Places to go in 2020

Here is the mostly dull NYT list.  Here is my personal list of recommendations for you, noting I have not been to all of the below, but I am in contact with many travelers and paw through a good deal of information:

1. Pakistan, and Pakistani Kashmir.  Finally it is safe, and in some way it is easier to negotiate than India.  The best dairy products I have eaten in my life, and probably it is the most populous country you have not yet seen, or maybe Nigeria, but that makes the list too.  Islamabad is nicer than any city in India, and watch the painter trucks on the nearby highway.

2. Eastern Bali.  Still mostly unspoilt, the perfect mix of exoticism and comfort.  This island is much, much more than Elizabeth Gilbert, yoga, and hippie candles.

3. Lalibela, Ethiopia.  Has some of my favorite churches, beautiful vistas and super-peaceful, and the high altitude of Lalibela and Addis means you don’t have to take anti-malarials.  I know a good guide there, here are my Lalibela posts.  the central bank forecasts 10.8% growth for the country for next year, so Lalibela is likely to change rapidly.

4. Lagos, Nigeria.  A bit dangerous, but immense fun, wonderful music every night, and not nearly as bad as you might be thinking.  Africa’s most dynamic city by far and a new modern civilization in the works.  Here are my earlier Lagos posts, including travel tips.

5. Odisha [Orissa], India.  Sometimes called India’s most underrated cuisine, that is enough reason to go and so now it is on my list for myself.

6. Sumatra, Indonesia.  Surely a good place to understand the evolution of Islam, and supposedly to be Indonesia’s best food.  I hope to get there soon.  First-rate textiles and lake views, I hear.

7. Warsaw, Poland.  No, not a fascist country (though objectionable in some regards), and rapidly becoming the center of opportunity for eastern Europe and a major player in the European Union.  First-rate food and dishes you won’t get elsewhere, at least nothing close to comparable quality.  Nice for walking, don’t expect too many intact old buildings, but isn’t it thrilling to see a major part of Europe growing at four percent?

8. Baku, Azerbaijan.  The world’s best seaside promenade, and wonderful textiles and food, in the Iranian direction, here are my travel notes.  Feels exotic, yet safe and orderly as well.

9. Macedonia, or anywhere off the beaten track in the former Yugoslavia.  Then think about the history and politics of where you are at, and then think about it some more.

10. Quito, Ecuador.  One of the world’s loveliest cities, including the church, wonderful potatoes and corn for vegetarians too.  There are some iPhone snatchers, but overall safe to visit.  Very good day trips as well, including to the “Indian market” at Otavalo and volcano Cotopaxi.


Agreed the NYT list is bland.

Thank you so much for the Islamabad recommendation as just about to go there.

Will add a very strong endorsement for Quito and the Jesuit church- a strong contender for the most beautiful in the world.

Plus a huge thumbs up for Macedonia and all the former Yugoslavia

I must go to Ethiopia and thanks for the Lagos tip.

That is a crazy list. No thanks, I'll go to Hawaii.

I see that Greta Thunberg has made no impression whatsoever on Tyler & his fellow travellers. As an aspirational list its environmental dynamite.

Good. Take your travel budget and double it. (Justification to come only if asked.)

My information is not up to date, but I endorse the recommendations of Lagos, Islamabad, Quito.

So Baku finally got a handle on all the oil spills?

No, but it makes the water along that seaside promenade extra shiny!

If only I had the discerning taste to be able to dismiss a list including places such as Bolivia, Greenland, Tajikistan, and Cambodia as "dull"! But alas, I'm the kind of rube that thinks it would be great to visit these places. And I would even enjoy visiting U.S. and European cities, even destinations as obvious as (gasp!) Paris.

I am with you Dan. And I am not a rube or a hick, since I have been an expat in various developing countries for most of my career. Paris is great for wallowing in art and architecture, plus the food isn’t bad either. It depends on what you want for a vacation of course, if you want bragging points for your Facebook or Instagram probably Paris won’t be impressive enough.

