Trying to decide where to visit this year? We’ve put together a list of the best places to travel in 2020, highlighting the new decade’s hottest destinations. We’ve taken into consideration special cultural and historical events, new flight routes and hotel openings to create a guide to the places that should be top of your travel bucket list for 2020.
Today’s traveller is spoilt for choice. Nowadays there are very few destinations out of our reach, but we’re a generation – or two – of people craving new and exciting experiences. When we travel we want to experience new things, uncover destinations that fill us with joy and adventure. With this in mind we created this guide to 2020’s top travel spots – from hidden gems through to popular destinations you just must see for yourself.
Table of Contents
They’ve been talking about it for years, but it’s finally here – Dubai makes history this year by becoming the first middle eastern host of the World Expo. Showcasing the scientific and technological achievements of countries this event has been running since Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition in 1851.
This makes 2020 a great time to visit the city, along with the 25m+ other visitors expected to come along to the six month event, which opens in October. Dubai’s government has spent billions on the expo, which includes creating a site twice the size of Hong Kong island, filled with smart buildings and infrastructure that showcase Dubai as a technology leader. This year’s Expo theme is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and nearly 200 countries are set to take part. Visitors will get the chance to explore the future of innovation and sustainability, and along with the exhibits, there will be live shows every day.
Beyond the Expo developers have been hard at work on other projects including Aladdin City – three towers that will resemble genie’s lamps when complete and the Museum of the Future. Exciting hotel launches are also taking place this year including the cube shaped ME by Meliá Dubai. Just a seven hour flight from London, Dubai’s looking set to be a hot destination this year!
Want to read more about Dubai? Why not check out our post about spending a night out in the Dubai desert?
Costa Rica is a gloriously green country in both its landscape and its approach to sustainability and 2020 is an exciting year for the country as it’s pushing to become carbon neutral. Did you know an admirable 98 percent of the country’s energy already comes from renewable sources?
“It’s tropical patchwork of parks and reserves make for incredible exploration – head here for a week or two of walking and wildlife watching, says Lucy Richards, a Project Editor for DK Eyewitness Travel.
The Irish harbour city of Galway is bursting with cultural events this year as it’s one of two cities named 2020’s European Capitals of Culture (the other being Rijeka – see below).
There’ll be everything from readings of Homer’s Odyssey on the beaches through to turning the Connemara mountains green on St Patrick’s Day (via the work of Finnish Light artist Kari Kola that is).
But to be fair, every year the city holds a large number of events and festivals, so there’s something happening whenever you visit! In April there’s the Cúirt International Festival of Literature for poetry and prose, in July there’s the Film Fleadh and the Galway International Arts Festival and most famous is the Galway Oyster Festival, which takes place this coming September.
For more Ireland inspiration check out The Best Day Trips from Dublin.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the island’s liberation from German occupying forces, Guernsey is running Heritage75 between April and October – an island-wide programme of events.
Visitors to the Bailiwick and its sister islands of Herm, Sark and Alderney will be able to join islanders on everything from themed tours and guided walks through to exhibitions and family focused events. The rolling programme of activity will enable visitors to discover and experience what life was like before, during and after the occupation.
Guernsey up your street? Then you might want to look into some of the other Spring UK holiday destinations we recommend.
2020 is the 500th anniversary of the death of Renaissance artist Raphael. In celebration of his work special exhibitions are taking place across Italy, making it a great time to visit this magnificent country.
Head to Rome and Florence to see some of the streets and landscapes he painted, plus Rome is hosting a major exhibition of his work at the Scuderie del Quirinale from March ‘till June.
Here’s our guide to some of Florence’s best museums to get your research started…
Koh Jum, Thailand
If you want an authentic taste of Thai island life then Koh Jum is the place for you. The region of Krabi, Thailand is a well-known tourist hot spot thanks to its amazing tropical islands and bathwater-warm, light blue sea. However, many of Krabi’s beaches and the islands off its coast – such as Railay, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Lanta – have become the victims of over-tourism and in my opinion have lost some of their personality and authenticity.
But Koh Jum has been barely touched by the influx of visitors that have altered its neighbours, providing you with a haven away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. It’s like visiting Thailand a few decades earlier, when the region was really only frequented by backpackers and the big resorts hadn’t set up base.
Koh Jum island is small – only around 6km in length and home to three villages: Koh Pu, Ting Rai and Koh Jum, and 1,500 inhabitants. You don’t come here to party – you come here for complete R&R. It’s also renowned for its amazing sunsets and made The Telegraph’s list of the top beaches in Thailand – more on the long list of reasons it should be on your travel bucket list. You can do it on the cheap, but for some island luxury I recommend staying at Koh Jum Beach Villas.
