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If you are looking to get back out and explore, here is a list of the 30 best places to travel in 2021

Last Updated: 8/21/21 – list of the 30 best places to travel in 2021

Let’s face it, in many aspects the year 2020 was an absolutely miserable year. When I set out to write my list of the best places to travel last year, little did I know that the year would quickly devolve into a nightmare. Tens of millions of people around the world were infected with the Coronavirus and millions of people lost their lives. Even for those who managed to avoid getting sick, our lives were thrown into turmoil as countries shut down, quarantines were put into place, and our daily routines were largely effected. Many industries have been critically effected by the shutdowns, quarantines, and restrictions, and one of those that was hardest hit was the travel and tourism industry. With most countries closing their borders, airlines, hotels, restaurants, and tourism-centered businesses have really struggled to stay afloat. However, now that the calendar has turned and vaccinations are starting to get rolled out, it seems like the long nightmare of 2020 may soon finally be behind us. In anticipation of international travel opening back up, I have outlined some of my Top 2021 Travel Destinations to start inspiring you to travel again.

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Bali, Indonesia

When putting together this list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations, I made it a point to think of places that are not only amazing travel destinations, but are likely to be open and accessible to travelers this year. While not all of the destinations on this list are currently fully open to travelers, countries are starting to get safe health protocols in place and the vaccination process is starting to pick up steam. Because of this, things are starting to look up for the possibility of travelers exploring these wonderful destinations in the very near future. In fact, travel planners and vacation booking companies are already starting to see an increase in international travel bookings. That said, if you aren’t quite ready to start traveling internationally this year, I also made it a point to include a good blend of destinations scattered throughout the world. This means that, regardless of where you reside in this world, there is someplace on this list that is close to home. Wherever you are comfortable traveling to this year, I hope this list of my Top 2021 Travel Destinations gets you excited about travel and inspires you to start making travel plans again.

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Big Sur, California

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Big Sur, California

If you are anxious to start traveling this year, but are apprehensive about traveling outside of the United States, then one of the best places to travel this year may be one of the most beautiful spots in the state of California. Granted, there are a lot of beautiful spots in California, but the strip of coastline known as Big Sur may be one of the most breathtaking stretches of coastline in North America. Not to mention, most of the fun things to do in the area are outside and the weather in Southern California is always nice, so you won’t have much trouble social distancing.

In addition to driving down the coast of Big Sur and enjoying the amazing views, I would also recommend checking out some of the other amazing things in the area. If you like to golf, the breathtakingly beautiful golf course Pebble Beach is only a short drive away. It is the site of some of the PGA Tour’s most memorable tournaments, and as a public golf course is open to anyone to play. You will want to make sure to make a tee-time well in advance though as the course is also one of the country’s busiest. If golf isn’t your thing, but you do love wildlife, then I would recommend checking out the Northern Elephant Seal rookery that is located about an hour or so north of Santa Barbara. These seals are enormous and seeing a beach full of them is quite the sight to behold.

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Iceland

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Iceland

If you are into travel photography, then Iceland may be the location on my Top 2021 Travel Destinations list that is the most interesting to you. World-renown as one of the top landscape photography destinations in the world, Iceland is absolutely chalk-full of beautiful waterfalls, breathtaking coastline, and amazing coastal mountains and cliffs that will absolutely make your jaw drop when you see them. If you decide to visit, make sure you drive the infamous Ring Road. You will get to see many of the amazing landmarks that make Iceland such an amazing travel destination.

Not to mention, if you visit at the right time of the year, Iceland is a great place to view the Northern Lights. However, one of the reasons why it may be one of the best places to travel to this year is that almost everything you will want to see in Iceland is located outdoors, so there will be no issues with social distancing when you are there. Please keep in mind that accommodations at some of the most popular spots tend to book up fast, so if you are interested in visiting Iceland, I would strongly recommend making your travel plans as soon as the country opens up.

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The Galápagos Islands

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - The Galapagos Islands

Not only is the Galápagos Islands one of my Top 2021 Travel Destinations, but it is also one of my absolute favorite destinations in the world and one of the best places to travel to at anytime. If you are into wildlife, I can think of very few destinations that allow you to get up-close-and-personal with so much unique wildlife. Not only is the Galápagos Islands one of this world’s premier wildlife travel destinations, but almost everything you will want to do there is outdoors. This makes social distancing an easy feat to achieve. Whether you choose to visit via an Live Aboard ship or bounce from island-to-island on a tour, the Galápagos Islands is chalk-full of snorkeling, scuba diving, and hiking adventures. Granted, it is a bit of a chore to get to, but that just makes visiting an even bigger adventure. Besides, if you read my article on everything you need to know to visit the Galápagos Islands that I linked to below, you will be able to navigate the logistics of getting to this amazing wildlife destination without any issues.

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Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - The Maasai Mara Game Reserve

Speaking of incredible wildlife adventures, some of the best places to travel to in this world to see wildlife are located in the continent of Africa. After all, the continent has some of the most amazing wildlife on the planet. When it comes to the top safari destinations in Africa, very few can measure up to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. In addition to being home to the big five animals of Africa, which includes lions, elephants, buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard, the Maasai Mara is also home to the great wildebeest migration. Each year, between the months of July and September, hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope follow the seasonal rains up thru the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and into the Maasai Mara. It is an absolutely spectacular sight to behold.

