Let's see … should it be an under-explored island group somewhere in a corner of the South Pacific, a cruise through the lesser-sailed waters of Europe or a safari in a deeper, darker corner of Africa? How about an exotic tour through the wilds of South America? Or a multi-generational family trip to one of the Disneylands?
Then again, with the Australian dollar so weak against the greenback (and even worse against the Euro), this might just be the perfect time to consider staying put and holidaying in our own big backyard, just like the millions of international visitors who flock here every year.
With such a plethora of travel possibilities for the year ahead, Traveller has approached 52 – one for each week of the year – of Australia's most high-ranking holiday experts across the spectrum of travel styles with a simple question: if you could only pick one place in the world to visit in 2020, where on Earth would it be?
For good measure, we also asked five of our regular and leading Traveller writers to nominate their dream destination for the coming 12 months (as well as the place that proved to be the most memorable of 2019). Together, their answers, presented in no particular geographic order, are sometimes surprising, occasionally obscure, but always inspiring.
THE PICK OF 2020 FROM OUR 52 EXPERTS
1. BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER, INDIA
"I never tire of this majestic river in north-east India, sailing through the Kaziranga National Park with the greatest population of rhinos in the world along with tigers, wild buffalo, Asiatic elephants, fresh water dolphins and 800 species of birds. Add the soaring Himalayas, tribal villages, temples and tea plantations, and it's just paradise."
SANJAY BASU, ADVENTURE RESORTS AND CRUISES
"Its wild and rugged landscape makes it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with magnificent snow-capped mountains, stunning beaches, remote villages and fascinating history. And being relatively undiscovered, it's far less visited than its neighbours … and the secret won't last long."
TOM HOSEMANS, EXODUS TRAVELS
3. SULAWESI, INDONESIA
"For those seeking unrivalled adventure, my pick is this rich seafaring kingdom. The lesser-known small islands of Indonesia are an explorer's dream with thriving coral reefs, stunning landscapes of volcanic peaks and jungle-fringed waterfalls. Planning our inaugural voyage by small ship we unearthed fascinating centuries-old trading culture and history."
MARK FIFIELD, CORAL EXPEDITIONS
4. LOFOTEN ISLANDS, NORWAY
"They're the home of Viking history and incredible landscapes. I can't even begin to imagine the tranquillity and peacefulness I'd feel paddling through its still waters, surrounded by rugged landscapes in the midnight sun, topped off by a midnight yoga session on the beach."
KATRINA MCALPINE, CUNARD
5. KUMANO KODO PILGRIMAGE TRAIL, JAPAN
"Trekking this cultural walking trail in the Kii Mountains is fabulous. The trail follows old pilgrimage routes past ancient shrines and through dense forest with bubbling streams, rivers and waterfalls. Staying at traditional minshuku inns with onsens and enjoying great food on the way make this a must-do destination."
SUE BADYARI, WORLD EXPEDITIONS
"I would explore the Altiplano [ Andean Plateau] via the Belmond Andean Explorer to Lake Titicaca. From its colourful, mineral-rich soils and snow-capped mountains to its salt and sulphur lakes and hardy wildlife – the dramatic scenery of this extraordinary plateau is like nowhere else in the world."
RICHARD LEONARD, RAIL EUROPE
7. LAU & KADAVU, FIJI
Coral reefs in Kadavu Island, Fiji. Photo: iStock
Amazing road in Tianmen Mountain, Zhangjiajie National Park, China satoct26cover iStock TRAVELLER 52 places for 2020 cover reuse permitted for print and online Photo: iStock
"My choice would be this remote group of islands. I cruised there once before and it's where I discovered my first Christmas tree worms [while] snorkelling and met some incredibly friendly locals. It's time I went back to these stunning islands."
JACKIE CHARLTON, CAPTAIN COOK CRUISES
"Towards mid-December in 2020, Chile will be the place to witness the total solar eclipse. It takes about 375 years for this to happen again in the same location. While I'm waiting on nature's stunning performance, I would visit Santa Cruz, a town filled with orchards and vineyards to taste some of the world's best wines."
