The 30 Top Emerging Travel Destinations for 2020

Fight overtourism by skipping the popular travel destinations and instead heading to these 30 incredible emerging destinations, as nominated by tourism boards and voted by the world's top travel bloggers.

If you find yourself complaining about a travel destination being overtouristed, you might be part of the problem. 

Where you travel matters, and there's a lot more worth seeing in this world than the Instagram-famous sites. 

To help inspire you, we proudly announce this year's Emerging Destination Awards - 30 truly incredible but underappreciated travel destinations that deserve your tourism dollars in 2020

How did we pick the winners? 

Each year we ask governments and tourism boards to create nominations for the best trending travel destinations in their region, then we submit the nominees for a vote by our panels of judges, some of the best-traveled bloggers on the planet, and ask them which destinations appeal to them (read about our process here).

From places they've loved for years to others that are high on their bucketlists, they've collectively identified some pretty incredible destinations among our nominations. Our collaborative list includes some of my favorite places on the planet (#1 and #5) and others that top my own list of where to travel in 2020 (especially #4!). 

More than just another random listicle of places to travel in 2020, the Emerging Destination Awards aim to bring together local stakeholders, content creators, and travelers to help encourage travelers to spread out and appreciate every corner of this stunning planet. 

Oh, and we want your involvement too! So we invite you to vote for your favorite destination to win our annual Readers Choice Award.  

You can also visit our Overtourism Solutions Center, where you can educate you on other ways to fight overtourism. 

Ok, ready for a serious case of wanderlust?

Below are the winners of the 2020 Emerging Destination Awards. 30 top travel destinations that represent a positive future for tourism in the coming decade. 


1. Georgia

Judges' Choice Award - #1 Destination in Europe

Georgia


Possibly the world's greatest hidden travel gem, Georgia packs a shocking amount to do inside a compact country. The stunning Caucasus mountains give the Alps a run for their money, Tbilisi's bohemian Old Town makes Prague's seem positively pedestrian, and Georgia's wine scene is currently enjoying a moment of global recognition (about time too, as wine was invented here).  Plus, Georgia is an extraordinarily affordable destination - where else can you enjoy a European-style vacation on a South East Asian vacation budget?

When to Visit: April to October

Top Attractions: Ushguli settlement in Svaneti, Khaketi wine region, Old Town Tbilisi 

Related Content: 11 Best Places to Visit in Georgia, Georgia Travel Itinerary Guide

Why We Picked Georgia

KATE MCCULLEY

Georgia has SO much to offer -- one of the funkiest capital cities around, gorgeous mountain scenery, and truly outstanding food and wine. All that and it's fantastic value for money. I fully expect Georgia to be one of the world's hottest destinations within a few years.

KATE MCCULLEY //  Adventurous Kate

MURAD AND NATALY OSMANN

It is so easy to fall in love with this country - beautiful mountainous landscapes, flavourful wine, savoury khinkali as well as unique culture, well-known artists and fashion designers. We love Georgia with all our hearts!

MURAD AND NATALY OSMANN //  @muradosmann @natalyosmann


2. Nova Scotia

Judges' Choice Award - #1 Destination in North America

Nova Scotia

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Nova Scotia is the Rorschach inkblot of travel - and, no, we're not just saying that because it literally looks like one on a map. What makes Nova Scotia so impressive to travelers is that it takes on the personality of those who dare to explore it. Looking for a blissfully serene escape? Try blending your own wine at one of the regions many wineries, or soaking in its many picturesque coves. Seeking roaring adventure? Try surfing the world's highest tides on Nova Scotia's 13,300 kilometers of pristine coastline, or hiking one of its many remote trails. The bottom line: whatever your 2020 travel goals are, you can probably find them in Nova Scotia. 

When to Visit: June to October

Top Attractions: Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island, Peggy's Cove, Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Why We Picked Nova Scotia

NADINE SYKORA

An often overlooked part of Canada that doesn't get the attention it deserves. Full of natural beauty, historical buildings (some of the oldest in Canada), and some of the best seafood you'll find anywhere.

Nadine Sykora //  Hey Nadine


3. The Cook Islands

Judges' Choice Award - #1 Destination in Oceania

The Cook Islands

Credit: David Kirkland Photography

Someone better tell the Maldives to move over, because intrepid beach lovers have found a new paradise in the pristine azure waters and powdery white sands of The Cook Islands. Mix in a little Polynesian tradition and abundant marine life, and you can see why this South Pacific archipelago is ready to contend for the title of the world's best island destination. But the best reason to visit The Cook Islands in 2020? It's a country that appears to be taking the charge of responsible development seriously, setting aside over 1 million square kilometers of marine conservation area, leading the world in its renewable energy targets, and focusing its development efforts on eco-tourism. Bravo!

