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Top 21 destinations for 2021: according to SLH INVITED Members

After a year of staycations, or a lack of vacations entirely, we asked our INVITED Members for their top holiday destinations for 2021. From far-flung corners and remote island retreats in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean, to familiar favourites for European escapes, here is our post-lockdown list of most popular places to visit this year, pandemic permitting.

1. The Maldives

It’s unsurprising that the impossibly blue waters and pristine white beaches of the Maldives spoke most to our Vitamin D deprived community. These Indian Ocean islands have been social distancing long before the arrival of COVID-19, where privacy comes in the form of over-water villas and exclusive stretches of palm-lined sand. And with four Maldivian resorts to choose from, our private island collection is made for post-COVID castaways.

2. Italy

City break heavyweights, from Venice and Milan, to Rome and Florence. The vineyards, the lakes, the mountains, the islands, the Mediterranean. Every inch of Italy is postcard-worthy, all inspired by millennia of romance, intrigue and cultured creativity. Wander through Sicilian olive groves, explore the rolling hills of Tuscany on horseback, sit beneath lemon trees and pastel-coloured parasols on the Amalfi Coast with an Aperol Spritz in hand, and discover Roman ruins in the ancient capital. Not to mention the food, and don’t get us started on the wine…get a taste of Southern Italy with our Amalfi Coast itinerary here.

3. Japan

As the host country of the postponed 2020 Olympics, Japan is sure to see its fair share of spotlight this year. With four distinct seasons, in full cherry blossom bloom during the spring and beneath a generous winter sprinkling of snow, this diverse island looks equally beautiful at any time of the year. An adventure of bustling cities, thermal springs, tranquil temples, powder skiing, origami, and culinary delights (chopsticks compulsory) awaits – start planning your Japanese itinerary here.

4. Thailand

From idyllic jungles with waterfalls, rock pools and frangipane-scented valleys, to island hopping on long-tail boats and lively night markets laden with exotic goods, Thailand is a true taste of Asia and all its charms. Drawing wellness gurus, yoga and scuba enthusiasts, and honeymooners, its laid-back beach resorts give way to vibrant cities brimming with delicious street food and historic temples. The Gulf of Thailand beckons the barefoot crowd, where snorkelling amongst shoals of multi-coloured fish, sipping fresh coconut water in a swinging hammock, and snacking on banana pancakes beneath the stars are just a handful of ways to experience island life. Follow the foodie trail with our culinary guide to Thailand here.

5. Greece

It’s impossible not to fall in love with Greece and its welcoming locals, who are steeped in the art of hospitality. An ancient land with many modern charms, its whitewashed walls, cerulean blue cupolas framed by fuchsia flowers, olive-scented groves, and architectural treasures from Classical antiquity, both the mainland and its countless islands scattered across the Aegean and Ionian Seas have long captivated travellers. The windmills of Mykonos, the colourful clifftop villages of Santorini, the towering columns of Athens‘ Acropolis…need we say more? Island hop your way around Greece with our Cycladic itinerary here.

6. Australia

The lifestyle in Australia is well and truly laid-back, and the welcome is as warm as the weather. Boasting natural wonders aplenty, with everything from rainforests and mountains to coral reefs, the planet’s oldest landscape has aged like a fine wine – of which there’s more than enough to sample on a rural vineyard tasting tour or a trendy city wine bar. From the well-known hotspots of Bondi Beach and Byron Bay, to the quieter countryside surrounding Melbourne and subtropical Brisbane, make the most of wave surfing and wildlife spotting in this vast and varied landscape. Read up on Australia’s water, wine and wildlife with our cross-country itinerary here.

7. France

As one of Europe’s largest countries, France offers an endless array of experiences. You’ll find vibrant city breaks and quaint country retreats, rustic vineyards and exclusive beach resorts, cultural treasures and culinary artworks. Like a bottle of the finest Bordeaux, it is a destination with depth, complexity and no shortage of style. Linger over delicate macaroons in the artisan bakeries of Ile de Saint Louis in Paris, cycle through fields of fragrant lavender in Provence, and soak up the sun from a striped lounger on the Côte d’Azur – the experiences are endless, and equally elegant. Journey along the French Riviera with our coastal road trip itinerary here.

8. Bali

Traditional massage on the beach, treks through craggy mountains, visits to ancient temples – Bali is a big-hearted island. The locals go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome, with everything from mouth-watering cuisine to unadulterated spa resort luxury on offer. As the home of yoga, soul soothing centres are in abundance if you’re really looking to stretch yourself. However you spend your time, the surf, lush vegetation and captivating architecture act as the perfect background to a never-to-be-forgotten stay. For more beach dwelling and island hopping inspiration, find our Balinese itinerary here.

9. South Africa

South Africa is big on everything, and all about embracing the wild side – the Kalahari desert and Kruger National Park, whale-watching and great white shark diving, canyons, capes and coastal routes. Adventure-seekers can climb Table Mountain or go gorge hiking, while those for a taste for the finer things in life explore the Cape Winelands vineyards. For breath-taking landscapes off the typical tourist trail, laid-back cape towns such as Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay capture the very ‘best of’ South Africa.

10. New Zealand

With its panoramic scenery and dramatic landscapes, it’s no wonder that New Zealand has become the dream destination of many a film director. From the southerly vineyards and world-renowned ski slopes surrounding Queenstown, to the Maori greeting houses of Christchurch, the gateway to both the South Island and Antarctica, this remote corner of the world guarantees the greatest of outdoor adventures.

