The 2020 Wander List: Top 20 destinations and travel trends this year

A new year has dawned, and a new decade.

In 2010, we didn’t have Instagram or iPads, Donald Trump was host of The Celebrity Apprentice and ‘eco-travel’ was being touted as an exotic trend – an off-radar niche dominated by tents, treks and rainforests.

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Fast-forward to our brave new world of 2020. Social media and online tools are all-pervasive in travel, for better or worse. We not only plan, book, inspire and rate holidays on our devices; we plan holidays (‘digital detoxes’) that help us escape them.

New flights this year will take us from Ireland to destinations like Shanghai and Tel Aviv, while Fáilte Ireland is set to unveil its largest-ever domestic marketing campaign – a €6m effort encouraging us to ‘Keep Discovering’ here at home. The concept of sustainability has gone mainstream, from ‘flight shaming’ to single-use plastics, from carbon offsets to KeepCups.

It’s worth reiterating that travel itself is not the problem: carbon, waste and inaction are. I’m asking a lot more searching questions about how and why I travel than I was in 2010, but I still believe in the importance of tourism to our island, in its power to help disaster-stricken places like Puerto Rico to recover, and in the unique ability of travel to enrich our lives and bring perspective in an increasingly polarised world.

With this in mind, we’ve tried to make our 2020 Wander List as creative and sustainable as possible. I hope it helps to inspire many adventures you’ll remember in 2030… and beyond. – Pól Ó Conghaile

1. Galway, Ireland

Why: We knew it. Now the world knows it. Galway has rocketed onto the global radar, thanks to its turn as European Capital of Culture 2020 and a hat tip from Lonely Planet as one of the best cities to visit this year. While there’s heaps of cultural events planned (from the Opening Ceremonies in February to a fabulous event with Margaret Atwood on International Women’s Day), they’re only the beginning. The g hotel is getting a revamp, Hotel Meyrick has gotten a €10m reboot to become The Hardiman, there’s a Street Feast scaling up in the West End over the June bank holiday weekend – and summer sees the trial pedestrianisation of Dominick Street Upper, along with fab al fresco spaces and urban gardens. Galway is a great staging post for adventures in Connemara and the Aran Islands, too – see revamped visitor website, – NB


If you like that, try: This year marks 100 years since the nuns took ownership of Kylemore Abbey. A centenary programme and new monastery are on the way.

2. Puglia, Italy

Why: In an industry with tourists on the eternal search for the next Algarve, Provence or Tuscany, the Italian region of Puglia is poised to trend this year. Perched right on the heel of Italy’s boot, its appeal is clear: year-round sunshine, a cauldron of ancient cultures and a deliciously pared-back ‘cucina povera’ (literally, ‘poor cooking’). Add in highlights like the piazzas of Lecce, the coast along Gallipoli and the Smurf-like village of Alberobello, and you’ve found a dolce vita paradise that’s not for sharing. – TB

Details: Brindisi is a new summer route for Aer Lingus (, taking off from Dublin next May.

If you like that, try: Tuscany lovers seeking fewer crowds should try the region’s gorgeous Maremma coastline.

3. The Greta Effect

Why: We’re all feeling travel guilt this year. Between the work of Greta Thunberg and the Swedish concept of flygskam (flight shame), those €19.99 flights to overcrowded Barcelona have lost their lustre. But reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t mean an end to exciting travel. Look at sites like, who have been consistently ahead of the crowd – one of the first to launch a carbon-offsetting scheme, they were also quick to backtrack 10 years ago, encouraging customers to reduce flights instead. They have over 6,000 trips on their books, all with solid-gold ethics – we love the look of their Ireland by Train holiday, or the week-long cycling trip in Connemara. – NB

Details: Ireland by Train costs from €1,024 for eight days; Connemara Express Cycling Tour from €825.

If you like that, try: Take the ferry to Wales, and go paddle boarding in Anglesey or sea kayaking in Pembrokeshire. See for more.

