Wed. Dec 11th, 2019

10 Underrated Destinations To Visit In 2020

Cable car in San Cristobal hill, overlooking a panoramic view of Santiago

With everyone rushing to announce the “best” places to visit in 2020, we’re looking at another list: underrated, off-the-beaten-path destinations where you can immerse yourself in nature or culture far from hordes of international tourists. That’s not to say these destinations aren’t known among in-the-know travelers and frequent fliers: they simply deserve much more credit than they get.

Beyond the appeal of visiting a less trafficked place, going off the beaten path typically (but not always) means you’ll spend a little less than you would in top destinations like Paris, Tokyo, or New York City. Plus, in an era of over-tourism at sites like Mount Everest and the Louvre Museum, visiting lesser-known locales is also more sustainable from both an environmental and community standpoint.

From charming, cosmopolitan cities to historic gems and untapped beaches, here are 10 underrated places you should visit in 2020—plus, where to stay and what to see.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Today In: Lifestyle

One of the oldest cities in Uruguay, Colonia del Sacramento dates back to Portuguese settlements in the 1600s. Now a regional favorite, for Argentinians in particular, the city boasts a historic, UNESCO-recognized Old Quarter with colorful, palm-lined stone streets, a 300-year-old convent, and a relaxing waterfront. Make it a day trip from the bustling city of Montevideo, or, if traveling as a couple or small group, stay the night ten minutes from the city center at the charming El Nido Treehouse, which can be booked on Airbnb.

Con Dao, Vietnam

As far as Southeast Asian islands go, Con Dao gets largely overlooked. The island—once known as the site of a brutal French prison—is one of Vietnam’s best beach destinations. There are only two real resorts on the island: the larger Six Senses, and our recommendation, the locally-owned Poulo Condor. Here, find a boutique accommodations with a fantastic spa, fresh-pressed juice bar, and outdoor activities like kayaking and biking. Beyond beaches, history buffs will enjoy a trip into town to visit the tomb of Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau, a high-school girl who perished resisting French colonialism. If you’re coming from Ho Chi Minh City, Con Dao is a quick one-hour flight away.

Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos is a fantastic example of big-city living in Africa. Long overlooked as a tourist destination, the metropolis is now the continent’s second-largest city boasting beach clubs, boutique hotels, and bustling marketplaces. Stay at The Wheatbaker, a luxury hotel with modern convenience and a rotating art show. For a city break, head to Lekki Conservation Centre, a verdant wildlife oasis hidden in the heart of the city, or opt for ocean views at the well-kept private beaches of Ilashe Beach. And for a taste of Lagos’ signature dish, jollof rice, stop by the locally-renowned L’Afric Restaurant and Bar.

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Ethical travel, including wildlife tourism, has become a hot-button issue in the travel industry this year. Unlike other tour operators, the folks behind Cambodia’s Elephant Valley Project do not allow riding or bathing with elephants, which can cause the animals stress. The organization welcomes visitors from Sen Monorom—a six-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh—to its sanctuary. For a deeper dive into Cambodian wildlife, however, you can also visit the EVP through Intrepid Travel’s eight-day Cambodia Expedition: Elephants & Jungles excursion.

Punta Gorda, Belize

Ambergris Caye may be Belize’s hot island getaway, but in the south of the country, Punta Gorda is a worthwhile and easily accessible paradise. The main draw here is the Copal Tree Lodge, a sustainable eco-hotel where 70% of the meat and produce consumed is sourced from the property’s 3,000 acres of farmland. The rainforest hilltop upon which the hotel sits dates back to the Maya period in 600 AD. Those looking for a relaxing vacation should lay back with a book in one of the balcony bathtubs and hammocks, while adventurers can sign up hiking tours of the Maya Mountains, kayaking on the Rio Grande, and organic rum tastings at its own on-site distillery, Copalli Rum.

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Often overshadowed by its larger neighbor, Amsterdam, Rotterdam is an underground music and street arts Mecca. Bombed nearly into the ground during World War II, the city is renowned for its bold and modern architecture. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of history: the only hotel to open in the city this year, The Slaak Rotterdam, takes over what was once a newspaper publishing house. From there, you’re steps away from fantastic restaurants like Coco and quick rail ride away from cultural destinations like the Kunsthal Museum. To immerse yourself in the city’s colorful street murals, sign up for a walking tour with the arts collective Rewriters010.

San Antonio, Texas

Austin may be the weirdest, Houston may be the most diverse, but Texas’ second-largest city, San Antonio, is a historic and cultural hub worthy of attention. Built in a former 19th century brewhouse, Hotel Emma is the city’s best stay, forming part of the youthful Pearl District along with boutique clothing stores, a farmers’ market, and several notable restaurants. Beyond landmarks like the Alamo and the San Antonio Missions, San Antonio is renowned for its cocktail culture—the city hosts the nationally-famed San Antonio Cocktail Conference. Don’t miss a drink at cocktail pioneer Jeret Peña’s Still Golden Social House, where you’ll find delicious northern-style Thai food truck from Peña’s in-laws served from the Yai’s Mobile Kitchen food truck out front.

Santiago, Chile

Chile in general is one of the world’s most underrated travel destinations. With mountains, beaches, and deserts, the South American country is one of the world’s most geographically diverse. Its capital and largest city, Santiago, offers 19th century neoclassical architecture, design and arts enclaves, and of course, world-class wine. Sustainability is big in Santiago, and you’d do well to stay at the eco-boutique Hotel Bidasoa, whose on-site restaurant is one of the hottest reservations in town. While the city’s activities and attractions are endless—from the Plaza de Armas to Santa Lucía Hill—its central location also makes it a great jumping off point for the Chilean wine country. Book a tour from Santiago up to picturesque Maipo Valley to visit Tarapacá, a winery hosting wine and cheese tastings in a Tuscan manor house built in 1927.

Telč, Czechia

If rows of multi-colored gingerbread houses are your vibe, the Italian-influenced Czech town of Telč should be on your travel bucket list. Baroque-Renaissance homes line the main Zacharias of Hradec Square, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while on the other side of the square sits the storied Telč Castle. Below ground, Telč features a network of explorable tunnels and passageways that once connected the town’s cellars. Stay at Hotel U Hrabenky, the only four-star hotel in town set in an old baroque house.

Yerevan, Armenia

Known as the world’s “oldest Christian country,” Armenia is one of the most fascinating places you can visit, what with its grand temple ruins and UNESCO-recognized Christian monasteries. The capital, Yerevan, is one of the longest continually-inhabited cities on earth, and is known for its majestic views of Mt. Ararat—Armenia’s national symbol—as well as its ararat brandy and wine. Yerevan’s been dubbed the “pink city” for the rose-hued volcanic tufa rock that forms much of its architecture. Take a page from the Kardashian playbook and stay at The Marriott Yerevan, a spectacular building with grand arched windows set on the central Republic Square. To dine, nab a reservation at the renowned Dolmama Restaurant—which has played host to notables including Hillary Clinton, The Prince of Wales and Gérard Depardieu—for soulful Armenian fare like sautéed eggplant rolls, lamb tartare, and rabbit stew.

[“source=forbes”]