The joys of travel are endless and as the years go by I am conscious that there is a lot of the world left to see. These 7 favourite travel destinations could easily be added to your list and mine. Or have we missed one of your favourites?
I asked 6 travel bloggers to share their favourite spots and I added one of my own as well. Read on for some vicarious travel pleasure.
Jo Cahill – Over the Edge of the Wild
Nestled among the Rif Mountains in Morocco’s Spanish-influenced north, Chefchaouen is a town like no other. From the blue-painted walls of the medina, to the muezzin’s calls echoing from minarets around the town, you know you’re somewhere truly unique from the moment you arrive.
Despite being a relatively small town, with a population of around 50,000 people, it is a cosmopolitan hub, with Arabic, French and Spanish spoken regularly in the streets. Of course, there are extra languages spoken by visitors to the area; however, there are still fewer tourists than in many other parts of Morocco, as you have to navigate the local bus system to get there. In such a beautiful location, it won’t stay that way forever though.
Inside the medina, shop keepers call out, offering discounts and assistance with your shopping, with leather handicrafts from Fez, spices (including the local Ras-el-Hanout mix), rugs, brass teapots and glasses, and even henna powders in bright colours standing out boldly from the sky-coloured walls and streets. When you’ve had enough shopping, find a café’s (or your riad’s) rooftop terrace to enjoy a glass of the sweet (and ubiquitous) mint tea, while you look out across the countryside surrounding the town. Walk up into the hills for a different view, and you’ll share the path with sheep, goats, and children, and when you’re hungry, try a slow-cooked tagine or some local homemade pastries.
There are so many reasons to love Chefchaouen. Go see for yourself – just be prepared not to want to come home.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Clare Colley – Travels in Peru
My favourite place in the world has to be Machu Picchu in Peru. I first saw it in a picture in a magazine and knew straight away I had to go.
My first visit (I have been 4 times, I love it that much!!) I did the Inca Trail and as we came up the path and saw Machu Picchu for the first time, my breath was taken away and I cried.
Sometimes people come to Peru and don’t visit Machu Picchu as they say there are too many tourists, but it covers a large area and you can find quieter spots where people who only do the tour with a guide don’t visit.
Another way to get away from the crowds and get some amazing pics, is to either hike Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu (you need to book the tickets ahead). They aren’t easy hikes but are well worth it for the views, and if you go up a bit later in your time slot then you can miss some of the crowds.
Machu Picchu has stolen my heart; the location and views from it are stunning. Even when the fog rolls in, it can seem very mysterious and that makes it even more enchanting.
Masai Mara Conservancies, Kenya
Bret Love & Mary Gabbett – Green Global Travel
If you’re dreaming of an African safari, you won’t find one better than a tour of Kenya’s national parks and conservancies. The country offers 25 national parks, 16 national reserves, six marine reserves, and countless private conservancies for visitors to explore.
Southern Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is, of course, home to one of the greatest wildlife shows on the planet. The Great Migration finds millions of antelopes, wildebeest, zebras, and other ungulates hoofing it hundreds of miles to the Mara from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. They come in search of food, water, and fertile plains on which to bear their young. But due to decades of human encroachment and poaching, the reserve has seen a 67% to 80% decline in populations of impala, giraffes, and warthogs over the last 30 years.
This is why the community-based initiatives of the Greater Mara Ecosystem have become an increasingly popular option for serious wildlife lovers. The 18,700-acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy, the 33,000-acre Olare Motorogi Conservancy, and the 50,000-acre Naboisho Conservancy are all owned by local Maasai families, then leased to innovative ecotourism companies such as Gamewatchers Safaris.
Gamewatchers’ upscale, low-impact, Porini Mara and Porini Lion camps have a maximum of 12 tents, each of which funds the protection of 700 acres of habitat. Approximately 95% of their staff– including managers, guides, trackers, and rangers– is from local Maasai communities. And all the families who own the land receive monthly payments from the company. For guests, this creates incredible opportunities to learn from Maasai guides and see a dazzling array of wildlife. In the four days we stayed in the Porini camps, we saw tons of lions (including two kills), two families of cheetahs, countless hyenas, a gorgeous leopard, huge herds of elephants, fighting hippos, grazing giraffes, and dozens of other species of Kenyan wildlife. Best of all, with few other vehicles around, we had most of the sightings to ourselves!
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Alla Ponomareva – Alla Ponomareva Photography
While Ballarat may not be on every traveler’s bucket list when visiting The Land Down Under, it definitely should be and for a number of reasons.
Located between Melbourne and the Grampians National Park, Ballarat is only 1.25 hrs from Melbourne’s Southern Cross train station.
