Our gift ideas for 2021 have been picked for people interested in nature, culture, travel, geopolitics – in short, anyone who loves geography. We've deliberately chosen a selection of gifts that have been ethically and sustainably made, that are produced by small businesses or that support good causes, alongside a subscription to Geographical which we think would make an excellent gift!
The game lover
There's a whole range of nature and geography-themed board games to choose from – we've even made a list of them here.
Other table top games include Where on Earth from the Science Museum, which tests your knowledge of travel-trivia, and the RSPB edition of Monopoly, where you swap property-building for discovering new bird-watching sites.
There's a growing number of video games exploring environmental issues from climate change to conservation, including Alba: a wildlife adventure where players spend their time protecting and identifying wildlife on a Mediterranean island reserve. The developers have also been busy planting trees for every copy of the game bought so far.
Budding oceanographers can learn about the challenges facing marine life through the eyes of a deep sea explorer and scientist in Beyond Blue, a game inspired by the BBC's Blue Planet II series and developed with the help of leading ocean experts.
Our top pick, from the same developers as Beyond Blue, is award-winning Never Alone, made in collaboration with the Iñupiat, an Indigenous Alaskan community. Embodying the character of a young Iñupiat girl, players explore the frozen tundra and ice floes of the Arctic in a reworked version of an old Iñupiaq tale. The game is narrated in the Iñupiaq language and was designed to help preserve and promote Iñupiaq culture and its tradition of oral storytelling.
The wildlife lover
There are many different organisations that offer animal adoption programmes. One of our favourites is from WWF. A year's adoption starts from £36 and supports one of several species most in need of protection, including: elephants, penguins, snow leopards, orangutans and giant pandas. Find the full list of animals here.
Included in the adoption welcome pack are an adoption certificate, regular updates about the chosen animal and an optional cuddly toy.
For wildlife that you can actually visit, or at least have a chance at spotting out in the wild, the Donkey Sanctuary (located in Devon) and the Wildlife Trusts both offer adoption schemes a little closer to home. Choose to sponsor an otter, hedgehog, seal, red squirrel or even an ancient tree or wildflower meadow.
Finally, if it's a wildlife-watching experience you're looking for, the pioneering rewilding project at Knepp Estate in West Sussex offer a range of guided safaris through their grounds. Autumn tours showcase rutting deer while night tours are best for spotting bats and moths. Or opt for an afternoon tracking experience where visitors will be taught how to identify and use prints and dung to locate different animal species.
The book lover
From thrilling adventures to thought-provoking exposés, take your pick from our favourite books published this year:
For the best in bird-watching gifts, you can't do better than the RSPB which has an online shop that includes everything from British birdsong guides to printed reusable water bottles. Click the FSC button to view products approved by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Avid birders can show off their bird-spotting skills with a scratch-off British garden birds poster, designed by illustrator and ornithologist Matt Sewell, which lets bird-watchers record which species they've seen or heard. For all-weather note taking and sketching out in the field, Rite in the Rain's birder's notebook is made from waterproof, recyclable, FSC-approved paper.
The map lover
Any Geographical reader is likely to be a fan of maps, and we've got a few recommendations that would make great gifts:
There are lots of scratch-maps out there, but this one from Not On The High Street (made in the UK) can be assembled into a globe to sit on a desk and inspire more wanderlust.
Splash maps are a UK-based map and clothing company that will print any map of your choice on a range of fabrics and clothes – from duvet covers to face masks. You can also create a custom-made map with the Ordnance Survey’s personalised map service, which lets you create your favourite location as a paper, framed or canvas map.
In Atlas of the Invisible: Maps & Graphics That Will Change How You See the World, award-winning geographer-designer team James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti have created a series of fascinating maps that visualise the hidden patterns in data, mapping global happiness and anxiety levels, the causes and consequences of climate change, and the invisible scars of geopolitics.
And finally, don’t forget to check out our guide to the perfect mapping books for geographers!
Cookery classes run by Migrateful are led by expert refugee and migrant chefs who teach participants how to make traditional dishes using cooking techniques from their home countries. Participants can learn to make dishes from a range of different countries, including Bangladesh, Eritrea, Iran, Sri Lanka and Syria, while supporting chefs who are struggling to integrate and access employment due to legal and linguistic barriers. Most in-person classes take place in the southeast (mainly London) and start from £38.32, online classes are £20 per household, and private classes can be booked both online and in person.
If you know someone who's dreaming of travelling next year, we've got lots of great ideas for sustainable and eco-friendly gifts.
Insulated steel bottles from Jerry Bottle are ideal for long journeys and are built to last a lifetime. Money from every water bottle sold goes towards funding new wells and water pumps in India and Tanzania – you'll find a set of GPS coordinated on the base of each bottle showing where in the world money from your purchase has gone to help provide clean water.
Small, sustainable travel essentials make great stocking-fillers or smaller gifts, take your pick from plastic free toothpaste tabs, bamboo camping cutlery, reusable coffee cups and solid shampoos. Or choose a selection and pack them all into one of Patagonia’s Black Hole duffle bags, made from recycled plastic bottles, as a larger gift for someone who's made some big travel plans.
We also like these logbooks from Bear in Mind. The small US-based company makes pre-printed logbooks for hiking, backpacking and road trips – you can even write on them underwater. The logbooks are printed exclusively on stone paper made from waste mining material, so there's a little environmental impact.
We might not be spending as much time indoors but jigsaw puzzles still make great gifts.
Some of our favourites include the Women in Science puzzle, the beautifully illustrated Fauna puzzle by Cloudberries (who partner with Eden Reforestation Projects) and the 3D wooden puzzles from environmentally-conscious Touch Wood – we especially like their educational nature puzzles.
The eternally curious
Time for a plug. We’d love it if you would consider buying your loved one a subscription to Geographical!
Geographical is available as a monthly print magazine, delivered straight to your (or your chosen person’s) door. It costs £9.50 for three months, or £38 for a year.
Packed full of stunning photography, maps, infographics and more, our aim is to bring you stories from every corner of the globe, told though the lens of geography – stories that inform, entertain and amaze. Our writers are award-winning journalists, photographers, explorers and adventurers who span the globe covering the most important issues facing the planet today.
As the official magazine of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) we also bring readers all the news from the Society, dipping into its phenomenal archives to share stories from the past and to celebrate the explorers who opened the eyes of our ancestors to the magnificence of the Earth.
For the serious geographer in your life why not consider the gift of membership to the Royal Geographical Society Society (with IBG). Gift membership unlocks one year of geographical inspiration, professional opportunity, and community connection with the Society. You also get access to Geographical!
Gift membership is available as:
Ordinary Membership: Includes access to online Monday night lectures and events programme, plus the back-catalogue of events and talks. Members also receive a subscription to Geographical. Gift membership for an Ordinary Member costs £152 for one year.
Young Geographer membership (for anyone aged 14 – 24): Includes access to the digital edition of Geographical magazine, the Society’s entire range of online academic journals, and a host of educational resources – from podcasts and videos explaining core topics on the geography curriculum, to professional advice for those in their early careers. Also includes access to our member-only events, including live streamed Monday night lectures. Gift membership for a Young Geographer costs £53 for one year.