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8 off-the-beaten-path destinations to visit in 2021

Dec 10, 2020 by Cayleigh Heitsmith

We’ve never wanted to see the world on tour more, and think you may feel the same way. So, our team of travel experts have selected eight off-the-beaten-path travel destinations to visit in 2021! Keep reading to discover what makes these unique travel destinations worth a trip in the coming year—our travel family around the globe can’t wait to welcome you to the places they call home.


1. Costa Rica

There are so many reasons to love this Central American country. It’s one of the most unique travel destinations to visit in 2021 if you want to see tropical wildlife and really immerse yourself in the “pura vida” way of life. A trip to Costa Rica shines a light on nature and conservation. There are countless animals to see on a tour of Costa Rica, and you can’t miss going to a sea turtle conservancy from June–September during the nesting season. It’s an unforgettable experience to learn about these animals and the steps locals take to protect them in this unique travel destination.

We would argue that you can’t go to Costa Rica without visiting Arenal National Park, known for the giant (and active) Arenal Volcano. A bit further south, you’ll find both the Monteverde and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserves. These reserves are home to a lot of beautiful wildlife, but one species that stands out is the three-wattled bellbird. This bird has a very distinct, bell-like call and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the bird on your nature walk! Speaking of the sky, the optional Sky Walk excursion brings you high above the cloud forest floor and into the canopy layer where you can experience this ecosystem from a new perspective.

Why visit Costa Rica now?

There’s never been a better time to be outside and experience all that Costa Rica has to offer! Visiting this unique travel destination in 2021 is an opportunity to see natural habitats and gaze at gorgeous views, but it’s also your chance to meet with the friendly locals who embrace the happy “pura vida” mentality. You’ll quickly find that Costa Rican positivity is contagious!


2. Iceland

Travel to Iceland has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, and we have the best insider tips for what to see in Iceland during your trip. Visitors are completely mesmerized by the island’s natural beauty, which is why our experts have selected this location as one of the must-see travel destinations in 2021. One of the most well-known experiences in Iceland is touring the Golden Circle. This route begins in the capital city of Reykjavik and has a few exciting stops along the way, including Thingvellir National Park and the Golden Circle waterfall, known locally as “Gullfoss.”

Many people travel to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. If you get lucky on your late-fall or winter trip, you’ll be able to see this colorful natural wonder light up the night sky. Visiting the Blue Lagoon is another natural Icelandic experience you won’t want to miss. This geothermal spa is known around the world for its light-blue water that is naturally heated by the Earth’s energy. Visitors can relax in the lagoon, as well as get massages and spa treatments for an even more peaceful experience.

Why visit Iceland now?

French writer Jules Verne was inspired by the Icelandic landscape long ago, and we’re sure you will be too! A remote country like Iceland is the perfect destination for those wanting to experience out-of-this-world scenery and relaxing moments on off-the-beaten-path vacations in 2021.


3. Egypt

Visiting this north African country is like stepping into another time or even another world, and our team of experts have the best travel tips for Egypt and the Nile tours. One of the most impressive sites to see on tour in Egypt is the Pyramids of Giza. A Wonder of the Ancient World, the pyramids are truly outstanding to experience in person, and snapshots of these landmarks make for the perfect addition to your photo diary from Egypt. The icons don’t stop there—there are so many Egyptian wonders beyond the pyramids! On our Egypt & the Nile tour, you’ll spend time touring the top sites along the banks of the iconic Nile River, like Luxor Temple, Valley of the Kings, and the Colossi of Memnon.

Looking for more off-the-beaten-path vacation ideas for 2021? There are two remote villages in southern Egypt that you should check out on your trip to Egypt. The first, Abu Simbel, is best known for the rock-cut Abu Simbel temples along the shore of Lake Nasser. You’ll also want to make time for a visit to a Nubian village. Nubia was the location of one of the earliest civilizations in Egypt, and getting to meet an indigenous Nubian family is an authentic cultural experience you won’t want to miss on Egypt tours.

Why visit Egypt now?

If you’re a history buff and someone who loves authentic experiences while traveling, a tour of Egypt is for you. Being able to explore and learn about this fascinating ancient civilization in mainly rural areas is the best way to experience the wonders of Egypt.


4. Puglia, Italy

It’s easy to understand why Puglia, Italy, is on our list of unique travel destinations for 2021. The relaxed, Mediterranean feel of this small region draws in visitors from around the world. The Puglia region, located in the southern part of Italy known as the “boot heel,” has the longest coastline in mainland Italy—and with a long coastline comes must-visit beaches! You’ll find the most stunning crystal-clear water on the Adriatic and Ionian coasts of Puglia, and you’ll want to spend your free time on tour in Italy jumping right in!

Bari is the capital city of Puglia, and if you crave more time outside of the city, make sure to visit a local olive oil farm—Puglia is known for its history of olive oil production. We visit and olive oil farm in Ostuni on tour in Puglia, where you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the pre-Roman olive trees and production process firsthand. Speaking of farming, one of the best places to experience the culture of Puglia is the famous white Trulli huts, which are unique to the farming tradition in the region.

Why visit Puglia now?

Puglia offers travelers a diverse journey. From the city and towns to the impressive beaches along the coastline and rural countryside farms, you’ll fall in amore with this must-see travel destination in 2021.