DENNIS BASHAM, ON THE GO TOURS
"It's an incredible country that offers travellers a bit of everything, from delicious cuisine (hello Portuguese tarts!), impressive baroque and neoclassical architecture, friendly locals and a diverse landscape. Cities including Porto, Braga, Aveiro and Lisbon are must-sees to experience Portugal in all its glory."
DENNIS BUNNIK, SMALL GROUP TOURING CO AND BUNNIK TOURS
10. SOUTH KOREA
"It's got history, with its 2300-year-old martial arts tradition and 700-year-old palaces, yet still manages to be edgy and contemporary. It has a wonderful local arts scene, gourmet cuisine and cutting-edge design combined with a long tradition of textile [making]. Seoul is traditional yet the centre of technology and the home of the worldwide sensation that is K-pop."
SUJATA RAMAN, ABERCROMBIE & KENT
"2020 has been designated Scotland's "Year of Coasts and Waters" and is a celebration of nature and the environment, and also a chance to reflect on its maritime history and cultural heritage. From majestic sandy beaches to stunning lochs and picturesque rivers and canals, what's not to like?"
PETER TROWLES, CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES
"This East African country, known as the "Land of a Thousand Hills", packs a punch for such a small nation. From the loveable locals' spirit and energetic cultural delights to the magnificent wildlife experiences like trekking to see the endangered mountain gorillas, Rwanda leaves you with a thousand memories."
KATE WEBSTER, WHERE WILD THINGS ROAM TRAVEL
13. SRI LANKA
"I recently visited and was captivated. For a country smaller than Tasmania, its diversity is amazing and I'm also very keen to support local tourism. A 10-day trip would be ideal, starting with the cultural triangle from Colombo before heading to the highlands and tea plantations, then wild leopard and elephant-watching at a safari hotel before finishing with a luxury beach resort."
MICHAEL LAVILLES, THE BEYOND TRAVEL GROUP
"Combining magnificent scenery and the sheer raw power of landscapes and nature at their best, this destination offers a unique freedom to explore and learn and give back – and it also acts as a barometer for climate change."
LISA BOLTON, SCENIC LUXURY CRUISES AND TOURS
15. SABAH, MALAYSIA
"Kota Kinabalu, capital of the state of Sabah is the gateway to some of the best dives in the world: Sipidan, Layang-Layang and Mabul Island, which have been on my bucket list for years, along with the world famous orangutan rehabilitation centre and some of the richest biodiversity on Earth."
JARED SIMCOX, SCOOT
Tatra National Park, Poland. Photo: iStock
"There's a stunning new walk in the Carparthian ranges of Poland, which is easily accessible from the medieval city of Krakow. As well as walking through the stunning Pieniny and Tatra Mountain region, you'd take in one of the regular jazz concerts in the nearby town of Jaworki."
KATE BAKER, UTRACKS
17. GEORGIA AND ARMENIA
"I have my eye on the Transcaucasian Trail for 2020. It's always been an ambition of mine to explore sections of the Silk Route on foot as I've read countless books about the fascinating history of the Central Asian trading routes and, from the documentaries I have seen, the area looks stunning."
JOE KENNEDY, WORLD YOUTH ADVENTURES
The sun sets over Cartagena, Colombia. Photo: iStock
"It's vibrant, progressive and offers varied experiences from the Los Llanos wilderness area, the lush and fertile coffee triangle, the social innovation programs in the post-drug-cartel city of Medellen, the Andes rising up above the Caribbean to the historical Spanish colonial town of Cartagena. And the food is delicious and edgy."
JULIE MCINTOSH, CLASSIC SAFARI COMPANY
19. THE BLACK SEA
"The Black Sea is a keeper of secrets, rumoured to be the home of everything from the lost city of Atlantis to the location of Noah's Ark. Cruising beyond the Bosporus and discovering the rarely visited cruise ports of the Black Sea – from Athens to Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and Turkey – is a unique voyage that should also be in everyone's top destination."
