By Iolee Anagnostopoulou

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey – and that means only one thing: 2021 is just around the corner! And for those who are ‘California-or-any-sunny-destination-dreaming’, this is the perfect time to start planning your 2021 holidays!

If this year’s travel plans were, like mine, trashed by pandemic restrictions and border closures, then I bet you can’t wait to join the anticipated wave of revenge tourism next year. And who can blame you? You were probably counting down the days until you’d finally cross that exotic beach off your bucket list. Or perhaps you were looking forward to reuniting with your loved ones back home. 

Holidays abroad might seem inconceivable right now, but international travel is expected to make a triumphant return in 2021. Several countries are reopening their doors to tourism with strict health and safety protocols in place. Although many places on the map remain off-limits, I have picked four amazing and relatively safe destinations to include in your travel list. I  focussed on open-space activities, isolated escapes and post-Covid safety rankings to keep you as protected as possible.

Please do check your government’s latest foreign travel advice and quarantine rules before setting off on your trip. Here are four travel hotspots to get you packing your bag:

1. New Zealand 

Besides being home to Hobbiton and countless breathtaking landscapes, New Zealand is also one of the countries that have dealt best with the pandemic. The country’s geographic isolation and decisive government action tackled the spreading of the virus at an early stage, making it an appealing choice for travellers now. 

Social distancing in stunning natural attractions and a variety of sustainable travel options are some of the many boxes that New Zealand ticks off for 2021 vacationing. 

Unmissable spots: Mount Cook National Park, Piha Beach, Milford Sound, Coromandel Peninsula, Moeraki

2. Iceland

After my solo backpacking trip to Iceland a few years ago, I can definitely recommend it and confirm its ranking as one of the world’s safest countries. The “Land of Fire and Ice” also offers some of the most diverse scenery in Europe. Cascading waterfalls, vast glaciers, volcanic lava fields and breathtaking National Parks are sure to satisfy every vista-starved taste. 

Iceland’s effective pandemic management strategies, along with its small and laid-back population, make it a great addition to your travel list. Extra benefits include the Northern Lights in the winter and the Midnight Sun in the summer.  

Unmissable spots: Natural attractions on the Golden Circle, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Snæfellsjökull National Park, hiking the Laugavegur trail.   

3. Maldives

If you like Pina Coladas and jaw-dropping seascapes, the Maldives are probably already on your must-visit list. This tropical destination is expected to become even more popular in 2021 thanks to its incredible new resorts and strict Covid procedures. The country’s recent peace negotiations and naturally secluded location offer safe, socially-distanced vacations. 

With mind-blowing upgrades in its hospitality sector, from properties introducing complementary PCR testing, to new underwater restaurants and floating cinemas, the Maldives will have you wishing to ‘get stuck’ there for a bit longer! 

Unmissable spots: Veligandu Island Resort, Banana Reef, Utheemu island, Alimatha island

4. Greece

I might be a little biased here since I am Greek, but with Italy and Spain‘s virus challenges, Greece is expected to be a more popular choice for Mediterranean breaks in 2021. And for good reason! 

With more than 250 days of sunshine, numerous cultural and archaeological sites, a vibrant nightlife, exquisite cuisine, over 200 islands to choose from and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, Greece has something for everyone! Recently ranked as the 9th safest country for travelling and currently offering cheap deals, even the usually pricey Santorini is suddenly affordable. Bliss!

Unmissable spots: The Acropolis of Athens and its Museum, Temple of Poseidon, Crete, Milos, Zakynthos, Koufonisia, Skopelos (for Mamma Mia! fans).

I will no longer take travel for granted. Staycations and virtual tours might have somewhat satisfied our holiday needs this summer, but international destinations are becoming possible again, with hotels and airlines implementing procedures for safe and responsible vacations. Post-COVID travel will definitely look different, but previously overcrowded destinations will now become quieter and more enjoyable, and instead of rushing around, perhaps we’ll take time to truly appreciate what is on offer?

As an expat, my 2021 travel destination is home. And as this trip looks so close yet so far away, I find comfort in the thought of revisiting my favourite beach, where my father used to take me. I can’t wait to bury my feet in warm sand, feel the sun on my skin, smell the saltwater in the air, listen to the waves and feast my eyes on my favourite colour: Mediterranean blue.