17 exotic travel destinations to go in 2020 for one-of-a-kind experiences

Travelling extensively is one of those things that always pop up on our new year resolutions every year without fail – the only problem is that we usually fall back on our usual favourite haunts because we like the familiarity and never get to see something out of our comfort zone.

If you want to try exploring beyond your usual Korea and Taiwan, check out our list of top exotic travel destinations in 2020! Many of these are unheard of, possibly difficult to get to, or simply escaped your notice because they haven’t been as widely talked about.

1. Vanuatu

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Vanuatu is located in the South Pacific Ocean just a short distance away from Australia, but far beyond the usual touristy resorts and modern ports. Instead, you’ll find deserted beaches, ancient culture, remote and rugged islands, as well as world-class diving spots in this scattered 80-plus island archipelago – perfect for those who want to try living like Robinson Crusoe.

Forget rollercoasters – the ultimate thrill is peering down into the rumbling, exploding lava storm of Mt Yasur will do just the trick. The active volcano is so accessible that 4WD vehicles can get to within 150m of the crater rim (perfect for those Insta stories!), but be sure to heed local warnings and take care around the crater rim because there are no safety rails or barriers.

Another popular attraction is massive Millennium Cave that requires a lot of physical effort on your part (think trekking through the thick jungle, across creeks, along bamboo bridges and through cascades) in order to get there, but nothing worth it comes easy, right?

Best time to visit: May – September
How to get there: To get to Vanuatu, you have to first catch a flight to Brisbane. From Brisbane, Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu is less than 3 hours away. From Brisbane, Air Vanuatu represents the cheapest way to get to the capital of Port Vila.

2. Montenegro

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The Balkan country surrounded by rugged mountains, medieval villages, and a narrow strip of beaches is often described by travellers as a box of chocolates, where you never quite know what you’ll get, but you can be sure that every one of them lingers on as a sweet memory.

Check out Lake Skadar, a freshwater lake where the former summer residence of the Montenegrin royal family is located. This is a wildlife wilderness and birder’s paradise, perfect for soaking in the rolling green mountains and floral fields. Boat tours traverse the wetlands from between one to six hours, giving you a full view of island monasteries, traditional fishing villages, fortresses, ancient monuments and hidden beaches.

Kotor Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a living breathing museum that history buffs will appreciate. Admire the crumbling churches and Venetian-inspired architecture, where the palazzo of wealthy seamen dot the shores.

Best time to visit: June and September
How to get there: Although a tiny country, there are two international airports: one in the capital, Podgorica, and one on the coast in Tivat. To save money on flights to Montenegro, consider flying into Dubrovnik airport in Croatia, which is just 20 minutes from the Montenegrin border.

3. Albania

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Located in the Balkans as well, Albania is well-loved by insiders for its unspoiled beaches, mountainous landscapes, traditional cuisine, archaeological artefacts and unique traditions. The country has an extensive archaeological heritage; it was part of Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire until its first declaration of independence in 1912, and is one of the few traditionally Muslim nations in Europe.

The Et’hem Bey Mosque is a must-see for its beautiful architecture and long, colourful history – you’ll be pleased to know as well that it is open to the public!

Don’t forget to take a long road trip along the Llogara Pass – located in the middle of the Llogara National Park, the road travels to over 1,000 metres above sea level and is said to be one of the most spectacular drives in the whole world.

Best time to visit: April – June, September – October
How to get there: Albania has one major airport in Tirana – the Nënë Tereza. Another popular way of reaching Albania is by ferry. Most of them depart from Italy and arrive at either Durrës, Vlorë or Sarandë, although some come from Greece too.

4. Colombia

For decades the country was torn apart by a drug war and conflicts with leftist groups, but today it is one of the best-kept travel secrets for its colonial towns and the dynamic big cities, tropical seaside resorts, and the lush and cooler highlands.

Cartagena’s Old Town is the country’s main attraction and is touted to be one of finest examples of preserved colonial architecture in the Americas, packed with churches, monasteries, plazas, palaces and mansions with their famous overhanging balconies and shady patio.

Coffee-lovers must also pay a trip to Zona Cafetera Coffee Plantations, where you’ll get to see and understand the coffee-making process and, of course, taste some of the best coffees in the world.

Best time to visit: December – March
How to get there: Although the main entrance to Colombia is the Bogotá Airport El Dorado, there are 12 other cities that also operate international flights: Cartagena, Cali, Medellín, Pereira, Leticia, San Andrés, Santa Marta, Armenia, Cucuta, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and Riohacha.

5. Belize

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Forget Bali and Maldives. Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize is the new paradise that your friends haven’t figured out – yet.

