Where are you hoping of traveling to in 2021? A new year is upon us, and with it, renewed dreams of faraway journeys, exciting destinations, and breathtaking landscapes. While the world grapples with the continued stresses of COVID-19, we can still work on our travel bucket list and let our wanderlust run wild. We present our belated holiday gift to you: 21 places to visit in 2021. We’ll be rolling it out as a special four-part series, so be sure to check back for future installments!
New Zealand was on everyone’s mind last year, and for good reason. The island nation – known for its jaw-dropping scenery, friendly locals, and endless array of outdoor activities – stood out from the rest when it came to responding to (and controlling) the spread of coronavirus. As the first country to see the sunrise (from the North Island city of Gisborne), and with its “onward” official motto, New Zealand is a fitting dream destination for 2021.
Not to mention more nature, wildlife, and local culture than you’ll know what to do with! New Zealand is a destination with something to offer for every traveler.
Some of our top picks in the land of the Māori? The pristine waters of Blue Lake, in the Nelson Lakes National Park (its Maori name is “Rotomairewhenua” which means “Lake of Peaceful Lands”), Tongariro National Park, the Bay of Islands, Marlborough to sip on some of the country’s best wines, and the impressive Cape Reinga. This is just a small sample of the beauty and adventure that awaits — prepare for a trip to remember.
The sheer beauty of Namibia is enough to take any traveler’s breath away. From otherworldly desert landscapes (the country derives its name from the Namib desert, which is the world’s oldest), to jagged mountain ranges, rushing rivers, and golden Kalahari prairies, this African nation serves up four corners of iconic natural beauty.
It’s an excellent destination for wildlife lovers, offering the chance to observe desert-adapted elephants and lions in addition to the continent’s largest population of free-range rhinos. The country’s remote, windswept coastline is an evocative reflection of its rich cultural history and resilient ancestral tribes.
Our can’t-miss recommendations? Start with Etosha National Park for privileged game sightings, Sandwich Harbor and Skeleton Coast for epic views, the Naukluft Mountains in the country’s center, and the wetlands area around the Caprivi Strip. Bonus track: The flamingo colonies at Walvis Bay will blow your mind — and blow up your Instagram. Our verdict? Namibia is hands down one of the best places to visit in 2021.
We’re clearly inspired by the great outdoors, because Iceland is another destination where nature reigns supreme. Beyond the modern capital city of Reykjavík, the rest of the country is sparsely populated with quiet fishing villages, quaint farms, and remote outposts that cling to rugged coastal fringes. When you visit Iceland, you’ll encounter volcanic beaches and ashen deserts, imposing glaciers (Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest), and bubbling hot springs.
If you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights (make sure to travel between October and March to up your chances), but you’ll also be able to spot puffins before taking in the thermal activity at the Geysir area, or venturing over to the black sand beaches at Vík. Most travelers center their journey around Iceland’s 1,500 kilometer loop known as the Ring Road. From there, you’ll be able to dive into Europe’s final frontier, a truly wild place with majestic terrain and cinematic views.
There’s so much more to the Middle East than meets the eye. Far from the glitz and glam of Dubai, Oman offers an understated experience, rich in natural beauty, cultural heritage, and traditional charm. From rugged mountain ranges to remote deserts to unspoiled coastline, visitors have a chance to connect with the country’s timeless spirit without sacrificing accessibility.
What to do on your visit to Oman? After spending some time in Muscat, head to the Jebel Shams (Oman’s highest mountain), the Bahla Fort (granted Unesco World Heritage status in 1987), Sharqiya Sands (home to the Bedouin people), and top it off with a visit to Dhofar, rich in lush greenery and home to the majority of the country’s frankincense production.
Frida Kahlo, Día de los Muertos, tacos galore, Mayan ruins, postcard-perfect beaches. Few countries seem to offer such overwhelming diversity and excitement as Mexico. Whether you’re focused solely on exploring its vibrant gastronomic culture and street food scene, curious about its art and history, or craving a connection with Mother Nature at one of its myriad coastal enclaves or rugged outposts, Mexico has it all — and then some.
Though you’ll be hard-pressed to cram all of the highlights into one trip, it can’t hurt to try. After eating your way through Mexico City, discover indigenous culture at Oaxaca’s lively markets, tap into the mystic marvels of Mayan civilization at Chichén Itzá, and enjoy the pleasures of pristine Pacific beaches on the Baja California coast.
This is just the first installment of our 21 places to visit in 2021. Check back soon for even more ideas, inspiration, and dreamy destinations.