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20 Places You Need to Go in 2020, According to Travel Experts

Where should you start the new decade? We've got the inside scoop on the far-flung and close-to-home hot spots to add to your travel wish list.

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Flat lay white suitcase with traveler accessories on white bright background. travel concept. 3d renderingaanbetta/Shutterstock

Pack your bags!

It’s that time of the year—when everyone’s feeling that itch to get out of their familiar surroundings and book a fabulous trip. Well, thanks to the savvy insider picks from our panel of travel experts, we’re ready to get our motors running, take off, and set sail in 2020. From national treasures celebrating big anniversaries to Caribbean islands stronger than the storm, and from international go-to’s to long-haul destinations worth the flight, these are the places you’ll want to start off the new decade. But before you get going, make sure you know these 13 ways air travel will change in 2020.

cape townvia tripadvisor.com

Cape Town, South Africa

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The first nonstop flights from Newark, New Jersey, to Cape Town are launching soon and will whisk passengers to South Africa in “just” 14.5 hours on United Airlines. “We’ve seen a 252 percent uptick in bookings to South Africa compared to last year,” says Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com. It’s one of his favorite countries, he says, because “you get multiple trips rolled into one fantastic destination: one of the world’s most spectacular cities cradled beneath Table Mountain; the pristine beaches and vibrant nightlife of Camps Bay; the expansive horizons of the Garden Route; the marine ‘big 5’ and the game-reserve equivalent; and wallet-friendly gastronomy and wines of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek that rival the best of Europe and America.”

To experience one of the most gorgeous coastal areas in Africa, head east from Cape Town to De Hoop Nature Reserve and Lekkerwater Beach Lodge, a pristine new marine property sure to be a highlight of 2020 travel. These are the other most popular travel destinations in Africa.

nicaraguavia tripadvisor.com

Nicaragua

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“Nicaragua is back on the tourism radar for 2020,” says travel journalist Hillary Richard. “Civil unrest in Managua in recent years scared off the country’s growing tourists, which led most of its hotels and inns to close. Now, they’re reopening for 2020.” Rancho Santana, on Nicaragua’s famed Emerald Coast, never closed down, thanks to its integration with local communities. In fact, this luxury property doubled down on amenities: Its brand new holistic-focused spa will open to the public in early 2020. Here are 11 more of the most luxurious spas in the world.

dubaivia tripadvisor.com

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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“Dubai is a city that almost has to be seen to be believed,” says travel expert Lesley Chen. “It’s a glitzy, shiny oasis in the Arabian desert, where nothing is done in moderation: Friday brunches are a must-do multi-hour affair, shopping is an extreme sport at both traditional souks and enormous malls, and dizzying views can be enjoyed atop the current tallest building in the world.” If you can dream it, it probably already exists in Dubai. Nowhere else can you visit a palm tree-shaped island, hit the slopes at an indoor ski resort, and ride a camel in the desert…all in the same day. And now, says Chen, the city will be hosting the World Expo 2020, billed as “The World’s Biggest Show,” so there’s no better time to experience this playground of unabashed extravagance, because in Dubai, you either go biggest or you go home. Dubai also happens to have one of the most beautiful underwater hotels in the world.

Speaker of bigger and better, plan a stay at the Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, where a showboat transports you around the resort’s private waterways. It’ll take you to the on-site waterpark, beach, shopping souk, or one of the dozen top-end restaurants within the Jumeirah complex. 

Arenal volcano Costa RicaTanguy de Saint-Cyr/Shutterstock

Costa Rica

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The tropical Central American country of Costa Rica is revving up with cultural and adventure activities in 2020. Some of the reasons to visit in the coming year: a new chocolate route along the Caribbean in Talamanca; a first-of-its-kind electrical car route in Monteverde, one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet and a world leader in nature conservation; plus a new cycling route that’s set to open around the Arenal Volcano. And the popular outdoor glamping trend (luxurious, full-service camping) is coming to Costa Rica, too, with new properties in 2020, such as Nayara Tented Camp at Arenal. Don’t miss these beaches around the world that are actually better in winter. (One of Costa Rica’s is on the list!)

