As another year draws to a close, it’s time to spin the globe and think about where we might travel in 2020.
The good news is the choices have never been better, as airlines launch new routes, destinations stage major events, and hotels and tour operators create original and enticing experiences.
This year the Foreign Office has lifted restrictions on trips to Sri Lanka, Nicaragua and the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh. And under-visited countries such as Georgia and Saudi Arabia are increasingly appealing to travellers looking for an adventure.
According to the Association of British Travel Agents (abta.com) almost nine in ten of us took a holiday in 2019, and its annual report on travel trends found an increasing demand for ‘slow travel’, personalised tours and trips that are environmentally and socially conscious. Here’s our pick of the best places to head to in the coming year. Happy travels!
2020 has been designated the ‘Year of Chicago Music’, capitalising on the Windy City’s reputation for top-class theatre, great food and clubs devoted to blues and jazz
Why? 2020 has been designated the ‘Year of Chicago Music’, capitalising on the Windy City’s reputation for top-class theatre, great food and clubs devoted to blues and jazz.
Don’t miss: A summer celebration of music, including blues, gospel and house festivals, with free events across the city. It kicks off on May 21 (choosechicago.com).
Book now: Five nights with America As You Like It (americaasyoulikeit.com, 020 8742 8299) cost from £979pp including flights from Heathrow and room-only accommodation at Sophy Hotel (sophyhotel.com).
Why? The glitzy emirate will stage a six-month extravaganza, Expo 2020 Dubai, from October 20. Featuring themed pavilions created by 192 countries, it will showcase the world’s latest innovations, including futuristic travel at 700mph by ‘hyperloop’ (expo2020dubai.com).
Don’t miss: Watch a film screening on the steel dome of Al Wasl Plaza, which will be the world’s biggest 360-degree projection surface.
Book now: Five nights’ B&B with Emirates Holidays at the four-star Zabeel House Al Seef hotel from £1,075pp, including flights from one of four UK airports and a day at the Expo (emiratesholidays.com, 0208 972 8949).
SRI LANKAN SPICE
Why? It’s been six months since the Foreign Office lifted the travel ban for this enchanting tropical island, which offers opportunities for both discovery and relaxation. Highlights include superb beaches, scenic railways, colonial heritage and divine seafood curries.
Don’t miss: Sri Lanka is not just for winter sun. In summer, head to the east coast: family-friendly Karpaha Sands has elegant. tented suites set in a seaside coconut grove (karpahasands.com). Look for stilt fishermen, perched on sticks in the sea.
Book now: A ten-night Hills and Thrills tour with Yonder from £1,900pp. It includes flights from Heathrow to Colombo, a private chauffeur guide and accommodation in four boutique hotels with breakfast and some activities (yonder.co.uk, 0203 880 8585).
Galway is the European Capital of Culture for 2020. Pictured is picturesque Kylemore Lough, an easy one-hour drive from the city
Why? This charming waterfront city on the west coast of Ireland is the European Capital of Culture for 2020 (along with Rijeka in Croatia).
Events will include circus performances, a celebration of the cello and a festival devoted to Irish writer J. M. Synge (from February 1, galway2020.ie).
Don’t miss: St Patrick’s Day (March 17) when a spectacular light show will turn the Connemara Mountains green.
Book now: Galway is just over an hour’s drive from Shannon and Knock airports. Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies from Gatwick to the latter from £66 return. Double rooms at the historic Hardiman Hotel cost from £99 including breakfast (thehardiman.ie).
AUSTRALIA BY RAIL
Why? The Great Southern is a new all-inclusive train ride between Adelaide and Brisbane that takes three or four days depending on the direction. Departures run until January 30 then start again on December 4, 2020.
Don’t miss: Off-train excursions include a dolphin-spotting cruise, wine-tasting in the Hunter Valley and sightseeing in Canberra (journeybeyondrail.com.au).
Book now: Six nights with Freedom Destinations cost from £2,199pp. This includes flights into Adelaide then back from Brisbane via Singapore, two nights in each city, and two nights in a Gold Service cabin (freedomdestinations.co.uk, 0333 003 8043).
