20 travel bucket list ideas for 2021
Updated: May 24, 2022
Are you ready to scratch your travel itch in 2021? So are we! And that’s why we have compiled 20 travel bucket list ideas for the new year. We’ve finally put 2020 behind us, which was a challenging year to say the least. But with the anticipation of getting vaccinated and lifting travel restrictions, we’re hopeful for travel in 2021. This article highlights 20 incredible places and attractions that can be enjoyed while staying socially distanced. Besides, these countries are currently open or are expected to open their borders in the near future. Happy travels and we hope that all your travel dreams come true this year!
If you're looking for more destinations and travel inspiration for 2021, download our FREE 100 bucket list destinations and check off the destinations as you go!
Go island-hopping in Greece
With about 6,000 islands and islets scattered around the Aegean and Ionian Seas, Greece is the perfect place to go island-hopping! From the gorgeous Cyclades, including Mykonos and Santorini, to the Ionian islands near the mainland, including the deep-blue Zakynthos and Corfu. You can explore the dark-colored volcanic beaches and swim in the sheltered bays and coves. Each island has its own unique history, local traditions, and topography, as well as a wide diversity of attractions. But while they are unique, all have this in common: the islands are affordable, beautiful, and delicious. Just hop on the ferry and explore!
Road trip through the Western US
The western states in the US boast an array of amazing road trips. Combining the awe-inspiring national parks and the beautiful beaches into a trip makes for a true American outdoor adventure. Explore areas such as the arid desert landscapes in Arizona and Nevada, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the famous Yosemite National Park in California, or the lush forests of Oregon and Washington. Whether you are renting an RV or simply traveling by your own car and tent, nothing beats the freedom of the open road.
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Ride your bike through the wine regions of France
France enjoys a strong cycling culture together with a long history of world-class winemaking. So why not combine both? Experience the quintessential French culture like never before by cycling through diverse landscapes of the wine regions. From the countryside along the Alsace Wine Route, to the gentle hills and stunning vineyards in the Aquitaine region, the “chateaux” of the Loire Valley, the medieval towns in the Burgundy region, and the lush green valleys of Dordogne. Each region will bring you closer to the French locals, villages, and culture!
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By: Kermit Lynch
Go hiking in the Canadian Rockies
Extending 1,200km (745.6mi) from the American border over the east of British Columbia and the west of Alberta, the Canadian Rockies are a true nature lover’s dream. The hiking opportunities are endless: from easy day hikes to challenging multi-day hiking in the alpine region. The Canadian Rockies offer trails for everyone who wants to explore the wild nature filled with cascading waterfalls, flower-filled meadows, turquoise lakes, and glacier-clad peaks. And amidst the jaw-dropping mountain scenery, you will find a variety of wildlife and charming alpine towns. Whether you travel to Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, or Yoho National Park, you’ll find yourself in awe.
Go camping in Norway
Home to some of the world’s most dramatic mountains and fjords, Norway should be on your bucket list for 2021! Wild camping is allowed almost everywhere in the country, keeping the cost down in what is otherwise an expensive country to travel to. Sleep in some of the most amazing places earth, like right on top of the famous Trolltunga or at the shores of the deep blue Lake Lovatnet. Take in the views at magnificent fjords, cascading waterfalls, impressive glaciers, and pristine lakes. Do it all while drinking your morning coffee right outside your tent!
Visit the remote Namib Desert
Your travels can't get much more remote than Namibia! With a total population of roughly 2.5 million and an average of 3.13 people per square kilometer, Namibia is the second most sparsely populated country in the world. And you will totally understand this once you visit... Namibia is one of those few places left in the world where you can drive for hours without seeing anyone. But besides that, Namibia has some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa. Enjoy the vast Namib Desert, a wide variety of wildlife, and an endless coastline.
Explore the towns of Cinque Terre on foot
Located along the rugged Riviera Coast in Italy, Cinque Terre should be on your travel bucket list for 2021! Cinque Terre is comprised of five centuries-old seaside villages, characterized by its colorful houses, vineyards clasped to steep terraces, small harbors with fishing boats, and charming restaurants with exquisite seafood. The Sentiero Azzurro (translated: the blue trail) is a cliffside hiking trail that connects the romantic towns from Riomaggiore all the way to Monterosso al Mare. It is only 11km (6.8mi) long but offers sweeping sea vistas and allows you to visit all the towns on foot! And even though the trail was under construction for most of 2020, it is expected to reopen in the spring of 2021!
Love hiking? Find the world's best hikes here!
See the Northern Lights in Iceland
Besides its grand volcanic landscapes and unique waterfalls, Iceland is known for its Northern Lights activity. The northern lights, also called the aurora borealis, can only be observed from countries in the far north, such as Canada, Norway, Lapland, and Iceland. They often appear in the sky as dancing lights and vary in color, from green to purple, red, pink, orange, and blue. Iceland is a prime location to chase them and therefore a must-do when planning a trip! They are even visible in the months of May and August, though September through March is the peak season because of the long nights.
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Discover the castles of Scotland
Home to over 2,000 castles, Scotland is the ultimate destination for history and architecture lovers. Ranging from ancient hill forts and tower houses to affluent Victorian country homes, a self-driving tour of the castles promises to be a magical journey. And the icing on the cake? You can find castles in the most idyllic locations, whether it's deep in the rolling hills, on the serene lakeside, or along the rugged coastline. Visit the famous Edinburgh Castle, the iconic Eilean Donan, or the majestic Dunrobin Castle.
