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50 stunning places to visit in 2020 before they become packed with tourists

The 2010s were an interesting decade for globetrotters. Travel apps, social media, increasingly high-tech security and other travel trends completely changed the game. As the new year (and decade) comes around, it’s the perfect time to plan how you’re going to use your vacation days in 2020

Taking care to curate a list that is both geographically diverse and covers a wide variety of experiences for every type of traveler, we looked at which cities and regions plan to have newsworthy events and celebrations in 2020, as well as those specifically preparing for travelers with anticipated new flight routes and hotels. Be sure to double-check your destination before booking travel around planned festivals, anticipated events and in-progress lodging as timelines may change.

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Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan
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Tokyo will be one of the hottest destinations thanks to the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games. The Olympic Games opening ceremony is on July 24 and the games will run through Aug. 9, after which the Paralympics will run from Aug. 25 through Sept. 6.

Tourists don’t have to attend the Olympics for a great 2020 trip in Tokyo, though. In fact, spring is typically the best time to go. As Tokyo anticipates increased tourism, Condé Nast Traveler reports that improvements are being made to the city’s train system with new bullet cars and new routes. Multiple new hotels have debuted or are planned to open as well, such as the modern-yet-sophisticated Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi, the stylishly minimalistic MUJI Hotel Ginza and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants first boutique Tokyo hotel.

São Paulo, Brazil

Travel to São Paulo, Brazil, is anticipated to be easier than ever in 2020. The largest city in the southern hemisphere, this hotspot is home to skyscrapers, luxury shopping, a trendy food scene and thriving nightlife. Brazil dropped visa requirements for U.S. citizens on June 17, 2019, which means travelers with an American passport can stay for up to 90 days. American Airlines plans to increase flights from Miami to São Paulo to three times a day in winter 2020, and Delta Air Lines customers will benefit from a recent purchase of a 20% stake that the airline now has in LATAM airlines, the largest carrier in Latin America. United is also in talks to improve its partnership with Brazil’s Azul Airlines and two other South American carriers.

Vienna, Austria

Celebrate classical German composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday in Vienna, the city where he made a career and became a legend. The many music institutions of the Austrian city will pay tribute throughout the year, most notably the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, which will be performing in a series of events at the Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna Concert Hall) that are sure to impress. It should also be noted that 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the summertime music and drama festival, the Salzburg Festival, held a three-hour drive from Vienna. Access should be easier with Austrian Airlines planning to add a non-stop route from Boston in March.

Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana
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Indiana’s biggest city and state capital turns 200 in 2020, with a citywide celebration planned to run from June 2020 through May 2021. Go in May 2020 to witness the Indy 500, the largest single-day sporting event in the world, and check out the world’s largest children’s museum or the city’s zoo.

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Beirut, Lebanon
Beirut, Lebanon
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One of the oldest cities in the world, Beirut is Lebanon’s capital and largest city, having been inhabited for over 5,000 years. Once dubbed “the Paris of the Middle East,” Beirut is bouncing back 30 years after its 15-year civil war, ready to welcome more tourists in 2020 to enjoy its thriving nightlife and subtropical climate.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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After surpassing Dubai as the leading transfer hub for long-haul travel to sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, Ethiopia has upped the ante by expanding its airport. The main hub of Ethiopian Airlines, Addis Ababa is known for being a shopping destination and is home to a national museum chronicling Ethiopia’s ancient history, most notably housing the skeleton of the famous early hominid known as “Lucy.”

The hotel industry is booming in Addis Ababa as well, with Hyatt Regency having opened its first Ethiopian property in the city in January of 2019. The past year also saw the inauguration of Zoma Museum, a contemporary art museum with an eco-conscious and traditional Ethiopian design that hosts exhibits, workshops and artist residencies.

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Khiva, Uzbekistan
Khiva, Uzbekistan
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Located in the south-central part of Uzbekistan, Khiva is known for its 18th- and 19th-century Islamic architecture, said to be some of the best-preserved in Central Asia. Visitors can also pick up traditional embroidery, carpets and wood and stone carvings to take home. As of February 2018, U.S. citizens also no longer need a voucher or letter of invitation in order to get a visa to Uzbekistan, and as of July 2018, Americans don’t need a visa at all if they can provide a flight ticket indicating that the flight to their next destination is within five days of arrival. Khiva was named the 2020 cultural capital of the Turkic world by the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY).

