Old favourites Spain, France and America might still be Brits’ top holiday picks according to travel association Abta’s annual Holiday Habits report published earlier this month, but that’s not stopping a host of alternative destinations descending on London this week for World Travel Market.
The world’s largest travel show, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, will see more than 5,000 exhibitors from 184 countries attempt to lure 50,000 trade representatives into featuring them in their holiday brochures for 2020 and beyond. Most of them are tried, tested and much-loved holiday hotspots, but some are exhibiting for the first time and are promising holidays with a difference for the more intrepid traveller. Here are five of the stand-out new offerings.
AlUla, Saudi Arabia
New $80 tourism visas to Saudi Arabia announced in September could well open up the country as the next Middle Eastern hot spot with destinations such as AlUla set to capitalise when it officially opens to the public in October 2020. Located in a lush oasis valley on what was the Incense Road and around 600 miles north of the capital Riyadh, it’s home to the country’s first Unesco World Heritage Site, the spectacular monumental tombs at Madein Saleh. Upscale hotel group Aman has just signed up to develop three hotels in the region – their first in Saudi Arabia – so it’s definitely one to watch.
What’s good about it: It’s like being in Jordan’s Petra but without the crowds.
What you might not like: Saudi Arabia still has strict no-alcohol rules.
The Krasnodar region in the Russian Caucasus sits on the edge of the Black Sea in the south of the country. It’s home to Winter Olympics venue Sochi and Cossack culture, as well as the regional capital of the same name, founded by Catherine the Great in 1794 to protect the Empire from the Ottomans. Its Wikipedia entry touts its steel lattice water tower as a key sight, but there’s more to it than that. Many of the tsarist-era buildings have been refurbished and Chistyakovskaya Roshcha park is home to oak trees more than a century old. There are also a number of museums with spectacularly Soviet-style names such as the Krasnador Regional Showroom of Fine Arts and the Museum of Military Technologies, plus a great Philharmonic Orchestra for those looking for some culture.
What’s good about it: It’s like a mini Moscow without the exorbitant prices.
What you might not like: A minimum seven-hour flight (with a layover) makes it hard for a weekend city break.
East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Indonesia’s southernmost province consists of an archipelago of more than 500 islands kissed by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Flores Sea to the north, and many of them are picture postcard pretty. The islands are home to some idyllic beaches, great diving, Sumbanse culture and the smoking crater lakes of the Kelimutu volcano, all of which vary in colour. It also borders with the Lesser Sunda Islands, home to the Komodo National Park and the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon.
What’s good about it: You get the same natural beauty as Bali, but largely to yourself.
What you might not like: It’s in an earthquake zone that averages around a tremor a week.
Croatia’s largely pushed its coastal areas since the split of Yugoslavia but travellers should now prepare to move inland too. The county of Medimurje sits at the far north of the country on its borders with Slovenia and Hungary. Set in rolling green hills and home to the Mura and Drava Rivers, both of which are still prospected for gold, its famed for its wineries, folklore fables of dragons and devils, natural spas, and outdoor sports including cycling and kayaking.
What’s good about it: A cheaper version of Tuscany (though slightly less stylish).
What you might not like: Outside of Zagreb, it’s Croatia’s second most populated area, so while you might not find many fellow tourists, you’re also unlikely to find total solitude.
With a long and rumbling dispute over how to use the name ‘Macedonia’ finally settled with neighbouring Greece earlier this year, 2020 could be North Macedonia’s breakout year. The country is home to dramatic mountains, glistening lakes and three handsome national parks – Mavrono, Galicica and Pelister – plus there’s swimming from the beaches around Lake Ohrid and skiing on Baba Mountain. Capital Skopje’s old town is pretty vibrant for a night out.
What’s good about it: Squint around Lake Ohrid and you could be in the Italian lakes.
What you might not like: Outside of the old town, Skopje is home to some ugly architecture.