The 2020 Uproxx Travel Hot List

Top End Safari Camp
Unsplash
Unsplash
Getty
Getty Image
Luke Dyson

What the hell does the phrase “hot list” even mean?

This world was around long before any of us and, with any luck, it will still be here long after we’re gone. Tracking our movements on a year-by-year basis is kind of silly when you think of it in the “we’re specks of matter, sitting on a big floating rock, warmed by a single star in a seemingly infinite sea of stars”-sense. Besides, after a decade that gave us the six hottest years on record, with increasing panic over species death, ocean acidification, and global warming, isn’t everything sort of on the hot list? (Zing!)

So why do it? Why track down the best collection of travel writers, influencers, experts, and photographers currently roaming this big, spinning rock and ask them: “Where should people visit in 2020? What should they do once they’re there? Where should they stay, eat, and drink? What parties should they go to?”

Because while “right now” is meaningless in the cosmic sense, it matters greatly to all of us living it. And where you decide to spend your hard-earned time, money, and energy is inextricably tied to our current cultural/ political moment and all the freight that that carries. So although the destinations on this list aren’t “new” in any true sense, our reasons for choosing them are. The questions “why here?” and “why now?” hung over every debate about what belonged and what didn’t. Sometimes the defining factor was a country’s embrace of a trend, like Belize and eco-tourism; other times, we recognized ancient destinations that seem particularly relevant this year, like the sacred sites of the Navajo Nation; and others still, we chose to highlight recommendations because we trusted the authority of the travelers pitching them. (This list features famous influencers, Explorer’s Club Members, Travel Channel hosts, and award-winning writers — when they talk travel, we’re eager to listen.)

Through it all, diversity — in how people identify, what makes them burn, and their distinct worldviews — is the axis around which this list rotates. Like so many fields, travel writing has long been plagued by the sort of gatekeeping that routinely rewards the same voices year after year. For the 2020 list, UPROXX Life Deputy Editor Zach Johnston and I made a sincere effort to upend that tradition. Our December kick-off call featured writers of various gender identifications, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds sharing their distinct perspectives about what feels “hot” in travel right now. We’re thrilled to share those insights with you here and hope that besides connecting you with new places to visit, this list introduces you to fresh, potent voices in the travel space.

At the same time as we strived to be inclusive, we created this for our core audience — young, socially conscious people, many heading out on the road for the first time, eager to explore and grow but also often keen to jump off cliffs, get a little rowdy, and dance ’til 4am (there’s a whole “festivals” section this year). The list also has a distinctly American gaze. When we call something “unique” we aren’t exoticizing it so much as noting that for most American travelers it’s going to carry a sense of newness. If done in the spirit of respect, we believe modern-day “exploration” can support Indigenous communities, aid rebuilding efforts after a disaster, and help us evolve beyond our prejudices.

All that said, to pretend that a list — even one this expansive — doesn’t contain blindspots is absurd. Its very creation is a contradiction. A common trend suggested by our travel writers, whose job is ostensibly to fly around the world on jets powered by fossil fuel, was the quest for environmental accountability across all segments of the industry. Though many of us seem to believe in setting personal carbon caps, no one felt fully ready to publicly commit to one. Is that hypocritical? Maybe. But travel writers also deserve some of the credit for the airline industry’s recent sustainability push. Perhaps the best answer when wrestling with these pinch points is: “Let’s all try our hardest.” On the ecology front, UPROXX and its writers are committed to finding solutions for the impact of the travel writing genre (through carbon offsets, slow travel, and “microcations”), though we also believe that to properly fight for something you need to bear witness to its beauty.

***

In the early days of 2020, Greta Gerwig said: “Quentin Tarantino makes movies as if movies could save the world.” That’s how we feel about travel. Travel connects us. It reminds us of the natural marvels that we are called to be stewards for. It brings us face-to-face with life’s universal aspects: birth, death, art, storytelling, humor, sex, food, intoxicants… the list goes on. Those simple, core pieces of existence are shared across all cultures. Simultaneously, travel reminds us that the real world is far less black and white than it is online. The fury that we often feel on Twitter when someone thinks differently from us quickly dissipates as our journeys shade in the context and background that led a certain person to arrive at a particular way of thinking. On the road, we realize that there has to be some sort of allowance for cultural/moral relativism or every trip is going to be a series of constant battles and little growth.

Perhaps the overarching point here is: travel is messy. Just like life.

So here you go, the 2020 UPROXX Travel Hot List. A sprawling, messy, imperfect-but-often-lovely reflection of a sprawling, messy, imperfect-but-often-lovely planet. We believe that these destinations, experiences, hotels, restaurants, bars, and festivals will bring you some sense of joy. We believe they have something worthwhile to teach or reveal, this year in particular. Above all, we believe that travel can save the world, and we hope that’s reflected in every word, photo, and idea presented below.

Places

In 2020, look for more regional adventures, unexpected domestic sites, lots of eagerness to get off the well-worn tourist tracks, and destinations that are trying to rebound from natural/ political traumas.

Unsplash
Roxanne Desgagnes Unsplash
Unsplash
01

The first entry on this list is also its most vague. A broad invitation to the wilder and, yes, chillier reaches of the northern parallels.

Back in the day — I’m talking 1851 — there was this phrase: “Go West, young man.” And while it conjures romantic images of bold adventurers on horseback, chasing that endless horizon and risking everything to carve out a little elbow room for themselves, it also speaks to colonists marauding through land that was very much occupied, obliterating the communities they found there, then using brute force to bend the land and its ancestral owners to fit their capitalist vision.

All to say: It’s a quote with a fraught history and dual meanings. Which is precisely why it fits the world of travel so well. Because while we firmly believe, as I wrote in my introductory note, that travel can save the world, we also recognize its destructive power. Overtourism has become such a problem that entire islands have had to shut down to travelers and European cities are creating tourist caps. I’ve seen first hand that spots like Jamaica’s Blue Hole (which I first learned about on Instagram) and Arizona’s Havasu Falls (which I visited before IG “discovered” it) have become less about the adventure and more about scoring a great photo. But then again, how are you going to fault someone for wanting a photo of themselves staring into the middle distance when that’s the thing that drew you to the place?

Last year, our solution to this conundrum was to go to “Indonesia beyond Bali.” To evade the crowds by expanding outward from that single nexus point. This year, we’re taking it further. Not “go west,” but rather, “head north.” The great, wild north, where the trees are evergreen and the travelers are fewer. Where cliff divers road trip from waterfall to waterfall during the summers and surfers brave achingly cold water for the chance to paddle into an uncrowded lineup.

To be more specific, the great, wild north can speak to a broad range of destinations or experiences — many of which made this list in some form or another. You could head the very extreme wilds of the Yukon or bask on the white sand beaches of the Isles of Lewis and Harris. You could take an Alaskan road trip, as recommended by Emily Hart, for the chance to see the United States at its most untamed, or you could trace the Pacific Northwest Oyster Trail, as per Zach Johnston. Hell, you could even make your way to the alps for Snowbombing Festival — where mountaineering and the party scene collide.

