Hot-off-the-press travel recommendations for 2020 by Toni Neubauer, founder of Myths and Mountains – a Wild Frontiers Company
If you are a nature lover and adventurer, then try a trip to Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan’s oldest national park and conservation showpiece. Although designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1966 and a national park in 1993, Manas was only recently opened to the public. Now is the time to go!
The park borders on India’s Manas Tiger Reserve in the south and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park in the north. Home to thousands of plant and animal species, many of which are extremely rare and endangered, Manas is not yet on the tourist radar and a unique place to visit in the country for nature viewing and catch-and-release fishing. Lodging within the park itself is quite simple, so be prepared. Now, is a great time to visit this beautiful country, before it is “discovered.”
Tourism has greatly aided recovery from the 2015 earthquake, and you can make a difference. The people in two villages very close to the epicenter of the quake, Laprak and Barpak, have worked to rebuild their infrastructure and share their stories and culture with visitors. A trek to Laprak or Barpak offers stunning views of the snow-capped Himalayas, but one can also drive there from Gorkha, the birthplace of Prithvi Narayan Shah, Nepal’s “George Washington.” Both camping and homestays are available, and the locals will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Now is the time for an “off the beaten track” visit to these two charming Gurung villages, and you will make a difference.
A spectacularly beautiful part of Myanmar is the Taninthari Region in the south, bordering on the Andaman Sea and the Tenasserim Hills looking out on Thailand. Here one can find quaint fishing villages with spectacularly beautiful beaches, fishermen still dive for pearls, apartments are built for birds to make nests, and the Moken sea gypsies still keep many of their traditional ways. The key towns of Dawei, Myeik and Kawthaung are a delight to explore and are not overrun by tourists. Adventurers and romantics can always charter a boat and sail the Mergui Archipelago, an untouched gem and piece of paradise. Why do this now? The place is changing. After a two-year suspension, plans are again underway to build Southeast Asia’s largest deep-sea port and a special economic zone in Dawei, the capital of the region, turning this quiet coastline topsy-turvy into a major commercial center.
Updated December 19, 2019
“Don’t listen to what they say, go see.” – Chinese Proverb
There’s enough of our beautiful world to go around for everyone. With a rise in travel blogs (much like this one) and a need to take holiday throughout the year, it feels as though travelling has become a necessary experience. Some say that travelling is good for the soul. Often, we seek to reset from our every day and explore beyond our comforts. Yet, with such a wide expanse of choices, it can be difficult to be selective in our experiences. There are many things to consider when questioning where to travel in 2020. Myths and Mountains is answering those questions for you.
In general, we recommend evaluating your lifestyle and preferences. Ask questions such as
- Are you partial to adventure or relaxation?
- What is your ideal climate?
- What is the best time of year for you to travel?
These sorts of questions will help you better gauge what destination is right for you. From there, you can begin the process of narrowing it down. Travelling is often subjective as many travellers and trekkers vary in likes/dislikes. Some consider culture and education to be highlights of their vacations, while others prefer sightseeing, exploring, and hands-on experiences. No matter your preference, these countries have a little something for the adventurer in everyone.
More ideas on where to travel in 2020
- Pros: Cheap food & accommodation, deep culture & heritage, natural beauty & wildlife, expansive lands with various climates, many activities for solo travellers and families.
- Cons: Large country means its ideal for return travellers and extended holiday trekkers, loud & busy areas, general hygiene, the cuisine is vastly different
Looking for somewhere to visit in India that’s not well-trodden by tourists? Kerala in the steamy south moves to a slow beat of its own drum. One of the most fascinating places to visit in the state is Fort Kochi, a charming seaside town famous for being the first European settlement in India. Highlights of Kochi’s colonial architecture include 16th century Mattancherry Palace built by the Portuguese, Bolgatty Palace one of the oldest Dutch palaces outside of Holland, and 16th century St Francis Church built by Portuguese Franciscan friars. Kochi also has the four-month-long Kochi-Muziris Biennale which showcases contemporary international and Indian art and is the largest exhibition in the country. The biennale kicks off on 12 December 2020.
- Pros: Culture & rich history, relatively affordable, beautiful landscapes, friendly people, not so many tourists as other popular countries
- Cons: Travel visas are at times difficult depending on your passport (pst! we can help with that)
Escape the bustling cities on mainland Vietnam with a visit to the Con Dao Islands. Located off the southeast coast, this remote archipelago of 16 islands is accessed by an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City. Con Son, the only inhabited island, is also the only one with an airport. The rest of the islands can be visited through the permission of the Con Dao National Park but don’t expect them to be well set up for tourists, you need to be prepared with your own food and water. Island hopping, however, is well worth the effort for the treat of seeing various wildlife and excellent diving, with visibility averaging between 20 and 30 metres from February till July. Nearby Hon Bay Canh Island is renowned for its turtle breeding during June and September.
