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10 Trending Travel Destinations to Watch in 2020

Wondering where to go in 2020 for an amazing deal, to beat the crowds, or for a truly once-in-a-lifetime travel experience? These destinations are on travel addicts’ radar for rightfully hyped 2020 events, new offerings, and recent developments that make them a must-visit right now.

Trending Travel Destinations for 2020

Here are the hottest and most up-and-coming destinations to watch this year for new and exciting travel trends.

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Japan

shibuya crossing tokyo japan.

Even if you’re not heading to the Olympics in Tokyo this summer, Japan is catering to visitors throughout 2020 and beyond via exciting developments that come with hosting. New long-distance Shinkansen Supreme bullet trains will debut just in time for the Games to link Osaka with Tokyo, meaning it will be easier (and more eco-friendly; the lighter trains will consume far less energy than prior bullet trains) than ever to explore more of Japan after landing in airfare-friendly Tokyo. And these trains are only a taste of what’s to come for Japan travel in the 2020s: The nation is in the process of developing the world’s fastest land train, the Maglev bullet train, which is capable of reaching speeds more than 374 miles per hour—it’s expected to debut in 2027.

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Montana, United States

On top of the majestic scenery its long been known for, Montana is a newly trendy nature getaway celebrated for its expanding luxury hotel scene, culinary offerings, and shop-local boutiques, according to an American Express study detailing where cardholders are traveling in 2020. But Montana is also about to get more accessible than ever before thanks to emerging flight routes sure to stir up competition. Launching two brand-new seasonal routes to Big Sky country, American Airlines will fly from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Bozeman and Kalispell, Montana, beginning mid-year and continuing through Labor Day. Take advantage of the new direct route before the secret gets out, and so that they’ll continue next year.

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Patagonia, Argentina

trekker at Fitz Roy, Patagonia Argentina.

Make a bucket-list journey to Argentine Patagonia even more once-in-a-lifetime by planning your trip around the December solar eclipse that’s set to hit the northern part of the region. And since this is the second such total solar eclipse in the area in recent years, tour operators are well-acquainted with the phenomena and will go all-in on getting you there with an expert guide. For example, Wild Frontiers is planning its second eclipse-centered tour with a Patagonia Solar Eclipse itinerary: The new offering includes Buenos Aires plus Nahuel Huapi National Park adventures like kayaking, ranching, hiking, and river rafting.

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Montevideo, Uruguay

One of the cities featured in Booking.com’s travel trends for 2020, Urugay’s capital Montevideo is a stable and LGBT-friendly destination to visit in South America—a continent that’s seen dips in tourism of late thanks to political instability in travel destinations like Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. Travelers identified the city as a trending travel destination for anyone seeking an immersive, one-stop escape; according to the study, “over half (54 percent) of global travelers say they want to go on one long trip to a place that has all of their favorite activities and sights close together.” Montevideo’s offerings include beaches, nightlife, markets, theaters, culinary prowess, and festive Gay Pride Day celebrations in September.

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Nairobi and Melindi, Kenya

Environmental responsibility doesn’t need to be at odds with your long-haul flight if you choose to support a destination that’s offsetting carbon at one of the fastest rates in the world. At the UN’s Climate Action Summit in 2019, Kenya pledged to plant nearly two billion trees by 2020. And travelers are taking notice: The town of Melindi, Kenya, a coastal resort area near the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve, is one of Airbnb users’ top-20 trending travel destinations for 2020.

To boot, getting there is easier than ever thanks to newly low airfares to Nairobi. Airfarewatchdog analyst Ricky Radka cited is as one of the cheapest places to fly, with fares dipping as low as $550 round-trip. Count airlines KLM, Air France, Swiss, and Lufthansa among the major carriers that serve the country. And Radka says that Qatar Airways’ weekly sales “regularly include Nairobi from one of its 10 U.S. destinations.”

