Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2020: What not to miss according to locals

January 21, 2020
Claire Butler
Travel writer and content manager @urbanadventures. My favourite travel adventures usually involve food, alcohol and history, preferably at the same time.

For the first time, Urban Adventures is partnering with iconic publisher (and travel bible) Lonely Planet to launch a new range of exclusive Lonely Planet Experiences.  

Combining the art of storytelling with local expertise, these experiences are designed from the ground up for independent travellers who want to explore with a small group of like-minded people, with the benefit of unrivalled insights from two of travel’s biggest innovators to get them to the heart of a destination like never before. 

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we have asked our local guides all around the world to take a closer look at Lonely Planet’s latest iconic ‘Best in Travel 2020’ list, which showcases their top global travel destinations in 2020 and requested their top 3 things to do in the destinations LP has carefully chosen (out of their 40 recommendations, you’ll find an Urban Adventures office in almost half the destinations).

Costa Rica

Meet the legendary local family where three generations have made some of the country’s most beautiful masks for celebrations and special holidays on Lonely Planet's Pura Vida Experience, powered by Urban Adventures. | Photo by Costa Rica Urban Adventures

Costa Rica is due to be one of the world’s first carbon-neutral countries by 2020, an inspiring achievement. Our guide Eric says don’t miss:

  1. A trip to the town of Escazu, famous for its ancient folklore and masquerade masks.
  2. Visit La Tirimbina Reserve – the best place to spot birds in Costa Rica. It’s part of a UNESCO Biological Reserve with over 400 bird species. La Tirimbina has been a pioneering site in education, research, conservation, and ecotourism in Costa Rica since 1963, and is one of the first private protected areas in the country.
  3. Try some Costa Rican chocolate. My favourite is from the Association of Women Amazilia del Caribe.

Visit Escazu with us on our Lonely Planet Pura Vida Experience, powered by Urban Adventures. Visit La Tirimbina and the Association of Women Amazilia del Caribe on our Tropical Rainforest & Chocolate Adventure.


The famous pier on Brighton beach. | Photo by Ben Guerin on Unsplash

Lonely Planet is excited about new sections of the English Coast Path being opened up which will mean that, from 2020, you’ll be able to walk around the entire coast of the British Isles, something you can’t do in any other country on Earth. The Brits love the seaside and have built a unique and enduring culture around it. We asked London guide Glenn for his favourite places to experience the old fashioned British seaside that are under 2 hours from London:

  1. Brighton is a vibrant University city with a progressive cultural scene and lots to do.
  2. Southwold is a quaint village on the Suffolk coast that offers spectacular walks and excellent fish and chips.
  3. Margate is an upmarket seaside town close to many historic sights and home to some of the country’s finest restaurants outside the capital.

Explore London and beyond with us.

The Netherlands

Get the low down on Amsterdam's bike culture from a local guide on Lonely Planet's In the City of Bikes tour, and feel confident riding around the city of 2 wheels. | Photo by Amsterdam Urban Adventures

With 35,000km of cycling paths, the Netherlands is one of the best places in the world to explore on two wheels. Our local guide Sean, who happens to be a keen amateur cyclist, recommends:

  1. A ride around Amsterdam’s dykes, bridges, and canals downtown and beyond with a stop for beer included!
  2. Enjoy a Dutch beer tasting
  3. Pick up a locally made souvenir. Amsterdam is full of creative people, making wonderful things.

Get the lowdown on cycling in Amsterdam and learn how to bike like a local on Lonely Planet’s In the City of Bikes tour, powered by Urban Adventures. Join us for our Original Amsterdam Beer Tour, which covers all the best bars, breweries and beer halls in the city. Or let us introduce you to some of our favourite local designers and entrepreneurs on our Made in Amsterdam Shopping tour.


Learn how to make Morocco's favourite dish on Lonely Planet's Tajine Cookery Class tour. | Photo by Morocco Urban Adventures

Lonely Planet love the recent infrastructure improvements in Morocco that are making the country more accessible to tourists, such as the new high speed train line between Casablanca and Tangier. We’re excited for our friends in Marrakech, which is set to be Africa’s first ever City of Culture in 2020. We asked our local guide Ayoub for the 3 things visitors shouldn’t miss in his city:

  1. Have a go at making your own tajine.
  2. Shop for bargains in the souks.
  3. Visit the Henna Café, a legendary foodie spot where all proceeds from food sales is used to give free education and assistance to Moroccan people.

