After a long global pause on travel in 2020, some of us are just itching to get back out there. Travellers, more than ever before, will want to discover those special places. Places that offer a unique, authentic, remote experience. Places that only the locals know about.
This is the second year I have teamed up with my fellow travel bloggers to put together a list that features The 20 Best Travel Places in 2021. The list covers everything from Antarctica to Brazil to Lithuania to South Africa. This geographically diverse range of places are in alphabetical order by country, starting with Antarctica and ending with USA.
Antarctica, the ice continent, is one of the most unique places on the planet. Travelling to Antarctica means that you’ll be surrounded by snow-capped mountains and adorable penguins instead of the tourist crowds.
Approximately only 10,000 people visit Antarctica every year – making it the ultimate bucket list destination. Most people visit Antarctica by taking an expedition cruise (capped at 500 people total) from Argentina, across the Drake Passage. The ship is your home as you cruise by sea ice and icebergs. Be sure to keep an eye on the horizon for the blowhole of a minke or humpback whale. It’s easy to feel like you’re on another planet when visiting.
Enjoy kayaking by seals, learning about geology, taking a polar plunge, or even go camping on the ice! Antarctica is the place to go for an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience.
El Chaltén, Argentina
El Chaltén is a village located in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. It is dubbed Argentina’s trekking capital with tons of hikes to choose from. It’s easily one of the best places to visit in Argentina that is often overlooked.
El Chaltén itself is just over 1,000 people but has some cute bars, restaurants, and hostels. This small village has little to no cell phone reception, or banks and only one ATM that rarely works. (So, be sure to bring cash!) It’s very much a place geared toward hikers and backpackers.
The main reason people travel to El Chaltén is to see Mount Fitz Roy. The mountain is used in the Patagonia clothing company logo. Now, you can actually climb Mount Fitz Roy, but it’s known to be one of the hardest peaks to climb on the planet.
There are many easier treks in El Chaltén, though, that offer spectacular views of Mount Fitz Roy and the area. The Laguna Capri trek of about two hours is especially popular and easy to do. It takes you to a viewpoint overlooking a lagoon of beautiful blue waters and Mount Fitz Roy.
Cradle Mountain, Australia
Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, Australia is a magical place to re-connect with nature and find solitude away from the stresses of everyday life. Cradle Mountain National Park has the most beautiful scenery, amazing walking trails, mountains to climb, glacial lakes to discover and ancient rainforests to explore.
Of course, plenty of animal encounters are also guaranteed and to see wallabies, pademelons, possums, echidnas and the elusive wombat (we saw one from a distance!) in their natural habitat just fills you with joy and excitement. It is in Cradle Mountain that you can also have an encounter with a Tasmanian Devil, the island’s namesake, and learn more about these endangered creatures.
If you enjoy hiking, then the six kilometer Dove Lake circuit is a must. A boardwalk will take you much of the way around the lake through vegetation, down to lakeside beaches, up through a petrified forest and all in the shadow of the mighty Cradle Mountain.
And after a day of exploring head back to one of the forest lodges that are scattered around the the National Park and enjoy a stay in the exceptional natural beauty of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area at Cradle Mountain.
Gippsland in Victoria Australia would have to be one of the biggest hidden gems on the planet. A massive area that not many people know about stretches from just out of Melbourne to the New South Wales border. From mighty rivers to sweeping plains, from pristine beaches to rugged Aussie bush, it doesn’t just have something for everyone, Gippsland has it all.
Not only does Gippsland have some of the most beautiful diverse scenery in Australia, it has some of the best fresh produce as well. Foodies can get their fix here with fresh delights made by local growers from local products as well as wineries and craft beers.
Native animals are in abundance in many of the national parks around Gippsland as well as other spots too. On Raymond Island you can see Koalas in their natural habitat for free, on Phillip Island you can see the penguins come back to their burrows every night and a species of Dolphin native to the Gippsland Lakes.
All around Gippsland are relics from the past as well. Mighty wooden trestle bridges are a reminder of the past and there are many small goldfield towns that have so many stories to tell. There are also many places where you can learn about the Gunaikurnai people, the traditional owners of Gippsland and how they lived here before the area was colonized.
While Florianopolis is at the top of southeastern Brazilians’ go-to places for carnival and new year’s eve, most international tourists still don’t know this little paradise.
Famous for its incredible beaches, Floripa is Santa Catarina’s capital, one of the southernmost Brazilian states.
The city is located on Santa Catarina island, which is just off the coast of Brazil and is surrounded by natural spots. From secluded beaches to lagoons to countless hiking trails, Florianopolis is one of those dream destinations you don’t wanna leave behind. It has all kinds of beaches for families and party animals alike.
