This weekend, Telegraph Travel will be showcasing the best destinations and deals for 2020. ‘Sunshine Sunday’ will see three of our reporters posting updates on social media from Sharm El Sheikh, Porto and Cape Town, while a live blog will highlight the best places to go, and who to book with. We also want you to share your travel tips for 2020 –where will you be going, and where would you urge other readers to visit? Leave your comments at the bottom of the article and we will publish the best recommendations. Here, our experts reveal 20 must-see places to put on your travel radar.
‘At a time when overtourism is becoming overbearing, remote, underrated Guyana is a rarity more precious than gold’-Sarah Marshall
In a world so connected, it’s hard to imagine there are places still under the radar. But Guyana, a tangled mass of pristine rainforest on South America’s north-eastern tip, is one of the few spots on scratch maps likely to have its shiny foil intact.
Four centuries after Walter Raleigh came here looking for the fabled lost city of El Dorado, prospectors have struck gold in the form of offshore oil. Extraction is due to start in 2020, potentially catapulting the continent’s only English-speaking country from rags to riches, but this stalwart of sustainability is determined to keep its true treasures safe.
Learning valuable lessons from the outside world, some indigenous tribes in the interior are declining lucrative mining deals in favour of small-scale tourism. Rewa and Surama are shining examples of community-run eco lodges, and despite big ideas for the future there’s a shared agreement to keep development to a minimum. Take jungle treks in search of magnificent harpy eagles and goliath bird-eating spiders, enjoy boat rides amid rolling arapaima fish and learn about the culture of the Macushi tribe.
Almost 80 per cent of the country is covered in rainforest, home to thousands of plant and animal species, but the real attraction is wilderness itself. Teetering over the lip of Kaieteur Falls still feels like a discovery: in the absence of barriers, a misty valley stretches into infinity, and the only crowds are flocks of swifts darting through cascades of water to roost. Even though it’s one of South America’s greatest wonders, this mighty cataract receives as many visitors in a year as Machu Picchu gets in a day.
Frustrating to reach – largely via the Caribbean – a new route from Amsterdam via Suriname launched in September. But at a time when overtourism is becoming overbearing, remote, underrated Guyana is a rarity more precious than gold.
2. The Kimberley, Australia
‘It is a kind of wild, empty miracle’-Jonathan Bastable
In a world where space and solitude are almost impossible to find, the Kimberley – unaffected by the recent fires – is a kind of wild, empty miracle. This north-western corner of Australia is three times the size of England, but has a total population about the same as Bexhill-on-Sea’s. There are vast tracts of territory without a road or a village or any sign of human habitation.
You might find yourself standing alone on the smooth lip of a vertiginous waterfall; or wandering among the stripy beehive domes of the Bungle Bungle, a geological oddity as striking, in its way, as Uluru; or sitting awestruck in the presence of some of the oldest rock art in the world, vivid dancing figures painted by people who inhabited this terrain 15,000 years ago.
The Kimberley can be explored by sea, land or air. APT offers a coastal cruise that sets out from Broome and includes excursions inland. This year, the same operator introduces a 4×4 expedition that takes in spectacular sites such as the Purnululu National Park.
But a helicopter safari is perhaps still the best way to see the region. The starting point is Kununurra, an internal flight away from Perth or – beginning in May 2020 – from Melbourne. From on high, the mangal swamps lining the rivers form patterns like mossy green fractals. Saltwater crocodiles – “salties” as they are known – bask in the shallows. Some of these predators have been around so long that the chopper pilots know them by name: “the Gatekeeper”, “Godzilla” or “Mangrove Jack”.
Hotels in the Kimberley are few, and literally far between, but some of them are magnificent. El Questro, for example, is world class, an isolated hyperluxe hacienda on the banks of the Chamberlain river. The coastal Berkeley River Lodge consists of sumptuous tented cabins moored like yachts in the rolling dunes. You can sit on your veranda and gaze at the water – but you can’t go in for a swim because those breaking waves provide cover for salties. The ocean here is deadly as well as beautiful, and that fact somehow makes a sunset over the Timor Sea all the more magical.
3. Bangkok, Thailand
‘The world’s top architects, hoteliers and chefs are swooping in’-
Bangkok’s interest in all things cool and creative is opening up like a lotus flower, with some of the world’s top architects, hoteliers and chefs swooping in with an array of exciting new things to see, eat and do.
