Art and culture

The Places We Can’t Wait to Travel in 2021

It’s about time to dust off those passports and release all that pent-up wanderlust. Here are the places topping our wish list for travel in 2021

COVID-19 has a lot to answer for. Smashing our 2020 travel plans to smithereens, for one. But with vaccines on the horizon, we’re feeling hopeful about travel again – and when the moment is right, we’re going to do it with a vengeance.

To inspire a new year’s worth of travel planning, we’ve uncovered what’s new in favourite destinations as well as the most anticipated regional events and openings. We also turned to our editorial team, Cathay Pacific crew and travel journalists to see which places are sparking their wanderlust. Read on for where to travel in 2021.

Keep an eye on COVID-19 regulations, as offerings are subject to change, and check this page for Cathay Pacific’s most up-to-date flight information.


Rumours Beach Club on Sentosa, Singapore
Courtesy: Rumours Beach Club

We had a false start with the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble, but the city-state is first in line to open in early 2021, with some new ways to keep visitors entertained. For thrill-seekers, the Winter Shooting Arena at Snow City offers sub-zero war games, while indoor centre Adventure HQ has 10 electrifying zones to slide, swing, climb and free fall your way around various obstacles. Over in Sentosa, Hydrodash aqua park promises hours of inflatable fun; for a more relaxed afternoon, lounge around the new Rumours Beach Club, complete with your choice of three pools.

Creatives can head to newcomer Cuturi Gallery to admire contemporary works – or don a jumpsuit and create expressive art at Splat Paint House using paint guns and squirt bottles. We’re also keen to stroll through Jurong Lake Gardens; explore the whimsical Floral Fantasy installation and Flight of the Dragonfly 4D ride in the Bayfront Plaza; trek the 34-kilometre Coast-to-Coast Trail; and check out the Supertree Observatory for 360-degree views of Gardens by the Bay.


DMM Kariyushi Aquarium in Okinawa, Japan
Credit: Courtesy of DMM Kariyushi Aquarium

Whether it’s ryoken and zen gardens in Kyoto, craft beer and latte art in Tokyo’s hipster enclaves, or fresh powder and lip-smacking ramen in Hokkaido, Hongkongers don’t need extra incentives to jet to Japan. Nevertheless, in 2021, we have some.

The Tokyo Olympics is expected to kick off in July with a cool lineup of new events. Sports Climbing will see contestants scale 15-metre artificial cliffs (speed climbing), navigate vertical obstacles (bouldering) and battle gruelling overhangs (lead climbing). In Shidashita, 40 miles north of Tokyo, Olympic hopefuls will ride seven-foot waves to compete for the first-ever surfing medals, while skateboarding makes its Olympic debut at the Ariake Urban Sportspark, featuring a 7,000-capacity arena centred around a hollowed-out course of halfpipes.

Aside from stadium action, there’s a host of new attractions to explore across Japan. Live out your Mario Kart dreams at the Super Nintendo World debuting in 2021 at Osaka’s Universal Studios; experience life under the waves at new aquariums in Shikoku and Okinawa; or treat yourself at Tokyo Bay’s latest mall, Ariake Garden City, followed by a spa treatment at the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi.

Greater Bay Area

Macao Hotel Cotai strip Night cityscape Morpheus
Macao's Cotai Strip

With short hops a focus for 2021, what better time to explore Hong Kong’s backyard? Brimming with cultural sites, gastronomic treats and diverse attractions, the Greater Bay Area offers a quick-and-easy break. Zip on a train ride to Shenzhen or Guangzhou, ferry over to Dongguan or Zhongshan, or drive across the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.

The spaceship-like He Art Museum – or HEM – has landed in Shunde, Guangdong, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando. The museum showcases the extensive private art collection of tycoon He Jianfeng, with the launch exhibition ‘From the Mundane World’ featuring works from contemporary Chinese artist Ding Yi and Belgian-born Francis Alÿs.

