10 hidden gems to visit in 2020
Journeys | 04.12.2019
Winding through the narrow canals of Venice. Strolling the bustling streets of New York City. Sipping flat whites in foodie haven Melbourne. They're all must-visit places on most traveller's bucket lists and sit atop tourist ranking lists every year.

But what are the newer entrants to the global travel scene? Those secret spots that are poised to hit the big time in a few years and are worth a visit now, before the crowds arrive? We asked travel couple, The Travel Scribes, to count down the ten hidden gems that you should explore in 2020; the places to go before everyone else is in the know.
1. Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Now Vietnam is no stranger to the global tourism trade. Thousands of travellers make their way down the length of the country, sipping coconut coffees in Hanoi or tucking into bun cha in Ho Chi Minh City.

But those in the know are exploring Ninh Binh or, more specifically, the small next door village of Tam Coc. It's been called 'Ha Long Bay on land' for good reason: Tam Coc boasts towering limestone karsts set against peaceful blue rivers and rice fields that will satisfy most people's penchant for wanderlust.

You can have a local boatman row you down the Tam Coc river with just his feet, duck your head as you cruise through nearly 50 caves in Trang An or ascend to the top of Hang Mua, which boasts a cave and a spectacular viewpoint with rice fields and mountains in every direction.

Tam Coc's laidback vibe also sees most people using bicycles to get around, popping into the small main street for a spring roll or kicking back with international fare like banana Nutella pizzas at Chookies, the watering hole for tourists in the area.
2. Cali, Colombia
The salsa capital of the world, Cali moves to the beat of its own drum. You'll find salsa music pulsating throughout the city as locals gather in bars, on street corners and in homes too. The music and flurry of dance is infectious, just like the friendly people who inhabit the town.

In Cali you'll find some of the most authentic encounters with the Colombian people, as you spend hours on the dance floor or eating Aborrajados (small pastries) with a talkative local. And, speaking of the food, you'll be spoilt for choice – Cali is making waves on the culinary scene with delicious specialities like Sobrebarriga (meat, rice and beans), or Arroz Atollado (rice, meat and potato stew).

It's not the prettiest city you'll ever see but if you're looking for a humbling, genuine encounter in an honest, down-to-earth place to discover Colombian hospitality, Cali is a must-visit place for 2020.
3. Timisoara, Romania
It's better known for its capital city, Bucharest, and tales of blood-sucking vampires in Transylvania. But Romania's little-known Timisoara is making it onto the map, courtesy of its status as European Capital of Culture in 2021.

The city is more than just museums (don't miss the Communist Consumers Museum if you do go), and historical sights but each corner brings you a pastel-perfect, very Instagrammable building worth a quick look-in. Wander the streets, make your way through the many green spaces and parks dotted around it or explore the burgeoning street art scene, set to rival even graffiti heavyweights like Berlin or Melbourne.
4. Muscat, Oman
Keen to visit the Middle East? Muscat in Oman is fast becoming a great place to visit and is still a little off the beaten tourist trail. The city is the perfect place to first enter the Middle East – you'll enjoy great hospitality, a quiet, relaxed city and can still immerse yourself in local culture as sights like the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque are open to non-Muslims.

Muscat is great as a base for adventurers too. Once you've exhausted the city sights of the steaming Muttrah souk, the 16th century forts and the Bait Al Zubair museum you can venture further out of the city to take in the incredible dunes of the Wahiba Sands desert, or visit the 'Grand Canyon' of Oman, Wadi Nakhr.

Keen on a few days on the beach? You'll have untouched stretches of shore almost to yourself if you spend a few hours getting out of the capital city.
5. Bagan, Myanmar
Move over Cappadocia, there is a new 'IT' place to watch the hot air balloons ascend at sunrise, and its smack bang in the middle of South East Asian gem, Myanmar. Or, as it was formerly known, Burma. Since it opened its borders to tourism a few years ago, Myanmar has become quite a cool destination for backpackers and fashionable travellers alike, with Bagan becoming an epicentre for this trendy crowd.