Most visible among them is the mirrored Mahanakhon building, designed by German-born Ole Scheeren, its striking asymmetric tower looming over the south side of the city like an enormous Jenga set. The just-opened skyscraper is home to the highest observation deck in town, a knee-trembling glass-floor skywalk and a knockout rooftop bar, and later this year will welcome the first Orient Express hotel from Accor, which will have 154 carriage-like rooms trimmed with leather and marquetry, and a swimming pool on the 78th floor.
From its windows you’ll be able to see the Chao Phraya river and the Jean-Michel Gathy-designed Four Seasons, a glittering high-rise with interconnecting courtyards, sky gardens, dramatic water features and a divine spa. Just down water is the modernist low-rise Capella, which counts 101 rooms (including 12 riverside villas with private gardens, pools and gondolas) and a restaurant from multi-award-winning Italian-Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco.
With so much competition, the Mandarin Oriental, the city’s grande dame, has pulled out all the stops to ensure it retains the title of Bangkok’s premier hotel, with a multi-million-pound refurbishment of the river wing, restaurants, and that wonderful waterside terrace and swimming pool.
‘Prepare to have your expectations confounded’-Emma Thomson
Few countries share Pakistan’s pariah status, but 2019 marked a positive shift and the trend looks set to strengthen. Imran Khan, the cricket legend-turned-prime minister, implemented an e-visa system making entry much simpler and faster, British Airways resumed direct London-Islamabad flights after an 11-year hiatus, and – most significant of all – it was given the royal stamp of approval when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent a week travelling around the country in October, marking the first royal visit in 13 years. Tour operators are finally taking notice (it should be pointed out that some never stopped) and travellers should too.
Prepare to have your expectations confounded. This is a land of fairies, shamans, blinged-out Bedford trucks, and the world’s best apricots. Its landscape is sculpted by gnarly glaciers, mint-blue rivers, and vast cauldrons of snow-capped mountains, of which 108 – more than Nepal and China combined – are over 7,000 metres high.
You can meet the pagan tribes of the Kalash valleys, snack on Swat valley strawberries, stay in immaculately restored former palaces, watch players battle it out on the highest polo field in the world – which featured in Michael Palin’s Himalaya TV series – uncover Silk Road remnants, visit fresco-filled mosques and a fort modelled on Tibet’s Potala Palace, and shop for raw rubies and lapis lazuli in the markets. Precautions and specialist travel insurance still need to be taken, but open-minded visitors travelling with a good operator will have no regrets.
5. New England, USA
‘It has a particular beauty that holds appeal year-round’-Sally Peck
Four hundred years ago, a band of 102 English outliers took a big risk, braving the stormy Atlantic to found their New England. They sailed from Plymouth to Plymouth in pursuit of religious freedom. Of course, many of them were less God-fearing than economic opportunists, and the virtuous folk forming their City Upon a Hill also performed a land-grab from the native people.
In 2020, to mark the anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage, the usually reserved and really rather British people of New England – the states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, in America’s north-east – are pulling out all the stops to celebrate.
The Wampanoag Ancestors Walk, regattas and the relaunch of Mayflower II, a full-scale replica that has undergone an £8.5 million restoration, will offer context to the pilgrims’ arrival. Visitors can also seek history along the Freedom Trail and by the Tea Party ships in Boston.
Beyond historic re-enactment (most thrillingly seen at Plimoth Plantation, where actors portray particular Puritans), any visit to New England requires a walk along the golden sandy beaches where the pilgrims first set foot. For this is the greatest pleasure of North America’s original colonies: here you’ll find the playground of the American elite.
From the gaudy Italianate Vanderbilt mansion in Newport to the low-slung beaches of Kennedy territory on Cape Cod to the quintessential shingled houses of Martha’s Vineyard, where the Obamas go each summer, New England has a particular beauty that holds appeal year-round.
Travel between these popular destinations, and spend time in ancient taverns in tiny villages, filled with clapboard houses clustered near white-steepled churches around a central green.
While “leaf peepers” arrive for the foliage season each autumn, you might brave the crowds a bit earlier, in August, to take full advantage of the beach scene.