ADAM VANCE, CRUISECO
20. CATALONIA, SPAIN
"I love walking but the choice hike for me would be the pilgrims' trail between the iconic monasteries of Poblet and Escsladei across the glorious hills of the Sierra de Prades, south-west of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. It's a sumptuous walk through beautiful wine areas and sleepy villages."
SIMON SCUTT, ON FOOT HOLIDAYS
21. ZHANGJIAJIE NATIONAL FOREST PARK, CHINA
Other-worldy:Tianmen Mountain, in Zhangjiajie National Park, China. Photo: iStock
"The more I see of China, the more I want to discover, and my choice is this park which is located in China's northern Hunan province and inspired the Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora in the film Avatar. It really looks like another planet."
JOANNE HEGGIE, TRIP.COM
"As travellers return to Egypt in growing numbers, Sudan offers ancient archaeological sites without the crowds, from the Nubian pyramids to a 3300-year-old temple. There are ancient cities and necropolises, opportunities to meet locals at chai houses and souks, and true local hospitality to experience. Sudan is a must for 2020."
JENNY GRAY, PEREGRINE ADVENTURES
23. OBERAMMERGAU, GERMANY
"This small Bavarian village, 90 kilometres from Munich, is the place to see the once-in-a-decade 2000-cast Oberammergau Passion Play 2020. I met lead actor Frederik Mayet in Sydney this year, who said the play's been updated, with modern references to global challenges today, even though it started in 1634. And I don't want to wait until 2030."
JAMES HEWLETT, COLLETTE
"It's not only about up-close wildlife experiences and people, but also true connection and resilience. Its vast and diverse national parks offer true wilderness, yet its hospitality, professional guiding and overnight experiences are world class. Visitors can also help and support a country that's home to some of the last wilderness areas."
KATJA QUASDORF, JENMAN AFRICAN SAFARIS
25. THE BALKANS
Budapest, Hungary. Photo: iStock
"Most of the Balkan countries are relatively untouched by mass tourism, and tourism infrastructure is not as developed as it is in Central Europe, so a river cruise is the perfect way to discover these countries in luxury. It's wonderful to sail from Budapest through Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, through the Iron Gates, and Bulgaria."
SARAH LATIMORE, APT LUXURY TRAVEL
"In an increasingly crazy world, we could all learn a lot from this small country. How they live, the respect they show each other and visitors, and their focus on protecting things for future generations. Bhutan is a place to breathe, rest and connect. Spend two weeks there and it will change your perspective on many things."
JOSS KENT, ANDBEYOND
27. PATAGONIA, SOUTH AMERICA
"I'd go to the southern ice field of Latin America, a region shared by Chile and Argentina. Global warming is having a big impact in the area and the many glaciers of the ice field are quickly receding. The scenery is changing dramatically from one year to the next. It's a shame that the main reason to visit any part of the world is because we might not have it in future … "
DOLORES GANGOTENA DE DIEZ, QUASAR EXPEDITIONS
"Samoa is a destination that combines relaxation, culture and eco-friendliness, and more, from pristine beaches to lava fields, ocean trenches and cultural villages, with an environmental focus and sustainable accommodation options. Samoa ticks all the boxes for an enriching escape that won't cost the earth – in more ways than one."
KRISTIE HILL, SPACIFICA TRAVEL
29. SARAWAK, MALAYSIA
"This Malaysian state on the island of Borneos offers fascinating colonial and war history, great natural beauty, unique wildlife and vibrant colourful cultures and it is so accessible from Australia. Also, there are some of the most eccentric and quirky train trips to be found anywhere."
SCOTT MCGREGOR, RAILWAY ADVENTURES
"The one place to visit in 2020 is the spectacular Inle Lake with its stunning mountain backdrop and colourful ethnic villages. The UNESCO-listed biosphere is one of the most spectacular places in the world and the Burmese people are incredibly warm and welcoming – not to mention great food with ingredients plucked fresh from floating vegetable gardens."