When to Visit: May to October

Top Attractions: Aitutaki Lagoon, Muri Beach, Te Vara Nui Village Tour & Cultural Show, Aroa Marine Reserve

Why We Picked The Cook Islands

LAUREN JULIFF

The Cook Islands is the one place in the world that fully meets my definition of paradise. It's gorgeous! If you're looking for fresh seafood, welcoming locals, and some of the best beaches on the planet, it's definitely the destination to head to. 

Lauren Juliff //  Never Ending Footsteps


4. Rwanda

Judges' Choice Award - #1 Destination in Africa

Rwanda


Rwanda's tourism scene is most famous for the opportunity to come face-to-face with the world's most enrapturing creature on one of its spectacular mountain gorilla treks. But Rwanda's conservation success story is about more than just gorillas: Akagera National Park offers the chance to see the Big Five on a more traditional safari, while Volcanoes National Park invites you to explore its fire-spewing namesakes. And with the World Economic Forum recently naming it the safest country in Africa and RwandAir slated to open direct flights from JFK to Kigali, 2020 is the best year yet to travel to Rwanda.

When to Visit: Mid-December to early February; June to September

Top Attractions: Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe National Park, Ethnographic Museum, Kigali Genocide Memorial

Why We Picked Rwanda

AMARACHI EKEKWE

This East African pearl is changing the African travel narrative in so many ways. It will be exciting to visit Kigali to see its amazing transformation and to see the conservation efforts at its national parks.

Amarachi Ekekwe //  Travel with a Pen

AMANDA MOUTTAKI

Rwanda is at the top of my list to visit in Africa to experience its cultural mix and beautiful natural surrounds. While most people go to see the gorillas there are lots of other cultural heritage sites and experiences to be had. 

Amanda Mouttaki //  Maroc Mama


5. Kyrgyzstan 

Judges' Choice Award - #1 Destination in Asia

Kyrgyzstan


Kyrgyzstan is the kind of place that you might suppose is best reserved for hearty adventurers. And you'd be half right: adventure IS practically the middle name of this Central Asian country. But if Kyrgyzstan had a different first name, it'd be simply "culture." The traditions of the Silk Road are still alive and well here, and you don't need to spend weeks hiking remote mountainsides to access that culture thanks to the remarkable programs of the Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association. On the other hand, if you're even the least bit interested in hiking, you'd be crazy to pass up some of the most beautiful trails on the planet.

When to Visit: Northern Kyrgyzstan - June to September; Southern Kyrgyzstan - March to October

Top Attractions: Köl-Suu Lake, Ala Archa National Park, Ala-Köl, Burana

Why We Picked Kyrgyzstan

WILL HATTON

Kyrgyzstan is the ready-to-explode high plateau destination you'll be hearing about more and more in the next few years. My team has fallen in love with the place and it's photogenic as anything you've ever seen!

Will Hatton  //  The Broke Backpacker


6. Ecuador 

Judges' Choice Award - #1 Destination in Latin America

Ecuador


A relatively small country that's been eclipsed by its more popular neighbors, Ecuador has much more to offer than its flagship Galapagos Islands. On the mainland, you'll find an almost unbelievable diversity of landscapes - mist-covered mountain tops, active volcanoes, wildlife rich rain forests, sandy windswept beaches, and lush mangroves all call out for adventurers. Meanwhile, Ecuador's capital in the clouds is quickly becoming an attraction in its own right. Wander Quito's Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site or enjoy a dining and nightlife scene that's rapidly drawing attention across the continent.

When to Visit: December to May

Top Attractions: San Francisco Church, Cotopaxi and Cajas National Parks, Otavalo Market

Why We Picked Ecuador

STEFAN ARESTIS AND SÉBASTIEN CHANEAC

Ecuador is the latest member to the gay marriage club! Having traveled extensively around the country as a gay couple we can attest to how gay friendly it is. We also loved that one tiny country offers so much- rain forest to mountain scenery, coastline/beaches to the impressive and unique Galapagos Islands. And of course the most surprisingly thing of all, the food! Totally underestimated and unknown to us before arriving. We completely fell in love with Ecuador and highly encourage LGBTQ travellers to seek it out.

