The year we’ve all been waiting for…
Well, it hasn’t quite started the way we wanted. We’re on lockdown 3.0 here in the UK and that #furloughlife is most definitely still a thing – apart from one month of flying in October, I’ve been grounded since April last year!
But! Rather than dwell on a year I’m sure we’d all rather forget, I wanted to start this new year by reflecting on some of my favourite destinations that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The beautiful, the wacky, the awe inspiring ones that have really stuck with me.
It’s actually proven more difficult to decide on a top 10 than I’d originally expected – I love everywhere I travel for many different reasons! So, this post will concentrate on countries to keep things simple, but keep an eye out for future posts on more specific experiences and places!
So without further ado, here are my Top 10 Travel Destinations.
There was no way I could have a list of my favourite destinations without Canada being up there. The country is full of incredible places, people, nature and food (maple syrup is life) and it is a must-visit for any intrepid traveller.
Canada is a big place and each state has a very different character. Quebec for example has a distinctive European vibe in some places in comparison to British Colombia in the East.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a few different states and experience a snippet of what they have to offer. Each is unique and memorable in the best possible way and worthy of a visit in their own right.
From Snowboarding in the Canadian Rockies to whale watching in BC; the bright city lights of Toronto to the thunderous rumble of Niagara Falls. From hiking the mountains, lakes and forests of the Canadian Wilderness to lunching in the quirky town of Banff. Or how about a quick bite to eat in a distinctively European feeling Montreal?
Canada has it all and is a beautiful, friendly nation that should be high on any travellers list.
The Land of the Rising Sun.
It’s easy to feel like a true traveller in a country that is so far removed from the western world – don’t expect any English signage here!
Japan has a culture steeped in history and tradition and is a place that immediately commands respect and wonder from its visitors.
Take in the sights and smells of modern Japan by visiting Tokyo; walk across the famous Shibuja crossing, wander the colourful, quirky streets of Harajuku or experience the taste and smell of local markets under the spire of Sensō-ji Temple. Tokyo may be modern beyond belief, but you’ll be sure to find traditional temples and ways of life intertwined in its fabric.
Fancy a quieter trip? Head out to the Temples of Kamakura, take a trip up Mount Fuji to watch the sunrise or find your zen on a spiritual retreat to Mount Koya.
If you are looking to escape the trials and tribulations of the Western World and truly feel as though you are on the other side of the world, then look no further than the elegant, truly awe inspiring country of Japan.
A home far, far away from home.
I can’t count how many times I have been to Singapore. Yet, each and every time I go I find something new to experience, while also taking time to revisit previous places that I know and love. It truly feels like a distant home.
Singapore feels warm in more ways than just its climate. The people are wonderful, the food is delectable and the city unparalleled in cleanliness!
Some of my favourite to-do’s include, first and foremost, heading to Singapore’s Marina Bay. Here, you can walk on the F1 track (for free!), stand under the iconic Merlion or head to the Gardens By the Bay to visit its beautiful flower and waterfall conservatories. Be sure to check out the exhibits in the quirky Science Museum too – I only decided to go in for the first time in 2018 and was kicking myself I hadn’t done it sooner!
Later, head up Marina Bay Sands and grab a cocktail to watch the sun go down behind the skyscrapers of downtown.
At night, the Bay transforms into a spectrum of colour. Lie on the warm floor of the gardens and look up to watch the light show as the Skytrees erupt into a display of colour and music. Then head over to the Bay to watch another lightshow on the water itself, but be sure to go on an evening with no wind… Both are totally free!
Grab a bite to eat down Makansutra Gluttons Bay before heading to the historic Raffles Hotel for a Singapore sling.
I could go on and on about things to do here – Little India, Haw Par Villa, the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo. I think it’s safe to say you will never be short of things to do in Singapore.
