Hot destinations for 2020
We might not like to admit it but I suspect everyone takes a certain pleasure from getting one up on friends and family. There’s probably a multi-syllabled German word for this, but without reaching for the English-German dictionary, we’ll just call it braggability, and in the world of travel it’s most definitely a factor for people when they consider their next destination. So, with braggability in mind, here are some hot destinations for 2020 so you can stay one step ahead of the Joneses.
It’s not necessarily a surprise that the Azores have flown under the radar until now; after all, these Portuguese islands are marooned some 900 miles off the mainland in the middle of the Atlantic. And yet, we predict they are going to be the next big destination in Europe.
Why? One reason is that the Azores have been compared to another geologically active (read: volcanic) place that’s become hugely popular, earning them the nickname ‘the warm Iceland’. Indeed, the archipelago is characterised by a similarly dramatic volcanic landscape and as such is a haven for adrenaline junkies who flock in increasing numbers to the nine islands to hike, bike, canoe and canyon their way around some pretty jaw-dropping scenery. The volcanic schtick even stretches to the islands’ cooking, with local speciality cozido das furnas, a casserole of sorts cooked in a volcanic steam chamber.
Offshore there’s whale watching and the chance to swim with wild dolphins, but the cherry on the Azorean cake is the diving, which is without doubt the best in Europe (if it’s not a technicality to call this Europe). The near shore dive sites are decent, but it’s the marine life at the offshore sites that take the plaudits. Given the currents, these sites are best left for qualified PADI divers, but suitably qualified divers are virtually guaranteed manta rays and blue shark sightings and occasional encounters with super-elusive marko sharks as well.
With the Turkish Lira offering one of the very few favourable exchange rates for the British Pound, we suspect that travel-savvy Brits will suddenly rediscover Turkey, and boy, will they be in for a treat. Sitting at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, it’s a fascinating melting pot of cultures and history and its ancient sites rival those of Greece – indeed, Western Turkey is home to the lost city of Troy, subject of the British Museum’s blockbuster exhibition, Troy: myth and reality.
Istanbul remains one of the greatest of all city break destinations while Cappadocia – home to a bizarre ‘fairy chimney’ stalagmite-dotted landscape – is a remarkable place to explore by mountain bike, with the added Instagrammable attraction of being able to stay in a cave hotel, dug directly into the soft rock face. We’re also huge fans of holidaying along the beautiful Aegean coastline aboard a wide-hulled gulet yacht, stopping in deserted coves to snorkel, cliff jump and eat in charming tavernas. For landlubbers, the Aegean Coast is also now home to a slew of seriously luxurious resorts, with the Mandarin Oriental, Amanruya and Six Senses Kaplankaya particularly lovely.
For a more left-field option, head to Eastern Turkey. Recently off-limits because of the situation in Syria, the region is now back in play, and home to fascinating early Christian sites, stunning landscapes such as Lake Van, and finally the extraordinary Gobekli Tepe, as a mere 11,000 years old, the world’s oldest religious complex, predating Stonehenge by some 5,000 years.
Nicaragua was tipped for the big time before 2018’s unrest put paid to that. Now, more than a year on the country is back on an even keel and will, we believe, hopefully take its rightful place as one of the finest destinations in Central America, in fact, one of the loveliest places on the planet.
A firm favourite with the Original Travel team, Nicaragua has everything we love so much about Costa Rica, but with far fewer tourists and (as it’s the largest country in Central America) far more space to get off the beaten track. Zip lining? Tick. Volcanoes? Tick. Turtles? Tick. Surf breaks and laidback boho vibes? Tick. Lovely Spanish colonial era cities? Tick.
You get the point, and on top of all this, Nicaragua (like Costa Rica) is a major player in the burgeoning and thoroughly admirable ecotourism trend, home to huge biodiversity and twenty percent of the country is set aside as national parks.
Spend time on the beaches lining both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts then in lovely Granada, arguably the most appealing of the colonial cities in the region. Set on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, the city is filled with pastel-coloured baroque buildings and cobbled streets set beneath a towering volcano. The lake itself is best explored by kayak, with visits to one or two of the 360 islands, many of which are home to small fishing communities.
Now that Uzbekistan in Central Asia is a firm fixture on the travel map, it’s time to introduce another of the ‘Stans’: Kyrgyzstan.
Where Uzbekistan is (in the main) all about desert plains and stunning Silk Road cities, Kyrgyzstan – short on vowels but long on beauty – is 95 percent mountains and a prime location for walking as a result.
Like Mongolia, the Kyrgyz way of life is often nomadic and there are plenty of opportunities to meet the locals and even homestay in yurts to experience their way of life. Some of the best hiking is is in the stunning Chon Kemin Park. In the company of an English-speaking guide, spend days exploring the spectacular and varied landscapes of the park – lush valleys, deep gorges, forests and meadows – in altitudes ranging from 4,600 ft to 9,200 ft. Lift your eyes from the scenery and you’ll see golden eagles, bearded vultures, black storks and Tibetan ibis, while back on the ground, brown bears, lynx and – in the more remote parts – snow leopards prowl.