There’s never any shortage of exciting destinations to add to your travel bucket list, so we’ve rounded up 20 of the best places to visit in 2020. Some destinations you’ll be familiar with, while others fall further off the radar. Here are a handful of our favorites in no specific order…
20. Rajasthan, India
Why you should visit: Known as the ‘Land of Kings’, Rajasthan has no shortage of grand temples, palaces and monuments dotting its colorful landscape. With no less than eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it’s also home to many respected wildlife sanctuaries, including the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Step back in time to appreciate the beauty of village life in places like Deeg while soaking up Rajasthan’s famed folklore and traditional art.
19. Marrakech, Morocco
Why you should visit: Morocco’s “pink city” is intoxicating, chaotic and magical. Get lost in its labyrinthine souks, meet fortune tellers in the city’s main plaza Jemaa El Fna, and spend a night sipping mint tea in the courtyard of a traditional riad. If you need a break from the maddening crowds, travel into the Atlas Mountains for a day trip to the breathtaking Ouzoud Falls where families picnic in the serene atmosphere.
18. Bucharest, Romania
Why you should visit: There are many good reasons to visit the charming homeland of Vlad Dracula (and his infamous Transylvania castle), but Romania’s incredible affordability is what you’ll appreciate most. As one of the cheapest (and lesser crowded) places to visit in Europe, Bucharest is filled with green spaces, wild nightlife, an edgy artistic scene and many popular attractions all within walking distance.
17. Cartagena, Colombia
Why you should visit: Cartagena has been dubbed the “Jewel of the Indies” — a Caribbean-flavored coastal enclave that is one of South America’s most colorful and vibrant cities. If it’s not the gorgeous backstreets or laidback vibes that draw you in, it’s the unique blend of African, European and indigenous cultural influences that will leave you spellbound.
16. Kerala, India
Why you should visit: Kerala is unlike any other place in India. Affectionately known as “God’s Own Country”, its reputation as a paradise on earth is well deserved. Located on the Arabian Sea, time stands still here as you enjoy backwater cruises on charming houseboats, green landscapes colored by bountiful tea and rice plantations, and a relaxing pace of life measured only by postcard-worthy sunsets.
15. Cape Town, South Africa
Why you should visit: Cape Town’s multiculturalism can be appreciated in everything from its eclectic food scene to its distinctive neighborhoods. Blessed with an abundance of nature, South Africa’s most cosmopolitan city puts you in close proximity to a breathtaking coastline home to penguin colonies and spectacular opportunities for whale watching. A visit to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years also serves as a sobering reminder of the Rainbow Nation’s troubled history and unbridled resilience.
Why you should visit: As one of the smallest countries in Europe, the tiny island-nation of Malta offers visitors year-round sunshine, thousands of years of history and a truly legendary party culture. Valletta, one of the smallest capitals in the world, is packed with attractions including the Upper Barrakka Gardens overlooking the Grand Harbour. Locals are well known for their warmth and hospitality, which makes Malta an easy choice to immerse yourself and feel right at home.
13. Ilha Grande, Brazil
Why you should visit: Just an hour away from Rio de Janeiro, the island of Ilha Grande remains one of Brazil’s best-kept secrets (at least for foreigners.) This tropical escape is one of Brazil’s most beautiful places, undeveloped and free of tourist hordes. For nature lovers, you’ll find pristine waters and beaches, waterfalls, stunning trails for hiking, and some of the best snorkeling on the continent.
12. Canary Islands, Spain
Why you should visit: Thanks to its perpetual summer temperatures (it rarely drops below 20°C), travelers flock to Spain’s Canary Islands all year round. Located just 100 kilometers west of Morocco (and 1,700 kilometers from the Spanish mainland,) this cluster of 8 main islands each features a unique landscape — from volcanic mountains to lush forests and sand dune beaches.
11. Dubai, UAE
Why you should visit: If ever there was an ideal time to visit (or revisit) Dubai, it would be in 2020 when the emirate plans to host the most extraordinary World Expo in history. The six-month long event kicks off in October and will help usher in a range of other exciting attractions including the Museum of the Future and Ain Dubai, the world’s tallest ferris wheel. For tourists keen on experiencing peak Dubai, this is the year to do it.
