21 of the Best Destinations to Visit in 2021

We’ve reconfigured, reconsulted and redrawn the destinations we’re looking forward to visiting in 2021 (or 2020 part two, as we’re calling in it). Get ready to plan your escape.

Seeing as last year's 20 destinations to visit in 2020 didn't go as planned, we've reconfigured, reconsulted and redrawn the destinations we're looking forward to visiting in 2021 (or 2020 part two, as we're calling in it). Featuring some old favourites, recommended places from the year that wasn't meant to be and the locales drawing on community spirit to lead a cultural resurgence, these are the must-visits for 2021. Ready, set, escape.

Plan your escape: 21 destinations to (hopefully) visit in 2021



Leave the dreamcatcher tattoos and fedora-wearing influencers in Tulum and, instead, schlep across to this easy-going, Mexican surfing town. Attracting counterculture icons since the 60s - big names such as Andy Warhol, Jack Kerouac and Timothy Leary, who organised an LSD convention at Hotel Catalina - Zihuatanejo has managed to stay relatively under the radar thanks to its hard-to-reach location. Closer to Guatemala than the US, slammed up against mountainous terrain and requiring a layover in Mexico City, Zihua - as it's affectionately known - has kept its sense of grit and lack of pretension. You'll see it in the lunch carts selling tamales, in the throbbing central market and in the fishermen that sell their catch at Paseo del Pescador. It's little wonder that the pristine beaches were the IRL location for Andy and Red to live out their post-prison days in The Shawshank Redemption - post-pandemic, we'll be joining them.



Staycations are here to stay. We're billing this once-forgotten British seaside town as the new Shoreditch, and not just because it's being populated by Londoners priced out of the capital. Pack up all preconceptions of grotty bingo halls, forgotten piers and faded seaside glamour as Southend-on-Sea is shaking off its brash image and undergoing a cultural revival thanks to a community of grassroot creatives. Focal Point Gallery works directly with local schools and neighbourhoods to get young people to challenge the way people think about locality, while "artistic laboratory" Metal takes disused buildings and turns them into cultural hubs. Southend's contemporary-art scene is booming. Check online for an extensive calendar of events and workshops run by local artists.


After being cooped up for so long, we're itching to embark on a proper adventure. Having watched Chad emerge as an alternative safari destination for intrepid travellers, we're re-tipping this larger-than-life African nation as a must-visit destination for those wishing to throw themselves out of their comfort zone. Trek the Sahara, embark on a conservation-focused safari, visit the lively port capital of N'Djamena or visit Lake Chad, one it's one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world - slow-placed towns cluster at the water's edge. Gaze beyond the headline attractions to discover diverse landscapes and a vibey cultural scene.



A rural part of Spain that remains relatively unspoiled by visitors - Teruel is less Costa del Sol and more Wild West in topography thanks to the gorges cut by rivers, ravines fringed by pine forests, medieval villages fed by hot springs - oh, and Michelin-star worthy tapas bars. It's beautiful but it's difficult to get to. You'll need a car, a sturdy one, as there's no motorway from Madrid or direct rail service, but herein lies its rustic allure. Potter - literally, the roads are a pot-holed filled nightmare - around the province's capital, Teruel, where a beguiling mishmash of medieval and Neo-Mudéjar architecture awaits. Imagine the modernist architecture from Barcelona next to the Moorish buildings from Seville and you're somewhat there. Still not sold? There are more wine bars per capita in Teruel than any other Spanish city.



Plenty of islands in Japan have garnered our attention over the past few years, such as art-filled Naoshima and Ise-Shima, home to Shinto shrines and the Ama free-divers. But we're especially excited by the news that Ikuchijima island will welcome Adrian Zecha - the brains behind hotel brand Aman - and Japanese hospitality group Naru Developments' new hotel brand Azumi in the early spring. Consider Ikuchijima Japan's answer to Greece's Ionian Islands - expect citrus groves, forested slopes and shrines teetering on the edge of rock faces. Aside from Azumi Setoda, which is set to take root in a 140-year old Japanese compound, you'll find Santorini-blue beaches, a thriving market town and a section of the 70km Shimanami Kaido cycling route.



A more adventurous alternative to the Windows 98' screensaver beaches of Mustique, St Barths or the Cayman Islands. Montserrat was dubbed the "Pompei of the Caribbean" after the eruptions of Soufrière Hills volcano in the 1990s forced the island to abandon its capital and evict most of its population. Yet two decades on, the island population is increasing, lured by job opportunities in the sand-mining and geothermal energy industries. A trickling of travellers are also following suit, eager to embark on volcano-focused escapades but also attracted by the breezy, bygone charm of a Caribbean island that has yet to succumb to the pressure of cruise ships and tax-evading expats.


