Whether you are focused, laser-like, on traveling the first moment you can in 2021, or prefer to wait until many people have been vaccinated, create your travel wish list now, so you’re ready to head out at any time. As a female traveler myself, I’ve curated a list of seven places I plan to venture to in 2021. Each place was chosen with care, and each trip will be thoughtfully planned so I can focus on discovering the authentic places to go, experiences to have, and best of all, enjoy forging connections and friendships along the way.
Though slightly smaller than Massachusetts, Belize offers more outdoor activities than most people experience in a lifetime. The woman traveler to Belize’s coast and islands can relax on one of the pristine beaches by crystal clear azure waters of the Caribbean Sea. Or effortlessly join a group and take advantage of the unparalleled scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing. Maybe take a quiet day to go fishing, instead. Then channel your inner Gertrude Bell (a pioneering English archaeologist) and explore some of the many Maya archaeological sites that dot the country.
My best friend and I plan to explore Belize this summer. We’ll spend a few days on Ambergris Caye, indulging in all the watersports. She doesn’t scuba dive, but I can simply join a small group heading to one (or more) of Belize’s spectacular diving sites while she chills next to the crystal-clear waters, with other female travelers. We’ll snorkel, sea kayak, and probably even sail. All while staying in a charming place right on the pristine beach.
Then we’ll head to western Belize to explore various Maya ruins – Caracol, Cahal Pech, and Xunantunich top our list of sites. We might even ride on horseback to one or more of the sites – we’re both wannabe Gertrude Bells, of course. We can’t wait to go hiking and perhaps even caving (if we can get up the courage). And we plan to stay in an eco-friendly treehouse – how cool is that? We’ll be able to see (and hear!) so many of the birds that call this jewel of Central America home while relaxing in our temporary home.
I want to get back to Italy in 2021, partially because this divine country enchants and partly because I’d like to do my part for world tourism. Though solo women travelers can safely explore Italy’s ancient sites, absorbing the cultures and luxuriating in the sheer gravitas of the outright age of the ancient monuments, I plan to travel with like-minded female travelers on my next trip. I certainly want to have my tribe on hand to discuss the day’s thought-provoking experiences with.
The bigger cities like Rome, Venice, and Florence are splendid, but this next trip, I plan to venture to some of the smaller towns around Italy. For instance, we may spend a day in Venice, but perhaps two days and nights in nearby Chioggia – a petite Venice with fewer tourists and a slower, more charming pace.
Perhaps we’ll stay in the northeastern part of Italy, visiting Saluzzo’s 13th-century buildings at the foot of the Alps, then heading down to sample the villages near the Cinque Terre: perhaps Portofino, Vernazza, Corniglia, or Tellaro. Portofino boasts Saracen towers and beaches. Vernazza and Corniglia, both in the Cinque Terre, offer beautiful views, hauntingly lovely streets and walks, as well as pristine beaches and cerulean seas.
Tellaro, further south and rated one of the ten most beautiful villages in all Europe, captivates with more beaches, San Giorgio church, walks, and is perfectly located for a quiet place to stay while taking day trips to other towns in Liguria and Tuscany. For instance, we can visit Pisa to see the tower and Lucca to walk the medieval walls and delight in meandering through eight centuries of history at the Palazzo Ducale.
Other areas and towns of Italy are equally charming. Many female travelers head to central Italy to see Viterbo, home to popes during the turbulent 13th century; Spello, a thoroughly preserved capsule of Roman and medieval urban architecture; and Pitigliano, described by some as a medieval town where time stood still.
And further south, the towns of Sperlonga, Procida, Praiano, and Pietrapertosa beckon. Or we may go to Alberobello, a whitewashed, sundrenched vision in southeast Italy near the Adriatic coastline. One year, this solo female traveler will wander all these towns and villages – it’s difficult to choose which villages for this year! Perhaps I’ll head to Sicily or even Sardinia, one of Italy’s largest islands…
Italy has all the elements to sate any female traveler or group: bucolic settings, fast-paced cities, frosty mountains, warm Mediterranean waters, a host of outdoor activities to challenge yourself, historic buildings, fragrant gardens…isn’t Italy calling you, too?
And speaking of islands, Cyprus is on this year’s list. I’m eager to visit and explore this Mediterranean island that many women travelers enjoy, a center of cultural exchange since prehistoric times. From Paphos, Aphrodite’s legendary birthplace, on the southeast coast to Famagusta, medieval center of commerce for both East and West, on the northwest coast, women travelers can experience the overwhelming sweep of history as well as gorgeous natural scenery. And you can challenge yourself in various ways.
