It’s almost the end of 2018! I hope you put last year’s list to good use. Were you able to visit all the recommendations from the bloggers? If not, keep it, still. There’s no rush. You can still visit those places whenever you please.
Today, I gathered new faces and new destinations that will surely give you an inspiration for your next destination. This selection is fresh, enticing and might be new in your travel vocab so listen up! Here are the best trips 2018 according to travel bloggers.
1-Trek to The Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro, Bhutan
Best time to go: October to December
If I have to choose one memory of Bhutan that I will cling to for the rest of my life it has to be undoubtedly the trek to Tiger’s Nest monastery. For fitness freaks, this trek is a cakewalk. Though steep, it can be easily done in 2 and half hours for those who have the stamina and regular trek. But for mere mortals like me, this was a challenge. Not just the steep climb but the altitude. But if you are ever in Paro, DO NOT MISS this experience. It is the journey that is so rewarding that you will be grateful for your decision to do a meditative trek to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan.
The trail is rugged and raw with prayer stones and vibrant rhododendrons for the company as you go higher. There are ponies available till a point but I strongly recommend to do this on foot for the sheer tribute to this pilgrimage.
The monastery is perched dangerously on the cliff making it such a bucket list destination for many. Once you reach the top, the feeling is blissful. The calm is infectious and I am sure it is not just the destination but the magical journey!
Fun Fact: The prayer wheel in the courtyard of the main shrine is rotated every morning by the monks. Doing so marks the beginning of a new day.
2-Driving Across Sri Lanka on a Tuk Tuk
Best time to go: December to March
Despite having spent the last four years gallivanting around the world, Sri Lanka is a country that was absolutely mindblowing. Our chosen mode of transport to explore this incredible country? The trusty tuk-tuk. Organized by a company called Large Minority, we traveled around Sri Lanka driving a tuk-tuk for ten days, competing against 10 other teams from around the world. Not only did we get to see this incredible country in a different light, it also allowed us to have meaningful interactions with the locals through the challenges given throughout the race. The entire thing was organized seamlessly in an Amazing Race-style format as we explored the best of the country. It is definitely a trip I recommend taking for those looking for an epic experience.
Fun Fact: There are also variations of tuk-tuks in South and Central America. They can be seen in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, where tuk-tuks are called mototaxis.
3-Road trip around the Faroe Islands
Best time to go: May to July
I think an incredible trip to take in 2018 would be a road trip around the Faroe Islands. I traveled to the Faroes recently and it is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The Faroes consist of 18 islands and each one has a unique beauty that will absolutely take your breath away. The islands are mostly connected by bridges, underwater tunnels, and ferries- all of which are surprisingly affordable.
There aren’t many roads on the islands and getting lost is next to impossible. There are more sheep than people living in the Faroe Islands and you will certainly need to be alert as you will share the road and landscape with them. Between the curious wildlife, waterfalls aplenty, and scenery so rugged and remote that you’ll feel like you’re in another world, the Faroes offer a road trip experience unparalleled to anywhere else in the world.
Fun Fact: The Faroe Islands are one of very few countries in Europe to have no McDonald’s outlets. You can, however, find a Burger King in Torshavn (if you’re so desperate for a fast food fix).
4-Expedition cruise to Antarctica
Best time to go: December to March
I’m not exaggerating when I say an expedition cruise to Antarctica is unlike any other experience in the world. Located in the southernmost part of the world, Antarctica is harsh, remote, and truly far beyond. One can really get a sense of being at the edge of the world where – there’s hardly any sign of humanity, and I only saw one other ship during our 11-day expedition.
Antarctica makes you feel like you’re the first person ever to have arrived, even on a ship with 120 other passengers. You’ll feel like a voyeur – taking a peek into a different world, one that belongs to Mother Earth. Each day of our Antarctic expedition was different from the other: sailing into a playground of icebergs and glaciers, watching Antarctica light up in bright vermilion at midnight, and cruising alongside playful whales towards the end of the trip.
Fun Fact: The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was minus 128.56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 89.2 degrees Celsius), registered on July 21, 1983, at Antarctica’s Vostok station.
5-Staying in a silk-route caravanserai in Iran
Best time to go: March to May; September to October
Few things conjure up more wanderlust to me than the words “Silk Road”. After all, world travel is not a new thing. Since around 500BC traders and explorers have traveled the Silk Route from Europe to Asia, carrying spices, bronze, gold, pottery, animals and many other goods of worth (alongside silk of course) between Europe, the Middle East, and China. The routes deviated over time, but many of them crossed Iran and saw Iran become an important, strategic point on the silk routes.
While traveling in Iran this summer I had the chance to stay in a 400-year-old Caravanserai in Iran, at Zeinodin (about an hour from Kerman in Central Iran). Caravanserais were set up as stopping posts all along the Silk Road, for travelers to be able to relax their weary feet, house their horses for the night, and get a good meal and some rest. In 400 years, arguably not that much has changed (except the horses have gone). Zeinodin Caravanserai has been lovingly restored and is managed by a local Baluchi family native to this region of Iran. Travellers and tourists are welcomed to stay in private rooms, or in dormitories in the former stable block (where we stayed).
