Top Places to Visit in 2021 after the Pandemic
The past year has definitely been…. unusual, to say the least. It’s been a difficult year for many, and one that has definitely left a permanent scar on the survivors. One of the biggest industries to suffer was the tourism industry – many countries have instituted (and continue to implement) lockdowns in an attempt to curb the ever-growing numbers of the virus. New mutations have resulted in strains that are far more contagious, making travelling – indeed, even stepping out – a risk. However, the year has started off with a positive note; most countries in the world have started a vaccination programme, working with vaccine manufacturers to vaccinate their population in an attempt to curb this virus. It’s a global project unlike any we’ve seen before, and it’s given most people the hope that things could turn back to normal soon.
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The ability to travel is something that should not be misunderstood – especially after the pandemic. Experiencing new cultures, ideas, people, and phenomena can help change one’s world-view, and many recommend travelling to expand one’s perspective, or to find new meaning in life. With a vaccination programme on track, one of the things that we can look forward to is the return of travelling and tourism, of experiencing new cultures, of talking to new people, or of simply taking a holiday. The following spots are inspired from a list published by Bloomberg Businessweek. With vaccination schedules in full-swing, it’s safe to start planning for trips a few months down the line. Here’s a list of places you should visit in 2021.
Cotopaxi Sanctuary Lodge – Ecuador
Taking some time off to enjoy peace, quiet, and tranquillity out in nature is sure to be on the top of everyone’s potential travel lists. The perfect place to do so is at the Cotopaxi Sanctuary Lodge, in Ecuador. The sanctuary is located near Cotopaxi, an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains in South America. It is the second highest summit in Ecuador, and at 5,897 metres, is one of the highest volcanoes in the world. This volcano is also one of the most active volcanoes in the world, erupting more than 50 times since 1738; the most recent eruption lasted from August 2015 to January 2016. The many eruptions have resulted in valleys formed out of the mudflows around the volcano, and the mountain is a popular spot to climb, with mountain guide companies offering guided climbs along the mountain.
The Sanctuary Lodge, too, is quite high up – it is at around 3600 metres above sea level, and is surrounded by wide open grasslands, with a combination of forests, streams, waterfalls, and rivers located near the lodge. The lodge is in the middle of a private space that covers more than 3,000 acres of land, so expect to see thriving wildlife during your stay – including deer, Andean fox, Andean pumas, wild horses, endemic birds, and hopefully the rare Andean-speckled bear.
The lodge boasts stunning views of the volcanoes of Ecuador, including Cotopaxi, Pasochoa, and Sincholagua. The lodge is a great place to reconnect with nature, as the lodge has over 10 kilometres of private trails for hiking, biking, walking, horseback riding, and more. Of course, the lodge itself is designed to be modern and luxurious, working in ideals of comfort, elegance, and nature which resulted in a lodge that’s at one with nature while still providing every modern comfort that a guest can ask for. Ecuador’s incredible greenery and landscape is a marvel, and the Cotopaxi Sanctuary Lodge is a great place to appreciate the natural landscape.
Arctic Bath – Northern Sweden
The Arctic Bath is another luxurious hotel and spa that’s located in the Swedish Lapland, a region that borders Sweden and Finland, and is commonly known as the land of the Midnight Sun, and of the Northern Lights. The Swedish Lapland is a large expanse of land that covers nearly a quarter of the country, and is in the northwest corner of Sweden. The Midnight Sun in Swedish Lapland is when the sun never sets in the summer. This natural phenomenon occurs in the summer months, and it’s possible for the sun to be up for months at a time – which means that there’s constant sunlight throughout the summer. This is because of the way the Earth is tilted relative to the Sun; it means that during the summer months, the North Pole is angled towards the sun, resulting in constant sunshine for several weeks. Visiting the Swedish Lapland during the summer months means you’ll be able to enjoy the great outdoors at any time of the day, from walking on the snow, to scaling Kenekaise (the highest mountain in the Lapland), or even for a round of gold at the Björkliden Golf Course.