It is home to the Belize Barrier Reef, dotted with hundreds of low-lying islands and contains rich marine life. The island-country’s jungle areas are also home to Mayan ruins like Caracol, renowned for its towering pyramid.

Known as one of the best dive sites in the world, the Blue Hole Natural Monument has become a diver’s pilgrimage. This collapsed cave is said to contain a lot of historical artefacts in its depths and is inhabited by hammerhead sharks – not for the faint of heart!

If diving is not your thing, it doesn’t mean you have to give Belize a miss. Lamanai, one of Belize’s largest Maya sites, is an Archaeological Reserve that offers a peek into the country’s rich history. You also get to see wildlife like snail kites, jacana, crocodiles, and iguanas during your boat trip down New River to Lamanai.

Best time to visit: November – April
How to get there: The easiest and most popular way to get to Belize is by flying into the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (BZE) in Belize City. There are five major US airlines and five other airlines that fly into Belize.

6. Moroni, Comoros

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?? Comoros | Moroni – Goodbye Lush Green Island: I have to say goodbye to this archipelago and want to show you how green it is. During this time of the year it’s raining a lot and so the whole Island is green af. Really enjoyed the color clash between the black volcanic stones and the ultra green vegetation. #greenaf #rainyseason #green #moroni #comores #comoros #islandlife #indianocean #archipelago #archipel #expecttheunexpected #volcanicisland #hotspot #vegetation #hiddengems #hiddencolors #hiddenpotential #bluewater #onceinalifetime #iconi #travelholic #interestingplaces #lifewelltravelled #neverstopexploring #staycurious #aroundtheworld #exploretheunexplored #worldtraveller #passionpassport

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Moroni? Comoros? Chances are, you may never have heard of this place off Africa’s east coast until today!

Volo Volo Market is the biggest in the city (and the island) that will give you an insight into local culture and life. Tip: Visit in the morning when it is bursting with energy!

La Medina is the perfect off-the-beaten-track attraction that you always dream of visiting: the old Arabic town is rich in unrestored carved wooden doors and vestiges of the old bangwe (public discussion places), where everyday men used to meet here to discuss life 

Best time to visit: May – October, November – April
How to get there: Moroni is connected by boat to every other island in Comoros, to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, and to Mahajanga in Madagascar.

7. Gozo, Malta

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Bientôt 3 mois que je découvrais ce petit paradis à Malte : le Blue Lagoon. Sur l'île de Comino, entre l'île principale et Gozo, se trouve un lagon aux eaux turquoise ? ! Le matin, personne à l'horizon… sauf de jolies petites méduses ?. L'aprèm l'île est envahie par des milliers de touristes ?, incapables de marcher à quelques mètres de leur Transat et qui ne verront pas ce coin de Comino ! Et vous, vous êtes plutot Bronzette ? au premier lieu que vous voyez (comme tout le monde) ou plutôt Découverte ? du coin et trouvaille de petites pépites ? . . . . . . #malte #gozo #comino #malta #maltaphotography #maltagozo #maltatoday #cominoisland #cominocouture #cominomalta #maltatourism #malta?? #gozoisland #visitgozo #gozomalta #island #bluelagoon #bluesea

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With a population of just 37,000 or so people, yet covering an area of 67 km2, Gozo is a very quiet island – great if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of overly-crowded tourist hotspots!

All roads in Gozo lead to the Citadel in Rabat (also known as Victoria), a beautiful fortified city that has witnessed many historic moments and stood the test of time. Fun fact: until 1637, the entire population of Gozo was required by law to spend the night within this fortress for their own safety!

In the first series of Game of Thrones, the Azure Window was featured in the backdrop of some of the more memorable scenes. Unfortunately, the natural rock formation has collapsed recently, but the azure blue seas still remain a huge draw.

Best time to visit: May, June, October, and November
How to get there: There’s only a small heliport and the nearest airport is Malta International Airport, on main island Malta. You’ll need to catch the ferry to Gozo to get to the island. Direct bus connections exist between the airport and the Gozo ferry terminal.

8. Mahé, Seychelles

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Mahé is the largest island in the Seychelles archipelago, in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, and is home to the country’s capital (Victoria). The west coast, in particular, is one long string of stunning, pristine beaches.

We could go on about all the beaches here, but for those looking for something else to do, taking a stroll through Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market is an experience that can really overwhelm your senses – just imagine an astonishing display of seafood, fresh produce, and lively chattering.

Mission Lodge for spectacular views of central Mahé and the west coast, and look out for some low-slung stone ruins left behind by a school that was built in the 19th century to care for slave children who had been dumped on the island after the abolition of slavery.

