With a new year of travel about to begin, here we present International Traveller’s hotspots for 2020.
Behold: the countries, regions and cities that will reward the effort you put into them with grand landscapes, fascinating traditions and interesting people.
Qatar appears to be in step with Abu Dhabi’s anti-Dubai imprint when it comes to avoiding over-development.
Intrepid travellers will find a lot to love here, from French architect Jean Nouvel’s triumphant National Museum of Qatar in the capital of Doha to the sun-drenched beaches that line the Arabian Sea to a compelling desert culture that stretches back through the sands of time. Qataris pride themselves on their hospitality, which will be on show when the country hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
2. Jaisalmer, India
The fort of Jaisalmer sits atop a sprawling hilltop like a giant sandcastle looming over ‘The Golden City’ in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Jaisalmer is a photographer’s dream, with the path to the royal palace in the main square built to receive the first rays of dawn’s buttery light each day.
Pay a few crumpled rupees to travel by tuk-tuk along parts of the ancient trade route to the citadel, which offers a glimpse at what life might have been like in the medieval city in the midst of the Thar Desert.
As the frontier-storming allure of smaller South American countries have grabbed the attention of travellers in the last few years, Argentina has waited quietly in the wings. But with its diversity of offerings – from the extreme wilderness of glaciers, deserts, mountains, jungle and coastline to the mesmerising capital of Buenos Aires, and rich cultural heritage of tango and gauchos – Argentina is more than ready to seduce the imagination once again.
4. Timişoara, Romania
It became Timișoara’s time to shine when it was announced that the Romanian city would be the European Capital of Culture in 2021. As well as being the place where the 1989 Romanian Revolution started, Timișoara also lays claim to being the second place in the world (after New York) to have electric street lamps.
The city, which is made up of 30 different cultures, still attracts the brightest minds and progressive thinkers who have bolstered its stocks as a place to go to sample hearty traditional cuisine, admire stunning architecture and learn about its proud people and history.
If Brexit ever goes ahead, the Scots may very well take the high road out of the UK. The Scottish national identity has never been stronger, as it punches well above its weight with everything from cuisine to culture. Take the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, the famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the drama of the landscape – from the Highlands to the islands. Even Prince Charles appears to be plugged into the zeitgeist: he opened the doors to the gorgeous Granary Lodge earlier this year, putting the Castle and Gardens of Mey on the map, too.
Located in the heart of the Cyclades, a 3.5-hour ferry ride from Athens, Paros is the Greek island of everyone’s dreams – all whitewashed villages, blue-domed churches, white sandy beaches and azure seas and skies.
While overtourism has all but killed the buzz in Mykonos and Santorini, Paros remains hidden in plain sight for the majority of the summer sun-seeking hordes. Opt to visit during the spring months or during autumn, as the island slowly slinks into its winter hibernation, and you can enjoy a slower pace of life and have its unfailingly photogenic vistas almost all to yourself.
While it may be known as ‘the Windy City’, Wellington could well be rebranded as New Zealand’s capital of cool. Blessed with killer good looks, it’s a compact city hemmed in by hills and a harbour, and encircled with an emerald necklace of reserves and parklands.
Aside from its natural beauty, the world’s southernmost capital has a lot happening, from food events such as Wellington on a Plate to fashion festivals like World of Wearable Art. Inspire Instagram envy by filling your feed with shots of its colourful houses, graffiti-clad laneways and craggy coastline.
Sandwiched between Algeria and Libya, with a long, languid stretch of Mediterranean coastline, Tunisia has played a decisive role in the history of the region it inhabits – is was the site of the ancient city of Carthage and, more recently, sparked the Arab Spring.
Today the North African country hypnotises with its mix of culture, landscapes – from waterfront villages to wide expanses of desert – gracious traditions and stunning accommodation options, from the spectacular new Anantara Tozeur Resort in the Sahara to the 17th-century riad Dar Ben Gacem in the medina in the capital, Tunis.
The Republic of Mauritius, located off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, is made up of a collection of islands, the biggest and most populace of which is Mauritius, with its capital of Port Louis.
While it takes effort and a few flights to get there, it’s worth the long haul to experience its considerable charms: the warm welcome of the Mauritian people, the lovely flora and fauna (including deer), many species of which are endemic to the islands, and the wonders of its landscape, such as the bewildering 7-Coloured Earth of Chamarel, a volcanic geological phenomenon in which seven colours of earth are swirled together to delicious effect.
The acceptable face of North America at the moment, Canada is a something-for-everyone mix of cosmopolitan cities (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary… decisions, decisions), compelling First Nations culture and, of course, endless swathes of jaw-dropping nature inhabited by everything from polar and grizzly bears to moose and whales.
Whether you head there in winter to ski the slopes of Jasper, Whistler and the like, or opt for a summer getaway to make the most of ‘cottage season’, there’s almost no bad time to visit this nation of 37.5 million. And there’s no Donald Trump, which is a selling point in its own right.
When Vanuatu’s most venerated leader, chief Roi Mata, brokered a peace deal between the ni-Vanuatu people in the early 17th century he put an end to tribal fighting in the South Pacific archipelago. Judging by the grins of the locals, peace continues to influence the vibe here.
While the islands of Efate (home of the capital, Port Vila), Lelepa and Artok are ripe for exploration, the true bliss of Vanuatu’s 83 islands, scattered like confetti across the impossibly blue waters, is the paradisiacal escape they offer to anyone willing to go looking for it.