If you’re looking for the best place to visit in 2020, there’s a new guide that can help you pinpoint the perfect destination.
Ovation Travel Group‘s agents have compiled an exclusive list of the top leisure destinations for FORBES based on sales and client aspirations. It confirms a few favorite places, but also has a surprise or two. Remarkably, there are only two U.S. destinations on the list.
International travel is a big trend for 2020, says Paul Metselaar, the CEO of Ovation Travel Group. His agency has experienced “elevated demand for international travel,” he adds, which has made demand soar by 40% from last year.
That’s reflected in the overall travel trends. Outbound travel rose 6% in 2018, to 93 million business and leisure travelers, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office.
Here are the best places to visit
1. Amangiri/Lake Powell, Utah/Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Why? “The scenery and outdoor elements are unlike anywhere else in the U.S.,” says Fallon Hirschhorn, a luxury travel designer for The Stein Collective, an Ovation Travel Group affiliate. Plus, it’s just a four-hour drive from Phoenix or Vegas — or easily accessible by private plane.
Who should go? Nature lovers, wellness-oriented travelers and those just looking for an outdoor escape.
Don’t miss: Explore the red rock walls of Slot and Antelope Canyon and gaze in awe at the spire-shaped formations of Bryce Canyon National Park.
2. Palermo/Sicily, Italy
Why? The island of Sicily contains some of the most remarkable sites in the world, including the legendary Valley of the Temple, where the remains of seven Doric temples stand in a breathtaking setting of almond groves and olive trees. “Sicily has an authenticity to it that has faded from many other parts of the world,” says Ashley Diamond, a luxury travel consultant with Ovation Travel Group. “Villages like Noto are famous for its Baroque architecture and limestone facades.”
Who should go? Families and couples.
Don’t miss: It’s not every day you can explore the eerie landscape of Mount Etna‚ Europe’s largest volcano and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It’s the top European destination on this list of the best places to visit in 2020.
3. Cape Town, South Africa
Why? “The warm mild climate makes Cape Town a fantastic destination,” says Limor Decter, a travel advisor and concierge at Ovation Travel Group. “The views of the ocean and the fantastic botanical gardens make this cosmopolitan city a most worthwhile place to visit all year long.”
Who should go? Cape Town appeals to families, including multigenerational ones, along with luxury travelers and adventure seekers. Nearby Stellenbosch, known for its Pinotage wine, is perfect for oenophiles.
Don’t miss: A visit to Table Mountain, which affords a terrific view of the city, the nearby Atlantic Ocean and south toward the Cape of Good Hope. Also, stroll through the lush Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Cape Town is the highest-ranking African destination on this list of the best places to visit in 2020.
4. Bariloche/Patagonia, Argentina
Why? Bariloche, the northern part of Patagonia, is famous for its scenic lakes and offers activities like hiking, biking, golf, and water sports. Ovation’s top choice is the Llao Llao, a hotel perched on a small hill, framed by lakes, woods and the Andean peaks.
Who should go? Outdoorsy types into hiking, biking, climbing and water sports. And summer skiing.
Don’t miss: Hike the Perito Moreno glacier.
5. Kigali, Rwanda
Why? ”Rwanda in general and Kigali as the capital gateway city have really come into their own since the genocide a generation ago,” says Judy Stein, president of The Stein Collective, an affiliate of Ovation Travel Group. Kigali is clean, safe and filled with enlightening cultural experiences from world-class modern art galleries to fashion, local crafts and even a coffee co-op run by women making the world’s best coffee.
Who should go? Adventurous, curious, eco-conscious travelers and conservationists.
Don’t miss: Two new ultra-luxe lodges have recently opened, Singita Kwitonda and One&Only’s Nyungwe House.
6. Marrakech, Morocco
Why? Marrakech is another up-and-coming destination on the list of the 20 best places to visit in 2020. “It has one-of-a-kind experiences such as a candlelit dinner in the middle of the desert replete with camel rides, belly dancers and fire eaters,” says Susan Ganis, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group.
Who should visit? Travelers who are active and adventurous and interested in different cultural experiences.
Don’t miss: A private visit to Yves Saint Laurent’s home and the Majorelle Gardens.
7. Porto/Douro Valley, Portugal
Why? Porto has great food, wine, the sights, perfect weather and reasonable costs. “Some nice properties include The Yeatman and Maison Albar Hotels/Le Monumental, which are quick jaunts from Lisbon,” says Andrew Steinberg, a luxury travel concierge at Modern Travel, an affiliate of Ovation Travel Group.
Who should go? Porto is great for couples.
Don’t miss: Hand-painted tile work called azulejos, which you can see throughout Porto.
8. Tel Aviv, Israel
Why? Tel Aviv has become a culinary center in recent years. Check out the white Bauhaus buildings lining the wide, tree-dotted promenades.
Who should go? Families and couples. Tel Aviv is also welcoming to members of the LGBT community, according to Ovation.
Don’t miss: A walk along the beach promenade into Jaffa, an ancient port city undergoing a renaissance.
9. Atacama Desert, Chile
Why? This desert, located about 8,000 feet above sea level, is often compared to Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park in Utah. You can spend most of your time hiking and biking the surrounding mountains and canyons, bird watching, and visiting picturesque villages and ancient ruins.
