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Thames Travel’s Hot List for 2020!

We’ve spent the last few weeks researching what’s hot for next year and these 20 destinations are the best of the best! There are some destinations largely overlooked by most of us and some familiar ones offering new reasons to return. We hope you’ll enjoy reading!

1.    BORNEO

If David Attenborough’s series Seven Worlds, One Planet inspired you to see more of our natural world in 2020, Borneo should be your first port of call. Home to fascinating creatures, including the marvellous orangutans to the elusive pygmy elephants – this Asian island offers a whole host of opportunities to get up close to wildlife.

2.     SRI LANKA

Sri Lankan locals are celebrating life and encouraging travellers to return to their beautiful island. With free one-month visas a current enticement, it’s even easier to explore its shores, temples, caves, beaches, tea plantations, wildlife reserves and stunning hotels.


Picture this…breath-taking glacial landscapes as far as the eye can see, penguins swimming & fishing, pods of humpback whales, Elephant seals playing and flocks of birds flying over head. This is just some of the incredible wildlife you could see on a cruise in Antarctica.

4.     JAPAN

Japan’s popularity has risen dramatically with world-class events such as the Rugby world cup in November this year and the upcoming Tokyo Olympics next summer. For those who have had this fascinating destination on their bucket list, now is the perfect time to visit Japan’s high-tech cities, beautiful countryside, numerous shrines & temples and not forgetting a trip on the super speedy bullet trains! 


Home to 7,000 tropical islands, a handful of futuristic mega-cities and some of the friendliest, most cheerful locals in all of Asia, welcome to The Philippines!  The country’s pristine beaches, heritage towns and monuments, mountains, rainforests, countless islands and sensational diving spots are among the country’s most popular attractions. 


In the year that marks 75 years of freedom since the end of WWII, the Netherlands is ready to celebrate in 2020 with festivities and special events across the country. April and May are the months to visit, as you can take in King’s Day, Liberation Day and the Eurovision Song Contest, which The Netherlands are hosting. 

7.     BHUTAN

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is clocking in on the Lonely Planet’s Hot-list for 2020 and there are so many reasons to visit this captivating destination. Highly regarded for its natural beauty, forest conservation & towering Himalayan mountains, there’s also impressive ancient culture & heritage and incredible biodiversity. Bhutan covers 72% forest area of the country which is one of the large biodiversity places in the world, it is also the first carbon-negative country in the world! 


Costa Rica is ideal as a first time visit to Central America and is also perfectly suited to families, due to a stunning mix of pristine beaches, turquoise waters, vivid green forests and abundance of exotic wildlife! Think sloths, toucans, 4 different species of monkeys, big cats, tree frogs, vultures and much more.  Other elements that make this country so remarkable is its diverse natural landscape – from mangrove swamps to volcanoes, lush rainforests to gorgeous beaches. 


A holiday to Scotland is perfect for some close-to-home soft adventure or a complete rest & relaxation break. Whether you’re thinking about a family break with lots of fun for the kids, a luxury stay in a stunning castle or a country retreat on a farm, Scotland offers an option for suit all. The Scottish Highlands are home to castles, locks, mountains and lakes. The coastline offers miles of pristine beaches often flanked by gorgeous forestry & there are 7 lively cities with award-winning attractions, dining and hotels. 


It is an ancient land, but as of February 2019 North Macedonia was granted this new name, giving travellers seeking a cool passport stamp a novel reason to visit. Adventurers are flocking here already to hike North Macedonia’s mountain range and string of peaks in the 3 national parks. Monasteries perch atop hills overlooking the water and glittering Lake Ohrid and its historic town are complete marvels.


Petite, pleasant and packed with culture, adventure and legendary wildlife, the newly named Kingdom of eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) is one of Southern Africa’s most underrated (and least visited) destinations. With easy reach from Joburg it makes for a perfect multi-centre trip and visitors will have the chance to get up close to local wildlife at the Mkaya Reserve including white rhinos, elephants, giraffes and bird species, stay in one of the countries eco-lodges and experience one of the many festival and celebrations. 