Despite being grounded for almost the entirety of 2020, there's a smattering of destinations that have seen their flight schedules increase as opposed to drastically decline. A testament to curious travellers' growing interest in Pakistan, British Airways and Qatar Airways have both upped their weekly flights to the country's capital, Islamabad. After trawling the bustling and sometimes overwhelming city filled with the country's most iconic mosques, monuments and museums, you'll want to reset. Divert to the Kaghan Valley where mountain-top lakes and tales of Pakistani folklore shroud the area in a beautiful, fairy-tale haze. Heavy snowfall between November and May can seriously disrupt travel plans in Pakistan. We'd recommend visiting in June or July, when the roads, valleys and the Babusar Pass are sure to be uninterrupted by glaciers.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

No longer characterised by images of war and trauma, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country brimming with bountiful nature and a rich history that provides an insight to Europe's multi-faceted past. Sidestep the dark-tourism sites - buildings peppered with the scars of gunfire and shells - in favour of seeking out the country's lush, dramatic valleys. Mostar should be top of your list for a break with bae; it's jagged, mountainous backdrop and romantic bridges make it a more affordable (and less crowded) option to Venice. Schedule a stop in Neum, Bosnia's only coastal town, which flies almost completely under the radar of tourists.



Oahu is undergoing something of a cultural resurgence kickstarted by a community keen to turn the spotlight to their eccentric artistic history. Between its galleries and museums, you'll find Paiko boutique hosting workshops on the island's traditional crafts and Waikiki Beachcomber, a boutique hotel that's played a huge part in the resurgence by showcasing local artist's work - spot it in the room, see murals by the pools and sculptures scattered through the grounds.


United Kingdom

As 2021's City of Culture, Coventry is intent on celebrating the arts at a time when the sector is under intense pressure. Highlighting its resilience and determination, the city will embark on an all-eventualities-covered calendar of celebrations. The Turner Prize lands at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum from September to January; a canal boat will ring a bell each time a book is taken from its onboard library; and, as part of the Streets of Cultures programme, poetry will be scribbled on pavements, dance parties hosted on front lawns and al fresco dinner parties thrown in driveaways. We'll take a seat at that table, please.



Dubbed the "door of the desert" thanks to its proximity to the Sahara, Ouarzazate is often seen as simply a pit-stop to rehydrate before you board your vehicle (camel/ quad/ 4x4) into the desert. But since the roads between Ouarzazate have started to be repaired, visiting the arid city has attracted the attention of those wishing to avoid the medinas of Marrakech and Tangier. Film fan? The town and its surrounding areas have hosted so many productions they've been nicknamed "Ouallywood" - the nearby citadel of Ait Ben Haddou appearances as Yunkai in the Games of Thrones. Alongside touring the kasbah, fit in a sunrise visit to Fint Oasis.



Costa Blanca may be plagued with brutalist 80s resorts and over-development, but catch a fishing boat across to Tabarca Island and you'll an unspoiled taste of the Mediterranean that scarcely exists elsewhere. It's just off the coast of Alicante, less than two kilometres long and has no roads, no cars and some of the best scuba diving in the world thanks to the 1400-hectare marine reserve. In high season, hundreds of day-trippers descend on the shanty seafood shacks serving up portions of caldero tabarquino - a rice dish not too dissimilar to paella but with potatoes and aioli instead of a tomato-based sauce - so we suggest visiting off-season. Springtime will likely see just you and a handful of the 60 permanent islanders soaking up sun on the shores.



Yerevan, Armenia's largest and capital city, featured on our 20 hot destinations to visit in 2020 list. That list never got off the ground, so we're revisiting its best recommendations. Famous for more than giving us the Kardashian klan - and images of Kanye splashing about in Swan Lake - Yerevan is a visual interpretation of old vs new, east vs west. Traditional pandoks (taverns) teeming with locals rub shoulders with moody, European-style wine bars; spaceship-looking, Soviet-era buildings shoulder modern structures; and the food scene rivals that of the Basque Country - Armenian wine is drunk more freely and frequently than imports. If it's a foodie foray you're after, you'd be foolish to overlook this city.



Of course, all types of travellers have had it hard this year - the spa breakers are DIY-ing and the fed-up foodies have blitzed everything in the fridge - but it's the shackled city breakers that we particularly feel for. If you're seeking wild weekends filled with bars, museums and trolley-hoping to neighbourhoods that are nearly pretty as Vienna and as purse-positive as Warsaw, then consider Lithuania's second city. Basking in all things alternative, you'll find some of Lithuania's largest street murals occupying disused buildings in the old town, vintage markets cropping up in courtyards and a devil-worshipping museum - shockingly the only one in the world - should you want to find your housemate an appropriate souvenir.


