Where to go in 2021: 11 destinations to rediscover travel

Please note: travel restrictions remain in place owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Be sure to check the latest travel advice and explore current Covid rules & regulations by country.

Kirsten Henton

Kirsten Henton

The year of 2020 will be remembered for many things - the distressing cancellation of much-needed holidays among them. However, eternal optimists and buoyed by ever-developing news of vaccines and increased testing, we know many of you feel spurred to start thinking about your adventures in 2021 and beyond.

Where to go on holiday in 2021 - Fuerteventura, Canaries © Elena Krivorotova - Adobe Stock Image
Where to go on holiday in 2021 - Fuerteventura, Canaries © Elena Krivorotova - Adobe Stock Image

To help you feel reinspired about travelling again and start planning that long-awaited escape, we've shared a handful of destinations cited in a recent YouGov survey which looked at places people are dreaming of visiting in the coming months.

1. Spain

Did you know that Spain has the most Blue Flag-winning beaches of any country in the world? Close to 600, in fact. These award-winning shores of all shapes and sizes, be it on the mainland, in the Canaries or the Balearics, make up just part of the reason the country consistently pulls in more holidaymakers from the UK than anywhere else.

Cala Mitjana on the south coast of Menorca © Stuart Black - Alamy Stock Photo
Cala Mitjana on the south coast of Menorca © Stuart Black - Alamy Stock Photo

Add the history, culture and tasty tapas found in cities such as the capital Madrid, Bilbao (where it's more about the pintxo), Valencia (home of paella), Seville and everywhere in between, and it's easy to see why Spain's a hit with city breakers, too.

And for those who love the more rustic rural life, the mountains, lakes and forests of westerly Extremadura, vineyards of Rioja, walking trails of Menorca and the highest peak of Mount Teide in Tenerife demonstrate the diversity that can be found for every type of outdoor activity be it cycling, hiking, camping or just sitting back and wine tasting.

Spain really does have a little bit of everything for everyone and with some of the reliably best weather in Europe, it's no wonder we're longing to return.

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2. France

France is a comfortingly familiar destination for a lot of UK holidaymakers. Much like Spain, it too has broad appeal from its sophisticated Mediterranean and wild Atlantic beaches to its refined cities and mega mountains.

Paris, the City of Light © Saiko3p - Adobe Stock Image
Paris, the City of Light © Saiko3p - Adobe Stock Image

Crucially, it's also easy to get to in these uncertain times, with the prospect of sailing across the Channel or whizzing through the tunnel more acceptable than flying at present.

France manages to pivot its offering, ensuring it's a truly year-round destination. Sunnier months are awash with those soaking up rays on its beaches from Normandy to Nice, while people tackle watersports, hiking, cycling and rafting down some of the country's magnificent gorges.

As the seasons change, you'll see vineyards heavy with grapes ripe for the harvest lining the countryside and city breaks come into their own with the likes of Paris oozing the sophistication we all know and love and Marseille tempting with some late sunshine. By the darker winter months, powder lovers descend on some of Europe's finest ski resorts.

Throw in delicious French cuisine, some of the world's best wines, museums, galleries, designer shops, and it's no great surprise that France draws such a diverse range of travellers from January to December.

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3. Italy

History and nature collided to create the marvellous melting pot that is Italia. Brimming with ancient ruins, sites and mountains as well as cosmopolitan cities and some of the Mediterranean's most exquisite beaches, Italy remains one of the dreamiest holiday destinations for UK travellers.

The Colosseum in Rome is the size of a modern football stadium © Scaliger - Adobe Stock Image
The Colosseum in Rome is the size of a modern football stadium © Scaliger - Adobe Stock Image

There's accommodation for every budget - think extreme luxury, indy hotels, affordable B&Bs, glamping and campsites - as well as the very best traditional and modern take on unrivalled Italian cuisine. Think you know your pizzas? No trip to Italy is complete for any pizza aficionado without taste-testing or even taking a pro cookery class in the home of doughy goodness, Naples.

While opulent Milan, arty Florence, history-stuffed Rome and the waterways of Venice continue to enthral those after an urban escape, hire a car to cruise the scenic Neapolitan Riviera or wind your way around the villa-studded countryside of Tuscany. Further south, the beaches and bays of Sicily, Calabria and Puglia provide ample space for sunbathing, sailing and watersports.

There really is no reason not to go to Italy in 2021, just remember that August is often the month that cities shut down as Italians escape the heat for the cooler climes inland or by the sea.

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4. UK

If there's a silver lining to 2020, it has to be the realisation by so many that you don't always need to look across the sea for a fun-filled holiday. This island may be small but it's hugely diverse and this summer exposed its delights to more of its inhabitants than ever before.

