2020 was the year the world took a breath and travel had to reinvent itself. Due to the colossal earth-shake of the pandemic, what’s certain is that we’re going to be travelling more thoughtfully from hereon in. But perhaps, also, more gleefully. We will appreciate every lingering orange-slice sunset; we will feel every grain as our toes sink into the sand. We’ll think harder about how our journeys affect local communities and do more research into where our money is best spent. And while the way we travel might change, what we want from our precious holidays is, and will always remain, the same.

That’s why we’ve taken great care in selecting our top holiday destinations for 2021. On the list you’ll find a geographically diverse range of trips, from eco-cool enclaves in Central America to some of the best places in Europe. As always, we’ve listened to the surfers, the architecture buffs and the foodies; we’ve considered go-slow camping spots in Australia as well as buzzy African metropolises. With events such as the Olympic Games in Tokyo being postponed to 2021, we’ve thought about how these shifts will influence the holidays we take. There are some destinations that have been on our radar for a while – Vietnam, the Caribbean – and there are those that are reckoning with their own difficult past and, as is the case with Charleston, undergoing an important process of reinvention. 2020 has been the year of the staycation and with UK breaks at an all-time high, this year we’ve included not one but three top places to visit in the UK in 2021.

Whatever your tastes, these are some of the best holiday destinations for 2021. Of course, the options are endless, and the world will always be there for exploring (do check FCO advice and what the latest travel quarantine rules are before travelling), but this is our pick of the most-exciting spots to try and get to in 2021.



Inventive cooking and isolated beaches make for a perfect island escape

While its Ottoman-influenced harbour and spaghetti bowl of cobble-stoned streets are delicately beautiful, Chania is packing a real punch when it comes to its food. From simple seaside cafés to exquisite Cretan fine dining, this city on the north-west coast of the Greek island has a select but quickly expanding scene that’s luring in expert palates.

In the Old Town, Ginger Concept can appear a little pretentious but is a must-try – the lemon artichoke pizzas and deep-fried coxinhas are to die for. Elsewhere, no-frills locals’ favourites include To Maridaki for fish soup and Oxo Nou Studio, a little spot with wobbly outdoor tables overlooking the water. A little further out of town, impeccable fish restaurant Sunset at Sfinari beach calls for a well-worth-it coastal drive, while the hidden eco-retreat of Milia can be found far up in the mountains, serving farm-to-table Cretan cooking with breathtaking views. In Pollirinia – where languorous cats slip through the shadows like liquid – the Acropolis taverna is a magical little shack serving soul-warming home cooking beside the ruins of an old Roman town.

Hot new places to stay include The Tanneries, on the waterfront in historic Halepa – where 19th-century leather makers scoured their hides in saltwater – and the recently launched Elafonisi Villas, overlooking the islet’s cream and candy-floss beaches. Smack in the centre of town are Hotel Doma, a local classic bursting with antiques and character, and Casa Delfino with its fairytale foliage-filled courtyard.



Cool creatives are at the forefront of a cultural renaissance

Like many countries, South Africa’s tourism industry has been through the wringer of late. But while the world has taken a forced break, a new generation of genre-busting creatives have been busy shining a light on the most diverse cultural community on the African continent. Biennales, fairs and new artist-run spaces are at the helm of the country’s enlivened art scene, with exciting local artists – including twin sisters Noncedo and Nonzuzo Gxekwa – getting prime wall space at galleries such as the Maitland Institute and The Centre for the Less Good Idea. All-women music festivals, Soweto township theatre groups and a burgeoning container coffee-shop scene in Maboneng draw the focus firmly onto Johannesburg. In Jozi, pan-African dinner clubs such as Yeoville, run by chef Sanza Sandile, rub up alongside lively rooftop bars and secret hole-in-the-wall spots in the bohemian suburb of Melville.

That’s not to mention the parade of fresh hotels and lodges waiting to welcome international guests in 2021, which includes Kruger Shalati – a stupendously smart cabin hotel stationed on a historical railway line – as well as AndBeyond’s new supremely good-looking solar-powered Ngala Treehouse, rising above the predator-filled bush on the edges of Kruger National Park.

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