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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
This is one of the most exciting travel destinations of the world, for those that haven’t visited I recommend doing so soon.
Best for a City Break – Vancouver
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.
A cool city that appeals to many travellers, just remember the waterproofs, it is one of the wettest too.
Best Surprising Destination – Karosta, Latvia
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.
Alternative – Spinalonga, Crete