Meanwhile over in Macao, the Cotai Strip’s dazzling array of resorts, casinos and shows gets an extra shine from the addition of TeamLab SuperNature Macao, a wonderland of interactive multimedia installations. Exciting new accommodations slated for 2021 include The Londoner, the Palazzo Versace Macau, and the Lisboeta.

Yunnan, China

Clifftop houses on a lush mountain in Baoshan Stone Village in China
Credit: Courtesy of LUX* Resorts & Hotels

Rural escapes are a trend for travel in 2021, and LUX* Resorts & Hotels provide an appealing opportunity to immerse yourself in ancient culture and isolated villages along China’s legendary Teahorse Route. These boutique properties take travellers on a journey across Yunnan province’s remote settlements, from the tiny Baoshan Stone Village buried into a rocky cliff overlooking Jinsha River to the rolling valleys and peach orchards of Lijiang. Regional delicacies, spectacular landscapes, traditional Naxi culture and exclusive experiences are all part of the adventure – as are five-star accommodation and personalised service that keep explorers in the lap of luxury. In summer 2021, two new retreats will extend LUX* Resorts & Hotels’s reach to the ancient towns of Dali and Pu’er, the Ming dynasty trading centre for Yunnan’s world-famous tea.


Pool villa at Zannier Hotel Bai San Ho in Vietnam
Credit: Frederik Wissink/Zannier Hotels

Just the thought of the perfect banh mi has us eager to rush back to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Factor in the country’s skilled handling of the pandemic, plus the speedy flight time from Hong Kong, and Vietnam looks particularly attractive.

With the pandemic inspiring an appreciation of slow travel in 2021, Anantara’s The Vietage carriage is bang on trend. The luxurious 12-passenger train service charts a languorous six-hour journey through the beautiful south-central countryside from Da Nang to Quy Nhon. As vibrant blooms of frangipanis and lumbering water buffalo roll past the windows, guests can enjoy gourmet meals, cocktails at the bar, and head and shoulder spa treatments.

Tucked slightly further down the coast, Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô is a tempting new luxury resort with 71 villas sprawled across pristine white beach and lush vegetation. Expect private pools, tribe-inspired interiors and a pristine coral reef to explore.


Burj Khalifa and the Dubai skyline at sunset
Credit: Shutterstock

Turns out that many of us have been wanderlusting after the allure of the UAE while stuck at home in 2020. With its sky-high futuristic towers, gorgeous beaches, desert adventures and five-star malls, Dubai was the most-searched Google destination for 2021.

Adding fuel to our collective desire, the Dubai Expo will finally launch in late 2021. The global innovation gathering occurs once every five years to tackle issues from sustainability to smart cities with a festival fervour. More than 190 countries will take over pavilions, shining the spotlight on everything from the future of 3D printing to travelling on the Hyperloop. There’s also a packed programme of entertainment, with 60 live shows daily, talks, exhibits, activities and more than 200 restaurants to fuel your mind.

Taiwan China

Exterior of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan China
Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Credit: Shutterstock

Hong Kong’s neighbour lures us with night-market feasting, bucolic hikes and bubbling hot springs, plus it has demonstrated one of the best COVID responses in the world, giving it added appeal and assurance for travel in 2021. Fingers crossed for a travel bubble soon.

Art lovers will be particularly keen to visit, with some of Asia’s most exciting art fairs taking place across the island throughout 2021. Art Tainan shines the spotlight on small contemporary galleries, helping to nourish the thriving scene in southern Taiwan, while Art Taichung will explore how a city can elevate its identity through aesthetic expression. The third edition of Taipei Dangdai seeks to continue building on its legacy for sharing creativity and ideas, while, Art Taipei showcases rising talent from across the world, in an enormous celebration of sculptures, paintings, photography and live performances.

‘Where I Want to Travel in 2021’

For more inspiration, we asked six seasoned travellers to share where – and why – they hope to travel in the new year.

