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Santorini, Greece, is one of this summer’s hottest destinations.
This summer’s hottest international destinations are really hot.
An exclusive new customer survey by travel agency Embark Beyond finds travelers plan to flock to destinations known for warm summer temperatures — and more relaxed COVID-19 travel restrictions.
”This year’s hot list is very different from most years,” says Jack Ezon, managing partner of Embark Beyond. “It reflects both our clients’ burning desire to explore outside our borders this year and shifting destinations based on which borders seem to be open to Americans this summer.”
Note: Between now and the start of summer, things can — and probably will — change.
In fact, shortly after Embark finished this list, the U.S. State Department tightened the list of “Level 4” countries it recommended avoiding. It’s all the more reason to work with a knowledgeable travel advisor and buy an industrial-strength travel insurance policy. And if you still need help, you can always ask my nonprofit organization for a hand.
Still, we can dream this summer, can’t we? Here are the top 10 places to vacation in the summer of 2021:
Antipaxos, Greece. Greece is the hottest destination this summer.
Almost one-third of the Embark’s summer business this year is heading to Greece. “Greece is our most popular European destination this summer since it was first to announce open borders to Americans,” says Leo Sorcher, who oversees the agency’s Inhabit the World division. In fact, long before COVID-19, people dreamt about partying at Scorpios Beach Club on Mykonos and taking in the sunsets from the scenic village of Oia on Santorini.
MORE FROMFORBES ADVISORByRobin Saks FrankelForbes Advisor StaffByEllen ChangContributor
Earlier this week, Greece announced that the country would open officially for tourism on May 14. It will join Croatia and Montenegro as the only countries in the Mediterranean to accept Americans this summer. Turkey is already open.
It’s really hot in: The Santa Marina resort. Also, the new Kalesma in Mykonos and Canaves Epitome in Santorini are high on the must-do list, according to Embark. “Our clients are also obsessed with the new Nafsika Estate, a private villa run by the famed Mystique on Santorini,” adds Sorcher. Embark runs a Greek and Ottoman Summer program that will let you see some of the hottest places in Greece and Turkey this summer with confirmed upgrades and flexible cancelation policies.
Hot air balloons flying in sunset sky Cappadocia, Turkey
Coming in a close second, Turkey remains a big draw for American visitors. But a recent COVID-19 surge has put a hold on some activities, according to Bridget Cohn, a senior luxury advisor and founder of Bee Hospitality, the private membership affiliate of Embark Beyond. “While Turkey’s borders are open and the country is accepting Americans who provide a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival, the country is currently experiencing strict lockdown, curfew, and restrictions due to a very recent surge in cases,” she notes.
It’s really hot in: Ma?ak?z?. The new Edition “has a fabulous new vibe,” while the Mandarin Bodrum and Amanruya are the “ultimate luxury sanctuary,” says Cohn. For a more private experience, Bee is renting private luxury gulets — traditional Turkish wooden sailing boats — to bring clients on custom weeklong excursions to untouched areas of pristine Turkish coastline reachable only by boat.
A giraffe mother grooming her calf in Serengeti.
Tanzania accounts for fully 10% of Embark’s Africa business. And for a good reason. “This is probably the only year in your lifetime you can snag prime space for the Great Migration,” says Limor Decter, an Africa expert at Embark Beyond. “It’s called the Greatest Show on Earth. There will be few other tourists.”
It’s really hot in: Everywhere! “Clients are taking advantage of an opportunity to experience the splendor of the Serengeti, climb the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro sans the crowds, or relax on the beaches of Zanzibar,” says Decter. “This year, there will be minimal crowds and vehicles vying for the spectacular wildlife viewing at the Ngorongoro Crater, so it won’t feel like Disney World.” Decter recommends the renovated Singita Sabora, which she calls the most over-the-top glamping experience in the world.
A woman standing in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Iceland was one of the first countries to reopen to American visitors, and it remains a favorite, particularly as a relief to the hot summer weather. “Summer is prime time to visit Iceland. There’s never been a better year to see it without being overwhelmed with tourists — or being shut out of some of the rare luxury properties often booked eight months in advance,” says Kim-Marie Evans, a family and adventure specialist at Embark Beyond. Remember, the sun doesn’t set from May 21 to July 21.
