CNN Travel’s 20 best places to visit in 2020

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.