The 2021 Travel Bucket List

Written by | Travel

Cabin fever getting you down? Once you get both vaccine doses it’s time to book your first post-pandemic adventure. Pull out your passport and make sure it’s up to date, renew your Global Entry, TSA Pre Check, and access passes to your favorite lounges because travel is going to come back with a bang. We thought long and hard about our bucket list for 2021 and leaned into eight international destinations we’re ready to check out. We’ll meet you on the road in a variety of destinations including European capitals, the Costa Rican jungle, and Australian wine country. Travel is back, have you packed your carry-on?

BATH

Did you binge the Netflix series Bridgerton earlier this year? In addition to Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor, the breakout star of the series is Bath, the breathtaking city in the county of Somerset, England. Located in the heart of the Avon Valley and surrounded by limestone hills near the Cotswolds and the only UK city with the formal UNESCO designation. No stranger to film and television, Bath is a stunning location named after its Roman-built baths. Filmmakers and production companies flock to the city’s stunning Georgian architecture and surrounding manor homes each year. Additional projects that have been filmed in Bath include Sherlock, The Duchess, Vanity Fair, and even parts of the film version of Les Misérables. Soak in 2,000 years of history on a tour of the Roman Baths, set to reopen in May of 2021.

Take in the Sacred Spring, Roman Temple, Roman Bath House as well as interesting finds from the Roman Bath. Then head around the corner and check into Thermae Bath Spa, where you can enjoy Britain’s only natural thermal waters. Spend an afternoon at The New Royal Bath, a fusion of glass, stone, light, and water. Jane Austen is from Bath, and you can immerse yourself in everything Austen at the Jane Austen Center, offering a snapshot of what it was like to live in the Regency times. Have a little extra time? Stonehenge, the World Heritage Site is a little under an hour away. Highclere Castle, the backdrop for the hit series Downton Abbey is about an hour and 20 minutes away. Who knows, you might just run into the Dowager on your excursion.

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BHUTAN

Known for its ancient temples and mountainous fortresses, the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” is famously recognized as one of the happiest places in the world. The small once isolated mountainous country just south of Nepal offers lush, breathtaking environments and a unique culture rich in diversity. Bhutan is considered the “last true illusion of Shangri-La” for its’ stunning landscape and gorgeous views of the soaring Himalayan peaks, glacial valleys, and evergreen forests. Take in the capital city of Thimphu, the picturesque Taktsang Monastery, considered “Tiger’s Nest” in Paro, and Punakha, picturesque rice farming valley.

Construction of the enormous Buddha Dordenma, a bronze Buddha statue overlooking the capital, is definitely worth a visit. Check into one or all of the five Amankora lodges surrounded by forests and orchards in Paro, Thimphu, Gangtey, Bumthang, or Punakha where you can tailor a “koro” journey of discovery through the world’s last Buddhist kingdom and embark on excursions like a hike to the Dodedrak Village, ascend from Amankora Paro to Tiger’s Nest, and embark in a Shashila hike to take in the wonders of the Phobjikha Valley – or just relax and take in Bhutanese oil massages and candlelit stone baths back at the resort. Rumor has it visitors to the Buddha are filled with happiness and able to carry this joy in their aura for months down the line. Who doesn’t need a little extra joy?

BUENOS AIRES

As famous for its culture and glamour as it is for its political unrest, Buenos Aires is sometimes called the “Paris of South America.” Tango, a sultry dance that originated in Argentina in the 1800s has been elevated from lower-class entertainment to high-end tradition. Four neighborhoods everyone must explore in Buenos Aires are: San Telmo, Palermo Viejo, Puerto Madero, and Recoleta. If you’re pressed for time, start by paying homage to Eva Peron at the Museo Evita, La Recoleta, and the Casa Rosada where you can recreate the famous balcony scene. Glimpses of antiquity and history can be found throughout Buenos Aires. Take in neo-renaissance and neoclassical inspired sites like the Colón Theatre and the National Congress building, to magnificent art-deco landmarks like the tall Kavanagh Building, and The Woman’s Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava. El Zanjón de Granados, a 200-year-old mansion and historical landmark that led archaeologists to discover an ancient ravine as well as the earliest settlements in Argentina.