Cyprus has some of the loveliest beaches on the Mediterranean Sea, the warmest and friendliest people, as well as a wealth of historical locations and outdoor activities. I plan to walk the Aphrodite Trail, which starts (and ends) in Paphos at the Baths of Aphrodite, a shaded grotto with a naturally occurring pool. While in Paphos, I’ll explore various archaeological areas including the Tombs of the Kings, Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, and Paphos Castle, where I know I’ll meet other women travelers. And of course, enjoy the renowned beaches nearby – who can resist a swim around Aphrodite’s Rock for good luck or lounging around at the magical Coral Bay?
I’ll take a day or maybe two and learn more about the history of wine production on this magical island at Kolossi Castle, in the Commandaria wine area, then learn all about the olive at Oleastro Olive Park and Museum. Drink and food – how could anyone resist the lure? Some of the notable religious spots female travelers tour include Kykkos monastery, Hala Sultan Tekke mosque, and the church of Saint Lazarus – in fact, I’ll head to them myself. And I’ll definitely wander around and explore the walled city of Famagusta. Some of these spots are in Cyprus’ Turkish-controlled area, but it’s straightforward to cross the border.
Cyprus offers so much for the woman traveler, from archaeological sites, warm, crystal-clear Mediterranean water, warm and welcoming people, a soupçon of nightlife, and a place where Greek legends were born. Is Cyprus on your travel list, too?
Speaking of islands, I hope to travel to the Faroe Islands this year, as well. Why? Women travelers particularly enjoy venturing here – the tiny archipelago’s remoteness, hikes, dives, kayaking, warm and friendly residents, history, waterfalls, and animals make it irresistible. The islands, about halfway between Iceland and Norway, are actually a self-governing part of Denmark, and use the Danish Krone as currency. The approximately 50,000 inhabitants speak English, but also their own language, Faroese, which is closer to Icelandic than to Danish.
What will I do with my time? It depends if I journey in summer, when the sun never sets, or in winter, when light is at a minimum. Certainly, in the capital of Tórshavn I’ll wander the historic Old Town, Tinganes, still home to the Faroese government (one of the oldest representative parliaments in Europe, by the way) to first acquaint myself with the islands. And head to Tjóðsavnið (the national museum) which boasts an open-air farm museum as well as a more traditional exhibition hall.
Outside the capital, I hope to hike to the famed Kallur lighthouse, like many other female travelers before me, as well as take the round trip walk to Lake Sørvágsvatn, the largest lake in the Faroe Islands and known as the lake on a cliff, and Trælanípa, the cliff itself. I’ll be sure to visit the villages and towns that are so picturesque and peaceful, including Saksun, in its bucolic setting with turf-roofed buildings. Who knows? I may spend a day with a shepherd – did you know the Faroe Islands have about twice as many Sheep as human residents? – and wander the hills. If I’m especially adventurous, I may even sea-kayak.
Many women travelers also hike to waterfalls, take ferries to see the puffins and other seabirds (they nest on the islands in summer), and stay at B&Bs throughout the islands. The more adventurous of us may even dive the frosty waters around the islands. Bracing hikes, a spot of water sports, breathtaking waterfalls, cultural exploration, yarn shopping, and the world’s first underwater roundabout – what more do you need? Ideally, my journey to the Faroe Islands can be combined with a trip to another wish list destination: Iceland
Another journey to Iceland is definitely in the cards for 2021. You’ve surely heard lots about Iceland, and with good reason – it’s a fascinating place with a bushel of ways to challenge yourself – both physically and mentally. Iceland is about the size of Kentucky, yet claims seven distinct regions. Many adventure tours operate, so a solo woman traveler can simply join a tour to climb a glacier, dive the icy waters, cycle around the terrain, go ice climbing, caving, whale watching, Northern Lights chasing, and more. However, traveling with like-minded women can add a sense of camaraderie – nothing like a high five after hiking up (and back down) a glacier!
My last trip included a great friend (also a female traveler), and many adventures – we walked the black beach, saw and hiked to waterfalls, hiked up and back down a glacier, explored a lava cave, saw geysers, stood where tectonic plates are making Iceland larger every year (one foot on each plate!), chased (and found) the Northern Lights, met charming people who are still friends, and soaked in the geothermal waters of Blue Lagoon – all in four days. The next trip will be a little longer and slower-paced, though not any less adventurous.
