Taking care to curate a list that is both geographically diverse and covers a wide variety of experiences for every type of traveler, we looked at which cities and regions plan to have newsworthy events and celebrations in 2020, as well as those specifically preparing for travelers with anticipated new flight routes and hotels. Be sure to double-check your destination before booking travel around planned festivals, anticipated events and in-progress lodging as timelines may change.
Tokyo will be one of the hottest destinations thanks to the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games. The Olympic Games opening ceremony is on July 24 and the games will run through Aug. 9, after which the Paralympics will run from Aug. 25 through Sept. 6.
Tourists don’t have to attend the Olympics for a great 2020 trip in Tokyo, though. In fact, spring is typically the best time to go. As Tokyo anticipates increased tourism, Condé Nast Traveler reports that improvements are being made to the city’s train system with new bullet cars and new routes. Multiple new hotels have debuted or are planned to open as well, such as the modern-yet-sophisticated Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi, the stylishly minimalistic MUJI Hotel Ginza and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants first boutique Tokyo hotel.
Travel to São Paulo, Brazil, is anticipated to be easier than ever in 2020. The largest city in the southern hemisphere, this hotspot is home to skyscrapers, luxury shopping, a trendy food scene and thriving nightlife. Brazil dropped visa requirements for U.S. citizens on June 17, 2019, which means travelers with an American passport can stay for up to 90 days. American Airlines plans to increase flights from Miami to São Paulo to three times a day in winter 2020, and Delta Air Lines customers will benefit from a recent purchase of a 20% stake that the airline now has in LATAM airlines, the largest carrier in Latin America. United is also in talks to improve its partnership with Brazil’s Azul Airlines and two other South American carriers.
Celebrate classical German composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday in Vienna, the city where he made a career and became a legend. The many music institutions of the Austrian city will pay tribute throughout the year, most notably the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, which will be performing in a series of events at the Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna Concert Hall) that are sure to impress. It should also be noted that 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the summertime music and drama festival, the Salzburg Festival, held a three-hour drive from Vienna. Access should be easier with Austrian Airlines planning to add a non-stop route from Boston in March.
One of the oldest cities in the world, Beirut is Lebanon's capital and largest city, having been inhabited for over 5,000 years. Once dubbed “the Paris of the Middle East,” Beirut is bouncing back 30 years after its 15-year civil war, ready to welcome more tourists in 2020 to enjoy its thriving nightlife and subtropical climate.
After surpassing Dubai as the leading transfer hub for long-haul travel to sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, Ethiopia has upped the ante by expanding its airport. The main hub of Ethiopian Airlines, Addis Ababa is known for being a shopping destination and is home to a national museum chronicling Ethiopia’s ancient history, most notably housing the skeleton of the famous early hominid known as “Lucy.”
The hotel industry is booming in Addis Ababa as well, with Hyatt Regency having opened its first Ethiopian property in the city in January of 2019. The past year also saw the inauguration of Zoma Museum, a contemporary art museum with an eco-conscious and traditional Ethiopian design that hosts exhibits, workshops and artist residencies.
Located in the south-central part of Uzbekistan, Khiva is known for its 18th- and 19th-century Islamic architecture, said to be some of the best-preserved in Central Asia. Visitors can also pick up traditional embroidery, carpets and wood and stone carvings to take home. As of February 2018, U.S. citizens also no longer need a voucher or letter of invitation in order to get a visa to Uzbekistan, and as of July 2018, Americans don’t need a visa at all if they can provide a flight ticket indicating that the flight to their next destination is within five days of arrival. Khiva was named the 2020 cultural capital of the Turkic world by the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY).
There’s quite a bit of beauty and magic in Ireland, particularly in the western coastal seaport of Galway, named a 2020 European Capital of Culture by the European Union. Galway will celebrate the city and the nation’s history, culture and language with Galway 2020. The festivities will kick off in February and be based around the four seasons of the pre-Christian Gaelic calendar. The festival is also meant to center around the core themes “Migration, Landscape and Language,” with artworks on display and events such as Irish one-act plays, music concerts, storytelling, soccer matches and arts and crafts workshops being held throughout County Galway.
Named European City of the Year by the Academy of Urbanism, Porto is known for its port wine and the picturesque European and Moorish architecture that appears throughout the city. Recently opened accommodations include PortoBay Flores, a luxury hotel built in a 16th-century mansion, and Torrel 1884, a boutique hotel in what used to be a palace. TAP Air Portugal announced that it will add more flights to Lisbon from Boston, Newark and Toronto, which is just a few hours from this growing destination.