From the top of the Caravanserai, you can sit back and relax to views over the Zagros mountain range as the stars come out, and imagine what it must have been like to wander the Silk Road as a trader in centuries gone by.
Fun Fact: Iran ranks seventh among countries in the world, in terms of the number of World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO.
6-Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga
Best time to go: May to November
One of the best trips I’ve ever taken was to fly to Tonga to go swimming with humpback whales. It is one of the few places in the world where it is legal for you to get in the water with a wild humpback whale. You are not allowed to touch the whales and you must stay at least four meters away from the whales but getting in the water with a 36,000 kg whale is an absolutely amazing experience. I spent six days swimming with the whales as they come to Tonga for the shallow waters to birth their calves. You often see the baby whales first as they have to come up for air more often than their mothers.
My favorite experience of the week was a two hour ‘hang’ with a mother and calf. The mother was just chilling at the bottom of the sea floor while the calf would come up to the top for a breath and then come check us out before returning back to its mother. It’s almost like a ‘beam me up’ moment as the calf goes up and down as they can only hold their breath for 5-10 minutes while the mother can hold their breath for 30-40 minutes. Definitely, a must do experience.
Fun Fact: Tonga’s only Olympic medal, a silver, was won by superheavyweight boxer Paea Wolfgramm in 1996.
7-Monkey Fingers Canyon trek in Morocco
Best time to go: April to May; September to November
Every hiking enthusiast that visits Morocco will not skip the opportunity to hike the surreal Monkey Fingers Canyon known for its specific rock formations that change color depending on the light conditions. About five hours from Marrakech by car, two hours from Ouarzazate city and about 10 miles from Boumalne Dades, Monkey Fingers Canyon hike is simple and easy two to three hours trek from Tamellalt Village. The best experience of the Monkey Fingers Canyon hike is with knowledgeable local Berber guide that knows the maze of the canyon and the area. Those not limited by time can extend the canyon hike further into mountains for several days, visit Berber families along the way and sleep in the nomad caves. The longer version of the trek requires a reasonable fit person that is ready to experience authentic side of Morocco. Cooking on the fire, limited water supply and no mobile network along the trek are some things to be prepared for but the overall experience of nature will make it up for it.
Fun Fact: One of the major sources of income for families in Morocco’s Northern Rif region is cannabis (marijuana) cultivation. In fact, the word “reefer” derives from the word if. The cannabis, known in Arabic as kif, is then processed and sold as hashish.
8-Trans Siberian train through Russia
Best time to go: September to October
Travelling on the Trans Siberian train through Russia was always a lifelong ambition of ours. We began our big trip in Asia on this long journey, starting in Moscow and ending in Mongolia.
There are two legs to this trip. The first to Vladivostok is the most traditional and the longest, covering 5,772 miles. The second is to Ulan Bator in Mongolia, which is the most scenic and more popular. We did the later, choosing to stop over in Yekaterinburg and Irkutsk (for Lake Baikal) along the way to see more of Russia.
Life on board our Trans Siberian adventure was actually quite tough. We chose the 3rd class seats which is like a huge bed dorm. We definitely recommend splashing out on a 2nd class to get a shared cabin or even 1st to get your own private cabin.
The Trans Siberian trains are famous for the fierce provodnitsas – the ladies assigned to each carriage to look after the passengers, check tickets and ensure each carriage is kept clean. They never smile and retain a stern persona. Befriend them and they will cheekily sell you a bottle of vodka from their hidden stash.
Fun Fact: From the start, to finish, the Trans-Siberian railway passes through eight different time zones, however, in Russia, all timetables, station clocks, and train clocks remain in Moscow time, while in Mongolia and China they revert to local time. Good luck wrapping your head around that one!
9-Chadar frozen river trek
Best time to go: January to February
Chadar Frozen River Trek is one of the most alluring treks in India. The Zanskar River flows gushingly through the treacherous canyons of Ladakh during the summer. Come winter, the river calms down and freezes. A blanket of ice forms on the river and it is the only way of travel for between Zanskar and Leh. That is the Chadar Trek (chadar means blanket in Hindi).
For the trekkers, it is an ultimate experience to hike over the ice. The nine days trek has some of the most beautiful views – from the golden mountains to frozen waterfalls and hanging icicles. The babbling of the river beneath the blanket of ice becomes music to ears after a couple of days of the trek.
The trek starts from Tilat Sumdo and ends at Nerak village. The entire trek path is not uniform. There are fresh snows at some places while hard ice on others. You really have to master the art of walking on ice for this trek. It is always difficult to walk over hard ice. At places where the ice blanket is broken, you may also have to wade through the chilling waters.
Chadar Frozen River Trek is not an arduous trek, but the conditions to make it difficult. But at the end of the trek, you become a much experienced and hardened trekker.
Fun Fact: Originally a trade route between Zanskar and Ladakh regions – Chadar trek is over the 1,000-year-old path. It’s called the ‘Khado Sangam’ by locals in their dialect.