Looking for a bucket list travel destination next year? The experts have weighed in on the top 21 places to visit in 2021.
Ovation Travel Group’s agents compiled an exclusive list of the top leisure destinations based on advance sales and client aspirations. (Seems like 2020 was a lost year for travel.) It’s a lot different than last year’s list. The pandemic has made Ovation’s customers more ambitious than ever. Of the top 21 destinations for 2021, only seven are in the U.S.
“During the past eight months, the travel habits of our clients have certainly changed,” says Tina Rose, managing director of Ovation. “Intrepid travelers have been grounded. But the love of travel is still deeply rooted in their DNA.”
It looks as if 2021 is already shaping up to be a busy year for travel. With a lot of pent-up demand from 2020 and with the hope that a vaccine may be widely available, people are making plans. Big plans.
Here are top 21 destinations for 2021:
Why? It’s easy to see why this is one of the top 21 destinations for 2021. Every island looks like a postcard, with perfectly groomed palm trees and crystal-clear waters washing up to the white sandy beaches. “With gorgeous weather year-round, this destination forces you to disconnect from the world and reconnect with tranquility,” says Aanchal Gandhi, vice president of leisure and independent advisors at Ovation Travel Group.
Who should go? The romantic couple looking to disconnect and lavish in luxury. Also, the scuba enthusiast who wants to explore the exotic marine life of the Indian Ocean.
Don’t miss: The floating breakfasts in your infinity pool villa overlooking the ocean offered by many hotels or the candlelight dinners on the beach such as at the Waldorf Ithaafushi. See this destination before it sinks into the ocean.
2. Serengeti, Tanzania
Why? The Serengeti ecosystem is a 12,000-square mile region of northern Tanzania, including the Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti hosts the second largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world, which makes it one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, and as one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world. “The savannah stretches out in grasslands, open plains, and rivers,” says Joyce Novick, a luxury travel consultant at Ovation Travel Group. “It’s the perfect place to host the diverse animals — lions, buffalo, wildebeest, gazelle and elephants that come each year in search of food.”
Who should go? Animal lovers of all ages.
Don’t miss: The wildlife. This is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the animal kingdom and to reflect on your place in the environment.
Why? One of the top destinations for 2021 is under a sheet of ice. See humpback whales and colonies of penguins and seals from Zodiac excursions led by expert naturalists. Best way to go: On a small luxury cruise ship like Ponant’s Le Lyrial, according to Marcella Rappoport, a travel advisor at Ovation.
Who should go? “Travelers who want bragging rights for a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Rappoport.
Don’t miss: Your front-row seat to the solar eclipse on Dec. 4, 2021.
4. Lake Powell, Utah
Why? If you’re looking for an adventure a little closer to home, Lake Powell is one of the top destinations. It’s a launchpad for excursions to Bryce Canyon, Utah, or Sedona, Ariz. It’s also Ovation’s number-one domestic attraction on its list of the top destinations for 2021. “The water in this man-made reservoir reaches almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months,” says Barbara Hammer, president of BH Travel. “There are over 2,000 miles of shoreline to explore, along with its majestic red canyons.”
Who should go? Families and adventure seekers who want to explore the natural beauty of the American West.
Don’t miss: Fishing, kayaking, water skiing, camping, hiking, and stargazing. Check out the Amangiri Resort, a luxury hotel perched in the red rocks. The resort staff can arrange day trips to national parks, hikes and hot air balloon rides.
5. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Why? People have long used Jackson as a starting point to visit national parks such as Grand Teton and Yellowstone. “But now travelers are also attracted to Jackson, Wyoming, for the vibrant town, restaurants, and scenery,” says Sylvia Lebovitch, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group. “Jackson hits all the marks without sacrificing luxury accommodations.”
Who should go? Anyone looking for an active adventure vacation. Skiing, hiking and abundant wildlife make this domestic destination one of the top destinations for 2021.
Don’t miss: Snowmobiling to the Granite Hot Springs in winter and rafting down the Snake River in summer.
6. Cusco, Peru
Why? Cusco is one of the most historic places in Peru, and it is rich in history and proof of the incredible level of Inca engineering. “Plus, it is the gateway to the citadel of Machu Picchu,” says Joshua Greenberg, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group.
Who should go? History buffs and families. Peru is a land of colorful textiles, ancient ruins, and incredible culture, says Greenberg.
Don’t miss: The Belmond Andean Explorer, a luxury train that takes you on a one- or two-day adventure to nearby Lake Titicaca.
