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Drawing on the knowledge, and kilometres travelled by Lonely Planet’s staff, writers and online community, a list of top places to visit is compiled.
Particular emphasis is on the best sustainable travel experiences for 2020 — ensuring travellers will have a positive impact wherever they choose to go.
Bhutan — the kingdom set to become the first fully organic nation by 2020 — claims the coveted spot as the No 1 country to visit in 2020.
The No 1 region for 2020 is the Central Asian Silk Road, which is more accessible than ever before, thanks to visa improvements for the majority of the world’s citizens, along with massive transportation and infrastructure investment.
No1 city Salzburg, in Austria, will be pulling out all the stops for the centenary of its famous festival of music and drama,
while Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara, Hungary’s Budapest and India’s Madhya Pradesh are Lonely Planet’s top three best-value destinations for 2020.
A dozen nations vie for the title of real-life Shangri-La, but Bhutan’s claim has more clout than most. This tiny piece of Himalayan paradise operates a strict "high-value, low-impact" tourism policy, compelling travellers to pay a high daily fee just to set foot in its pine-scented, monastery-crowned hills. The payoff for visitors is a chance to walk along mountain trails unsullied by litter, in the company of people whose Buddhist beliefs put them uniquely in tune with their environment. Bhutan punches well above its weight when it comes to sustainability. It is already the world’s only carbon-negative country, and the kingdom is set to become the first fully organic nation by 2020, so it’s only going to get more beautiful, and with the daily fee, it won’t be getting any more crowded.
If you like your mountains snow-capped, your nature untamed and your monasteries humming with the sound of Tibetan horns, look no further than Bhutan. Although entry is only possible on an organised tour, life in this intriguing backwater moves at the same tranquil pace as the prayer wheels that spin in its temple courtyards. Modern Bhutan is tucked into the bottom of mountain valleys; leave the valley floor and life slips back to an earlier time. Trekkers move in a world of rammed-earth houses, archery contests, backstrap looms, teeming wildlife — including, allegedly, the "migoi" (yeti) — and monasteries crowning each successive ridge. Bhutan’s people keep their mountain kingdom in pristine condition: litter is rare, pollution rarer, and the scent of blue pines wafts through the streets like incense during one of the kingdom’s spectacular "Tsechu" festivals.
Breathe deeply and take in the mountain air.
#1 Region Central Asian Silk Road
A region once made rich by trade and travellers, the Central Asian Silk Road is again at the centre of global interest. The ancient cities, bustling bazaars and wild landscapes of Central Asia are drawing increasing numbers of visitors looking for adventure along one of history’s most storied travel routes. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan all now offer either visa-free access or e-visas for the majority of the world’s citizens; and the region is moving towards a unified "Silk Road" visa. Meanwhile, massive transportation and infrastructure investment — much of it under the aegis of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — makes travelling the modern Silk Road more accessible than ever before.
#1 City Salzburg, Austria
Drum roll, please: the Salzburg Festival is turning 100, and this heart-stealer of an Alpine city is singing about it at the top of its voice.
One of the world’s greatest classical music shindigs, the festival is always a riotous feast of opera, classical music and drama — and never more so than in 2020.
Salzburg will be pulling out all the stops for the centenary, with special exhibitions and events taking place all over the historic centre — concerts, plays, readings, Mozart matinees, you name it.
With a Unesco-listed baroque old town, a high-on-a-hill medieval fortress, galleries crammed with phenomenal art, some of Europe’s finest concert halls and uplifting mountain views to make you want to yodel out loud, Salzburg never loses its touch.
It’s all dressed up and at its vibrant best when the Salzburg Festival comes to town for six weeks (from late July to August), bringing song, theatre and orchestral highs to such venues as the Grosses Festspielhaus, Felsenreitschule and cathedral-topped Domplatz.
Sitting astride the milky turquoise Salzach River, this city is where Mozart was born and bred, and where Maria made her warbling debut in The Sound of Music.
If you’re looking for a perfectly orchestrated Alpine city, this is it. To start at the very beginning, make for the historic lanes of the Altstadt, a triumph of baroque urban design, where the prince-archbishops, great patrons of the arts, once held court.
- Best in Travel 2020 published by Lonely Planet, RRP $29, lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel
Top 10 regions
- Central Asian Silk Road
- Le Marche, Italy
- Tohoku, Japan
- Maine, USA
- Lord Howe Island, Australia
- Guizhou province, China
- Cadiz province, Spain
- Northeast Argentina
- Kvarner gulf, Croatia
- Brazilian Amazon
Top 10 countries
- North Macedonia
- Costa Rica
- The Netherlands
Top 10 cities
- Salzburg, Austria
- Washington, DC, US
- Cairo, Egypt
- Galway, Ireland
- Bonn, Germany
- La Paz, Bolivia
- Kochi, India
- Vancouver, Canada
- Dubai, UAE
- Denver, US