New Year 2020 | Travel

These are the five must-see travel destinations of 2020

Our Lady of the Rocks Church on the Island near Perast in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Our Lady of the Rocks Church on the Island near Perast in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

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Go offbeat with your choice of travel destination in 2020

It is time to update your bucketlist of travel destinations, except make it a point to explore the offbeat trail this year — whether it is flyboarding, trotting around a medieval town, or eating whale blubber while scoping a glacier. Make it your Mission: 2020

Mauritius

Ever tried befriending a bottlenose dolphin?

In Mauritius, you can do this, and also try your hand at fun water sports: sea kart, kite surf or flyboard like Hrithik Roshan in Bang Bang!. This sunny island, in the Indian Ocean, also owns a submarine that can take you 35 metres under water, and give a tour of shipwreck, corals and its rich marine life.

“The Mauritian coast is (approx) 330 kilometres long with sandy beaches everywhere. The lagoons have crystal-clear water, and it is ideal for swimming and snorkelling,” says Arvind Bundhun, director, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority.

Despite its small size, Mauritius packs in quite a punch in terms of activities and sight seeing. Le Caudan Waterfront is where all the action is, if you want to enjoy a night out, grab a few drinks, try your luck at the casino, shop or just watch a movie. La Valle des Couleurs Reserve has volcanic ashes and a section of it has Planet Earth in 23 different colours.

A man snorkelling in the Indian Ocean in Mauritius

A man snorkelling in the Indian Ocean in Mauritius   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

While Port Louis is the capital and its economic centre, there are other towns and villages like Grand Bay and Flic en Flac that demand attention. Not to forget, Mauritius is a hot favourite among golfers (as many as 60,000 of the annual one million visitors are golfers).

“The island offers 18-hole courses (10) and 9-hole courses (three). They are set in natural environments, and have been designed for championships by renowned golfers such as Peter Matkovich, Peter Alliss, Rodney Wright,” Arvind adds.

Quite a few Bollywood movies have been shot here, and, of late, Mauritius has become a destination wedding spot too. Considering its cheap exchange rate (1 Mauritian Rupee = 2 INR approximately) Mauritius is also a pocket-friendly destination.

Montenegro

The Dark Side of the Sun, an American-Yugoslavian film from 1988 that you have likely not heard of, is what we have to thank for having introduced two beautiful things to the world in a single frame — a then little-known actor by name Brad Pitt and Montenegro.

Only a country of its own since 2006, interest in Montenegro tourism has risen favourably over the last couple of years. Ashish Dhruva, vice president, ClearTrip, says that the country received over 9.5 lakh tourists in 2018.

“In the first three months of 2019, there was a 38% year-on-year jump in the number of tourists visiting Montenegro,” he adds. Besides the picturesque landscape, the Montenegrin weather is a major factor in attracting visitors. The best time to visit the country is between May and September, he notes.

The coast — Montenegro’s 293-kilometre-long coastline is populated by 120 beaches that run for 73 kilometres — is the best place to be during the summer, as temperatures prevail around the warm 30 degrees Celsius mark.

While the capital city is Podgorica, it is Kotor that attracts most tourists.

The Square of Arm and the clock tower near the Maritime entrance gate in Kotor, Montenegro

The Square of Arm and the clock tower near the Maritime entrance gate in Kotor, Montenegro   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

A UNESCO world heritage site, Kotor is a medieval town, and is credited for having played an important role in spreading the Mediterranean culture across the Balkans. The Romanesque churches and the many fortified structures within the old city walls are among the sights to take in here.

“Montenegro also has well-marked walking and cycling routes. Tourists can take easy routes around the lakes in Biogradska Gora and Durmitor national parks. Kayaking around the Bay of Kotor and on Lake Skadar (the largest lake in Southern Europe) is an option for adventure sport lovers. Cross-country skiing [during the winter months] is another adrenaline rush option,” Ashish says.

For the spiritually inclined, there is also the Ostrog Monastery, which Ashish describes as an “unusual architectural wonder” — the monastery rests against the Ostroška Greda (a high rock), as if it was carved out of it.

While the quaintness on offer would make it seem that Montenegro is the perfect family summer destination, Ashish defers. It is as much “a destination for the millennial solo traveller to find peace and even go wild”, he says.

“A popular destination for the youngsters is in the middle of Montenegro’s coastline — the town of Budva. It has nearly 35 beaches and significant cultural establishments. Budva is also known for its vibrant nightlife,” Ashish adds.

