Our recommendations for holidays in 2020
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Given how our travel wishlist varies from year to year, destinations across the globe need to work harder than ever to appeal to a fresh crowd (mostly those who want more from a holiday than just to fly and flop). So with 2020 just around the corner, here’s our pick of wow-factor places that need to be on your radar for the year ahead.
What destinations make our list?
We’re always besotted by the Maldives, the world’s lowest-lying country cherished for its picture-perfect islands, sugar-white powdery sands, impossibly blue Indian Ocean waters, and year-round tropical climate. There’s also a sleek-as-you-like hotel scene here, with more exciting resort openings yearly for all-access passes to paradise. Located along the north-west coast of the Malé Atoll, VARU by Atmosphere is a newbie worthy of your attention for its stunning accommodation (the Water Villas split across three jetties are especially gorgeous), four fabulous restaurants, and superb activities. Another luxe haven is Sun Aqua Iru Veli on the island of Aluvifushi in South Nilandhe Atoll; not least for its sumptuous suites (all have a private pool), six restaurants and bars, world-class wine cellar, and heavenly spa. Both five-star resorts offer exciting excursions such as sunset cruises, island tours, fishing, and snorkelling trips.
Of all the new properties, it’s Emerald Maldives Resort and Spa that gets our seal of approval when it comes to location (Fasmendhoo island, a 40-minute scenic seaplane flight from Malé), collection of thatched-roof beach villas and overwater bungalows (many come with private pools and Jacuzzis), and board basis (the Deluxe all-inclusive concept is arguably a winner). There’s also drop-dead-gorgeous views of pristine white beaches and crystalline waters, four excellent restaurants, a fantastic kid’s club, a PADI dive centre, and a gleaming spa and fitness centre. The selection of watersports (sailing, jet-skiing, kayaking, and windsurfing) tops things off nicely.
Tucked away in the USA’s north-eastern corner, New England is the dreamy outdoor playground that really does have it all: vibrant foliage and leaf-peeping experiences in autumn, ocean-backed beaches and reliable sunshine in summer, and tons of exciting pursuits the rest of the year. Made up of six states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont), it’s also a historic hotbed; not least because the Pilgrim Fathers sailed across the Atlantic on the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth in 1620. Best of all, visiting in 2020 coincides with the 400th anniversary of this legendary voyage - and there’s plenty of events and festivals planned to mark the occasion. Scheduled so far is a maritime salute in Plymouth, a traveling regional exhibit on Wampanoag history, a weeklong series of festivities leading up to Thanksgiving, and heritage tours led by the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
The region’s cultural treasures are revealed on the 12-night Self-Drive Inn-Side New England, a unique holiday that lets you explore Boston, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and the New Hampshire Lakes at your own pace. Itinerary highlights include admiring the Portland Head Light, riding the Cog Railway to the summit of Mount Washington, hiking the trails around White Mountain National Forest, and enjoying an ice-cold sugar rush at the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour. You’ll also get to marvel at the grand mansions of Newport, unwind at Cape Cod, and visit Plymouth for historic sites such as Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower II, and Plimouth Village.
The southernmost country on the African continent, South Africa never fails to amaze us with its jaw-dropping landscape (epic coastlines, misty mountains, sweeping savannahs, extraordinary deserts), cosmopolitan cities, culture-rich towns, and phenomenal wines. It’s also big on safaris, especially the tailor-made kind that don’t compromise on comfort one bit; think luxurious lodge-style accommodation, gourmet dining, and professional guides who get you close (but not too close) to the action. And while there’s no shortage of fabled game reserves, we’re big advocates of Kruger National Park - the oldest, most diverse, and largest in the world at over 7,500 square miles. The wildlife-watching opportunities here are seriously cool; be sure to join a bush walk or arrange to travel in an open-sided 4x4 vehicle to catch a glimpse of the Big Five (a term coined by big game hunters to reference lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant).
To fully appreciate both the heart-stirring African wilderness and the nation’s natural splendours, a bespoke tour delivers a seamless experience. Our unique Wine, Whales and Wildlife Luxury Self-Drive itinerary takes in the iconic sites of Cape Town (Table Mountain, Robben Island, Camps Bay, Boulders Bay) and includes a three-night stay at the award-winning Twelve Apostles Hotel. You’ll also have ample time to explore the green hills and vineyards of Franschhoek before bedding down for two nights at the boutique-style Mont Rochelle. Further treats include whale-watching in the coastal town of Hermanus and blissing out at Grootbos Nature Reserve - an eco-luxe resort overlooking Walker Bay.
