Today: My top 10 greatest travel experiences from around the world
I’ve reached a new milestone on my YouTube channel: we’re now officially a community of ONE MILLION travelers. That’s pretty insane and I want to thank each & every one of you. I launched the YouTube channel and my travel blog a few years ago, as a way to cope with my fear of flying (by taking videos & photos when I am in a plane). Since these flight videos somehow became popular, I started adding luxury hotel videos and reviews as well. Over time, the videos became less ‘amateurish’ and more dreamy, as you may have noticed. And now, the channel – which has a focus on the travel experience itself, not on myself – has more than 200 million views and is one of the most popular travel channels on YouTube. Wow!
To ‘celebrate’ this milestone, I made a short video featuring some of my travel highlights over the past years (which you watch below). In addition, I want to share with you a selection of my 10 greatest travel experiences (which have created memories for a lifetime).
What’s your best travel experience? Leave a comment.
10. WATCHING THE SUNRISE AT ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA
Angkor Wat is Asia’s most famous archeological site and the principle draw card to the Kingdom of Cambodia for many savvy tourists from around the globe. Angkor stood once at the center of the mighty Khmer empire (9th to 15th century) and grew to become the largest known pre-industrial settlement, spanning a site roughly equivalent to nowadays Paris. It was believed that the Khmer king had a divine role, and an appropriate temple had to be constructed by each king to consecrate the symbolic relationship between ruler and divinity. The site comprises dozens of iconic temples, including Angkor Wat itself (with its world-famous silhouette); Bayon (a temple famous for its smiling, serene faces carved onto gigantic towers) and Ta Prohm (a magnificent temple ruin engulfed by the jungle). Watching the sunrise by the pond that reflects the triple towers of Angkor War, with beautiful oranges and reds peeking out behind the temple complex, is an iconic travel experience that I will cherish for life (although I had to share it with many other tourists).
- Recommended hotels: Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang and Amansara
- Review: read a review of my visit to Angkor Wat here.
9. A ROMANTIC GETAWAY IN SANTORINI, GREECE
Arguably Greece’s most spectacular island, Santorini came into existence as a result of intensive volcanic eruptions causing the collapse of a mega volcano’s central part, hereby creating a large crater (caldera). The island inspires every visitor because of its magnificent landscapes with blue domed chapels and whitewashed houses perched on black volcanic cliffs, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful shimmering Aegean waters. Santorini is the most sought after place for a romantic getaway in Greece, and enjoys a growing reputation as a wedding destination for couples from all over the world. Unfortunately, thanks to its unique beauty, Santorini also endures hordes of visitors during summer, when roads are blocked, restaurants are full and prices soar. While spring is a lovely time to visit, particularly for the wild flowers, the sea has yet to warm up enough for all but the bravest. This is why I suggest to visit the island in October, like I did, when there are no crowds, the water is warm, the weather mild … and there’s wine to be tasted.
- Recommended hotel: click here my top 10 list of the best hotels in Santorini
8. HELICOPTER TOUR IN KAUAI, HAWAII
Kauai boasts the most beautiful natural scenery I’ve ever seen in my life. It was the first of the major Hawaiian islands to rise from the ocean floor and it was the first to become extinct some 5 million years ago. The northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs. Sculpted by nature for millions of years, Kauai’s sensational natural beauty is epitomized by the Napali Coast – 14 miles (22 km) of sea cliffs ascending 3,000 feet (900 m) above untamed shoreline – and spectacular Waimea Canyon, the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’. Kauai also boasts the wettest spot on the planet at Mount Wai’ale’ale and the tremendous rainfall has produced sheer-walled valleys, razor-sharp ridges descending to the sea and most amazing array of waterfalls to be assembled anywhere in the world. Most of Kauai’s awe-inspiring sights are inaccessible from the ground and can only be seen and appreciated by a thrilling helicopter tour (a travel experience not to be missed).
