The greatest travel experiences

Travel Forums General Talk The greatest travel experiences

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1. Posted by zzlangerhans (Respected Member 77 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

I was thinking this travel lull might be a good time to share some tips on places in the world that are not very well-known but are fantastic travel destinations. We are all going to be wanting to travel a lot as soon as the epidemic passes and new ideas are always welcome. Some of my greatest travel experiences have been in places that I stumbled on either by complete accident or only after extensive research.

Perhaps some of us would care to share a top ten list of places that are off the beaten path but gave them some of their best travel experiences. When I put my mind to it I came up with a list of seventy but that's quite a lot of work. My top ten are here and here. The other 60 are listed in the 6 prior blog entries. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

2. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1642 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

I am sad that I have been none of the places on your list. But I think you definition of a best travel experience would be different from mine. I'm not into festivals. What I like is a more relaxed type of travel vacation with places to eat, and museums, architecture, parks and wildlife. Most of the travel experiences that I liked the best were not really "off the beaten track". Some are quite well known.

So here is my top 10 list - in alphabetical order
Alkmaar Alkmaar has an interesting museum, a former church and the Cheese Market - it is true that the cheese market is now a show for tourists, but when I went for the first time in 1950 it was a real market and they do the show quite well.
Amelia Island - We've been here several times, mostly for a day at a time. The main thing about Amelia island for me is not what most people go for - I'm not interested in the beach. I like walking around town shopping. There is a museum and a fort to visit. and lots of interesting places to eat.
Bermuda We have been to Bermuda 8 times, and there are still things to do there that I haven't had a chance to do. Eating, shopping, UNESCO World Heritage sites, golfing, fishing, sailing, diving, biking, hiking.
Cozumel - This is my favorite place in Mexico. The diving is superb. The people are nice, and there are restaurants and sights to see. Particularly after the cruise ships leave.
Everglades and the Florida Keys The Everglades is one of my favorite parks for seeing wildlife. We lived in Key West for 3 years in the late 60s and we have spent significant time there in the winter since then. There just isn't anywhere in the world like it. And I include Fort Jefferson as a part of the Keys. If you wanted a Festival and you didn't mind alternate lifestyles you could do OctoberFest
Hot Springs AK There are several places named Hot Springs (VA and GA) but this one has a National Historic Park which is very interesting and also lakes, gardens and restaurants
Lisbon I've only been here once, but I would really like to go back.
Murrells Inlet The main thing to see here is Brookgreen Gardens
Norfolk, VA We lived here in the early 60s. Norfolk itself has historic sites but it is very close to make day-trips to Williamsburg, Jamestown, Cape Henry and Virginia Beach
San Jose, Costa Rica Costa Rica is well known for wildlife but people often say to skip San Jose. I think that is a mistake. There are beautiful buildings, and great museums in San Jose.

3. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1391 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

Tony, you're to be congratulated for taking your young family on trips 'round the world.

There are several places that I enjoyed and your familiy might, too:

If you return to Brazil, I recommend the Jardim Botanico do Rio de Janeiro. It's an opportunity to see many wonderful exotic plants, plus toucans and marmosets amongst the plants. Also recommend the Parque das Aves at Foz do Iguacu. A fellow traveler recommended it to me and I alloted two hours. I could have spent many more hours.

Madeira before Christmas is a special place with so many amazing lights on the streets, plus numerous activities for children. The Azores is good, too, but Madeira's lights were, in my view, more spectacular.

South Africa is great, too, particularly Cape Town and environs. There's Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, great beaches, penguins, vineyards, etc. If in the Johannesburg area, visit one of the private game reserves next to Kruger National Park. Or, rent a car and drive to Eswatini and visit the national parks there, including Hlane Royal National Park. At Hlane, stay in one of the thatched rondavels near the water hole populated by animals such as rhinos.

An alternative to South Africa is Namibia. Visit the red sand dunes of Namib-Naukluft National Park, Fish River Canyon and see wildlife in Etosha National Park, etc. Nearby is Botswana where a visit to the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park are highly recommended.

If traveling in Madagascar, visit Vakona Private Reserve's lemur island.

In the U.S., visit the five national parks in southern Utah as well as Dead Horse Point State Park. Your jaw will drop as you go through Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches NP. The State of Utah wisely kept Dead Horse Point for itself.

Iceland is great, too. You can rent a car and stay in farmhouses. There are local companies that can package a trip for you. Pack picnic lunches to save money.

I also recommend a drive trip around Tasmania. Local companies also can arrange a rental car and arrange accommodations along with national park passes. The same goes for New Zealand, where I recommend renting a car on the South Island.

