There are quite a few “top 10 tourist destinations” or "places you have to visit” blog posts out there. I myself am guilty of publishing one or two of them.
But as much as Imar like to think of myself as a digital nomad, I cannot (yet) boast the experience of a travel expert.
That’s why I compiled the top travel destinations that experts recommend. Buckle your seatbelt and get ready for la crème de la crème!
It’s probably one of these countries you think is too cold to be enjoyable. Think again. Iceland’s waterfalls rival the Niagara’s and it boasts the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull. The capital, Reykjavik, lets you see the sea and neighboring hills from its heart, in Hallgrimskirkja church. Ok, names tend to be complicated, I’ll give you that. But that wasn’t enough to outrank Iceland from the top of Fodor’s Travel’s Hot Spots to Visit in Europe.
I mean, there IS a reason for travel blogger Britney Fitzgerald to qualify Iceland as “nothing less than enchanting”, right? The travel expert went on a road trip there and shared what you need to know about Iceland, should you want to follow in her footsteps. And I suppose that it’s one of every Instagram fanatic to add a picture of Iceland’s black sand beaches to their account. It’s one of mine anyway.
What about free diving in the world’s clearest waters like Kiki Bosch?
The savviest travelers argue about the best vacation spots you should visit in Canada, but they NEVER question whether the Lumberjack Country is worth it. It is.
Canada even tops Lonely Planet’s 2017 Top Countries to visit. You might want to head there for its unbelievably welcoming people or its lively cities. On Quora, the vacations guide Sivakumar recommends taking a look at the iconic CN Tower of Toronto and a detour by the Old Quebec.
Love the people, come for the nature
But with the 150th anniversary of the Confederation, put on your trekking shoes and go into full-backpacker mode. For the occasion, the country lets its nature aficionado into its splendid national parks for free, as Hannah Tydeman-Klassen, founder and director of Curio Trips, points out.
Her travel expert tip? Don’t miss the Northern Lights in Yukon, because they will enter their dormant phase starting from next year. It’s now or… much later.
Discover Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s past as a backpacker in his interview with Lonely Planet.
If I told you South East Asia, I bet Myanmar wouldn’t instinctively make it into your “best vacation spots” list. Marcos Detourist, travel expert in the best heritage sites and cultural hotspots, acknowledges that people are usually surprised when he tells them that Myanmar is inevitably on his top picks list. "The ancient temples here are breathtaking”, he claims. It doesn’t have much to envy Cambodia when it comes to historic cities and landscape diversity.
Lonely Planet predicts that the country previously known as Burma is bound to welcome an increasing amount of travelers, as soon as 2017. You’d better head there ASAP if you don’t want to take a glimpse at one of Asia’s most intriguing traditional heritage.
Attractions for everyone
Myanmar is nothing less than Insight Guides Daisy Cropper’s “favorite place in the world”. Although she also underlines the “wealth of cultural sites and temples” in Harper’s Bazaar’s Best Vacations in the World, she insists that everyone will find their happiness there. Sandy-beach chiller, thrill-seeking hiker or culture-enthusiast explorer: come as you are!
Thought hot-air balloons were restricted to Cappadocia? Source: Lonely Planet
Looking for one of the cheapest destinations that will immediately fill your “need-to-escape-the-city” gauge and get you back in touch with Mother Earth? Look no further.
Forbes listed Costa Rica among its 30 cheapest places to travel in 2017. Not only is transportation ridiculously cheap, but same goes for housing fees! Count no more than $10 for a bus ride, no matter how long, and sometimes only as much for a place to stay, even in front of the beach. Founder of Big World Small Pocket Stephanie Parker suggests that you take a walk through one of the many national parks. Except if the perspective of running into monkeys or sloths seems toо uninteresting to you.
Point break in real life
Once you've satisfied your craving for ecotourism and connected with nature, it's beach time!
The country boasts tons of great surf spots, crowded for most of them. The ExpertVagabond Matthew Karsten recommends that you head to Nosara instead. Whether you’re as good as Kelly Slater or still have a good progression margin ahead of you, as ClaimCompass’ Chief Marketing Officer Alexander Sumin does, you’ll find a beach that suits your skills.