Why? Rwanda offers a combination of nature, adventure, and culture. From trekking through the forest for gorillas to hanging out in Kigali, the vibrant capital, this African country offers a lot. “Rwanda is a destination that is hard to describe and put into words simply because it’s one of the special places in the world where you feel emotionally attached to the land, the people and nature,” says Judy Stein, president of The Stein Collective. “It is a country that truly reinvigorates your soul and defines the spirit of travel.”
Who should go? Globetrotters who have a sense of wanderlust and adventure.
Don’t miss: Gorilla trekking.
8. Denali National Park, Alaska
Why? Pristine parkland, magnificent wildlife, and Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) are the main reasons to visit Denali National Park. “There is a vast unspoiled wilderness to explore, including braided glacial rivers, massive peaks, and tundra,” says Harlee Rosenberg, a travel advisor at Ovation Travel Group. “It also has lots of wildlife to see including, moose, caribou, Grizzly bears, Dall Sheep and wolves.”
Who should go? There’s something for all age groups. “It is also a great spot for a family vacation,” says Rosenberg.
Don’t miss: Glacier walks, seeing sled dogs work, and hiking make this one of the top destinations for 2021.
9. Porto Cervo, Italy
Why? Prince Aga Khan developed this Sardinian village in the 1960s after discovering Costa Smeralda. “It has stunning white sand beaches and emerald-colored water surrounded by granite mountains with truly mind-blowing scenery,” says Sammy Penhos, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group.
Who should go? Families and visitors of all ages. Summers are the best time to visit.
Don’t miss: A day trip by private boat to Bonifaccio in Corsica and lunch at Cala di Volpe.
10. Sonoma County, California
Why? Enjoy wine tasting, hiking and biking and experience California’s legendary redwood forests. “I took my wife wine tasting to Sonoma County and she has not stopped talking about how special our small staycation was to her and when we can go back,” says Jesse Cisneros, a travel advisor at Ovation Travel Group.
Who should go? Wine and outdoor lovers will find this is one of the top destinations for next year.
Don’t miss: Sunsets in the Sonoma Valley. For one of the best views, visit the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa.
11. Norwegian Fjords
“They have unforgettable natural beauty, boundless waterfalls, glaciers, forests, mountains, wildlife, medieval villages, and ancient fishing villages,” says Deborah Gellis, travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group.
12. Great Smoky Mountains, TennesseeIt’s a beautiful part of the state, and the mountains are inviting,” says Andrew Steinberg, a travel advisor with Modern Travel. (His recommendation: A long weekend at Blackberry Farms, a luxury resort.)
13. Saint Barths
“The island conveys a French upscale feel in a tropical Caribbean setting,” says Jessica Levy, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group. “You can spend the day on a secluded beach with provisions from the local market or have a lavish lunch at one of the many hip dining scenes the island is known for.”
14. Kyoto, Japan
“Tradition remains intimately woven into the fabric of modern Japanese culture, and Kyoto showcases the countless examples of these traditions in their original forms,” says Rob Stein, managing director of The Stein Collective.
15. Gansbaai, South Africa
“It’s a small coastal fishing town on the south coast of South Africa,” says Laurie Robinson, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group. “Shark Alley, a thin stretch of water between two islands near Gansbaai, is where you will find large numbers of great white sharks, and you can do shark cage diving here, with good chances of successful viewing.”
16. Queenstown, New Zealand
“Queenstown’s breathtaking natural beauty of fjords, mountains and lakes is captivating,” says Limor Decter, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group. “It’s also known as the adventure capital of the world — the birthplace of bungee jumping. You can find daring adventures for adrenaline junkies.”
17. Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor, Maine
“If you love the outdoors and nature, there are so many trails to hike, lighthouses to view, perfect scenery for taking pictures and sand beaches in the park,” says Cindy Salik, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group.
18. Umbria, Italy
“For those who have experienced Italy over and over again, Umbria offers a true countryside experience and is easily accessible from Rome, Florence, or Tuscany,” says Ashley Diamond, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group.
19. Merída, Mexico
“Its close proximity to the States makes it an easy getaway, and many Americans are now choosing Merída as a location for retirement,” says Lou LaGrange a travel advisor with Fearless Journeys Travel.
20. Lombok, Indonesia
“Lombok is the less widely known sister island to Indonesia’s crown jewel, Bali,” says Andrew Williams, managing director of Travel At Will. “It is less crowded and less expensive, while still offering gorgeous beaches. Lombok has been a popular hideaway for surfers for over 40 years, and now the rest of the world is catching on.”
21. Bluffton, South Carolina
“It is a great destination for people of all ages,” says Robert Goldstein, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group. “It is especially a wonderful family destination as well as a multi-generational destination.” He likes Montage Palmetto Bluff, a luxury golf resort.
This list of the top destinations for 2021 is far from complete. There’s more to discover next year. Wherever you go, have fun — and stay safe!