Why these African Destinations are listed on Conde Nast Best Places to Go in 2020

January 31, 2020
Jodi Lucas
Jodi is an adventure enthusiast and Douglas Adams groupie who supports these addictions through travel writing. When she’s not hitting Cape Town’s surf, you’ll find her trawling pre-loved bookstores for a leather-bound volume of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

As 2019 draws to a close, globetrotters are on the lookout for the best places to go in 2020. The start of the new decade is certain to be a great year for travel; thanks to a surge of new, non-stop flight routes and easier visa requirements that make more destinations easier to reach.

The result is a list of must-visit vacation destinations in 2020, with something to suit every interest. According to the multi-award winning magazine, CondeNast Traveler, the list includes everything from Armenia’s “pink city”, to the far-flung lands of the Canadian Arctic and the ancient islands of Okinawa, Japan. And, if you’re looking for the best places to visit in Africa in 2020, you’ll be happy to hear that destinations such as Botswana, Morocco, and Rwanda have made their way onto the coveted bill too.

Ready to Travel in 2020?

If your 2020 goal is to go on a family safari, we have you covered with our list of family-friendly safari destinations in Africa. Or, if you need some in-depth inspiration to help plan your year, check out our guide on where to safari in Africa month-by-month.

Going off the beaten path has never been easier to do too. New, direct flights from New York to Cape Town, Miami to Casablanca, and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport will bring your dreams of traveling to Africa in 2020 closer to reality.

Once you’ve touched down, the real adventure begins. Forget being hauled between countries in a tin can mid-air; the best way to see Africa is to live life on the road. An overland tour puts you in the heart of the continent’s most beloved destinations – including a few of the best travel destinations for the new year.

Although safari heavyweights like Tanzania and Kenya remain high on the African safari bucket list; here’s why CondeNast Traveller lists Botswana’s Salt Pan, Gorilla adventures in Rwanda and the city of Tangier in Morocco on their top 20 best places to travel in 2020.

1. Botswana’s Salt Pans

If conservation travel is your goal for 2020, then Botswana is an excellent place to start. It’s one of the world’s last great wildernesses, home to the ancient San people, mesmerizing landscapes, and an incredible ecosystem where wildlife roams free. Be sure to bring your camera and sense of adventure!

Salt Pans Game Drive

Makgadikgadi salt pans in Botswana

Just south of the Okavango’s lush wetlands, the lunar world of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans beckons. Before the last ice age, these fossil strewn salt flats formed part of the legendary Lake Makgadikgadi. Once fed by the Okavango, Upper Zambezi, and Cuando rivers, this enormous basin spread across the Kalahari Desert, bringing life-giving water that allowed homo sapiens and countless other species to thrive.

Fast forward 3 million years, the climate in southern Africa changed and the lake, parched by the sun, dried up. In its wake, a collection of glimmering white salt pans, littered with remnants of our ancestral past, now cover over almost 10,000 square miles of the region.

The Makgadikgadi Pans are the largest network of salt flats in the world. While standing in the middle of this dramatic lunar expanse, you can’t help but feel like you’re alone at the very ends of the Earth. Botswana’s salt pans are hauntingly beautiful, incredibly vast, and seemingly desolate. But still, life persists.

Each year, summer rains briefly flood the pan, calling a variety of wildlife to the previously lifeless plain. During this time of plenty, the pan becomes an essential habitat to zebras migrating en masse and a slew of other species. If you know where to look and what to look for, Makgadikgadi has much to offer intrepid travelers.

Botswana Pans sunset

When is the best time to visit salt pans in Botswana

The pans themselves are only accessible during the dry season (May to October). The wet season (February to April) is great for birding and game watching. During this time, visitors have the opportunity to view thousands of hooved animals grazing animals on the newly sprouted grass plains.

Enjoy a Botswana Safari

Wild, vast, and utterly remote, Botswana is one of Africa’s most underrated safari destinations. The country boasts an enviable conservation philosophy that endorses low-volume, high-revenue tourism. This does mean that Botswana isn’t a cheap safari destination but those lucky enough to travel here in 2020 will be rewarded with bountiful once-in-a-lifetime wildlife scenes minus the crowds.