4. The Dalmatian Hinterland

Why: Dubrovnik has been become one of the poster cities for over-tourism, but there’s far more to Croatia than its beautiful coastline. A super network of roads soon leads visitors away from the tourist crowds, into an off-radar area where wine trails and farmsteads like Agrotourism Kalpic are taking on a new life. Zagora (literally ‘behind the hills’) is southern Croatia’s unexplored inland region, where you’ll find Krka National Park and ‘pomalo’ (a philosophy emphasising slowness and balance). Ryanair will operate a new flight from Cork to Zadar, too. – PÓC


If you like that, try: 2020 marks 25 years since the end of the Bosnian War (1992-95). Mostar appears on National Geographic’s Best in Travel list for the year ahead.

5. Puerto Rico

Why: After the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico is back in business, and those who live there want to sing it from the rooftops. The capital of San Juan celebrates its 500-year anniversary, this year sees the release of Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, late last year a ‘Blank Canvas’ call invited street artists around the world to paint its streets, and a whole new entertainment district, El Distrito, is on course to open in the capital this year. The island is dreamily beautiful, with white sand beaches, three of the world’s five bioluminescent bays, and the only tropical rainforest in the United States. There’s a cool new Aloft hotel opening in San Juan early this year, too. – NB

Details: Fly to Puerto Rico via New York or Miami – flights start from around €660 with Aer Lingus and JetBlue; See also

If you like that, try: Much of the Bahamas are back open for business after Hurricane Dorian last year – Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island has seven nights from €2,070 with flights.

6. Chicago

Why: A trip to Chicago is always a good idea. This year, there’s loads to keep you entertained, particularly if you’re of an arty disposition. The Art Institute of Chicago is an incredible gallery that could easily suck you in for a whole day. Be quick, and you’ll just about catch the new Andy Warhol ‘introspective’, running until January 26. Later in June, the biggest Frida Kahlo exhibition in 40 years is opening at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art, and you should also factor in a visit to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen. Afterwards, wander along 18th Street for a Michelin-starred brunch in Dusek’s Board & Beer. – NB

Details: Stay at the new Hoxton Chicago (pictured) in the Fulton Market District, right next to the just-opened Time Out Market Chicago. Rooms from €117.

If you like that, try: Everyone’s buzzing about Minneapolis- Saint Paul, after Aer Lingus launched direct flights to the twin cities last summer.

The Chicago Bucket List: 39 things to see, do and eat in the Windy City

7. Horses for courses in Kildare

Why: Due to open this spring, the €3.2m immersive ‘Irish Racehorse Experience’ is one of the biggest new arrivals in Irish tourism set for this year. Set at the Irish National Stud, it will take the visitor through what it’s like to train and race a thoroughbred “from foal to finish”. It comes as the local section of the Royal Canal Greenway prepares to open in March (stretching 130km from Dublin to Longford, the greenway will be Ireland’s longest once finished), Aimsir Restaurant at the Cliff at Lyons has won two Michelin stars, Carton House (pictured) has undergone a major refurb and Kildare town has unveiled a new St Brigid’s Trail. – PÓC


If you like that, try: Did you know Fethard, Co Tipperary, is home to a high-spec ‘Horse Country Experience’?

8. Magic in Montenegro

Why: It may be a jewel of the Adriatic, but Montenegro has long been a bridesmaid add-on for tourists visiting next-door Croatia. That’s about to change. From April, a new Ryanair route will connect Dublin to the country’s ancient but rather accidental capital of Podgorica. The city’s not without its charm, but the route will mostly lure those hatching a DIY Balkan break, with the terracotta-topped beauties of Kotor and Budva an hour west. Feeling intrepid? Albania’s just 25km over the border, too. – TB

Details: Ryanair ( will fly twice weekly from Dublin to Podgorica in the new year.