Who should go? Adventure seekers and those looking to experience the otherworldly. This region is located in remote northern Chile.
Don’t miss: Visit the brilliant Chaxa Lagoon, surrounded by salt flats and inhabited by two species of flamingos. You can also go horseback riding and visit the Valley of the Moon at sunset.
10. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Why? Dubrovnik is a shimmering beauty on the Dalmatian coast, say travel agents. The medieval walled city facing the Adriatic Sea is saturated with ancient history.
Who should go? Dubrovnik appeals to history and culture buffs, as well as Millennial travelers, and of course “Game of Thrones” fans.
Don’t miss: Walk the ancient city walls during sunset or ride the cable car for a panoramic view of the city.
11. Tokyo, Japan
Why? You can explore the main sights, from ancient temples to modern pop-culture and electronic wonders, all while riding on one of the best subway systems anywhere. See a unique Buddhist wood burning ritual in one of Tokyo’s prominent temples, and then visit the biggest fish market in the world. Plus, in 2020, Tokyo will host the Summer Olympics.
Who should go? Foodies.
Don’t miss: Tokyo is home to more Michelin stars than Paris. The city has over 100,000 restaurants. You can sample tempura, teppanyaki, yakitori, ramen, kaiskei and shabu shabu.
12. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Why? The mountains near Pigeon Forge are home to upscale resorts such as Blackberry Mountain. “It’s a mystical setting to relax, unplug and reconnect,” says Jill Fischbarg, a luxury travel consultant with Ovation Travel Group. “This is for the traveler who wants to be surrounded by nature.”
Who should go: Couples, babymooners, and small groups.
Don’t miss: Hiking.
13. Kotor, Montenegro
Why? Montenegro, the Adriatic’s hidden treasure, is emerging as a desirable Mediterranean destination and will no longer be seen as the poor neighbor of Croatia. “It’s the Adriatic’s hidden treasure,” says Lauren Shook, a travel concierge for The Stein Collective. Today, Montenegro is emerging as a go-to luxury haven. Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro’s most luxurious hotel, raised the bar for hospitality in the country, And Marriott International just announced that it will bring the Ritz-Carlton brand to Montenegro in 2023.
Who should go: Active travelers looking for hiking and adventure and couples seeking relaxation and privacy.
Don’t miss: Kotor, another walled Dalmatian city, offers travelers an impressive and more natural experience. It’s one of the best-preserved old towns on the Adriatic coast and is home to many churches and museums.
14. Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Mexico
Why? “Amazing ocean views — and golf,” says Cindy Salik, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group. “If you love fishing or sailing on the ocean, amazing restaurants and beautiful sunsets, this is the place to be.”
Who should go: Families and couples.
Don’t miss: The golf, boat rides and dining. Next year, two new Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton properties are opening.
15. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Why? “Chiang Mai offers the perfect mix of city and adventure,” says Sylvia Lebovitch, a luxury travel consultant at Ovation Travel Group. “Highlights include exploring the culture of the hill tribes, picking up tchotchkes at the night market, and visiting elephant sanctuaries.
Who should go? Families, honeymooners and couples.
Don’t miss: Visiting an elephant sanctuary, where you can help bathe and feed the elephants in a rescue and rehabilitation center.
16. Machu Picchu/Cusco, Peru
Why? Peru offers great culture, history, nature and food. And of course there’s Machu Picchu. Enough said.
Who should go? History buffs, adventure seekers, culture lovers.
Don’t miss: Ascend to Machu Picchu in the early morning and tour the picturesque Spanish colonial city of Cusco.
17. Melbourne, Australia
Why? It’s a cosmopolitan city known for the arts and good living. It has a much more European feel than Sydney. “Melbourne’s street art is vibrant and an ever-changing landscape, sometimes daily,” says Gina Gabbard, a senior vice president of leisure and independent advisors at Ovation Travel Group
Who should go? Art lovers and young travelers.
Don’t miss: Melbourne offers 76,000 live performances a year versus New York City’s 36,000. That’s a lot of music.
18. Mendoza, Argentina
Why? Mendoza is in Argentina’s wine region, but it’s also known for its adventure tourism, thanks to its proximity to the Andes.
Who should go: Wine lovers and nature lovers.
Don’t miss: The Uco Valley, located about 90 minutes from the town of Mendoza.
19. Vira Vira, Chile
Why? In the southern hemisphere spring, you can ski or snowshoe the active volcano Villarrica in the morning and then trek through one of the national forests in a sweatshirt to see the waterfalls or white water raft in the afternoon. It’s a year-round destination.
Who should go? Active families and couples. It’s peaceful but adventurous.
Don’t miss: Snowshoeing in the woods or hiking to the top of Villarrica and visiting a Mapuche Indian home.
20. San Miguel del Allende, Mexico
Why? “It’s the perfect destination for well-heeled travelers looking for elegant accommodations,” says Barbara Hammer, a luxury travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group. She recommends pairing it with a visit to Mexico City to shop for art.
Who should go? Adventure seekers looking for something a bit off the grid.
Don’t miss: Must-see places include Mercado de Artesanías, a hand-crafts market, and Fábrica la Aurora, a former mill that now houses many art galleries and restaurants.