20 places you gotta visit in 2020
It feels like Thanksgiving was five minutes ago and Easter was last week, but here we are at the end of 2019. And if you’ve got any cash left after Christmas shopping, it’s time to book a getaway in the New Year. So whip out the calendar and get planning—from the ends of the Earth to your own backyard, these are 20 of the hottest destinations to visit in 2020.
1. The Netherlands
No city suffers from over-tourism like the cannabis-caked canals of Amsterdam, where they’ve even dismantled that Instagram-famous I Amsterdam sign to fight the Disneyfication of their town. It’s time to explore other parts of the Netherlands, like the dune-top Stayokay Terschelling overlooking the coast, the quirky Stayokay Gorssel in an old hunting lodge, plus 12 new Wikkelhouses across the country—cabins fashioned out of recycled cardboard.
After years of instability, Egypt is finally becoming safer to travel to—direct flights are returning to Cairo, and so are visitors. The Land of the Pharaohs appears on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel for 2020—also the year that the new Grand Egyptian Museum is due to open in Giza, revealing the treasures of the pyramids, Indiana Jones-style.
Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2020, this bohemian corner of Ireland’s colourful west coast is looking forward to a calendar packed with music, dance, theatre and street performers gigging outside the city’s array of brightly painted pubs. Forget Dublin—another town trampled by too many tourists—the pints of Guinness taste better in Galway, where watering holes are full of locals rather than package holidaymakers.
Pencil August 2020 into your diary—Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel will have finished its makeover, and the cobbled streets of the Scottish capital will be pulsing with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Almost 300 bars, pubs, cafes and shipping containers around this Harry Potter-esque old town are transformed into gig venues for the Fringe, which is almost as big a party as Hogmanay, Edinburgh’s famously unhinged New Year’s festivities.
Speaking of New Year’s, there’s nowhere on earth you’d rather spend the final moments of 2020 than the rooftop of Sydney Harbour YHA. Keep your eye on YHA’s website to find out how you can snaffle one of the coveted rooftop tickets and a bed in this hostel overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the centrepiece of the dazzling fireworks display that ushers in the new year. This year, tickets sold out in only a matter of days way back in April.
6. New Orleans
NOLA is a town that knows how to party. And the brand new HI New Orleans is where you want to be nursing your hangover. You’ll be wowed from your first step into reception, which feels more like a boutique hotel than a backpackers, to the moment you step outside to explore the French Quarter, the perfect base for a Mardi Gras blow-out each February.
Since the first Great Exhibition in London in 1851, the world’s fair has given us the telephone, the Eiffel Tower and that great Simpsons episode where Bart gets a fake ID and road-trips to the Sunsphere in Knoxville. The World Expo’s next stop is Dubai in 2020—a six-month showcase of the future that surely promises some pretty groundbreaking stuff from the city that built the world’s tallest building, a ski slope in the desert and a world map out of man-made islands. Come on, Dubai—aren’t we overdue for flying cars, at least?
8. Lake Tekapo
Following in Frodo’s footsteps across New Zealand is a good idea whatever the number on the calendar reads. The brand new YHA Lake Tekapo is just another reason to visit in 2020. The custom-built hostel boasts million-dollar views over this serene body of water, a milky blue lake fringed by icy mountains. Lake Tekapo shimmers under the stars at night, in the heart of one of the planet’s few designated Dark Sky Reserves. You can get there on one of YHA New Zealand’s brand new small-group tours, which get started in May.
Out of the ruins of millennia-old landmarks (and the rubble of a much more recent financial crisis) emerges one of Europe’s most exciting—and affordable—destinations. Athens appears on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020 for its great-value food and drink scene, long list of free attractions (the Parthenon doesn’t cost a cent), and friendly exchange rate. Book your bed at the recently opened Welcommon Hostel, a sustainable seven-floor property run by an eco-friendly co-operative.
