Last year, travel aspirations were hit hard. The pandemic dictated restrictions on journeying to other countries while, for many, reasonable and legitimate nerves about doing so even while it was allowed prevented much movement beyond our own shores. It is safe to say, then, that 2020 was the year of the staycation.

And yet, the impetus to travel to unexplored horizons remains undiminished; in fact, many of us have never felt it more keenly. The best travel influencers have done a sterling job of whetting our appetites for the moment when we can, once more, hop on a plane, train or boat with impunity. There are, of course, literally thousands of Instagram travel bloggers. Here, we pick out our very favourites – from UK travel bloggers to female travel bloggers focused on women’s experience of solo travel to sustainability-focused bloggers – all of whom offer something more than just the standard white sand and azure sea beaches in their feeds.

Here is our round of the top travel bloggers to inspire your next trip.

The Common Wanderer

Mark and Mim – aka The Common Wanderer – are a pair of Aussies who are now officially citizens of Hungary living in Budapest, and who document their travels for the drool-worthy pleasure of the rest of us at home. They are award-winners in their field – and for good reason. Each of their dazzling little squares shows them doing things as various as hiking in the Dolomites; sending drones up to snap astonishing pictures of Balinese landscapes; roading tripping amidst the stunning natural beauty of Slovenia; or frolicking on the beaches of Menorca. They run giveaways, they support charities through the money they make, and their onus is firmly on ethical and sustainable travel. Scroll through, dream of faraway lands and make mental notes of where and how you might visit in future.

Emilie Ristevski

Emilie Ristevski’s documentation of her travels are so beautiful that they have made it into a book: Forever Wandering. An Australia-based creative, the dreamlike photography of her mindful wanderings near and far whisk us away in an instant to other worlds – which felt particularly necessary in 2020. She describes her own work in three words as ‘storytelling, escapism, dreamscapes’ and we could not agree more, whether she’s hitting the road in a VW camper van in her native Australia, or drinking in the unending beauty of the Atlas Mountains. Yes, you will see white sands and blue seas on her feed – but that is far from all. This is, unequivocally, art which, thanks to the far-reaching power of Instagram, is freely available for the enjoyment of us all.

Jord Hammond

Do you have ambitions to become a travel influencer yourself? Then you could do worse than following Jord Hammond, one of our all-time favourite travel bloggers, who, for the moment at least, is based in Bali. Why? First and foremost, his grid is packed full of jaw-dropping photography detailing some of the most extraordinary places on the planet and those he has met there. But secondly, he also runs a course titled, ‘The Business of Travel Photography’, which details how to make money through photography and the whys and wherefores of growing your following on Instagram. Given that he has some 711k devotees of his feed, he’s a man whose word you can trust on the matter. There was a time that to stare at photography as accomplished and beautiful as this, you’d have to fork out for a coffee table book; now you can simply click on Jord Hammond’s stunning feed.

Annette Richmond

Last week we brought you a feature on the body positivity movement, much of which has taken shape through the prism of Instagram. This week, bring you Annette Richmond’s feed, otherwise known as @fatgirlstravelling. And, indeed, it serves as a useful and pertinent reminder that, in order to be a travel influencer, it is not – we repeat NOT – a prerequisite that you must also be in possession of a willowy model’s physique. After all, the ability to see and convey beauty in the world is hardly the exclusive domain of those with smaller bodies. As Annette puts it, this is ‘fat activism through the travel lens.’ From Paris to California, Ghana to Bali, contributors supply pictures of themselves in stunning landscapes, underlining the importance of travel inclusivity if we are all to feel represented.

Emmett Sparling

At this time of year especially, we can get on board with anyone who similarly seeks out cosiness. And Canadian travel blogger Emmett Sparling’s image of colourful houses in Norway, posted with the specification of their cossetting comfort, was always bound to get our attention. Spectacularly well-travelled as one might expect, Emmett ricochets between azure idylls in French Polynesia to mysterious hidden pools in Borneo to dreamy beachscapes in Oregon. Yes, we’re part dying with envy; but we’re also fully inspired and have a sudden and all-consumingly desperate desire to go rowing on the lakes of Alberta and free diving in Pulau Alor. Sigh.

