CNN  — 

Whether you want to relax on a remote island off the coast of Africa, ride Germany’s coolest trains or spot howling monkeys in South America, there is much to explore heading into a new decade in 2020.

Japan will be hosting the Summer Olympics, Jamaica will be marking the late Bob Marley’s 75th birthday, and Washington will be on pins and needles for much of the year preparing for the US presidential election.

But the world is clearly in upheaval. As CNN Travel editors gathered to nominate some of their favorite places for our annual list, we saw the Assam region erupt in violence over India’s anti-Muslim legislation and Zimbabwe wracked by drought.

We don’t know whether Chile’s long-planned celebration around the December solar eclipse could be overtaken by continued protests in the streets or whether Galway, Ireland, will be hurt by the ongoing Brexit debate in the UK.

And yet we must travel to see destinations other than our own, expand our knowledge of our planet and celebrate the beauty of human accomplishment and natural wonders all over the world.

Here they are, CNN Travel’s 20 places to visit in 2020, in alphabetical order:

Chile Lake District

"Los Lagos" offers travelers stunning landscapes, serenity and on December 14, a total solar eclipse over the town of Pucón at 1:03 p.m. local time.

While Chile has been in the headlines because of civil unrest, a visit to “Los Lagos” away from the urban centers offers travelers astonishing landscapes and serenity. This region is set to be even more impressive in December 2020, thanks to a total solar eclipse.

On December 14, totality will occur over the town of Pucón at 1:03 p.m. local time and will last just over two minutes.

Cosmic phenomena not withstanding, this region of southern Chile is worth more than a two-minute visit, thanks to the national parks, volcanoes and outdoor adventuring.

Check out Chiloé Island, famous for its UNESCO-listed colorful wooden churches and houses on stilts called palafitos. Fly from Chile’s capital, Santiago, direct to the island capital of Castro and stay in the boutique Tierra Chiloé Hotel and Spa. For a similarly upmarket yet chill experience, Parque Quilquico is situated in a forest park overlooking the ocean.

Back on the mainland, the archaeological site of Monte Verde gives a glimpse into the lives of people who lived more than 14,000 years ago. The Lake District is also home to several national parks, including Chile’s first, Vicente Pérez Rosales.

Conguillío National Park, meanwhile, is home to an active volcano, Llaima, which last erupted in 2008. The resort town of Pucón is great for thermal springs and bar-hopping and is also home to one of Chile’s most famous volcanos, Villarica. Braving the trek to the summit is a must for experienced hikers. Rest up for the night at &Beyond Vira Vira, a lodge on an organic farm.

Don’t Miss: The seafood. On the island of Chiloe, try curanto – a stew-style dish featuring seafood, meat, potatoes and Chilean rhubarb. – Francesca Street

Copenhagen, Denmark

Colorful houses along canals help make Copenhagen a happy place for its residents as well as its visitors.

Known as the happy capital of one of the world’s happiest countries, Copenhagen has long been a source of fascination for travelers drawn by its cycling culture, colorful merchant houses, cutting edge restaurants and “hygge” spirit.

Copenhagen was given another happiness boost earlier this year when Kongens Nytorv, its much-loved square, finally reopened after a seven-year closure because of the construction of a new metro line.

Now the former Viking fishing village will be easier to navigate, as its driverless and fully automatic M3 (or Cityringen) comes with 17 new stations and links to three “bridge neighborhoods,” Vesterbro, Nørrebro and Østerbro.

The Museum of Copenhagen is also opening its doors again in 2020, complete with a multimillion dollar immersive experience.

Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second-oldest amusement park, hasn’t lost its appeal, remaining a top year-round attraction for all ages thanks to its magnificent gardens, lake and playgrounds.

A stroll down Strøget, one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets, is highly recommended, as is a visit to one of Copenhagen’s many top restaurants.

The three Michelin-starred Geranium is one of the most impressive, offering up fabulous views of park Fælledparken alongside a multicourse tasting menu of Scandinavian cuisine. There’s also the wonderful Kødbyens Fiskebar, based in the Meatpacking District, where you’ll find some of the best seafood around.

Don’t miss: In winter, test out the new artificial ski and snowboard slope at the city’s power plant CopenHill. It’s made up of four slopes of varying difficulty, a freestyle park and slalom course. -- Tamara Hardingham-Gill

The Dead Sea

Float your worries away. The Dead Sea is the perfect spot to relax during a tour of the Middle East.

