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The 12 Best Places to Go in 2020

SmarterTravel

The best places to travel in 2020 range from the aspirational to the dreamy to the eminently doable. No matter when you’re available to go, here’s a month-by-month guide to 12 destinations that are on the rise or otherwise in the spotlight this coming year, along with recommendations for each country’s key special events and most exciting experiences.

Jump to The Best Places to Visit by Month:

The Best Place to Travel in January 2020: Rwanda

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Start the year off right by traveling to Rwanda, a country that’s enjoying something of a tourism boom: January is the projected opening month for the One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, a beautifully designed resort in the jungles of the Virunga volcano range. And in late 2019, the $25 million Singita Kwitonda Lodge opened in the same region. Both of these new high-end luxury accommodations promise ultra-comfortable lodgings and only-in-Rwanda views, as well as unforgettable encounters with the region’s captivating mountain gorillas.

Highlights and attractions for travelers in the “land of a thousand hills” include the fascinating King’s Palace and nearby Ethnographic Museum, Kigali’s bustling Kimironko Market, and Kwita Izina, the annual gorilla-naming ceremony at Volcanoes National Park.

Another reason Rwanda earns its place on our list of the best places to travel in 2020 is that it has become more accessible to travelers. In 2020, RwandAir will introduce a direct flight from New York to Kigali so that Americans can get directly to Rwanda—no connections required.

Where to stay: Either at one of the resorts listed above or at Wilderness Safaris’ new Magashi Camp, a conservation-oriented glamping retreat that provides unbeatable views of Lake Rwanyakazinga and of Akagera National Park’s savannah and wildlife.

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The Best Place to Travel in February 2020: Macau

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More than just “Asia’s Las Vegas,” Macau’s tourism industry has been working hard on developing itself well past its elaborate casino scene. In 2020, the former Portuguese colony will debut Lisboeta Macau, a theme-park resort featuring a zip-line over the city center, indoor skydiving, and an IMAX theater.

Macau boasts numerous five-star hotels, including the world’s first Karl Lagerfeld hotel in the new Grand Lisboa Palace and the Londoner Macao, a British-themed hotel that David Beckham helped design.

Amid these hotels are more than 20 UNESCO World Heritage sites that reflect Macau’s Asian-European melting pot, as well as a food scene that deserves mention: UNESCO has named Macau a “Creative City of Gastronomy,” thanks to notable street food and restaurants like the Michelin-starred Golden Peacock and chef Henrique Sá Pessoa’s Chiado.

February is high season in Macau, when temperatures are mild and travelers flock to Asia to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Macau is just an hour from Hong Kong via ferry or the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB), one of the longest bridges on the planet. Macau International Airport is also easily accessed via more than 30 direct flights from major Asian cities. Travel to Macau is affordable, too, with flights from North America costing as little as $500 round-trip—and there are no visa requirements for U.S. passport holders.

Where to stay: The Parisian Macao, which opened on the Cotai Strip along with the Wynn Palace, brought the Sands Resorts Macao to some 13,000 guest rooms and more than 850 name-brand retailers, and helped establish the resort as a prime destination for international superstars to perform. Sands also offers more than 150 dining options, including Michelin-starred restaurants.

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The Best Place to Travel in March 2020: British Virgin Islands

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In 2020, a fully rebounded British Virgin Islands—Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused billions of dollars in damage in 2017—welcomes back iconic resorts including Rosewood Little Dix Bay following a multi-million-dollar renovation, and new attractions like Norman Island, at the location that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Treasure Island. Scheduled to debut in early 2020, it’s being developed as a luxury eco-destination featuring an observatory, three boutique hotels, boat slips, and a spa.

In fact, BVI’s whole travel industry is pushing meaningful sustainability efforts. The Bitter End Yacht Club, one of the territory’s staples since 1964, is debuting a new marina in early 2020, followed by a nautical village later in the year, with architecture that mitigates the redevelopment’s impact on nature and uses as many upcycled materials as possible.

