The world often seems to be too large, overflowing with corners of breathtaking beauty. There are natural landscapes oozing serenity, and human creations destined to influence, encourage, and inspire all future generations. Given the abundance of information and choices, though, the question ultimately boils down to “what should I choose for this year”. The answer is harder than what one might expect. Yet, after a lot of research and personal explorations, we have compiled our favorite list of bucket-list destinations for 2020, and we urge you to add them all in your traveling plans.
“Nomadic by Nature”, Mongolia is so vast and diverse that its charm cannot be appreciated in just one trip. Immense steppes, high mountain ranges, gorges, deserts, urban centers, and nomadic settlements, they all await to be explored by adventurous travelers. Despite the increased touristic activity, it remains a pristine and authentic destination – but, perhaps, not for long. New infrastructure and facilities are developed every day to accommodate the rising demand. So, make sure you explore Mongolia before commercialism dilutes the still vibrant culture. The Gobi Desert with its fascinating fossils and wild landscape, the traditional gers, the colorful Naadam sports festivals in the summer, and the interaction with the nomads are not to be missed while visiting the country.
Ethiopia has become the fastest-growing economy of Africa, and tourism played a significant role in this. Addis Ababa has been named a 2020 World Capital of Culture and Tourism given its cultural and historical background, while the unique rock-hewn churches, the volcanos, the original tribal communities, and the traditional coffee ceremonies are inspiring more and more travelers to explore the country. The increased demand has improved the available infrastructure, while many eco-friendly initiatives are also being adopted; yet, Ethiopia remains pristine and undiscovered and promises to surpass all your expectations. Delay no more: this is a destination you should definitely add to your bucket list as soon as possible!
Uganda has been overshadowed, so far, by other, wildlife destinations of Africa, but, apparently, this will soon change. As the traveling routes to the country are opening once again, its native treasures attract more and more sophisticated explorers who are interested in experiencing a profound connection with nature, especially with primates. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a famous gorilla sanctuary, while the southern part of the country is home to almost half of the world’s gorilla population. The government has set many restrictions and rules to ensure that the ecosystem will not be disturbed by the human presence (or greed), so the allowed numbers of visitors per day in the gorilla safaris are limited. This unique interaction, along with the abundant beauty of vast forest lands have turned this lesser-known country into the “Pearl of Africa”.
The Angkor Archaeological Park has long been included in most travelers’ bucket lists, so there is not any surprise here. However, in 2020, we invite you to explore this fascinating part of the world – and the largest pre-industrial city – in a non-traditional way. Set aside the busy temples and packed routes, and venture into the hidden corners of the park that offer a much more authentic and quiet view of the Cambodian countryside. A bit of hiking, horse-back riding, cycling, even ziplining or boating can go a long way, as they allow the most genuine aspects of the local life to unfold, giving you the opportunity to leave the tourist hoards behind you. And embrace the essence of the Cambodian culture.
Japan needs little introduction, as its culture and infrastructure often raise the bar so high that they put the other countries to shame. With its history, civilization, and nature, Japan nudges us – even forces us – to reconsider the boundaries of our comfort zone, inviting us to new levels of reverence, respect, quality assurance, and appreciation. Despite the breathtaking landscapes, the most exciting aspects for any visitor hide in the details encountered in the cities, including a sense of order, cleanliness, and consideration that are alien to the rest of us. Note the care with which food is prepared, the respect instilled in the hearts of the youngsters, the operation of the schools, the technological advancements, the hidden treasures in the language, even the toilet structures, and you will leave inspired by the kindness and foresight that our species can muster.
Despite its considerable size, Poland remains to many a lesser-known part of Europe. Its coastal line in the north attracts mainly visitors from central Europe, while its numerous and stunning castles are gradually becoming popular, especially after the Harry Potter frenzy and the increase in the wizardry aficionados. Few know, though, that Krakow has one of the largest, still intact, medieval old towns in Europe, a rich cultural life, and an unexpected 13th-century salt mine where everything – labyrinths, passageways, statues, and chapels – are carved out of salt. Also, the rich and diverse countryside remains largely unexplored. The recent efforts of the government to reduce pollution (especially in Krakow) have drawn the spotlight on the country, and, soon, the tourists’ numbers will skyrocket. Beat the tourist hoards and hurry to include this European jewel in your traveling plans.
There is no way one can talk about sustainability without including the ground-breaking examples of the Scandinavian countries. Among them, Norway maintains a leading role and paves the way for the rest of us to follow. As most people know, its fjords are of such otherworldly beauty that they have become a reference point for all similar formations around the world, and the Viking culture is still visible along the coastline. Despite the developed tourism infrastructure, there are always hidden gems and unexplored nooks to fill the heart of the adventurous traveler with joy. Most importantly, though, the visitor is called to examine the new practices set forth including the sourcing and use of energy, the respect of the environment, and the overall appreciation towards the available resources and, hopefully, bring back home learnings that have already been acknowledged in this exceptional country.