The great, wild north means a lot of things and we’ve intentionally slanted this list in those directions. It’s the natural world with all the sharp edges intact and people and customs that reflect a true sense of seasonality. We hope the vision that the very phrase conjures inspires as much wanderlust in you as it does for us.

By Steve Bramucci
Editorial Director, Life/Style + CultureFacebookTwitter
Leonard Laub Unsplash
Claudio Bezerra
Kalen Emsley Unsplash
02

Yukon is just about as wild and northernly as the great, wild north gets. And it’s definitely worth the energy that it takes to get there.

Imagine a place where it’s possible to see the Northern Lights nine months out of the year and waking up in a log cabin to find moose crossing a frozen lake is the norm. This is Yukon, Canada.

A sprawling, truly wild territory in the northwest of Canada, Yukon is the ideal place to not only have a wild winter adventure but to also get your hygge on. The Northern Lights Resort and Spa near Whitehorse has aurora chalets with floor-to-window ceilings for front row seats to nature’s light show. Or opt to see them while soaking in hot springs at Takhini Hot Pools. While staying at Southern Lakes Resort in that cozy cabin I mentioned earlier, we went dogsledding, spotted all kinds of wildlife and saw the aurora from our front porch while sipping hot toddies. Their on-site restaurant served hearty home-style cooking with locally sourced ingredients.

During our trip, people kept coming up to us asking where we were from, since everyone in the Yukon seems to know one another. With a population of less than 1,000 in most towns besides the capital of Whitehorse, we experienced small-town charm and big-hearted Canadian hospitality everywhere we went.

While exploring the region, don’t skip Kluane National Park, home to Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan and the world’s largest non-polar ice fields. The best way to see the park is on a private scenic flight with Rocking Star Adventures. Be sure to keep your eyes open for Dall sheep, caribou, mountain goats, and black bears — all of which are found in abundance in different parts of the park.

If you’re visting the Yukon during the summer, be sure to check out the Dawson City Music Festival. It’s known to draw a diverse lineup of North American artists representing rock, blues, country, jazz, and other genres. This year’s 42nd festival will happen from July 17th to 20th.

By Wendy Hu
Contributing Writer
Haley Plotkin
Scotland Tourism
Unsplash
Unsplash
03

Remote sand beaches and mysterious standing stones make this island a must for travelers to Scotland.

Everyone who goes to Scotland seems to visit Edinburgh and Loch Ness, and the Isle of Skye is bursting with more and more tourists each year. But Scotland has so much more to see beyond a handful of popular (though very worthy) destinations. Just a three-hour ferry ride from the mainland, you’ll find the Isles of Lewis and Harris of the Outer Hebrides.

Contrary to what the name seems to suggest, Lewis and Harris is actually one island with two distinctive landscapes. In the north, there’s Lewis — with its towering cliffs and the Callanish Standing Stones. In the south, you’ll discover the rolling hills of Harris, and one of the prettiest beaches on the planet, Luskentyre Sands. (You’ll actually find several white sand beaches surrounded by gentle turquoise waters around the island, though the Atlantic may be a bit colder than you’re used to.) All told, the Isle of Lewis and Harris is like a hodgepodge of some the best bits of Scotland. You’ll find the jaw-dropping scenery of Skye, the ancient history of Orkney, the cozy pubs that pepper Edinburgh and the highlands, all without crowds.

While you’re down in Harris, stop into Isle of Harris Distillery for a bottle of their famous gin. It might be the prettiest bottle of gin you’ll ever find, which makes sense since the design is meant to capture the beauty and spirit of the island itself. They’ve been rapidly growing since they opened in 2015, and while you can’t find them yet in the U.S., it’s only a matter of time. If gin isn’t your drink, a new craft brewery, Loomshed, opened on Harris last summer offering their take on the flavors of the Hebrides (the brewer, Calum, launched the place at the ripe old age of 23!).

If you’re looking for more to do while on Lewis and Harris, try visiting in February during the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival. Dark Sky travel is definitely something people are buzzing about and it’s hard to find a darker and more remote sky than Lewis and Harris. The festival runs in February and is only in its second year. The program includes live music, astronomy talks, theatre, and of course, stargazing.

Editor’s Note: The Callanish Standing Stones, mentioned above, are like Stonehenge if Stonehenge allowed you to just hang out amongst the stones with no gates or supervision, having picnics or holding witchy seances (or both!) at your leisure.

By Haley Plotkin
Contributing Writer
Unsplash
Unsplash
04

As we enter the 2020s, it’s time for travelers to look upon Navajo Country with brand new eyes — appreciating the region’s rich beauty and deep cultural significance.

Whenever I travel home to the Navajo Nation, I always try to visit two sacred locations near my hometown of Dennehotso, AZ. Canyon De Chelly is thirty minutes south of my hometown in modern-day Chinle, AZ. The UPROXX-beloved canyon is known as one of the original strongholds of my Dine’ ancestors and is connected to our creation story of the Spider Woman. Monument Valley — one of the most iconic pieces of scenery on this earth — is located twenty-five minutes north of my hometown (if taking the rugged backroads), and about an hour if using the highway.

Whenever I visit these two sacred locations, it brings me pride and reassurance that I come from a strong, resilient ancestral background. The beautiful canyons and rock formations attract people from across the world to experience what my ancestors have been calling home since time immemorial.

Is there something distinctly “new” or “now” about these sacred sites? Perhaps not. But as we begin a new decade with some of the same old racism facing Indigenous peoples in this country, visiting the Navajo Nation is a chance to support local communities while connecting with a people and heritage whose story has most commonly been told through the lens of oppressors and colonizers.

By Brian Yazzie
Contributing Writer
Ciara Johnson
Unsplash
Ciara Johnson
05

Kansas City hosts a beloved barbecue scene, exciting craft breweries, and award-winning hotels. In 2020 they’re adding free busses to help you see the city cost-effectively.

While it may not be the first vacation destination that comes to mind, Kansas City should definitely be on your radar. I’ll warn you now: this Midwest city will take you completely by surprise. If you’re wondering where to start, consider checking into the 21C Museum And Hotel. Voted one of the best hotels in the world, you’ll have the chance to literally spend a night (or two) at the museum. From there, you can jump on the city’s free streetcar line to explore surrounding areas and beyond.

You can’t leave KC without barbecue hopping at Arthur Bryant’s, Joe’s, and Q39. Then walk all of that sauce off as you roam the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Don’t forget to sample a few brews on a Boulevard Brewing Company tasting tour. Drop-in at the American Jazz Museum to catch a live jazz session at the Blue Room.

2020 is a huge year for Kansas City, with jazz legend Charlie Parker, the Negro Leagues, and prohibition all celebrating 100 year anniversaries that will be commemorated at museums and in events throughout the year. For those ready to be mindful of their carbon footprints, KC will officially expand its free streetcar service to become the biggest American city to offer free rides on all busses.

By Ciara Johnson
Contributing Writer
Australia.com
Australia.com
Bruny Island Beer Co.
Australia.com
06

Most 2020 Hot List entries made some sort of big noise in 2019, Hobart belongs because it’s quiet in all the right ways.

