Another year is drawing to a close... As you're enjoying quality time with your family and friends over the Holidays, its a great time to start thinking about your travel plans for next year. In the next few months, every major publication and several of our competitors will likely be releasing similar lists of their own but its doubtful that you will find a more diverse compilation anywhere else. You might not be familiar with some of these destinations, Get to know them now! Each city was carefully selected because of the unique experiences that they offer travelers. There is a healthy mixture of offerings including destinations with serene settings, that offer cultural engagement, have a variety of outdoor activities, create award-winning cuisine and produce relaxing adult beverages. This list is not ranked or organized in any particular order. Please enjoy our Top 20 Destination Recommendations for 2020!
Sirmione is a picturesque resort destination on the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy. The small historic town is located on the tip of a long peninsula protruding from the southern shore of the lake between Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera. Sirmione has drawn the likes of Catullus and Maria Callas to its banks over the centuries, and today millions of visitors follow in their footsteps for a glimpse of Lake Garda's prettiest village and a dip in Northern Italy's only hot spring. Sirmione is home to natural thermal springs and was a spa destination even in Roman times. In Sirmione, you can still visit the remains of some impressive Roman ruins at the end of the promontory. Overlooking Lake Garda stands Rocco Scaligera, a beautiful medieval castle. The city is located in the Lombardy Region of Italy. Most of the provinces in this region share an affinity for rice-based dishes like Polenta. Not only is the food incredible in Sirmione but you also get the added pleasure of enjoying terrace views of the lake as you dine. Complete this perfect moment by pairing your meal with one of the region's local wines and you're essentially living like Italian Royalty.
Labuan Bajo, Indonesia
Labuan Bajo is officially no longer a small fishing town. This once dusty harbor town is perpetually being updated to accommodate more international travelers. The capital of the Manggarai Barat regency, Bajo is the jumping-off point to visit the prehistoric dragons at Komodo National Park and a phenomenal place for divers to be awed by the undersea world. The newly revamped marina keeps daily life bustling with ships offering convenient connections to other parts of Indonesia. While you can still find a few places to rent huts on the beach, luxurious five-star resorts have started popping up around the island and will be the standard for future developments. Just East of Labuan Bajo, climbers and hikers can enjoy several incredible spots for canyoning and cave exploration. The growth of tourism to the island has seen an influx of Western restaurants but don’t settle for food you can have back home. Head over to Pasar Malam to eat beside the locals at Seafood and Padang restaurants. Make sure you try the pisang goreng from one of the street vendors in the local market.
Pokhara is one of those destinations that checks off all the right ingredients for a great vacation, with spectacular scenery, adventure activities and accommodation and food choices galore. Whether you’ve just returned from a three-week trek in the Himalayas or just endured a bus trip from hell to reach its shores, Lakeside Pokhara is the perfect place to unwind and recharge your batteries. The scene is a chilled-out version of Kathmandu's Thamel neighborhood, stretching along the shore of a tranquil lake with bobbing paddle boats. From the lake, and possibly even from your hotel bed, you can enjoy a clear view of the snow-capped mountains, just 20 or so kilometers away. There’s much more to Pokhara than its laid-back charm. It also boasts a booming adventure-sports industry. It’s arguably the best paragliding destination on the planet and its surrounded by white-water rivers designed by nature for rafting. For hikers, it’s the gateway to the world-famous trails in and around the Annapurna Mountain range. There's also a fascinating museum dedicated to the world-famous Gurkha soldiers. Nepalese staple foods like momos and Dal Bhat are served everywhere in Pokhara, but you can also find some special types of fish that are less prevalent in other parts of Nepal. Spend your evenings watching the sunset over the mountains beyond the lake while enjoying your choice of the tasty local beers.
Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, is a wonderfully magnificent city with thriving cultural, culinary and nightlife scenes. Never afraid to introduce modern advancements into its ancient bones, Valencia diverted its flood-prone river to the outskirts and converted the former riverbed into a beautiful greenbelt park that winds right through the heart of the city. On it are the strikingly futuristic buildings of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava. Other brilliant contemporary buildings are graciously spread around the city, standing out from the fistful of fabulous Modernista buildings, great museums, a long stretch of well-maintained beach and a characterful old quarter. Besides the beauty of the architecture, Valencia Cathedral is home to what is most widely accepted as the Holy Grail. The entire city is surrounded by its “huerta”, a fertile zone of market gardens where they grow oranges, vegetables and rice. Historically, the culinary scene is famous as the original home of the rice dish paella. Today, Valencia’s dining scene offers plenty of other superb dishes and an assortment of restaurant options for your dining pleasure.
Kerala is South India's most beautiful state. It is made up of a slender coastal strip that is characterized by its multi-layered landscape. Most popular among tourists are the glorious beaches along the Arabian Sea coast. The rest of Kerala is made up of a languid network of sparkling backwaters and the spice-covered hills of the Western Ghats. The hills are dotted with fiercely protected wildlife reserves and cool hill stations such as Munnar. Setting foot on the palm-shaded green lands of Kerala slows the pace of visitors from the frantic rat race experienced in India’s major cities. It’s a world away from the frenzy of Delhi. Learn about the state’s fascinating backstory, illuminated by historically evocative cities like Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. Besides the famous backwaters, elegant houseboats, ayurvedic treatments and delicately spiced local cuisine, Kerala is home to wild elephants, exotic birds and some occasionally seen tigers. With its own vibrant traditions such as Kathakali, theyyam (a trance-induced ritual), temple festivals and snake-boat races there’s a variety of activities that offer incredible experiences even in the area’s smallest villages.
Dubrovnik never fails to instill a sense of awe in travelers once they’ve seen the beauty of its old town. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who has visited the city’s limestone streets, saw its baroque buildings, looked out at the endless shimmer on the waters of the Adriatic Sea and walked along the ancient city walls that still stand firm after protecting the capital for centuries but walked away feeling underwhelmed by their experience. The city simply enchants all of its visitors. At dusk or dawn, stare at the way light seems to dance on the roofs of its old stone buildings. Trace the triumphs and tragedies of Dubrovnik's past in its museums loaded with art and artifacts that are unavailable anywhere else in the world. Take the cable car up to Mount Srđ and exhort any desire you have for physical activity by climbing up and down its narrow thoroughfares. When you’re ready to relax, take a boat out to one of nearby islands or plunge directly into the azure waters of the sea.
Lake District, United Kingdom
The Lake District is by far the UK's most popular national park. Though not widely known here in the States, every year nearly 15 million people head North of Manchester to explore the region's impressive countryside. If you have ever dreamed of spending the afternoon in a cottage in the English countryside, you have probably pictured the Lake District without even knowing it. Ever since the Romantic poets arrived in the 19th century, its postcard panorama of craggy hilltops, mountain tarns and glittering lakes has been stirring the imaginations of its visitors. In 2017 the area was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique hill-farming culture. The Lake District is packed full of outdoor activities from lake cruises to mountain walks, but most people come to visit for the region's literary connections. Among the many writers who found inspiration here were William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Arthur Ransome and, of course, Beatrix Potter, a lifelong lover of the Lakes. Don’t forget to checkout some of the historical vacation homes owned by former Royals and British Celebrities.
Grumeti Reserve, Tanzania
The Grumeti Game Reserve is situated on the doorstep of Serengeti National Park. This reserve is home to some of the finest luxury tented safari camps in the region. Due to the reserve’s convenient proximity to the Serengeti it is the ideal location to call home during the Great Migration. Each camp offers breathtaking views overlooking or next to the plains for optimal game viewing. Guests usually experience herds of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles grazing directly across from the campgrounds, particularly in camps located along the Mara River. Tents are mostly used in the area so that the accommodations may be moved according to seasonality and changes in the migration. These tents are generally the size of suites and often have balconies, terraces and personal bathrooms equipped with solar-heated showers. Guests can enjoy their chef-prepared meals around the open-air fire pit or in a classic dining room. In addition to game drives, most camps offer opportunities to interact with the local tribes or get involved in wildlife conservation. Ask your Travel Designer about other special activities like hot air balloon safari's.
