After the world closed down in 2020 due to the Covid19 pandemic, travel is set to return with a vengeance in 2021! But with the world starting to open up again, the reasons for travel bans and lockdowns becoming increasingly hard to justify and everyone’s wanderlust at an all time high, where do you go? Here are your top 10 destinations for an epic bucket list filled 2021!
January is normally filled with lists on where to go, the hottest destinations, the best countries to visit, but with travel almost grinding to a halt in 2020 and with ever increasing restrictions and endless lockdowns stretching into 2021 this year is unfortunately a little bit different, and with the media scaremongering and constant doom and gloom it seems sometimes like no one will ever travel again.
Luckily nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is we still have a bumpy road ahead for at least part of the year, we may have to jump through a few more hoops and put up with more border restrictions than usual but travel is going to return to normal again eventually. It is inevitable. More and more countries are opening up again and those that are open are putting in place extreme infection prevention control procedures like never before. Obviously at the moment travel restrictions and warnings are in a state of flux so it is always worth doing your own research, but this will not be permanent and I prefer to look on the positive side. Travel is safe, destinations are opening up and travellers will discover the world again. The big question is when it does, where do we go? Here are my picks for the ten best destinations that are opening up and ready to welcome travellers back in 2021!
The one happy island is open for tourists again and eager to welcome people back to its pristine desert beaches. With endless options for adventure activities, especially its famous watersports, stunning beaches, pristine waters and perfect climate, Aruba is the perfect island escape to help you forget 2020 ever happened! To keep travellers as safe as possible as things continue to improve, the Aruba Tourism Authority and the Department of Public Health have introduced a new ‘Aruba Health and Happiness Code‘. This is a new certification programme applied to all local tourism operators, hotels, restaurants, retail and any business travellers are likely to use to reassure them that every place they visit is safe and clean.
Sri Lanka has been firmly on travellers radars now for the last few years and for good reason. This backpacker paradise in the Indian Ocean has endless white sand beaches, (some) responsible elephant safaris famous tea plantations and epic food. Sri Lanka is frankly a backpackers paradise.
From the end of January Sri Lanka is reopening for tourism with a raft of pre and post arrival infection control measures designed to keep travellers safe. It involves more expense and hoop jumping, for now, but knowing that you can visit this amazing country safely is more than worth it.
Don’t let Madeira’s size fool you, this little island punches well above its weight and packs a hell of a lot into its sun drenched shores. With more diverse landscapes and geological wonders packed into a small area than almost anywhere else in Europe, this wonderfully charming island has something for everyone. Dramatic coastlines, adventure activities galore, foodies will have their minds blown by the local home grown cuisine and the main city Funchal is a cultural powerhouse that still manages to retain a small island feel.
Madeira has put in place a range of strict measures to reduce the risk to travellers and locals as much as possible. The downloadable Madeira Safe App is a way of tracking and monitoring symptoms in new arrivals on the island and is easy to use and effective. Just download it before you go and enter your details. A PCR test is administered to all new arrivals at Funchal’s airport and is completely free, or you can pay to have one done at home and present proof of a negative test on arrival or via the app. Finally when you arrive in Madeira every business and operator has implemented strong and robust infection prevention control measures to help reduce risk too.
Santorini has long been one of Europe’s hottest tourist spots with the famous blue and white houses becoming synonymous with images of the Greek islands. Of course in the past this meant crowds. Lots of them. Tourists flocked to Santorini to the point where overtourism was a huge problem, not to mention the prices that made all but the most generous of budgets wince. Now that has all but ended and as the Greek islands start to reopen throughout the Spring and Summer of 2021, then this may just be your chance to finally see Santorini without the crowds, and at a bargain price too.
Abu Dhabi was my first trip of 2020, ending coincidentally just as the pandemic hit and everywhere started to lock down, and I did not get to explore this amazing country nearly enough. One thing is certain though it will definitely be one of the places I get back out to in 2021. Of all the Emirates in the UAE, Abu Dhabi is perhaps one of the most laid back and forward thinking at the same time. Honestly everyone raves about Dubai but personally I much prefer it here. As unashamedly brash, lavish and globally sophisticated as Dubai could ever be, Abu Dhabi also retains a lot of the cultural heart and soul that developed from its more humble roots as a simple fishing village which to me is the reason I genuinely felt welcome and relaxed here. As someone who wasn’t a huge fan of Dubai, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Abu Dhabi.