Beyond that, the island also has lovely urban centers in all four corners. These centers have excellent restaurants, cafes, clubs, shops, museums, and more! There are even fortresses and colonial architecture spots to deepen your understanding of Brazilian culture.
It’s the perfect city to escape the crowds while enjoying some of the best aspects of Brazil.
Easter Island, Chile
Located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, far from any landmass, Easter Island’s remote location puts it out of reach for many travellers. But those who make the journey are rewarded with fascinating ancient sites and a pleasantly uncrowded, relaxed atmosphere.
Easter Island is most famous for the monumental stone head statues, called moai, that are scattered across the island. The statues can be seen standing atop of ceremonial platforms at several sites and, most interestingly, at the quarry where they were produced (some can be seen partially carved in the bedrock).
In addition to looking at the mysterious moai, there are plenty more things to do in Easter Island for travellers. There are some secluded beaches and caves, an extinct volcano where you can walk along the crater’s rim, a cliff top ceremonial village, and one of the richest collections of petroglyphs in Polynesia. There are also opportunities to learn about the local Rapa Nui culture.
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Everybody in the Czech Republic knows Olomouc as one of the most charming cities in the country. Abroad, it’s virtually unknown.
Olomouc is the 6th largest Czech city, but it maintains a small town feel. Its historical city center is especially magical, with a UNESCO-listed Holy Trinity column, a beautiful city hall with an astronomical clock and a series of baroque fountains. The architecture is truly stunning. A short walk to a majestic Cathedral of St. Wenceslas reveals the historical origins of the city, where an Olomouc Castle was located.
Olomouc is also known for its greenery. Large parks encircle the whole center and there are famous gardening exhibitions held four times a year known as Flora Olomouc.
The second oldest university in the Czech Republic is located in Olomouc and thanks to its high number of students the city has a lovely young vibe. There are plenty of cafés, street art is celebrated and there’s always something fun going on.
Czechs flock to Olomouc in the Christmas season, as it features one of the prettiest Christmas markets in the country.
Most visitors in Denmark go to Copenhagen, for good reason, but don’t miss out on visiting Jutland! It’s the mainland region of Denmark, and it has so many amazing towns. Aarhus is the largest city in Jutland, and it has quaint historic streets, a contemporary art museum with a rainbow you can walk through, pedestrian shopping streets, and beautiful beaches. Aarhus is a great base to stay in Jutland to take day trips to smaller towns.
Here are some suggested day trips:
- Ebeltoft with its quaint cobblestone streets and colorful houses. It’s right on the water, so you can go swimming or sailing.
- If you like history, you can’t miss Jelling and Ribe! Jelling was the royal seat of the first kings of Denmark, and it’s home to the most famous Viking rune stones. Ribe is the oldest town in Denmark, and it has a cathedral that dates back to 1100.
- Silkeborg is the Outdoor Capital of Denmark, so if you’re looking for a place to go kayaking or just walk along a river, Silkeborg is for you. It also has a beautiful downtown area to walk around.
- Skagen is the northernmost point in Denmark, and it’s where two seas meet. You also can’t miss the Sand Covered Church and migrating sand dunes.
So when you go to Denmark, definitely visit Copenhagen, but don’t miss out on what Jutland has to offer!
A great place that is not well known to a lot of people is the Greek island of Paros. If you are looking for a beautiful place, then Paros should be top of your list! The island is part of the Cyclades islands and is easily accessible from more popular islands like Mykonos and Santorini.
Paros has many picturesque towns that are great examples of Greek architecture and culture. One of these towns is Lefkes. There are only 500 people living there, but offers so much to see and do. There are beautiful blue and white houses with pink flowers. Furthermore, there are many stunning churches in this small town.
Besides Lefkes, you should also visit Naoussa. This is one of the prettiest villages in Greece! The tiny streets and all the little houses are amazing. Furthermore, there is a picturesque port with small fishing boats and lots of great places for dinner. There is is so much to discover and to do in Paros.
Curonian Spit, Lithuania
The Curonian Spit is a peninsula on the Baltic coast in Lithuania. It’s the perfect place to escape the crowds and explore a region that is not well-known by other travellers.
You can find lots of things to do on the Curonian Spit, but the best place to start is in Nida, close to the Russian border. Here, you can climb to the top of Parnidis Dune, which is one of the highest on the peninsula. From its top, you have a fantastic view of sand dunes and forest stretching out below you, with the lagoon to your left and the Baltic Sea to your right.
