I am not a seasoned traveler. Far from it. Yet, I’m not embarrassed to admit the staggering number of places I have yet to visit and the idea that there is still so much for me to explore is motivating. Often it is these places which we have not yet seen or known that we romanticize the most. And because it’s January, the month of plans and resolutions, I decided to dream up a list of places I would go to if I could travel anywhere in the world this year, without budgets or limits… (hey, dreaming is free, right?)
1. Vardø, Norway
Apparently, it is not too late to get a good glimpse of the Northern Lights, which are still visible until late March. Seeing a celestial disco is the biggest draw of traveling to this freezing region, though visiting an old fishing village and the most northerly castle in the world are a plus.
2. Kyoto, Japan
I should probably visit Tokyo first, but things like a walk through the Arashiyama bamboo forest, blossoming cherry trees, the Nishiki street food market, and ancient Japanese history make Kyoto a good balance of the past and the future; tradition and modernity.
3. Tangier, Morocco
I read about Tangier in an in-flight magazine, when traveling home from a recent trip to Paris. I decided that this was a top destination on my mental list. Once a haven for the Beats, this city seems to have a carefree allure and some of their original haunts, such as Café de Paris, still stand. Maze-like streets, a steaming Medina and views of the Mediterrenean… it’s hard not to find the attraction.
A friend of mine spent a summer in Cuba and I remember her telling me about it with so much fervor she was bouncing in her chair a little. She took salsa lessons on a rooftop, photographed the colorful homes of Old Havana and discovered a simpler way of life that contrasted from her expat upbringing. Every time I look at the postcard she sent (which is every time I go to the refrigerator) I think about this island which I want to see for myself… Before multinationals move in and take away its authentic charm.
5. John Muir Way, Scotland
One of the greatest travel writers, Bill Bryson once walked the entire 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Trail, across 14 states, and then wrote a book about it (I am currently reading his witty tale of the event). While nowhere near as comparable in size, John Muir Way seems a more reasonable substitute for the Appalachian Trail, and a great way to see Scottish country. About 215 km long, this walk takes 7-10 days to complete and crosses the country from coast to coast.
6. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
When you have friends living across the world in a seemingly more exotic place, you often have no choice but to visit them there… Which is why Kuala Lumpur is definitely on my list – and also a great jumping-off place for visiting neighbouring countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.
7. Kas, Turkey
It is more and more difficult to find seaside spots that aren’t already infested with mass tour groups and rowdy folk who only go for the nightlife. The old fishing village of Kas appears to be an exception. A great spot for diving, it also has a hippy, laid-back vibe with local water-front jazz bars and open-air markets. It is also a great base for visiting the nearby Lycian cities of Patara and Xanthos.
8. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
I would just say ‘Brazil’, in its entirety, yet there is so much to explore in this massive country. Diving with sea turtles in quiet coves seems idyllic to me and Fernando De Noronha is known for its stunning views of marine life. This island archipelago, off the coast of Recife, is a protected natural reserve to which only 250 visitors are allowed per day. A relaxed group of islands with only small hotels and plenty of cliffs for hiking.
9. Dubrovnik, Croatia
I fell in love with the scenery of this UNESCO World Heritage Site after flicking through my sister’s scrapbook of her summer trip there in 2013. A walled city that looks over the crystalline blue waters of the Adriatic Sea and is a great jumping-off point for day trips like wine tasting in Korčula or visiting the picturesque town of Perast in Montenegro.
10. Elqui Valley, Chile
My science-credit-of-choice in college was Astronomy, and I loved it. So if you tell me that Elqui Valley in Chile is the best place on Earth for exceptional star-gazing, you can bet it’ll be on my list. Sadly, the pollution from new infrastructure has already begun to dim Elqui’s skies, making this a place to visit sooner than later.
11. Montreal, Canada
One of the most artistic cities in Canada, it is also home to the largest jazz festival in the world and has its very own underground city. I have never ventured farther north than Chicago, and a city where I could also practice my French seemed like a good place to start.
12. Cotopaxi, Ecuador
The Galápagos islands might have the fame, but the mainland is not short on biodiversity and natural beauty either. One of these sites is Cotopaxi National Park, home to two volcanoes and not far from the city of Quito – the first city ever declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
13. New Orleans, Louisiana
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the catastrophic hit of Katrina. And the town has come a long way since. Music still flows through its veins and it has a burgeoning art scene, proof of which can be found in Prospect.3 New Orleans, the city-wide exhibit celebrating over 50 local artists, as well as NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art) which is hailed as one of the finest museums in the south.
14. Quang Binh, Vietnam
Quang Binh province is home to Son Doong Cave, the largest cave in the world. Access is limited to only 220 visitors a year, but nearby, slightly “smaller” caves are open to all.
15. Copenhagen, Denmark
The city you can bike across in 30 minutes. The city that holds another city. The city of vintage shops, secret clubs, mermaid statues and the oldest amusement park in the world. This petite Danish city is home to some of the happiest people on Earth, which is already reason enough to visit.
[Photo credit: Cripto Grafia | National Geographic | Best Travel Photos | Tinjiis | Best Travel Photos | GloHoliday | MRated | Pinterest | Geologo | Ana | Welcome Beyond | All Streets | Lonely Summits | Sense of Place | NY Times | 12Hrs ]