Lucerne is absolutely stunning! It has been deservedly popular ever since the likes of Goethe, Queen Victoria and Wagner experienced its breathtaking views back in the 19th century. The local legend of the town’s origins is that an angel used a guiding light to show the first settlers where to build a chapel in Lucerne, and today it still retains its amazing grace. On one hand it’s nostalgic, while on the other its modern and highbrow. Though the shops are still crammed with what Mark Twain so eloquently described as ‘gimcrackery of the souvenir sort’, Lucerne doesn’t dwell completely in the past, local venues boast a roster of music gigs that always keeps things in the city upbeat. For those looking to explore the Swiss Alps, Lucerne’s location makes it a convenient gateway for day trips to Mount First or Mount Pilatus. Just don’t forget to check out the quant mountain haven Grindelwald, it’s a must see! History buffs and fantasy fans alike will be delighted by the number of ancient castles nearby. In the city, visit the Swiss Museum of Transport, go shopping in Old Town and take a walk across Chapel Bridge. From carnival capers at Fasnacht, to balmy summers and golden autumns – this ‘city of lights’ shines in every season.
Redang Island, Malaysia
Pulau Redang features stunning white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters backed by lush green jungle. The island is located in the Kuala Nerus District of Terengganu. It lies within a government protected marine park and has some of the most incredible dive sites and snorkeling reefs in the world. The accommodations on the island are almost exclusively luxury resort style properties, with most of the resorts located on Pasir Panjang Beach. If you somehow manage to get bored with the sea and the beaches, there are plenty of areas to hike and trek due to the island’s elevated inland terrain. We also recommend that you treat yourself to a massage at one of the resort spas, you won’t regret it. Malaysia is a long-time championship contender when it comes to having some of the best-loved culinary delights in the world. So of course, the food in one of the country’s most popular islands is seriously good! Explore the markets and try different dishes until you find your favorite. It’s convenient to reach Redang via direct flights from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. The downside is the island has become very popular with groups of young Malaysians and weekending Singaporeans. You’ll want to book in advance if you plan to visit the island during a holiday period. Please also keep in mind that Redang Island is closed for safety reasons in monsoon season from the start of November until the start of March.
Lyon has been enticing people ever since the Romans named it Lugdunum in 43 BC. Strategically located at the convergence point of the Rhône and the Saône Rivers, Lyon has been a powerhouse for the past 500 years. Much of France’s commercial, industrial and banking network is built here. Lyon is France's third largest city and offers today's urban explorers a wealth of enticing experiences. The city is home to outstanding museums, a dynamic cultural life, vibrant clubbing and nightlife scenes, a thriving university and fantastic shopping lend to the city having a distinctly sophisticated air about the way it presents itself. Meanwhile, adventurous gourmets can indulge in their wildest gastronomic fantasies at any of the cities modern or classic eateries. Don't leave the city without sampling some Lyonnais specialties in a bouchon, it’s the quintessential Lyon experience.
Takayama is one of Japan's most atmospherically authentic townships, with Meiji-era inns, hillside shrines and a picture-perfect riverside setting. It's also home to one of the country's most-loved festivals, the Takayama Spring Festival. A trip here should be high on the list for anyone travelling to Japan, especially in the Central Honshū region. The town's present layout dates back to the late 17th century and incorporates a wealth of museums, art galleries and ancient temples worthy of a much larger city. Excellent infrastructure and very welcoming locals put the icing on this destination’s cake. Although its recent rise in popularity can sometimes take the sparkle off of what was still a little-known jewel just a decade ago, there's still plenty worth visiting for. Booking a stay during the shoulder seasons will afford a little more tranquility for those looking to avoid the crowds. Takayama is easily explored on foot and is the perfect start or end point for sojourns into the Hida region and the northern Japan Alps. Trace the footsteps of the ancient samurai into the old town. The prettiest section of the old city is called Sanmachi. It consists of a few narrow passages packed with wooden buildings housing sake breweries and little boutiques. Pop in for a taste and snag a rare souvenir.