Nida itself is perfect for catching a glimpse of the unique way of life on the Curonian Spit. Take a walk through the village and admire the blue houses or head into the Fisherman’s Ethnographic Homestead. We also recommend the Curonian Spit History Museum to learn more about the region.
If you have more than one day, check out Judokrante, another traditional village on the Curonian Spit. Or relax at one of the many beaches that line the peninsula.
The Catlins, New Zealand
Located in the most southern pocket of New Zealand’s South Island, the Catlins is a beautiful off the beaten track location, famous for its incredible waterfalls. But there are many other Catlins attractions such as wildlife spotting, remote beaches and lighthouses.
The best Catlins waterfalls are Purakaunui Falls and McLean Falls. Both are short walks meaning they are easily accessible to most people and are absolutely stunning after a good rain. If the weather is clear though, you must head to Purakaunui Bay. At the end of a windy gravel road is an incredible beach that can only be accessed across the estuary. Surrounded by a cliff, it is a stunning sight where you can even camp for a reasonable cost.
What makes the Catlins unique is that it is still a holiday from yesteryear. Not overrun by tourists, no hotels in sight, in fact accommodations are low key and retro holiday homes are prevalent. The lack of tourist traffics means it’s a great spot for wildlife viewing. In the Catlins you are likely to find little blue penguins, a variety of birdlife, seals and sea lions and if you are lucky a dolphin or whale off the coast.
A beautiful part of New Zealand that will make you feel like you are a classic kiwi holidaymaker.
Ohrid, North Macedonia
Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia is a special non-touristy destination that needs to be added to your Balkan bucket list. Locals recommend this lakeside destination.
The town of Ohrid is a tranquil and historic getaway to a stunning lakeside town with beautiful dining options and the best part – everything is extremely budget-friendly. Due to its undiscovered nature, you can find 4-star accommodations with lake views at an incredibly low cost. Enjoy a short stroll down to the waterfront and enjoy drinks and dining on decks that extend out over the lake. One of the specialties you need to try is the local fish endemic to the region.
While there is plenty to do in Ohrid, those of you who are history buffs will never run out of places to visit. You’ll love the ancient amphitheater overlooking the water and touring what remains of the original 365 churches. Ohrid was once known to have a church for every day of the year. A couple of highlights are the 13th-century Saint Jovan Kaneo Monastery, St. Clement’s and St. Naum’s Monastery. Combine St Naum’s Monastery with a scenic boat ride across the lake and a visit to the natural hot springs.
The spectacular Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is a bucket list destination. This land belongs to Norway, but it is the polar bears who run things there, outnumber the human residents calling Svalbard home.
What makes Svalbard so fantastic to visit is that you can head there in any season and witness the magic of the Arctic, a land rapidly disappearing. During the winters, you can take a snowmobiling trip across the tundra to Barentsburg or wait for the elusive Svalbard northern lights to come out and dance.
In springtime, you will have more daylight and this is the best season to see a polar bear. Summers are for hiking and wildlife spotting. And autumns are a transitional season where the landscapes begin preparing for the long and dark winter ahead.
Alba lulia, Romania
Alba Iulia is a citadel city in Transylvania in the north-west of Romania. The city is located on the main international train line from Bucharest to Vienna, thus a great Interrail stop. The main part of the city is located inside Alba Carolina Citadel. This is a very big fortress which happens to be one of the seven wonders of Romania. The current structure was built by the Hapsburgs in the 16th century on the site of a Roman fortification.
The fortresses defensive walls are still intact and very well restored, you can walk through the moat which is now home to many restaurants. Alba Carolina citadel is in the shape of a star and has som fantastic gates to enter at each point of the star.
Alba Carolina citadel is home to two cathedrals, one Roman Catholic and the other Orthodox. The orthodox Coronation Cathedral was built to celebrate the unification of Romania after world war one. The citadel is full of history in terms of architecture, roman ruins and fascinating history. Many festivals take place here including a celebration of Great Union Day on 1st December each year.
Isle of Mull, Scotland
Located on the western coast of Scotland, Isle of Mull is the fourth largest island in Britain. To get a beach vibe, head to Calgary Bay, one of the finest beaches in Scotland.
There’s only one Munro (mountains in Scotland that are more than 3,000 feet high) in Isle of Mull, and it wouldn’t be fair if you don’t climb Ben More. Hike to one of the many panoramic viewpoints, laze in a hidden beach or walk along the myriad lochs – one is spoilt with choices when it comes to hiking.