- Pros: Home of Mt. Everest, beautiful mountain landscapes, rich culture and majestic religion/temples
- Cons: Altitude sickness, vaccinations for travelling, devoutly religious region and traditions can be tricky to navigate for newcomers
For unobstructed views of Mt Everest’s north face, a trip to Rongphu Monastery is a must whilst visiting Tibet. The Roof of the World monastery is currently the closest you can get to the technical climbing Everest Base Camp due to the cleanup being undertaken by the Chinese government. Travel is permitted here only with a private tour and guide and the return trip starts from Lhasa and takes around 10 days. The 400-mile journey by 4WD along the striking Tibetan Plateau is one you won’t easily forget. You’ll visit ancient monasteries Gyantse or Shigatse, walk on Karola Glacier, view holy lake Yandruk Tso and finally reach Gyatso-La Pass at 17,218 feet where’ll get your first breathtaking view of Everest. Though the mountain is undoubtedly the star attraction, for first-time travellers to Tibet, the spiritual nature of the region and the friendliness of the Tibetan locals are also stand out highlights.
- Pros: Amazing wildlife, tropical climate ideal for relaxation, peaceful beaches, beautiful landscapes
- Cons: Transportation is subpar, lengthy monsoon seasons, largely unconnected (WiFi is up-and-coming) … although this may be considered pro in some light
When looking at where to travel in 2020, not everyone would think Sri Lanka as the first pick. But this unique destination has a lot to offer! Sri Lanka’s south and west may be burgeoning tourist hot spots but the north and east are relatively untouched. In little-visited Jaffna, right at the top of the country, it’s different from the south. There’s a distinct lack of Insta-famous locations, which could make it all that more appealing. Highlights include the stunning Nallur Kandaswamy, a Hindu temple dedicated to Skanda/Murugan – the god of love, war and beauty, Delft Island, an outlying coral and limestone island and Mangos cafe, famous for its traditional south Indian curries. If you’re after a wildlife experience in Sri Lanka, three hours south of Jaffna is Wilpattu National Park which has the best sightings of leopards in the world, as well as sloth bears and barking deer.
- Pros: Undiscovered, rich history and culture, traffic is easy to navigate, festivals
- Cons: Khmer Rouge, poverty levels, revitalizing country
Cambodia’s headline sight of Angkor Wat, and its fascinating cities Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, attract millions of people each year. For first time visitors these are must-see attractions but be aware you will be bumping elbows with many other tourists. If you want to get to know the ‘real’ Cambodia, then you need to experience the natural wonders of its untamed tropical wilderness. A fledgling eco-tourism industry is emerging offering untamed Cambodian adventures involving a range of experiences and activities that will enrich your trip. From highland hikes to visit hill tribe villages, viewing endangered animals such as gibbons and hornbills, to walking with elephant herds and visiting bird and animal wildlife rescue centres. Not only does eco-tourism keep the forest safe from poachers, but many former poachers have also been trained as guides.
- Pros: Beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, affordable food and accommodations, picturesque monuments, plenty of adventure
- Cons: poverty, overcrowding in areas, expensive imported products
With over 17,000 islands in Indonesia, there’s plenty of scope to find an off-the-beaten-track corner. The island of Sulawesi, an hour’s flight from Denpasar could be a good choice. With nearly 70,000 square miles made up of a rugged mountainous interior and four peninsulas, this island is known for its untouched coral reefs and sublime dive spots. While popular with Indonesians, it’s not usually on foreign itineraries. One of the drawcards of Sulawesi for culture aficionados is the Toraja tribe who holds elaborate funeral ceremonies that can last up to a week. Rather than being discouraged, visitors are welcome to attend, and there are even special covered platforms for out of town guests to watch proceedings. While you can’t guarantee there will be a funeral when you’re there, if you tour with a driver and local guide they will know of any events.
- Pros: Lush exciting paradise, amazing outdoor adventures (rock climbing, kayaking, treks), mountain ranges and waterfalls!
- Cons: Little tourist infrastructure (off the beaten path), Visa requirements, more expensive than Thailand and Vietnam
Landlocked Laos may not have the sandy beaches and diving of Indonesia but it does have some of Asia’s largest and most amazing waterfalls. Some to put on your bucket list include Nam Tok Katamtok Waterfall in Champasak Province which drops a dizzying 300 feet, Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang Province, a three levelled waterfall with a drop of nearly 200 feet, and nearby Tad Sae Falls, equally impressive for its aesthetic cascades and pools. The best time to see Laos’ waterfalls is after the monsoon between September and October. The dry season, November to February, is optimal for travelling on the Mekong River and exploring Laos’ waterways.