Heads up! These are the hottest travel destinations to add to your list this year.
Bitten by the travel bug but exhausted your bucket list already? Pack your bags and wheel into these hot travel destinations. We culled up a handy-as-heck travel list for 2020 – think tropical islands, charming cities steeped in rich culture and history, shopping enclaves and pulsating landscapes.
Why? Lose yourself in the dreamy lakefront city that is Zurich. The cosmopolitan city (which is also the banking and finance epicentre of Switzerland) boasts a sophisticated mix of cultural landmarks, thriving nightlife, alpine mountains and a vibrant shopping scene. No wonder it’s one of the top travel destinations for Singaporeans.
Don’t miss: Be sure to lock in lotsa sightseeing time ‘cos there’s just so much to do. Take a stroll along the charming Lake Zurich, soak in all the history from the medieval streets of the Altstadt, go bar-hopping, and finally, hit the spa. We’d recommend the Thermalbad & Spa Zürich for an infinity pool that overlooks the city.
Why? Uzbekistan has been appearing in more than a couple of our IG stories so we just had to do a little Google search to see what the fuss is all about. Turns out, it’s a lucky bag of surprises that has seen a steady surge in tourists. This country in Central Asia plays an integral part of the ancient Silk Road as it holds three key cities: Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva.
Don’t miss: No doubt it’s a lesser-known travel destination, but believe it or not, Uzbekistan is one of the safest spots for your travels. Standing tall is Bukhara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a hub for medieval Islamic architecture. The show stopping mosques, medressas and mausoleums also stretch to Samarkand and Khiva but the adventure doesn’t stop there. If you’re itching to do some trekking, visit spots such as Nuratau Mountains, Kyzylkum Desert and the snow-capped Tien Shan Mountains.
Why? This dreamy spot in India’s most southern state is dubbed as “God’s own country” and with good reason. Kerala is bordered by the Arabian Sea coast, which stretches across 600km, making it a great beach destination – but there’s more to it than palm trees and pristine beaches. The place is awash with lush green vegetation and rainforests, tea and spice plantations, sparkly backwaters, rich culture and diverse wildlife. It is, without a doubt, one of the best places to unwind.
Don’t miss: Experiencing the romantic Kerala backwaters on a houseboat; Fort Kochi for Portuguese-, Dutch- and French-inspired architecture, traditional Kathakali performances and cool cafes. Hike in the Western Ghats and bask in the flora and fauna, tea and coffee plantations and hill stations. Try flavour-packed Kerala cuisine such as puttu, appam and fresh seafood like karimeen pollichathu (fried fish). Finally, be one with nature at the Periyar National Park where you can spot wild elephants, birds and even a tiger if you’re lucky!
Why? The only struggle you’ll encounter is getting through a packed itinerary. Located in the Middle East, Qatar is spilling over with museums, bustling souqs (local marketplaces) and architectural marvels. Experience the harmonious blend of traditional versus contemporary, and witness everything from skyscrapers to natural attractions, enchanting museums to a thriving arts scene. With the World Cup coming up in 2020, we reckon tourism will skyrocket in the next few years.
Don’t miss: Adrenaline junkies will love the UNESCO-recognised Khor Al Adaid, a natural wonder in the southeast of Doha, which is accessible only by driving up massive sand dunes. Shopaholics can put their haggling skills to the test at Souq Waqif, a marketplace where you can find souvenirs, Middle Eastern handicrafts, spices and home accessories. Or, explore the Museum of Islamic Art for Islamic art and artifacts from Spain, Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Iraq.
Why? Ah Japan, where do we begin? Experiencing this country is as close to opening a box of chocolates – or bento box, if we may add. On one hand, you have deeply-rooted tradition and culture; on the other, an urban jungle that’s bursting with energy. Those who’ve been to Japan countless times can vouch that there’s something new to see or experience every single trip. Also, 2020’s going to be a big year for the country as it welcomes the Summer Olympics. So it’ll be on your radar for sure!
Don’t miss: First-timers, you’d be crazy to skip the usual spots like Tokyo for an urban adventure filled with lotsa shopping (Harajuku, included!) drinking and dining options; Japan’s epicentre for culture, Kyoto, for traditional architecture; and Hokkaido for powdery snow and skiing. And of course, who can forget the cherry blossom season that turns the country into a scene from a fairytale?
