It’s a new year and that means new adventures! I’ve rounded up 20 of what I think are the coolest places to travel in the coming year. There 10 around the United States and 10 abroad.
If you’ve made a resolution to see a little bit more of the world or to take that dream vacation these are definitely some places to consider.
There are a few common themes through these destinations. I love beautiful outdoor space, good food and drinks, and a uniqueness that you won’t find anywhere else. This list is a mix of places that I’ve already been to and thought were amazing as well as destinations I’ve been reading about, find intriguing and want to visit myself.
Without further ado, 20 places to travel to in 2020
Nashville has quickly become the “it” city to visit. From the booming music scene (it’s not just country) to amazing food, arts, and culture, there is a lot going on in Nashville. You’ll definitely need to try some hot chicken and go honky-tonking to get the full experience.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park TN/NC
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the Tennessee and North Carolina border and is the largest protected area in the eastern United States. It is a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts with plenty of hiking, river kayaking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The biodiversity of this area is also amazing, National Geographic described it as “the equivalent of traveling from Georgia to Maine”.
Death Valley National Park CA
Death Valley’s unique landscape looks like something out of a movie. If you’ve seen Star Wars you’ll probably recognize it! It is the hottest, driest, and largest national park in the continental United States. And is home to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. While the desert landscape can be harsh, the rolling sand dunes of Eureka Dunes can be magical and stargazing at night is amazing.
The little artsy town of Taos is known for its outdoor activities, art colony, and Pueblo. It really is a destination for all seasons with world-class skiing and snowboarding in the winter at Taos Mountain, and rafting the Rio Grande in the summertime.
The Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest inhabited communities in the United State. The Puebloan People have lived in this area for over 1000 years. You can visit the Pueblo and take a tour to get some history and see some of these beautiful old buildings. It is still an active community and there are around 150 people living there.
Southern Utah might be one of the most beautiful places in the United States. It’s home to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Arches National Park. That is a lot of outdoor space! With its red cliffs, lush river valleys, and epic rock formations there is a ton to explore.
If you are looking for a unique destination that you don’t need a passport for, Puerto Rico is it. This Caribbean island is a US Territory but has a culture and vibe all its own. Puerto Rico offers a little something for everyone from relaxing beaches to swinging nightlife to outdoor adventures both on the water and in the mountains. You’ll be able to find a little piece of paradise here.
Islamorada is situated right in the middle of Miami and Key West and is technically four small islands. If you are into watersports this is the place for you, from snorkeling to kayaking to sport fishing there is no shortage of aquatic adventures. You can also get a little history at the Museum of Diving and the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center.
Are there any Fixer Upper fans out there? Waco was not really a tourist destination until very recently. The show Fixer Upper and Chip & Joanna Gains’ Magnolia empire have created a must-visit atmosphere and revitalization of the town. It has now become a mecca for interior and design enthusiasts as well as fans of the show. Wander around the charming downtown, go antiquing, and of course visit the Magnolia Market at the Silos.
Bozeman is a wonderfully eclectic little town filled with hipsters, cowboys, outdoorists, and entrepreneurs. Nestled in a little valley surrounded by mountains, the great outdoors is never too far away. In the winter there is great skiing and snowboarding, and in the summer there is plenty of hiking and rock climbing to keep you occupied.
The downtown is cutesy and walkable and full of hipster cafes, good food, and local breweries. You are also right near Yellowstone National Park, so that’s a plus!
For a fun city adventure with good food, good drinks, and awesome coffee, Portland is the place! Buy all the books you heart desires at Powell’s City of Books because you know you love the feel of a paperback in your hands. Indulge in fancy ice cream and donuts, and rent a bike to cruise around to the city’s best breweries. Let your little hipster heart run free!
Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It also has one of the most diverse landscapes in the world from tropical beaches to the Amazon jungle to tall volcanic mountains. The Galapagos Islands are also a part of Ecuador, making it a favorite for travelers interested in nature and biology.
The capital city of Quito is lively with modern amenities and nightlife as well as packed with colonial and indigenous history. Quito was also the first UNESCO Heritage Site to be named in 1978.
Uruguay has one of the fastest-growing economies in South America and has inclusive and progressive social structures making it inviting for everyone. The laid back beach vibes are perfect for a relaxing trip, add in some hot springs and wine tasting and you might have the best vacation ever!
