Eight adventures around the world to inspire you for 2021: Glaciers, desert islands and the world’s most scenic railways

Travel has been on hold for most of 2020, but as the world begins to look to the future it's time to start dreaming again. Rosie Paterson and Toby Keel have put together a few suggestions.

For more inspiration, make sure you pick up Country Life’s December 30 issue — it’s our annual travel special, full of many more ideas for adventures far and near.

Go on a subterranean adventure

Deep cave systems are fascinating places — if you’re not convinced, read Robert MacFarlane’s superb Underland. Bonus points for heading to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, and scuba-diving through the extraordinary flooded cave system.

Deer cave in Gunung Mulu National Park, Thailand — one of the biggest caves in the world, said to be big enough that it could take in 40 Boeing 747s.

Set foot on one of the world’s most remote islands

Pick any one of the trio of Saint Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha — if you make it to any, we’re impressed, but particularly the latter. Be warned: there are no organised tours, and tales abound of keen travellers coming thousands of miles, only to be frustrated by high seas making it impossible to make landfall.

Saint Helena, a dot on the map in the middle of the Atlantic, one of the most remote, least-accessible places in the world. It’s part of a trio of islands governed together — the British Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. Each is a tiny, volcanic speck, thousands of miles apart from each other, and even further from Africa to the East and South America to the West.

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A tour of Greenland

The world’s largest island — assuming that you’re happy to count Australia as a continental land mass – is unexpectedly fascinating. Tourism is picking up — expect to sail through dazzling fjords, go on a husky safari and fly over towering glaciers.

Rafting among the icebergs at Scoresbysund, Eastern Greenland.

Visit a true desert island

It may not feel like it, but there are uninhabited islands everywhere — you’ll be able to do so in the Isles of Scilly or the Outer Hebrides for starters. That said, one in the South China Sea or South Pacific would be more exotic and deliver those Mutiny on the Bounty / Robinson Crusoe vibes. But remember — as the phrase goes — make sure you leave only footprints.

Rarotonga Island, one of the Cook Islands, with the Muri beach and lagoon in the foreground.

Trek through virgin jungle

The Amazon, Borneo or the heart of Africa are among your options, should you wish to live out your Indiana Jones fantasies — but be careful where you step, for these can be dangerous places. Take the Darien region, for example — this is mountainous and unforgiving terrain with no infrastructure at all (there’s no river and no road, despite there being just 100 miles between the southernmost Panamanian settlement and the northernmost Colombian one) full of tales of bandits and hardened criminals preying on the unwary.

The Darien jungle, straddllng the border between Colombia and Panama where South America meets North America.

Take a great train ride

The Trans-Siberian is top of the list for length and the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada the best for sustained, staggering scenery, but you needn’t go quite so far if time and budget are a problem. The West Highland Railway and the Norwegian lined between Oslo and Bergen are both breathtaking as well.

The Flam-Myrdal railway in Norway, running between Oslo and Bergen, is an unbelievably beautiful place and surprisingly easy to get to.

An Antarctic Odyssey

Tourism is becoming surprisingly popular to Antarctica, with many now plying the route between Tierra del Fuego and the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts out from the landmass into the Southern Ocean. Few trips head into the Antarctic Circle, though with scenery such as this you’re unlikely to be too worried about such technicalities.

The Yalour Islands, Antarctica. These islands are just off the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches out int o the Southern Ocean towards Tierra del Fuego.

Climb up to Everest Base Camp

If you think that ‘only’ going to Base Camp won’t tax you, think again: it’s at 17,500ft (altitude-related effects, for most people, begin at 10,000ft) and offers a real sense of the excitement and adventure of the Roof of the World.

Mounts Everest and Lothse, en route to Everest Base Camp.