GOLD MEDAL JAPAN
A 12-night ‘Summer Games 2020: Golden Route’ Japan tour with InsideJapan costs from £5,898pp. This includes a visit to Kyoto (pictured)
Why? After successfully hosting this year’s Rugby World Cup, Japan will steal the global spotlight again for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (July 24 to August 9, tokyo2020.org). Head there to soak up the atmosphere, then explore the country further.
Don’t miss: Team GB has all-inclusive packages, and individual tickets are expected to go on sale in the coming months (teamgblive.com).
Book now: A 12-night ‘Summer Games 2020: Golden Route’ tour with InsideJapan costs from £5,898pp. This includes flights to Tokyo, transfers, three nights in the capital during the Games, visits to Hakone and Kyoto, guided activities, breakfast and some meals (insidejapantours.com, 0117 244 3380).
Tel Aviv, pictured, is a lively Mediterranean city and now you can get there from Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic
Why? Virgin Atlantic’s new flights from Heathrow to Tel Aviv make it easy to visit this lively Mediterranean city — head here if you like the idea of winter sunshine, party beaches, vibrant markets, Bauhaus architecture and a thriving food and wine scene.
Don’t miss: A train ride to Jerusalem — there’s a new fast link, or try the scenic route which takes one hour 40 minutes (seat61.com).
Book now: Virgin Holidays has four nights at the Leonardo City Tower Hotel from £776pp. Flights, transfers and breakfast are all included (virginholidays.co.uk, 0344 557 3859).
Why? Offering ‘kitchen garden food’ and bespoke spa treatments, The Pig hotel chain will unveil a seventh outpost on the north Cornish coast in June.
The Pig at Harlyn Bay will have rooms set in and around a Grade II-listed mansion near Padstow. The beach at Constantine Bay is close by.
Don’t miss: The property will also have four of ‘the largest, most comfortable, sexiest shepherd’s huts on the planet’.
Book now: Double rooms from £155, room only. Reservations open January 7 (thepighotel.com, 0345 225 9494).
NEW ZEALAND HIKES
Why? New Zealand’s network of ‘Great Walks’ now has a 10th trail — the 34-mile Paparoa Track, which reopens in March, on the west coast of South Island. It takes three days to walk, through gorges, forests and alpine scenery, with stays in communal huts.
Don’t miss: You can also ride the track by mountain bike with just one overnight stay (doc.govt.nz/paparoatrack).
Book now: A 14-night tour with New Zealand In Depth costs from £3,800pp, including flights to Christchurch via Singapore, rail travel, car hire, accommodation with breakfast and two nights on the track (newzealandindepth.com, 01298 74040).
Tracking mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is not to be missed if you visit Uganda
GORILLAS IN UGANDA
Why? This friendly nation in the heart of Africa is making a name for itself as a place to see wildlife without the crowds — including chimpanzees, hippos, elephants and lions that climb trees.
Don’t miss: Tracking mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest — permits cost considerably less than those in neighbouring Rwanda (bwindiforestnationalpark.com).
Book now: A 12-day Chimps & Gorillas group tour with Exodus Travels costs from £4,549pp. This includes flights to Entebbe via Nairobi, transfers, accommodation, guided excursions, permits and most meals (exodus.co.uk, 020 8772 3858).
NOSY IN NICARAGUA
Why? Move over Costa Rica — the largest country in Central America is back on the tourist map.
Expect a captivating mix of volcanoes, jungle and beach with an unhurried atmosphere and superb coffee.
Don’t miss: Founded in 1524, Granada has rich Spanish colonial architecture and the chance to take boat rides around the forested islets of Lake Nicaragua.
Book now: A nine-night Signature Nicaragua tour with Journey Latin America costs from £2,895pp including flights to Managua via Miami or Houston, transfers, accommodation with breakfast, guided excursions and some meals (journeylatinamerica.co.uk, 020 3553 9647).
SPEED TO CHILE
Why? Improved flight connections south from Santiago to Puerto Natales, gateway to the Torres del Paine National Park, have cut the travel time to this scenic wonder by three hours.
Don’t miss: Tierra Patagonia is a remote lakeside hotel in the mountainous wilds. It offers designer bedrooms, a spa and adventures that include full-day hikes, horseriding and kayaking through ice floes (tierrahotels.com).
Book now: Nine days with Last Frontiers costs from £4,529pp including flights to Santiago, internal flights, transfers and three nights at Tierra Patagonia with activities and most meals (lastfrontiers.com, 01296 653000).