If you would like to get an extra special view of the wildlife and the migration, I would recommend taking a hot air balloon ride over the Maasai Mara. One of the things that makes the Maasai Mara so special is the availability of viewing the wildlife from the air. I can’t think of any other infamous wildlife destination in Africa that offers this perk. When you are done on safari, I would recommend staying at the nearby Giraffe Manor on your trip. Not only are the accommodations first-rate, but you will get the chance to enjoy a meal with one of nature’s tallest creatures. It will be one of the most memorable meals you will ever have!

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Yamanashi, Japan

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Mount Fuji Japan

Even with the new vaccines being rolled out, social distancing will likely be an important emphasis for travelers until the pandemic is fully in our rear-view mirror. That is why I have put such a high emphasis on travel locations that allow you to get outdoors and socially distance yourself from others, all while enjoying amazing new places and getting to experience new things. If you follow my blog closely, it will come as no surprise to you that there are several mountain destinations on my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations. After all, the mountains are some of the best places to travel to when you want to get outdoors and explore.

One of my favorite mountain destinations in this world is Yamanashi, Japan. It is the perfect launching spot for adventures to see Mount Fuji, which is one of Asia’s most captivating mountains. Just seeing the mountain in person is a magical experience, but if you have the time, I would absolutely recommend climbing it. If you get an early start and you have some hiking experience, it will take you a full day to climb, but it can be done in one day. If you would like to take your time or don’t have as much experience hiking, there are spots where you can camp for the night on your way up the mountain. Whether you visit to climb or just to enjoy the views, a trip to Japan may be just what you need to lift your spirits after the forgettable year we had in 2020.

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American Samoa

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - American Samoa

Just like mountain destinations where you can get off the beaten path and easily socially distance yourself from others are some of the best places to travel to on the tail-end of this pandemic, so too are tropical destinations where you can spend a majority of your time outside soaking up the sun on a beach. Although, you will probably want to steer clear of the popular beach destinations that may be a bit more crowded with people. This is why the breathtaking beaches of the American Samoa made my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations. Not only will you get to enjoy beautiful, pristine beaches, but you can also explore the National Park of American Samoa, which is one of the least explored, but also one of the most beautiful, national parks in the United States.

Darjeeling, India

If you have always dreamed of visiting India, but are a little apprehensive about visiting some of India’s more popular tourist destinations at the tail-end of this pandemic because of the large crowds, then the wonderful city of Darjeeling in northern India might be an option you find intriguing. While cities like Jaipur, Dehli, Agra, and Mumbai get most of the attention from travelers, in this odd transition year of travel I would suggest you extend your search to some of India’s lesser known tourist destinations. Not only is Darjeeling one of the best places to travel in India in a year where social distancing is important, but in my opinion it is also one of the most underrated travel destinations in India overall.

Ever since I watch the television program Departures, I have longed to visit this breathtaking part of India. Nestled up in the foothills of the Himalayas, the mountain vistas in Darjeeling are so beautiful you will have to pinch yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming. That might sound like hyperbole, but it’s not. The famed Tiger Hill viewpoint will blow you away with its beauty and quickly become one of the mountain viewpoints you measure all others moving forward. In between hiking to explore the beautiful region, you can also absorb some of the culture by visiting the many amazing temples or take a day trip on a train to explore the surrounding area. With so much beauty and culture in one area, it is no surprise that Darjeeling made my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations.

Jordan

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Petra Jordan

If you follow my blog closely, you are probably aware that one of the places I intend to travel internationally to this year if things reopen this summer as hoped is the beautiful country of Jordan. Not only is Jordan the home of Petra, which is one of the amazing wonders of this world, but the country is one of the best places to travel because it is absolutely rich in history and culture. If you would like to get outside of Amman and Jordan’s other large cities to see some of the lesser-frequented areas of the country, I would suggest exploring gems like Jerash, where you can explore its Greco-Roman ruins and the renown Temple of Artemis. You can also head to the ancient town of Madaba to see its amazing 6th-Century mosaic map, countless beautiful Byzantine churches, and the nearby Mount Nebo.

After taking a day to marvel at Petra and exploring some of Jordan’s amazing cities, other national treasures that you can explore include the Dead Sea and the stunning Wadi Rum Protected Area, which includes beautiful stretches of desert and rock formations and the renown Lawrence’s Spring. In a year where social distancing is a priority, being able to visit a country as beautiful as Jordan is amazing, but being able to spend a majority of your time outdoors exploring its many treasures is icing on the cake.

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Astoria, Oregon

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Canon Beach Oregon

If you are itching to travel this year, but aren’t quite sure about whether you want to leave the United States and venture internationally yet, then one of the best places to travel in the United States is the beautiful coastal city of Astoria. If you have ever watched the classic 1980s movie “The Goonies”, then there is no doubt that you will recognize this beautiful, quaint town in Oregon. It was the hometown of the Goonies squad and the site of their quest for One-Eyed Willie’s treasure. If your goal this year is to get away from home, but spend your time traveling outdoors where you can properly socially distance, then Astoria is without a doubt one of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations that you should consider. After stopping by to snap a few pictures of the Goonies House in Astoria, I would recommend taking a drive down the beautiful Pacific coast of Oregon. Along the way, you will get to explore such treasures as the breathtaking Canon Beach, which was largely featured in the film and my picture above. The many brilliant rock sea stacks that litter the coast along Canon Beach will mesmerize you with their beauty.

