I’m always hesitant to give advice about travelling or holidays; particularly if asked to give recommendations for specific destinations or activities. The reason for this is that people’s preferences can be very different. Obviously – different people enjoy different activities. Everyone has different budgets and different priorities. For example, being Australian means that one generally has to travel a long distance to get anywhere. Fly 5 hours to the west and you’re still in bloody Australia. Fly 5 hours east, and you’ve made it to Oz’s picturesque cuzzy-bro, New Zealand.
The upshot is that when planning overseas trips, historically an Australian would:
- aim to be away for a minimum of 3 weeks (unless travelling to Indonesia, Fiji or Vanuatu); and
- ensure that maximum use of the time was made when travelling. No missing of critical tourist attractions and DEFINITELY no sleep-ins.
In the past, I was generally the one responsible for demanding we go look at that church/cathedral/museum – even if we had never heard of it and had already seen 50 of the same bloody thing.
Now, having had the opportunity to travel as much as we do, we have faced up to a few things: a) if we happen to miss that church, chances are we won’t remember anyway; b) neither of us really like museums; and c) sleeping in at times (particularly when you’re tired) is completely acceptable. These days, although our travel is generally varied and tailored to the destination we are visiting, it usually follows two major themes:
- Seeing beautiful scenery. And the best way to see that scenery is walking among it (read: hiking).
- Eating, drinking, wandering around and doing “normal” stuff. There’s nothing wrong with spending a couple of hours chilling at a bar or cafe in the middle of the afternoon. Hell – I’d much rather do that then spend yet another hour following tourists trying to learn about history which I probably won’t remember anyway.
So, with this in mind, I’ve created a list of my “top” recommendations for travel. The disclaimer remains- you most likely have a different travel mode to us and therefore should take all recommendations with a bucket of salt. Plus – although it may seem like the contrary sometimes – we haven’t been everywhere, man.
- Most spectacular scenery: Where to start! For red rock & canyons Utah (Monument Valley & the National Parks near Moab). For Mountains, Glacial Lakes and that “end of the world” feel, Patagonia, Chile. For the most amazing Sunrise/Sunset on earth (whichever it is, it lasts 4 hours in Winter) Iceland.
- Best food: Vietnam & Mexico. We have had the most delicious food in the villages along the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, where we did a cycling tour and stopped in at local people’s houses for home-cooked meals. For Mexico, the Oaxaca region – Mole sauce, and so much more than tacos. Just don’t forget your traveler’s diarrhea antibiotics if you have a sensitive gut!
- Most relaxing: St Maarten in the Caribbean. I’m sure some of the other islands there are just as good. That calm, turquoise water, that light palm breeze… All I can say is that I have never felt so relaxed in my life. And I’m usually an uptight bitch.
- Best beaches: Australia, obviously!! Sure, you might drown in the wild surf, get eaten by a shark, or freeze your balls off down south, but who can deny the perfect, clean, white sand beaches where the entry is free and finding your own space is easy?
- Best city: Clearly I’m biased… Madrid. For no particular reason, other than the fact that we’ve spent so much time in the shopping district on Gran Via, eating paella and drinking red wine. Without the touristy stuff. Don’t even ask me what to do there as a tourist. I have no idea.
- Best for skiing/snowboarding: Niseko, Japan. Being an abominable snowboarder, I take this on advice from the husband. Apparently the “powder” is awesome? Beware, it’s gonna be heaving with Aussies though.
- Best if you’re on a budget: Vietnam or Thailand. Who can’t afford a 50 cent beer? And the food – cheap, fresh and spicy – what more could you want?
- Best Christmas Market: Berchtesgaden, Germany. We’ve been to the big touristy ones, and they just don’t compare to the little community markets. Less crowds means it’s easier to get a gluhwein and peruse the stalls. And why else are you really there?
- Most untouched by tourists: The little village of Magura set in the rolling green hills of Romania. There are still tourists of course, but most of them are local. Otherwise, the black sand beach & fantasy-like waterfalls at Ureka, in EG (but good luck getting there).
- Best for wildlife: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. I’ve only been on one safari (how many do you need to do?) but there’s something about the vastness of the Serengeti and the fact that the wildlife is truly free rather than roaming through a “game park” that makes me believe this is the best safari experience one could hope for.
So there you have it. The World’s Best, according to this World Traveler. Now, go forth and travel.