wow factor | where to next? | destinations for curious travellers in 2020

Brainy and cheeky. Witty and inventive. Always smoking hot.

Somewhere else you’d rather be? Here’s where the expert travel advisers will be sending you…

When it comes to wow factor it’s hard to beat lunch in the prow of Sydney’s three-hat Quay restaurant, overlooking a harbour shimmering with ferries, global landmarks and pre-Christmas energy.

A menu of hand harvested seafood eaten with tweezers, smoked pig jowl with black lipped abalone, and roasted Maremma duck with burnt mandarin paste and a glass of Veuve Clicquot adds to the sense of indulgence.

So you don’t expect your host to present you with 50 reasons to be somewhere else.

But that’s what Flight Centre does in launching its new Wow list. Wow: 50 Travel Experiences for 2020 deviates from the usual bragging rights approach to travel for something more insightful and enriching, destinations that play to the curious crowd.

Drawing on the combined wisdom of Flight Centre staff and strategists, there’s a wealth of inspiration.

Rail product expert Rylie Heathfield (chanelling his “inner train nerd”) looks at Switzerland and its dense network of ferries, buses and trains, honing in on the especially scenic landscapes traversed by the Bernina Express, Glacier Express, Gotthard Panorama, and the Golden Pass line. The Glacier Express offers a cocktail bar and seven-course menu with paired wines.

Rylie Heathfield does his research in Switzerland

Canada is punching above its weight right now. Excess All Areas has indelible memories of the Canadian Maritimes – those unforgiving Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. On the Pacific Ocean side, Vancouver Island is home to one of the world’s largest pods of orcas. Kayak amongst the killer whales and understand just how insignificant in Nature you are!

But even more mesmerising is the wilderness of Yukon, in north-western Canada. An area of rugged mountains and high plateaus, it is bounded by the Northwest Territories to the east, by British Columbia to the south, and by Alaska to the west, and extends northward above the Arctic Circle to the Beaufort Sea. Picture thick snow, log cabins, summer fishing, fresh salmon, scenic flights – and the northern lights.

Yukon travel destination

Envy? It’s as green as the northern lights seen from Canada’s Yukon

These captivated Flight Centre travel expert Isabella Modra who describes it this way: “When the northern lights appear … a gradual green glow starts to rise on the horizon until suddenly a nebula of light takes form. Splays of aurora borealis dance across the sky and it’s such a stunning, multi-dimensional phenomenon, surprising me with every passing minute. It changes form and multiplies, dying down then exploding against the backdrop of stars again.”

yukon travel destination

Isabella Modra gets a warm welcome in the Yukon’s snowy wilderness

But wait, there’s more to add to cart.

An oasis in the Kimberley, an excursion to Vanuatu that’s as active as the volcano you can climb; a road-trip in Wales; a new neighbourhood to check out in NYC; a renewed acquaintance with the diving sites of Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef; a new vantage point in Norway.

We’re betting caving deep in the Belizean jungle amongst Mayan artefacts isn’t on the bucket list? It could be! In the chamber known as the Cathedral are skeletons, pottery shards and wondrous stalactites and stalagmites. Astronomers will love the International Dark Sky Reserve on New Zealand’s South Island. Or visit Colombia to get up close and personal with coffee cultivation in lush highlands.

Beachy Boracay in the Philippines is back in business after going to rehab, now with a daily visitor limit in place. For ramblers and scramblers, Skye is the place to lace up your boots. Foodies are headed for Bali where restaurants like MoVida, Sake No Hana, and Canhggu’s The Lawn are bringing international chutzpah.

South Africa isn’t the only spot for a safari. Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park, in the island’s south-east, is home to 44 mammal species, 215 types of birds and the Sri Lankan leopard. If elephants are more you speed, not for away, in the Udawalawe National Park, is a sanctuary for about 500 Asian elephants. While these are found in isolated pockets of India,  Sumatra and Borneo, Sri Lanka has one of the largest populations. Here, they are part of the history, religion and mythology of the culture.

If there’s anywhere in the world to hug a tree it’s the Yosemite National Park, in the Sierra Nevada range in California. In summer (June to August) there are waterfalls and wildflowers in abundance. Flight Centre editor Cassandra Laffey found quite awesome 2000-year-old redwoods “so thick, you could walk right through them.”

Excess All Areas can vouch or the wow factor of a Viking cruise on the Rhone River. The staterooms aboard Viking’s Scandinavian-style longships are elegant and minimalist, the wineries and villages along the way a true immersion in history and tradition. Food, architecture and painterly pastel colour? Big tick.

french river cruise

Scandinavian-style longships like Delling bring the Rhone River to life

You want local insights and real living? Factor in a 2020 version of the Silk Road Route, from China to Turkey on the Mediterranean Sea through the Central Asia steppe, passing through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Trains are your transport and your Insta feed will be rich with mosques, local dishes, gold statues and vibrant textiles.

And there’s one for the cyclists: a popular training circuit known to professional cyclists. On the Wow list is a cycling holiday in the Spanish city of Girona, an opportunity, says Flight Centre travel writer Sam Aldenton to ride “along the curvy and jaw-dropping coastline leading out of Tossa de Mar along the fabled Coastal Loop, a vista made all the sweeter with the reward of having earned your pastry at the obligatory cake shop at Dulce Pikika, a favourite of the pros.”



Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab.

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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.