Best destinations for 2021, according to National Geographic and Lonely Planet

Best destinations for 2021, according to National Geographic and Lonely Planet

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Their lists include sustainability and other topics shaping the future of travel

As the year draws to a close, many people start thinking about their travel for the year to come — a winter holiday at a ski resort, spending summer on the beach, a city break somewhere unexpected. 

With this year’s travel plans brought to a near standstill, National Geographic and Lonely Planet are — as every year — looking ahead to find places and more which everyone can look forward to discovering in 2021 and beyond.

National Geographic’s tag line for 2021 is “dream now, go later”

As travelers navigate through a pandemic-struck world, National Geographic’s list features 25 timeless places with the tag line “dream now, go later”. Allowing the traveler to dream of future adventures, the publication aims at providing inspiration for post-pandemic journeys.

“Profiling inspiring places, communities and innovations, the list provides an optimistic dose of escapism, as would-be travelers navigate pandemic precautions around the world,” says National Geographic in a release. 

Split into five categories — Adventure, Culture and History, Nature, Family, Sustainability — each inclusion “honors a superlative destination with a relevant story to tell for the year ahead”. 

National Geographic’s selection includes environmental efforts, conservation and preservation successes, or cultural and community resilience.

The 25 timeless places on National Geographic’s list

Lord Howe Island, Australia features on the National Geographic's list i the category of NatureLord Howe Island, Australia features on the National Geographic’s list i the category of Nature — Shutterstock


  • Dominica
  • Svaneti, Georgia
  • Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
  • Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska

Culture and history

  • Guam
  • New Mexico, road trip
  • Bitoria-Gasteiz, Alava, Basque Country, Spain
  • Gyeongju, South Korea
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Tonglu, Zhejiang Province, China


  • Isle Royale, Michigan
  • Yellowknife, Canada
  • Cerrado savanna, Brazil
  • Lord Howe Island, Australia


  • England Coastal Path
  • Transylvania, Romania
  • Space Coast, Florida
  • Hortobagy, Hungary
  • Indigenous British Columbia, Canada


  • Alonissos, Greece
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • New Caledonia, France
  • Freiburg, Germany
  • Gabon, Central Africa
  • Denver, Colorado

Lonely Planet’s list recognizes people and places with a commitment to sustainability, community, and diversity

Unlike in previous years, Lonely Planet has compiled a list of not only places but also people and communities who are changing the future of travel. For 2021, the publication has made inclusions framed by three categories: Sustainability, Community, and Diversity.

“Travel is a much more considerate exercise in 2021 than it has been ever before,” said Luis Cabrera, Lonely Planet CEO. 

“With travelers cautiously re-engaging with the world and focused on ensuring their impact is safe and positive for host communities, we have decided to highlight destinations and individuals that truly enable visitors to have transformative experiences and make genuine contributions.”

Top picks in Lonely Planet’s 2021 list

Gothenburg was included by Lonely Planet in its Sustainability categoryGothenburg was included by Lonely Planet in its Sustainability category — Shutterstock


  • Storyteller — Soraya Abdel-Hadi
  • Walks — Roads of Dante, Italy
  • Wildlife program — Rwanda
  • Emerging destination — Antigua & Barbuda
  • Train journey — Rocky Mountaineer, Canada
  • Food destination — Greece
  • Cycling route — Virginia Mountain Bike Trail
  • Accommodation — Grootberg Lodge, Namibia
  • Islands — Palau
  • City Stay — Gothenburg, Sweden


  • Tour — Invisible Cities, UK
  • Accommodation — Kazakhstan
  • Immersion — Faroe Islands
  • Revitalization — Medellín, Colombia
  • Trekking — Tesfa Tours, Ethiopia
  • Restoration — Australia
  • Storyteller — Hesham Moadamani, Berlin
  • Small business — Footprint Cafés, Cambodia
  • Tourism project — Burren Eco Tourism Network, Ireland
  • Expat Storyteller — Girl in Florence


  • Emerging voice — Gabby Beckford
  • Accessible destination — Costa Rica
  • Multi-generational — El Hierro, Spain
  • Indigenous food — Hiakai, New Zealand
  • Inclusive storyteller — Jeff Jenkins
  • Inclusive tours — Wheel the World
  • LGBTQI+ storytellers — Couple of Men
  • Under-explored history — Gullah Islands, US
  • Cultural diversity — San Diego
  • Welcoming destination — Amman, Jordan

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