If you are up for a bit of adventure, there are a number of fun hikes you can do in the area that I outline in my guide below. I would also suggest making a stop to check out the beautiful Heceta Head Lighthouse. It is one of the prettiest lighthouses in North America and an absolute must-stop for anyone traveling down the coast of Oregon. I would also suggest stopping by the nearby Sea Lion Caves, which is a popular resting place for sea lions. Visitors can take an elevator down into the sea caves to see the many sea lions who have ventured into the caves to rest. For those that have a bit more time, I would recommend making a stop at the renown Multnomah Falls, which are located just outside of Portland. This multi-tier waterfall is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Western United States because of its beauty.

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Costa Rica

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Costa Rica Rainforest

After a stressful year filled with quarantines and lockdowns, I am guessing that many travelers are wishing they could just get away to a tropical location and recharge their batteries. If you are anxious to get away this year and are searching for one of the best places to travel to have a tropical adventure, then look no further than the beautiful country of Costa Rica. With all of the sunshine, beauty, and wonderful outdoor activities to enjoy in Costa Rica, it should come as no surprise that the country made my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations. Whether you are looking to just sit on the beach and read a book, or get out and explore the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Corcovado National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, or one of Costa Rica’s many other wonderful parks and nature preserves, Costa Rica has a bit of something for everyone.

The best part is, you should have no problem social distancing and staying safe on the tail-end of the pandemic while enjoying the sunshine and all of the amazing outdoor activities that Costa Rica has to offer. If you decide to visit, I would strongly recommend you check out a rainforest walk while you were there. These breathtaking hikes on suspended paths up in the tree-tops are so amazing that they made my list of the Top 50 Travel Experiences to Have Before You Die.

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Mauritius

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Mauritius

After the Hell we experienced in 2020, what if I told you that there was a destination in this world that is often referred to by travelers as “Heaven on Earth”? While most people in North America haven’t heard of Mauritius, it is a popular travel destination amongst European travelers who want to get away from it all and visit a heavenly tropical paradise. Located roughly 2,000-miles off the Southwest coast of the continent of Africa, the breathtaking island of Mauritius defines the words beauty and relaxation. Throw in a pinch of adventure and you’ve got the makings of one of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations.

Not only are visitors to Mauritius able to enjoy some of the most pristine and beautiful beaches in this world, but the island is also home to a countless number of amazing waterfalls, beautiful botanical gardens, and amazing nature parks. You will have no trouble relaxing on the beach after hiking to see the Tamarind Falls or Chamarel Waterfall and swim in their pools. If you like wildlife and beautiful landscapes, then you will love exploring the Black River Gorges National Park, Chamarel Seven Colored Earth Geopark, and Casela Nature Parks on the island. Then, to wind down a busy day of soaking up the sun and exploring the island’s beauty, enjoy a nice stroll down the beach. I can think of no better place to kick-start your travel than to visit this heavenly island.

Nazaré, Portugal

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Nazaré, Portugal

Ever since I visited Hawaii when I was younger and saw the famed Banzai Pipeline in person, I have been absolutely enthralled with large surf. There is just something so captivating by the beauty and power of large waves crashing into the shore. If you love the ocean and large waves, then you are going to be over the moon when you visit the city of Nazaré in Portugal. If the best places to travel are measured by how glorious a destinations waves are, then there is nowhere else on this Earth that can measure up to this picturesque Portuguese city.

However, the enormous waves at North Beach aren’t all that makes Nazaré, Portugal one of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations. It may not get the attention from tourists that cities like Lisbon, Porto, and Lagos get, but Nazaré has more than its fair share of historical and cultural attractions for tourists to enjoy. When you aren’t at the beach or trying your hand at surfing some of this world’s largest waves, you can break away to check out such historical sites as the Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo, Igreja de São Gião, and Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré. The city also has a very nice municipal market for visitors to enjoy, as well as beautiful parks such as the Parque da Pedralva that are great for taking a nice stroll and enjoying the day. Whether you are visiting to surf, or just to get away from the crowds and enjoy a wonderful and quaint destination, Nazaré, Portugal should be near the top of your list of places to visit this year.

Krabi, Thailand

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Krabi, Thailand

The beautiful country of Thailand is no stranger to lists of the best places to travel. However, most of the time it is the big tourist spots like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket that make the list. While I absolutely love these cities, along with the rest of Thailand, the crowded streets and water market of Bangkok probably aren’t most travelers idea of the perfect travel spot at the tail-end of a global pandemic. If you had your heart set on visiting Thailand this year, fear not as I have another Thai destination in mind that I think is one of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations. That destination is Krabi, which is a southern coastal province in Thailand that is world-renown for its amazing beaches, mangrove forests, and the incredible Phi Phi Islands.

