If you're anything like us, you're already plotting where to travel in 2020. But with so many places to choose from, where should you go? Luckily, many beloved destinations have bounced back from terrorism, civil unrest, or natural disasters, offering new hotels and restaurants. Among this list are some of these comebacks, as well as some lesser-known destinations that may be new to the travel scene. In no particular order, we unveil our top travel destinations for 2020.
1. Tokyo, Japan
Always on the move, Tokyo shows no sign of slowing down. In 2020, the city will host the Summer Olympics, kicking off with the opening ceremony on July 24 and featuring new sports like skateboarding, karate, and surfing. More than half a million international visitors are expected to arrive in the city, and most of the events will take place in two areas: Tokyo Bay Zone and Heritage Zone, borrowing revamped space from the 1964 Olympics. Luckily, it’s not too late to plan a trip: New tickets are expected to be sold throughout 2020, while non-ticket holders can opt between cultural events and several Live Site venues across the city with live televised broadcasts. Check out new boutique hotels like Shibuya’s Trunk Hotel, which has a bar serving Hokkaido whiskey and a lounge that draws guests and neighborhood hipsters to its community events. Due to a shortage of rooms, hotels will be in high demand, so book early (cruise ships are also scheduled to serve as floating hotels). You won’t be more than 100 feet from something good to eat, so explore the sushi and ramen counters, and sample the city’s new caffeine hot spots like Switch Coffee and the airy kissaten (tea-drinking shop) hidden on a side street in Tokyo’s Meguro neighborhood.
Our Top Pick for a Tokyo Hotel: Shinjuku Granbell Hotel
Sicily gains an ever-growing legion of fans each year, thanks to its still-affordable prices and word-of-mouth. That being said, the largest Mediterranean island remains unspoiled, especially in the southeast corner, where you can explore UNESCO-listed towns like Noto, Scicli, and Ragusa at a relaxed pace. This part of the island is also home to Syracuse — once the largest city in the ancient world — which encapsulates the island’s beauty with glorious Greek ruins, top-notch archaeological sites, and medieval streets that meander down to the glittering sea. The city of Modica is also worth a visit, with its stacked medieval center and steep staircases. Beaches are plentiful on this part of the island, too. For instance, Sampieri Beach, just outside of Ragusa, offers a vast stretch of fine golden sand. If that’s not enough, you can also take a ferry to Malta from Pozzallo in under two hours — great for an overnight excursion.
Our Top Pick for a Sicily Hotel: Wellness & SPA Hotel – Principe di Fitalia
With a vibrant art, food, and culture scene, this western Mexican state is one of the most beautiful and historical spots to visit south of the border. Most visitors start in the capital, Oaxaca City — an easy flight (less than an hour) from Mexico City. Due to its pleasant year-round climate, there is no off-season. This helps the city feel relaxed and never overrun by sightseers and shoppers. Once you’ve explored this UNESCO-listed city and its majestic churches, handsome plazas, and colorful streets with colonial architecture often made from green volcanic stone, you can take day trips to nearby attractions, including pre-Colombian archaeological sites from 500 B.C. Another great day trip is Hierve el Agua, a set of natural calcified rock formations that resemble cascades of water. Farther away, surfers and beach-goers can make their way to Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast, known for its many beaches and buzzing nightlife. The town’s laid-back beach, Playa Principal, is lined with palm trees and thatched-roof bars. Meanwhile, surfers flock to Playa Zicatela, renowned for its Mexican Pipeline surf break.
Our Top Pick for a Oaxaca Hotel: Hotel Escondido
4. Cairo, Egypt
After some turbulent years, Cairo is making a comeback, thanks in large part to the highly-anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum, expected to open in early 2020. As the largest archaeological museum in the world (with 50,000 artifacts over 120 acres, to be precise), this $1 billion marble temple to the country’s antiquities includes King Tut’s entire 5,000-piece burial collection displayed in an exact replica of the tomb itself. Other objects will be relocated from storages and museums in Luxor, Minya, Sohag, Asyut, Beni Suef, Faiyum, the Delta, and Alexandria. The new museum is designed to feature the latest technology, including virtual reality. It’s also conveniently located close to the Giza pyramids for those who want to pair the two attractions together. Adding to the city’s newfound excitement is the brand-new St. Regis Cairo, located on the Nile River near the pedestrian-friendly Corniche promenade. Speaking of the river, there are also new cruise options down the Nile. To name a few, Oberoi unveiled a fleet of refurbished ships, and Sanctuary Retreats offers weekly sailings in boutique wooden boats.
