May 22, 2024
National Geographic reveals its best destinations for 2021

National Geographic reveals its best destinations for 2021

(CNN) — A lot of end-of-year traditions are a little different in 2020.

The annual “Where to Travel” lists revealed by big-hitter adventurers National Geographic and Lonely Planet are no exception.

Faced with a world where travel is often currently difficult, inadvisable or impossible, the publishers’ 2021 lists — both released Tuesday — have gone for a more ruminative approach.

While Lonely Planet’s message this year is on travel as a “force for good,” with picks themed around diversity, sustainability and community, National Geographic has chosen sustainability, family, nature, adventure and culture as its five categories.

Rather than an invitation to throw your sarong in your case and hotfoot it to the airport, the lists are intended to serve as inspiration for future adventures, whenever they may be.

National Geographic’s “Best of the World 2021” list offers up 25 picks for your consideration, selected by its international editorial teams, and is showcased at The tag line it’s using is “Dream Now, Go Later.”

Here the reader will find stories describing “conservation successes, preservation achievements, cultural resilience, and tales of communities overcoming daunting obstacles to thrive despite the pandemic,” says National Geographic in a release.

Greece has opened its first underwater museum off the coast of Alonissos. Attendees can explore the remains of an Athenian merchant ship by sea or by virtual reality.

The sustainability category celebrates six superlative destinations across Europe, Africa and the United States.

There’s Alonissos in Greece, with its new underwater museum where visitors can explore the remains of a 2,500-year-old shipwreck, and New Caledonia in France, with its 1.3-million square kilometer marine park.

Florida’s Space Coast is honored in the Family section, as well as the nearly completed England Coastal Path, which at 4,500 kilometers will the be the world’s longest seafront walking trail.

Over in the Adventure category, there’s Georgia’s Svaneti — a stop on the epic Transcaucasian Hiking Trail between Georgia and Armenia — and Alaska’s Katmai National Park.
Located in the Danakil Depression, Erta Ale is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Located in the Danakil Depression, Erta Ale is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Massimo Rumi/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Michigan’s Isle Royale, in the northwest corner of Lake Superior, is honored in the Nature/Wildlife category, and there are showings too for Yellowknife, Canada, and Australia’s Lord Howe Island.

Asia and Oceania are under-represented on the list overall, but it recovers some ground in the culture/history category, with three destinations selected.

The picks include Guam, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean, which played a strategic role in World War II, and Gyeongju, an ancient capital in South Korea that is so teeming with artifacts it’s known as “the museum without walls.”

“While the pandemic has brought journeys to a standstill, it’s not quieted our curiosity,” says George Stone, executive editor of National Geographic Travel, in a release. “The world is full of wonders — even when they’re hard to reach.”

A diver explores the coral reefs around Lord Howe Island.

A diver explores the coral reefs around Lord Howe Island.

Melissa Findley

National Geographic’s Best of the World 2021


Alonissos, Greece

Copenhagen, Denmark

New Caledonia, France

Freiburg, Germany

Gabon, Central Africa

Denver, Colorado


England Coastal Path

Transylvania, Romania

Space Coast, Florida

Hortobagy, Hungary

Indigenous British Columbia, Canada



Svaneti, Georgia

Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska


Isle Royale, Michigan

Yellowknife, Canada

Cerrado savanna, Brazil

Lord Howe Island, Australia



New Mexico, road trip

Bitoria-Gasteiz, Alava, Basque Country, Spain

Gyeongju, South Korea

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tonglu, Zhejiang Province, China

This story has been updated to reflect the addition of Alaska’s Katmai National Park to National Geographic’s list.