STEFAN ARESTIS and SÉBASTIEN CHANEAC  // Nomadic Boys


7. Gothenburg, Sweden 

Gothenburg, Sweden

Credit: Daniel Högberg

The World's Most Sustainable Destination according to the Global Destination Sustainability Index, Sweden's second-city is an exemplar of what responsible tourism development should look like in the 2020s. Check out the picture-perfect 17th century district of Haga, chow down on some fresh seafood at the "Fish Church," or visit Scandinavia's largest amusement park Liseberg during the holidays, when it transforms into an enchanted Christmas market. So hip it would probably bristle at the moniker, Gothenburg offers the coolest city break on the continent.

When to Visit: May to September for warm weather; Late November to March for cold-weather activities

Top Attractions: Liseberg Amusement Park, Röda Sten Konsthall, Slottsskogen, Konstmuseum

Why We Picked Gothenburg, Sweden

ERICK PRINCE

The true charm of Sweden. Gothenburg is the perfect place to explore Sweden's culture, identity, and future. 

Erick Prince  // Minority Nomad


8. Churchill, Manitoba 

Churchill, Manitoba

Credit: Travel Manitoba

If its unofficial title as "The Polar Bear Capital of the World" isn't enough to make you scramble to book flights, consider that the waters near Churchill are also the summer home of over 60,000 beluga whales who rear their young in the Hudson Bay and the rivers that feed it. And don't forget to look up, because Churchill is also an excellent place to witness the spectacle of the Northern Lights. Wild and wonderful, Churchill might be the single best place to reconnect with nature in 2020.

When to Visit: July to November

Top Attractions: Itsanitaq Museum, Northern Lights, Prince of Wales Fort, Cape Merry

Why We Picked Churchill, Manitoba

MEGAN INDOE

This is one of the last places on earth where you can witness polar bears in the wild, the immense beauty of the Arctic, and the dancing skies of the Northern Lights all in one destination. Polar bears might not be around forever, this is one of those once in a lifetime experiences and destinations people need to experience.

Megan Indoe  // Bobo and Chichi


9. Dominica 

Dominica


Imagine what the Caribbean looked liked before every corner of it was taken over by resorts and cruise ships. Actually, don't. Because you don't need to imagine anything - you can simply visit Dominica and see the Caribbean's last hidden gem with your own eyes. Hike mountain ranges so lush it looks like the ground is coming alive. Swim (or, better yet, dive) in crystal waters so clear you'll feel like you're in a dream. Most of all, get there soon because growth is coming to Dominica. At least it's doing so with laudable eco-friendly initiatives that have us hopeful that Dominica will represent the Caribbean of the future. 

When to Visit: October to April

Top Attractions: Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Kalinago Territory, Trafalgar Falls, Screw's Sulfur Spas

Why We Picked Dominica

ADAM & HANNAH LUKASZEWICZ

Dominica will blow you away! The island is like no other in the Caribbean, and that's why we fell in love with it. Great hiking, diving, luxury resorts, and more. We can't wait to return.

Adam & Hannah Lukaszewicz  // Getting Stamped

CHLOE GUNNING

Dominica is the wild, raw, untouched Caribbean. Swim in the Emerald Pool, spend afternoons spotting sperm whales in the wild, hiking epic mountain ranges and evenings sampling local bush rums. It's the real Caribbean. 

Chloe Gunning  // Wanderlust Chloe

Which Destination Has Your Vote?


10. Uzbekistan 

Uzbekistan


Central Asia is finally having its (long overdue) moment in the spotlight, and nowhere is that more evident than in the pearl of the Silk Road. Traveling to Uzbekistan means not just crossing borders, but stepping back in time to a land whose remarkable history as the meeting point of East and West oozes out of its splendid architecture, multi-layered culture, and show-stopping sites. With its previously onerous visa restrictions having been significantly relaxed recently, there's never been a better time to travel to Uzbekistan than 2020. 

When to Visit: April to May; September to early November

Top Attractions: Samarkand, Registan, Shah-i-Zinda

Why We Picked Uzbekistan

NICK WHARTON

Another highlight in an underrated region, Uzbekistan has history and architecture unrivalled elsewhere. 

Nick Wharton  // Goats on the Road


11. Launceston, Tasmania 

Launceston, Tasmania

TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 18, 2019: Alexandra Suspension Bridge crosses Cataract Gorge in the lower section of the South Esk River in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.

