Top Travel Destinations for 2020: From Ethiopia to Morocco, Explore the Best of the World
Embark on a journey through the world's most captivating and awe-inspiring destinations, as we unveil the ultimate guide to the best travel destinations of 2020. From the vibrant streets of Addis Ababa to the enchanting landscapes of Tasmania, this article will transport you to breathtaking places that will ignite your wanderlust. So, whether you yearn for the mesmerizing ancient temples of Kyoto or the pristine beauty of Glacier National Park, join us on this thrilling exploration of the top destinations that should be on every traveler's radar this year.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
For the past forty years, Menelik Palace has been a symbol of imperial imposition, overlooking Addis Ababa. However, there has been a major shift in the city with the opening of the palace to the public. Abiy Ahmed, the country's reformist prime minister, has also enlisted local artist Elias Sime to create a public garden that will open midyear. This transformation is a testament to the changing times in Ethiopia's capital. Additionally, the expansion of Addis Ababa's airport, which has tripled its capacity and introduced new routes, allows U.S. travelers to witness these changes for themselves. Last year, Elias Sime and Meskerem Assegued opened the Zoma Museum after two decades of planning and construction. Located in the Mekanisa neighborhood, the museum showcases a blend of traditional and modern influences through vernacular architecture and contemporary art. Another event to look forward to is the Addis Foto Fest, a biennial photography festival that will take place in December 2020. In the meantime, visitors can explore the work of Ethiopia's talented artists at institutions such as St. George Gallery, Addis Fine Art, and LeLa Gallery. - Hannah Giorgis
Tunisia's reputation as an affordable beach destination suffered after the terrorist attacks in 2015. The resulting UK Foreign Office restriction on travel had a devastating impact on the country's tourism industry. However, in 2018, the restriction was lifted and European visitors have been quick to return. The US government still advises against travel to certain areas near the Libyan border and in mountainous regions. Despite the decline in beach tourism, Tunisia's historical sites, such as the UNESCO World Heritage site at Carthage, have gained more attention. Dougga, located two hours southwest of Tunis, is another UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered the best preserved Roman town in North Africa. Bulla Regia, located 100 miles west of Tunis, offers a Roman amphitheater, forum, intact brothel, and recent archeological discoveries of a Christian church and cemetery. One noteworthy attraction is the newly opened Anantara Tozeur Resort, situated near a date palm oasis. The resort is located in the "Star Wars" terrain of the southwest, making it a perfect base for exploring the Sahara desert. - Julia Buckley
São Tomé and Príncipe
São Tomé and Príncipe, a two-island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, is an equatorial biodiversity hotspot often referred to as the "African Galapagos." The islands are home to lush rainforests, volcanic peaks, and a vast array of endemic plants and wildlife. Despite its natural beauty and stability, the country receives only 30,000 visitors annually, making it one of the least-visited countries in the world. Accessibility to the islands has improved with direct flights from Lisbon, Cape Verde, Angola, Bioko Island, and Gabon. With a small population and a size similar to that of New York state, São Tomé and Príncipe offer uncrowded and affordable exploration opportunities. The islands have a rich history as a former Portuguese colony, which is reflected in the local music, culture, and customs. In celebration of the country's 40 years of independence, the coffee and cocoa industries continue to flourish. Visitors are encouraged to explore Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon), a popular spot for snorkeling and diving in northern São Tomé. - Maureen O'Hare
Nestled between China, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan is a hidden gem that often goes unnoticed. Located east of the capital city Bishkek, the country reveals stunning landscapes as mountains descend into sparkling waters of Lake Issyk-Kul. Kyrgyzstan offers a diverse range of landscapes, from desert-like canyons reminiscent of the American West to lush high-altitude meadows that rival the European Alps. Visitors can enjoy skiing in Karakol during winter and engage in trekking or horseback riding in the Tien Shan mountains during summer. The country's geological marvels never fail to impress, and its rugged beauty captures the essence of Central Asia. Despite the challenges faced after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan is emerging as an adventurous tourist destination. It offers a safe and welcoming environment, making it an excellent value for travelers. A must-visit location is Mars Canyon, located near the southern shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, known for its breathtaking red peaks and dry valleys. - Barry Neild
Jamaica is famous for its association with James Bond, Bob Marley, turquoise waters, and dazzling waterfalls, making it an appealing destination in 2020. The upcoming release of the 25th James Bond film, "No Time To Die," brings Daniel Craig's 007 back to Ian Fleming's real-life beach house, Goldeneye, located about 90 minutes from Montego Bay. Visitors have the opportunity to stay in Fleming's five-bedroom beachfront home and even use his writing desk. Bob Marley, an iconic reggae musician, holds a special place in the hearts of Jamaicans. Travelers can connect with Marley's legacy by visiting the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, the capital city. While exploring Jamaica, don't miss the chance to stay at the stunning cliff-side Rockhouse hotel in Negril. This hotel has a rich rock 'n' roll heritage and is known for its sustainable design and commitment to the local community. Guests are also invited to tour the Savanna-la-Mar Inclusive Infant Academy, a school for students with special needs that was revitalized with the help of the hotel's charitable foundation. - Brekke Fletcher