Gotta out-snob the snobs, you know?

Bolivia is easily one of the most interesting 16 countries I've visited in my life. Yet it seems to get continuously dismissed by the hip travel set (very much including TC in that classification).

The NY Times travel page sometimes visits deep red states, but they always manage to find the part of that state that is exactly like NYC. "Hey look, you can go to Alabama and only spend time in organic local food cafes and funky art galleries!"

p.s. lame trolling attempt, BTW.

"No, not a fascist country"

You mean yesterday's liberal is not today's fascist? Who knew.

Ironically, Warsaw is one of the most liberal cities in Poland (or in all of Central and Eastern Europe for that matter). You won't find that many PiS fans there. You will find feminist book stores though. Alt Rightists are better off going to Bialystock or Lublin.

I hear it is noted for hipsters and craft beer and other such uncool things...

What's with the "dull" description? Why is Krakow more dull than Warsaw? Or Addis Ababa more dull than Lalibela? There may be a few duds on the list of 52 places but the list complements TC's own list of 10 places.

One thing I like about Asia is that night time is when everything comes alive. You can do your shopping, cafe, groceries, restaurants, hanging out, people watching, etc. In the West, everything closes too early and the only things open are bars and a few chain restaurants. Makes for too quiet an existence.

Yep, but in the case of Japan it helps that Tokyo has the same murder rate as Iowa.

I don't get this Warsaw recommendation. The city is just ugly. Yes there is economic growth, but thats not enough. Skopje (Macedonia) is an interesting one though...

Warsaw is a great city if you speak Polish and can take advantage of the local cultural scene. Otherwise it is likely to strike you as a slightly shabby city of shopping malls, glass tower office blocks, crumbling communist era apartment blocks and the same chain coffee shops you see in London. Great city to live/work in, mediocre place to visit.

"Great city to live/work in, mediocre place to visit"

That's pretty much every major Polish city and the country as a whole (provided you speak Polish and know how the system works).

Apparently a good place to visit... if you know some Poles.

Many American elites grew up in those deep red states and visit plenty often to see family.

Macedonia (or Macedon), the ancient kingdom to the north of classical Greece and the dominant state of what became known as Hellenistic Greece, home of Alexander the Great (son of Phillip II, who conquered mainland Greece), whose goal was to spread its language, culture, and architecture (Hellenization) throughout the world, to share (dare I say it) civilization with the rest of the world. Read Douthat's column today. In it he laments the sad state of the humanities, once considered an essential course of study for the educated, soon (?) to become a forgotten course of study in the academy, caught between a resentment of dead white males and an obsession with obtaining so-called marketable skills. Douthat, true to form, says we stand to lose more than a way thinking, we stand to lose the value of the thing itself, namely high culture.

I like that these travel lists are so bad, so american dummies don't spoil the best spots.

Is that the Straussian reading?

Why wasn't Straussia on the list? I'll bet it's better than Bulgaria, or Romania, or Russia. Even Austria.

Everyone should see Straussia at least once in their lives.

Straussia: Gem of South Eastern Europe. Straussia: Land of pretty girls and delicious root vegetables. Straussia: home of redcurrant beer.

Come for the stated meaning, stay for the esoteric meaning.

I was delighted to see the my favorite destinations didn't make it to either list.

Fly fishers hate it when one identifies obscure fly fishing spots. I remember when Howell Raines published a memoir that combined a review of his career with fly fishing stories that revealed obscure fly fishing spots in the northeast, adding another reason to dislike the former journalist and NYT editor.

Years ago at a NYDEC public access point on the Willowemoc, I ran into an old man that claimed to be a board member of Trout Unlimited. He expanded on how much time and work it took to keep the creek pristine, etc. Then, he was outraged when he saw some men wading using spinning rigs. I feigned similar outrage. Snobs.

