Our 12 most-read travel features of 2020

The pandemic didn't stop our readers dreaming about travel. From weekend guides and inspirational long reads to photo essays and reports investigating the intersection of conservation and tourism, here are the 12 most-read articles of the past year.

By National Geographic Traveller & National Geographic Traveller Food
Published 21 Dec 2020, 08:10 GMT, Updated 21 Dec 2020, 13:08 GMT
San Diego neighbourhood
In San Diego, each neighbourhood has its own identity, from upmarket Coronado and weed-scented Ocean Beach to sea lion-filled La Jolla and Pacific Beach.
Photograph by Alamy

In a year like no other, National Geographic Traveller (UK) and National Geographic Traveller Food continued to serve up travel tales and culinary inspiration to a nation that, subjected to lockdowns or the chaos of ever-changing travel corridors, frequently found itself grounded. Readers of nationalgeographic.co.uk/travel escaped overseas though our articles, vicariously walking alongside our writers in our travelogues, engaging with burning issues surrounding conservation in our reports, and using our tips to plan authentic and unforgettable adventures for the future. Of hundreds of colourful articles published online this year, these were our 12 most-read.

1. A neighbourhood guide to San Diego 

California’s southernmost city can be hard to pin down. It’s full of tourists who’ve come to visit SeaWorld San Diego and let loose in the bar-filled Gaslamp Quarter — and they skew first impressions. So you need to dig a little deeper. Bordering Mexico, this is a city of taco shops, high-class mole restaurants and mezcal bars where Californian and Mexican sensibilities merge. Read the article here.

2. Is your travel photography ethical?

At the start of 2020, we responded to news that fines were being issues to travellers in Kyoto who photograph ceremonially dressed geishas (known as geiko in the city) and their young maiko understudies without their consent. Tourists are now issued with leaflets explaining the ban and fines (up to Y10,000/£71); warning notices have been posted and surveillance cameras installed. Are we entering an era where common sense must be enforced? Read the article here.

Japan is dense with cultural no-nos, but in an age where the ‘when in Rome’ edict has become a rule to live by, basic etiquette shouldn’t be ignored.

Photograph by Getty Images

3. Sour, salty, sweet: getting a taste for Filipino cuisine

From spit-roasted lechon pork to vinegar-soaked adobo stew, the stars of Filipino food are beginning to make their mark on big-city menus the world over. And the best way to get to know this cuisine is by exploring the capital, Manila. Read the article here

4. William Dalrymple on how living in India has changed him

Travel writer, author and historian William Dalrymple didn’t set out to become Britain’s leading chronicler of India’s past, but a chance trip to the subcontinent started a lifelong obsession. Thirty years on, he’s still living in Delhi — a city he describes as having a “tangible sense of history”. This interview became one of a series of love letters to travel by famous travellers, published in our ‘Why we travel’ cover story in the Jul/Aug issue. Read the article here.

The bustling Chandni Chowk market in central Delhi.

Photograph by Getty Images

5. How to spend a weekend in the Brecon Beacons

This weekend-long journey heads off the beaten track — or igam ogam, as the Welsh say — from the eastern Black Mountains and their secluded valleys through to the central Brecons, where lofty summits, hiking trails and dark night skies await, before dipping south to waterfalls hidden in ferny woodlands ripe for a fairytale. Read the article here.

6. Six international coffee styles

Who else could use a little pick me up? Now that we’re all spending copious amounts of time at home, we could all stand to spice up our morning routine — literally, in some cases. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, spin the globe and you’ll find it, as signature coffees from Mexico to Malaysia provide caffeine-lovers with plenty of ideas for new recipes to try. Read the article here.

Vietnam's Cà phê đá, commonly known as egg coffee, is said to have been created in the 1940s in response to a milk shortage (whipped egg and sugar are used instead).

Photograph by Getty Images

7. The impact of coronavirus on Australia’s endangered coral reefs

In 2018, following two years of unprecedented mass coral-bleaching across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, writer Tamsin Wressell travelled to Queensland to find out how tourism is supporting conservation efforts. With coronavirus bringing international travel to the island to a halt, she caught up with Peter Gash, managing director of Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, a sustainability success story, occupying 112 acres on the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef. Read the article here.

8. Australia after the bushfires: Ray Mears returns to Kangaroo Island

Earlier this year, Australia saw unprecedented damage from its seasonal bushfires, leaving populations homeless and wildlife devastated. In the days following the fires, bushcraft and survival expert Ray Mears travelled to Kangaroo Island, on Australia’s fire-ravaged south coast, to document the destruction and help with the recovery. What he found was a community that, despite being faced with almost impossible odds, had banded together to support each other and begin the rebuilding process. Read the article here.

9. Five salads from around the world, perfect for summer

A heap of leaves sprinkled with crumbled cheese and toasted seeds; a dish of cold beef and noodles soaking up a sour, spicy dressing; or a bowlful of black beans and avocado, crunchy with sweetcorn, red onion and peppers: with its abundance of fresh, local produce, a signature salad can really create a sense of place. Whether simple or complex, comforting or invigorating, the world’s tastiest salads are winning combinations of flavours, textures and colours. Read the article here.

10. Meet the adventurer: Jenny Tough on the solo expeditions that changed her life

We caught up with the globetrotting endurance athlete — currently on a solo mission to run across a mountain range on every continent — who spoke to us about positive thinking, her most challenging moment and the lessons that helped her survive lockdown. “Solo expeditions teach you how to be alone with your own brain, how to cope with fear and uncertainty, and how to keep going when the trail ahead seems far too long,” she says. Read the article here.

Jenny Tough is making her way around the globe, running across a mountain range on every continent. In 2016 she ran across the Tien Shan of Kyrgyzstan; in 2017, she ran across the Atlas of Morocco; and in 2018, she ran across the Bolivian Andes — her greatest challenge to date.

Photograph by Lucas Canino

11. The story behind boeuf bourguignon

If the French have elevated cookery to an art form, boeuf bourguignon is perhaps the most prized of their national collection — beef cooked slowly in fruity red wine until so soft, sticky and deliciously savoury that to call it a mere stew feels almost insulting. Bourguignon, of course, means, ‘of Bourgogne’, or Burgundy, a region in eastern France between Lyon and Paris best known for its wine. Read the article here.

12. New Mexico: the weird, wild and wonderful heartland of the American Southwest

The soaring canyons and sagebrush plains of northern New Mexico have attracted artists, spiritual seekers and free thinkers for over a century. A road trip through the high desert — encountering a hippy commune, artists’ studios, futuristic eco-homes and a Benedictine monastery — uncovers the weird, wild and wonderful soul of the American Southwest. Read the article here

Santa Fe is a melting pot of cultures, producing food, architecture and art unlike that found anywhere else in the country.
Photograph by Jen Judge

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