A new year — a new decade! — and it’s time to start planning what you’d like to see and do. Here’s our guide to 20 places to consider in 2020
One of the two European Capitals of Culture for 2020 (we’ll see the other one later), Rijeka is Croatia’s third-largest city and its main seaport. It’s an interesting mixture of elements: less pretty-pretty than more celebrated Croatian cities such as Dubrovnik, but with an elegant, Austro-Hungarian air about it.
Being close to Italy means that, as well as the food and nightlife being very Italian (as well as a lot of the language spoken), Rijeka is a fascinating mixture of many European cultures, and 2020 could be the perfect time to visit.
Sa Pa, Vietnam
One of the most beautiful places in a country with more than its fair share, Sa Pa is located in the Hoàng Liên Son mountains in the north of the country. It’s an area famous for its terraced rice fields that stretch for miles in every direction and make for some breathtaking views.
If hiking is your thing — and if we’re honest, it’s not something most people would immediately associate with Vietnam — this is the place to come, with miles of trails winding their way through the mountains, passing Buddhist temples, crashing waterfalls, and emerging on rocky outlooks treating you to spectacular panoramas of the countryside beneath you. This is a different way of seeing a wonderful country.
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Every area of the city has its own character, meaning you’ll definitely find somewhere you love, and the overriding feeling is of a city that’s forward-thinking, innovative and, above all, exciting. It’s also the venue for 2020’s Eurovision, so from 12 May an already diverse city will be taken over by one of Europe’s biggest parties.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger is one of the largest game reserves on the African continent, and was South Africa’s first national park. It’s one of the world’s greatest wildlife-watching destinations, and is one of the few places on the planet where you can see virtually all of the animals that people think of when they think of African safaris: elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, rhinos, zebras, buffalo — you name it, it’s here.
The park’s extensive road network means that it’s accessible, relatively cheap and varied in terms of accommodation, and the perfect place to see some of the most wonderful aspects of nature, in terms of animals and their wonderful environment.
Haida Gwaii, Canada
Off the west coast of British Columbia, the Haida Gwaii islands are the ancestral home of Canada’s First Nations people. The Haida have been working together with the Haida Gwaii institute to instigate a program of education, teaching visitors about the history, culture and spiritual connection of the people to the islands.
Visitors are encouraged to speak with Haida leaders to learn about how to maintain a sustainable economy and manage resources while remaining in tune with what communities like these need and value.
Guujaaw, the former President of the Haida Nation says that “the forests, land and waters of Haida Gwaii have much to teach us about a sustainable connection between human beings and the natural world”, a message that becomes more relevant with each passing year.
As mentioned above, there are two European Capitals of Culture in 2020: Rijeka is one, and this is the other. Built around a harbour on the west coast of Ireland, Galway is a lively city based around the 18th century Eyre Square, a popular spot for evenings out surrounded by traditional Irish pubs offering live folk music and the like.
Roads leading away offer pretty stone buildings housing cafes, boutiques, galleries and more, while the lanes of the Latin Quarter still retain parts of the city’s medieval walls.
Throughout the year the city will be full of public art, exhibitions, more live music, theatre and much more. For a city already known for its great food, beautiful surrounding scenery and creative soul, this is just the icing on the cake.
Tokyo becomes the first Asian city to host the Summer Olympics twice when the competition arrives there in 2020. From the opening ceremony on 24 July to the final day on 9 August, over 11,000 athletes will compete in 50 disciplines in venues across what have been dubbed the Heritage Zone (which houses venues used for the 1964 games) and the Tokyo Bay Zone (a new development showcasing the future of the city).
On top of this, the football and baseball / softball tournaments are being held at stadia across the country, bringing the Games to a wider live audience.
The waterfront of the English city of Plymouth has, for over a thousand years, been a gathering point for sailors, traders, travelers, vagrants, and every type of jolly Jack Tar who dreamt of a life on the open waves, and 2020 sees the anniversary of a voyage that would become one of the defining moments of European culture and its expansion across the globe.
Plymouth was where the Mayflower set sail for the New World, and this year it will be one of the centers of the Mayflower 400 commemorations, a year-long celebration of cultural exhibitions, outdoor installations and live shows, community activities and sports programs.
Never heard of it? That’s not entirely surprising. Paraty is a small town on Brazil’s Costa Verde, by a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains, and virtually equidistant between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In 2019 Paraty was recognized by Unesco and added to their World Heritage list, and with good reason.
The center of the town is a beautiful labyrinth of cobbled streets and buildings that have barely changed in the 250 years since Paraty became a center of the Brazilian gold rush, and all motor traffic is banned from the center, meaning that horses and carts are used all around the town. It’s a side of Brazil that’s rarely seen; maybe now is the perfect time to go and see it.
For the first time, Saudi Arabia will be offering visas to non-religious tourists as part of a plan to try and diversify its economy away from the oil industry. Citizens of 49 countries will have the chance to apply for one of the new visas — which official sources say can be delivered in seven minutes — and will exempt female tourists from having to wear all-covering robes (although it still advises women to “dress modestly”).
