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The five best destinations to visit in 2020

February 07, 2022 9 min read.

Greca Travel presents five places to visit in this new year. Amalfi, Crete, Cairo, Cappadocia and Abu Dhabi are the places chosen to be the top options in 2020 and to start in the best possible way.

Amalfi, Italy

Amalfi is one of the most historic cities within the stunning and wonderful Amalfi Coast, having had a glorious history as a maritime republic whose state joined the ranks of coastal powers like Pisa, Venice, and Genoa.

It was a commercial bridge between the Byzantine and Western world for centuries. Its importance in this historical commercial league is celebrated every year with the Regatta of the Four Old Maritime Republics, which takes place every June, alternating between each of the four cities. It must be said: it is a spectacular event.

The city begins at the seashore with a beautiful promenade along the Mediterranean and a marina full of colorful boats with their international flags. The essential point of the historic center is Piazza del Duomo, in front of the surprising cathedral. The square is lined with sidewalk cafes and elegant shops, but the sixty steps leading to the church stop over to visit the Byzantine-style structure that has arches and Arabic-influenced decor. Dedicated to San Andrés, the Duomo di Sant'Andrea is a truly beautiful structure. Inside is the Hidden Cloister of Paradise, dating from 1266, with a forest of columns, arabesque arches and an incredible fresco. The crypt is highly decorated and is also worth a visit.

The city has a long history as a center for paper mills, so be sure to visit the Museo della Carta (Paper Museum) to see how the pretty products were (and still are!) handcrafted. There are still some family-owned paper mills that maintain the tradition.

Looking around the city and the surrounding hills, you will quickly see that the main product of the area: huge orbs of lemons, collected (fresh) to make limoncello liquor and also used in local dishes. The lemon motif appears on regional pottery and the citrus scent fills the air as you wander.

The Emerald Grotto is one of the natural wonders of Amalfi, in Cape Conca. It emits a mysterious emerald hue that emanates from its depths thanks to an underwater crack that refracts sunlight.

Amalfi's maritime importance continues, as you can take ferries and hydrofoils to Salerno, Positano andCapri, or you can rent a boat to take you to hidden coves to enjoy a day of sun and private surfing. Buses connect the city with Ravello, Positano and Sorrento.

The architectural and artistic value of its monuments and historical buildings, the indescribable beauty of its landscapes, its folklore and traditions have made, and still make Amalfi a place without comparison, so much like this, that it can be read somewhere: "For an Amalfitani, the day of going to heaven will be like any other.

Crete, Greece

This great insula is the southernmost of the Greek islands, enjoying crystal clear blue waters, sandy beaches and radiant sunshine. On the north coast, there are many tourist centers along with cities full of history such as Rethymno and Chania.

The southern coast of Crete, especially in the southwest, is less urbanized. Four large mountain ranges run east to west forming the backbone of a 255 km long island; Mountaineers' paradise, it offers beautiful corners and formidable gorges. Its capital, Heraklion, is recognized by its Archaeological Museum, which is not far from Knossos, the greatest of Cretan Minoan palaces.

Once in Crete, you will have to explore the important monuments of its great history. The most important, without a doubt, is the Palace of Knossos, the most important city in Crete during the Minoan civilization, which reached its maximum splendor in the second millennium BC, being the oldest palace complex in Europe. It is located about 5 km southeast of the current city of Heraklion and west of the Kairatos River.

In addition to Rethymno, Chania, Elafonisi Island and the beautiful Setian beach, in Crete, there is also the Amari Valley. Guarded to the east by the summits of Mount Idi, this valley offers incredible views of the ridges, the wide green valleys and the gorges of the region. A tangle of winding roads connects the numerous farming communities of Amari, where even today, at the door of the taverns, men with mustaches, high-top boots and puffed pants (vrákes) are posted. The region is packed with shrines, churches, and monasteries with Byzantine frescoes and icons. Many towns of Amari, bastion of the Cretan resistance, were devastated in World War II.

Cairo, Egypt

Cairo is one of the great megacities in the world. As beautiful as it is exciting and noisy, and as rich in historical adornments as a bit dilapidated, it tends to be a city that travelers love and hate equally.

