New Year, New Beginnings — and also new opportunities to travel, right? There’s something indescribably exciting — something just enticing — about waking up in a foreign land, and exploring a whole new culture. It’s about the challenge of pushing yourself to something out of your norm — that insatiable appetite to travel is in all of us. Whether it is to watch the sun rise over rocky ‘fairy chimneys’, hike the soaring cliffs of an isolated land, ride a camel in a desert valley, hop on board the world’s most opulent train ride from one romantic city to another, we yearn for that sweet escape. So to inspire your next vacation, we’ve rounded up our top ten destinations to add to (and check off) your travel bucket list for 2020.
This story first appeared on PrestigeOnline Singapore.
If you can only fit one trip to the Middle East, Jordan should be on the top of list. A visit here is almost like a history lesson in itself. The Arab country was once home to some of the most ancient civilisations, including the Assyrians, the Crusaders, and Babylonians.
Jordan’s biggest star is undeniably the sandstone city of Petra, often referred to as Rose City. The famed archaeological site was once home to the lost civilisation of Nabateans, a tribe of nomadic Arabs. The Treasury, or Al-Khazneh, is Petra’s most famous site that features towering Greek-style columns, alcoves and plinths. But beyond Petra, Jordan has plenty of other attractions, including luxury glamping in the spectacular Wadi Rum desert, the paradisiacal Dead Sea, and Jerash, a massive and well-preserved Greco-Roman settlement that’s complete with theatres, and the Temple of Zeus. Our advice? Take a week to traverse Jordan, and another to explore Egypt, for a trip of a lifetime.
True, this is India, but it definitely is not as you know it. Up in its remote region of Ladakh, also known as Little Tibet, the spectacular landscapes promise white-domed stupas, soaring palaces, and quaint villages nestled among dramatic mountains. But your ticket to discovering its best-kept secrets lies in a private tour. Luxury experiential travel company andBeyond offers a two-week trans Himalayan journey that begins with a stay in the high-desert city of Leh, where you’ll work your way through a labyrinth of streets and bazaars and visit the Thiksey Monastery that overlooks the snow-covered Stok Kangri mountain range. Then begin your hike through the Indian Himalayas. In Drass, you’ll stroll through one of the world’s oldest Buddhist monasteries and seek out the Himalayan brown bear and wolves. In Nimmu, you’ll learn about rural Ladakhi lifestyle, see prehistoric rock art at Domkar, before moving on to Tso Kar where you’ll discover different lakes, observe wildlife, and be rejuvenated at the Puga Hot Springs located in a nomadic village.
Now, avid world explorers know this — there is nothing quite like Turkey. Located at a crossroads between Europe and Asia, it’s a vast peninsula made up of varied climates and landscapes. It also boasts an incredible history, having once been the seat of the Ottoman, Byzantine and Seljuk empires. There is an activity and city for every type of traveller here. Istanbul is the home of the legendary Hagia Sophia, that was once a a basilica for the Greek Orthodox Christian Church, before it was converted into a mosque during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Across it is the breathtaking Blue Mosque. Further down in the area is the Topkapi Palace, once the residence of the Ottoman Empire, and home to opulent pavilions, and an Imperial Harem, the pearl of the complex that holds colourful tales of insatiable sultans and powerful concubines. Outside of the country’s largest city, you’ll find unforgettable hot-air balloon rides over the otherworldly fairytale-like landscapes of Cappadocia, the cotton castles of Pamukkale, Roman ruins of Ephesus, and the enchanting Turkish Riviera in Antalya, and the tomb of famed Sufi poet Rumi in Konya.
When one thinks of Africa, one often pictures magnificent safari plains inhabited by free-ranging, majestic creatures. Chances are that image you have in mind is that of Tanzania, home to famous game parks and the Great Migration, where approximately 1.4 million wildebeest, 250,000 zebras and gazelles make the year-long journey from Tanzania’s Serengeti to the Masai Mara in Kenya. In pursuit of wildlife adventures — in luxury of course — book a safari tour with a private luxury travel operator, such as Jacada Travel. Take a flight at the break of dawn to see all the action from the treetops as the elephants trudge on to a watering hole, giraffes munch from branches, or lions stalk their prey. Later in the afternoon, hop on a safari vehicle to see these animals up-close in the savannah, or, if you’re lucky, witness the great migration. Nearby is the Ngorongoro Crater, a conservation area that is home to a deep, volcanic crater and the “big five” of elephants, lions, leopards, rhinoceros, and Cape buffaloes. Likewise in the untouched Selous Game Reserve, it’s highly concentrated with African mammals, including cheetahs, giraffes, hippopotamus and crocodile. Safari stalwarts aside, Tanzania is also home to the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro for fervent hikers.