A highly anticipated event, the 2020 ICC (International Cricket Council) Men’s T20 World Cup will be held in Australia from Oct. 18 through Nov. 15, and the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup will be held in February and March. Of the eight cities hosting games, two are located in the Australian state of Victoria, with seven matches (including the final) set to be held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The largest stadium in the Southern Hemisphere, Melbourne Cricket Ground (commonly known as “The G”) is the center of Australian cricket, which you can explore through guided tours and the stadium’s National Sports Museum.
The new Istanbul Airport finally completed the first of four phases of construction, now covering 18,780 acres with a capacity to serve 90 million passengers a year, reflecting the extensive growth of Turkish Airlines, which will have non-stop flights from Newark from May through October. For those looking to take to the sea and explore the Mediterranean, Istanbul’s new cruise port is planned to debut in March 2020. Three large ships will be able to dock at the cruise port at a time, with an estimated 15,000 passengers per day.
At Barbados’ Independence Day Parade in November 2019, Prime Minister Mia Mottley declared that 2020 would be a year-long campaign in which all Barbadians are encouraged to take part in a celebration of their heritage and culture while also working toward a better Barbados. “We Gatherin’” will include traditional food, parades, live soca music and more, starting at the north of the island in January and moving south every month to each of the 11 parishes so that each can display its local culture, before a country-wide finale in December. In addition to witnessing this once-in-a-lifetime celebration, visitors to Barbados can also experience its famed white sandy beaches, the many rum shops, golf courses and watersports such as snorkeling and scuba diving.
Also named a 2020 European Capital of Culture, Rijeka is the commercial, industrial and cultural center of western Croatia, located between the Adriatic Sea and the Julian Alps. Starting with the Rijeka Carnival on Feb. 1, there will be more than 600 cultural events in the city, including live concerts, plays, art displays and museum exhibitions. Outside of that, Rijeka is home to many beautiful beaches, churches, castles, outdoor trails and opportunities for diving.
Declared the best value destination for 2020 by travel guide publisher Lonely Planet, the southern province of East Nusa Tenggara is a lesser-traveled area among the Indonesian island. Gorgeous beaches and world-class diving draw tourists here, particularly to Komodo Island (home of the famous Komodo dragon) and the Alor Archipelago. Explore Mount Mutis, the highest point in the province and the perfect place for hiking or bird-watching, and check out the active volcano Kelimutu, which features surreal crater lakes.
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Rather than a stay in Paris, go a little bit off the beaten path with a trip to the largely underrated French city of Lille. Capital of Hauts-de-France, the country’s northernmost region, Lille is an industrial city with chic shops, top-tier restaurants and nightlife popping up throughout the city. It’s also at the heart of Lille Metropole, an area in northern France consisting of more than 90 municipalities, which was named the 2020 World Design Capital by the World Design Organization, which gives the award to cities that boost their cultural, economic, environmental and social development through industrial design.
Morocco’s largest city offers coastal views, European-style cafés, the second largest shopping mall in Africa and impressive mosques, including the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest in the world. In 2019, Royal Air Maroc added three flights a week to Casablanca from both Boston and Miami in addition to its routes from New York’s JFK Airport and Washington Dulles Airport. Summer 2020 will also see American Airlines add the first nonstop flight to Casablanca with a U.S. carrier, taking off three times a week from Philadelphia, and the first Ritz-Carlton in Morocco. The Ritz-Carlton Rabat, Dar es Salam in the country’s capital will be just an hour away from Casablanca in an oak forest and will feature five restaurants, lounges and a spa that has a signature Turkish bath.
The Turks & Caicos Islands were named the most romantic destination in the Caribbean, as well as its leading beach destination at the 2019 World Travel Awards. The sparsely populated islands — just eight out of 30 are inhabited — are characterized by 150 miles of coastline and unbelievably clear water, as well as the third-largest barrier reef in the world.
Maine won its independence from Massachusetts in March 1820, which means the state will be celebrating its bicentennial in 2020. While events will be held throughout the year and throughout the state, Maine’s capital of Augusta is the best place to celebrate and appreciate the state’s history and culture with programs like Statehood Weekend (a March festival featuring bean suppers, music and food drives), special exhibits at the Maine State Museum and guest speakers.
Canyon Point in southern Utah is home to a spectacular hotel, Amangiri. Located on 600 acres of gorgeous rock landscape with easy access to local national parks and Lake Powell, the serene resort will be joined by a sister resort in April 2020. Just a short drive from Amangiri, Camp Sarika will also take advantage of the surrounding natural landscape and consist of 10 tented pavilions (all of which will provide guests with their own private plunge pool) surrounding a shared restaurant, pool and lounge.