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Galway, Ireland
Galway, Ireland
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There’s quite a bit of beauty and magic in Ireland, particularly in the western coastal seaport of Galway, named a 2020 European Capital of Culture by the European Union. Galway will celebrate the city and the nation’s history, culture and language with Galway 2020. The festivities will kick off in February and be based around the four seasons of the pre-Christian Gaelic calendar. The festival is also meant to center around the core themes “Migration, Landscape and Language,” with artworks on display and events such as Irish one-act plays, music concerts, storytelling, soccer matches and arts and crafts workshops being held throughout County Galway.

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Porto, Portugal
Porto, Portugal
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Named European City of the Year by the Academy of Urbanism, Porto is known for its port wine and the picturesque European and Moorish architecture that appears throughout the city. Recently opened accommodations include PortoBay Flores, a luxury hotel built in a 16th-century mansion, and Torrel 1884, a boutique hotel in what used to be a palace. TAP Air Portugal announced that it will add more flights to Lisbon from Boston, Newark and Toronto, which is just a few hours from this growing destination.

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Victoria, Australia
Victoria, Australia
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A highly anticipated event, the 2020 ICC (International Cricket Council) Men’s T20 World Cup will be held in Australia from Oct. 18 through Nov. 15, and the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup will be held in February and March. Of the eight cities hosting games, two are located in the Australian state of Victoria, with seven matches (including the final) set to be held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The largest stadium in the Southern Hemisphere, Melbourne Cricket Ground (commonly known as “The G”) is the center of Australian cricket, which you can explore through guided tours and the stadium’s National Sports Museum.

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Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey
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The new Istanbul Airport finally completed the first of four phases of construction, now covering 18,780 acres with a capacity to serve 90 million passengers a year, reflecting the extensive growth of Turkish Airlines, which will have non-stop flights from Newark from May through October. For those looking to take to the sea and explore the Mediterranean, Istanbul’s new cruise port is planned to debut in March 2020. Three large ships will be able to dock at the cruise port at a time, with an estimated 15,000 passengers per day.

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Barbados
Barbados
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At Barbados’ Independence Day Parade in November 2019, Prime Minister Mia Mottley declared that 2020 would be a year-long campaign in which all Barbadians are encouraged to take part in a celebration of their heritage and culture while also working toward a better Barbados. “We Gatherin’” will include traditional food, parades, live soca music and more, starting at the north of the island in January and moving south every month to each of the 11 parishes so that each can display its local culture, before a country-wide finale in December. In addition to witnessing this once-in-a-lifetime celebration, visitors to Barbados can also experience its famed white sandy beaches, the many rum shops, golf courses and watersports such as snorkeling and scuba diving.

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Rijeka, Croatia
Rijeka, Croatia
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Also named a 2020 European Capital of Culture, Rijeka is the commercial, industrial and cultural center of western Croatia, located between the Adriatic Sea and the Julian Alps. Starting with the Rijeka Carnival on Feb. 1, there will be more than 600 cultural events in the city, including live concerts, plays, art displays and museum exhibitions. Outside of that, Rijeka is home to many beautiful beaches, churches, castles, outdoor trails and opportunities for diving.

East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Declared the best value destination for 2020 by travel guide publisher Lonely Planet, the southern province of East Nusa Tenggara is a lesser-traveled area among the Indonesian island. Gorgeous beaches and world-class diving draw tourists here, particularly to Komodo Island (home of the famous Komodo dragon) and the Alor Archipelago. Explore Mount Mutis, the highest point in the province and the perfect place for hiking or bird-watching, and check out the active volcano Kelimutu, which features surreal crater lakes.