6. Porto, Portugal
‘A swathe of sleek new hotels is coming to this magnificent city’-
Move over Lisbon, Porto is the one to watch for 2020 – from its new swathe of sleek hotels like Vila Foz, a 19th-century villa standing on the breezy seafront with gilded and stuccoed interiors, contrasting with designer Nini Andrade Silva’s modern extension to the new Torel Palace Porto (torelboutiques.com), housed in architecturally romantic Palacete Campos Navarro. Centrally located, its frescoed ceilings are crowned by a magnificently ornate skylight under which 24 bedrooms are named after the greats of Portuguese literature.
On the food front, the big news for 2020 is the second Michelin Star awarded to chef Rui Paula for his not-to-be-missed restaurant Casa de Chá da Boa Nova (casadechadaboanova.pt). Set among the rocks on the clifftop above the pounding Atlantic Ocean, this is architecture-inserted-into-landscape perfection, courtesy of Pritzker-prize winner Alvaro Siza Vieira. Paula weaves his magic with bounty from the sea beneath, from mussel éclairs to scarlet shrimps to lobster.
From culinary gold to the real thing; the new House of Filigree (houseoffiligree.com) offers a museum, an atelier and a boutique on Porto’s impressive Praca de Liberdade. It’s the idea of Luisa and Pedro, children of David Rosas, whose eponymous shops are found on Portugal’s grandest boulevards. Talented jewellery designer Luisa explains “this comes from a desire to protect and promote a Portuguese tradition in a changing world”.
Another Portuguese tradition is the culture of wine, and mid 2020 marks the launch of World of Wine or WOW (wow.pt), as its acronym shouts, by the Fladgate Partnership. With an investment of €100 million (£85 million), this complex is set to become one of the largest attractions in Portugal. The star of the show will be Portuguese wines from north to south, the Azores to Madeira, set within a wider global contact with, of course, restaurants and bars to experience them.
7. Puerto Rico
‘Beaches are the big draw here’-Mark C O’Flaherty
2020 is a blockbuster year for this sunny, unincorporated territory of the US. It is the 500th anniversary of its capital San Juan, while theatrical iconoclast Ivo van Hove is bringing West Side Story back to Broadway at the same time as Spielberg is rebooting it for the big screen. As the song from that musical begins: “Puerto Rico, you lovely island, island of tropical breezes, always the pineapples growing, always the coffee blossom blowing.”
When Hurricane Maria settled on Puerto Rico in autumn 2017, it looked like the end of days for one of the most spirited and underappreciated parts of the Caribbean. A Herculean local effort largely put it back on its feet, although a recent spate of earthquakes caused fresh damage in the south-west of the island.
Nevertheless, visitors should not be deterred – most of the island’s beach towns and offshore islands are as beautiful as ever. The birthday boy, San Juan, is the best place to start – the steep streets full of candy-coloured buildings in the Old Town are some of the most photogenic in the Caribbean, while the sounds of reggaeton emanate from every other passing car. There are great dive bars and designer outlets and a strip of mega resorts that stretch along Condado beach just outside the city, each serving its own version of the local treasure – the piña colada.
Beaches are as big a draw here as anywhere else in the Caribbean – to the west of the city is Dorado, which is as beautiful as any in Antigua or St Lucia. Better still are the largely deserted beaches of Vieques – a tiny island reachable by ferry or puddle jumper flight, with a bohemian vibe, world-class dining and a bioluminescent bay that glows like a Disney cartoon as you kayak through it. Back on the main island, the tropical rainforest of El Yunque remains a must for all visitors. There are currently plans to create a direct road link between the forest and the coast, via the towns of Luquillo and Fajardo.
‘The snow reliability is matched by spectacular local food and wine’
Cat Weakley. The former Soviet republic of Georgia, sandwiched between Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, not only has a Black Sea coastline, but the high peaks of the Caucasus mountain range hug its northern border. While the mountains have always been there, the ski resorts are now a feasible destination from the UK, thanks to new low-cost flights and tour operator packages.