Our Top Pick for a Cairo Hotel: Kempinski Nile Hotel Cairo
5. Puerto Rico
After the one-two punch of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria two years ago, Puerto Rico is back on the map. Though areas are still recovering, much of the island is back in business. It is estimated that approximately 2,400 hotel rooms will reopen in 2020, with hundreds more in development. In San Juan, for example, the Caribe Hilton (allegedly the birthplace of the pina colada) underwent a massive $150 million renovation. The city’s restaurant scene is reenergized, too. Jose Enrique also reopened his locavore restaurant of the same name in a sleek new beachfront location after Hurricane Maria tore the roof off his previous spot. Enrique never stopped cooking after the storm. Using a generator, he continued preparing meals for the community, and was soon joined by celeb chef Jose Andres of World Central Kitchen. They pulled together more chefs and volunteers and put out a whopping 20,000 meals per day. This is just one of the many stories of community effort. No matter where you choose to travel in Puerto Rico, you’ll feel good about helping the economy while hearing from friendly locals, proud and eager to share their stories of resilience.
Our Top Pick for a Puerto Rico Hotel: La Concha Renaissance San Juan Resort
This beachfront metropolis is buzzing with new art galleries, bohemian restaurants, and cosmopolitan nightlife, especially in Jaffa, the Arab district and oldest part of the city (you’ll find stone ruins that date back 4,000 years). Today, the biggest headliner is the brand-new hotel, The Jaffa, with 120 rooms in a beautifully restored 19th-century monastery. A focal point of the hotel is the bar and lounge, aptly called The Chapel, due to its location in the former school’s prayer space. In the neighborhood, you can admire ancient architecture, explore local shops and bohemian restaurants, and see why this charming area has been called Little Paris. Other nearby draws include the Shuk Hapishpeshim flea market that sprawls across Jaffa, the Museum of Antiquities, and an art gallery located in a former tahini factory.
Our Top Pick for a Tel Aviv Hotel: Margosa Hotel
Straddling the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, Panama is welcoming a wave of eco hoteliers dedicated to preserving the country’s diversity. In fact, almost one-third of the nation’s land is protected by nature reserves. For instance, Isla Palenque is a 400-acre tropical island resort in the Gulf of Chiriqui with thatched bungalows, forests, hidden caves, humpback whales, archaeological history, and seven secluded beaches — not to mention, a complete ban on single-use plastics. Meanwhile, Islas Secas Reserve & Lodge is located in an environmentally protected zone 20 miles off the coast of Panama. Here, visitors have access to all 14 islands — and 75 percent of the archipelago left undeveloped. The property is fully powered by natural energy, aiming to create a model for sustainable tourism. There’s also Cala Mia, a new property that is entirely solar-powered. It also grows most of its own fruits and vegetables (stay tuned for a cheese farm).
Our Top Pick for a Panama Hotel: Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge
The economic and cultural capital of Brazil also has a vibrant art scene bursting with talent. No other area boasts this more than the Jardins, surrounded by art galleries featuring Brazilian legends and international contemporary artists, as well as renowned restaurants and great shops. For example, Zipper Galeria, a two-story gallery, promotes contemporary Brazilian artists and is also one of the locations of the “Artists Without Gallery,” which allows new artists to showcase their work to visitors. Within walking distance is Avenida Paulista, home of the new SESC Avenida Paulista, an initiative by Brazil’s Social Service of Commerce. This multi-use space hosts art and photography exhibitions, plays, and concerts across 17 floors. Also nearby is the Japan House, a gallery dedicated to exploring Brazil’s Japanese history, with two exhibition spaces, a library, and a fusion restaurant. A great place to plant yourself is the Emiliano Hotel, where you can easily explore the neighborhood’s best galleries by foot.
Our Top Pick for a Sao Paulo Hotel: Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel
Located two hours south of Brisbane, this barefoot paradise has long been known for its epic surf breaks, ever since surfers started arriving in the 60s and 70s. Also adding to the cool factor is a new brood of artisans and lifestyle entrepreneurs selling bespoke clothing made from natural fibers, as well as locally-designed homewares. This is particularly true in the creative district called Byron Arts & Industry Estate, where a range of shops are located. Byron’s food and drink scene is also gaining attention with a series of new openings, including farm-to-table restaurants, plant-based cafes, and spots with Latin-inspired menus. There’s even a new headquarters for the craft brewing company, Stone & Wood, which is dedicated to staying an independent regional brewer. The laid-back vibe and modern hippie aesthetic will carry this beach town far into the future.