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Swim in the Mexican cenotes
Swimming in a cenote is a unique experience and therefore we added it as a top travel bucket list idea for 2021. A cenote is a natural swimming hole formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock, revealing its deep blue and emerald-colored groundwater. There are thousands of cenotes scattered around Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and a wide range is open to the public. Because of their uniqueness and sheer beauty, cenotes have become an enticing destination for divers and adventurers alike. Swim in the clear waters while being mesmerized by the jungle-like caves of Ik-Kil, Cenote Azul, or Dos Ojos.
Explore undiscovered Albania
Albania is one of the best-kept secrets in Europe. It is not only home to stunning beaches, but also to impressive mountains, interesting archeological sites, pristine lakes, deep valleys, lush forests, and ancient towns. Hence it is the perfect travel destination for nature lovers, history buffs, and beach lovers. Go hiking in the rugged Accursed Mountains, explore the deep-blue waters of the Albanian Riviera, or visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Butrint and Gjirokastra. And this is all possible on a small budget! Albania will truly take your breath away.
Explore the flora and fauna of Costa Rica
Being one of the biologically wealthiest countries in the world, Costa Rica is a heaven for nature lovers. While the nation only has about 0.25% of the world's landmass, it holds almost 5% of the world's biodiversity. And with the largest percentage of protected areas in the world, wildlife thrives here. Witness the nestling turtles in Tortuguero National Park, spot colorful toucans and playful monkeys in Monteverde, or see sloths hanging high in the trees of Manuel Antonio. But besides its flora and fauna, Costa Rica is also an amazing diving and surfing destination and home to some of the happiest and friendliest people in the world!
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By: Lonely Planet
Backpack around Turkey
Turkey should be on any traveler’s bucket list since it offers something for everyone. Its history, culture, and nature are some of the most interesting and unique in the world. Visit historical and archeological sites like the ancient city of Ephesus, the City of Troy, or magical Cappadocia. Experience the diverse Turkish culture which is expressed in its delicious cuisine. Alternatively, you can explore the country's breathtaking nature such as the white-sand beaches of the Aegean Coast, the spectacular Pontic Mountains, or the volcanic wonder of Pamukkale. Besides the beautiful nature, the Turkish people known to be amazingly friendly and traveling there is very affordable!
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Go on a safari in Kenya
Home to some of the best safari parks in the world, Kenya promises to be a wild and animal-filled adventure! Here you can find one of the world's highest and most diverse populations of wildlife, including lions, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, elephants, cheetahs, flamingos, leopards, African buffalos, and more. Many travelers visit Kenya to see the Great Wildebeest Migration, the largest animal migration in the world, consisting of more than 2 million animals that migrate from Tanzania to Kenya. However, there is much more to see if you head further afield, such as Amboseli National Park, Lake Nakuru, and Nairobi National Park to name a few.
Explore the Caribbean islands
Scattered across the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the Caribbean is home to some of the most beautiful islands in the world. And while Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic are well-known touristic hubs, there are many others that are hidden paradises like St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, or Dominica. Enjoy miles of pristine white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and splendid natural landscapes. There are only a few other places in the world that boast as many different fish and coral reefs for divers to explore. Add to that the pleasant climate year-round, you can't go wrong with the Caribbean!
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Roadtrip around Ireland
Being a relatively small country, Ireland is a great road trip destination. The driving times between the towns are short and there are interesting things to see and do around every corner. From the historic capital of Dublin to the rolling hills of the Ring of Kerry, the world-famous Cliffs of Moher, and the mysterious Giant's Causeway. Ireland is the perfect destination for anyone who loves hiking, discovering castles, visiting quaint villages, learning all about whiskey, and exploring a rugged coastline.
Discover the rugged island of Corsica
Known for its warm climate, dramatic mountain landscapes, and stunning coastlines, the island of Corsica is a destination worthy of all travel bucket lists! And although most travelers visit Corsica for its beautiful beaches and turquoise waters, there is much more than that. Corsica is home to one of the most challenging hiking trails in the world, the GR20, and boasts a rich history, with ancient buildings in quaint fishing villages, winding cobbled streets, delicious cuisine, and a unique cultural scene. The culture is a mix of both France and Italy, which means the best of both if you ask me!
Tick off as many US National Parks as possible
If you've ever had the opportunity to visit one of the National Parks in the US, then you know just how magical they are. 62 National Parks are scattered across the mainland, the islands of Hawaii, the remote state of Alaska, and the US Territories. Each individual park has something unique and special to offer. From the geysers of Yellowstone National Park to the alligators of Everglades National Park, the barren landscapes of Death Valley, and the blue lakes of Glacier National Park. Tick off as many as you can in 2021!
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Go kayaking in Sweden
With over 100,000 lakes, grand rivers, and a long coastline dotted with thousands of islands, Sweden is the ultimate kayaking destination. From the north to the south, the country boasts a vast number of kayaking and canoeing opportunities for all experience levels. From an easy city paddle in Stockholm to a longer trip in the wild rivers of Lapland, and a relaxing trip along the longest river in Sweden, the Klarälven. Go on a guided (or self-guided) tour and immerse yourself in Sweden's landscapes, culture, and history.
See at least one of the 7 Wonders of the World
Seeing the 7 Wonders of the World is part of almost every traveler's bucket list. Their uniqueness, sheer beauty, and archeological significance are what make each of these places a must-visit at some point in your life. 2021 is the year to make up for travel, so explore the Corcovado in Brazil, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Petra in Jordan, the Colosseum in Italy, or the Taj Mahal in India. And if you are lucky, maybe you can check off a few!
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Pin, print, or save the bucket list below!
These were 20 travel bucket list ideas for 2021! We hope these will inspire your future travels. And of course, we hope that you can stay safe while having fun! You can also check out some other writers' compilation of travel bucket list ideas for the new year, like Lonely Planet and Forbes.
If you are looking for more incredible destinations, make sure to download our free 100 bucket list destinations and start checking them off!