I plan to visit several of Iceland’s museums (all near or in Reykjavik):
- Sögusafnið, or Saga Museum to learn more about Iceland’s early history
- National Museum and Culture House, with artifacts from the earliest times
- The Settlement Museum, an underground museum within an archaeological dig – imagine walking within a longhouse!
- The Arbaer Open Air Museum, to see how Icelanders lived in the past
- Tales from Iceland, to hear in residents’ own words contemporary stories, and
- The Icelandic Punk Museum (in a disused underground toilet) to experience Icelandic punk music
After exploring Reykjavik for a few days, I’ll head to Snaefellsnes Peninsula for a thorough exploration of what some call Iceland in miniature. This slender peninsula, home to one of Iceland’s national parks, contains both a volcano (not currently active) and glacier, lava fields, waterfalls, black and white beaches, caves, mountains, and boasts a fantastic walk between two of the charming coastal villages, Arnarstapi and Hellar – quite popular with other female travelers. I need to see if the legend of the volcano is true – does it really radiate energy (other than lava of course)? And every visit to Iceland must include a dip in one of the numerous geothermal springs.
Iceland offers not only a vast array of outdoor activities, but also fantastic cultural opportunities, a variety of sensational dining opportunities, from the one-of-a-kind hotdogs to traditional Icelandic cuisine (reindeer or rye bread ice cream, anyone?). So put Iceland on your list too!
Given my love affair with central and eastern Europe, it’s surprising I’ve not ventured to Romania yet. Nestled between Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Moldova, Romania has had quite a turbulent history, most recently the fall of the communist regime in 1989. What started as Dacia in the first century BCE has been ruled by natives, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Hungarians, Ottomans, and Russians, among others. Romania’s physical location at the crossroads of Christian Europe and the Muslim Ottoman Empire meant the country was under fairly constant attack from one side or the other, leading to a fascinating culture and a multilayered, intriguing collection of historical buildings and monuments throughout modern Romania. As an added enticement, Romania is home to part of the Carpathian mountain range, providing ample outdoor activity options popular with female travelers. If that isn’t captivating enough to put Romania on your travel wish list, read on.
Clearly, Romania is a dream come true for female travelers interested in history. From Sarmizegetusa Regia to the Memorial to Victims of Communism and of the Resistance, Romanian history is on full display throughout the country. Some of the historical sites I’ll have on my itinerary include:
- Dacian fortresses of Orăştie Mountains, including Sarmizegetusa Regia
- Wooden churches in Maramures
- Painted monasteries in Bukovina
- The medieval Sighișoara Citadel historic center
- Fortified churches of Transylvania
- Castles and chateaux around the country- the best known are Peleș, Corvin, and Bran Castles
To learn about Romanian culture in Bucharest:
- Tour the Palace of Parliament, the second-largest building in the world (smaller than only the US’s Pentagon) – hour-long tour takes you through only a fraction of the three million-plus square feet
- Stroll around the elegant parks and gardens: Cișmigiu Gardens and Herăstrău Park
- Visit the National Museum of Art of Romania, as well as art galleries around the city
- Search out the small chapels and churches, and green spaces attached to shops and bars – Gradina Eden (Garden of Eden( cafe, for instance
- Pay homage to the brave Romanians who rescued their country from the last dictator at the Memorial of Rebirth, and
- Explore the quirky Museum of the Romanian Peasant and learn about the people outside Bucharest before you head out of the capital
Immerse yourself in Romanian culture outside the capital:
- Visit the small villages throughout the country and stay for at least a couple of days
- Indulge in some of the many traditional folk festivals throughout the year. Festivals celebrate events as well as objects, like sheep milk production to cheese and brandy
- Take one of the slow-travel steam trains, like the one from Viseu de Sus, Maramures that shows you idyllic pastures, rivers, and old-growth forests
- Drive the dramatic twists and turns of the 150 km Transfăgărășan highway
- Hike through the “haunted” Hoia Baciu forest`, or
- Enjoy some sun, fun, and culture at one of the Black Sea beach resorts
A wealth of outdoor opportunities await the female traveler. Enjoy hiking and whitewater kayaking or rafting? The Carpathian mountain range offers a wealth of trails, as well as three main rivers highly rated for watersport. And Romania has several excellent resorts on the Black Sea if you prefer your watersports salty. The 45 miles of fine sand beaches contain several different types of resort towns and areas, from Ibiza-like party central, Mamaia to Neptun, which offers various spa treatments and hot springs in addition to the fine beach.
