2020 Top 12 Destinations (and a few bonus ones)

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Jan 21, 2020 / By Shyla Esko Bare

Wondering where to travel to this year? Check out the top 12 destinations for 2020. And since there are so many amazing options, I included a few bonus places. Happy travels…

Irish Pub

Honorable Mention – Ireland specifically Galway – This relatively small city on the west coast of Ireland is this year’s European Capital of Culture. Even with that distinction, Ireland did not make any must go-to lists for 2020, That I could find (except for Galway which made Lonely Planet’s top cities list). That could be because Ireland as a whole is a fantastic destination each and every year. If you have not been, go. Dan have been about 15 times and are happy to do a Travel Coaching session with anyone interested in visiting the Emerald Isle.

12.  Plymouth, England – This year marks 400 years since the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. To celebrate, there will be events throughout the year. It is time to party like it’s 1620 https://www.plymouth400inc.org/events-and-programs/signature-events/! There will also be a newly renovated Mayflower ship to explore. Because of this anniversary, Massachusetts made several lists for best places to visit in 2020, including Forbes, Frommers, and Rough Guides. Although, freelance travel writer, Becky Garrison, went to Plymouth and found limited accommodation.

So, why stop on the East coast. Instead, why not visit the starting point of the Pilgrim’s journey, Plymouth, England. It too will have celebrations this year marking the Mayflower’s voyage. Plus, this year England’s Coast Path, a 2785-mile-long walking trail will open. It will be the longest anywhere in Europe. Details from Lonely Planet at: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/great-britain/in-location/activities/walking/britains-best-walking-areas/bef750c6-2b73-442d-a350-cedb25ef22b7/a/nar/bef750c6-2b73-442d-a350-cedb25ef22b7/1321714

Thinking you should avoid England because of Brexit (the withdrawal of Britain from the EU which went into effect January 31, 2020)? This year is actually focused on negotiations between Britain and the European Union. So travelers should not expect too many changes until 2021, making this a great year to go. Especially since, the value of the pound remains weak, which is good for American tourists. More info on How Brexit will Affect Travel to the U.K. and Europe via the New York Times at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/16/travel/brexit-travel-impact.html.

11.  Austria – Austria, made Rough Guides’ very short list of 4 Best Countries to Visit this year. This is a big year for Austria. It is 250 years since the birth of Beethoven, an event that is being billed as “Beethoven Year” in Vienna where he spent most of his life. If you go, be sure to check out the special exhibition at the House of Music.

Vienna, Austria

This year is also the 100th anniversary of the world-famous Salzburg Festival which was immortalized onscreen in the Sound of Music. The festival is in July. Want another reason? The Freud Museum has been renovated and will reopen in May.

10.  Uruguay  –  made the top travel list this year for both Lonely Planet and Travel + Leisure. Both point to the shoreline and growing wine industry. Lonely Planet said, Uruguay “proudly championed a progressive social agenda in recent years – from marijuana legalization and the open embrace of LGBTQ+ rights to the promotion of sustainable tourism.” https://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel/countries. Sounds good to me.

And while down south, you may want to visit Buenos Aires. The devaluation of the Argentinian peso means this country is very affordable. According to the website BudgetYourTrip.com, a budget traveler can get by on $17 a day, while an average tourist spend is $44. There is a lot to do in the vibrant city of Buenos Aires, which made Frommers list of Best Places to Go in 2020.

9.  South Africa. United Airlines started a nonstop flight from New York to Cape Town in December 2019. Sure, for those of us on the west coast, we have to get to New York first. But when you consider before this, the usual route for Americans was to have a layover in Europe before heading south, this flight is a great option. It is estimated this new route will save eight hours of travel time. That is a day of sightseeing. And South African sights are ready for more tourists. Updates have been done to Table Mountain and the ferry to Robben Island.

South African vineyard

What to do once there? According to Lonely Planet South Africa’s wine area, specifically Cape Winelands, is one of the best value places to visit in 2020. While Travel + Leisure has picked Durban as one of the best cities to visit this year. Durban has a new seaside promenade that rejuvenated their waterfront, but the cruise terminal will not open until 2021, so get there before the ships.

You may also want to visit Swaziland. But note, in 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of its independence from British rule, King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, renamed it eSwatini. eSwatini means the land of the Swazis.

{Bonus Note: This fall, United will start a nonstop flight to New Zealand from Newark and American Airlines will start a nonstop to New Zealand from LAX.}

8.  Washington, DC – It’s the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the U.S.A. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has a special collection opening in March on Women’s Suffrage. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Prohibition. It was first enforced January 17, 2020. That means a hundred years ago we could no longer have a drink (Eek!) That gave rise to the speakeasy. Why not visit one this year? According to Architectural Digest one of the best is Denson Liquor Bar in DC. Find out their list of ten best speakeasies in America at:  https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/ten-best-speakeasies-in-america.

