Travel Tips; Best of 2012, Inspiration for 2013

It is the time of year when we all reflect on the past year, has it been successful, did we meet our goals, what can be improved and perhaps pass on some travel tips. As a traveller it was a year blessed with many great experiences, and plenty of opportunities to indulge my passions for travelling, photography and finding adventure.

I’m usually asked which was my favourite destination or where did I particularly enjoy. The answer is simple; everywhere. The ability to enjoy every destination and most experiences is my greatest blessing. However I realise this is not likely to offer anybody with useful travel inspiration for next year so have decided to narrow the field with a few suggestions.

There is a short paragraph describing each destination with links to further posts providing more detail.

Best for Adventure –  Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada

Travel tips - Hartley Bay Gitga’ at First Nation village in the Great Bear Rainforest, north west Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300-23

Civilisation Great Bear Rainforest style

Canada is an adventure; huge tracts of wilderness, isolated from civilisation and where it is possible to travel for days without seeing another person. The Great Bear Rainforest is a perfect example of this, just travelling there is an adventure, requiring to travel be float plane, long trek or by boat.

The north-west Pacific coast of British Columbia is a wilderness prefect for the adventurer, trekking, kayaking, climbing, Canadian canoeing or fishing in an epic environment. The wildlife is equally epic, great whales, orcas, wolves, bears, sea lions, eagles, wolverines, otters and salmon coming to the end of their own incredible journey. Reading that sentence again gives me the chills.

Travel tips Humpback whale in the Great Bear Rainforest, north west Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300-10

Canada provided me with some incredible memories, I am extremely keen to return and recommend those with an adventurous spirit add it to their list.

Alternative – Whistler, Canada

Best for an Authentic Experience – Sultanate of Oman

The dunes of Wahiba Sands in the desert of Oman at sunrise on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-119

Wahiba Sands

Taking a journey through Oman was an early highlight of the year. From Muscat to Salalah there was always a genuine welcome. Discovering a traditional falaj in Misfat, fishermen repairing their nets in Seeb and souks in the capital or Nizwa, Oman never disappointed. There are some impressive buildings, especially in Muscat such as the Grand Mosque or Opera House but the modern blends well with the traditional.

There are dhows in the harbour at Muttrah, ancient fortifications, spectacular Wadi Shab and even the experiences contrived for the benefit of tourists such as an overnight stay in the dunes of Wahiba Sands or the Muscat Festival did not feel too commercial.

Sunset in Jabal al Akhdar, Oman on Mallory on Travel adventure photography

Sunset in Jabal al Akhdar

I enjoyed returning to Oman and rather than satisfying my appetite, it merely fuelled a hunger for future visits.

Alternative – Mount Athos, Greece

Best for  a Cultural Experience – Essaouira, Morocco

Travel tips - The fishing harbour at Essaouira on the North African coast of Morocco on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain_Mallory_07028A

Essaouira fishing fleet

Cultural visits are a matter of perception, browsing the museums and galleries of Paris or Antwerp is probably the choice of many. Meeting the people and discovering a little of their culture is preferable to me, though museums can certainly play a part in this.

Essaouira has chic hotels, riads, restaurants and a long stretch of sandy beach. However although obviously catering for tourists the fish market of this fishing village and the streets of the medina will be alien experiences for plenty of travellers. The co-operatives formed by women producing many items from argan oil are worth a visit, the associated goats found in trees definitely are.

Travel tips - The medina in Essaouira on the North African coast of Morocco on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain_Mallory_071788

The medina in Essaouira

For those visiting from Europe, Morocco is probably the closest alien culture to the continent and is a destination I never tire of.

Alternative – Delta l’Ebre, Catalonia

Best for Relaxing – Riviera Maya, Mexico

A moonlit jetty on the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmel in Mexico on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300-31 (2)

Moonlight and a jetty

The famous Playa del Carmen has come along way since starting out as a fishing village. It is now one of the world’s top beach destinations and almost every major hotel chain is present. It is easy to understand why, beautiful beaches and the clear azure sea offer plenty of opportunity for relaxation, the luxury hotels are the finishing touch.

Hammocks, bars and pools are obvious relaxation accessories but spa treatments are also available and tequila tastings or cocktail mixing sessions will help still further. Snorkelling and diving on the Great Mayan Reef or in a cenote is popular and exploring ancient sites such as Cobá or Tulum offer a taste of adventure to relax from.

Pelican on a jetty on the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmel in Mexico on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300-31 (3)

Even the birdlife come to relax

I enjoy the opportunity to explore but we all need to relax at times, and Riviera Maya is an ideal place to do so.

