Gearing up to farewell 2017, we reached out to some of our favourite bloggers to discover their favourite travel experience of this year. From chilly days spent in Antarctica and Lapland through to the sunkissed attractions of Italy, Cambodia and Indonesia, we received a fantastic collection of responses. Check them out below!
Rob and Kim from Simply Travelled
We were lucky enough to start 2017 with a trip to Sabah, Borneo. We had visited Malaysia before and we were pretty excited about the opportunity to reminisce about the great food and the Malaysian influence on offer. But of course, our main reason for visiting was to see the wildlife.
We visited Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and were humbled by the great preservation work they were doing. We were able to see these beautiful creatures in a natural habitat, moving freely, inquisitive and playful.
We set out on an adventure to a lodge near the Kinabatangan river and spent the next few days exploring nature. We had trekking adventures through muddy and humid jungles, teeming with wildlife (leech socks were included!). We did river cruises searching for pygmy elephants and orangutans. We saw many proboscis monkeys and hornbills, and on our last day we were finally able to see a wild orangutan, the experience was breathtaking.
I think the reason why this trip stuck with me so much was that it felt authentic, the people, the wildlife, the experience, it is not something I will forget. I would highly recommend visiting Borneo and getting lost in the experience.
Jaclynn from The Occasional Traveller
Latin America is so far away from Singapore, so I was definitely stoked to finally have the time to travel to this region. In 4 months I only covered a small part, including Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Bolivia and the Atacama Desert in Chile. There were so many highlights as there is so much natural beauty, but I think scuba diving with hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos, crossing the Uyuni Salt Flats and looking down on Machu Picchu are the top 3 things that I loved the most. My favourite country would be Colombia, mostly because I had no idea what to expect but the people were so warm, friendly and the country shows such resilience despite its reputation. I have to go back there again some day, and I’m preparing for that by continuing the Spanish lessons that I started in Panama, with the hope that I will be passably fluent when I go back some day!
Danni from Live in 10 Countries
You’re probably thinking the big question: why would anyone want to visit Antarctica, much less call it their top experience of 2017? Friends and well wishers are bemused when you tell them that you plunged into -1℃ polar waters or that you needed 40 minutes to prep for any landing, just to put on all your insulating layers and then wind up walking through knee-deep snow like the Michelin Man.
But, Antarctica remains arguably the world’s least visited destination and unique as the last continent on our planet still relatively untouched. It’s got its own once-in-a-lifetime-magic, like the moment a sleepy penguin goes to sleep standing up beside you, or the feeling of drifting through bright blue icebergs with Titanic on the brain, or even floating through a frozen wonderland of ice palaces. You can kayak, stand up paddleboard the placid waters, ski, camp overnight on land and much more at the polar depths. I guarantee the experience will outweigh every beach you’ve ever strolled. Sail south long enough, and you’ll find a hidden treasure!
Leah from Kid Bucket List
After years of longing to head to the land that created Astro Boy, sushi and sumo wrestling, our family finally headed to Japan in April to immerse ourselves in the culture and history for a full fortnight. I think I spent the majority of my time pinching myself. Japan felt incredibly surreal, yet I don’t think I have ever felt so alive on one of our adventures.
We spent days wandering Tokyo, eating from small windows that beckoned us with their neon signs or long queues. Hours spent in shrines and temples connected us spiritually as the kids learned the different rituals by observing the locals. And then there was the effortless ability to travel vast distances at super speeds via our first experience on the bullet train.
Kyoto was where we tiptoed over nightingale floors, explored a ninja house with stealth moves and fed wild monkeys while we stood in a steel cage! We feasted on all types of Japanese cuisine and went geisha hunting in Gion in the rain. The kids pulled funny faces in purikura booths, while us adults looked on before joining in ourselves.
It was in Osaka that the kids morphed into characters from Harry Potter as we explored Universal Studios. We invested in magic wands which brought their spells to life and had us all reaching for butterbeer in huge glass mugs.
To Disney Sea we then headed, where we discovered the various flavours of Japanese popcorn and became obsessed with trying it all before heading back to the Tokyo streets and wandering without a map just to see what we could find.
Whilst we only spent 14 days in Japan, every member of our family fell in love with the country. It exceeded our expectations and we’re already planning a trip back.
