Where do you want to travel in 2021? Every year, we look at the best places to visit in the coming year. Right now, it might seem inconceivable to think about traveling abroad, due to the global pandemic and travel restrictions that have closed the borders of many countries. But here’s the good news: Things are looking up for 2021.
Granted, as countries reopen, travel is going to look a lot different, thanks to new safety, testing and cleaning practices. But the new face of travel is also going to have a silver lining. Not only will once over-touristed destinations be less crowded, travelers will be opting for more isolated places. Experts predict that travelers will also be more thoughtful and responsible when it comes to where they are going and how they are approaching the whole travel experience. And travel companies will be more flexible than ever when it comes to allowing travelers to postpone or cancel trips when necessary.
Kenya is always a classic and its landscapes are the definition of “wide-open,” which will make the country more appealing than ever during the time of social distancing. Throw in some stylish new hotel offerings and it’s no wonder Kenya is topping Indagare’s 2021 hot list.
Costa Rica has maintained one of the lowest Covid-19 fatality rates in Latin America and its government has been recognized for its successful management and containment of the virus, so when the country reopens on November 1 to all Americans who meet the requirements, travelers will be able to return feeling a sense of confidence. Those looking to travel sustainably will also be pleased to see Costa Rica’s progress: This long-time global leader in conservation and sustainability that runs on 99.5% clean and renewable energy plans to achieve complete decarbonization by 2050. Costa Rica also recently became the first country in Central America to legalize same-sex marriage, demonstrating its commitment to welcoming all types of travelers. And besides its adventure offerings (canopy ziplining, surfing, whale watching), the country is enhancing its luxury offerings. “Luxury wasn’t a word associated with Costa Rica (aside from the Four Seasons),” says Danziger. “But now there are incredible, high-touch eco-lodges.”
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands have always been a sailor’s paradise with pristine waters, secluded beaches, endless breathtaking scenery and 60-plus mountainous islands constantly visible on the horizon. With a December 1 reopening date to American travelers and prestigious new properties and private islands to rent, Wetty says that there's never been a better time to take a socially distanced vacation in the BVI. “The BVI deserves to be seen again. After rebuilding from Hurricane Irma, the British Virgin Islands were ready for the limelight and then Covid. I can’t wait to see Rosewood Little Dix Bay. And a visit isn’t complete without a day sail and drink or two at the Soggy Dollar and so many other favorite Caribbean beach bars,” she says.
“Definitely on most people’s bucket list, New Zealand was one of the countries that has best dealt with Covid,” says Swasbrook, who has found that many travelers are not only ticking off their bucket lists right now, but they are also basing their travels on some kind of purpose, which also includes sustainable travel and being socially distant in nature. “New Zealand ticks off all of those boxes and holds plenty of appeal for its amazing outdoors and isolated escapes—which is why it is perfect for those traveling as soon as it opens up in 2021.
Since Paris is off-limits right now, that leaves us dreaming and fantasizing about the City of Light–which may be why so many of us are watching Emily in Paris. The city is irresistible, and there’s no wonder Paris is the only destination that is getting its own spotlight during Indagare’s Future of Travel Summit.
Mexico Beyond the Beach
Mexico was one of the first countries to reopen its borders to American travelers, and while the beaches remain popular (keep on reading), the heart of Mexico’s interior is also beating strong. Places to keep an eye on for 2021 include unique spots like the Yucatán’s capital city of Mérida—also known as the White City—which “is seeing a surge in hotel openings,”. Then there’s San Miguel de Allende, which was recently voted the best small city in the world by Condé Nast Traveler and which Danziger says is “a food lover’s paradise.” Moving into urban landscapes, there’s Mexico City. “It has seen a surge in recent years and this coming year is no different,” says Danziger.
Mexico On the Beach
“Saltwater therapy might be just what the doctor ordered,” says Wetty. “From Cabo to Punta Mita to Mayakoba, the beaches are calling.” As the fastest growing destination in Mexico, Los Cabos—at the tip of the Baja Peninsula—continues to attract new and returning visitors, and airlines flying directly to Los Cabos will be offering more seats than ever in 2021. Punta Mita, a 1,500-acre resort and residential community in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, has announced several updates including a new vacation home rental program and a barefoot-chic surf club complete with rentals and instruction.
“Located right next to Italy, Slovenia had been overlooked by tourists up until now,” says Swasbrook. But it’s a top destination for 2021, thanks to leading by example in areas like sustainable tourism: National Geographic recently named it the world’s most sustainable country and its capital, Ljubljana, is known as Europe’s Green Capital. “There’s no doubt that the climate change emergency has brought the topic of sustainable travel to the forefront of everyone’s minds and it has become a massive trend amongst travelers…
According to Bradley, 2021 is the moment for Egypt, which reopened to Americans this summer. “Our Egypt classes were some of the most popular virtual travel classes in our Indagare Global Classroom and it’s not hard to see why,” she says. The country houses a third of all of the world’s antiquities and is home to the only remaining place in the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the pyramids at Giza. Plus, the country represents a good value for travelers.