Nepal’s government is heavily promoting tourism for the new year. While it does have plains and forested hills, approximately 75% of the country is mountainous, as Nepal is nestled in the Himalayas and is home to eight of the 10 tallest mountains on the planet (above sea level), including Mount Everest. As part of the 2020 tourism initiative, the cities of Kathmandu and Janakpur plan to have nighttime itineraries that are sure to highlight the mix of Hindu, Buddhist, and South and East Asian cultures that exist here.
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The island nation of Cabo Verde, or Cape Verde as it's often known, lies nearly 400 miles off the western coast of Africa and has a moderate climate with world-renowned beaches and resorts. Cabo Verde Airlines added multiple routes, including a route between Washington, D.C. and the island of Sal, giving better access to the country. Both traditional African and colonial Portuguese cultures have left their mark on the architecture and culture of the islands, of which Santiago, in particular, received a UNESCO World Heritage site designation for its historic center.
For the latest in travel, head to the newly named country North Macedonia. Formerly known as Macedonia, the Balkan nation rebranded itself, so to speak, in February 2019 in order to appease Greece so that it could join the European Union and NATO. Mountain scenery and deep lakes characterize the Balkan country, which has been influenced by Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Macedonian and Ottoman culture and is also home to serene remote villages and monasteries to explore.
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For almost 400 years, the people of Oberammergau have put on a play every 10 years, a tradition that dates back to a 17th-century promise that they would do so if no one from their village died of the plague. Depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ (the period in which the Biblical Jesus had his triumphal entry into Jerusalem until his resurrection), the 42nd Passion Play will take place from May 16 to Oct. 4, so try to nab a ticket for this once-in-a-decade event.
Ready for a summer 2020 debut, the National Museum of African American Music is set to open its doors in downtown Nashville, where visitors can explore the influence of black musicians and black culture on more than 50 genres of music. Nashville itself is the “Country Music Capital of the World” and nicknamed “Music City,” with the city’s many venues perfect for exploring local acts and rising talent. Explore the best of Southern cuisine with Nashville’s restaurant scene, and learn some history at spots like the Belle Meade Plantation and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Azerbaijani capital of Baku is home to wonderful oddities such as the Museum of Miniature Books. Thanks to a concerted effort to increase tourism and easier access for tourists, 2020 is looking like the time to go. Located on the shores of the Caspian Sea, Baku’s picturesque old town is characterized by buildings and mosques that have been standing for centuries, in addition to photogenic narrow alleys, impressive stone mansions, new hotels and luxury accommodations.
Bangkok is one of those destinations everyone should try to see at least once, and 2020 could be the year to check it off the list. Home to awe-inspiring temples, ornate palaces and world-famous cuisine, Bangkok is anticipating many new high-end hotels such as the riverside resorts Capella Bangkok and Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, both set for an opening in the early part of the year.
Made up of two resort towns — Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo — and situated at the southern tip of Baja California, trips to Los Cabos are favored by the rich and famous for a reason. In addition to pristine beaches and golf courses, the area is constantly upping the ante when it comes to the hotel industry. Hotels that have recently opened their doors include the 115 suite and villa-only Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve and the Japanese-influenced Nobu Hotel Los Cabos.
Parma was named Italy’s “capital of culture” for 2020 by the country’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Located in the northern part of the country and designated a Creative UNESCO City of Gastronomy, it’s known for its famous cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano) and prosciutto di Parma. Parma also has a strong heritage in opera, having produced two of the genre’s greats, conductor Arturo Toscanini and composer Giuseppe Verdi, the latter of whom has an annual opera festival in Parma named after him.
In the wake of major hurricanes, the best way to support the British Virgin Islands is to book a flight in 2020. With much-needed renovations of existing hotels and new openings, the hotel industry is rebounding. The ultra-luxurious beachside Rosewood Little Dix Bay is set to re-open in January 2020. Guests can also rent a yacht or go sailing at one of multiple ports in the British Virgin Islands.
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The largest of Spain’s autonomous Balearic Islands, Mallorca is an island that isn’t as popular as it once was, but it’s ripe for a comeback. While it has the same white sandy beaches and fantastic nightlife that it always did, it also has new accommodations such as the Can Bordoy Grand House and Garden in Palma de Mallorca (a 16th-century mansion that’s undergone a renovation inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi, or repair of ceramics with precious metals), the modern INNSiDE Calvia Beach (featuring what they claim are the two largest suspended pools in Europe on their rooftop) and the Mediterranean-inspired Can Ferreretera in the rural town of Santanyi.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has a relatively new airline, FlyBosnia, that now offers more access to its capital city of Sarajevo. Situated in the Dinaric Alps, the city is home to an ancient Turkish marketplace, Ottoman-era mosques, Ashkenazi and Sephardic synagogues, as well as both Catholic and Orthodox churches, a testament to its long and eventful history.