Ancient temples, space-age electronics and the 2020 Olympics sandwiched in between in the middle. Tokyo is an inexplicable cocktail of old and new that welcomes the world’s premier athletes this July and August. The 2019 Rugby World Cup was Japan’s dress rehearsal—carried off with as much precision as a to-the-second bullet train—and the 2020 Games will be an even bigger sporting explosion.
11. Rio de Janeiro
The same sporting extravaganza rolled into Rio four years ago, two years after Brazil also hosted the FIFA World Cup. The result today? Sparkly new infrastructure in Brazil’s most famous city—a 12-month-a-year destination that particularly comes alive during Carnival, when Rio swells with almost two million party animals every day. Add it to your bucket list in 2020.
Bargains are hard to find in Western Europe these days. You won’t have that problem in Liège. Only an hour or so’s drive from the borders of France, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg, this easily overlooked Belgian city is stuffed with great-value food and drink—which in Belgium means beer, beer and more beer. Liège looks a little rough around the edges but the freshly renovated Liège Youth Hostel certainly isn’t.
Oslo is a sophisticated place. And culture vultures have three new attractions to swoop on in the spring of 2020: a new museum for beloved local painter Edvard Munch, a new national gallery and a new main library, all in beautiful modern buildings on the waterfront by the fjord. Brainy backpackers, get booking.
Beachside Tel Aviv, historic Jerusalem and the buoyant waters of the Dead Sea have all cemented themselves on the backpacking map. Makhtesh Ramon hasn’t… yet. The world’s largest erosion crater—Israel’s answer to the Grand Canyon—forms part of the Negev desert’s otherworldly landscape, best appreciated from the 24 new rooms at the Mitzpe Ramon hostel perched on the edge of a cliff.
Wedged between the beaches of Brazil and the asados of Argentina, Uruguay somehow falls off many backpackers’ South American itineraries. But with so much of the rest of South America racked by protests and political upheaval, this tranquil corner of the continent is the perfect place to go in 2020—liberal, laid-back and lingering along 600 kilometres of sun-drenched Atlantic coastline.
While the quaint colonial streets of Lisbon are creaking under the weight of tourists jetting in on cheap European flights, it’s a good time to sample somewhere else in Portugal. Porto plates up world-class wine, wonderful weather and winding alleyways on the banks of the River Douro, as well as a top-notch HI hostel with unspoiled water views.
Cream-coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels, doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles. You’ll find all of your favourite things at the Salzburg Festival, which is turning 100 in 2020, so lace up your lederhosen and get your Sound of Music on for this six-week party across Salzburg in July and August. Vienna is throwing its own bash for Beethoven, 250 years after the composer was born in Germany and quickly adopted the Austrian capital as his home town.
Make like the Von Trapp family and escape across the Alps to Switzerland, where HI has three newly renovated HI hostels all in spectacular locations. Bern Youth Hostel is an ultra-modern property in the shadow of the capital’s opulent parliament building, Gstaad Saanenland Youth Hostel lies in the heart of the Swiss Alps, and Burgdorf Youth Hostel occupies a castle that has clung to the rocks above the Emme river for 900 years. Now that’s accommodation fit for royalty.
19. Cape Town
Warm weather 12 months a year, stunning ocean views from Table Mountain and endless vineyards in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, Cape Town well and truly deserves its reputation as one of Africa’s hottest destinations. Just ask Lonely Planet, who recognised the Cape Winelands as one of its top regions to see in 2020. And, yes, it’s safe to visit.
Last but not least, there’s a brand spanking new hostel in Canadians’ own backyard. Sitting on Sleepy Hollow Road just a stroll from downtown Jasper, HI Jasper is Canada’s newest hostel, showing off state-of-the-art facilities built with the backpacker of 2020 in mind. We’re talking a sauna, pool table, sparkly new kitchen, and spotless four-bed dorms and private ensuites with loads of privacy. It’s time to book that trip to the Rockies.
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