With the help of gold mining back in the 1850s, Ballarat has transformed itself into a city of rich Victorian architecture, which is still on display today, especially alongside Lydiard and Sturt Streets.
The easy going and relaxed atmosphere of this city and its 101,000+ residents can be observed from the plethora of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs in the city’s center.
Walk West along Sturt Street and you can’t miss the gorgeous Lake Wendouree, which is home to a large variety of swans, pelicans, ducks and other creatures. Watch sunsets on the lake, have a picnic with the family, take your boat or kayak out or just take a stroll along its 6 km (3.7 mi) circumference with other bikers/runners/joggers.
Finally, visit Ballarat’s number one tourist attraction – an award-winning, open-air museum called Sovereign Hill where you can relive and participate in, the Gold Rush era of this photogenic city.
The Orkney Islands, Scotland
Helena Kreis – Through an Aussies Eyes
The Orkney Islands in Scotland is my favourite destination that I have visited so far. The history of this small archipelago is mind blowing.
I love history so any place that has a strong history presence is for me. I remember standing in this one spot and I had the Ring of Brodger (standing stones) just to my left, the Standing Stones of Stenness to my right and just a little bit further down the road is Maeshowe (a Neolithic cairn with Viking graffiti) and the Ness of Brodgar (they are currently running an archaeological dig there as they believe it is the oldest ruins discovered in the area) just a bit further down the road. The history in these couple of kilometres was astounding.
Two other Neolithic discoveries that must be mentioned are Skara Brae, a cluster of preserved houses that date back from roughly 3180 BC to 2500 BC, and the Tomb of the Eagles, another chambered cairn that has a feeling of people from a prehistoric time watching you in a warm and welcoming way.
If you prefer modern history, than you may want to check out Scapa Flow, a body of water that was used during the World Wars. The British Fleet would use Scapa Flow to dock their ships. From the surface you can see blocker ships that were purposely sunk in order to keep the German ships and submarines out of Scapa Flow. I would highly recommend scuba diving on the blocker ships if you get the chance.
Along with all of the above history, the towns of Stromness and Kirkwall have little boutique shops that will make any shopper happy. The Orkneys are definitely a place that I could return to over and over again.
Easter Island, Chile
Ketki Sharangpani – Dotted Globe
Easter Island is one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands. It is famous for its enigmatic stone statues called the Moai.
The giant Moai were carved by the ancient Rapa Nui civilization that flourished on this island hundreds of years ago. The Moai are shrouded in mystery; what was the purpose of the statues, how were they carved and moved around the island, why were they toppled, what happened to the Rapa Nui people, and many other questions have captivated archeologists and historians since decades. Visiting Easter Island yields the answer to many of these fascinating mysteries and hence it is my favorite travel destination to date.
Most of the Moai are protected as a part of the Rapa Nui National Park. The nursery Rano Kau where the Moai were carved is an impressive sight. Hundreds of partially buried Moai can be seen here in various stages of completion and transportation. Visitors can also see many Moai erected on platforms all over the island as well as see ruins of ancient Rapa Nui houses.
Apart from the archeological attractions, there are many other things to do on Easter Island including snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking a volcanic crater, biking, and horse riding. The island is a great place to learn about the Polynesian culture including music and dance performances, delicious Rapanui cuisine, and traditional carvings.
Monet’s Home and Garden, Giverny, France
You know those travel experiences that stay in your mind years later, that hold a very special place in your heart and that just might have moved you to tears at the time? For me visiting Monet’s Garden and Home was just one of those.
I have loved Monet’s work since I started studying art in 1966 and that love has stayed with me. And of course his garden at Giverny is the subject of so much of his beatiful work.
Having said that, I kept my expectations low because we visited in Autumn and we all know that Spring is the best time of the year to visit a garden.
How wrong I was; Monet’s vision and the excellent work of those who maintain the grounds, meant that the gardens were a picture. The plantings were so beautiful and themed into different areas. And then there was the famous lake with the water lilies, the boats tied up at the side and the stunning green bridge. Yes there were tears of joy and a great wish that some of my artist friends could be enjoying the visit with me.
If the gardens were spectacular then there was the house itself. I hadn’t for a moment thought how it might feel to walk through the rooms where Monet lived; to imagine sitting in his bright yellow dining room or cooking with the gleaming copper pans hanging over the kitchen range. Or perhaps to sit with Monet himself and his artist friends in the salon, the walls of which are covered in pieces of Impressionist art. What an experience, I was delightfully overwhelmed.
The village of Giverny itself is also delightful and only 75 kms from Paris. After the visit to Monet’s home we enjoyed a wander in the local area, visiting the shops and cafes. Do at least plan a day trip to this gorgeous spot and soak up some beauty.