Whether you’re seeking a well-earned break, chasing a new adventure, or are even looking to relocate to a new city for a while, travel is something that is on most of our minds.
And if you’re like me, it can occupy your thoughts a lot of the time; with my desktop background interchanging between grandeur mountains and a secluded pristine beach, it’s hard to not fall into a spiral of daydreaming about the next travel experience.
If this year didn’t involve exploring new cities then perhaps it’s on your mind for 2020. As the years have gone on, access to even the most remote cities has improved, travel influencers have infiltrated social media feeds, and tourism is booming. But with this access has come an influx of information with things like reviews often dictating your every choice. Basically, the hardest part about travelling nowadays can actually be the choice that was previously the easiest — picking the perfect place to visit.
Thankfully Lonely Planet has always been a trusty resource for both my own travel research and millions of other travellers, and they have released their picks for the best places to visit in 2020. The list covers everything from overlooked destinations to familiar hotspots with new reasons to return; all with sustainable travel measures in place meaning you can visit with the knowledge that you’re being as low-impact as possible.
No matter what you’re after in your next travel adventure, and whether you’re travelling solo or in a group, these places will have you covered.
For those seeking creativity: Aruba
Aruba, a tiny Dutch Carribean island located off the coast of Venezuela, might be small but it is full of colour and creativity. Not only does it see picture-perfect weather almost year-round, with the least rainfall in the Southern Carribean, it is also full of the friendliest and warm welcoming locals you’ve probably ever met on your travels.
Arubans are a mix of over 90 nationalities, from more than 130 countries, with a unique harmony between them and the diverse languages that are spoken on the island from English to Dutch to Spanish, as well as their local tongue Papiamento. This fusion of culture to create their own unique way of life can spark intrigue in travellers.
The island is alive with colour, and a simple shopping trip in Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad (also known as Aruba’s shopping capital) is noticeably beaming with bright-coloured walls in citrus lemon, lime and tangerine colours. In the cultural hub of San Nicolas, otherwise known as Sunrise City, located in Aruba’s south, a colourful and creative revival has witnessed international and local artists adorn street walls and take part in pop-up carnival experiences.
Some of the top things to do in Aruba include visiting the white sand beaches in the south and the black volcanic rocks and rough waves in the northern shore, taking a trip to Arikok National Park, masking in the creativity of the colourful street art murals in San Nicolas, and simply admiring the colourful houses that characterise Aruba — everything from blue, yellow and pink, and many other colours in the rainbow.
The accumulation of bright colours, cultural fusion, palm-fringed beaches and overall happy vibes, it’s hard for travellers to not be creatively inspired after a visit to Aruba.
For those passionate about sustainable travel: Bhutan
If you’re like me, Bhutan has probably never been on your travel radar because you don’t know much about the country. But if you’re also like me and are super passionate about sustainable travel, then the strong relationship between Bhutan and low-impact travel will immediately grab your attention.
Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist nation, tucked between China and India, known for its monasteries, fortresses and dramatic landscapes. And it’s clearly evident that residents of Bhutan take pride in and care for their home. The landscape, which sees everything from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys, makes Bhutan a tiny piece of Himalayan paradise.
The country operates a strict ‘high value, low impact’ tourism policy, which means travellers have to pay a high daily fee to just step foot in the country. It serves to create an image of exclusivity and high-yield for Bhutan. It also means that they can continue to uphold their reputation of authenticity, remoteness and a well-protected heritage and natural environment.
While this might seem like an inconvenience to some, it means that visitors can walk along mountain trails unsullied by litter and experience a deeper appreciation and respect for different cultures and lifestyles.
Beyond their sustainable travel measures, Bhutan is already the world’s only carbon-negative country and is set to become the first fully organic nation by 2020. And Lonely Planet thinks it’s definitely worth visiting, ranking it number one in the best places to travel to in 2020.