Best time to visit: April, May, October, November
How to get there: Take a flight to via Emirates, Etihad, or Ethopian Airways to Seychelles International Airport.

9. Con Dao Island, Vietnam

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For decades, Con Dao was used by the French and Americans as an island prison for anti-regime activists and criminals. While the remains of these jails remain harrowing reminders of history, Con Dao is now better known for being blessed with stunning beaches and rich coral reefs that represent the best diving in Vietnam.

Time passes slowly here, where you are invited to live life at your pace. Start your morning at Con Son Market, where you have the option of a local breakfast (think rice porridge or noodles) and a glass of thick, dark-roast Vietnamese coffee.

Now that you are well-fed, get a free permit to the National Park and hike up to So Ray, an abandoned plantation with fine views over the islands that is now home to a large troop of long-tailed macaque monkeys.

Best time to visit: November – February
How to get there: VASCO, a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines, is the only airline to service Con Dao. Several flights run daily to/from Ho Chi Minh City, with consistent pricing.

10. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

Lying just 100km from the African coast, Fuerteventura is a beach destination that is well-favoured by the sun and winds.

Playa de Cofete is the main beach – entirely undeveloped, with fine honey-coloured sand and formidable waves that experienced surfers will enjoy challenging themselves at.

If you’re up for mystery, head to Villa Winter and see if you can find out what this impressive architecture is used for. The mysterious building has been rumoured to be linked to the Nazi party – these conspiracy theories have never been confirmed, and till date, no one really knows if it really was used as a secret hideout for high-ranking Nazis, including Hitler himself.

Best time to visit: June – September
How to get there: You can fly to Fuerteventura Airport, also known as El Matorral Airport.

11. Vis, Croatia

Of all the inhabited Croatian islands, Vis is the furthest from the coast and also the most enigmatic one, having spent much of its recent history serving as a Yugoslav military base, cut off from foreign visitors from the 1950s right up until 1989. Despite its less-than-glamorous past, Vis is acknowledged as one of the most beautiful islands that should make it to your bucket list.

If you had to visit just one beach in Vis, it has to be Stiniva – the secluded turquoise cove with pebbly shores and surrounding verdant cliffs will surely take your breath away.

Can’t get enough of spectacular views? Hike up Hum, a mountain in the western end of Vis that reaches a height of 587m. The very top is off-limits, but you can drive up and park a little before the end of the road.

Best time to visit: May and September
How to get there: Take a ferry to Vis Town from Split Airport.

12. French Polynesia

French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France, comprises more than 100 islands in the South Pacific. It is a good alternative to beach destinations closer to home, especially if you love the thought of lying down on slim stretches of white-, pink- and black-sand beaches.

Marché de Pape’ete, a market which fills an entire city block. Shop for beautiful sarongs, and look out for the lunchtime hawkers selling takeaway Ma’a Tahiti (traditional Tahitian food), fresh fruit juices, and local ice cream.

Don’t forget to take a break from your sunbathing at Iipona, one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in French Polynesia. Some describe the monuments as eerie, but at the same time rather awe-inspiring.

Best time to visit: June – August
How to get there: You can take a plane and fly into the capital Papeete, the only international airport, which is on the island of Tahiti.

13. Myanmar (Burma)

While not unfamiliar to most of us, Myanmar is still largely unexplored as it is still slowly opening up to the modern world – not necessarily a bad thing, as it means that you get to explore the unadulterated sides of this intriguing country.

Going on a hot air balloon ride in Bagan and Inle Lake is one of the best experiences you should go for if you have the budget for it – nothing is quite as awe-inspiring as watching the clouds clear up and looking at the ancient temples and ruins around you.

Shwedagon Pagoda, a 2,500-year-old pagoda that stands tall at 110 meters, is also a must-see in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. Covered with hundreds of gold plates, the spectacular symbol of Yangon is home to strands of Buddha’s hair and other important relics.

Best time to visit: October – March
How to get there: You can take a plane and fly into Yangon International Airport.

14. Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Characterised by dense rainforests, hiking trails, and of course beautiful white sand beaches, the 74 Whitsunday Islands lie between the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef, a massive stretch of coral teeming with marine life.

Most of the islands are uninhabited, and only four of them offer resort accommodation: Hamilton Island is the most populated one with an exciting line-up of water sports and special events.

If you want to check out one of the best beaches on earth, hop over to Whitehaven Island to see Whitehaven Beach – its sand is 98 per cent silica, and so white that it can appear unreal!

How to get there: The most convenient way to travel to the region is a flight to either the Proserpine airport, known as the Whitsunday Coast Airport (PPP) or the Hamilton Island Airport (HTI) and then ferrying across to the mainland. The most convenient airport to fly into the Whitsunday Coast Airport and only requires a short transfer to Airlie Beach.