Take a look at Costa Rica’s beauty from a drone with Ayawaska Productions [VIDEO]
True, Costa Rica is a staple of ecotourism. And yet, Segera Retreat in Kenya doesn’t need to blush shame, especially since it can also offer solitude to the lone wolf inside of you. The property’s efforts are concentrated on maintaining a sustainable way of life privileging solar energy and ecological cultivation. It’s “nothing like I have seen before”, testified Travel Junkie Diary founder Michelle Karam in CNN’s travel destinations not to miss.
Not enough? The tip that Africa travel expert Nicky Brandon from Ker & Downey shares, is to head to the isolated village of Sasaab and sleep under the stars. Yet your trip wouldn’t be complete if you hadn’t seen Special Five, the unique animals of the region: “reticulated giraffe, Grevy's zebra, gerenuk, Somali ostrich and beisa oryx”.
Land of the Masai... and the Lion King
And if the fauna still isn’t enough, how about a place that mixes both a captivating wildlife and a fascinating people? The Masai Mara National Reserve ranks among Touropia’s best places to visit in Africa. It reunites both Masai villages waiting to share their culture and lions, rulers of Savannah.
Take a deep dive into Maasai's life through the eyes of 8-year-old Naresiah with Operation Blessing International
No country in this list drew as much unanimity for Top Travel Destination as Portugal. Its second-largest city, Porto, ranks among Lonely Planet’s Top Value cities for its affordable (and yet delicious) cuisine and its cheap housing. You can easily find a good meal accompanied by a glass of wine for 5€, according to Jackie Nourse, founder of TheBudgetMindedTraveler.
Then again, if you’re a culture addict, Lisbon might (read: should) be on your list as well. The city is on Lonely Planet’s Top Cities ranking for the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian and Museu Colecção Berardo, respectively for their precious Egyptian artifacts and pop art collection. That’s not even taking the beauty of the capital itself into account. The Indie Traveller Marek would even argue that it’s “one of the best under-the-radar destinations in Europe right now.”
In the middle of the ocean
The cherry on the pasteis de nata (a traditional local cake you have to try, take my word for it)? Even if you’re not too much of a continental type of person, the country still has something to offer you. Hop on a plane, direction the Azores archipelago, further into the Atlantic Ocean. Not just because of its 9 volcanic islands! Chill culture, villages from the Middle-Age and landscapes ranging from lost-in-the-middle-of-nowhere hot springs to semi-active craters: that’s what awaits you.
Porto by night doesn't look so bad, does it? Now just imagine the Azores... Booked your ticket yet?
Few African countries attract as many tourists as the Kingdom of Morocco. Not far from monopolizing Trip Advisor’s 2017 Travelers Choice Destinations in Africa podium, the cities of Marrakesh, Merzouga and Fes respectively achieve 1st, 2nd and 4th place.
The slight advantage the country offers to its adventure-loving backpackers? A network of cheap hostels that keeps on growing. On the road since 2012, travel addict Marek praises the gateway to Africa as “a fantastic budget getaway”. And that goes not only for its smaller villages full of exotism but also for its main cities. The frenetic Marrakesh is booming and remains the country’s top destinations. Yet, the now directly accessible by plane seaside jewel Essaouira seduces more travelers every day. With the reborn port city of Tangier, the 3 cities make Morocco a Best Value destination for Lonely Planet.
Unrecognized haven for foodies
And what better way is there to enjoy the low prices than to fill your belly with the Kingdom’s typical dishes? Full-time photographer and content creator specializing in travel and tourism Lucie Josma, notes that the country will be all the more appreciated by vegetarians and vegans. According to her, you can enjoy the tastiest local meals while “living like a queen” without mortgaging your house. Her tip for that? Head to Riad Kheirredine and immerse yourself in Morocco’s luxurious lifestyle.
