Author Archives: eeteurope

Where to go on holiday in 2020: the alternative hotlist

Category : Europe 2020 , World 2020

Our pick of 20 places to visit in 2020 celebrates inspiring conservation and community projects that are making a difference to people and the planet.

Slovenia

Green cycling and hiking adventures
Slovenia’s landscape of mountains and lakes lends itself to outdoor adventure: nearly 60% of the country is covered in forests, and there are more than 40 parks and reserves. Some areas, such as Lake Bled, have seen an influx of tourists over recent years but much remains off the beaten track – and the government has a strategy for sustainable tourism growth.

Opened last year, the 270km Juliana Trail, a hiking route through the Julian Alps, takes walkers away from some of the most visited parts of Triglav national park in a bid to combat overtourism. The circular trail, which starts at Kranjska Gora near the Italian border, is divided into 16 stages, with most of the daily routes starting at a railway station or bus stop.

Bike Slovenia Green offers another way of exploring a multi-stage itinerary through the Julian Alps, around Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled and on to the Adriatic coast. The series of one-day cycling loops visits places that have a Slovenia Green certificate, such as the karst village of Komen, known for fresh cheese ravioli, fresh herbs and prosciutto. Designed by sustainable travel agency Visit GoodPlace, and funded by the EU, the bike routes go through three wine regions, and take cyclists to family-run hotels via quiet roads and cycle paths.

Also new for 2020 is a Best of Slovenia By Train trip from Inntravel. Travelling via Vienna and Venice, it makes use of Slovenia’s charming, old-fashioned rail network and takes in highlights from alpine Bohinj to capital Ljubljana and Piran on the Adriatic coast.
Jane Dunford

Gothenburg

Explore Sweden’s eco-certified city
Almost everything you can do in Gothenburg, you can do with a clean conscience. For the past three years Sweden’s industrial second city has topped the Global Destination Sustainability Index, thanks to its efforts to “minimise any negative impact on people and the environment”. All major venues are eco-certified and 92% of hotel rooms hold an official eco-certification, making Gothenburg one of the world’s greenest hotel cities. Even the Opera HouseConcert Hall and Liseberg amusement park are eco-certified, and restaurants have good access to local and organic produce. 

Step off the train at the central station – you took the train, right? –and walk five minutes to the ferry stop opposite the Opera House. The Älvsnabben ferry plies a gentle loop up and down the river and it is going electric in 2020. Gothenburg is a small big city, or maybe a big small city, with a cultural scene that includes Way Out West, a three-day summer music festival that is 100% vegetarian and has reduced its carbon footprint year on year. And, in half an hour, you can be deep in the Bohuslän countryside, or kayaking upriver to picturesque Jonsered, with its sustainable hotel Le Mat.

The Hagabion cafe and bar in the central Linné area is renowned for a vegetarian menu that changes daily. People gather here, too, for a drink before moving on to the many other restaurants, bars and venues nearby. At the heart of the city is the Gothia Towers hotel, the biggest hotel in Europe to be certified according to the Breeam standard for environmental certification. 

The kitchen garden on the roof boasts Sweden’s highest apiary, with 150,000 bees. The garden produce is Krav-certified for sustainability and, like the herbs and spices grown here, the honey is used in the dishes of the Upper House restaurant, and in its own beer (brewed in-house).

For the energetic, Gothenburg hosts the world’s largest half marathon, with more than 60,000 runners. It also has many events for cyclists and swimmers, including the world’s biggest annual swim-run event (1 August). Hire a bike to see the city and explore further afield. Put the bikes on the train for the 20-minute trip to the town of Kungsbacka, and cycle around Lygnern lake. Alternatively, stick to the southern coastal path from the centre to Särö island.

There is no shortage of spots for wild swimming at lakes in and around Gothenburg. A short bus ride away is Gunnebo Slott manor house and gardens, with its organic restaurant – and lakes nearby. Typing badplats (bathing spot) into Google Maps will bring up a wealth of places with wooden quays and ladders into the water. There’s canoe hire on Surtesjön lake and nearby waters on the northern edge of the city, and sea-bathing to the south at Näset. On the island of Tjörn, further north, the Pilane outdoor sculpture park is breathtaking. For unwinding afterwards, there’s a free public sauna at Frihamnen, across the river from central Gothenburg.
David Crouch

Val di Vara

Italy’s ‘greenest’ valley
The rolling Vara valley in north-west Italy is not unusual in suffering a haemorrhage of young people from rural communities but it is unusual in its response: going greener. At the turn of the century, thanks to an enlightened mayor, farmers up and down the valley, which runs parallel to the coast between Genoa and La Spezia, started switching to organic production. The idea spread to hotels and restaurants, artisanal producers and tourist initiatives and led, in 2013, to the creation of the Val di Vara Biodistrict, to represent the businesses and run community events.

Today, 55% of the valley’s 345 sq km of hilly terrain is under organic cultivation – compared with 11% in Italy as a whole (which in itself puts the UK’s 2.9% to shame). And more than 100 business have organic certification. Farmers around San Pietro Vara are raising “wild” Limousin cattle with barely any human input and the Val di Vara dairy co-op makes cheeses to ancient recipes.

The area’s Bio Festival, launched in 2018, is now an annual event, with streetfood, games, livestock shows and music. And last summer the Biodistrict started running full-day bus tours of the valley from Levanto on the coast (€47 adult, €25 child, family 2+2 €141, including lunch and tastings).

In the past few years, young locals have opened five farms to the public and started 13 agriturismos, offering rustic rooms and farmhouse meals, plus jams, liqueurs, olive oil or meat to buy. Try Il Risveglio Naturale or Il Filo di Paglia. Local cycling enthusiast Marco runs five-hour e-bike tours of the valley – in Italian and English – from agriturismo L’Antico Cornio, with tastings of focaccia, cured meats, cheeses and wine.

The capital of Val di Vara is Varese Ligure, a walled town dating from 1161, with a castle, medieval churches and a 16th-century stone bridge. On a small riverside square, Pietro Picetti, who is in his 70s, hand-carves wooden moulds for stamping corzetti (or croxetti), the local, disc-shaped pasta – once with prominent families’ coat of arms; now often just with pleasing patterns, or your initials! Visitors can have an organic lunch of corzetti pasta with walnut sauce at Albergo Amici in Varese Ligure, before stocking up on foodie gifts from, say, honey and fruit farm Cascina le Bosche or herb and saffron producer Le Piccole Erbe. Dinner could be at the equally organic Antica Locanda Luigina in Mattarana.

To work up an appetite for all this bounty, the Vara river and its tributaries offer kayaking, rafting and canyoning (valdivara.it) and the area is crisscrossed by footpaths including the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri – a 400km ridgetop cycling/hiking route. There’s more adrenaline action on the high ropes and zipwires of Parco Avventura Val Di Vara.
Liz Boulter

Flims Laax Falera

Eco-snow sports, Swiss-style
The Flims Laax Falera region in eastern Switzerland’s Graubünden canton is well-endowed with natural beauty but there’s a particularly primeval air to the landscape here. For starters there’s the Rhine Gorge, known in the local Romansh language as Ruinaulta and more commonly as the Swiss grand canyon. After a huge landslide thousands of years ago, the Rhine scoured a path through the debris, creating what is now a dramatic summer playground for hikers, rafters and bikers. Hikers can also explore the Unesco site of Sardona, where tectonic plates once crunched together, pushing the rock upwards and leaving a distinct limestone line across the mountains.

Winter offers snowy walking trails, pro-standard snowparks and 224km of slopes in three linked ski areas. With the highest piste topping 3,000 metres, snow is reliable, yet as in many other Swiss resorts, Flims Laax Falera has recently seen its snowline creep upwards and its ski season shorten. Its plans to tackle the climate crisis are more ambitious than most.

In 2010 the Weisse Arena Gruppe, which operates the ski resort, introduced a Greenstyle project, aiming to gradually transform itself into the world’s first self-sufficient, carbon-neutral alpine resort. Energy consumption has fallen by 15% over seven years, and all its electricity now comes from carbon-neutral sources. Ski lifts generate power through photovoltaic panels and waste energy is recovered and reused; piste bashers groom slopes at optimum energy efficiency; and the Rocksresort has twice been named best green ski hotel at the World Ski Awards.

The three villages all have water refill fountains, recycling stations and charging points for electric cars, while an e-shuttle is bookable on the resort’s app, with proceeds going to the Greenstyle Foundation. And this winter, a new weekly repair service at the Riders Hotel will mend ski clothing for free. Test out your rejuvenated gear on the slopes before stopping for a drink at the piste-hopping Travelling Bar, which is also doing its bit – 10% of turnover goes to Greenstyle.
Caroline Bishop

Rotterdam

A vision of the urban future
Rotterdam is a city that’s not afraid to experiment. From the architecture of Rem Koolhaas, one of its most famous sons, to the annual Rooftops Festival, which in 2019 saw 65 rooftops repurposed to host events, Europe’s largest port is a fascinating living laboratory for anyone interested in what urban living might look like in the coming years. There’s even a Sponge Garden for studying how best urban green spaces can be used to capture and hold rainwater and return it to the natural environment.

Many of the city’s innovations are focused on a waste-free circular economy. It’s home to the world’s first floating farm, where 32 cows are fed on scraps from local hotels and restaurants, and produce milk for city residents and manure for Rotterdam’s flowerbeds. And at Blue City, a former indoor subtropical swimming complex has been repurposed to provide workspace for more than 30 startups working in the circular economy. “Waste” coffee granules from the Aloha Bar-Restaurant become soil for the mushrooms grown by a neighbouring startup; another is fashioning fruit peelings into leather.

From 1 May, visitors wanting to immerse themselves in the city’s vision can stay in one of Culture Campsite’s spaces in the riverside Delfshaven district, with choices of upcycled “sleeping objects” including a greenhouse, a silo and a cattle shelter.

Although Rotterdam’s main attractions tend to look to the future, it has not forgotten where its citizens came from. With around 180 nationalities calling the city home, it has a claim to be one of the most multicultural in the world. A great place to understand this richness is the Story House Belvédère. This community-run enterprise in the Katendrecht district is part-cafe, part-gallery and part-events space. Headphones lining the walls play recordings gathered from around Rotterdam, sharing the voices of the many cultures that give the city its character, and there are exhibitions by its annual immigrant artist in residence.
Jeremy Smith

Menorca

Marine protection and sustainability to savour
Menorcans realised early that a sustainable approach to tourism was essential for avoiding the overdevelopment that has spoiled so much of the Mediterranean coast in Spain. A Unesco biosphere reserve since 1993, the island has crystal-clear waters, a thriving local culture and unique gastronomy.

The best way to access the white sandy beaches of the south and rocky coves of the north is via the Camí de Cavalls, an ancient path for mounted soldiers connecting defensive lookouts that encircles the island. Thanks to pressure from a local NGO, it was reopened as a public right of way in 2010 and is now much-loved by Menorcans and visitors alike for walking, cycling or horse-riding.

Since 2016, the Balearic Islands has collected a sustainable tourism tax and used it to fund local conservation initiatives such as the Underwater Atlas project, which maps the seagrass beds essential to the marine ecosystem so that they are not disturbed by boat anchors. Snorkelling around the coves to the east of Binimel-là beach you’ll find waters bursting with life – look out for octopus and even the odd Moray eel. Last year, some 20 sq km of coastal waters was added to the existing Unesco biosphere reserve, making it the largest protected marine environment in the Mediterranean.

The ferry from Barcelona arrives in the second largest town, Ciutadella, at the western end of the island. There, on 23-24 June each year, the Fiestas de Sant Joan brings parades of Menorcan horses, jousting and fireworks. Enjoy the festivities with a pomada – a mix of lemonade and distinctive Menorcan gin – legacy of a century of British rule. The British also left a taste for butter, which features in many local recipes.

Stay at Ses Sucreres in the pretty, whitewashed village of Ferreries in the centre of the island, and visit the homemade produce market in Plaça Espanya, held on Saturday mornings, to sample the Mahón-Menorca cheese, with its distinctive sharp, salty flavour. Seafood also plays a huge role in local cuisine – Es Cranc restaurant in the tiny northern port of Fornells is known for its outstanding caldereta (lobster stew). Menorca is currently in the running for European Region of Gastronomy 2022.
Annette Pacey

Copenhagen

Carbon-neutral capital
Shopping, sightseeing and museums are the mainstays of most city breaks. Copenhagen has all these – but where else could you go skiing in the city centre, or float in the clear water of open-air harbour baths? CopenHill, a huge new urban ski slope, was built atop a renewable waste-to-energy power plant. As well as skiing and snowboarding, it has running and hiking trails, and the world’s highest outdoor climbing wall.

For outdoor bathing, there are several options, such as the central Islands Brygge baths or the Nordhavn quarter, which has boardwalks, cafes and a beachy vibe. Real seaside isn’t far from the city: Amager Beach Park is an easy 5km bike ride away and has miles of white sand, islands and a lagoon. Other activities in town include sailing in solar-powered GoBoats and kayaking.

Copenhagen has pledged to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. It is well on the way to reaching its goal, so is already a great place for a sustainable stay. It’s one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, so explore it on two wheels – there are many hire points, 375km of cycle tracks and several pedestrian/bike bridges over the harbour.

Public transport is excellent, and expanding: the metro’s new City Circle line now links the centre with the neighbourhoods of Østerbro, Nørrebro, Frederiksberg and Vesterbro, and another new line opens this year, connecting the northern harbour.

Noma put the Copenhagen food scene on the map with its use of ultra-local ingredients and innovative takes on traditional techniques but there are plenty of other restaurants with great food and low carbon footprints. Gro Spiseri is a rooftop farm-cum-restaurant where diners eat in the greenhouses, and Baest has its own microdairy producing cheese from biodynamic Danish milk.

More than two-thirds of the city’s hotels hold an eco-certificate. One of the newest is the industrial-chic Hotel Ottilia (doubles from £120 B&B), converted from two former brewery buildings in the emerging Carlsberg City district. It serves an organic breakfast, has a free “wine hour” from 5pm-6pm and the rooftop restaurant has views over the city.

To get to Copenhagen from the UK without flying, take the Eurostar and onward trains to Brussels, Cologne or Hamburg, stay overnight, then continue to Copenhagen the next morning. (Stopping at one city on the way there and another on the way back adds to the fun.) 
Rachel Dixon

Vienna

Hikes, bikes – and affordable public transport
Austria’s capital and the “world’s most livable city for 10 consecutive years”, is surrounded by vineyards and woods, and dotted with gardens and parks, which together make up around 50% of the urban area. Former imperial parks are incorporated into the Lainz game reserve, the Lobau Unesco biosphere reserve in the Donau-Auen national park, and the well-known Prater park, whose grounds accompany a famed funfair. The city has 240km of signposted hiking trails through the Vienna Woods and other recreational areas, all accessible by public transport.

The public rental bike system, Citybike Vienna, allows you to crisscross cobblestone streets to canalside avenues and sample the 300km of paths on the Wienerwald Cycle Route and the extensive Danube Cycle Path.

The city has spent €8m on tree planting as part of initiatives to redesign parks and streets. Zieglergasse in the 7th district is Vienna’s first climate-adapted street, completed in December 2019. With drinking fountains, cooling arches, garden and shaded areas, alongside more space for bikes, it has been dubbed the “Cool Mile”. Nearby Neubaugasse, in the same district, will unveil a similar redesign in mid-January, for planned completion by autumn. Construction of a “Cooling Park” in the adjacent 6th district’s Esterházypark is due in spring 2020, and will include two “climate trees” made of three-metre-high mist showers within an expanded shaded, green space.

Urban gardening is common, on organic city farms and private allotments, aided by some of the city’s 200 million bees in beehives atop the Vienna State Opera, the Burgtheater and the Old General Hospital. Some districts hold weekly local farmers’ markets, although the main central markets of Naschmarkt, Karmelitermarkt and Brunnenmarkt at Yppenplatz all feature local vendors selling organic produce. Access to fresh mountain water is the norm, with 1,000 free drinking fountains throughout the city.

Vienna is proud of its affordable and accessible transport system: the annual inner-city transport card costs €1 a day. With a focus on lowering car usage, the Friday Nightskating event invites people to take to the streets on skates and bikes, as a way to encourage people to see the city without noise or pollution. A push to get more people to use the extensive rail network is backed by Austria’s train operator, OBB. The addition of services to Brussels and northern Romania, on top of routes to neighbouring countries, will establish Vienna as the best-connected city by rail in Europe in 2020.
Becki Enright

Romania

Bears, bison and biodiversity
You don’t have to fly to southern Africa to go on safari – Romania is one of the best places in Europe to see large mammals in the wild. The country has seven million hectares of forests – a significant proportion is ancient virgin woodland – and is home to the continent’s largest populations of brown bears, as well as wolves and lynx.

Among organisations working to protect the wilderness is Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC), which has ambitious plans to create the largest forested national park in Europe. Focusing on restoring degraded forests and the wider ecosystem, FCC recently launched an ecotourism programme, including bear tracking. It has built four wildlife hides and trains specialised guides for one- and multi-day trips. FCC is also rolling out a four-year bison reintroduction programme in the region’s Făgăraș mountains, in partnership with the ProPark Foundation for Protected Areas and Conservation Capital. The first animals will be released into the wild this spring.

Besides benefiting local communities through wildlife tourism, the reintroduction of bison – which disappeared from Romania 200 years ago – will also increase biodiversity. In a separate venture by Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania, the European commission-funded Life Bison project has already released 60 animals in Carpathia’s Tarcu and Poiana Ruscă mountains, with more to come this year. Bison-tracking holidays in the area are offered by the European Safari Company (part of Rewilding Europe). The Bison Hillock Association, also involved in the project, offers a choice of trips, too, with hiking, cycling and homestay options.

While the country faces issues with extensive illegal logging (two rangers were killed last autumn trying to protect the forests, and protesters took to the streets in November demanding more government action), ecotourism is increasing steadily.

“There are challenges but ecotourism is growing organically here and lots of small-scale ethical businesses are opening, using local guides and produce, with the money staying in the community,” said Andrei Blumer, president of the Association of Eco-Tourism in Romania.

In the Danube Delta, new conservation projects include the reintroduction of water buffalo on Ermakov island. “We have amazing nature and wildlife and offer something unique in Europe,” said Blumer.
Jane Dunford

Finland

Native culture and natural beauty
It may not come as a surprise that a country led by a 34-year-old female prime minister and an all-female coalition is also a world leader in progressive environmental policies. Among the Finnish coalition’s key policies is a pledge to become a carbon-neutral country by 2035. Tourism is playing its part, with a rigorous sustainability policy that puts protection of the country’s natural environment first.