For wide-eyed grown-ups and their excitable offspring, Orlando does over-the-top attractions like nowhere else on the planet. Factor in amazing shopping, world-class dining, and a smattering of excellent golf courses, and it’s easy to see why this Florida city lures over 60 million visitors every year (it’s also handy for double-duty holidays with beach stays in Miami, Clearwater, and Naples). But let’s be honest, most are here for the adrenalin-pumping and big-ticket theme parks, including Walt Disney World Resort that covers 47 square miles and incorporates The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and two waterparks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Universal’s offerings are just as epic and include Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, the buzzy night-time entertainment complex Universal CityWalk, and the Volcano Bay waterpark. The best of the rest are SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, and Busch Gardens in nearby Tampa.
Once you’ve had your fill of stomach-churning rides, relax with your brood at Loews Royal Pacific Resort - a South Pacific-styled retreat in the heart of Universal Orlando. There’s a shimmering lagoon-style pool fringed by a white-sand beach, a fitness centre and spa, several wining and dining options, and a selection of rooms with all the mod cons you’ll need. But we’re most excited about the on-site guest benefits package that offers a slew of perks and privileges, such as early park admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay, queue-jumping passes, free shuttle buses and water taxis, and priority seating at resort restaurants.
While there’s always been a buzz about Canada for its mind-blowing landscapes of fjord-slashed coastlines, snow-capped mountains, and prairie expanses, it’s the urban delights that get our hearts racing. And little beats the cities in the east of the country for a rich platter of history, culture, and epic scenery. Head to Toronto to whizz to the top of the 553.33-metre-high CN Tower (it really does look like a huge hypodermic needle piercing the skyline) and later explore the restored Distillery District to get a feel for the city’s interesting heritage. Also visit the island metropolis of Montreal for its flourishing arts scene (eye-popping murals, graffiti-style paintings, interactive installations), legendary festivals, and chic European vibe. Equally worthy of your attention is the fairytale-like Quebec City for its Citadel, Latin Quarter, National Assembly, Royal Palace, and much-photographed Château Frontenac (a five-star Fairmont property).
For joie de vivre with plenty of luxe trimmings and trappings, the 7-night Indulgence in Eastern Canada raises the bar for adventure. Not only will you get to enjoy a ton of thrills in big-name cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, and Ottawa, but there’s also a charming cruise to the base of Niagara Falls and a visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake - the pretty 19th-century town famed for its world-class wine estates, boutique wineries, whimsical shops, enthralling art galleries, delightful bistros, and horse-drawn carriages. The tour also includes Château des Charmes for its romantic gardens and St David's Bench Vineyard for wine tasting.
Fewer tropical islands do glitz and glamour like Barbados, the sun-kissed coral gem with two distinctive coasts: the calm Caribbean with its luminous waters and glistening sands and the wild Atlantic with its gnarly surf-pounding shores and foam-crested waves. But there’s more to this tiny place (21 miles long and 14 miles wide) than beach bliss. Try hiking from Stroud Point to North Point, taking a tour of the famous Mount Gay Distillery, exploring Harrison’s Cave, and soaking up the cultural wonders of Bridgetown - the UNESCO-listed capital. Other great shouts include exploring sugarcane fields, diving any of the 200-plus wrecks around Carlisle Bay, tucking into a Friday fish dinner at Oistins, and watching cricket (there’s always a game on somewhere). If you happen to be here in late July or early August, don’t miss the flamboyant street carnival to mark the end of Crop Over (Rhianna is a fan; we’ve spotted her on a float).
Once you’ve exhausted the reggae bars and calypso clubs and quenched your thirst at several rum shacks, relax at the brand new The Sands Barbados - a contemporary-styled resort near buzzy St Lawrence Gap on the island’s south coast. There’s 153 studios and suites, all with sleek décor, stylish fixtures and fittings, comfy beds swathed in high-end linens, and modern bathrooms. You’re spoiled further with two superb restaurants (buffet and à la carte), two bars, a freshwater pool, a gym, and a great spa for top-to-toe pampering. Also take advantage of the non-motorised watersports, including kayaking, pedal boats, body boarding, and snorkelling.
If you’re keen to tap into nature, the ecologically-rich republic of Costa Rica rewards with a whopping amount of wild and wondrous experiences; from fog-shrouded rainforests and volcanic giants (including the headlining Arenal) to spectacular national parks and miles of unspoiled wilderness. It also happens to be one of our favourite places for outdoors adventures; think zigzagging through the emerald jungle on a zip-line, scuba diving with sharks, white water rafting (Class I to Class V rapids are on offer, take your pick), and booking boat tours to spot humpback whales. You’re also in for a treat when it comes to wildlife-watching; keep your eyes peeled for sloths, Pacific-screech owls, long-tailed manakin, turquoise-browed motmot, tropical porcupines, and 52 different types of hummingbird. Be sure to spend time on one of the dazzling beaches, many of which tempt with brilliant-white or black sands, azure waters, and candy-coloured corals.