GAYNOR REID, ACCOR ASIA PACIFIC
The Namib desert in Namibia. Photo: iStock
"It's got to be Sossusvlei in the southern part of Namibia. While Sossusvlei is literally a signpost and a gas station in the middle of nowhere, it's located in a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes that can be climbed and make the best backdrop for stunning photos."
CHRIS ORLIKOWSKI, COMO HOTELS AND RESORTS
32. ISTANBUL, TURKEY
"Sitting along the border of Europe and Asia, it's one place but two continents. I would treat myself to a luxurious stay as the accommodation available is unique, combining the best of Eastern and Western cultures, while exploring the silk road trading route and the spice-scented bazaars."
JENNY WILLIAMS, SHANGRI-LA GROUP
33. PAPUA NEW GUINEA
"It's a place where you can avoid the crowds, it's close to Australia and it offers unique experiences, from trekking Kokoda, snorkelling the amazing reefs and beaches, to attending the annual Firedance Festival, where traditional dancers put out a fire using their feet."
BRETT MITCHELL, INTREPID TRAVEL
34. LOS ANGELES, US
"It's the perfect, year-round destination with so much to offer. From touring Broadway shows, to feasting in Koreatown or surfing in Huntington Beach, there's something for everyone. Don't forget the theme parks either, especially Disneyland Resort California's new Star Wars Galaxy's Edge. Then there's the shopping and seeing some of your favourite TV shows being filmed in Santa Monica at CBS Studios, followed by dinner at The Grove. Need I say more?
CHRISTIAN MCINTYRE, VIRGIN AUSTRALIA
35. GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR
"Channelling Charles Darwin and getting up close to giant tortoises, marine iguanas and sea lions is something that has long been on my bucket list. Plus, tourist numbers are controlled to preserve the islands' ecosystems, so any opportunity to visit becomes more extraordinary."
DAVID GALT, WEBJET
"It's always number one on my list as a totally unique country steeped in tradition, with a special culture of its own. Delicious food choices, traditional onsens and the exciting city of Tokyo are highlights. It's perfect by land and sea."
STEVE ODELL, NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE HOLDINGS
"With the famous Swiss Alps covering approximately 60 per cent of the country, coupled with its diversity in nature, culture and weather, Switzerland is a must-see country to include in any European itinerary. There's a range of scenic trains and boat trips to choose from."
JONATHAN HUME, INTERNATIONAL RAIL
"Kenya, the original safari destination, has always also been a premier destination for both beach and bush. It also offers rich culture, dramatic landscapes, incredible wildlife and welcoming people."
MARTIN EDWARDS, BENCH AFRICA
"I'd take a Nile cruise that takes in all the major attractions but also visits some of the lesser-known archaeological sites. My inner nerd loves history and Nubian artefacts. Egypt has had a tough couple of years but it's welcoming Aussies back with open arms."
KIM ERSKINE, GATE 1 TRAVEL AUSTRALIA
40. DOURO RIVER, PORTUGAL
"My pick would be a river cruise on the Douro River to appreciate the scenery, the local food and wine, and the charm and warmth of the Portuguese people. The Douro region is simply one of the most glorious spots on Earth, with stunning terraced vineyards, postcard-pretty villages and excellent local produce."
ANGUS CRICHTON, EVERGREEN CRUISES & TOURS
41. THE KIMBERLEY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
"While I've travelled a lot around the world, I have not yet been on a cruise to this remote, wild and pristine corner of our own country. Our clients are glowing about the experience, so it's on top of my bucket list for 2020."
MEG HILL, CRUISE EXPRESS
42. CANGGU, BALI
Old Man's beachside bar in Canggu. Photo: Fauzy Chaniago
"It's out of the hustle and bustle of Kuta and Seminyak, it's got an almost Byron laid-back feel with an awesome array of great value food, night life, yoga, day spas and beach clubs. Plus, great surf. I love the place."