If you like that, try: Another new route for 2020? Aer Lingus will fly from Dublin to the Greek Island of Rhodes.

9. Much ado about Majorca

Why: Can tourist taxes work? The Balearic Islands’ Sustainable Tourism Tax has raised €340 million since its launch in 2016, with the money funding 225 sustainable tourism initiatives, including brand-new mountain huts for hikers. Mallorca is pinched with crowds in summer, but it’s a great island to visit in the shoulder season – spring or autumn see gorgeous weather (and fewer visitors), plus direct flights start up again. Can Ferrereta is a 32-room boutique hotel set to open in rural Santanyí in the spring, set within a historic 17th-century mansion. – NB

Details:; from €315. Fly to Mallorca with Ryanair from the end of March.

If you like that, try: Stay at the eco village Finca de Arrieta from Lanzarote Retreats, where accommodation is powered by solar and wind energy.

10. Northern Peru

Why: Tourists flock to Machu Picchu in their droves. But barely any make the trek to the north of the country, an area that’s strikingly beautiful (and practically empty). Head to Kuélap, an Incan settlement older than Machu Picchu, and you’ll likely have it all to yourself (bar the odd llama wandering between the stone settlements). Gocta Waterfall is one of the tallest in the world, and the hike to get there takes you through jaw-dropping mountain scenery. Go now, before everyone else gets the same idea. – NB

Details: G Adventures has a nine-day National Geographic Journey to Northern Peru from €2,049.

If you like that, try: Not only is Bhutan one of Rough Guides’ top countries to visit this year, it’s also carbon-negative and set to become the first fully organic nation in 2020.

11. Sustainable Sligo

Why: It’s all go in Sligo. Hipster favourite Strandhill just scooped a big prize at the EDEN Awards, which recognise excellence in health and wellbeing tourism (a new €1.6m National Surf Centre will open in autumn). Plans have been announces for a Cultural Plaza in Sligo town, too – a new, all-weather outdoor venue costing €3.6m. There’s a also fresh festival coming to the scene this year. Wild Roots looks set to become the new All Together Now, with outdoor baths, forest gigs and adventures aplenty. – NB

Details: Sligo Park Hotel has a ‘Wild & Well’ retreat with Blaithín Sweeney ( from €299pp at the end of this month.;;;

If you like that, try: Neighbouring Co Mayo is a dream for outdoor adventures.

12. Rewilding destinations

Why: You don’t have to travel to Yellowstone for epic nature, you know. Thanks to a series of successful reintroduction programmes across the continent, Europe’s nature is bouncing back with rewilding locations emerging as a new trend for urban millennials looking to unplug. Teamed with a network of sustainable outfitters, the European Safari Company offer fauna fans a range of experiential getaways from bison tracking in the Carpathian Mountains to bear watching in Swedish Lapland. – TB

Details: A four-day hiking trip in Croatia’s Velebit Mountains with bear-watching and glamping accommodation starts from €575, ex. flights.

If you like that, try: Talks of reintroducing wolves in Ireland seem to have fizzled out but there’s still fantastic wildlife to experience by visiting our six national parks.

13. On Yer Bike in France

Why: Cycling holidays have surged in popularity in recent years – one specialist, The Slow Cyclist, has seen an average year-on-year customer growth of 60pc. And as the world’s second-most popular cycling destination, France is well ahead of the curve – 2019 saw the launch of a new cycling trail in Flanders, and this year will see the opening of the 430km cycle route, La Seine à Vélo, linking Paris to Le Havre and Deauville in Normandy, along the River Seine. The Vélo Maritime route will be open in 2021 and passes along the beautiful northern coast, through gorgeous Normandy spots like Mont-Saint-Michel and Saint-Malo. – NB


If you like that, try: The Slow Cyclist has ethical guided e-bike trips in Europe and Africa.