The other stunning natural phenomenon that takes place in Swedish Lapland – albeit in the winter – is the Northern Lights. The best time to see these Northern Lights is in January, during the Swedish winter. On clear evenings, the best time to see the Northern Lights is between 6 AM and 2 PM. The Northern Lights are caused by electrically charges particles from the sun colliding in the Earth’s atmosphere. The brilliant array of colours is caused by the variety of gas particles involved, and the result is a fantastic display of colours snaking across the night sky. If you’re planning a trip to the Swedish Lapland in the winter, you won’t need to worry about missing it – the lights will be visible from September to March.
The Arctic Bath is a unique hotel and spa, and is constructed like a floating, circular building. The natural spa retreat is just south of the Arctic Circle, and ties in well with the surrounding landscape. A favoured treatment at the Arctic Bath is the spa and cold bath, where guests enjoy a traditional cold bath and sauna experience. With three different saunas, guests can soak in the steam, relax in a hot tub, and then plunge into a cold arctic bath, a ritual that’s followed by the Swedish locals. It’s said that cold baths can help ease sore muscles, help the central nervous system, and limit the inflammatory response. Apart from the various health benefits, it’s said to be an experience like no other.
National Memorial for Peace and Justice – Montgomery, Alabama
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, informally known as the National Lynching Memorial, opened to the public in April, 2018, and is the United States of America’s first memorial that is dedicated to the legacy of enslaved African Americans, of their history of racial segregation, Jim Crow, and the burdens of lynching and police violence. The work on the memorial first began in 2010, when staff began investigating thousands of lynchings inspired by racial terror in the American South – many of which were not documented. Though the staff’s interest lay in lynching alone, this led to further research on terror and trauma that is borne by the Black community. The research ultimately resulted in a novel titled Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror in 2015, which documented thousands of lynchings in 12 southern states. The memorial was then established in an attempt at creating a meaningful space where people can reflect on America’s complicated history of racial inequality.
The legacy museum opened on the same day as the memorial, titled The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. The museum displays and interprets the history of slavery and racism in the United States, documenting the beginning of slavery, decades of lynching, police violence against the Black community, and documenting the history of the Civil Rights era, ending with current issues. The museum also documents the disenfranchisement of black voters, of segregation, of Jim Crow laws, and of racial bias within the United States. The museum also includes artwork by African and African-American artists, including a sculpture on slavery by Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, and a sculpture by Dana King, to help illustrate the Civil Rights movement. The museum is massive, covering around 11,000 square feet, and includes oral history, archival materials, and interactive technology to fully cover the history of the Black community, and to accurately remember the United States’ complicated history with the African-American community.
Origins Lodge – Costa Rica
The ORIGINS Lodge in Alajuela, Costa Rica, is another tropical paradise, one that offers its guests a mix of nature and luxury. Situated amidst a lush rainforest, the lodge is a perfect place to reconnect with nature and enjoy warm tropical breezes – it’s the perfect resort for guests looking to escape the colder winter months, and to enjoy some warm sunshine and lush greenery. The lodge comprises of spaces villas for up to 6 guests, including 3 en-suite bedrooms, a terrace with a jacuzzi, a fully equipped kitchen, a comfortable living room, and a stunning view of the volcanoes, of Nicaragua Lake, and of the estate as a whole.