A trip to the exotic and indulgent city isn’t complete without a tango performance. Tango Porteno, located in a converted Metro Goldwyn Mayer movie theater, is one of the best shows in town. Be sure to bring your camera and get ready for the performance of a lifetime. Need to unplug and clear your head? Head to the Palermo Woods and take a healing stroll through 1,000 species of roses in the Rose Garden Walk (Paseo del Rosedal). If you’re hungry for an add-on adventure, VACAYA is hosting the first all-LGBT+ first ship charter to Antarctica on a ten-day adventure. Travelers on the cruise get to spend a night in Buenos Aires to live their “Evita fantasy” before flying to Ushuaia to board the cruise on December 6. Is Antarctica also on your bucket list? Check a few boxes off of your list with this amazing combination vacation.

COSTA RICA

Costa Rica, just a quick flight from the States, is a destination known for tropical beaches, lush jungles, extraordinary adventures, yoga retreats, and luxury accommodations. Find some balance and your inner peace in Costa Rica, a country where you can walk on the white and black sand beaches on the Caribbean Sea or Pacific Ocean and take in the wealth of marine ecosystems playing in the surf. The Arenal Volcano, considered by many to be the “quintessential Costa Rica backdrop,” towers over the town of La Fortuna, home to some of the most steamy and relaxing hot springs in Latin America. Take in the majestic 5,400-foot Arenal Volcano from the best spa treatment in Costa Rica: the natural heated waters in the nearby Tabacón Hot Springs. Want to get up above the canopy? Soar through the clouds in Monteverde, Costa Rica, the birthplace of the world’s first recreational zipline course, and home to the most famous cloud forest on Earth. Zipline the length of the forest canopy while taking in a plethora of wildlife and over 2,000 plant species.

Keep an eye out for the elusive resplendent quetzal, considered one of the world’s most beautiful (and rare) birds. Pavones, located along Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, offers even more adventures with the longest left-hand wave in the world. Waves span over half a mile long, creating a desirable ride for surfers and bodyboarding. Take in the glory of the local rainforest as you ride a wave and soak in the sun. There are more thrills to be had back on land where you can take majestic rainforests like Manuel Antonio National Park and Cahuita National Park and go on foot and explore many of the country’s volcanoes including Poás Volcano where hikers can feel the rumble and see the smoke rising as they ascend to the top. Costa Rica is infamous for yogis and there are plenty of yoga retreat options to choose from, including Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort, Samasati Yoga & Wellness Center, and the luxurious Anamaya Resort and Retreat Center. Get your vinyasa flow in, then head out on an adventure. The sky’s the limit in Costa Rica!

DUBROVNIK, CROATIA

Dubrovnik considered the “Pearl of the Adriatic” was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Game of Thrones fans recognize the city as the “Kings Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms,” with its stunning Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance churches, fountains, and palaces. The city also lent its unique backdrop to other notable films such as Star Wars the Last Jedi, Robin Hood and the television series Emerald City. What is it that makes the city so perfect for filming as well as Instagram? Take a walk along the city walls, ancient fortifications constructed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries and you’ll be transported back in time. The main entrance to the city walls is situated in Placa by the Inner Pile Gate between the western section of the city wall and St. Saviour Church. Rector’s Palace, Revelin Fort, and the Homeland War Museum should be high on your bucket list, as well as the glorious Onofrio’s Great Fountain, which has been functioning since it’s construction in 1438.

Visitors to the city should definitely plan on exploring the Stradun and Dubrovnik Old Town, ride the Dubrovnik Cable Car, and take a tour of Fort Lovrijenac. If you have a little extra time, venture out to Lokrum and Lopud Islands. Looking to get further out on the water? Katarina Line recently announced an upcoming 7-night, one-way cruise between Split and Dubrovnik. The trip, called “One-Way Wonder,” includes a cruise around Dubrovnik’s city walls and swimming in a secluded cove within the Elaphiti Islands. The Two Bad Tourists bloggers are also hosting a 7-day sailing adventure from Dubrovnik to Split on August 14th to 21st including stops at Hvar and the famous island of Vis.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Table Mountain reaches up toward the sky as locals and tourists alike indulge in culture, adventure and culinary arts in Cape Town. This port city on the southwestern coast of South Africa is one of the magical destinations where you can never run out of things to do. Morning hikes at Table Mountain, named for its unique flat-top, offer extraordinary views of both Cape Town and ocean. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is the most time efficient way to ascend the mountain. Sunseekers can flock to numerous beaches, including Sandy Beach, Clifton Beach (Clifton 3rd is the popular gay-friendly beach in the area), Muizenberg Beach, and Boulders Beach where you can get up close and personal with the growing colony of African Penguins relaxing at the shore.