If you return to Japan, try Furano (Hokkaido) in mid-July to early August for the flower fields and butterflies. Amazing.

Palawan in the Philippines has the underground river (with monitor lizards nearby) and the gorgeous beaches and islands of El Nido.

Finally, Malaysian Borneo is great. You can see orangutans in Sarawak and Sabah; and bats and the giant caves at Mulu. Then there are the proboscis monkeys.

4. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 1546 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

I just read your entire blog. It's great fun and your kids are really cute. We've been to fewer than 20 of your 70 favorite places but it was truly fun reading about them.

The favorite places blog is a terrific I idea, and I hope a few more people on TP do one . . . and post a link here on the forum. I know we all enjoy different things but it's nice to see what they all are.

Great idea.

5. Posted by traveldogs (First Time Poster 1 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

Its hard to narrow down to ten isn't it , in no particular order

- Klaipeda, Lithuania , situated on the Baltic Sea , sea museum and the Curonian Spit with its national park and sculpture gardens.
- Plitvice Lakes Croatia , amazing lakes , rivers, waterfalls and numerous bush walks , beautiful spot .
- Mostar , Bosnia Herzegovina ,Old town with narrow streets steeped in history ,Markets and the Mostar Bridge , reconstructed after damage from the war it stands mighty again , young locals entice the crowd for tips before diving into the river below .
- Kizhi , Russia , old wooden churches built without any nails .
- Machu Pichu Peru , the obvious and cannot be put into words .
- Yosemite National Park ,USA The mountains envelope you , it is pure nature.
- Xlendi Bay on the island of Gozo, Malta - the bluest waters and relaxing spot to graze and swim.
- Hoi An Vietnam , vibrant town on the river , lots of market shopping , food and chilling
- Santiago Cuba , cigars , music , rum
-Taormina Italy , sunshine diving, food , history

6. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2026 posts) 7w 1 Star this if you like it!

Okay here's my attempt at some lesser known places.

Orkney
Archipelago off the top of Scotland with amazing neolithic sites. The Ring of Brodgar henge monument, Maeshowe chambered tomb, Skara Brae neolithic village hidden by the sands until a storm uncovered it. Many more. If you're an archaeology buff or interested in early history it's a mecca.

Tasmania
Often overlooked by visitors to Australia who head to the east coast or the red centre, Tassie's like a mini New Zealand with national parks filled with forests and mountains. Also Port Arthur preserved penal colony, beaches for penguin watching, and Hobart's a lovely little capital.

Kiev
Very much the forgotten little brother to the great Russophone cities Moscow and St Petersburg, Kiev's easier to visit (visa free for most), ridiculously cheap, and while it lacks some of the grander sights of the other cities it's still a dive into former Soviet culture. The ornate metro stations are every bit as grand as Moscow's. The motherland monument (a soviet icon) overlooks a great WWII museum on the hillside next to the monastery that seems unchanged in 500 years. Chernobyl's a fascinating daytrip, best followed by the city's Chernobyl Museum. Scattered through the city are branches of Puzata Hata, a "russian kitchen" restaurant that's hugely popular with locals.

Taipei
Taiwan's capital is not on many people's radar but it's a brilliant oriental capital city to visit. Traditional Chinese culture at Longshan Temple and night market meets mondern Asian craziness at Ximending, full of neon lights, shops and bars. The Grand Hotel looks like a temple, and you can take afternoon tea on the terrace for a great viewpoint over the city. Take the metro out to Xin Beitou to enjoy the hot springs with the local pensioners. Or take a metro in the other direction to the zoo where you can board a cable car that crosses hillside tea plantations, and at the other end relax in a traditional teahouse. Lots of the appeal of Chinese culture but visa-free and less politically questionable than visiting mainland China.

The Hebrides
The West Coast of Scotland gets millions of visitors during the summer - every other car's Dutch or German - but only a fraction of them ever make it onto the islands. (I'm excluding Skye from that statement - now it has a road bridge it's not like the other islands.) Each is different, but they all have a slower and quieter pace than the mainland. Mull is big and mountainous, with a pretty capital Tobermory which makes a great base for a week of days out exploring walks and smaller offshore islands like Staffa, Iona, or Ulva. The Outer Hebrides are a long chain of islands connected by ferries, with caribbean beaches, stone circles, machair meadows and a lot of Gaelic speaking culture remaining. Islay's a whisky mecca. Rum has spectacular mountains and the fallen opulence of Kinloch Castle, an island party house built by a Lancashire textile baron. And my favourite is Eigg, a small island with a vibrant community - pioneers of a green energy grid and a community buyout model of land ownership - and possibly the best walk in Scotland, up the impressive Sgurr of Eigg, a pitchstone ridge which is visible for miles around.