In Helsinki, where nature trails and clean coastal waters are part of the fabric of everyday life, more than 75% of hotel rooms are certified as environment-friendly. Some even feature a carbon calculator so guests can measure the impact of their stay and get tips on reducing it. The city’s Think Sustainably initiative encourages attractions to use green energy sources, compensate visitor emissions and incorporate social responsibility into their business practise, through their recruitment policies and by donating part of their profits to good causes. The flagship and architecturally striking Art museum, Amos Rex, uses renewable energy supplier Ekosähkö; while urban sauna Loyly – built from sustainably-sourced wood – serves organic food in its restaurant and plans to offer leftover meals for sale at a discount to cut back on waste. Helsinki is also at the forefront of responsible fashion with stores selling upcycled or secondhand clothes and several fashion “libraries” that have clothes for loan.

But a commitment to protect nature – and people – runs the length and breadth of the country. In Utsjoki, the northernmost municipality, the 1,200-strong community is reinventing its tourism, after new regulations put an end to salmon fishing, once its largest source of income. Now Utsjoki is promoting its wilderness and Sami culture through mountain biking, kayaking, snow-shoeing and visiting the three villages to experience modern Sami culture, where reindeer husbandry is still a significant part of life.

In the east, local company Äksyt Ämmät runs small-group tours of the forest, rivers and lakes of North Karelia. These are hosted by local guides and offer stays in small, family-run guesthouses: from a two-hour snow-shoeing tour through Koli national park to a week on an island on Lake Saimaa cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing and meeting villagers.

In the autumn, Finland went a step further in its mission to create a tourism industry built on the long-term preservation of the environment, by introducing a tourism pledge, and encouraging visitors to not just enjoy nature but to “respect and treasure” it, too.
Isabel Choat

Portugal

Making tourism a force for good
Tourism has been a game-changer for Portugal, making Lisbon and, more recently, Porto into weekend hotspots with boutique hotels and hipster bars and restaurants. This has not been without a cost – one that’s been borne primarily by local residents and businesses, who find themselves forced out of neighbourhoods by rising rents. Acknowledging that this growth was too rapid, the government is determined that a planned increase in visitor numbers will be managed sustainably, spreading tourism across the country – and the seasons – and putting local people first.

It is three years into a 10-year sustainability strategy under which millions of euros has been invested in a variety of programmes aimed at boosting tourism beyond the honeypot destinations. One such programme is Revive, designed to breathe new life into abandoned or run-down heritage sites. One of the first – of 33 – to open was Vila Galé, a former convent converted into a hotel in Elvas, a Unesco-listed but overlooked town near the Spanish border. A similar scheme, Revive Natura, will do the same for rural sites, such as former rangers’ cottages.

In the southern Alentejo, the largest artificial lake in Europe, Alqueva, was once ignored even by locals but is now a destination with water sports, beach areas, boutique hotels and a dark sky reserve.

By 2027, 90% of tourism businesses will have to comply with rules governing water, waste and energy use, with help from government funding. Underpinning it all is a commitment to turn tourism into a force for good. A recent study found that just 30% of people in major cities are happy with tourism; the goal is to increase that to 90% by 2027.
Isabel Choat

UK

Salford

Europe’s biggest gardening project
More than 700 volunteer gardeners have been busy in Salford, removing invasive species from a 154-acre site and planting more welcome ones, including 40,000 crocus bulbs for a dazzling spring display. They are not toiling alone: a small herd of rare-breed pigs has been clearing brambles and digging over the soil. Oh, and there are quite a few professional gardeners on board, too.

This is the new RHS Garden Bridgewater, the biggest gardening project in Europe. The £30m-plus site is due to open this summer on the site of Worsley New Hall, a 19th-century mansion on the edge of the city that was demolished in the 1940s. It is the RHS’s first new garden in 17 years and first urban garden, it has been designed by landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith. A million annual visitors are expected to generate £13.8m a year for the local economy by 2029, with 140 jobs in the garden itself and 180 more in the surrounding area.

Community is at the heart of this garden. Richard Green, the head of Bridgewater, says: “There is no other garden like this in the north-west of England, not on this scale. It is a mix of stunning horticulture and a place for people.”

As well as the green-fingered volunteers, GPs are already referring patients to the garden through a “social prescribing” pilot scheme, whereby people struggling with isolation, mobility problems and other conditions are prescribed activities such as gardening. A dedicated therapeutic gardener, Ozichi Brewster, leads this programme, which has so far helped 40 people. Patients can plant hanging baskets, make bug hotels, go on woodland walks or join tai chi and yoga sessions in the wellbeing garden, a hub for community organisations such as dementia support groups and veterans.

Young people have also been helping in the garden under the National Citizen Service. Soon there will be classrooms and a learning garden – about 7,000 local schoolchildren will be invited every year – and apprenticeship schemes. Adults can garden in community allotments in the walled garden; four of the plots will be dedicated to growing produce for a local food bank. There are also demonstration areas to inspire visitors to transform their own gardens.

Other prominent features include a kitchen garden, providing fruit and vegetables for the cafe; a Chinese garden created with Greater Manchester’s Chinese community; and a calming “paradise garden” with a huge pond. A wild woodland play area with hobbit holes, a bug garden and a low ropes course is designed to help children of all ages get outside, connect with nature and socialise away from screens.

Those who can’t wait for the official opening in the summer can book a two-hour guided tour. Or why not join the green army? The garden is recruiting now for its next batch of volunteers.

Opens summer 2020. Free entry for RHS members, and for Salford residents every Tuesday for the first year. Everyone else can have two free visits a year.
Rachel Dixon

Cairngorms

Ambitious habitat restoration project
It’s easy to presume that the Cairngorms national park, with its ancient woodlands, peat bogs, untamed rivers and forbidding mountains, is faring well when it comes to conservation. But in fact, much of its native flora and fauna has been damaged by hundreds of years of poor management and a burgeoning deer population. One organisation is now helping turn the tide by putting together the most ambitious vision for habitat restoration Britain has ever seen.

Cairngorms Connect is a collaborative habitat restoration project launched in 2019, with funding from Endangered Landscapes Programme, covering 600 sq km (13% of the Cairngorms national park). The area contains some of the UK’s most prized ecosystems – from its only sub-Arctic montane plateau to forests that are home to pine martens, wild cats, eagles, capercaillie and rare tooth-fungi.

Committing to an ecological timeframe of 200 years (there’s no room for a short-term mentality here), neighbouring land managers — including Wildland, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry and Land Scotland — will work together to restore native woodlands, peatlands, wetlands and rivers.

In 2020, visitors will get a better sense of the project thanks to a newly refurbished visitor centre, interpretive walks and volunteering opportunities. Since 1959, when it was just a caravan parked on borrowed land, the Loch Garten Osprey Centre in Abernethy has grown into the RSPB’s second-largest and most diverse reserve, home to more than 5,000 species. Thanks to funding from European Structural Funds, the centre will in 2020 be renamed and refurbished with improved access, and open for eight months of the year: the Loch Garten Nature Centre will help explain Cairngorms Connect as part of a wider conservation story.

Beyond the centre, interpretive walks will be added to the Big Pines and Two Lochs trails to enhance understanding of the UK’s largest single remnant of ancient Caledonian pinewood.

While Cairngorms Connect’s focus for 2020 is getting local communities involved, visitors will get a look-in, too. Volunteers can join one-day projects from seed collecting to planting (once live, opportunities will be advertised on the Cairngorms Connect website).

Rewilding tour operator Scotland: The Big Picture has launched a four-day Wilderness Weekend: Cairngorms Connect, which takes visitors on a conservation-oriented journey through the diverse landscapes.

Also opening in the region next year, as part of the Cairngorms national park’s net zero by 2045 vision, is a Speyside Way extension and a Strathspey electric bike project.
Holly Tuppen

Davagh Dark Sky Observatory

Stargazing in the Sperrin mountains, County Tyrone
The Sperrin mountains, which straddle the counties of Derry and Tyrone, are often overlooked by visitors heading for the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim coast, or various Game of Thrones locations. But the Sperrins are “Ulster’s wildest land”, according to Irish poet Mary Montague. “The thickest sheets of the last ice age scoured these mountains into smooth undulations that banner the skyline. But don’t be fooled by gentle curves – the Sperrins’ heart is vastly bleak,” she says.

The Sperrins area of outstanding natural beauty is a wild, untouched landscape of moorland and forest, punctuated with tarns and bogs. It also offers rare unspoiled views of the night sky. A scatter of neolithic monuments, such as the Beaghmore stone circle, bear testament to the fact that the constellations have long held sway over these parts.

In April, Northern Ireland’s first dark sky observatory will open in Davagh Forest, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the night sky away from light pollution.

This dense woodland, with miles of moss-covered conifers, has a fairytale quality, with sika deer roaming free and the odd sighting of rare pine martens. It sits in a small valley formed by the Davagh Water, one of the headstreams of the Owenreagh River, and is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. But the Dark Sky Park will focus attention upwards, with a telescope trained on the solar system through a retractable roof.

A series of audio-visual shows with maps of the solar system will be specially created for night-time events and screened on to the buildings: visitors can watch from a viewing platform, and explore the universe via holographic installations and virtual reality headsets. There will also be exhibitions linking the landscape with the archaeological and astronomical heritage of the Sperrins, as well as a play planetarium for children.

And for those who want to extend their stay and sleep under the stars, like the ancients, five glamping pods are being built alongside the centre.
Andy Pietrasik

Isle of Wight

Futuristic retro
The Isle of Wight has long charmed holiday makers with its retro seaside fun, 500-plus miles of footpaths and historic buildings such as Osborne House. Despite being visible from the mainland, this small, diamond-shaped island often feels worlds away, partly thanks to its unique relationship with nature. In 1963, half of the island was designated an area of outstanding natural beauty, and in 2013 it created its first wildlife superhighways. Last June, it stuck its eco neck out a little further by becoming the UK’s seventh Unesco biosphere reserve.

A biosphere reserve is not merely a landscape that’s been put aside for nature, but a place where communities have learned to live alongside natural habitats. The Isle of Wight has been awarded the accolade thanks to its rare wildlife — red squirrels in the woodlands, Glanville fritillaries on chalky cliffs, and the Ventnor wall lizard on sunny, beachfront walls — and sustainable economic development.

Collaboration between environmental organisations, charities, councils and local volunteers is improving the island for locals, visitors and nature alike. The Common Space, a non-profit, is working with local volunteers to revitalise the Bay area in the east of the island; a 2020 calendar of events includes British Science Week (6-15 March), when pop-up laboratories will showcase natural wonders from pond life to fossils.

In Sandown on the south coast, Browns Golf Course is getting a wildlife makeover thanks to a new footpath linking a previously overgrown woodland walk and reedbed wetland. Via the Lost Duver Project, the council and community are also restoring former dune stacks in Sandown by replanting native coastal flora such as ragged-robin and thrift.

From a commitment to green building (Tom’s Eco Lodge is powered by a solar field and biomass boiler) to supporting rewilding initiatives (Tiny Homes’ wildflower meadows), tourism is very much part of the island’s biosphere fame.

Also launched in 2019, Visit Isle of Wight’s Slow Travel Guide encourages visitors to leave cars at home, with eight car-free touring routes via bus, rail, bike or footpath. The island’s sustainable travel scheme also allows accommodation owners with the highest green ratings, including Nettlecombe Farm and Seaview Hotel, to offer guests free bus travel.
Holly Tuppen

REST OF THE WORLD

Fukushima

The Recovery Olympics in Japan
The Tokyo Olympic Games of 1964 became a symbol of Japan’s economic rebirth after the second world war, when visitors were dazzled by the country’s ambition. This time around, the organisers of Tokyo 2020 are hoping the games will signal the regeneration of the Tohoku region, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and open up a lesser-known part of the country to visitors.

The games are billed as the Recovery Olympics, and the Olympic torch – made of aluminium recycled from the temporary shelters used to house 500,000 displaced people – will begin its relay at the J-Village football stadium, just outside the 30km exclusion zone of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, before moving through the neighbouring prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate, also affected in 2011. The J-Village and Azuma baseball stadium in Fukushima City will host baseball, softball and football matches in the summer.

Almost a decade after the disaster this is not an exercise in dark tourism – though one operator has started running Chernobyl-style tours of the Fukushima exclusion zone. Rather, it is an opportunity to discover a more authentic side of Japan – away from the tourist-thronged shrines and temples of Kyoto.

The bullet train delivers passengers from Tokyo at warp speed – actually 90 minutes, though it feels like travelling back in time from the frenzy of the 21st-century capital – to what Richard Lloyd Parry describes in his book Ghosts of the Tsunami as a “slower, gentler” arcadia of mountains, lakes, rivers and “fields rich in grain and fruit”. (Tohoku is famous for its high-quality rice, peaches, grapes, Kitakata ramen and sake – though producers have struggled to overcome fears about contaminated food, despite it being exported once more.)

Aizu, in the west of Fukushima, is steeped in the history of the samurai, the hard men of the north, but it is also famous for its delicately detailed lacquerware dating back to the 16th century and flourishing in the Edo era (17th-19th centuries). Onsen villages, such as Tsuchiyu, have sprouted around hot springs in the mountains, and to the north, often wreathed in wisps of low-lying cloud like a Hokusai print, lies magnificent Mount Bandai.

This conical volcano in the Bandai-Asahi national park is surrounded by lakes, including the vividly cobalt pools of Goshiki-numa. When Olympian Tom Daley visited the region last summer, he stayed at the charming Bandai Lakeside Guesthouse and performed frontflips and backflips on the jetty by Lake Sohara. The ultimate irony is that this Lake District of Japan was formed by another natural disaster – when Mount Bandai blew its top in 1888.
Andy Pietrasik

Montana

Creating a vast nature reserve
Tens of millions of bison once thrived on the great plains of north America but by the late 1800s they had almost disappeared. Now the near-threatened species is grazing once again. Some 20,000 now live in America, mostly in small, often fenced-in, herds. But on the high plains of north-east Montana more than 800 beasts roam free. The conservation of this herd (or obstinacy) is just one of many wildlife projects run by American Prairie Reserve (APR), a non-profit that aims to preserve vast tracts of wilderness.

Using a similar model to the Tompkins Foundation in Chilean Patagonia, the APR makes strategic purchases of private land that it uses to stitch together tracts of existing public land. Since it started in 2004, APR has bought over 100,000 acres, which has been joined with public land to form 419,000 acres of rolling hills and grassy plateaux drained by the Missouri River. The goal is to form a prairie area of roughly 3.2 million acres, complete with migration corridors – the largest nature reserve in the continental US.

The APR’s activities have upset local ranchers and farmers. But founder Sean Gerrity, who made his fortune in Silicon Valley, is determined to create a vast ecosystem where wildlife large and small can roam free.

As well as bison, it runs projects to protect habitats and increase populations of at-risk animals, including prairie dogs, cougars, pronghorns (endemic deer) and grassland birds.

With no fences, the freedom-to-roam philosophy applies to visitors, too. It’s possible to walk, cycle or canoe for miles and see nothing manmade, except the odd signpost. Small-scale accommodation options include two campsites (from $15) with RV hookups; a safari-style lodge; and two pairs of large yurts – Founders Hut and John and Margaret Craighead Hut – each connected by a hallway and accommodating nine people in four bunk rooms. A third “hut” is due to open this year.

Under big Montana skies, visitors can wake up to scenery that has barely changed in centuries, and that will be protected for generations to come.
Isabel Choat

Vancouver

Birthplace of Greenpeace grows greener
Vancouver calls itself a 20-minute city: it takes 20 minutes to get to the beach, the mountains and the airport. But green space is not in short supply either. Downtown Stanley Park is bigger than Central Park in New York, and is surrounded by water on three sides. Visitors can cycle around it along part of the Seawall, a 28km path around the city’s waterfront. Nearby Vanier Park is a summer hotspot, with its Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival and big attractions such as the Museum of Vancouver. A little further out, the Pacific Spirit regional park has a network of hiking routes in 1,850 acres of forest, while North Shore is the place to head for legendary mountain biking trails.

Now, Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan aims to drastically reduce carbon emissions, with 122,000 new trees planted since 2010. It is a fitting initiative for the birthplace of Greenpeace (the environmental group was founded here in 1971) and Vancouver continues to raise the bar: last month, the world’s first fully electric commercial aircraft took off from here, raising hopes of a new, guilt-free “electric aviation age”.

The 100-mile diet – eating only food grown within 100 miles of your home –originated in Vancouver in 2005. Restaurants that have embraced this include Forage, whose executive chef hunts, fishes and keeps bees; Chambar, which has been carbon-neutral since 2011; the Acorn, an award-winning “vegetable-forward” restaurant; and Edible Canada, which promotes sustainable, seasonal food and stocks an enormous range of Canadian produce for diners to take home.

The central Listel hotel, has a five-Green Key eco-rating and is full of original work by Canadian artists.
Rachel Dixon

Sri Lanka

Sustainable recovery after terror attack
In the past 10 years, Sri Lanka has flourished as a tourist destination. Opening up to visitors since the end of the civil war has meant a growth in accommodation, from tea plantation bungalows and surfer hostels to mountain-view hotels and treehouses among the lush lowland rainforests. The number of tour companies has also increased, with more of them travelling to remote, lesser-visited regions such as the national parks of Gal Oya and Wilpattu, and the coastal areas of Kalpitiya and Kalkudah, benefiting smaller businesses including tuk-tuk drivers, souvenir sellers and family-run restaurants.

The country’s thriving tourism industry came to a halt with the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019. Visitor numbers were down 71% year-on-year to May, and 57% to June. And according to figures presented to the Foreign Office by British-based tour operators, up to 80% of hotel bookings were cancelled. In recent months, arrivals have been creeping up, particularly since most countries relaxed their travel restrictions, including the UK in June. Overall, however, figures are still down almost 20% – which is significant for the millions of people in Sri Lanka who rely on tourism, directly and indirectly.

As the country looks ahead, there are projects to be celebrated. The Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation, running since 1998, supports social and economic development of rural communities. Its work ranges from renewable energy projects, such as small-scale wind-solar farm training programmes, to empowering women through ecotourism roles, including a new lagoon-side campsite and activity centre, the Hikkaduwa Women-Centric Ecotourism Project. It also launched a new national sustainable tourism certification for hotels in April 2019.

Beyond this, there are compelling sustainability and community-based tourism projects all over the country. Mangrove replanting has been taking place since the 2004 tsunami – including at Kitesurfing Lanka in Kalpitiya. Mangroves are not only an effective defence against the sea, but also help boost wildlife and act as long-term carbon sinks.