As the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea is far from an under-the-radar secret. But the realities of the climate crisis are causing water levels there to drop and have reframed the destination from “a place to visit someday” to “a place you need to visit now.”

On the border of Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea can feel like an extremely salty oasis, where talk of ongoing political conflict is less common than the sight of travelers from around the world covering themselves in black mud and falling backward into the water.

The feeling of engaging in a trust fall with the watery landscape – simply close your eyes, drop, and feel yourself pushed upward by the water – may be why so many people from so many eras have found holiness here.

Beyond the act of wading into a body of water with nearly eight times the salinity of the ocean, the Dead Sea’s key location makes it a perfect stop on a Middle Eastern road trip.

Petra, one of the seven modern wonders of the world, is a mere 135 kilometers (84 miles) away in Jordan, while the world-famous sites of Jerusalem are just 34 kilometers (21 miles) the other way. It’s as close to the Earth’s core as the average mortal can possibly get, and the incredible glow your skin will have the next day is a bonus.

Don’t miss: In Israel, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is a protected area of waterfalls slicing through dramatic, ancient canyons. It is one of the most popular places for Israeli locals to visit – and some of the hikes also provide views of the Dead Sea you can’t appreciate up close. – Lilit Marcus


This lush Eastern Caribbean island has bounced back from extensive damage from Hurricane Maria.

With lush, primordial rainforests, foliage-engulfed peaks and deep ravines crisscrossed by 365 rivers, the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica more than lives up to its “Nature Island” moniker.

The 290-square-mile island suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017, but Dominica has bounced back with a commitment to sustainable, climate-resilient construction and a renewed focus on ecotourism offerings.

The renovated 28-room Rosalie Bay Eco-Resort is set to reopen in February 2020, and the reimagined Jungle Bay Eco Villas reopened in June 2019.

Dominica is in the midst of an impressive luxury hotel boom, thanks in large part to its longstanding Citizenship by Investment program. Investing $100,000 and up in a high-end resort is one path to citizenship under the program.

Among the new luxury properties is Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski, Dominica’s first five-star resort with an 18,000-square-foot spa and four swimming pools.

Hotel giants Hilton and Marriott also have resorts in development – Hilton’s Tranquility Beach and the Marriott Anichi Resort & Spa.

Luxury lodging is a bonus, but the real draw in Dominica is the rugged outdoors.

Consider a guided hike into the Valley of Desolation to the world’s second-largest boiling lake – a flooded fumarole from a volcano. A more serene expedition might involve a refreshing dip in waterfall-fed Emerald Pool, located inside UNESCO-designated Morne Trois Pitons National Park.

Don’t miss: Submerse yourself in world-class diving or snorkeling in Champagne Reef, where colorful sponges and sea creatures comingle in a spot named for bubbles rising from volcanic thermal springs on the ocean floor. – Marnie Hunter


Don't be surprised if you hear more about Northern European country's bustling food scene in the new year.

While Estonia may not yet be synonymous worldwide with haute cuisine, this Nordic-like country in Northern Europe can hold its own.

Don’t be surprised if you hear more about Its bustling food scene in 2020. Most notable is the Bocuse d’Or Europe, a live cooking contest that pays homage to the late French chef Paul Bocuse, happening in late May. Estonia has participated in the culinary show for a decade, but this is the first time the country will play host to it.

With more than 100 restaurants on the White Nordic Guide (a restaurant guide featuring the best of the best in Nordic and Baltic countries), Estonia’s allegiance to homegrown and homemade is evident in such Tallinn restaurants as O, a fine dining spot with a Nordic-nature inspired menu, and Tabac, a hip brasserie with even hipper prices.

In spite of a thriving and growing food and drink scene, Estonia is, perhaps, better known for its beauty and natural, wide-open spaces. Outdoor enthusiasts could plan an entire trip around Estonia’s comprehensive bog network. Since the country is relatively small (about the size of New York state) with a small population, it makes for seamless, uncrowded and affordable explorations. All camping facilities, for example, are free!

Add a smattering of spas, a bevy of castles and ancient, silent forests, and it’s not hard to see why Estonia is on the rise.

Don’t miss: No matter which part of town visitors stay in, Tallinn’s Old Town is worth a wander. -- Stacey Lastoe

Galway, Ireland

A European Capital of Culture for 2020, Galway is a rural land where artists are drawn by the sublime beauty of the rocky landscape.