It seems that our travel blogger judges can't get enough of Tasmania - last year the entire island took our judge's top honors as the best destination in Oceania. This year, the spotlight shines on Tassie again - but this time on Launceston, an overlooked city in the north of the island that provides the perfect base for exploring the best of Tasmania's world-class wilderness. If you can, kick off 2020 by visiting in January, when Launceston will come alive with MONA FOMA, a vibrant summer arts and music festival.

When to Visit: September to May

Top Attractions: Cataract Gorge, Cradle Mountain, Queen Victoria Museum, Franklin House

Why We Picked Launceston, Tasmania

MEG JERRARD

As one of Australia’s oldest cities, Launceston oozes historical charm, but blends it harmoniously with modern style and technology. Even a trip to the local post office becomes a treat, and is one of the most beautiful buildings you have likely ever seen. Additionally, there is plenty of incredible natural beauty for bush walking or simple strolls among native wildlife, and Launceston provides an ideal base for further exploration of Tasmania's stunning NorthEast.

Meg Jerrard  // Mapping Megan


12. Rovinj, Croatia 

Rovinj, Croatia


If you fancy a trip to Venice but can't bear the thought of fighting the crowds (or, you know, contributing to the overtourism problem yourself), then the tiny Croatian seaside town of Rovinj should be at the top of your list of where to travel in 2020. With bright buildings squeezed right up to the shore of the Adriatic, this charming fishing village turned world-class attraction fills every inch of the narrow headland it occupies on the Istria Peninsula, a region The Guardian recently said could be "the new Tuscany." If the Instagram opportunities alone aren't enough to hook you, consider that Rovinj is home to Croatia's first Michelin starred restaurant (Monte), and some of the best gastronomy and wine in a country that's quickly gaining worldwide recognition for both. 

When to Visit: April to November

Top Attractions: Old Town Rovinj, St. Euphemia's Church, Rovinj Port, Balbi Arch

Why We Picked Rovinj, Croatia

KIERSTEN RICH

Rovinj is a picturesque, seaside town that is not only charming, it boasts an array of interesting cultural and archaeological sites and, of course, delicious local seafood! It’s a perfect place to sip sweet wine, watch the crowds meander through the Old Town, and enjoy the sunset, in my opinion!

Kiersten Rich  // The Blonde Abroad


13. Namibia 

Namibia


If you're looking to get away from the crowds in 2020 and experience nature like you've never seen, then put Namibia at the top of your list of where to travel. You'll be mesmerized by the million-year-old Sossusvlei dunes, an otherworldly landscape unlike anything you've ever seen. You'll fall in love with Fish Canyon, a trench so deep and impressive that it draws comparisons to its more famous American cousin. Thrill-seekers love sky-diving across the unique landscapes near Swakopmund. Oh, and you'll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy a traditional African safari - but without the throngs of safari vans crowding your way. Raw. Real. And ready for tourists. Namibia is the future of adventure tourism.

When to Visit: July to October

Top Attractions: Etosha National Park, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Why We Picked Namibia

DEB & DAVE

The massive dunes of Sossusvlei in Namib Naukluft National Park attract visitors from around the world, but we were mesmerized by Fish River Canyon. The 550 m (1804 feet) deep canyon is the largest in Africa. The city of Windhoek was a lovely break from our bicycle ride through the Kalahari Desert.  

Deb & Dave  // The Planet D


14. Aarhus, Denmark 

Aarhus, Denmark

Credit: VisitAarhus

Honestly, Aarhus isn't so much a city as the world's coolest neighborhood. It's the kind of place where "rush hour" simply means a few cyclists crossing paths on one of the city's many bike lanes. And, indeed, biking is a part of the fabric of Aarhus - so much so that the city offers a free bike scheme for visitors. Grab one and pedal down the charmingly-attractive Møllestien street or around the innovative modern architecture at the harbor. You're certain to work up an appetite with all that cycling, so end your evening with a culinary tour of New Nordic cuisine at one of the city's fashionable bistros or high-end restaurants. Whatever you do, you may never want to leave - because Aarhus is undeniably one of the world's most livable destinations. 

When to Visit: May to September

Top Attractions: ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Marselisborg Palace, Den Gamle By, Tivoli Friheden

Why We Picked Aarhus, Denmark

MURAD AND NATALY OSMANN

We are dreaming about visiting Aarhus because we were absolutely excited when learned about it. It['s a] unique historical place where the cultural heritage is perfectly preserved, but at the same time it’s also very modern and developed.

