Why travel in 2020? To reconnect with nature in an increasingly urbanised world

Hikers, bikers and nature-lovers should head to these three destinations in 2020 — each is set to unveil a range of new trails and attractions designed to make the most of the great outdoors.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020,
By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Hikers on Mount Triglav, Slovenia.
Hikers on Mount Triglav, Slovenia.
Photograph by Getty

In an increasingly digital, switched-on world, disconnecting from it all — and reconnecting with nature — can be key. Satisfying the cravings for a slower, more outdoorsy life doesn’t necessarily mean embarking on an odyssey into distant, remote wildernesses, however; the respite can begin much closer to home.

Wales, Cumbria and Slovenia are among the places embracing a more active style of travel, showing off new long-distance walking and hiking trails. But muddy boots and mountain air are just two of the ingredients on the menu in these destinations. Local produce, grown in rural corners of these Cool List contenders is being harnessed to create something more than simple country fare — and it ensures that those appetites worked up while clambering over stiles can be happily indulged.

1. Slovenia

A mountain hiking route and multistage cycle trail give good reason to visit the country in the run-up to its stint as next year’s European Region for Gastronomy.

Unveiled in late 2019, the Julian Alps hiking trail is a 170-mile walking route through the limestone peaks that cover northwest Slovenia. Beginning on the Italian border, it traces a fiercely beautiful route that incorporates many of the destination’s established highlights — including, yes, the lovely Lake Bled — as well as lesser-known parts of the country. The trail incorporates plenty of overnight accommodation, too.

No less enticing is the Bike Slovenia Green project, a diverse, multistage cycle route which launched in November. Stretching for around 150 miles, it links together a series of regions around the country — from alpine valleys to wine-growing areas — all of which have been awarded Slovenia Green certification for sustainable practices.

And you won’t have to look far for a good meal. Slovenia will spend 2021 as the official European Region for Gastronomy in recognition of its quality local produce. On which note, September saw the opening a chocolate-themed glamping resort (yes, really): Chocolate Village, near Maribor, offers chocolate breakfasts, chocolate massages and more.

Words: Ben Lerwill

2. Wales

Three new touring routes, a long-distance walking trail and a family-friendly app for navigating the Wales Coast Path are bringing the country’s many charms to the fore.

For a small country, Wales packs in a thunderous amount of good stuff: the soaring peaks of Snowdonia, the Atlantic cliffs of Pembrokeshire, ancient castles, beaches, headlands and green hills. All told, it makes for a spectacular road-trip destination, which is precisely the thinking behind the Wales Way, the collective name for a trio of new long-distance touring routes.

Between them, they cover three very different regions. The shore-hugging, wildlife-rich Coastal Way runs from the northern Llyn Peninsula down to Pembrokeshire, while the North Wales Way takes in foodie hotspots and Victorian resorts on its way from the English border across to Anglesey. The longer Cambrian Way snakes right through the heart of the country. All are intended primarily as driving routes, but can also be done on foot.

Continuing this theme, 2019 also saw the official opening of the Heart of Wales Line Trail, a 141-mile hiking route that traces the path of the famously scenic Heart of Wales rail line. The superb Wales Coast Path, meanwhile, has seen the launch of a dedicated family-friendly app, complete with augmented reality (AR) animations and handy itinerary suggestions.

Words: Ben Lerwill

The Old Stamp House restaurant, Cumbria.
Photograph by Phil Rigby

3. Cumbria

It’s been 250 years since the birth of William Wordsworth and the poet’s home county is as magnetic as ever, with fresh attractions and the UK’s most exciting trio of restaurants.

Wordsworth has often been called the first mindful traveller, a man whose wide-eyed odes to the beauty of the great outdoors still help to shape how we see our landscapes. He was born in 1770 and spent the bulk of his life in and around Cumbria’s Lake District, which was then, as it is now, England’s most spectacular corner.

The 250-year anniversary year is being marked in a number of ways, including a £6.2m facelift of Wordsworth’s former Grasmere home, Dove Cottage, and the adjacent Wordsworth Museum, home to the great man’s original letters, journals and manuscripts.

Elsewhere in the county, Whitehaven’s multimillion-pound Cumbria Coastal Activities Centre is set to open later in 2020, as are the official sections of the 2,795-mile England Coast Path.

For those who value good food after time on the trail, Cumbria has three new Michelin stars, awarded to The Cottage in the Wood at Whinlatter, Allium at Askham Hall and The Old Stamp House Restaurant at Ambleside. It brings the county’s total to seven, making it home to the most Michelin stars north of London. What more excuse do you need to walk up an appetite?

Words: Ben Lerwill

Read the full list of reasons to travel and destinations to visit in 2020 here

Published in the March 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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