Here are 12 of the most unforgettable places to travel in 2020, chosen by our travel experts
12 Asturias, Spain
Why? Explore what Spaniards call “the real Spain”
Why go now: This wondrous northern province is ingrained with a fiercely independent spirit, yet what makes Asturias truly special is how much you can see in such a small area. Hundreds of beaches, snow-cloaked mountains, sweeping valleys – and that’s just the scenery. Lively capital Oviedo has a brilliant food scene (the cider is everything), while Tito Bustillo Cave is home to some of the oldest artworks known to man (booking is essential).
Where to stay: We utterly adore El Gran Sueno. It’s an eco-chic mountain guesthouse where the views are magical and the service is sublime (£81 per night). For ultra-newness, try the sleek self-catering apartments at Bufones de Pria on Asturias’ spectacular wild coast (£124).
11 Agonda Beach, South Goa
Why? Experience Goa’s last true paradise
Why go now: Sadly, most of South Goa has gone the way of North Goa, but there’s one little corner of this fading paradise where you can still find authentic Goan vibes: Agonda beach. It’s a stretch of golden sand between Cola and Palolem that remains blissfully free of crowds. There’s a super-chilled main drag, plus vegan cafes, yoga classes and friendly food shacks serving sizzling classics. The swimming can get a bit choppy, but the beach living is oh-so-easy. The northern end is a protected nesting site for turtles, which helps keeps the hordes at bay. For now, at least.
Where to stay: For laidback feels, the well-priced Agonda Villas is a barefoot luxury hideout with 11 huge cottages just steps from the sea (£53). A few minutes down the road is secluded clifftop hideaway The Cape Goa, also seriously good value. It has luxe thatched cottages and lovely sea-facing outdoor Jacuzzis (£95).
10 Stargazing in the Canary Islands
Why? Look at the heavens, not at your screen
Why go now: The Canaries have the clearest skies in Europe, making these islands ground zero for 2020’s coolest travel trend: astrotourism. It’s not just the Sky at Night boffins getting excited; stargazing is for everyone. The year ahead looks positively cosmic: four supermoons, a lunar eclipse and the legendary Geminids meteor shower in December. Catch the action at Roque de los Muchachos observatory on La Palma or the not-for-profit Temisas observatory on Gran Canaria. Or climb up to the lookout on Peñas del Chache – the highest peak on Lanzarote – where the unpolluted night skies are spectacular. Remember to bring a red flashlight (it’s better for your peepers).
Where to stay: On La Palma, the gorgeous Casa Los Geranois has gobsmacking volcanic views (£43); On Gran Canaria, the crimson colonial mansion Finca Las Longueras – the oldest in the Canaries – has elegant bedrooms and a lovely fruit grove setting (£94); On Lanzarote, the Lanzarote Hideaways come in all shapes and sizes and are located close to Peñas del Chache (£81).
9 The Chilean Lake District
Why? Take a hike in the other lake district
Why go now: As the world population nudges towards the eight billion mark, now might be the perfect time to see one of our least populated wildernesses. The Chilean Lake District is a vast region of natural wonders, full of glacial blue lakes, snow-crowned volcanoes, emerald forests and tumbling waterfalls. It’s a place which legendary English travel writer Bruce Chatwin spoke about with near-religious awe. The best time to visit is November-April.
Where to stay: Chic yet relaxed, the new Futangue Hotel & Spa has a classy spa, fabulous dining and outdoor pursuits galore (£326). For striking good looks, Hotel Awa on the shores of Lake Llanquihue is an architectural dream, with volcanic views in every room. (£271).
8 Fort Kochi, India
Why? Find your groove in creative Kerala
Why go now: This buzzing harbour on the coast of Kerala was once the centre of the world spice trade. Today, it’s gaining global attention as India’s hottest new arts hub. Impressive art spaces like Pepper House, Chaithanya and Kashi Gallery are showing cutting-edge exhibitions, and there’s a fascinating hodgepodge of Dutch, British, Portuguese, Jewish and Chinese influences in both the architecture and the atmosphere. Capping the year is South Asia’s largest art gathering, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which kicks off 12 December.
Where to stay: The stylish art-centric Old Harbour Hotel has superb service and is located right in the centre of Kochi (£171). For equally stylish hospitality, the 18th-century Malabar House makes for a marvellous stay (£154).
7 East Algarve, Portugal
Why? Escape the crowds and find new coastlines
Why go now: We all know the Algarve gets jam-packed in summer, but if you turn left at Faro airport you can find a wholly different Algarve. The East has plenty of gobsmacking beaches, yet only a quarter of the crowds. The reason? Most beaches can only be accessed by boat. It’s still pretty easy (not to mention adventurous) and you’re rewarded with powder-soft sands and sweeping views of the big blue Atlantic. Be sure to visit picturesque Santa Luzia to feast on the finest octopus in Portugal.
Where to stay: Conversas de Alpendre has masses of style, wonderful owners, and is just 2km from idyllic Fábrica beach (£85). For a more urbane vibe, Tavira Boutique Apartments is located in Tavira’s old town and close to Ria Formosa’s best beaches (£146).
