Another year, another opportunity to explore this big, beautiful world.
If you’re like me, you have an endless bucket list of must-see destinations around the globe. How do you decide where to jet next?
Below I’ve compiled my list of the top places to travel this year. These destinations made the cut based on several factors, including cheap flight options, unique events, or because they’re just that awesome.
And the top 20 list is….
1.) CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Cape Town is a city of unmatched beauty with its landmark Table Mountain and scenic Cape Point. A city that survived the apartheid and emerged more united in their national patriotism.
At first, I was hesitant about traveling in Africa alone, but I found the city to be safe and welcoming and a great destination for solo travelers looking for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Penguins love to hang out on the Boulders beach, and with a visit in the summer you are sure to see them exceptionally playful.
Top attractions include Cape Point, Boulder Beach, Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
Planning a trip? Check out this guide on traveling solo in Cape Town on Girl Pack Your Bag.
Japan has always been a more expensive destination in Asia when it comes to airfare. This past year there has been a huge increase in routes between the U.S. and Haneda airport, and we’re currently seeing roundtrip flights in February and March as low as $620.
Tokyo, Japan will also be hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics in July and August so the city will be at its finest as it plans to host the world’s largest sporting event.
Tokyo is the ultimate urban adventure with a fast and energetic atmosphere. The giant neon-bright towers contrast immaculate temples brimming with lanterns, offering a travel experience for anyone.
Top attractions include the Imperial Palace and Gardens, Buddhist Temple Senso-Ji, cruises on the city’s Sumida River, and experiencing a sumo wrestling tournament (because, really, where else would you do that?).
Planning a trip? Travel blogger Adventureous Kate has all the details on traveling to Japan, with special tips for solo female travelers.
3.) AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
Amsterdam is the city where anything goes. The Dutch capital is known for its elaborate canal system, beautiful tulip blooms, prominent cycling culture, scandalous red-light district, and cannabis cafes. Amsterdam has it all.
The city is small enough to walk or bike almost anywhere, and its charming canal bridges, brick houses, and lighted canals make it one of the most beautiful European cities to roam.
However, the Netherlands is currently going through a tourism crisis with about 20 million visitors to Amsterdam per year. The city’s deputy mayor’s office recently released a statement that they need more funding to keep the city clean and safe, and the infrastructure – like bridges – in a good state. Therefore, as of January 1, the city will increase its tourist tax on any visitor spending the night in the Dutch capital, whether they’re staying in a hotel, guesthouse or Airbnb rental. There are also rumors that the city will be cracking down on some much-loved city-center tours like Segways, beer bikes and boozy boat trips, as well as red light district tours.
If Amsterdam is on your list, now is the time to go before additional tourism taxes are implemented.
Top attractions include bike and boat tours, shopping at unique markets, a visit to the Red Light District and exploring the city’s world-class museums, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and Amsterdam Museum.
Planning a trip? Check out this three-day itinerary on Girl Pack Your Bag.
This is currently on my top five bucket list locations. The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador continues to be one of the most fragile places to visit and its location at the intersection of three ocean currents makes it incredibly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The Islands are home to the greatest proportion of endemic species in the world and each island has its own flora and fauna not found anywhere else.
Top attractions include traveling between islands by boat, scuba diving, viewing the penguin population, and visiting the uninhabited island of Wolf and Darwin where you can expect to be surrounded by enormous schools of hammerheads and manta rays.
Planning a trip? Jessie on a Journey gives you a look at her travel adventures at the Islands, including her time aboard the M/Y Passion, a luxury Galápagos cruise operated in partnership with the environmental organization WildAid.
America’s biggest, liveliest party is held each year in New Orleans: Mardi Gras. Elaborate costumes and extravagant floats begin to appear 12-days before Mardi Gras itself, which falls the day before Ash Wednesday.
The city is also home to live music, uniquely blended restaurants and a myriad of French and Spanish cultural neighborhoods.
Top attractions include Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, beignets at Café du Monde, hurricanes at Pat O’Briens, walking tour of the Garden District, and a swamp tour to get up close and personal with some alligators.
Planning a trip? Post coming soon to Girl Pack Your Bag with all the details on traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
6.) SALZBURG, AUSTRIA
This year Salzburg celebrates its 100th anniversary of the Salzburg Festival.
Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart so the city is known for its world-class music festivals. The Salzburg Festival is Europe’s largest annual music event which includes more than 180 classic and contemporary performances, ranging from operas to symphonies and theatre productions.
This summer more than 250,000 culture lovers from around the globe will visit the Festival to enjoy opera, theatre, and concerts that are second to none. You can view the complete festival program here.
In addition to the festival, top attractions include Salzburg Old Town, Mozartplatz Square, Salzburg Cathedral, Old Graz, and Grossglockner Road and Hallstatt.
Planning a trip? Samantha at Travelling King shares 15 Fabulous Things to do in Salzburg.
7.) WASHINGTON, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is a beautiful city of patriotic monuments, clean parks, and picturesque boulevards. The nation’s capital is a great place to visit in 2020 with a plethora of world-class events and free experiences to choose from.
The always breathtaking National Cherry Blossom Festival will take place from March 20 – April 12 with four weeks of free family events, many with Japanese influences, a nod to the gift of the trees in 1912 from the Mayor of Tokyo to the citizens of Washington, D.C. This event is one of the top places to travel this year, and every year.
Top attractions include a visit to the U.S. Capitol, a walk through the National Mall, historic Georgetown and the National Zoo.
Planning a trip? Post coming soon to Girl Pack Your Bag with all the details on how to make the most of one day in Washington, D.C.
Croatia is one of the fastest emerging tourist destinations of the year. The country has a lot to offer its visitors including Paklenica climbing sites, beautiful beaches, great food and wine, and a vibrant party scene.
Top attractions include the Dalmation Coast, Istria vineyards, hike through Plitvice Lakes National Park, and peaceful walk through Cavtat.
Planning a trip? Travel blog Sofia Adventures shares her list of 23 Best Places to Visit In Croatia.
Zimbabwe is a small country in southern Africa known for its diverse wildlife and dramatic landscape, most especially Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world.
Zimbabwe is currently enjoying a resurgence as one of the best safari destinations in Africa and a trip here can be experienced at a lower price tag than many other popular African tourist destinations.
Top attractions include Victoria Falls, cruise on the Zambezi river and an elephant safari.
Planning a trip? Check out all the details of my three-day solo trip to Zimbabwe on Girl Pack Your Bag.
10.) ASHEVILLE, N.C.
My husband and I attempted a trip to Asheville last year, but our son got a 103 fever halfway there, so we had to turn back home. So, it’s still on the top of my bucket list for must-see destinations on the East Coast.
A stop off of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountain, Asheville is quickly emerging as one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the U.S. Visitors flock to the city to experience arts & culture, architectural icons, live music, wellness retreats, and craft beers.
For all the foodies out there, the Asheville Chow Chow Festival will run from September 10 – 13 and will highlight the city’s vibrant culinary scene with a range of farm dinners, tours, chef demonstrations, tastings, community yoga, seminars, and live music. This is one of many reasons it made the list of top places to travel this year.
Top attractions include the Biltmore Estate, Asheville Art Museum, Asheville Botanical Gardens, and the Asheville Brewing Company.
Planning a trip? Ashville blogger Quiche My Grits shares an awesome list of the Top Things to Do in Asheville.
2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing in Plymouth, and the seaside town is gearing up for a year-long celebration.
Plymouth Harbor will welcome the return of the newly renovated Mayflower II, a replica of the 17th-century ship. They will also plan a major Thanksgiving Day parade to culminate the celebration.
Top attractions include Plymouth Rock, Plimouth Plantation, Mayflower II, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Planning a trip? Top Ten Travel Blog shares 5 Fun Things to do in Plymouth County, Massachusetts.
The city of Prague in the Czech Republic is known for its historic baroque architecture, picturesque location on the Vltava River, compelling thousand-year history, and world-famous Czech lagers.
Prague is a safe city for solo travel, and a stroll along the Vltava River or a Czech beer in one of their historic cafes makes it a wonderful destination for some self-reflection and relaxation.
Top attractions include Prague Castle, Petrin Tower, Vysehrad, Museum of Communism and a walk through Old Town Square.
Planning a trip? I have all the details you need at Girl Pack Your Bag on how to spend three days as a solo traveler in Prague.
The Maldives is the lowest-lying country on the planet and environmentalists predict it could disappear in decades due to rising sea levels caused by global warming.
