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The Best Places to Visit in 2020 Before They Get Too Popular

Looking to mix up your travel traditions? From up-and-coming locales to hidden gems, scroll on for 15 intriguing locales to put on your radar.

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A whole new world

The world is a big, beautiful place filled with fascinating cities, enchanting villages, charming towns, and far-flung islands. So, why on earth would you limit yourself by returning to the same vacation spots every year? We asked top industry experts to share their predictions for the next *it* destinations. You should also check out these 12 less crowded alternatives to popular destinations.

Merida San Idefonso cathedral sunrise in Yucatan MexicoTono Balaguer/Shutterstock

Mérida, Mexico

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In contrast to the Gulf of Mexico beaches, Mérida keeps a low profile. This inland capital is steeped in both Mayan and Spanish colonial heritage and key cultural sights include Mérida Cathedral and Plaza de la Independencia. Mérida delivers a burgeoning food scene, too. "It's a terrific jumping-off point to explore the less-frequented ruins, such as Mayapan and Muyil, along with some of the most gorgeous cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula," discloses Haisley Smith, VP of marketing at Brownell, a Virtuoso Agency. Did Mérida ignite your desire for a south-of-the-border escape? Check out these popular Mexico vacation destinations.

Wat Phra That Luang, Vientiane, Lao PDRGaid Kornsilapa/Shutterstock

Vientiane, Laos

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Travelers often favor Luang Prabang over Vientiane, however, the Laotian capital shouldn't be disregarded. Perched on the banks of the Mekong River, this laidback city is very much on the rise, adding hip hotels and shops to its character-rich skyline of French colonial buildings, Buddhist temples (called wats), and gilded shrines. "Tree-lined avenues and manageable traffic evoke a sense of old-fashioned charm," adds Mollie Fitzgerald, advisor at Frontiers, a Virtuoso Agency. Jetsetters are starting to take notice. So, if you're keen to experience Vientiane before the throngs of out-of-towners swarm it, start planning your trip now. P.S. this is exactly how far in advance you should book your flights.

Macdonald Bridge, Halifaxmatthayesphotography/Shutterstock

Halifax, Nova Scotia

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"I recently had the pleasure of visiting Halifax and it exceeded my expectations," raves Melanie Schultz, advisor at Largay Travel, a Virtuoso Agency. "The people are so nice and the city has done a great job making the waterfront very inviting for tourists with lots to do in a very walkable distance." Halifax brims with seafaring history. Nautical charts, Canadian merchant marine paraphernalia, and World War II convoys sit next to artifacts from the Titanic, which met its demise nearby, at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. There's also an interesting public cemetery with gravestones of victims from the ill-fated ship. Find out the 13 Titanic mysteries that may never be solved.

Sifnos, GreeceTom Zeman/Shutterstock

Sifnos, Greece

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"It's easy to understand why Greece is a magnet for wanderlusters from across the globe, but that kind of widespread appeal comes at a cost," notes Christie Hudson, senior communications manager at Expedia. Want to avoid the crowds? Located in the western part of the Cyclades, Sifnos is a low-key alternative to tourist magnets like Mykonos and Santorini. It still has that off-the-beaten-path charm and warm, authentic atmosphere with empty beaches. Plus, some of the best cooks in Greece serve up fresh seafood at family-run tavernas. Sifnos sounds pretty fabulous, right? Discover 18 more of the best Greek Islands.

Blue fishing boats in the port of Essaouira - MoroccoLeonid Andronov/Shutterstock

Essaouira, Morocco

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A far cry from the frenzied pace of Marrakech, Essaouira is a happily unhurried port city on Morocco's Atlantic coast. Formerly known as Mogodar, hard-core Game of Thrones fans can easily ID it as the real-life version of Astapor (scenes from the third season of the HBO series were filmed here). But the show wrapped and things are returning to normal in Essaouira. Strong winds keep the beaches relatively free of visitors, save thrill-seeking surfers. And if your social feed needs a boost, the stone ramparts, UNESCO-listed medina, winding alleyways, and blue boats are sure to earn you a lot of likes. These are 65 movie sets you can visit in real life.

Spring view of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

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Looking to commune with nature, but prefer not to stray too far from home? Consider Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. "With many national parks seeing record visitors, it's clear there's an appetite for unplugging from our devices and reconnecting with nature," says Hudson. If a tech-free escape is on your agenda, skip the usual suspects (no disrespect to Yosemite and Yellowstone) and set your sights on Harpers Ferry. Mountains, rivers, and rolling hills set the stage for outdoor endeavors. Craving more thrills? Here are 18 one-of-a-kind adventures to add to your bucket list.

Punakha Dzong Monastery, one of the largest monestary in Asia, Punakha, BhutanKhanthachai C/Shutterstock

Bhutan

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Nestled between the massive nations of China and India, Bhutan has long been safeguarded by its mountainous borders. To this day, the remote Himalayas kingdom remains deeply protective of its Buddhist traditions. Its pristine landscape is dotted with monasteries, cliffside temples, and storybook fortresses. And the ancient arts of weaving and dance continue to mesmerize. Presently, it's not the peaks or lack of roads, but rather the strict tourism policy and high daily tariffs that are limiting entry. Though, if you have the financial resources to make it happen, there's no denying a trek to this mystically beautiful country is nothing short of incredible. And at least it's easier to visit than these 10 forbidden places around the world.

Beautiful panoramic view of Tbilisi at sunset, Georgia, Europevvvita/Shutterstock

Tbilisi, Georgia

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Seated at the crossroads of East and West, Tbilisi translates to "warm location." Tourists will find that to be true, from the sulfuric springs to the personable locals and soul-satisfying eats. "I visited a few years ago and would easily go back for the food alone—especially the khachapuri, traditional Georgian dish of cheese-filled bread," says Angela Walker, advisor at The Society of International Railway Travelers, a Virtuoso Agency. In addition to fantastic cuisine, Tbilisi offers unique architecture, vibrant markets, great local wine, and longstanding cultural pastimes such as Khridoli, a traditional martial art still practiced in Georgia. Bonus: a sojourn in Tbilisi won't break the bank. On a budget? Try these sneaky ways to bypass airline baggage fees. (Hey, every bit counts!)

Australia: Aerial view of Marcoola Beach at the sunshine coast in QueenslandGMC Photopress/Shutterstock

Marcoola, Australia

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"Australian cities have been plentiful on Expedia's Trends Report the last couple of years, and 2020 is proving no exception," reveals Hudson. While U.S. travelers seem keen to explore past Sydney, Marcoola isn't necessarily in the conversation...at least, not yet. Wedged between Mudjimba and Noosa on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, Marcoola is often overshadowed by its neighbors. It's precisely because this Aussie gem hasn't reached peak popularity that you can still enjoy uncrowded beaches, world-class surfing, affordable accommodations, and cute cafés sans hordes of hungry vacationers. Go now before it lands on the list of places that have been ruined by tourism.

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