Estonia may not be widely known for its haute cuisine, but this Northern European country has its own culinary delights. In 2020, Estonia's bustling food scene is expected to gain more recognition, especially with the Bocuse d'Or Europe taking place in the country for the first time. The Bocuse d'Or Europe is a live cooking contest that honors the late French chef Paul Bocuse. With over 100 restaurants featured in the White Nordic Guide, Estonia's commitment to homegrown and homemade cuisine is evident. Visitors can indulge in the Nordic-nature inspired menu at O, a fine dining restaurant in Tallinn, or enjoy the vibrant atmosphere at Tabac, a hip brasserie. Alongside its culinary offerings, Estonia is also renowned for its natural beauty and wide open spaces. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore Estonia's comprehensive bog network, which spans the country. Despite its small size and population, Estonia offers affordable and uncrowded adventures, making it an attractive destination. A visit to Tallinn's Old Town, with its charming cobblestone streets, is highly recommended. - Stacey Lastoe
Portland, Maine offers much more than its famous lighthouse-strewn coastline. It is a vibrant cultural hub with a thriving culinary scene, known for its seafood and craft beer. The city is also home to numerous museums and galleries, providing opportunities for art and culture enthusiasts to indulge in their passions. Taking a stroll along Portland's cobblestone streets offers a taste of New England charm, with craft shops, bookstores, and breweries waiting to be explored. With its stunning landscapes, rich history, and bustling city life, Portland is a destination that has something for everyone. - CNN Travel
It may have recently been designated as a European Capital of Culture for 2020, but Galway City in western Ireland has always been a haven for artists. Located on the rugged west coast, Galway embodies a rural landscape that attracts creative individuals with its breathtaking rocky beauty. As the capital of County Galway, Galway City is a vibrant enclave that celebrates the arts and values intellectualism.
Galway is a place where festivals blossom throughout the year, showcasing a variety of cultural events. Whether you visit during the summer or winter, you will encounter celebrations of food, music, history, art, literature, and nature. The city offers a diverse range of experiences, from burlesque shows to banjo performances, and from pony races to Pride festivals.
In 2020, Galway will host various European Capital of Culture events, including Margaret Atwood's appearance at the Wild Atlantic Women literary event and the Lumiere Galway light installations in January 2021. Additionally, the Galway International Arts Festival will feature performances by renowned artists such as the Pixies, Flaming Lips, and Sinéad O’Connor. The Galway Races, held at the end of July, and the racecourse at Omey Strand in Connemara in August are also popular attractions.
For comedy enthusiasts, the most unique event in Galway is TedFest, which takes place in February on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands. This event brings together people dressed as priests, nuns, and housekeepers to celebrate the cult TV series "Father Ted". Galway truly offers a blend of natural beauty, cultural festivities, and unforgettable experiences for visitors to enjoy. – Maureen O’Hare
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
If you're looking for a glimpse into the future, look no further than Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This sprawling desert city is a marvel of luxury hotels, expansive malls, and architectural wonders like the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. In addition to its impressive skyline, Dubai will also be hosting the first World Expo in the Middle East in 2020. This event will bring together more than 190 countries to showcase their latest developments in sustainability and transportation, offering a glimpse into the future of these industries.
Dubai is a city that offers a wide range of experiences for visitors. Whether you're interested in shopping, dining, or exploring the vibrant culture, there is something for everyone. The city's diverse attractions and modern infrastructure make it an ideal travel destination for those seeking a taste of the future.
Río Negro, Argentina
Next year, South America will draw travelers and stargazers alike to witness a total solar eclipse on December 14th. NASA has identified the small village of Sierra Colorada in the Río Negro province of northern Patagonia, Argentina as the place with the longest and best view of the eclipse. This region is known for its stunning glacial lakes and breathtaking views of the Andes mountains. If you're planning a trip to see this astronomical wonder, be sure to include visits to Nahuel Huapi, the oldest national park in Argentina, and Lanín National Park, which is close to the path of totality.
Besides the solar eclipse, Argentina has much to offer visitors. The country has seen a significant increase in American Express cardmember travel, thanks in part to the favorable exchange rate. With the Argentine peso at a record low, travelers with US dollars can enjoy great bargains during their visit.
Overall, Argentina is an attractive destination for those seeking natural beauty, cultural experiences, and affordability. The upcoming solar eclipse provides an additional reason to explore this remarkable country.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
The eastern provinces of Canada offer big, beautiful cities and national parks that are appealing in every way. However, if you're looking for a truly exceptional experience, look no further than Vancouver Island in British Columbia. With 290 miles of untouched forests and beaches, dotted with quaint artsy towns and a vibrant capital city, Vancouver Island is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.
You can easily spend an adventure-filled month backpacking, camping, and indulging in delicious food. For a more manageable itinerary, you can focus on two towns: the southern coastal paradise of Tofino and the capital city of Victoria, with a scenic five-hour drive between them that offers chances to spot bears and take in picturesque views.
Tofino is a charming fishing village that offers excellent but affordable dining options. It's also a popular spot for whale watching, which can be experienced up close on a boat or from above in a seaplane departing from the harbor. Atleo River Air Service offers a unique "milk run" route to the island's natural hot springs, where you can drop off supplies and pick up passengers while still enjoying sightings of whales.
