Travel in 2020 is shifting towards a new perspective. One that brings a sense of purpose, intention, and connection to something bigger than ourselves. With global warming weighing heavy on many of our minds, travel experts are seeing a significant push towards travel that leaves the smallest carbon footprint on the places we go. Travel is also becoming about connecting to the local culture and exploring it in a deeper and more careful manner, as well as seeing sights that may be in danger of change.
Below is our list of where to travel sustainably, what countries are making a comeback, and the timely hot-spots of 2020:
Of all the travel trends for 2020, this one likely tops our collective priority list. How can we see the world while still contributing to a greater good?
Bhutan has set its sights on making a significant contribution (or shall we say lack of contribution?) to the global footprint in 2020, and for this alone we say go. It will become the fist fully-organic nation in the world this year and is already considered a carbon-negative nation (meaning removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it contributes). It operates a ‘high-value, low-impact’ tourism policy, standing by a position that is inclusive and beautiful in itself: “..tourism, in affording the opportunity to travel, can help to promote a deeper understanding among people and to strengthen ties of friendship based on a deeper appreciation and respect for different cultures and lifestyles.”
What’s more, it is beautiful, with 72% of its land being comprised of forests, mind-boggling cliff-clinging monasteries, colorful, engrossing festivals, and Himalayan treks that will top your once-in-a-lifetime travel dreams. And as the country goes by a guiding policy of “Gross National Happiness”, we can’t think of a better place to start your 2020 journeys.
Be sure to visit Paro Taktsang, the cliff-clinging sacred Buddhist monastery in the upper Paro Valley perched nearly 3,000 feet above the valley floor. And, on the 10th of any Tibetan lunar month, depending on the region, jump in and dance with monks at a Tsechu festival. Paro Tshechu, held every Spring in the Paro Dzongkhag, is considered the most spectacular and colorful.
The secluded Hydra Island, one of the Saronic Islands of Greece, is a short ferry ride from Athens. A popular filming location, it’s known for its azure-blue waters, picturesque architecture, a vibrant nightlife, and cosmopolitan character.
Keeping with the reduction of carbon footprint trend, you’ll be able to enjoy a traffic-free visit here: as no cars are allowed on the island, the only transport options are by donkey, bicycle and on foot. While it’s not known for sightseeing, it is the ideal spot to rest, recharge, and connect with yourself or your loved ones, something we can all use a little more of in 2020.
Mykonos, the beloved Island of the international "Jet-Setters" with its whitewashed cubic houses, windmills and chapels, wonderful sandy beaches, shops, galleries and incredible nightlife is definitely worth having on your Greek itinerary as well. The island’s winding narrow streets, a reputed 800 churches, and “little Venice” will enchant you, and its culinary scene will treat you to true Mediterranean cuisine. Local producers, such as Mykonos Vioma, are working towards a sustainable future for the island, by producing wines that are nearly water-free in their production, and pesticide-free. Their farm even serves as a feeding ground for the local animal population to feast on the insects that come to the farm.
Just a short ferry ride away, Delos, an islet of the Aegean, now uninhabited, is one of the most important archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and is known as the legendary birthplace of the twin gods, Apollo and Artemis. For history lovers, the remains of Temples and residences on Delos date back from the Neolithic to the Roman periods. While there, be sure to visit the remains of the Temple of Apollo, the Sanctuary of Artemis, the Old City and the Theater and walk down the celebrated Lion Street.
Sometimes overlooked in comparison to its neighbors Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is attracting attention as an ideal spot to embrace the “under-tourism” movement: traveling to less-trafficked destinations and off-season visits. In addition, it embodies the ‘slow travel’ experience as a perfect spot to see its wonders by bike, canoe, or horse, and connect to the local culture.
Our pick for seeing the most of this beautiful country is taking 8 days to get immersed: think biking in Montevideo and Colonia, horseback riding at the Estancias and sand dune trekking in Rocha, stand-up paddle-boarding in San Ignacio, horseback riding, kite- and traditional surfing. The country is still very affordable, and its world-renowned wineries and natural beauty will leave you smiling long after you depart. See more of our recommended itineraries for Uruguay here.
With one of the most diverse biodiverse animal populations in the world, and 90% of its fuel derived from green energy sources, Costa Rica is an ideal fit for those who are seeking to support global sustainability efforts and travel. The country has devoted 26% of its land to national parks, wildlife reserves and protected lands, and the Manuel Antonio National Park and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are regarded internationally as successful models of the ecotourism movement.
The country is particularly successful at these efforts because the private sector has chosen to support and participate in the national mission, and international and national NGOs, local businesses, natives and government organizations are also involved. This means you can support the country throughout your visit, in multiple ways.
Costa Rica’s spectacular climate, beautiful beaches and jungle terrains, and a multitude of year-round activities doesn’t hurt either. Check out some of our favorite active, exploration, family, and short trips here, if you’re planning to dive in this year.
Despite last April’s tragedy in Sri Lanka, the country is rebounding, and it’s 2,000-year-old history, palaces, relics, ruins, temples, and abundant wildlife, continue to draw beach-goers and cultural fans alike.
If you go, consider visiting the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, where some of the country’s most beautiful Buddhist temples continue to attract monks, believers, and the simply curious to witness the UNESCO-heritage site. In the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Sigiriya, the 656-foot-high volcanic-formation-turned-palace-fortress has been dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and it’s lion-paw entrance, and breathtaking rock paintings, make it one of the most-visited sites in the country.
