Travel Destinations to Put on Your 2020 Bucket List

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Thomas Fabian/Flickr

One of the universal themes in the human experience is the desire to travel, see new things and experience different cultures. If you don’t believe it, just ask someone about their bucket. You’re sure to hear all about the destinations they want to visit around the world and the adventure they want to have there.

If you haven’t started your own bucket list yet, now is the time! A lot of great destinations deserve a spot on your 2020 bucket list. Take a look!

Antarctica

If you don't have Antarctica on your bucket list, nobody can blame you. It’s not exactly the most accessible travel destination in the world, and even if it was, you would probably wonder what you could possibly see or do on the frozen continent. Frankly, you might be surprised, but more importantly, how many people do you know who can say they've been to Antarctica?

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Photo Courtesy: Christopher Michel/Flickr

If you're going to go, do it right. Chimu Adventures is the outfit behind Highlights of the Frozen Continent, a cruise you won't soon forget. How does 12 days of hanging with penguins, whale-spotting and exploring sound?

Seychelles

If you don't already know about it, Seychelles is an archipelago of islands off the Eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. The islands are known for pristine nature reserves, dive-worthy coral reefs and world-class beaches. The short version is you have to put Seychelles on your travel bucket list.

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Photo Courtesy: Jean-Marie Hullot/Flickr

Exodus Travels offers the Ultimate Seychelles tour to give you a complete experience cruising through the islands on a ship with an underwater lounge. One of the highlights is a visit to the Aldabra Atoll, home to a colony of 152,000 giant tortoises.

Greenland

Greenland is a massive, remote island nation that is home to some of the most undisturbed natural habitat remaining in the world. Natural Habitat Adventures' East Greenland Arctic Safari aims to give visitors — maybe including you! — a first-hand glimpse into Greenland's pristine natural habitats.

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Photo Courtesy: dassel/Pixabay

The trip is a nine-day adventure centered around a "luxury" base camp. While you will certainly be in one of the most remote environments offered to travelers, you won’t be roughing it, meaning you get the best of both worlds. Activities include kayaking, hiking and interacting with Inuit natives.

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Tuscany

If you're into wine country and all that goes with it — getting nice and toasty in a temperate, sunny environment, for one — then you may as well shoot for the stars. Napa Valley and Martha’s Vineyard are nice, but when you're talking about taking the trip of a lifetime and wine in the same breath, you can't beat Tuscany.

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Photo Courtesy: steveofstonehenge/Pixabay

EF Go Ahead Tours and America's Test Kitchen give you not only some of the best wines Tuscany has to offer but also taste of Italy's legendary food offerings. Truffle sampling, wine tasting and breathtaking scenery. Who could say no to all that?

Jordan

This Jordanian adventure is likely to appeal specifically to serious cyclists. In fact, for those with a serious cycling itch, it may appeal in a major way. Even less serious bikers might be able to keep up on this eight-day trip through the historic nation in the Middle East.

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Photo Courtesy: dimitrisvetsikas1969/Pixabay

You can't beat the lineup of Saddle Skedaddle's Jordanian adventure in terms of awe-inspiring sites. Destinations include Petra, a soak in the Dead Sea, Amman, the Ajloun Forest Reserve, the Madaba Plateau and Wadi Rum. Not familiar with these places? That's okay, you haven't done the Jordanian jaunt yet!

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago province that belongs to Ecuador and are situated in the Pacific Ocean, and they are beyond beautiful. The islands are known especially for their abundance of diverse, colorful and tourist-friendly wildlife, and you will get to see many different types if you book a spot on G Adventures' Galapagos Multisport excursion.

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Photo Courtesy: Paul Krawczuk/Flickr

Those who take the trip experience the islands of Floreana, Isabela and Santa Cruz, where they can swim with giant tortoises, see the Charles Darwin Research Station and hike into a volcanic crater. The tour also includes a jaunt around Ecuador's capital, Quito.

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Japan

Hokkaido is Japan's second-largest island and the northernmost of the main Japanese islands. Known for natural hot springs, skiing and scenic volcanoes, Hokkaido is best visited in the winter. In fact, you can't go wrong with Oku Japan's Hokkaido Winter Tour.