On the other hand, Victoria stands in contrast to the wild nature of the island, with its stately Edwardian architecture. Swap your hiking boots for boat shoes and explore the city's high-class dining, shopping, green spaces, and sights like the Royal BC Museum. For a unique experience, consider staying in a floating cottage in the harbor and taking small water taxis into town.
Alternatively, you can tailor your Vancouver Island visit based on your interests, such as a romantic getaway, rugged outdoor adventure, exploration of First Nation art and culture, foodie pilgrimage, nature retreat, or surf safari. Better yet, combine multiple themes for a truly unforgettable trip.
Don't miss: Make sure to visit Tacofino, a laid-back, high-end taco truck located in the back of a surf shop parking lot in Tofino, as well as Common Loaf Bake Shop, a popular and cozy coffee shop, to indulge in delicious treats. – David G. Allan
Chile Lake District
While Chile has been making headlines due to civil unrest, the region of "Los Lagos" offers travelers breathtaking landscapes and tranquility away from the urban centers. This area will be even more remarkable in December 2020, as it is set to witness a total solar eclipse.
On December 14th, the town of Pucón will experience a moment of totality at 1:03 p.m. local time, lasting just over two minutes. However, this southern region of Chile has much more to offer than just a brief astronomical event. It boasts national parks, volcanoes, and endless possibilities for outdoor adventure.
Be sure to visit Chiloé Island, renowned for its UNESCO-listed colorful wooden churches and picturesque houses on stilts called palafitos. You can fly directly from Santiago, the capital of Chile, to the island's main city of Castro and stay in the charming Tierra Chiloé Hotel and Spa. If you prefer a more upscale and relaxed experience, consider Parque Quilquico, nestled in a forest park overlooking the ocean.
Back on the mainland, the archaeological site of Monte Verde provides a glimpse into the lives of people who lived over 14,000 years ago. The Lake District is also home to several national parks, including Chile's first, Vicente Pérez Rosales.
Conguillío National Park, located in the area, houses an active volcano named Llaima, which last erupted in 2008. The resort town of Pucón is an excellent destination for thermal springs, bar-hopping, and also boasts one of Chile's most famous volcanoes, Villarica. If you're up for the challenge, summiting this volcano is a must for experienced hikers. After a day of adventure, you can relax at &Beyond Vira Vira, a lodge situated on an organic farm.
Don't miss: Indulge in the seafood delicacies offered on Chiloe Island, particularly curanto - a stew-style dish featuring seafood, meat, potatoes, and Chilean rhubarb. – Francesca Street
Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, and women's suffrage are just a few reasons why Wyoming, the least-populated state in the United States, should be at the top of your list for 2020.
In December 1869, Wyoming made history by becoming the first US state or territory to grant women the right to vote and hold office, 50 years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. Besides its commitment to equality, Wyoming embodies the essence of the American West, with its rugged natural beauty attracting outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and aspiring cowboys.
Make sure to visit Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of the country's most beloved ski resorts (and stay at the nearby luxurious Amangani). Explore Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, where you can catch lake trout or relax in the Free Bath House at Hot Springs State Park. The region's rich history is also worth exploring, with attractions like the Oregon Trail ruts and Fort Laramie (a stop along the Pony Express). You can even tour former Cold War nuclear missile sites near the capital city of Cheyenne.
Don't miss: Plan your trip to coincide with Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world's largest outdoor rodeo, held from July 17th to 26th, 2020. It features 10 days of festive family fun, including a carnival, parades, pancake breakfasts, and the thrilling PBR Last Cowboy Standing bull-riding competition. (As travel enthusiasts at CNN, we're rooting for the bulls.) – Brekke Fletcher
British Virgin Islands
cdwheatley//Getty ImagesAfter being devastated by a hurricane in 2017, the British Virgin Islands are making a full recovery in 2020, with the reopening of many major resorts. Whether you want to enjoy the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean or explore the scenic green mountains across the islands (or do both), the British Virgin Islands offer the perfect sun-soaked beach getaway for 2020.
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Since July 2019, traveling to Russia has become much easier, as 53 nationalities (including all European Union citizens) can now access e-visas for the northern city of St. Petersburg and its surrounding area, for stays of up to 30 days.
St. Petersburg, Russia's former imperial capital and a gateway into the country, needs little introduction. With its world-famous State Hermitage Museum and grand palatial architecture, the city has been a popular destination for decades. Even in the Soviet era, it attracted crowds, as witnessed by Elton John's impromptu gig at the Grand Hotel Europe.
During the warmer months, especially the "White Nights" of midsummer, St. Petersburg is bustling with visitors. Thanks to its northern latitude, the city experiences barely any darkness during the summer, creating a vibrant atmosphere day and night. However, St. Petersburg holds a unique charm during the colder months of midwinter, when the Neva River freezes and a mystical fog floats through the city.
Despite the subzero temperatures, winter is a great time to explore the city. You can enjoy activities like skating in parks or cross-country skiing. Additionally, the snow and ice create stunning scenes, turning historic buildings, bridges, and canals into picturesque settings reminiscent of classic Russian literature.