Waste Less Arugam Bay is a partnership aiming to educate tourists and local communities about plastic – through, for example, reliable waste collection, creating souvenirs from recycled plastic, and providing water bottle refills. Fairtrade homeware and clothing brand Selyn uses a female-led workforce, traditional techniques and maintains a cottage industry via regional producers, which welcome visitors.

Joining local families in the lesser-travelled inland part of Tangalle in the south, we runs tours to support rural crafts and practices, such as producers of handcrafted buffalo curd, served as a delicious sweet dessert in clay pots called mee-kiri, topped with sticky kithul palm syrup.
Antonia Wilson

Chilean Patagonia

Community tourism begins on new Route of Parks
Few countries on Earth have allocated more land for environmental protection in recent years than Chile, which in 2018 set aside 10 million acres of Patagonia to be preserved in five national parks. This was due in no small part to the conservation work of American philanthropist Kristine McDivitt Tompkins (ex-CEO of outdoors company Patagonia) and her late husband Doug (co-founder of North Face), who donated a large chunk of the land. In 2020, it will be easier than ever to visit these remote reserves, thanks to the new Route of Parks. Launched last year, the route consolidates a haphazard tourist circuit spanning 1,700 miles (and 17 national parks), from the volcano-dotted forests of Chile’s Lake District to the fjords at the southern tip of the continent.

Locals in the 60 communities along the route have responded to the Tompkins’ vision by taking ownership of the wilderness and starting tourism projects that will help protect the parks in the long term (as well as create sustainable incomes). Chaitén-based Ruta Patagonia 7 runs tours along the famed Carretera Austral (Southern Highway) to the newly designated Pumalín national park, a rainforest reserve in remote northern Patagonia. Further south, Patagonian Fjords has opened up the previously inaccessible – and newly created – Kawésqar national park to tourism for the first time, with trips through its fog-draped fjords departing from the resort town of Puerto Natales.

New hotels have also popped up along the route, including Estancia Caleta Josefina, on a sheep farm in Tierra del Fuego. And in 2018 Patagonia national park (home to one of the most ambitious rewilding efforts in the Americas) opened a new museum, Patagonia Park Museum, which explores local history and the current extinction crisis. Another museum dedicated to the Anglo-Argentine pioneer Lucas Bridges (author of Uttermost Part of the Earth, the 1947 landmark book on Tierra del Fuego) will open here in 2020.

Connectivity, long a barrier to regional development, has improved alongside the new route. There is no land connection between the northern and southern sections of Chilean Patagonia, but a ferry service now links the end of the Carretera Austral with Puerto Natales, making it easier for tourists to travel along a unified path without detouring into Argentina. A road under construction in a remote stretch of Tierra del Fuego will finally open up little-visited Yendegaia national park, which protects the ice fields of the Cordillera Darwin mountain range.
Mark Johanson

Thanks to: www.theguardian.com


Where to Go in 2020 / Spring

Category : Europe 2020 , World 2020

Spring

Istanbul, Turkey

Once-sleepy enclaves along the Bosphorus Strait now hum with rich culture and culinary delights.

When to go: Springtime can be crowded in Istanbul, but the mild weather and the sight of erguvanlar (Judas trees) blooming deep pink along the Bosphorus make this an ideal time to visit. In April, visitors can take in millions of colorful tulips and the finest in Turkish cinema at, respectively, the Istanbul Tulip Festival and Istanbul International Film Festival.

Why go: In recent years, Istanbul’s arty residents shifted their focus from the city’s urban core to the residential neighborhoods and villages along the Bosphorus. The result: a heady mix of centuries-old traditions and fresh creative energy. Cheffy types have staked their claim to the European side of the strait, where visitors can pop into buzzy new cocktail bars on the historic backstreets of Arnavutköy village, sample the eclectic farm-to-table creations at Apartiman in leafy Yeniköy, or share meze platters at the sleek waterside Feriye Restaurant in Beşiktaş. As for dessert? Head to the Asian shore for luscious Ottoman puddings at Kanaat Lokantası, in the traditional Üsküdar district. To get a culinary overview along the river, book a “Born on the Bosphorus” walk with Culinary Backstreets, which offers a tasting tour of three waterside districts.

Need to know: Turkish Airlines offers direct flights from major U.S. hubs to the new state-of-the-art Istanbul Airport. U.S. passport holders may apply for a tourist e-visa ($20) at evisa.gov.trFor trips on the Bosphorus, check the city ferry schedule at Sehir Hatlari and pick up the Istanbulkart smart card, sold at most kiosks and transit hubs. —Kristina Malsberger

Vancouver Island, B.C.

 

With its diverse cities and wealth of outdoor spaces, Canada has always been a playground for travelers. We’re celebrating our neighbor to the north in each season. Road trip through the quiet, nature-filled Canadian island at the height of spring.

When to go: Melting snow and blooming trees mark the beginning of spring in British Columbia. Bears come out of hibernation, orcas and humpbacks start their migration north, and restaurants brim with spring seafood (salmon, halibut, spot prawns) and foraged treats (spruce tips, fiddlehead ferns). May 1 marks the start of hiking season on the renowned West Coast Trail. 

Why go: This island—which has the capital city, Victoria, and the wood-shingled surf town Tofino—packs a lot into its 12,000 square miles. Come 2020, there are even more ways to explore. In Tofino, where travelers can surf and kayak, there are new additions to the town’s flourishing culinary scene, such as the Tofino Distillery and the vegan restaurant Bravocados, and new suites at the Pacific Sands Resort. The reigning queen of Tofino hospitality is still the Wickaninnish Inn, however. Its renovated Pointe Restaurant and On the Rocks bar—all wood and ocean-view windows, with a bar fashioned from local marble—will open a new wine cellar and event space in time for its Surfrider Foundation fundraiser (March 7) and World Oceans Day (June 8). A new, nearly 15-mile multiuse trail that stretches from Tofino to its coastal neighbor, Ucluelet, is in the works. The island is also home to 50 First Nations communities, with many offering immersive ways for travelers to connect with Native traditions. Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours is slated to run three trips along the island’s northern coast that highlight various aspects of the Homalco culture.

Need to know: Vancouver Island is about 70 miles west of Vancouver. A road trip is one of the best ways to connect with the land and sea: Travelers can rent a car in Vancouver and take the 95-minute ferry to Victoria ($44), or they can take a roughly 30-minute flight from Vancouver and rent a car from Victoria’s International Airport. It takes 5.5 hours to drive the island from end to end. A more enjoyable experience? Opting for the Oceanside Route, which parallels the water as it leads through quaint towns on the island’s east coast. —Serena Renner

Veneto, Italy

 

As the marquee Italian destinations grapple with overtourism, we’ve chosen four places to get off the beaten path—one for each season. Our spring pick, Italy’s Prosecco Hills, finally gets a UNESCO World Heritage designation.

When to go: The Primavera del Prosecco Superiore (March-June) is considered the most important wine event in Veneto, the region that fans out from its capital, Venice. During the festival, travelers can join tastings, enjoy meals with wine pairings, and stroll through vineyards open to the public.

Why go: In 2019, UNESCO finally recognized the prosecco production area—50,000-plus acres of neatly terraced vineyards, rolling green hills, and scenic medieval towns—as a World Heritage site. Travelers can sip their way through the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, where small, family-run vineyards still use traditional methods to make sparkling wine. It’s easy to explore beyond the towns, too. Visitors can drive or cycle along the winding Strada del Prosecco, a 55-mile loop lined with 90 wineries, tasting prosecco and other wines along the way. The historic region also has plenty of medieval villages and restaurants that highlight the land’s abundance, including the Michelin-starred Ristorante La Corte. The best way to experience farm life is to stay in one of several agriturismo accommodations in the area, such as Borgoluce, which produces its own wine, buffalo mozzarella, honey, cured meats, and beer. For the insider track.

Need to know: The towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene are about 40 miles north of Venice. Carriers such as American Airlines, Delta, and United run direct flights from the United States to Venice. There, travelers may hire a driver from Treviso Car Service, rent a car, or hop on a one-hour train to Conegliano. —Devorah Lev-Tov

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

 

The world’s largest salt desert, located in Bolivia’s high-altitude plateau, is becoming a luxury outpost.

When to go: May—the tail end of the wet season and the beginning of the dry season—is an ideal month to visit: The flats, located in southwest Bolivia, are more accessible, and thanks to the mix of sunny and rainy days, travelers may be able to see the salt flats both dry and when they are flooded, which creates the surreal mirror effect captured in countless photos.

Why go: In May 2019, the Swiss outfitter Amazing Escapes partnered with Bolivia’s indigenous Jirira community to open Kachi Lodge, the region’s first permanent luxury lodge. The highly sustainable camp, located at the foot of the Tunupa volcano, comprises six solar-powered geodesic domes with wood-pellet stoves, bay windows, and incinerating toilets. Reclaimed wood furniture, traditional bayeta textiles, and artwork from Gastón Ugalde (considered the Andean Andy Warhol) decorate the lodge. Claus Meyer, the Michelin-starred chef behind the destination restaurant Gustu in La Paz, oversees the menu, and dishes are made from native Bolivian ingredients. Guests can stargaze through the onsite telescope, take culinary classes, get an art lesson from Ugalde, or explore with a private guide part of the otherworldly terrain that spans over 4,000 square miles. In May, the classic journey across the flats from Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, to Chile’s Atacama Desert will also get a luxury upgrade. Explora will offer three high-end Bolivian camps with minimalist, wood-paneled guest rooms featuring en-suite bathrooms and spectacular views specifically for its trips. Travelers can embark on 8- to 11-day expeditions (in either direction), which combine driving and hiking as travelers wind past steaming geysers, monumental rock formations, ancient Inca trails, and colorful highland lagoons filled with flamingos.

Need to know: Most travelers fly into the capital city, La Paz, then take a one-hour flight to Uyuni. Lodges offer transfer to the salt flats in a 4×4 vehicle. Travel time varies from just under two hours during the dry season to four hours during the wet season. The salt flats sit at 12,000 feet above sea level; to avoid altitude sickness it’s important to acclimatize for a couple of nights at a lower altitude and to stay well hydrated. —Nora Walsh

San Antonio, Texas

 

There’s more to San Antonio than the Alamo. This flourishing city is quickly becoming a cosmopolitan arts hub, foodie haven, and thriving green space.

When to go: In April, the wildflower fields outside the city burst with color. San Antonio’s annual 11-day Fiesta (April 16–26) pays homage to the city’s storied revolutionaries with the Battle of Flowers Parade, live music, and regional fare.

Why go: In October 2019, the hotly anticipated contemporary art center Ruby City joined a roster of world-class local art galleries and museums, including the upgraded Witte Museum. Designed by British architect Sir David Adjaye, the striking crimson Ruby City presents selected works from the Linda Pace Foundation’s private collection of more than 900 paintings, sculptures, and installations by international artists. Another addition to the cityscape: a retrospective exhibit (through May 2020) that features the large-scale works of acclaimed Mexican sculptor Sebastián throughout the city. San Antonio’s close ties to Mexico are perhaps most keenly experienced on the plate, at such restaurants as Carnitas Lonja, Lala’s Gorditas, and the forthcoming El Machito from celebrated homegrown chef Johnny Hernandez. Travelers can also explore the city’s investment in outdoor spaces, notably the Mission Reach, an eight-mile extension of the city’s famous River Walk promenade that connects four UNESCO-listed Spanish colonial missions. The expanded botanical garden, new ecofriendly Confluence Park, and the growing art-and-nature-focused San Pedro Creek Culture Park are also worth a stroll.

Need to know: Travelers can navigate downtown and the 15-mile River Walk on foot or by the city’s three VIA Viva bus routes. Go Rio River Shuttles offers hop-on, hop-off multiday passes that allow visitors to get around via electric riverboat. —N.W.

Puerto Rico

 

The island welcomes visitors with fresh diversions and restored natural treasures.

When to go: Many consider mid-April to late May the sweet spot: Winter crowds clear, prices drop, and official hurricane season (June through November) has yet to begin. Travelers who want to experience the bioluminescent glow of Mosquito Bay (off the island of Vieques) should plan a trip to coincide with a new moon.

Why go: In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has rebuilt itself better and stronger. With renewed pride and increased self-sufficiency, the island offers a flurry of new enticements. They include new and refreshed hotels: Ritz-Carlton, San Juan will welcome guests back in the spring after a multimillion-dollar renovation; in the Condado district, La Concha, dating back to 1958, has unveiled a $15 million renovation; and El Conquistador in Fajardo, on the eastern end of the island, will fully reopen this year. On the culinary front, Puerto Rico’s most famous restaurant, José Enrique, which features locally sourced ingredients, recently reopened closer to the beach in San Juan. There’s Spoon Food Tours’ modern chinchorreo, a party bus that makes culinary stops throughout the countryside, and the new Ron de Barrillito Visitor Center in Bayamón, where guests can enjoy tours and tastings and fill their own bottles with Puerto Rico’s oldest rum. In the capital, the recently opened entertainment complex El Distrito San Juan lures visitors with a concert arena, restaurants, bars, a dance club, and Puerto Rico’s first urban zip line. And while there’s no zip line in El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. national forest system, visitors will find fascinating species—including the Puerto Rican screech owl and the indigenous coquí frog—that have weathered the storms. 

Need to know: Puerto Rico is more accessible than ever before. Delta has introduced a fourth daily flight from JFK, and American Airlines now offers a second daily flight from Dallas-Fort Worth. Allegiant Air now flies nonstop to San Juan from Cincinnati, Raleigh-Durham, and Pittsburgh, and Frontier Airlines recently added three weekly flights from Miami. The neighboring islands of Vieques and Culebra are easier to visit now, too, with ferry tickets available for advance purchase via porferry.com—K.M.

British Virgin Islands

 

A post-hurricane refresh makes the Caribbean’s sailing capital more alluring than ever.

When to go: Skip hurricane season (June through November) and visit in spring, when the weather is balmy and underwater visibility is high, revealing colorful reefs and historic shipwrecks. 

Why go: With the reopening of several major resorts in 2020, this is the year the British Virgin Islands fully rebound from the devastating 2017 hurricane season. Richard Branson’s Necker Island reopened after multimillion-dollar renovations in late 2018, unveiling additional accommodations and wind turbines that produce almost all of the resort’s energy. Over on Virgin Gorda, Rosewood Little Dix Bay reopens in January 2020 with midcentury modern interiors that hark back to when the resort first opened in 1964. As for the Willy T, the beloved floating bar and restaurant destroyed in Hurricane Irma? A newer, larger replacement serves up rum-soaked fun just off Norman Island, believed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Need to know: There are no direct flights to the islands from the U.S. mainland, but several airlines connect to Tortola via San Juan, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean hubs. Travelers who fly to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands can ride the ferry to Tortola—part of the local ferry network that makes island-hopping easy and scenic. Those who prefer to plot their own course between turquoise coves and pirate caves will find crewed yachts and catamarans ready to charter. —K.M. and L.M.

Thanks to: www.afar.com


Where to Go in 2020 / Summer

Category : Europe 2020 , World 2020

Summer

Toronto, Ontario

With its diverse cities and wealth of outdoor spaces, Canada has always been a playground for travelers. We’re celebrating our neighbor to the north in each season. In summer, see why Canada’s most diverse city is ready for its close-up.

When to go: Toronto kicks off the party with a slew of June events, including the music-and-gaming festival North by Northeast (June 12–21), the Toronto Jazz Festival (June 19–28), and Toronto Pride (June 26–28), which draws upwards of a million people for its parade, march, and family programs.

Why go: There’s never been a better time to visit Canada’s largest and most diverse city. Nearly half of all residents—46 percent—are immigrants (versus about 20 percent nationally), and they speak more than 170 languages. There are many ways for travelers to engage with that diversity. In May, the city will celebrate the second iteration of Indigenous Fashion Week (May 28–31), presenting clothing and textiles from Native designers via runway shows, markets, workshops, and exhibits. Travelers can also celebrate the city’s large LGBTQ community. Ticket sales for the 30th anniversary of Inside Out, the LGBTQ film festival (May 21–31), help support new outreach initiatives such as the RE:Focus Fund, which provides financing to LGBTQ women, nonbinary, and trans filmmakers. Visitors in 2020 will be able to check into Canada’s first Ace Hotel, slated to open in the Fashion District, and the expanded Drake Hotel, a beloved homegrown, art-filled gathering place showcasing local artists and musicians.

Need to know: Streetcars supplement Toronto’s safe and clean subway system. An airport rail line connects the city center to its largest airport, Toronto Pearson. (For budget-minded travelers, the low-cost Porter Airlines lands at the smaller airport located on an island opposite downtown. There’s a free shuttle bus from the airport to Union Station.) Bike Share Toronto rents wheels at 465 stations. —Elaine Glusac

Loire Valley, France

 

A growing natural wine movement shakes up a region bound by tradition.

When to go: In September and October, the château crowds thin, the wine harvest hits its peak, and the vineyards blush crimson and gold. During the annual Vines, Wines, Walks in early September, local winemakers lead more than a dozen vineyard walking tours, with tastings and food pairings.

Why go: Across the Loire Valley, rebel winemakers have embraced wine’s natural expressions. The delicious results await oenophiles at wineries such as Domaine de l’Ecu, which makes natural wines in clay amphoras—an 8,000-year-old tradition only recently revived in France. La Coulée de Serrant is worth a visit for its views and history alone, not to mention its Savinnières, a biodynamic white from local chenin blanc grapes. For natural red wine, Domaine de Montcy specializes in sauvignon-chardonnay blends, as well as wine made from the rare romorantin grape—a cousin to chardonnay. In medieval alleys of Angers, several wine bars offer natural sips: L’Angevigne focuses on all-natural wines from local Loire appellations, while Une Fille et Des Quilles serves organic and biodynamic wines from around the country, alongside a range of excellent cheeses, charcuterie, and terrines.

Need to know: From Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, TGV trains run to Angers (2.5 hours) and Tours (just under two hours), the valley’s railway hub. Driving the length of the Loire from Nantes to Sancerre takes only four hours, but it’s a journey best enjoyed over a couple of days. Cyclists can tour the valley along the signposted Loire à Vélo route, which follows the river for 500 miles to the Atlantic Ocean. Les Vélos Verts offers bike rentals at multiple locations, or travelers can opt for a six-day cycling tour with DuVine, with stops at castles and local wineries. —K.M.

The Finger Lakes, New York

 

Celebrate 100 years of U.S. women’s right to vote in the place where the suffrage movement began.

