Carbon-negative Bhutan tops a list of the 10 best destinations to visit in 2020 - reflecting how important sustainability has become in global travel and tourism.
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Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel for 2020 chooses the top 10 countries, regions, cities and best-value destinations, based on their topicality, unique experiences and ‘wow’ factor. The importance of sustainable tourism also features heavily.
Despite growing concerns over the environmental impact of international travel, tourism is a burgeoning business - which made $1.4 trillion in 2018, up from $475 billion in 2000.
Here are the top 10 countries for 2020, as chosen by the Lonely Planet’s writers, editors and influencers.
Hiking trails with dramatic views, and world-beating eco credentials put Bhutan at the top of the list for 2020. The Himalayan kingdom has a policy of being 60% forested, but has exceeded this, at 70%, which has made it one of the world’s first carbon-negative countries. It’s aiming to be the first fully organic country in 2020 - and, since 1972, it has measured Gross National Happiness, putting people’s wellbeing before wealth.
The Lonely Planet says: “Bhutan punches well above its weight when it comes to sustainability. It operates a strict ‘high-value, low-impact’ tourism policy, compelling travellers to pay a high daily fee just to set foot in its monastery-crowned hills. The pay-off for visitors is a chance to walk along mountain trails unsullied by litter, in the company of people whose Buddhist beliefs put them uniquely in tune with their environment.”
A nation of walkers, England has enshrined a ‘right to roam’, meaning visitors can access many mountains, moors, heaths and downs that are privately owned. In 2020, the government will open new sections of the England Coast Path, some of which is also ‘access land’. It will be the longest continuous trail of its kind in the world, giving access to the country’s entire coastline - nearly 3,000 miles - for the first time - as well as all the delights of the English seaside, from fish and chips to fossils.
Known for slow food and foraging in nature, the tiny Balkan nation has adopted a new name, a new era of good relations with Greece - and new flight routes to Unesco-protected Lake Ohrid. It also recently launched the High Scardus Trail, a 495-km trek along the region’s most dramatic peaks.
By 2020, the Caribbean island of Aruba will transition to 100% renewable energy, while also tackling a raft of issues including reducing traffic and improving water conservation. Besides the appeal of its pristine beaches and sustainability drive, the southern city of San Nicolas is having a colourful cultural renaissance, with artists ensuring festivities carry on year-round through pop-up carnival experiences.
The country formerly known as Swaziland is one of Southern Africa’s most underrated and least visited destinations, according to the Lonely Planet. Abundant with culture, adventure and wildlife, it has a new international airport and improved road infrastructure - aimed at boosting tourist numbers in the coming years.
The tropical paradise is known for embracing sustainable tourism and, with more than 90% of its energy coming from renewable resources, it’s well on its way to becoming carbon-neutral. Its catchphrase ‘pura vida’ (the pure life) encapsulates its approach to protecting biodiversity, while enjoying what nature has to offer: from hiking up volcanoes to riding a zip line through the rainforest.
Next year marks 75 years since the end of World War Two and the Netherlands is planning events across the country - easily accessible through its super-efficient rail network. The Lonely Planet says April and May are the months to visit, to take in King's Day, Liberation Day and the Eurovision Song Contest, which will be hosted there.
Liberia has the second-largest area of primary rainforest in West Africa: Sapo National Park, where pygmy hippos run wild with forest elephants and chimpanzees. Thanks to a deal with Norway, Liberia is hoping to put a stop to deforestation by 2020, preserving its precious biodiversity for generations to come.
Marrakesh will be Africa’s first Capital of Culture in 2020. Its ancient medinas, as well as those in coastal Essaouira and Fez, are getting a makeover and Africa’s first high-speed train means that you can go from Casablanca to Tangier in just two hours.
In recent years, the country has become one of the most progressive in the world – from marijuana legalisation and embracing LGBTQ+ rights, to the promotion of sustainable tourism. It also has a burgeoning wine industry, and more than 600km of Río de la Plata and Atlantic shoreline.