Why? With alluring bohemian accents, a mishmash of rich culture and old-world charm, Turkey is truly a melting pot of old and new. You can do everything from shopping and sampling some of the best cuisines you’ll ever have, to witnessing sweeping views of beaches, historical landmarks and natural landscapes.
Don’t miss: Begin your travels winding through the streets of Galata in the capital city of Istanbul for shopping at small-scale boutiques and bazaars, followed by a soothing hammam (Turkish bath). Then, make your way to Cappadocia in Anatolia and ride a hot air balloon for a tick-off-the-bucket-list-moment. Of course, it’s a field run for culture vultures as the multicultural country is filled with historical sites like Ephesus, the Blue Mosque, Kayakoy and the Alanya Castle.
Why? We’ve explored lesser-known spots such as Kanchanaburi in West Thailand and now we’re venturing towards the city of happiness in the northeast. Casual more your speed? Skip the tourist-swarmed Bangkok and visit Buriram for striking relics from the Khmer Empire, ancient ruins and countless century-old temples.
Don’t miss: All eyes are on the Phanom Rung, a series of beautifully restored temples located atop – wait for it – an inactive volcano. Visitors have even compared this to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. Just a short drive away, you’ll find the 1,000-year-old Prasat Hin Muang Tum, which is also a mecca for 10th and 11th century temples sitting among beautiful ponds.
Why? There’s no denying that The Philippines is sprinkled with islands across the country, but apart from exploring oldies (but goldies) like Boracay and Palawan, we’re simply scratching the surface. When Siargao entered our radar, we knew we had to add it to our guide. Located in the south of the Philippines, Siargao is an island paradise that beach bums have yet to discover. It apparently has some of the best waves in the country, attracting many surfers from near and afar to hit the beach.
Don’t miss: Surfers can flock to Cloud 9, home to the most famous wave in the Philippines. But if that’s not your scene, there’s still loads to do. For starters, island-hop around Naked Island, Guyam and Daku for a great dose of seafood and, of course, postcard-perfect beaches. Adrenaline junkies will love the Magpungko Rock Pool for cliff jumping into crystal clear emerald waters. There are also some “hidden gems” such as the undisturbed lake in Poneas Island and Secret Spot (yes, it’s literally called that) sandwiched between Doot Beach and a mangrove forest.
Why? Argentina is one of the first countries that come to mind when we think about South America. Whether you’re looking for a laid-back vacay or an adrenaline-filled adventure, there’s something for everyone. Even better news for travellers? The Argentinian peso has also seen a significant drop against the Singaporean dollars. We’re looking at flight prices already!
Don’t miss: No visit to Argentina is complete without exploring Buenos Aires, the sprightly capital city that never sleeps. The dynamic culinary culture, museums, folk markets and European architecture only scratches the surface. At the other end of the spectrum, specifically down south, there’s Patagonia, which is brimming with glaciers, national parks and chances to spot whales and penguins.
Why? Disney fans will already be dreaming about visiting Norway thanks to beautiful visuals from the recent hit film, Frozen 2. But seriously, what’s not to like in the Scandinavian country? Let us give you an idea: Glorious glaciers, towering fortresses, Norwegian fjords, Arctic-inspired architecture, colourful wooden houses, the alpines and, of course, the ever-elusive Northern Lights.
Don’t miss: Visit Bryggen, the wharf of Bergen, and snap some shots of the ancient wooden houses. Wanna experience the aurora borealis? Tromso is a great spot to catch the lights and try out activities such as fishing, dog sledding and kayaking. The abundant national parks (there are close to 47!) will give you a glimpse into the wildlife so you can come face to face with reindeer, lynx and wolves.
Why? Perched on the northwest tip of Vietnam, Sapa’s mountainous town boasts impressive views of rice terraces, grandiose mountains, undulating hills and abundant greenery. Truth be told, you’d already know you’re hitting zen city as you plan your itinerary. Thanks to its cool temperatures – it dips below zero degrees (Celsius) during the cold season from December to January – you can experience snow right here sans the hefty price tag that usually comes with going to the Northern hemisphere.
Don’t miss: Avid trekkers can attempt to climb the highest mountain in the Indochinese Peninsula, Mount Fansipan. Mountaineering aside, the quaint town is filled with waterfalls like Thac Bac, Thac Tinh Yeu and Coc San. Oh, and be sure to visit Sapa Market for a light dose of shopping.