When to go: The Finger Lakes shine when the days (and the waters) are warm. August 26, 2020, also marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. The Finger Lakes—birthplace of the women’s right movement—will honor the anniversary on August 26 in Seneca Falls. 

Why go: Largely known for its 11 shimmering lakes and 100-plus wineries, the region is also where the women’s rights convention that ultimately launched the suffrage movement was held. To celebrate the centennial, the Finger Lakes region created a list of 100 ways to fete female empowerment throughout 2020, starting with the three-day Women March (January 17–19). Come summer, outdoor enthusiasts can hop on WomanTours’ women-only cycling trip (July 9–12). The route will include visits to major historical sites in Seneca Falls and Rochester, including the courthouse where Susan B. Anthony was tried for the crime of voting (commemorations for her 200th birthday will also take place in 2020), and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, home to the Wesleyan Chapel, the site of the first women’s rights convention. Travelers can also support the many women-owned and -operated businesses in the Finger Lakes, such as Lucas Vineyards, Young Lion Brewing, Silver Waters Sailing, and Firelight Camps, a glamping site co-owned by cookbook author Emma Frisch. A night at the Belva Lockwood Inn includes an outing to the nearby Tioga County Historical Society to catch a living-history actor paying tribute to Ms. Lockwood, the first woman to run for president.

Need to know: The Finger Lakes are about 250 miles northwest of Manhattan. Travelers can fly into the gateway cities of Syracuse or Rochester or take an Amtrak train from New York City’s Penn Station to Syracuse (a five to six-hour trip). Once you’re in the Finger Lakes, renting a car is the easiest way to explore the region’s pastoral wonders. —N.W.

Southern England

 

An extensive new touring route makes it easier than ever to explore the region’s villages and towns.

When to go: The warm summer months (May through September) attract the most travelers. They also bring some of southern England’s most worthwhile festivals and events, including the Royal Ascot horse races in Berkshire (June 16–20) and the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath (September 11–20).  

Why go: In late 2018, the Great West Way, a touring route based on one of the first Great Roads commissioned in the early 20th century by the monarchy, made its debut. The 125-mile route stretches from London to Bristol, connecting small villages in between. A variety of options allow travelers to tackle the route, or portions of it, at their preferred pace. They can drive the Great West Way end to end, hop from town to town via the Great Western Railway, or cruise along the Thames and regional canals aboard privately chartered day and overnight boats. Bike paths and walking trails are ideal for travelers who want to explore the route’s natural landscapes over the course of a day, a week, or more. Trail markers along the route make it easy to navigate. Lodging choices include country campsites, castles, family farms, and high-end hotels. In spring 2019, the bucolic Monkey Island Estate opened just minutes from Bray, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village near Berkshire with three Michelin-starred restaurants. (Despite its high-profile culinary scene, the town lacked a proper luxury hotel before Monkey Island.) Farther west, in the town of Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage site, new areas of the ancient baths, including a laconicum (Roman sauna) will open to the public in 2020, as will a new visitor’s center. 

Need to know: Direct flights to London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports are available from most international airports in the United States. The Great West Way Discoverer Pass allows unlimited train and bus travel between London’s Paddington station and the Bristol Temple Meads station, with options to branch off in the Thames Valley, the Cotswolds, and Wiltshire (three-day tickets from $126; seven-day tickets from $166).  —Lindsay Lambert Day

Greenland

 

Unburdened by mass tourism, this arctic island is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream destination.

When to go: From June until September, summer temperatures hover at an agreeable 50 degrees, and long days (the sun doesn’t set from late May through July) mean more time to soak in the scenery. Travelers can join locals as they celebrate Greenland’s National Day on June 21 with traditional music, folk dancing, and patriotic ceremonies in town squares.

Why go: As Iceland struggles with its popularity, its neighbor Greenland has become an alluring option for travelers who want polar adventures without the crowds. Travelers can test their mettle on the 100-mile Arctic Circle Trail or explore the planet’s largest national park, in northeast Greenland. Clocking in at just over 836,000 square miles, Greenland is the world’s biggest island—nearly 80 percent of which is covered in ice. These attributes mean that the country feels the effects of climate change more starkly, and two new trips in 2020 from the Norwegian company 50 Degrees North are putting the issue front and center. Led by Greenlander Lykke Geisler Yakaboylu, the five- to six-day tours include these highlights: Travelers cruise to the 656-foot tall Eqi Glacier by boat, go whale-watching in Disko Bay, and visit such UNESCO World Heritage sites as the Ilulissat Icefjord. Yakaboylu puts the sites in context for travelers by discussing the effect of climate change on the country’s melting ice sheet.

Need to know: The easiest way to get to Greenland from the United States is to first fly to Iceland. From Reykjavík, Iceland, travelers can catch a 90-minute connecting flight on Air Iceland to either Nuuk, Greenland’s capital city, or to Ilulissat. A land of few roads, Greenland is linked via a web of sea and air routes serviced by seasonal domestic flights, helicopters, boats, and ferries. —N.W.

Mozambique

 

Experience the revival of Gorongosa National Park via one of the stylish new lodges slated to open this year.

When to go: During the dry season from June through September, temperatures rarely rise past the mid-80s, and it’s the prime time to view game: Animals cluster around the few watering holes that remain.

Why go: Gorongosa National Park occupies nearly one million acres in Mozambique’s Great Rift Valley and has thriving populations of lions, elephants, wildebeests, buffalo, and hippos. But it wasn’t always this way. A brutal civil war that started in 1977 and lasted for 16 years stripped the park of 95 percent of its large mammals, as animals were slaughtered for their valuable hides and ivory, which were sold to help finance the war. In 2008, the country’s rehabilitation efforts got a $40 million boost from American philanthropist Greg Carr. His foundation partnered with the Mozambique government on a long-term restoration project to reintroduce wildlife and lift local communities through ecotourism—the results of which we’re starting to see. Travelers can join in the conservation efforts with outfitter Roar Africa, to monitor and collect data on local animal populations, or perhaps to participate in the Paleo Primate Project, which studies human evolution via the park’s baboons. Come July, travelers can check into one of six stylish tented suites on the banks of the Mussicadzi River at Muzimu Tented Camp. The forthcoming, and highly anticipated, Royal Gorongosa from hotelier Liz Biden will have eight well-appointed tents, each featuring a large deck and a plunge pool. Both properties will offer game drives, boating safaris, and bushwalks to see the park’s flourishing game.  

Need to know: U.S. travelers should apply for a single-entry visa ($160) before traveling. Most people fly first to Johannesburg, South Africa, then catch a two-hour flight to Beira, Mozambique. From Beira, it’s a 30-minute flight to the Chitengo landing strip inside Gorongosa National Park. Hotels will provide transfers from the airfield. To explore a bit farther, Roar Africa can pair park visits with trips to Vilanculos, a coastal town nearly 300 miles south, or Benguerra Island for the ultimate bush and beach adventure. —N.W.

The Pantanal, Brazil

 

Explore an under-the-radar wildlife region that’s home to South America’s top predator: the jaguar.

When to go: The optimal—and most comfortable—time to spot wildlife is during the drier months (May through September). June and September are the best months to see a jaguar and avoid high-season crowds. 

Why go: Effective June 17, 2019, Brazil waived visas for U.S. citizens. While the Brazilian Amazon gets a lot of attention—both for its biodiversity and for the many threats to it—the Pantanal region, 1,500 miles south, is the world’s largest freshwater wetland and has the highest density of wildlife on the continent. Spanning more than 68,000 square miles, this UNESCO World Heritage site encompasses floodplains and rivers, grasslands and forests, and lakes and mountains. It’s all habitat for a staggering number of endemic species, including jaguars, hyacinth macaws, giant anteaters, marsh deer, capybaras, caimans, and tapirs, to name just a few. The Pantanal’s northern region, more famous for jaguar sightings, attracts more people. To escape the crowds, travelers can book a cabin on the recently refurbished 10-suite Peralta luxury expedition ship, which offers four-day sailings on the Paraguay River as well as excursions to donate toys, jackets, and other supplies to local schoolchildren. The southern region is more remote and gives travelers a chance to experience traditional Pantaneiro (cowboy) culture at former cattle ranches transformed into ecolodges. Guests staying at the Caiman Eco-Lodge, a 131,000-acre working farm and ecological refuge, can observe research activities at the Onçafari Project, Brazil’s innovative environmental initiative to protect jaguars.

Need to know: Travelers no longer need visas but should consider a yellow fever vaccination. To access the Pantanal, fly to one of the gateway airports, Cuiabá in the north or Campo Grande in the south. Many lodges offer transfer by small plane—flights take about an hour—or in a 4×4 vehicle, which may take six hours or more. Travelers can tack on a trip to nearby Bonito (it’s closest to the southern region) to float down the crystalline Rio da Prata beneath a canopy alive with toucans and capuchin monkeys. —N.W.

Ponza, Italy

 

As the marquee Italian destinations grapple with overtourism, we’ve chosen four places to get off the beaten path—one for each season. Summer like an Italian on this laid-back alternative to the Amalfi Coast.

When to go: From June through August, this sleepy island—the largest of the Pontine Islands, an archipelago off the coast of Naples—comes alive, as Romans and other Italians arrive on summer holiday. Every June 20, locals celebrate the island’s patron saint, San Silverio, with concerts, fireworks, and a religious procession.

Why go: Ponza resembles the nearby Amalfi Coast, down to the winding roads that lead to scenic lookouts and footpaths that descend to rocky coves. But it’s not nearly as bustling—yet. Though most of Ponza’s tourists are Italians, the island is starting to appear on the radar of savvy international travelers, so go now, before the crowds descend. There’s no better place to embrace the Italian dolce far niente (sweet idleness). Travelers can sunbathe on the beach and swim at secluded bays such as Cala Fèola, or hire a private boat to explore grottoes only accessible by sea. There aren’t any five-star hotels on Ponza, but the Hotel Chiaia di Luna offers a great location overlooking Chiaia di Luna Beach, plus floors with majolica tiles and a breezy terrace restaurant. Nearby, Baretto 99 serves Aperol spritzes and other aperitivi from a pineapple-shaped kiosk. Baretto’s makeshift sofas are the perfect spot to catch a sunset before strolling to the portside restaurant L’Aragosta for spaghetti alle vongole (with clams) and the catch of the day.

Need to know: Travelers can take a 90-minute train ride from Rome to Formia, then catch a seasonal ferry or hydrofoil to Ponza. Or they can fly into Naples (which recently got seasonal direct flights from Newark on United) and take a hydrofoil with the ferry service SNAV (they offer five per week). Once travelers are on the three-square-mile island, it’s easy to rent a scooter or take a taxi to get around. —Laura Itzkowitz

Trondheim, Norway

 

The port city is Scandinavia’s next can’t-miss dining destination. 

When to go: In warm summer months, daylight stretches late into the night, which makes for some seriously stunning evenings exploring along the city’s canals. Starting July 30, local farmers, seafood purveyors, and other producers will converge in the city center for the annual three-day Trondheim Food Brewers Festival.  

Why go: It’s no surprise that Trondheim, a fjord-side city 300 miles north of Oslo, has deep commercial fishing roots. Possibly more surprising is the city’s growing reputation as a dining destination, thanks to new spots serving, yes, modern Nordic cuisine, but also updated Norwegian comfort foods. In 2019, two restaurants earned Trondheim its first Michelin stars: Fagn, where founder and head chef Jonas Andre Nåvik dreams up artful dishes that highlight nature, and Credo, where the flavors and presentation pay tribute to the farms, waterways, and woods from which ingredients are sourced. (Credo, led by chef Heidi Bjerkan, also received the first Michelin Nordic Guide Sustainability Award.) Locals wonder if a star might soon be awarded to Speilsalen, the fine-dining restaurant inside the newly reopened Britannia Hotel where chef Christopher Davidsen also showcases local ingredients. But food isn’t the only thing worth a plane ticket to Trondheim. Bartenders such as Jørgen Dons of Raus Bar and Øyvind Lindgjerdet of Britannia Bar are reinventing aquavit cocktails with unexpected techniques. Beer fans who are up for a day trip can board a RIB boat (an inflatable motorized craft) and speed across Trondheim Fjord to the tiny island of Tautra, where a tiny pub serves local beer and seafood. 

Need to know: Plenty of airlines offer connecting flights to Trondheim from most major U.S. airports. Travelers who prefer the scenic route can take a roughly seven-hour train ride from Oslo. Trondheim is walkable, and the city’s tourism office runs engaging food tours and coffee walks. Visitors can call on outfitter Crazy Coyote Events for a RIB boat ride to the Øyrekka islands.  —L.L.D.

Kauai

 

Hawaii’s “Garden Isle” has rebounded from floods, and the Napali Coast’s Kalalau Trail has reopened with sustainability top of mind. 

When to go: June, the coolest of Hawaii’s summer months, is an ideal time to visit. King Kamehameha Day (June 11) is a statewide holiday, with parades to celebrate the first monarch to unite the Hawaiian Islands.

Why go: The Napali Coast on Kauai’s North Shore has long beckoned travelers. There are the golden beaches, the precipitous cliffs rising out of the cobalt waters of the Pacific—and traversing it all, the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, an arduous trek that winds past a towering waterfall and lowland forest. There were also, however, crowds, especially on those golden beaches. So in mid-2018, after the region closed following record rainfall that caused devastating floods and landslides, local officials and residents took the opportunity to reassess. During the year it took to make repairs, locals saw wildlife return to bays and beaches it had once abandoned due to flocking visitors. In late 2019 the area reopened under a new tourist management system that limits crowds in two preserves: Haena State Park and Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. The nearby Limahuli Garden and Preserve, which has endangered plants and birds found nowhere else on the planet, also has a new booking system in place to reduce crowds. Hanalei, a walkable, tranquil town on a crescent bay, serves as the gateway to the Napali Coast, and it, too, is back on its feet after the storms.

Need to know: In the past, as many as 2,000 people a day visited Hāʻena State Park and its beach. Now, entry is capped at 900, parking is limited and strictly enforced, and a new North Shore shuttle service requires advance reservations. Travelers can book up to 30 days in advance. Meanwhile, airfares to Hawaii are dropping as competition soars. Southwest begins direct flights to Kauai from both Oakland and San Jose, CA, in January 2020. —Tovin Lapan

Japan

 

This year, all eyes will be on Japan as the 2020 Summer Olympics (July 24–August 9) kick off in Tokyo. But the warm summer season is also a wonderful time to explore beyond the capital city by cooling off in the mountains of Nikko, exploring Hokkaido’s wildflower-strewn peaks, or cycling through the rural islands of Kyushu and Shikoku.

 

NIKKO

One of Japan’s most skimmed-over destinations is ready for a deeper dive.

When to go: Mountainous Nikko, just two hours north of Tokyo, is a cool respite from the sweltering city. During the annual Ryuou Festival in late July, locals carry portable Shinto shrines through the city streets as part of a traditional parade to celebrate and encourage prosperity.

Why go: For years, Nikko was known as a day-trip destination. Travelers would take the train up from Tokyo to wander the 103 buildings that make up the Shrines and Temples of Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and to explore Nikko National Park, a 443-square-mile spread with sacred peaks, macaque monkeys, hot springs, and Lake Chuzenji, not far from the imperial family’s former summer villa. Until recently, there were few hotels to tempt overnighters, but this summer, the ryokan Nikko Fufu will open near the Toshogu shrine with 24 suites featuring private outdoor baths. In spring 2020, the 94-room Ritz-Carlton, Nikko will open in the mountains above town, with views of the lake. From the Ritz-Carlton, travelers will be able to walk to the lake’s thundering Kegon Falls and to the former British and Italian embassies, where the grounds have been converted to parks and the historic residences to lakeside cafés.

Need to know: From Tokyo’s Tobu Asakusa station, it’s almost a two-hour train ride to the Tobu Nikko station, where a concierge can provide free maps and directions. Most travelers opt for the efficient bus system, which ferries people from the train station to the shrines and the park’s main highlights. Getting to the lake is an impressive ride: Irohazaka Winding Road ascends over 1,200 feet via 48 mountain switchbacks. —E.G.

 

SOUTHERN ISLANDS

Surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea, the quieter islands of southern Japan offer spectacular bike routes and a new hotel that pays tribute to history.

When to go: In June, pink rhododendrons bloom across the slope of Kyushu’s Mount Aso, forming a scenic backdrop for cyclists. Later in the season, the vibrant port city of Tokushima hosts the three-day Awa Odori dance festival (August 12–15), which brings together some of Japan’s best dance teams. 

Why go: The islands south of Honshu, Japan’s main island, are uniquely suited to cycling. A new, eight-day trip from Raid Cycling introduces travelers to some of the highlights. The trip starts in Onomichi on Honshu at the stylish Hotel Cycle. From there, guests first tackle the Shimanami Kaido, a 43-mile cycling route that crosses bridges and takes riders through Setonaikai National Park before ending in the city of Imabari on the island of Shikoku. (The trip doesn’t include an overnight on Shikoku, but come spring, travelers to the island’s Ehime Prefecture will be able to stay in Ozu Castle, a re-creation of a 14th-century wooden fortress that overlooked the Hijikawa River.) Travelers return to Onomichi, then ride to Hiroshima and spend the night, before packing up and boarding a high-speed train to the island of Kyushu, a diverse mix of mountains and farmland. Riders spend the second half of the trip winding through green tea fields and shiitake farms and sleeping in traditional ryokans. The grand finale is a 43-mile ride up Mount Aso, an active volcano. 

Need to know: In 2019, Delta launched direct flights from Seattle to Osaka, the closest international airport to Shikoku. The seasonal route starts up again on March 30. Bike rental stations are offered at more than a dozen points along the Shimanami Kaido. —Alex Schechter

 

HOKKAIDO

Visit this northern island in summer for summer blooms, festivals, and some of Japan’s finest hiking.

When to go: By June 1, wildflowers such as lupine and phlox blanket the island’s rolling hills. But the more-than-a-century-old Hokkaido Shrine Festival (June 14–16) is the true summer opener, ushering in a string of events celebrating lavender, fire, and traditional dance, many of which include firework displays.