Murad and Nataly Osmann  // @muradosmann @natalyosmann


15. Northern Territory, Australia 

Northern Territory in Australia at Night

Credit: Tourism Northern Territory

On a continent that spoils visitors with unreal landscapes, somehow the Northern Territory seems to have snapped the lion's share of them. But it's not just the otherworldly Outback vistas that draw in visitors - the Northern Territory's full-on embrace of its Aboriginal history makes it a great cultural destination as well. Check out some Aboriginal-inspired art at the Parrtjima Light Festival or take a cultural tour of Kakadu National Park, mixing traditional storytelling with majestic landscapes. Oh, and 2020 is the perfect year to visit, as the acclaimed artist beyond the Field of Light Uluru, Bruce Munro, will be bringing a limited-time exhibition to the capital Darwin. 

When to Visit: May to October

Top Attractions: Uluru, Kakadu National Park, Kings Canyon, Alice Springs

Why We Picked Northern Territory, Australia

DANIEL HERSZBERG

Australia's beauty comes from the uniqueness of its nature. Nowhere is this more present than in the Northern Territory. From the deep red hues of the Outback, the birdlife of Kakadu or simply the presence of Uluru: the Northern Territory epitomises all that Australia is. When coupled with the ever-increasing wealth of Indigenous culture in the region, the Northern Territory should be on everyone's 2020 list! 

Daniel Herszberg   // @dhersz

JARRYD SALEM

The Northern Territory has developed the reputation for being Australia's adventure and culture hotspot, and for good reason. With some of the nation's most outstanding and unique landscapes, and an interesting Aboriginal culture, the NT is sure to be one of the most popular regions to visit in Oceania in no time.

Jarryd Salem  // Nomadasauras


16. Prince Edward Island 

Prince Edward Island

Credit: Tourism PEI / Sander Meurs

Long a favorite of Canadians traveling their own country, international visitors are beginning to flock to Prince Edward Island for its remarkable red beaches, laid-back seaside villages, tranquil nature walks, and farm-to-table dining. And with first-class tourism infrastructure, peaceful Prince Edward Island is happy to host these travelers looking for a break from it all. In an era where everyone everywhere seems in a rush all the time, Prince Edward Island offers the perfect digital detox destination for 2020. 

When to Visit: June to September

Top Attractions: Prince Edward Island National Park, Confederation Bridge, Green Gables Heritage Place

Why We Picked Prince Edward Island

NATHAN AGUILERA

As a food blogger I've been hearing about the incredible seafood from PEI for years. I'm dying to plan a visit to experience it for myself! 

NATHAN AGUILERA   // Foodie Flash Packer


17. Colorado Springs, Colorado 

Colorado Springs, Colorado


If you had to name a single state that had a breakout decade in the 2010s, it's got to be Colorado. But while the swarms of visitors and new residents make clear that Denver has officially transitioned from cow-town to cool, Colorado's second city has mostly flown under travelers' radar. That's bound to change soon, because Colorado Springs is even closer to the Rocky Mountain Front Range  and offers access to beautiful natural scenery unspoiled by the crowds. And with 2020 bringing the opening of the $90 million U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame, there's never been a better time to visit Colorado Springs.

When to Visit: March to June; September to November

Top Attractions: Garden of the Gods, The Broadmoor Seven Falls, Pikes Peak

Why We Picked Colorado Springs, Colorado 

JESSIE FESTA

The aptly named Garden of the Gods Park is worth the trip in itself. It's just one of many stunning places to immerse yourself in nature in Colorado Springs. 

Jessie Festa   // Jessie On A Journey


18. La Paz, Mexico 

La Paz, Mexico


La Paz somehow feels like its halfway across the ocean, even though it's only two hours away from Cabo (and direct international flights to the states!). Its location also makes it the perfect base for aqua adventurers keen to swim with whale sharks or sea lions in the Sea of Cortez, a marine biosphere so rich in life that Jacques Cousteau once famously called it "the aquarium of the world." If you're in the US and looking for adventure, nature, or just a stunning beach, La Paz makes the perfect short international getaway for 2020.

When to Visit: October to April

Top Attractions: Paseo Alvaro Obregon, Balandra Beach, Catedral de Nuestra Senora, Espíritu Santo Island

Related Content: 18 Tips for Traveling Mexico, 33 Best Things to Do in Mexico

Why We Picked La Paz, Mexico

TIMOTHY SCOTT

Few destinations in Latin America offer so much to do and see in one area for adventure travelers and nature lovers. Plus with the Los Cabos airport being a few hours away, it's easy to get here from other countries. 