As for Necker Island, Richard Branson’s private island, it’s on pace to complete all post-hurricane construction soon; in the meantime, the famous environmentalist is having his employees wear uniforms made from recycled ocean plastic, following his installation of wind turbines in 2019 to help his island reach 90 percent renewable energy use.

Late March brings BVI’s annual Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival. It’s also a time of year that’s ideal for underwater visibility, so scuba enthusiasts can check out new dive sites like the sunken Willy T, while ocean newbies can enjoy the crystalline seas from a snorkeling or beach perspective.

The best way to get to these paradisiacal islands? Either fly directly to Tortola’s Beef Island Airport (EIS), or land at Cyril E. King Airport (STT) in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and take an hour-long ferry to Tortola.

Where to stay: Cooper Island Beach Club, known for its eco-friendly measures (including a solar-powered brewery), recently introduced a turtle-tagging program and offers sailings on Electrified, an electric-powered charter yacht. Its 10 airy beachfront guest rooms offer sea views.

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The Best Place to Travel in April 2020: Slovenia

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The world recently discovered what an amazing (and affordable) destination Croatia is—and now its next-door neighbor, Slovenia, is set for its own moment in the sun. The verdant nation is a bastion of arts and culture, especially music; the Academia Philharmonicorum (today’s Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra) was founded in 1701, and its members have included Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, and Paganini.

Going to Slovenia in April means getting there before its newfound trendiness jacks its prices up—but after the country has gotten its own Michelin guide in March, a well-deserved testament to its growing culinary stature. April also brings the festive Easter holiday as well as Ptuj’s St. George’s Fair, a memorable medieval market.

In late April, Ljubljana is set to host the 2020 IIHF World Championship Division I, an international ice hockey tournament. Spring also brings a profusion of wildflowers and butterflies, making it an idyllic time to travel the Slovenian countryside, where pretty hilltop villages, farmhouses, vineyards, meadows, and woods define the landscape.

Other Slovenian must-sees include Lake Bled and its castle, seaside Portoroz on the Adriatic coast, glacial Lake Bohinj, the Julian Alps and their Pericnik Waterfall, the Italian-influenced town of Piran, and Predjama Castle, built into a cliffside. The country has two new UNESCO sites too: the Lower Mura Valley Biosphere Reserve, an alluvial forest on the Austrian border, and the wildlife-filled Mura River itself.

Where to stay: On Lake Bled, the 87-room Grand Hotel Toplice offers a spa, a private beach, and an indoor spring-water swimming pool.

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The Best Place to Travel in May 2020: Bolivia

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Bolivia easily earns its place as one of the best places to travel in 2020, thanks to draws like the elaborate Mi Teleferico cable car system; Lake Titicaca, Earth’s highest lake (where you can eat at floating restaurants and stay with indigenous local families); and the otherworldly Salar de Uyuni, the planet’s largest salt flat. Clearly, Bolivia is a place of extremes, and a trip here is guaranteed to be memorable.

From April 22 through May 3, 2020, 1,000 musicians from all over the world will descend on southeastern Bolivia to perform 100 concerts as part of one of the world’s largest classical music festivals, called the International Festival of American Renaissance and Baroque Music, which will play out in Santa Cruz’s Baroque-style Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos. It’s sure to be a sight to behold.

Where to stay: Hotel Palacio de Sal, which is built almost entirely of salt, is one of the world’s most unique hotels. Sitting at an elevation of 12,000 feet, it offers a full-service spa, a fine-dining restaurant, and an in-house tour operator that takes guests out onto the moonlike salt flats.

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The Best Place to Travel in June 2020: Israel

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The Holy Land has been holy for thousands of years—but it remains as relevant today as ever. In fact, Israel has seen an 11 percent jump in international travelers arriving over the past year. And it’s responding by adding dozens of new hotels and expanding Ben-Gurion Airport to the tune of $480 million, to allow the airport to welcome an additional 30 million travelers annually.

