Our Best in Travel For 2017
Our electric scooter was quickly running out of juice as we motored along the road towards our next destination. Time was of the essence as the sun started to slowly set in the distance.
“Come onnnnn,” Mark yelled, willing the scooter to go faster than it’s 50km/h limit.
We pulled onto a sandy side road and somehow balanced the scooter to our journey’s end. We hastily jumped off, grabbed our cameras and ran, navigating the narrow passageways to the top of an 800-year-old temple. Amongst the silent hush of fellow travellers, the sun dipped behind a distant mountain range and created a majestic silhouette of the 2000+ temples.
There, right in the heart of Bagan, Myanmar, was the most beautiful sunset we’d ever seen.
Moments like this are what travel is all about.
Off the back of Lonely Planet’s recently released ‘2017 Best in Travel’, we thought we’d put together our own wanderlust-inducing ‘Best in Travel’ list.
We spent the last 12 months ‘researching’, visiting over 24 countries in the process. Whether it was the people, culture, landscapes, or food; or an epic sunset like in Bagan, these are places we fell in love with the most and you will too!
Choose to visit one, or choose to visit them all — whatever you do, happy wandering! Just don’t blame us if you spend ALL of your money!
OUR 2017 BEST IN TRAVEL
#1 SRI LANKA
Where do we start with this bite sized utopia?
Sri Lanka is the quintessential tropical paradise, without the crowds. Endless golden beaches with some of the best surf in the world blend into dense rainforest hiding all manner of animals, including Asian Elephants and Leopards in abundance. Timeless World Heritage sites dot all corners of the island, while enchanting cities retain the charm of old-skool Southeast Asia.
It’s incredibly easy to get around, while transport in between cities is perhaps the most picturesque in the world, with trains snaking their way through rolling tea plantations. The cuisine; a combination of asian and indian influences, also happens to be delicious, leaving you wanting more.
To top it off, the Sri Lankan people are the most generous, friendly and accommodating people we’ve ever met.
Sri Lanka is an idyllic utopia, just not as you know it.
“You may have the universe, if I may have Italy” - Guiseppe Verdi (Italian composer)
Ol’ Guiseppe was onto something when he uttered those words; Italy is truly one of the world’s great countries.
Home to the good life (la dolce vita), gourmet food, delicious wine, beautifully romantic scenery, Italy has a unique way of life that makes it one of those special places that just sucks you in.
If you’re into heritage, merely being in Italy is an awe-inspiring experience; it has more Unesco World Heritage sites than any other country on earth, and much of what we know as the ‘modern world’ today actually grew from Rome.
Oh, and it has uber incredible landscapes - towering snow-capped Alps, rugged coastlines with colourful cliffside villages, romantic rolling green and gold Tuscan hills adorned with grapevines, inviting beaches with turquoise blue water and to top it off, volcanic craters (not to mention the ancient ruins of Pompeii!).
We didn’t ever want to leave and you won’t either.
Road tripping through a vast, desolate country might night be everyone's cup of tea, but road tripping through Namibia really SHOULD be on your bucket list.
Follow the lonely, long dusty roads through this vast country and you’ll be rewarded with landscapes like nowhere else on earth. Natural wonders exist in all corners of the country; Fish River Canyon, the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon, in the south; the wildlife oasis of Etosha Pan to the north.
Namibia is also home to the adrenalin junkies paradise of Swakopmund where any matter of adventure activities can be arranged, including sky-diving, quad-biking and duning surfing. There’s also rich indigenous and colonial culture, and incredibly friendly locals.
But the best part about Namibia? It’s super cheap and you’ll have it mostly to yourself!
Not next year, not the year after; now is the time to visit Myanmar. Why? The country is slowly modernising after being suppressed for many years, and once ‘off limits’ parts of the country are now open for business.
Entrench yourself in centuries old Asian and Buddhist culture as you explore Mandalays ancient cities and Bagan’s 2000+ temples. Explore the quickly modernising yet wildly authentic Yangon by rail, sampling all the local food along the way. Jump aboard a traditional speedboat and discover all corners of Inle lake, including the indigenous Intha people. And don’t forget to visit the local villages dotted throughout the hills of the north.
Forget the hustle and bustle of Thailand; to get a sense of the traditional ways of Asia before the inevitable changes arrive, book that ticket to Myanmar.
After the utter devastation caused by 2015’s natural disaster, visitation to Nepal collapsed. For a country which relies so heavily on tourism - it accounts for 8.9% of gross domestic product - the earthquake wasn’t the only thing that hit Nepal hard after a fuel crisis enveloped the country.
For the local people, 2016 was all about rebuilding and finding peace. With 2017 looming, the country is ready and raring for visitors to return. Pretty much the perfect time for a visit!
Hiking through the Khumbu and Annapurna regions is as inspiring as ever; lazing by the lake in Pokhara is as calming as ever while exploring the jungles of Chitwan National Park on the search for tigers is as exciting as ever. Nepal is also as affordable as ever, making it perfect for the budget conscious traveller.
But the best bit about visiting is knowing you’re supporting the local culture and people rebuild after a tumultuous time.
#6 CAPE TOWN
Cape Town is one of the best cities in the world. Big statement, yes, but we’re sticking to it. There’s just something about the vibrant lifestyle in this multicultural melting-pot that is totally awe-inspiring. Then there's the natural beauty gazing back at you from every direction, including the ever present Table Mountain.
This city is a mecca for any discerning traveller, whether luxury or backpacker. In one day you could hike up Table Mountain, sip wine at Stellenbosch, stand in Mandela’s former Robben island cell, float or surf at some of the best beaches in the world, and watch pastel colours streak the horizon at sunset from Sea Point promenade – and before your head hits the pillow there’s world-class cuisine to enjoy, or incredible cocktails at one of the many city bars.
If that's not enough to convince you, Cape Town has a super cool coffee culture that rivals anywhere in the world (yes, Melbourne coffee-snobs, including Melbourne), and street art that will blow your mind.
With the ongoing devaluing of the South African Rand, holidays to this incredible city are criminally cheap. So, what are you waiting for?
Beer drinkers, rejoice! There’s a place on Earth where your favourite beverage is cheaper than water.
That place is Prague, the beautiful capital of the Czech Republic, the birthplace of Pilsner, and the best place in the entire world for lovers of a good drop of amber nectar. Here, citizens are fuelled by what they call ‘Czech water,’ and although they do consume more beer per capita than anyone else in the world, it’s not because they’re drunks.
The Czechs have been brewing beer for over a thousand years, which means they’ve developed a great thing, stuck to it, and become extremely proud of it. Simply by being in Prague and drinking Czech beer, you’ll learn about local culture. Sounds like the perfect arrangement if you ask us.
If you’re not a beer fan, Prague also happens to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
Where's your 2017 'Best in Travel'? We'd love to know in the comments below!