With 35km of pistes, the largest ski resort in Georgia is Gudauri. Also on the radar are Tetnuldi and Hatsvali near the remote village of Mestia, with 19km between them, and the 30km of Bakuriani, which will host skiing World Championships in 2023. While they sound tiny compared with Alpine destinations, the snow reliability delivered by mountains stretching from 3,000m to more than 5,000m, off-piste opportunities, diverse architecture and spectacular local food and wine – including Georgian champagne – are also reasons to go. Mestia is in the Upper Svaneti, a Unesco World Heritage site thanks to the unusual tower houses in its medieval villages.
Wizz Air launched its good-value twice-weekly flights from London Luton to the city of Kutaisi in June. The city, home to an ancient cathedral, is approximately four and a half hours’ drive from Mestia – three hours closer than the capital, Tbilisi. However you get there, be prepared for adventure – as Christoffer Sjostrom, the Swedish photographer, told us after his trips there last winter, roads up to Mestia’s resorts remain narrow and unpaved; a four-wheel drive is essential.
9. The British coast
‘Why fly when we have it all on our doorstep?’-Richard Madden
Staycations have never been so popular. As the planet heats, we are all looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprints. Why fly halfway around the globe when we have it all on our doorstep? Due to a happy accident of tectonic plate movement, volcanic activity, and the rise and fall of oceans over billions of years, Britain has some of the most diverse landscapes of any country of a similar size in the world. And nowhere is this diversity more compelling than around its edges.
The coastline of mainland Britain is around 4,000 miles long and almost all of the England Coast Path – a new 2,800-mile continuous National Trail – will be open in 2020. Highlights include the South West Coast Path, regularly voted “Britain’s Best Walk”, and the Norfolk Coast Path – both of which are famous for their numerous creeks, bays, estuaries, lakes, lagoons, beaches, cliffs, coves and woodland valleys.
Then there are our magical offshore islands. In the south we have the Isles of Scilly with their tropical gardens, remote beaches and other-worldly vibe, the eight contrasting Channel Islands, and the often-overlooked Isle of Wight. In the mystical north, the Hebrides, the Shetland Islands and the Orkneys have stunning coastlines, white-sand beaches and prehistoric remains such as the Callanish Stones on Lewis and the Neolithic houses of Skara Brae in the Orkneys.
Looking for a coastal road trip? Nowhere beats the Isle of Arran, like a Scotland in miniature, with its castles, mountains, lochs, glens, moorlands, bays and beaches. And for wildlife-lovers, the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumbria – Sir David Attenborough’s favourite UK wildlife site – are home to thousands of seals and puffins and some of the most electrifying seabird colonies in Britain.
10. Tokyo, Japan
‘Seduces and surprises in equal measure’-Danielle Demetriou
It’s a city of soaring skyscrapers, punches of neon and heaving crossings; as well as leafy lanes, quiet local shrines and generations-old rice-cracker shops. The contrasts of Tokyo have long seduced and surprised in equal measure – and its allure will shine brighter in 2020, as it counts down to hosting the Summer Olympic Games.
The city is currently in a state of suspended anticipation. Flurries of new hotels are opening, vast urban developments are being unveiled, and long-standing infrastructural upgrades are being completed.
The new National Stadium in Shinjuku, designed by architect Kengo Kuma – known as the “timber temple”, owing to its expanses of minimal, natural wood – was completed this month. It’s one of 42 venues, from the redeveloped Ariake area of Tokyo Bay (a major hub, with arenas and sports parks not far from the Olympic Village) to the Imperial Palace Gardens (for the athletics walk race).
Tokyo last hosted the games in 1964 and showcased in gripping style its postwar recovery as a rising global power. The focus of the 2020 Games is, similarly, reconstruction – this time in the context of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. And so Fukushima, a north-east region famed for its rice, peaches and mountains (before becoming globally synonymous with the nuclear crisis), is where the torch relay will begin.
Back in the capital, those keen to escape the Olympic crowds (and summer humidity) have countless options – and top of the list should perhaps be Hokkaido, the northernmost main island, famed for its flower fields, fresh seafood and cooler summertime climes.
Closer are the former ancient capital of Kyoto, and Osaka, known for its food and lively atmosphere (with direct BA flights from London) – both just a couple of hours by bullet train from Tokyo.