Get a taste of Morocco with the expert Lucie Josma, @missjetsetter
If you haven’t had enough with the Azores or if you’d like to add a pinch of Asia to the volcanic archipelago mix, you might add one of the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia to the mix. Bali remains the hottest spot for tourist for its accessibility by plane, yet experts rather urge travelers to visit Raja Ampat. Meagen Collins, co-founder of Food Fun Travel, found an accommodation on one of the island’s beaches with all meals included for less than $30 USD.
Raja Ampat is particularly enjoyed by divers for its crystal-clear waters. Photographer and editor of Sher She Goes Sher exhorts everyone to roll up their sleeves to access this hard-to-reach piece of Paradise and guarantees a stunning experience there. Fish-feeding, snorkeling, hiking: what is there not to like? She recommends heading to “Pianemo for a view out over islands that create the shape of a star”.
Somebody said Dragon?
Hikers on the lookout for a bit of physical exercise through the forest can also follow Michael Travers on top of Wayag Bay’s highest peak. The head of marketing and communications at SeaTrek Sailing Adventures reckons that the island might be the most beautiful place Indonesia has to offer.
For another kind of phenomenal experience, check out Komodo Island and its dragons. Who said dragons didn’t exist? The national park of the island is the only home of these dangerous creatures, along with the island of Flores close by. But you’d be mistaken if you believed that the reptiles are the only interest of the island: founder of Ultimate Indonesia Yachts Eddie Widnall’s tip for you is to sleep on a boat where majestic dolphins rest at night.
Explore Bali in GoPro with the extreme sport and travel expert Chris Rogers. Bodhi from Point Break is so overrated… Ok I didn’t mean that.
Probably one of the sexiest countries of the American continent, Mexico also has the potential for becoming a backpacker’s lover: the Indie Traveller consider it fairly simple to live on a $25 daily budget there. Avoid the pricey Cancun and head to the wallet-friendly Mazatlan.
The beach town is Holly Johnson’s top choice. The founder of Club Thrifty loves it both for its affordable prices and authentic culture. But she also suggests the shrimp capital to all food-lovers, whether you’re on a budget or want to try a high-quality dinner for fair prices.
Capital of Culture
Mérida, the safest place in Mexico, is also definitely worth a detour. Among Lonely Planet’s Top 10 cities, the American Capital of Culture 2017 stands as a serious rival to Cancun. The White City’s old city center is a must-see for the Historic Plaza Mayor, its many museums and live music representations. And while you’re in Yucatan, take the time to head to Izamal and take a calesa that will show you around the artisan shops.
How about a walk in la pampa?
Few countries are as cheap as Cambodia to visit, even by South-East Asian standards. Hospitality in the country is perhaps even more enjoyable than the ancients ruins of Angkor, remnants of the Khmer civilization. The experts of Touropia have made it their best place to visit in the region.
What is perhaps less well-known from the public is the country’s efforts toward a sustainable way of life. Michaela Guzy from Oh The People You Meet praises the work of socially-aware companies building schools for the community, providing health care and privileging a respectful approach to local tourism.
I wanna run away...
Stuart and Samantha, the Aussie bloggers behind Travelfish, also recommend alternative destinations to run away from the crowd while enjoying fantastic sights and advise Kompong Thom. The two-street village of Chi Phat, ideally located between a mountain and a river, is also on their list of chill places to visit.
BONUS: My top destination
I got to spend New Year’s Eve on one of Zanzibar’s heaven-like beaches.
I dived into a hot spring close to Moshi, after a one-hour drive that seemed to lead to nowhere.
I attended a typical wedding in a village nearby Arusha.
I went to Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro. Ok, I didn’t climb it, but I learned awesome stories about it (drop me a line if you want to know more!).
And yet there is still so much more I haven’t done. I know I’ll go back there eventually.
In the meantime
I’ll be in Bulgaria for a short while - to be fair, most travel experts recommend at least one destination in Eastern Europe. They just can’t agree on the best one. So I’ll jump in and suggest you head to Sofia!
You can reach me on Facebook as well. See you around, traveler!