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Scenic wilderness adventures to take in 2021

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure – whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

The outdoors is a blissful escape for anyone who is eager to travel again but wants to avoid overcrowded destinations. Besides their social-distancing benefits, nature trails and wilderness adventures provide an opportunity to de-stress, unplug and feed your thirst for exploration.

To help you get on your way to a blissful outdoor getaway, here is a list of unspoiled nature escapes around the world. As travel begins to open up internationally, making plans to safely visit these places can be the perfect solution for your travel itch.

Nature trails and wilderness adventures to take in 2021:

Landscape view of the Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands

Seeking a nature escape that offers unfiltered beauty? Scotland is one of the best places to visit for isolation outdoors, camping, trekking, cycling and more.

Alongside its scenic national parks, Scotland is brimming with nature reserves, isles and forest escapes for your wilderness adventure. Walk lush green landscapes, hike mountains and glens, and explore thousands of serene lochs—there are nature trails for every level. 

Tips for wilderness adventures in Scotland

As part of Scotland’s Land Reform Act 2003, you can camp in most unenclosed areas. However, a few popular destinations may require a camping permit. Start your wilderness adventure with the West Highland Way or Cairngorms National Park.

How to get around the Highlands

You can travel the Highlands via train or bus. Renting a car, however, is the most popular way to get around the Scottish Highlands. There are plenty of scenic highway routes, so enjoy them on your way to your wilderness adventure!

Mountains in the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

Petrified Forest in the United States

The Petrified Forest in Arizona is one of the United States’ most underrated national parks, but those who are in on the secret of this wilderness beauty can’t get enough of it! The Petrified Forest is less “scary” than it sounds, and more known for its petrified trees. The fossilized wood is a remnant of ancient trees from the Triassic Period.

While the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are known for scenic drives and low-impact nature trails, there is also an area where you can escape people altogether and go backpacking. This spot is called the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area and is a prime location to isolate in nature’s beauty.

How to backpack in the Petrified Forest

Backpacking a U.S. national park usually requires a permit and fee (with limited availability). Lucky for you, backpacking permits are free for the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area and can be acquired day-of. Just be sure to arrive at the park before 4 p.m. The park’s entry fee, on the other hand, varies.

Entry to Petrified Forest is free with a National Park pass or $25 per vehicle.

Safety tips for hiking the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area

Because of the climate, you should bring plenty of water (one gallon per person per day), plan for extreme desert temperature changes, refrain from touching archeological objects and, of course, leave trails and campsites as you found them.

Top of the crater view of the Quilotoa Lagoon and its nature trail

Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador

There are a few ways to reach the Quilotoa lagoon in Ecuador—but if you want the ultimate outdoor experience across this lush Andean mountain escape, you’ll definitely want to consider taking the long way to the glowing green laguna. With alcapa freely roaming the vibrant green Andean mountainscape, you’ll be in wilderness bliss.

Do I need a tour guide to trek the Quilotoa Loop?

Nope! One of the great things about hiking this social-distanced getaway is that the Quilotoa Loop trek can be completed in 3-5 days—and is completely self-guided.

Safety tips for hiking the Quilotoa Loop

Since this wilderness adventure is in the Andes Mountains, you should plan for altitude adjustment, possible rainy conditions, cold temperatures at night and strong sun during the day. There may also be limited signage, so pay close attention to your trail. (Luckily there are towns nearby and a few trails to reroute along). Also be sure to pack a sufficient amount of water and a water filter, in case you do run out.

Safari getaway in the delta and reeds

Nature trails and wilderness adventures in Botswana

If you want to feel connected with wilderness and wildlife while remaining socially distanced, consider a safari in Botswana. 

There are several safari destinations and wildlife parks on the African continent, including in South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Namibia—but Botswana is one of the best for viewing wildlife thanks to its unique location where the desert and delta meet. You can go on a morning game drive around Chobe River National Park to spot big cats or take a mokoro ride through the Okavango Delta to experience traditional canoes firsthand.

When is the best time to go on a safari in Botswana?

If you are thinking of a wilderness adventure in Botswana, it’ll be best to visit between June and August for optimal weather conditions and wildlife viewing opportunities.

How to get to Botswana

If you are flying into Botswana for a wildlife safari, you’ll likely want to fly to Maun or Kasane due to their proximity to game reserves and national parks. Gaborone is the main international airport, though.

Camp set up and hammock for nature trails and wilderness adventures

Enjoy your hike, camp and escape outdoors

These stunning nature trails and wilderness escapes are just the beginning of your wild outdoor adventure. Consider camping or glamping in your own backyard if travel to some of these destinations is not yet possible. Remember, wild camping may require permits—especially in national parks (which, for some destinations, requires a few weeks’ advance notice)—but there is generally always public land nearby where you can car camp (if you’re going overlanding), wild camp or enjoy a day hike along nature trails.

Like anywhere else in the world, be sure to respect nature, leave the environment as you found it and avoid camping near farmlands or potentially hazardous terrain. Due to COVID-19, travel restrictions are rapidly changing—and are often confusing! Be sure to review domestic and international guidelines as you prepare for your trip. And when you’re ready to travel again, use Skyscanner to book flexible travel arrangements.

Discover where you can go

This interactive map also makes it super easy to research all you need to know about the latest updates regarding entry restrictions and quarantine requirements around the world.

COVID-19 "discover where to go" graphic

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About the author: Olivia Christine is a travel + wellness content creator and outdoor travel expert inspiring people to find wellness through exploration and nature.