Your 2020 travel bucket list

The 24 destinations that will be especially hot this year — and the data you need to plan your trip


THE best way to plan a trip is to think about what you love to do and when you need a break — not which destination you have yet to check off some list. With these key points in mind, we tapped our network of in-the-know editors and global correspondents to deliver two dozen inspiring spots that will be particularly enticing this coming year.

Among them are far-flung places you may have never considered, such as the nomadic villages of Kyrgyzstan, the archaeological ruins deep in Guatemala and the pristine landscapes of Lombok, Indonesia.

There are also sleepy beach towns getting glammed up by posh hotels, or classic cities revitalised by hot restaurants and fresh cultural institutions. And if you’re looking for a chance to commune with the great outdoors or go on an animal adventure, we’ve got those, too.

All that’s left is for you to pick your favourite. Bon voyage! — Bloomberg

Ionian Islands
Free from the high prices and tempestuous winds that plague Mykonos and Santorini, the island chain where Odysseus set sail is emerging as a slower, more peaceful and — dare we say — more epic twist on Grecian summer.

For those spoiled by the Cyclades’ famed resorts, Kanoni Estate on Corfu can be booked via Red Savannah for groups of 18; it featured as Hector Gonzales’s mansion in the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only”. On Meganisi, villa rental agency Thinking Traveller offers the stunning Galatea, whose wraparound floor- to-ceiling windows face the sea.

But best of all might be climbing aboard the fully staffed Alexa J, a 38m schooner yacht with just one opulent cabin. She’ll spend her maiden season between Corfu and Zakynthos come April.

When to go: It’s easiest to chill on the sand in May, June, or September, when you’re likely to be surrounded by more Greeks than foreign tourists. But some may prefer the party atmosphere of July or the slow-paced (and less hot) months of April and October.

When not to go: Athenians head to the islands for their own vacations in August, which means the capital shuts down and the islands are overrun. Smaller islands are dead from November to March; nothing will be open.

Whom to call: Jacoline Vinke of Trufflepig Travel.

Move over, Croatia: This tiny Balkan nation has slowly positioned itself as the new jewel of the Adriatic with a mix of centuries-old villages, aristocratic mansions and activities beyond its pebbly beaches.

Local adventure outfit Black Mountain is beginning conservation-centric journeys to see the brown bear, gray wolf, Eurasian lynx and other threatened species in Durmitor and Biogradska Gora national parks. Connect those destinations with the sun-drenched, crowd-free coast, where Iberostar, Melía and Karisma Hotels & Resorts have opened properties in the past year. And don’t miss Portonovi, a billion-dollar, 60-acre (24.3ha) yachting playground on Boka Bay. In June, its marina will welcome Europe’s first One&Only resort and an Espace Chenot spa.

Cruise right in, or fly Lufthansa to the port town of Tivat. Either way, you’ll bypass hectic Dubrovnik.

When to go: The weather is warm enough for swimming through October, and those early fall months offer great deals. So does late spring, when nights can still be crisp.

When not to go: It’s not Dubrovnik, but summer — especially July and August — still lures relatively crazy crowds.

Whom to call: Jill Taylor of Jetset World Travel.

It’s a logistical challenge to hit this destination’s nomadic villages, picturesque mosques and Brutalist architecture on one luxury trip.

But Steppes Travel, which has led vacations in Kyrgyzstan since the ’90s, now offers en suite yurts along the mystical shores of Song Kol Lake and helicopter service to sidestep bumpy back roads to see the country’s three 23,000ft-plus mountains.

Voygr, another high-end adventure operator, offers your best chance at sighting a snow leopard with guided walks in the Tien Shan mountain range. And for the easiest (and plushest) CliffsNotes introduction, Golden Eagle Luxury Trains will inaugurate its Republics of the Silk Road route in the spring.

When to go: May through September is favourable. June to August might be the hottest months, but they’re also when nomads are most active grazing their herds in the alpine meadows, and it’s when the National Horse Games and falconry festivals take place.

