COVID-19 had a catastrophic impact on the travel industry, pushing numerous global brands to the brink of bankruptcy. With vaccination programs well underway in countries all over the world, although some destinations remain off limits, more and more countries are opening their borders to international travelers.
With an increasing consumer appetite for foreign climes, we explore six of the most exciting vacation destinations for 2021.
1. Scotland, UK
Situated in whale-populated waters between northern Scotland and Norway, the Shetland Islands are a paradise for food lovers. With a bounty of seafood and local produce, these isolated, sea-battered coasts attract chefs and curious gastronomes in equal numbers.
World-famous for its medieval castles, craggy typography, and charming seaside villages, the Isle of Skye attracts visitors from all over the world. This mountainous, lush green landscape is particularly popular with hikers. The largest, most northerly Inner Hebrides island, Skye was first settled in prehistoric times by Gaelic-speaking tribes from Ireland.
With travelers’ thirst to escape to paradise keener than ever in 2021, the stilted bungalows and sugar white sands of the Maldives remain an irresistible draw for tourists the world over. The Maldives are about much more than cocktails on the beach. The remote archipelago’s diverse marine life make it a top diving spot.
Characterized by crystal clear waters and swaying palm trees, the region boasts an exotic mix of sea life, from giant pelagic species, such as dolphin, shark, tuna, and graceful manta rays, to octopuses, giant clams, and jellyfish. Inland marshes and ponds are also teeming with life, with saltwater crocodiles dwelling in marshy areas.
Reimagining tourism in a post-COVID world, the Vietnamese government bolstered its tourism sector throughout the pandemic by incentivizing citizens to spend their money on “staycations,” relying on domestic travel to keep the industry afloat. While commercial flights to Vietnam remain limited, the country is accepting international travelers once more, subject to a negative COVID test result valid within 72 hours.
From its quiet beaches to the floating markets of Mekong Delta to the ancient forests of the Central Highlands, Vietnam is a land of contrasts. Nestled in the stunning scenery of the Tonkinese Alps lies Sapa, a small French hill station. In the nearby minority villages of Dao and H’mong, locals still dress in traditional attire, honoring ancient beliefs.
Steeped in history and tradition, the vibrant streets of Hanoi betray the country’s French past, its wide, tree-lined boulevards dotted with pavement cafes and flanked by colonial architecture. A boat ride down the Mekong River offers a more leisurely pace, this “biological treasure trove” hosting over 1,000 animal species, as well as the world-famous floating markets.
Encircled by mountains, the former Champa capital, My Son, comprises a collection of ruined red-brick temples dating back to the 4th century that are dedicated to Hindu deities. For sunseekers, the crystal-clear turquoise waters and sugar white sands of Lang Co beach have earned it an international reputation as the “World’s Most Beautiful Bay.”
People typically associate safaris with the well-trodden tourist haunts of South Africa and Kenya. Nevertheless, Botswana is rapidly establishing itself as the ultimate safari destination.
Botswana is home to the Okavango Delta: expansive grassy plains that flood every year, transforming the entire region into a remarkable animal habitat. Here, visitors can roam down the waterways in dugout canoes, passing elephants, hippopotamuses, and crocodiles. The Moremi Game Reserve is home to a whole host of interesting and impressive wildlife, including giraffes, rhinos, lions, and leopards.
What sets Botswana apart from other safari destinations is the fact that there are no fences anywhere. Here the animals wander freely across the mesmerizing landscape of lush greenery and wide-open plains.
5. United Arab Emirates
World-famous for decadent cities like Dubai, in 2021 the United Arab Emirates became the world’s most sought-after travel destination. Those who have visited Dubai know there is much more to the region than luxury hotels and bright lights. There are an abundance of natural wonders and lesser-known historical landmarks a stone’s throw away.
Made up of seven emirate states, the Untied Arab Emirates boasts year-round sunshine, making the region popular with sunseekers. Notorious for its futuristic city skylines, miles of sandy beaches, and never-ending shopping malls, Dubai is home to Burj Khalifah, one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
6. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Open to international travelers once more (subject to a negative rapid test result), the Andaman and Nicobar Islands consist of 300-plus islands off the coast of India. Just 12 of these are open to visitors. The remainder are reserved for indigenous inhabitants, many of whom have limited interaction with the outside world.
With soft sandy beaches and clear blue waters, the islands are challenging to reach. However, visitors are compensated with unspoiled jungle and miles of uninhabited beaches. Home to an abundance of sea life, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands attract snorkelers and scuba divers from all over the world.