Best in Travel: Top 10 regions to visit in 2020

Shepherds' yurts with horses in a grassy field in Kyrgyzstan.
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The top 10 best regions around the world to travel in 2020 have been revealed by Lonely Planet. Do consider them while planning your next trip.

1. 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 – make travelling the modern Silk Road more accessible than ever before.

Also Read: Best in Travel: Top 10 cities to visit in 2020

Also Read: Best in Travel 2020: Planning a trip to Bhutan

2. Le Marche, Italy

 

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It looks like the understudy is finally ready to take centre stage. Though the main roles usually go to its superstar neighbour, Tuscany, the Le Marche region of Italy has just as wide a repertoire. It can do higgledy-piggledy hilltop towns, gloriously gluttonous food festivals, resplendent Renaissance palaces, winding countryside and inviting beaches with equal panache, but with the added bonus that its attractions are much less well known. In 2020, the spotlight will shine brightly here as Urbino, Le Marche’s most picturesque city, leads the celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of the great Renaissance painter – and local boy made good – Raphael.

3. Tōhoku, Japan

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Japan will be buzzing in 2020 as the world descends on Tokyo for the Summer Olympics, and perhaps no region in the country is more eager to get in on the party than Tōhoku. In recovery mode since the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, this under-touristed swathe of the country has also been hard at work reopening transport links, developing new long-distance hiking trails, and rebuilding and improving tourist facilities. Already known within Japan for its dramatic natural landscapes, cultural heritage, historic festivals, good food and warm welcome, Tōhoku is emerging as a breath of fresh air for the crowd-weary adventurous visitor, and is just a few bullet-train hours northeast of the capital.

4. Maine, USA

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New England’s biggest state has always been full of pride, but this year the love for ‘Vacationland’ will reach fever pitch as Maine celebrates its bicentennial. Across the region, towns and cities are holding special exhibitions, concerts and festivals to commemorate 200 years of statehood. Of course, even if Maine wasn’t celebrating a major milestone, it would still be a great time to visit. The culinary scene has exploded in recent years, and you’ll find farm-to-table restaurants, coffee roasters, artisanal bakers and craft brewers all across the state. And despite Maine’s growing popularity, it’s easy to escape the crowds amid the state’s vast forests and its dramatic, lighthouse-strewn coastline.

5. Lord Howe Island, Australia

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Parked in the middle of nowhere 600km off the Australian coast, this visually stunning island makes an instant impact on the senses with its jaw-dropping World Heritage–listed beauty. Two soaring green mountains overlook a perfect lagoon and the world’s southernmost coral reef; perfect crescents of beach and splendid hiking trails through the lush forest add to brilliant outdoors possibilities. This one-time volcano’s isolation makes it a refuge for many endemic species, as well as plentiful birdlife. The island is a shining example of sustainably managed tourism; only 400 visitors are allowed at any time, and you are encouraged to participate in a series of ecological projects. Lord Howe’s remoteness and manageable size make it an idyllic escape.

6. Guizhou Province, China

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Guizhou is a province on the cusp. Its capital, Guiyang, is a city of more than 4 million (that’s greater than the city-limit populations of LA, Rome and Berlin). Streets brim with street-food stalls come evening, and a bowl of spicy rice noodles costs pennies, but down back alleyways, artisan businesses, cafes and craft bars are starting to open. In the countryside, teetery wooden villages still linger almost unchanged for centuries, but have begun to develop traveller amenities. All of this is connected by new high-speed rail lines, meaning you can zip to Chongqing or Kunming from Guiyang in a couple of hours. And China’s ongoing engineering efforts have resulted in gleaming new highways and bridges that make getting into and around Guizhou’s mystical mountains a 21st-century effort.

7. Cádiz Province, Spain

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With a string of gastronomic triumphs, Cádiz province is wandering into the spotlight. Queen of the Sherry Triangle, Jerez de la Frontera welcomed its first Michelin star in 2018 courtesy of Juan Luis Fernández’ restaurant LÚ, Cocina y Alma, and its 20th-century tabancos have been rescued from extinction by enterprising new owners. Even sherry is fashionable again! In El Puerto de Santa María, Ángel León’s Aponiente is one of just two three- Michelin-star restaurants in Andalucía. Hot on its heels is León’s one-starred Alevante in Sancti Petri. Vejer de la Frontera has recast itself as a foodie and boutique-hotel hub, and up-to-the-minute cafes, restaurants and accommodation are breathing fresh energy into Phoenician-origin Cádiz. Throw in new flights to Jerez and this region is ripe for discovery.

8. Northeast Argentina

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With South America’s most impressive falls, a rich regional history and exceptional wildlife watching, Northeast Argentina should be on everyone’s list. Of course there’s the famous Iguazú, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but the rest of this rugged and temperate region will lead you well off the beaten path. Newly minted in 2018, Iberá National Park is poised to become one of Argentina’s greatest attractions. It’s an inspiring success story of how restoring wilderness can have a positive impact on adjacent communities. Rewilding is bringing back the native fauna, from the green-winged macaw to pampas deer and jaguars. Also, the country continues to be great value for travellers.

9. Kvarner Gulf, Croatia

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Sandwiched between the tourist hotspots of Dalmatia and Istria, this less heralded part of the Croatian coast has been quietly building up its credentials in the culinary and environmental-protection spheres over the last decade. Now the Kvarner Gulf is well and truly ready for its close up, with its principal settlement, the gritty port city of Rijeka, embracing the role of European Capital of Culture in 2020. Shiny new set pieces include architecturally repurposed spaces for museums and cultural centres. In supporting roles but ready to steal the show are the gulf islands, with their ageless beauty, historic walled towns replete with Venetian-era architecture, numerous beaches and considerable charm.

10. Brazilian Amazon

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The Brazilian Amazon is the natural world at its purest – an ancient place that, with its polychromatic wildlife and chaotic, knotted flora, seems practically hallucinogenic. This misty jungle is home to some of the world’s rarest plants and animals, as well as communities that have remained stewards of this great green expanse for centuries. As our planet’s climate shifts, conservation of the Brazilian Amazon has become paramount. In 2020, thoughtful and well-planned travel to the most important forest on earth will support sustainable travel efforts, simultaneously benefiting local communities and the national economy, and highlighting the cultural and monetary value in preservation.