Taughannock Falls is located in Ulysses,Y New York. Photo taken from an overlook during fall. A gorgeous 215 foot waterfall found in the Finger Lakes region.Michael Shake/Shutterstock

New York State

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There’s lots going on “upstate” in New York in 2020. In the Finger Lakes Regions, “2020 marks a monumental year for women,” says Caleigh Alleyne of Travel + Design. It’s the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote through the 19th Amendment—one of the moments that changed women’s history forever. “I can’t think of a better place to celebrate this major step in U.S. history than where women’s rights began: the Finger Lakes region in central New York,” says Alleyne. The destination just launched its new, timely guide “100 Ways to Celebrate Women’s Empowerment,” which includes stops at the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls and the Auburn home of Harriet Tubman that’s now a national park.

“A quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of New York City, the once sleepy Hudson Valley is having a grand awakening with its rapid revitalization, luring in foodies and families alike for a quick day trip or a long weekend,” says Masada Siegel, travel expert and founder of The Fun Girl Correspondent. Circle July 4, 2020, on your travel calendar: That’s when the LEGOLAND New York Resort, just an hour north of Manhattan in Goshen, New York, will become the first theme park to grace the Northeast in more than four decades.

Chuzen-ji Temple in Nikko, Tochigi, Japan. Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Nikko, Japan

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In 2020, all eyes will be on Japan, the location of the Summer Olympics. After soaking in all the excitement in the host city of Tokyo, make a beeline for the mountains to get a much-needed dose of tranquility, says Laura Begley Bloom, chief content officer at Family Traveller. The place to check out is Nikko, she says, which is a little less than two hours away via Tobu Railways and is known for its numerous Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Stay at a classic ryokan like the lakeside KAI Nikko, or check out the indoor and outdoor hot springs at the new Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, set to open in May, just in time to welcome Olympians in search of serenity. If you’re thinking of traveling to Japan, don’t miss these 10 under-the-radar hidden gems you can only see there.

The rays of the sun illuminate red cliffs and river. Park at sunset. A beautiful pink sky. Zion National Park, Utah, USARoman Khomlyak/Shutterstock

Greater Zion, Utah

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If you’re not familiar with the Greater Zion region of southwest Utah, you’re in for a great surprise, according to travel writer Gina Vercesi. This is one of the most beautiful corners of the southwest, comprising not only Zion National Park, but also Hurricane, Virgin, St. George, and Ivins. The area boasts year-round outdoor adventures including hiking, mountain biking, and even scuba diving in the desert. There are several highlights to plan your trip around, including celebrations of Zion’s 100th birthday. Plan to stay at the area’s first Autograph Collection hotel, The Advenire, in the heart of St. George. Come summer, the swanky African safari-style Open Sky glamping should be at the top of your list! If you’re an adrenaline junkie, check out the 10 most extreme travel adventures in the world.

Istanbul Bosphorus Bridge, TurkeySanatkar/Shutterstock

Turkey

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Despite political concerns, Turkey remains one of Intrepid Travel’s fastest-growing destinations, with four new itineraries available in 2020 to meet demand. Travelers can island-hop on a coastal cruise, dive into the country’s history with the Turkey Uncovered package, discover the hidden gems of Turkey’s backroads, and double the adventure with the Turkey and Georgia tour. Reader’s Digest Deputy Editor Aviva Patz recommends a visit to Istanbul and the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, a 5-star hotel that was once an actual Ottoman palace. It is located right on the shores of the Bosphorus and has spectacular panoramic views of the 15 July Martyrs Bridge and beyond. By the way, did you know that Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents?

alaskaRocky Grimes/shutterstock

Anchorage, Alaska

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For luxury and adventure without a passport, there’s nothing that compares to Alaska. Although the state is often called the last frontier, Anchorage is “one of the easiest places to access the wilderness and amenities visitors are looking for on their dream Alaska vacation,” says Visit Anchorage President and CEO Julie Saupe. This is especially true for 2020 since United recently launched a new direct summer flight from Newark to Anchorage. Anchorage is also the jumping-off point for the rugged and beautiful wilderness and wildlife of Denali National Park. Sheldon Chalet, a new private getaway, is located on five private acres inside the park and offers adventure enthusiasts expedition-style glacier treks and skiing around the Nunatak.

