The best travel experiences and must-visit destinations for 2020: Travel writers' picks

It would be quite reasonable to presume that our travel writers have left few places unvisited, scarcely any sights unseen and barely any cuisines unsampled. But it's not so. Each new year sees them bursting with renewed curiosity, with yet more corners of the planet still to conquer. What's more, there are all those places to which they'd love to return.

Indeed, travel can be as much about revisits as new visits. Places constantly change - they acquire a brilliant new museum, train ride or hot restaurant, or just a nostalgic glow.

Whatever the case, we hope that in presenting their annual travel "to-do lists" our writers also inspire you. You might be reminded of a bucket list as yet un-tackled, think about a destination you've never considered, or just come up with your own travel musts for 2020.

THE HOTEL FIEND

JULIETTA JAMESON

MY NEW YEAR'S TRAVEL RESOLUTION IS

not to open any tiny amenity bottles in the hotel room bathroom. Single-use plastic is a frontline environmental disaster, and while those little singles are being slowly replaced with large refillables, most hotels I stayed in in 2019 still had them.

MY DREAM HOTELS DESTINATION FOR 2020 IS

Edinburgh, Scotland. Tourism authorities are putting on a Year of Scotland show in 2020 - not that this wonderful country, in equal parts wild and cool, needs additional razzmatazz. It's especially attractive for me as it's where Red Carnation Hotels is opening 100 Princes Street, replicating the boutique atmosphere of the brand's Hotel 41, one of London's finest. See redcarnationhotels.com

THE MUST-VISIT HOTELS DESTINATION FOR 2020 WILL BE

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Paris. A dazzling array of exquisite five-star stays is on the slate for 2020: J.K. Place, a Bvlgari, the LVMH-owned Cheval Blanc, Monsieur George (with interiors by Anouska Hempel) and, 30 or so kilometres down the road ... drumroll please ... a hotel on the grounds of Versailles. See en.parisinfo.com; jkplaces.com

THE ONE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT THIS YEAR IS

to immerse myself in contemporary Jerusalem as part of a wider exploration of this ancient holy city as 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of Mamilla Hotel by the world renowned Israeli architect, Moshe Safdie (who designed the Changi Jewel). See lhw.com

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION ABOUT THE BIGGEST TREND FOR HOTELS IN 2020 IS ...

In the same way we are being asked to tell housekeeping when we want to re-use towels and sheets, some mid-price hotels are offering incentives, such as loyalty points, in exchange for declining to use housekeeping services.

THE RESORT LOVER

SHERIDEN RHODES

raffles maldives meradhoo resort
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Sheriden Rhodes
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The Raffles Maldives Meradhoo resort. Photo: Jorg Sundermann

MY NEW YEAR'S TRAVEL RESOLUTION IS

to explore emerging island and coastal destinations in Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Mauritius. So many new resorts, so little time.

MY DREAM RESORTS DESTINATION IN 2020 IS

The Maldives. I'm keen to see the reimagined COMO Cocoa Island which reopens this month on the South Male Atoll, with a renewed focus on holistic wellness. A third of the island is occupied by COMO Shambhala Retreat. I also want to tick off the all-inclusive Pullman Maldives Maamutaa and Raffles Maldives Meradhoo. Raffles' first Maldivian resort on the remote Gaafu Alifu Atoll straddles two private islands and boasts a marine biologist, a spa, a sunset-facing pool bar and even a marine butler service. See comohotels.com; accor.com; raffles.com

THE MUST-VISIT RESORTS DESTINATION FOR 2020 WILL BE

Fiji. Next year the island nation celebrates 50 years of independence and the Fijians really know how to throw a party. Turtle Island celebrates its 40th anniversary; Plantation Island, fresh from a $FJ16 million makeover, turns 50; Sofitel Fiji Resort has unveiled a raft of updates and the Pullman Nadi Bay Resort and Spa has also opened. Kokomo, Six Senses Fiji and Vomo, which boasts a new Rocks Beach Club with infinity pool, also top my wish list. See turtlefiji.com; accor.com; kokomoislandfiji.com; sixsenses.com

THE ONE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT THIS YEAR IS

to explore abandoned 14th-century villages in the Atlas Mountains and take a horse-drawn carriage through an oasis of date palms at the new Anantara Tozeur Resort in Tunisia. See anantara.com

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION ABOUT THE BIGGEST TREND FOR RESORTS IN 2020 IS ...

that sustainability will remain paramount. Resorts will embrace waste reduction and plastic reduction, carbon emission compliance and move to reduce their footprint to meet the growing expectations of conscious travellers.

