(CNN) — Whether you want to relax on a remote island off the coast of Africa, ride Germany’s coolest trains or spot howling monkeys in South America, there is much to explore heading into a new decade in 2020.
Japan will be hosting the Summer Olympics, Jamaica will be marking the late Bob Marley’s 75th birthday, and Washington will be on pins and needles for much of the year preparing for the US presidential election.
We don’t know whether Chile’s long-planned celebration around the December solar eclipse could be overtaken by continued protests in the streets or whether Galway, Ireland, will be hurt by the ongoing Brexit debate in the UK.
Here they are, CNN Travel’s 20 places to visit in 2020, in alphabetical order:
Chile Lake District
While Chile has been in the headlines because of civil unrest, a visit to “Los Lagos” away from the urban centers offers travelers astonishing landscapes and serenity. This region is set to be even more impressive in December 2020, thanks to a total solar eclipse.
On December 14, totality will occur over the town of Pucón at 1:03 p.m. local time and will last just over two minutes.
Cosmic phenomena not withstanding, this region of southern Chile is worth more than a two-minute visit, thanks to the national parks, volcanoes and outdoor adventuring.
Don’t Miss: The seafood. On the island of Chiloe, try curanto — a stew-style dish featuring seafood, meat, potatoes and Chilean rhubarb. — Francesca Street
Copenhagen was given another happiness boost earlier this year when Kongens Nytorv, its much-loved square, finally reopened after a seven-year closure because of the construction of a new metro line.
A stroll down Strøget, one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets, is highly recommended, as is a visit to one of Copenhagen’s many top restaurants.
The Dead Sea
On the border of Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea can feel like an extremely salty oasis, where talk of ongoing political conflict is less common than the sight of travelers from around the world covering themselves in black mud and falling backward into the water.
The feeling of engaging in a trust fall with the watery landscape — simply close your eyes, drop, and feel yourself pushed upward by the water — may be why so many people from so many eras have found holiness here.
Beyond the act of wading into a body of water with nearly eight times the salinity of the ocean, the Dead Sea’s key location makes it a perfect stop on a Middle Eastern road trip.
This lush Eastern Caribbean island has bounced back from extensive damage from Hurricane Maria.
With lush, primordial rainforests, foliage-engulfed peaks and deep ravines crisscrossed by 365 rivers, the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica more than lives up to its “Nature Island” moniker.
The 290-square-mile island suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017, but Dominica has bounced back with a commitment to sustainable, climate-resilient construction and a renewed focus on ecotourism offerings.
Dominica is in the midst of an impressive luxury hotel boom, thanks in large part to its longstanding Citizenship by Investment program. Investing $100,000 and up in a high-end resort is one path to citizenship under the program.
Luxury lodging is a bonus, but the real draw in Dominica is the rugged outdoors.
Don’t be surprised if you hear more about Northern European country’s bustling food scene in the new year.
Courtesy of Visit Estonia
While Estonia may not yet be synonymous worldwide with haute cuisine, this Nordic-like country in Northern Europe can hold its own.
Add a smattering of spas, a bevy of castles and ancient, silent forests, and it’s not hard to see why Estonia is on the rise.
A European Capital of Culture for 2020, Galway is a rural land where artists are drawn by the sublime beauty of the rocky landscape.
As with the United States, Ireland’s west coast has historically attracted pioneers and mavericks. Battered by Atlantic winds, the weather is fiercer here than in the cultivated east. This is a rural land where people live by their own rules, and artists are drawn by the sublime beauty of the rocky landscape. The capital of County Galway, Galway City, is an artsy enclave where bonhomie and erudition are prized.
Festivals bloom freely in Galway, with cultural gatherings spread across its calendar like wild heather. Visit any season, and you’ll happen across celebrations of food, music, history, art, literature and nature, plus everything from burlesque to banjos, and ponies to Pride.
Ian Fleming’s superspy James Bond appears in his 25th feature film, “No Time To Die,” in which Daniel Craig’s 007 returns to his creator’s real-life beach house, Goldeneye.
James Bond, Bob Marley, turquoise waters and dazzling waterfalls — Jamaica has a lot to offer, particularly in 2020.
Fleming wrote 14 James Bond novels at Goldeneye, working there every winter from 1952 until his death in 1964. Guests can stay in the famed author’s five-bedroom beachfront home on the northern coast of the island and avail themselves of Fleming’s writing desk.
Jamaica’s favorite son, though, is the iconic reggae musician, Bob Marley, who would have turned 75 on February 6. Marley’s Jamaica is a living, beating heart, overflowing with love, pain, history and cultural significance.
Through its charitable foundation, Rockhouse has invested $5 million in childhood education programs, including revitalizing six schools, most recently opening the island’s first school that serves students with special needs, Savanna-la-Mar Inclusive Infant Academy (SIIA).