11. Portugal

Like the drink that bears its name, Portugal is best savoured slowly. In the north you’ll find remote country retreats, the vineyard-dotted slopes of the Douro Valley and the UNESCO world-heritage site of Oporto. As you head south, there are historic cities such as Coimbra and Lisbon to discover, as well as lesser-known gems hidden in the countryside. Finally, you reach the sun-strewn Algarve with its African influences, world-class golf and spas.

12. Switzerland

Look beyond Switzerland‘s age-old clichés of chocolate, cheese, and cuckoo clocks, and discover the beauty of the Matterhorn and the glamorous, luxury ski resorts of Gstaad, Verbier, and St. Moritz, train rides through deep alpine valleys, and fine dining in cities as impressive as the surrounding landscape. Stroll along avenues bordered by graceful townhouses in Zürich, home to works by the world’s most revered artists, or wander through historic cobbled streets and peaceful parks along the shore of Lake Geneva.

13. Spain

There’s more to Spain than just sun, azure seas, and ice-cold sangria – browse Barcelona‘s colourful architectural masterpieces, or bustling flea markets in Madrid, hop from tapas bar to tapas bar in Seville before putting your feet up and sipping vino tinto beneath a shady orange tree. Slip into Balearic Island bliss on Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca, and their little sister, Formentera where whitewashed fishing villages meet bleached blonde sands. Continue dreaming of Southern Spain with our itinerary here.

14. Mauritius

Set to a soundtrack of gently lapping waves and swaying palms, Mauritius is the ultimate Indian Ocean island hideaway. With year-round sunshine and balmy temperatures, most of your time will be spent horizontal on white sandy beaches or swinging hammocks, fresh coconut juice in hand. Join turtles and tropical fish while snorkelling on one of the world’s longest unbroken coral reefs, or take a trip inland to visit the Pamplemousses Botanic Garden, the oldest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

15. Canada

Boasting the world’s longest coastline, with the Atlantic to the East, the Pacific to the West, and the Arctic Ocean stretching along the North, Canada‘s geography is as varied as its spectacular seasons. Everything about this vast country is big: the Niagara Falls, the surf swells, the famous moose and infamous grizzly bears. Get lost in the wilderness of backcountry skiing in British Columbia, polar bear spotting on the northern tundra, whale watching on the picturesque waterfront of Vancouver Island, and canoeing along auburn tree-lined waterways in Nova Scotia.

16. Taiwan

Deservedly known as the ‘Beautiful Isle,’ Taiwan is home to precipitous tree-lined gorges, cliffs plunging into the ocean, tall mountain peaks and traditional temples. Now very much on the radar for food lovers across the world, cities like Taipei serve up exquisite local cuisine, including a Hakka-style banquet and spice-scented night markets. Dip into tiny old fan and lantern shops in Lukang‘s Old Town, cycle through the Nantou countryside surrounded by undulating tea plantations and thundering waterfalls, and tick off sixty-three Taoist temples from your bucket list in Yilan City.

17. Scotland

From heather-dotted coastlines, hilltop castles and stone-clad villages to craggy peaks and mystical lochs, Scotland is home to some of the most ruggedly beautiful scenery in the world. Head to the Highlands to experience wilderness with the spectacular backdrop of Ben Nevis, the UK‘s highest peak, pick up some Scottish souvenirs from Edinburgh‘s Royal Mile or colourful Grassmarket shops leading up to the castle, and go for bracing beach walks along the Gullane coast, just a caber’s toss from the country’s capital. For more inspiration on Scotland, start planning your itinerary here.

18. Mexico

An exuberant country full of colour, Mexico is a treat for all the senses. You could scale Mayan pyramids or kick back on untouched beaches, immerse yourself in vibrant cities or find solitude in exclusive country retreats – most of all, relax and revel in the laid back pace of life. This huge country has some of the world’s most beautiful coastline, most renowned historic sights, and most sophisticated fine dining. And, wherever you go, you’ll find a friendly welcome – not to mention a shot of tequila or two. Swap urban jungle for coastal rainforest in our Mexican itinerary here.

19. Singapore

An exhilarating melting pot combining the cultures of China, Malaysia, and India, the customs, food, and culture of Singapore make for a fascination fusion experience. Home to the buildings that give the Singapore skyline its neck-craning height, the ultra-modern Central Business District will satisfy any retail fix, along with cravings for fine dining and street food alike.

20. USA

The USA is as varied as it is vast, from an iconic New York city break or an exclusive seaside retreat in the Hamptons on the East Coast, to the world-class wineries and beaches of California on the West Coast, and everything in between. Southern country charm awaits in Charleston and the sunshine states, while the dramatic scenery of Colorado and Arizona draws explorers of the great outdoors. Start planning your own American adventure here.

21. Barbados

Widely recognised as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, not to mention the birthplace of rum, Barbados sways to a relaxed rhythm of cocktail sipping and hammock swinging. Join the locals for a beachfront BBQ of freshly-caught fish, hunt for trinkets in colour-popping boutiques in Bridgetown, and swim with rainbow-coloured fish and sea turtles in the pristine waters surrounding St. James. Or simply soak up the sunshine from one of the island’s glorious beaches, which enjoy near perfect weather all year round.