Free from fences and farmland, the big five and countless other species roam wild here. Nearly half of Botswana is now part of national parks and reserves, and there’s a range of safari options available to boot. Whether you opt for a high-end, luxury safari that serves up views of the wild on a bed of opulence or overland camping trips that bring the experience back to basics – there’s plenty of ways to enjoy a Botswana safari.

Botswana Pans Wildlife

Combine your trip to the salt pans with the Botswana Okavango Delta

Botswana is a landlocked country fringed by desert and stark salt pans, but you wouldn’t think so while exploring the palm-fringed waterways of the Okavango Delta. If you want to see diversity in its truest form, then combine your trip to the Makgadikgadi salt pans with a safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

Formed by the annual flooding of the eponymously named river, the Okavango Delta serves as a gigantic watering hole and buffet for 164 different mammal species, including the continent’s largest herds of elephants.

Starting your trip in Botswana’s gateway city, and be sure to check out our guide to Maun, to help you plot your route.

Is Botswana safe?

Botswana is one of the safest countries to travel in Africa. The greatest danger to travelers is charges by wildlife and the risks of driving alone in the bush, desert, and salt pans. Crime is rarely a problem in cities like Gaborone, Francistown, and Maun, and doesn’t usually extend beyond occasional pickpocketing and theft from parked cars.

Need any more convincing? Find out why our travel buddies Konrad and Brooke loved the Salt Pans of Botswana

2. Rwanda Gorillas

Rwanda is making headlines again and this time it’s all good news. This small but thriving nation has embraced a promising and dynamic future. Tourism is a key contributor to the economy and the popularity of Rwanda’s thriving gorilla population has resulted in this country quickly becoming one of Africa’s most exciting safari destinations.

What is a Gorilla safari?

Ranked as one of National Geographics trips of a lifetime, a gorilla safari should be high on your 2020 travel bucket list. Gorilla trekking is a rare opportunity to help support local economies, deter poaching, and spy one of the largest living primates on the planet. According to the WWF, just over 1000 Mountain Gorillas exist in the wild and trekking through the challenging terrain of their natural habitat is your only chance to catch a peek of them.

Gorilla trekking in rwanda

Rwanda Gorilla Trekking

Just one look at the country’s endless green hills and soaring mountainsides, and it’s easy to see why CondeNast named Rwanda one of the best places to travel in 2020. Rwanda offers some of the best gorilla trekking experiences in Africa.

Volcanoes National Park, which runs along the border with the DRC and Uganda, is home to roughly ten habituated gorilla families that intrepid travelers can visit in the country. And, with a recent expansion to ease the pressure on the park’s wildlife, Rwanda’s mountain gorilla population is only expected to grow!

It’s not all about our highly endangered cousins though. While most travelers are understandably driven to have a face-to-face encounter with real gorillas in the mist, Rwanda is home to several other primates, including rare golden monkeys, that are well worth keeping an eye out for.

Rwanda Gorilla trek cost

If Gorilla trekking is on your list for 2020 then prepare to dig deep. In 2017, the price of a gorilla trekking permit doubled from US$750(£526) to US$1500(£1052) per person. Today (2019), a gorilla trekking permit costs $1,500 U.S.D. per person. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is expensive but it helps to keep in mind that a large percentage of the funds from the permits are put directly into Rwanda’s conservation work and local communities.

Is Rwanda Safe?

While Rwanda is generally considered a very safe and reasonably well-developed country, ongoing tensions on the borders of the DRC and Burundi need to be taken into account while traveling. If you decide to travel to Rwanda in 2020 then read the safety and security section on the country information page.

Gorilla trekking in Uganda

Gorilla Trekking Rwanda vs Uganda

Rwanda vs Uganda; this is the great Gorilla trekking debate amongst travelers and tour operators alike. Both Uganda and Rwanda offer great opportunities for gorilla trekking, but there are a few major differences between the two experiences that will change which destination you choose.