Silke from Happiness and Things
I think it’s always special when you get to meet locals who share a little bit of themselves while you visit a new destination. Through them you tend to learn so much about the destination. Through its people it gets a face, a new dimension. When I was in Ireland in October this year, I met singer/songwriter Mickey McConnell, an extraordinary Irish storyteller. In the warmth of a lovely pub in the small seaside town of Ballybunion, he told us the story of his life and how his song “Only Our Rivers Run Free” became sort of an anthem for the freedom movement all around the world. To hear him perform in front of the peat fire, sipping a cup of Irish coffee, and sharing the raw emotion with everyone in the room, that was a very special, very privileged experience that I will never forget.
Bron from Smiths Holiday Road
Without a doubt, our top travel experience as a family for 2017 was the adventurous train trip on the Trans Mongolian Railway. Travelling from Beijing, China to UlaanBaatar, Mongolia over 36 hours. Three kids and a wheelchair! We started the journey in the capital of China loaded up with water, snacks and packets of noodles. We travelled with carry-on only luggage to make it easy to jump on and off trains and pack lightly. The 5 of us shared a 4 berth cabin and spent the time journaling, listening to music, meeting and chatting with other explorers, learning some words in the native language, walking up and down carriages and eating 2 minute noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The landscape changed dramatically from city to wide open plains dotted with white gers (the traditional nomadic home) as we weaved our way across the country. We learnt so much about living simply and stepping outside our comfort zone and recommend exploring Mongolia to everyone!
Lavina from Continent Hop
Israel had been on my bucket list for a while. Other than religious reasons, the diversity of landscapes and the food is what called to me, and I wasn’t disappointed!
Jerusalem was intense. It was fascinating to watch the 3 major religions in the world come together, pray and celebrate within such a small area. It was surprising as well. Never had I expected the people in Jerusalem to party as they did till the wee hours of the morning and I felt completely safe returning back to my hotel.
The people were warm and inviting. I ate freshly made hummus at every opportunity I received. It’s also true what they say about the veggies here, they’re fresh and organic, which makes the salads super tasty!
Roughly about an hour or so away, I also had a chance to experience weightlessness! Floating on the Dead Sea had been an experience I’d cherished for a while and I was super happy to tick it off as well!
For a couple of seconds, I was pretty sure I would drown, however, within seconds I was floating! I’d made sure to smear my face with mud first to ensure I got great skin later like it’s advertised! Israel definitely held cheerful surprises in store and was nothing but amazing!
Aleney from Boy Eats World
This year has been so packed full of travel for our family, we were barely finished unpacking from one trip before we were off on another and there have been many standouts, including a once in a lifetime mother and son adventure through Myanmar.
But, if you vox popped our entire crew, it was tomb raiding, tarantulas and tuk tuks in Cambodia that provided some of our most memorable travel moments. From their first sight of the ancient temple of Angkor Wat at sunrise, my kids were hooked. When you throw in careening down dust covered roads by tuk-tuk past carvings of gods and monsters, playing hide and seek amongst the 216 inscrutable faces of The Bayon, flying through a treetop high ropes course past screeching gibbons, wading in mountain rivers with orange-robed monks and leaping through the jungle-strewn temple of Ta Prohm, best known for its starring role in Tomb Raider, you’ve got a bona fide holiday hit on your hand.
This was a holiday that took the kids out of their comfort zones. Whether they were chowing down on enormous black tarantulas, one crispy leg at a time, or witnessing Cambodia’s visible poverty, it certainly challenged their worldviews. But it has also ignited my kids compassion and imaginations in a way no other place has and they returned home with a new perspective on their privileged lives.
My favourite travel experience of 2017 was a few weeks ago in Iceland. We’re currently on a 4 month trip around the world, and we spent a week in Iceland, driving ourselves around the country. We had a rough start with a 5 hour drive at night through a snowstorm, but things got better pretty quickly.
In the course of the week, we spent a night out in a little forest in a giant transparent ‘bubble’ for our accommodation; waking up in the middle of the night, I looked up and saw big snow covered trees hanging overhead and a sky full of stars.
I didn’t think it could get much better, but we woke up to the forest blanketed in snow so white it sparkled in the morning light. With no one else around, it was like the proverbial winter wonderland come to life – it was magic!
Sheena from DIY Travel HQ
This year I’ve been all over the map, from Central America and Europe to the US and Asia, finally ending up back home in Australia after 2 years away! The highlight of my travels in 2017 was a 3 day hike in Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.
National Geographic calls it “one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth”, and it definitely delivered all my wildlife dreams. I saw tapirs, anteaters, sloths, alligators, coatis, monkeys, peccaries and all kinds of birds.