The resort is high up on the mountainside, with a panoramic view of the valley and of Lake Nicaragua, right in the heart of Costa Rica’s mountainous rainforest. The region is home to about 6 per cent of the world’s diversity, yet only covers 0.3 per cent of the world’s landmass, so guests will be sure to see some stunning flora and fauna, especially a few species that are exclusive to the Costa Rican soil. Near the resort is the Tenorio Volcano, and the Tenorio National Park. Established in 1995, the national park is a fantastic place to visit, for treks, hikes, for the region’s waterfalls and of course, for the Tenorio Volcano. The volcano is inactive, and is comprised of four volcanic peaks and two twin craters. The lowest areas is covered with a savanna, with rain forests in the middle, and a cloud forest (a moist forest with frequent cloud cover at the canopy level) at the top. The three rivers Tenorio, Tenorito, and Martirio all have their source at this volcano. A popular hike in this national park is the Rio Celeste hike. The hike will take you through the national park, to an impressive waterfall – the Celeste waterfall. The waterfall is stunning, and the clear waters are a great place to take a dip, and click some beautiful photos. In fact, hikes are recommended to those who are able, because of the rich flora and fauna in the area. The area teems with wildlife, from ocelots to monkeys, toucans, sloths, and jaguars. The vibrant turquoise water of the waterfall is a result of the volcanic activity of Tenorio, and of the sulphur emitted. It’s definitely worth the hike, and there are several hot springs along the way for those who want to take a break in between.
The Kalbarri Skywalk – Murchison River Gorge, Australia
The Murchison River Gorge is located in mid-western Australia, carved over the decades by the Murchison river. This gorge is enormous, stretching over 80 kilometres long, and is about 129 metres deep. Beginning at Ajana, the gorge extends to the mouth of the rivet at Kalbarri. The gorge is widely considered to be a popular tourist destination, with a walking trail, and stunning views from the skywalk. The gorge is not just amazing to look at, but provides a wealth of information to geologists and historians as well, with some of the stones containing fossils of eurypterids, representing fossil evidence of land animals in the area. The Loop walking trail is also open for tourists, and is a 38-kilometre-long trail from the Ross Grahan Lookout to the Loop, taking hikers through the Kalbarri National Park. However, tourists should keep in mind that this hike is for experienced hikers, as there isn’t a clearly-defined trail, and it is essential to properly plan this trip, and have experience with general navigation and route finding. The hike is challenging and requires a high level of fitness, and typically takes about 4 days to complete. The gorge is almost entirely contained within the Kalbarri National Park, and the national park’s skywalk is a must-visit for tourists in the land down under.
The skywalk is perched on the cliff-top, with two 100-metre-high lookouts that are projected beyond the rim of the Murchison Gorge, at 25 metres and 17 metres respectively. The twin skywalks also have plenty of kiosks that serve food and drinks to visitors as they take in the views of the Murchison Gorge, and the kiosks are open from 7:30 AM to 2 PM. Visitors are welcome to venture out into the skywalks and check out the stunning views of the gorge from that height. The Parks and Wildlife Service centre also offers some information on local heritage, on fossils and geological information about the sandstone that the gorge is comprised of. The skywalk is open and accessible to people of all ages, with special access for people with prams and wheelchairs readily available.
Andorra – between Spain and France
Andorra is a small sovereign state, bordered by France to the north and Spain to the south, and is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe. This small nation has some stunning landscape thanks to its proximity to the Pyrenees mountains, and is a three-hour drive from Barcelona, or from Toulouse. One of Andorra’s main attractions is the capital – Andorra La Vella. This quaint city is small enough to be covered by foot, and is a great spot for shopping, dining, and soaking in the local history. The city is also packed with medieval churches thanks to its rich history throughout the medieval era. This city is also quite high up, and is at about 1,029 meters above sea level, making it one of the world’s highest capital cities. Of course, this also means that the weather is much cooler, and the views are that much better from such a height. One popular activity is to stroll through the Plaça del Poble, a public square that is on the roof of the city’s administrative complex, as it offers great views of the city and of the surrounding scenery. Guests who are looking to drop in on some of the churches can check out the Sant Esteve Church, a 12-th century church that was restored in the 20th century, and is considered to be heritage property that is registered in the Cultural Heritage of Andorra. Another point to visit, to really feel Andorra la Vella’s deep roots in history, is La Casa de la Vall. Built in 1580, this building is now the seat of the government, and contains historical emblems of the country’s former rulers. Guided tours of this structure are available, and feature the reception room – complete with 16th-century wall paintings, and the Council Chamber.