Our Top Pick for a Byron Bay Hotel: The Oasis Resort & Treetop Houses
Located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, including jagged mountains, vast sand dunes, preserved fortresses, and a pristine coastline. It’s also a safe and wealthy country with a strict religious, moral, and legal code. Visitors can join a guided tour through the country’s inland terrain, with a stop in Oman’s Grand Canyon, called Wadi Nakhar, where you can take a three-hour balcony walk along its red rim. There’s also the 1,242-mile coastline for spectacular scuba diving. Here, you can see similar species of marine life and coral as the Red Sea (and far fewer tourists). The Daymaniyat Islands are also one of the country’s best places to dive, snorkel, and swim. A protected nature reserve since 1996, the area features nine rocky islets surrounded by coral reefs.
Our Top Pick for an Oman Hotel: Alila Jabal Akhdar
In recent years, Malaysia’s sultry capital city, Kuala Lumpur, has evolved into an affluent 21st-century metropolis with striking architecture, mega-malls, street markets, and lively nightlife. Check out the sleek new skyscrapers during this rapid development phase, which includes The Exchange 106, the tallest building in Kuala Lumpur behind the Petronas Towers. The tower is part of the new Tun Razak Exchange area, Malaysia’s new international finance and banking center. Another gape-worthy view is the KL Metropolis Landmark Tower, part of a 75.5-acre mixed development area, which is set to become the city’s new international trade and exhibition district. And let’s not forget about the new 65-story Four Seasons Place, a mixed commercial and residential building that comprises a hotel, apartments, and a luxury shopping mall.
Our Top Pick for a Kuala Lumpur Hotel: Villa Samadhi
It has been two years since Category 4 storm Hurricane Irma rocked the Florida Keys. The damage and destruction was massive, forcing the closure of many popular beaches and resorts along this idyllic string of islands. Visit the Keys in 2020, though, and you’ll notice that many restaurants, bars, and hotels have bounced back. One of these places is Islamorada, home to Annie’s Beach, a beloved family-friendly area in Lower Matecumbe Key. The village of Islamorada (including the beach) recently reopened and is welcoming visitors with open arms. Another victory: The five-and-a-half-acre luxury resort of Little Palm Island, often considered a well-kept secret, is set to reopen in April 2020. Each of the 15 thatched-roof bungalows offers new interiors and ocean views. There’s also a new spa with a two-story atrium featuring carved architectural details and a handcrafted tile fountain.
Our Top Pick for a Florida Keys Hotel: Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
It’s no secret that Lisbon is one of the fastest-growing capitals in Europe. Lesser-known is Portugal’s Douro Valley. Just a two-hour drive from Porto, this is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The UNESCO-listed area is one of the world’s oldest and most challenging wine regions, dating back to the 18th century. There’s plenty of scenery among the vertiginous terrace vineyards and stucco quintas. Spend a long weekend or more exploring wine cellars, sun-scorched landscapes, charming villages, and regional restaurants. A range of modern vineyards are popping up and offering accommodations. For example, winery Quinta da Corte has eight simple, yet luxurious, rooms decorated with Portuguese artisanal earthenware tiles and paintings. For a bigger property, check out Six Senses, which has 57 spacious guest rooms with private terraces and expansive views — many overlooking the Douro River. Other amenities include a wine library and a standout spa.
Our Top Pick for a Douro Valley Hotel: Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
Looking for a beach getaway in Asia without hordes of tourists? This beautiful province in western Philippines consists of 1,780 islands, including the long and narrow Palawan Island. Like Panama, this destination has welcomed new eco-friendly properties from companies like El Nido Resorts. Their resort in Lagen Island is ideal for those seeking a relaxing vacation on a private, peaceful island. This resort has 51 rooms that incorporate timber recycled from old Filipino homes. Of course, if this still feels too busy, folks will find countless other places to choose from on this archipelago. El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island is another paradisiacal option.