If you’ve ever watched the Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Beach”, then you are probably familiar with the Phi Phi Islands and the out-of-this-world beautiful beach that is located on the tiny island of Koh Phi Phi. If you like to snorkel or scuba dive, then you will love the larger island Phi Phi Don, which has some of the world’s most vibrant coral reefs and loads of marine wildlife. If you would like to get some world-class pictures of some of the most breathtaking ocean scenery in the world, then I would suggest making your way to Phi Phi Leh, where you will find tall rock cliffs and beautiful white sand beaches.

The Cook Islands

If a beach vacation this year sounds great to you, but the other options on my list still feel like they are a bit too popular with tourists for you to be comfortable on the tail-end of this pandemic, then I have another option that might make you feel a bit more comfortable. It’s not that the Cook Islands are any less beautiful or wonderful than the other beach destinations on my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations, because they are every bit as beautiful and as wonderful. However, they are a bit more off the proverbial beaten travel path that most tourists tend to follow. Meaning, they aren’t quite the hot spot that some of the other beach destinations in this world are.

The locals of the cook islands like to joke that the color blue was invented here, but with all of the brilliant shades of blue that you will see in the waters off the Cook Islands, I wonder if it really is a joke. Home to fifteen islands that can be very different in many ways, the most popular islands in the Cook Islands to visit are the beautiful islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Like all of the islands, they have their own unique and wonderful natural wonders that make them fantastic destinations to visit.

The island of Rorotonga, with its wide selection of wonderful hotels and restaurants, is a great place to start off your trip. Relax on one of the islands many beaches, go kayaking in the breathtaking Muri Lagoon, and visit the ever popular Tikioki Marine Reserve. From there, you can set off for Aitutaki and enjoy its natural beauty. With some of the best snorkeling and diving in the South Pacific, it is a great place to unwind and just relax. Other popular spots on Aitutaki include the stunning One Foot Island and the the otherworldly beautiful Aitutaki Lagoon. In my opinion, the Cooks Islands are always one of the best places to travel, but at the tail-end of a pandemic, this lesser-frequented island paradise is an even more attraction option.

Churchill, Canada

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Churchill, Canada

For the wildlife enthusiasts out there who may not be ready to head overseas to go on safari in Africa, India, or Southeast Asia at the tail-end of this pandemic, there is an out-of-this-world wildlife adventure that you can have without leaving North America. Nicknamed the Polar Bear Capital of the World because of its very large polar bear population, the Canadian town of Churchill is located on the Hudson Bay in the far north of the province of Manitoba. In addition to being one of the best places in the entire world to view polar bears in the wild, it is also world-renown for the large congregation of beluga whales that gather off its shores in the Hudson Bay each summer.

In a time where many travelers are looking to get away to places that aren’t crowded with other tourists, the town of Churchill may be the most secluded and least visited locations on my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations. That’s because, out of all the destinations on this list, it is arguably the most difficult location to get to. Only accessible by small plane or a lengthy train ride, as a traveler you have to earn the right to have one of North America’s premier travel wildlife experiences. When you visit Churchill and take a tundra buggy to see polar bears in the wild, or get out on the frigid Hudson Bay to see the wild beluga whales up close, it is almost like you are on your own personal National Geographic expedition. What a wonderful way to dive back into travel!

Stavanger, Norway

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Stavanger, Norway

If you are an avid travel adventurer, then you probably don’t need an introduction to the city of Stavanger, Norway, its absolutely breathtaking fjords, and the legendary collection of hiking trails up and down the surrounding western coast of Norway. When it comes to the premier hiking locations in this world, very few destinations can compete with the west coast of Norway in terms of raw beauty. Keeping with my theme of including outdoor-centered, pandemic-friendly locations on my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations, I can’t think of a more deserving location for the best places to travel in this unusual travel year. When it comes to beauty, culture, and outdoor adventure, Stavanger really does have it all.

By far, the biggest attraction for tourists visiting the Stavanger and the west coast of Norway are the stunning fjords that make up a large section of the coastline. Here, you will not only find some of the most scenic driving and train routes anywhere in the world, but you will also find some of the most amazing hiking trails to explore. One of the most popular destinations to hike to is the legendary Pulpit Rock. Pictured above, this rocky outcropping is one of the most infamous Instagram locations in the world for outdoor enthusiasts. If that view doesn’t get your heart beating, then I would check your pulse. In addition to hiking, visitors are able to get out on the water in a boat cruise to enjoy a water level view of the amazing fjords. Plus, if you visit Stavanger at the right time of year, it is also one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights. So if you are up for some adventure and want to get away to the outdoors this year, I would strongly recommend you consider beautiful Stavanger, Norway.

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Bali, Indonesia

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Bali, Indonesia

It seems like every list that I create of destinations that I would recommend for people to travel to always includes the breathtaking Indonesian island of Bali. However, if you have been to Bali, it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise as it is far-and-away one of the most amazing places in this world to travel to. Even though Bali is a popular tourist destination year-in-and-year-out, the fact that its tourism industry is centered around outdoor activities makes it a great location to visit during this unique travel year where social distancing and avoiding indoor crowds is a priority. This is why Bali has once again found its way onto one of my travel lists and is included as one of my Top 2021 Travel Destinations.