Of all the bespoke tours designed for couples, families, honeymooners, and independent travellers, we’re most excited about the 16-day Costa Rica Adventure - an itinerary-driven holiday with the perfect balance of guided excursions and free time. Highlights include zip-lining at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, exploring the Sarapiqui Rainforest, hiking in Tortuguero, and soaking up the coastal splendour of Puerto Viejo de Talamaca. You’ll also visit La Fortuna - the small town near the foot of Arenal Volcano that’s famed for its remarkable activities (white water rafting, waterfall rappelling, hiking through lava fields, and soaking in natural hot springs).
There’s no denying the appeal of Patagonia, the spellbinding region covering some 400,000 square miles and spanning two South American countries (much of the tourism is found in Argentina and Chile’s northern lake districts and around Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine national parks). Recommended for those who like their travel adventures raw, rugged, and romantic, we’re huge fans of this wild frontier’s attractions: pristine wilderness, jagged peaks, majestic glaciers, glistening lakes, incredible wildlife in every direction, and a slew of hikes, treks, and excursions. And even though there’s a very different vibe in each section (Argentinian Patagonia is geographically larger and there are more regions to explore while Chilean Patagonia offers more under-the-radar experiences as well as islands, inlets, and a myriad of snow-capped volcanoes with smoky peaks), both are totally humbling in terms of beauty.
Given that Patagonia is not the easiest place to master alone, the 13-night Argentina, Chile and Patagonia does a stellar job of highlighting the best bits on an itinerary-rich tour. After a stint in Buenos Aires that includes stops at Plaza De Mayo, Casa Rosada, La Boca, and La Recoleta Cemetery (the resting place of Eva Perón), you’ll travel onwards to Peninsula Valdes Reserve and Tierra del Fuego National Park. Further highlights include Los Glaciares National Park, Perito Moreno Glacier, Torres del Paine National Park, and a guided tour of Santiago de Chile - the cosmopolitan capital gloriously surrounded by the snow-capped Andes.
As close to paradise as it gets, the exquisite Seychelles are perfect for those who like their tropical escapes unapologetically classy and romantic. An archipelago of 115 islands floating in the sparkling Indian Ocean, it continually seduces with ribbons of sugar-white sands, turquoise-tinted waters, jungle-covered hills, amazing sunsets, year-round sunshine, and upmarket resorts that will leave you wanting for nothing. And tempting as it might be to stay holed up in one place, we’d recommend island-hopping while you’re here. Head to Mahé for its jungle-clad mountains, Praslin for its soaring palm trees and unique flora and fauna, and La Digue for its relaxed Creole lifestyle (it goes without saying that the beaches are all incredible throughout). Island highlights include exploring the Vallée de Mai, visiting the tiny capital of Victoria, touring a coconut plantation, and keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife (selfies with wild giant tortoises are a must).
Luxury always finds its home in the Seychelles; from big-name branded resorts to independent and more intimate boutiques. And whilst staying a any high-end property is bliss-bringing, we’re rather smitten with Mahé’s The H Resort Beau Vallon Beach, Kempinski Seychelles Resort Baie Lazare, and JA Enchanted Island Resort. All are five-star worthy and offer chic accommodation, top-notch restaurants, tranquil spas, and lovely pools. They are also within driving distance of the cinnamon-scented island’s top attractions, including the Takamaka Rum Distillery, the Morne Seychellois National Park, and the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens.
Most visiting New Zealand want to divvy up their holiday and spend quality time in the charismatic North Island with its white-sand beaches, national parks, world-class vineyards, dense rainforests, cosmopolitan cities, and geothermal wonders and the larger South Island with its rugged coastlines, sparkling glaciers, and adrenaline-fuelled activities. So any decent tour of this spellbinding land will not only take in both islands, but also provide an in-depth and time-sensitive itinerary that enables you to see and do everything in one hit. Some of our favourite experiences include bungee jumping in Queenstown, exploring Auckland and its stunning surrounds, cruising around the Bay of Islands, whale watching in Kaikoura, and taking a dip in the thermal pools at Rotorua. Don’t miss the glacier-carved fiords, the most famous of which is the incredibly grand Milford Sound (it’s also the only one that can be accessed by road).