12.     MOROCCO

Morocco is having a shining moment, with time-honoured attractions complemented by sustainable-yet-stylish lodging, restaurants serving up seasonal produce and coastal wellness retreats mixing up yoga and surfing. All this in addition to the well loved souks and lively culture of places such as Marrakech & Fez and not to mention having the Atlas Mountains and the desert on the doorstep. There is plenty to explore in Morocco and it’s only 3.5 hours from London.


The British Virgin Islands suffered terribly in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the destination experienced a 90 per cent loss in tourism as a direct result of the damage. But over the past two years, following extensive hotel renovations and reopening’s, these remarkably cheery islands – awash with pearlescent bays and neon-bright shoals of fish – are finally bouncing back! Known locally as Natures Little Secrets and arguably the best sailing destination in the Caribbean, we urge to discover the magic for yourself!

14.     LEBANON

Momentum is once again gathering for fascinating Lebanon and its crumbling crusader castles and intricate mosaic-paved streets, which had become tourist-free in recent years. These ancient places are now ushering in culture-curious travellers once more. Earlier in 2019, the British Foreign Office changed its travel advice, deeming it safe for travellers to return. So it’s great news for Lebanon which offers wonderful Middle Eastern cuisine and delicious Lebanese wine, alongside a buzzing atmosphere in Beirut, ancient Roman ruins and beautiful white sand beaches.  


When it’s summertime, the place to be is outdoors! Gingerbread-like houses, picture-book lighthouses and lapping waves on sandy, wild-rose strewn shores will have you exclaiming ‘oh how cute!’ and ‘what a quaint place!’ at every bend in the road. While Cape Breton Island has endless hiking trails throughout its breath-taking national park, other more hidden hikes can be found scattered about the province. The capital Halifax, is brimming with museums, galleries & historic sites and there are over 150 historic lighthouses to spot during your stay!

16.     RWANDA

Rwanda’s tourism scene is most famous for the opportunity to come face-to-face with the world’s most magnificent creatures on a spectacular Mountain Gorilla Trek. Add to this, hiking, biking, & camping near beautiful lakes, enjoying the local cuisine in places like the capital city of Kigali, you can see why the World Economic Forum recently named Rwanda as the safest country in Africa. RwandAir are also set to operate direct flights from JFK to Kigali next year, so 2020 is the best year yet to travel to Rwanda.


Traveling to Uzbekistan means not just crossing borders but stepping back in time to a land whose remarkable history as the meeting point of East and West oozes out of its splendid architecture, multi-layered culture, and show-stopping sites. With its previously onerous visa restrictions having been significantly relaxed recently, there’s never been a better time to travel to Uzbekistan than 2020. 

18.    JAMAICA

Hands down, one of our favourite Caribbean islands! And it’s great to see that all eyes will be on this Caribbean gem when the James Bond film ‘No Time to Die hits the big screen in April 2020. Confirmed as the first location in the latest installment, Jamaica is where Ian Fleming created the James Bond character all those years ago. Did you know, you can even rent Fleming’s villa?! With adventure for every traveller and hotel’s, resorts and so much fun on this large, jamming island, we highly recommend a visit!

19.     URUGUAY

If Uruguay isn’t already on your South American bucket list, 2020 is the perfect year to add it. With 660km of Río de la Plata and Atlantic shoreline, a burgeoning wine industry, bubbling hot springs and endless rolling rangelands where South America’s grandeur feels seductively tangible, Uruguay has something for everyone. It has a dynamic coastline, extended carnival season and UNESCO cultural heritage status make it a prime Latin American hot spot!


Next year, Ireland’s effervescent west-coast city will throw its arms open wide to the world as it becomes the 2020 European Capital of Culture! With a glut of traditional pubs spilling out lively fiddle music, this bohemian city has spent 2019 testing new community heritage and arts projects, such as pop-up culture cafés and funambulism (tightrope-walking) workshops! Must-see spots are the Latin Quarter,  Eyre Square, Galway Cathedral, Kirwan’s Lane & the picturesque Dunguaire Castle.

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