The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos Islands are a destination that just might inspire you to think differently about the world. The creatures that call the islands home, many found nowhere else in the world, act as if humans are nothing more than slightly annoying paparazzi. This is not the Bahamas, and these aren’t your typical tropical paradise isles. Most of the islands are devoid of vegetation and some look more like the moon than Hawaii. However, more humans live here than is commonly assumed, and there’s a surprising level of development in the islands’ towns, mostly geared toward the thriving tourism industry. This isolated group of volcanic islands and its fragile ecosystem has taken on almost-mythological status as a showcase of biodiversity. Yet you don’t have to be an evolutionary biologist or an ornithologist to appreciate one of the few places left on the planet where the human footprint is kept to a minimum. The island of Santa Cruz has the largest and most developed town in the Galápagos. Every traveler is likely to spend at least some time here, even if it’s simply commuting from the airport on nearby Isla Baltra en route to board a ship to another island. Those who stay awhile will find it’s a destination in full of visitor sites, easily accessible beaches and remote highlands in the interior, and a base for adventurous activities far from the tourism trail. The tiny Puerto Velasco Ibarra, the only settlement on Floreana, is set on a black-sand beach in a peaceful sheltered bay. Its more remnant of the Galapagos from 40 years ago, offering car-free living and wildlife-watching without the crowds. Travelers find it as the perfect ending to an action-filled trip around the islands.
Reykjavík combines colorful buildings, creative people, eye-popping design, wild nightlife and a mercurial spirit. You can get a full just of Icelandic history in central Reykjavík, from its Settlement Exhibition built around the unearthed Viking longhouse of the area's earliest inhabitants to the enormous National Museum, keeper of the country's most precious artifacts. In the Old Harbor you can entertain the kids at a high-octane Saga Museum or learn traditionally about the area's maritime history. Reykjavík is loaded with captivating art, rich culinary choices, and cool cafes and bars. The capital's art museums, shops and galleries are a perfect insight into contemporary city life. Explore the streets to see creative art installations and assorted graffiti. The capital has seen a recent surge in restaurant openings, many of the highest standard, and expressing all manner of culinary creativity. Cafes by day turn into restaurants and bars at night. Tapas-style dining, high-concept Icelandic cuisine and burger joints all rub shoulders. The party scene here, goes well into the late-night. Take in all the city has to offer, then add in the countryside’s snow-topped mountains, churning seas and crystal-clear air, and the chances are you'll fall helplessly in love with Iceland.
Salvador has a surging energy and unadorned beauty that few other cities in the world can match. Once the magnificent capital of Portugal’s New World colony, today Salvador da Bahia is the pulsating heart of the country’s Afro-Brazilian community. Its brilliantly colored center is a living museum of 17th- and 18th-century architecture and gold-laden churches. Wild festivals happen frequently, with drum corps pounding out rhythms against the backdrop of colonial buildings almost daily. Elsewhere in town, a different spirit flows as crowds of religious adherents celebrate and reconnect with African gods at Candomblé ceremonies. In fact, there’s no other place in the world where the culture of those brought as slaves from Africa has been preserved as it has been in Salvador. From music and religion to food, dance and even martial-arts traditions. The Pelourinho district in upper town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to several Portuguese architectural monuments. Aside from the many attractions within Salvador, a gorgeous coastline lies right outside the city serving as a suitable introduction to the tropical splendor of Bahia. The coast features a variety of inlets including natural pools surrounded by reef usually filled with children swimming and big wave inlets preferred by surfers. And it wouldn’t be Brazil if we didn’t mention Carnival. While Rio is more widely known, the Celebrate Carnival in Salvador has been sited in the Guinness Book of World Record’s as the largest street party in the world.