It’s really hot in: Reykjavik. Try the Retreat at the Blue Lagoon, the “ultimate locale if you want a base camp and exclusive access to the famous waters,” according to Evans. “For the trendier set, the new Edition adds a new layer of cool to Reykjavik.” Still too hot for you? Take a snowmobile tour to the top of the Langj?kull Ice Cap, the largest ice cap in all of Europe.
View of Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa.
Turks & Caicos is just a three-hour flight from most Northeastern U.S. destinations. Lately, travel experts have started to call it the “new spring break” destination for Americans. “It’s family-friendly, with apartment-style resorts and eco-adventures surrounding the white sand beaches and electric-blue sea,” says Deborah Gellis, a travel expert with Embark Beyond.
It’s really hot in: The Shore Club and Beach Enclave Long Bay, which is ideal for the warmer months of July and August. Being on the windier side of the island delivers the perfect climate, according to Gellis. Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, families are flocking to the all-beachfront Grace Bay Club.
Bright and colorful harbor image of Saint Barthelemy..
It seems St. Barthélemy is the closest most Americans will get to the French Riviera this summer. Though closed now, the island indicates it will open to vaccinated Americans by May. “Jetsetters love the authentic French flavor, stunning coastline and hip vibrant boutique hotels and great beach clubs,” says Dawn Oliver of WellXplored, a wellness affiliate of Embark Beyond. “Bookings for this July feel like the peak season of March since it is the closest thing to St. Tropez most Americans will get this summer.”
It’s really hot in: The iconic duo — Eden Rock and Cheval Blanc Isle de France. “Always top of the list for our clients at Embark Beyond,” says Oliver. “I also love Le Barthélemy, another boutique hotel with a great vibe in the center of everything, or Le Toiny for privacy and seclusion.”
Catamans, near Land’s End, Cabo San Lucas, Baja CA, Mexico.
Specifically, Los Cabos, on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. That’s where Embark is currently sending 8% of its international clients. “Los Cabos is a spectacular destination that is a beautiful blend of sophisticated, casual, luxurious, and authentic,” says Laura Worth, art expert with the agency. “It’s become the Hollywood playground of 2021 and even more in demand.”
It’s really hot in: The “sexy” new Zadun is a favorite for honeymooners. Best for families? The new Four Seasons, says Worth.
Woman walking on beach in Anguilla.
Anguilla announced it would be opening up on July 1 to vaccinated Americans who will be exempt from the current “bubble” restrictions. It was known as one of the safest places to visit during the pandemic, with fewer than 30 documented cases. “Now Anguillan enthusiasts are taking their winter Anguillan vacation this summer,” says Cindy Salik, a travel advisor with Embark Beyond. “Aside from the most stunning beaches in the world, what makes Anguilla unique is its selection of great restaurants, hard to find in the Caribbean. The weather is always amazing, the food and service are incredible, and the beaches consist of miles of white sand and turquoise water.”
It’s really hot in: Belmond Cap Juluca is the ultimate romantic escape, with just 95 rooms spread out on the most beautiful one-mile stretch of beach on the island. For families, Salik also recommends the Four Seasons Anguilla.
Stradun (aka Placa), Dubrovnik’s main street with the Bell Tower of the Franciscan Church in the … [+] distance – Dubrovnik, Southern Dalmatia, Croatia
Croatia is one of the best values in Europe this summer. Located on the Adriatic Sea, it also takes a nice picture. “It’s considered one of the most beautiful destinations in the world,” says Kari Angelo, a travel advisor with Embark Beyond. “In addition to boating in the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic, the country offers a full gamut of activities.” They include exploring and hiking the national parks and waterfalls and a vibrant nightlife scene. Just a short speedboat ride from the town of Split, you’ll find the famous Blue Cave Of Bi?evo, considered to be one of the wonders of the Adriatic Sea.
It’s really hot in: Villa Dubrovnik, The Excelsior, and the Monte Mulini resort.
The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in the early morning light with Huayna Picchu mountain in the … [+] background
“This summer is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Peru and see Machu Picchu without hordes of other travelers,” says Kate Sullivan, a South America expert with Embark Beyond. But Peru has even more to offer: world-class restaurants such as Lima’s Central, the Paracas National Reserve along the coast, and, of course, the Amazon.
It’s really hot in: The new Explora Valle Sagrado, a haven for hikers who want to trek through the Sacred Valley to explore archaeological sites. Board the new Belmond Andean Explorer train to see Peru in style.
For many Americans, this summer will be the first real opportunity to travel abroad in more than a year. This list of the top 10 places to vacation is a helpful starting point, showing your best options for a quick getaway.