We’ve rounded up the places that are coming into their own.
Perhaps 2020 was the year you’d planned to travel in a big way. The year you’d seek out secret beaches muttered about by in-the-know locals. The year you’d camp in a rainforest, see waters lit by bioluminescence and have a celebratory swig of something strong atop a wind-battered mountain.
Instead, 2020 was the year the world took a breath and travel had to reinvent itself. After the colossal earth-shake of the pandemic, what’s certain is that we’re going to be travelling more thoughtfully from hereon in. But perhaps, also, more gleefully. We will appreciate every lingering orange-slice sunset; we will feel every grain as our toes sink into the sand. We’ll think harder about how our journeys affect local communities and do more research into where our money is best spent. And while the way we travel might change, what we want from our precious holidays is, and will always remain, the same.
That’s why we’ve taken great care in selecting our top holiday destinations for 2021. On the list you’ll find a geographically diverse range of trips, from eco-cool enclaves in Central America to remote art outposts in the United Arab Emirates. As always, we’ve listened to the surfers, the architecture buffs and the foodies; we’ve considered go-slow camping spots in Australia as well as buzzy African metropolises. With events such as the Olympic Games in Tokyo being postponed to 2021, we’ve thought about how these shifts will influence the holidays we take. There are some destinations that have been on our radar for a while – Vietnam, the Caribbean – and there are those that are reckoning with their own difficult past and, as is the case with Charleston, undergoing an important process of reinvention. As 2020 has been the year of the staycation and while UK breaks are at an all-time high, we’ve included not one but three UK hotspots to know about in 2021.
Whatever your tastes, these are some of the best holiday destinations for 2021. Of course, the options are endless, and the world will always be there for exploring (do check FCO advice and what the latest travel quarantine rules are before travelling), but this is our pick of the spots that should not be missed.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, CARIBBEAN
THE ECO-COOL CARIBBEAN NATION
From social-enterprise tours in Puerto Rico to community-run nature reserves in Antigua, the Caribbean is big on eco-tourism right now. But powering the trend for all things lo-fi is the easy breezy Dominican Republic. It’s already a place of mangrove lagoons, hundreds of miles of coastline and humpback-whale-rich seas, and now a growing brood of laid-back wellness retreats and green lodges are making it more alluring than ever.
Properties such as the community-owned Sonido del Yaque riverside mountain lodge are changing the landscape when it comes to sustainable stays. Elsewhere, coral reef protection initiatives are delivering specialised training to local businesses and communities, while restoration projects – designed to revive the floundering staghorn coral populations – employ Dominican divers and provide plenty of voluntourism opportunities. Local fishermen are getting in on the act too, getting prime rates for catches of invasive lionfish, which are plucked from the waters and served up on the plates of beachside restaurants.
And this is a place that demands protecting. Not least because of its hidden network of petroglyph-filled caves, or its wild, remote and untouched beaches, such as the pristine Bahía de Las Aguilas, part of the flamingo-flecked Jaragua National Park. But also because, after recent controversies, the country is fighting to claim its rightful spot as an eco-haven. A claim it definitely deserves.