They come to see the moving, meaningful places that they wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else: one-of-a-kind religious landmarks, deeply historical sites, and impressive natural wonders. They include Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, as well as Bethlehem, Nazareth, Tel Aviv’s bustling beaches and nightlife, Masada (catch a concert there if you possibly can), the Dead Sea (Earth’s lowest point), the Jordan River, gorgeous Eilat, the welcoming kibbutzim, and dozens of important archaeology sites, including Jericho’s ancient ruins.

All this is amid a warm, social culture that appreciates good food (and lots of it) and a vibrant cultural and social scene—the result of Israelis’ pervasive joie de vivre.

Where to stay: The Orient Isrotel opened in Jerusalem 2017 on a historic site that was once inhabited by the German Templar Society. In the German Colony, one of Jerusalem’s most upscale neighborhoods, it features luxurious accommodations, a gourmet kosher restaurant, a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the Old City, an extensive art collection, an on-site museum, and the Carmel Forest Spa, with an authentic Turkish hammam.

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The Best Place to Travel in July 2020: Japan

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It’s tough not to pick Japan as the must-go destination for July 2020, since the whole world’s eyes will be trained there for the Olympic Games, which play out in Tokyo from July 24 through August 9. Some 600,000 international travelers are expected to arrive in Japan for the 2020 Olympics, so if you’re thinking of going, now’s the time to book, either yourself or via a travel agency that specializes in planning trips to major world events.

Of course, there’s much more to the Land of the Rising Sun in summer than the Olympics. On Thursday and Friday nights in June and July, the Noboribetsu Hell Festival will play out in Hokkaido. Also in July is the 400-year-old Gujo Odori Dance Festival in Chubu’s Gifu Prefecture, and the same month brings Tohoku’s Lotus Festival in Miyagi Prefecture, transforming Lake Izunuma-Uchinuma into a floral paradise.

If you’re into seeing the Olympics in person but you’d prefer to stay far from Tokyo’s crowds, consider Shizuoka, where the men’s and women’s cycling events will take place on Izu City’s scenic hillsides on July 27 and 28. Afterward, visit Shuzenji onsen, a quaint hot spring town with bamboo forests and thousands of green tea farms in Mount Fuji’s verdant shadow.

Or you could consider Kyoto, where summer reliably brings green maples, and where several new museums and hotels (including Kyoto Nijo Hotel) will open in 2020. The city’s new Fukuda Art Museum celebrates Japanese art and culture.

One final reason Japan earns its place among the best places to go in 2020: It’s easier and less expensive to get to than ever before. Japan Airlines has pledged to connect 500 destinations to Tokyo Narita Airport by April 2020, via Zipair Tokyo, its low-cost carrier.

Where to stay: Tokyo’s 931-room Imperial Hotel manages to be historic yet modern while offering exceptional hospitality, a tearoom, a pool, a sauna, a fitness center, and 17 restaurants, lounges, and bars, including the Michelin-starred Les Saisons.

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The Best Place to Travel in August 2020: The Arctic

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An unfortunate reality of these times is that there exist places now that won’t exist the same way they will in, say, 20 years. Check out SmarterTravel’s list of places to visit before they disappear before deciding to dedicate August to seeing the Arctic, which is warming twice as fast as the global average—and where the ice that polar bears depend on is melting away.

Gondwana Ecotours offers a polar bear photography adventure to the Alaskan Arctic that’s packed full of wildlife viewing, and that gives guests the opportunity to discuss climate change and sea ice recession with an Arctic environmentalist.

If seeing the northern lights remains unchecked on your bucket list, consider visiting Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Thanks to its position north of the 60th parallel, it’s one of the world’s best places to see nature’s most spectacular light show dominating the skies over Great Slave Lake.

