Taking the planet's pulse is a particularly pleasurable part of our job, and each year we predict which destinations will hit the heights. So, without further delay, we introduce Original Travel's magnificent seven trending destinations for 2020. Some are entirely new destinations for us, others are fresh takes on classic destinations, all are absolute crackers.
Number one on our trending destinations list for 2020, and with good reason, Israel is an utterly compelling contrast of ancient and modern. The Old City of Jerusalem is a must-see - as are the 4,000-year-old port of Jaffa, and Nazareth. So too the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the neighbouring West Bank, and the street art daubed on the West Bank Barrier wall by the likes of Banksy. Don't miss the beachfront bars, boutiques and Bauhaus buildings of foodie haven Tel Aviv, and further afield you can float on the Dead Sea, explore the starkly beautiful Negev Desert by 4x4 and dive reefs off the Red Sea coast. We could go on...
Like Costa Rica, Nicaragua is home to huge biodiversity. Unlike Costa Rica, the world hasn't cottoned on yet. Spend time exploring the country's beautiful national parks and beaches and then wander the Baroque building-lined streets in lovely Granada. Arguably the most charming colonial-era city in the Americas, Granada is set beneath a towering volcano on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, which is best explored by kayak as you paddle between some of the lake's 360 islands, many home to small fishing communities.
It might be a stretch to describe one of the oldest countries in the world as a hot new destination, but China is definitely new to Original Travel. We vow never to feature a destination until we feel we have the relevant expertise, and when a country is the size of the 'Middle Kingdom' that takes time to accumulate. We're there now, and extremely excited to showcase the best this fascinating country has to offer. Even better, as infrastructure improves we can get you way off the beaten path to truly original China. We recommend a minimum of ten days to even scratch the surface in China, and in that time to try and see Beijing; the ancient capital of X'ian (home to the Terracotta Army); and some of rural China, such as the dramatic karst limestone pinnacle landscape around Yangshuo. Gansu, meanwhile, is a classic 'deep cut' destination, for those wanting a truly original Chinese experience. Visit Jiayuguan (right) to see the crowd-free westernmost section of the Great Wall of China; Dunhuang to explore caves full of intricately painted Buddhas hewn from the rock; and Xiahe, a picture-perfect Tibetan Buddhism monastery town where your guide will explain the basic tenets of this admirable religion.
4. The Azores
It's not necessarily a surprise that the Azores have flown under the radar until now; after all, these Portuguese islands are marooned some 900 miles off the mainland in the middle of the Atlantic. And yet we predict this is going to be the next big destination in Europe. Why? Well, the Azores have been compared to another famously geologically active (read: volcanic) place that's become hugely popular, earning the islands the nickname: 'the warm Iceland'. The diving in the Azores is unquestionably the best in Europe. While the shore dive sites are decent enough, the marine life at the deep water offshore sites is the real draw. Given the currents, these sites are for advanced PADI divers only, but suitably qualified divers are virtually guaranteed manta ray and blue shark sightings, and occasional encounters with super-elusive mako sharks, too. Like Iceland, the archipelago is characterised by dramatic volcanic landscapes that lure clued-up adrenaline junkies to the nine islands to hike, bike, kayak and canyon their way around some pretty jaw-dropping scenery. The volcanic schtick even stretches to the islands' cooking, with local speciality cozido das furnas, a casserole cooked in a volcanic steam chamber.
Expect Egypt in the news for all the right reasons in the next couple of years. First, after the success of Murder on the Orient Express, 2020 sees the arrival of the second of Kenneth Branagh's Hercule Poirot reboots, this time Death on the Nile. Then, in 2022, it's the centenary of the discovery of boy king Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Explore these iconic, ancient sites for yourself in Cairo and as you cruise the Nile, then hop to Hurghada for some beachfront R&R and excellent diving/snorkelling to bookend your Egyptian adventure.
New London flight routes into the four corners of Corsica mean this magical Mediterranean island - a blend of the best bits of France and Italy - is finally opening up, and it's ideal road trip territory, too. Even better, thanks to our French connections, we can really put the 'cor' into Corsica (sorry). So, what's there to do? Take private tours of excellent local vineyards; visit stunning secret beaches only accessible by boat, snap up artisanal wares in pretty hilltop villages and wander around charming Genoese-era citadels for starters. Oh, and eat very, very well. That fusion of French and Italian cultures is never better realised than in Corsican cuisine.
Now that Uzbekistan in Central Asia is a firm fixture on the travel map, it's time to introduce another of the 'Stans': Kyrgyzstan, our final entry on our list of trending destinations for 2020. Where Uzbekistan is all about desert plains and stunning Silk Road cities filled with Islamic architectural gems, Kyrgyzstan (short on vowels but long on beauty) is 95% mountains dotted with alpine lakes, all best explored on foot along some truly epic hiking trails through glorious wild flower-carpeted summer meadows. Much as in Mongolia, the Kyrgyz way of life is seminomadic and there are plenty of opportunities to meet the locals on your - and their - travels. With your expert local guide, you'll learn about life in yurts (transportable canvas tents) and ride out with hunters who use their golden eagles to catch prey. Some of Kyrgyzstan's best hiking is in the stunning Karakol and Altyn Arashan valleys. Explore rolling meadows, deep gorges, conifer forests and snowcapped peaks at altitudes ranging from 4,600ft to 9,200ft. Tear your gaze from the scenery and you'll spot golden eagles, bearded vultures, black storks and Tibetan ibis overhead and - on the ground - marmots, wild cats and, if you're really lucky, snow leopards.
Looking to go somewhere 'hot' in 2020? Get in touch.