The perfect holiday means different things to different people. Some people just can’t get enough of long hours sunbathing on a beach while others with their Victorian noblewoman’s completion (like me) end up going home more tired than when they left because they make crazy schedules with all the things there are to see and all the food there is to eat.
As we are approaching the end of the year and with it my 31st birthday (cue dramatic sonata on the piano), here is a bucket-list with places I’d like to see before the end of the next decade of my life.
It’s not the best-known country ever, and a bit of a mouthful to name while at that, but Uzbekistan is a stunning country with a long history. Its current boundaries comprise some of the best areas that were located on the Silk Road, with a lot of great architecture and historic artifacts from its Islamic past. And even some of the brutalist architecture of their Soviet age looks better than its western counterparts.
Its politics are controversial, and the country has been at the centre of scandals regarding child labour in their cotton market, which for some people is good reason enough to boycott the country. However, I believe that thoughtful ethical tourism targeted at supporting places which are moving towards stronger human rights can be a way to help their economy grow and move away from these forms of slavery.
Should this Uzbekistan appeal to you, there are many ways you can experience it. The recommended way is with the ever-popular homestay, where you can spend the night with a local family and embrace the local culture, or you can stay in a yurt (exotic and adventurous), and you should definitely consider visiting the capital city of Tashkent (where, luckily for me, there’s a Radisson Blu hotel). There is so much to see and do when visiting Uzbekistan, especially if you are interested in architecture and interior design.
Costa Rica and Nicaragua were the expected destinations of my ICS trip that never happened, and so I would still love to go there. The nature there is stunning: some of the most exquisite coastlines on the face of the earth, rainforests and even volcanoes. This country is small but mighty.
When it comes to getting a shot of adrenaline, one option is to take on a class whitewater rafting down the Sarapiqui, or if, unlike me, you don’t suffer from arthritis, you could hit the adventure bikes close to Lake Arenal (the photos on this link do make me jealous).
There are also plenty of historical sites to visit. The Santuario Nacional Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles in Cartago is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen that are not a random Baroque church in Rome (it is in the Byzantine style, although I don’t know the story behind it). A holiday may not be as rewarding as ICS would have been, but I’m sure there would be plenty of ways to give back to the people.
When people think of Egypt, they generally just think of the pyramids. I, however, think of the hidden foodie gems from John Torode’s Middle East. There is so much more to this incredible country than mummies and food, though. I’m normally not the biggest fan of organised journeys, but when Egypt tour packages throw in a hot air balloon trip I can see why they can be as adventurous as an unplanned trip.
Egypt has long been a popular sea destination, with many resorts offering beautiful experiences including skydiving and whatnot, but I will always remain a fan of the good old fashioned tours of the mainland like the one my aunt took when she was my age (for all her faults, she knows how to have a good holiday).
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will probably know that my ideal honeymoon destination is Milford Sound. It’s not a surprise to me that the Lord of The Ring Trilogy was shot in New Zealand, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, from incredible glaciers to breathtaking greenery and the bluest rivers you could ever wish to see in your life.
New Zealand is known around the world as the adventurer’s playground, and it really is. You can take on everything from rock climbing to whitewater rafting through canyons. If you are looking for something that strikes a balance between nature and urban, Queenstown is the place to be. It is widely regarded as the thrill-seeking capital of the world (being the birthplace of bungee jumping etc(, and it’s ideally placed to visit vineyards as well as some great festivals.
Back closer to home, Slovenia is a small beautiful country neatly sandwiched between Austria, Croatia and Italy. I had a friend years ago who is from there, and it’s a great place for ski breaks without breaking the bank (the Julian Alps offer some of the best and most affordable skiing options in the whole of Europe, and I doubt anyone can really tell that your Instagram photo in the snow was not taken in St Moritz…). For the summer, it also has numerous magical waterfalls and lakes, and it’s not a surprise that people who like to cycle flock to the stunning Mangart Pass. I, however, prefer to cross passes in a car and would more likely found sipping coffee at an outdoor table of a cafe in Ljubljana. Yes, even in winter, have you see that place?
It may be my obsession with Hallmark movies and When Call the Heart, but I really want to go to Canada and hopefully see a Mountie in traditional uniform outside some tourist spot like the guards at Horseguard Parade.
Canada has pretty much everything a lover of adventure like Prince Edward Island’s favourite red-head Anne of Green Gables could want, from adrenaline-filled activities to pleasant walks and discovering some of Canada’s history (and yes, there is a museum dedicated to Anne). There is so much to see that if you truly want to experience Canada though, the best way to do it is to take a road trip. And take a carriage ride when at the museum. Canada is just one of those places that will take your breath away, and whether you are visiting the rivers, mountains or coastlines, Canada just has a habit of inspiring people (so much of the best of British Literature at the turn of the century came from the colonies).
As the Regency buff I am, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Madeira would make the list. Mostly known for cake and wine, this Portuguese island has great weather all around. That’s why it’s popular with those seeking adventure and old-fashioned rest both.
Situated about 20,000 feet from the ocean floor on a volcanic shelf of sorts. Madeira could actually be one of the most amazing places to take out a mountain bike and leave behind the image of polite dinner parties among British expats (or, if you roll like me, just embrace it). It’s also very popular among hikers (with or without parasol). However, if you are a fan of flat walks, then Madeira probably isn’t for you, in fact, there is very little in the way of flat land in Madeira. Personally, I think Madeira is a big foodie destination and I’m happy to trade the comfort of not walking uphill for great food and stunning seaside views.
It sounds bizarre to put a place where you grew up on a bucket list, but Mr Knightley has only seen Lugano on our only visit to the old folks and there is so much more I want him to see, both places significant to my childhood and places I just absolutely love (Montreux for the Jazz Festival *cough*)
There are many thrill-seeker activities in Switzerland, from obvious ones like skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking to going ape and travelling down the side of a mountain in a bobsleigh (the Rodelspass, otherwise known to English-speakers as the Mountain Coaster). I’ve done it and I loved it and can’t wait to do it again. But, fear not, if you are not a fan of the extreme thrill, you can get your kicks by simply heading out and exploring all of the wonders that Switzerland has to offer. You will also see a lot of cows, and if you are lucky a marmot (I have, they’re soooo cuuute). Whatever you’d like to do, Switzerland is one of the most picturesque places on earth you can visit and we have the best chocolate (Frey).
So, there you have it, 8 of the very best places on earth I want to visit, and I hope I showed you why you should visit them too.