Timothy Scott   // Luxury Latin America


19. Estonia

Estonia


If Disney's animated fairy tales were shot live action, they'd probably move their studios to Estonia. Because this entire country feels a bit like a real-life version of the Magic Kingdom, somewhere at the cultural intersection of Scandinavia and continental Europe. But don't let the nostalgic setting fool you into thinking Estonia is stuck in the past - because it's actually widely considered as the most advanced digital society in the world. Internet is a human right here and the country is opening its arms to the digital nomad movement. Here's hoping the rest of the world follows in Estonia's footsteps!

When to Visit: May to September

Top Attractions: Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Lahemaa National Park, Talinn Town Hall, Kadriorg Art Museum

Why We Picked Estonia 

ALYSSA RAMOS

Your winter wonderland dreams come true in Estonia! A charming European setting that’ll make you feel like you’re in a story book, especially around Christmas!

Alyssa Ramos  // My Life's A Travel Movie


20. Lausanne, Switzerland 

Lausanne, Switzerland

Credit: Lausanne Tourism

It's hard to find hidden gems in Switzerland these days, but if there's one place that's deserving of more attention than it gets, it's the stunningly situated city of Lausanne. Drenched in history dating back to Roman times, today Lausanne is Switzerland's youngest and most vibrant city. And 2020 is the perfect time to visit, as the city just opened Platforme 10 - an enormous cultural hub centered around three museums that promises to make Lausanne the perfect 2020 destination for art and culture lovers. 

When to Visit: April to October

Top Attractions: Lake Geneva, Lausanne Cathedral, The Olympic Museum, Place del Palud

Why We Picked Lausanne, Switzerland 

TRAVIS SHERRY

While Interlaken, Lucerne, Zurich, and Geneva get (rightfully) a lot of love, after living in Switzerland, I'd put Lausanne up against any of them. Perched on the banks of Lake Geneva, with incredible views of the Alps, a super walkable and lively downtown, access to miles of vineyards, and the fantastic Olympic museum, Lausanne is can't miss for any traveler coming to Switzerland, and likely won't be flying under the radar for much longer.

Travis Sherry   // Extra Pack of Peanuts

Which Destination Has Your Vote?


21. Southern Laos 

Southern Laos

Credit: Bart Verweij

Adventure. Nature. Culture. Southern Laos offers everything that draws throngs of travelers to Northern Thailand - minus the crowds. Outdoors types will love hiking the region's lush jungles, encountering towering waterfalls and gorgeous coffee plantations along the way. History buffs will adore exploring Vat Phou at Champasak, a ruined Khmer Hindu temple and UNESCO World Heritage site that's even older than Angkor Wat. If you've ever wondered what Southeast Asia was like before the mobs of tourists arrived, Southern Laos is the place to find out. 

When to Visit: October to April

Top Attractions: Wat Phu Champasak, Khon Phapheng Falls, Bolaven Plateau

Why We Picked Southern Laos

KATIE & BEN

Laos is packed with adventure, natural beauty, and lovely people, many of whom could use an influx in the right kind of tourism. One of my very favorite travel memories was at a homestay in a remote village in Laos. It was one of the most authentic and meaningful things I've ever experienced, and it reminds me why I travel. 

Katie & BEN  // Two Wandering Soles


22. Lebanon 

Lebanon


Lebanon is the sort of place where the past, present, and future seemingly converge at once. It's a place influenced by countless cultures over millennia, and you could spend your entire trip here just soaking in some of the world's most important history. But then you'd miss out on the many other sensory experiences Lebanon offers - foodies will love the incredible cuisine, hikers will be in heaven in the beautiful Chouf mountains, and shopping addicts will enjoy Beirut's first-class design outposts. And while beaches and nightlife probably aren't the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "Lebanon," the country has excellent options on both counts too. In short, prepare to be completely surprised by Lebanon.

When to Visit: September to May

Top Attractions: Kadisha Valley, National Museum of Beirut, Cedars of God, Raouche Rocks, Temples of Baalbek, Byblos, Tyre and Sidon.

Why We Picked Lebanon 

NICK WHARTON

The food, culture, history, and people of Lebanon are more than enough reason to put this country on your list!

Nick Wharton    // Goats on the Road


23. Poznań, Poland

Poznań, Poland


It's almost impossible to believe that a town this beautiful isn't already overrun by tourists. But you won't have to push through any crowds to soak in Poznań's colorful architecture and charming streets. Despite the fact that it's one of the oldest cities in Poland (not to mention one of the most beautiful), Poznań remains one of Europe's last remaining true hidden gems. That's likely to change soon, though, as it's only a matter of time before travelers discover its picturesque streets. Wandering the the Royal-Imperial Route from Old Town to the even older section of town known as Ostrów Tumski, you'll soon realize why Poznań could be to the 2020s what Krakow was to the 2010s.