The Isle of Man
Deluged with motorcyclists for the two week TT Races in summer, but outside of race dates the course which has brought bikers here for a century is just normal roads which make for very enjoyable driving. Pretty villages, castles, a network of 17 "national glens" which are nice short walks. Heritage like a steam railway that crosses the island, an electric tramway, a mountain railway up Snaefell. Britain in miniature.

Gwynedd (Northwest Wales)
Not many international visitors seem to know this lovely quarter of Britain. Snowdonia national park is fairly famous for Wales's highest mountain, and there's obviously lots of hillwalking around that area. But slightly west from there is the walled town of Caernarfon - impressive castle, pretty streets with lots of ice cream parlours and eateries, and great pubs. A good base for exploring. South from here is the town of Porthmadoc with its steam railway, and Portmeirion, an architect-designed Italianate village set in a microclimate, now run as a charity, very much worth a day visit for architecture fans. West from all this is the Lleyn Peninsula, quite rural and a great place to explore cliff walks, beaches, go surfing. On the north coast from the village of Nefyn there's a coastal footpath walk across a golf course which reaches the shore by a hamlet called Porth Dinllaen, owned by the National Trust. It has a pub on the beach that only has road access over the sands, very scenic. This area is very much like Cornwall but without the crowds.

7. Posted by Borisborough (Moderator 1519 posts) 7w 1 Star this if you like it!

Great post, Tony! Travelling with a family is what it’s all about – brilliant. The sub-title of your blog is interesting – why ‘on the way to 180 countries’? Have you purposefully ruled out 13 UN countries? As for a top ten list of places – and off the beaten path too – not easy!

In your list and mentioned by Berner256 too is Iguazu Falls – definitely one of my best natural sights. And, also mentioned by Berner, the national parks in SW USA – Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion & Capitol Reef. For wildlife, the countries of Tanzania (the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater were unbelievable), Australia (all the wildlife there is unique) and the Okavango Delta in Botswana (Berner again) were fabulous. And then Petra, Jordan along with Machu Picchu in Peru (mentioned by Traveldogs) , the Taj Mahal in India, Rome, Italy and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. They fit the ten but they’re definitely not ‘off the beaten path’.

So – a little less accessible (or accessed)!

For animals I’d go for the Galapagos Islands off the Ecuadorian coast, Borneo (mentioned by Berner again) including Gulu NP for the bats, Bako NP for the proboscis and Langar monkeys and the snakes and the Kinabatangan River for the orang utans and the pygmy elephants, Rottnest Island off Perth, Australia for the quokkas and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda for the mountain gorillas.

For natural sights, I’m going for the Afar Triangle in north eastern Africa includes the Danikil Depression and Erta Ale in Ethiopia along with Lac Abbe in Djibouti, Canaima National Park, home of Angel Falls, in Venezuela and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in central Australia.

For man-made constructions, the Archaeological Sites of Meroe in Sudan which includes the pyramids at Meroe and the temples at Naqa and Musawwarat es-Sufra and Palmyra in Syria.

And for one whole country that had amazing people, wonderful natural sights (Salar de Uyuni, the Amazon jungle, Lake Titicaca, Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve) and superb wildlife (Madidi National Park) along with lots of other great stuff, it has to be Bolivia.

8. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1391 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

Agree that Kiev is worth visiting. It's one of my favorite places. There's a nice walk along the Dnieper River, gorgeous monasteries, lots of restaurants and cafes. The main street, Khreshchatyk, is closed on weekends for pedestrians to promenade. There's street entertainment. Lviv also is worth visiting. Flights are reasonable from European gateway cities.

9. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 1270 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

Great idea for a blog (as I said in one of my comments, I may pinch it one day!)

Here are some off the beaten path / slightly less visited ideas from me:

1. Bundi in Rajasthan - a sprawling, ill-kept but highly photogenic palace, with fabulous wall paintings; and an equally photogenic old town with blue-painted houses (a mini Jodhpur), shops and temples.

2. Holy Island, aka Lindisfarne, off the north east coast of England - a magical, mystical atmosphere (providing you stay overnight to experience it when the day trippers have left)

3. The Jebel Shams region of Oman - astounding vistas, hill-top castles and surprisingly green wadis

4. Not currently an option for US travellers, I know, but our visit to North Korea has to be one of the most fascinating of all our trips - not for nothing is it called the Hermit Kingdom!