Isle of Mull is also a haven for wildlife and adventures. You can spot golden eagles, otters, seals, even dolphins! There are many tour operators that run regular wildlife and photography tours that usually begins from Tobermory.
Peppered with beautiful towns and villages, stunning mountains and incredible wildlife, Isle of Mull is a complete package. There are plenty of things to do in Isle of Mull to keep you occupied for a couple of weeks.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in South Africa and a fantastic place to travel to. Located on the spectacular Atlantic Ocean coastline, surrounded by the stunning mountain range and picturesque vineyards, Cape Town has a great variety of things to do for any traveller. The city is famous for its natural attractions. Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Cape Peninsula, Boulders Beach, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Cape Winelands are some of the top attractions here. There are many other incredible places that are lesser-known to tourists.
Cape Town is a perfect place to travel for those who enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, kitesurfing, diving, cycling, etc. Its location and landscape create a unique environment for practicing these sports within the city.
Outdoor activities are not the only reason to visit Cape Town. The city’s well-known for great local wines and excellent fine dining. Several wine routes around Cape Town offer an amazing wine tasting experience. Many wine farms have world-class restaurants. The most beautiful wine areas are Constantia, Stellenbosch, and Franschhoek.
Diverse wildlife is another reason to travel to Cape Town. Within a couple of hours from the city center, you can see penguins, seals, whales, elephants, lions, rhinos, giraffes, and many other land and marine animals.
Tourism to the arctic region is getting increasingly popular. Yet Jokkmokk in Sweden is still overlooked by tourists, despite the fact that it is considered to be the cultural capital of Swedish Lapland. Located just above the arctic circle it is the perfect destination in northern Sweden and has a range of outdoor activities year round.
Jokkmokk might be a small town, but it has been a natural meeting place for the Sami people for centuries. The Sami were nomadic reindeer herders that roamed through the arctic in an area that includes Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Although their lifestyle is threatened in many places, it is still very much alive in Jokkmokk.
Jokkmokk is the only place in Sweden where there is a college for reindeer husbandry using the native language. The local Ajtte museum has excellent exhibitions about the history and culture of the Sami. As well as a great restaurant where you can try local delicacies such as reindeer meat and cloudberries with ice cream.
Besides culture, Jokkmokk is also a great destination for those that love nature. It is the gateway to no less than four national parks. In winter you can go dog sledding or snowmobiling and in summer it’s a hikers paradise with easy treks and challenging long distance hiking trails.
Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom
The Isles of Scilly are part of the UK but are located in the Atlantic Ocean, some 28 miles from mainland England. Thanks to this isolation, the islands are very much off the beaten track with just a handful of “in the know” people who visit each year. It’s not possible to bring a car to the islands and there is a limited supply of places to stay.
Scilly Isles family holidays are delightful. There’s virtually no crime on the islands so children can have a freedom and independence which has been lost elsewhere. Most places are reachable by foot, bike or boat – few people use a car.
If you are lucky enough to visit the Scilly Isles you’re in for a treat. Even in the middle of August, you can find big empty sandy beaches surrounded by turquoise sea. There’s a good range of water sports available – stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and swimming with seals are all popular. There are some excellent restaurants on the Isles of Scilly – beach front cafes serving fresh fish and characterful old stone inns for a slap up meal. Everyone is friendly and most visitors return each year having discovered such a perfect holiday destination.
Hudson Valley, USA
New York City may get all the attention, but although the nearby Hudson Valley is less known, it is no less worth visiting.
The valley, which extends either side of the scenic Hudson River from NYC to Albany, is well known as a great place for hiking, and there are dozens of amazing hikes you can do in the Hudson Valley. Top spots include Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park. There are waterfalls, lakes, huge boulders, overlooks with views of the valley, and beautiful woodlands.
The river itself is a major attraction and a scenic cruise from Kingston is a great way to see some of the river lighthouses, surrounding forest and historic homes. This area was the summer playground of wealthy New Yorkers in the gilded age and there are several historic mansion, with huge riverfront grounds, that you can visit. Highlights include the Vanderbilt Mansion and Livingstone Manor.
There are plenty of historic villages, include Hudson, which is great for antiquing; Kingston, which was the first capital of New York; and Saugerties, where there is a lighthouse you can actually spend the night in! The area is also well known for agritourism, and there are plenty of farms to pick fruit, eat pizza and sample local cider.
As a holidaymaker…
Travel is a gift, and a priviledge. We especially know that now. When we start to travel again, we will appreciate the experience a whole lot more. We will be much more thoughtful about where we go and how we choose to support the local community. Hopefully this list has inspired you.