Limestone landscape of the Yorkshire Dales © Helen Hotson - Adobe Stock Image
Limestone landscape of the Yorkshire Dales © Helen Hotson - Adobe Stock Image

With lots of people keen to escape not just their homes but their cities, the countryside became a real focus and now the secret's out. We have some of the most beautiful, challenging and inviting landscapes from the rugged coast of Pembrokeshire to the rocky tops of the Peak District, fishing ports of North Yorkshire and isles of western Scotland.

A good way to start your UK adventure is to look to the national parks. There are 14 across England, Wales and Scotland so it's about finding the right one to hook your trip around.

For highland escapades, the Cairngorms is alive with wildlife while the sedate pace of the Yorkshire Dales is where to sample Wensleydale cheese and locally-brewed beer. Delve into Britain's Roman past in Northumberland and spot wild horses in the New Forest.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is easily accessed by ferry for its cultural capital Belfast, the geological phenomenon of the Giant's Causeway and distilleries for whiskey tasting, among other attractions.

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5. Canada

There are plenty of reasons to visit Canada in 2021, not least because it's one giant, socially-distanced playground for nature, wildlife and adventure seekers. That it also has some seriously trendy cities with hip beer and foodie scenes is merely an added bonus.

Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Canada © lucky-photo - Fotolia.com
Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Canada © lucky-photo - Fotolia.com

A popular way of dipping your toe into this sprawling North American nation is to hire your own set of wheels and set off on a road trip to see as much as possible. While Canada needs no introduction to winter sports enthusiasts, the weather during the dark winter months can be challenging and arguably best left to those who have an affinity with driving with snow tyres or are thinking of a ski break.

Alternatively, plan a holiday from spring to welcome Vancouver's cherry blossom season or call by the Ottawa tulip festival en route to the mountain passes and turquoise lakes Canada is famous for.

Make for the wilderness - adequately equipped with an expert guide - to sniff out grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountains, take a cruise to see resident orcas and migratory passers-by in July and August, hop in a Canadian canoe for a paddle to remember and go glamping in the woods in rural Yukon.

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6. Iceland

Pack your hiking boots, thermals and waterproofs for an epic exploration of The Land of Ice and Fire in 2021. Iceland continues to mesmerise travellers and, with an increased appetite for rural adventures, it ticks so many boxes as a destination for the curious.

Volcanic landscape around Stokksnes in Eastern Iceland © Aleksei Potov - Adobe Stock Image
Volcanic landscape around Stokksnes in Eastern Iceland © Aleksei Potov - Adobe Stock Image

Its fierce, unforgiving landscape, forged over millennia, plays host to striking waterfalls, punchy geysers, glaciers, lava fields and thermal waters.

As a result, Iceland is a dream for hiking along craters and through lava tunnels, hillwalking up volcanoes like Snæfellsjökull, diving in Silfra between the tectonic plates of Eurasia and North America and bathing in the warmer therapeutic thermal springs. Other guided activities include white water rafting, whale watching and taking an extreme 4X4 ride across the island's barren landscape.

Most people choose to stay for a period in Iceland's quirky capital, Reykjavik. It's become quite the hotspot for creative cuisine with a Michelin-starred restaurant and many cool indy outlets dishing up all sorts of inventive takes of traditional Icelandic fare.

Shops sell local crafts while local beer can be sampled straight from the tap at RVK Brewing Company. There's surely no better way to (re)acquaint yourself with Mother Nature than on an outdoorsy holiday to Iceland.

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7. Norway

With its dramatic landscape and captivating history, Norway has boat-loads to offer culture vultures and nature enthusiasts. Thanks to its mountains, fjords, valleys and Viking tales, Norway enchants all who visit, whether during the warmer, lighter summer months or the freezing bite of winter.

Spectacular scenery of the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway © Dell - Adobe Stock Image
Spectacular scenery of the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway © Dell - Adobe Stock Image

There are many ways to explore the delights of Norway. You might opt for a city break setting up camp in the capital Oslo. Visit the likes of The Viking Ship Museum, Munch Museum or nearby Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.

You can also use Oslo or the likes of water-side Bergen, with its distinctive little red houses, as a base from which to delve into the surrounding countryside and take short day trips or ferry rides.

Alternatively, you might set sail for a few nights cruising the rocky fjords, calling at small towns dotted around the Lofoten Islands, as well as Ersfjordbotn and Tromso as you head further north in search of the elusive Aurora Borealis, best seen between the beginning of October and the end of March.

You could, of course, hire a car and hit the curves of the famed Atlantic Ocean Road, traverse Norway's excellent railway network or make for the ski resorts of the northerly Lyngen Alps to try your feet at cross country skiing.