I got engaged on a trip to Australia this year. We spent time outside Melbourne, got engaged in Darwin, and still had a few days left to try to see the country (my fianceé had never been). I’d always wanted to go to Tasmania but getting there demanded effort.

Would squeezing in two more plane flights be worth it? Should we just hang around Melbourne and drink wine instead? Screw it, we bought the tickets.

We dragged ourselves out of bed for an early morning flight wondering if it had all been a terrible mistake. But the second we stepped off the plane and breathed the Hobart air we knew we’d made the right call. It was that instantaneous. Imagine crystal blue skies, a glassy harbor, amazing food and wine, and all the exotic wildlife that the rest of Australia is famous for. Tasmania is sort of like the Alaska of Australia, and even with Hobart’s quaintness it still retains the feel of a frontier. In fact, its remoteness forced Tasmania to develop its own local sustainable agriculture and fishing — I never had a bad meal while I was there and we literally had to buy an extra suitcase to carry our wine.

We had an early lunch and took the ferry to the MONA (a world-class museum built in 2011) and when we stopped for a drink at a local brewery in the early evening we ended up at a table chatting with the guy who it turned out had been the guy who cooked our lunch. That’s the kind of thing that happens in a place like Hobart. I lived in Australia for six months in the aughts and I’ve been to almost every state (excluding Western Oz) and if you were asking me where I’d visit again if I was going tomorrow, it’d be Hobart in a heartbeat.

In a time when capital cities are racing to keep up with one another — competing over towering skylines or sports franchises or museums — visiting a city this quaint is a true rarity.

By Vince Mancini
Senior Film & Culture WriterFacebookTwitter
Blake Meyer Unsplash
Unsplash
Jan Gemerle Unsplash
Getty Image
07

If you’re ready to get off the well-worn tourist trails in India, this region is a perfect base for exploration.

India’s magnetic pull has always brought travelers to its vast lands. From the laid-back beaches of Goa and Kerala to the chaos of bustling cities like Mumbai and Chennai to the calm of the Uttarakhand mountains and the verdant rainforests of the Northeast, the nation’s diversity knows no bounds. Language, culture, and food are literally everywhere you look. And we get it: India can understandably be overwhelming for first-time travelers; there’s comfort in traveling the well-worn paths.

But in 2020 — with everyone eager for unique experiences and off-the-beaten-track destinations — it’s time to veer off the popular tourist trail. It’s your year to go beyond the first five or so top-of-mind Indian destinations.

While it’s true that Agra, Delhi, and Jaipur are home to centuries-old monuments, vibrant bazaars, and mouth-watering treats, the same can be said for the lesser-traveled cities that exist between these hubs. So if you choose to go beyond the Golden Triangle, consider Alwar. Located midway between Delhi and Jaipur, this quiet Rajasthani town is a stark contrast to the heavily traveled Golden Triangle route. Lush fields of mustard abound as far as the eye can see, surrounded by the Aravalli mountain range that passes through the state. For a trip down memory lane, the City Palace and within it, the Alwar Museum, offer exhibits that show the extravagant lives of the maharajas that once ruled this princely region, beginning in the 12th century.

Though the impressive Bala Quila fort is now in ruins, its façade serves as a reminder of India’s storied past. Perched a thousand feet above the city of Alwar, the fort’s royal guests included Mughal emperors Babur, Akbar, and finally Jahangir, who stayed there for three years during his exile. For those who are more inclined to the outdoors, Alwar is also the closest town to the Sariska Tiger Reserve, a national park and wildlife sanctuary that’s home to not just tigers, but leopards, hyenas, nilgai, peacocks, and rhesus monkeys, as well as over 300 Hindu and Jain temples dating as far back to the 8th century.

By Christabel Lobo
Contributing Writer
Getty Image
Karl Watson
Karl Watson
08

Scenic and surrounded by opportunities for adventure, this small Vietnamese town hasn’t been overly hammered by tourism… yet.

As I walked around Da Lat — a city in the Central Highlands of southern Vietnam — last year, I thought to myself, “this place is going to explode on Instagram soon!” Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a debate for another day, the fact remains that Da Lat is a beautiful town that makes it on far too few itineraries of young travelers.

As you explore the small winding streets, there’s beautiful street art to be discovered — with entire buildings covered in bright pink, yellow, and blue murals. At each corner, you’ll see locals selling food (rather than the massage offers you get in other SE Asian towns). While knocking around town, be sure to visit the “Crazy House.” If you’ve ever wondered what a house designed by someone on mushrooms would look like, this is your chance. There are endless twisted walkways taking you up, down, in and around this huge building, just like a theme park. The Maze Bar in town is created by the same architect and offers a similar experience, just with the addition of alcohol.

Da Lat’s surrounding highlands offer plenty of opportunities for adventure — from canyoning trips to biking adventures through rural Vietnam to waterfalls perfect for relaxing. My favorite was Datanla, which features an alpine slide — basically a one-man rollercoaster that takes you zooming down to the falls. It was ridiculous fun.

Da Lat is eight hours on the bus from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) or a quick $50 flight away. The bus costs about $10, dorm rooms are about $3/night, a beer costs $1. If you’re a traveler focused on food, adventure, and keeping a tight budget, there’s literally no excuse not to visit.

By Karl Watson
Contributing Writer
Unsplash
Unsplash
Unsplash
09

El Salvador has a culture and geography that feels unique to the region. It’s also light on tourists, which is a major perk.

El Salvador comes with a lot of baggage. 24-hour news cycles have not been kind to the small, literally and metaphorically volcanic Central American country. Cartels, militias, and strife over migration all dominate what most Americans hear about the place. Which is a shame, because it keeps people from visiting, helping local economies, and experiencing an amazing corner of the world.

What strikes me most about El Salvador is the ease of being there. It hasn’t been over-touristed like some of its neighbors. It’s a relatively small country but the traveler footprint feels manageable. There’s a certain freshness to the place when it comes to tourism. Prices are still low. Good times are still high. And while the country doesn’t have huge network of paved roads or five-star resorts, it does have something you can’t replicate: a unique sense of identity. El Salvador is completely El Salvador — versus a destination where the elements of culture are filtered through a “what do tourists want?” lens. Frankly, it’s refreshing.

Where you will find a smattering of tourists is on the beaches. Surfers from around the world have been hitting the nation’s black sand beaches for a while now and a community has built up around them. Beachside hostels are classic haunts for those waiting for the right set. One-dollar beers flow alongside piles of bean and cheese-filled pupusa (cornmeal flatbreads). It’s an environment that’s both welcoming and very easy to fall in love with.

If the surf scene isn’t your jam, then there are endless trails through the jungle, turtle conservation projects, and small colonial towns with great food scenes waiting for you to visit.

Editor’s Note: The current US Dept. of State travel advisory for El Salvador is “exercise increased caution.” We believe that designation is reasonable for our inclusion of the country on this list.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Polina Rytova Unsplash
Matt Payne
Matt Payne
Matt Payne
10

Craving rustic, scenic, culturally resonant travel in Europe? It’s time to widen your lens and look to the Balkan Peninsula.