Interested in visiting Koh Jum? Find out what time of the year is best to visit….
Liberation Route Europe: Hiking Trail
Not a ‘destination’ per se, but worth noting is the Liberation Route Europe hiking trail, which follows the footsteps of the Allied troops at the end of WWII from Berlin to London.
Opened 75 years after the end of WWII, the route is almost 3,000km in length and goes through five different countries. There are hundreds of ‘points of interest’ related to WWI, with many branches to the trail, which was created by hiking specialists and historians. They were joined by American Architect Daniel Libeskind, who designed the route markers he called Vectors of Memory, which “will unite, for the first time, countries, regions, important sites, milestones, and stories in the last phase of World War II by celebrating the procured freedom, harmony, and peace.”
Leipzig is celebrating 500 years of industrial tradition in 2020. With many of its old brick buildings now transformed into culture hubs like galleries, studios and shops, visitors will be able to explore the industrial heritage and architecture of Leipzig in a unique way.
The Spinnerei, formerly continental Europe’s largest cotton mill, now houses multiple gallery spaces and studios that welcome resident artists from around the world and even an arthouse cinema. Tapentenwerk is another example of a workshop that’s been changed into a cultural centre. Once a wallpaper factory, it now has several on-site galleries and co-working spaces.
Another standout space for modern art is the former Leipzig power station now known as the Kunstkraftwerk. During the year it hosts several exhibitions, concerts, readings and parties. The team at Kunstkraftwerk aim to create immersive experiences where the visitor is always the focal point.
If you’re looking for a city break, it’s hard not to be seduced by Marrakech, which has been crowned Africa’s first Capital of Culture this year. Lucy Richards from DK Eyewitness Travel recommends ambling around its dusky pink medina walls, trying your hand at haggling in the labyrinthine souks and watching the spectacular Jemaa el-Fna come alive at night as the sun sets over the red city.
The stunning Italian town of Matera, with its Sassi cave dwellings, has become more and more popular with tourists every year, but being featured in the new James Bond film is likely to really raise the number of visitors.
Its spectacular architecture and winding roads are a perfect setting for a chase in the new Bond movie No Time to Die, which comes out in April, so get there soon to avoid the crowds!
If you want to do Matera in style then Prestige Holidays recommends a stay in the Sassi hotel Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita. Just an hour from Bari airport, it features 18 caves that ooze rustic luxury. Think Bond-esque candlelit alcoves, fireplaces and complete calm. There’s also a terrace boasting views of the awe-inspiring UNESCO Murgia National Park and breakfast is served in the hotel’s ‘church’.
Italy makes it onto our list several times for 2020, and Parma is included as its the country’s 2020 Capital of Culture.
This northern Italian city is known for its art, architecture and food – not just parmesan cheese and Parma ham, but it’s exciting restaurants and artisans. It’s is home to the country’s finest producers of prosciutto, salami, cheese and porcini mushrooms and boasts fantastic interior frescos, decorated facades and beautiful arched walkways. What’s not to love?
Podgorica is Montenegro’s capital and offers exciting nightlife for visitors. Locals and visitors mix in the bars and clubs while you can savour local delicacies in some of the city’s finest restaurants. With great views from the famous TV tower, Podgorica is also a great gateway to Montenegro’s beaches and mountain trails.
BA is launching flights direct to Podgorica from the UK for the first time this summer, making it a great opportunity to explore the once off-limits Balkan city.
Rijeka is known as Croatia’s third city – after Zagreb and then Split, and has been named a 2020 European Capital of Culture alongside Galway – see above.
It has an amazing chequered history, having been located in Italy, Austro-Hungarian Empire, the former Yugoslavia and now Croatia and is know as the city of diversity. Former sugar and tobacco factories are now world class museums, you can visit the seaside citadel and former 19th century governors palace, there’s a massive art deco food market some great beaches and its proximity to the Kvarner Bay islands and famous Opatija mean it’s sure to be a 2020 hotspot.
It offers amazing views, beautiful beaches and one of the world’s biggest carnivals, with many more special events taking place throughout the year to celebrate its 2020 title.
The world-famous Salzburg Festival marks its 100th anniversary this July. Immortalised onscreen in The Sound of Music, the event programme has already been announced and you can see it in full online.