11. St Vincent and the Grenadines
‘Cool newcomers are drawing in a fresh crowd’-Emma O’Kelly
Reggae beats on Bequia, perfect picket fences on Mustique, the glowering volcanic presence of St Vincent – the 32 islands that make up St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are a rich mix. A long-kept secret among yachties who for years have glided from one island to another other across shimmering waters, unfussed by the region’s not-quite-five-star charms, the archipelago is finally opening up to those who like their luxuries fully grounded.
Among them is French designer Philippe Starck, who for two years propped up Basil’s Bar on Mustique, revamping and reopening it this year. Nearby on tiny Mayreau (accessible only by boat), a rash of new villas with their own docks and a $5 million beach is breaking ground; while the Plantation Hotel brings a buzz to laid-back Bequia, where nine cabanas set on a private beach up the ante without altering the amicable status quo between locals and tourists.
Of all the islands, Canouan looks set to hit the headlines in 2020. Last year, Mandarin Oriental opened its first resort on its eastern shore. Open so far: 14 villas with infinity pools, Jacuzzis and golf carts (another dozen will join them soon), a restaurant, a spa, and the beach club is the buzziest spot on the island. And next year, cool newcomers will start drawing in a fresh crowd. Aman Hotels is said to be joining the fray in 2020, while Soho House is putting down roots in the former Tamarind Beach Hotel and Yacht Club.
A new runway (the Caribbean’s longest) and marina with deep-anchor berths has made this the most accessible Grenadine island for those with superyachts and private jets.
Canouan is the Amerindian word for turtle – a moniker that could apply to any of the islands. Hawksbills swim freely in the crystal blue waters; tortoises and iguanas lounge in the mangroves; hummingbirds flit among the frangipani flowers. Nature rules, especially at Tobago Cays, a clutch of five uninhabited islands and a protected marine park, where coral reefs teem with clown fish, moray eels and manta rays, largely undisturbed – for now – by the building work above the waves.
12. Marrakech, Morocco
‘Watch in awe as the city rushes past’-Paula Hardy
The minute you hit the dusty streets of the Medina, you can tell that Marrakech is a city on the move. Mopeds and bikes career through ancient alleys, donkey carts stacked with oranges nudge their way through the crowds, their riders shouting “balek!” (“move it!”), and carpet sellers dash after prospective customers with their absolute last price. Really. Follow the local lead and leap to the sidelines to watch in awe as the city rushes past.
But where is everyone going? As Africa’s first Capital of Culture in 2020, the Pink City is on the road to a rosier future. The Medina (historic walled city) is just emerging from an extensive facelift, its 1,000-year-old walls wearing a glowing mud mask, its Jewish quarter (the Mellah) restored, while the shops, doors and alleys of the souks have been refitted, repaired and paved.
The art scene, too, has exploded. Over the past decade, Marrakech has hosted Morocco’s first biennale, its first visual arts school and its first international art fair, 1-54, which returns on Feb 22 and 23. Satellite events will accompany it in ground-breaking new galleries such as Macaal (Morocco’s first contemporary African art museum), Comptoir des Mines Galerie and Dada Marrakech.
Foreigners have long been entranced by the city’s colours, light and creativity, and now the children of the Moroccan diaspora are returning home, starting a new renaissance. Seek it out at Riad Yima, the teahouse of pop art artist Hassan Hajjaj, and fusion restaurant L’Mida; enjoy it in the playful modern ceramics of Bouchra Boudoua and the sustainable beauty products of The Moroccans; admire it in the hyper-creative couture collections of Artsi Ifrach and Amine Bendriouich. And expect much more to come, because Marrakech is just getting started.
13. Rijeka and the Kvarner Gulf, Croatia
‘Brimming with energy and attitude’-Linda Cookson
In 2020, as Croatia assumes presidency of the EU, its third-largest city is getting ready to razzle-dazzle as the European Capital of Culture (an honour shared with Galway in Ireland). Step forward the edgy port of Rijeka – a melting pot of cultural diversity, where wedding-cake Habsburg palaces, a baroque cathedral and a Roman fortress jostle cheek-by-jowl with rusty cranes, agitprop murals and billboards stickered with posters for gigs in underground venues.