Don't miss: Take a trip along the grand Nevsky Prospect shopping boulevard or attend a ballet performance at the Mariinsky Theatre, both of which are less crowded during winter. And if the cold gets too intense, you can always warm up in a classic Russian banya (sauna) followed by an invigorating icy dip, or with a couple of shots of vodka. – Barry Neild
An unexpected gem in western Germany, Wuppertal is an industrial city that boasts one of the world's coolest rail systems, the Schwebebahn suspension railway. This iconic transit system, which recently underwent repairs and reopened in 2019 after a temporary closure, resembles something out of a Jules Verne novel.
The Schwebebahn is a steampunk vision of mass transportation, with its iron legs straddling the city's streets and waterways, transporting passengers high above traffic to uniquely designed stations. Despite its futuristic appearance, riding the Schwebebahn is affordable, with thousands of daily commuters using this remarkable mode of transport.
If the charm of the hanging train wears off (although that seems unlikely), Wuppertal, one of Germany's greenest cities, is worth exploring. It showcases impressive architectural styles, including Art Deco, Bauhaus, and more, thanks to its rich mercantile history.
While Wuppertal's tourism website promotes it as a place to stay while visiting other nearby destinations like Cologne or Dusseldorf, it's important to note that neither of these cities offers a railway in the sky like Wuppertal does.
Don't miss: Explore the city on two wheels, particularly along the Nordbahntrasse, another former railway that has been transformed into a scenic 22-kilometer (14-mile) cycling route across Wuppertal. – Barry Neild
In late 2018, during a vote on remaining part of France or becoming an independent nation, a question spread across the globe: Where is New Caledonia? This group of four archipelagos, which ultimately decided to remain a French overseas territory, is situated approximately halfway between Fiji and the coast of Queensland, Australia, south of the Solomon Islands.
New Caledonia's geographical location is unique, offering streaky pink sunsets and stretches of white sand beaches. This relatively undiscovered destination is like a hidden gem – it ranks among the least-visited places in the world – providing a remote and secluded experience.
Visiting New Caledonia is akin to immersing yourself in the South of France during summertime, with fewer crowds. Picture indulging in buttery pastries after sunbathing without being surrounded by tourists.
Begin your journey in Noumea, the capital, and explore the city's striking waterfront, which combines French colonial heritage buildings with the vibrant colors of the sea and sky. With a population of only around 100,000, Noumea allows for a simple and peaceful life. Stay in an urban B&B, spend your afternoons snorkeling, swimming, or kitesurfing, and savor a fresh seafood meal paired with white Burgundy wines imported from 17,000 miles away.
Don't miss: Venture to the Loyalty Islands – Lifou, Mare, and Ouvea – to learn about the indigenous Kanak people, who have a rich history predating French colonization. Visit the Kanak tribes, immerse yourself in their customs, festivals, and way of life. – Lilit Marcus
Natapong Supalertsophon//Getty ImagesJapan is expected to be a popular destination in 2020 due to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. However, if you're seeking an escape from the crowds while still being close to the games, the peaceful town of Nikko is the perfect choice. Located just two hours from the bustling atmosphere of Tokyo, Nikko offers a tranquil retreat filled with rich cultural history, majestic mountains, national forests, and soothing hot springs.
Japan has been busy preparing for the influx of tourists for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. While most of the attention will be on Tokyo, it's worth exploring subtropical Kyushu. Spanning over 36,000 square kilometers, Kyushu offers breathtaking landscapes, delicious food, and numerous cultural attractions. As the third largest of Japan's five main islands, it is conveniently connected to Honshu by bridges and underwater tunnels, allowing for a seamless five-hour journey from Tokyo on the renowned Shinkansen bullet trains. Fukuoka, the largest city in Honshu, is a food lover's paradise, while the coastal towns of Kunisaki and Beppu are known for their picturesque streets and hot springs. Additionally, Saga will be hosting the 2020 Asia's Best Restaurant awards and is recognized for its stunning terraced rice fields, mountains, and tea plantations. Don't miss the opportunity to visit Nagasaki, which commemorates 75 years since the World War II atomic bombing. The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall provide valuable insights into this tragic event, along with the city's history of trade with Europe and China. - Karla Cripps
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea, located on the border of Israel and Jordan, is far from a hidden gem. However, the declining water levels due to the climate crisis have made it a destination that should be visited sooner rather than later. Known as an extremely salty oasis, the Dead Sea attracts travelers from around the world who enjoy covering themselves in black mud and experiencing the unique sensation of floating in the water. Beyond its natural wonders, the Dead Sea is a perfect stop on a road trip through the Middle East. Its proximity to Petra, one of the seven modern wonders of the world, and Jerusalem makes it an ideal location to explore these historic sites. So, take the opportunity to visit the lowest point on Earth and indulge in the relaxation and natural beauty that the Dead Sea has to offer. - Lilit Marcus
Glacier National Park, Montana
American Airlines has recently introduced seasonal service to Kalispell, Montana, the closest airport to Glacier National Park. This development has led to an increase in flight options and accessibility for visitors. Glacier National Park is a paradise for those who wish to witness endangered glaciers and stargaze in the world's first Dark Sky Park that spans an international border. Many Glacier Road, a popular route within the park, is undergoing repairs and improvements to enhance the visitor experience. In addition to Glacier National Park, the nearby area of Big Sky is also emerging as a prominent destination. The opening of The Wilson Hotel, a Residence Inn by Marriott, has added a major brand presence to this region. Furthermore, there are plans for the first five-star, ultraluxury hotel, Montage, to open in Big Sky in 2021. So, seize the opportunity to visit Glacier National Park and explore the stunning natural beauty of Montana. -
US Virgin Islands
Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma to St. John and St. Thomas in 2017, the U.S. Virgin Islands faced another blow when Hurricane Maria, also a Category 5 storm, hit St. Croix. However, these beautiful islands, which form part of the U.S. territory, are making a comeback. Travelers can now visit The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, which reopened in November, or The Westin St. John Resort Villas, which underwent a renovation early in 2019.