14. The Empire State Trail

Why: Growth in walking holidays has been phenomenal this past decade, from simple forest paths to coastal hikes and caminos. After the success of greenways in Mayo and Waterford, you can expect several more in Ireland in the decade ahead, while new overseas trails include the Empire State Trail – a continuous, 1,210km route stretching from The Battery in New York City to Canada, and from Buffalo in the west of New York State to Albany in the east. The trail already exists in separate sections but will be connected by the end of this year, creating the longest multi-use trail in the US, taking in everything from leafy parks to places like Poughkeepsie, Sleepy Hollow and Saratoga Springs, and users will be able to link through to other regional routes like the Appalachian Trail and Adirondack and Catskill Parks. You can even dip in from New York City, on the Hudson Valley Greenway. – PÓC

Details: Check out the Trail’s progress through the year on

If you like that, try: is a new offer from Camino specialist, offering off-season walking trips in the Canary Islands.

10 amazing trips for 2020 – from ‘Arctic cocooning’ to training with a ninja

15. Vegan vacations

Why: It remains to be seen whether avocado toast will stand the test of time, but all indicators show that the plant-powered wave in hospitality is taking root. Expect the niche to grow in travel through 2020, following in the low-carbon footsteps of Saorsa 1875 near Loch Ness; the UK’s first vegan hotel, which is animal-free down to its furniture, toiletries and cleaning products. London, meanwhile, has been ranked the world’s top city to visit for vegans (or flexitarians; see panel), with everything from vegan suites at the Hilton Bankside to a newly opened vegan cheesemongers. – TB

Details:; rooms are priced from around €180.

If you like that, try: A vegan retreat in India might not break the bank. Quirky Bean Me Up ( B&B in Goa has rates starting from €15 per night.

16. Love Limerick

Why: Limerick’s literally buzzing right now. The city has been named a European Green Leaf City for 2020, with slated events including a major new electro music festival and an International Pollinator Conference, no less. Expect Limerick’s increasingly sustainable-meets-hip food scene, new street-art tours and the recently opened Treaty City Brewery to add further colour. A new Limerick brand developed with M&C Saatchi will launch at the end of January while, elsewhere in the county, the evolving Great Southern Greenway connecting Rathkeale to Abbeyfeale is expected to see a boost, as is the county’s new Shannon Estuary drive, and the JP McManus Pro-AM tees off in July! – TB


If you like that, try: Also along the Munster Vales, an ever-burgeoning food scene coupled with the new Suir Blueway make South Tipperary well worth a meander.

17. Buildings in Brazil

Why: Rio de Janeiro is UNESCO’s first World Capital of Architecture in 2020. Tourists are of course well aware of Brazil’s soccer, salsa and seaside offerings, but expect brilliant buildings to join them this year – from the saucer-shaped Contemporary Art Museum to Santiago Calatrava’s Museum of Tomorrow (powered by solar panels) and Renaissance-style National Museum of Fine Arts. The Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City) will be hosting plenty of themed events, but it’s not all about bricks and mortar – Carnival (February 21-29) needs no introduction, while Tijuca National Park is the world’s largest urban forest. – PÓC


If you like that, try: Cairo is set for a big 2020, with the delayed opening of its Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza. It includes 5,400 objects from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

18. Camino getaways

Why: They’ve emerged as a firm favourite with Irish travellers in recent years, thanks to their cathartic combo of mindfulness with the great outdoors, but as traditional paths busy up, one camino trend is emerging for 2020: Portugal. For an alternative route, the Caminho Português Coastal Route takes trekkers north from Porto to Santiago, offering spectacular views, great wine stops and a welcome bypass for the nippy Galician winter. – TB

Details: Follow the Camino has eight-days tours along the Portuguese route from €660.

If you like that, try: Turaventur offers walking and cycling tours across Portugal’s often overlooked region of the Alentejo.

