With many of this year’s travel plans dashed, we’re starting to look ahead to travel’s triumphant return in 2021.
No longer will we think “I’ll get around to it” or dismiss desires with “I’ll go there one day”. In 2021 we’re saying yes. Yes to new experiences, yes to meeting new people, and yes to challenging ourselves. There are vibrant cities, charming villages and stunning beaches waiting to be explored. We’ve compiled the top destinations to inspire your imagination, help you choose your next getaway, and get you excited about travelling again.
Colourful, chaotic and totally captivating – there’s nowhere quite like India. A land of a thousand languages and a billion people, India is steeped in history and tradition. This giant country is home to a constellation of the world’s most impressive buildings. The Taj Mahal lives up to its grand expectations, and the expansive Amber Fort fascinates with its intricate architecture. In the north, Ranthambore National Park gives nature lovers the chance to spot tigers, leopards and sloth bears. And how could we not mention the incredible food – the guy standing outside your local Indian restaurant might claim they do the best curry this side of Mumbai, but there’s simply no beating the real deal.
It’s so close to Europe that it can be seen from the shores of Spain, but when it comes to culture, cuisine and landscapes, Morocco is a world away. Arrive with your suitcase half empty as it’s easy to lose track of time in the mazes of market stalls selling fragrant spices, hand-woven rugs and traditional ceramics. The High Atlas mountains offer some of the most remarkable trekking routes in the world, winding through remote Amazigh villages, farmland, and spectacular mountain pastures. Another big draw is the striking Sahara desert, and the opportunity to spend the night in a traditional camp, sleeping under the endless North African sky, jewelled with thousands of stars.
With friendly people, beautiful beaches, ancient temples and tantalising fresh food, it’s no surprise Vietnam tops must-see lists year after year. You can get swept up in the jumbled city streets, brimful with scooters and street food vendors, or slow down in peaceful villages and picturesque bays. Vietnam offers the opportunity to experience the country’s complicated past firsthand by exploring an underground world of guerrilla warfare in the Cu Chi tunnels, or by wandering through the war-damaged ruins of the Imperial Citadel in Hue. Whatever you do, be sure to get your hands on some yummy Banh Mi, deceptively delicious egg coffee, and a big bowl of Pho.
When searching for a holiday destination, it’s often hard to resist the pull of the beach, but we promise this double landlocked country does not disappoint. From the culturally complex capital of Tashkent, to the ancient silk road hub of Samarkand, Uzbekistan is a unique and diverse destination with a spellbinding history. A kaleidoscope of turquoise tiles adorns mosques, madrassas, and mausolea, making this treasure trove of Soviet and Islamic architecture unlike anywhere else in the world. Outside the cities, hardy communities exist in the Kyzylkum Desert, and there’s a wonderful evening to be had sitting around a campfire, sharing stories, songs and Uzbek wine, before heading to bed in a cozy yurt under a canopy of stars.
If you’re looking for a country with distinctive landscapes and ancient cities shrouded in myth and legend, then look no further than Turkey. From the travertine terraces of Pamukkale to the unbelievable basalt chimneys of Cappadocia, Turkey’s natural features are truly one of a kind, but the most remarkable sights are the ones left behind by past civilisations. Phrygians, Persians, Greeks and Romans all once called Turkey home, and you can get to know their way of life by exploring beautifully preserved ancient cities, underground cave homes and open air museums. Europe and Asia meet in the great city of Istanbul, which will astonish with imposing mosques, countless restaurants, and the world’s largest bazaar.
A trip to Peru? Alpaca my bags! The tricky part is deciding what to do while you’re there, as this country is abundant with wondrous attractions. You may look past Machu Picchu, dismissing it as an overcrowded tourist spot, but scrolling through a friend’s Facebook pictures can’t possibly compare to experiencing the extraordinary site for yourself – this ancient Incan citadel is definitely worth the climb. Experience the untouched Amazon under the world’s most biodiverse canopy, or sleep in mud-brick huts on the shores of the boundless Lake Titicaca. After you’ve decided what to do, the next decision is what to eat! A taste of ceviche with fresh lime and chilli will take you straight to the heart of Peruvian culture.
Once believed to be the first country to see the sun appear in the east every morning, the land of the rising sun should be one of the first places you consider for your 2021 escape. Whether you visit in April to marvel at the cherry blossoms that spring up all over the country, July to watch the postponed Olympics, or the winter months to search for the famous snow monkeys, Japan is sure to amaze. Traditional and modern, old fashioned and forward-thinking, this is a land of contradictions, and we love it for that. Tokyo is the beating heart of the country, but its rural landscapes, mysterious forests and lesser know cities are just as enchanting.
Widely regarded as one of the best safari destinations in the world, if you’ve only got time for one wildlife spotting trip next year, Botswana should be at the top of your list. With no fences in sight, animals roam free in the Okavango Delta, and while a little patience is required, the payoff is incredible. Elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs and rhinos are just a few of the animals you can find in the delta, but the landscape itself is just as much of an attraction. Wide-open plains and lush greenery ensure they’ll always be something to look at between wildlife sightings. Pair all this with kind, welcoming people and you’re onto a winner.
Egypt is a bustling desert country with grand cities and monuments dotted along the Nile river. We’re lucky that Egyptians love to tell stories because this nation has so many to tell. Of the seven wonders of the ancient world, only the oldest, the pyramids of Egypt, survive today. It’s surreal to stand at the foot of something replicated thousands of times in postcards and adventure films, and these formidable figures are reminders of the pharaohs who once ruled these lands. The traffic-choked streets of Cairo are not for the faint-hearted, but you’ll be rewarded with a truly exhilarating city, and there’s not a museum in the world that can compete with the temples, tombs and monuments you’ll see in the city of Luxor.
From its intriguing historical capital to pristine islands capped with whitewashed buildings, Greece is gloriously beautiful. On the mainland, you can soak up thousands of years of history by visiting the Athens Acropolis, a famous beacon atop the city, or climb stone steps up to the towering monasteries of Meteora. Party it up on lively Mykonos, snap up picture-perfect Santorini, or land on one of Greece’s other six thousand islands to relax and unwind in crowd-free villages. There are volcanoes to be hiked, forests to be explored and olives to be tasted. Greece’s perfect turquoise waters can be ventured by sailboat or simply admired from the shores of one of the country’s many beaches.
So, what are you waiting for? Future travels await, so start planning yours today!
Hero image by Mark Borton.