10. Santiago, Chile
Why you should visit: Widely considered one of South America’s most cosmopolitan and sophisticated cities, Santiago is painfully underrated — but that’s quickly changing. Surrounded by the majestic Andes where snow-capped mountains provide world-class skiing just an hour’s drive from the Chilean capital, visitors can explore wineries while exploring the historic buildings around Plaza de Armas. If seeing the moai stone statues of Easter Island is your end goal, a few days in Santiago makes it a perfect jumping off point.
9. Melbourne, Australia
Why you should visit: Regularly ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities, Australia’s second largest city has stood far too long in the shadow of Sydney. Melbourne’s multi-cultural identity has given it a unique character that’s welcoming by nature. Make your way through the city’s laneways packed with street art and food stalls, take a day trip to Phillip Island to witness a penguin parade, or take an epic road trip on the Great Ocean Road to soak up a dramatic coastline of limestone cliffs.
8. Rome, Italy
Why you should visit: With thousands of years of visible history around every corner, Rome (and its many well-preserved monuments) needs little introduction. You could waste your days marveling at masterpieces like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel — or eat your way through plates of carbonara and deep-fried artichokes. As one of the world’s most influential cultural hubs, the Eternal City emits a special glow that often leaves visitors in awe.
7. The ‘Stans
Why you should visit: The ‘Stans — as they are often grouped together — include the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. These former Soviet republics once linked by the Silk Road might be off the beaten path, but what awaits you are supremely unique experiences that are finally getting the recognition they deserve. From the “Door to Hell” in Turkmenistan to Islamic architectural masterpieces in Uzbekistan’s Registan Square and Iskandarkul’s turquoise-colored alpine lake in Tajikistan, you’ll find majestic landscapes set against super futuristic structures.
Why you should visit: With a well-deserved reputation as a hermit kingdom, Bhutan’s longtime policy of isolationism has helped it avoid the trap of mass tourism and retain its culture and heritage unlike any other place on earth. As one of the least visited countries on the map, this spiritual and mystical land has long been a source of intrigue for outsiders keen on getting a glimpse of the “world’s happiest country”. With daily tariffs imposed on most visitors (a $250 spend per day during the high season), a visit to Bhutan requires a lot of pre planning — with the rewards are well worth it.
Why you should visit: “But is it safe to visit?” will undoubtedly come up when you share your Pakistan travel plans, and the answer is a resounding “yes.” What Pakistan lacks in positive media coverage, it makes up for in the sincere hospitality of its welcoming locals. With so little leisure travel from tourists over the past few tumultuous decades, Pakistanis are eager to share the treasures of their native land at every chance. From ancient Buddhist monasteries to grand forts and sweeping snow-capped mountains, there’s so much to discover if you set an adventurous foot forward.
Why you should visit: As the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia is home to 70% of the mountains found across the African continent, offering hikers a vast range of green valleys, peaks and scenic vistas. One of its greatest attractions — the Blue Niles Falls — plunges 150 feet and is a true spectacle of the country’s bountiful nature. The modern skyline of Addis Ababa contrasts with the simplicity of life in the countryside where donkey carts are a typical sight. In the town of Lalibela is where you’ll find Ethiopia’s famed subterranean rock-cut monolithic 12th century churches — the site is unlike anything you’ll come across.
Why you should visit: When it comes to South American destinations, Uruguay finds it hard to compete with its more well-known neighbors. With a carnival seasons that lasts over 80 days — the longest of any country — locals enjoy putting on a celebration with street performances and elaborate floats. Regarded as one of the safest places on the continent, Uruguay’s gaucho lifestyle will appeal to the outdoorsy set with activities like horse riding, fishing and camping.
2. Yangshuo, China
Why you should visit: The Yangshuo countryside lies about 2,000 km south of Beijing and boasts some of China’s most unspoiled landscapes. Spend your days exploring rice paddies, drifting on bamboo rafts along the Li River and marveling at tea plantations surrounded by emerald colored hills. The scenery is so spectacular that it’s featured on the face of China’s 20 yuan bill.
1. Kyoto, Japan
Why you should visit: Japan will open up to 40 million visitors as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 summer Olympics. Once you’ve had your fill of Tokyo’s neon-soaked streets, hop on a bullet train to the ancient capital of Kyoto – just 2.5 hours away – and step back in time to witness the cultural heartbeat of Japan. Kyoto is home to an abundance of temples, castles and shrines, each more picturesque than the next. Visit teahouses, walk the streets with Geisha in Gion and stroll through the 10,000 orange gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine. If sampling incredible cuisine is a priority, take note that Kyoto is the ‘3rd Most Michelin Starred City’ behind Paris and Tokyo.