Civilization and high culture. Fly fishing isn't snobbery, it's the union of their world and ours, the challenge of outwitting the fish in their habitat not overwhelming them (whether with spinning rigs or blasts of dynamite). It's a concept that the butcher could never understand. That most fly fishers practice catch and release is also a concept that the butcher could never understand, for the butcher is not about a contest between equals but death and destruction by overwhelming odds. It's the Trump view of the world: the strong overwhelming the weak. The butcher's view is a pathetic view of life and the world; it is, unfortunately, a view held by many, the view of the uncivilized and the uncultured. For the fly fisher, it's focusing on the rising trout and matching the hatch, the pull the fisher feels in her hand when the fish takes the fly, and the light touch essential when using a 7x or 8x tippet on a spring creek in Montana. It's God's gift.

A colleague of mine takes the same two weeks of August each year to stay in the same Jersey Shore town and has been doing so for the last 15 years. To me that seems much more dull than anything on NYT list (although generally I think the Jersey Shore is very underrated!) To each their own I guess.

Tyler’s list is coming from somebody who has the perspective of having already travelled and seen the world. Nobody on their first trip abroad is going to choose Pakistan, sorry.

I just booked a summer trip to Gascony because I want to experience a certain French cuisine and way of life before it disappears.

I know someone who just did their first overseas India. Needless to say, it did not go well. First trips are better, say, in Bruges or Edinburgh.

NYT list is diverse enough to suit all tastes. First-timers can and should go to Italy, France and the several U.S. destinations listed. But they also list destinations in Ethiopia, Tajikistan, India, China, Lesotho, Egypt, Cambodia, and Mongolia. I think all but the most jaded and snobbish of travelers would admit at least a few of the destinations in this list are intriguing.

Warsaw because Poland has a 4% growth rate? Truly an economist’s travel recommendation.

Seems a bit odd. 4%? well if aggregate over 1989-present, but Poland's growth rate is reasonably similar in 2019 as the other Visegrad group states (and the Baltic states too).

See (though most recent year 2016)

I suppose Tyler might think visiting a country which is pretty much converging on its Czech and Hungarian neighbours and avoided a 2008 recession is particularly interesting, but it doesn't seem like too much of a case to prefer it to its general neighbourhood?

It's great that Poland has progressed more than its neighbours in the last 30 years, but that can probably be attributed to a base of a rather poorer economy under Communism rather than a spectacularly good policies today... (Whatever the "Europe's Growth Champion" propaganda would like to ignore).

I agree with most of these but strongly disagree with #8. Baku is not even interesting enough to be a shithole. It is just a squalid attempt to create a Dubai on post-Soviet territory, but with less class. Life is short, anywhere else in the Caucasus is more interesting than this sterile authoritarian Pushkin village. Much better food in Turkey and Iran.

7. Picking Warsaw to visit over Krakow, Wroclaw or Gdansk is just virtue signalling that you somehow see more deeply into the soul of the country or some nonsense. Warsaw has very little of interest to offer even the discerning traveler. It is a nice city to live in, and the growth is interesting to anyone who remembers what it was like in 1991, or 1981. But Polish food is much better out in the provinces, the people are friendlier and the architecture is better. If you really want to virtue signal, go to Katowice - more economic growth than Warsaw, dynamic music scene, no tourists at all and the former center of the Polish coal industry. It is sort of the Polish Pittsburgh. And you can actually enjoy some decent hikes in the hills outside the city.

I thought Pittsburgh was the Polish Pittsburgh :)

Tyler is quite right about the NYT list. For example, Molise and Urbino are both very boring, and no Americans should go there. Not worth your time, don't even research it, just head off to Macedonia and have fun.

The countries of the former Yugoslavia are indeed endlessly fascinating. It’s a “rabbit hole” I’ve fallen in and can’t get out.

This list is too bland.