Why go: With its legendary ski slopes and powder, Hokkaido has long attracted winter travelers, but summer hasn’t been as much of a draw. This year brings a change, as well-known luxury hotels open in the ski town of Niseko with an emphasis on year-round activities. At the new 50-suite Ritz-Carlton Reserve, local mountain guides will lead hiking tours, and a glassy eight-story Park Hyatt will be located within walking distance of trails on adjacent Mount Niseko-Annupuri. Beyond Niseko, the Asia custom tour specialist Remote Lands is expanding its 2020 Hokkaido tours with wildflower hikes to Lake Hangetsu, a volcanic lake at the foot of Mount Yotei, as well as visits to Upopoy, the first national museum dedicated to Japan’s indigenous Ainu peoples, opening in spring 2020. Summer in Hokkaido also brings celebrations of seasonal ingredients, notably fruit, white corn, potatoes, and burdock root. Miyakawa, a three-Michelin-star sushi restaurant in Sapporo, makes good use of Hokkaido’s salmon and sea urchins, while Machimura Nojo, a 100-year-old dairy farm outside Sapporo, mixes burdock root with mascarpone to create one of Japan’s richest ice creams.

Need to know: Hokkaido isn’t as hyper-connected as the rest of Japan, but regularly scheduled trains can get travelers around the island (there’s even a Rail Pass for Hokkaido). Car rentals, widely available at Sapporo Airport, are the best bet for exploring Hokkaido. Roads are safe and most are well marked in English, but drivers need an international driver’s permit. —A.H.G.

Thanks to: www.afar.com


Where to Go in 2020 / Autumn

Category : Europe 2020 , World 2020

Where will 2020 take you? Below, you’ll find 36 destinations to kick-start your travel dreaming and scheming. We’ve surfaced emerging places. We’ve highlighted unexpected spots. And we’ve blown out a handful of classic destinations—the places we return to again and again, such as Italy and Japan—with alternatives to the big cities and the most crowded seasons. Scroll down to begin your 2020 journey.

Autumn

Rimini, Italy

As the marquee Italian destinations grapple with over tourism, we’ve chosen four places to get off the beaten path—one for each season. Our autumn pick is the hometown of Federico Fellini, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of his birth this year.

When to go: Starting in September, the throngs disperse and harvest season ramps up. Culture comes to the forefront, including in nearby Ravenna, where the Autumn Trilogy of opera, an extension of the Ravenna Festival, takes place in early November.

Why go: Rimini is the hometown of Federico Fellini—and it was a constant source of inspiration for the seminal film director. (Rimini was the setting for such Fellini classics as Amarcord and I Vitelloni.) In 2020, the 100th anniversary of Fellini’s birth, the coastal city will salute its most famous son with the opening of the new Federico Fellini International Museum. The indoor-outdoor attraction will include the still-operational Cinema Fulgor theater—recently restored by three-time Oscar-winning art director Dante Ferretti—where a young Fellini fell hard for film. CircAmarcord, an outdoor art space, will link the cinema to the Renaissance-era Sismondo Castle, where Fellini first became captivated by a circus held on the castle grounds. Exhibits in the castle will reproduce Fellini film sets in both real life and virtual reality. No Fellini tour of Rimini would be complete without a pilgrimage to the 1908 Grand Hotel Rimini, which the director re-created in fantasy sequences in Amarcord. It’s one of the many stops on a new self-guided walking tour map, available at the city’s tourism office. 

Need to know: Most airlines offer flights from major European cities to Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, 73 miles northwest of Rimini. From Bologna, it’s a 90-minute train ride to Rimini’s main Piazzale Cesare Battisti station. The historic city center is a 10-minute walk from the train station; some 55 miles of cycling routes make it easy to get around with a rental bike. —E.G.

Los Angeles

 

Hospitality gets a boost thanks to a hotel boom and the return of the Michelin Guide.

When to go: There’s really no bad time to visit Los Angeles. But in September and October, the temperature is in the mid-70s most days, the period of overcast skies known as Southern California’s “June Gloom” is long over, and the chance of rain is slim to none. 

Why go: Over the last year, the city has welcomed a flood of new, exciting hotels—and the development shows no signs of abating. The 1 Hotel West Hollywood and the Santa Monica Proper Hotel opened in mid-2019. The ever-growing downtown district (DTLA) now has a Hoxton hotel, with the DTLA Proper set to open just across the street. About two miles east, the Soho Warehouse and the Firehouse Hotel are energizing the once-desolate Arts District. In Century City, the Fairmont will open come summer in the former (and historic) Century Plaza Hotel, staying true to the Plaza’s midcentury roots. But a trip to L.A. this year isn’t only about where to stay—it’s also about where to eat and what to do. The return of the Michelin Guide to Los Angeles (part of its first, all-California guide), after a 10-year hiatus, celebrates the vibrancy of the city’s fine-dining scene. N/naka and Vespertine are among six L.A. restaurants that received two Michelin stars. The slated 2020 opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the designation of the area’s first UNESCO World Heritage site (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in East Hollywood) round out the cultural highlights for a metropolis that often gets more attention for its beaches and celebrity sightings. 

Need to know: LAX has big plans to make getting to and from the airport less hectic, but the airport trains that will connect terminals and rental car facilities with the Los Angeles Metro system won’t be complete until at least 2023. Until then, be prepared to jump a few hurdles. Arriving passengers using ride share apps will need to take a shuttle bus to a parking lot near Terminal 1 to meet their drivers. (Curbside drop-offs are still allowed.)—L.M.

Dubai

 

Dive into a heady mix of creativity and innovation at the first World Expo to be hosted in the Middle East.

When to go: Travelers can time a visit to coincide with the launch of Expo 2020 Dubai on October 20, or with Diwali, the over-the-top, five-day festival of lights that begins on November 14. 

Why go: This year, Dubai will host Expo 2020, a prodigious six-month exhibition that brings together 192 nations to showcase human ingenuity in the context of three themes: opportunity, mobility, and sustainability. At the 1,080-acre Expo site in the Dubai South district, travelers will be able to engage with the themes through global fare (from street food to haute cuisine), VR and AI experiences, 60 live performances per day (including music, comedy, and dance), large-scale art installations, a rotating observation tower, and the world’s largest 360-degree projection dome. In the three main pavilions, attendees will find interactive exhibits such as a massive balancing maze that requires people to work together to bring the “earth” into balance, and a pinball game where the future of the planet is at stake. The innovation won’t stop at the Expo. Dubai’s Museum of the Future, slated to open in 2020, will not only house groundbreaking inventions, it will also function as an interdisciplinary incubator. At least seven hotels are opening (or reopening) in 2020, including the new Royal Atlantis Resorts & Residences, a sister project to the revamped Atlantis, The Palm, the first hotel built on artificial Palm Jumeirah island; and ME by Meliá Dubai, designed by the late Iraqi British architect Zaha Hadid.

Need to know: Emirates and Etihad Airways are expected to add flights from major cities around the world during the Expo. Dubai’s Metro is getting an upgrade with seven new stations, including one at the Expo site. To get deeper access to the Expo, work with the outfitter Desert Gate, which can organize themed tours based on travelers’ interests, as well as pre- and post-Expo trips to Oman and the Maldives. —N.W.

Namibia

 

In Africa’s only International Dark Sky Reserve, a reimagined desert lodge looks to the stars.

When to go: During April and May, prices are reasonable, days are warm, and nights are cool. Best of all, the skies are often cloudless and animals congregate by watering holes—ideal for photography.

Why go: The Namib Desert is the oldest desert in the world—and arguably the most stunning. Fifty-five million years have churned its sand into tiny gems that reflect light in unique ways, shifting from bright red to shadowy purple. With those fiery dunes juxtaposed against the blue Atlantic Ocean, it’s easy to see why this is a photographer’s paradise. Namibia is also gaining attention for its unusual safari wildlife, such as desert-adapted elephants, giraffes, oryx, and rhinos, plus lions that hunt seals on the beach. Several new lodges bring a luxury experience to the area, including the Olupale Safari Lodge, which is projected to open in early 2020 just outside Etosha National Park. But Namibia’s best-kept secret remains its night sky. The NamibRand Nature Reserve is Africa’s sole International Dark Sky Reserve (there’s also a new International Dark Sky Sanctuary in South Africa), and it’s one of the darkest places in the world at night. The newly rebuilt andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is the place to marvel at that starry sky, thanks to its remote location (87 miles from the nearest town), open design (floor-to-ceiling windows, above-bed skylights), and state-of-the-art observatory where astronomers lead nightly stargazing sessions with a research-grade telescope. The Kwessi Dunes lodge, slated to open in March 2020, is also taking advantage of the darkness in the NamibRand Nature Reserve: Each of its 12 accommodations will have a separate “stargazer” room open to the sky.

Need to know: Distances are vast, so after flying into the capital, Windhoek, travelers can opt for internal flights between lodges, parks, and reserves across the country. Some spots, especially in Etosha, can be crowded with tourists, so use a planner with extensive local knowledge of itinerary routing, accommodations, and timing. Some spots can be touristy, so beware travel companies that focus on a mass track. —Billie Cohen

The Grampians, Australia

 

Drink in dramatic views on a hike in Grampians National Park, then drink in the region’s top-notch wines.

When to go: The spring months in Australia, September through November, when temperatures average in the low 60s, are perfect for multiday treks in Grampians National Park. Travelers can time a visit to coincide with the Seriously Shiraz wine festival, celebrated at a number of the region’s wineries, or the annual Wildflower Walkabout, a two-day, hiking-focused celebration of local blooms in Halls Gap and Grampians National Park. 

Why go: A new trail offers travelers access to some of Australia’s most dramatic scenery. Many hikers set their sights on the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. But the less-trodden Grampians range in Grampians National Park—three hours northwest of Melbourne—offers more dramatic topography, as well as dense populations of kangaroos, wallabies, and emus, and the most Aboriginal rock art of any park in southern Australia. Now, thanks to the multimillion-dollar Grampians Peaks Trail, it’s a backpackers’ paradise. The first stage, a 22-mile loop, is already complete, and stage two debuts in March 2020. Once finished in late 2020, the 99-mile trail will span the length of the park and feature new campsites. Travelers can tackle the current route alone or take a guided hike with Absolute Outdoors. Don’t leave without paying homage to Aboriginal Australians at Brambuk, the cultural center in the gateway village of Halls Gap. Brambuk’s Aboriginal guides also offer tours of the park’s five rock art sites. After hiking, travelers can head for the Grampians’ lesser-known wine region, just 30 minutes east of Halls Gap. Best’s Great Western winery makes sparkling shiraz and cabernet sauvignon from some of the oldest vines in the country. The recently refurbished Royal Mail Hotel serves seasonal multi-course tasting menus with ingredients such as Cylindra beetroot, white asparagus, and watercress—all plucked daily from Australia’s largest restaurant kitchen garden—and wine from a 28,000-bottle wine cellar.

Need to know: The fastest way to get to Grampians National Park is to fly into Melbourne—United Airlines and Qantas recently launched direct flights from SFO—then rent a car and drive three hours northwest along the renowned Great Southern Touring Route. After dark, beware of kangaroos on the road. Travelers can also get to Halls Gap from Melbourne via train and bus. —N.W.

Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Almost a decade after two earthquakes devastated the city, Christchurch is buzzing once again—and showcasing its deep Māori roots.

When to go: Christchurch earns its “Garden City” nickname September through November, when daffodils awaken and cherry and magnolia trees are in bloom. Christchurch is also a convenient gateway for exploring the South Island by rail, and you can score shoulder-season discounts on the TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific train routes.  

Why go: Founded in 1856, Christchurch is the oldest city in New Zealand—but in many ways, it’s also the newest. The city center has been largely rebuilt after devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Travelers who want to explore the revived district can stay at the glossy new Sudima Hotel, shop and snack at the new Riverside Market, and take yoga classes and eat organic food at the Welder, a large-scale wellness center with a plastic-free grocery, organic juice bar, and plant-based cooking school—the first of its kind in New Zealand. More recent rebuilding efforts have placed a spotlight on the country’s historically overlooked indigenous Māori heritage. The Te Pae civic center, launching in October on the banks of the Avon River, will dish up regional Māori fare during conferences and conventions and host cultural events in its 1,400-seat auditorium. And Puari Village, a 2,690-square-foot riverside attraction scheduled to open in late 2020, will feature indigenous art, exhibitions, and cuisine, as well as river tours in waka (canoes) that touch on the aquatic traditions of the Māori people.

Need to know: Most travelers fly to Auckland, then take an 85-minute flight to Christchurch. But in late 2020, American Airlines will introduce a direct flight from LAX to Christchurch, the first ever nonstop flight from North America to the South Island. Once travelers are on the ground, bikes are a great way to explore the flat, compact city—rent wheels from Chill—and electric scooters, buses, and trams are readily available. —N.W.

Nepal

 

Nearly five years after a massive earthquake, community-minded tourism is on the rise.

When to go: Autumn (September through November) offers mild weather, clear mountain views, and festivals such as Dashain (October 23–28). The six-day fete includes temple offerings, animal sacrifices, parades, and processions honoring the goddess Durga. A few weeks later, locals will celebrate the Nepali festival of lights, Tihar (November 15–17), with candles and marigolds.

Why go: Travelers have been conquering Nepal’s mountains for decades—2019 brought a record number of Everest climbers—but only recently has tourism started trickling to communities in the Himalayan foothills. The five-year anniversary of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated parts of the country in 2015 is a good time to invest in ongoing reconstruction efforts and local livelihoods. Visitors can start in the Kathmandu Valley, with its seven UNESCO World Heritage zones, including Patan Durbar Square, a complex encompassing ornate temples, a former palace, and the Patan Museum, which have all been painstakingly restored. Raithaane restaurant recently opened nearby to serve heritage Nepali dishes such as a version of kheer (a traditional pudding) whipped from kaguno (a type of ancient millet). Thanks to the women-run Community Homestay Network, travelers can now stay with local families in 19 rural areas across Nepal, from the beautifully preserved town of Panauti to the indigenous Tharu village of Barauli, set on the banks of Chitwan National Park. To trek for a good cause, consider Sasane Sisterhood Trekking and Travel, a new outfitter from the nonprofit Sasane, which is run by survivors of sex-trafficking and human-trafficking. They offer single-day tours of Kathmandu as well as longer trips such as the seven-day Poonhill Trek in the Annapurna Region. For travelers who want to tie all of the above together: G Adventures’ new Himalaya Highlights tour, which unites two partnerships (with National Geographic and the Jane Goodall Institute) and offers a cultural immersion that supports Sasane, along with local guides, craftspeople, and environmentalists.

Need to know: Most travelers fly into Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. New hotels opened in 2019, including a new Marriott in Kathmandu. In 2020, two new airports will open in Nepal in Pokhara and Lumbini. —S.R.

Paris

 

The French capital welcomes a wave of haute hotels and cultural centers.

When to go: Paris in the springtime sounds divine, but the season is typically wet and fickle. The mild and colorful days between September and October are ideal for hopping between the new autumn exhibits at the city’s top museums, which include a Botticelli retrospective at the Musée Jacquemart-André (September 2020–January 2021) and a look at Africa’s influence on Basquiat at the Centre Pompidou (February 2020–May 2021).  

Why go: “New” and “novel” could define Paris any year, but the terms are especially apropros in 2020, thanks to a slew of hotly anticipated openings. La Samaritaine, the century-old department store that closed in 2005 for redevelopment, will shine once more on its perch overlooking the Seine when it reopens in the spring as a multipurpose complex. Expect new boutiques, a fine-dining restaurant with Michelin ambitions presided over by triple-starred chef Arnaud Donckele, a spacious garden terrace, and Cheval Blanc, the 72-room marquee hotel project from luxury group Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH). Equally grand in scale—though a few miles outside the city—is Le Grand Contrôle. The new boutique hotel from the Airelles Collection will occupy a trio of 17th-century buildings on the grounds of the Château de Versailles. But it’s Les Halles that will get one of the city’s biggest cultural landmarks. The 130-year-old Bourse de Commerce, formerly a trade center, is slated to reopen in June as the Bourse de Commerce–Pinault Collection, a contemporary art museum. Located in the shadow of the Louvre, the historic building was restored over the course of three years by the Pritzker-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando and financed entirely by Kering fashion group founder François Pinault. The museum will feature nearly 5,000 pieces, including work from such greats as Cindy Sherman and Cy Twombly, all sourced from Pinault’s personal collection. In Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s words, it’s destined to be “a gift to the city.”

Need to know: Daily nonstop flights to Paris are available from most international airports. —Lindsey Tramuta

Jasper, Alberta

 

With its diverse cities and wealth of outdoor spaces, Canada has always been a playground for travelers. We’re celebrating our neighbor to the north in each season. In autumn, look to the stars in one of the country’s finest dark sky preserves.

When to go: Between the summer tourist season and the arrival of winter, October is the ideal month to visit the town of Jasper and Jasper National Park. It’s Dark Sky month, when the annual Dark Sky Festival takes place (October 16–25).

Why go: Tucked up against the jagged Canadian Rockies and Jasper National Park, Jasper (population 4,795) is surrounded by natural beauty, attracting outdoor adventurers and nature lovers from around the world. But stunning views aren’t limited to daytime hours in this mountain hideaway. In 2011, the 4,247-square-mile Jasper National Park was designated a Dark Sky Preserve and UNESCO World Heritage site, meeting strict light-pollution limits to sustain some of the best stargazing on the planet. As part of a series of park upgrades, Whistlers Campground, the park’s largest camping area, is closed for renovation until late 2020, but travelers can still see the Milky Way above the thundering Athabasca Falls. More than 15,000 stargazers descend on Jasper every October for the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, a celebration that includes chats with former astronauts and leading astronomers, laser-guided tours of the constellations, evening hikes at Lake Annette, and much more. From the Dark Sky Dark Hefe beer at local Jasper Brewing Co. to the Star Sessions, a three-course dinner followed by a late-night tram ride, fall in Jasper is all about nature’s nightly light show.   

Need to know: Jasper is a five-hour drive from Calgary International Airport and a four-hour drive from Edmonton International Airport. Travelers coming from Calgary will follow the picturesque Icefields Parkway, a stunning route through towering mountains and ice fields. —Kade Krichko

Antigua

 

New accommodations make it easier to enjoy the island’s many beaches.

When to go: To avoid the crowds, head to Antigua in the shoulder-season months (May through November), when room rates drop and the pace of life slows down. The weather is usually warm, with lower humidity than most other Caribbean islands, although there’s a greater chance of rain. Antigua celebrates its November 1 Independence Day with a week of parades, food fairs, dance competitions, and art and craft exhibitions.

Why go: Hurricane Irma didn’t hit Antigua as hard as it did Barbuda, its sister island, when it swept through in 2017, but many of Antigua’s resorts, including Curtain Bluff, took the opportunity to refurbish themselves. And in late 2018, the opening of the 79-room Hodges Bay Resort & Spa (the island’s first new build in over three years) kicked off a hotel boom. The Royalton Antigua Resort & Spa on Deep Bay opened last May with 294 rooms and Antigua’s first overwater bungalows, and the 42-villa Hammock Cove recently opened practically next door to Devil’s Bridge National Park. Both Rosewood and Waldorf Astoria have plans to open resorts in the next few years. 

