With travel being turned upside down due to the pandemic, Lonely Planet’s 2021 “Best in Travel” list has been re-imagined, highlighting not only places, but also people and communities who are transforming the travel industry. In 2021, Lonely Planet is looking ahead to the important changes taking place globally, from sustainability to diversity, and shining a light on the future of travel.

Rather than delivering a destination bucket list, Lonely Planet focused on how people travel now: outdoors; in family groups; purposefully; with careful attention to the communities they will explore.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Lonely Planet, like the rest of the travel world, hit the pause button. But other things changed too. The conversation surrounding diversity took a decisive shift. The future of travel moved towards small-group engagement and decades-old issues like overtourism came back to the forefront. As a result, Lonely Planet’s 2021 picks fit this new approach and are tailored for travel in the new year.

Lonely Planet
Cycling the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail.

Included under the Sustainability banner are Le Vide di Dante (Roads of Dante), a network of trails that stretches from Dante Alighieri’s birthplace in Florence to his tomb in Ravenna, and is completable only on foot or bike; Antigua & Barbuda, which have made sustainability a priority, from banning single-use plastics to establishing a “Green Corridor” of environmentally friendly businesses; Virginia Mountain Bike Trail, a self-sustaining cycling route that helps to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the Southern Appalachians from the threat of encroaching development; and Soraya Abdel-Hadi, who’s made a name for herself as an advocate for approachable, sustainable travel through her blog, soraya.earth.

Lonely Planet
Amman, Jordan.

The Diversity category puts the spotlight on such places as Costa Rica, where strict accessibility laws allow wheelchair users the opportunity to explore the plush rainforests and white-sand beaches or enjoy a variety of adaptive adventures like surfing and ziplining; Amman, Jordan, with its famed Jordanian hospitality that stems from Levantine and Bedouin traditions; and San Diego, known as a diverse artist haven and cultural hotspot; as well as Gen Z travel blogger Gabby Beckford, who runs the Packs Light blog, and is founder of the Young Travelers Network and co-founder of the Black Travel Alliance.

Lonely Planet
Medellin, Colombia.

This year, Community, another one of the categories in Lonely Planet’s 2021 list, has taken on new meaning, and for the new year, the Lonely Planet team put the focus on, among others, Kazakhstan, where rural villagers are trained in hospitality to provide homestays for tourists while acquiring fresh economic opportunities for themselves; Invisible Cities, UK, which offers people affected by homelessness the opportunity to become tour guides in their own city, leading to engaging and alternative walks for both travelers and locals; Medellin, Colombia, once the world’s most dangerous city and now one of its most innovative, smashing all stereotypes in its community-driven revitalization; and Australia, which endured one of the worst bushfire seasons in history, but whose rainforests, sapphire coasts and endemic wildlife of Australia are slowly rising from the ashes thanks to a number of community restoration efforts.

For the complete list, and for inspiration for 2021 bookings, visit lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel.