The Wanderlust Travel Awards 2021: The Results

You voted in your thousands! In another challenging year for travel, we celebrated the industry’s ultimate stars at the 20th Wanderlust Travel Awards. Here, we list your winners.

Team Wanderlust
02 November 2021

Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards

With so little travel in this strangest of years, we asked you where you will want to go to, once you can travel again. Just where are you dreaming of? Here are the results.

Most Desirable Country (Long Haul)

Gold: Australia

Kangaroos in Australia (Shutterstock)

That’s right, the country that has been closed to most international arrivals throughout the entire pandemic has come out on top at this year’s Wanderlust Travel Awards. Australia has been crowned our readers’ Most Desirable Country (Long Haul) for 2021.

We’re not surprised to see Australia come in first position, with its diverse landscapes and endless adventures. And with flights being planned again before the end of the year, it won’t be long until eager travellers can head back down under to explore the bustling city culture, quirky bush wildlife and paradisiacal secret beaches beyond the more popular tourist spots.

Silver: Japan

Autumn colours in Japan (Shutterstock)

Bronze: Costa Rica

View of Costa Rica’s volcano through the wilderness (Shutterstock)

More of your favourites

4. Canada

5. USA

6. South Korea

7. Peru

8. Sri Lanka

9. South Africa

10. New Zealand

Most Desirable Country (Short Haul)

Gold: France

The Eiffel Tower, France (Shutterstock)

You have voted France as your Most Desirable Country (Short Haul). During the pandemic, travellers have started to uncover and appreciate some of the hidden gems closer to home, and this includes the wonderful French regions that are so often overlooked for expeditions further afield. From secret walking trails in Mount Blanc and the Loire Valley, to cities drenched in fantastic French culture such as Bordeaux and Toulouse, the UK’s overseas neighbour is where our readers dream of heading next and is a worthy winner of this award.

Silver: Italy

Road through Tuscany (Shutterstock)

Bronze: Iceland

Iceland hot springs (Shutterstock)

More of your favourites

4. Greece

5. Spain

6. Croatia

7. Portugal

8. Georgia

9. Norway

10. Austria

Most Desirable City (Long Haul)

Gold: Singapore

Singapore Gardens (Shutterstock)

Singapore has been a firm favourite of Wanderlust readers for several years, with its name often appearing in the top 10 for their favourite cities. Now, it takes the Gold for Most Desirable City (Long Haul). This vibrant destination, famous for its food, shopping and amazing ‘super trees’, is the perfect introduction to Asia. Beyond retail therapy, visitors can explore the sights of Chinatown, hang with the Orangutans at Singapore Zoo, and potter around the mosques and quirky cafes in the Arab quarter. This forward-thinking city has plenty on offer!

Silver: Cusco

Cusco, Peru (Shutterstock)

Bronze: Cartagena

Cartagena, Colombia (Shutterstock)

More of your favourites

4. Havana

5. Chicago

6. Tokyo

7. Quito

8. Luang Prabang

9. Cape Town

10. New Orleans

Most Desirable City (Short Haul)

Gold: Lisbon

View over Lisbon, Portugal (Shutterstock)

Another European destination that has come up trumps in the Wanderlust Travel Awards is Lisbon, winning the readers’ Most Desirable City (Short Haul). As one of the world’s oldest cities, there’s always something new to discover in the Portuguese capital. Boasting historic castles, palaces and churches, as well as the European Green Capital 2020 title, we think it’s a fitting winner chosen by our readers.

Silver: Seville

Plaza de Espana, Seville, Spain (Shutterstock)

Bronze: Tbilisi

Old Town of Tbilisi, Georgia (Shutterstock)

More of your favourites

4. Marrakech

5. Dubrovnik

6. Bologna

7. Tallinn

8. Salzburg

9. Stockholm

10. St Petersburg

Most Desirable Region (Long Haul)

Gold: British Columbia

Emerald Lake Yoho National Park, Canada British Columbia (Shutterstock)

With more than 25,000 miles of picture-perfect Pacific coastline and an abundance of mountains and forests, we join our Wanderlust readers in longing over a trip to Canada’s westernmost province. Winning Most Desirable Region (Long Haul), this area calls out to adventure-seekers with its magnificent hikes and biking trails through some of nature’s finest scenery. Take us there now!