Top 10 tips for the Camino: Break in your boots and pack Vaseline

19. Cool Costa Rica

Why: With an ecotourism scene dating back to the 1970s, Costa Rica’s been going green long before it became a hashtag. The Central American country has seen tourism numbers rise year-on-year for the last decade, with visitors all drawn by dreams of hiking, zip lining or canyoning through the world’s most biodiverse jungles. Ninety per cent of Costa Rica’s energy stems from renewable sources and there’s no shortage of gorgeous eco-sensitive escapes either. Not least the new Nayara luxury tented camp – set in, of course, a sloth sanctuary. – TB

Details: G Adventures offer a nine-day Costa Rican tour from €767 excluding flights.

If you like that, try: The Portuguese archipelago of the Azores has been embracing sustainable tourism for decades. Get there via Lisbon with TAP.

20. Turn the Immersion on

Why: Along with wellness and sustainability, here’s another ‘mega-trend’ for this year. The concept of immersion isn’t just inspiring a subset of trips, but will probably form part of almost every trip this year. It’s not just that, for some, the notion of flopping on a sun lounger for two weeks no longer cuts it. Immersive travel speaks to holidaymakers looking for memorable experiences, and an increased desire for authentic, sensory experiences that resonate on an emotional level. A tonic in a world dominated by data and screens? A desire to reconnect with the human touch? Yet another travel fad? Only time will tell, but for now, the immersion is only getting deeper. It could be as simple as baking bread, or as complex as luxury travel company Black Tomato’s new Bring it Back itineraries, “designed to spark existential epiphanies and help travellers become the person they aspire to be” ( This can mean delving into sustainability in Peru, or finding a better work-life balance in Copenhagen. Tempted? – NB & PÓC

If you like that, try: Hoxton Hotels have a new ‘Flexy Time’ offering that lets guests choose their own check-in times.

Six hot travel takes for 2020

Micro-trips: With work-life balance harder to come by than ever, expect a growing market for short ‘n’ sweet trips that allow us to parachute out of the nine-to-five into quick doses of adventure and immersion. Think of Airbnb’s curated ‘adventures’, the growth of mini cruises providing taster sailings over a couple of days, or short wellness and activity breaks in Ireland.

Gen-Zzzz: Gen Z – the generation born after 1995 – will come of age this year, making up over one-third of the world’s population, according to Bloomberg. But spare a thought for Gen Zzzz, their sleep-deprived parents, who more than ever are looking for a good night’s kip on a short break. From hotels offering ‘Cloud Beds’ to jasmine-infused eye masks and late check-outs, rest really is best.

Cash-free: From contactless payments to Apple Pay and WeChat Pay, the cashless society is steaming ahead and increasingly taken for granted by tourists. Why have so many Irish taxi drivers failed to get the memo? Similar to patchy WiFi, there’s also a limit as to how ‘charming’ visitors will continue to find rural businesses that still demand notes and coins.

Flexitarian: You’ve heard of vegetarian and pescatarian, but what about ‘flexitarian’? It’s a portmanteau word referring to those trying to eat less meat and more plants (rather than no meat). If my own family is anything to go by, many of us may be flexitarian without knowing the word for it… In travel, a less-is-more approach could also help highlight and incentivise sustainable and ethically farmed Irish meats. Bon appétit!

Second-city breaks: As more cities buckle under the pressure of overtourism, expect to see travellers striking out for ‘second cities’ in peak season. Why not skip Venice for Comacchio, for example, or Dubrovnik for Zadar? has listed ‘Second City Travellers’ as a trend for this year, with 51pc of survey respondents saying they would swap a destination for a lesser-known but similar alternative if they knew it would have less of an environmental or societal impact.

Hydration stations: Or, as you may know them, taps. Dublin Airport now has 18 bottle refill stations after security in its terminals, and hotels from the Amber Springs in Gorey, Co Wexford, to the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge have installed corridor stations where guests can refill jugs or reusable water bottles. Let’s hope 2020 sees the trend hit saturation point. – PÓC

NB: All prices subject to availability/change

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