In addition to having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the island of Bali is also home to some of Indonesia’s best cultural treasures. If you are into history, you will love exploring the plethora of amazing temples that can be found throughout the island. The Uluwatu Temple, Besakih Temple, and the breathtaking Ulun Danu Beratan Temple that is located on the shores of Lake Bratan are just some of the spectacularly detailed temples that will take your breath away with their beauty. However, the island of Bali isn’t only known for its beaches and beautiful temples. There is also a wide variety of amazing wildlife that can be found on the island. One of the most popular wildlife attractions on Bali is the world renown Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. Here, you will get to see Balinese long-tailed macaque in their natural habitat. Its a wildlife experience you will never forget. So if you are itching to get away and have always longed to visit Asia, I would strongly suggest you consider Bali as a possible travel destination this year.

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Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

If getting outside and seeing the most beautiful landscapes in this world is the best medicine for the tail-end of this pandemic, then there are few places in this world that could be better for you to visit than the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentinian Patagonia. Located in the center of the Argentinian region of Patagonia, nestled in between two of Argentina’s largest lakes, the Los Glaciares National Park is one of the best places in the world to see gigantic glaciers. If you have long dreamt of exploring building-sized icebergs and glaciers that seem to go on forever, then this is one of the best places to travel in the world.

With world renown glaciers such as the Perito Moreno Glacier, Glaciar Spegazzini, and Glaciar Seco, both your camera and your crampons will get a work out as you explore Los Glaciares National Park. If you love adventure, then you will undoubtedly want to get off the beaten path when you visit the park and perhaps even get out onto one of the glaciers to explore. However, even the less adventurous can have a blast when visiting this beautiful park. With some of the most beautiful mountains in the Andes as a back-drop to some of the biggest and most breathtaking glaciers in the world, you don’t need to hike far to get some views you will remember forever.

Tasmania, Australia

The country of Australia is an absolutely amazing and diverse place, and one of the best places to travel no matter what the year. However, at the tail-end of the COVID-19 pandemic, many travelers are looking to avoid the busy cities, crowded beaches, and popular tourist traps in favor of more isolated and less-frequented destinations where social distancing isn’t as tough to do. That is why I absolutely love the idea of visiting the breathtaking island of Tasmania this year and it is why I have Tasmania as one of my Top 2021 Travel Destinations. After closing itself to all travelers for most of 2020, Tasmania is looking to re-open to tourists sometime during this year. When they do, I think it will be one of the best places to travel internationally for people looking for a little adventure and for something different.

In addition to its wonderful beaches and one-of-a-kind wildlife, there is a lot to explore on the island of Tasmania. On the East coast is Freycinet National Park, which is a beautiful coastal park with rugged and beautiful coastline to explore. For the more adventurous traveler, there is Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, which encompasses some of the island’s highest terrain and most scenic landscapes to explore. This is the home of the famed Overland Track, which is one of Australia’s most iconic hiking trails. It takes you past some of the most scenic landscape on Tasmania. In addition to these two beautiful parks, there is also Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and its amazing rope bridge crossings and the steep rocky cliffs and rugged coast of Tasman National Park to explore. These are just some of the many amazing things that await you when you visit Tasmania this year!

Moab, Utah

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Moab, Utah

In my opinion, the quaint Southwestern town of Moab, Utah is one of the best places to travel no matter what the year, but this year I think the city will be especially popular as people start to venture away from home and travel again. If you are looking to get out into some of North America’s most unique and beautiful landscapes this year, then I can think of no better place for you to visit in the United States than Moab. Located in Southeastern Utah near the border with Colorado, the city of Moab is tantalizingly close to two of Utah’s most breathtaking national parks. Both Arches National Park and its collection of over a thousand natural rock arches and the amazing Canyonlands National Park and its bounty of stunning slot canyons, rock needles, and breathtaking vistas are located just outside the city limits.

In addition to the national parks that are close by, Moab is also home to one of America’s most iconic state parks. Even though it isn’t designated as a national park, Dead Horse Pointe State Park is every bit as beautiful as any national park in the United States. The best part is, this park is located just outside of Canyonlands National Park, which makes it easy to visit both of them in one visit. When you have had your fill of exploring the parks, Moab has a plethora of outdoor adventure activities that you can enjoy as well. In addition to being one of the top mountain biking locations in the United States, visitors are able to try their hand at white water rafting, riding ATVs thru the rocky terrain outside the city, fly-fishing in one of the area’s many rivers, or taking a rock climbing class from experts. No matter what your speed of adventure, Moab has something for everyone to enjoy.

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Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal

When it comes to epic mountain adventures, there is nothing bigger than exploring the mighty Himalayan mountain range. Stretching across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan, and Nepal, the Himalayas stretch for roughly 1,500-miles (or roughly 2,415-kilometers) and includes fourteen mountains that are over 8,000-meters (or 26,246-feet) tall. No other mountain range on Earth has a mountain that is over 8,000-meters tall. In fact, the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas, the mighty Aconcagua in the Argentinian Andes, is just shy of 7,000-meters tall. This makes the Himalayas the ultimate playground for alpine climbers and travel adventurers throughout the world.