For guests who are looking for colder weather, Vallnord is known as one of the best places to ski, drawing in visitors from around Europe to its slopes. Located in the northern part of Andorra, Vallnord has three ski resorts that together provide a vast amount of terrain to ski, snowboard, and explore. Beginners and enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders can check out Arinsal and Pal, two ski resorts that provide guided tours, and the slopes themselves are connected via cable car. Families in particular would enjoy a trip to Vallnord because of its ski schools and other activities, including sledding and snowmobiling. In warmer weather, Vallnord becomes a fantastic place for mountain biking, thanks to the Vallnord Bikepark. This is a network of mountain biking trails, and is a great way for season bikers and enthusiasts to check out the sights of Andorra from higher points, while still enjoying the warmer summer months.
Pak Ou Buddha Cave – Mekong River, Laos
The Mekong River is a trans-boundary river in East and Southeast Asia, and is the seventh-longest river in Asia. Approximately 4,350 kilometres long, the river runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The river’s high limestone cliffs have a number of naturally-formed caves, but there are two that stand out and are worthy of our attention. These caves are known as the Pak Ou Buddha caves.
The Pak Ou Buddha caves are two caves on the west side of the Mekong river, and are near Pak Ou (the mouth of the Ou river), and are of particular interest to tourists and visitors because of the miniature Buddha sculptures. The caves have hundreds of small wooden Buddhist figures that are laid out over the wall shelves. Primarily a religious site, the caves are located inside a steep rock face, and are accessible by a zigzagging staircase with a dock at the bottom for pilgrims and tourists alike to enter the caves. The statues range in size, quality, and material – the one thing in common with all these statues are their imperfections; some are chipped, while others are missing a hand, while some others aren’t perfectly aligned or are replaced by newer versions. Before becoming a popular tourist destination, pilgrims would visit this café during the Laotian New Year, to bathe in the cave in hopes of receiving blessings for the coming year.
A fun bonus for tourists who are visiting these caves – boat operators often take a detour to the Lao Lao ‘whiskey village’, where guests are invited to sample the village’s home-brewed liquor before heading back home via ferry.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay – British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands (officially the Virgin Islands) are a British overseas territory in the Caribbean, and consist of the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, along with 50 other small islands, and about 16 are currently inhabited. These islands are a great way to enjoy the Caribbean climate, and doesn’t get too hot thanks to gentle trade winds that blow from the northeast for most of the year. With low humidity and pleasant temperatures, these islands are a fan favourite for those looking to escape brutal summer and winter months. Virgin Gorda, the third largest island, is a popular tourist spot thanks to its yacht clubs, coves, and luxury resorts and villas. The island is popular for its hiking trails, natural sanctuaries, and protected national parks. The highest point, Gorda Peak, is open to the public and is a great way to check out the surrounding islands from the top of the mountain, as its peak offers incredible panoramic views. The many bays on the island also offer a great way to enjoy the warm seas and sandy beaches. From Savannah Bay to Spring Bay, the waters of Virgin Gorda are a great way to get in some water sports, or even go for a quick swim.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay is a luxury resort on Virgin Gorda, and is regarded as one of the best getaway resorts in the world, surrounded by the island’s wilderness and located on one of the Caribbean’s finest shorelines. The resort is a great place to kick back, relax, soak in some Caribbean sun, or enjoy some yoga out on the resort’s decks, surrounded by the view of the sea. The resort also offers facilities for water sports, including kayaking, snorkelling, sailing, and paddle boarding. The Rosewood Explorer’s children’s programme is a great way to keep the young ones occupied, while adults can relax in the resort’s spa, or play a quick game of tennis.
The past year has definitely been a gruelling one, and there is finally an end in sight. Of course, travelling is still taboo – and it’s not advisable to enter crowded spaces. However, vaccination programmes being underway in major countries around the world does mean that we can expect a downward curve of COVID-19 cases around the world. A great way to reward everyone’s patience would be a fun getaway to a breath-taking location; though the past year may not have been ideal, what better way to reward yourself than with an amazing experience?
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