For animal lovers, Sri Lanka is a feast for the eyes, with roughly 5,800 wild elephants in residence and the biggest concentration of leopards in the world. Yala National park, home to sloth bears, buffalo, crocodiles, Buddhist sites and centuries-old rock paintings is one of the best places to see all of these, as well as hundreds of bird species. If you visit between July and early November, you can witness the migration of hundreds of wild elephants as they head towards an ancient reservoir in Minneriya National Park.
Off the coast in Kalpitiya, in the North-Western Province of Sri Lanka, blue whales, spinner dolphins, and sea turtles frolic. A relatively new tourism destination, the area is home to a marine sanctuary, which provides a breeding ground for many of the area’s native species. Bar reefs, flat coastal plains, saltpans, mangrove swamps, salt marshes, and sand dune beaches cover the collective 14 islands that make up Kalpitiya, and kitesurfing is the dominant watersport.
The time is now:
The Dead Sea, Israel, and Jordan:
While not under-touristed or under the radar per se, climate change is affecting the Dead Sea’s levels, making it all the more relevant to experience now. The sea, eight times the salinity of the ocean, has been a wellness destination for centuries and its soothing waters and mineral-rich mud a favorite among spa-goers. It also has the unique title of being the lowest point on earth. Beyond the sublime tranquility and body-floating fun, the Dead Sea is also uniquely positioned to add trips to many of the area’s spectacular sights, as it borders Israel and Jordan.
Petra, only 84 miles away, and one of the seven modern wonders of the world, will enchant, enthrall, and delight you. Jerusalem, the iconic religious epicenter for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, is only 34 miles away, and Tel Aviv, with its 24-hour-a-day culture, events, nightlife and beaches, just 61 miles. Be sure to include a trip to the Ein Gedi Reserve, one of the most important sanctuaries in Israel, housing a plethora of plant, bird and animal species and spectacular waterfalls.
One of our most popular tours takes in all of these sights - and Eliat, Galilee and Haifa. See more details here.
December’s total solar eclipse is set for December 14th, and Argentina will be an astounding place to experience it. The eclipse will begin at about 1:07 pm local time, with totality lasting a little over two minutes, and create a band just 55 miles wide. Its path will cast a moon-shadow across Patagonia at that time, and you’ll be able to witness some of the most stunning, and longest, views of the eclipse there, over anywhere else in the world.
The Chilean Lake District, specifically Lake Villarrica and around Pucón, is famous for its hot springs, spectacular lakes, of course, and vistas. It’s an ideal place to experience one of Chile’s most popular destinations, and take in the longest stretches of the eclipse, as you’re almost exactly in the centerline of the path. What’s even better, it’s summer in the southern hemisphere in December, so you’ll be able to dive into some of the favorite lakeside activities while in town and enjoy the mild weather.
If you can take the time, take the opportunity to explore more of Argentina. Argentina is the land of astounding peaks, lush valleys, forests, deserts, and fertile valleys. And its friendly and outgoing population, world-renowned cuisine, and the iconic Buenos Aires and tango, make it an unforgettable place to experience South American culture. If you’re going to see the eclipse, we’ve highlighted some of the best things to do and see the Patagonia region here.
Lastly, if you’re a soccer fan, the Copa America is set to be co-hosted (for the first time in history) by two countries, Argentina and Columbia, from June 12 to July 12, 2020. Five of the venues will be in Argentina and are sure to sell out rapidly.
Morocco’s popularity isn’t new; the country’s iconic architecture and natural beauty make it popular on bucket lists the world over. What is new is easy(er) access from the US, including flights on Royal Air Maroc from Miami and Boston, and American Airline’s flights from Philadephia. And Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport’s addition of a new terminal will boost their capacity to 14 million passengers per year.
While one can take in the arts scene, medinas, mouth-watering cuisine, Hammams, and overall culture in a long weekend, we recommend staying for 8 days, and taking in Fes’ imperial city, with 13 centuries of Moroccan history, Marrakech’s movie-set grandeur including Djemaa el-Fna, The Koutoubia Mosque, El Bahia Palace, the Medrasa Ben Youssef, and the Jardin Marjorelle, a two and half acre botanical garden created by Yves St Laurent.
You’ll also have time for Essaouira, a laid-back coastal town on the Atlantic Ocean built in the 17th century by the Portuguese. The white-painted buildings of the medina starkly contrast the fishing port, and it’s long-standing popularity among artisans make it a treasure-trove of visual delights. And Casablanca, with its magnificent blend of modernism and tradition, grand avenues, Moorish details, and the King Hassan II mosque.
To get prepared for your trip to Morrocco, have a glance at our 8 Things You Need to Know About Morocco post.
A lower valuation on the British Sterling has helped make the UK more accessible to many, but this year’s cultural celebrations are promising to be the biggest draw. The country will celebrate the 250th anniversary of William Wordsworth’s birth with a massive investment to expand the museum at his former home. Charles Dicken’s death, 150 years ago, will be commemorated in Rochester, among other locations, with a 5-day festival. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, a 10-day festival will be held in Bath in her honor, and a nine-day event as well in Hampshire, in June.
A game of Thrones studio tour will open in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, and Glastonbury, the iconic British counterculture music-literary-theater-circus event, is celebrating its 50-year anniversary with headliners Diana Ross, Paul McCartney, and Taylor Swift.