When not to go: November through March. Winters here are harsh, with lots of snow and hard frost rendering the country’s spectacular lakes and mountains inaccessible.

Whom to call: Jarrod Kyte of Steppes Travel.

Finger Lakes
Named for its 11 digit-shaped lakes, this bucolic region in central New York is better known for its waterfall-studded state parks than its worthy food scene or cultural heritage. But the area counts more than 100 wineries — of which Red Tail Ridge was the first to win a coveted James Beard nomination last year. It’s roughly an hour south of the wine-centric new-American restaurant Redd, an offshoot of the Michelin- starred Redd Wood in Napa Valley.

For sophisticated accommodations, American Girl founder Pleasant Rowland owns five inns in her beloved college town, Aurora, and the Brooklyn-based design wizards at Studio Tack will open the Lake House on Canandaigua this summer, complete with a spa and timber-framed event barn.

The Finger Lakes are also a birthplace of the women’s rights movement and will commemorate the 19th Amendment’s centennial with parades, museum exhibits and a new home for the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

When to go: Prioritise the harvest in August and September, which is always the most exciting time to visit any wine region. May and early June are also lovely, if a bit cool.

When not to go: It’s downright frigid from December to February, though wine makers tend to compensate by being generous with their attention and their pours.

Whom to call: Gregory Nacco of Food and Wine Trails.

Northern Italy
Sicily and Puglia will continue to trend, but 2020 is the year to head north.

Start in Milan, where the owners of Galleria Vik have adorned 89 stuccoed rooms with their fabulous contemporary art. One of the world’s best chefs, Massimo Bottura, and his wife, Lara, have done the same at their new 12-room country estate, near Modena — Casa Maria Luigia has Warhols and Hirsts to spare.

Even further up, the Dolomites region is busily preparing for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Cortina. Depending on your interests, you can book into Lefay Resort & Spa, a wellness retreat with thermal pools, fitness trails and a medicinal garden in Trento; Castel Hörtenberg, with 24 elegant rooms in medieval Bolzano; or the Adler Lodge Ritten, a hypermodern chalet kissing the Austrian border.

When to go: April, May and June are particularly good months in every destination throughout the region; you’ll get good weather for hiking, even in the far north, as well as excellent produce on your plate. Fall is a close second best for all the same reasons.

When not to go: As in Paris, much of the region shuts down for vacation in August — especially in the Dolomites. High summer is generally too hot and humid, anyway.

Whom to call: Andrea Grisdale of IC Bellagio.

Sleeping in the shadow of El Capitan never fails to send a chill up your spine. Unfortunately, that’s been due in part to a lack of comfortable accommodations.

Thankfully, plush (and low-impact) digs are sprouting up: Since April, AutoCamp has offered “rooms” in converted Airstreams — each with a private patio, fire pit and walk-in shower — outside the gateway town of Mariposa. In the park, Camp’d Out has added pop-up glampsites, complete with mud-cloth throw pillows, s’mores kits and butler service.

And Under Canvas Inc, which pioneered lifestyle camping in US national parks, will open in the fall. Its 90 wood-platformed tents will be set on 85 acres just 15 minutes from Yosemite’s entrance. An adventure concierge will get you as close to the cliff faces as your daring heart desires.

When to go: You’ll have the most peaceful hikes by visiting before the snow starts falling, in autumn. Want to see the waterfalls at their best? Try a spring trip instead.

When not to go: Major road closures make access very limited through the winter.

Whom to call: Sheri Doyle or Pacific Northwest Journeys.

Stop thinking about the Queen of the Danube as just a way station for backpackers and river cruisers. Budapest will welcome no fewer than seven fivestar hotels in the next two years.

They include a 162-room W that will occupy the long-dormant neo-Renaissance Drechsler Palace, opposite the Hungarian State Opera House. In July, Marriott’s Luxury Collection will unveil the Matild Palace, once home to Princess Clotilde of Saxe-Coburg, and Gotha, which will have a glassed-in “sky bar” and a brasserie lined with traditional Zsolnay porcelain tiles. (It’s within walking distance of the city’s famous Gellert spa bath.)