In 2020, the beloved Frenchman's Reef resort on St. Thomas will reportedly reopen as a Marriott hotel, while the Morning Star beach resort section of the property will become the first Autograph Collection hotel in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Known as Noni Beach, this hotel will offer an infinity pool with a swim-up bar and a quarter-mile stretch of beach.
Travel tip: Delta and American Airlines have expanded their Caribbean networks by forming codeshare partnerships with Silver Airways. Delta now offers flights to St. Thomas and St. Croix, and though Delta frequent flyers cannot earn miles on codeshare segments, St. Croix is now on Delta's map. On December 21, American Airlines will launch Saturday-only flights from DFW and Chicago O'Hare to St. Thomas. If you want to experience the Caribbean in a lie-flat seat, use your miles to make it happen in 2020.
Boston, often overshadowed by New York City, is establishing itself as a key city for international travelers. With new flights from American Airlines, JetBlue, Delta, and European-based Level, Boston Logan Airport is set to become a major gateway to Europe, potentially surpassing Miami and Washington Dulles in terms of seat capacity. By 2020, Boston could be the third-largest gateway to Europe on the East Coast.
At the same time, Boston is shedding its image as a city dominated by college students. Over 2,200 new hotel rooms were added last year, with an additional 2,700 set to open by 2021. Among the new additions are the Wynn Resort's Encore Boston Harbor casino, a Hyatt Place in the Seaport District, and the upcoming Raffles and Omni hotels.
Related: More rooms, more variety: A hotel boom comes to Boston.
Travel tip: Until the new hotels open, take advantage of the excellent points properties already available in Boston. Some favorites include the Kimpton Nine Zero and the Ames Boston Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. Also, keep an eye out for new nonstop Acela service between New York-Penn Station and Boston South Station, expected to begin in 2021.
Canadian Rockies, Canada
Tourism in Canada is thriving, with several Canadian cities appearing in the top 20 spots for year-over-year growth, according to Expedia. In Toronto, the W Toronto hotel will open in 2020, along with the country's first Ace and 1 Hotel properties. Calgary is also experiencing a surge in tourism, being a key hub for Jasper National Park and the closest airport to Banff. In June 2020, Air Canada will offer seasonal service between Calgary International and Boston, Montreal, and Nashville, while WestJet will launch service between Boston and Calgary in May. Additionally, Delta and WestJet have entered into a joint venture, allowing them to act as a single airline between Canada and the U.S.
Travel tip: Flying to Canada can be a great use of airline miles, as many popular destinations are not far from major U.S. cities but can still be expensive. For example, travelers can use as few as 7,500 British Airways Avios to fly up to 1,151 miles each way on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines. Alaska's route from Calgary to Seattle is well under 500 miles each way.
For travelers who have already explored Western Europe, 2020 is the perfect time to visit Poland. Polish Airlines (LOT) will introduce new nonstop service between New York-JFK and Kraków, making it the only carrier offering direct flights between the two cities. American Airlines will also fly to Kraków five times a week from Chicago O'Hare between May and October.
Kraków offers a unique alternative to more popular and expensive destinations in Europe. It was named one of the top five emerging summer destinations by American Express Travel. The city is affordable, home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and boasts well-preserved cobblestone streets and a skyline adorned with churches and castles.
Related: The best ways to get to Europe on points and miles.
Travel tip: Aeroplan offers reasonable Star Alliance business-class redemptions to and from Europe with minimal fuel surcharges on LOT flights. United's Excursionist Perk can also be utilized for a free stopover in Europe during a trip to Kraków.
The summer of 2020 marks the centennial of the Salzburg Festival, a major event in the city known as Mozart's birthplace. The festival will showcase classical music, opera, and drama performances by world-renowned acts. Salzburg will host numerous special events and exhibitions throughout the year, providing visitors with plenty to explore and enjoy in this Austrian city rich in tradition and culture.
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As the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tokyo has a lot to offer. After the games, there is expected to be excellent award availability for flights to Tokyo. Multiple U.S. gateways have already seen business and first-class award seats available. Haneda International Airport has also added new flights from the U.S. To accommodate the influx of tourists, Narita Airport is building a temporary terminal specifically for the Olympics.
Exciting hotel openings can be expected in Tokyo and other parts of Japan. The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko will open in the northern Kanto region in May. Marriott loyalists can look forward to an Edition property in Tokyo. The Kimpton Shinjuku hotel will open this spring for travelers with IHG points, and the Hilton Okinawa Sesoko Resort will open in July for Hilton Honors members. Additionally, the Park Hyatt in Hokkaido will welcome guests in January. Japan's third Four Seasons will also appear in Tokyo at Otemachi.