Need to know: Travelers on international flights will land at V.C. Bird International Airport. For those coming from other Caribbean islands, the inter-island carriers LIAT and Caribbean Airlines offer affordable flights. Renting a car is a popular way to sightsee along the 95-mile coastline and visit some of Antigua’s 365 beaches, or travelers can go off-roading on a tour with OUR outfitter. One of the more scenic routes is Fig Tree Drive through the rain forest and countryside on the southern coast. Rental cars must be driven on the left side of the road; the required temporary driving permit is available at car rental agencies, police stations, and the Transport Board for US$20. Alternatively, public transportation options include buses and taxis. To visit neighboring Barbuda for the day, take the Barbuda Express ferry, which departs from St. John’s Harbor six days a week. —L.M. and M.R.

Thanks to: www.afar.com


Where to Go in 2020 / Winter

Category : Europe 2020 , World 2020

Where will 2020 take you? Below, you’ll find 36 destinations to kick-start your travel dreaming and scheming. We’ve surfaced emerging places. We’ve highlighted unexpected spots. And we’ve blown out a handful of classic destinations—the places we return to again and again, such as Italy and Japan—with alternatives to the big cities and the most crowded seasons. Scroll down to begin your 2020 journey.

Winter

Bariloche, Argentina

A total solar eclipse and a meteor shower give astronomy buffs two good reasons to visit the Lake District.

When to go: The mountainous Lake District in Argentine Patagonia is best known for its ski resorts. But on December 14, 2020, just before summer begins in the Southern Hemisphere, a total solar eclipse will cut a path across Patagonia north of the region’s main resort town, Bariloche. Best yet? It’s highly likely eclipse-watchers will experience clear skies, and December temperatures hover around a mild 60 degrees.

Why go: The eclipse, of course, is a primary attraction. But stargazers can arrive early to witness the peak of the Geminid meteor shower the day before (December 13), which nearly coincides with a new moon—meaning the sky will be close to fully dark. Bariloche doesn’t lie within the path of totality—the swath in which the moon completely blocks the sun—but with its hotels, microbreweries, and easy access to nature, it’s the best base for eclipse-watchers. Travelers can spend a week hiking and exploring the region’s plentiful lakes and then, to witness the eclipse, drive 2.5 hours northeast of the city to the town of Piedra del Águila. The best bet for beating traffic and securing an ideal viewing spot in the remote area is to book a tour through an outfitter. 

Need to know: To get to Bariloche, travelers can fly to Buenos Aires, then take a 2.5-hour flight to San Carlos de Bariloche airport. (LATAM, Aerolíneas Argentina, and Norwegian all offer regular nonstop regional flights.) Travelers can rent cars at the airport. Traffic to Piedra del Águila will likely be intense on eclipse day, so it’s best to drive in a day early, as most outfitters will do. —Lyndsey Matthews

The Dolomites, Südtirol

 

As the marquee Italian destinations grapple with overtourism, we’ve chosen four places to get off the beaten path—one for each season. Our winter pick has new ways to ski, play, and stay in Italy’s northeastern alpine region.

When to go: Most ski resorts open December 1—in 2019, that coincides with Advent and the opening of Christmas markets across the region. But things will really get going on December 20 when the Südtirol’s four-day Ski World Cup kicks off. The season runs through mid-April, weather permitting. 

Why go: When commercial flights to the Dolomites region of Südtirol ended in 2015, there was concern about a loss of tourism to the area, where 700-plus miles of pistes connect 30 different ski areas. But the closure, which thinned out the crowds, has been a boon for Südtirol—and for travelers—as ski resorts and outfitters refocused their offerings around food, wine, and wellness. A microboom of new hotels includes the Adler Lodge Ritten, a scattering of black-timber chalets and bio saunas (cooler than traditional saunas) that circle a natural lake. Adler also offers yoga, cycling, and guided hikes. In late winter 2020, the outfitter Discover Your Italy will roll out snow hikes in Val Duron, as well as mountaintop pop-up dinners with optional snowplow passage for non-skiers. Butterfield & Robinson launches a new Dolomites Winter Adventure this year that will include runs on the Sella massif and snowshoe hikes to taverns serving wines from the neighboring Alto Adige region. This season also brings several new lifts that connect ski resorts, hotels, and new runs, including the Transhumanz route in Val Senales, named after an ancient migratory sheep path that skirts the Hochjochferner glacier.

Need to know: Many of the resorts in Italy’s majority German-speaking Südtirol (it’s just south of the Austrian border) are connected by lifts and ski runs, making it possible to get around without a car. The Austrian city of Innsbruck, as well as Venice and Verona in Italy, have the closest airports. From Innsbruck, it’s around two hours to Südtirol by train or bus; from Venice or Verona, it’s between 90 minutes to two hours by train. —Adam H. Graham

Churchill, Manitoba

 

With its diverse cities and wealth of outdoor spaces, Canada has always been a playground for travelers. We’re celebrating our neighbor to the north in each season. In winter, catch the northern lights in the newly reconnected polar bear capital of the world.

When to go: In October and November, polar bears migrate to the coast to await the return of winter sea ice. To see the northern lights, travelers should aim for January through March, when the skies are at their clearest.  

Why go: Six hundred miles north of Winnipeg, Churchill is an isolated enclave on the western edge of Hudson Bay, where beluga whales congregate in summer and the northern lights dance above the tundra 300 days a year. But the region’s biggest draw, of course, would be the hundreds of polar bears that flock to the area in October and November, when winterlike conditions set in. No roads reach Churchill, so the community is largely reliant on a train that ferries in both supplies and travelers from Winnipeg. Historic floods in 2017 washed away sections of the track, but train service resumed at the end of 2018, so Churchill—and its polar bears—are fully accessible again. The best way to see the bears is with a tour. Frontiers North Adventures converts a chain of rugged tundra buggies into an overnight wilderness camp complete with dining, sleeping, and lounge cars, while luxury outfitter Churchill Wild uses backcountry lodges for 7- to 11-day small-group walking safaris where visitors observe the massive mammals at eye level (albeit at a safe distance). Visitors who want to learn more should stop by the new Polar Bears International House, opened in fall 2019, where conservation scientists discuss bear ecology and their ongoing research on the impressive mammals. 

Need to know: Calm Air is the only commercial airline that flies to Churchill. For an overland adventure, travelers can take the two-day train journey from Winnipeg. During polar bear season, animals occasionally wander into town, so a voluntary 10 p.m. curfew minimizes unplanned encounters, and residents leave car and house doors unlocked just in case anyone needs to make a rapid escape. —Sarah Feldberg

The Bahamas

 

Hurricane Dorian can’t diminish the spirit of the islands—get a fresh perspective on this thriving cultural hub.

When to go: The dry winter months, when temperatures average 75 degrees, are the perfect time to experience some Bahamian sunshine. On Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day, the Junkanoo Festival—celebrating the Bahamas’ West African origins—takes place. From 1 a.m. on through the early morning, downtown streets are abuzz with parades of performers wearing colorful horned masks and dancing to the sounds of cowbells and goatskin drums. 

Why go: Hurricane Dorian devastated the northern reaches of the Bahamas in 2019, but the dozen or so other islands in the archipelago were not affected. Nassau, with its popular resorts Baha Mar and Atlantis, and more low-key spots such as the family-owned resorts on Cat Island, are ready to welcome guests. To see the Bahamas in a completely new way, book passage on Virgin Voyages, the new cruise line from Richard Branson’s group. Virgin will launch its first ship, the Scarlet Lady, in April, and its inaugural season will include a full-day stop at Virgin’s new private Beach Club on Bimini in the western Bahamas.

Need to know: Nonstop flights are offered from many major U.S. cities. Travelers who want to island hop can catch a flight from Nassau’s airport using the inter-island air service Bahamasair or take one of the many charter boats and water taxis. The Bahamas has its own currency, but it is matched in value with the U.S. dollar, so there’s no need to exchange your money; change is usually returned in the same currency. —L.M. and Mekalyn Rose

Guadeloupe

 

Travelers looking to celebrate will revel in this island’s syncopated atmosphere during Carnival.

When to go: Guadeloupe springs to life in January, the start of Carnival season. From January 1 through March 6, the archipelago holds a series of dance marathons, song contests, and parades, most of them centered in the capital, Basse-Terre. During this season, moderate winds provide some relief from the generally warm and humid air. Bring a light jacket for evenings.

Why go: On February 1, JetBlue launches its first direct seasonal flights between New York’s JFK airport and Pointe-à-Pitre. In advance of the new flights, the Club Med La Caravelle resort, which opened in 1974, unveiled a $47 million renovation that includes wine and rum cellars, a beach lounge, and new oceanfront rooms. Its new adults-only Zen Oasis has its own rooms, infinity pool, and yoga hut.

Need to know: Carnival is a popular time of year to visit, so be sure to book flights and hotels in advance. There aren’t many direct flights to Guadeloupe from the United States; most travelers will transfer from other Caribbean spots such as Martinique, Barbados, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once at Point-à-Pitre, it’s easy to travel by ferry to the smaller islands in Guadeloupe, each of them less than an hour’s ride away. To snorkel, dive, or sightsee around the coral reef, head to the beach to book with a local outfitter. —L.M. and M.R.

Canouan Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

 

Quiet and unspoiled, this Caribbean island offers comforts far from the crowds. 

When to go: Avoid the hottest months of the year (August through October) and plan a winter trip to the island in the Caribbean archipelago of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where wild tortoises outnumber human residents. Canouan is a quiet island, but it’s just a ferry ride over to St. Vincent, where, December 16 to 24, the Nine Mornings Festival brings music, dance, and parades to Heritage Square, Kingstown.

Why go: This hook-shaped speck of sand surrounded by turquoise waters is harder to get to than other Caribbean islands, but that’s the appeal. On the five-square-mile island, there’s not much to do beyond snorkeling the coral reef, relaxing in the sun loungers on Godahl Beach, or paddleboarding at Shell Beach. Travelers can also take a catamaran tour to Tobago Cays, where scenes from the Pirates of the Caribbean films were shot. The tiny downtown area and marina are perfect for an unhurried stroll. The Mandarin Oriental, Canouan, the former Pink Sands Club resort that reopened in 2018, has just 26 suites, each with a marble seaside patio. The hotel’s Cargo 4 Kids program invites guests to bring much-needed school supplies from home and deliver them to local students. 

Need to know: Travelers can fly to the island’s seaside airstrip via shared or chartered Grenadine Alliance jet from St. Vincent, Barbados, St. Lucia, or Grenada. Another option is the three-hour ferry ride from St. Vincent on the MV Barracouda, which runs Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the 2.25-hour ride on MV Gem Star on Tuesdays and Fridays, or the 3-hour ride on M/V Canouan Bay on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

—Jennifer Flowers and M.R. 

Thanks to: www.afar.com


20 Best Places to Go in 2020

Category : Europe 2020 , World 2020

It’s always an exciting time when we put together our list of destinations for the new year. We start our list of the best places to go in 2020 by surveying our well-traveled staff, and then our hyper-connected network of writers based all over the world. We look for the big reasons to visit destinations: The Olympics in Japan and the World Expo in Dubai are two major ones in 2020, but there are also smaller, surprising ones, such as the 800th birthday of a stunning Gothic cathedral or a new museum dedicated to African American music.

We aim to compile a list that is geographically diverse but also has points of interest for every traveler, whether you’ll fly for unparalleled stargazing, gorilla spotting in the wild, or shopping in Tangier. We know that you’re using this list throughout the year to plan your trips (frankly, we are too), so we vary the types of destinations on here, from summer escapes like western Michigan to far-flung locales like southeastern Australia. If your 2020 goal is to only travel to sunny islands, we’ve got you covered with this list.

Need more inspiration on a month-by-month basis? Check out our recommendations for where to go in January. After all, the best part of starting a new year might just be the endless possibilities for travel—where you’ll go, whom you’ll go with, and how those trips will change the way you see the world.

by CNT EDITORS


Top 10 Fairytale Towns in Germany

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Category : Europe , Germany

There’s no place like Germany when it comes to half-timbered homes, medieval castles, sweeping alpine vistas, and all the other makings of a fairytale backdrop for your vacation. My personal favorite time to visit is during the winter: sprinkle a little snow over everything and drop in a few Christmas markets and you won’t believe you’re still in the modern age. But at any time of year, these ten prettiest towns in Germany are sure to delight your eyes:

1. Rothenburg ob der Tauber

All right, let’s start the list with Rothenburg, because I think we can all agree, this is one of the most charming towns on the planet! This pretty town is located within an easy drive of Munich, Nuremberg, and Stuttgart—but trust me, you’ll want to spend at least a day wandering around the cobblestone streets of the well-preserved medieval town. You can see the whole Altstadt (old town) from the top of the Town Hall Tower, which I recommend doing early in the morning, before the crowds really set in. Then, spend the rest of the day getting lost down the countless alleyways!

Why go there?

Not only is Rothenburg well-connected to other southern German cities, but it has some of the best-preserved medieval architecture in the whole country. The 14th-century walls are still intact (although they did suffer some damage during WWII), and you can even take a walking tour of them. Plus, there’s the historic Marktplatz(market square), the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum, and plenty of other attractions that should more than keep you busy! Definitely don’t miss St. Jakob’s Church with its 500-year-old carved wooden altarpiece—one of the finest examples of craftsmanship in Germany.

Where to go: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

2. Dinkelsbuhl

One thing to note about Rothenburg is that it gets a crazy number of tourists every year, especially during the summer months and December, when tourism is at its peak across Germany. But nearby Dinkelsbuhl has all the charm of Rothenburg without all the people elbowing you out of the way to take that perfect picture! The town has an interesting history as it was accepting of both Protestants and Catholics during the Reformation—and it’s just a quaint little place with half-timbered buildings and window boxes galore!

Why go there?

Again, despite being one of the major stops along the Romantic Road, Dinkelsbuhl is far less crowded than Rothenburg. What this translates to is, you’re able to get prime people-watching seats at a street-side café. There’s no better way to experience German culture than watching everyday life happen before your eyes as you sip an afternoon coffee and enjoy a pastry or two. The town also features a number of different architectural styles, including Gothic (St. George’s Minster), late Roman (St. Paul’s), Rococo (the chapel in the Castle of the Teutonic Order), and more—so definitely get your camera ready to snap some shots!

Where to go: Dinkelsbühl, Germany

Dinkelsbuhl, Germany

3. Lubeck

Let’s jump up to the northern part of the country and talk about another medieval city: Lubeck. This city has one of the most extensive Altstadt, or old town, areas of any northern German city. Today, it’s still guarded by its iconic 15th-century red brick gate, and you’ll find plenty to love from the medieval city-center to the bustling Baltic Sea port areas.

Why go there?

There are six churches in Lubeck’s medieval quarter, and inside you’ll find some impressive examples of northern German ecclesiastical art. You’ll also want to check out the two city gates that have survived into the modern era, plus the old Rathaus, or town hall. But what I especially love about Lubeck is that it’s right there by the sea—don’t forget to view the ships at the Museumshafen or take a boat ride around the city! And you definitely need to try some of the marzipan that the city is famous for.

Where to go: Lübeck, Germany

Lubeck, Germany

4. Meissen

Meissen is one of the oldest towns in Saxony, so you definitely shouldn’t leave it off your itinerary! On first glance, the town actually looks a lot like Prague, thanks to its red roofs with the castle and cathedral set up on top of the town. But the culture of the town is uniquely German. What the town is really known for is its porcelain, which started being produced in the town in the early 16th century and which is still in production today.

Why go there?

Albrechtsburg, Meissen’s castle, dates to the 15th century and is considered to be Germany’s oldest castle. The Gothic architecture of the castle is very unique and well-worth a look. Next to the castle, you can also check out the Gothic cathedral—which frequently hosts classical music concerts! But the main attraction is the Meissen Porcelain Museum, which will tell you all about the town’s history as well as allow you to attend hands-on demonstrations. You can also browse shop after shop selling all sorts of different porcelain wares—so you should have no problem finding souvenirs for everyone on your list!

Where to go: Meissen, Germany

Meissen, Germany

5. Lindau

This town is located in the south of Germany, right on the border between Germany and Austria and right on the picturesque shores of Lake Constance (German: Bodensee). Pretty much anywhere you walk along the water, you can look out and see the Alps off in the distance—at least, you can if your eyes aren’t glued to the half-timbered houses and historical buildings of Lindau itself!

Why go there?

Lindau is a popular summertime resort, and with good reason! The lake stays pretty cool year-round, but that makes for a refreshing swim on those hot days. You’ll also have the chance to take boat trips on the lake, go hiking (I recommend heading to Bregenz and hiking up until you get a view of the lake), rent bikes, and otherwise participate in a plethora of outdoors activities. And oh yeah, did I mention that the town itself is incredibly beautiful? Your camera is going to be working overtime here for sure.

Where to go: Lindau, Germany

Lindau, Germany

6. Triberg

You can’t go to Germany and not visit the Black Forest! And although it might seem like there’s not much to do in a town as small as Triberg, you’re in for a surprise! Not only is the town itself charming, but it’s also a great place to learn about the history of the Black Forest area as well as to indulge in some outdoors activities (and some of the famous Black Forest cake—heaven in dark chocolate and cherry form!).

Why go there?

Soak in the cute town first, and then head over to Triberg’s Schwarzwaldmuseum, or Black Forest Museum. The place has a ton of artifacts, including many of the famous Black Forest cuckoo clocks that the region is known for. (Once you’ve finished there, head over to the House of 1000 Clocks where you can browse through different types of clocks—and buy traditional cuckoo clocks at a great price!) But also not to be missed is the quaint main street of town, and the nearby Triberger Waterfall, Germany’s tallest waterfall, which stands at an impressive 535 feet. There are a few different hiking trails in the area that will take you straight there.

Where to go: Triberg, Germany

Triberger, Germany

7. Worms

Although you might be a bit put off by the name of the town, Worms (pronounced vorms) is one of the oldest cities in Germany. It’s located right along the River Rhine, which is about as romantic as it gets, although it may not have the half-timbered houses of some of the other entries on this list. In fact, the town is famous as the setting of many medieval legends, including the Nibelungenlied about the hero Siegfried—so in my books, it definitely ranks amongst the top fairytale towns in the country!

Why go there?