Out of all the places to explore in the amazing Himalayan mountain range, I think that the Sagarmatha National Park may be one of the best places to travel. Located in the Northeast of Nepal, the Sagarmatha National Park is full of deep ravines, large glaciers, and some of the tallest peaks in the Himalayas, including the magnificent Mount Everest. One of the best ways to get out and explore this amazing landscape is to get out and hike on the park’s many alpine trails. There are so many amazing things to see that it is difficult to list them all, but the top sights I wouldn’t miss out on seeing at the Kala Patthar viewpoint, which gives you the best view of Mount Everest and all its glory, the beautiful Dudh Koshi River, and the Highest Point Monastery, which is located on top of Mount Taboche.

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Milos, Greece

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Milos, Greece

No matter what the year, the Greek Islands seem to always be one of the best places to travel in the world. However, in a year with so much uncertainty and such a premium being placed on travel to locals that allow visitors to spread out and socially distance from one another, some of the more popular spots in the Greek Islands may not be in the Top 2021 Travel Destinations. Instead of making plans to visit locations like Crete and Santorini this year, you can make plans to escape the doldrums of quarantines and lockdowns and enjoy a relaxing vacation on the beautiful island of Milos. It has all of the beauty and tranquility of some of Greece’s more famed island destinations, without the large crowds and packed beaches.

Known for its breathtaking beaches, quiet and uncrowded downtown area, and incredible fresh seafood, the island of Milos is one of the Greek Island’s best kept secrets. Imagine yourself relaxing on the beautiful moonscape of white volcanic sand on Sarakiniko Beach, exploring along the Papafragas Beach and Caves, or just enjoying the picturesque beauty of Tsigrado Beach or Kleftiko Beach. With so many absolutely stunning beaches to choose from, you can explore a new one each day on your trip. Then, when you’ve soaked up enough sun, you can explore the history of the Catacombs of Milos or head into town to enjoy one of the best meals of fresh seafood you’ll ever have.

Santiago, Chile

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Santiago, Chile

If you have always longed to visit South America, this might be the best year to do it. The continent of South America is chalk-full of amazing cities waiting to be explored, but with a premium being placed on social distancing as travelers begin to look at international travel again, the typical crowded beach destinations and tours of jam-packed cities are going to take a back seat to the lesser visited, but just as interesting and wonderful, destinations. Santiago, Chile is one of my favorite cities in South America for this very reason. It’s got a big city feel, but without all of the crowds and pollution of the continent’s largest cities. It’s also just a stone throw from some of the most breathtaking mountains and incredible landscapes in the entire world.

Between the city’s beautiful glass skyscrapers, amazing historical center, and breathtaking snow-capped peaks that seem to cradle the city in their beauty, Santiago will capture your heart the moment you land. If you are into history, you will be fascinated by the architecture of the city’s many old buildings and amazing plazas like the Plaza de Armas. For those who are looking for a little relaxation, the nearby Maipo Valley is one of this world’s fastest growing wine regions. Not to mention, Santiago is nestled in one of the most beautiful parts of the Andes mountain range, with amazing parks like Parque Natural Quebrada de Macul waiting for you to explore them. And for those who aren’t up for venturing out into the mountains, amazing viewpoints like San Cristóbal Hill and Santa Lucía Hill offer amazing views of the mountains without having to leave the city. So if you’ve always longed to visit South America, I would suggest giving Santiago a look this year as I have no doubt that it will quickly capture your heart.

Budapest, Hungary

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Budapest, Hungary

If you are really looking forward to traveling internationally again this year, but you are working on a tight budget, I may have the perfect destination for you. Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, you will be very hard-pressed to find a city in Europe that is more beautiful than Budapest, Hungry. The city has an amazing mix of baroque, neoclassical, Eclectic and art nouveau buildings that make it one of the most picturesque cities you will ever visit. While the city’s beauty is not secret, many travelers are less aware of how budget friendly of a destination Budapest is. The combination of beauty and budget friendliness is what is quickly making Budapest one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.

The city is divided in half by the Danube River, with the hilly “Buda” district in the West and the flat “Pest” district in the East. You’ll want to spend time on each side of the city as they each have a wealth of history and culture to explore. Whether you decide to take a guided tour, walk the city yourself, or rent a bike for the day to explore the city, you will never be lacking in fun things to do and explore. The Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, Heroes’ Square, and the Széchenyi Thermal Baths are just some of the many attractions that make Budapest such a popular destination. So if you are looking to start venturing out internationally again this year, but are concerned about your budget, the beautiful city of Budapest is one of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations for you to consider.

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

This year isn’t going to be the typical travel year in many ways, and one of the most obvious is the places that people choose to travel to. This is something I tried to keep in mind when compiling my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations. While I do believe that we will see international travel open back up this year and people start to venture outside of their country to explore again, I think there will be a larger majority of travelers who decide to stick closer to home this year to play it safe. If you are really anxious to start traveling again, but would feel more comfortable sticking to destinations in North America, then I have a destination that you will absolutely love. While your neighbors head to the beach this summer, you can take a trip to the absolutely breathtaking Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska.