GLENN CHECKLEY, TRAVELONLINE
43. SOUTH AFRICA
"I love to connect with nature and have always wanted to experience an African safari, so I would head to Kruger National Park in the far north-eastern corner. With overnight wilderness trails, game drives to see the Big 5 and camps for stargazing, it would be the ultimate adventure and a big tick on my bucket list!"
HEIDI KUNKEL, HILTON HOTELS
44. QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND
"There's a new Moonlight Valley & Ben Lomond Backcountry Hike, which traverses a privately owned, historic high country station, near Queenstown. The scenery is stunning, the people are few and the trip includes a scenic jet boat ride and a helicopter flight, pushing it to the top of my wishlist for 2020."
PHILIP WYNDHAM, ADVENTURE SOUTH
"It's such a diverse country with scenery that's breathtaking, welcoming people and fresh produce. It's the only place in the world you can enter into the magma chamber of a volcano. And did I mention you can see the Northern Lights there?"
BRETT DUDLEY, ECRUISING AND LATITUDE 33
46. NORTHERN TERRITORY
"From Uluru to Kakadu, Kings Canyon to Ubirr, it's amazing and a must-see. It's not just a holiday destination, it's an experience. From every corner the sights, tastes and sounds are amazing. It's surreal."
GEOFF CURRIE, iTRAVEL
47. BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
"For a beautiful city that respects the past as much as it lives for the moment, Buenos Aires is at the top of the destination list. It's the gateway to South America and customers tell us they love the city's incredible food and wine, European-style boulevards and Latin vibe."
KATHRYN ROBERTSON, AIR NEW ZEALAND
48. LONDON, ENGLAND
"It's shaping up as the major events capital of the world next year, hosting everything from UEFA Euro 2020 to the World Business Forum. It's also one of the world's most visited cities, with an incredibly diverse history and culture (more than 300 languages are spoken)."
KIT PUI LEE, PAN PACIFIC HOTELS GROUP
"It remains the only continent I haven't yet explored, and one I've dreamed about since I was a boy. It's somewhere you need to set foot on and immerse yourself in, not simply fly over or sail past. Ideally it would be combined with the Falklands or South Georgia - preferably with a little luxury!"
ADAM ARMSTRONG, SILVERSEA CRUISES
50. CHICAGO, US
"Chicago gets my top pick for 2020. With new hotel arrivals like Nobu and The Hoxton and a music and food scene to rival New York, it's well worth the flight time - although Qantas's new direct flights from Brisbane will help make transatlantic travel even easier."
CAMERON HOLLAND, LUXURY ESCAPES
51. THE VOLGA RIVER, RUSSIA
"The ultimate way to explore the real Russia is a cruise on the Volga River – known as the "queen of rivers" – and her tributaries. These waterways of the tsars flow through the vast Russian countryside between the great cities of St Petersburg and Moscow, where storied palaces and towering Soviet skyscrapers dominate the landscape."
JANE MOGGRIDGE, VIKING CRUISES
52. THE CARIBBEAN
"Next on the list is the Caribbean, as each island is its own paradise; perfect places to create unique memories. I want my boys to experience the rich history of Costa Maya with its impressive ancient ruins and I would love to try the special Barbados dish Flying Fish and Cou Cou."