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8. Japan

The archipelago of Japan is hoping to regain its moment in the spotlight in 2021 with the rescheduled Olympic Games due to take place from late July to early August. Whether you're drawn for the competition-that-nearly-never-was or the multitude of other reasons that make it enduringly popular with travellers, 2021 is certainly the year to experience all that Japan has to offer.

Spring blossom at the Chureito Pagoda, Fujiyoshida © Aleksei Potov - Adobe Stock Image
Spring blossom at the Chureito Pagoda, Fujiyoshida © Aleksei Potov - Adobe Stock Image

The buzz of cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, where your every shopping and ramen-need is easily met, contrasts starkly with the beaches of Okinawa and remote ski resorts of northern Hokkaido. The freshest sushi and traditional multi-course banquets are readily available while sights such as Mount Fuji, the iconic cherry blossom (go in early spring), skyscrapers, temples and calming bamboo forests all await.

Invest in a Japan Rail Pass to set about your travels via the uber-efficient and highly comfortable Shinkansens that zoom up and down the country every day. The climate, meanwhile, varies greatly throughout Japan, and while summers are typically warm-to-hot, winters can encompass thick snowstorms in the north at the same time as warm days in the far south.

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9. Denmark

Super-cool Denmark is another country that beautifully combines cultural and natural attractions in one, and is especially good for arty folk. It's easy to get to from the UK, with the option to take the ferry or tunnel and make a road trip of it if you're avoiding flying.

The historic 17th-century waterfront of Copenhagen © Sergii Figurnyi - Adobe Stock Image
The historic 17th-century waterfront of Copenhagen © Sergii Figurnyi - Adobe Stock Image

Cosmopolitan Copenhagen has all the hipster bars, Michelin-starred restaurants (17, no less), gardens, galleries and boutique shops you could wish for. Travel through the ages of sleek Danish interiors at the fabulous Design Museum Denmark or the informative National Museum of Denmark before indulging in a smørrebrød, a creatively constructed open sandwich, typical of Scandinavia, on the waterfront of the city's Nyhavn.

Away from the capital, other urban treats can be found in Aarhus, notably the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum - don't miss the rainbow walkway - and traditional wooden architecture of days gone by.

As well as rocky bays, isles and forests made for sailing and trekking, you may be surprised to learn that Denmark has a swathe of sandscapes. Put on your hiking boots to visit the abandoned Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, which you can reach by clambering the mega dunes that now surround it, and Rabjerg Mile, the largest migrating sand dune in Northern Europe.

Add a final flourish to your holiday in Denmark by nipping over the border for a day in Malmö, Sweden. Getting there is half the fun as it'll take you across Øresund Bridge of TV's The Bridge fame.

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10. Puerto Rico

After an uncertain and challenging year, many people are just desperate for a reliably relaxing and beautiful beach break with fantastic weather. No need to look any further for that than Puerto Rico. An unincorporated US territory, this Caribbean island may be under the American rule of law but it has an identity, character and heritage all of its own.

Flamenco Beach, Isla de Culebra, Puerto Rico © Sonu Visuals - Adobe Stock Image
Flamenco Beach, Isla de Culebra, Puerto Rico © Sonu Visuals - Adobe Stock Image

For holidaymakers, Puerto Rico ticks a lot of boxes. You've got the platinum beaches and warm Caribbean waters, made for swimming, snorkelling, diving and all sorts of watersports such as standup paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing and surfing.

Then there are the magnificent mountains and bountiful rainforests of the interior such as in The Caribbean National Forest, known locally as El Yunque. This tropical rainforest is alive with wildlife and boasts a wonderful network of hiking routes, often to the many waterfalls inviting you for a refreshing dip.

But it's not all seascapes and rural forest trails. Puerto Rico has a buzzing capital, San Juan, where its once-Spanish-ruled past can be seen in the architecture and fortress ruins that beg to be explored. For night owls, Puerto Rico has plenty of late-night bars and clubs that pump lively local music into the wee hours.

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11. Egypt

Voyage through the ages on a holiday to Egypt in 2021. Visit the vibrant capital of Cairo, see the pyramids in all their glory, cruise down the Nile and wander the ruins of ancient temples at the likes of the Valley of Kings and Queens, Luxor and Abu Simbel.

The ancient pyramids of Giza, Egypt © Sculpies - Adobe Stock Image
The ancient pyramids of Giza, Egypt © Sculpies - Adobe Stock Image

Opt for the full desert experience with a night camping under the stars or retreat to your luxury cabin aboard a vintage paddle steamer - either way, you're sure to treasure any time spent in this majestic part of North Africa.

If, however, you prefer your holiday more beachy than history, look no further than Egypt's Red Sea coast. Great value holidays to the well-equipped resorts and bustling hotels of this azure seascape are in abundance and with ample international restaurants and bars, it's sure to be a lively yet relaxing break.