Stuffed with students, and brimming with energy and attitude, the city pipped Dubrovnik and Split to the post for the title, and is thriving in its newfound recognition. Former industrial sprawls have been renovated and repurposed into vibrant art spaces (an old sugar factory has become a “Children’s House” with library and puppet theatre), and visitors can expect a feast of festivals, concerts and exhibitions
The ace up Rijeka’s sleeve is the glamour of its coastal location – bang on the edge of Croatia’s dazzling blue Kvarner Gulf region, which will share in the 2020 celebrations. Its elegant 19th-century resort Opatija, a former hideaway for royalty and arty luminaries, is just 15 minutes from Rijeka. Opatija slipped into genteel obscurity as visitors defected to neighbouring Istria and Dalmatia. But now that Rijeka’s small airport is open for international flights, the Gulf is firmly back on the map. So, too, are its fairy-tale islands. Ravishing Rab, with its medieval walled town jutting into the Adriatic like the prow of a ship, is the undisputed jewel in a glittering crown. Or visit herb-drenched Losinj for laid-back “wellness” retreats.
‘There’s nothing like the pizzazz of the Valley of the Kings’-Harriet O’Brien
The Tutankhamun exhibition, running until May at London’s Saatchi Gallery, offers a fix of wonder. Yet its exquisite statuettes and jewellery are mere tasters of the treasures and sights to be seen in Egypt. Most of its marvels simply can’t be transported. There’s nothing quite like the pizzazz of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, or the majesty of the Great Sphinx of Giza. And then there’s all the natural glory, from dreamy views on a Nile cruise to vibrant coral in the Red Sea.
Nile cruising featured in our must-do list for 2019, and in 2020 there are even more reasons to visit Egypt. A star-studded remake of Death on the Nile (with director Kenneth Branagh playing Poirot) will encapsulate the glam nostalgia of the country’s river cruises when it is released in October. In preparation, Uniworld River Cruises is launching stylish SS Sphinx, while Sanctuary Retreats has given luxe Sanctuary Nile Adventurer a beautiful makeover.
The world’s largest archaeological museum, the Grand Egyptian Museum on the Giza Plateau, will open in autumn, housing some 100,000 objects, from Tutankhamun’s gold-plated coffin to a gigantic statue of Ramesses II dominating the atrium.
Direct flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh have resumed after four years: the Red Sea resort is accessible from Gatwick and Birmingham, with services from other airports on the way.
15. Patagonia, Argentina/Chile
‘There are king penguins to ogle and king crabs to eat’-Chris Moss
On March 31 1520, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan made landfall at 49 degrees south on the Atlantic coast of the recently discovered American continent. His diarist, Antonio Pigafetta, tells us he named the spot San Julián.
On meeting the locals, who were of unusually tall stature, Magellan baptised the territory Patagonia, after a race of giants featuring in a popular romance of the era. Only avid anniversary-hunters will aspire to stand on the beachhead where the mythical christening occurred (today, Puerto San Julián is an unprepossessing former meat-packing town) but half a millennium is as good an excuse as any to holiday in Argentine Patagonia.
North lies the green valley of the Río Chubut, colonised by the Welsh, and now a popular drive (from the Atlantic to the Andes, following the pioneers’ route) and a flat but, at 400-odd miles, long bike ride (tip: pedal Andes to Atlantic, with the wind behind). South lie the wildlife wonders of Puerto Deseado, a tidal inlet full of porpoises and nesting cormorants, and Monte León national park, with its Magellanic penguins, rheas, whales and guanacos. The island of Tierra del Fuego has king penguins to ogle and king crabs to eat. In the Andes, pioneering hotelier Explora plans to open a new property in trekking hub El Chaltén in late 2020.
Over in Chile, Awasi Patagonia, the region’s most luxurious lodge, is pioneering conservation-minded tourism with its puma reserve, while the newly launched Ruta de Parques (Route of Parks) – a project led by philanthropist Kris Tompkins and founded with her late husband Doug – spans 17 national parks and 1,700 miles of trails, linking up Puerto Montt and the Lake District, Balmaceda in underexplored Aysén, and Torres del Paine national park.
Much of Chilean Patagonia is best enjoyed on cruises that ply the southern fjords and glacier-hewn channels. In Punta Arenas are replicas of the Nao Victoria (the flagship of the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation), HMS Beagle and the lifeboat James Caird, used by Sir Ernest Shackleton for the famous Elephant Island rescue of 1916.