KATHRYN VALK, ROYAL CARIBBEAN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
OUR WRITERS' PICK FOR 2020
"I'd go back to Vienna any time. There are a dozen ways to be seduced, from a horse-drawn carriage ride around the old town to time at the Hofburg palace for a performance of "dancing" white horses at the Spanish Riding School. Then I'd head to one of the city's famous coffeehouses, such as Cafe Sperl, an 1884 cafe with marble-topped bar, chandeliers and an old-world vibe that's just the spot for a cream cake. I'd want to see Klimt's famous painting The Kiss, take an evening walk around the illuminated town centre and have a glittering night at the opera." See wien.info/en; traveller.com.au/vienna
"Forget a marathon; in 2020, I want to do a Stanathon. I've yearned to visit the desert cities and cave temples of the Silk Road since I was a kid, when I was first enchanted by the mystique of fabled cities such as Samarkand and Bukhara. The more I learn about the 'Stans [Central Asian counties such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan], the keener I get. The landscape – all dramatic canyons, magnificent mountains and vast lakes – looks spectacular, and the fact that relatively few visitors make it there only adds to the allure." See kazakhstan.travel; discoverkyrgyzstan.org; tourism.gov.tm; orexca.com/uzbekistan/tourism.htm; traveltajikistan.tj
"Poland specialises in poignancy, and surprise. Poignancy because of a history saturated with scalding nightmares, and surprise because this is a country that testifies to the stubborn resilience of the human spirit – and more. Baroque palaces, forest-trimmed lakes with thriving populations of bison, hipster-crowded cafes and everywhere flowers, bookshops and Chopin – this is not quite what you expect of a country that also counts Auschwitz among its attractions. I've skimmed the highlights but now I want depth so I'll be taking it sip by sip. Also, because it's where my father comes from, and now it's time to pay attention to ancestry." See poland.travel/en; traveller.com.au/poland
BENIN AND TOGO, WEST AFRICA
"An annual Voodoo Day? Australia Day pales beside that. Benin, a small sliver of a nation in West Africa, has always fascinated me and not only for voodoo, still considered its state religion. It has a "slave coast" from which captives were shipped off over the Atlantic, a succession of military dictators, a flirtation with communism and then Africa's first successful transfer of power from a dictator to a democracy. By all accounts, it's wild, wacky and infinitely wonderful. Togo next door is similarly off the beaten track with dramatic landscapes, a vast melting pot of cultures, and Islam and Christianity living (however uneasily) side-by-side with voodoo. See africa.com; traveller.com.au/africa
I'm desperate to visit Lebanon next year – it's one of the destinations I think we're going to be hearing a lot more about in the near future. There's so much I'm interested in here, from the Greek and Roman ruins of Baalbek to the buzz of modern Beirut; from one of the oldest wine cultures in the world to a culinary scene that deserves far more attention. Given the strong history of Lebanese migration to Australia, along with an easing of tensions in the area recently, this is a part of the world I would love to experience and begin to understand as soon as possible. See destinationlebanon.gov.lb; traveller.com.au/lebanon
OUR WRITERS' STANDOUTS FOR 2019
The landscapes around Guilin in southern China have seduced poets and painters for 2000 years and are instantly recognisable in scroll paintings that depict squashed-up mountains and stands of tall bamboo. The classic boat trip down the Li River to Yangshuo showcases the magnificent scenery of karst piles and lush green valleys. Simply stunning. See visitguilin.org; See traveller.com.au/guilin
Earlier this year I returned to India after a 15-year absence and was so seduced, I just headed back there again. From the ruins at Hampi to the Himalayan peaks of Sikkim and the magnificent monuments of Hyderabad, the wonders just keep coming – and of course, the food is an attraction in its own right. See incredibleindia.org; traveller.com.au/india
Picture this: a country of snow-capped peaks and wild forests, medieval villages and fortified churches built by settlers from Saxony and Hungary. Fairytale castles whose spires lance a blue sky, painted monasteries, wooden churches, a folk-art culture with woodcarvers and blacksmiths, and women embroidering by the fireside. Romania is Europe from another age, without the crowds, and it charmed my socks off. See romaniatourism.com; traveller.com.au/romania
I broke a toe the day before I went to Fiji this year and ended up in agony after paddle-boarding (the stupidest thing you can do with that injury, apparently) and scuba diving (the second dumbest activity). But Fiji now offers a level of sophistication and luxury it never had, which makes it the perfect adventure destination, and the loveliest fly-and-flop spot when those adventures go wrong." See fijiislands.com.au; traveller.com.au/fiji
ST EMILION, FRANCE
I spent an amazing three days in St Emilion, in the south-west of France. Given its fame as a wine region and its proximity to Bordeaux I'd expected a touristy crush, but instead I was completely charmed by the place – something that was aided by staying in a cottage on a vineyard and discovering the best baguettes I've ever tasted. saint-emilion-tourisme.com; traveller.com.au/france