Silver: Galápagos Islands

Galápagos Marine Iguanas on a beach, Tortuga Bay, on Santa Cruz island.

Bronze: Deep South USA

Deep South USA (Shutterstock)

More of your favourites

4. Western Australia

5. Caribbean

6. Silk Road

7. Antarctica

8. Kerala

9. Patagonia

10. Malaysian Borneo

Most Desirable Region (Short Haul)

Gold: The Greek Islands

Kefalonia, Greece (Shutterstock)

Opa! Little introduction is needed for the winner of Most Desirable Region (Short Haul). The Greek Islands will take anyone’s breath away, from the transparent waters and white-washed buildings to the fabulous Greek culture and cuisine. With more than 6,000 to explore, these islands offer travellers the opportunity to go off-the-beaten track away from the crowds to discover beautiful beaches and a wealth of authentic tavernas.

Silver: The Azores

Cascading waterfall at Flores Island, The Azores, Portugal (Shutterstock)

Bronze: Sicily

The Ruins of Taormina Theater at Sunset, Sicily (Shutterstock)

More of your favourites

4. Catalonia

5. Andalucía

6. South Tyrol

7. Lombardy

8. Scottish Islands

9. Brittany

10. Bavaria

Favourite Travel Personality

Winner: Simon Reeve

Wanderlust is thrilled to award Simon Reeve the Travel Personality of the Year Award. Continuing to inspire us and our readers with his adventures, Simon has been working for decades to uncover some of the world’s most incredible places. The past year hasn’t stopped him, with a BBC series exploring the Cornish coast, and now a new book giving us behind-the-scenes insight to some of his most-remarkable and sometimes dangerous journeys. Congratulations Simon, a Wanderlust superhero!

Wanderlust World Guide Awards

Tour guides and tour leaders are the under-sung heroes of travel; the remarkable individuals who turn their clients’ trips into life-enhancing and life-changing adventures. We have been running the World Guide Awards since 2006, when we set them up in memory of Wanderlust‘s co-founder Paul Morrison, who was passionate about the importance of guides.

This time around, we asked the travel industry to nominate who they felt were the outstanding tour guides and tour leaders who really deserve an award in these surreal times. The tough decision of picking the final winners was then down to a panel of judges. The awards were presented by travel guru Simon Calder.

Best Tour Leader

Winner: Valerie Parkinson, Exodus Travels (Nepal/India)

Valerie leads treks in the Himalayas and is known for her brilliance as a leader, whether her clients are unfit, first-time trekkers, or super-fit people aiming for Everest Base Camp. She also cares deeply about the communities in the regions she works in. As one judge said, “Valerie is clearly compassionate, caring and inspirational. She makes a huge impression on her clients, and they will follow her anywhere.”

Kathmandu, Nepal (Shutterstock)

2. Peter Lobo, Adventure Gurudongma (India/Bhutan)

3. Thilantha Abeysinghe, Intrepid Travel (Sri Lanka)

4. Matthew Dyas, Intrepid Travel (UK)

5. Etienne Frans, Journey Latin America (Brazil/Latin America)

6. Vania de Paoli, Exodus Travels (Italy)

7. Richard Farmer, Inside Travel Group (Japan)

8. Alastair Walker, Brightwater Holidays (UK)

Best Specialist Guide

Craig Wickham, via South Australian Tourism (Kangaroo Island, South Australia)

Dedicating his life to protecting Kangaroo Island’s flora and fauna, judges said Craig Wickham is “more than just a guide”. He gets involved with all aspects of the island’s tourism and played a key part in the recovery of the island after the devastating fires.