Lille, France

Rather than a stay in Paris, go a little bit off the beaten path with a trip to the largely underrated French city of Lille. Capital of Hauts-de-France, the country’s northernmost region, Lille is an industrial city with chic shops, top-tier restaurants and nightlife popping up throughout the city. It’s also at the heart of Lille Metropole, an area in northern France consisting of more than 90 municipalities, which was named the 2020 World Design Capital by the World Design Organization, which gives the award to cities that boost their cultural, economic, environmental and social development throug

Casablanca, Morocco
Casablanca, Morocco
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Morocco’s largest city offers coastal views, European-style cafés, the second largest shopping mall in Africa and impressive mosques, including the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest in the world. In 2019, Royal Air Maroc added three flights a week to Casablanca from both Boston and Miami in addition to its routes from New York’s JFK Airport and Washington Dulles Airport. Summer 2020 will also see American Airlines add the first nonstop flight to Casablanca with a U.S. carrier, taking off three times a week from Philadelphia, and the first Ritz-Carlton in Morocco. The Ritz-Carlton Rabat, Dar es Salam in the country’s capital will be just an hour away from Casablanca in an oak forest and will feature five restaurants, lounges and a spa that has a signature Turkish bath.

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Turks & Caicos Islands
Turks & Caicos Islands
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The Turks & Caicos Islands were named the most romantic destination in the Caribbean, as well as its leading beach destination at the 2019 World Travel Awards. The sparsely populated islands — just eight out of 30 are inhabited — are characterized by 150 miles of coastline and unbelievably clear water, as well as the third-largest barrier reef in the world.

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Augusta, Maine
Augusta, Maine
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Maine won its independence from Massachusetts in March 1820, which means the state will be celebrating its bicentennial in 2020. While events will be held throughout the year and throughout the state, Maine’s capital of Augusta is the best place to celebrate and appreciate the state’s history and culture with programs like Statehood Weekend (a March festival featuring bean suppers, music and food drives), special exhibits at the Maine State Museum and guest speakers.

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Canyon Point, Utah
Canyon Point, Utah
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Canyon Point in southern Utah is home to a spectacular hotel, Amangiri. Located on 600 acres of gorgeous rock landscape with easy access to local national parks and Lake Powell, the serene resort will be joined by a sister resort in April 2020. Just a short drive from Amangiri, Camp Sarika will also take advantage of the surrounding natural landscape and consist of 10 tented pavilions (all of which will provide guests with their own private plunge pool) surrounding a shared restaurant, pool and lounge.

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Nepal
Nepal
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Nepal’s government is heavily promoting tourism for the new year. While it does have plains and forested hills, approximately 75% of the country is mountainous, as Nepal is nestled in the Himalayas and is home to eight of the 10 tallest mountains on the planet (above sea level), including Mount Everest. As part of the 2020 tourism initiative, the cities of Kathmandu and Janakpur plan to have nighttime itineraries that are sure to highlight the mix of Hindu, Buddhist, and South and East Asian cultures that exist here.

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Cabo Verde
Cabo Verde
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The island nation of Cabo Verde, or Cape Verde as it’s often known, lies nearly 400 miles off the western coast of Africa and has a moderate climate with world-renowned beaches and resorts. Cabo Verde Airlines added multiple routes, including a route between Washington, D.C. and the island of Sal, giving better access to the country. Both traditional African and colonial Portuguese cultures have left their mark on the architecture and culture of the islands, of which Santiago, in particular, received a UNESCO World Heritage site designation for its historic center.

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North Macedonia
North Macedonia
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For the latest in travel, head to the newly named country North Macedonia. Formerly known as Macedonia, the Balkan nation rebranded itself, so to speak, in February 2019 in order to appease Greece so that it could join the European Union and NATO. Mountain scenery and deep lakes characterize the Balkan country, which has been influenced by Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Macedonian and Ottoman culture and is also home to serene remote villages and monasteries to explore.

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Oberammergau, Germany
Oberammergau, Germany
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For almost 400 years, the people of Oberammergau have put on a play every 10 years, a tradition that dates back to a 17th-century promise that they would do so if no one from their village died of the plague. Depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ (the period in which the Biblical Jesus had his triumphal entry into Jerusalem until his resurrection), the 42nd Passion Play will take place from May 16 to Oct. 4, so try to nab a ticket for this once-in-a-decade event.

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Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
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Ready for a summer 2020 debut, the National Museum of African American Music is set to open its doors in downtown Nashville, where visitors can explore the influence of black musicians and black culture on more than 50 genres of music. Nashville itself is the “Country Music Capital of the World” and nicknamed “Music City,” with the city’s many venues perfect for exploring local acts and rising talent. Explore the best of Southern cuisine with Nashville’s restaurant scene, and learn some history at spots like the Belle Meade Plantation and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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