Bonus: There are new flights on a half-dozen airlines from Chicago, New York, Seoul and Shanghai — plus a dining scene that’s shedding its humble reputation.

When to go: You’ve got two key opportunities for great weather — Mid-April through June and the wine harvest season from September to mid- October. That said, Christmas markets and sparse crowds make December quite magical.

When not to go: Avoid the summer when Danube River cruisers flood the city.

Whom to call: Gwen Kozlowski of Exeter International.

With dozens of white-sand islets ringed by vibrant marine life, Mozambique is Africa’s under-the-radar answer to the Maldives.

Despite weathering back-to-back cyclones last year, the country is more enchanting than ever. Its most impressive newcomer, Kisawa Sanctuary, will command rates of US$5,500 (RM22,497) a night when it opens this summer; each of its 12 rooms sits on a full acre of sand on Benguerra Island.

The resort is purportedly the first in the world to (at least partly) 3D-print its structures, combining sand and seawater to make mortar. Better yet, its nonprofit arm, the Bazaruto Centre for Scientific Studies, will use the technology to help propagate local coral reefs.

When the hotel opens, it will immediately become one of the most coveted vacation spots, not only in Africa but anywhere on earth.

When to go: May to September offers great beach weather — and if you’re tacking on a visit to Gorongosa National Park, prime wildlife viewing.

When not to go: Rainy season — which can include cyclones — lasts from January to the end of March.

Whom to call: Deborah Calmeyer of Roar Africa.

Outside perennially popular Seville, the countryside still holds many secrets. Its carefully safeguarded pueblos blancos — all-white villages nestled in the mountaintops — and rural estates are among Europe’s most unspoiled spots.

Explore them on horseback with George Scott, a professional rider and second-generation co-owner of the bohemian estancia Trasierra.

His three-day circuits, starting and ending at the property, visit rugged corners of the outback. Another family-owned Andalucían destination, Hacienda de San Rafael, is being taken over by the next generation, with a focus on hiking and culinary excursions.

Bookend your trip in charming Málaga. Delta flies there directly from New York, and you can stay at Palacio Solecio in an 18th century Moorish-inspired palace.

When to go: Andalucía’s mild weather means you can visit from October to March and spend your days comfortably outdoors in the winter sunshine. For true beach days, though, try the not-quite-highseason windows of May through early June and late September through October.

When not to go: Avoid Holy Week in April, when congestion and hotel rates peak. July and August aren’t especially peaceful, either, amid hot and humid weather and Northern European crowds.

Whom to call: Virginia Irurita of Made for Spain and Portugal.

While Bolivia has been in crisis, its citizens have been busy taking tourism into their own hands. What they’ve created is impressive: An all-in-one luxury vacation circuit spanning mountains, desert, jungle and city.

La Paz, already recognised for its surprising dining scene, is getting a hotel to match. The 10-room Altu Qala in the capital’s colonial core opens midyear with meticulous artisan tile work and Murano glass fixtures. Around the same time, South American luxury operator Explora will begin welcoming guests in three spare, but spectacular lodges along the salt flats of Uyuni, allowing them to take hikes and four-wheel-drives between the properties.

Then there are Hershey’s Kiss-shaped glamping tents from Bolivia Milenaria, a husband-and-wife-run outfit.

They set up shop wherever guests desire, be it Torotoro National Park, where dinosaur footprints are baked into the clay earth, or the so-called Valley of the Condors — one of the only places in the world to view the enormous birds.

When to go: Dry season, from June to October, is chilly but beautiful, with sapphire blue skies and perfect visibility.

When not to go: Rainy season should be avoided, even though it’s when you’ll get those incredible, mirrorlike photos of the salt flats; if roads are impassable, you’ll get zero snaps. That said, the months that bookend rainy season are filled with cultural events in the cities, including Day of the Dead in November and the Oruro Carnival in February.

Whom to call: Charlie Lockwood of Red Savannah.