Most fairytales seem to come from Germany, but you might not know that Slovenia looks like a real-life fairytale. Lake Bled is one of the most beautiful places in Europe with its bright blue water and towering church set atop a tiny island in the middle of the lake.
The capital city of Ljubljana is the perfect combination of modern and medieval. There are tons of good restaurants and local breweries as well as plenty of old school European charm.
If you like architecture, thermal baths, and wine Hungary might just be the perfect place for your next trip. Hungary’s amazing architecture ranges from medieval and romanesque castles to gothic government buildings to Baroque-style churches. Needless to say, the buildings are all pretty epic looking.
Hungary is also known for its thermal baths and has an estimated 300 thermal springs around the country. Some are grand with beautiful architecture and built out pools, while some are simpler more natural pools. Hungary also has a booming wine industry, so be sure to try some local vintages, they specialize in full-bodied reds.
Montenegro is nestled down on the Balkan Peninsula on the Adriatic Sea between Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, and Serbia. The breathtaking mountains, European cities, pristine beaches, and friendly people are sure to steal your heart. If you are looking for the next big Europe destination this might just be it. River raft down the Tara river for a little adventure or spend your days sipping wine and eating local charcuterie in an outdoor cafe, both sound pretty good right?
Central Asian Silk Road
You probably have a vague idea of what the Silk Road was, some kind of trading route across Europe and Asia, right? Mostly, the Silk Road was a network of trade routes going all over Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. They covered a lot of ground!
The central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are rich in history, amazing architecture, stunning landscapes. Following the Silk Road route through them would be amazing. There are quite a few tours taking people along the route, but you can also go it yourself. Either way, you are sure to see some amazing places.
Ireland might seem a little well known for this list, but I think there is a lot of this beautiful country to explore. We all know about the Cliffs of Moher and Temple Bar in Dublin (all places worth visiting), but there is way more to Ireland than that.
Take a road trip on the Wild Atlantic Way along the western coast, explore the sparsely populated but lush County Donegal in the northern corner of the country, or experience Ireland from the trail by hiking on of the many National Waymarked Trails.
So ya wanna see some animals? Rwanda is famous for its mountain gorillas and gorilla trekking to go see them in Volcanoes National Park. You can also see the “Big 5” on a more traditional safari through Akagera National Park as well. Rwanda is considered to be the safest country to travel in Africa and is the ninth safest country in the world according to the Telegraph.
Malaysia is considered the “melting pot” of Asia. Its demographics are made up of mostly Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Indigenous groups, which means a diverse array of foods, cultures, and religions. This multicultural and multiethnic diversity is celebrated and can be seen everywhere, especially when there is a holiday.
The Capital city of Kuala Lumpur is known for the Petrona Twin Towers. And it has become one of the fastest developing cities in the region. To get out of the city you can explore the jungles of Borneo, or relax on the beaches of the Perhentian Islands just off the coast.
Okay, so this one might be a little controversial, but hear me out. Saudi Arabia opened its doors to tourism at the very end of 2018, claiming that they want to diversify their economy (i.e. get away from oil), and tourism dollars are good.
With this comes some loosening of previously very conservative rules like women needing “guardians” to accompany them, or that women must wear headscarves. It is still a conservative country though and conservative clothing and behavior are a must.
There definitely are some political and cultural issues to consider like the history of human rights violations among others. I’ve heard the argument many times, about plenty of different countries that “I don’t want to support a corrupt/dictatorship/bad government with my tourist dollars”. That is fair, but the way I see it is, sure the money you pay for your visa goes to the government, but I tend to patronize locally owned establishments once in a country, therefore, supporting local people and economies.
Saudi Arabia has dramatic landscapes, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and a ton of history to explore. I wouldn’t discount it based on what a few people do and the bad things that get reported in the news.
Full disclosure, I have not been to Saudi Arabia yet. I’ve done quite a bit of reading from those who have visited in the last year though. And while I might not agree with some of the cultural practices and politics, I still find the area beautiful and the history fascinating, which is why it’s on this list.
The Many Murals of Nashville
A Weekend in Portland
6 Reasons Slovenia Should Be On Your Bucket List
5 Outdoor Adventures to Have in Montenegro
The 4 Best Ways to Experience Ireland
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