If you want thrills and excitement, try:

1) Places the Domino Pizza drivers won't go in the South Side of Chicago;

2) A Biker's Convention consisting of the Four Biker Gangs: The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Criminal Intelligence Service Canada have designated four MCs as "outlaw motorcycle gangs": the Hells Angels, the Pagans, the Outlaws, and the Bandidos, known as the "Big Four".

3) An NRA convention where you must bring a gun and there are free alcoholic drinks all evening;

4) A Trump rally with music played by an onstage gay Mariachi band composed of former Trump employees who emigrated to the US illegally.

Nice right-wing virtue signaling but NYT list has 7/52 U.S. destinations listed. Another 4 are in Canada or the Anglophone Caribbean.

Somewhere, Greta Thunberg is glowering like Samara Morgan in The Ring remake. She never sleeps.

Big Sister Is Watching You.

I'd say Quito is more interesting as a place to live for a while. Lovely weather, lots of neat places to visit.

Yugoslavia has answers. Why not reparations for something done a couple centuries ago? Why not divide the electorate by race, nationality, whatever for political advantage?


Been to over 200 cities, Quito is one of the worst especially with Peru and Columbia next door. Both are safer, better food, and more activities beyond the sole virtue of their latitudinal disposition.

The worst? Why? Can it really be that different than Lima or any big city in Columbia?

Professor Cowen
Have you ever thought of going to Nepal (or have you ever been there)?. Reading your blogs about the new places you visit and quite interesting perspectives that you bring with every visit, I was wondering what would be your take if you visit Nepal, a unique and very beautiful country.

Being an economist and being born and raised in Nepal, I am also interested to know your view on this country.

Quite a lot of places where people are in thrall to religion. I expect "exotic" places to be different, but for thought patterns not to be turned upside down. (Of course, statistically I may represent the minority culture and most people would look at me as a peculiar outlier.)

Baku might be nice if you’re not Armenian. You should really go to Tbilisi or Yerevan. Much better.

Any of the former Soviet republics are of huge interest to visit these days, specifically for the historical trajectory of their unique departure from Russian autocracy

Recommend this hotel in Lalibela:

(It's Ethio-german!)

Recommend this hotel in Lalibela:

I'm going to Krakow. Sorry, Tyler. The fact that Krakow actually has historic buildings that survived WW2 makes a big difference to me.

Travel by all means. My partner and I do a lot/too much :-(. But at a minimum won't we need to stop glorifying it now/soon?

I assume you mean Western Bali? Although Ubud is more southcentral than east, there are a stunning number of tour groups taking people to the eastern attractions from there.

A round trip flight from Cleveland to Lagos emits about as much carbon as driving for 10 weeks in a 2010 Honda CRV (at a rate of 400 km per week, 20000 km per year). It's surprising that "flight shaming" wasn't a big thing 25 years ago but then it's also surprising that we didn't just drive lead-acid battery (inferior to lithium ion) cars to go to work and get groceries. I guess people just didn't care enough.

A strong moral justification for visiting places on these lists is that if you earn 65K USD per year one of the nicest things you can do for all parties in trade is to spend some of it where the per capita income is less than 8K USD per year. It might be nice despite the emissions.

I go to Poland 2-3 times a year. I find Warsaw to be fairly boring and wasn't impressed by the food. It's too big, is too much of a car city, and lacks European charm. I'll take Sofia, Bulgaria over it any day.

Why travel when you can live vicariously through Tyler Cowen? I'm half serious. He loves to experience to new things and write about them. I like to save money , stay at home, and read about them.

The part I find curious is Cowen's tremendous interest in foreign travel coupled with no apparent interest in domestic travel. I suspect there are at least 30 of the United States he has never visited.

What's the point? Similar culture and people across the country. He can see all of that looking out of his window.

My wife recommends Disney World and Pigeon Forge, TN.

What Do you think about Switzerland? I'm my opinion Switzerland should be in the top 10 list of places to visit. And that seen quit good Pakistan is on number 01 in your list.

Comments for this post are closed