5 must-visit destinations for 2020

New year, new holiday to plan. We asked Elle UK’s travel editor Susan Ward-Davies for her five hitlist destinations

An empty calendar and a world full of incredible places: planning your getaways is one of the most exciting ways to start the year as far as we're concerned. With so many amazing areas to explore around the globe, we've enlisted the help of travel expert Susan Ward-Davies to get her predictions for the latest must-see destinations that are simply crying out for you to visit in 2020. Here are her top five...

1. Belize City, Belize

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Why now? Fashionable Mexican hideaways Tulum and Holbox are quite mainstream now, so the smart money is on more-under-the-radar Belize. Bordered by 386km of pristine Caribbean coastline, Belize was formerly the domain of backpackers, apart from a few stylish outposts like Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge and Turtle Inn, but now the country is upping the luxury ante. Recent openings include Ka’ana Resort & Spa and rustic boutique It’zana in coastal Placencia. The Four Seasons is building Caye Chapel resort, its first private island in the Americas, to open in 2021, and once Leonardo DiCaprio’s long-awaited eco resort, Blackadore Caye, is opened in 2020, it will be well and truly on the A-list map.

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Must-dos Belize is home to ancient Mayan ruins, more than 4,400 square km of rainforest and the second largest coral reef in the world. You can also explore the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha, canoe through the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and swim with whale sharks. If you love adventure, this is the place.

2. Cape Town, South Africa

Why now? Home to a booming art and food scene, Cape Town has many draws. The Central Business District is the cool new area, where you’ll find recently opened boutique hotels Labotessa and Gorgeous George, and What If The World gallery, adding an arty edge.

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Must-dos To see just how good Cape Town food is, book a table at Fyn for Peter Tempelhoff’s take on Japanese fine dining. An hour’s drive east you’ll find Babylonstoren, an original Cape Dutch farm. Borrow bikes for tours of the beautiful gardens and try their organic restaurants, Babel and Greenhouse. Or visit Stellenbosch (above), one of South Africa’s oldest settlements and sample some of the best wines in the world.

3. Akureyri, Iceland

Why now? The land of fire and ice is home to spectacular glaciers, geysers and thundering waterfalls. Most people drive round Iceland’s well-trodden Golden Circle, but if you want to try the road less travelled, the new Arctic Coast Way has just opened. Joining a number of scenic routes in the north – all the way from Hvammstangi in the west to Bakkafjörður in the east – it’s completely coastal, so you can explore previously inaccessible parts of Iceland. At 900kms in its entirety, it’s way too long to tackle during a port day, but as the road passes through Akureyri, hire a car and drive as far as time allows. Routes change during summer and winter, so you know you’re seeing the best of the season.

Must-dos Fancy bathing in ale? Stop off at the new The Beer Spa, 30 minutes north of Akureyri in Árskógssandur. You’ll need to set aside an hour for steeping yourself in a tub filled with beer, hops and yeast (reputed to be very cleansing). One hour northeast of Akureyi, you can try the more traditional geothermal sea water baths to wallow in warm, mineral-rich water, while looking out over the mountains.

4. Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Why now? All eyes will be on this Caribbean island once the new Bond Movie, No Time to Die (much of it shot in Jamaica), comes out in April, especially as it’s Daniel Craig’s last and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s first. Add to that Bob Marley’s 75th birthday in February and you’ll see why the island has a lot to celebrate in 2020.

Must-dos Bond fans will know that Ian Fleming penned all his Bond stories at his lovely beachside house GoldenEye – and it’s easily accessible from port by car. A luxury resort has sprung up around it, so you can book in for lunch and snoop around the gorgeous villas. Just an eight-minute drive east from GoldenEye is Firefly, Noël Coward’s beautiful Jamaican home, in a spectacularly peaceful location, with the dining room table still laid as it was when Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother popped in for lunch in 1965. If you’re after a more scenic experience, try swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Cove, or visit Dunn’s River Falls (above) – both available as Princess excursions.

5. Aqaba, Jordan

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Why now? The only coastal city in Jordan, Aqaba has so much going for it: luxury hotels, miles of sandy beaches, thriving souks… but 2020 will be all about the brand-new Ayla Oasis. A 17-square mile luxury resort with a world-class marina, it’s built around a series of man-made lagoons.

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Must-dos Two of Jordan’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites are within striking distance of Aqaba: the ancient town of Petra, which has been named one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and can be experienced on a Princess day trip; and the spectacular Wadi Rum Protected Area (above), whose epic landscape has been a backdrop in films such as Lawrence Of Arabia and The Martian. Roam around the red dunes by 4x4 on a Princess excursion, too. Close to port, there’s a new underwater military museum, where divers will love swimming among all the decommissioned tanks and helicopters.

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