Dec. 11, 2019
The world keeps growing. Every traveler I know says their wish list constantly grows longer. Deciding is difficult, so I asked my unofficial (but super-smart) team of advisers. They keep their ears on their clients’ interests and their eyes on the adventures they themselves have around the world.
This year is different. Journalists, travel agents, travelers and residents of cities like Barcelona are thinking about over-tourism. It’s making these lists tricky. (That doesn’t mean I’ll stop—but maybe I’ll be a little more thoughtful.)
Philippe Brown, founder of Brown and Hudson, said something that sounded right to me. While he played along and sent destinations, he mostly sent trends. My favorite is “ethical travel—sustainability, luxury, and wanderlust.” The idea is for tourists (let’s be honest: we are all tourists when we leave home) to leave a light and positive footprint on the places we visit. “The Swedish term lagom— ‘just enough’—is increasingly being heard along with clients wanting everything their way.”
These lists aren’t going away, but I share Brown’s hope that we can all be more mindful of how we travel. With my mini-rant over, here (alphabetically) are the coolest places to visit in 2020.
There are more options for exploring the top of the world than ever. Wen Minkoff, managing director for marketing at the adventure-focused agency GeoEx, says, “We love it for 2020 because you can watch narwhals and walruses among the pack ice, kayak past icebergs, take a helicopter from a nuclear icebreaker to stand at the North Pole, or head ashore to hike along the tundra and glaciers in search of reindeer and Arctic foxes.”
Cumbersome visa requirements have been lifted, making Brazil more appealing than ever. The country has “epic terrain: rain forest, jungle, beaches, sand dunes, and wine regions,” according to Jennine Cohen, the senior director of global sales for GeoEx. “The rich history and mix of culture manifest in fulsome fusion food and eye-catching architecture.” Her spotlight is trained on the vibrant Afro-Brazilian city of Salvador, where the new Fasano Hotel is bringing next-level accommodations and dining.
Thanks to more direct flights, city enhancements, and new five-star hotels, this often-overlooked city is booming, say the experts at Red Savannah. “ The once derelict industrial waterfront is seeing a level of investment like never before, and Qantas has announced new direct flights from Chicago and San Francisco. The opening of the Calile Hotel has enhanced the urban-chic vibe of James St. precinct.”
The Dolomites and Lake Garda
First, there was the big nod of approval when Cortina was recently named one of the host cities for the 2026 Winter Olympics. In the meantime, Tom Marchant co-founder of Black Tomato, says the Dolomite Mountains offer an “ode to our clients’ growing appetite for ‘pure’ destinations.” Nearby, around Lake Garda, the new Lefay Resort’s “eco-conscious wellness offerings make it appealing for travelers seeking a soul-enriching experience rooted in nature.” And in March, Black Tomato will launch a ski-and-wine safari with tastings of South Tyrolean reds, whites, and bubbles.
“A weekend getaway for locals and creative hub for artists, this island shows what authentic daily life in Greece is all about,” says Marchant. “The untouched sands and vehicle-free roads make this spot increasingly appealing when coming from Mykonos or Santorini.” Black Tomato has partnered with local artists who “open up their studios and homes, showcasing Greece’s incredible hospitality.”
“A trip to Israel is a rare blend of history, spirituality, culture, adventure, and innovation, perfect for travelers of all ages and interests, making it a fantastic choice for multigenerational travel,” explains Marchant. “In a country with so many diverse landscapes, topographies, beliefs and ways of life, there are thousands of ways to explore.” To tap into the past, there are the underground tunnels in the City of David. To enjoy the present, take in the energy and innovation (and Bauhaus architecture) of modern Tel Aviv. And for a glimpse of the future, look to the desert-chic luxury offerings at the Six Senses Shaharut, set to finally open in 2020.
“Beat, join or escape the Olympics crowds,” says Brown, who notes that Japan is increasingly accessible to travelers with disabilities, too. GeoEx’s Don George agrees: “Of course there’s the Olympics. But there’s much more to see and do. Get off the beaten path on the little-visited southern island of Shikoku. There you can trace the “Camino of Japan,” a 9th-century, 88-temple pilgrimage trail that circles the island.” Bathe in a celebrated 19th-century onsen (hot spring), eat the local specialty katsuo no tatake (lightly seared fresh bonito), which George calls “a little taste of heaven,” stay in a beautifully renovated 300-year-old thatched-roof farmhouse, and explore isolated mountain valleys where traditions still thrive.
This one landed on my list more out of personal passion than professional talking points. When GeoEx’s Cohen headed out on her own journey toward Buenos Aires, she found herself seduced by CDMX. So much so that she stayed for weeks, then started formulating plans to live there instead. And she shared all that with me (who loved the DF’s energy five years ago, too): “Mexico City is on fire , with amazing new restaurants, art and basically everything. It’s feeling like the center of the world.”
If it’s good enough for Stephen Colbert, it’s good enough for you. That’s the sense that Brown and Hudson is picking up from their clients. And why not? The landscape is epic. It can feel like there are more sheep than people, and there’s a fondness for safe but weird adventure sports. Above all, it’s far from all the drama,
The Peruvian Amazon
Red Savannah has seen a surge of interest from its clients in the eagerly awaited Aqua Nera. It’s the new riverboat from Aqua Expeditions, the company that brought luxury to the Amazon. In August, the ship will set sail, connecting its passengers with pink dolphins, manatees, giant river otters, and dwarf caiman, with top-notch naturalists to explain it all—and, as Aqua enthusiasts have come to expect, excellent cuisine, as the consulting chef is Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Malabar and ÁmaZ in Lima.
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