We bring you hope: dream destinations 2021. Booking them may be a pipe dream, but there's no harm in bookmarking them. After all, since travelling fell to a rather unfortunate - albeit necessary - all time low over 2020, we though it was high time to look forward for the fabulous locations we're dreaming of visiting this year. Or next.
These are H&G's most of-the-moment destinations that any keen traveller will have their eye on. Get planning now and as soon as your local restrictions allow, book yourself a heavenly trip to restart your vacations in style
It's time to dig out and dust off that passport...
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1. The ski resort: St Anton am Arlberg, Austria
How will we do socially distanced skiing? How long will queues be at the resorts? There are lots of question marks over this winter’s ski season – and it's very likely that it won't open at all. However, now's the time to book ahead for 2022.
Enter the village of St Anton am Arlberg in Austria, where speedy chairlifts provide access to over 200 miles of runs and plenty of off-piste routes. It’s a resort rich in Alpine beauty, full of local life and off-piste options, such as horse sleigh riding and curling.
In the resort itself, Ullrhaus is a new family-run hotel opened by St Anton locals Franziska Alber and Michael Gfall.
It has all the usual Alpine trappings – glowing fires, a spa with three wood-scented saunas, a hearty menu and fine gluhwein – set in muted contemporary interiors injected with Tyrolean tradition.
2. The island retreat: Bohuslän archipelago, Sweden
Got the urge to holiday on a private island? Extreme social distancing? Then head to Sweden’s western archipelago for some serious isolation.
Sweden stands out for its successful stance on COVID-19, so the country feels like a safe bet, and with more than 8,000 islands to explore along the 280-kilometre archipelago, you’re unlikely to run into crowds.
Base yourself on Hamneskär at Pater Noster when it opens early 2021. This 150-year-old lighthouse now hosts a nine-bedroom guest house with its own restaurant, bar and outdoor cafe serving home-baked treats, fresh seafood and locally-sourced seaweed.
From here you can travel the archipelago’s many islands – Marstrand and Lysekil are not to be missed – by helicopter (Hamneskär has a helipad) or by private boat or ferry.
3. The safari: Botswana
Botswana’s Okavango Delta offers a tick-all-the-boxes safari experience.
Xigera, a 24-guest safari lodge on the western edge of the Moremi Game Reserve that opens in January, is unique in showcasing the talents of 30 of Africa’s top artists in a magnificent setting spread across two islands.
Artists such as Adam Birch, Madoda Fani and Otto du Plessis have kitted out all 12 suites with bespoke handmade furniture, ceramics and textiles – their efforts the result of a collaboration between South African hotelier Beatrice Tollman and Cape Town’s Southern Guild Gallery.
Guests arrive on a private light aircraft and all itineraries are tailor-made, from big game drives at any time of day to tours along the waterways in traditional canoes, glass-bottom mokoros and motorboats and sleep-outs in a three-storey steel baobab tree house a kilometre from the lodge.
4. The Caribbean island: St Barth
After hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc in 2017 it’s good to see vibrant life returning to the region. Of all the islands, this is the one we want to go to now.
When Hong Kong retailers, hoteliers and art collectors Adrian and Sonia Cheng launched the Rosewood hotel concept in 2011, they were clear that their offering would carve out a reputation for providing cool spaces that stay true to their surroundings. Le Guanahani St. Barth is no exception.
All 66 rooms, suites and villas (many of which have private pools) have been renovated by David Schwarz Architects and Luis Pons Design Lab to provide an understated luxury that doesn’t complete with the setting - which is one of the island’s best.
Set across 18 lush acres on a private peninsula, Le Guanahani overlooks the golden beaches of Marigot Bay and Grand Cul-de-Sac and a vibrant reef.
5. The rural escape: Transylvania
Head to the heart of Transylvania, away from tourist spots of Dracula’s trail, to discover the quiet side of central Romania.
Led by mother and son Gladys and Nikolaus Bethlen, but originally envisioned by the late Count Miklós Bethlen some 800 years after his family first founded the village of Cris, Bethlen Estates has been buying Saxon cottages, abandoned school buildings, castles and manor houses to preserve them by offering guest accommodation.
The Caretaker’s House opened as a four-bedroom private rental last year and this spring, three more properties will welcome 20 guests. The two-bedroom Depner House can be hired exclusively, while the four-bedroom Corner Barn can be rented by the room.
Cris is an excellent base from which to explore the area’s national parks and sites, including the 180-acre Breite Ancient Oak Tree Reserve and the medieval citadel of Sighisoara.
6. The long haul: Japan
For sport lovers, Japan in 2021 is where it’s at with Tokyo hopefully hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer.
In preparation for what they anticipate being a huge number of visitors, cities, resorts and rural retreats are rolling out the red carpet.
In the pipeline are bijou bolthole, the Tower Hotel in Nagoya, which mixes high design with small spaces; Japan’s first W Hotel in Osaka; and the transformation of Tokyo’s oldest jail, the Nara prison, into an upscale hotel run by Hoshino Resorts.
Beyond the cities, there’s the chance to kick back on the coast at luxury beach resort Hoshino in Okinawa, which opened last spring, or go glamping Danish-style in the Hygge Circles Ugakei campground, shown above, in Mie prefecture’s unspoilt Uga Valley.
7. The city break: Oslo
For those craving museums without the masses, Oslo provides a perfectly sized city break. This spring, two new museums opening on its waterfront boost its cultural cachet.
The Munch museum dedicated to Norway’s most famous artist Edvard Munch will become the world’s largest museum dedicated to a solo artist. Around 28,000 works, texts, letters, photographs and personal possessions will be on show.
Nearby, the Oslo’s new National Museum will claim its own accolade: it’s the largest art museum in the Nordic region, with more than 100,000 artworks in its possession. Check into The Thief, or for the full Munch experience, the Clarion Hotel at Bjørvika has joined forces with the museum and has a work from the collection on permanent rotation.
8. The grand getaway: Tuscany
Strict safety measures have become par for the course in Italy. And, as a result, our old favourite Tuscany is still going strong.
Torre Palazzone, a medieval castle set among 40 acres of rolling Tuscan countryside, sleeps 22, making it perfect for Covid-era weddings and large family gatherings. British couple Charles and Richenda Walsh spent 12 years reworking it from faded pensione into modern retreat.
Like many a Tuscan pile, Torre Palazzone has had many incarnations over the centuries, but was originally built as a defensive outpost for Siena, which is 15 minutes away.
Curated tours of Siena, taking in its fabled duomo and the ancient hospital Santa Maria della Scala, can be organised through rental agency Tuscany Now & More, along with a private chef and a fleet of staff.