Worms has been a religious city for many centuries. It’s 12th-century cathedral can be seen from all over the city—but the city is also home to the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe. You also can’t miss the Nibelungen Bridge and tower. But the smaller attractions are where the real charm is at. Pay a visit to the Liebfrauen Church, which is set amongst sprawling vineyards producing the delicious Liebfrauenmilch. Take a stroll along the Rhine or through the park surrounding Schloss Herrnsheim. You’re sure to find the fairytale beauty in every turn.

Where to go: Worms, Germany

Cathedral of Worms, Germany

8. Ramsau

You’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of St. Sebastian’s Church, located in Ramsau—they’re frequently on the covers of German guidebooks and brochures. And you’ve probably also seen pictures of the nearby Hintersee Lake. Or perhaps you’ve seen pictures of the fall festival, Almabtrieb, when the cows are brought down from the summer pastures for the cold winter. If you’re looking for a quaint, alpine village to spend your days in, look no further than Ramsau.

Why go there?

Although Ramsau is home to only about 3000 people, there are tons of things for you to do in the area. Whether you like hiking, skiing, swimming, star-gazing, or just relaxing and feasting on German food and drink, Ramsau is the place for you. And oh yeah, that church looks beautiful and straight out of a fairytale no matter what time of year it is.

Where to go: Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden, Germany

Ramsau, Germany

9. Bamberg

Bamberg became a UNESCO Heritage City in the early ’90s, and it’s easy to see why, given the medieval architecture that’s present in the old town. The city is spread over seven different hills, and it’s known for its arched bridges and the old Rathaus, which is perched on one of these arched bridges over the river. You’ll find many different styles of architecture here, from medieval and half-timbered to baroque to modern.

Why go there?

One of the main sights to see in Bamberg is its unique Rathaus, but you’ll also find similar fairytale-style buildings in the Alte Hofhaltung (Old Court), which was once home to the bishop. Speaking of bishops, don’t miss the 11th-century cathedral. And if all the architecture isn’t doing it for you, Bamberg is well-known for its numerous breweries, including the 15th-century Schlenkerla brewery, which make a type of smoked beer that isn’t made anywhere else in the world. Grab a tankard…er, glass…and some wurst you might feel like a knight from olden days!

Where to go: Bamberg, Germany

Bamberg, Germany

10. Bad Mergentheim

Bad Mergentheim is another pretty town where you’ll find quaint, cobblestoned streets and lovely half-timbered buildings. Also, as with all German towns that have ‘bad’ in the name, Bad Mergentheim is a spa town—and its waters have supposedly been curing people of various ailments for many centuries. I think everything about this town, from the history to the architecture, is absolutely lovely—and best of all, it’s a bit off the main tourist track!

Why go there?

Of all the towns on this list, I think Bad Mergentheim’s market square, with its colorful half-timbered buildings, is the prettiest—and not least of which because it isn’t crowded with tourists everywhere you look! And if your vision of fairytale includes knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress, you have to pay a visit to the Deutschordensschloss, or the castle that served as the medieval home for the Teutonic Knights once upon a time. There’s a museum inside the castle

Where to go: Bad Mergentheim, Germany

Bad Mergentheim, Germany

Of course, this is only a small selection of the fairytale towns that you’ll find scattered across Germany. Have you visited others? What were your favorites and why? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP


The 15 Most Inspiring National Parks in Europe

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

I’m not much of a city person, so I love getting out into national parks when I’m traveling. Whether it’s hiking, skiing, or even just taking a drive through, I want to see every bit of beautiful landscape that this world has to offer. When you think of Europe, though, I bet you’re probably thinking of its popular cities like Rome, Paris, and London—or even if you’re thinking of landscapes, you’re probably thinking of the beaches of Barcelona or the majestic Alps. There’s plenty more to Europe than that, though! Don’t miss checking out these absolutely stunning national parks (listed in no particular order):

1. Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

The Dolomites are technically part of the Alps, but they look nothing like what you’re picturing. In many places, these impressive limestone formations seem to jut straight up into the air, with near-vertical slopes. There are a plethora of outdoors activities that you can take part in, including skiing, climbing, hiking, and paragliding. You can stay directly in the park in accommodations ranging from mountain huts to hotels. But be careful: one look at the peaceful morning sunrise coming in over those peaks and you might never be able to drag yourself away!

Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: www.dolomitipark.it
Location on map: Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

2. The Black Forest National Park, Germany

If you’re looking for gingerbread houses and other fairytale delights, look no further than Germany’s Schwarzwald, or Black Forest. The pretty little villages like Triberg, Kinzig, and Calw are everything that you would imagine, with half-timbered houses and plenty of places to buy traditional wooden cuckoo clocks and other delicately-carved woodcrafts. And if you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature, there’s no better place in all of Germany. This is the country’s largest national park, and it’s home to mountains, dense forests, and tons of varied flora and fauna. There’s hiking galore, plus plenty of other great outdoor activities to suit any interest.

The Black Forest National Park, Germany

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: www.schwarzwald-nationalpark.de
Location on map: The Black Forest National Park, Germany

3. Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

When you think of Austria’s landscapes, you’re probably picturing something from the Sound of Music. And those dramatic mountains overlooking sprawling meadows are exactly what you’re going to get in Hohe Tauern—among other things. The park is home to Austria’s tallest mountain, along with roughly three dozen other distinct peaks, and it’s a great place to take a drive—the Grossglockener High Alpine Road is a great place to start. The park has inspired many artists and writers, so get ready to indulge your creative side as you explore by car, on foot, by bicycle, on horseback, or however else you choose.

Weisssee, White Lake in Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

Important info:
Admission: many parts are free; fees apply to certain areas.
Web: www.hohetauern.com
Location on map: Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

4. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

No matter where you look in this part, it honestly looks a bit surreal, as though your eyes were tricking you. The main reason for that is the colors: with its turquoise lakes (there are more than a dozen of them) and bright, leafy green trees, you’ll feel as though you’re caught in a photograph where someone bumped the saturation and changed the hue on you! Unfortunately, if you were thinking of taking a dip in these tranquil waters, that’s against the rules—but there are plenty of other great activities to enjoy like hiking, or you could head to Krka National Park instead, which offers similar views but with the opportunity to go swimming in one of the pools.

Breathtaking view over the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Important info:
Admission: 55-180 kuna ($8-25), depending on the season.
Web: www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr
Location on map: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

5. Triglav National Park, Slovenia

This is Slovenia’s only national park (surprisingly—but what they lack in number, they make up for in quality!). It’s another of those places where you won’t believe your eyes. Many tourists stay in nearby Bled and take day trips into the park, but if you’re looking to get off the beaten path, it’s better to stay along the shores of peaceful Lake Bohinj or in one of the many mountain lodges, where you’ll really have the chance to find your zen and enjoy your surroundings. During the summers, locals and tourists alike flock to the rivers in the park for kayaking and other water activities. Hiking is also popular in the park, and you can get great views from the summits of many of the peaks or from the high alpine meadows.

Beautiful Lake Bohinj surrounded by mountains of Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: www.tnp.si
Location on map: Triglav National Park, Slovenia

6. Goreme National Park, Turkey

Goreme (also known to many travelers under the wider region of “Cappadochia”) is an incredible place to visit, from its cave towns to its general scenery. One of the most special experiences that you can have in your life is an early-morning hot air balloon ride over this alien-looking landscape of so-called fairy chimneys. The quiet is absolutely surreal, and the strange shapes of the rocks and the rising balloons will offer a thousand photo opportunities. Hiking and mountain biking are available for visitors of all fitness levels—and there’s a traditional Turkish bathhouse right in the middle of Goreme town where you can rest those muscles after a long, strenuous day. Just avoid traveling here during the height of summer, when the heat can be absolutely stifling; you’re better off visiting during the spring or fall.

Hot air balloon flying over Gorema National Park, Turkey

Important info:
Admission: fees apply to certain sites but are generally less than $10.
Web: www.nationalparksofturkey.com/goreme-national-park-and-the-rock-sites-of-cappadocia
Location on map: Goreme National Park, Turkey

7. Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania.

There’s nowhere in the world that’s quite like the Curonian Spit—in fact, the place is unique enough that it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So what exactly is it, you may be asking? It’s a long, narrow strip of sprawling white sand dunes and 100-year-old pine groves that stretches along the edge of the Baltic Sea, forming the edge of the Curonian Lagoon. There are plenty of prime spots for sunbathing along the dunes; for the more active traveler, you may choose to hike or cycle through the area—just make sure to stay on the marked paths since the shifting sands and fragile ecosystem mean that straying from the beaten paths can do serious damage to the park!

Wooden path into the Dunes. Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania

Important info:
Admission: €5 toll to enter the area + €0.80 to take the ferry across the lagoon; no fee to enter the park (see more information here).
Web: www.nerija.lt
Location on map: Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania

8. Oulanka National Park, Finland

No matter what time of year you visit Oulanka, you’re sure to find some incredible scenery there to greet you. You’ll want to avoid visiting during the spring, when the park is prone to flooding, but in the summer, you’ll find jewel-bright greens. In the fall, on the other hand, the foliage will change over to brilliant orange and yellow hues. And in the winter, when everything is white, you’ll find that, far from being a harsh and forbidding landscape, Oulanka’s snow-covered trees and huts beckon you in to explore a special kind of solitude. The most popular trekking route in Finland (the 80-kilometer Karhunkierros Trail) lies within Oulanka’s borders, as do many other shorter routes, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of reindeer!

Kuusamo, Paahkanakallio, Oulanka National Park, Finland

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: www.nationalparks.fi/oulankanp
Location on map: Oulanka National Park, Finland

9. The Lake District National Park, England

I love everything about England’s countryside, from its sprawling hills to its rich pastures full of sheep. What I love most about the Lake District, though, is the color palette. Here, you’ll find deep purples, greens, and blues like you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Although the mountains may not be as impressive as some of the others on this list, the juxtaposition between the sprawling mountains and tranquil lakes is definitely a sight to behold. Don’t even get me started on charming towns like Keswick or Grasmere. And as if that all weren’t enough, there’s plenty of history in the area as well, with everything from castles and abbeys to the Neolithic Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Ullswater, Lake District National Park, England

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: lakedistrict.gov.uk
Location on map: The Lake District National Park, England

10. Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway

Jostedal Glacier is the largest glacier in continental Europe, so if you’re looking to go trekking, take some amazing photos, or just soak in views of some of the best things nature has to offer, this is the place for you. Even if you’re averse to cold weather, you can enjoy a visit to the glacier: the glacier continues to exist because there tends to be a decent amount of snowfall during the winter months, but temperatures actually stay pretty comfortable during most of the year. However, I personally recommend visiting during the winter or early spring. The temperatures may be a bit colder, but you’ll have the chance to take a guided tour underneath the glacier and into the Blue Ice Cave.

Jostedalsbreen Glacier, Norway

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: jostedal.com
Location on map: Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway

11. Sarek National Park, Sweden

If you really want to visit a place that emphasizes how vast and magnificent the world really is, my vote is for Sarek National Park in the Lapland region of Sweden. There’s just something about the sprawling valleys and wide open, untouched expanses of beautiful land that will have you standing mouth agape in awe. Part of what makes it feel so rugged and wild is the lack of marked trails and signage—unless you’re an experienced backcountry hiker, it’s recommended that you travel with a guide. It takes a little more work to explore than some of the other parks on this list, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, you’re sure to have an incredible experience.

Sarek National Park, Sweden

Important info:
Admission: free, but it’s recommended that you travel with a guide, which can get pricey.
Web: nationalparksofsweden.se/choose-park—list/sarek-national-park
Location on map: Sarek National Park, Sweden

12. Snæfellsjökull National park, Iceland

There are plenty of amazing landscapes to captivate the traveler lucky enough to visit Iceland, so narrowing it down to just one national park is difficult! However, Snæfellsjökull offers a little taste of everything, from sweeping shorelines to volcanoes to glaciers and more. The area is home to an impressive selection of wildlife, and it’s also notable from a literary standpoint as being the point where the characters in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth find the actual passage to the center of the Earth. Although you may not find any evidence of that passageway during your trip, you will be able to view different archaeological remains such as the Forni-Saxhóll farm, thought to date back to roughly a thousand years ago.

Kirkjufell Mountain, Snaefellsjokull National Park, Iceland

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: ust.is/snaefellsjokull-national-park
Location on map: Snæfellsjökull National park, Iceland

13. Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Snowdonia is a hiker’s paradise, with nearly 1500 miles of trails spanning its roughly 800 square miles. The northern parts of the park are the most popular with tourists, many of whom choose to climb Snowdon Mountain, the park’s namesake and the largest mountain in all of Wales and England. But there are plenty of other mountains in the park, with varying levels of remoteness, plus bogs, coastline, and more. And with a plethora of classes on offer to the public, there’s way more to do than just hiking! One thing to note is that parts of the park are private property—so make sure you stay on marked routes or in places that you’re sure offer open access rights, and if you plan on fishing, make sure you have the appropriate permits.

Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: eryri-npa.gov.uk
Location on map: Snowdonia National Park, Wales

14. Valbonë Valley National Park, Albania

Hiking in the Alps can get frustrating when you’re rubbing elbows with tourists every step of the way. But Valbonë’s craggy mountains, rivers, and lakes will offer you a lot of the same scenery without all the bustle and mass culture. Plus, how many people do you know who can say that they’ve danced at a St. George’s Day celebration (May 6) in an Albanian village that numbers only a couple hundred inhabitants? Best of all when you’re hiking during those summer days? The temperature tends to stay relatively cool, usually in the upper 60s or lower 70s Fahrenheit. Despite Albania’s small size, it can take a while to travel to Valbonë—but once you make it there, you’re sure to forget all about that!

Valbona Valley National Park, Albania

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: journeytovalbona.com
Location on map: Valbonë Valley National Park, Albania

15. Pyrénées National Park, France

From canyons to greenery to wildlife (and domesticated animals like sheep) to waterfalls, this section of the Pyrenees has everything that you could hope for and more. It’s a paradise for bird-watchers and hikers during the spring and summer, and in the winter, there’s the possibility for some great ski-touring too. Even if you’re not big on outdoor activities, there’s plenty to enjoy in the Pyrénées, such as the Train d’Artouste. One of my favorite things about a trip to the Pyrénées, though? Undoubtedly the food! From a scrumptious picnic during the summer to some hearty soup by the fire in the winter, you’re sure to find that the meals are a perfect complement to the beauty around you.

Lake Gentau, Pyrenees National Park, France

Important info:
Admission: free.
Web: pyrenees-parcnational.fr
Location on map: Pyrénées National Park, France

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP


The 17 Best City Parks in Europe

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

Europe is one of the most popular destinations on earth. The many unique countries enjoy a thriving tourism industry year round, and for good reason. Europe is home to some of the most diverse and historical cities in the world. The attractions are endless and the culture is thriving. Alongside this, its natural reserves and rural areas are truly breathtaking to behold.

If you’re someone who loves both the urban and the natural, picking your ideal European destination can be tricky. Fortunately, many cities across the continent are home to beautiful parks, which provide a green respite from the hustle and bustle of the town centers.

Here are 17 of the very best city parks to help you choose the perfect European break for you.

17. Parque de Maria Luisa in Seville, Spain

Seville has earned itself the title of the ‘real Spain’. Its traditional cuisine, architecture, flamenco style and penchant for bullfighting makes it the perfect Spanish archetype. However, in the summer months, the paved streets heat up quick and the sun can be scorching.

Because of this, Parque de Maria Luisa is a crucial part of the city’s charm. Sheltered by vast trees, it provides picturesque shadows over the quaint paths and paved squares. The park was formerly a palace garden and there are countless ornate pavilions and fountains to spot. You can explore on foot, by bike or in the horse and carts, which are available to rent. With many species of exotic and domestic plants and animals, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a cool and relaxing siesta.

Directions: Parque de Maria Luisa, Paseo de las Delicias, Seville, Spain

Parque de Maria Luisa, Seville, Spain

16. Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, Germany

The German capital is home to many attractions remaining from WWII and the subsequent iron curtain era. Tempelhofer Feld stands as a wonderful representation of the German character and their relationship with their turbulent past.

The park was once a military parade ground, which opened to the public on weekends and holidays. In 1920, an airport was built. However, 88 years later, the stretch of land was once again transformed into a park of the people. Today, it’s a hotspot for local athletes, with facilities for skating and cycling. There’s also an urban gardening project, which provides a quaint and picturesque area for picnics – or just for a quick rest!

Website: gruen-berlin.de
Directions: Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin, Germany

Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, Germany

15. Bernardine Gardens in Vilnius, Lithuania

Tucked away in the Baltics, Lithuania remains one of Europe’s most beautiful hidden gems. With a rich history, the capital city of Vilnius tells an important story through its architecture, culture, and people. Nowhere is this diverse past celebrated so perfectly than in the Bernardine Gardens.

Originally created in the 18th century by local artist, Vladislovas Štrausas, the recent restorations has renovated the gardens to their former glory. The riverside paths, beautiful fountains and central square are all identical to their original pre-WWII versions. The botanical elements of the park also hold an exciting history. Among the various awe-inspiring species of trees, the garden is home to three of the oldest oaks in Vilnius. The eldest dates back an impressive 300 years! The park also has a modern twist; the musical fountain in the central square is an exciting attraction that plays both classical and modern tunes.

Directions: Bernardine Park, B. Radvilaitės g. 8A, Vilnius, Lithuania 

Bernardine Gardens, Vilnius, Lithuania

14. Park Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon remains one of the most underrated cities in Europe and the Park Eduardo VII is one of its finest attractions. Its prime location offers panoramic views of the Portuguese capital and is a local favorite spot for relaxing on warm summer evenings. The vast stretches of green space also make it ideal for festivals and cultural celebrations.

If you lucky enough to be in Lisbon between May and September, be sure to attend one of the free Jazz concerts – it will be the highlight of your trip! The venue has such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere that it’s the perfect spot to strike up a conversation and get to know some new people.

Website: cm-lisboa.pt
Directions: Parque Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal

Park Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal

13. Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Since it was established as the epicenter of the hippy movement in the 1960s, Vondelpark has been a lively outdoor community area that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Celebrating the Dutch love of cycling, the best way to explore is on a bike. The many paths will lead you around the lakes, trees, and art that characterize this natural paradise.

Throughout the year, there is always plenty to do in the park. Yoga classes are a common occurrence and the open-air theatre hosts festivals, dance, cabaret, comedy shows and children’s performances. There are also many high-quality cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite. Although the park boasts over 10 million visitors per year, you can always find a quiet spot to relax and enjoy the nature.