We’ve also got our eye on Alyeska Resort, the state’s premier ski resort just 45 minutes south of Anchorage, which is getting a full makeover for 2020. For something a little closer to home, try these ski resorts you’ll definitely want to visit this year.

Rice TerracesBaliMonika Vlageryte/Shutterstock

Ubud, Bali

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If warm tropical air is more your style, Rebecca Lane, Director of Leisure Travel at Marchay, recommends Ubud. “It’s the essence of Bali,” she says. While the island’s lively beach towns often get the spotlight, nothing compares to the mystical and magical landscapes surrounding this soul of the island. Perusing unique art shops that feature one-of-a-kind local handicraft, visiting local Balinese homes that are actually family compounds and unlike anything else in the world, and dining on some of Indonesia’s finest cuisine are just some of the highlights of Ubud.

Since 2020 seems to be shaping up as a stressful year for many, travelers are longing to find inner peace and time to decompress around nature. Ubud promises just that. The deep spirituality that emanates from its transcendent rice terraces makes Ubud the perfect escape where one can’t help but find a time to slow down and enjoy life.” Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is the ultimate luxury perch from which to explore the spectacular island. If your budget doesn’t include a trip to Bali, try these 25 ways to relax that don’t cost a cent.

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Loisaba, Kenya

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Kenyan Airways recently launched nonstop flights from New York City to Nairobi, making it easier than ever to reach this magical safari destination. Within Kenya, the 57,000-acre Loisaba Conservancy in the western part of the country stands out as a nature reserve without the crowds, says Linda Friedman, CEO of Custom Safaris. One top hotel option is Elewana Collection‘s recently opened Loisaba Lodo Springs. It’s a perfect destination for a family vacation, with numerous unique activities to experience together, including camel trips, horseback riding, bush walks, and traditional wildlife spotting. To spend more quality time with your loved ones, book these mini family vacations that won’t break the bank.

The Sphinx and Pyramid ,Cairo,Egyptrayints/Shutterstock

Egypt

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First, archaeologists unveiled the largest ancient coffin find in 100 years. Then, leading Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass announced that he will uncover the Tomb of Nefertiti in a matter of just weeks. Coupled with the opening of the highly anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum later next year, 2020 is the time for travelers to book their trip to discover Egypt’s ancient history, say the experts at Trafalgar, the global guided vacation company. From floating in a traditional felucca up the Nile River to visiting the famous Pyramids of Giza, the travel company cultivates unique culture-packed itineraries through ancient civilizations, led by an expert travel director and knowledgeable local guides. Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out these 80 gorgeous travel photos from around the world before you make your final decision about where to go.

Crashing surf on the beach at El Morro Fortress, San Juan, Puerto RicoGary Ives/Shutterstock

San Juan, Puerto Rico

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The experts at TravelPulse named Puerto Rico the most popular destination for travel this past summer, and we were excited to see firsthand how San Juan had recovered from Hurricane Maria’s deadly winds. The city is more vibrant than ever, and there’s no better proof than what’s coming in 2020: El Distrito San Juan, a five-acre entertainment playground set to open in February 2020 next to the Convention Center. El Distrito will feature a 6,000-seat performance venue and a pedestrian mall with retail, arts spaces, dining, kids activities, and both daytime and nightlife options, including a rum micro-distillery. Plus, there’s an urban thrill like no other: the first permanent augmented reality zip line in the world. Experience it all by staying front and center at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino.

sicilyGurgen Bakhshetyan/Shutterstock

Sicily, Italy

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For wine enthusiasts, 2020 is the year to skip Tuscany and travel to southern Italy instead. “Sicily is a wonderful spot for wine tourism,” says Richard. “There are amazing vineyards everywhere, often with fabulous on-site restaurants and accommodations, like Planeta in Sambuca di Sicilia, Donnafugata in Tripani, or Ulmo and Dispensa in Menfi.” An added bonus: United will be offering daily non-stop flights from Newark to Palermo starting on May 20, 2020. Did you know that Italy is the country most people want to visit?

Ship Mayflower II, Plymouth, MassachusettsGergana Encheva/Shutterstock

Plymouth, Massachusetts

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Did you know that 2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower? “The celebrations will span from England to the Netherlands to the United States,” says Missy Glassmaker of Travel Awaits. “If you have open travel time on your calendar for next year, take a look at all the events that are planned in the United States and across the pond.” Here are some more of the best American cities for history buffs.