When to Visit: All year round; November to February for winter-season activities

Top Attractions: Old Market Square, Imperial Castle, Lake Malta, Park Cytadela

Why We Picked Poznań, Poland

MATT KEPNES

Poland as a whole is an underrated destination in Europe, and Poznań is no exception!

Matt Kepnes   // Nomadic Matt


24. Paso Robles, California 

Paso Robles, California

Credit: Travel Paso

Move over, Napa! With hundreds of wineries to explore (most of them family owned and operated) and far fewer crowds, Paso Robles is the perfect place for a relaxing weekend break in 2020. And even if you can't make it all the way to Australia for #15 on our list, you can still experience the magic of Bruce Munro at the 15 acre Field of Light at Sensorio, an illuminated sculptural composition that needs to be experienced to be understood. For wine and art lovers looking a hip emerging destination for 2020, look no further than enchanting Paso Robles.

When to Visit: March to June; September to December

Top Attractions: DAOU Vineyards & Winery, Tobin James Cellars, The Ravine Water Park, Sculpterra Winery

Why We Picked Paso Robles, California

NATHAN AGUILERA

Learning that there are more than 200 wineries in Paso Robles sent it to the top of my list of must see places for 2020!

Nathan Aguilera   // Foodie Flash Packer


25. Navarre Beach, Florida

Navarre Beach, Florida

Navarre Beach, Santa Rosa County (Credit: Santa Rosa County)

Possibly the best beach destination that you've never heard of, Navarre Beach was Florida's best-kept secret until TripAdvisor named it as one of the best 25 beaches in the United States this year. Located just 40 minutes from Pensacola, Navarre Beach is the perfect destination for families looking to enjoy water activities like kite surfing, fishing, snorkeling, and surfing - or just looking to unwind and watch a spectacular sunset on a quiet patch of sand. After all, just because you want to experience perfect white sand beaches doesn't mean you need to dart through a sea of beach-goers to stake out a tiny sliver of sand. 

When to Visit: April to November

Top Attractions: Gulf Breeze Zoo, Santa Rosa Sound, Navarre Beach Pier, Ye Olde Brothers Brewery

Why We Picked Navarre Beach, Florida 

DEREK BARON

It's simple - Navarre offers the white sand beaches, gorgeous turquoise waters, and perfect sunsets of some of the worlds more crowded and expensive beach destinations. I'll take a more laid-back, picture perfect tropical destination, that's easy to reach, any day.

Derek Baron   // Wandering Earl


26. McLaren Vale, South Australia 

McLaren Vale, South Australia

Credit: Marc Mandica

Prepare to eat and drink to your heart's content in one of the most-underrated wine and food destinations south of the Equator. Immerse yourself in a whimsical wine experience at the d’Arenberg wine cube— a 5-floor tasting room in a dramatic Instagram-worthy setting created by the “Willy Wonka of Wine," Chester Osbourne. Or opt to stay overnight in a vineyard by booking a "wine pod" at the Vineyard Retreat, allowing you to sleep off your vino on-site. And because this is Australia, you'll never be far from beautiful beaches to boot. Silver Sands Beach offers gorgeous sunsets and family fun. Whatever you do, just get here fast. Because the secret about McLaren Vale is officially out. 

When to Visit: March to May; September to November

Top Attractions: d'Arenberg, Coriole Vineyards, Alpha Box & Dice, Wirra Wirra Vineyards

Why We Picked McLaren Vale, South Australia 

TOMMO & MEGSY

Wine and food lovers alike can't help but fall in love with this stunning region in South Australia. With so many award-winning wineries and tasty Michelin Star restaurants to choose from Mclaren Vale is a must visit for people seeking the very best culinary experiences that South Australia has to offer. 

Tommo & Megsy   // Food Fun Travel


27. Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania 

Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania

Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania (Credit: Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau)

Who would have thought that one of the best nature destinations in the United States was just an hour outside of Pittsburgh? A landscape so beautiful that it inspired two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces, today the Laurel Highlands beckon with luxury resorts offering prime ski slope access and cozy woodland accommodations perfect for cuddling up next to a cup of coffee and a book. You'll find plenty to get the adrenaline flowing in the summer too - from whitewater rafting to rock climbing to hiking, the possibilities for adventures are endless in the Laurel Highlands. 