Visit Cape Town any time of the year, as it’s summer all the time in this port city. Thrumming with activity and a rich cultural history, Cape Town is also located on the coast which means sunbathing with penguins at Boulders Beach during the day and oceanfront dining at night. While flights to Africa typically involve layovers, multiple airlines are adding direct flights, including United, which now offers three non-stop flights a week from Newark to Cape Town.
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Ubud in the foothills of Bali is the kind of place one would love to retire to. The town draws artists from around the world, as well as eager Instagrammers ready to immerse themselves in traditional Balinese culture with live dance performances, yoga classes, centuries-old temples, art museums and Eastern spa treatments. Bali has no shortage of luxe resorts, but that doesn’t stop new ones from popping up such as the tented camps at Capella Ubud and the W Bali Ubud, the latter of which is set to open in 2020.
One of the least densely populated countries on Earth, Namibia is seeing something of a hotel boom with new resorts welcoming guests such as the luxury tented camp Sonop Lodge, the stylish round thatched huts at Omaanda and Habitas Namibia, a trendy and minimalistic place to stay on a wild nature preserve. The haunting shipwrecks that lie along the Skeleton Coast have also inspired Shipwreck Lodge, a group of super artistic accommodations with fantastic views of the picturesque coastline.
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One of the cities hosting popular soccer tournament Copa America, Medellín is an industrialized city that’s one of Colombia’s largest. Visit in the summer to enjoy the fútbol frenzy but don’t worry about the weather when deciding when to go; dubbed “the City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín is known to have pleasant temperatures year-round. Situated in the Abarrá Valley, cable cars can take you across the city, providing transportation as well as the perfect vantage point to enjoy the surrounding hillside neighborhoods. There is also a metro train system — the only one in Colombia — to get you where you want to go, whether that’s to grab some delicious Colombian street food, take a stroll through a picturesque park, learn some South American history at a museum or hit the nightlife scene to dance some salsa.
There’s a lot more to Siem Reap than Angkor Wat, and that includes budget-friendly options. While you should take advantage of the proximity to awe-inspiring place of worship, Angkor Wat (where the Cambodian government recently banned elephant rides in response to public outcry), Siem Reap itself is home to many breathtakingly ornate Buddhist pagodas and Hindu temples, as well as interesting museums chronicling everything from the Khmer Empire to the Cambodian Civil War.
If you’re planning to go on a cruise in 2020, try Slovenia. Both Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises plan to add the seaport of Koper to their itineraries in 2020. In Koper, a southwestern city with strong Italian and Croatian influences, travelers can enjoy the beauty of the Gulf of Venice accented by Gothic and Baroque architecture, explore history in centuries-old palaces and city squares and try traditional Slovenian cuisine.
Hammamet is located on the southeastern coast of Tunisia’s Cape Bon Peninsula. Over the years, the resort town has maintained its charm, aided by the laid-back and friendly nature of local Tunisians. Surrounded by citrus trees and olive groves, this Maghrebi oasis has pristine white beaches with minimal crowds, and the smell of jasmine seems to permeate everywhere (and taken home in the form of souvenirs). Low-budget British airline EasyJet has announced it will be adding flights to Enfidha-Hammamet International Airport from London’s Gatwick Airport in May 2020, adding more options for travelers looking to save on their tickets.
The hotel boom in the Maldives is as great in multitude as it is in quality, and there are so many impressive, new accommodations that guests may find it hard to choose where to make a reservation. Among the properties that opened their doors in the last year are Baglioni Resort Maldives, the secluded and swanky Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi and the sustainability-focused InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, located close to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Known for its clear waters, world-renowned scuba diving, coral stone mosques and stunning resort villas, the Maldives can get pretty expensive so it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll need to budget properly in order to afford your dream vacation.
An encouraging tourism board, helped by the fact that nonstop flights from New York City’s JFK Airport are expected to start in the spring, makes Denmark’s Faroe Islands a welcoming place for tourists. Meanwhile, the second half of 2020 will also see the debut of the first international hotel brand to operate on the islands when the Hilton Garden Inn Faroe Islands opens in the capital city of Torshavn. While the sheep do outnumber people two to one, the Faroe Islands actually have no indigenous land mammals and are also known for their seabirds such as puffins and eiders. The North Atlantic Current helps keep the weather mild, and with rugged cliffs and deep fjords running along the coastline, the Faroe Islands are some of the most stunning remote islands in the world.
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