15. Oman

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Omã é uma monarquia absoluta governada por um sultão, o maior estilo “Aladdin” e Muskat, ou Mascate em português, é a capital desse sultanato. Ela tem pouquíssimas construções majestosas como o palácio do Sultão, sendo a grande maioria das casas brancas e térreas (por lei devem ser pintadas de branco ou bege com variação ao bege claro e bege médio ??? e não podem ter mais de seis andares). Essa imagem das casinhas claras ajudam a compor a paisagem da cidade. Mas o destaque mesmo não está em nada disso, e sim na simpatia e hospitalidade do povo omani que carregam sempre consigo um grande sorriso no rosto #anaeade #anaeadeonboard #goodlife #travel #omã #oman #muscat #mascate #beautifuldestinations #traveler #lifeofadventure #wonderlust #iamatraveler #passionpassport #amazingview #travelpassion #traveladdict #instatraveling #viagem #loucoporviagem #travel #placetovisit #world #worldtraveler #photography #anaeade✈️

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High mountains, silky sand dunes, preserved fortresses, and breathtaking fjords – if these sound like a picture-perfect destination to you, head to Oman.

Dubbed one of the best places in the Middle East to travel to by those who know the magic of this place, it is well-loved for being friendly to tourists without having to compromise and cater to an influx of outsiders.

Traditional markets are the windows to a country’s culture and lifestyle, so pop by Muttrah Souq on the Muttrah Corniche and check out the small shops that sell Omani products, including colourful fabric, traditional clothes, silver and gold jewellery, and souvenirs.

You can also marvel at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, an absolute architectural wonder from its minarets, large golden dome, arches, engraved walls, decorated interior, unique lamps, and central crystal chandelier.

Best time to visit: October – March
How to get there: Fly into Muscat International Airport either through the national carrier of Oman Air or the handful of Middle Eastern operators such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad, which all offer flights with one plane change.

16. Bhutan

The happiest country in the world is on many travellers’ wishlist, but it remains one of the most elusive (and hence exotic) places due to the numerous restrictions they place on tourism in order to preserve their way of life and natural environment.

Chimi Lhakhang Temple, also known as the “Fertility Temple”, is mostly visited by childless couples in Bhutan, but even if you are not looking for a blessing in this aspect, you should still take a look at the carving of phalluses on all walls of the temple, as well as its ancient Thai-themed architecture.

Having done exceptionally well in protecting their natural wildlife means that Bhutanese sanctuaries are some of the world’s best, which is why Jigme Dorji National Park is a huge draw for travellers and nature-lovers. It is a sanctuary for 37 known species of mammals, including several endangered, threatened or vulnerable species such as the snow leopard, clouded leopard, and Bengal tiger.

Best time to visit: October – December
How to get there: You can either book a flight from one of the five countries that are served by the Bhutanese airlines, which are India, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia, or travel overland through India to enter at one of three border crossings.

Here are 21 things you probably never knew you could do in Bhutan.

17. North Korea

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Наше положение улучшается на глазах! Вот уже и разрешили гулять в парках. Хорошо, что административно в Пхеньян входит несколько зон отдыха. Горные прогулки нас ждут ??‍♀️ Главное, не забыть маску, антисептик, справку о состоянии здоровья и удостоверение личности ? ??: Finally we are allowed to go for a walk to parks in Pyongyang. Masks, certificates of health and ID-cards are obligatory. (We don’t wear masks in diplomatic compound, only in places where we can meet Koreans) #севернаякорея #пхеньян #кндр #북한 #평양 #pyongyang #northkorea #dprk

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The hermit country can strike fear in some – after all, no one really knows much about this closed state except for government propaganda, coupled with horror stories of starvation and strict laws that may see you never being able to return home again. In spite of all these, North Korea continues to draw travellers who want to see this mysterious country for themselves beyond the media reports.

Travel throughout the country is only possible as part of a guided tour: independent travel is not permitted, and you must never leave your hotel without a guide. Although it sounds very restrictive (it is!), travel in North Korea is still mostly safe as long as you obey your guide’s instructions.

Go with an open mind, and you may just realise that the country has a lot more to offer in terms of splendid nature (the lack of development has preserved their nature sanctuaries very well), as well as unique culture and mannerisms.

Best time to visit: April – May, September – October
How to get there: There are direct flights from major cities such as Beijing and Shenyang. During August to September, there may be occasional charter flights that come directly from places like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Alternatively, it’s also possible to visit North Korea by train from China.

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