THE FOODIE TRAVELLER

BEN GROUNDWATER

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Why not learn to make pasta in Rome? Photo: iStock

MY NEW YEAR'S TRAVEL RESOLUTION IS

to regret nothing when it comes to the pursuit of excellent cuisine. There are plenty of people out there who think it's insane to pay to eat at a fine-dining restaurant, and crazy to travel to a country just to eat the food. But it's all about priorities, and doing what makes you happy.

MY DREAM FOODIE DESTINATION FOR 2020 IS

Thailand. There's so much about real Thai food that I don't know or properly understand, so much that's local and unique and that goes far beyond the pad Thais and green curries with which most of us are familiar. This year I want to delve deep into the country's regional specialties. See tourismthailand.org

THE MUST-VISIT FOODIE DESTINATION FOR 2020 WILL BE

Spain. Already you see Spain's culinary influence around the world: in the proliferation of wood-fired cookery; in the explosion of fine-dining creativity; in every small plate of food you're ever served. Now it's time for travellers to go to the source, to the country that is home to seven of the World's 50 Best restaurants and boasts 11 eateries with three Michelin stars. See spain.info

THE ONE FOODIE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT THIS YEAR IS

to learn to make pasta in Rome. I can already make pasta dishes – I can throw together a rigatoni carbonara – but I rarely make pasta, and this year that is going to change. I'm planning to utilise a month-long stay in Rome in the early part of 2020 to begin a journey into the sometimes secretive and slightly intimidating world of pasta-making.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION ABOUT THE BIGGEST FOODIE TRAVEL TREND IN 2020 IS ...

that it will be less about the meals and more about the experience. Fine-dining is great, Michelin stars are wonderful, but these don't necessarily connect you to a place, they don't help you feel its passion and understand its culinary history. The way to do that is with experiences similar to the one I enjoyed in Fes, Morocco, last year, a private cooking lesson in a local home booked through Airbnb Experiences.

THE PLANE SPOTTER

MICHAEL GEBICKI

MY NEW YEAR'S TRAVEL RESOLUTION IS

to save money by flying budget airlines and use some of the savings for a seat upgrade. Most travellers on budget airlines sit in the lowest-cost seats but pay for an economy-class seat upgrade and you'll often score empty seats on either side, and a decent bed when you need to stretch out.

MY DREAM DESTINATION FOR 2020 IS

Krakow, Poland. On the banks of the Vistula, at the confluence of East-West trading routes, a mercantile city since the Middle Ages, former seat of the Polish kings and one of the few Polish cities not completely devastated by the Nazi occupation, Krakow is rich in memories, its palaces transformed into hotels, burghers' houses into chic cafes. See poland.pl

THE MUST-VISIT DESTINATION FOR 2020 WILL BE

Berlin, a cauldron of innovative ideas and brilliant art and architecture, a vibrant and exciting city that plays by its own rules, and because the city's Brandenburg Airport is finally scheduled to open late in 2020 – just eight years late. See visitberlin.de; berlin-airport.de

THE ONE AIR-TRAVEL EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT THIS YEAR IS

To fly an MiG-29, once the spearhead of the Soviet Air Force, a twin-engine fighter with a top speed of 2400 kilometres an hour and a climb rate of 330 metres per second - which would get you from ground level to the peak of Everest in under 30 seconds. See migflug.com

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR THE BIGGEST TREND IN AIRLINE TRAVEL IN 2020 IS ...

Wary of passengers shy of flying aboard the 737 MAX 8, Boeing will re-brand the aircraft to escape any lingering suspicions regarding its airworthiness. It might remove the "MAX" tag and substitute a number but if not, the airlines might do it themselves, and ask for a hefty discount on the list price to move the 737 MAX 8s that have rolled from the Boeing plant since the worldwide grounding took effect in March 2019. Expect the contagion of the MAX brand to impact on the naming of the MAX 9 and MAX 10.