Also present on last year's list, Guyana is arguably South America's best-kept secret. Capital city Georgetown is heavy on the Caribbean vibes, while the raw natural landscapes teeming with rainforests surrounding it are prime territory for raw adventures along bumpy roads. Travellers that have been captivated by Costa Rica's eco-conscious credentials will be big fans of the community-run wildlife projects that help preserve Guyana's remote rainforests. Can't figure out where it sits on the map? It's sandwiched between Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname and with a five-hour flight time from New York's JFK airport, it's not as hard to reach as you might have anticipated.

Hel Peninsula


Seeing as we're huge fans of our own UK seaside revival - Margate, Deal and Whitby are the site of some of our favourite summer-staycation memories - we're keen to sing the praises of the wallet-friendly Polish Riviera. German sun-seekers have long been fans of the 33km fine-sand beaches backed by beech forests, but it's taken a little longer for the UK to catch on. Sidestep the ritzy Sopot - dubbed the Polish Monaco - in favour of Rewal. It's a little more off-grid but you'll be blessed with back-to-nature beaches. Like this? Take a trip to the Masurian Lake District where you'll find lakes prettier than Slovenia's Bled and design-driven dwellings such as Hotel 69, which are breathing new life into a Soviet-era building with its artist residence projects.

Muskoka Lakes


After our stint with the Great Indoors, we're fleeing for the hills. Offering big gulps of fresh air and plenty of freshwater lakes - ideal for ice skating in the winter and water-skiing in the summer - it's billed as the Canadian version of the Hamptons and fondly called "cottage country" by Ontario natives. Indeed, the Muskoka Lakes is set to be our next great escape. Despite the influx of A-list celebrities and part of Lake Rosseau being billed as "Billionaire's Row", there's still part of the lakes that retain a wholesome allure. Eschew the super-charged speedboats in favour of the paddles and canoes found in the northern lakes and pitch up in Algonquin. It's here you'll find the cabin-porn cottages you've poured over on Pinterest and the pancake houses dishing up breakfast drowning in locally sourced maple syrup.

Kelham Island

Sheffield, UK

"Island" is probably a misleading term. Don't expect swaying palms and azure waters. Sheffield's former industrial hub has transitioned into the city's coolest quarter. If we want to get technical, it's not an island at all but a man-made goit on the River Don that was constructed to power the water wheels in the 19th century. Fast forward to the 1980s and the first seeds of Kelham's regeneration had been sown - although it wasn't until recently that the area's potential fully bloomed, fuelled by a cooperative of independent business. Make reservations at Jöro, housed in a shipping container with a locavore menu that's got Michelin sniffing around, and nibble your way through Cutlery Works, the largest food hall in the north.



Truth be told we're a little sick of Greek islands touting themselves as the "new Santorini". Instead, we're seeking out the low-key islands that have fought off foreign investment and retained even the slightest bit of whatever attracted everyone there in the first place. Often overshadowed by neighbouring Dodecanese islands Kos and Rhodes - not that we're complaining - Symi is our 2021 summer spot. Elaborate Italianate mansions can be found lining the harbour, grapevine-covered courtyards dish out freshly squeezed sorbet and, on some of the island's beaches, such as Marathounda, you're more likely to be joined by a herd of goats than other guests. We recommended captaining a boat to Nanou Beach, where lunchtimes are spent scooping up traditional Symi shrimp from taverna Spitiko. Make use of the hilly terrain and follow the old donkey trails that lead you to some of the island's most captivating views.

Charleston, South Carolina

United States

One of several US cities facing up to their turbulent history after the successful revival of the Black Lives Matter movement, Charleston is carving out a new identity. For a long time, the city has relied on its southern-belle charm to woo visitors but let's not forget that it once was the epicentre of the slave trade - 40 per cent of all slaves in the US passed through Charleston. In 2022 the International African American museum will open - instead of shying away from the city's past, they're working on ways to honour it. Black Food Fridays, started by KJ Kearney, a community organiser and Charleston City Paper columnist, sets out a food map to honour the incredible Black-owned restaurants, food trucks and takeaways in the area, while conNECKtedTOO has compiled a list of the Black makers, movers and creative shakers that have massively influenced this South Carolina city's arts, culture and music scene.



Long lauded as the closest thing to heaven on Earth, Jiuzhaigou is a real-life Monet painting with its labyrinth of rainbow-reflecting lakes, ribbon-like waterfalls and sing-song bird soundtrack usually heard accompanying an Attenborough documentary. We realise Jiuzhaigou isn't exactly off the beaten track and plenty have experienced its natural beauty in the past, but considering we've spent the last year staring at the same grey walls we're seeking out beautiful landscapes like a magpie hell-bent on seeking out silver.

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