In addition to being the gateway to the imposing and fantastic Pyramids of Giza, in Cairo you must visit The Citadel of Saladin. It was built on top of a hill during the 12th century by Saladin, the ruler of the city, to protect it from attacks by crusaders.

You will also need to stroll through Al-Azhar Park, another wonderful place to escape the traffic and crowds of the city.

Tour the kaleidoscopic Khan el Khalili, the souk in Cairo, a large open-air market full of shops selling (imitations) of Egyptian antiquities, lamps, vases, silverware, clothing, scarves, papyri, or perfumes. And travel back in time at the Egyptian Museum to see the royal mummies and the famous treasure of Tutankhamun.

Cappadocia, Turkey

South of Ankara, east of Konya and a few hours from the sea, Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has impressive geological anomalies: huge conical mushroom-shaped "fairy chimneys" formed by volcanic ash solidified 8,000 years ago .

The mountains of Göllü Dağ, Hasan Dağı and Erciyes Dağı - the latter with a height of 3,926 meters -, which in the past occupied an area of ​​great volcanic activity, threw their ashes on the Anatolian plateau eight thousand years ago. This substance solidified to form a soft, pale limestone called tuff. In places where basalt fell much harder, the rain eroded the tuff leaving mushroom-shaped cones and "fairy chimneys" crowned by a large stone hat.

Between Göreme and Avanos there are eight huge earth sculptures, created by Australian artist Andrew Rogers with local help (2007-2009). Earth sculptures or geoglyphs, including a giant horse and the tree of life, can be seen taking a balloon ride at sunrise. Unmissable adventure.

Many of Cappadocia's cities have second-hand bookstores, bike and motorcycle rental shops. Another interesting fact: sleeping in one of the excavated hotels (underground cities generally made by Christians, for being subjected to religious persecution) is a unique experience.

Abu Dhabi, EAU

Abu Dhabi is the capital and second most populated city in the United Arab Emirates as well as the emirate of the same name. It is located on a T-shaped island southeast of the Persian Gulf.

A simple tour of its streets is enough to feel in the middle of a city that mixes modernity, luxury and ancient customs. The sounds of luxury-model car engines, low and close to the asphalt, mix with vintage cars, generally used by the working class consisting of mostly Pakistanis and Iraqis. The Emiratis walk in their robes, almost all white, but there are also gray and of different extensions.

Everyone there speaks Arabic, and the English alternative is just for a few. But the universal language of respect and good customs always opens doors and solves any language problem.

There are several tourist attractions offered by this T-shaped island located southeast of the Persian Gulf. Of these, the impressive Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a museum opened in late 2017 and that from the outside looks like a flying saucer, and the tour of the Yas Marina circuit stand out.

Therefore, if there is an essential activity to do in Abu Dhabi, it is to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque: a magnificent and beautiful building. This mosque is the main attraction of the city, without a doubt. As its name indicates, it is dedicated to Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the country's first president. Its beauty is undoubted and in recent years it has become one of the main monuments in the country.

Likewise, the most spectacular museum in the Middle East, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, covers the entire history of the artistic achievements of humanity, from the Neolithic to the present day. The richness and diversity of the art on display, from ancient Egyptian statues to famous Picasso paintings, is mind-blowing, while the museum's contemporary architecture, with its galleries gathered under a large silver dome, is reason enough to visit the country.

I f you want to see a different side of Abu Dhabi's glass and steel exteriors, head to the mangroves that still surround the islands along the coast that surrounds the city. A kayak tour package is available for all experience levels and ages, ranging from 1.5 hours to three hours of rowing. The Eco Tour allows you to understand the important ecology of mangroves, as well as explore these beautiful last remnants of the city's forests.

Another interesting thing to do, for a really special experience, is to sign up for a night tour and discover the mangroves gliding through the waters after dark.

Finally, in addition to visiting the World of Warner Bros and the World of Ferrari or going on a desert safari, you should go to Yas Island: one of the main luxury hotel destinations in Abu Dhabi, with perfect sandy beaches to spend the day sunbathing. This area is also home to the Yas Marina Circuit, which is where the Abu Dhabi Formula One races are held each year. Sun fans should go directly to Yas Beach; Adrenaline fans can book a Formula One experience at the Yas Marina Circuit; And lovers of shopping should head directly to Yas Mall, the main shopping destination in the city.

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