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Romania

Bran Castle, Transylvania

Europe’s intensely overtouristed spots (Venice, Barcelona, Santorini) have new Eastern European hotspots to thank for stealing away some of the spotlight: Romania is making a name for itself as one of the top five most trending Airbnb booking destinations for 2020. The nation that’s home to Transylvania, Dracula’s castle, and well-preserved medieval towns nestled among rolling hills has seen a 298 percent annual increase in Airbnb bookings.

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Shanghai, China

night view of shanghai skyline

While it may sound like a long way to go, China’s biggest city has recently emerged as one of the most affordable Asian hubs to fly to, with airfares often dipping into the mid-$500s range for round-trip flights. And because the U.S. dollar goes far in China, you might consider upping your hotel game and splurging on a property like the ones trending in American Express’s 2020 travel trends report: The brand-new Shanghai Edition hotel and the new W Shanghai The Bund are worthwhile if you want an up-close-and-personal view of Shanghai’s glittering riverfront skyline. And consider hopping a bullet train to nearby cultural gems like canal-addled Suzhou, the Venice of China, to go beyond Shanghai.

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Cairo, Egypt

Shoppers browsing at Khan El Khalili market in Cairo, Egypt

Now 10 years removed from the Arab Spring, Egypt isn’t just a stable place to travel in the Middle East, it’s a trending destination thanks to a rising tide of new cultural offerings. Cairo is finally opening its long-awaited, shiny-new Grand Egyptian Museum in 2020. The 117-acre institution is being built in view of the ancient Pyramids of Giza and will hold more than 43,000 artifacts—chariots, mummies, masks—including many items that have been returned to Egypt from collections abroad showcasing items from King Tut’s tomb. The luxe Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at the First Residence is also featured in American Express’ study of trending places its cardholders are booking.

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London, England

london phone booth and big ben

The Brexit saga has been playing out for years now, and 2020 is looking to be the year that the U.K. finally cuts ties with the E.U., for good. Americans are unlikely to be directly affected by the change since our customs and border relationship with the United Kingdom will remain largely the same—but there could be benefits to reap in terms of another possible economic downturn for the mighty pound, as there was in 2016 immediately following the Brexit vote. England’s new leadership ran its late-2019 election on the promise that London would become an economic “Singapore on Thames,” meaning a more-competitive world leader in business with low tax rates, minimal regulation, and new infrastructure. But experts say the opposite is more likely to happen, which means world travelers could find London to be more affordable than it was pre-Brexit.

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Nepal

If visiting a bucket-list destination that actually wants more visitors sounds like a welcome change, consider Nepal—which is encouraging travelers to help the country hit its target goal of two million visitors this year. The campaign, called Visit Nepal Year 2020, focuses on sustainable adventure travel as well as local experiences like major festivals and special events (think Nepali New Year and spectator sports like ice climbing), and revolves around two upgraded airports debuting soon—Kathmandu and Bhairahawa. Nepalese air carriers are following suit, with new routes from China and neighboring India in the works from Shree Airlines and Buddha Air.

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For more ideas about where to go this year, see the Top Travel Destinations for 2020.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

By Shannon McMahon

Editor Shannon McMahon is always planning her next trip and often writing in her travel journal. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_ and on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Shannon joined SmarterTravel in 2015. A former news reporter, she's lived in the south of Spain, spotted elephants in Sri Lanka, gone spelunking in the Caribbean, hiked Jordan's Petra Basin, interviewed Sao Paulo's Michelin-Star chefs, and explored China via bullet train. Travel trends, news oddities, and her visits to up-and-coming destinations are some of her favorite things to write about.

Her stories have also appeared online on USA Today, The Sun, Huffington Post, Business Insider, blog.TripAdvisor.com, Boston.com, and more. Her educational background is in journalism, art history, gender studies, Spanish, and film. She's been quoted as an expert travel source by CNBC, People.com, MarketWatch, The Washington Post, USA Today, and more.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Plenty of extra thick hair elastics. They tame my frizzy curls and come in handy in a surprising number of packing and hotel dilemmas."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Climbing (yes, climbing, it's steep!) the Great Wall of China before it's gone."

Travel Motto: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark Twain

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window, of course."

Email Shannon at smcmahon@smartertravel.com.

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