It certainly means that some of the Middle East’s most amazing historical sites will be accessible to tourists, including Mada’in Saleh, a Unesco-designated necropolis comprising over 130 tombs, and the 2,000-year-old Al-‘Ulā.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Scotland is a popular destination no matter what, but a lot of people focus on Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the Highlands, without thinking a little further afield. The Isle of Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides off Scotland’s northwest coast, is a stunning place that attracts walkers, climbers, nature lovers, and people who just want to get away from the bustle of the world.
A magical, rugged landscape of castles and villages, mountains and lochs, with vast skies of stunning colors, it’s a place that’s bound to create some amazing memories.
Ethiopia’s dry season is at its peak during April, so if you’re looking for an unusual destination near the start of the year, this could be the place for you. It’s a happy medium as temperatures increase in the lowlands, but before the really heavy rains and humid heat of the following months.
You’ll find lusher landscapes, fewer tourists, and more scope for spotting local wildlife. A country filled with ancient culture and natural wonders coupled with a friendly, youthful population, Ethiopia is a wonderful (and still lesser-traveled) destination.
The vast metropolises of China are well-known tourist destinations, but it’s a huge country, so how to get to know another side of it? Try Yunnan Province, a snapshot of rural China south of the Tibetan Plateau.
It’s home to probably the most diverse mix of cultures, ethnic groups, landscapes and local skills and crafts in the country, and 2020 brings the first tentative attempt to attract travelers, with a number of lodges for visitors opening across the region.
That doesn’t mean to say there’ll be an influx of people of course; for the foreseeable future, the region will remain very much off the beaten track.
1770 and Agnes Water, Australia
1770 is, in fact, the name of a town. A small one, but an important one in the history of Australia, as it was here on 24 May in that year that James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour came ashore.
The town celebrates this fact annually with a re-enactment of that historic event, and the 2020 version will be even more special than usual, as it marks 250 years since their arrival. Head along the coast for incredible surfing and diving opportunities, or visit the picturesque town of Agnes Water just along the coast.
Either way, you’re pretty much-guaranteed sunshine, and will definitely receive a warm and friendly welcome.
During April and May 2019, Jamaica was the location for the filming of the 25th James Bond movie. A nice touch, as it was on the island where Ian Fleming came up with the character while staying at his villa, GoldenEye (no, really!).
Today, if you’re feeling rich, you can even rent the villa to stay in yourself (and we mean rich: it has a private beach, pool and tropical gardens, as well as a butler, housekeeper and personal chef), or if you don’t quite have the budget for that, there are plenty of resorts and private houses to rent for more reasonable rates, never more than a short walk from the island’s famous white sandy beaches.
The Austrian capital was the home and focal point of composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s life for more than 35 years, and 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of his birth.
Back then the city was rightly famed as a center of music and culture, and retains that status to this day, with over 15,000 concerts staged every year.
To celebrate Beethoven’s birthday, there are even more events planned, and even if you’re not much of a classical music fan, this proud city has more than enough to keep you entertained in other ways: flea markets, coffee houses, museums, clubs, galleries and much, much more.
“The Montenegro Riviera” is not a phrase you hear springing readily or often from the lips of a lot of people, but maybe you should be the one to change that in 2020. On the shores of the Mediterranean, you’ll get everything you’d find in the busier resorts of Croatia further up the coast, but with fewer people, a more laid-back atmosphere, and some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.
Visit the stunning old town of Budva; drink in the scenery of the mountains to the east; explore the city of Kotor and the hidden bays that surround it; lie on the long, sandy beaches near Bar in the south; or simply bask on a shady medieval town square somewhere with an ice cream. Perfect.
Sandwiched between Nigeria and Togo, Benin is benefitting from a massive drive by both local and national governments to prioritize tourism. The country is the home of Vodun / voodoo, and it remains a major religion in the country. One of the most stable countries in the region, travelers can visit the ruins of scores of palaces and temples, as well as wildlife sanctuaries.
It doesn’t shy away from the bleaker parts of its history either, with the Door of No Return a monument to those kidnapped, sold and sent to the other side of the world as part of the booming 18th-century slave trade.
The museum in the ancient city of Ouidah, housed in an old Portuguese fort, is as thoughtful and honest a memorial as you’ll see anywhere. A fascinating country, steeped in cultural, religious and political history.
Not as crowded as Krakow and more attractive (in this writer’s opinion) than the capital Warsaw, Wroclaw is a city of mansions, grand squares, baroque palaces and beautiful churches. It’s also managed to position itself as Poland’s cultural hub, with year-round festivals and events, as well as a thriving arts and music scene.
The rest of Europe is slowly waking up to Wroclaw, with many airlines now doing direct flights, so it might be time to visit before the hordes truly get wise to one of Central Europe’s coolest cities.
12 nations across Europe
For the first time in its history, the European Football Championship doesn’t have one official host. Instead, venues from Bilbao to Baku across the continent will host matches, with iconic stadia such as Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, Munich’s Allianz Arena, Copenhagen’s Parken, and Wembley in London among those chosen.
It’s part of the 60th anniversary of the tournament, and with travel across Europe now easier than ever, why not combine a couple of games with an excuse to visit some of the world’s greatest cities?