After nine months of ever-changing rules and disruption, many of us will be happy just to travel somewhere safe, sunny and hassle-free this year.
In fact, 2021 promises to be a bumper one for great things to see and do with plenty of new openings, anniversaries and sports and cultural events planned.
With fingers firmly crossed that the vaccines and testing protocols allow us back on the road very soon, here’s our pick of the best places to head in the coming year.
GO FOR GOLD IN JAPAN
An 11-night Classic Japan tour costs from £3,395 pp including flights to Tokyo – about 60 miles away from beautiful Mount Fuji
WHY? The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will now run from July 23 to August 8, so time your visit to soak up the atmosphere while exploring one of the world’s most fascinating countries.
DON’T MISS: Team GB Live is the authorised UK agent for tickets and travel packages (teamgblive.com, tokyo2020.org).
BOOK NOW: An 11-night Classic Japan tour costs from £3,395 pp including flights to Tokyo — about 60 miles away from beautiful Mount Fuji, transfers, three nights in the capital during the Games, visits to Hakone, Kyoto and Osaka, guided tours and some meals. Olympics tickets are not included (bambootravel.co.uk, 020 7720 9285).
WHY? This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of French writer Gustave Flaubert, who was born in Rouen on December 12, 1821.
The Normandy capital will be the focus for a number of commemorative events, exhibitions and tourist trails.
DON’T MISS: Ry, the village where Flaubert set Madame Bovary, and picturesque Lyons-la-Forêt, used in film adaptations of the famous novel (en.normandie-tourisme.fr).
BOOK NOW: Travel by train via Paris and stay at the four-star Hôtel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert in Rouen. Doubles in April cost from £88, room-only (en.oui.sncf, hotelgustaveflaubert.com).
Parma is Italy’s Capital of Culture 2021 and there are plenty of arts events planned including a festival to honour Verdi
TAKE OFF WITH ONE OF THESE DELIGHTFUL DEALS
Sandals and Beaches Resorts are offering up to 50 per cent off accommodation plus an extra £150 off new bookings made by January 6 using the code 12DAYS. A week all-inclusive at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort in Jamaica costs from £1,229 pp (saving 45 per cent) including flights. This offer applies on holidays until December 4, 2023. (sandals.co.uk, beaches.co.uk)
The SoCo Hotel in Barbados has seven rooms and is on the island’s south coast. Seven nights all-inclusive is from £999 pp, including flights, with Blue Bay Travel (caribbeanwarehouse.co.uk, 01782 647 269). Book for selected dates May to October 2021.
Head to Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius for seven nights from £1,115 pp all-inclusive in May 2021 with dialaflight.com (020 7962 9933). The resort is set on a mile-long beach and has two golf courses.
ST LUCIA BOUND
Caribbean specialist Elite Island Resorts Holidays (eliteislandholidays.com, 01245 459 906) is offering seven nights all-inclusive at St James’s Club Morgan Bay in St Lucia from £611 pp. Book by January 15 for travel on September 13.
GO FOR MEXICO
Seven nights all-inclusive at the Riu Palace Peninsula in Cancun is now from £1,066 pp, including flights. Book for May 3 with First Choice (firstchoice.co.uk, 0203 451 2688).
WHY? There’s more to Parma than ham and cheese — it’s Italy’s Capital of Culture 2021 with a year of arts events planned. Book a flight to Bologna then drive, train or cycle west (it’s about 60 miles), visiting foodie hotspots Modena and Reggio Emilia on the way.
DON’T MISS: Works by leading 20th-century artists will be exhibited at the Pinocoteca Stuard, while there will be a festival to honour Verdi, who was born nearby, in September (parma2020.it).
BOOK NOW: Cycling for Softies has a six-night self-guided ride from Bologna to Parma from £1,470 pp in April, including bike hire, hotels, breakfast, luggage transfer and four dinners. Flights extra (cycling-for-softies.co.uk, 020 3944 3935).
SOUTH AFRICAN LIONS
WHY? The British and Irish Lions rugby tour runs July 3 to August 7 — matches will be played in six cities, with Tests in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
DON’T MISS: Match-inclusive tours, booked through Lions Rugby Travel (lionstour.com).
BOOK NOW: A ten-day trip with Africa Travel to coincide with the 2nd Test in Cape Town on July 31, with time in the city, the Winelands area and on safari, costs from £3,195 pp with flights, car hire and some meals. Match tickets not included (africatravel.com, 020 3111 0797).
WHY? The Diamond Circle is a new 155-mile route in the north of Iceland taking in astounding natural sights such as the horseshoe-shaped canyon of Asbyrgi and Dettifoss, one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls.
DON’T MISS: A soak in the misty, geothermal waters of Myvatn Nature Baths and make sure you go whale watching in Husavik — sightings are virtually guaranteed (diamondcircle.is).
BOOK NOW: Go independent. The blog Laidback Trip has a guide to the Diamond Circle and Visit Iceland offers information on flights, car hire and places to stay (laidbacktrip.com, visiticeland.com).
WALKING IN SPAIN
WHY? 2021 will be a special ‘Holy Year’ for the Camino de Santiago, the multiple historic pilgrims’ routes to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain because the Feast Day of its patron saint, St James, falls on a Sunday — the next one isn’t until 2027, so you can expect plenty of walkers and a memorable atmosphere.
DON’T MISS: Celebrations will be most intense in the weeks either side of July 25, the Feast of St James (santiagoturismo.com).
BOOK NOW: Follow The Camino offers an eight-day self-guided walk along the Camino Inglese, the traditional route for English pilgrims, from £783 pp including hotels, breakfast, luggage transfer and walking notes. Flights are extra and you can also cycle or join a guided walk (followthecamino.com, 020 3411 0701).