Gorilla trekking Rwanda vs Uganda Price Comparison:

Rwanda’s high value – low impact ethos makes it one of the most expensive experiences there is. By comparison, Uganda has fixed its permit price at $600 per trek and there are accommodation options to suit every budget. Although the permits are harder to secure, due to limited availability and high demand, Gorilla trekking in Uganda is suited to more budget-conscious travelers than its counterpart.

Gorilla trekking Rwanda vs Uganda trekking experience:

Gorilla trekking, in general, is no walk in the park, regardless of the country you choose. Travelers need to have a fair level of fitness and determination to reach the gorilla’s lofty habitat.

The first thing to point out is that both Uganda and Rwanda have a ‘gorilla chair’ which can be hired for guests who have mobility issues. That said, Rwanda is generally considered to be a bit “less difficult” in terms of terrain for trekking when compared to Uganda.

On the other hand, Gorilla trekking in Uganda tends to require a slightly higher degree of fitness. Thanks to steady rains, the terrain is often slippery and trickier to navigate. And, as the gorillas cover large territories, tracking time can be anywhere from 30 minutes up to eight or nine hours.

In terms of accessibility, Rwanda’s size and well-maintained infrastructure afford travelers a short journey by road from the capital of Kigali to Volcanoes National Park. In Uganda, it’s a 500-kilometer trip from the capital of Kampala to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the poor road conditions make it a longer trip.

Gorilla trekking in Uganda

Due to current political issues along its borders with Burundi and the DRC, combined with the high cost of gorilla trekking in Rwanda, we would recommend Gorilla Trekking in Uganda. Bwindi is home to some 400 gorillas, with 12 fully habituated families available for tracking.

Although the trekking routes are slightly tougher than its neighbors, Gorilla trekking in Uganda is still a great option for those with a reasonable level of fitness and a tighter budget. This guide to Gorilla Trekking will provide all the info you need for an awesome experience of a lifetime.

3. Tangier in Morocco

Tangier has for centuries been Europe’s gateway to Africa, attracting an eccentric crowd of poets, writers, and artists. William S. Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams Mick Jagger, and countless other boho travelers have moored in this bustling port city. And, with Royal Air Maroc’s 2019 launch of two new direct flights from the USA to Morocco, traveling to Tangier has only gotten easier.

Tangier in Morocco

Tangier, Morocco weather

Tangier enjoys a warm, Mediterranean climate with paradoxical weather patterns that change with the seasons. The summers (June to August), are scorching in Tangier, and air-conditioning isn’t standard. The winters (November to January) are long, cool, wet, and windy.

The best time to visit Tangier is from September to November and March to May. During these months, the weather in Tangier is not too hot or cold and the tourist season is not yet in full swing.

Tangier, Morocco things to do

Beginning with the city’s ancient medina that tumbles toward the sea in a maze of alleyways, there are plenty of things to do and see in Tangier. From the unshakable Kasbah, where the sultan once lived, to the picture-perfect Cap Spartel and the sunken islands of Spartel Bank rumored to be the legendary island of Atlantis – there’s much to discover while traveling in Tangier in 2020.

Caves of Hercules

Highlights of Tangier:

  • View the Strait of Gibraltar from Cape Malabata
  • Explore the Caves of Hercules
  • The Terrasse des Paresseux
  • The Tomb of Ibn Battouta
  • The Grande Mosquée Of Tangier
  • Enjoy A Mint Tea In Petit Socco

Tangier, Morocco map

Strung along the most northwestern tip Morocco, Tangier beckons travelers with its bustling allure. With so much to see and do in the city, we’ve created a useful map of Tangier’s highlights to help you explore with ease.

Tangier, Morocco safety

The sleaze and hustle that first allured debauched artists and rebellious heiresses to the seaside crossroads of Tangier have long gone. Contemporary Tangier is generally considered safe for tourists to travel but requires some vigilance while navigating the streets.

Petty crime (pickpocketing and scams) is common and persistent touts (hustlers) can be an annoyance to deal with. A woman alone will attract a lot of unwarranted attention from men, a firm but polite no generally does the trick and walking in groups makes it slightly more manageable.

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