Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021 Celebrates the People and Places Shaping the Future of Travel

UK's Invisible Cities and Australia lead the way in regenerative travel

Global travel authority Lonely Planet has today unveiled a radical reimagining of its much-awaited Best in Travel picks for 2021, reflecting how the world and attitudes to travel have changed. For 2021, Lonely Planet is looking ahead to the future of travel, recognising not only places, but also people and communities who are transforming the travel industry. Celebrating commitment to community, diversity and sustainability across the world with projects in the UK and Australia amongst some of the most inspiring innovators.

“Travel in 2021 and beyond will be a much more considerate exercise than it has been ever before,” Lonely Planet CEO Luis Cabrera said. “With travellers cautiously re-engaging with the world and focusing on ensuring their impact is safe and positive for host communities, we have decided to highlight destinations and individuals that truly enable visitors to make genuine contributions through regenerative travel.”

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021 list has selected 30 inspirational people, destinations and tourism projects that shine a light on pioneering sustainable practices, regenerating local communities and promoting representation in all aspects of travel.

Highlights from Best in Travel 2021 include:
Invisible Cities, UK – An exciting social enterprise that offers people affected by homelessness the opportunity to become a tour guide in their own city. Providing engaging and alternative walks bringing city stories to life with unique local perspectives for both tourists and locals in Edinburgh, Glasgow, York and Manchester. Zakia Moulaoui Guery, Founder and CEO of Invisible Cities CIC comments; “Our social enterprise doesn’t believe in labels or stereotypes and we want to help as many people as possible to realise their true potential. Through supporting those who have experienced homelessness and training them to become tour guides in their own city, we can help them to change the direction of their lives whilst also offering these one-of-a-kind tours to both locals and tourists alike. It means the world to us that we have been awarded the Best in Travel 2021 award by Lonely Planet and it’s given use a well needed boost in what has otherwise been a somewhat challenging year.”

Australia – A year on from the devastating bush fires, the country has been recognised for the amazing community restoration work, including the coordinated effort from The Nature Conservancy Australia, to help the rainforests, sapphire coasts and endemic wildlife rise from the ashes.
Tourism Australia Managing Director Phillipa Harrison said “There is no doubt that this has been the most challenging year our industry has faced, having to first deal with the impacts of last summer’s bushfires followed directly by a shutdown of travel due to COVID-19. But in response to these challenges, we really have seen the best examples of the Australian spirit shining through particularly as people across the country rallied behind those communities both directly and indirectly impacted by the bushfires, with so many extending offers of support. That spirit of resilience has really endured as recovery efforts have continued, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is heartening that this has been recognised as part of these awards.”

Travel is always changing. Best in Travel 2021 champions people who make travel a force for good, all the more essential in a year when COVID-19 has disrupted and de-prioritised travel, having a devastating impact on local communities. Rather than delivering a destination bucket list, Lonely Planet has focused on how people travel now: outdoors; in family groups; purposefully; with careful attention to the communities they will explore. “We are taking the chance to re-emphasise what we are here for and why: our mission remains to be a trusted travel companion. One that inspires, informs, and guides, while being in sync with travel wants and needs,” said Cabrera.

Lonely Planet celebrates projects ranging from restoration of the Australian bush, to conservation in Rwanda, revitalisation of Medellín in Columbia and the introduction of progressive solutions in Gothenburg. From community projects in Ireland, to cultural diversity in San Diego and storytellers providing fresh perspectives, Best in Travel 2021 highlights how tourism can regenerate more responsibly once we emerge from the pandemic. The full Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2021 List is:

Best in Sustainability
Best City Stay – Gothenburg, Sweden. Topping the Global Destinations Sustainability Index, the city has introduced a range of progressive and measurable solutions to achieve fossil-independence by 2030.
Best islands – Palau, Pacific Ocean. Progressive policies and protective measures have put the pristine archipelago at the vanguard of environmental sustainability.

Best Accommodation – Grootberg Lodge in Etendeka Plateau, Namibia. A luxurious low-impact lodge helping to preserve lion and black rhino populations through community empowerment.

Best Cycling – Virginia Mountain Bike Trail. A nearly 500-mile trail across the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Trail gives bike-packers a low-impact way of interacting with the environment.

Best Food Destination – Greece. Organic produce markets and island seafood makes it an unintentional leader of the world’s most sustainable food.

Best Train Journey – Rocky Mountaineer. This slow-travel option has reduced its Co2 emissions by 18 tonnes per year, increased onboard recycling and introduced initiatives to protect of local wildlife.