THE ECO-WARRIOR

LOUISE SOUTHERDEN

Lapa Rios Lodge Costa Rica
Lapa Rios rainforest lodge, a model of sustainable tourism on the Osa Peninsula
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Lapa Rios rainforest lodge in Costa Rica offers a model of sustainable tourism on the Osa Peninsula. Photo: Supplied

MY NEW YEAR'S TRAVEL RESOLUTION IS

to travel zero-waste at least once, starting with taking my own reusable bottle, cup, lunchbox and bamboo cutlery on the flight. I'll use Aquatabs water-purifying tablets to avoid buying plastic bottles when I can't drink the tap water and Nuebar's travel-size natural shampoo and conditioner bars to bypass tiny toiletries in hotel rooms. See nuebar.com

MY DREAM DESTINATION FOR 2020 IS

an overwater bungalow at Bawah Reserve, a barefoot-luxury eco resort hand-built over five years from bamboo and recycled teak inside a marine reserve in Indonesia's largely undeveloped Anambas Archipelago, 300 kilometres north-east of Singapore. See bawahreserve.com

THE MUST-VISIT ECO DESTINATION FOR 2020 WILL BE

Costa Rica, which in 2019 received the UN's highest environmental honour, Champion of the Earth, has been powered by renewables for four years, will ban single-use plastics by 2021 and has doubled its forest cover since 1984. Stay at Lapa Rios rainforest lodge, a model of sustainable tourism on the Osa Peninsula, a biodiversity hotspot, and you might never leave. See nationalgeographiclodges.com

THE ONE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT THIS YEAR IS

crossing New Zealand's Paparoa Range on foot via the new Paparoa Track, which opened in December, a 55-kilometre trail on the west coast of the South Island with hut accommodation along the way. See doc.govt.nz

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR THE BIGGEST TREND IN ECO TRAVEL IN 2020 IS

low-carbon travel: flying less (and not so far), staying longer in fewer destinations (bucket lists and Insta-worthy places are so 2019) and travelling carbon-neutral with operators such as Intrepid and World Expeditions, both of which now offset all their trips. See intrepidtravel.com, worldexpeditions.com

THE CULTURE VULTURE

KATRINA LOBLEY

MY NEW YEAR'S TRAVEL RESOLUTION IS

to hear even more music. I'm a country music tragic but am yet to visit Nashville's tiny suburban venue, The Bluebird Cafe, which puts songwriters front and centre (by putting them in the round). See bluebirdcafe.com

MY DREAM DESTINATION FOR 2020 IS

the same as last year's – Japan. Incredibly, I made it to Naoshima Island for the Setouchi Triennale in 2019, as I'd hoped. The trip gave me a taste for edgy contemporary art in rural Japan. Now my sights are set on the Oku-Noto Triennale (September 5 to October 25) near Kanazawa. See oku-noto.jp, renaissancetours.com.au

THE MUST-VISIT CULTURAL DESTINATION FOR 2020 WILL BE

Moscow, where Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano is turning the disused GES-2 power plant near the Kremlin into a vast arts hub. It opens in September with Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson re-creating episodes of Santa Barbara, the first US soap shown in Russia, over five months. See v-a-c.org

THE ONE CULTURAL EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT THIS YEAR IS

to visit Muzeum Susch in Switzerland's remote Engadin Valley. Polish entrepreneur Grazyna Kulczyk's cutting-edge gallery occupies a 12th-century monastery and brewery complex tucked into the mountains; 9000 tonnes of rock were blasted out to make more space. See muzeumsusch.ch

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR THE BIGGEST TREND IN CULTURAL TRAVEL IN 2020 IS that we'll see more mind-blowing experiential attractions. Area 15 (a spin on the mysterious Area 51 military installation) is a boundary-bending "mall" opening in Las Vegas this year. See area15.com

THE TRAIN FANCIER

TIM RICHARDS

MY NEW YEAR'S TRAVEL RESOLUTION IS

to always catch trains when they're a viable alternative to flying. On a Europe trip last year I caught trains from Zurich to London with a lunch stop in Paris, which was much more fun than hanging around Heathrow.

MY DREAM TRAIN-TRAVEL DESTINATION FOR 2020 IS

South America. This continent is often overlooked by fans of train travel, but since 2017 Belmond has been running the luxurious Andean Explorer sleeper train through Peru, from Cusco at the foot of the Andes via Puno on Lake Titicaca, to Arequipa. Add to this the company's Hiram Bingham train, which takes passengers from Cusco up to Machu Picchu in stylish art-deco comfort. See belmond.com

THE MUST-VISIT TRAIN-TRAVEL DESTINATION FOR 2020 IS

the Balkans. My wife and I are planning to order a Balkan Flexipass from Rail Europe and spend six weeks travelling from Athens to Istanbul by rail, via Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Romania. A stand-out rail experience in this region is the Belgrade to Bar Railway, a pet project of the late Yugoslav President Tito, who used to enjoy the views of this spectacular mountainous route from his swish Blue Train. See raileurope.com.au

THE ONE TRAIN-TRAVEL EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT THIS YEAR

is to ride on the twice-weekly Tshiuetin Rail Transportation train which runs from Sept-Iles to Schefferville in Quebec. . Owned by First Nations peoples, this train uses a line built for mining to serve remote Indigenous communities without road access, travelling through beautiful forested countryside in a remote part of eastern Canada. See tshiuetin.net

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR THE BIGGEST TREND IN TRAIN TRAVEL IN 2020 IS

the continued resurgence of sleeper trains. A few years ago it seemed that night trains were on the way out, even in their European heartland: German operator Deutsche Bahn abandoned all its sleeper routes, citing increased costs and the efficiency of daylight high-speed trains. But the tide has turned, with Austrian Federal Railways reporting great success with its increased Nightjet services across Europe meeting rising demand from environmentally-conscious travellers. See nightjet.com

THE OCEAN CRUISER

SALLY MACMILLAN

MY NEW YEAR'S TRAVEL RESOLUTION IS

to have a neat, ready-to-go bag containing all the essentials for ocean cruising, including sunscreen, sunhat, insect repellent, shoes that work for wet landings and walking, and a travel mug, because cruise-issue cups are just too small for my tea and coffee intake. Most importantly, I am going to invest in an underwater camera.

MY DREAM OCEAN CRUISE DESTINATION FOR 2020 IS

Turkey, because I've visited it several times, on cruise ships and sailing yachts, and I would love to return to ports such as Bodrum, Marmaris and always-enthralling Istanbul. See goturkey.com

THE MUST-VISIT CRUISE DESTINATION FOR 2020 WILL BE

Africa. While South Africa and Indian Ocean islands such as the Seychelles have been on mainstream cruise lines' itineraries for some years, expedition cruising has opened up destinations such as the Cape Verde Islands and Senegal on the west coast.

THE ONE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT ON A CRUISE THIS YEAR IS ...

Having had a taste of life in Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, I would like to venture further north, perhaps to Norway's Svalbard Archipelago or beyond, to see more polar bears.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR THE BIGGEST TREND IN CRUISING IN 2020 IS ...

Cruise lines and passengers are becoming increasingly aware of environmental concerns. Single-use plastics will continue to be banned onboard, while new ships are being built with green technology. Last year, Hurtigruten's MS Roald Amundsen became the world's first expedition ship to operate on hybrid, battery-supported power – expect more to follow. See hurtigruten.com.au

THE RIVER CRUISER

BRIAN JOHNSTON

MY NEW YEAR'S TRAVEL RESOLUTION IS ...

to look beyond mainstream destinations and find rivers less travelled. It's easy to overlook the fact that you can cruise some 50 of the world's waterways, from the Murray in Australia to the Red River in Vietnam and Chindwin River in Myanmar. Even in much-cruised Europe there are byways such as the Vltava, Oder and Tisza. Time to discover the other.