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Photo Courtesy: jackmac34/Pixabay

The trip is self-guided, which is ideal for those who like to move at their own pace. Activities include a hike on a slab of drift ice, a snowshoe trek through a UNESCO World Heritage nature preserve and plenty of time for relaxing in Hokkaido's world-renowned hot springs. Maybe it’s time to make next winter a Japanese Winter.

Kazakhstan

Be honest — unless you're among the more experienced travelers in the world, you probably don't have any nation with the suffix -stan on your bucket list. If that is the case, you're overlooking one nation that is rich in culture and natural beauty: Kazakhstan.

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Photo Courtesy: Irene2005/Flickr

Intrepid Travel's Kazakhstan Adventure takes you to the ruins of Otrar and Sayram on a path that takes you through various other must-see cultural hotspots, including the former Soviet-era spaceport of Baikonur, where you find the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Kazakhstan offers the untamed majesty of Asia from ancient times mixed with quirky modern culture.

Bhutan

Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom (yes, kingdom) located in the Himalayan mountain range in Southern Asia. As the home of fortresses and monasteries, it is one of the most stunning places you will ever visit. The general atmosphere of the country makes you feel like you traveled backward in time.

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Photo Courtesy: Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn)/Flickr

You're going to want a guide if you're going to find the hidden gems that pepper Bhutan. Exodus Travels' Druk Path Trek takes you on a multi-day hike from Paro, the location of the only international airport in Bhutan, to Thimphu. You certainly get to experience plenty of culture along the way.

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Canada

North Americans have such a vast array of geographical options on their continent that it can be easy to forget just how convenient some bucket list-level destinations are. Canada's portion of the Rocky Mountains are a playground for adventurists, and REI Adventures' rendition of tackling the Canadian Rockies is called Canadian Rockies Hiking Plus — and it leaves a lasting impression.

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Photo Courtesy: Herman49/Pixabay

Guides start you at Lake Louise in Alberta and then take you up scenic trails that are not clogged by other tourists. Whitewater rafting and hiking the Columbia Icefield are among the other adventures in store for those who take the trip.

Egypt

Egypt remains a land of mystery, as it is home to ancient structures that seem to defy the possibilities of human ingenuity of the time — hence, all those alien conspiracy theories. You can get the full Egyptian experience with Intrepid Travel's Egypt Adventure, which takes you through the storied desert nation via train, boat and bus.

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Photo Courtesy: Sam Valadi/Flickr

You get to see the majestic ruins of Aswan and Luxor, get a taste of Egypt's dynamic Middle Eastern cuisine in the bazaars of Cairo, and cruise the Nile River on a felucca, a traditional vessel with a look that feels quintessentially Egyptian. Bonus: This excursion is relatively cheap as well.

Croatia

The word is out on Croatia, and it is no longer the needle in a haystack that only the most shrewd travelers recognized as a scenic paradise. Ever since the Croatian city of Dubrovnik became the real-life filming location for King's Landing in Game of Thrones, Croatia has become more of a recognized travel destination.

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Photo Courtesy: dronepicr/Flickr

G Adventures has capitalized on Croatia's popularity (and beauty) by offering a sailing adventure from Dubrovnik to Split. It gives you an up-close experience of the beautiful Croatian coast as you view national parks while sharing the boat with only seven other travelers.

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Georgia

If you’re wondering what’s so special about the state of Georgia, this trip isn’t about that Georgia. Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel's Walking in the Svaneti Mountains trip is in the country of Georgia on the other side of the world, strategically located at the intersection between Europe and Asia.

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Photo Courtesy: rmac8oppo/Pixabay

Its location sharing borders with both Russia and Turkey makes for a very unique mix of cultures unlike anything you have likely encountered before. Mix the cultural aspect with hiking in the scenic Svaneti Mountains, and you're in for a bucket list-worthy adventure.

New Zealand

You already know that if an excursion has a name like National Geographic attached to it, then the adventure is going to be legit. The New Zealand South Island Adventure proves this rule, as it is a 12-day, hiking-intensive trip that aims to maximize the immense natural beauty that made the nation the filming location for The Lord of the Rings films.

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Photo Courtesy: MatteoBergamo/Pixabay

Trip to-do's include kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park, a helicopter ride in Mount Aspiring National Park, cruising around Milford Sound via boat and a slew of unforgettable hikes. It’s a vacay that makes National Geographic proud!