Our Top Picks for a Palawan Hotel: El Nido Resorts Lagen Island and El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island
Bora Bora conjures images of thatched-roof bungalows on stilts above translucent water. But a bigger French Polynesian island closer to Tahiti remains a bit of a secret. The striking island of Moorea is a geographical marvel with eight voluminous mountain peaks rising from a crystal-clear lagoon. Moorea possesses a relaxed vibe and welcoming spirit, plus it has managed to maintain a small island feel, despite its increasing popularity and handful of new international resorts. It’s easy to skip the crowds, though: There are inland hiking trails in the rainforest on the slopes of Mount Tohivea, plenty of sandy beaches, and panoramic views from various lookout points. Yes, Moorea handles visitors with ease and it feels surprisingly non-touristy. The weather is temperate year-round, but spring is an especially good time to visit. This is when the rainy season is over, summer crowds have yet to arrive, and rates can be lower.
Our Top Pick for a Moorea Hotel: InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa
16. Merida, Mexico
Tulum may have new competition as the buzzworthy place in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Merida, the vibrant capital of the Yucatan state, is the cultural crossroads of the region, blessed with rich Mayan and colonial heritage. The city offers narrow streets, leafy plazas, and the region’s best museums, as well as excellent cuisine, accommodations, and thriving markets. This steamy, tropical environment also encourages an enviable routine: Most locals finish their work in the morning, take long siestas in the afternoon, and return in the evening, when cooler breezes roll in off the Gulf of Mexico. Nowhere is Merida’s grace and elegance more obvious than on Paseo de Montejo, a romantic street that’s great for evening strolls. There’s plenty of nighttime events, too. For example, every Sunday, Plaza Grande is closed off to make way for free concerts and street vendors.
Our Top Pick for a Merida Hotel: Rosas & Xocolate Boutique Hotel & Spa
17. Istanbul, Turkey
After a string of high-profile attacks involving the airport and beloved Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul’s tourism industry is rebounding. That being said, precautions should be taken to avoid being caught up in protests, civil unrest, or (worse) terrorist attacks. That shouldn’t stop anyone from joining the locals, who have an infectious love of life and generosity of spirit. Now is a great time to explore the city, which straddles two continents and is home to amazing art, architecture, and, of course, spice bazaars. If you’re concerned with safety, sign up for STEP, the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. The free service keeps you alerted with country-specific travel advisories and helps the U.S. Embassy contact you in case of an emergency.
Our Top Pick for an Istanbul Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet
Following the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, this dynamic South Korean city is still gaining buzz, with glitzy shopping malls, beautifully-landscaped parks, new cycle routes, and lots of culture and design. Visitors can shop in stylish boutiques and drink at cool cafes and convivial bars. At the latter, you can also sing along to K-pop beats, especially in the hipster Hongdae neighborhood, where you’ll find edgy galleries and lively nightlife. Check it out while staying at the new Ryse Hotel, which offers art exhibits and cocktails in the lobby, as well as the first Tartine outpost in Seoul.
Our Top Pick for a Seoul Hotel: Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul
This underrated destination in North Africa is an excellent alternative to Morocco. It’s a favorite for in-the-know Europeans, especially Italians who can get here in a cinch with a one-hour flight from Rome. With its sandy Mediterranean coastline, fresh seafood, delicious wine, and diverse landscapes ranging from desert to forest, Tunisia is a great destination for 2020. Even better, costs here are reasonable. Terrorist attacks in 2015 damaged its reputation, but Tunisia is now safe, according to weakened travel advisories by Western governments. If visiting Tunis, check out the city’s UNESCO-listed medina. Without touts or touristy gimmicks, it allows you to wander through the seventh-century Al-Zaytuna Mosque, inner courtyards, and peaceful gardens. Cap off a day of sightseeing at one of the city’s mosaic- and marble-decorated hammams.
Our Top Pick for a Tunisia Hotel: La Badira
20. Antwerp, Belgium
While nearby Amsterdam makes an effort to restrict the increasing number of visitors in its historic city center, Belgium’s second-biggest city is getting more attention for its walkable streets, medieval architecture, and fusion dining scene. Give yourself at least a long weekend to stroll, starting with the 16th-century Old Town, where you can stop at Grote Markt and explore hidden alleyways selling antiques. Travelers may want to opt to stay in one of the new hotels such as Hotel Pilar and Hotel Franq. From here, visit museums and design stores, shop for high-end consignment, and sample tasty food and drink. The city’s Zuid area, nicknamed Petit Paris, offers outdoor cafes, leafy boulevards, and plenty of restaurants like Mission Masala, which is run by a couple who used to tour the Belgian festival circuit with their Indian food truck.
