The travel gurus at Lonely Planet have released their annual Best in Travel report, detailing their top picks for tourists in 2020. Sri Lanka topped the charts for 2019, followed by Germany, Zimbabwe, and Panama. And this new list has brought a similarly mixed field – Morocco, Uruguay, Liberia, and the Netherlands have all made the cut. However, it’s these six countries that have us reconsidering our travel plans. And you?
There are two ways of getting off the tourist trail. You can attempt to unearth a hidden gem – highly prized commodities that are rarely hidden for long – or you can go to Bhutan, a mountainous wonderland that enforces limited tourism by law. Tourist visas can only be obtained via licensed local operators, and visitors pay a steep daily fee simply to be in this mystical country at all, ensuring that one of Asia’s most attractive countries remains one of its least visited.
For the lucky few, Bhutan is a dream. Pristine Himalayan trails snake up snow-capped mountainsides, dotted with Buddhist temples perched precariously among the crags. The world’s only carbon-negative country, Bhutan values natural beauty more than foreign dollar. And it shows.
We know, rainy old England may not scream summer vacay, but between Lake District, North York Moors, and the Cornish coastline, it’s quietly building a reputation for natural beauty that has been long deserved. Known worldwide for its urban treasures, the judges were compelled instead by the England Coast Path, a vast trail skirting much of the shoreline, set to be the largest of its kind on debut in 2020. England’s waning seaside towns are long due a mini-renaissance, and the new breed of visitors may expect fish and chips on a pleasure pier as much as a ride on the London Eye.
Fresh from resolving one of Europe’s longest running conflicts – wrangling with Greece over the name Macedonia – the rechristened North Macedonia, this country is replete with remote dilapidated churches, picturesque mountain villages, and nuggets of history from countless conquering empires.
If you know the country for anything, it’s probably the landscape, but more persistent travelers will discover a flare for fine dining and no end of cultural curiosities – Skopje’s Ottoman Bazaar could give Istanbul a run for its money.
Imagine Barbados with a tenth of the crowds, a total ban on single-use plastics, and a host affordable homestays. That is Aruba in a nutshell, a gorgeous island paradise straight off the Caribbean production line.
Crumbling colonial facades overlook the surprisingly-not-rubbish urban beach at capital city Oranjestad, outshined only by the positively dazzling shores that ring the rest of the island. The sands are white, the seas are azure blue, and the scuba diving is frankly absurd. For all you pedants out there, Aruba is only sort of a country (it’s a “constituent nation” of the Netherlands), but that won’t impact your holiday. Promise.
The country formerly known as Swaziland, eSwatini has changed its name, but retained its natural marvels. It’s one of the least visited countries in Africa (and that’s saying something), with poor infrastructure discouraging even more intrepid travelers. But now, a new international airport is set to put this landlocked nation on the map. You’ll come for the wildlife – lions, zebras, wildebeest, rhinos, leopards, and elephants included – but stay for the people and their delightfully sunny disposition.
We’re now firmly back on the tourist trail, and with good reason, because the forests of Costa Rica boast some of the richest biodiversity on Earth. Red-eyed tree frogs peer boggled-eyed through the leaves, three-toed sloths snooze on low-hanging trees and, at the right time of year, sea turtles flock to the coastline in droves to lay their eggs in the sun-kissed sand. Water sports, zip-lines, and jungle swings attract adrenaline junkies, while the famous cloud forests – walkways suspended in the canopy – offer a relaxing monkey’s-eye view of the surrounding foliage.