Ethiopia’s capital city was named #1 in Travel & Leisure’s 50 Best Places to Travel in 2020. The article cites the enhanced appeal of Addis Ababa’s cultural and artistic offerings as well as the significant  expansion of the city’s airport.

For much of the past four decades, Menelik Palace loomed over Addis Ababa as a symbol of imperial imposition. Now, nearly two years into his term and with a Nobel Peace Prize already under his belt, the country’s reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has opened the 19th-century palace to the public and tapped local artist Elias Sime to build a public garden, slated to open midyear alongside the once-forbidding space. It’s the latest sign that something has shifted in Ethiopia’s capital — and thanks to a major expansion of Addis Ababa’s airport that’s tripled capacity and brought new routes, U.S. travelers can easily witness the change firsthand. Last year, Sime and his partner, the curator and cultural anthropologist Meskerem Assegued, opened the Zoma Museum after a 20-year planning and building process. Situated in the Mekanisa neighborhood, the museum blends Ethiopia old and new, using vernacular architecture as a backdrop for contemporary art — including some of Sime’s own pieces. In its attention to both traditional and modern influences, Zoma parallels the aims of Addis Foto Fest, a biennial photography festival that will be held again in December 2020. Until then, find work by the country’s finest artists on display at institutions such as St. George Gallery, Addis Fine Art, and LeLa Gallery. —Hannah Giorgis

Botswana, Durban, Malawi and Rwanda were all also featured:

Botswana #9
Take your pick from a slew of new safari lodges. The Okavango Delta just saw the opening of Natural Selection’s Tuludi, a treehouse-inspired camp with seven tented suites connected by elevated boardwalks, and come June, the solar-powered Xigera Safari Lodge will debut in the delta’s Moremi Game Reserve. On the edge of Chobe National Park, you’ll find a new, six-tent mobile camp called Linyanti Expeditions, where travelers take walking safaris through the bush in search of elephants, zebras, and rare birds. Meanwhile Great Plains Selinda Camp, in an area of northern Botswana best known for sightings of the rare African wild dog, has been dazzling guests since its opening last June, with guest rooms that put a fresh spin on the classic safari aesthetic, and exteriors that echo the thatched-roof buildings in the tribal center of the Bayei people. —Madeline Bilis

Durban #20
Despite a thriving food scene and tropical beaches, Durban has always lurked in the shadows of Cape Town and Johannesburg. But with the unveiling of Durban’s new seaside promenade, part of a $2.5 billion development designed to rejuvenate the waterfront area, the city is becoming South Africa’s next cultural and coastal getaway to watch. Dubbed the ‘Golden Mile’, the shiny 3.7 mile strip, which is an ongoing development over the next 15 years, will flaunt glistening buildings with apartments, shops, a hotel, and public hangout spaces, plus a hotly anticipated new cruise terminal, which began construction in late 2019 and is set to open in 2021. Beyond the shiny waterfront, the city’s food scene, which is rooted in South Asian cuisine due to the substantial Indian community, thrives. Street food dishes are a must: look for bunny chow (a hollowed out bread loaf filled with curry) at CaneCutters and lemony pieces of chicken and slap chips (fries doused in vinegar) from Afro’s Chicken. Another key stop: A trip to the newly relocated African Art Centre for clay pots and beaded baskets. —Mary Holland

Malawi #30
Wedged between the safari superstars of Zambia and Tanzania, Malawi, a sliver of a country, has had a hard time establishing itself as worthy wildlife hotspot. But two decades of conservation efforts are paying off across the country’s wild places. Now, after years of repopulating the major Liwonde National Park, which has a tragic history of poaching, 2020 will be the first year that visitors can anticipate seeing the Big Five. Following a large elephant relocation in 2016, there’s been a steady increase in the population, and the park is finally home to a number of healthy herds. Lions and cheetahs, too, are back, and in November 2019, 17 black rhinos were relocated to Liwonde from South Africa to encourage population growth. Travelers can enjoy luxury accommodation offerings, like Robin Pope Safaris’ low-key Kuthengo Camp on the Shire River in Liwonde, which opened in 2018. And even established spots are ever-evolving: In 2020, Mvuu Lodge, a classic property in Liwonde, will open a collection of star beds, where guests can slumber under the night sky. On the shores of glimmering Lake Malawi, one of the country’s other major draws thanks to its swimmable water, the unfussy Chinchetche Inn recently expanded with four new rooms that roll onto the lake. — Mary Holland

Rwanda #42
Safari goers take note: new lodges are springing up in the Land of a Thousand Hills. November saw the opening of One&Only Gorilla’s Nest. Set in a jungle sanctuary of eucalyptus trees at the base of the Virunga Volcano Range, the lodge gives travelers the chance to get up close and personal with gorillas in their natural habitat. Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Volcanoes National Park opened a few months earlier, in August — the high-design property offers eight suites and a private villa for rent. Before game drives and gorilla treks, visitors meet in the property’s conservation room, where a selection of maps, books, photos, iMacs, and TV screens teach guests about the region’s endangered mountain gorillas. Beyond guide-led tours, you’ll want to head to Akagera National Park to spot zebras, giraffes, hippos, and, if you’re lucky, elephant or rhino. Plus, Rwanda’s abundant forests, lakes, and volcanoes make the landscape a perfect backdrop for a trip filled with wildlife viewing. —Elizabeth Rhodes

See the complete list here