Albania isn’t the first country (hell, probably not even the tenth) that leaps to mind when one thinks of a European vacation. Which is exactly why it belongs on this list in the era of overtourism, when more and more young people are thinking beyond Central Europe as they plan their next adventures. For the American traveler, a trip to the Balkan nation carries a spirit of exploration — in the natural, cultural, and culinary senses — that’s increasingly rare these days.

Since the fall of communism in 1990, Albania has changed dramatically. As a child, Gjon Shpella (owner of the Thethi Shpella Guesthouse, where I stayed on a recent trip) never considered the idea that he and his family would be hosting an influx of Americans — so diametrically opposed were the politics of his home with the United States. As we gorged on pork, veal, lamb, and goat, Shpella and his family shared stories of communist Albania. The result was a lesson in history and culture that were every bit as inspiring as the views of waterfalls (keep the famed Blue Eye at the top of your list) and rolling pastures that we explored the next morning.

If you go, make time to slow down and visit the smaller villages. Tucked between towering mountains and with a population of less than 600 (60 in the winter), the village of Theth is the sort of rustic treasure that doesn’t get a lot of hot list shout outs, but certainly speaks to something very “now” about travel — the desire to have experiences that feel unfamiliar, speak to an authentic way of life, and aren’t already peppered through your Instagram feed. On the coast, the city of Vlora boasts the same blue waters that have made Croatia famous amongst backpackers in the latter half of the last decade. Once there, you can take a boat ride to ancient ruins, indulge in fresh seafood, or follow my lead and take a two-hour hike to a shepherd camp, where local shepherds will prepare lamb, teach you how to make bread, and pour you a rakia — the ubiquitous boozy elixir of the region.

By Matt Payne
Contributing Writer
Unsplash
Erin Granat
Unsplash
11

If you’re looking for a laid-back trip in South East Asia, it’s time for a sleepy sojourn along the Laotian Mekong.

Northern Laos is for those with gentle hearts and wild souls. One must tread lightly here, must favor temples, rivers, and mountains over raging nightlife — over raging anything. Even the dogs bark softly in Northern Laos. If you’re not into the full moon parties and surging crowds that are so often connected to travel in this region, this might just be the Southeast Asia you’ve always dreamed of.

Slower to emerge onto the global tourism scene (due, in part, to complications leftover from America’s “Secret War”), Laos is now eager to welcome you, and I’ve never had a more seamless experience traveling anywhere.

Start your journey in the cultural capital of Luang Prabang by staying at the NamKhan Project, an eco-farm where you can learn bamboo weaving and give morning alms to the Buddhist monks in the tiny neighboring village. Make your way north to Nong Khiaw and get ready for Tolkein-esque mountains and water buffalo grazing along the river banks. Ask for Mr. Mang (everyone in town knows him), he’ll organize a trek to his home village Sop Chem, where you can experience the real Laotian way of life. Stay two nights or longer. It’s not “comfortable” by Western standards, but you didn’t go to Laos for just another Instagram photo. Trek to stunning Tad Mok waterfall then spend a few days volunteering and hammock-snoozing at nearby permaculture farm Yensabai.

Finally, understand that the people in this region of Laos are “river folk” in every sense of the phrase. The river is their lifeblood. You can hardly visit and not get out on the water, in some way or another. Rent a boat to row along the banks, hop on a tour, swim with the residents of a small village — anything to bear witness to the Mekong’s magic.

Editor’s Note: Kuang Si Falls has been fully discovered by Instagram. It’s a cemented spot on the IG trail. And for good reason. After all, people are naturally going to want to go to cool places. It’s insanity to sit around being mad about that.

So go to Kaung Si, just a short moto ride from Luang Prabang, and marvel at its aquamarine beauty. Dive in the cascading pools, swing from the rope swings, and — if you’re feeling in the mood — take a few photos of your own.

By Erin Granat
Contributing Writer
Unsplash
Unsplash
Megan Murphy
12

Honolulu’s Kaka’ako is quickly becoming the hippest neighborhood in the Hawaiian capital.

What used to be an industrial ghost town filled with warehouses and auto body shops is becoming one of the hottest sections of Honolulu. After a community of local artists breathed new life into Kaka’ako — by literally using it as their canvas — the one-square-mile district is experiencing a major revival making it very worthy of exploration. These days, the trendy neighborhood is rich with show-stopping street art (you can spend an entire afternoon ‘mural hunting’), hip boutiques, and a vibrant food scene.

Kaka’ako’s cultural epicenter, the SALT Complex, boasts casual eateries and local designer shops, while the popular farmers market features Hawaiian artisan fare, fresh coconuts, coffee, and even live music. In between mural ’gramming, you can sip nearly a dozen beers brewed on-site at Aloha Beer Co., sample bean-to-bar delights at Lonohana Chocolate, and hit Lin’s Hawaiian Snacks for can’t-miss shave ice (the mango is to die for).

The neighborhood also hosts cool recurring events from emerging artist spotlights to ‘Yoga & Brunch,’ and a monthly food truck festival: Eat The Street.

By Megan Murphy
Contributing Writer
Getty Image
Getty Image
Ari Crespo Unsplash
13

Uruguay is South America’s hidden gem where cannabis is legal and adventure is easy to find.

The tiny South American country of Uruguay has finally found itself on 2020 go lists in major publications such as Fodor’s and Lonely Planet. Let’s make it a trifecta by placing it here!

Speaking as both a local and a travel writer, Uruguay has been a best-kept travel secret among the elite in the southern cone for decades and is very much worth the hype. Non-Latino travelers tend to hop over from Buenos Aires, Argentina to spend a few days in Montevideo and Colonia, but there’s so much more to see beyond those cities. Disconnect in sleepy beach villages like Punta del Diablo, go horseback riding through the countryside, taste world-renowned wines at beautiful bodegas in Maldonado, or visit ancient fortresses in Rocha.

Ready for more good news? Marijuana is legal and Uruguayans are very generous with their stashes. During the 40-day carnival — the longest in the world — you can hear candombe drums parading down just about every street. Grab a bottle of Patricia beer and a joint and hit the streets to celebrate life.

By Lola Mendez
Contributing Writer
Getty Image
Experience Columbus
Zach Johnston
14

Craft beer and a food scene shaped through various waves of immigration have turned this midwest city into a resurgent cultural center.

Genocidal name aside, Columbus is quickly becoming one of America’s hippest cities when it comes to food, LGBTQI activism, street art, and partying thanks in large part to a bustling college scene. Parties rage in the downtown area night after night at clubs, bars, and even pizzerias. This is the sort of place that still has dollar shots or even dollar vodka sodas. Seriously. If you like that, well… here you go.

More significant than the chance to get buzzed on the cheap is the rapidly evolving food scene. A rich tradition of Somali migration has delivered unique flair and flavors to Columbus. The North Market allows you the chance to connect with artisans and craftspeople celebrating food from near and far. Once inside, head upstairs to check out Hot Chicken Takeover. This fast-casual restaurant is a community-focused Nashville hot chicken joint that employs ex-cons — offering them a fresh start in the culinary world.