Make your own tajine in the kitchen of a beautiful, private Riad in Marrakech by joining Lonely Planet’s Tajine Cookery Class, powered by Urban Adventures. Learn to haggle in the souks and visit the Henna Café on our Made in Marrakech Shopping Tour: Secrets of the Medina.


Explore Buda Castle and the historic areas around it on Lonely Planet's Buda Castle Explorer tour. | Photo by Budapest Urban Adventures

Budapest has been highlighted in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel list because it’s easy on the wallet as well as on the eye. Local guide Livia recommends that you:

  1. Discover the historic secrets of the catacombs beneath 13th century Buda Castle.
  2. Drink Hungarian craft beer.
  3. Bathe in the city’s epic spa waters.

Explore Buda Castle and its surroundings on our Lonely Planet Buda Castle Explorer tour, visit an iconic local pub known for its impressive beer selection on our Lonely Planet Best Beers of Budapest tour. To find out more about Budapest spa culture, read Livia’s Wellness Guide to Budapest, which includes her favourite, off the beaten-track places to spa.

Cape Winelands

Discover the stories behind the street art in Salt River with the help of a local guide on Lonely Planet's Salt River Street Art tour. | Photo by Cape Town Urban Adventures

Cape Town has always been a popular vacation destination for animal lovers, due to its proximity to Kruger National Park. But Lonely Planet wants visitors to get excited about the area’s first class food and drink scene. Local guide Sebastian top tips for getting the most out of the Cape Winelands are as follows:

  1. See the spectacular murals in the Salt Water neighbourhood, produced by BAZ ART, a non-profit organization which aims to showcase the power of street art and its ability to transform communities and individuals.
  2. Explore and drink wine in the lush Constantia Valley, just 15 mins from the centre of Cape Town.
  3. Have a browse at Woodstock Exchange, a mixed-use venue featuring galleries, funky shops, and cafes

Lonely Planet Salt River Street Art tour, find out more about Cape Town’s other wine route: Constantia,  visit Woodstock Exchange on Lonely Planet’s Private Taste of Woodstock tour.


Princess Ljubica ‘s Residence Belgrade
Visit Princess Ljubic's residence and more on our Belgrade Mash-up tour. | Photo by Belgrade Urban Adventures

Serbia is on Lonely Planet’s list because it’s one of the last unexplored European countries, with plenty of historic and foodie treasures to uncover. Being off the beaten path means it’s great value too! Our Belgrade guide Matija reckons you should add the following to your Serbian bucket list:

  1. A walk around Princess Ljubica’s Palace, one of the only 19th century buildings to survive two world wars.
  2. Have a shot or three of rakia, a popular fruit brandy from the Balkans.
  3. Take a stroll around Skadarlija street, Belgrade’s striking bohemian quarter.

Explore Ljubica’s Palace and Skadarlija Street and enjoy a shot of rakia on our Belgrade Mash-Up tour.


Enjoy a glass of ouzo on Lonely Planet's Taste of Athens tour. | Photo by Athens Urban Adventures

Lonely Planet describes the capital of Greece as being like an open air museum. Plus cheap eats, pedestrianised streets and some incredible day trips (hello Temple of Poseidon) make Athens an ideal city break, any time of the year. Here are our local guide Stefanos top three things to do in Athens:

  1. Eat traditional meze and drink ouzo.
  2. Take a stroll along hip Korai Street and get lost in the numerous stoas (ancient covered walkways) of the city.
  3. Go shopping in the Ifaistou or Pandrossos neighbourhoods, famous for leather sandals, handmade icons, Greek music instruments, and antiques.

Taste one of the best meze’s in the city, alongside a glass of warming ouzo on Lonely Planet’s Taste of Athens tour powered by Urban Adventures. Explore Korai Street’s nearby stoas on Lonely Planet’s Athens Reloaded – The Hipsters’ Walk tour powered by Urban Adventures. Go shopping with a local guide on Lonely Planet’s Private Market, Ruins and Ancient Athens tour powered by Urban Adventures.


The fish market in Stone Town | Photo by Wikimedia Commons

For low-cost luxury and adventure, Lonely Planet reckon Zanzibar is where it’s at, and we could not agree more! Our local guide Khamis loves the blend of cultures. In Stone Town you will get not only Africa, but Arabia, India and Europe in one colourful package! His top things to do in Zanzibar include:

  1. Be amazed by the architecture of picturesque Stone Town.
  2. Eat delicious, fresh fish from the Indian Ocean.
  3. Get a henna tattoo.