5. Scottish Highlands

There are so many things to love about Scotland: the city of Edinburgh, kilts, the sound of bagpipes, and the Loch Ness monster, all of which make it one of the must-visit countries in 2021. But, there are countless other gems in the country, and you can see them all on a journey through Scotland’s gorgeous landscapes. On your way up north to the Scottish Highlands, make sure to stop at Trossachs National Park, home of the vast Loch Lomond and Inveraray Castle. The castle has been the seat of Scottish nobles since the 18th century, and is one of the most underrated placed to visit in 2021! Entrance is available from April through October, so that’s a good time to plan your trip to Scotland.

When you arrive in the Scottish Highlands, you’ll want to spend time admiring the greenery, mountains, and lakes that make the region unique. The famous Loch Ness is located at the center of the Highlands, along with the iconic ruins of the medieval Urquhart Castle, both of which you can experience on our tour, Edinburgh & the Castles of Scotland. After all the outdoor exploring, you’ll probably be thirsty. If you fancy a lesson in Scotch whisky, then you’re in luck! You’ll be able to stroll through the Highland town of Oban and tour Oban Distillery to see how Scottish malt whisky is produced, and of course taste some for yourself.

Why visit Scotland now?

Are you a fan of the television series Outlander? Our Scotland tours go to quite a few of the popular show’s filming locations. Fan of the show or not, we know you’ll fall in love with the landscapes of this off-the-beaten-path destination in 2021.


6. South Africa

South Africa is a bucket-list destination for many, making it one of the must-see travel destinations in 2021. A visit to this awe-inspiring country is filled with the perfect mix of adventure, scenery, and city tours. Any trip to South Africa would not be complete without visiting the coastal capital city, Cape Town, known for its flat-topped Table Mountain where visitors can get a bird’s-eye view of the city below. Exploring the Cape of Good Hope, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, is also a must-do in the area. After all the adventure, a great way to unwind is by visiting the Cape Winelands for a glass of local Pinotage.

But what about going from the city to a safari, you ask? Viewing the wild animals of South Africa is another experience that can’t be missed, and Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve are the best places to live out your safari dream! You’ll be able to take incredible safari snapshots of buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinos in their natural habitat—truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Traveling via the Mpumalanga Panorama Route on your way to Johannesburg will lead you to a breathtaking view known as God’s Window, the perfect way to end your South African journey.

Why visit South Africa now?

Do you have “experience an African safari” on your bucket list? This year is the best time to make your travel dreams come true on tour in South Africa! Use up those saved vacation days and spend a few weeks in this special country.


7. Slovenia

Smack dab in the middle of Austria and Croatia is Slovenia, one of the most unique travel destinations in 2021. Slovenia was recently named the world’s most sustainable country, and is home to breathtaking Lake Bled. The lake is a rich blue-green color and has a tiny island in the middle that houses a church and small museum. If you want to work for that amazing view during your free time on a Slovenia trip, make sure to take one of the many hikes in the area. Our favorite is the Ojstrica Bled trail that you’ll have time to tackle in your free time on tour in Slovenia. If this one is too steep, you’ll enjoy walking around the perimeter of the lake as well!

Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, is a super hip, green city with a lot of Italian architectural influence. There are no cars in the city center, and their public transit network is environmentally friendly. If you have some free time, make sure to check out Ljubljana Castle—you can’t miss it, on a hill in the center of the city! If you like that castle, we recommend venturing a bit outside of the city to visit Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave.

Why visit Slovenia now?

If you’re someone who loves outdoor activities and appreciates environmentally friendly locations, Slovenia is one of the perfect off-the-beaten-path travel destinations in 2021. Home to some of the most beautiful natural sites in Europe, Slovenia should be added to your travel list this year!


8. New Zealand

Most people who come back from a trip to New Zealand say it’s one of the most beautiful places they’ve ever been. This is another destination that you’ll want to spend quite some time exploring—there are so many top things to do in New Zealand! Like many of the other countries on this year’s list of underrated places to visit in 2021, New Zealand is home to many natural parks. Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park is a great place to start. Make sure you take a bit of a hike around the area to not miss any spectacular views! Franz Josef Glacier in the South Island’s Southern Alps is a great landmark to view from above. Many people take an exciting helicopter ride above the huge mass of snow and ice.

You’ll find a very different landscape when you arrive in the Abel Tasman region in the north of the South Island. Hop aboard a boat and ride around this area to take in the turquoise waters, coves, and beaches. Be sure to stop by Kaiteriteri Beach. In a word, it’s paradise. New Zealand is also known for producing wines, so make sure to taste some Sauvignon Blanc at a vineyard during your visit. If you have a chance to make it to the North Island, you can’t miss out on the glowworm-lit Waitomo Caves that are otherworldly. No matter which part of the country you visit, say hi to the people who call it home—meeting locals in New Zealand makes any trip truly memorable.

Why visit New Zealand now?

The natural beauty you’ll see on tour in New Zealand is remarkable. 2021 is the best year to travel to this off-the-beaten-path island nation, and once you’re there, you may never want to leave.

Where do you dream of traveling in 2021? Tell us on our Facebook page!

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About the author | Cayleigh Heitsmith
Cayleigh knew she was hooked on travel after studying abroad in France during college. She went on to graduate and move to southern France (and afterward, Berlin, Germany) for the following three years. When she’s not traveling or working as a Travel Support Specialist for Go Ahead, she enjoys road biking, discovering new restaurants and cuisines, and spending time with her family in Vermont.

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