MY DREAM RIVER-CRUISE DESTINATION FOR 2020 IS

the Elbe River, one of the few I haven't cruised in Europe. It flows through a wonderful slice of Germany and the Czech Republic in a region nicknamed "Saxon Switzerland" for its dramatic sandstone gorges and mountains. See vikingrivercruises.com.au

THE MUST-VISIT CRUISE DESTINATION FOR 2020 WILL BE

the Amazon, on which both river and ocean vessels sail. It's been in the spotlight recently for its environmental degradation, but remains one of the world's great eco-destinations, with rainforest home to monkeys, sloths, macaws, toucans and giant butterflies. See aquaexpeditions.com, au.expeditions.com, ponant.com, scenic.com.au

THE ONE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT TO HAVE THIS YEAR IS

to journey along the Gambia River and Senegal coast in West Africa, because it's right on the horizon's edge of river-cruise destinations. It promises a sobering look at slave-trade history, eco-adventures in wetland reserves and encounters with chimpanzees, plus curiosities such as ancient stone circles and palm-wine brewing. See peregrineadventures.com

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR THE BIGGEST TREND IN RIVER CRUISING IN 2020 IS ...

that the US will mature as a river cruise destination. Currently only US companies can operate there, but even so new ships are being launched apace as demand booms. The Mississippi and Columbia rivers are the two big destinations, but cruises are offered on dozens of rivers in the American heartland, including the Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee and Hudson rivers. See americancruiselines.com, americanqueensteamboatcompany.com.au, un-cruise.com

10 TRAVEL PROBLEMS THAT NEED FIXING IN 2020

OVERTOURISM

Venice, Barcelona, Prague and Europe's other favourite cities are flooded with visitors, and while the cities' authorities fret and wring their hands they do nothing lest they pop the tourism bubble and the cash it brings. The solution is simple. Charge admission, and watch the crowds evaporate.

LACK OF CONSUMER PROTECTION FOR AUSTRALIANS

Your flight is delayed for several hours, or the travel agent you booked with suddenly declares bankruptcy and you're left without a buck – and there's no comeback. Australian travellers have only a fig leaf of consumer legislation to protect them compared with their counterparts in Europe and North America.

CROOKED E-VISA SITES

Deceptive e-visa websites masquerading as the real thing look every bit like the official sites they purport to be, but all they do is add an extra layer of costs. Google could halt their game in an instant – but they advertise, and that's a revenue stream for the search giant.

AIRLINE CARBON OFFSET SCHEMES

These schemes are aimed at eco-conscious flyers looking to offset the environmental impact of their flights, but remediation accounts for less than two per cent of all aviation industry emissions. Tree planting and forest conservation projects are favourites for airlines, but the benefits of such schemes are debateable.

CAR-HIRE INDUSTRY RORTS

Show up late for your booking, get talked into an upgrade, buy all the extra insurance you probably don't need, hire a kid's car seat or a GPS and whammo, the cost of your hire car, which seemed so reasonable when you booked it, sprouts wings. The industry's modus operandi is to offer a low base-cost and pile on the extras at the car-hire desk.

DYNAMIC CURRENCY CONVERSION

When paying for merchandise or settling a restaurant or hotel bill with a card overseas it's now common to be asked if you want to pay in Australian dollars. If you accept, you are charged an inflated exchange rate that costs you more, with the difference benefiting the merchant and the dynamic currency exchange facilitator.

AIRCRAFT CERTIFIERS ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL

In the wake of the worldwide grounding of Boeing's 737 MAX 8 aircraft, it has been suggested that the regulator charged with certifying new aircraft types – in this case the US Federal Aircraft Administration – was not doing its job. Deprived of the expertise and the resources to carry out rigorous safety certification work, the FAA has delegated much of the task to Boeing, with a none too surprising outcome.

AUSTRALIA'S GREAT AIRPORT PRICE GOUGE

Enormous parking and taxi fees, huge rental charges for retail space – Australia's airport operators make a tonne of money for their owners and passengers pay the price. The corporations that own these facilities operate as a monopoly, with government unwilling to rein them in.

TRAVEL INSURANCE COSTS FOR SENIORS

As the candles on the birthday cake increase so too do travel insurance premiums. Even those who have never made a travel insurance claim, who are in good health, with no pre-existing conditions get slugged. To cater for the broad spectrum of health conditions among seniors what's needed is policies geared to needs and priced accordingly.

UNCLE SAM MORPHS INTO BIG BROTHER

Apply online for a Non-immigrant Visa to visit the US and you will be required to provide the details of your social media accounts over the past five years. Also, telephone numbers, email addresses and international travel details over the same period.

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