Another country with a rich history and the architecture to prove it, Italy can be many things to many travellers: a romantic getaway to the Amalfi Coast; a historic touring trip around the Colloseum and Plazas of Rome; a more sombre visit to Pompeii; a relaxing retreat to the Italian Alps in the summer or an adrenaline fuelled ski-ing adventure in the winter.
And the food! As a self confessed spaghetti bolognese lover (veggie of course), Italy is my idea of a food heaven. Whether you’re in Milan, Bologna, Brindisi or Rome, the food is guaranteed to be delicious.
It was our plan to do a little ‘mini moon’ around Italy after the wedding, but due to Rona, neither happened! So, here’s to hoping 2021 will bring better travel fortunes and some proper Italian Gelato to our lives.
As a volcanic island, the earth of Mauritius is incredibly fertile and you can’t help but notice this during an approach to land; the aqua blue water is in deep contrast to the blanket of vibrant green that envelopes the Island from widely planted sugar cane (yummy) and forests.
Mauritius is famed for its bright white beaches and rich waters filled with coral reefs and exotic fish. The land has incredible panoramic views of mountains and now dormant or extinct volcanoes. It is home to wild monkeys and towering waterfalls – it even has an ‘underwater waterfall’, an illusion just off the south west of the Island where silt on the ocean floor runs off the plateau, making it look like a waterfall.
A true paradise Island, simply enjoy the delicious cocktails and food that the numerous 5* hotels have to offer while chilling on a white beach. Or go slightly more rustic with a trip to a remote beach to have a fresh lobster BBQ. We got here by speedboat and then headed to Ile Aus Cerfs Island for some more white beach bliss.
The people are incredibly kind, tolerant and welcoming – we came for my sisters wedding and they could not have made our stay more enjoyable. A beautiful country all round and a worthy top 10 destination.
A land of fire and ice.
Iceland is home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world, so the country is filled with geothermal activity that provides the entire country with its warm water supply!
The majority of the population resides in the capital, Reykjavik, a quirky city with fascinating museums and landmarks.
Iceland’s people are passionate about their traditions and beliefs – woe betide any person who insults the elves! We visited during December and despite staying in a small, budget hotel, each day we recieved a small gift on our door handle from the ‘Yule Lads’, the 13 Icelandic versions of Santa Claus!
The Golden Circle tour is incredibly popular and takes you to the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall and the explosive geysir of Strokkur that erupts every 5-10 minutes. Enjoy scuba diving? Then swim between the two mighty tectonic plates of Eurasia and North America at Silfra in the Thingvellir National Park. At night, chase the dancing Aurora Borealis as it flashes in the sky.
The south of Iceland is home to the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, but you’ll also find any great number of stunning waterfalls, like Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.
If you fancy a real adventure, you can also walk straight into the belly of a dormant volcano, or even the Langjökull glacier. And of course, no trip to Iceland is ever complete without a dip in the rejuvenating waters of the Blue Lagoon. Iceland is a marvel and I can’t wait to return.
South Africa has something for pretty much everyone to enjoy; with so many unique ecosystems it’s hard not to fall in love with it.
Inland, you’ll find fantastic safari destinations and conservation parks where you can see endangered species like the giraffe, elephant and rhino, one example being the Kruger National Park. In Johannesburg, head to Glen Afric Nature reserve to meet rescued elephants up close, or catch a hot air balloon as the sun goes down and soar peacefully above the city in utter tranquility.
The Western Cape offers beautiful beaches, lush winelands around the famous Stellenbosch province and craggy cliffs at the Cape of Good Hope where you’ll see the collision of the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.
Western Cape is also home to the iconic natural wonder of Table Top Mountain towering over the city of Cape Town. Why not leap over it’s edge (via paraglider) and then head into Cape Town to experience an incredible food scene, my favourite being The Bungalow for its cockails and sea views.
You can also get up close and personal with some apex predators when shark diving in Gansbaai, south of Cape Town, or in Durban. If you prefer something less adrenaline fuelled, check out the adorable penguins that reside on Boulders Beach.