Related: The best ways to travel to Japan with points and miles.
Travel tip: If you're not set on watching an Olympic sporting event, consider booking your ticket a week after the opening ceremony when airfare is expected to drop by 24%. Don't limit yourself to just Tokyo either. According to Virtuoso travel advisors, bookings for trips all over Japan have increased by 42% compared to last year. Osaka, Kyoto, and Sapporo are among the recommended destinations.
Courtesy of AMAN
As visits to Kyoto continue to rise, new hotels and museums are opening in the city. The Fukuda Art Museum, which primarily showcases art from Kyoto artists spanning from the Edo period to the present, debuted in October. The Kyocera Museum of Art is set to reopen in March after a three-year expansion that added contemporary art galleries to the existing building. Last fall, the Park Hyatt Kyoto, a hillside retreat that reflects Kyoto's imperial history and traditional aesthetics, opened its doors. The Ace Hotel, inspired by restored machiya shop-houses, will also open in the spring. The most notable addition is the new Aman Kyoto, located in a small valley surrounded by forested foothills away from the city center. The Aman's guest pavilions, made of cedar, are set along a mountain stream. The property features a landscaped garden with stone walls and pathways, an onsen surrounded by ornamental boulders, and guest rooms overlooking firefly-lit trees. The design exudes simplicity and understatement.
Portugal offers a perfect combination of delicious food, stunning beaches, and exceptional wine. And now, you can also enjoy excellent flight options and award availability in business class. TAP Portugal, the flag carrier of the country, has been rapidly expanding its routes between North America and Portugal. In June, they added nonstop flights from San Francisco, Chicago O'Hare, and Washington, D.C. to their main hub in Lisbon. And just last month, they announced new nonstop services to Lisbon from Montreal and to Ponta Delgada in the Azores from Boston. These routes are expected to launch by summer 2020.
Lisbon is a convenient gateway to explore the rest of Portugal, which has become increasingly popular among tourists. In fact, Vrbo recognized Portugal's beach destinations as some of the top vacation rental spots in their trend report for 2020. Expedia also saw a significant increase in demand for travel to Porto, Faro, and Lisbon. Luxury travel advisors have reported a 29% increase in bookings to Portugal in 2019.
Related: TAP Air Portugal expands again
Travel tip: TAP Portugal often releases up to nine business-class seats for its Star Alliance partners on a single flight. This means you can enjoy a luxurious transatlantic journey with your family. Additionally, most Star Alliance airlines do not impose fuel surcharges when booking TAP awards.
When you arrive in Lisbon, take a short train ride to explore the resort region of Cascais, Sintra, and Estoril. Known as Portugal's Riviera, this area is a historic retreat for royalty. You can stay at the Ritz-Carlton golf resort in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Penha Longa, which is a Category 5 property. This means you can use 30,000 points per night for a free stay on off-peak dates. In Estoril, the Palacio Estoril is an SLH property where you can earn and redeem World of Hyatt points. A free-night award here will cost you 25,000 points, at least until peak- and off-peak pricing goes into effect.
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, has been experiencing a creative renaissance in recent years. The city is buzzing with young designers, chefs, architects, and artists who bring a vibrant energy to the place. Despite its historical significance, Tbilisi is a modern and dynamic city. You can explore Georgian design at numerous concept stores around the city, such as Flying Painter at the mixed-use development, Fabrika. This development was once a Soviet-era clothing factory. The culinary scene in Tbilisi is also thriving, with young chefs reinventing traditional Georgian cuisine. Wine bars and standout restaurants like Shavi Lomi, Keto and Kote, and Kharcho (located in a creative hub called Art House) offer delightful dining experiences. Despite its small size, Tbilisi boasts a surprising number of excellent hotels. The colorful hostel at Fabrika, created by Adjara Group, is a popular place to stay. Adjara Group is also responsible for the trendy Rooms Hotels and the stunning Stamba hotel, which is located in an old Soviet printing factory. Stamba will be expanding its photography museum in 2020, showcasing the work of Georgian artists. Other upscale hotels, including a Moxy and the City Wine Hotel, have also opened in recent years. The Kempinski hotel is set to open in 2020, a testament to Tbilisi's growing status as a global destination. —Hannah Walhout
Istanbul, a city that spans two continents, is a must-visit destination in 2020. The city recently inaugurated a new and impressive airport, providing better connectivity for travelers. It is also known for its fantastic award availability from the United States. Istanbul offers a variety of points hotels, including the Hagia Sofia Mansions Istanbul, Curio Collection by Hilton and the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus. The former starts at 119 euros (about $130) or 47,000 points per night, while the latter starts at 30,000 points per night on off-peak dates. Six Senses has transformed historic mansions on the Bosporus waterfront into the Kocatas Mansions property. Thanks to IHG's recent acquisition, travelers will soon be able to book award nights here with IHG Rewards Club points.
Related: Inside the new Istanbul Airport
Travel tip: If you're lucky, you might be able to secure an award seat on Turkish Airlines' Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This aircraft offers a contemporary business-class product and renowned catering from Do & Co. You can search for availability through United's MileagePlus program, but Air Canada's Aeroplan is likely to be your best booking option.