I had to work for it though, hiking for up to 20km everyday in hot and sweaty conditions! But it was totally worth it. The park was so alive and I loved being in the thick of it, not knowing which animals were just around the corner.
Corcovado National Park was the cherry on the top of an action-packed month in Costa Rica where I also went diving, zip-lining, white water rafting, ATV riding, tree top climbing, canyoning and parasailing!
2017 was definitely a year of good times and I’m looking forward to plotting more adventures in the New Year!
Justine from Fire and Tea
Being a vegan food traveller means travelling through places I used to know, from previous years of experience; in a way that’s now the polar opposite. For me, this has meant travelling the vegan road since 2012. In 2017, my home city of Melbourne was ranked the most liveable city in the world for the seventh year in a row. Naturally, I’ve embarked on a year of local travel to explore this liveability. My favourite travel experience of 2017 has been combining these stand-out local vegan experiences around town, thus re-discovering my liveable city of Melbourne through vegan food travel.
Recently, Lonely Planet predicted that one of 2018’s travel trends is vegan and vegetarian travel. Yet, why can’t we start with the now, with the liveable? Let’s start with a day-trip to the Yarra Valley wine region of Victoria to eat my way through a culinary experience – a long, multi-course gourmet lunch with matched wines at TarraWarra Estate. The experience was hosted and crafted by pop-up dining experience The Circle Dining (commanded by internationally trained Head Chef Mark Ebbels). Another stand-out was wandering the halls of the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton to experience the very first Big Vegan Market via the magnitude of vegan vendors, purveyors, crafters and bakers. Another hyper-local experience arrived in the assumedly impossible way to experience Vietnamese vegan food at the all-vegan Olivia Spring Café in Moonee Ponds (their vegan version of Cơm tấm or broken rice dish is the go-to). For some added sweet fun, a debut trip to Girls and Boys in Fitzroy was a must for all vegan ice-creams, desserts, sundaes and smoothies. The choices will overwhelm the decision-making; my tip is to opt for a plain-and- simple soft-serve cone doused in chocolate and rolled in peanuts.
A lengthy trip to Gembrook in The Dandenongs embraced the windy roads and leafy forestland to arrive at The Independent Gembrook. This Argentinian meat-heavy restaurant in a converted mechanic’s garage, founded by Head Chef Mauro Callegari, hosted an all-vegan night when vegans could travel to experience authentic Argentinian flavours in a vegan context. Finally, memorable micro-travel has been experienced by discovering the new Soulpod Foods. This organic plant-based café and cooking school is less than one kilometre from my own home.
Audrey from Gumnuts Abroad
Hmmm that’s a hard one. How to choose? Was it climbing mountains, discovering ancient ruins or snorkelling in crystal clear water?
All of that was amazing. But for something different, we chose visiting the travertines at Pamukkale in Turkey.
The terraces were given the name Pamukkale, which means “cotton castle”, because from far away they look like a castle made of fluffy white cotton.
They are formed by mineral rich water that flows over the cliffs creating calcium deposits. These deposits spread out into blinding white terraces that have pools of warm aquamarine water. It’s believed the minerals in the water have health giving properties and people travel long distances to bathe in them.
We even saw people smothering themselves from head to toe in mud!
Traipsing over the terraces and paddling in the pools was a lot of fun. But the magic happens at sunset. Watching the travertines change their colour from bright white to pink, then orange and finally dark purple is a truly incredible sight. Why not make it your favourite travel experience for 2018?
Kathy from 50 Shades of Age
The boot-shaped European country of Italy had always fascinated me with its monumental history, its love of pizzas and pasta, grapevine and olive grove covered rolling hills, villages sitting precariously on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, rumble-down Roman ruins, stoic churches, statues and works of art. How can one small country have so many bounties?
In May this year I headed off to Italy, spending a few days seeing the dizzying sights of Rome, then sailing away on a Mediterranean Cruise that took in Sicily, Malta, Corfu, Croatia, Montenegro, and wound up in Venice. After a few days being bewitched by the romance of Venice, I then set off across the country slightly northwards to the magical Lake Como. Spending 4 days here, then travelling south to Cinque Terre, Pisa and Tuscany. Followed by a tour down south of Rome to the Amalfi Coast. My Italian dream was complete!
Kate and Mark from Vagrants of the World
2017 has been a whirlwind year. We have managed to visit 18 countries across four continents. From the incredible world of safari travel in Southern Africa to cruising the beautiful fjords of Norway; it has been a year of firsts and iconic experiences. But the biggest stand out of our year was Israel.