If you’re an ardent follower of travel accounts on Instagram, you’d be more than accustomed to seeing the above picture. Meaning flowers in Indonesian, Flores sits next to Lombok, and is the home of the famous Komodo Island, the habitat of the dangerous lizards, and a vast collection of 29 volcanic islands that offer diverse terrains such as rain forests, mountainous hillsides, and arid savannahs. Here’s where you’ll find some of the world’s richest marine environments, with plenty of diving sites abundant with corals, tropical fish, manta ray and even sharks. Within Komodo Island is the Instagram-famous Padar Island, with its breathtaking panoramic views at the summit, tri-coloured beaches, and remarkable variety of wildlife. Complete your trip with a visit to Kelimutu, a volcano that’s home to three multi-coloured lakes, snorkelling at 17 Islands Marine Park, and a visit to Wae Rebo, a tribal village that’s inhabited by the Manggerai people, and surrounded by picture-perfect mountains.
The tango city of the world is one of the world’s sexiest capitals. More European than any other South American city, it’s been widely agreed, and also equal parts debated, that it is the Paris of South America, owing to its large, tree-lined avenues, and architecture inspired by neoclassical, Art Deco, and Italianate styles. The cobblestone streets here are lined with boutiques and cafes. Barrios, or neighbourhoods, are personality-laden with secrets galore for new visitors.
Steak, wine, and tango are the holy trifecta that govern its local passions. Must-dos include a sultry evening at a milonga, an Argentine tango event, a visit to the artist-lined street museum of El Caminito, marvelling at the contemporary art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera, a meal at at a parilla (a steakhouse), bargaining at a local market, and sipping coffee at El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a former grand theatre and cinema, and now the world’s most opulent library with frescoed ceilings and lush red drapes.
If it’s isolation you seek, you’ll find that in abundance at Faroe Islands. Located between Iceland and Norway, the island’s population of sheep outnumbers its population of 50,000 people. The self-governed cluster of 18 rocky, volcanic islands is a hiker’s wonderland complete with raw and rugged natural gems, including jaw-dropping cliffs, waterfalls, and lakes. Visit the Lake Sørvágsvatn, the Faroe Islands’ largest, that appears to be an optical illusion. While it looks like it’s floating high above the ocean, it’s simply 90 feet above the sea. See the majestic Múlafossur waterfalls, hike to the famed Kallurin lighthouse atop dramatic cliffs, and explore the quaint little towns with colourful timber-walled cottages and even kayak in the North Atlantic. Note that this destination is not for the unfit.
Verona is far more than a haven for star-crossed lovers. Though best known for its kitschy Shakespearean romance, the city is an underrated Italian destination. Just two hours away from Venice, it’s home to the Arena, a Roman amphitheatre built of pink-tinged marble in the first century AD, and the landscaped gardens of Giardino Giusti, which Goethe and Mozart often visited. Naturally, no trip to Verona is complete without a Romeo and Juliet tour. Sign up for an excursion that’ll take you to Juliet’s balcony, her tomb, the lover’s houses and, and even the crypt where the two were said to be married.
Once you’ve completed your jaunt of the little town, strike off your next once-in-a-lifetime experience with a luxury train ride on board the Orient Express to Paris as a romantic itinerary of a lifetime. The sophisticated train, decked with polished wood, sumptuous upholstery and antique fixtures, takes you back to the Golden Age of travel with private cabins, and meals and cocktails in the restaurant and bar cars.
If you think you’ve seen all of China — the Great Wall, and cities of Beijing, and Chengdu included — Scott Dunn disproves it by putting rural China in the spotlight for 2020. The luxury travel company’s latest tour of one of the world’s greatest destinations is called Walk Yunnan. You’ll embark on a discovery of the true Shangri-La, a Tibetan word for ‘a land of sacredness and peace’, and the capital of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province in southern China. The itinerary takes you on a glamping quest that merges hikes up sublime mountain passes of over 4000-metre high peaks with awe-inspiring sights of Mount Shangri-La Sekha, Kawakarpo, Yading Mountains and Aboudje Mountains, fir forests, and afternoons in villages to witness the Tibetan way of life. The trip also includes a picnic at the sacred Aboudje lake, and glamping complete with authentic farm-to-table meals.
The largest country in the world is predicted to be one of 2020’s top destinations, or at least according to Jacada Travel. Over 6.6 million square miles make up the transcontinental country, that borders Eastern Europe and North Asia, and is also home to nine different time zones. A wealth of experiences is found in Russia. In Moscow, no trip is complete without a tour of the jewel-toned and onion-domed St Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square and Lenin’s Mausoleum. In St Petersburg you’ll find tsarist treasures aplenty, as well as the State Hermitage Museum, the largest art and cultural museum in the world. Up in Russia’s Caucasus, you’ll find waterfalls and lakes, and adventure sports for thrill seekers, while in Siberia, you can hop on a dog sled through the snow, or hike around the ancient Lake Baikal.