Or head to Baffin Island, home of Canada’s Auyuittuq National Park, where fjords and glaciers define the surreal tundra landscape. In addition to the aurora borealis, you may see narwhal, snow geese, ringed seals, Arctic foxes, caribou, and, yes, polar bears.

But if you’re intent on seeing dozens of the endangered white creatures, visit Manitoba’s Cape Churchill, the polar bear capital of the world. Local tour guides know how to get you up close to safely see the bears, and they can take you on beluga whale tours, too.

Where to stay: Yellowknife’s Blachford Lake Lodge, located inside the aurora oval, is an eco-conscious wilderness property where you can see the northern lights from all over the resort—including right from your bed. You can take an igloo-building workshop, too.

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The Best Place to Travel in September 2020: Poland

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The 75th anniversary of the end of World War II is in 2020, and plenty of commemorations are scheduled to take place across Eastern Europe over the course of the year—which makes Poland one of the best places to travel in 2020, especially if you have any connection to WWII history.

Abercrombie & Kent’s Poland to Prague tour makes somber visits to the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz, while the company’s Tailor Made Poland: Warsaw & Krakow itinerary goes into Kazimierz, the former Jewish ghetto, and inside Oskar Schindler’s factory, now a museum that illustrates World War II’s impact on Krakow.

But a trip to Poland doesn’t have to be all about war and genocide. Krakow’s UNESCO-listed Main Square, the stately Rynek Glowny, is Europe’s largest remaining medieval town square—it was erected in 1257—and the entire city, which stood as Poland’s royal capital from the 11th to the 16th centuries, was included on UNESCO’s first World Heritage list in 1978.

Warsaw, for its part, will see nearly a dozen hotels open in 2020, including a Nobu; meanwhile, fairytale towns like Poznan and Swinoujscie are being recognized as emerging travel destinations. And the scenic, wildlife-rich Roztocze Biosphere Reserve, near the Ukrainian border, is one of UNESCO’s newest biosphere reserves.

Poland has long been one of Europe’s most affordable destinations, and new direct flights are making it even easier to access. American Airlines, for example, will run nonstop routes from Chicago to Krakow from May through October 2020.

Where to stay: Stylish Raffles Europejski Warsaw represents one of the Polish capital city’s most iconic buildings. It features 106 elegant suites, a central location, elevated dining and drinking experiences, curated Polish art, and a relaxing spa.

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The Best Place to Travel in October 2020: Egypt

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The pyramids have always been on pretty much everyone’s travel bucket list. But in 2020, you can add (and then check off!) the new Grand Egyptian Museum on the Giza Plateau, scheduled to finally open in October 2020 after years of delays. Set to be the world’s biggest archaeological museum, it’ll showcase a huge number of ancient Egyptian artifacts (30,000 of which have never been exhibited before), including the full Tutankhamun collection, as well as the 2,100-year-old, $4 million golden sarcophagus that was stolen in 2011 and recently recovered and returned to Egypt.

After the political tumult that played out across the country earlier this decade, Egypt’s tourism industry has made a resounding comeback. In late 2018, the U.N. World Tourism Organization named the North African nation the world’s fastest-growing travel destination after the country saw a 55 percent rise in arriving travelers.

Travel companies are seeing a corresponding rise in interest: Egypt is now Friendly Planet Travel’s number-two top-booked destination, Uniworld’s third, and Contiki’s fourth. Tourists come to see the pyramids, take multi-night Nile River cruises (and some that traverse the Suez Canal), snorkel the Red Sea in beautiful Taba (bordering Israel’s resort town of Eilat), and generally take in the temples, tombs, and churches that are unlike anywhere else.

In 2020, new additions beyond the headliner museum will include a 105-mile Bedouin-run hiking trail in the Red Sea Mountains, Giza’s new Sphinx Airport welcoming domestic flights, the resumption of flights to Sharm El Sheikh, and a new St. Regis hotel in Cairo.