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Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is often referred to as the "pink city" due to the beautiful salmon-tinted stones of its buildings. This historic city dates back to the 8th century B.C. and seamlessly blends the past with the present, creating a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere. You can spend one day exploring ancient buildings, cathedrals, and monasteries, and the next day wander through picturesque boulevards lined with cafes, fountains, and wine bars. Yerevan offers the perfect combination of historic charm and modern liveliness in a captivating city.
Richard James Taylor
Arequipa, known as "the White City" for its stunning buildings made from volcanic rock called sillar, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. This Peruvian destination is often overlooked by travelers due to a lack of upmarket accommodations. However, that has changed with the opening of Cirqa, a property originally built in 1540 as an inn for guests of the Church of San Agustín. Cirqa combines preserved elements of the original parador with contemporary touches, offering a unique and luxurious experience. Another notable establishment is La Nueva Palomino, where a female-led staff cooks hearty stews from heirloom recipes. Enjoying this delicious food while admiring the view of the surrounding volcanoes creates an unforgettable dining experience. —Scott Bay
Cape Town, South Africa
There's never a bad time to visit South Africa, and now it's even easier with United's new nonstop flights from Newark to Cape Town. This is the only nonstop flight between the U.S. and Cape Town, saving travelers nearly eight hours of travel time round-trip. Some economy award availability is also available for 40,000 MileagePlus miles each way. If you manage to find business-class saver award space, it will cost you at least 70,000 United miles each way. United has confirmed that the route will continue to operate in the future, with flights returning as early as November 2020.
Related: Best credit cards for earning United miles
Travel tip: Once you arrive in South Africa, hotel points can take you a long way. Thanks to Marriott's partnership with Protea Hotels, you can find affordable accommodations across the country. Many properties require only 15,000 points or less per night. For a luxurious stay, consider the Protea Hotel Cape Town North Wharf, where 30,000 Marriott points can get you a one-bedroom apartment near the waterfront. For more information on Cape Town, visit TPG's Cape Town travel hub.
U.S. airlines are increasing their service to major cities in India, and Mumbai is a standout destination. Delta is launching nonstop flights between New York-JFK and Mumbai, while United has resumed nonstop flights between the U.S. and Mumbai. Both airlines provide excellent options for travelers. Mumbai is also a budget-friendly destination, offering great value for your money.
If you choose to stay in Mumbai, the Soho House Mumbai is a popular spot. However, the city will soon have a new upscale option with the opening of The Chedi in 2020. The long-awaited W and Ritz-Carlton hotels are also in the works, according to Forbes India. Additionally, popular points hotels are popping up all over the country. Kochi saw the opening of the first Tribute Portfolio hotel in 2019, and the Hilton Goa Resort started taking reservations in December. The Grand Hyatt Gurgaon is set to open in 2020.
Travel tip: If you can find availability on Delta's nonstop flights, you can book a Delta One Suite to India for as few as 60,000 miles through Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club. During Amex's regular transfer bonuses, this rate can even drop lower. Virgin Atlantic does not add fuel surcharges, so you only pay taxes, which amount to about $42 for a round-trip itinerary.
Fernando de Noronha Island, Brazil
Located off the coast of Brazil, Fernando de Noronha Island is a small paradise with a population of only 3,000 residents. The island is known for its strict environmental regulations, which have limited tourism and preserved its natural beauty. This makes it an exceptional spot for scuba diving, especially for those who prefer to avoid crowded and overdeveloped tourist destinations. While the island was once relatively unknown, it is now making headlines as travelers discover its untouched corners. However, with the possibility of future construction projects, this may be the last chance to experience the turquoise waters and rocky islets of this South Atlantic paradise in their current state.
Traveling to Brazil has become easier for U.S. citizens, as visa requirements have been dropped. This has led to increased demand for destinations such as Fortaleza, Iguazu Falls, and São Paulo. Even though American Airlines and LATAM are ending their partnership, a codeshare between Delta and LATAM's Brazilian and Chilean subsidiaries is expected in 2020. American Airlines is also reportedly in talks with Brazilian carrier Gol for a new partnership. Additionally, United Airlines is working towards a partnership with Avianca, Copa Airlines, and potentially Azul, all of which will enhance travel options within Latin America.
Travel tip: Azul Airlines has added a new nonstop link to Brazil, with flights between Fort Lauderdale and the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. American Airlines will also be increasing frequency on its Miami to São Paulo route. Additionally, there have been great deals on round-trip business-class flights to Rio de Janeiro from New York-JFK, with prices under $1,200. Planning in advance may also allow you to take advantage of an airpass, which offers a certain number of flights within Brazil for a fixed price. Availability to Fernando de Noronha Island can also be found with proper planning.
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Ranked as the world's most visited city for the fourth consecutive year, Bangkok, Thailand, offers a vibrant mix of ancient and modern culture and a renowned street food scene. Visitors can explore historic temples, marvel at the Grand Palace, and indulge in delicious street food at the famous floating markets.
