Part 2: 10 best countries to visit in 2020
These destinations made it onto Lonely Planet's list and here's why it should be on yours.
Location: At the centre of Central America, covering a land area of 51 060km². It is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the north-east, Panama to the south-east, the Pacific Ocean to the south-west and Ecuador to the south.
Known for: Its beaches, volcanoes and gourmet coffee beans.
Major attractions: Manuel Antonio National Park is perfect with its beaches, wildlife and activities. Arenal Volcano and the Monteverde and the Cloud Forest are must-visit places. Backpackers will be in heaven at Dominical, which has dirt-cheap accommodation, casual openair restaurants and breathtaking beaches. Tamarinda, once a quiet fishing village, is the ideal getaway for surfers. For holidaymakers looking to incorporate some culture, check out the National Theatre in San Jose.
Must-try: The Gallo pinto (a concoction of rice and beans) is regarded as the national dish of Costa Rica. The olla de carne is a hearty beef stew dish enjoyed over the weekend. Soup lovers must try the sopa negra, which is ideal for vegetarians, too.
Best time to visit: During the dry season, which is from mid-December to April. The rainy season, which is from May to mid-November offers more budget-friendly prices.
Location: A country in northwestern Europe.
Known for: A flat landscape of canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes.
Major attractions: The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the home of rare art and antiquities. It has around 7 million works of art, including 5 000 paintings in more than 250 rooms. The library stores 35 000 books. The Anne Frank House, where the Frank family hid during World War II. Another iconic landmark in Amsterdam is the Van Gogh Museum, which is the 35th top art museum in the world. Kinderdijk, a famous village found on the River Noord, between Rotterdam and Dordrecht, is another drawcard for tourists, as are the 18th-century windmills, which have been named a Unesco World Heritage site.
Must-try: Haring Hollandse Nieuwe (Dutch new herring) is conserved in a special way with salt and it is served with chopped raw onions and gherkins. Stroopwafel is a popular pastry and available at any supermarket. Last, but not least, the rookworst is a smoked sausage that’s a favourite, too.
Best time to visit: From mid-April to mid-October. Peak season is between July and August.
Location: A country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its north-west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east.
Known for: It’s popular with cyclists and surfers. Major attractions: Monrovia is the largest city in the country and it has an infectious energy. Here, you will stumble across local watering holes, the fading remains of 19-century townhouses. Of course, what will truly pique curiosity is the National Museum, which traces the history of Liberia’s coups and counter coups, as well as civil wars and political exploits. The abandoned Ducor Hotel evokes much eeriness as well. But worth exploring, nonetheless. The Sapo National Park, Robertspot and Buchanan also come highly recommended.
Must-try: Palava, which is chunks of smoked meat or fish in a spicy-hot soup; jollof rice; Liberian palm butter soup; fufu, which is a staple Liberian meal and breakfast finger food; Liberian potato greens, as well as Liberian geebee soup and Liberian pepper kala.
Best time to visit: From December until May.
Location: A North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
Known for: Its architecture, culture and monuments. Not forgetting its azure beaches. This exotic country also offers plenty of activities for the adventurous traveller and it makes for a great romantic escape.
Major attractions: Marrakech Medina is a major tourist attraction. It is a shoppers paradise with plenty of entertainment on offer from snake charmers to random acrobats and traditional musicians. The Hassan II Mosque is a landmark and major point of interest. Rabat’s Oudaias Kasbah is one of the country’s most picturesque towns with lanes of white-and-blue houses, adorned with colourful flowerpots and washing flapping in the breeze. And it is not as touristy as Fes and Marrakech.
Must-try: Zalouk, which is a spread made with eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spices, is served with crisp bread. Other foods include fish chermoula, harira (Moroccan lentil soup), makouda (deep fried potato ball dipped in spicy sauce), khobz (crisp bread baked in communal wood-fired ovens) and steamed sheep head for those with an adventurous palate. Mint tea is popular here, too.
Best time to visit: During Spring (mid-March to May) or Autumn (September to October). The coastal regions can be visited any time of the year.
Location: A country in South America. It borders Argentina to its west and Brazil to its north and east, with the Río de la Plata (River of Silver) to the south.
Known for: Its beach-lined coast, art deco buildings, colonial homes, as well as piers and parks.
Major attractions: The capital is Colonia Del Sacramento, which has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. Tourist will find colonial architecture in a very urban landscape. Estadio Centenario football stadium was built in 1930 and it a must-visit for soccer fans. Visitors can spoil themselves at the hot springs in Salto and Paysandú, which is home to water parks, thermal spas, inns and hotels. The water has a lot of minerals, which makes it particularly good for drinking and soaking in. Solis Theatre is regarded as a landmark in Ciudad Vieja, the Old City district in Montevideo. The ornamental décor, combined with the numerous offerings of the place, will leave visitors entranced. For the best sunsets and sunrises as well as views, Punta Ballena, found near Punta del Este, is the place to bet.
Must-try: The chivito is considered to be the national dish in Uruguay. It’s apparently the sandwich to end all sandwiches, filed with beef steak, melted cheese, tomatoes, pickles, eggs and mayonnaise. It’s usually served with chips. Tortas fritas is a biscuit bread snack served with jam, asado (the ultimate meat braai, basically) and pasta con salsa caruso is enough to leave anyone drooling. For those with a sweet tooth, the arroz con leche (a rice pudding staple dessert) is not to be passed up.
Best time to visit: From March to October. The temperatures are ideal. For those wanting to get their tan on, October and December is when you visit those beaches.