Overflowing with history the city has lots to offer visitors beyond its musical heritage (it was the birthplace of Mozart) The city is divided by the Salzach River, with medieval and baroque buildings of the pedestrian Altstadt (Old City) on its left bank, facing the 19th-century Neustadt (New City) on its right. Visit fortresses, palaces, castles and cathedrals in the historic city…
São Tomé and Príncipe
If you’re after an up-and-coming destination then be sure to head to São Tomé and Príncipe this year to beat the crowds.
Hidden in the Gulf of Guinea, off the west coast of Africa, these forgotten volcanic island currently have an overabundance of beauty and very little tourism. They offer a delightful blend of modern and traditional living, with colonial buildings and other mementoes of five centuries of Portuguese rule, plus if you like to do quirky things on your travels you’ll like the fact that on Príncipe you can stand with one foot on either side of the equator!
The islands’ untouched natural beauty makes them a great destination for nature and animal lovers as their dense rain and cloud forests, which cover about 90 per cent of the islands, teem with wildlife, plus the islands are surrounded by a colourful underwater world of tropical fish, whales and turtles.
As for the right time to visit, come between November and March to see the turtles laying eggs and then later them hatching, or between July and October for the best whale watching opportunities.
How to get there
The best way to get to São Tomé and Príncipe is with TAP Air Portugal, via Lisbon – with a short stopover in Accra. Low cost airlines Easyjet and Ryanair also fly to Lisbon, where you can get a connecting flight.
Turkey’s Turquoise Coast
Turkey’s ‘Turquoise Coast’, also know as the ‘Turkish Riviera’, is in the country’s south west and is home to historic ruins, rustic towns and villages and beautiful beaches with clear blue seas.
I discovered it a few years back when Justin and I took a road trip along the D400 which follows alongside the Lycian Way, an ancient route which is now known as one of the world’s greatest long-distance hiking trails. We explored a sunken city in Simena, took in many of the historical highlights of the Lycian Way including the ancient ruins of Phaselis and fell in love with the culture and people.
This year new direct flights are launching from the UK to Antalya and Dalaman, making it easier to explore this amazing part of the world. Go discover it for yourself!
2020 marks 75 years since the end of WWII. To commemorate this The Netherlands is running a number of special exhibitions and events, making it a special place to visit throughout 2020.
In May the annual Liberation Day party is expected to be bigger than ever, and the country is home to to make sights associated with WWII including the the famous ‘bridge too far’ in Arnhem and Nijmegen, where you can take part in the daily Sunset March which honours the city’s fallen soldiers.
We often look for the biggest, most exotic destinations when choosing where to travel, but we shouldn’t forget the little gems on our doorstep. Why not take more day trips in 2020, and head over to historic UK spots like Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
In 2020 the town celebrates the founding of the Abbey of St Edmund by King Canute 1,000 years ago with a programme of events leading up to the weekend of St Edmund’s Day on 20 November.
The first Patron Saint of England and King of East Anglia, Saint Edmund was enshrined in the Abbey consequently lending his name to the town, which was built around it. The Abbey was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 and Edmund’s shrine was plundered but the thieves found no body! His whereabouts are still a great mystery but a theory suggests he might be buried in the monks’ cemetery, which lies beneath the tennis courts in the Abbey Gardens, which is consecrated ground.
To celebrate this big anniversary this year there will be a range of events from musical concerts to religious pageants, culminating in a spectacular light show on St Edmund’s Day Weekend.
Vienna’s been on our holiday hit list for quite a while but 2020 looks like the perfect year to visit as the city is celebrating many music related anniversaries. It’s the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, the 150th anniversary of the Musikverein concert hall, the 120th anniversary of the Wiener Symphoniker orchestra and the 20th anniversary of the opening of the House of Music – Vienna’s interactive music museum.
Expect Beethoven madness, with concerts celebrating his work throughout the year, including a staging of his only opera, Fidelio, in April. There’s also a special exhibition dedicated to the composer at the House of Music.
According to booking.com, travellers looking to go off-grid in 2020 should head to the mountains in Zabljak, a small town in northern Montenegro and at the centre of the Durmitor mountain region. Whether travelling in winter for the snowy slopes or during the warmer months to experience the impressive hiking trails.
Highlights include the Black Lake and the Djurdjevica Tara Bridge, a concrete bridge that was once the biggest concrete arch bridge for vehicles in Europe and Durmitor National Park, which has been awarded UNESCO World Natural Heritage status. It features various hidden gems from high peaks and glacial landscapes through to dense pine forest, making it a top spot for nature lovers.