Zhangjiajie Forest Park. Panoramic view above the cliffs and mountains to the colorful valley at sunrise. Picturesque landscape. Majestic nature.JekLi/Shutterstock

National Parks, China

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According to the travel experts at Black Tomato, China has renewed its preservation efforts, and 2020 will focus on a new network of national parks, a system to put the country’s areas of outstanding natural beauty under protection and bring attention to China’s conservation efforts of its ecosystems. The first opening is planned for 2020 in Sanjiangyuan, an area in the Tibetan Plateau revered for its high density of elusive snow leopards. Following that will be the Giant Panda National Park, which will connect 67 giant panda reserves in an area three times the size of Yellowstone. Check out these 13 panda facts that will make you love these cuddly creatures even more.

View of mountain oasis Chebika, Sahara desert, Tunisia, AfricaDasha Petrenko/Shutterstock

Tunisia

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Despite political turmoil in Tunisia in recent years, hotel group Anantara is showing confidence in the country by opening a luxury resort there, Anantara Tozeur Resort, which is a major step forward for the country. Set at the gateway to the Sahara, the property offers easy access to one of the most famous Star Wars sites, where parts of the original movie were filmed. Guests can also soak in an authentic hammam, ride 4x4s in the desert, and enjoy the most romantic Arabian nights, says Family Traveller’s Bloom. Here are another 65 movie and TV filming locations you can actually visit.

Beautiful drone shoot of idyllic tropical beach of Princess Cays Island in Bahamas GGAM/Shutterstock

Bahamas

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Hurricane Dorian delivered a frightening Category 5 blow to the outer islands of Grand Bahama and the Abacos in September 2019. However, while the devastation there is overwhelming, much of the Bahamas, which comprises 700 hundred islands across 100,000 acres of ocean, survived the storm fully intact. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism says the best way to help the country recover is to visit these beautiful spots in 2020, and our travel experts couldn’t agree more. One spot that’s sure to please: easy-to-reach Nassau and the watery wonders of the Atlantis Resort. For more options, check out these other amazing islands in the Bahamas.

Empty hammock in the shade of palm trees on vibrant tropical Fiji IslandsMartin Valigursky/Shutterstock

Fiji

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This island nation has always attracted travelers, but new for 2020, Fiji Airways is debuting its new A350 planes—offering the first-ever flatbeds in business class. So the vacation starts as soon as you get on the plane, says travel expert Judy Koutsky. Resorts are also stepping up the pampering. Three of Fiji’s top resorts—Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, Shangri-La Fijian, and InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa—will offer the ultimate in island luxury in 2020. With everything from private butler service and rum tastings to private beach access, customized spa treatments, and more, these experiences take romance to a whole new level. For something a little closer to home, prepare to swoon over these romantic island destinations in the United States.

Paradise Bay AntarcticaWim Hoek/Shutterstock

Antarctica

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The big news for this bucket-list destination is a new ship that can transport passengers through the cobalt waters in luxury, enthuses Koutsky. Scenic Eclipse is the first ship of its kind. Not only does it offer an over-the-top luxury experience, but it’s also the highest-rated polar-class ship (Polar 6) ever built and the only passenger ship with this rating. The world’s first Discovery Yacht, it marries luxury—including ten restaurants, a spa, a gym, Pilates and yoga studios, pools, butlers for every cabin, two Airbus helicopters, and even a six-guest submarine—with top-level adventure. And its relatively small size means that it can take passengers off the beaten path to wonder at ice-covered marvels. By the way, here’s what travel experts say you should pack for your cruise.

Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is a freelance travel writer and editor with more than 27 years experience who reports on travel trends around the planet for Reader's Digest. Winner of a Lowell Thomas Gold Award for excellence in travel writing, she started her career as an editor at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides, then went on to write about travel for many publications including Family Traveller, Parents, and Working Mother magazines. More recently she has been a contributing editor at Saveur, Islands, and Caribbean Travel and Life and a senior contributor at Travelocity. A New Jersey native, ice cream addict, and a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, Klurman lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, son, and rescue dog.