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (V&A), a busy 19th century harbor offers more views, Two Oceans Aquarium, shopping, top notch restaurants, and the port that can take you to Robben Island. Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Nelson Mandela served 18 of his 27 years in imprisonment before becoming President of South Africa. There are plenty of options for chic accommodations in and around town, including the Twelve Apostles Hotel, with stunning views of the Pacific and the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range, the ultra-lux five-star The Silo Hotel, and The Rockefeller, a brand-new avant-garde property set in the sprawling Cape Town metropolis. There are plenty of daytrip options for nature, and R&R including whale watching in Hermanus, wine tasting in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch (did someone say Pinotage?), and the romantic Cape of Good Hope. Looking to pack up and work remotely? Cape Town is an exceptional place to work remotely. Digital Nomads are enticed by the ocean and adventure and stay for the food, wine, and cultural scene. Why not pack up and stay awhile?

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Melbourne, the coastal capital of the southeastern Australian state of Victoria, is infamous as not only the cultural capital of Australia but one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. Take in the European vibes of the city with beautiful architecture, colorful streets, cozy cafes, and nightlife to write home about. Melbourne features one of the highest densities of commercial art galleries in the world, boasting more than 130 galleries and museums including Museum Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Buxton Contemporary, and the Heide Museum of Modern Art. There’s no shortage of gay friendly neighborhoods such as Carleton, Fitzroy, and St. Kilda. Indulge in a night to remember at hotspots like Sircuit Bar, The Laird Hotel, and the Railway Hotel.

Indulge in Melbourne’s hive of bustling creative laneways, stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, take a ride on the massive Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, and gaze at eclectic art and design at Lamington Drive. Is it wine o’clock? Be sure to head to the Pinot Coast, “where the vines meet the sea.” The 460 miles of shoreline includes three main wine regions: Geelong & The Bellaire, Mornington Peninsula, and Gippsland. If you’re looking to have your own Australian Sideways adventure, give yourself a week to discover what the locals call “Pinot Paradise.” Sample fresh seafood and check out the colorful Brighton Beach bathing boxes at Port Phillip Bay, join one (or several) wine tours with tastings at renowned wineries like Montalto, Pt. Leo Estate, Moorooduc Estate, Dirty Three Wines, Purple Hen, and Waratah Hills. Be sure to order a case or two so you can keep the tour going when you inevitably make it back home.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

There’s nothing like Stockholm, the capital of not only Sweden but the entire Scandinavian region. The city is situated on fourteen islands by the Stockholm archipelago interconnected by fifty-seven bridges and boasts a 750-year history bursting with cultural effervescence. It’s Sweden’s most populous city as well as its cultural, financial, political and media center. The LGBT+ community has flocked to the pristine European capital before the world caught on with Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Mälarpaviljongen, the summer-only cafe/bar to see and be seen is an absolute must, as is a trip to Fotografiska, The Vasa Museum, Millesgården, Skansen, and the newly renovated National Museum. The Grand Hotel in Stockholm, ranking among the leading hotels of the world, offers exquisite views of the Royal Palace and scenic harbor, while the intimate boutique Villa Dagmar, Hotel Skeppsholmen, and the five-star Hotel at Six offer comfortable accommodations for a good night’s rest.

Drottningholm Palace, just a short boat ride away, is the permanent residence of the Swedish royal family and offers visitors a stunning excursion to Sweden’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s no shortage of traces and signs of famous Swedes throughout Stockholm: Greta Garbo, Ingmar Bergman, August Strindberg, ABBA, and Alfred Nobel. Stockholm Pride festival draws half a million attendees each year with stars like Robyn, Margaret Cho, and Röyksopp on the main stage while the Stockholm Fringe Festival (STOFF), founded in 2009, brings a myriad of artists to Strindberg’s hometown each year. Take some time to get out and explore the picturesque Archipelago, made of over 24,000 islands and islets. Round your trip to Stockholm with a relaxing day trip to Artipelag, a contemporary cultural center with phenomenal exhibitions, walking paths, and waterside dining.

Photos: Visit Bath, The Kingdom of Bhutan, Costa Rican Tourism Institute, Igor Brautovic, South African Tourism, Section 8 Tattersalls Lane Melbourne, and Bjorn Olin imagebank.sweden.se

Last modified: May 10, 2021