Guests at Rockhouse and its sister property, Skylark, are invited to tour the school and meet the educators, administrators and the extraordinary children of SIIA, an opportunity that is not to be missed. — Brekke Fletcher
Remote Kyrgyzstan offers up desert-like canyons to rival the American West.
Tucked away between China to the east, Kazakhstan to the north and Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan is easy to overlook, but it’s a perfectly formed jewel of a country.
Head east from the capital of Bishkek to where rugged mountains descend into the sparkling snow-melt waters of the vast Lake Issyk-Kul, and Kyrgyzstan reveals itself as a beguiling wonderland that few international visitors have discovered.
In the space of a few miles, the landscape offers up desert-like canyons to rival the American West and lush, high-altitude meadows to rival the European Alps. In winter, there’s skiing around the town of Karakol. In summer, trekking and horseback riding into the Tien Shan mountains. All-year-round, there are jaw-dropping geological marvels around every corner.
Years of hardship after the collapse of the Soviet Union have taken their toll on Kyrgyzstan, and it’s still finding its feet as a tourist destination. But where it lacks infrastructure to deal with lots of visitors, it excels in delivering genuine unexplored frontiers to adventurous travelers willing to rough it a little. It’s safe, extremely welcoming and very good value for the money.
The third largest of Japan’s five main islands, subtropical Kyushu offers stunning scenery, top eats and plenty of cultural attractions.
Although the main focus will be on Tokyo, take some time to explore subtropical Kyushu, which offers more than 36,000 square kilometers (about 13,900 square miles) of stunning scenery, top eats and plenty of cultural attractions.
Though this harbor city is synonymous with tragedy, it’s also filled with attractions that highlight its trade history with Europe and China, not to mention a fantastic dining scene buoyed by its coastal setting. — Karla Cripps
This remote French overseas territory is home to streaky pink sunsets and stretches of white sand beach.
In late 2018, as the residents of this South Pacific island group voted on whether to remain part of France or to break off as a new nation, a question began popping up on Google searches across the globe: Where is New Caledonia?
The group of four archipelagos — which, by the way, opted to remain a French overseas territory for the time being — is about halfway between Fiji and the coast of Queensland, Australia, south of the Solomon Islands.
It’s like visiting a nearly empty South of France in the summertime, eating gorgeous, buttery pastries after an afternoon of sunning yourself without being surrounded by crowds.
Nearly all travelers begin in the capital of Noumea and work out from there. Noumea’s striking lagoon-front location blends French colonial heritage buildings with the colors of the sea and sky.
With only about 100,000 residents, it’s easy to live the simple life there — you can stay in an urban B&B, then pass an afternoon snorkeling, swimming or kitesurfing before enjoying a fresh meal of fish, paired with white Burgundies imported from 17,000 miles away.
Don’t miss: The three Loyalty Islands — Lifou, Mare and Ouvea — are an ideal place for learning about the indigenous Kanak people, who far predate French colonization of the region. Visit these tribes and learn about their customs, festivals and way of life. — Lilit Marcus
Paraty and Ilha Grande, Brazil
São Tomé and Príncipe
The island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is home to rich jungle and volcanic peaks, including Pico Cao Grande on Sao Tome island.
Ruth McDowall/AFP/Getty Images
The little two-island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, in west Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, is an equatorial biodiversity hot spot.
Sometimes called the “African Galapagos,” the islands’ rich jungle and volcanic peaks are teeming with endemic plants, including hundreds of species of orchids and extraordinary, 10-foot-tall begonias. There’s plenty of wildlife to spot, too, including the world’s smallest ibis and the world’s largest sunbird, as well as the marine turtles who make their nest here.
Those low visitor numbers can partly be attributed to it being a little hard to get reach, but the effort is worth it. There are direct flights to São Tomé, the larger of the two islands, from Lisbon, Cape Verde, Angola, Bioko island and Gabon. Principe is another 87 miles (140 kilometers) away and can be reached by small plane. Together, the islands cover just 386 square miles and the population is less than 200,000, making this the smallest African sovereign state after the Seychelles.
The islands were unpopulated until the Portuguese established it as a colonial outpost in the 15th century, and the Portuguese legacy is still felt in the country’s music, culture and customs. Many of today’s population are descended from the enslaved Africans brought to work at the islands’ plantations. The nation celebrated 40 years of independence in 2015, and coffee and cocoa are still key industries here.
Don’t miss: Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon) is a snorkeling and diving spot on northern São Tomé, prized for its azure waters. — Maureen O’Hare
St. Petersburg, Russia
Russia’s former imperial capital, St. Petersburg is most popular during the so-called “White Nights” of midsummer.
Until now, most travelers wanting to head to Russia have needed a certain amount of persistence to wade through the visa red tape. No longer.
Since July 2019, some 53 nationalities — including all European Union citizens — can now get e-visa access to the northern city of St. Petersburg and surrounding area for up to 30 days.
Today, the city is most popular during the warmer months, especially the so-called “White Nights” of midsummer. Thanks to its northerly latitudes, the city barely sees any darkness during the summer season, and the streets are teeming with visitors around the clock.