Like the Galapagos Islands, the fragile environment is also home to a high diversity of coral, fish, and bird species, as well as sea turtles, whale sharks, and other marine life.
Top attractions include relaxing on the white sand beaches, luxurious private island accommodations, snorkeling miles of coral gardens, deep-sea fishing, or napping in a hammock with a view.
Planning a trip? Lauren at Never Ending Footsteps shares tips on how to travel to the Maldives on a budget.
Miami is a city that does not lack character. This vibrant mecca of coastal culture is known internationally as one of the most sensational places for unique experiences.
Other than the beautiful beaches, Miami is most known for its Art Deco architecture and lively arts scene. As host of this year’s Super Bowl, the character and energy of the city will be front-and-center on the country’s top televised event of the year.
Planning a trip? Check out this review on Wynwood Walls at Girl Pack Your Bag.
My sister traveled here on her honeymoon and I’m having major travel envy. This beach oasis features clean, beautiful beaches with warm water. The people are very welcoming and the tourist areas are very safe.
They are also known for amazing culinary options from all different cultures including Mediterranean, Italian, and great seafood options.
It’s also more affordable than many of its neighboring beach destinations in Southeast Asia with inexpensive hotel options and cheap excursions.
Top attractions include Phuket, Mae Hong Son, Phangnga Bay, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Hua Hin, and Bangkok’s Markets.
Planning a trip? Katie at The Traveling Spud as a great guide on What to See, Do & Eat in Thailand.
Ocean City is the perfect beach getaway, especially for those only a few hours away in the tri-state area. The city boasts clean sandy beaches and lots of fun to be had on the world-famous boardwalk.
This is a premier resort town with year-round events and concerts so there is always a reason to visit.
Top attractions include Assateague Island, Jolly Rogers Amusement Park, a stroll on the boardwalk and some downtime at the clean, relaxing beach.
Planning a trip? I’ve got you covered. Check out all the details on Girl Pack Your Bag on our four-day itinerary in Ocean City.
This Balkan country has something for everyone – breathtaking nature, historic cities, a vibrant nightlife and tranquil, sandy beaches.
Kotor, in particular, is seeing a sudden ride as a tourist hot spot, with cruise-ships coming in from Venice to explore the beautiful villas, lively street life and excellent restaurants.
Top attractions include Bay of Kotor, Perast, Tara River Canyon, Budva, Becici and Rafailovici.
Planning a trip? Anya at Road is Calling lived in Montenegro and has an awesome Guide to All Resort Cities & Accommodations.
An old co-worker of mine is currently traveling in Namibia, and it’s now at the top of the list for my next adventure in Africa. This country boasts some of the world’s most compelling scenery, with diverse wildlife and the third largest game reserve in the world.
January – March (“green season”) is a great time to visit with warm sunny summer days and few tourist crowds.
Top attractions include Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast, Sossusvlei Dunes and NamibRand Private Reserve.
Planning a trip? Check out this awesome travel guide from April at The Unending Journey about her incredible road trip through Southern Namibia.
For anyone who saw the movie Crazy Rich Asians, Singapore has probably been added to your bucket list.
This small Asian nation has glamorous casinos and trendy bars that far outrank those of Las Vegas. The futuristic high-rise buildings make it unique from your average port city. It’s also known to be very clean, with a strong focus on sustainability. They boast a delicious food scene too!
Top attractions include Marina Bay Sands, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Chinatown, Maxwell Road Hawker Center, Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, and Old Hill Police Station.
Planning a trip? Caroline at blog Pictures & Words has all the details on what to do, see, and eat in Singapore.
This is where you’ll find my family in 2020. This charming city is known for its national history, Colonial architecture, emerging arts scene, and unique culinary creations. It also has magnificent beaches and appealing temperatures year-round.
In the springtime, you can experience the Festival of Houses and Gardens, and a similar tour is held in the Fall.
Top attractions include the Chapel Street Fountain Park, Rainbow Row, Wentworth Mansion, Middleton Place plantation, antique shops, and experiencing lowcountry cuisine.
Planning a trip? Maria from Call It Adventure has a great list of the most popular things to do in Charleston.
That’s a wrap! What do you think of my list of top places to travel this year?
I want to hear from you! Where are you traveling in 2020? Let me know in the comments section below.
All my best to you for a HAPPY and HEALTHY 2020!