Best Emerging Destination – Antigua & Barbuda. On the front line of climate change impact, the islands have made sustainability a priority, banning single-use plastics and styrofoam and established a ‘Green Corridor’ of environmentally friendly businesses.

Best Conservation Programme – Rwanda. The International Gorilla Conservation Programme has brought back the wild mountain Gorilla population back from the brink of extinction.

Best Walks – Le Vie di Dante, Italy (Roads of Dante). An epic 245-mile network of trails completable only by foot or bike.

Best Storyteller – Soraya Abdel-Hadi. The Soraya.earth blog and social media channels combine a love of travel with a desire to protect the Earth.

Best In Community
Best Tour – Invisible Cities A UK city walking tour company and social enterprise providing people affected by homelessness the opportunity to become tour guides in their own city, while also generating funds for homeless projects.

Best Restoration – Australia. Following the worst bushfire seasons in history, the rainforests, sapphire coasts and endemic wildlife are slowly rising from the ashes thanks to a number of community restoration efforts.

Best Tourism Project – The Burren Eco Tourism Network, Co Clare. Bringing over 60 local enterprises together to become a global leader for sustainable tourism.

Best Accommodation – Kazakhstan. Rural villagers are trained in hospitality to provide homestays while acquiring fresh economic opportunities for the local community.

Best Immersion – Faroe Islands. The close-knit community provides personable, home-hospitality tourism and invites voluntourists to help preserve the natural landscape.

Best Revitalisation – Medellín, Colombia. Transforming from the world’s most dangerous city to its most innovative through community-driven revitalisation.

Best Trekking – Tesfa Tours, Ethiopia. Locals lead perspective-altering treks through the extraordinary landscapes and homestays.

Best Storyteller – Hesham Moadamani. Berlin based tour guide for Refugee Voices Tours uses his personal experience of fleeing the Syrian civil war, drawing parallels between the current Syrian conflict and the history of migration in Germany.

Best Small Business – Footprint Café, Siem Reap Cambodia. A social enterprise blending wholesome Khmer cuisine and a unique approach to coworking and community empowerment.

Best Expat Storyteller – Georgette Jupe, Girl in Florence. Through the lens of local artists and artisans her blog offers travellers a deeper connection to Italy’s most culturally significant city.

Best In Diversity
Best Under-Explored History – Gullah Islands, USA. The isolation of the islands allowed the Gullah and Geechee people to foster the most comprehensive African cultural heritage in the USA.

Best Cultural Diversity – San Diego, California. A diverse artist haven, cultural hot spot beach city shaped by the Indigenous, Spanish, Mexican and American communities.

Best Welcoming Destination – Amman, Jordan. Its origins stemming from Levantine and Bedouin traditions, the famed Jordanian hospitality is what gives the capital city its soul.

Best Emerging Voice – Gabby Beckford. Founder of the Young Travellers Network and cofounder of the Black Travel Alliance seeking to empower travellers and increase Black representation in the travel industry.

Best Accessible Destination – Costa Rica. Strict accessibility laws ensure Costa Rica is a wheelchair user’s paradise.

Best Multi-generational destination – El Hierro, Canary Islands. This far-flung, go-slow jewel of Spain is an environmentally minded escape that enamours travellers of all ages.

Best Indigenous food – Hiakai restaurant, Wellington, New Zealand. Māori-Samoan chef Monique Fiso brings native ingredients and Indigenous cooking techniques to the fine dining stage.

Best Inclusive Storyteller – Jeff Jenkins The Chubby Diaries blog provides practical information for plus-sized travellers.

Best Inclusive Tours – Wheel the World, California. A travel company that empowers people with disabilities to enjoy travel experiences in over 30 destinations, in 15 countries.

Best LGBTQ+ Storytellers – Amsterdam-based bloggers A Couple of Men share insight on LGBTIQ-friendly travel destinations with the aim to inspire and motivate travellers.

Lonely Planet started the process for the 2021 Best in Travel list by seeking nominations from Lonely Planet’s vast community of staff, writers, photographers, videographers, bloggers, publishing partners and more. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and, like the rest of the travel world, Lonely Planet 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 over-tourism came back to the forefront. As a result, Lonely Planet’s picks fit this new approach and are tailored for travel in 2021.

In addition, Lonely Planet is inviting readers to add nominations for their favourite people and places that are shaping the future of travel this year and beyond. Voting is open from today on the Best in Travel website and Lonely Planet will announce the Reader’s Choice Awards winners in January 2021.

For more information on the Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2021 list, visit www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel
Award destinations can also be explored with Lonely Planet’s Guides app for free and on social media channels #BestInTravel