The state of Alaska has eight national parks, which is more than any other state in the United States. All of these parks are beautiful in their own way, but Kenai Fjords National Park may be the most beautiful of them all. Not only is the park home to some of the largest and most stunning glaciers on this planet, but it is a hotspot for marine wildlife as well. When visiting the park, visitors can take a boat ride to get close to the Exit Glacier, Bear Glacier, and the amazing Aialik Glacier to get a true sense of their size and power. While you’re out on the water, don’t be surprised if you see whales, dolphins, or other marine wildlife in the bays. For those who are real adventurous, you can take a kayak trip out amongst the icebergs to get a water-level view of the beauty. These are all reasons why Kenai Fjords National Park is on my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations.

The Great Lakes of the United States

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Great Lakes, United States

When most travelers think of epic outdoor adventure trips, chances are that their minds first go to amazing mountain and beach destinations. While the amazing mountain and beach locations on my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations are some of the best places to travel in the world, they certainly aren’t the only outdoor adventure spots worth considering for a big trip this year. In my opinion, one of the most overlooked and underappreciated areas of the United States for outdoor adventure travel is the Great Lakes Region. With roughly 4,530-miles (or approximately 7,290-kilometers) of shoreline to explore, hiking trails to conquer, quaint and beautiful Midwestern cities to visit, and a seemingly endless number of activities to enjoy, a trip to America’s Great Lakes may be just what the travel doctor ordered to cure your travel blues this year.

One of my favorite spots in the American Great Lakes region is the wonderful island of Mackinac in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. During the summer months, the island comes alive with tourists looking to escape to a simpler time. Horse-drawn carriage rides, salt water taffy and homemade fudge, long bike rides on the island’s many bike paths, and beautiful beaches are just some of the many attractions that make Mackinac Island so popular. For those who are more adventurous, taking a kayak tour at either the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan are always great options. You will be in awe as you maneuver along the cliffy shoreline and thru the many sea caves. However, you don’t have to get out onto the water to enjoy the beautiful landscapes in America’s Great Lakes Region. Iconic destinations such as the Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls in Minnesota are renown for their beauty and take little effort to enjoy. So if a relaxing trip away from the crowds is something you long to experience this year, you might want to consider slowing things down and enjoying a trip to the Great Lakes of the United States.

READ MORE:
Apsotle Islands
Apostle Islands Visitor Guide
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Splitrock Lighthouse Minnesota
Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls Visitor Guide

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Zanzibar, Tanzania

To this day, one of the most profoundly moving travel experiences I have had was my trip to the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania. It is very easy to get caught up in the beautiful beaches, unique cuisine, wonderful wildlife, and seemingly endless amount of sunshine when visiting this tiny island in Eastern Africa. However, what most travelers who haven’t visited Zanzibar might not realize is that the island has a very dark past. Used as the primary hub for the East African slave trade for more than 1,300-years, the scars of this horrible period of time can still be seen on the island today.

I can think of few other places in this world that have such an amazing combination of paradise and historical significance. That is why Zanzibar is on my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations. While much of the tourism industry in Zanzibar is centered around its amazing beaches and fascinating wildlife, what sets Zanzibar apart from other tropical beach destinations is the wealth of culture and history to be explored. Visitors who are interested in history can tour the Old Fort of Zanzibar, the Hamamni Persian Baths, the Mtoni Palace Ruins, or the infamous Old Slave Market/Anglican Cathedral. It is impossible not to be moved and deeply saddened when you see the slave quarters with your own eyes.

When you visit, I would also recommend taking a wildlife tour while on the island. The Chumbe Island Coral Park and Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park are two of the most popular options to tour. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot wildlife such as the bush tailed mongoose, dwarf antelope, small Indian civet, or the endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkey. In addition, no stop to Zanzibar is complete without a stop in the historic Stone Town. Exploring the city’s central market to shop for souvenirs or fresh spices is always fun. While you’re there, make sure you try the infamous Zanzibar Pizza that is sold at many of the street food vendors. It is unique and tasty, which is why it is so popular with foodies who visit the island. Speaking of food, one of the best spots for dinner is a restaurant like non other in the world. Not only does Zanzibar’s floating restaurant serve amazing local cuisine, but the fact that it is on a small floating island that you need to take a boat to is an experience you will remember forever.

READ MORE:
Zanzibar Tanzania
Zanzibar Visitor’s Guide

La Paz, Bolivia

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - La Paz, Bolivia

Nestled in a beautiful valley in between the mighty Andes mountains in western Bolivia sits one of South America’s most breathtaking cities and another of my Top 2021 Travel Destinations. Because of its altitude of nearly 12,000-feet (or roughly 3,639-meters), La Paz, Bolivia almost feels like it was built in the clouds. The brightly colored buildings in the city, back-dropped by the snow-capped peaks of the Andes, gives the city a magical, story-book type of feel. While it may not get as much attention as some of the most popular tourist destinations in South America, it isn’t because of a lack of amazing things to see and do in the city.