But Bagan is more than just hot air balloons. This town has the remains of over 2,200 temples dotted across its surrounding landscapes. What's great about the temple-hopping is that it can only really be done on the back of 'e-bikes', electric mopeds that see you zipping through dusty roads. So currently you won't see many tourist buses or hoards of crowds.
Vegetarians will love Bagan as the town is home to a number of great little plant-friendly cafes, notably The Moon – Be Kind to Animals. You'll find a veggie burger and a papaya salad for a few dollars that will be among the best you'll ever taste.
6. Broome, Western Australia
It's a region of Australia that's starting to garner Instagram fame, as Western Australia's incredible landscapes and rusty red panoramas capture the imagination of travellers across the globe. The best place to start in this huge region? Broome.

The gateway to the breath-taking Kimberley region, Broome offers some of its own attractions like Cable Beach, a 22-kilometre coastline with toothpaste-coloured blue waters, pristine white sands and imposing red cliffs where the best way to see it is on the back of a camel. You can wander around the Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Wildlife Park, check out museums or learn about pearling, which the city is known for.

And, once you're done with the many sights in Broome, you'll head out to some of Australia's most incredible attractions like the Bungle Bungles in Purnululu National Park, Cape Leveque or the Horizontal Waterfall.
7. Xi'an, China
China is increasingly becoming a must-visit destination for travellers, with world-class infrastructure, incredible sights like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, and progressively connected cities. But beyond powerhouse cities like Shanghai and Beijing, much of the country is not really explored by international tourists.

Xi'an is one of the cities that is starting to top travel lists. Known for the world-famous Terracotta Army, hundreds of terracotta statues accidentally discovered by a hapless farmer toiling his fields, Xi'an is a mecca for Chinese culture that is quite tourist-friendly. A clean, efficient metro with English signage, easy city maps and a burgeoning foodie culture means the city is fast becoming a hub for travellers.

The city is easily reached via bullet train from Beijing in 5 hours and boasts an array of cool things to do. From discovering the ancient art of Chinese calligraphy in the markets, to riding the city walls (the oldest in the world), on the back of a bicycle, Xi'an is a Chinese hidden gem that you have to add to your bucket list.
8. Kigali, Rwanda
When you think of Rwanda you're probably seeing visions of the genocide, an atrocity still fresh in most visitors' minds. But Rwanda – and particularly Kigali – has undergone a transformation that is making it one of the hottest travel destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The city has rapidly modernized under the leadership of a progressive government keen to put the country on the proverbial tourist map. You'll find many a high-end hotel at rock bottom prices and heaps to do in the city itself.

Beyond that, Rwanda remains the best place to go for an authentic encounter with mountain gorillas; a trip of a lifetime that will see you travel from Kigali to the Volcanoes National Park, bordering Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
9. Skopje, Macedonia
There are very few untouched capital cities left in Europe, as holidaymakers are in search of quieter spots behind the bigger hubs of Barcelona, Berlin and Rome.

Skopje is one of the last remaining outposts as it currently only attracts a trickle of international tourists. The city is trying to turn that around though, as from 2014 onwards it embarked on a program to evoke European flair, creating new buildings that are meant to look 'classical', as if they'd been in the city for centuries and erecting Greek-style monuments throughout the town.

It's a fascinating place to explore: it looks old world but feels very, very new; a weird and wacky mix of kitsch and classic that makes Skopje a city of contrasts; an Athens meets Disneyland type of affair. Get lost in its bustling bazaar (Europe's second oldest after Istanbul), hike up Mount Voduo for panoramic views or sip on skopsko, the local beer.
10. Nova Scotia, Canada
Technically a province rather than a city, Nova Scotia is a definite hidden gem, tucked away in eastern Canada. Looking to see waddling puffins? Go to Nova Scotia. Interested in more than 13 thousand kilometres of virtually empty coastline? Nova Scotia. Or prefer to hike deserted trails? That's right – Nova Scotia.

Whether you want to get lost in the historic sights of capital town, Halifax, visit more than 150 towering lighthouses in the region, drive the jaw dropping roads of Cape Breton's Cabot Trail or eat seafood in Canada's 'Lobster Capital', Barrington, Nova Scotia – while slightly tricky to get to – offers everything even the fussiest of travellers is yearning for.
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