2016 has been a fantastic year of travel for me. Looking back at the travel experiences I had in the last 12 months, I picked five places that I loved the most and I hope you will visit next year. Here is my 5 favourite places in the world to travel to!
Five favourite places in the world to travel to
Since January I spent a whopping 115 days abroad! It’s been such an incredible, and sometimes tiring, year. I ticked a few places off my bucket list: Cuba, Israel, Finland, Montenegro and Poland. I also returned to some of my favourite destinations like San Sebastian in Spain and Istria in Croatia.
Travel Tips to Make Your Holidays Great
I often travel on media trips organised by a tourism board or a PR agency, but the rest of the time (about 60%) I plan my holidays all by myself. I do a lot of research online to choose my next destination; plan the itinerary including places to visit and activities to do, such as food tours; book great / affordable accommodations; and shortlist the best places to eat.
Depending on the type of holiday, I either look for hotel deals on Expedia or Booking.com, as I did on my road trip in Brittany or book an apartment on AirBnB as I did in Warsaw and Bordeaux. Some destinations allow travellers to easily make their own itinerary on the go and book accommodation at the last minute. Sometimes package holidays or guided group tours are the cheapest and easiest choice, as it was for my Austria ski holiday and my 10-day Cuba tour.
Before I book a trip, I research the visa information for the country I want to visit to see if I need to apply for one. Some countries will allow entry without restrictions, other will offer the option to get visa on arrival (at the airport / border). Some countries offer the option to apply for e-visa, or ESTA or eTA. In these cases, you apply and pay online and turnaround is usually a few hours or days. In some case though you will have to physically go to your local visa centre to apply in person. A visa application can take a few weeks to be processed, so make sure you get started early, to ensure you have all of your visa documents in order before heading off on your trip!
When I finally arrive at my holiday destination, I rely on my favourite travel apps to plan activities, navigate through a city, book food tours and find the best restaurants.It’s hard to believe that I have travelled for four months out of twelve (even more if you count my travels in UK). It’s a long time to be away from home, to be on planes, walk around a new city, eat in restaurants and not sleep in your own bed. There are many ups and downs of travel blogging and being away from home, your husband and your friends is certainly one of the downsides.
While I’m trying to keep a better balance between my travels and my life in London, I will never give up on seeing the world. I cherish all the experiences I have when I’m abroad. I feel enriched by the daily encounters I have and the local traditions I discover in each destination.
These five places above all left a deep impression on me this year: Dubai, Cuba, Lanzarote, Istria and Rome.
With top chefs, glamorous bars, the best shopping, the world’s tallest building, luxury hotels and beautiful beaches, Dubai is an unparalleled holiday destination.
The first time I visited Dubai I spent all my time in a luxury hotel and shopping malls, as a lot of tourists do. My second visit in March followed an itinerary put together by the Dubai Tourism board. Over the course of a week I experienced a completely different Dubai: from food tours to feeling at the top of the world at Burj Al Khalifa; from a brunch feast at the Waldorf Astoria to eating in a Bedouin camp in the desert.
We ventured out of Downtown Dubai to discover the old city: Naif, the Dubai Creek, Al Fahidi historic district, the mosques, spice souks and food markets.
Read my review of Dubai food tours!
Visiting Cuba was an experience like no others. The Caribbean island is certainly iconic and in many ways it hardly changed since the 1950’s when the revolution of Fidel Castro won against the authoritarian government of Batista. I find it difficult writing about Cuba even now, eight months after my visit. It’s definitely not a destination I would recommend to anyone.
With Havana it was love at first sight, but it took me a while to warm up to the rest of the country. The truth is: there is not a lot to do and see in Cuba compared to other destinations; travelling around the country on your own can be tricky, especially when trying to book things in advance. All travel agencies, transport and hotels are state-owned and generally not very reliable. There is wifi connection in Cuba, but it’s expensive and limited to a few hotspots in major cities.
My husband and I decided to book a 10-day tour with Locally Sourced Cuba, which was the best decision we could make. But even then it wasn’t a luxury holiday. Cuba is a poor country where you simply can’t find a lot of things that in the Western world we give for granted. I had to forget about my routine, my way of travelling, my habits and tune into a different pace of seeing things. I had to accept that even if I didn’t visit ten different sites every day, or find the best restaurants, or tick all the boxes of my bucket list, that didn’t mean my experience was less valuable. Quite the opposite, in fact.
I drank Havana Club rum, smoked Cuban cigars, ate rice and beans and banana chips every day for two weeks. I stayed in family-run guesthouses (casas particulares), interacted with Cubans, stood in line with them to buy wifi cards, danced salsa with them. I let go and embraced Cuba with all its contradictions. And I loved it.
Lanzarote is one of the bigger islands of the Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. Lanzarote, which belongs to Spain, is a vibrant place, full of natural and architectural beauty, fantastic food, a relaxed vibe and warm weather all-year round.
I recommend visiting Lanzarote in 2017 for a chance to be enchanted by its unique landscape. With its “fire mountains” at Timanfaya National Park and volcanic caves, its stunning viewpoints and crystalline seawater loved by surfers and divers, its delicious seafood and wine, Lanzarote makes for a memorable break.
Read my full post on Lanzarote!
When we talk about Croatia, most people automatically think about Dubrovnik, Split and Hvar. These places are beautiful, but the part of Croatia I love and want you to visit in 2017 is Istria.
Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, just south of Trieste in Italy. My grandmother was born in Istria shortly after WWI when the area was part of Italy. For this reason I always felt a natural connection to Istria, even though I had only visited a few places before my press trip in May. Thanks to the tourism board and local guides I discovered that Istria has got more to offer than just a wonderful coast. The mountain villages in the heart of Istria, like Motovun and Labin are as charming as the picturesque port towns loved by European tourists, like Rovinj and Vrsar.
Have I convinced you yet? Istria is also a fantastic culinary destination with a rich cuisine of seafood and meat, fresh pasta and truffles, and some of the best extra virgin olive oil and wine in the world. Need more reasons to visit Istria in 2017? It’s an affordable summer holiday destination compared to neighbouring Italy and the Dalmatian coast. So what are you waiting for?
One of my five best places to travel in 2017 is Rome, the city where I was born. Allow me to promote my hometown for once. I haven’t always been known for singing Rome’s praises, but a trip back home in September changed the way I think of my city.
Everytime I go back, I look at the things that don’t work in the city, the things that I don’t like but never change, I see over-priced bad food in touristy restaurants, I see bad service and a public transport that cannot support a city of 2.6 million people. It’s frustrating and maddening, but that’s not how I want to see my city. There is not a city in the world that is perfect. So I decided to spend more time in the city as a tourist and fall in love with it again. And it worked!
Rome’s beauty makes up for all the things that are not as good as they should be. The city rewards visitors with its wonderful architecture and art, rich history and gastronomy, beautiful and warm people. And of course, there the amazing food, the pasta, pizza, pastries, gelato and wine! Who doesn’t love that?
A holiday in Rome is like a fairytale and I assure you, you will be enchanted by it.
Read all my blog posts about Rome.
Did you love this post? Why not read My Top 5 Travel Destinations of 2015!
Thanks to Expedia for asking me to write this post. As always, all opinions are my own.