While giving in to simply sunbathing is actively encouraged, day trips into the desert, sunset cruises and scuba diving experiences promise to complete any trip. And, of course, the weather in Egypt is hugely attractive, whether you like the high heat and sunny days of summer or warm, more comfortable climes for some winter sun.

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Where's safe to go in 2021?

The burning question for lots of would-be travellers is "Where's safe to go in 2021?" and the answer is an ever-changing list of destinations.

In part, the issue is not so much where's safe in relation to coronavirus figures but where's practical in terms of the need to quarantine on arrival or return. Booking somewhere now that is deemed as 'safe' in this respect could be a gamble as it may change closer to your departure date or even while you're there.

English Harbour, Antigua, from the Shirley Heights Lookout © travnikovstudio - Fotolia.com
English Harbour, Antigua, from the Shirley Heights Lookout © travnikovstudio - Fotolia.com

However, with news of possible vaccine success, increased testing and the likely reduction in the time required to quarantine, everything is moving in the right direction to give you confidence that your travels in 2021 will go ahead, if only with a little potential inconvenience.

About the table: the below destinations feature in our safe list as there is no travel ban on travellers arriving from the UK and the country is open for tourism.

Region Open for tourism Pre-departure On arrival in destination On return
Andorra1 Yes (See entry requirements for France and Spain) PCR test No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
Antigua Yes PCR test No quarantine required (All tourists are carefully monitored in their hotels) Quarantine in the UK
Aruba1 Yes PCR test No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
Bahamas1 Yes PCR test No quarantine required (Mandatory 2nd test on Day 5 after arrival) Quarantine in the UK
Barbados Yes PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (Antigen test on arrival + mandatory 2nd PCR test 5 days after arrival) Quarantine in the UK
Bulgaria1 Yes PCR test No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
Cambodia Yes (All land borders are closed) PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 Quarantine in the UK
Cape Verde1 Yes PCR test No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
Costa Rica1 Yes   No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
Croatia1 Yes   Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (2nd test 7 days after arrival to end quarantine) Quarantine in the UK
Cuba Yes PCR test No quarantine required (2nd PCR test on arrival + a 3rd on Day 5) Quarantine in the UK
Dominican Republic1 Yes PCR test No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
Egypt1 Yes PCR test No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
France1 Yes PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (Mandatory 2nd test after 7 days of quarantine) Quarantine in the UK
Gambia1 Yes PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (Mandatory 2nd test on arrival for UK travellers) Quarantine in the UK
Greece Yes PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (2nd mandatory test for all arrivals from the UK, followed by another on Day 7) Quarantine in the UK
Grenada Yes (Direct flights from the UK are suspended until further notice) PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (2nd test 5 days after arrival to end quarantine on Day7) Quarantine in the UK
Ireland Yes PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (2nd test on Day 5 to shorten quarantine) Quarantine in the UK
Italy1 Yes PCR or Antigen test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (Mandatory 2nd test on Day 5 to end quarantine) Quarantine in the UK
Jersey Yes PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (Mandatory further tests 5 &10 days after arrival) Quarantine in the UK
Kenya1 Yes (Flights between Kenya & the UK are currently suspended) PCR test or Vaccination Quarantine for UK arrivals3 Quarantine in the UK
Maldives Yes PCR test No quarantine required (Tourists are exempt from quarantine but restricted to their islands) Quarantine in the UK
Mexico1 Yes   No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
Monaco1 Yes PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (See entry requirements for France) Quarantine in the UK
Poland1 Yes   No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
Seychelles1 Yes (Currently there are no direct flights between UK & Seychelles) PCR test No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
South Africa1 Yes PCR test No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
St Lucia Yes PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (Arrivals restricted to hotel during 14 days of quarantine) Quarantine in the UK
Tanzania1 Yes PCR test No quarantine required Quarantine in the UK
UAE1 Yes PCR test Quarantine for UK arrivals3 (Some arrivals may be required to take a further test) Quarantine in the UK

The information provided above is updated regularly - most recently on 15 April 2021.

  • 1 = UK FCDO advises against all but essential travel to this country
  • 2 = Non-resident foreign nationals are not permitted to land
  • 3 = Generally 14 days of self-isolation, but the number of days can vary

To help you navigate this sea of frequently-updated information, we've created a live travel corridors section so you can see the very latest restrictions country-by-country.*

See where's safe >>

*Please note: owing to current coronavirus lockdown restrictions, the FCO advises against all but essential travel outside of the UK. Restrictions vary by home nation so be sure to check your rules locally before attempting to travel.

Ready to get booking for 2021? For more destination inspiration, visit our holidays' section, while our deals and discounts are sure to help you get to where you want to go next year for less.

Kirsten Henton

Kirsten Henton

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