But St. Petersburg is arguably at its most romantic in the fridge-freezer months of midwinter as ice clogs the Neva River and atmospheric fog wafts across the city.
Despite the subzero temperatures, it’s a great time to be outside. There’s skating in parks, and even cross-country skiing. In the heart of the city, snow and ice transform historic buildings, bridges and canals into spectacular scenes that evoke classic Russian literature.
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa, which was Sri Lanka’s capital in the 12th century is a UNESCO Heritage site.
Jorge Fernández/LightRocket/Getty Images
Sitting in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern tip of India, travelers may default to thinking of Sri Lanka as a beach getaway. But to truly immerse yourself in the country’s history, go inland and tour the country’s cultural triangle.
The ancient city of Dougga, Tunisia, is considered the best preserved Roman town in North Africa.
In 2018, the restriction was lifted and Europeans have been quick to return. Currently, the US government advises against travel to the Libyan border in the southeast of the country and certain mountainous areas to the west.
Vancouver Island, British Colombia
Vancouver Island is home to pristine beaches and forests, small, artsy towns and a cosmopolitan capital city.
The big, beautiful cities and national parks of Canada’s eastern provinces are attractive options in every sense. But you’re unlikely to find a treasure chest as bountiful as British Columbia’s Vancouver Island on the west coast — a 290-mile stretch of pristine forest and beaches punctuated by small, artsy towns and a cosmopolitan capital city.
You could easily occupy an adventure-packed month there backpacking, camping and eating well. More manageable is an itinerary between two towns — the southern coastal paradise of Tofino and the capital, Victoria — with a five-hour, bear-sighting, picturesque drive in between.
Or orient your Vancouver Island visit by activity or theme: romantic getaway, rugged outdoor adventure, First Nation art and culture, foodie pilgrimage, nature nirvana, surf safari or a combination.
The Wharf riverfront development project is attracting dining, hotels and visitors.
All eyes will turn to Washington in 2020, but world travelers would be well-served to look beyond what’s bound to be a hard-fought presidential election.
The city is rallying around sports like never before, on the heels of the underdog Washington Nationals’ first World Series baseball title as well as the Mystics’ first WNBA women’s basketball title and the Capitals’ 2018 hockey championship.
The Schwebebahn railway in Wuppertal is one of the world’s coolest rail systems.
Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images
An industrial city in western Germany may not sound like anyone’s idea of a dream vacation, but Wuppertal has an extraordinary ace up its sleeve — one of the world’s coolest rail systems.
It’s a steampunk vision of a mass transit system whose iron legs straddle the city’s streets and waterways, whisking passengers high over traffic snarl-ups to stations just as sci-fi as the train that connects them.
It costs just a few dollars to ride the Schwebebahn, alongside the thousands of commuters that use it daily.
In the unlikely event that the charm of the hanging train wears off, Wuppertal — one of the greenest cities in Germany — is worth exploring.
It’s an architectural adventure playground, having proudly channeled some of its mercantile wealth into classic bricks-and-mortar examples of Art Deco, Bauhaus and numerous other styles.
Don’t miss: Try traveling on two wheels, particularly along the Nordbahntrasse — another railway, this one earthbound, that has been converted into a leafy and picturesque 22-kilometer (14-mile) cycle route across the city. — Barry Neild
Jenny Lake at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, is filled with glacier water.
Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole and women’s suffrage: These are just a few of the reasons that Wyoming, the least-populated state in the United States, should top your list for 2020.
In December 1869, Wyoming wasn’t even a state when it became the first US state or territory to enact a law guaranteeing women not only the right to vote but also the right to hold office — 50 years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution.
In addition to its commitment to equality, Wyoming is one of the last bastions of the American West, with the rugged, natural beauty that attracts lovers of the great outdoors, history buffs and would-be cowboys.
Victoria Falls offers thundering cascades, white water rafting, zip line facilities and bungee jumping.
Take South Luangwa National Park, brimming with trees, plants and vegetation, which is home to some 60 animal species, including leopards, elephants and buffalo. Farther west, Kafue National Park, the country’s largest, is a haven for flora and fauna.
The lush landscapes of Lower Zambezi National Park, on the Zimbabwe border, offer visitors awesome panoramas. The world’s longest freshwater lake, Lake Tanganyika, flows partly through Zambia. Its crystal-clear waters host hundreds of species of fish.
Don’t miss: The sunsets — it would be hard to not notice when vibrant hues of coppery orange and golden yellow illuminate the Zambian skies, but every time it happens, it’s pretty breathtaking. — Francesca Street
David G. Allan, Julia Buckley, Karla Cripps, Brekke Fletcher, Tamara Hardingham-Gill, Marnie Hunter, Stacey Lastoe, Lilit Marcus, Barry Neild, Maureen O’Hare, Jen Rose Smith and Francesca Street all contributed to this story.