Cuba

Cuba is a beautiful island nation, but you can easily do the whole Cuba experience wrong if you go with the wrong guide or no guide at all. The Backroads' Cuba Multi-Adventure Tour is designed to ensure that you see the best that Cuba has to offer.

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Photo Courtesy: joepwijsbek/Pixabay

The tour is centered around the scenic locations outside of the typical touristy, inner-city locations. Bike rides and hikes are a central aspect of the Backroads excursion, so this trip is definitely for those who don't mind a mild level of physical activity amid a tropical island backdrop.

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Alaska

Alaska is the uncharted land where fugitives run to when they’re fleeing the law — just kidding! But it is a rough and rugged land that you absolutely need on your bucket list. If you want to enjoy the best Alaska experience without compromising your safety, OARS' Alaska Rafting Tour is one option.

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Photo Courtesy: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr

On this excursion, you raft down the Tatshenshini River by way of the Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Park, seeing plenty of icebergs, waterfalls and wildlife along the way. There is something humbling about the Alaskan wilderness — all those grizzly bears? — that you need to experience firsthand.

Ireland

Ireland is a land with no shortage of history. It has been home to literary giants and enough fascinating history to keep you exploring and learning for months. Ireland is also home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world, and the Connemara district in western Ireland is a particularly scenic part of the island.

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Photo Courtesy: Irish Welcome Tours/Flickr

Wilderness Ireland offers a bike tour through Connemara and the Aran Islands, the location of some of the most known and beloved Irish cliffs. You have to check the stunning cliffs of Ireland off your bucket list. No excuses!

Rwanda

Rwanda still has something of a stigma attached to its name from its days of civil war, but the country is as safe now as it has ever been, and you can embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip while the crowds are still thin. The Rwanda Primate Adventure, brought to you by Mountain Travel Sobek, is one of the options you should consider as soon as you decide to visit Rwanda.

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Photo Courtesy: Derek Keats/Flickr

Obviously, the trip involves up-close (yet safe) interaction with primates as you track gorillas through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. You also get a chance to search for the golden monkey, but most importantly, you get plenty of face time with the apes.

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Slovenia

Slovenia is a Central European nation that remains something of a well-kept secret among those who are not hardcore travelers. Exodus Travels' Epic Outdoor Adventures in Slovenia tour will hit you with a fix of adrenaline if you're into that sort of thing.

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Photo Courtesy: tpsdave/Pixabay

From zip-lining over the Isonzo River to rappelling down waterfalls in the Soca Valley and paddleboarding on Lake Bohinj, there is no shortage of memorable activities available on Exodus' Travels' Slovenian excursion. Prefer not to sweat? Other exciting, non-exerting activities include dinner in a castle.

Chile and Argentina

Whenever you can pack two different destinations into the same trip, you get to double-team your bucket list, knocking out two birds with one single trip, in a manner of speaking. That's the case with Boundless Journeys' Solar Eclipse Adventure, which takes you through the South American nations of Chile and Argentina.

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Photo Courtesy: Deensel/Flickr

This adventure lets you take in the eclipse — book early, before it's too late — from Argentina’s Piedra del Aguila, which has ample elevation for a primo view. You also hike through Patagonia, taste beer in an authentic Argentinian microbrewery and go dancing — salsa style!

Ethiopia

Much of the outside world assumes that Africa is simply too dangerous to visit. If malaria doesn't get you, the lions will, or at least that’s what some travelers tend to assume. The problem with that incorrect thinking is that it prevents you from seeing some of the most stunning scenery the world has to offer, and that scenery is abundant in Ethiopia.

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Photo Courtesy: Ninara/Flickr

Addis Ababa welcomes tourists under the reformist administration of Abiy Ahmed. Numerous museums celebrate Ethiopia's storied history, and a public garden is set to open mid-year. Be sure to see Addis Ababa and the rest of Ethiopia while you can.

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Austria

Austria is in the midst of something of a makeover, hoping to shed the long-held perception that the nation was full of beautiful buildings and countryside but somewhat limited when it came to culture. Austria still has the eye-pleasing architecture and countryside where the hours just melt away as you take it all in, but now it is augmenting its cultural offerings.

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Photo Courtesy: Julius_Silver/Pixabay

New things to enjoy include a slew of art institutions in Vienna, hotels aimed specifically at younger tourists and a burgeoning food scene. Of course, stalwarts such as the Musikverein concert hall — nearly 150 years old — remain part of Austria's extensive living history.