7.  Croatia – Seventeen million people watched the eighth season of Game of Thrones last year. If you were among them, you may want to visit locations used in the filming. Such as Dubrovnik in Croatia. It is the setting for King’s Landing. Even if, like me, you have never seen an episode, Dubrovnik is an enchanting city. And don’t stop there, there are lots of wonderful places to explore throughout Croatia. One of my favorites is Korcula, the island that claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

I don’t know if it is the Game of Thrones connection or not, but Virtuoso, a global network of luxury travel professionals, has named Croatia the top emerging destinations for 2020. To discover other Game of Thrones sites read: “The Ultimate Guide to ‘Games of Thrones’ Filming Locations Around the World” by Stacey Leasca, May 13, 2019, Travel + Leisure. https://www.travelandleisure.com/culture-design/tv-movies/game-of-thrones-filming-locations.

While in the region, take a bus to Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was picked as one of National Geographic’s top destinations for 2020 (https://www.businessinsider.com/national-geographic-top-25-must-see-destinations-for-2020#mostar-bosnia-and-herzegovina-16). The “new” old bridge is worth seeing. However, don’t jump unless you are a pro.

Or why not visit Montenegro? Few travelers go south past Croatia to this gem. It is budget friendly and has a beautiful coastline. In fact, according to Rough Guides, who picked it as one of their top countries for 2020, there are 72 kilometers of beaches and a 293-kilometer coastline.

6.  Japan – Japan was #6 on my list for 2019, and here it remains. There is a buzz about Japan right now. Many Wild Spirit Travelers are talking about the land of the rising sun. It is a culturally rich country that has great infrastructure, delicious food, and beautiful scenery. Plus, it has a mega Pokemon center and biannual Comiket, a cosplay fair that attracts over 750,000 people most in elaborate costumes.

Tokyo is hosting the 2020 summer Olympics. Worried about the language barrier? Don’t worry, according to Frommers, who had Tokyo on their list of Best Places To Go In 2020 (https://www.frommers.com/slideshows/848383-frommer-s-best-places-to-go-in-2020), there will be robots greeting people and giving directions and electric driverless cars. In preparation for the Olympics and Paralympics, they have also made accessibility improvements making Tokyo a wheelchair-friendly city.

The games will make Tokyo crazy busy over the summer. So why not go this spring or wait for the fall. Or explore places outside of Tokyo. Kyoto, with its new Fukuda Art Museum, is on Travel + Leisure’s list of top destinations. And Tohoku was picked by Lonely Planet as a region of the world to visit this year.

If going to Japan, look at the Japan Rail Pass that you have to buy before you go as it is only available to foreign visitors. I do agree with “The Man in Seat 61” website that says “the best way to get around Japan is by train.” For details on routes and how to buy tickets, go to www.seat61.com/japan.

5.  Morocco – Morocco is a shining star this year. Many Top Destination lists for 2020 have it on it, perhaps because it has been named Africa’s first Capital of Culture.  And the culture in Morocco is mesmerizing. It is easy to spend hours strolling around medinas. The traditional marketplaces, called souks, are filled with beautiful textiles, exotic spices, and intriguing food-stalls. I also recommend a cooking class so you can enjoy a tagine meal after you return home.

Morocco tagine

It is now easier than ever to get around Morocco as it now has Africa’s first high-speed train. This means travelers can go from Casablanca to Tangier in just two hours. What activities can a traveler do there? Try steaming in a hammam (traditional steam bath), riding a camel into the Sahara Desert, or relaxing at one of the country’s beaches.

But before you walk to the beach in a bikini, remember this is a fairly conservative country. Men and women should dress modestly. Women travelers can get my tips on traveling in a conservative country via the online course “Women’s Travel Secrets Revealed” https://wild-spirit-travel-courses.teachable.com/p/women-s-travel-secrets.

4.  The Netherlands – Being Dutch by heritage I am partial to the Netherlands. That is why I was thrilled to see it on Lonely Planet’s top countries for 2020 list. This year they are celebrating 75-years of freedom since the end of WWII. That means sights such as the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, will be especially busy. If going, buy your ticket two months in advance online at https://www.annefrank.org/en/museum/tickets/.

But don’t just visit Amsterdam, which has been so over-touristed in recent years, they have dismantled the iconic “I Amsterdam” letters. Instead, consider the trend of going to “second-tier” cities. For instance, Rotterdam, which in May is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest.

Or Utrecht. This lesser-known city was picked by Rough Guides as one of the top cities to visit this year (https://www.roughguides.com/best-places-to-travel/#8-best-cities-to-enjoy). It is near where my family lives, so I’ve visited numerous times. I recommend, exploring the castle, wandering around the shopping street, and taking a canal tour. Plus, there are numerous places you can rent a bike to ride into the countryside. A very Dutch thing to do.