Travelling options are limited at the moment — if travelling from Delhi, stop-overs at Rome or at Doha and Vienna are required before heading to Podgorica. However, Irish budget airliner Ryanair will be launching flights in the summer to the Montenegrin capital from Poland’s Krakow and Poznan. British Airways too has announced plans to start flights from Heathrow to Podgorica, which may come in handy for those on a multi-country tour of Europe.

Poland

If dark tourism is what you are kicked about in the New Year, then Poland should be on your list.

The country is home to the Auschwitz concentration camp, Museum of the Second World War (Gdansk) and the Mausoleum of Struggle and Martyrdom (Warsaw) — each a reminder of the pain, terror and suffering inflicted upon people by Nazi Germany.

Exterior of wooden upside down house in open air museum in Szymbark village

Exterior of wooden upside down house in open air museum in Szymbark village   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

But the country also has a vibrant culture, food and entertainment scene. Over the last few years, the city of Kraków has emerged as a popular destination, especially among youngsters, what with its night life and shot bars. While Warsaw, Wrocław and Gdańsk are the most well-known cities, there are other spectacular spots too.

Colorful renaissance facades on the central market square in Poznan, Poland

Colorful renaissance facades on the central market square in Poznan, Poland   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

Like the resort town of Zakopane, which lies in the foothills of the imposing Tatra mountains, and Wieliczka, near Kraków, which is famous for its salt mine lit by grand chandeliers, or Poznań — better known for the rows of pastel-hued houses in the Old Town. Poland is also comparatively cheaper than most other European cities. So, go ahead and splurge on another round of krupnik (local liqueur).

Norway

It may not be the most affordable destination, but the charming fjords of Norway will make you believe every penny spent is worth it.

The village of Reine on the Lofoten in northern Norway

The village of Reine on the Lofoten in northern Norway   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

Though Oslo may be the most visited as the capital city, this country has a mind-boggling selection that will make you want to extend your leave. Let us start with Tromsø, which lies above the Arctic Circle — meaning it is a natural winter wonderland, and the perfect base to explore the Northern Lights. This is also where you get to experience the Polar night phenomenon, when the sun remains below the horizon, and the sky is a beautiful ink-blue for the most part.

A football field on a island amongst the Lofoten Islands.

A football field on a island amongst the Lofoten Islands.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

Another place we are obsessing over is the Lofoten Islands. Henningsvær, one of the fishing villages here, has a football field that is cradled by the sea on one side and rugged cliffs on the other — a surreal landscape. Stay in a charming red rorbu (traditional fishermen’s cabin) — they sit on the waterfront, and offer sweeping views of the sea as well as the snow-covered mountains. In addition, activities like hiking, whale watching, kayaking, Arctic fishing and glamping make it an exotic destination.

Greenland

Remember when Donald Trump, the US President, fantasised, or ‘joked’ about his fantasy of, purchasing Greenland?

Thanks in part to him, the world’s largest island is emerging as an offbeat tourist destination. The easiest way to reach is through flights, but the options are limited.

An iceberg in Greenland.

An iceberg in Greenland.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

“There are only two [international] airports — Narsarsuaq [in the south] and Kangerlussuaq [in the west]. Travellers can fly into Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, either from Canada or Iceland during summer. Flights are also available from Copenhagen (Denmark), Keflavík and Reykjavík (Iceland) or Iqaluit (Canada),” says Rajeev Kale, President and Country Head (Holidays, MICE, Visas), Thomas Cook India, adding, “Many travellers choose to visit Greenland via cruises as well. Luxury ships offer 10-24 nights stay, including stops in Iceland or Svalbard [in Norway].”

A multiple-entry visa from the Danish Embassy is needed for the travel. June through September (summer) is the best time of the year to visit Greenland, which is home to the iconic Ilulissat Kangerlua (Icefjord) — a UNESCO world heritage site.

Colorful houses in Saqqaq village in western Greenland

Colorful houses in Saqqaq village in western Greenland   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo

“There is also the Lyberth Charter (a cottage built in 1859), the Qaqortoq museum (built in 1804) and a tele museum, which is located in a former radio station that was built in 1925,” Rajeev says, adding that his firm offers three or four day package trips that can cost between €1,600 to €1,900 per person.

Helicopters, small aeroplanes and ferries are the most feasible options for travel within Greenland. “There are multiple hotels, hostels and bed-and-breakfast guesthouses for the solo traveller. Camping is an option, but travellers who prefer luxury accommodations can explore staying in an igloo or an eco-lodge overlooking the Eqip Sermia glacier,” Rajeev notes. The local cuisine borders on the exotic — whale meat, seal and eider duck are the staples alongside dried cod. “The most popular [among Greenlanders] is Narwhal blubber (whale fat),” he adds.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 7:17:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/these-are-the-five-must-see-travel-destinations-of-2020/article30451083.ece

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