Craft beer runs so deep in the DNA of Columbus that international juggernaut BrewDog chose the city as the home base for the American-side of their beer business. It’s just one of over 50 breweries you’ll find in the city. With things popping off, it’s no wonder that Canopy by Hilton chose Columbus as one of the destinations to roll out their hip, youth-driven brand. The hotel is walking distance to breweries, downtown, The North Market, and plenty of great clubs — making it a very viable home base.

By Zach Johnston
Life WriterTwitter
Soheila Hakimi
Unsplash
15

The Heritage-listed “city lost in time” is actually growing and changing rapidly. Visit now to experience a blend of the old and new.

It would be hard for anyone to deny that much of Havana’s appeal comes from its romantically worn down, rustic aesthetic. A quick Google image search of Cuba’s capital city immediately leaves one inundated with beautiful photos of classic cars parked up against candy-colored colonial, Baroque, and Art Deco buildings. But for a destination like Havana — whose primary charm comes from being thought of as “a city frozen in time” — the opening of two new luxury hotels, noticeably younger crowds, and the inevitable restoration of Old Town actually signifies positive change.

Last November, leading up to the city’s 500th birthday, the government commenced a complex renovation of Old Havana’s deteriorated buildings. New restaurants run by young residents called “paladares” have been popping up all over the city over the last decade to rave reviews. Simple luxuries we often take for granted like WiFi, cellular data, and air conditioning are growing more and more prevalent.

The worry, of course, becomes this: will the Havana that inspires so many travelers today get lost in a decade to come? Will the things we find authentically charming about it now become kitschy tourist traps later on? The answer is: only time will tell. Still, plan your trip now — with tourism numbers down due to Trump — for a chance to straddle the line between what Havana was and what it will be.

On a trip to Cuba last March, a 15-minute Grande Car Taxi dropped me in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood where we partied at Fabrica de La Cubana, an old cooking oil factory that has been transformed into an art gallery/ warehouse space that turns into a multi-room music venue at night. Upon our arrival, the line was around the block and it took over an hour to get inside. The first room we discovered was a cave showered in blue light with a DJ spinning house music remixed with American pop. The next room was a large auditorium with a projector screen playing old school hip-hop and R&B music videos. With each room came a new scene until, finally, we found ourselves in a small underground concert venue dancing to an AC/DC cover band.

As I danced, I realized Havana’s transition didn’t scare me, it thrilled me. It’s not the job of the interloper to demand a place stays frozen in amber, just to appreciate them for what they are.

By Soheila Hakimi
Contributing Writer
Unsplash
16

Seeing the Animal Kingdom at its most wild might just be the thing that inspires travelers to fight for the natural world.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is what travel is all about. And witnessing the beauty of the animal kingdom, after a year when the term “species death” hit the mainstream, seems like a particularly potent way to do that.

Mana Pools National Park, in Zimbabwe, still flies under the radar as far as safari experiences go. Meaning no lines to see a lion kill. This is a spot where you become part of the ecosystem rather than just a passive observer — one of the few places that allows walking safaris with trained guides, rifles in hand.

Moments of awe include low, guttural soul-shaking roars of lions communicating while hunting cape buffalo about 30-feet away from your tent and fishing at sunset in the Zambezi River, sundowners in hand, as your lure bounces off the thick hide of a grunting hippo.

Don’t want to spend one-thousand per day on a luxury safari? You can self-drive and self-camp without too much trouble, assuming you at least sort of know what you’re doing. Remember, you’re not the top of the food chain here.

By Kinga Phillips
Contributing Writer
Aristedes Carrera Unsplash
Ali Wunderman
17

Belize’s beaches might get all the buzz, but the nation’s interior is a treasure trove of eco-minded gems.

Let 2020 be the year where we stop pretending Belize is only beloved for its beaches. The Central American nation is famous for its beautiful coastline and more rentable islands than anyone can count, but that shouldn’t stop travelers from looking inward to the jungle, where sustainable adventures abound. Try rappelling into a sinkhole or riding horses to visit a Mayan ruin. And if you like zip-lines, this country has you covered.

Belize’s interior (which, by the way, is less than two hours from the coast/airport, so there’s no logistical reason to skip it), is also where the country’s youth are developing art and culture in a new way. In San Ignacio, the twice-weekly Soul Project (housed beneath The Old House Hostel) showcases live music and rotating installations created by young, local artists, while the San Ignacio Resort Hotel merges hospitality and stewardship with the Green Iguana Conservation Project.

By Ali Wunderman
Contributing Writer
Joy Hui Lin
Daniel Hjalmarsson Unsplash
Cedric Frixon Unsplash
18

Guadeloupe is an off-the-beaten-path Caribbean destination that’s about to become a lot more accessible.

Get off the banana pancake trail and cut your carbon emissions at the same time. Lush and rich with leafy jungles, ultramarine blue waterfalls, white beaches, and epic waves, Guadeloupe in the French West Indies is a true paradise in the Southern Caribbean. As travelers become more green/environmentally savvy, staying closer to US airports becomes a higher priority. Another perk: there’s no jet lag either making this tropical getaway a must in 2020.

Flying into Pointe-a-Pitre, I found “Gwada” — the island’s Creole name — to be full of divine food, cruisy surf waves, waterfalls and lagoons, beach parties, sailing, and resplendent diving. In fact, Jacques Cousteau’s favorite dive spot is off the coast of Guadeloupe. You can even swim up to him (albeit his statue) and snap an underwater selfie at the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve off the coast of Basse-Terre.

A cluster of six tropical islands, Guadeloupe isn’t overdeveloped and its wild beauty shines through. Wander through the night market buying spices and salt cod bites (accras) or offer an apologetic smile while you speak terrible French with the woman selling you sorbet au coco (coconut sorbet). Hold your breath and jump when the tide pushes you out to safety at the rock-strewn longboarding break in Le Moule or greet the sleek dolphins that swim up alongside your sailboat. If you’re in revel mode, dance up a storm during Guadeloupe’s celebration of Carnival in February, or chat with locals to find out about weekend beach parties. From the main island’s “butterfly wings” (Grande Terre, Basse Terre), you can make short journeys to both Les Saintes and Marie Gallante — both worth day or overnight trips.

Guadeloupe’s been flying under the radar, but that doesn’t seem likely to last with JetBlue offering direct flights from America starting in February. Making this winter the best time to escape to this Caribbean playground of waterfalls, beaches, and surf. Make sure to bring back a bottle of local rum to make ti’ punch at home.

By Joy Hui Lin
Contributing Writer
Visit OKC Todd Clark
Visit OKC
Visit OKC Todd Clark
Nonesuch
19

The past is still evident in OKC. But for this blossoming city, the future is now.

Do not sleep on this city. It’s popping. Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center’s dazzling new campus — opening in March — will be 2020’s star addition. Two blocks away, Factory Obscura, founded by Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, is an immersive art collective in the spirit of Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf. The famed Automobile Alley swells with coffee shops, restaurants, and galleries, and extends all the way to the city’s downtown, which is flanked on the south by the Oklahoma River — now an Olympic Training Center and tourist attraction.

Like I said: popping off. It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago this year, this thriving metropolis had a completely unloved center, which grew depressingly desolate after a bomb exploded, killing 168 people. But since the Oklahoma City bombing, OKC has committed to rebuilding itself and has done so with fervor.