Alternative – Ile d’Aix, France

Best for Photography – Cuba

A cinema and classic car in Old Havana the capital city of the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300-6

Classic car outside an old style cinema in Havana

The sheer number of posts which the Caribbean island provided me with, indicates how exciting and photogenic Cuba is. It is an island which appears trapped in the past, there is a fascinating culture, great towns, and characters are on every corner.

Whether capturing derelict buildings in Havana, classic cars cruising the Malecón or esplanade of Cienfeugos, musicians at the Camaguey carnival or locals shopping off the floor at a Baracoa market the island is overflowing with great photography subjects.

Calling home in Santiago de Cuba, second city of the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300-277

Public phones in Santiago

This is one of the most exciting travel destinations of the world, for those that haven’t visited I recommend doing so soon.

Alternative – Lyon/Grenoble

Best for a City Break – Vancouver

Houseboats on the watefront in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300-151

Houseboats on the waterfront

Big cities aren’t usually top of my list of favourite places, I can appreciate much that they have to offer for short periods but they are usually too crowded and impersonal. Vancouver is a modern city with high-rise hotels, chic restaurants, bars and coffee shops but it is also has an attractive seafront and Stanley Park provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of the streets.

There are great restaurants and bars in Gastown or Granville Island and there are some great street food vendors for those that prefer less formal dining. It is an active city with many locals running or biking along the seawall or taking a hike up the infamous Grouse Grind but there are plenty of less energetic options such as the Aquarium and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Lumbering near Vancouver airport, British Columbia, Canada on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300

Lumbering just a few minutes drive from the city

A cool city that appeals to many travellers, just remember the waterproofs, it is one of the wettest too.

Alternatives – Adelaide, Australia & Barcelona, Catalonia

Best Surprising Destination – Karosta, Latvia

Karosta prison in Liepaja on the Baltic coast of Latvia on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300-41

Karosta Prison

Karosta was built as the naval port to defend the Latvian city of Liepaja. It is an attractive Baltic town with a quiet beach and charming old houses, many of which are run-down adding to the appeal.

The prison at Karosta has become a surprising tourist attraction, more visitors arriving to experience an overnight stay in the former jail than possibly the town itself. It is certainly an unusual ‘hotel’ and provides an especially enjoyable stay for those travellers that have a taste for masochism.

I found the prison more amusing than distressing but it’s not to everybody’s taste, fortunately the rest of Karosta is an unusual destination worth poking around too.

Karosta breakwater in Liepaja on the Baltic coast of Latvia on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain Mallory-300-28_edited-1

The breakwater at Karosta

Alternative – Spinalonga, Crete

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Comments 14

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        Iain

        Thank you Maria, it was a great year and good to see Essaouira getting so much support. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, hope 2013 is a great one for you.

  1. Kellie

    That’s quite an impressive list for 2012! Oman was on my list for this year but I never made it in the end. You photo of the dunes is stunning so now I’m regretting it – I’ll have to make the effort to get there in 2013!

    Happy travels for 2013!

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  2. Johanna Bradley

    Another successful year, Iain! All the best for 2013.
    I know someone who teaches in Oman, and I have been really surprised by her photos. Vancouver sounds like my kind of city. I’m pretty much home based for a little while, but there are worse things.

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      Iain

      Thank you Johanna I’m sure you had a pretty good year too, really looking forward to 2013 too. Home based might be a chance to relax but hope you manage to travel also.

  3. Ryan Brown

    I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba, I owned a 1948 Ford once upon a time and I LOVE anything art-deco and vintage. And from what I’ve seen it’s a beautiful and colorful country.

    I also really love the tips on California. I live in LA but beer made it to Bear. I want to hike the Pacific Crest trail from top to bottom of California at some point!

    Here’s to 2013!

  4. Emily of Roads Less Traveled

    Wonderful list. Can I add to it??

    I nominate “Best tropical getaway: Huatulco Mexico” We spent 3 months there this winter on our sailboat and it is an unbelievably picturesque and charming area. There’s little harbor village in the main bay and a bigger town a mile inland. Along the coast there are nine beautiful bays and beaches that offer incredible snorkeling, swimming and surfing. Play with the sea turtles, watch the spotted eagle rays fly underwater, visit a new sustainable eco-orchard where exotic tropical fruits flourish, walk a beach where you are the only one there–well, you and the snowy egrets and ospreys… Turquoise water and friendly and welcoming locals… we just loved it!!

    To give you a taste:
    http://roadslesstraveled.us/huatulco-sailing-mexico-blog-santa-cruz-bay-playa-entrega/

    And if you want to stay at a 5-star resort, check this one out:
    http://roadslesstraveled.us/las-palmas-huatulco-playa-violin-mexico-sail-blog/

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      Iain

      Thanks Emily always great to get some additional suggestions and help in finishing a post 😉 Not going to say a word about 3 months on YOUR sailboat :p

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