Lonely Planet reveals top travel picks for 2021: Jordan named world's most welcoming place

Palau and Costa Rica also ranked in the travel expert's revamped annual ratings

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Each year, travel experts Lonely Planet pick out their top destinations for the year ahead. This year, the Covid-19 global crisis has largely halted international travel, leading the guidebook publishers to make its 2021 list a little different.

In a year when travel was paused, other issues were highlighted. The conversation around diversity shifted, environmental issues were front and centre and decades-old problems such as overtourism changed overnight.

In order to reflect this, Lonely Planet's 2021 Best in Travel spotlights not only destinations, but also people, companies and communities transforming the travel industry.

In the final shortlist of winners, the Middle East is well-represented.

Jordan is the world's most welcoming place

With its origins stemming from Levantine and Bedouin traditions, Jordanian hospitality is world famous. Hayley Skirka

Amman takes the award for the Most Welcoming Destination by Lonely Planet. The city was praised for its warm hospitality and friendly locals.

“In Jordan, Ahlan wa sahlan (welcome) is not an empty greeting. Stemming culturally from Levantine and Bedouin traditions, geniality and generosity are ingrained into the Middle Eastern welcome, with the sharing of food and drink at its heart,” say the travel experts.

In the Community category, Syrian refugee Hesham Moadamani is named Top Storyteller. Using his personal experience, he guides travellers around Berlin in his work for Refugee Voice Tours, drawing parallels between conflict in his home country and the history of migration in Germany.

One of the youngest black voices in travel

Gabby Beckford is named the Emerging Voice in Lonely Planet's Diversity category. The Virginian-raised traveller calls Dubai her favourite city after winning a scholarship and spending her junior year of college studying in the emirate.

Since then, she’s pivoted her personal blog to a travel resource, designed to empower young people hoping to see the world, and is one of the youngest black voices in travel.

From the UK, Soraya Abdel-Hadi is awarded first place in the Sustainable Storyteller category. The tour guide has previously lived in the UAE and in Morocco and aims to make travellers more mindful, even if they can’t venture far from home.

Recognising that all travel comes with a footprint, Abdel-Hadi uses her channels to encourage people to make choices that champion sustainability.

In January, Lonely Planet will announce another list – this time ranking readers’ nominations of their favourite people and places shaping the future of travel. Voting is now open on the Lonely Planet website.

The 2021 list also features 12 destinations across the world and you can see these listed in the gallery above.

From Rwanda's mountain gorilla conservation programme to a company offering perspective-altering treks through Ethiopia's landscapes and a group offering accessible tours in 30 destinations, here is the complete list of the places, people and initiatives that Lonely Planet thinks will make travel in 2021 a year like no other.

Lonely Planet’s 2021 Best in Travel

Californian travel company Wheel the World was named most inclusive tour. The company empowers people with disabilities to explore the world. Courtesy Wheel the World

Sustainability winners

  • Storyteller: Soraya Abdel-Hadi
  • Walk: Le Vie di Dante (Roads of Dante)
  • Wildlife programme: Rwanda
  • Emerging destination: Antigua & Barbuda
  • Train journey: Rocky Mountaineer
  • Food destination: Greece
  • Cycling route: Virginia Mountain Bike Trail
  • Sustainable accommodation: Grootberg Lodge, Namibia
  • Sustainable islands: Palau
  • Sustainable city: Gothenburg, Sweden

Diversity winners

  • Emerging voice: Gabby Beckford
  • Accessible destination: Costa Rica
  • Multi-generational: El Hierro, Spain
  • Indigenous food: Hiakai, New Zealand
  • Inclusive storyteller: Jeff Jenkins, Chubby Diaries
  • Inclusive tours: Wheels of the World
  • LGBTIQ storyteller: Karl Krause and Daan Colijn, Couple of Men
  • Under-explored history: Gullah Islands, USA
  • Cultural diversity: San Diego, USA
  • Welcoming destination: Amman, Jordan

Community winners

  • Tour: Invisible Cities, UK
  • Accommodation: Kazakhstan
  • Immersion: Faroe Islands
  • Revitalisation: Medellin, Colombia
  • Trekking: Tesfa Tours, Ethiopia
  • Restoration: Australia
  • Storyteller: Hesham Moadamani, Refugee Voices Tours
  • Small business: Footprints Cafe, Cambodia
  • Tourism project: Burren Ecotourism Network, Ireland
  • Expat storyteller: Georgette Jupe, Girl In Florence