Winter sports more your thing? Romania boasts many inviting ski resorts throughout the mountains as well, with trails for beginners through intermediate skiers, though some black runs are available as well. If you prefer your feet in waterproof boots or waders, head to the Danube delta reserve, Europe’s largest wetland and an important water purification system – and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many female travelers are overwhelmed by experiencing a place where more than 350 species of birds can be seen at various times of the year. I plan to explore the Danube delta, hike, and if (when?) I visit in winter, maybe even ski (or snow tube, another option).
Female travelers can enjoy the multilayered, intriguing sweep of history, thrilling drives and scenery, beguiling cultural exploration, along with natural wonders and physical challenges. Romania beckons, and later this year, I’m heeding her siren call.
Lastly, I plan to head to Portugal, probably in autumn. Why Portugal, and why then? I had plans to travel to Portugal in March 2020 – plans derailed by the pandemic. And Portugal is brilliant any time of year. The climate, moderated by the ocean, is warm enough for some water sports throughout the seasons. And with 300+ days of yearly sunshine, the country offers countless opportunities for outdoor adventures. In fact, quite a few female travelers have been raving about Portugal.
First, I plan to acquaint myself with the capital, Lisboa. From the National Museum of Ancient Art to Sao Jorge Castle, to the modern art in Berardo Museum, the city is bristling with cultural sites, monuments, galleries, and more. Additional must-have experiences for female travelers include:
- Taking a ride on the city’s vintage tram 28E
- Exploring the underground metro to gaze at the beautiful tilework
- Climbing Belém Tower and take in the views
- Wandering the Manueline halls and grounds of Jerónimos Monastery
- Meandering up and down the twisting cobbled alleyways of Alfama, the Old Town
- Strolling around Praça do Comércio at the riverfront
- Spending a day exploring and photographing the palaces and forts of Sintra
- Lolling in the sun on a boat tour of the Tagus River
- Enjoying a meal of petiscos and wine tastings at Queijaria cheese shop
After a few days, why not rent a car to drive to more remote areas and towns, and drive around the lovely hills of Serra de Sintra, exploring the castles, gardens, fortifications, and more. After staying a night (or two) in Sintra, drive along the byways of the old region of Alto Alentejo to intriguing walled towns like Évora, Marvão, Estremoz, and others. Évora is steeped in history from the 1st-2nd century Temple to Diana to the Capela dos Ossos. Estremoz has spectacular marble-clad buildings around the town, all embraced by the medieval walls. Marvão has been compared to an eagle’s nest. Add a unique experience with a stay at Torre de Palma Wine Hotel for relaxation and a gustatory experience (wine tastings and meals), or get hands-on making your own wine at João Portugal Ramos vineyards, both of which are between Marvão and Estremoz.
If I have time, I’ll head to one of Portugal’s many “hidden” beaches, perhaps Dunas de São Jacinto, Aveiro, for sun, surf, and bird-watching. Did you know Portugal has about 850 km of beaches, almost all in an unbroken line? Many female travelers consider this enough reason to travel to Portugal – then meander from beach to beach.
And onward to Porto, to:
- Climb the 225 steps of Clérigos Tower for panoramic views
- Amble through the Crystal Palace gardens
- Take a guided tour of one of the Porto wine cellars
- Find some books to buy at Livraria Lello, one of the most breathtaking bookshops in the world
- Visit Ribiera, the old town riverside – and have a scrumptious traditional dinner
- Admire the overwhelmingly beautiful design of Estação de São Bento (Sao Bento Train Station) before boarding my train to take me back to the Lisbon airport.
Exploring the grand sweep of monuments from ancient Roman temples to Moorish towers, hiking verdant valleys and mountains, enjoying the salty breeze on the beaches, tasting the products of Portuguese vineyards, sampling a food scene out of this world, delving into fanciful castles and walled villages, smelling exotic scents in foreign gardens….isn’t Portugal beckoning you, too?
And there you have it – 7 countries this female traveler plans to explore in 2021 when the time is right. Drop us a note in the comments and tell us where you want to travel to next. If you would like to join me or other female travelers or want to be empowered to forge your own path, drop us a line – we’ll make your travel dreams come true!
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