For travelers who are interested in history, you will be enthralled by the amount of history that can be seen and experienced in La Paz. Between the monuments and historical buildings in places like the Plaza Murillo, Plaza Murillo, and The Witches’ Market, you can spend days exploring the history and culture of the city. In addition to the history and cultural attractions in La Paz, there is also plenty of adventurous activities that you can enjoy in and around the city as well. The amazing rock formations and rock spires at Valley of the Moon and Valle De Las Animas, as well as the high peaks of Cotapata National Park, are all areas that adventure travelers will have fun exploring. So if you are anxious to start traveling internationally again this year, and are looking for one of the best places to travel to in South America, I would suggest you take a look at the beautiful city of La Paz, Bolivia.

Cork, Ireland

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Cork, Ireland

Out of all the locations on my list of the Top 2021 Travel Destinations, the incredible city of Cork, Ireland may be my favorite. Ireland is one of the best places to travel no matter what the year or the circumstance, but in this year of uncertainty, I think Cork is an especially desirable location for tourists who are looking to start venturing out internationally again. Not only is Cork filled with amazing historical and cultural treasures for visitors to explore, but the breathtaking countryside and coastline in Southern Ireland beckons travelers to spend a good deal of their time outside where it is easy to socially distance.

I don’t think many travelers understand just how magical of a place Ireland really is until they set foot on the island. In addition to having some of the most breathtaking coastline in the world, including jaw-droppingly beautiful Cliffs of Moher, some of the most amazing castles in Europe can be found in the Republic of Ireland. For visitors staying in Cork, I would recommend taking a trip to the nearby Blarney Castle and kissing the infamous Blarney Stone. If you are heading to Cork from Dublin, you can also stop by Cahir to tour the incredible Cahir Castle, which I think is one of Ireland’s prettiest. And if that isn’t enough to give you your castle fix, I would suggest booking an overnight stay at the wonderful Dromoland Castle Hotel. There aren’t many places in the world where you can actually stay overnight in an actual castle.

However, castles aren’t the only thing that makes a trip to Cork, Ireland special. If you are into golf, I can think of few other places in this world that can capture a golfer’s attention than Ireland. Just south of the city of Cork, you will find the infamous Old Head Golf Links, which is the most breathtakingly beautiful and challenging golf course I have ever played. With nearly ever hole on the coast, you will have your camera in your hands as much as your clubs when you play a round. After hitting the links, I would suggest taking a drive along the Ring of Kerry to view some of the area’s prettiest landscapes and see some of the area’s most important historical spots. It’s just another one of the many attractions near Cork, Ireland that make this destination such a great choice for travelers who want to start exploring again this year.

READ MORE:
Blarney Castle Ireland
Blarney Castle Visitor’s Guide

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Top 2021 Travel Destinations - Riviera Maya, Mexico

Let’s face it, after a long and cold winter, a beach vacation is going to look mighty appealing to most travelers looking to not only escape the cold, but to get away from the isolation of quarantines and lockdowns. While the final destination on my Top 2021 Travel Destinations list may not be as far-flung as some of the other locations on the list, for many travelers it is a comfortable location because it is such a known commodity. For many, the beautiful beaches of Mexico are something that they are familiar with and comfortable with because they have traveled there before. In a year with so much uncertainty, the comfort level of knowing the place you are traveling to becomes even more important.

None of this takes away from the breathtaking beauty of the Riviera Maya. Just because it is a well-known and popular tourist destination for many people, that doesn’t mean it lacks intrigue and mystery as a vacation destination. On the contrary, I can think of few places in North America that have as much intrigue and mystery as the Mayan Coast of Mexico. All it takes is a willingness to forgo the usual crowded beach spots and venture off the beaten path. With attractions like the wonderful ruins at Tulum and the infamous Chichén Itzá, incredible Cenotes such as EcoRanchoMayamar and Casa Cenote, and outdoor theme parks such as Xcaret to explore, there is never a shortage of things to do in the Riviera Maya. So instead of just booking another beach getaway in Mexico, book a trip to the Riviera Maya and start exploring the areas off the beach for a vacation you’ll remember for a lifetime.

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8 replies »

  1. I’d love to go to just about any place on your list this year but I especially want to go to Portugal and Astoria, Oregon. My daughter is dying to go to Iceland. Big Sur is also high on my list but with all of the mudslides and forest fires they recently had I’m not sure it’s the best time to go.

    • Thanks for you comment! Portugal is super high on my list as well. I completely agree on Big Sur. Might be best to hold off on that until later this year. I’ll be there next week, so will let you all know how accessible it is. You will absolutely LOVE the coast of Oregon. Just as pretty as Big Sur!

  2. A good variety of options here. I agree that outdoorsy trips are going to be particularly popular this year so people can still keep their space.
    My Utah trip in 2020 was cancelled so I’d love to get there (and to Moab) this year if at all possible 🙂

    Hope you get some adventure yourself!

    • Thanks Jason! I’ve got my fingers crossed that things start to open up as the year progresses and that you get to take that Utah trip! 👍

  3. I would happily go to any and every place on this list (and I’ve already been to a couple of them) – just get me outta the Midwest!!! Just pulled the trigger on our main accommodation for spring break in Palm Springs after hemming and hawing for a month when the variants emerged, but I live in constant fear that COVID will derail our plans.

  4. Well 2020 was a hard year to go but now the long lockdown is opening up slowly which makes travelers curious to visit different countries and places and this blog is a great help for creating your bucketlist to travel the world.

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