South Island, New Zealand
South Island's quintessential activity is most definitely hiking. Lace up your boots and tackle one of the South Island’s six Great Walks or choose from countless other options ranging from short nature strolls to multiday, backcountry epics. With a comparably small population scattered across 151,215 sq km of land, you'll have no trouble finding peace and quiet on New Zealand's 'mainland'. The only problem will be choosing between the sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords that make this island one of the best outdoor destinations on the planet. Tumble down the Buller or Rangitata Rivers in a raft, or paddle the glassy coves of the Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman National Park or Fiordland. In winter, slice up the slopes around Wanaka, Queenstown or Mt Hutt, while in warmer weather the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and Central Otago Rail Trail beckon to those on two wheels. For the hardcore thrill-seekers, Queenstown's gravity-defying menu of bungy, paragliding or skydiving is sure to get your adrenaline pumping. Prepare to meet the South Island’s idiosyncratic wildlife. Whales, fur seals, dolphins and penguins all frequent the coastal waters around Kaikoura; endangered Hector’s dolphins cavort alongside penguins in Akaroa Harbor and the Catlins; and the Otago Peninsula shelters penguins, sea lions and even a colony of royal albatrosses. The remote Stewart Island is the perfect place to spot the iconic but shy kiwi, alongside a mixture of other feathered friends. The South Island is also home to two special parrots, the kaka and the kea. Foodies will delight in the South Island's smorgasbord of seasonal produce, from luscious berries, stone fruit, asparagus and root vegetables, to local seafood, lamb, beef and a plethora of artisanal dairy delights. Roadside kiosks sell everything from farm eggs to grandma's tomato relish, while world-class regional restaurants skim the cream of local crops for innovative tasting menus. South Island also has some of the world's best cool-climate wines and the most exciting craft breweries in the country.
The Azores, Portugal
The Azores are an autonomous group of islands in the mid-Atlantic belonging to Portugal. This remote archipelago simply abounds with adventures. It is widely considered the Hawaii of the mid-Atlantic. It is home to world-class whale watching, sailing, diving, hiking and canyoning. It’s also an excellent destination for surfing and other watersports. The landscape offers rich opportunities for horseback riding, cycling or mountain biking. For the real daredevils, you can also try paragliding when the weather permits. The landscape itself is reason enough to visit Portugal. South Island is a wonderland of seething mud pots, fantastical caverns, and vivid crater lakes that speak of a volcanic origin. The Azores contain two of Portugal’s 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the vineyards of Pico and the old town of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira. It also houses the biospheres Graciosa, Flores and Corvo. The regional government has cleverly paired these riches with an award-winning network of natural parks and marine reserves to safeguard the unspoiled environment. With liberalization of the airline industry making the islands more accessible than ever before, the Azores look well placed to finally capitalize on their vast potential as a world-leading example of sustainable eco-tourism. Sao Miguel, the largest island, features lake-filled calderas and several tea plantations. Pico, the second largest island, is highlighted by Mount Pico and its surrounding boulder sheltered vineyards that produce the areas best wines.
Tulum’s greatest tourist appeal lies in its sugary white sand beaches, cobalt hued waters and the balmy breezes of its spectacular coastline. It’s considered one of the top beaches in Mexico. Tulum rests on top of a bluff facing east towards the Caribbean Sea. What makes Tulum our favorite is its collection of well-preserved Mayan ruins. Nowhere else in the world can you see beautiful beaches of this magnitude that are dramatically situated next to immaculately preserved ruins. The ruins of El Castillo and the surrounding temples collectively are the third most visited archeological site in Mexico. There’s also some excellent cave and cavern diving nearby, fun cenotes and a variety of lodgings and restaurants to fit every budget. Tulum can be reached by bus from Cancun and other larger cities located in the Riviera Maya and Yucatan prefectures. However, we recommend staying local to avoid be crammed on shuttle buses and herded to the beach like cattle. Some visitors may be weary of the fact that the main town center sits right on the highway, making the main street feel a bit more like a truck stop than a tropical paradise. But rest assured that if the bustle of Tulum Pueblo isn't to your liking, you can always stick to the more expensive shops along the coast and maintain your tropical tranquility. Exploring Tulum's surrounding areas pays big experiential rewards. A few must see's are the massive Reserva de la Biosfera Sian Ka’an, the secluded fishing village Punta Allen and the ruins of Cobá. Tulum is also a food lover’s paradise. You won’t find any McDonalds here, but you can enjoy everything from traditional Yucatan Peninsula food to fine Italian dining.