Kanazawa, Japan

‘What’s on my bucket list for travel in 2021? My immediate answer was Kyoto, but I changed my mind, as I’m sure it will be flooded with all the other Kyoto-philes like me when Japan lifts travel restrictions. Maybe instead I shall visit Kanazawa, dubbed “the little Kyoto”. It’s an emerging travel hotspot, and I want to get there before the boom arrives!’ –Vanessa Kwok, deputy editor of Cathay’s inflight magazine

Click here to learn more about the appeal of Kanazawa, including its historic teahouses, hot springs and contemporary art.

Germany and Norway

‘For me, 2021 is going to be all about family reunions and longer, slower-paced trips. We are keen to visit my husband’s family and our new nephew in Germany. We’ll start by drinking our way up the Alsace wine trail in eastern France, then peeling off around Strasburg before heading up to Kaiserslautern in southwestern Germany. We’re also hoping to spend two weeks in Norway, where we’ll meet my side of the family, for a Scandinavian adventure through the country’s remote fjords, glaciers and coastal towns.’ Kate Springer, travel writer

Napa Valley, US

‘I can’t wait to travel to California’s Napa Valley and indulge in gourmet food and wine. The expansive wine region is the perfect retreat from the hustle and chaos of city living, with fresh air to fill the lungs and space to clear the mind. I plan to catch the sunrise from a hot-air balloon and enjoy the breathtaking views from above, and spend an afternoon in the elegance and sophistication of a renovated 1950s locomotive. There are also countless winery bike tours to explore at a leisurely pace.’ –Anthony Bykerk, second officer at Cathay Pacific

Shanghai, China

‘My prior hometown of Shanghai is definitely on top of my list of places to visit in 2021. I’d love to see my old friends, do a long run along the Bund, eat some noodles with crab roe, and check out the new Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum and TeamLab Borderless Shanghai.’ Dominic Ngai, managing editor of Cathay’s inflight magazine

Click here to brush up on the eight Shanghai neighbourhoods every traveller should know.

New York, US

‘I’d like to visit New York and live my most basic life to the max: line up at Trader Joe’s, buy seasonally spiced beverages, sit idly in the park (preferably with a bagel), peruse a museum, step on crispy leaves. Since the pandemic I’ve not been back to visit family in New Jersey and New York for over a year. My three nieces are all under six – they’re hilarious and cause chaos wherever they go. I can’t wait to hear their stories.’ –Hannah Leung, assistant manager, digital content and editorial at Cathay Pacific

St. Petersburg, Russia

‘Russian culture has always been a mystery to me, and I’d love to experience it firsthand in 2021 by exploring St Petersburg’s architectural gems, such as The Hermitage Museum, St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Mariinsky Theatre. Although Russia must be most beautiful in winter, I’ll probably go in the summertime since its average temperature is between 18°C to 30°C – and it stays light past midnight.’ –Yvonne Wong, group subeditor of Cathay’s inflight magazine

Why You Can Travel with Confidence in 2021

Cathay Pacific has taken the necessary precautions to help you fulfil your globetrotting goals.

Safety first
From check-in to cabin, we’ve implemented numerous measures to keep you safe. These include contactless check-in, stringent cleaning, HEPA-filtered cabin air and additional health checks, so you can be confident when you fly. For more details, visit our Cathay Care page.

Be responsible
While we’re managing everything we can on our end, there are also things you can do to make your journey as easy as possible. From monitoring your own health and wearing face masks, to staying up to date with worldwide restrictions. Check out our COVID-19 information centre for everything from what to expect on arrival in HKIA to tips on being a safe traveller.

Rebooking peace of mind

Flexibility has become a necessity in these uncertain times. That’s why we’ve implemented a full year of unlimited ticket changes, free of charge, for tickets booked until 31 March 2021.

Free COVID-19 insurance
To further protect our passengers, we’ve launched automatic COVID-19 insurance for all tickets booked until 28 February 2021. This covers medical expenses and hospitalisation, quarantine costs and emergency repatriation for COVID-19-related situations should the need arise.

Cathay Travell Book


Discovery online brings together all the inspirational travel writing from our two inflight magazines, Discovery and Silkroad. Be sure to look out for the print editions when you next fly with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon.
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