6 Kalkudah Beach, Sri Lanka
Why? Be cast away on a Robinson Crusoe beach
Why go now: Sri Lanka’s wild east coast remains a hidden treasure, and Kalkudah is its glittering jewel. It’s one of those fantastical beaches where the only footprints in the sand are likely to be your own. You can stroll the shoreline and never see another soul (save for the odd fisherman). The water is balmy all year round and the swimming is easy and gorgeous. But go soon. Kalkudah is starting to pop up on Instagram feeds, so the influencer gravy train can’t be far behind.
Where to stay: The best retreat on the entire beach, Karpaha Sands is a luxury tented resort with an arty, laidback vibe. The tents are incredible (large beds, double-ended bathtubs) and the restaurant serves mouthwatering curries. It also has a massive infinity pool. (£71).
5 The Peloponnese, Greece
Why? Step into the Greece of your dreams
Why go now: The Peloponnese is the Greece that exists only in your imagination. Yet here it is. Breathtaking beaches, diamond blue seas, soaring mountain peaks and a spectacular number of mythological sites all gathered together on a single three-pronged peninsula. Even now, in 2020, it’s mercifully free of mass tourism. Fly direct into Kalamata, then hire a car (or take the shiny new railway link) and explore this untouched corner of the Med.
Where to stay: Blissful Elies Hotelis a cluster of stylish stone cottages (sleeps 2-5) just a pebble’s throw from Kardamyli’s beach. (£94). For mesmerising views, go for Aria Estate. These immaculate suites are perched over Mani’s dramatic coastline, and come with a chic restaurant and small spa (£85).
4 Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Why? Prepare to enter the Blue Zone
Why go now: All of Costa Rica is special, but this 130km peninsula is truly extraordinary. Firstly, it’s a bona fide paradise, with virgin coastlines and pristine jungles. Secondly, Nicoya is one of just five places in the world deemed a Blue Zone – places where people live to 90 (it’s the pura vida). Nicoya is also the place where bucket-list visions like the wild, secretive Isla Chiras or the parrot-dwelling Savegre forests remain refreshingly off-radar. Don’t blame us if you ditch the passport and stay here forever.
Where to stay: Kasiiya Papagayo is a brand-new eco-sanctuary on a vast private reserve that exists in perfect harmony with nature. Unwind at the spa tucked between two waterfalls (accessible via a rope bridge), or discover a jungle gym where you can climb trees like the local monkeys. Your office desk will feel a million miles away.
3 Istria, Croatia
Why? Rediscover an Adriatic classic
Why go now: Croatia’s heart-shaped peninsula is, appropriately enough, the beating heart of the country’s reinvention as a top European destination. Istria’s proximity to Italy is reflected in its many pastel-coloured towns, and the superb Roman amphitheatre is a must-visit. 2020 should see a big focus on its incredible food scene (the white truffles are world-class) as well as its highly-rated dance music festivals. Visit just before or after summer, when the crowds have split and the seas are still warm.
Where to stay: Brand-new Hotel Ikador overlooking the Kvarner islands is a swish waterside retreat with a lavish spa and a private speedboat (£287). For minimalism fans, the achingly cool Istria Design Villa has sleek interiors and a dreamy L-shaped infinity pool (£419, sleeps 2-7).
2 Kent, England
Why? Savour the wine garden of England
Why go now: If you go down to the garden today you’re in for a big surprise. The apples and strawberries are still divine, but it’s Kent wines winning hearts and minds. After storming 2019’s Decanter World Wine Awards, Kent is now on the cusp of becoming an international wine-tasting holiday destination. Add to the mix some Michelin-starred pubs, a couple of tasty food festivals, and an almost embarrassing number of brilliant restaurants and you’re guaranteed a vintage summer.
Where to stay: Recently opened The Pig at Bridge Place is a wonderfully relaxed country house hotel with top-notch food (£99). For nature lovers, Elmleyhas fabulous shepherd’s huts (for 2-4) and two stylish houses (for 10-14) set on a Kent nature reserve, just an hour from London (£95).
1 Arles, France
Why? Vive la révolution!
Why go now: The eyes of the art world will be on Arles in 2020. Quite apart from it being a Unesco-listed ancient city, this former haunt of Vincent van Gogh is experiencing a once-in-a-century cultural renaissance. Frank Gehry’s dazzlingly twisty-turny Luma Arles opens in spring. Swiss pharmaceutical heiress Maja Hoffmann (net worth: $4.2bn) is transforming the city with shiny new gallery spaces, while sleek concept stores and stylish boutique hotels are opening hither and yon. All this plus a blockbuster Van Gogh exhibit in May.
Where to stay: Hotel Particulier is centrally located and has dreamy rooms and suites, plus a gorgeous garden. (£315). Maja Hoffmann recently acquired the spectacular Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus where Picasso once lived. (£85). For rural splendour, the sumptuous Le Mas de Peint has a lovely pool and serves fine French fare (£192).