The acquisition of an NBA franchise has helped immensely in boosting the city’s international appeal. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is home to countless Chihuly glass sculptures. The restaurant scene is getting well-deserved love — with the acclaimed restaurant Nonesuch getting named America’s best new restaurant in 2018 by Bon Appetit. And a 21c Museum Hotel along with the Skirvin, Colcord, and Ambassador Hotels have raised the bar in terms of hospitality.

For those interested in a glimpse of days gone by, live cattle auctions still take place in Stockyards City. And for anyone keen to understand this blossoming city’s history, a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is a must. It’s to OKC’s credit that it remains deeply cognizant of the scars left by the bombing. But there’s no denying that an influx of new energy has helped heal old wounds and made the destination incredibly traveler-friendly.

By Matt Payne
Contributing Writer
Unsplash
Unsplash
20

If you’re planning a trip to Japan in 2020, consider going beyond the country’s three biggest cities.

Ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the eyes of the travel industry are on Japan. Millions of eager travelers will descend on the nation in hopes of combining the unique energy that surrounds a global sporting event with the sorts of coveted travel experiences that so many visitors to the country gush about. You can bet that reservations at Tokyo’s most iconic restaurants — from ramen joints to Wagyu steakhouses to renowned sushi counters — will be locked down months in advance. (Can you imagine how hard it must be to score a mid-Olympics seating at Anthony Bourdain’s beloved Sukiyabashi Jiro?)

More often than not though, tourists visiting Japan stick to the “Big Three” cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. And while those cities are absolute must-sees at some point in your life, they often overshadow some of the smaller (but just as picturesque and far less touristed) regions of Japan.

The Tohoku region in the northeast part of the country, which is known for its numerous volcanoes and mountains — as well as the Instagram favorite Fox Village — offers the perfect getaway to experience authentic Japanese culture, art, and food. In the southern part of the country, the Setouchi region is known for its oysters (especially in the winter), and the Motonosumi Inari Shrine is truly a thing of beauty.

As the conversation around the Olympics ramps up, there’s going to be a lot of talk about Japan’s big cities. But it’s regional travel throughout the country where we recommend focusing your time and energy.

By Kristin Corpuz
Contributing Writer
Getty Image
Kornel Mahl Unsplash
21

Embrace Indigenous tourism and the wilds of the rainforest in this English-speaking South American nation.

As awareness of overtourism grows, so too does our desire to find places less touched by the hand of travel. Guyana is just such a place, but that won’t last long. The nation — which borders Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela — saw an almost 16-percent increase in visitors last year compared to 2017.

This is a wildlife lover’s paradise. Better yet, local Indigenous communities directly benefit from adventure tourism. For more laid-back travelers, nearly-empty beaches are relatively easy to come by.

Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, so navigating the pristine rainforests, towering waterfalls, and eclectic food scene will be a cinch. And with the first-ever direct flights from NYC to Guyana’s Georgetown (via American Airlines and JetBlue), it’s never been easier to get there.

By Ali Wunderman
Contributing Writer
Tour Kangaroo Island
Tour Kangaroo Island
Kristin Corpuz
22

Support wildlife recovery by visiting the ravaged Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

Kangaroo Island is, tragically, one of the areas in Australia that is being most heavily affected by the rampaging wildfires. Wildlife has been devastated, forests burned, and lives lost. Recovery will be a long time coming.

But when the blazes subside, it’s a place that absolutely cannot be missed. And your dollars can help in the recovery process.

Located off the coast of Adelaide, this island is quite magical — and far more autonomous than you might expect. The whole island seems engaged in sourcing food locally and preserving the beauty of Mother Nature. The Remarkable Rocks in the southwest corner of the island are, well, a remarkable landmark to visit. And it’s hard not to smile when you see the seals lounging at Seal Bay Conservation Park.

For a luxurious-but-homey stay, One Kangaroo Island is a new four-bedroom lodge that offers unparalleled views of the ocean, and an in-house chef to prepare you some delectable, locally-sourced South Australian bites.

By Kristin Corpuz
Contributing Writer
Tim Mossholder Unsplash
Justin Walter
Kyle Cottrell Unsplash
23

It’s not the first place you consider in Nevada, but the state capital is a gateway to adventure that deserves your attention.

The vast majority of trips to Nevada are focused on Las Vegas. Beyond that, you’ve got Lake Tahoe, Reno, or even Burning Man. But in a year when travel writers are excited to hype up smaller American towns, I vote that you head to the Silver State’s capital, Carson City. Sure, you can get your Wild West history fill here, but what makes this charming small town hot list-worthy is that it’s a natural home base for big-time adventure.

A five-minute drive from Carson City’s quaint center is Kings Canyon Trail, offering sweeping city views and a 25-foot waterfall. And the close proximity to Lake Tahoe makes it an easy 30-minute drive for swimming, kayaking, or biking adventure on “Big Blue.” In keeping with the spirit of 2020, there’s also a solid festival angle for Carson City. Kick off summer with the Capital City Brewfest to enjoy local craft beer, cuisine, and live music, followed by a rowdy bit of dive bar hopping.

By Justin Walter
Contributing Writer
Hatice Yardim Unsplash
Marc M Unsplash
24

The Slovakian capital’s old-meets-new energy makes it a likely traveler favorite. 2020 might just be the year it hits the mainstream.

“Have you ever been to Slovakia’s capital?” Statistically speaking, the answer is either “no” or “Sorry, what is Slovakia’s capital?”

I get it, Bratislava was a surprise for me, too. Slovakia is a small country that’s landlocked between Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine — making it as Central Europe as you can get. Bratislava itself is hemmed in on three sides by borders with Austria and Hungary, and the Danube River.

The city is small, yet beautiful. Cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and even a hilltop castle overlooking the wide and very blue Danube make it a sight to behold. In recent years, the nightlife scene has begun to bubble, too — with bars and restaurants spilling out into the streets during the summer nights. Murals have been thrown up on the old walls of the ancient town, giving the city that aged-yet-modern vibe that seems to fit capitals in this region so nicely.

People are living full lives here. Cafe culture is booming; so are boutiques. On weekends, a hike is never far away. Right now, you won’t find many American tourists in Bratislava, but we’ve seen this before with Prague. With relatively affordable prices and the bar and food cultures on the come up, it won’t be long until folks arrive.

By Phil Calvert
Contributing Writer
Getty Image
Getty Image
Getty Image
25

Hurricane Maria is in the past. Eco-minded adventure is the future for this Caribbean island nation.

Dominica awaits. The island has fully recovered from Hurricane Maria and awaits an influx of tourism. Better still, the Carribean’s “Nature Island” is affordable relative to the rest of the region and far more rewarding for “off the beaten track” types.