We spent three weeks exploring Israel’s cities and most important sites. We were very excited about visiting Israel but were in no way prepared for how fascinating, beautiful, and complex it would be.
Israel has such tremendous history and a unique energy. Its heady mix of ancient mystique and modern vitality attract millions of travellers and pilgrims each year.
Bring together an incredibly eclectic and diverse group of people, some of the world’s most revered holy sites, breathtaking landscapes and world renowned modern and cosmopolitan cities, and you have a destination that is unique and extraordinary. Israel is a land of extremes.
While the country’s religious and ethnic diversity and a somewhat delicate political situation may continue to stir passion, Israel does not fail to challenge and surprise the traveller. We loved it so much; we hope to return soon.
Pauline from Living La Vida Global
One of my top experiences from 2017 was visiting Bali. Not the hustle and bustle of Kuta, but the mountain rice paddies, monkey forest and temples of beautiful Ubud, located 1 hour north of Denpasar. I feel the cultural centre of Bali.
Ubud does not feel like your typical touristy area due to there not being big hotel chains. I stayed in one of the many private villas that are on offer in Ubud (Kakul Villa), set in the green countryside roads overlooking the paddy fields and mountains in the background.
There is just so much on offer in Ubud, including fresh, true Indonesian food. Vegetarians and vegans would be in heaven with the large number of places on offer to eat. Just roam the little streets and stumble upon so many choices. Two highlights from my visit were: Room 4 Dessert (amazing 5 star quality desserts to die for with two standouts being the red and pandanbert desserts) and The Melting Wok (a lovely little restaurant where the atmosphere, staff and food is next to none). You would not be disappointed for selection and choice in Ubud.
Tegallalang Rice Terraces – about 30 to 40 minutes on scooter away from central Ubud, the trip through the artisan areas to the rice fields is itself stunning, with woodwork, glass, art, silver shops – just too many to choose from and each town you pass has their own speciality. The views from the terraces and tropical greenery make it a photographer’s dream.
Poan Cooking Class – this 4+ hour cooking class is outstanding. You get to prepare, cook and eat your own 7 course meal and Puspa the host makes this class extra special with her passion for food and sharing knowledge.
Temples – Pra Tama Saraswati “Lotus Temple” – this gorgeous temple is set behind Starbuck’s of all places in Bali not that you would know from the front of the street. The waterlily garden leading into the temple is so serene and picturesque.
Shopping – Walking through and bargaining for great deals in the markets is a must. With so much on offer and bargain prices, go early in the morning for a good bargain.
Siddharth and Shruti from Siddharth and Shruti
Our favourite experience this year has been exploring the island of Flores in Indonesia. Although Bali is a fan favourite, Flores won our hearts over by it’s pristine beauty. We caught a glimpse of the mighty Komodo dragons in their natural habitat; snorkeled and found Nemo in Kanawa Islands, and relaxed on the pink sand of Taka Makassar. If you are fit enough, we absolutely recommend the trek to Padar Island. The view from the top will be well worth the climb. From the summit, you can see the white sand beach, the pink sand beach and the black sand beach. It is only an hour long hike up and you do not need any special training, just some good sports shoes. Wearing flip flops is not advisable. These are the things we managed to do, but there’s so much more in Flores! We have to go back to see the tri-coloured lakes of Kelimutu, go stargazing in Wae Rebo Village, see bats at Kalong Island. Flores really was the star of our 2017 travel experience and we cannot recommend it enough to fellow travellers.
Mark from Wyld Family Adventures
Having been to Poland, Germany, Iceland, Denmark, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, our highlight for 2017 is difficult to choose, but one thing stands out in my mind – the day we climbed the 1,350 steps to the top of Kotor Castle in Montenegro. Just to clarify, there is no cable car up to Kotor Castle, much to the dismay of our children. The castle and fortifications were built by the Venetians in the 13th century. The climb to the top produces ever more rewarding views of the Kotor Old Town and Kotor Bay as you get higher. The path to the top takes you past a chapel and the fortification walls that snake down the mountain to the Old Town. I can easily say this is the most amazing view in all of Europe.
Mark and Miranda from The Common Wanderer
As two Aussies living in the chaos and urban sprawl of London, getting back to clean air and nature is something we crave almost every day – and right at the top of our ‘escape list’ sat Swedish Lapland, with its promise of epic hikes and pristine wilderness. So, when we found ourselves road tripping the region in early autumn, it’s safe to say we were pretty content.
