Sponsored by

Renowned for picking the best places for travelers to go to each year, Lonely Planet, the world’s leading travel media brand, has reinvented its Best in Travel 2021 awards to recognize how our planet has changed. 

In a year when COVID-19 has severely impacted travel, Best in Travel 2021 focuses on the incredible people, places and businesses making a transformative contribution to travel in unprecedented times. Sustainability, community and diversity are the areas in which this year’s winners excel. And as the world looks forward to post-COVID travel, they lead the way in exploring our world to everybody’s benefit.

From a walking tour of cities offered by people affected by homelessness, to a Syrian refugee telling the lost history of his country in his new homeland; we’ve whittled through thousands of inspirational stories to celebrate 10 of the best community tourism projects around the world.

The Lonely Planet digital team has worked their way through many worthy nominations in our diversity category  to compile a list of winners that include an Instagram account for plus-sized travelers and a community of islanders in North Carolina, direct descendants of enslaved people who are keeping West African traditions alive everyday.  

A wild mountain gorilla chews on a stick.
This year's Sustainable Wildlife Program award celebrates Rwanda's efforts to support its wild mountain gorrila populatoin © Eric Lafforgue / Lonely Planet

Rwanda’s efforts to bring its wild mountain gorilla population back from the brink of extinction along with its work preventing poaching of endangered black rhinos, has earned the country a Sustainable Best in Travel award. Other winners of this category include a 500-mile-bike trail through Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and blogger Soraya Abdel-Hadi, who runs the popular website soraya.earth

“Travel is a much more considerate exercise in 2021 than it has been ever before.” Luis Cabrera, Lonely Planet’s CEO says. “With travelers cautiously re-engaging with the world and focused on ensuring their impact is safe and positive for host communities, we have decided to focus on destinations that truly enable visitors to make a genuine contribution.”

Lonely Planet recognizes that to come through these times takes effort and resilience. Best in Travel 2021 rewards the destinations which have braved the coronavirus pandemic and are ready and waiting to welcome us when we can travel again. 

This year doesn’t belong to countries or cities, it belongs to the people and businesses who make those places so special, so explore with us and our winners. 

See the winners of Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2021

Order The Sustainable Travel Handbook

This practical and inspiring guide motivates travelers to take a responsible approach to the impact of traveling.

Order The Sustainable Travel Handbook

Sponsored by Kayak

As a travel entertainment and inspirational media outlet, we sometimes incorporate brand sponsors into our efforts. This activity is clearly labeled across our platforms.

This story was crafted collaboratively between Kayak and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.

With sponsored content, both Lonely Planet and our brand partners have specific responsibilities:

  • Brand partner

    Determines the concept, provides briefing, research material, and may provide feedback.

  • Lonely Planet

    We provide expertise, firsthand insights, and verify with third-party sources when needed.

Explore related stories