Pick up the unlimited week-long site pass to visit Dominica’s natural landmarks for just $12 and experience the Emerald Pool, Cabrits National Park & Fort Shirley, Trafalgar Falls, Middleham Falls, Soufriere Sulphur Springs, Boeri Lake, Indian River, Boiling Lake (the second-largest hot lake on Earth), and more. Stay at eco-minded lodges such as Secret Bay and Jungle Bay Resort. When you’re done with your explorations of the interior or beach lounging, make time for whale watching, trekking, canyoneering with Extreme Dominica, snorkeling over under-water volcanoes with Nature Island Dive, soaking at Wotten Waven Hot Springs, and exploring the island’s 365 rivers and nine active volcanoes. If you have a little extra time, checking out scenery from Pirates of the Carribean (both the real life and movie versions) is a nice add-on to any adventure-rich itinerary.

By Lola Mendez
Contributing Writer
Unsplash
Emily Hart
Getty Image
26

The home to the newest National Park in the country is full of surprises and ready to step into the spotlight.

As a solo traveler known for visiting National Parks, I’m often asked where in the United States I’d recommend visiting. It’s always interesting to see the confusion on the faces of the questioners when my response is New Mexico.

“But isn’t that just aliens and, like, the desert?”

If you’re into alien stuff and the desert, you’ll certainly find them here. But you’ll also find so much more. New Mexico is incredibly diverse. While visiting the Land of Enchantment, I’ve camped in the desert, stayed in a yurt nestled into the forest, hiked up mountains to alpine lakes, and down into deep caverns. I’ve soaked in too many hot springs to count and wandered through some of the most amazing art installations and galleries. New Mexico is where I’ve eaten the best meals, found my favorite brewery, and watched the most epic sunsets of my life. I’ve met incredibly talented artists along the way, and visited historic churches and pueblos.

What I’m saying is: New Mexico is special. It’s quirky and mystical and down to earth all at once. It’s full of adventure and relaxation and history. It’s also the home to the newest designated National Park — White Sands — a truly otherworldly experience. Which should give you plenty of reason to go visit — for adventure followed by hatch chili omelets and craft beer — before the crowds fully hit.

Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.” I couldn’t agree more.

By Emily Hart
Contributing Writer
Getty Image
Getty Image
27

See gorillas in the wild while celebrating the nation’s new, cooperation-centric identity.

Rwanda has been reborn. Whatever you think you know about this Central African country is probably outdated, and it’s time to explore what that history has led to — a society created with the express purpose of avoiding genocide. Community activities like Umuganda (which is open to tourists and takes place the last Saturday of each month) encourages neighbors to get to know one another and work towards shared goals.

Former poachers have been trained to showcase cultural experiences, allowing the mountain gorilla population in Volcanoes National Park to flourish. All of this success has come with more development, too. New luxury resorts like Magashi Camp and One & Only’s Nyungwe House have opened in recent years, and Ellen DeGeneres’ much-hyped Gorilla Campus is on the way.

This year will even see the ribbon cutting on Rwanda’s 5th national park, which will serve as a wildlife corridor to continue rebuilding populations of threatened species.

By Ali Wunderman
Contributing Writer
Getty Image
Unsplash
Unsplash
28

SLO lives up to its acronym, embodying the chill Cali vibe in a way that few cities do anymore.

I’m a tried and true Californian. Not only was I born in the Golden State, but I’ve spent a vast amount of my time exploring almost every inch of its sprawl. Need a city with great food? I’ve got you. Want to know where the best hiking trails in the state are? I’m your guy. Hell, looking to find which neighborhoods in Los Angeles are still affordable? I’ll give you options and find you some roommates (you’ll need those). And if I was recommending one Californian city that is absolutely worth your time? Make it San Luis Obispo.

To be frank, the idea of “California chill” has been wildly exaggerated. Los Angeles, with its agonizing traffic, is not very chill… unless you have a place in Malibu. San Diego is fun as hell, but in a “sleep when you’re dead or move to Ocean Beach” way. San Francisco? Beautiful city, but who can relax while paying those rents?

If you want a truly chilled-out California vacation — one that’s laid back but close enough to some action to keep you from getting bored — San Luis Obispo is your town. Located along California’s Central Coast, San Luis Obispo is a ten-minute drive away from a deeply enjoyable, tidily compact wine country, with more than a dozen vineyards to choose from. Beautiful hiking and biking trails overlooking lush valleys, like Bishop Peak, are also widely available. Instagram-worthy hotels, from the Madonna Inn to the Kimpton Buchanan, dot the town.

Do I even need to mention that SLO is a college town? I probably should, because it adds a lot to the nightlife scene. And unlike so many college towns, the relationship between locals and students isn’t particularly fraught. Everyone seems keenly appreciative of the fact that they’re living their chilled-out Cali dreams.

If you visit, you’re likely to feel the same.

By Dane Rivera
Contributing WriterTwitter
Unsplash
Unsplash
29

Go for the white sand beaches, the Arab culture, and the surprising food scene.

The tropical island of Zanzibar, just off the coast of Tanzania, has a laid back, Middle Eastern vibe. Arab dhows circumnavigate the island, carrying supplies and passengers. Women balance baskets on their heads and men cast fishing nets into the shallows. The bone-white sand literally squeaks under your feet as you walk the beaches and the famous water is so blue that any photo we post is going to look like it came from Shutterstock.

Go SCUBA diving at one of the more than 30 dive sites just offshore and then come back for an afternoon lunch and some relaxation. The coastline is dotted with tiny, brightly painted shacks that serve fresh fish and cold beers.

The capital of Stone Town features winding cobbled streets, churches, colonial-mansions-turned-guesthouses, and mosques. The city is a multi-cultural mix — made up mostly of 19th-century coral-stone buildings with tall windows and billowing curtains. Take a spice tour to get a sense of what made this island into such a hub for traders, or simply stroll through the Heritage Listed town center. The further from town you travel, the cheaper and more remote things get (until you reach the far north of the island, where most of the beach resorts are crowded together).

How hot is Zanzibar with the cool kids in 2020? Trust and Travel — also on the UPROXX Hot List — is hosting a yoga and writing retreat on the island this summer. But if you want to arrive before the more touristy crowds, hurry. The largest resort/ luxury home compound in East Africa is opening on the island this year.

EDITOR’S PICK: In Stone Town, you’ll find an epic night market crowded along the harbor. This is where to get some of the absolute best food in all of East Africa, certainly in the Tanzanian archipelago. Local chefs grill and fry up fresh squid, fish, chicken, and beef. It’s literally a tasting market — the best play is to visit as many stalls as you can, paying a little to sample something from as many grills and woks as you can.

Don’t miss the famous “Zanzibar Pizza” — a sort of crepe/pancake topped with savory or sweet ingredients and folded into a sort of crunchwrap shape. It’s a Zanzibar classic.

By David Duran
Contributing Writer
Unsplash
Kristin Corpuz
30

Milos, Greece is an inexpensive, less-touristed corner of the Greek Isles. But if you want to see it without the crowds, you need to hurry.

As far as the Cyclades Islands go, Milos is one of the least crowded, but also one of the most breathtaking. Compared to the party destination that is Mykonos and the frequently-visited (though rightfully so) Santorini, Milos is a quiet escape with all of the stunning views of those more heavily touristed islands.

