In 2017, I visited 20 countries. I have been very, very lucky. I live in hope, but I really doubt there will be another year where I can travel as much as I did in 2017. Anyway, I decided I would create a rundown of my top 2017 travel destinations, from best to worst.
As a bit of a disclaimer – these are based on my experience of each place I visited. This could depend on a number of factors… the time spent there, the place I stayed, even the weather. Take it all with a grain of salt – and I hope one of my little guides might prove useful to you one day!
1 – Reyjavik/Iceland
Have you ever thought of visiting Iceland? GO. There is nothing I can say that can actually help you understand how beautiful this place is, without seeing it. Yes, its expensive. Yes, its far away. It is well worth it. If you like the outdoors, it is a magical place to spend in the wilderness. We visited in September, and it wasn’t even that cold. Reyjavik is one of the best little cities ever, has amazing food, and the people are friendly. Put it on the top of your list. [Read more]
2 – Oslo, Norway
It would seem I have a bit of a thing for the Nordic countries. Like Iceland, Oslo was beautiful. The city was compact and clean, and the people friendly. While everything was astronomically expensive, it was worth it – good food, interesting history, and a chance to wander through a safe and colorful city. It reminded me of Wellington, and that is a very good thing. [Read More]
3 – St. Petersburg, Russia
I had actually visited St. Petersburg once before, in 2012, but this time I had much more of an opportunity to explore this beautiful city. It is so European you can hardly believe you are in Russia – and the history around every corner is mesmerizing, whether it relate to WW2 or the Romanovs. Food and attractions are still relatively cheap compared to mainland Europe, and I found the city very safe! [Read More]
4 – Moscow, Russia
While most people believe it pales in comparison to St. Pete’s in the west, Moscow is a treasure trove for anyone interested in Soviet history. While it feels like the world’s second biggest construction site (Dubai clearly wins that award), it still features amazing history on every street corner – as well as hearty food and the most magnificent metro system you will ever see. Take a half day and ride the rails – it will be 3AED well spent. [Read More]
5 – Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw was a last minute choice. I couldn’t make a flight to Athens, and I needed to decide where to visit at short notice – no visa required. Warsaw was a splendid choice. While it a sad place to visa – due in large part to its history during WW2 – it is a fascinating city of contrasts, still finding its feet after the fall of Communism. It has an amazing art scene, delicious food (notice a trend here?) and costs absolutely nothing. An amazing weekend getaway. [Read More]
6 – Jordan
From New Zealand, it seemed I would never reach Jordan. It probably is one of the more ‘different’ places I have visited, and yet, it was a relaxing and fun holiday. Our guide definitely made a difference, but we found Jordan a safe (though costly!) destination, and seeing the rose-gold city of Petra was a once in a lifetime experience. They really know how to dress up those camels, too. [Read More]
7 – Mauritius
Mauritius holds a special place in my heart. We went here for our honeymoon, and we stayed at the best resort I have ever visited. The scenery and setting was beautiful, the people kind, the food delicious and the island itself a great destination. We will definitely be revisiting Mauritius, making sure to take advantage of the beautiful hikes and outdoor activities on offer. And we will definitely try out another Lux resort! [Read More]
8 – Rome, Italy
Rome in Winter was a wildcard! I had visited once before in the height of summer, and I didn’t think much of the city – too hot and too busy. Rome in Winter was something else – quiet and very beautiful. While it was a little chilly, we struck a clear, sunny day, which gave us plenty of time to explore the sights and wander the beautiful back streets. I’d highly recommend an off-peak sojourn to Rome. [Read More]
9 – Beijing, China
This was my first layover. Getting the visa was a total pain, and the trip itself was hot, chaotic and exhausting. But that is China in a nutshell! Climbing the Great Wall of China was incredible, as was seeing the Forbidden City. While finding a taxi was terrible, Din Tai Fung more than made up for it. A city well worth visiting, even if it doesn’t quite live up to my beloved Shanghai. [Read More]
10 – Lyon, France
Matt bid for a two day Lyon layover on advice of a friend. I knew nothing about the city before visiting, but was pleasantly surprised. We experienced beautiful weather, and it is a city made for walking – great for us. We walked around 30kms in two days, which made up for the tasty French food we ate! Make sure you go to the top of Fourvière hill – by foot or cable car. It is well worth the trip. [Read More]
11 – Dubrovnik, Croatia
I am so glad we took the time to visit Dubrovnik – otherwise, our trip to Croatia would have been very underwhelming! While busy, being able to visit the Old Town was a must do, and I enjoyed learning about the (recent) troubled history of Dubrovnik at the Imperial Fort on Mount Srđ. While it is a bit of a cruise ship trap, you have to make the effort to go and walk the city walls at sunset. Beautiful! [Read More]