Stroll around Stone Town with an expert local guide and try fresh fish on our Culinary Stone Town tour. Body art is included but not obligatory on our Made in Zanzibar: Handicraft & Music tour.

Washington DC

See the Mall from a different perspective by visiting with us at night on Lonely Planet's Private Monuments by Night tour, powered by Urban Adventures. | Photo by Washington Urban Adventures

The capital of the USA is celebrating a very special anniversary in 2020, the 100th anniversary of women being given the right to vote. Special events and exhibitions will be springing up throughout the year. Local guide Shawn doesn’t want you to miss:

  1. Gaze up in wonder at the US Capitol Building, home of the United States Congress.
  2. Taste your way through DC’s immigrant heritage on trendy H Street.
  3. Cruise the iconic National Mall by night.

Check out the Capitol Building and engage in some friendly politics chat on Lonely Planet’s American Politics & Debate on Capitol Hill tour. Check out Washington’s foodie credentials on Lonely Planet’s DC Food & History Tour on H St. Jump in one of our environmentally-friendly cruisers and see the National Mall from a different, night time perspective on Lonely Planet’s Private Monuments by Night all powered by Urban Adventures.


2020 will see the opening of Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum, the world’s largest museum that’s committed to one civilisation. This multi-million dollar project has been in the works for years, so to see it finally come to fruition will thrill history lovers all over the world. If you’re looking for tips on what else to do while you’re in town, our guide Hend recommends the following:

  1. Check out the revolutionary graffiti that plasters the city with a local expert guide to help you decipher the messages behind it.
  2. Try koshary (a mix of rice, pasta, lentils, fried onions, and chili sauce) and eat lots of lovely falafel!
  3. Take a day trip to the beautiful ancient city of Alexandria and check out its world famous library.

Explore the city’s dynamic street art scene and taste koshary, falafel and many other tasty Egyptian delicacies on our Downtown Cairo tour. Visit Alexandria with a local guide on our Alexandria City Discovery tour.


Lonely Planet loves Kochi in 2020 for her green credentials (Kochi is the first city in the world to open a solar-powered airport) and for the city’s ability to “keep a tight grip on its heritage while wholeheartedly embracing its newfound cool.” Travellers rave about it being green, clean, and rich in history and culture. Local guide Komal recommends that you:

  1. Discover temples, handicrafts, spice shops and many more hidden gems on Kochi’s famous Gujarati Street.
  2. Learn how to cook Keralan curry.
  3. Shop for sarees.

Take a Cookery Class at Kaliveedu. Visit Gujarati street and later learn how to wear and maybe buy a saree from a very special NGO that’s been supporting local women for more than 30 years on our Aromas Of Kochi tour.


Dubai is home to the World Expo in 2020, a 6 month long spectacle that showcases the latest innovations from around the world, providing a fascinating glimpse into the future. Hoda, our local guide in Dubai suggests that the following activities be added to your Dubai to do list:

  1. Discover the old-world charms of Dubai before the oil rush in the Alfahidi district.
  2. Shop for spices and textiles in one of the city’s colourful souks.
  3. Eat Dubai’s best falafel.

Visit the Alfahidi district and explore the souks with a local guide by your side on Lonely Planet’s Private Culture, Coffee & Colourful Souks tour. Find out where to find Dubai’s best street food, served up with love by a Syrian refugee and his family.


Denver’s star has been on the rise for a while; a slew of hip new hotels, restaurants and craft breweries have sprung up throughout the city. Here are our guide ? top tips on how to have an amazing time in the Mile High City.

  1. Have a drink in the trendy RiNo neighbourhood, which is crammed with really cool breweries, bars and distilleries.
  2. Shop in the Cherry Creak neighbourhood, a remarkable ecological success story where Denver’s first settlers built a settlement.
  3. Stand exactly 1 mile above sea level (5,280 feet) at the US Geological Survey’s official geological pinpoint.

Grab a drink with us on our Denver Liquid Tour. Visit Cherry Creak, the US Geological Survey and a plethora of must-see sights on our Highlights of Denver tour.

So those are our recommendations for things you shouldn’t miss when visiting any of Lonely Planet’s favourite places to travel to in 2020. The only question now is where are you going to go first?