Egypt is one of the oldest tourist destinations on the planet with visitors from ancient Greece and even a Roman Emperor or two flocking to see its ancient wonders, and even after all this time it is still as popular as ever! Egypt is hands down one of my favourite country’s in the world, I am a huge amateur Egyptologist and even set my first (and part of my current) novel here, and I cannot wait to get back again!
One of the biggest reasons to visit in 2021 is the fact that maybe, just maybe, this will finally be the year that the brand new Grand Egyptian Museum finally opens to the public! Okay, I’m putting a huge disclaimer up here because this has been delayed now for 15 years and I really hoped it would finally open during my last visit in 2018, but it is finished, the treasures of Tutankhamun have been placed together for the first time in modern history and the museum should have been ready to open in 2020 before the pandemic hit, so let’s hope that 2021 is the year it finally does and brings tourists back to this amazing country!
The Philippines are one of South East Asia’s most dazzling locations and have been on backpackers radars for a very long time, so why has it made this list? Because the Philippines is a vast archipelago sprinkled across the pacific ocean like a long string of glistening jewels and precious gems, and backpackers have only scratched the well trodden surface. There is far more to the Philippines than beautiful coastline, lush tropical jungles and white sand beaches paradise itself would be jealous of, head inland to lesser known places like Legazpi and indulge in the burgeoning adventure travel industry or discover some of the Philippines unique and underated cuisine. Whatever your reason for coming here 2021 should definitely be the year you cross this amazing destination off your bucket list.
With rugged volcanoes carving out over 17,000 islands filled with tropical beaches, stunning coral reefs, fascinating history, breath taking views, and a colourful kaleidoscope of cultures and customs, Indonesia will give you an adventure like no other. Indonesia is so huge that it really does feel like you are entering completely separate worlds as you head from one end to the other. Some parts, like Bali, have been completely overrun with mass package tourism in the past and in many ways completely spoilt, but with the devastation of the tourism industry now may be the time for travellers to help build that economy back up in a much more sustainable way, and for those intrepid backpackers and travellers who venture beyond the more obvious spots Indonesia will give you an adventure filled with volcano trekking in the famous ring of fire to heading to the remote islands of Flores and stepping into the realm of real live dragons! Indonesia will take you out of your comfort zone and give you a travel experience you will never forget!
As the epicentre for the pandemic reaching Europe, Italy had the unfortunate reality of being the focus of negative headlines and attention for much of 2020, but as the pandemic eases and Italy starts to open up again, 2021 may just be the perfect year to see Italy in a way not many tourists have been able to in our lifetime. With Italy in general, and especially hotspots like Rome and Venice being the essential poster child for overtourism in recent years, the fact is despite travel being relatively safe these numbers are unlikely to get back to pre pandemic levels for many years yet, so now may just be the time to see the Trevi Fountain without the crowds or see Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ with one of the new individual tickets that promote more space instead of the usual tour groups booking all the slots a year in advance. Even Venice is working hard to not allow rampant overtourism to return.
As much as I want to encourage people to get back to safe travel again, the fact is that some people still won’t be able to for a little while yet thanks largely to the economic situation a year of lockdowns has left many people in and the remnants of the fear that the mass media has been pushing. The good news is that the United Kingdom is still a perfect staycation destination for those who need to get away but don’t want to go too far, and for those travellers who want to visit the UK for the first time it will be opening up again over the summer and waiting to welcome you. And no, despite what parts of the media would have you believe, Brexit hasn’t stopped that either! The UK is one of the worlds best destinations with a rich tapestry of history, culture, iconic heritage and world class attractions, and once the increasingly unjustifiable travel restrictions and lockdowns have been lifted the four nations of the United Kingdom will showcase exactly what it has to show off to travellers like never before.
Travel will return with a vengeance in 2021. The risk of the pandemic is growing increasingly negligible, especially with a strong vaccine roll out, increased evidence of antibody and T Cell immunity, infection prevention and control measures in every airport, airline, hotel and destination and an increased perception of personal hygiene amongst individual travellers, and destinations are ready, willing and able to welcome you back safely and with open arms.
For a list of ways that you can take responsibility for your own health and safety and minimise your own risk, check out these tips for infection control and personal hygiene.
So where are your travels going to take you in 2021? Where are you dreaming of travelling to? Let me know in the comments below.
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