12 – London, United Kingdom
While my trip had the unfortunate distinction of coinciding with the Westminster attacks, I still recommend London as the best ‘first city’ for any traveller to visit. In London, even with no money, you will never run out of things to do. While there are a few scary folk lurking in its midst these days, it is still a fascinating place to visit and a very cost effective destination. I feel like, sadly, you need to visit it now – before anything too dire happens to the city. [Read More]
13 – Vienna, Austria
I was very lucky to visit Vienna the week before Christmas. While the markets were a little underwhelming (I am sure they would have been prettier at night!) the city itself is great for a weekend. Despite the freezing wind, it was still very walkable, and the imperial splendor of the city is easy to see. It still feels like a very safe and friendly destination, even in the middle of winter. [Blog post coming soon]
14 – The Maldives
I didn’t find the Maldives to be quite the showstopper I was expecting. This was probably because we were only there for a day, and the resort we visited was pretty ho-hum. However, if you are going away for a day to relax, you can’t really complain about a Maldives layover. We both also enjoyed walking through Male city – an area avoided by most tourists – and the lack of wifi at the resort really did turn out to be a welcome respite. [Read More]
15 – Ypres, Belgium
Ypres was completely rebuilt after WW1, and it is quite a surreal area to visit. It is the gateway to the salient and Flanders Fields, where some of the most brutal fighting occurred in the First World War. For anyone interested in history, this area is a must visit. It is a harrowing experience and not for the faint hearted, but you will walk away with a greater understanding of how the world was shaped by the “Great War”. [Read More]
16 – Bruges, Belgium
Despite what you may have been led to believe, Bruges is actually a pretty quaint kind of town. A weekend is enough, but its cobbled alleyways, abundance of waffles and fries and quirky stores happily kept me occupied. I spent a bit of time exploring the area around Bruges, but I see why it remains one of the top rated short breaks in Europe. [Read More]
17 – Florida, USA
I have to be honest. I’m not a fan of the USA. My trip to Florida was good for three things – cheap shopping, a sunset walk at Fort Lauderdale Beach, and space stuff. Our trip to Cape Canaveral was well worthwhile and made the trip for me, but the area didn’t have a lot of other redeeming features. I’m surprised to see how many people love visiting the USA – it just doesn’t do it for me. [Read More]
18 – Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor was a sweet little town (with some interesting drug issues) that probably would have rated more highly on my list if I had more time to explore it. Nestled in amongst the fjords, the whole area offers breathtaking scenery – and its much cheaper than nearby Croatia. Despite the terrible drivers, I’d love to go back and complete the climb up to the monastery. [Read More]
19 – Hamburg, Germany
We visited Hamburg on a rainy day in July, that also happened to be my 30th birthday. Actually, it was a really, really rainy day. Very bleak, and not at all summer like. While the miniatures museum was surprisingly cool (especially the airport!), I feel like Hamburg on a sunny day would provide a much different experience. One to visit when less damp, I feel.
20 – Split, Croatia
What to say about Split? Like Hamburg, the weather was terrible. The food we ate was bad, the place a bit run down. The history wasn’t really of interest to me. I feel like Split is one of those places you visit to get out of – to visit the surrounding islands. While I’m sure its a lovely place to visit for some people, it just didn’t do anything for me.
21 – Zadar, Croatia
We spent a few hours in Zadar on the way to Split. I remember very little of it, except that it was cold, windy and overrun by British people wearing socks and sandals. I believe it is the ultimate cruise ship haunt. It completely flooded two days after our visit, and I was very grateful not to get stuck there. When it is so hard to avoid tourist trap restaurants that you opt to eat at McDonalds, you know things are getting a bit crummy.
22 – Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb is probably quite nice under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, I had just flown in from Warsaw, and it doesn’t even compare to the coolness of that city. I only had a night there, and I’m sure if I had more time I would have found some awesome sights. All I really remember of it was the bad food, the graffiti, and the fact that it was bombed in 1991. Sorry Zagreb.
23 – Vatican City
I wanted to like you, Vatican City! I waited years to visit, having just peered in over the gates on my first visit. Once again, I forgot to visit St Marks. Oops. I felt you were an opulent symbol of wealth, and the money spent on you could probably be better spent on your followers. I also forgot to look up in the Sistene Chapel, which slightly soured my experience. Ah well. Third times a charm.