Penong, South Australia (Shutterstock)

2. Joseph Tano, PNG Tourism

3. Jonny Motsieloa, Mosetlha Bush Camp & Eco Lodge (South Africa)

4. Tony O’Connor, Andante Travels (Algeria & others)

5. Marta Corte-Real, ToursByLocals (Portugal)

6. Mitra Talarman (Italy)

7. Alex Lacey, Blue Badge Tourist Guide (UK)

Wanderlust Travel Awards

We asked the travel industry to nominate themselves in these next categories, which were each judged by a panel of travel industry insiders.

Best Response to the Pandemic (Tourist Board)

Winner: Nepal (Nepal Tourist Board)

For a small country, Nepal accomplished great things in the past year, and so have claimed this year’s Best Response to the Pandemic (Tourist Board) Award. Their widespread strategy involved the government, local tourism groups, communities, private companies and NGO support. Judges said: “Their lobbying work on sustainability and tourism development awakened the government to review their monetary policy to support the continuance of their activities which was amazing”, and also admired their “out of the box thinking” when it came to their Stranded in Nepal website.

Swayambhunath, Nepal (Shutterstock)

2. Saudi Arabia (Saudi Tourism Authority)

3. Louisiana, USA (Louisiana Office of Tourism)

4. Thailand (Tourism Authority of Thailand)

5. Slovenia (Slovenian Tourist Board)

6. Colombia (ProColombia)

7. Croatia (Croatian National Tourist Board)

8. Crete (Region of Crete)

9. Maldives (Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation)

10. Israel (Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Best Response to the Pandemic (Tour Operators)

Winner: Journey Latin America

With over 40 years of experience, Journey Latin America is one of the travel industry’s most respected companies, and you could see why with their systematic, calm response to the pandemic. They kept their business going, their staff motivated, their suppliers faithful, and their customers, well, as their customers.

“They worked hard on every touchpoint in their business to ensure all elements were supported and informed,” enthused one judge. “Their teamwork and camaraderie came across so strongly in their submission.”

Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Shutterstock)

2. Kuoni

3. Exodus Travels

4. Experience Travel Group

=5. Discover the World

=5. Sunvil

=5. Trailfinders

8. Holiday Architects

9. Regent Holidays

10. Selective Asia

Sustainable Travel

Winner: Intrepid Travel

Intrepid have been commended by judges for “not leaving a stone unturned” when it comes their sustainability efforts, and therefore have won this year’s Sustainable Travel Award. Judges were impressed with their practical, science-based targets, and commented, “many of the actions – such as electric vehicle transfers, partnering with green hotels and reviewing short flights on its itineraries – are not only admirable but also relatively simple initiatives that other tour operators could, and should, draw inspiration from”.

2. Pura Aventura

3. G Adventures

4. TTC

5. Gondwana Collection Namibia

6. Quark Expeditions

=7. Philippines Department of Tourism

=7. Travel Matters

9. Switzerland Tourism

10. Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority

11. Jetwing Kandy Gallery

In Association with WTM London

Travel Industry Professional of the Year

Winner: John Telfer

John is a veteran of the travel industry, with a distinguished 35-year career at Explore Worldwide. He has been instrumental in leading countless initiatives in sustainable travel with his unequivocal belief that we must be welcomed in the communities that we visit, and that we must tread lightly on our travels. Under his stewardship, Explore became the first UK tour operator to offset all components of its trips, including flights. He has been named a Visiting Professor at Surrey University.

John is hailed as a hero in pioneering risk safety management, work that has had a critical impact in internationally-used processes for crisis management. But beyond these remarkable achievements, John is known, and loved, as someone who works with such integrity, truth and passion.

Travel Media Influencer of the Year

Winner: Laura Alho (@blueabaya)

With more than 110k followers on Instagram, Laura Alho (aka, the Viking in Arabia) has helped demystify the hidden gems of a country shrouded in mystery, as well as defying boundaries and pre-conceptions. Laura wins the Travel Media Infuencer of the Year Award 2021.

Wanderlust Travel Award 2021 judging panel

Big thanks to our dedicated team of judges: Derek Moore; Charlotte Hindle; Holly Tuppen; Kate Kenward; Alex Robinson; Claire Antell-Thorne; Nick Boulos; Mark Carwardine; Graeme Green; Martin Symington; Lyn Hughes (Chair of judges).

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