where you can dance the night away. Seven out of the island's 10 five-star resorts are back up and running, including the intimate Le Sereno, Eden Rock, Hotel Christopher, Le Barthélemy, and Le Toiny. Le Guanahani is slated to reopen in October following a complete overhaul.
Following the horrific Rwandan genocide in 1994, the country is being hailed as one of Africa's greatest comeback stories. It's one of the few places to travel on earth where you can go gorilla trekking and see these amazing animals in their natural habitat. Two new lodges have opened in 2019: Singita Kwitonda and One&Only Gorilla's Nest. The former is located right on the edge of Volcanoes National Park while the latter is in the foothills of the Virunga Volcano Range.
Expo 2020 Dubai marks the first time the Middle East will host a world expo. In Dubai, which always aims to be the biggest and the best, the event is going to be unlike anything you've seen before. It kicks off in October and is expected to attract some 25 million visitors. For the first time ever, every participating country will get its own pavilion. The 1,000-acre District 2020 is being built specially for the Expo with several parks, a new metro station, and more than 200 restaurants and food venues. When the Expo ends, it will become a sustainable education and tech hub.
Australia may be in the news for the brush fires ravaging New South Wales and Victoria, but Queensland is making headlines for more positive reasons. In April, the Museum of Underwater Art will debut with a series of installations that draw attention to climate change. You can even sleep underwater at Reefsuites, Australia's first underwater accommodation on the Great Barrier Reef. And the InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, which opened last July on a private island reachable only by yacht or private jet, offers a luxe way to experience the dreamy Whitsundays.
If you haven't been to L.A. in a while, return now and you'll find the city transformed. Downtown (aka DTLA)—which just a few years ago languished with a homelessness problem—has been revitalized as one of the city's hippest 'hoods. It's now home to the NoMad Los Angeles inside the 1920s headquarters for the Bank of Italy, the Freehand Los Angeles, and a hotel by the Hoxton, not to mention the revitalized Grand Central Market and contemporary art museum the Broad. West Hollywood recently welcomed new hotels, including the trendy West Hollywood Edition, eco-chic 1 Hotel West Hollywood, and the Pendry West Hollywood. This year, the long-delayed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will finally open.
Getting to this Southeast Asian city-state is easier and more pleasant than ever thanks to new flights on Singapore Airlines that fly direct from Newark to Singapore. Upon arriving at the recently expanded Changi Airport—home to the Jewel, a $1.3 billion lifestyle complex complete with an indoor waterfall—you might not want to leave. But there's plenty to explore, from the famed Gardens by the Bay to the boutique-lined Haji Lane. The place to stay is the historic Raffles Singapore, which recently reopened following a top-to-bottom renovation.
This tiny country may be smaller than the state of Vermont, but it packs a big punch. It's home to the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, a collection of incredible Mayan ruins, and lush tropical rainforest. And now several new resorts are putting it on the map. There's Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club by Hilton, which opened in 2018, Itz'ana, which just opened in December, plus Alaia by Marriott and Ray Caye, which are slated to open early this year.
Tourism in Turkey all but halted after the terrorist attack in 2016, but the country and its capital are rebounding. For one, Istanbul has a state-of-the-art new airport (one of the world's largest) and this spring, the Galataport cruise terminal is set to open. The city's art scene has been heating up in recent years, thanks to galleries like Arter and events like the Istanbul Biennial. Of course, it's worth it just to see tried-and-true sights like Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar.
José Ignacio, Uruguay
Punta del Este may be more famous, but the secret's out about José Ignacio, the boho-beach town on Uruguay's Atlantic Coast. During the South American summer (December through March), the population swells as well-heeled travelers flock to this tiny town named for a lone fisherman. With its lighthouse, sand dunes, and crashing waves, it looks a bit like Montauk and draws a similar crowd. Those who don't have a house stay at the gaucho-chic Estancia Vik, Playa Vik, or Bahia Vik. It's also worth visiting the nearby town of Garzón to see the vineyards at Bodega Garzón and dine at superstar chef Francis Mallmann's Restaurante Garzón.