Brazil is a country of amazing diversity, in both its land and its people. While some of its beaches are famous worldwide, there are plenty of other places that reveal the more wild side to Brazil, such as the flooded forests of the Amazon.
As I’m sure you can imagine, due to the sheer scale of the country I have not travelled too extensively, but my experience of both Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro have made it a firm favourite of mine and an easy member of the top 10 hall.
It’s often said that Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s Los Angeles and São Paulo is New York, and when visiting you can definitely understand why: Rio has a distinctive laid-back, beach-life vibe and São Paulo has a more chic vibe with an intense nightlife and shopping scene . They both have their own unique characters and I loved my time in both.
Rio is very much a city of the day, with waterfalls, golden beaches and hikes only a few of the activites you can find yourself doing. The city is surrounded by forest and so it is naturally luscious and beautiful. Coupled with the iconic landmarks – Copacobana beach, Christ Redeemer and Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world – Rio is an incredibly exciting, colourful city and the perfect place to sip coconuts on the beach.
São Paulo is a jungle of skyscrapers with rows of buildings and roads. But what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in size! Head to the Skye Bar for some delicious food and cocktails and watch the sun set to get a glimpse of just how big the city is.
But that’s not to say there aren’t some pretty spots – Ibirapuera is a lovely inner city park with a lake and beautiful views of the cityscape. I also love the relaxed, lounge atmosphere of Beco Do Batman, where you can have a drink al fresco with live music playing, surronded by incredible graffitti.
I visited Chile via Santiago, a city nestled in a valley between the snow-capped Andes Mountains and the Chilean Coast Range. If you want good food and great wine then look no further than the restaurants and vineyards of Chile.
Explore the sights and sounds of a modern city before taking a stroll up one of the many fantastic hiking spots just on the city’s doorstep! If you prefer a more touristy climb, walk up Cerro San Cristóbal where you’ll find great views and some vendors selling ice cream and refreshments. Fancy a bit more of a challenge? Then head up Cerro Manquehue – if you don’t think you can make it to the top of Manquehue, you have the option to go up its sister hill, Manquehito. It may be a bit of a challenge but the views from the top are utterly breathtaking.
Enjoy snowboarding? Head high into the Chilean Andes to one of the many resorts and spend a day carving down the mountains. We headed to Valle Nevado Chile for a day of boarding. This ski resort offers incredible views of the Andes, and I should hope so too as you’ll find yourself at a lofty elevation of 10,000 feet!
Muscles aching? Visit the rejuvenating waters of the natural hot springs – Termas Colina – nestled in the foothills of the Andes. These waters are high in minerals and antioxidants because they are produced from the bowels of San Jose Volcano. But don’t worry, it’s a sleeping giant… for now!
I would be doing this list and my own country a disservice if I did not put it in my Top 10!
Aside from the fact that it is my home, I genuinely love the UK and believe it has so much to offer travellers outside the standard London excursions. The UK is beautiful, quaint and exciting in its own way, with its history woven into its architecture and people.
Encompassing four countries – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland- the UK has over 4000 historic castles, plus abbeys and fortresses, both in tact and ruinous. Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, Caernarfon Castle in Wales, Belfast Castle in NI or Bodiam Castle in the South East of England to name but four. All have a unique character and will be sure to leave you awe struck.
The beaches in the UK are some of the most beautiful in Europe – Sennen Cove, Dunwich, Hunstanton for example- not to mention the great surf spots in Cornwall and Devon nestled in small, quintessentially British villages with cosy local pubs and delicious, fresh seafood.
More of a mountain explorer? Head to the Peak or Lake Districts to get some miles on those boots, or head to the Scottish Highlands and marvel at their utter beauty. Plan and scale Ben Nevis, Snowdon or Scafell Pike – our three ‘peaks’ – but be sure to prepare. Afterwards, enjoy a delicious Roast Dinner at the local pub.
There is so much to see in the world and I travel so much for work that I often forget that my home country is just as worthy of appreciation as the exotic destinations we typically consider worth visiting.