The Atlas Mountains were today revealed by Culture Trip as one of the top places with the extra feel-good factor that should be on every traveller’s radar for 2021 and beyond – once we can travel safely again. The scenic North African mountain range is joined by Costa Rica, Osaka, Iceland, Matera and Cork which are all on the list of 13 destinations that are guaranteed to make travellers fall in love all over again with the world that we all missed in 2020.
With this list, Culture Trip – the travel companion for booking hand-picked places to stay and experiences – highlights destinations that offer visitors travel that’s good, and makes them feel good with enriching cultural experiences, unforgettable moments, awe-inspiring natural wonders, green initiatives and more.
The list was compiled based on insights and recommendations from Culture Trip’s global community of travel experts and local insiders, combined with Culture Trip’s search data from millions of users from around the world to pinpoint recent interest in those destinations.
Darren Carbine, Chief Travel Officer at Culture Trip, said: “After this year, we can’t wait to go out and experience the beauty of the world again. With that in mind, we made Culture Trip’s top places to visit not simply a list of trend destinations, but a celebration of travel that’s good and makes you feel good. Compiled with input from travel experts, local insiders plus data insights, this is a definitive list of the must-visit spots for 2021 and beyond – as soon as it’s safe to travel again.”
Culture Trip’s feel-good places to visit in 2021 and beyond
North Africa’s highest mountain range offers scenic beauty, lush valley views, remote Berber villages, hiking in snow-covered mountains, bright blue skies as well as escapism under the stars – plus wonderful hospitality, all about an hour away from Marrakech. The area has seen a swift increase in interest from Culture Trip users clearly dreaming of going there while travel is restricted, with searches up more than 20% since the beginning of September. Visitors can stay in eco lodges, boutique hotels or a luxury kasbahs – all of which can be booked via Culture Trip.
Costa Rica has seen an increase in popularity, with searches across Culture Trip up more than 60% in the past six months. Long celebrated for its leadership in environmental policy, the country has pledged to become carbon-neutral and plastic-free by 2021. It also boasts authentic wildlife experiences with its picturesque and unspoilt national parks, tropical beaches and eco lodges to stay in. A highlight is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, home to a high biodiversity (including the most orchid species in a single place) within 10,500 hectares, which can be experienced from a series of hanging bridges, called the SkyWalk.
Osaka is set to become a top spot for those who want to enjoy the virtual worlds of their favourite video games – probably played a little bit too often in 2020 – in real life as Super Nintendo World plans to open its doors in February 2021. Just 2.5 hours away from Tokyo by bullet train – a unique and responsible way to travel – Osaka is also a paradise for foodies, the home of many famous temples and visitors who come in spring can see the world-famous cherry blossoms. Japan is one of the most popular destinations on Culture Trip, but the exciting city of Osaka is still far less researched than Tokyo, making it perfect for those looking for authentic experiences without the same levels of international visitors.
Iceland is home to many natural wonders that will leave travellers in awe, including the Northern Lights, mammoth ice caves and the famous Blue Lagoon. The Iceland Ring Road (also known as Route 1) runs all around the island and is equipped with a network of electric car charging stations which allows visitors to explore the entire country in an ecofriendly way. The new ring Road 2, the Westfjord Way, provides another off-the-beaten-track road trip, taking travellers to the remote wilderness of the stunning peninsula on the north west of Iceland. According to Culture Trip data, Iceland has seen its popularity increase by more than 12% in the past six weeks alone.
The ancient stone city of Matera, in southern Italy’s Basilicata region, will be featured in all its glory in the new Bond movie. Here, visitors can sleep in ‘sassi’ – once-abandoned cave dwellings with a long and chequered history, hand dug from the rock thousands of years ago and thought to be among the first human settlements in the region. Besides being a unique, authentic travel experience, the ‘sassi’ are now also a sustainable model of accommodation in a place where tourism is managed in a responsible way. Not far away from Matera – in Puglia – are the so-called Maldives of Salento, with some of the best beaches in Europe.
Walking the Old Head of Kinsale Loop with spectacular views at every turn, whale-watching off the coast of West Cork or exploring the dozens of atmospheric, rugged islands of Cork’s coastline – Ireland’s wildlife is both fascinating and accessible, and County Cork is a maritime haven for visitors. But here, it is not just about nature experiences: Cork is Ireland’s second biggest city, yet has the feel of a quaint fishing town while still packing in a lot of culture within the city limits. Highlights include Blarney Castle, Cork City Gaol Museum or the cosy Mutton Lane Inn, one of the city’s oldest pubs. A hugely popular destination with Culture Trip users, it saw searches increase by almost 50% in November.
A small European country boasting stunning beauty and big green credentials, Slovenia is packed with everything a traveller can dream of: mountains, beaches, coastal towns, Unesco World Heritage sites, a vibrant capital (Ljubljana – one of Europe’s greenest cities) and more. It has received numerous accolades for its sustainable tourism, including being declared the first Green Country, having achieved a 96% level of compliance with the required sustainability criteria according to a comprehensive assessment by the international organisation Green Destinations
2021 is set to see the long-awaited opening of the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, bringing together an extraordinary collection of some 100,000 artefacts. And of course, Cairo has many other unique experiences to offer: its old quarters with ancient souks, bustling markets, the pyramids and century-old mosques. Cairo’s popularity on Culture Trip has surged over the past six months, with searches for the ancient city increasing by more than 55%.
Five ways to see the world in one single spot – Rotorua offers natural experiences that rival some famous counterparts in other parts of the world: hot springs, as seen in Yellowstone National Park; Whakarewarewa Forest, a majestic grove of Californian redwoods; Mount Tarawera, which is as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon; the Kaituna River with the Tutea Falls, which are as impressive the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls, and the mud spa at Hell’s Gate, which gets very close to the Dead Sea experience.
Norway is very popular on Culture Trip and has seen an increase of more than 15% in searches in the past six months. The Lofoten Islands, above the Arctic Circle, represent the wild side of Nordic life with snowy mountains, beaches that are great for surfing, picturesque fishing villages, the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun. This remote archipelago has earned a reputation as a certified sustainable destination that welcomes visitors while simultaneously reducing the negative impact of tourism.
Messinia, in the southwest of the Pelepponese peninsula, is one of Greece’s lesser known destinations – an unspoilt and beautiful region that many visitors overlook. There are ancient sites, olive groves, Venetian castles, delicious dishes and divine beaches, including the secluded Voidokilia Beach (or Cow’s Belly). Messinia is also home to the Costa Navarino – a getaway steeped in sustainability with a focus on creating eco resorts.
The Islands of Tahiti are a perennial bucket-list destination that – in addition to very strict health protocols put in place this year to protect citizens and visitors -– is making bookings hassle-free for visitors during the pandemic, with the introduction of a common cancellation policy. This offers travellers a unified policy for changes and cancellations related to Covid-19 travel concerns, ensuring peace of mind when booking this dream destination with its pristine and secluded beaches.
South Dakota – when it is safe to travel again – will once again be a place to reconnect with nature with its peaceful landscapes of lush forests, majestic mountains and serene meadows, open spaces and wide horizons. But it is not always quiet here: every year, on the last Friday in September, visitors can hear the ground rumble and see the dust fly at the annual Buffalo Roundup of a thundering herd of around 1,400 bison in Custer State Park. This is not only spectacular to see, the roundup also plays an important part in maintaining a strong and healthy herd.
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