La Digue, Seychelles
La Digue is one of the 115 islands that makes up the archipelago officially known as the Republic of Seychelles. The coastline is lined with one bewitching bay after another, each studded with heart-stopping-ly gorgeous beaches. The hilly interior is cloaked with tangled jungle, tall trees and wild hiking trails. Yet, miraculously, despite being just a 15-minute ferry journey from Praslin, the vast majority of the island still remains untouched by development. And even where infrastructure does exist, such as around the port in La Passe and La Réunion, everything is so laid-back that visiting feels like taking a step back in time. One of the most charming elements of La Digue is that the preferred method of transport for locals is the old-fashioned bicycle. With very few trucks, some taxis and electric carts serving as the only motorized transportation on the island it can feel other worldly. Most travelers choose to visit La Digue over the other islands for one simple reason, Anse Source d'Argent! On the southwest coast of the island, backed by some of La Digue's beautiful granite boulders and shaded by towering coconut palm trees lies Anse Source d'Argent Beach. It’s truly a sight to behold. Famous for being one of the most photographed beaches on the planet. The beach is incredibly popular, having been featured in several ads for Bacardi Rum and Bounty Chocolate. The sands can get pretty crowded with beach goers, particularly as the beach area shrinks at hide tide. Coming in the early morning and returning in the late afternoon is a great way to avoid many of the island's day visitors. Be sure to keep your entrance ticket for readmittance to this private beach. During the day a couple of shacks sell fruit and refreshments, and there are transparent bottom kayaks available for rent. As the sun starts to descend and day trippers must return to from whence they came, you can walk around or curl up under the shade of the trees and feel like you have this uninhabited piece of paradise all to yourself. If you are looking for something less inhabited, be sure to visit Anse Marron. It's arguably the second most beautiful beach on the island but is less crowded because it is only accessible by foot only.
Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Rangiroa is one of the biggest atolls in the world, with a lagoon large enough that it could fit the entire island of Tahiti inside of it. While most visitors will travel to French Polynesia to explore Bora Bora or Tahiti, but Rangi (as it’s known to its friends) is the biggest city in the archipelago. With some paved roads, a number of resorts, plentiful internet connection and several gourmet restaurants. It really has everything that you need here. That’s a really big deal compared to the limited offerings of the other islands. And that is only the beginning, Rangiroa’s richest resources lie ever so slightly hidden below the surface of its clear blue waters. It’s a diving mecca, with world-renowned dive sites blessed with prolific marine life just minutes from your bungalow. Swim side by side with whales, manta rays, dolphins and even sharks in their natural habitat. Back on land, the main villages of Avatoru and Tiputa offer visitor’s a unique look at the everyday life of the South Pacific’s native tribes. Along the few roads that exist, you’ll also encounter coral churches, craft centers, smaller local restaurants and boulangeries operated by locals. Wine lovers can also enjoy wine tasting at the Dominique Auroy Estate nestled within a coconut grove, which produces a selection of wines using three different grape varieties. Some travelers will also be interested in visiting the black pearl farms or the never-ending string of remote motus dotted along the lagoon. Make sure you include a boat trip across the lagoon to the stunning Île aux Récifs and Lagon Bleu, both experiences are not to be missed.