Frommer’s went even farther south to pick Maastricht, at the southernmost tip of the Netherlands, as one of their Best Places to Go in 2020. According to Airbnb, there was a 55% increase in bookings there in 2019, so it is being found. Get there before every knows how delightful it is. And if you want a unique stay, try the Botel Maastricht (https://botelmaastricht.nl/Eng/index.html), which is a boat hotel in the heart of the city.

If you want insider tips on traveling around the Netherlands, consider a private travel coaching session with Dan and I. Information on the Wild Spirit Travel website: https://www.wildspirittravel.com/private-coaching-sessions/.

3.  Bhutan – It is rare that travel professionals agree on the best country to go to in a year. But Bhutan was number one for both Rough Guide and Lonely Planet.

Why? Because of the huge trend this year to be eco-sensitive. Travelers are considering sustainability like never before.  And if you want a country role model for sustainability it is Bhutan. Over 60% of its forests are protected, and it is the world’s only carbon negative country. Plus, it is on track to be the first fully organic nation on the planet in 2020. Add to this the fact that they actually focus on “Gross National Happiness” and you have a fab destination.


Nevertheless, Bhutan did not make it to #1 on my list. That is because its own policies make it challenging for tourists. They believe in low-impact tourism which sounds great, but in order to maintain it they have a “tourist tariff.” Foreigners have to pay a minimum of $250 a day to visit. For a couple that is $500 a day. The good news is that does include accommodation, food, transport and a local guide. This policy keeps the average traveler away, which means this country will remain a pristine place to visit for years to come.

2.  The Silk Road – Last year, Uzbekistan was #10 on my list. This year, it is number two. But it is not alone. I am grouping “The Silk Road” countries together. This includes the Central Asian countries of: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. {Iran also, but I would NOT recommend traveling there in 2020.}

Why the Silk Road? First, it just sounds amazingly exotic. Second, it is becoming easier to travel in this region due to visa rules changing. In 2019, Uzbekistan started granting visa-free access, for up to 30 days for travelers from 45 countries. However, not the US. But for Americans and Chinese they have created a “Silk Road Visa.” This is a deal with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan that a traveler with a visa for either country can travel to both.

The capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, is an up and coming city. Even Elle magazine has picked it as a place to travel to in 2020 because of the popularity of Tbilisi Fashion Week. (https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/culture/g32358/holiday-destinations/). The Travel Corporation, which owns 30 travel brands including Uniworld River Cruises and Contiki Tours, said this city is “fast becoming one of the coolest cities [in Europe] and won’t stay so secret for long.”

Azerbaijan is #5 on Lonely Planet’s Value Destinations for 2020. The city of Baku sits on the Caspian Sea, and its center is Unesco-listed. LP said it has a “low visiting cost for the quality of accommodation, food and experiences on offer.”

1.  Greece – There is a buzz about Greece this year. Lots of Wild Spirit Travelers have it on their radar. And I know why. It is simply a wonderful place to visit. Loaded with history, hospitality, and hummus. Greece ticks the boxes on amazing destinations with terrific sights, great places to stay, and delicious foods. All that plus delightful beaches and

Athens has a plethora of ancient sights. But that is not the only reason Rough Guides put it on their 8 Best Cities to Enjoy in 2020 list. It is also a bustling city with a café culture and art scene. And many of the great things to do in Athens are free. That is why it made Lonely Planet’s Value Destination list for the year.


After taking in the city, head for the islands. With 6,000 in the Greek archipelago, there seems to be one to match every interest. All have white-washed and blue-roofed buildings the country is famous for, but each also has unique offerings. From black sand and wine on Santorini, to little touristed Milos. Find “5 Lesser-Known Greek Islands You Must Visit” according to Valentini Argyropoulou of World Nomads: https://www.worldnomads.com/explore/europe/greece/five-lesser-known-greek-islands-you-must-visit (May 2019).

All this makes for a wonderful destination, but why number one? Virtuoso just named Greece the Top Destination for Millennials. They are just getting into their travel stride, so it may be good to go to Greece sooner rather than later to beat the crowds.

Wondering where to #travel in 2020? Check out these amazing destinations #aroundtheworld. They are great for any #wildspirit. Click To Tweet

If you visit any of the countries that made the top destination list, do share your experience in the Facebook group for Travelers – Wild Spirit Travelers (www.facebook.com/groups/WildSpiritTravelers). This group is a great place to share photos, stories, and travel tips. You can also ask questions so other travelers can share their tips with you.

by Shyla Esko Bare, International Travel Coach, 21-January-20 ©www.WildSpiritTravel.com

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