Looking for that next extraordinary adventure? Our experts have rounded up the top 10 destinations to visit in 2020.

Turkey

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Compared to its European neighbours where the Euro is used, Turkey offers exceptional value for 2020. Located in the prestigious Sariyer district of Istanbul, the new Six Senses is a converted historic mansion that offers remarkable views over the Bosphorus. In 2020, Turkey will host the World Nomadic Games where you can expect to witness eccentric sports such as Buzkashi (dead goat polo), horseback wrestling and eagle hunting.

Armenia

Snow Capped Mount Ararat and Khor Virap, Armenia
Mount Ararat, Armenia

Few nations have histories as ancient and complex as Armenia. Its long and varied history contains periods of independence, but these have been separated by much longer spells of foreign rule – the Romans, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Ottomans and Russians. The country is bejewelled with a simply extraordinary collection of medieval monasteries and churches.

Armenia is both curious and contradictory, as is Yerevan, its capital, one of the region’s most exuberant and endearing cities. Both country and capital are an unexpected delight that you need to discover before the secret gets out.”

Justin Wateridge, Steppes’ Managing Director

Kenya – Kicheche Mara Camp

Kicheche Mara Camp electric vechile kenya
Kicheche Mara Camp, Kenya

Sustainable safaris are soon to become silent safaris, as electric vehicles begin to be adopted by camps and the traditional rumble of the combustion engine fades away. Gold eco-rated camp Kicheche Mara is leading the way, with their first electric vehicle available from the start of 2020.

India – Ajanta Caves

Ajanta Caves, India
Ajanta Caves, India

Hidden in a horseshoe-shaped canyon in the Deccan plateau, the caves of Ajanta were lost for hundreds of years, until accidentally discovered and brought to Western attention in 1819 by a British colonial officer, Captain John Smith. Take the path less travelled and access the caves by descending 700 steps along an overgrown path through an old teak forest. Whilst today the interior of Ajanta’s caves attracts most interest, it is easy to forget the simple astonishing fact that each cave was patiently carved from the rock.

The secco paintings of Ajanta arguably comprise to form the greatest picture gallery to survive from the ancient world, giving extraordinary insight into life two thousand years ago.”

Justin Wateridge, Steppes’ Managing Director

The Stans

Fergana Valley Pass, Uzbekistan
Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan

As an antidote to over-tourism, I can’t think of anywhere better than the Stans. Our clients clearly think the same – we have seen a growth of almost 200% in passenger numbers this year,” comments Jarrod Kyte, Steppes Travel’s Product and Sales Director. “Encounters with people in the Stans have not (yet) become commoditized due to the current low tourist footfall.”

We predict that the Stans will continue to grow in popularity with Steppes’ clients. Paul Craven, Steppes Travel’s Silk Road specialist, recommends visiting Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley. He says “It is distinct from the rest of the country, yet still has a quintessential Central Asian feel and is a key part of the Silk Road. Surrounded by the Tien-Shan mountains, the region is awash with natural beauty boasting rivers, valley’s and huge lush plains.”

The Fergana Valley is also one of the less travelled access points for including southern Kyrgyzstan. In Kyrgyzstan, to break up long road journeys, Steppes Travel works with families in small villages providing home-cooked lunches to give intimate cultural insight.

Saudi Arabia

Elephant rock in Saudi Arabia
UNESCO World Heritage Site Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia

In October this year, the longstanding promise of a Saudi Tourist Visa was finally realised. Peter Harrigan, Steppes Travel’s tour leader in Saudi, describes the Kingdom as being “like an iceberg”. Perhaps an odd analogy for a desert nation but apposite, given that there is so much more to the nation and country than meets the eye. Without doubt, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Madain Saleh is the jewel in the crown. Paul Craven, Steppes Travel’s Saudi expert has been to the Kingdom twice in the last 12 months, and comments:

The highlight of Madain Saleh is a visit to Al Fareed (The Unique). This towering carved rock with a giant cave carved out of its middle, glows serenely in the late afternoon sun, changing from golden yellow to dusky pink to warm orange.”

Paul Craven, Steppes Travel Saudi Expert

Steppes Travel has three expert-led group tours to Saudi Arabia, departing in 2020.

Chad – Ennedi

Rock formations, Ennedi landscape, Chad
Ennedi, Chad

Under the protection of African Parks, the dramatic Ennedi Massif in northern Chad has long been on travellers’ wish lists. But now, with the creation of the comfortable Warda Camp and a regular schedule of domestic flights, this remote area is far more accessible. Fly in on Tchadia Airlines and explore from the first semi-permanent tented camp at the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover ancient rock art, visit desert oases and walk beneath vast rock arches.

Madagascar – The Tropical North

Avenue of Baobabs, Morondava, Madagascar
Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar

2020 will see even more tourists visit Madagascar, but most will ignore the north of the country.

The tropical north remains relatively unvisited but hides a wealth of unique species, such as the Perrier’s sifaka, said to be the one of the most endangered primates in the world. These jet-black lemurs can only be seen from the aptly-named Black Lemur Camp, a community-run enterprise protecting their last remaining habitat.”

Chris Johnston, Steppes Travel’s Madagascar expert .

Colombia

Colourful colonial houses of Guatape, Columbia
Colourful colonial houses of Guatape, Colombia

Three years on from the Peace Treaty deal and tourist numbers to Colombia continue to grow.

A huge amount of investment is still being pumped into the tourism sector. Not only are new properties and areas opening up, but interesting social projects are happening that allow for exceptional experiences for travellers. Visit the barrios of Bogota and Medellin with gang leaders, dine in a female prison in Cartagena or go rafting as part of the incredible Arms to Oars project where former FARC have retrained as rafting guides. All give a unique insight into the real Colombia and show how tourism can act as a positive catalyst for change.”

Lucy Hayward, Americas Product and Sales Manager at Steppes Travel

Costa Rica

Pacuare Lodge, Canopy Suite, Rio Pacuare, Costa Rica
Pacuare Lodge, Rio Pacuare, Costa Rica

Named ‘Champion of the Earth’ in 2019, Costa Rica’s next aim is to be plastic-free and carbon neutral by 2021.  Properties such as the new and exquisite Kasiiya Tented Camp and the more established Pacuare Lodge, are excellent examples of sustainable properties that offer high-end experiences. In 2020, British Airways will likely increase their flight frequency to San Jose from three to four flights a week, during peak season.

As visitor numbers continue to rise on the Pacific side of the country, Steppes Travel will be offering the Caribbean coast. Tourism is low-key and more rustic here, but by working with properties such as Aguas Claras, we are confident of providing exceptional experiences done in a sustainable fashion.”

John Faithfull, Steppes Travel’s Costa Rica expert.

Thanks for reading

Jarrod Kyte

Author: Jarrod Kyte