The Great Lakes
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The Great Lakes, often overlooked as a cruise destination, are now becoming a popular choice for travelers. With a combined shoreline of 11,000 miles, these five lakes offer a wealth of attractions and activities. Small ship cruises make it easier to explore the region, with options such as the Ponant itinerary from Québec to Milwaukee and the two-week Great Lakes trip offered by Blount Small Ship Adventures. On land, there are also plenty of discoveries to be made, from the historic Mackinac Island in Michigan, which has added new hotels, to the charming Ship Inn Stanley in northwest Tasmania.
Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle, has seen a significant increase in travel after recovering from devastating floods and landslides in 2018. Tourists are returning to explore the island's extraordinary North Shore parks, including Hāʻena State Park and the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park with its famous Kalalau Trail.
The introduction of Southwest Airlines' flights to Hawaii has made Kauai more accessible and affordable for travelers across the United States. Southwest's expansion continues in 2020, with flights to Lihue on Kauai from California's San Jose and Oakland airports. Inter-island routes will also connect Kauai with Oahu through multiple daily round-trip flights.
Travel tip: Take advantage of Southwest award redemptions, as their fares are tied to the ticket's price and often offer great value. Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest instantly at a 1:1 ratio. Alternatively, consider redeeming British Airways Avios for flights from the West Coast to Hawaii if saver-level award availability is found on American or Alaska Airlines. Luxury accommodations, such as the Grand Hyatt Kauai, can be booked for 25,000 Hyatt points per night, or by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Tasmania, an Australian island known for its natural beauty, has been gaining international recognition since the opening of the Museum of Old and New Art in its capital city of Hobart. The Tamar Valley in the central north region of the island is becoming a popular destination, offering delicious sparkling wines, chardonnays, and pinot noirs. Boutique properties are also emerging in the region, such as the Ship Inn Stanley, a charming seven-suite hotel that celebrates local history. Winemakers like Loira Vines have even begun offering accommodations, with options like The Shed, a well-appointed studio apartment on their vineyard.
Doha, the capital city of Qatar, is establishing itself as an arts and culture hub, attracting visitors before the crowds arrive for the 2022 Fifa World Cup. The city boasts attractions such as the National Museum of Qatar, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Islamic Art. With a brand-new underground railway system, it is now easier to explore the city's galleries and restaurants along the Corniche. New luxury hotels, like the Mandarin Oriental, Doha and the Al Najada Doha Hotel by Tivoli, are also adding to the city's appeal, offering stylish accommodations in Old Doha near the Souq Waqif.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Courtesy of The RuMa Hotel and Residences
Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, is stepping into the spotlight as a destination for chic hotels and restaurants. The RuMa Hotel & Residences offers a swank open-air pool lounge serving unique cocktails like the Jungle Bird in a stylized metal birdcage. The city has seen a rise in boutique hotels, such as the Chow Kit with design by Studio Tack, as well as the arrival of major players like Four Seasons and W. Kuala Lumpur also offers a diverse and exciting culinary scene, with high-end restaurants like ATAS at The RuMa, ChoCha Foodstore, and OpenHouse reimagining traditional Malay cuisine with local ingredients.
Andrew Howard/Courtesy of Great Plains Conservation
Botswana is becoming a sought-after safari destination with the opening of new luxury lodges. Natural Selection's Tuludi, inspired by treehouses, offers tented suites connected by elevated boardwalks in the Okavango Delta. The upcoming Xigera Safari Lodge, set to open in Moremi Game Reserve, will feature sustainability with a solar-powered design. Linyanti Expeditions, a mobile tented camp in Chobe National Park, offers walking safaris for an immersive wildlife experience. Great Plains Selinda Camp, known for its rare African wild dog sightings, impresses guests with its modern safari aesthetics and exteriors that pay homage to the Bayei people.
Tangier, a city in Morocco, has been making progress towards its goal of becoming one of the top 20 tourist destinations by 2020. With over 12 million tourists in 2018, the country has seen increased recognition as a popular travel destination. Luxury hotels like Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis Tamuda Bay are opening in Morocco in 2020, signaling the country's growing prominence. Tangier itself is set to welcome Anantara Al Houara, a beachfront resort, and Hilton Tangier Al Houara Resort & Spa. With the addition of a high-speed rail connecting Tangier to Casablanca and Rabat, tourists are gaining easier access to explore the city.
Travel tip: American Airlines now offers direct flights from Philadelphia to Casablanca, making it easier to reach Tangier. Casablanca is a hub for Royal Air Maroc, which joins the Oneworld alliance in 2020. From Casablanca, travelers can easily fly to Tangier on multiple daily flights. Ryanair also increased its service from Toulouse and Bordeaux to Tangier, and a 10-minute helicopter ride from the Spanish port city of Algeciras to Tangier is rumored to be in the works.
As we bid farewell to 2020, it's time to start planning our travel adventures for the upcoming year. With a list of incredible destinations showcasing the diversity and wonders of our world, there's no better time to explore than now. From the vibrant streets of Addis Ababa to the tranquil beauty of Glacier National Park, Montana, we have handpicked a selection of destinations that are sure to ignite your wanderlust. Whether you're seeking cultural immersion, natural wonders, or simply an escape from the ordinary, these destinations offer a perfect blend of both adventure and relaxation. So, grab your passport, pack your bags, and get ready for a year of unforgettable journeys. The best travel destinations of 2020 await you!
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