It might just have been named a European Capital of Culture for 2020, but Galway City, in the west of Ireland, wasn’t in need of any help where the arts are concerned.

As with the United States, Ireland’s west coast has historically attracted pioneers and mavericks. Battered by Atlantic winds, the weather is fiercer here than in the cultivated east. This is a rural land where people live by their own rules, and artists are drawn by the sublime beauty of the rocky landscape. The capital of County Galway, Galway City, is an artsy enclave where bonhomie and erudition are prized.

Festivals bloom freely in Galway, with cultural gatherings spread across its calendar like wild heather. Visit any season, and you’ll happen across celebrations of food, music, history, art, literature and nature, plus everything from burlesque to banjos, and ponies to Pride.

In 2020, there are European Capital of Culture events happening throughout, from Margaret Atwood’s International Women’s Day appearance at the Wild Atlantic Women literary event to Lumiere Galway, which will close out the year in January 2021 with spectacular light installations throughout the streets of the capital.

Galway International Arts Festival is held annually in July, and in 2020, the Pixies, Flaming Lips and Sinéad O’Connor will take to the stage. The Galway Races get underway at the end of July and, in August, Omey Strand in Connemara becomes a racecourse, with horses and their riders galloping across the sands.

Don’t miss: For comedy fans, the quirkiest event of all is February’s TedFest, when revelers dressed as priests, nuns and housekeepers gather on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, in a celebration of cult TV series “Father Ted.” – Maureen O’Hare


Ian Fleming's superspy James Bond appears in his 25th feature film, "No Time To Die," in which Daniel Craig's 007 returns to his creator's real-life beach house, Goldeneye.

James Bond, Bob Marley, turquoise waters and dazzling waterfalls – Jamaica has a lot to offer, particularly in 2020.

In April, Ian Fleming’s superspy James Bond appears in his 25th feature film, “No Time To Die,” in which Daniel Craig’s 007 returns to his creator’s real-life beach house, Goldeneye, about 90 minutes from Montego Bay.

Fleming wrote 14 James Bond novels at Goldeneye, working there every winter from 1952 until his death in 1964. Guests can stay in the famed author’s five-bedroom beachfront home on the northern coast of the island and avail themselves of Fleming’s writing desk.

Jamaica’s favorite son, though, is the iconic reggae musician, Bob Marley, who would have turned 75 on February 6. Marley’s Jamaica is a living, beating heart, overflowing with love, pain, history and cultural significance.

The singer lived in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, and fans of Marley’s music and message can commune with the legendary artist at his former home, now the Bob Marley Museum.

Don’t miss: The stunning cliff-side Rockhouse hotel in Negril, whose early guests included Marley, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. Since taking over the property in 1994, the resort’s owners have seamlessly fused its rock ‘n’ roll heritage with sustainable design, environmental responsibility, community and integrity.

Through its charitable foundation, Rockhouse has invested $5 million in childhood education programs, including revitalizing six schools, most recently opening the island’s first school that serves students with special needs in an inclusive environment, Savanna-la-Mar Inclusive Infant Academy (SIIA).

Guests at Rockhouse and its sister property, Skylark, are invited to tour the school and meet the educators, administrators and the extraordinary children of SIIA, an opportunity that is not to be missed. – Brekke Fletcher


Remote Kyrgyzstan offers up desert-like canyons to rival the American West.

Tucked away between China to the east, Kazakhstan to the north and Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan is easy to overlook, but it’s a perfectly formed jewel of a country.

Head east from the capital of Bishkek to where rugged mountains descend into the sparkling snow-melt waters of the vast Lake Issyk-Kul, and Kyrgyzstan reveals itself as a beguiling wonderland that few international visitors have discovered.

In the space of a few miles, the landscape offers up desert-like canyons to rival the American West and lush, high-altitude meadows to rival the European Alps. In winter, there’s skiing around the town of Karakol. In summer, trekking and horseback riding into the Tien Shan mountains. All-year-round, there are jaw-dropping geological marvels around every corner.

Years of hardship after the collapse of the Soviet Union have taken their toll on Kyrgyzstan, and it’s still finding its feet as a tourist destination. But where it lacks infrastructure to deal with lots of visitors, it excels in delivering genuine unexplored frontiers to adventurous travelers willing to rough it a little. It’s safe, extremely welcoming and very good value for the money.