The real treat of Milos is its more “hang with the locals” vibe, with plenty of Airbnb options to make this a more affordable iteration of the Cyclades vacation. Renting a car is as low as $30 a day, making the tiny island even easier to explore on your own (which is good because cabs are few and far between). And, if you’re brave enough to cliff jump of the ledges at Sarakiniko Beach, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. The beaches are pristine, the waters impossibly teal, and the buildings, as white as you’ve seen on IG.

Get here before the crowds do. Because they’re going to hit Milos soon, without a doubt.

By Kristin Corpuz
Contributing Writer
Kinga Phillips
Kinga Phillips
Unsplash
31

With the oceans under attack, go diving at Cabo Pulmo Marine Park to witness a true conservation success story.

On the bang for your buck side of diving, I present to you Baja’s Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park. Five dive shops sit along a dirt road where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. The adjacent marine park is home to the oldest coral reef on the west coast of North America, estimated to be around 20,000 years old.

Cabo Plumo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a monumental success story in marine conservation. Its once decimated biomass has bounced back over 400 percent since 1995. The diving is so spectacular that National Geographic photographers are as abundant as the wildlife, regularly sharing incredible images of massive schools of jackfish, moving as if they’re cosmically connected. Scientists gather too, tagging bull sharks and orcas, both of which are known to show up unexpectedly.

If getting to Cabo Plumo seems like too big of a mission, try a tailored adventure from Cabo San Lucas with Baja My Love.

By Kinga Phillips
Contributing Writer
Getty
Justin Walter
Justin Walter
32

Live the life aquatic in this small Texas college town.

I have to be honest, when I was offered the chance to visit San Marcos, I had no idea where it was and quickly searched Google. Located between Austin and San Antonio, the town of San Marcos looks like a small, off-the-highway pit stop, home to Texas State University.

In person, it’s so much more. On my visit, I was constantly shocked by its one-of-a-kind aquatic adventures. During daylight hours, treat yourself to clear bottom kayaking or river tubing (beer in hand, of course) over the wild rice-growing sections of the San Marcos River. At night, trade your kayaks and tubes for stand up paddle boards rigged with LED lights, turning the inky water into a nighttime rave. At Spring Lake Natural Area, hop on a glass-bottomed boat tour, cruising its vibrant emerald waters as if you’ve been transported to the Amazon. And if that’s not enough, drive 30-minutes to Jacob’s Well to get your adrenaline junkie fix by leaping into a 30-foot underwater cave.

Did I mention the barbecue scene? Do I need to? This is Texas, after all. Just know that the post-adventure food and beer definitely doesn’t disappoint.

By Justin Walter
Contributing Writer
Marvin Meyer Unsplash
Getty Image
Tomas Malik Unsplash
33

Sri Lanka’s Southern Coast feels like Bali and Lombok back in the day. Get there before the lineups get crowded.

At the dawn of a new year (or decade) it’s natural to seek out transformations. What can be more transformative than going vegetarian/vegan while learning to surf in southern Sri Lanka? A hot destination for beginner surfers from all over the world, this part of Sri Lanka is essentially Bali and Lombok before both spots blew up and appeared on every cool kid’s Instagram. As for the food, I still fall asleep dreaming of the caramelized eggplant curry with rice that I ate between sessions. The surfeit of savory lentils and vegetables will not only hit the ethical spot but keep your budget freed up for surfboard rentals and lessons.

If you visit this region, be ready to hang with sea turtles, they poke their heads above the crystal-clear bathtub warm waves while you’re paddling for the next set. Connected by local buses, Weligama, Ahangama, Midigama, and Hiriketiya each boasts vibrant backpacker and digital nomad communities. There’s no shortage of people daring to brave their first waves, either — so there’s no chance of feeling like the only novice.

Enjoy the cool trade winds at the top of Hangtime Hostel in Weligama, eating western staples, when you need a break from curry. Room and board is easy around here — from the stylish Verse Collective hostel in Hiriketiya to the 2020 Hostelworld Award-Winning Spindrift in Weligama to the luxe Soul & Surf.

After days riding the waves, hit the local tiki bar and ask the locals to point you to the best inexpensive spots for dinner or kick you the details for the next “jungle party.”

By Joy Hui Lin
Contributing Writer
Agnieszka M Unsplash
Samantha Hentosh Unsplash
Getty Image
34

As crowds grow in Dubrovnik, now’s the time to hit the interior of the Southern European country.

If you’re looking for an exciting, affordable travel destination for 2020, look no further than Croatia. But not Game of Thrones Croatia. Not “everybody’s 2018 Hot List” Croatia. Go further. Get off the tourist track.

Thanks to HBO blowing up their spot, this Adriatic-adjacent nation has seen its fair share of tourists in recent years. So our recommendation is to skip Dubrovnik altogether (thus avoiding the crowds) and fly straight to the capital city of Zagreb. This city, located in the northwest part of the country (far from the coast), is home to Austro-Hungarian architecture on par with the likes of Zurich — easily enjoyed for a fraction of the cost. Hotels are reasonable, and there seems to be an outdoor café on every corner serving black risotto, strukli (a sort of cheesy-doughy-lasagna), and frosty Croatian beers. While in town, don’t miss the Museum of Broken Relationships and the newly opened Museum of Hangovers.

If you’re spending a few days in Zagreb, a day trip (or overnight excursion) to Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must. This 295 square kilometer forest reserve is home to 16 lakes, countless waterfalls, and crystal clear blue water. It’s literally the ultimate IG fantasyland. You’ll feel like you’re in a studio set for Lord of the Rings, Journey to the Center of the Earth, or… yesGame of Thrones as you make your way along the walkways and paths that traverse the park.

By Christopher Osburn
ContributorTwitter
Andrea Leopardi
Wendy Hu
John Weinhardt
35

Beloved by outdoor enthusiasts, Patagonia is more accessible than ever without suffering from overcrowding.

Since the great wild north is our #1 destination-based trend, let’s call Patagonia “the great wild south.” The allure is certainly similar. Located at the southern end of South America — split between Chile and Argentina — the region is roughly 300,000-square-miles of untouched nature.

Visitors are treated to stunningly blue glacial lakes, lush rainforests, grassy plains, towering mountains, diverse wildlife, daily rainbows, and rocky coasts. Patagonia is also home to the second-largest continental icefield in the world, after those found in Antarctica. So expect the cold.

Maybe the most “2020 thing” about the region is that slow travel is a necessity. You can’t rush a trip around Patagonia. The area is so remote, the roads are not always clear, and the extreme winds make driving difficult. Tour companies like G Adventures and National Geographic Journeys make it easy to see all the epic sites while keeping you safe, but if you go to this part of the world be ready to be intrepid.

Over the course of two weeks in Patagonia, you can visit the alpine villages in the Lake District (which feel like South America’s “Switzerland”), hike through majestic Torres del Paine National Park, trek on Perito Moreno Glacier and take a ferry ride through the Beagle Channel before ending up on an island full of penguins. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a puma in the national park or dolphins and humpback whales on the ferry ride.

Patagonia isn’t the easiest place to get to nor is it a cheap trip, but if you’re looking to get out into the wilds of nature this year, in one of the most photogenic landscapes on earth, where fast-paced, heavily-touristed travel isn’t even on the radar, this is your spot.

By Wendy Hu
Contributing Writer