When to Visit: All year round

Top Attractions: Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob, Fort Ligonier, Ohiopyle

Why We Picked Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania 

MEGAN INDOE

Another overlooked destination in the Eastern US that's home to incredible architecture, nature, and cultural sites that makes for the perfect escape at one of their luxury resorts and an amazing road trip.

Megan Indoe   // Bobo & ChiChi


28. Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan


Located at the crossroads of cultures and continents, Azerbaijan might be one of the most underrated countries for travel on the planet according to those who've braved it. But for travelers who dare to be different, there is no 2020 destination more likely to blow away your expectations than the amazing Azerbaijan. Marvel at the juxtaposition of ancient history and modern architecture in Baku. Bathe in a mud volcano surrounded by unreal landscapes. Or simply stroll along the Caspian Sea, claiming one of the country's 500 kilometers of coastline for yourself. Safe and affordable, Azerbaijan is ready to welcome the world. 

When to Visit: April to June; September to October

Top Attractions: Baku, Maiden Tower, Palace of the Shirvanshahs, Gobustan National Park

Why We Picked Baku, Azerbaijan

YULIA SAFUTDINOVA

Baku is one of those places that not many people can place on the map, yet it is a hidden gem for so many things! With its rich history and traditions, out-of-this-world architecture, amazing food and EXTREMELY hospitable people, I think it should definitely be included into your travel plans if you are craving for something off-the-beaten track.

Yulia Safutdinova   // Miss Tourist


29. Paraguay 

Paraguay


Most tourists can't point it out on a map, and the few who can are usually put off by the country's high visa fees and the relative difficulty of getting here. But those that make the trip will discover a vibrant and colorful country with plenty to offer visitors. Check out the capital Ascunsion for colorful street art and fascinating history, or venture north to Paraguay's more than a dozen protected ecological reserves for some top-notch wildlife spotting. Oh, and you'll find loads of alternative - and more affordable - Carnival celebrations all across the country here, with the most spectacular celebrations taking place in Encarnacion. Look out Rio, there's someone coming for your crown!

When to Visit: All year round, February for Carnival 

Top Attractions: Itaipu Dam, La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná, Triple Frontier, Monday's Falls

Why We Picked Paraguay

FRANCISCO ORTIZ

Paraguay is a hidden gem in South America. You'll enjoy raw nature and amazing landscapes with very little company. But what you'll never forget is how nice and incredibly hospitable Paraguayans are, they go above and beyond. A country with a very rich and diverse culture that will leave a mark on you. For a raw and authentic experience, go to Paraguay.

Francisco Ortiz   // Francisco Ortiz


30. Ethiopia 

Ethiopia


The birthplace of mankind is opening its arms to visitors. Ethiopia has been quietly improving its tourist infrastructure of late, and may be finally poised to make a run as a top place to travel in East Africa. Though not a traditional safari destination, Ethiopia offers an extraordinary range of wildlife and bird-watching across its incredible array of landscapes. Plus, it's home to 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the remarkable Lalibela cave churches. Culturally and geographically diverse, Ethiopia is the perfect place to travel in 2020 for those who dare to be different. 

When to Visit: October to June

Top Attractions: Simien Mountains National Park, Blue Nile Falls, Lake Tana, Erta Ale

Why We Picked Ethiopia 

AUDREY SCOTT

Ethiopia is a fascinating place to live with a rich, long history that you can explore through its incredible rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and cave churches in the Gheralta Mountains. In addition, Ethiopian cuisine is amazing and it has some of the best coffee in the world. Responsible tourism here can also play an important role in socio-economic development. 

Audrey Scott  // Uncornered Market


That's it for this year's Emerging Destination Award winners. Check back next month when we announce the winners of our annual Readers Choice Awards - and click here to cast your vote for your favorite destination

And, remember: you have a choice where you travel in 2020, and that choice matters. 

By visiting our winning travel destinations instead of the same overcrowded and overdone spots, you'll be making a small but meaningful contribution towards fixing the problem of overtourism. 

To learn more about we can all fight overtourism in the decade ahead, visit our Overtourism Resource Center for perspectives on how to address this rising problem. 

***

A final note of thanks: The Emerging Destination Awards are a collaborative project involving stakeholders across the travel space. Special thanks are due to the nearly 100 tourism boards who participated this year, our incredible travel blogger judges, and German Backpacker and Very Hungry Nomads of our Nominating Committee. 

Happy travels in 2020!

Editors' Note: This article has been edited, including to clarify our process and a quote regarding Aarhus that was previously unclear. 

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