When Bruce Chatwin visited Patagonia in 1975, he spun his celebrated travelogue out of a quirky, empty, other-worldly place. These qualities are still abundant. Visit from October to May for the kindest weather. If you’re on a budget, camp your way around; no-frills carriers Norwegian and FlyBondi (in Argentina) and JetSmart and Sky (in Chile) now compete on Patagonian routes with Latam and Aerolíneas Argentinas,
‘This most laid-back of nations will calm then entrance you’
Touching down on the world’s diciest runway may be a white-knuckle introduction to the Kingdom of Bhutan, but this most laid-back of nations, perched at the far end of the Hindu Kush Himalayas, will soon calm then entrance you with its “slowly, slowly” approach to existence.
King Jigme Wangchuck sets an example: once he has had his morning swim in the country’s only indoor pool, it is open to the public. The “hermit kingdom” limits entry visas to ensure that you feel more a visitor, less a tourist, and lucky enough to wander lush forests in the south, or watch traditional archery contests in the fertile Lobesa Valley in the west.
Most of Bhutan is forested: oaks and walnut trees draped with moss and orchids overhang deep gorges of rushing emerald-coloured rivers. A quarter is nature reserve, where the golden takin (a goat-like mammal) hides in the forest and eagles wheel above sacred peaks. Buddhism defines life in Bhutan, with more than 2,000 temples whose red-robed monks depend on daily offerings and shoo away stray but loved dozing dogs.
Hike with your guide up to the beautiful Tiger’s Nest dzong (fortified monastery) that clings to a mountain side above Paro, or join the four-day Tshechu festival crowds inside the imposing dzong of ancient capital Punakha. The brilliant colours of flags and traditional costume, the beaming, noisy families picnicking on chilli and rice, and the sight of ceremonies unchanged in a thousand years overload the senses.
Luxury operator Six Senses opens its fifth lodge in Bhutan next spring, as does &Beyond. From a hilltop stay above bustling capital Thimpu, to Gangtey Lodge in the Phobjikha Valley, they blend with the landscape and culture to offer a unique experience in this sublimely unspoilt country. Don’t wait too long.
17. Valence, France
‘A squad of young chefs are bursting through to the sunlit uplands’
No sane person would accuse the French of false modesty. They maintain they have the world’s finest cuisine. And, right now, they are designating the Rhône valley as the International Valley of Gastronomy. This is one of those amorphous, mega-projects favoured by the French, embracing exhibitions, visits, festivals and anything else promoting eating as a tourist draw.
This has to be the French food destination of 2020 – and Valence (pop: 63,000) is the town to head for. The Rhône has been a communication corridor for millennia, not least swinging French holidaymakers to the Med on the RN7. Valence has been feeding travellers for a long time and top-class vittles flow in from all around: Rhône wines, fruit and veg from the Drôme plain, freshwater fish, and meat from the Massif Central.
Take these ingredients to their culminating point and you arrive at Maison Pic where, between the wars, king-sized grandad André already had three Michelin stars. More recently, his granddaughter Anne-Sophie has regained them at what is one of France’s finest, dearest, tables (anne-sophie-pic.com; dinner menus from £152). A bouncier bistro honours André, menus from £33.
But Valence also has a squad of young chefs bursting through to the sunlit uplands. In the jazz-tinged Flaveurs (0033 475 560840; menus from £32), Baptiste Poinot’s talent for improvisation has bagged a Michelin star, as has Masashi Ijichi’s marriage of Japan and the French south at La Cachette (0033 475 552413; menus from £25).
More trad eateries also thrive and the Saturday morning market on Place des Clercs is unmissable as, at the Nivon bakery (nivon.com), are the local suisses: sugar-crust pastry figures inspired by Papal Swiss guards (long story). They look like Captain Pugwash. It all comes to the boil with the Valence en Gastronomie festival in September (valenceengastronomiefestival.fr). It is, though, wonderful at any time, with an Armenian heritage summed up in the first-rate Centre du Patrimoine Arménien (le-cpa.com), and is minutes from the mountains.
18. South Africa
‘The indisputable champion of the sub-Saharan safari’-Simon Parker
Still basking in the glow of its 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph, Africa’s southernmost superpower will in 2020 reaffirm itself as the indisputable champion of the sub-Saharan safari.