Where to stay: The Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, on the banks of the Nile River, features gracefully designed guest rooms and suites, nine excellent restaurants, a full-service spa, and more than 200 museum-grade pieces of contemporary art on display.

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The Best Place to Travel in November 2020: Canada

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Late in the year is a great time to visit Canada, and specifically eastern Canada (though the wintertime charms of Whistler and Vancouver are not to be overlooked). Starting in November each year, the Ontario side of Niagara Falls transforms into Canada’s largest light event, the magical Winter Festival of Lights, which extends five miles long and promises to illuminate the dark through mid-January. While you’re there, check out the 40-foot-tall, 100-foot thick ice bridge that forms at the base of Niagara Falls each year—it looks like giant marshmallows on the Niagara River.

In Montreal, the annual Luminotherapie, an interactive art installation, lights up the Quartier des Spectacles from late November until late January. The new Four Seasons Montreal serves as the epicenter of the city’s glamorous and historic Golden Square Mile.

And don’t miss Toronto, which is still celebrating its first-ever NBA championship. Travelers are coming in droves to experience Queen St. West, voted one of the world’s coolest neighborhoods; to see the notable street art, including a brand-new Kawhi Leonard mural; and to explore the city’s bustling Chinatown.

Where to stay: The Renaissance Montreal, a 142-room Art Deco-style hotel in the heart of downtown, features street art by Alexandre Veilleux, live DJ entertainment, a contemporary pan-Asian restaurant called East, and a 12th-floor rooftop terrace serving up inventive cocktails, panoramic views, bistro fare, and dips in a stainless steel plunge pool.

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The Best Place to Travel in December 2020: Germany

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The year 2020 marks Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday. Bonn, where the composer was born in 1770, is making a huge deal of the anniversary all year long, with thousands of concerts everywhere from symphony halls to people’s houses. There will also be Beethoven-themed parties, children’s events, exhibits, films, lectures, parades, dance performances, and even a Ludwig-centric sound-and-light show.

Beethoven-Haus, where the composer grew up, is now a museum that displays Beethoven’s love letters, his frowning death mask, and poignant items that were made to accommodate his encroaching deafness, including his ear trumpet and his last grand piano, custom-built to play as loudly as possible.

On December 17, 2020, the 250-year anniversary of Beethoven’s baptism, conductor Daniel Barenboim will preside over an orchestral performance of the Ninth Symphony, including its “Ode to Joy” segment, as the jubilee’s grand finale.

Beyond Bonn and Beethoven, there’s plenty else to justify Germany’s inclusion on any list of the best places to travel in 2020, including the fact that its borders now encompass 46 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Hamburg is worth a visit for its unique Beatles history, for December’s annual DOM Funfair, and for HafenCity’s Märchenwelten (“fairy-tale worlds”), a high-tech attraction that immerses visitors into the Grimms’ dark imaginations.

Germany is famous for its elaborate, fragrant Christmas markets; a few of the best are in Nuremberg, Munich, Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, and Bamberg—where dozens of nativity scenes span the city. There’s also the festive Speyer New Year’s market and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra’s annual New Year’s Eve concert, with fireworks to welcome the new year.

Where to stay: Hotel Adlon Kempinski, at the center of Berlin’s historic district, has been one of Europe’s finest hotels since it opened in 1907. Overlooking the Brandenburg Gate, the stately hotel has hosted kings and queens, movie stars, multiple U.S. presidents, and, notoriously, Michael Jackson—this is where he dangled his blanket-covered baby from the balcony of his suite. The Adlon offers expert hospitality, fine cuisine, and iconic decor, including the lobby lounge’s elephant fountain, a gift to the hotel in 1930 from India’s Maharaja of Patiala. To learn more, see SmarterTravel’s Adlon Kempinski review.

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For more ideas, see The Top Travel Destinations for 2020.

 

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