The Islands of Tahiti
“So many destination weddings, honeymoons and milestone celebrations were put on hold in 2020, so 2021 will be a year for celebrations. And what better place than French Polynesia,” says Wetty. The Islands of Tahiti is also a natural choice for any traveler seeking carefree vacation options, just an eight-hour flight direct from Los Angeles or San Francisco. With naturally pristine, remote and secluded beaches, the destination’s 118 South Pacific islands provide the perfect escape in this new era of travel.
With Covid-19 forcing the world to pause travel, many destinations have started to evaluate how they can manage travel more sustainably in the future. In Rwanda's case, sustainable travel has been at the heart of everything it does and every tourism product that's been developed dating back to 2005, when a program was established to help benefit communities near Rwanda's national parks. Rwanda has done an incredible job of acting quickly to resume tourism activities with additional safety measures in order to protect not only travelers and locals, but also the endangered primates that inhabit their forests. According to Danziger, Rwanda appeals to travelers who have already discovered Africa and want to explore new regions.
An Arab country on the Arabian Sea, Qatar is known for its fascinating culture and its varied landscapes ranging from beaches to desert to the futuristic sky-scraping capital of Doha. “Qatar has a strategy to position itself as the region’s prime spot for travel, sustainable tourism and culture,” says Swasbrook. “Tourism has grown significantly and the FIFA World Cup will be hosted there in 2022.” The Middle Eastern country was also recently voted the number one safest country in the world and it has rolled out Qatar Clean, an initiative developed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that ensures compliance with strict standards for hygiene and cleanliness at all hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.
With landscapes ranging from southern desert expanses out of Star Wars to farmland up north, plus archeological sites, seaside villages and a buzzing scene in Tunis—complete with one of the world’s oldest medinas—Tunisia is perfect for travelers interested in history, culture and getting off the beaten path. Tunisia was already creating excitement with the Indagare staff before the pandemic began. "
“The Maldives isn’t a ‘new’ destination, but in 2021 we anticipate it being more popular than ever,” says Danziger. The reason? “Combine recent peace negotiations and incredible new hotels, along with the Maldives being the ultimate for seclusion, and it’s destined for a boom in 2021.” In addition to being a naturally socially distant getaway, the destination has enacted strict Covid procedures and all of the islands’ resorts and accommodations are taking precautions—and then some.
“From the lush green countrysides to charming Irish pubs, perhaps a round or two of golf or whiskey, the luck of the Irish is wished upon us all,” says Wetty, who has added Ireland to her hit list for 2021. One of the best things about Ireland is that five stunning areas can be visited in a single trip, offering wonderfully different, yet authentic experiences that are both intimate and breathtaking.
“We saw a resurgence of clients going to Italy pre-Covid and it’s definitely going to be the case again in 2021,” says Swasbrook. “I have quite a few bookings for 2021 and a recent Google trend showed Italy as one of the top searches for ‘travel in 2021.’” Swasbrook says that even for clients who have traveled to Italy before, there is always a new area to visit, such as one of her new favorites—Puglia, which is at the tip of the boot and is known for its whitewashed towns and miles of captivating Mediterranean coast.
According to Bradley, this is a phenomenal time to consider bucket-list trips, and one of her favorite locations is Antarctica. Bradley is a big fan of the Ultramarine yacht, which she says is the most “state-of-the-art” expedition ship around. Indagare will be running trips on the ship, which is equipped with two twin-engine helicopters, spacious suites, a spa, sauna and even a polar boutique stocked with the best cold-weather expedition gear.
With its deep turquoise waters and long beaches lined with tangerine trees, Bodrum has long been a vacation spot for ahead-of-the-curve jetsetters. Now, more travelers are discovering this Turkish Riviera beach town.
“The best of all worlds,” says Wetty. “Enjoy city life, vineyards and safari all in one trip. Nothing beats a trip to South Africa.” Travelers can head to the bustling hub of Cape Town for its dynamic food and design scene, experience historic sites in Johannesburg, try kite surfing on the coastline of the Indian and Atlantic oceans and experience the renowned safari camps of Kruger National Park.
Greece is definitely a bucket-list country for history buffs, thanks to its classic and natural wonders. “From Athens to Santorini, there is something for everyone and going to Greece will get you a great mix,” says Swasbrook, who recommends going to Athens first for two or three nights with a stay at the Hotel Grande Bretagne. “Then you hit the islands—mixing it up with the gorgeous and scenic Santorini (with amazing beach clubs and restaurants) followed by the more active and fun island of Mykonos.”