Greek Islands

It's no wonder that a widespread desire to live a slow and easy lifestyle was largely to blame for sinking the Greek economy. If you lived in Greece, you would be sorely tempted to spend all your time soaking up the sun-drenched lifestyle too!

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Photo Courtesy: Mariamichelle/Pixabay

The Greek Islands, with Santorini — specifically the town of Oia — and Mykonos being the most notable, are absolute slices of paradise. The white-blue architecture only seems to add to the magical effect of these paradise-like islands. When you visit, you can indulge in ATV rides, rooftop pools, endless cocktails and gyros to your heart's content.

Brazil

Headlines warning outsiders (and insiders) of political turmoil, rampant crime and other hazards could scare the novice traveler into crossing Brazil off their bucket list, but that would be a massive mistake. The South American nation has long been known as a nation where the beauty of the scenery is rivaled only by the beauty of the people.

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Photo Courtesy: guertzen/Pixabay

Do you really want to miss out on that? Whether you're experiencing the legendary nightlife of Rio de Janeiro or spending a day lounging on one of more than 2,000 beaches in Brazil, you really can't go wrong. Do make sure you travel wisely and pay attention to advisories and cautions, of course.

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Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is like many of the Caribbean island destinations. It’s naturally beautiful, and you can have a good time on the cheap, but you have to know where to go and where not to go when you visit.

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Photo Courtesy: caldeclara/Pixabay

Like Mexico offshore, the Dominican Republic is an attractive vacation spot for many American tourists. It’s relatively close to the U.S. mainland and is relatively cheap to reach and has a range of hotel and resort prices. You can experience the beauty of the Caribbean in the luxury of a western-style resort without breaking the bank by visiting the DR this year.

Malaysia

If you’re looking to take a trip to Asia, Malaysia is worth considering as a stop. The country's Desaru Coast borders the South China Sea and is noted by travelers as one of the must-see regions.

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Photo Courtesy: ckhee94/Flickr

The coast is only about 45 minutes away from Singapore, so you could see both jewels of the Pacific in a single trip. New luxury properties are set to open on the Desaru Coast in 2020, so you may be able to get in on these newly minted resorts before the word gets out.

St. Bart's

Saint Barthélemy, known commonly as St. Bart's, is a French-speaking island in the Caribbean that isn’t difficult for Westerners to get to, and it’s completely worth the trip. Yacht-filled harbors, high-end restaurants and that indefinable blend of French and Caribbean culture leaves a lasting impression that will have you yearning to return soon.

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St. Bart's was hit hard by hurricanes in recent years, but it is officially on the rebound, making 2020 a prime time to visit. The island has an air of luxury without being exclusive, which is a rare trait.

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France

For most westerners, France is one of the first items on their bucket list. Considering the relative convenience of traveling to Western Europe from the States — as far as bucket-list destinations go — France may be one of the easiest items to knock off your list. So, if you haven't already done the French experience, what are you waiting for?

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Photo Courtesy: miquitos/Flickr

Of course, you should see Paris and sample its unrivaled food scene, but it’s not all about Paris. Other French destinations, such as Lille in northern France, offer just as much French culture with fewer tourists.

United Arab Emirates

The idea of traveling to the Middle East is a scary thought for some people. Cultural attitudes that forbid alcohol, the sheer heat of the region and recent conflict may lead some to consider Middle Eastern travel a non-starter, but this would cause you to miss out on some great experiences.

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Photo Courtesy: Olgaozik/Pixabay

The United Arab Emirates, home to Dubai and commonly known as the UAE, is a sight to behold and is one of the safest destinations in the region. The immense wealth and futuristic mindset of the residents of the UAE has resulted in a focus on having a good time in luxurious surroundings. What's not to like about that?

India

India is a nation with a massive economy, and while you might not want to visit every nook and cranny of India, there are some spots that you can’t go your entire life without seeing. Jaisalmer, known as India's Golden City, is one of those destinations. It is a one-of-a-kind architectural phenomenon on the outskirts of the Thar Desert.

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Photo Courtesy: Fulvio Spada/Flickr

In addition to Jaisalmer, you can visit iconic wonders like the Taj Mahal, the many monuments in Delhi, the Golden Temple in Punjab and the ruins of Hampi. Warning: India is huge, so plan wisely.

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