Our Top Pick for an Antwerp Hotel: Leonardo Hotel Antwerpen
21. San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
Creative types from all over the world often list San Cristobal one as one of their favorite destinations in Mexico. This mid-sized city in the Chiapas state offers cobbled streets, lively markets, wrought-iron fences overflowing with flowers, authentic culture, and easy access to the surrounding countryside. Overall, it’s a great base for local and regional exploration. Though the 2017 earthquake damaged some key buildings, the town managed to escape serious damage. Check out its well-preserved colonial architecture, such as the centuries-old San Cristóbal Cathedral on the Parque Central. Meanwhile, the Museo de los Altos de Chiapas, in the former Santo Domingo de Guzmán convent, has regional history and textile exhibits with an outdoor market selling colorful handicrafts. There’s a lot to see in this town, so it’s best to start with one of the free three-hour walking tours, which reveals hidden nooks and crannies. Tip: Make sure to bring layers as its high-altitude location keeps temperatures cool, especially after sundown.
Not far from the Thai border and off the coast of northeastern Malaysia, this small group of beautiful, coral-fringed islands is enjoying an increase in tourism. The two main islands appeal to two types of travelers. The smaller one is Kecil, which attracts laid-back backpackers. The larger one is Besar, which pulls in families who come for the well-developed resorts. No matter which island you choose, you’ll find lush green jungles (great for hiking), stunning beaches, and crystal-clear water for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. This part of the South China Sea is home to whale sharks, turtle sanctuaries, and healthy coral. Meanwhile, a range of day trips to smaller islands are available via speedboat. With the area’s long dry season (March through September), this is a great destination for both spring and summer travel.
Our Top Pick for a Perhentian Islands Hotel: Perhentian Tuna Bay Island Resort
Marrakech is always a feast for the eyes, ears, and palette — and 2020 will be no different. New experiences include a four-hour cooking class with a small group at the boutique hotel, La Maison Arabe. You can also book a wine tasting at La Mamounia, where they’ll set you up with a private table as you learn about Moroccan winemaking. If you’re looking for souvenirs, Christian Louboutin recently paired up with Royal Mansour Marrakech to introduce babouche slippers, inspired by the hotel’s Moorish details. Even if you can’t afford to stay here (or buy those slippers), you can come for a drink and snack from Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno. Marrakech is also a jumping-off point for other adventures, like nearby Oumnass, where you can stay at the rustic-elegant Berber Lodge, which is surrounded by ancient date and olive trees. Further afield is the romantic Dar Ahlam in Skoura. Here, meals are served privately in various areas of the resort.
Our Top Pick for a Marrakech Hotel: Royal Mansour Marrakech
24. Cassis, France
France manages to absorb the most visitors each year, but this South of France spot is still off-the-radar for American tourists (for now). Fly into Marseille and head to this colorful fishing port, which has a lush green setting mounted on the Mediterranean. This is a great launchpad for boat trips to Calanques National Park, a protected ecosystem with a series of beautiful little bays. The park’s 21,000 acres offer endless hiking trails and places to swim, kayak, boat, and take in the views. Unsurprisingly, the region is hugely popular with locals in the summer. Pick between a range of accommodations, like the restored Les Roches Blanches, located among pine trees with Art Deco rooms and terraces facing the sea. Hit up one of the seafood shacks in town for piles of oysters, or visit La Villa Madie, an unstuffy Michelin-starred restaurant. From Cassis, you can also easily take many day trips to Collioure, La Ciotat, and villages around Aix-en-Provence.
Our Top Pick for a Cassis Hotel: La Demeure Insoupçonnée
When it comes to Bali — often called the Island of the Gods — most travelers focus on the south coast, an area saturated with beaches, culture, and affordable resorts. The lesser-traveled north coast, however, offers access to a vast region with interesting boutique hotels. Rent a car and discover peaceful waterfall hikes and the Banjar Hot Springs, where you can dip into terraced pools. There’s also Bali’s largest Buddhist monastery, a meditation destination featuring golden Buddhas, lush gardens, and a collection of ceremonial masks and Dutch-period exhibits. To get in the water, head to Lovina, known for its black-sand beaches, coral reefs, and dolphins. Meanwhile, incredible diving and snorkeling opportunities await at Pulau Menjangan.
Our Top Pick for a North Bali Hotel: Puri Bagus Lovina
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