The New York Times' annual list of must-see destinations has been published for 2020 and – for the third year in a row – New Zealand has made the cut.

Having extolled the virtues of the newly opened Papamoa Track last year and the North Island's thermal city of Rotorua in 2018 - this year's inclusion is a different side of New Zealand entirely.

Christchurch has made number 24 on the list as one of this years' top travel experiences for US tourists.

The Christchurch 'Cardboard' Cathedral has become a global symbol of resilience. Photo / File
The Christchurch 'Cardboard' Cathedral has become a global symbol of resilience. Photo / File

Cantabrian capital was described as a "global symbol of resilience" by Times contributor Elaine Glusac. Almost a decade after the Christchurch Earthquake and less than a year on from the March 15 attacks, She advocated the Kiwi city as New Zealand's top destination as well as a gateway for US tourists visiting the South Island. The choice ties in with American Airline's newly announced LA service which starts flying into Christchurch from Autumn 2020.


"While earthquake destruction remains visible, downtown has been animated by recent building and restoration," said Glusac, as she advocated for the city's place on the list.

This will be the second time the city has been honoured in the 52 Places list, appearing again in 2014 when it was dubbed "a city in transformation".

While the Avon may be famous for its punt boats, the Times advises a waka tour instead. Photo / File
While the Avon may be famous for its punt boats, the Times advises a waka tour instead. Photo / File

Attractions highlighted include the central library designed by architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen and also advises tourists skip the punting for a tour on the river Avon by waka, which are guided out of the nearby Puari Village.

"Clearly The New York Times have done their homework," said Tim Loftus, general manager for local tourism board ChristchuchNZ.

Loftus said that since Christchurch was last on the list in 2014 it has moved on from the dramatic earthquakes and "while there are still some signs of their occurrence, they no longer define the city and its story."

Although the tragic March 15 attacks are still fresh in the memory, the city and its residents of "all religions and backgrounds" have been brought closer together by a "collective rejection of such acts."

Following the earthquakes Christchurch lost around 150000 annual visitors a year. However, since 2013 the city turned a corner and has built up its city centre and tourism numbers to a peak of 554500 in 2018.

"It's great to see them calling out our city, yet again, as a must-visit global destination. As NZ's friendliest city, we always look forward to welcoming new explorers from all around the globe."


Why 2020 is Christchurch's year:
•Bread and Circus World Buskers Festival: 23 January to 16 February
•The inaugural South Island Moon Festival in October: The South Island's biggest celebration of Asian culture
• NZ Cricket Internationals: India test match, Feb 29-Mar 4; T20 v Australia, March 29
•Opening of Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre: October

Where next in 2020?

Other surprising entries on the list include landlocked Lesotho as a South Africa alternative and China's newly established national parks as a turning point in the country's role in the "illegal wildlife trade".

This is the year Germany has two entries including "Uber cool" Leipzig (aka "The New Berlin") at 35 and the alpine town of Oberammergau at 42.

However 2020 is the year to visit Spain. This includes the mountainous cider region of Asturias (25) the island of Minorca (41) and Spanish ski slopes of Val d'Aran (46). With three entries on the list 2020 is the year to add an Iberian destination to your bucket list.

What is the 52 Places List?

The 52 places list is the New York Times' yearly must-see list of travel destinations. One for every week of the year.

When asked how they choose the list, Times Travel editor Amy Virshup said that the most important factors were "sustainability and the pull of history."

This gave Christchurch a head start on the list as a city still being rebuilt and reimagined.

However the desire to highlight changeable areas has backfired on the publication more than once. Last year the list was cut down to just 51 after journalist Sebastian Modak was denied entry to Iran, as Tehran no longer became a viable tourism destination. Hong Kong's unrest also caused problems for travellers since being named in the 2019 list and it was questioned if the paper should endorse it as a travel destination.

For the past two years the US newspaper has been sending a travel writer to spend a week in each of the 52 places. While writing and travel photography are must have skills, Stamina is the top quality for any aspiring travel blogger.

"It wasn't just reporting skills they were after. Most of all they were looking for someone who wouldn't burn out," Sebatian Modak told the Herald as he completed his year of travel for the 52 Places column.

It was revealed by Virshup this year there will not be a third blogger sent to cover the list.

"No, we will not be sending out a 52 Places Traveler this year, though we will report from many of our chosen destinations," she said.

Though Virshup did not go into further detail, it was not considered in keeping with the publication's renewed focus on sustainability calling 2019 "the year the travel world woke up to the implications of climate change."

How many of the 52 have you already seen?

2.British Virgin Islands
3.Rurrenabaque, Bolivia
5.Kimberley Region, Australia
6.Paso Robles, Calif.
8.Salzburg, Austria
10.Caesarea, Israel
11.National Parks, China
13.Colorado Springs
14.Krakow, Poland
15.Jodhpur, India
16.Western Sweden
18.La Paz, Mexico
19.Grand Isle, La.
20.Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
21.Jevnaker, Norway
22.The Bahamas
23.Kampot, Cambodia
24.Christchurch, New Zealand
25.Asturias, Spain
26.Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
27.Austin, Texas
28.Sabah, Malaysia
29.Churchill, Manitoba
32.Lake District, England
34.Antakya, Turkey
35.Leipzig, Germany
36.Lima, Peru3
7.Molise, Italy
39.Richmond, Va.
40.Mount Kenya
41.Minorca, Spain
42.Oberammergau, Germany
43.Plymouth, England
44.Atlantic Forest, Brazil
45.Belle-Île, France
46.Val d'Aran, Spain
48.Juliana Trail, Slovenia
49.Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
50.Transylvanian Alps, Romania
51.Urbino, Italy
52.Glacier National Park and Whitefish, Mont.