Most people go to Lapland during winter when it transforms into a winter wonderland of skiing and snowmobile adventures, but autumn here seriously does not disappoint. The forests are ablaze with red and orange, skies are clear and bright, wild berries and mushrooms grow everywhere, and the northern lights start to reappear in the skies again. We spent our days hiking in the endless forests, mountain biking in the hills, discovering the rich indigenous Sami culture, sharing delicious meals by the fire, and getting to understand the deep love of the outdoors that locals here have. Thankfully, the feeling of exploring such a remote and pristine corner of the earth has stuck with us, long after our return to London!
Kim from Eat Play Love Travel
My favourite travel experience of 2017 would have to be visiting Tasmania for the first time. Purely because the island state’s been on my bucket list since 49 BC, and it was my travel goal in 2017 to see more of my motherland. While I didn’t make it to Margaret River or Monkey Mia, I feel a sense of elated achievement that I finally shook hands with Tasmania, and have to wonder why I haven’t introduced myself sooner. It’s ahh-mazing!
A short scoot over Bass Strait and you’re in a magical land that’s so naturally beautiful it takes your breath away. There’s mountains, forests, national park and ocean for days, making the Apple Isle the perfect respite from city life. Or least, it was for me. A refreshing four-day jaunt that sent me home feeling like I’d had a week’s worth of massages.
My only problem with Tasmania is that its produce is so damn fresh and culinary game so damn strong. In which case, I ate way too much while here – so much so, I think I sent Tasmania into famine.
Kirralee from Escape with Kids
With spectacular sights jostling each other for prime position, Rome is a city of superstars. Around every corner is a headline act designed to grab your attention – an oversized fountain crammed into a tiny square (Trevi Fountain), an ancient stadium upon which many a modern sporting ground is modelled (Colosseum) or a vast cathedral and art gallery housing countless masterpieces (St Peter’s and the Vatican Museum).
Our love for Rome knows no bounds, so we have almost always managed to squeeze it into our European adventures, but in 2017 we took the kids for the first time. We had a one day stop during our Mediterranean cruise and the stars aligned for a beautifully memorable day.
Armed with a love of pasta and a smattering of Italian we submitted ourselves to this glorious city for 6 hours. Walking and looking, eating gelato and taking photos, we let Rome wash over us. Delving deeper will be for another visit, but this time walking hand in hand in the Italian sunshine was enough to tick off.
Mike from Travel and Destinations
2017 has been an incredible year of travel for me. Some of the most memorable experiences were from my trip in February and March when I travelled to six countries in Asia over 40 days. Here are a few highlights from each place:
Thailand – I visited the Ko Phi Phi Islands in the south, swam with exotic fish and also visited the stunning Maya Bay.
Vietnam – One of my favourite parts of Vietnam was visiting the capital Hanoi. I found this city charming, beautiful and fascinating and loved seeing the culture of the people.
Cambodia – For this part of my trip I stayed in Siem Reap and went to Angkor Wat for sunrise. It involved getting up at 4am to get to the best spot but seeing the sunrise was a beautiful experience.
Malaysia – I went to Kuala Lumpur and one of my favourite experiences was to see the Lake Symphony show in front of the Petronas Towers, which involve lights, water jets and music.
Hong Kong – Hong Kong felt to me like an Asian New York. With huge skyscrapers and so much going on. My favourite part of Hong Kong was visiting the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, as it was such a unique place and I’ve never seen so many buddhas in one place before.
Indonesia – To end my trip I enjoyed a stay in Bali, which was amazing with some of the most friendly people I’ve ever met. The highlight here was relaxing in a beautiful luxury hotel and also exploring some of the rice terraces nearby.
Jane from Wicked Walkabout
Tasmania, without a doubt, was the travel highlight of 2017 for our family. I grew up in Tassie and yet had not seen nearly as much of the little island as I had imagined.
For such a tiny speck of land, Tassie offers so much and we covered 5,000 kilometres over the 5 weeks we were there, which seems ridiculous. Stunning beaches, fabulous walking tracks and history around every corner.
Freedom camping and low-cost campsites can easily be found and we had some that rivalled any campsite we have ever stayed for views and serenity – including some in Europe.
I’d definitely advise anyone to take as much time as possible when visiting Tasmania as there is so much to do. It is a beautiful little Island that will surprise anyone visiting for the first time.
We shall have to return to see the places we missed!