Fortunately, its sustainable travel practices don’t look like they’ll be going anywhere, so if you can’t economically afford Bhutan in the coming year, it’s certainly a unique and extremely worthwhile country to put on your future travel list, and a great reason to start saving some travel money.
For those looking to reconnect with nature: Costa Rica
Many of us are living in urban areas, rarely walking barefoot in the grass or spotting unique wildlife in their natural habitat. Since we usually travel to experience something different, something unlike where we live, many travellers often place nature at the top of their priority list. If you are one of those people, then Costa Rica might be your next perfect travel destination.
Costa Rica, located in Central America with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific, is known for its beautiful natural landscapes and vast biodiversity. And this small country boasts sustainable tourism measures to ensure this tropical paradise, remains just that; paradise.
Their bustling biodiversity means that visitors can spot anything from sleepy sloths to red-eyed frogs to magnificent whales, all in their natural habitats. In fact, about four per cent of the world’s biodiversity is nestled within Costa Rica, particularly the national parks and reserves that take up nearly one-third of the country’s landscape.
These areas that are home to such unique creatures, stretch from volcanoes to beaches and everything in between. These dramatic shifts in terrain put Costa Rica in a position to offer travellers powerful outdoor experiences.
In a country where you can hike volcanoes, walk through rainforests, or marvel at the coastline, every nature-lover is bound to enjoy it. Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity and immense ecosystem are really at the heart of everything you do in the country, the colourful and dense landscape translating into every aspect of this place; even their colourful currency. And the famous Costa Rican catchphrase ‘Pura Vida’ or ‘pure life’ is not just a saying, it’s a way of life, and something you won’t truly understand until visiting the country for yourself.
Costa Rica is definitely a slice of heaven for nature lovers, and if you have never considered factoring nature into your travel decisions before, connecting with nature can actually help reduce stress, foster higher creativity and cognitive ability, assist depression and boost productivity. So if you’re in a rut at work, in your career or just in life, then perhaps a nature-based trip to a country like Costa Rica is perfect for you.
For those craving rejuvenation: Morocco
It may not be your typical country to consider when you’re looking for a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday, but Morocco can actually be the perfect destination for this and has a booming wellness retreat scene. It is also home to ancient traditions like hammams, or better known as ‘public baths’, a traditional and spiritual practice to purify the body and devote time to quiet reflection.
The North African country has long been known for its diverse beaches, deserts and mountains, intriguing medinas and fragrant cuisine, but right now Morocco is certainly having its moment. Despite its dizzying diversity, the country’s many beautiful beaches and epic mountain ranges provide the perfect opportunity to relax in serenity, soothing the mind, body and spirit.
While you can take relaxation into your own hands enjoying the beauty of this country at your own pace, if you’re after something a little more structured, there are a multitude of coastal wellness retreats on offer in Morocco, most of which serve up seasonal organic produce, and blend activities like yoga, meditation and surfing. Picture yourself on the quiet rooftop of a boutique hotel in the ancient town of Marrakech, practising yoga with an extremely knowledgeable master; it certainly provides a nice combination for rejuvenation as opposed to rushing to the local yoga studio after a long day at work.
Some serene and luxurious wellness retreats include In:spa Retreats located on the outskirts of bustling Marrakech and at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains with a peaceful spa, yoga sessions, and healthy, nutritious meals prepared fresh by an in-house chef each day. There’s also Om Yoga Retreat situated on the Casablanca coast, offering multiple different styles of yoga in modern studios, as well as pilates, meditation and detox sessions, all ultimately promoting healing, growth and health.
Morocco is certainly an up and coming destination, and if you’re looking for a relaxing and rejuvenating travel experience then the country’s year-round sunshine, as well as a culture built around soothing the mind, body and soul (traditionally done in a hammam or Turkish bath), makes Morocco an ideal destination for a holiday dictated by wellness.
This article was written by Laine Fullerton and originally published on A Girl In Progress.