Alixe Lay

Alixe Lay is a London-dweller who is currently travelling in Kuala Lumpur, capturing each beautiful moment as she goes. Much of her work, however, serves as a reminder of the home-grown British and European beauty that is within striking distance. Her feed is as awash with exceptionally atmospheric interiors she discovers on her journeys as it is with landscapes. We adore her pictures of the lamp-lit dining hall at Christ Church College, Oxford (made even more famous than it already was by the Harry Potter movies) to full-of-curiosity library at Aynhoe Park to the extraordinary world of 18 Stafford terrace in Kensington. And we adore her images, as shown here, of Provencal villages, the likes of which are salivating at the thought of being able to visit once more. Heavenly, heavenly little squares that deserve, unequivocally, a follow.

Allie Taylor

Alexandra Taylor is based in Zurich and, as such, her feed is satisfyingly replete with gorgeous mountains, picturesque mountain-teetering villages and pristine, clear-as-crystal lakes. We love her summery images, as much as those of winter, the former of which see her bobbing through hillside meadows in scenes reminiscent of The Sound of Music. Being one of our best travel bloggers, she, naturally, darts around the world, from the Maldives to Germany, but it is in this snow-capped hilly and wholesome sensibility that we think of her. So, if you’re dreaming of hiking through extraordinary Swiss landscapes, Allie is one to follow.

Ciara Johnson

When Ciara Johnson – aka @hey_ciara – quit her job in 2014 to travel the world solo –starting in style in Paris – she could scarcely have imagined how successful her bid to turn her globetrotting new lifestyle into work would be. And yet, six years and almost 80k followers later, she’s done it, all the while sharing pictures of some of the most sublime landscapes in the world with her following. And for anyone considering taking the leap of faith that Ciara did six years ago, she helpfully divulges a few of her revenue streams and how she made it work here. Ciara describes herself as a ‘regular girl’, albeit one who darts from Greece to South Africa to Costa Rica to South Carolina without blinking, and who lands the best-ever brand partnerships (an eighty-day trip around the world with Airbnb, anyone?). Expect dazzling beautiful pictures and cheeringly positive captions from this can-do girl.

Christian Schaffer

‘The more I travel, the bigger this world seems. Places that were only just a pin on the map become an entire universe to me. The landscapes, the people, the favourite cafe down the street. I imagined that finding a place to call home would become easier as time went on, but I’m actually finding the opposite to be true. Every little mountain town and winding road holds some new possibility and potential claim on my heart,’ writes Christian Schaffer. She is well placed to know, having now been living in her van and on an American road trip full time for two years. In the process, she has picked up some 261k followers, all along for ride from the comfort of their sofas. Anyone who clicks ‘follow’ on her grid can expect glimpses into the dream-like landscapes she journeys through, from other-worldly Arizona to ice-covered Washington to the empty azure beach-scapes of Florida. Like high-octane adventure? There’s plenty of that to see here too.

Lucy Laucht

Lucy Laucht’s Instagram bio describes her as being ‘always in motion.’ And so a glance at her grid proves in exquisite style; one beautiful picture might show her hovering above a rock pool in the Algarve, while by the next she’ll have made her way to Marrakech, Greece or beyond. Her eye is unerring, and every little square induces a wistful sigh of longing. In a list of influencers who are more than accomplished with a camera, Lucy’s work is perhaps the most editorial in style of the lot. And if you like what you see, then you can now purchase one of her prints to remind you permanently of what’s beyond the horizon and ripe for discovery.

Mike Coots

If you like your travel influencers with a side-serving of Attenborough-style nature documentation, then Mike Coots is your man. His bio reads, ‘care for the ocean, and the ocean will care for you,’ below which, we – along with his 261k followers – can see the images of sharks close up that he spends much of his life capturing. The pictures themselves are astonishing and the story even more so: for Mike is a shark attack survivor who lost his right leg in the ordeal. Far from eschewing the ocean or vowing never to get close to one of these extraordinary creatures again, he continues to surf, and describes himself as a ‘shark advocate’, seeming to have formed a special bond with the species. Inspirational and astonishing in equal measure. If you like what you see, do go and check out Mike’s website and buy his prints here.

By Nancy Alsop
January 2021