The 30-day Length and Breadth of New Zealand Self-Drive is the ultimate exploration tour for those wanting a comprehensive country overview. You’ll get motel accommodation on a room-only basis (motorhome itineraries can be arranged) as well as internal flights, detailed driving packs, and car hire for the duration. Highlights include the Coromandel Peninsula, the Abel Tasman National Park, the Bay of Islands, Milford Sound, and Hawke’s Bay. You’ll also spend time in Wellington - the so-called Coolest Little Capital famed for its coffee shops, movie-making locations, and cultural sites such as the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
For dewy-eyed newlyweds and romantic couples, the spoil-you factor on the teardrop-shaped island of St Lucia is always on point; think glittering beaches, crystalline waters, sugar-loaf peaks, lush emerald jungles, and a delightful mix of laid-back Caribbean charm and French finesse. And whether you’re kicking off your happy-ever-after, renewing your vows, or celebrating an anniversary, there’s plenty to get your heart racing. It’s also one of our most treasured spots in the Caribbean for dramatic scenery, especially at Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, Sulphur Springs Park (the world’s only drive-in volcano), and the famous pair of Pitons - the cone-shaped twin mountains appropriately named Gros and Petit. And then, of course, there’s the picturesque beaches, most fabulous of which are Sugar Beach, Anse Chastanet, Reduit Beach, Pigeon Island National Park, and Marigot Bay (the setting for the 1967 movie, Doctor Doolittle).
We love the intimate Cap Maison for its Spanish-Caribbean décor theme and 49 sea-facing rooms and suites (some with Jacuzzis and private pools). There’s also an award-winning spa, a state-of-the-art gym, a round-the-clock activity schedule, and showstopping restaurants and bars (head to Rock Maison for sunset cocktails delivered by a zip-line). Equally romantic is Rendezvous, the self-styled Boutique Hotel for Couples that wows with a Malabar Beach location, elegant accommodation, and a champagne bar. Couples goals are met everywhere; from the divine spa to the two-person hammocks dotted around the lush tropical gardens.
Vietnam & Cambodia
Fewer Southeast Asia countries hit the mark for intrepid travellers like Vietnam and Cambodia, so we’re championing a twin-destination holiday that doubles the fun. The former never loses its capacity to enchant with historic cities, hill-tribe villages, mist-shrouded mountains, emerald-green rice paddies, wonderful national parks, delicious cuisine, and wealth of visit-worthy UNESCO World Heritage Sites (we especially adore Halong Bay for its 1,600 limestone towers rising from turquoise waters). The latter is another dealbreaker; not least for the fabled 12th-century Khmer temple complex. Make a beeline for Angkor Wat (meaning City Temple), the soaring masterpiece built between 1113 and 1150 AD by King Suryavarman II to honour the Hindu god Vishnu. Also stick around to see Jayavarman VII’s Bayon at Angkor Thom, the fortified state-temple dominated by 216 stone-chiselled ‘smiling’ faces on its 54 remaining towers.
Designed for luxury-lovers, the 10-night Luxury Vietnam and Cambodia ups the ante with salubrious places to rest your head. You’ll start your adventure in Hanoi, enjoy an overnight luxury cruise on Halong Bay, and journey onto the riverside town of Hoi An - a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich trading port history. You’re spoiled further with a full day in Siem Reap, the gateway-to-the-temples town that charms with colonial buildings, upscale restaurants, trendy cafés, cool cocktail bars, and a laid-back vibe. Take time to explore the city by tuk-tuk (three-wheel taxi) before heading four miles north to gaze at Angkor’s magnificent temples.
East Coast Australia
Ranking high on every must-visit list, Australia’s East Coast is loaded with incredible points of interest for nature fans and lovers of the great outdoors. It’s also big on cities too, with nowhere rivalling Sydney for excellent museums, iconic markets, upscale restaurants, and a futuristic-looking opera house. Another regional showstopper is the Great Barrier Reef - the UNESCO-listed marine miracle that stretches for 1,429 miles along the state of Queensland. Not only is the most bio-diverse coral reef ecosystem on Earth (and famously visible from space), but it’s also home to 1,500 species of fish, 134 species of shark and ray, and 30 species of whale and dolphin. While you’re here, consider travelling further afield; ideally to Australia’s south coast for its trendy surfing beaches and to the Red Centre for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park - the sacred home of the Anangu people and the setting for one of the world’s most famous rocks.
In our opinion, the 13-day Australian Highlights Tour is one of the best ways to experience everything Down Under has to offer. You’ll have the option to hit the Great Ocean Road and admire the Twelve Apostles, visit Alice Springs to learn about life in the Outback, watch the sun rise (and later set) over Uluru, and go snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. City stops include Melbourne for its shops, galleries, and cafés (you can also factor in a trip to the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island), Sydney for its myriad of cultural wonders, and Cairns for its fascinating Aboriginal walks, well-established coffee shop scene, and jolly decent pubs and markets.