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Wellness, cruising and community interaction: travel trends for 2020

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We try to keep our finger on the pulse when it comes to what’s up-and-coming in the world of travel. Having reviewed some of the top trends for 2020 here, we’ve recommended destinations to match.

For example, along with a renewed enthusiasm for wellness retreats and cruising, we’re seeing an increased interest in activities that allow a level of meaningful interaction with the communities you visit. And, whereas a digital detox appeals to some, we’re also noticing that many are now looking for connectivity in even the most remote of tropical retreats.

Opt for that one standout stay…in Botswana

Nxabega Camp, Nxabega Concession
Nxabega Camp

An African safari sees you stay in various camps and lodges. In 2020, we suggest combining stripped-back camps in remote bushland (which take inspiration from safari camps of old) with a more indulgent stay.

In Botswana, you might spend a few nights in Hyena Pan, a tented camp set beside a waterhole in the Okavango Delta’s Khwai Concession. Then there’s Chobe Elephant Camp, with chalets overlooking the Chobe River and Chobe National Park’s floodplains.

Pair these with time at Nxabega Camp, set in a private reserve among the delta’s swirling waterways. With a pool looking onto a lagoon, spacious tents with private verandas and exceptional meals served by starlight, this camp oozes luxury.

Travel tip: Pack your binoculars and a bird identification book — the Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s best places for birdwatching.

Get me there: Include all three of these properties on this trip idea combining Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta.

Community tourism…in India

View from Kachhpura
View from Kachhpura

There’s a growing thirst for visitors wanting to interact with local communities in a meaningful way which, in turn, creates opportunities and economic benefits for the inhabitants.

For example, in Agra, don’t confine your visit to the Taj Mahal. Across the river from the mausoleum sits the village of Kachhpura. In the company of a local guide-cum-villager (usually a young man named Lekhraj), you can explore the village and meet its residents, who mainly work as shoemakers, while dipping into nearby Mughal monuments. Your walk culminates with a view of the Taj from across the water.

Travel tip: While in Delhi, consider visiting the district of Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin, led by a guide who’s part of a roster of young residents being trained to look after their area’s heritage. Weave among Sufi tombs, markets and mosques, and gain a local’s perspective of the district.

Get me there: Combine both these tours on a classic Rajasthan trip.

Cruise and enjoy the journey, not just the destination…in Canada

Ilulissat Icefjord
Ilulissat Icefjord

Expedition cruising is about taking the time to explore places that are otherwise difficult — or impossible — to access. This year, consider venturing into Canada’s Northwest Passage.

Following in the footsteps of 19th- and 20th-century explorers, your small cruise ship, the Ocean Endeavour, takes you to areas few others have reached. You’ll skirt the west coast of Greenland, pausing at tiny, remote settlements where colourful houses cluster beside iceberg-strewn fjords.

Navigate narrow waterways sandwiched by glacier-clad mountains, exploring the shoreline by kayak and Zodiac boat. Back on board, you might spot whales, narwhals, seals and seabirds from the deck. At night, you’ve got a good chance of witnessing the northern lights.

Travel tip: Read up on the Franklin expedition before (or during) your cruise for a better sense of the region’s hallowed maritime history.

Get me there: Fly from Toronto to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland for a 16-night cruise into Canada’s Northwest Passage.

Soak up wellness experiences…in Kinosaki, Japan

Kinosaki Onsen, Kinosaki Onsen
Kinosaki Onsen

Tucked away on the north coast of Hyogo Prefecture lies a hot spring town with 1,300 years of history behind it. Known as one of the best places in Japan to unwind, Kinosaki Onsen is a town built around a natural hot spring. Stay at one of Kinosaki’s ryokans (a traditional inn) and experience this centuries-old bathing ritual that promises a cleansing of mind and body.

You’ll stroll down the willow-lined canals in your cotton kimono (yakato) and dip into a range of steaming pools. In winter, try the fresh snow crab harvested from the nearby ports in the Sea of Japan.

Travel tip: Head up the stone steps to Onsen-ji Temple, the original guardian temple of Kinosaki, and discover Buddhist relics dating back to the Heian Period (794-1185). The temple’s principle treasure, an eleven-headed Kannon Buddha, is fully unveiled only once every 33 years, for a period of three years. Then, take the gondola to the peak of Mount Daishi to enjoy panoramic views of the town and coastline.

Get me there: Kinosaki is located about two-and-a-half hours, by train, from Kyoto City on the JR San-in Main Line. An eleven-day tour of Honshu’s cultural highlights and hot springs will take you from Tokyo’s vibrant metropolis to the cultural capital of Kyoto, finishing up with a couple of nights in one of Kinosaki’s traditional ryokans.

Avoid the crowds…in Italy

Bridge of Sighs, Venice
Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Italy is lovely any time of year, but if you prefer to avoid other visitors, we suggest you visit during the temperate spring or autumn. Outside of the busy May-September summer season, you can admire the artwork of the Sistine Chapel, stroll along Venetian canals and marvel at the Colosseum without such dense crowds.

In addition to having more space, you’ll also get a more authentic experience. You can ride the metro in Rome with locals as they go about their day, explore the side streets to see Venice as it once was and admire the artwork at the Uffizi museum at your own pace.

Travel tip: Better-value hotel prices in Italy’s quieter months mean you can splurge on a nicer hotel or stay longer.

Get me there: We’ve designed a tour specifically to take advantage of Italy’s quieter months.

Go slow…in the USA

Bixby bridge, Big Sur
Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur, California

This year we’re all about holding back and focusing on a smaller area of the US. Rather than cramming in multiple states within the same trip, why not embrace slow travel, hopping between places just two or three hours apart and taking the scenic route? Then, spend longer in each place, venturing off-grid to explore lesser-trodden areas and try out unusual experiences.

For example, on a road trip through northern California, you could spend a leisurely couple of hours pedalling a two-person railbike (similar to a classic railway handcar), winding through redwood forest along a former logging railroad.

Travel tip: Enjoy Napa Valley’s farm-to-table food scene by grabbing an organic selection from Oxbow Public Market for a picnic by the Napa River.

Get me there: This two-week northern California self-drive trip begins and ends in San Francisco, avoiding any one-way car fees and allowing you to explore the state’s quieter corners.

Tech-savvy stays…in Thailand

Ocean Deluxe Pool Villa, Six Senses Yao Noi
Six Senses Koh Yao Noi

If someone asked you where you might expect to find Asia’s most tech-savvy hotels, places such as Singapore and Japan might spring to mind. With global connectivity and technology now featuring on the list of many visitors’ must-haves, Thailand is catching up — even in the most remote places.

As Bangkok is often the first port of call, why not begin in style at the glamorous Rosewood Hotel? One of the latest additions to the skyline, its rooms feature a host of the latest technological features — and if needs be, there’s a butler on hand to teach you how to use them.

If you’re seeking a true tropical getaway but wanting to stay connected, take a speedboat from Phuket to Six Senses Koh Yao Noi which overlooks the azure waters of Phang Nga Bay. It offers just about every creature comfort you might need, from a state-of-the-art wine fridge to Wi-Fi-connected stretches of coastline.

Travel tip: Have technological requirements for your stay? Our specialists visit each hotel and can share their experiences — and can also advise if you’re after a tech-free escape instead.

Get me there: Combine the cultural treasures of Bangkok with a visit to the unspoiled island of Koh Yao as part of a trip to Thailand.

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