Website: hetvondelpark.net
Directions: Vondelpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Holland

12. Lycabettus Hill in Athens, Greece

This vast limestone mound is one of Athens’ defining features. Located on the outskirts, it provides spectacular views over the city that has long been known as the cradle of Western civilization. Covered with soaring pine trees, it’s a perfect way to get out of the main city and enjoy the sights of Athens from afar.

You can spend a day hiking up the mount or there’s a cliff railway if you’d prefer not to exert yourself. Once at the top, the attractions are numerous. The chapel of St. George crowns the hill and there are many restaurants to enjoy a classic Italian meal. However, by far the main lure of the hill is the stunning open-air theatre. As great outdoor celebrations have long been a tradition in Greece, it provides a perfect spot to soak up some local culture. Both native groups and international artists headline the stage, including Black Sabbath, Massive Attack, and B.B. King.

Directions: Mount Lycabettus, Athens 114 71, Greece

Lycabettus Hill in Athens, Greece

11. Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland

This 354-year-old national park is one of the main attractions for visitors of the Irish capital. It’s currently home to the president’s house and headquarters for the police service, but the surrounding gardens have endless surprises and jaw-dropping sights.

Animal lovers will be filled with glee at the free-roaming deer herds. Plus, the onsite zoo is home to almost 100 different species. If you’re interested in exploring the cities history, then the Viking cemetery and the Wellington monument are essential stops. Alongside this, Ashdown castle stands as the oldest building in the park. For those who enjoy more adrenaline in their adventure, be sure to head down to the motor rally track, which hosts an annual race event.

Website: phoenixpark.ie
Directions: Phoenix Park, Dublin 8, Ireland

Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland

10. MFO Park, Zürich, Switzerland

When you think of the word ‘park,’ you imagine luscious sweeping fields and wooded hillsides. However, Zürich has taken the concept to a whole new level. As one of the best examples of urban green-spaces in the world, the park is comprised of vertical steel structures, each intertwined with a myriad of trees and plants.

The impressive structure is built around the bones of an old factory, masterfully up-cycled into a true work of art! It’s mesmerizing the sit beneath the canopy and shut out the city for even just a few moments. Boasting over 104 species of plants, the site has won numerous international awards. Despite this, it’s still a well-kept secret that hasn’t yet been tainted by large crowds.

Website: stadt-zuerich.ch
Directions: MFO Park, Zürich, Switzerland

MFO Park, Zurich, Switzerland

9. City Park in Budapest, Hungary

Quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Eastern Europe, Budapest is such a hit because it has something for everything. This wide variety of enjoyment and activities is also evident in the city’s most impressive park. With so much on offer, it’s advisable you dedicate a whole day to exploring.

Vajdahunyad Castle stands at the center and provides an iconic view from all angles. The impressive structure was built in 1896 as part of the celebration for 1000 years as an independent Hungarian state. Across the river stands the famed Széchenyi Baths, one of the best examples of the city’s thermal-spa culture. With naturally heated waters, it’s the ideal way to relax after walking the expansive lawns of the park. There is also a zoo and the Museum of Hungarian Architecture to visit.

Directions: City park, Budapest, Kós Károly stny., 1146 Hungary

City Park, Budapest, Hungary

8. Drottningholm Slott in Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm’s charm comes from its location. Situated on an archipelago in the South East of Sweden, the collection of islands rivals Vienna and Amsterdam for its picturesque waterways and riverside parks. Just out of the city, Drottingholm Castle is a must-see landmark, with vast grounds that provide visitors with one of the more breathtaking city-park experiences in Europe.

Spanning 1400 acres, the park has expanded over time. The inner section dates back to the late 1800s and is comprised of luscious tree avenues, decorative fountains, hedge mazes and long stretches of green lawn. The outer circle of the park came later, but its spectacular combination of canals, bridges and open grass are well-known for unmissable vistas. The grounds are also home to the Chinese Pavilion, an oriental style structure gifted to the Royal family in 1770.

Website: kungahuset.se
Directions: Drottningholms Slott, Stockholm, Sweden

Drottningholm Slott, Stockholm, Sweden

7. Tiergarten Park, Berlin, Germany

Berlin is awash with fascinating and unique parks. The most popular is Tiergarten, in the heart of the city. During the summer, this park is one the most popular favorite to while away the hours, as it’s always alive with activity.

For first-time visitors, there are a few essential stops to check off. The famed memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, the Reichstag Parliament building, and the Brandenburg gate line the eastern edge. The western side is home to the city zoo, numerous restaurants, and the park’s beautiful lake and canal system. Be sure to look out for events taking place, as the venue hosts celebrations throughout the year.

Website: visitberlin.de
Directions: Großer Tiergarten, Straße des 17. Juni 31, Berlin, Germany

Tiergarten Park, Berlin, Germany

6. Garden of Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium

This stunning city park only exists thanks to a spontaneous decision by King Leopold II in the late 1800s. He decided that the site, which then housed a busy neighborhood, would be flattened to make room for a ‘Mont des Arts.’ Unfortunately, the project was a slow starter and the space remained empty for many years. It wasn’t until 1910 that an important event in the city forced the commission of a temporary garden.

Today, this last-minute provision is a much-loved part of the city. It offers avenues of fountains and flower gardens, alongside the monumental staircase that has since become its most iconic feature. The impressive grounds are reason enough to visit the park, but the spectacular views it offers are equally magnificent. The gardens provides one of the best vistas of Brussels that can be found – so don’t forget your camera!

Directions: Mont des Arts, Bruxelles, Belgium

Garden of Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium

5. Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain

Gaudi’s stamp in one of the defining feature of Barcelona. The modernist architect combined his love of nature and geometry, to create a visual aesthetic that today has become the symbol of this famed Spanish city.

Gaudi created Parc Guell in the early 1900s, first opening it to the public in 1926. The breathtaking intricacy of his sculptures and mosaics are perfectly intertwined with Spanish nature, to create a park like no other in the world. Wandering his beautiful creations is like entering a dreamland. The cherry on top of the experience is the breathtaking view across the city offered by the park’s main square.

Website: parkguell.cat
Directions: Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain

Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain

4. Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy

Rome is home to some of the most iconic sights and buildings in the world. Considering this, it’s understandable that the majestic Villa Borghese often does not receive the credit it deserves. Spanning 80 hectares, there’s so much to do here that I recommend dedicating an entire day to the trip.

For nature lovers, the bio-park is a true highlight. Showcasing life of all kinds, this zoo/botanical garden has so much to see. If you’re looking for a more authentic Roman experience, then the Villa Medici and Galleria Borghese showcase classic renaissance architecture and Italian artwork.

Directions: Villa Borghese, Piazzale Napoleone 1, Roma RM, Italy

Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy

3. Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

Often described as the Central Park of Paris, these iconic gardens are regularly seen on TV, film and in works of photography and art. Their long chestnut groves blaze orange in the autumn and provide much-needed shade from the summer sun. Originally donated to the children of the city by Napoleon, it’s now a favored spot for Parisians and visitors of all ages.

It’s impossible not to be caught up in the romantic mood of the park – one the best dates I’ve ever had was spent wandering its ornate terraces! With traditional Punch & Judy shows, a carousel and horse rides on offer, it’s also the ideal family destination. Even if you’re just passing through on a business trip or city break, you have to take a moment to enjoy its enchanting charm.

Website: senat.fr
Directions: Le Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

2. Hyde Park in London, England

Made famous as one of England’s premier music venues, Hyde Park is a must-see attraction, whether you’re there for a concert or not. Set over 350 acres, the combination of green spaces, monuments, outdoor activities and local nature make it the perfect destination for the whole family.

The park is also home to some of London’s most important monuments. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is located in the center. Alternatively, the nearby Kensington gardens – made famous by Peter Pan – hosts art installations from prominent British sculptors. Speakers Corner, in the north-west of the site, is a notorious public space where speakers from all walks of life can share their ideas and beliefs.

Website: royalparks.org.uk
Directions: Hyde Park, London, UK

Hyde Park, London, England

1. El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

Located near the center of one of Spain’s most thriving cities, El Retiro Park does exactly as the name promises: offers a place to retire from fast-paced city life. Originally created for the country’s royalty, today locals and tourists alike can enjoy the beautiful gardens that are, literally, fit for a King!

The central lake is a picturesque lagoon, crowned with the breathtaking Alfonso XII monument – a grand pillared crescent complete with numerous life-size statues. Exploring the grounds, you’ll stumble across the rose garden, a vast walkway of statues and even a muster of beautiful peacocks that hang out in the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez. However, don’t forget to keep an eye on the sky in this area, as the birds are known for swooping down from the above trees!

Website: esmadrid.com
Directions: El Retiro Park, Plaza de la Independencia, 7, Madrid, Spain

El Retiro park, Madrid, Spain

There are so many fantastic destinations in Europe that its hard to narrow it down to the perfect list. However, the city parks are all definitely worth adding to your bucket list! Not only do they allow you a break from their respective city’s noise and business, they provide unmissable attractions in their own right.

If you know of any other green spaces that deserve a spot then be sure to leave a comment below – we’d love to hear your ideas!

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP


Top 10 Highest Peaks in Europe

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

When one thinks of Europe, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? The tree-lined boulevards of Le Champs d’Elysee? A cold stein of beer in a warm public bar in Germany? How about a snow-capped mountain? No, not the Alps. Well, not just the Alps. Europe is actually home to a myriad of world-famous, world class mountains, particularly those with impressively high peaks. So, for the adventure travelers who isn’t afraid of a little snow, we’ve compiled a list of the highest peaks in Europe; the ones that should be highest on your list.

10. Dom, Switzerland

Though it might be an anticipated choice, when talking European mountains, it’s impossible to avoid mentioning the Alps. However, those whose pondering of the Swiss Alps has never made it past The Matterhorn and Mont Blanc will be surprised to learn of the majesty of Dom, the third highest peak in the range clocking in at an impressive 4,545 m (or 14,911 ft). It, along with it’s twin, Taschhorn, make for a pretty pair of mountain majesty.

Why go there? As far as mountain climbing goes, Dom is actually considered an easy climb, despite its impressive height. It is also the point of intersection between the main Alps chain and an auxiliary chain running from Schwarzberghorn in the South to Distelhorn, meaning the summit offers impressive views of neighboring mountains peaks.

Location on MapDom, Switzerland

The Dom peak visible from Furka pass, Switzerland

9. Monte Rosa, Switzerland

Another treat from the Alps, Monte Rosa is actually considered the highest peak in Switzerland, and the second highest in the Alps, making it a respectably daring choice for any mountain aspiring mountain climber. Dufourspitze, it’s main peak, measures 4,634 m (15,203 ft) and is the subject of many a touristic camera lens point, both from close up and from a distance. But Dufourspitze is only one of many sightly peaks to explore on a trip up Monte Rosa.

Why go there? Monte Rosa is snowy year-round, and therefore a popular tourist destination for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering, as well as trekking. A complete trek of the mountain can me completed in about 10 days, but is not for the faint of heart or the cold-fearing, as temperatures can often drop sub-zero, even before sunfall.

Location on Map: Monte Rosa, Switzerland

Doufourspitze peak, Monte Rosa, Zermatt, Switzerland

8. Ushba, Georgia

Located in the Svaneti region of Georgia, near the Russian border, the Georgian Ushba mountain is often called the Matterhorn of the Caucasus Mountains, not for its height (which is impressive at 4,690 m (15,387 ft)), but rather for the truly awe-inspiring nature of its spindly double-summit, which is the subject of many impressive photos. However, Ushba is considered the hardest climb in the Caucasus Mountain Range, with the average climb-time running at over 12 days of exhausting mountaineering, so those pictures can come at a steep cost.

Why go there? For a true adventure climber or seasoned mountain tackler, Ushba Mountain, sometimes called “The Queen of the Caucasus” is the perfect challenge. Heavy snowfall and impressive year-round storms can make the climb arduous at best and treacherous at worst. Summit of the north peak mountain also technically involves a border crossing into Russia, which is an added bonus for travelers looking to cross another country off their list.

Location on MapUshba, Georgia

Mount Ushba at night

7. Mont Blanc, Italy, France

An exhilarating crossroad between France and Italy (though the summit is technically in France), Mont Blanc, Monte Bianco, or “White Mountain” is often cited as the second most famous mountain in the Alps, right after the Matterhorn. It is a stunning 4,807 m (15,778 ft) tall, and the stately views from the top do not disappoint, whether on foot or seen from the comfort of a plane journey from Paris to Milan.

Why go there? Lovers of winter sports will be impressed by the plethora of skiing, snowboarding and other winter sport adventuring, though the biggest and best way to experience Mont Blanc is, of course, mountaineering. For adventurous ice-climbers, Monte Blanc also features the Mer de Glace glacier, the second longest in the Alps.

Location on MapMont Blanc, Italy, France

Mont Blanc with Lac Blanc

6. Tetnuldi, Georgia

Tetnuldi is another snow-tipped Georgian charmer located among the mountains of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. Its highest peak, Adishi, clocks in at 4,853 m (15,922 ft), and is definitely a sight for sore eyes. This peak wins Tetnuldi the title of the 10th highest peak in the Caucasus as well as grants it some absolutely stunning views of its neighbors, including Mount Elbrus, and the tiny town of Mestia. Year round blanket of powder fresh snow makes it an appropriate home to many new and up-and-coming ski resorts.

Why go there? Those who love skiing will be pleased at the array of new ski resorts popping up on and around Tetnuldi, granting it greater accessibility and enjoyment as a touristic destination. However, once hitting base camp, camping is the only option for those wishing to summit the peak. And be careful, because Tetnuldi’s icy climes make it a considerably more difficult trek than other mountains in its height range.

Location on MapTetnuldi, Georgia

Mountain ski resort, Tetnuldi mountain, Swaneti region5. Mount Kazbek, Georgia

The third Georgian charmer on the list, Mount Kazbek (also known as Stepantsminda) is actually a dormant subclass of volcano known as a stratovolcano, as well as a part of the Caucasus Mountain Range. Its volcanic status has earned it the name “Molten Mount” in local tongues. Kazbek is considered the third highest peak in Georgia, at a height of 5,047 m (16,558 ft), but only the seventh highest in the Caucasus system. Though it’s a true feat to climb it, Kazbek’s commanding presence can also be enjoyed safely (and while sipping hot chocolate) from nearby Stepantsminda Village.

Why go there? Mount Kazbek is considered the crown jewel and main site of the Kazbegi National Park, official designated in 1979 and home to an abundance of alpine meadows and beech tree forests, making it a lovely destination for mountain climbers and nature lovers alike. However, unpredictable weather makes for a potentially treacherous and harrowing climb, so aspiring mountaineers should be careful as and well prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.

Location on Map: Mount Kazbek, Georgia

Mount Kazbek and Gergeti Church_

4. Koshtan-Tau, Russia

Moving across the border into the Russian section of the Caucasus, there is the Koshtan-Tau mountain, with a height of 5,144 m (16,877 ft). Though technically considered a massif, meaning there are several separate peaks on the mountain, the Koshtan-Tau is the only to go above the impressive 5,000 meter mark. Located near the Georgian border, the mountain’s Russian steep altitude and Northern-hemisphere location means there is snow year-round, making for some particularly scenic wintertime-all-the-time vistas.

Why go there? Since its discovery and first climb in 1889, the mountain has remained rather remote and not a particularly popular climb, making it an advantageous trek for those interested in venturing into relatively unchartered territory. However, travelers will be pleased to note that routes of many different terrains and difficulties exist, from easy rock routes to treacherous traverses.

Location on MapKoshtan-Tau, Russia

View of the highest peaks in Caucasus - Koshtan-Tau, Shkhara, Mizhirgi, Dykhtau

3. Shkhara, Georgia

Another Georgian summit of the Svaneti Caucasus region, Shkhara is simply another stunning, snow-topped peak, and in fact, Georgia’s highest summit. The highest point is a 12 km (7.5 mi) ridge known as Bezingi, which is 5,201 m (17,060 ft) high. Shkhara was first summited in 1888, and is not considered an easy climb by any means. However, aspiring climbers dissuaded by the challenge may be equally charmed by Shkhara’s local Georgian village, Ushguli, which is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Why go there? Shkhara is a high-risk, high reward kind of climb. The high levels of snow year round and treacherous rocky, steep mountain terrain dissuade many novice and even expert mountain climbers, and the completion of the entire Shkhara-Benzingi Wall is known as one of Europe’s most difficult climbs. Those who tough it win both commanding views and bragging rights. Though journey times vary widely, skilled climbers can complete a Shkhara trek in 6 or 7 days.

Directions: Shkhara, Georgia

Ushguli village at the foot of Mount Shkhara. Upper Svaneti, Georgia, Europe

2. Dykh-Tau, Russia

If this article doesn’t prove that the mountain range with the highest capacity for awe-inspiring peaks is indeed the Caucasus, not the Alps, nothing will. Dykh-Tau (also called Dikh Tau or Dycktau) is known as “jagged mount” in Turkic, and is aptly named, if we do say so ourselves. This second highest peak of the Caucasus Region is located in Russian territory, and known for the technical difficulty created by its jagged terrain and the frequent avalanches they cause. It is a truly steep 5,205 m (17,077 ft) at its highest point, and offers absolutely stunning views from its peak.

Why go there? This mountain, like so many of the others in this range, presents a challenging climb for true adventurers with no “beginner” or shortcut summit. Climbing takes an average of 13 days camping on the mountain, which can quickly stretch into more due to the challenging nature of the climb. Mountaineers, be sure to pack accordingly and choose wisely between the bitterly cold winter, and the summer when the rocks are out their roughest.

Location on Map: Dykh-Tau, Russia

Dykh-Tau - the second highest mountain in Europe

1. Mount Elbrus, Russia

Topping our list is the impressive Mount Elbrus, of the Caucasus Range in Russia (Eat your heart out, Matterhorn). Mount Elbrus is, of course, the highest peak in Europe, making it one of the world’s “seven summits.” The mount itself clocks in at the tenth most prominent in the world, with a stunning figure of 5,642 m (18,510 ft). Toe the surprise of many, Elbrus actually consists of two main peaks, both dormant volcanoes, stretching to the West and East. But lava-shy climbers, have no fear! The last eruption was in the year 50 CE.

Why go there? Despite its impressive size, Mount Elbrus has been fairly well carved out for travelers, making it an easier summit than many of the other giants on our list. The ascent can be aided by chairlift, and generally can take as little as eight hours. However, that doesn’t mean that the climb can be made by anyone, as it tops not only this list, but several lists of the most dangerous mountains in Europe. Adequate planning is important to ensure that these absolutely once in a lifetime views don’t come at the cost of one’s life.

Location on Map: Mount Elbrus, Russia

Mount Elbrus in the morning

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP


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