Don’t miss: Mars Canyon, near the southern shores of Issyk-Kul, is a spectacular landscape of red peaks and dry valleys. It was first explored as a tourism destination in 2019 during an expedition organized by an excellent tour company, Visit Karakol, and documented by CNN Travel. Barry Neild

Kyushu, Japan

The third largest of Japan's five main islands, subtropical Kyushu offers stunning scenery, top eats and plenty of cultural attractions.

With Tokyo gearing up to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, Japan has been hard at work preparing for the influx of tourists, improving its already top-notch infrastructure.

Although the main focus will be on Tokyo, take some time to explore subtropical Kyushu, which offers more than 36,000 square kilometers (about 13,900 square miles) of stunning scenery, top eats and plenty of cultural attractions.

The third largest of Japan’s five main islands, it lies southwest of the main island of Honshu. No ferries are required, since several bridges and underwater tunnels connect the two islands, ensuring a seamless five-hour journey from Tokyo on one of Japan’s famed Shinkansen bullet trains.

Honshu’s largest city, cosmopolitan Fukuoka, is a foodie paradise. Small coastal towns such as Kunisaki and Beppu are famous for their quaint streets and onsen (hot springs).

Then there’s the small city of Saga, which will host the 2020 Asia’s Best Restaurant awards. The area is known for its beautiful terraced rice fields, mountains and tea plantations.

Don’t miss: Kyushu is also where you’ll find Nagasaki, which in 2020 marks 75 years since the World War II atomic bombing. The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and adjacent Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims offer valuable insights.

Though this harbor city is synonymous with tragedy, it’s also filled with attractions that highlight its trade history with Europe and China, not to mention a fantastic dining scene buoyed by its coastal setting. – Karla Cripps

New Caledonia

This remote French overseas territory is home to streaky pink sunsets and stretches of white sand beach.

In late 2018, as the residents of this South Pacific island group voted on whether to remain part of France or to break off as a new nation, a question began popping up on Google searches across the globe: Where is New Caledonia?

The group of four archipelagos – which, by the way, opted to remain a French overseas territory for the time being – is about halfway between Fiji and the coast of Queensland, Australia, south of the Solomon Islands.

A more complicated answer is that New Caledonia, more properly La Nouvelle-Caledonie, is in a place uniquely its own. With streaky pink sunsets and stretches of white sand beach, this relatively untouristed spot – did we mention it’s one of the least-visited places in the world? – is a perfectly remote destination.

It’s like visiting a nearly empty South of France in the summertime, eating gorgeous, buttery pastries after an afternoon of sunning yourself without being surrounded by crowds.

Nearly all travelers begin in the capital of Noumea and work out from there. Noumea’s striking lagoon-front location blends French colonial heritage buildings with the colors of the sea and sky.

With only about 100,000 residents, it’s easy to live the simple life there – you can stay in an urban B&B, then pass an afternoon snorkeling, swimming or kitesurfing before enjoying a fresh meal of fish, paired with white Burgundies imported from 17,000 miles away.

Don’t miss: The three Loyalty Islands – Lifou, Mare and Ouvea – are an ideal place for learning about the indigenous Kanak people, who far predate French colonization of the region. Visit these tribes and learn about their customs, festivals and way of life. – Lilit Marcus

Paraty and Ilha Grande, Brazil

Rainforest-clad peaks plunge to a coastal wonderland in this newly minted UNESCO site about 250 kilometers southwest of Rio de Janeiro.

The waterfront terminus of a 17th-century overland gold route to Europe, Paraty is a colonial-era settlement energized by a recent influx of creative chefs and artists. Look behind the whitewashed facades and brightly painted doorways in the city’s historic center, and you’ll find modern art galleries and restaurants serving farm-to-table cuisine.

Surrounding Paraty is a lush forest that’s a crucial biodiversity hot spot, where hiking trails in Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina explore habitat for wooly spider monkeys, sleek jaguars and dozens of endemic plants.

That biodiversity extends beyond the shore to sun-washed Ilha Grande, a former leper colony and prison island that’s now a pristine island getaway, tempting travelers with clear water that is home to thriving marine life.

Don’t miss: Beach-hopping on a daylong boat tour around Ilha Grande, stopping to lounge beside the famously crooked coconut tree at Praia do Aventureiro. – Jen Rose Smith

São Tomé and Príncipe