WHY? The six-month extravaganza, Expo 2020 Dubai, now runs from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022 with innovations from more than 200 countries.
DON’T MISS: A screening on the steel dome of Al Wasl Plaza — it will be the world’s biggest 360-degree projection surface (expo2020dubai.com).
BOOK NOW: Five nights from October 21, 2021, from £955 pp with flights, room and breakfast at the five-star JA Ocean View hotel on Jumeirah Beach and a day at the Expo. Book by January 14 (emiratesholidays.com, 020 8972 8951).
TAKE A ROCKY RIDE
Stunning: Take a train ride through the Canadian Rockies between August to October 2021
WHY? Best known for scenic train journeys through the Canadian Rockies, Rocky Mountaineer now offers two-day trips from Denver and Moab, gateway to stunning national parks in Utah.
DON’T MISS: The Rockies To The Red Rocks ride, going through Aspen, runs from August to October 2021. (rockymountaineer.com, visitdenver.com).
BOOK NOW: The train ride features in a nine-night Rockies to the Red Rocks Explorer package between, Las Vegas and Denver, from £3,754 pp with flights, room, tours and meals (prestigeholidays.co.uk, 01502 567222).
FLY DIRECT TO ST VINCENT!
Bliss: St Vincent, a gorgeously unspoilt Caribbean island, will be easier to reach than ever later this year
WHY? A new route to the Caribbean begins on June 23 when Virgin Atlantic launches flights from Heathrow to St Vincent. The nearby Grenadines are the big draw including Bequia and honeymoon favourite Petit St Vincent.
DON’T MISS: Swim with turtles in Tobago Cays and watch kitesurfers dance in the sky off Mayreau (discoversvg.com).
BOOK NOW: Virgin Holidays will offer packages to Bequia, Mustique and three more islands (virginholidays.co.uk, 0344 472 9646).
Cruises to Antarctica will make a journey to the best viewing point for the total solar eclipse on December 4
WHY? On December 4 there will be a total solar eclipse over the Southern Ocean, which only occurs every 400 years. Cruises to Antarctica will make a special journey to the best viewing point between South Georgia and the South Orkney Islands.
DON’T MISS: Most voyages visit the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula.
BOOK NOW: Swoop Antarctica offers a 20-day ‘Polar & Solar Discovery’ cruise on the 200-passenger Ocean Atlantic from £10,995 pp departing November 23 (swoop-antarctica.com, 0117 369 0696).
… and staycations too
Once travel restrictions lift, there’s also plenty to enjoy around the UK in 2021. With the vaccine being rolled out nationwide, surely we’ll be allowed to get out and about soon.
WALK IN GUERNSEY
Secluded: Moulin Huet Bay on Guernsey, one of five Channel Islands on a new walking trail
UK HOTEL OPENINGS
- The Londoner is a newly-built 16-storey boutique hotel opening in Leicester Square on April 12. From £540 (thelondoner.com).
- Opening in March, The Harper is a former glass-blowing factory in Langham, North Norfolk. From £175 B&B (theharper.co.uk).
- Scheduled to open late spring, The Star in Alfriston, East Sussex, is a mother-and-daughter project from hotel experts Olga and Alex Polizzi. From £190 B&B (thepolizzicollection.com).
- The Peak District will get a stylish new address in the autumn when Callow Hall, near Ashbourne, debuts with 15 rooms plus cabins and treehouses. From £150 B&B (wildhivecollection.com).
- Fans of The Pig hotels will rejoice at an eighth property in the South Downs near Arundel, West Sussex in July. A vineyard is planned, too. From £155 (thepighotel.com).
Launching in spring, The Islands Of Guernsey Way is a new walking trail across Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Lihou. Linked by ferries or a short flight, the full route covers 50 miles.
OUR TIP: Visit between May and October when there is a seasonal ferry service (visitguernsey.com).
CELEBRATE NATIONAL PARKS
2021 marks the 70th anniversary of Britain’s first four national parks, established in the Peak District, Lake District, Dartmoor and Snowdonia. Royal Mail will be issuing commemorative stamps on January 14, so why not explore these glorious landscapes?
OUR TIP: Try the six-mile, circular Postbridge walk in Dartmoor, which has an audioguide, or the 20-mile Ullswater Way in the Lake District (nationalparks.uk).
ADVENTURE IN WALES
Riding on the success of TV I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! from Gwrych Castle, North Wales is the place for an outdoor challenge. Try the world’s fastest zipline at Penrhyn Quarry, learn to eFoil — an electric surfboard — on the Menai Strait or camp on a ‘portaledge’ suspended from a cliff in Anglesey.
OUR TIP: Don’t share your partner’s love of adrenaline? Château Rhianfa is a pampering hotel in Anglesey. From £144, B&B (chateaurhianfa.co.uk, visitwales.com).
BRISTOL GETS SMART
Self-guided tours look set to become the Covid-safe way to explore cities — and Bristol is leading the way. Download the Hidden Bristol app to follow audio walks for £5.99, while the new A Piece of Banksy web app from Where The Wall will lead you to 13 street art locations (£10 for two devices).
OUR TIP: Launching this month, The Big Fix Up is a free Wallace & Gromit augmented reality adventure set in Bristol (thebigfixup.co.uk, visitbristol.co.uk).
Fans of Netflix drama Bridgerton can get another fix of the Regency lifestyle at a nine-day festival devoted to Jane Austen in Alton and nearby village of Chawton.
OUR TIP: The festival runs June 19 to 27. Tickets on sale in February (janeaustenregencyweek.co.uk).
The relaunched David Livingstone Birthplace in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, will tell the story of how a poor millworker became a famous explorer.
OUR TIP: Take in nearby sights such as Bothwell Castle and Chatelherault Country Park (davidlivingstonebirthplace.org, visitlanarkshire.com).