Just one year after welcoming its founding pride of lions, Samara Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape is celebrating the birth of its first cubs. In KwaZulu-Natal, the &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve will launch a first-of-its-kind Night Eye Experience, allowing khaki-clad night owls to unlock the shadowy mysteries of the African bush, with infrared cameras.
Further north, the not-for-profit luxury Lepogo Lodges camp on the banks of the Limpopo will be the first in Africa to offset the carbon footprints of each and every one of its guests.
Beyond the savannah, the national cricket team will look to do the sporting double over England in a highly anticipated quadrennial tour, including a showpiece new year’s Newlands Test match beneath Table Mountain. Telegraph readers adore Cape Town – voting it their favourite city on the planet for the seventh year running in our 2019 Travel Awards.
But the most exciting new food scene is being rustled up 70 miles east in the whale-watching hub of Hermanus. It’s been crowned South Africa’s first Unesco City of Gastronomy, due to its proximity to some of the very best wine and seafood on earth. From playing field to plate, Atlantic to Indian Ocean, coming first remains a national obsession.
19. Svalbard, Norway
‘A remarkable cluster of glacier-clad islands’-Chris Leadbeater
These things are, of course, relative – but there may just be merit to the argument that the Arctic is less appreciated by travellers than its southern counterpart. Perhaps it is a matter of historical record. Where the Antarctic has its milestones and wild stories (Scott and Amundsen’s race for the Pole in 1911; the former’s heroic demise as a result; Shackleton’s endeavours three years later) the opposite end of the planet has always had a certain intangibility – the first confirmed sighting of 90 degrees north (Amundsen again) was not until 1926.
This coming year will pull it more into focus. An exhibition at the British Museum (britishmuseum.org), tentatively titled Arctic Homelands, Changing Climates, will gaze at the region through the lens of a steadily warming world (May 28-Aug 23). But while the voices of communities in Greenland and upper Canada will be audible in Bloomsbury, tourists who want a first-hand glimpse of the Arctic should head for Svalbard.
Norway’s remarkable cluster of glacier-clad mountainous islands is also in the public eye at present – as the effective setting of (though not the filming location for) the BBC’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Despite its casting as a realm run by talking polar bears, and its extreme latitude (between 74 and 81 degrees north), the archipelago is remarkably accessible, and can be visited in both high winter (when the 24-hour darkness is spiced by the green-white-red interruptions of the Northern Lights) and midsummer, when round-the-clock daylight aids exploration). The Greg Mortimer – the eco-conscious polar vessel launched by Aurora Expeditions last October, whose inverted bow is meant to reduce seasickness – will make its Arctic debut in 2020.
20. The Black Forest, Germany
‘Almost every inch is mapped for hikers and cyclists’-Kerry Walker
More green than black in every sense of the word, the Black Forest is blazing a trail in environmentally friendly travel like never before in 2020, with a new Unesco Biosphere Reserve protecting 244 sq miles of its sylvan loveliness. Wildlife roams freely and human intervention is minimal in the reserve, which spreads across fir-draped mountains, meadows and moors, where glacier-carved lakes and the country’s highest waterfalls splash.
Tucked into the pleats and folds of the forest are ridiculously pretty half-timbered towns and cuckoo clocks as big as houses, seemingly plucked straight from the pages of a Grimm fairy tale. A back-of-beyond farm stay is perhaps the best way to appreciate the woodsy silence, and the region is full of them, many affording views of spruce forests rising like theatre curtains above cow-grazed meadows. When the seasonal dump of snow arrives in winter, the scenery is pure Christmas card stuff.
Even by the loftiest standards, this woodland-gone-wild corner of south-west Germany is remarkably in tune with nature: almost every inch is diligently mapped and signposted for hikers and cyclists, e-bikers and cross-country skiers, persuading travellers to swap the car for the trail. Free with overnight stays, the Konus guest card helps to keep things low-impact, too, letting you explore by public transport without spending a cent.
City-wise, Freiburg flaunts impeccable eco credentials with its 59-home PlusEnergy Solar Settlement, Green City Hotel in the car-free Vauban district, and a brand-new town hall that is the world’s first public net-surplus-energy building. Sustainable travel? It’s a piece of (Black Forest) cake.