Which bucket list trips could be possible this year (and which you’ll need to wait longer for)

Hazel Plush
·6 min read
Could a trip to the Grand Canyon be possible this year?
Could a trip to the Grand Canyon be possible this year?

These days, travel dreams are made of simple stuff. A trip to the seaside without being stopped by police; a summer holiday without quarantine fears; a last-minute flight without swabbing your tonsils.

But yet, those old ‘bucket list’ yearnings are hard to let go of, aren’t they? If anything, a year of travel bans has only stoked the fires of our wanderlust: the likes of Machu Picchu, Antarctica and the Taj Mahal may be wholly out of reach right now, but they won’t be forever.

And maybe, some Big Trips will be back sooner than you think. With the impending ‘travel traffic list’ set to widen our horizons this summer, the odds are actually looking good for some destinations – thanks to rising vaccination figures and falling case rates. Indeed, it might be time to dust off that bucket list after all.

Exploring the Grand Canyon, US

Chance of visiting this year? Possible

All eyes are on the US this week, after it added 130 countries to its Do Not Travel list – dashing hopes that a reciprocal green list could be on the cards for Britain this summer.

Based on its statistics, the US could still make the UK’s green list – even if it doesn’t return the favour. A third of the US population has had their first vaccine dose, so it meets the benchmark figure of 30 per cent, which the UK Government is thought to be using to allocate ‘green status’. However, its case rates are still high, and the US State Department has reissued a call to Americans to "reconsider all travel abroad".

Perhaps travel to some states or cities might be permitted – in which case, Arizona could benefit: its case rate is relatively low, and British Airways flies non-stop between Heathrow and Phoenix, keeping logistics easy.

In fact, a Grand Canyon holiday fits all the ‘new normal’ criteria – with plenty of space, outdoor activities, and (for now at least) minimal crowds. There are some restrictions in place (including compulsory face masks), but the National Park and its hotels are currently open for business for domestic visitors.

Watching the Northern Lights, Iceland

Chance of visiting this year? Likely

Iceland’s Covid infections are currently very low, with a seven-day case rate of just 18.8 cases per 100,000 people. That’s lower than our own, at 25.4. There has been speculation that the UK’s green list will favour countries with fewer than 50 cases per one million population, and Iceland makes the grade. Its number of first-dose vaccinations currently stands at 19 per cent.

Northern Lights trip look possible later this year - Getty 
Northern Lights trip look possible later this year - Getty

The country also has a generous border policy, open to all Britons who have been fully vaccinated – with no need for PCR testing or quarantine. But if you’re dreaming of spotting the Northern Lights, you may need to bide your time: the season tends to run from September to March, though of course there are no guarantees of sightings.

Still, with its epic waterfalls, whale watching and volcanic theatrics, Iceland isn’t short on wow-factor. It’s also spectacular in summer, with long bright days and blooming wildflowers.

Diving the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Chance of visiting this year? Unlikely

Oh, Australia. With its low case rate, it makes the grade for green list status – but its borders have been firmly shut since last spring. Leisure travel is off the cards for now, and the country’s vaccination drive is in its infancy – meaning that the vaccine benchmark of 30 per cent is a long way off.

Things may look brighter towards the end of this year, but the best time to dive on the Great Barrier Reef is June-October – so you’re better off shelving this dream until 2022.

In the meantime, hone your scuba skills in Malta (a green list cert) this summer: it’s renowned for its underwater caves, shipwrecks and reefs.

While you might not get to Australia this summer, hone your diving skills in Malta (pictured) - Getty
While you might not get to Australia this summer, hone your diving skills in Malta (pictured) - Getty

Discovering Machu Picchu, Peru

Chance of visiting this year? Unlikely

After a lull in late 2020, cases are rising again in Peru – and its vaccine programme is rife with controversy. To further complicate matters, there are still concerns about the Covid variant which originated from next-door Brazil. As such, Peru is currently firmly on the UK’s red list – and looks likely to stay that way.

But if it’s mountain citadels you crave, perhaps look to Israel instead: this green list favourite is home to Masada, a 2,000-year-old ruin, perched high on a plateau above the Dead Sea. It’s breathtaking stuff, and reached by a cable car ride or uphill hike – easily done in a day trip from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Living the high life in Dubai, UAE

Chance of visiting this year? Likely

The UAE is currently on the red list, but it has one of the most extensive vaccination programmes in the world, with 35 per cent of its population having received their first dose. As such, the green light looks likely. And there’s more good news: the UAE hopes to reopen to tourism from July 7, with an emphasis on pre-arrival PCR testing and additional health screening. If it can keep cases low, and its vaccine rate up, a flashy Dubai break could well be on the cards.

If the UAE makes the cut by summer, you might even snap up a bargain. With temperatures regularly hitting 50ºC, Dubai’s top hotels usually lower their prices to tempt holidaymakers in July/August – making it a great time to experience all-out luxury for a (relatively) modest price.

Dubai is hoping to reopen to tourism from July 7 - Getty
Dubai is hoping to reopen to tourism from July 7 - Getty

Cruising to Antarctica

Chance of visiting this year? Unlikely

It’s not, perhaps, the cruising bit of this travel dream that’s the problem – though of course, the UK Government currently advises against all ocean-going voyages. Rather, it’s the logistics that make Antarctica impossible: it can only be reached via countries that are currently out of bounds, and show no sign of making the green list.

Most cruise ships depart from Ushuaia, Argentina – which is firmly on the red list, with a seven-day case rate of 359.49 per 100,000 people. For flights, Punta Arenas in red-listed Chile is the only option – whose own rate stands at 253.3, despite its high first-dose vaccination figure of over 40 per cent.

Spotting polar bears in Canada

Chance of visiting this year? Unlikely

Canada’s seven-day case rate of 161.9 per 100,000 people makes it unlikely to hit the UK’s green list anytime soon. And restrictions are reciprocal: Britons are currently banned from entering Canada, with even the US-Canada border closed until at least May.

While Canada is likely off the cards, you might be able to spot bears in Finland - Getty 
While Canada is likely off the cards, you might be able to spot bears in Finland - Getty

However, you may be able to spot bears closer to home this year – though they’ll be brown ones, not polars. Finland, you see, is quietly forging ahead with a falling seven-day case rate (currently 36.4 per 100,000) and decent vaccination figures (23 per cent have had first doses). Here, you can spot magnificent brown bears, wolverines and elks – by the light of the ‘midnight sun’, a bucket list phenomenon all of its own. Finland’s borders are currently closed to Britons, but the data looks promising.