5. Staying at Huab Lodge in Namibia, where we were welcomed as one of the family, urged to stay for lunch on the day when we should have checked out after breakfast, and taken to see an eagle's nest, with chick, high on a rocky escarpment (I should confess that I didn't actually see it, as the climb would have been beyond me, but my husband went up with our host Jan while I watched from below). It's too long ago to be included in my blogs here (yet) so here's a link to the lodge: http://www.huab.com/

6. Similarly, staying at the Blue House B&B in Ocho Rios, a world away from the all-inclusives - home-cooked meals eaten family-style on a terrace surrounded by hummingbirds, going to mass on Sunday morning with our hostess Elise, enjoying the peace of Reggae Beach which seemed only to be frequented by locals

7. Takayama in the Japanese Alps - crisp air, an interesting morning market, beautiful old merchant houses in classic Japanese style, temples, traditions, sake-tasting ...

8. Lamanai Outpost Lodge in Belize - an unusual sort of all-inclusive where the meals are homely but served on a wooden deck overlooking jungle and lagoon, accommodation is in wooden bungalows each with a hammock but no real frills, and the activities in your 'package' include hunting for howler monkeys before sunrise, leaning to make tamales in a village home, and visiting the Mayan ruins at dawn (see http://www.lamanai.com/)

9. Luang Prabang in Laos, from our most recent trip - hardly off the beaten path, but we felt underrated compared with Hoi An and yet more attractive and 'real' feeling despite the tourists

10. Bukhara in Uzbekistan - less museum-like than Khiva, more compact than Samarkand, and with lovely evenings spent in the tea-houses around the pool at its centre, Lyab-i-Hauz

I'm sure I could think of more (penguins in Antarctica, snorkelling with sea lions in the Galapagos, ballooning over the Namib desert ...) but that's a pretty decent list of ten for now!

10. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5727 posts) 7w Star this if you like it!

Nice read!

I'll throw in a few more of my favorite places and trips that I have made.

Pitcairn has to be on top of my list. Since I was a young teenager, watching a Dutch writer and traveller about islands (Boudewijn Buch) on tv (and later reading his 5 books about islands), I dreamt about visiting remote islands and it doesn't get much better than this Island chain. There are in fact 4 islands (visited 3 of them, main Island Pitcairn en the uninhabited islands of Henderson and Oeno). The islands are famous for its inhabitant, being mostly descendants of Fletcher Christian and other Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives. Many of the descendants also live on Norfolk Island, close to Australia. Getting to Pitcairn involved flights Amsterdam - Paris - Los Angeles - Tahiti - Mangareva (with some brief stops on remote atolls) and a 2-day boatride on a basic vessel. Stayed a week on the main Island with a local family and visited all there is to see and did all there is to do.

Another slightly weird destinations (also mentioned above) is North Korea. Did a 10-day trip back in 2005 when Kim Jung Il was still in charge. Flew in from Beijing in an old 70's style Tupolev. Visited Pyongyang, the DMZ and cities like Kaeson and Wonsan. Also some more mountainous regions inland and museums. Every minute was arranged and nothing could be done spontaneously, but that was part of the 'fun'. Left the country by taking the 24-hour train ride back to Beijing.

I am a sucker for islands and apart from Pitcairn I absolutely loved islands like The Big Island Hawaii (it has 8 out of 13 climate zones in the world, packed on a small surface!), Madeira, Saba, Montserrat and Dominica. But let's not forget a bigger Island and one of my favorite trips ever: Cuba! Visited about 15 years ago. Stayed a few days in Havana and then rented a car and basically visited most areas around the country, from the western Vinales region all the way to Baracoa in the east.

Another geo-feature: deserts! O, how I love to drive through, or hop on a camel. Been to quite a few of them: Kalahari (with the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as an absolute highlight), Namib (with the famous Sossusvlei and high dunes), the Sahara desert in both Morocco as well as Southern Tunisia, the deserts of Syria (Palmyra was great!), the Wahiba Sands in Oman, the Atacama Desert (one of the driest places on Earth, fantastic landscapes with altiplano, geysirs and volcano's as a backdrop), and of course driving through the Red Centre of Australia and the USA's southwestern deserts was fantastic.

As a wildlife fan, there are 3 regions/countries that come to mind: The Amazone and Pantanal (saw a Jaguar!) in Brazil, several great parks in Africa (Serengeti in Tanzania, Madikwe in South Africa and Chobe in Botswana pop up immediately) and the tiger parks in India, where I vistited both Bandhavgarh as well as Kanha and saw about 5 tigers and lots more in those parks.

As for cities, I think there is no better continent than Europe in general. My favorites are Stockholm, Prague and Cordoba. But still, I think my all time favorite must be San Francisco.