- Recommended hotel: One Hotel Hanalei Bay
7. TOURING NEW ZEALAND
It felt like Bilbo Baggins and Tolkien’s Middle Earth came alive when I traveled through New Zealand’s magnificent landscapes as a student in the early 2000s. The country’s position on two tectonic plates creates active geothermal activity on the North Island, with hot water pools, bubbling mud, spouting geysers, and volcanic forces. A palate of even more dramatic scenery, New Zealand’s South Island is home to the majestic Fiordland National Parkwhich boasts lush rainforests, pristine rivers, crystal clear lakes, mighty cliffs, snow-capped summits, majestic ice-carved fiords, and unique flora and fauna that has been in existence since New Zealand was part of the supercontinent Gondwanaland. Even on the frequent rainy days, the scenery is spectacular, with entire valley walls turning into thundering waterfalls. Highlight is the stunning Milford Sound with Mitre Peak, rising 1692 m (5551 ft) above sea level and one of the most photographed peaks in the country (one of the most awe-inspiring sights I’ve ever seen in my life). I hope to go back soon again!
6. HIKING IN TORRES DEL PAIN NATIONAL PARK, CHILE
Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1978, the Torres del Paine National Park (situated in the Magallanes 12th region in Chile) is internationally recognized as one of the planet’s most uncontaminated wildernesses. Its breathtaking natural beauty includes the rugged horn-shaped peaks of the Cuernos del Paine and pristine sand-colored lowlands where the huaso countrymen, or baqueano, practice age-old cattle herding traditions. In the north, enormous ice fields flank brilliant blue glaciers whilst fjords and deep channels usher penguins to their waters. The National Park’s native beech forest is also home to a thriving population of guanacos, foxes, and pumas. While the most spectacular views will require a bit of effort, anyone can enjoy the park’s main landmarks by driving around, although multiday trekkings are the real thing here. The most famous hiking route is the 46 mi (75 km) W hike, which takes around 4 to 5 days and passes throughs some of the world’s most majestic mountain and glacier scenery.
- Recommended hotel: Explora Torres Del Paine
5. BEACH HOLIDAY IN THE MALDIVES
Glamorous overwater resorts, pristine white-sand beaches, and a spectacular underwater world make the Maldives the ultimate travel destination for the discerning traveler. The sovereign archipelagic nation – positioned in the Indian Ocean southwest of India – consists of 26 breathtaking atolls boasting rich cultural traditions and natural treasures. All 1192 coral islands and sandbanks (200 inhabited islands, plus 100 islands with tourist resorts) are the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edge at some points plunge to depths of over 3 km (10,000 ft). The tiny islands are encircled by magnificent beaches and incredibly beautiful lagoons, blessed with crystal clear waters and protected by reef structures. Every resort in the Maldives is built on its own private, picture-perfect palm island, with all of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands competing with each other to offer their guests unprecedented levels of mind-blowing luxury. If you’re looking for an ultra-luxe beach holiday, then look no further as the Maldives ticks all the boxes (although the Seychelles comes close).
- Recommended hotel: click here for my top 10 list of the best hotels in the Maldives
4. EXPLORING THE AMALFI COAST, ITALY
The Amalfi Coast stretches along the edge of the Sorrento Peninsula, in Italy’s Campania province, just south of Naples. The mountainous scenery of the Amalfi Coast is dotted with vineyards, lemon trees, olive groves and tiny villages – all clinging to jagged cliffs that plunge straight into the turquoise Mediterranean Sea below. The scenic Amalfi highway (formally Strada Statale 163) winds for about 80 km (50 miles) along the shoreline and cliffs of the Sorrento Peninsula, with plenty of viewpoints along the way to take in the spectacular coastal views (which rank among the best in Europe). The region’s top attraction is the village of Positano, whose Moorish-style houses tumble down to the Mediterranean Sea in a cascade of sun-bleached peach, pink and terracotta. A short 20 min boat ride from the mainland is the fabled island of Capri, whose dramatic coastal scenery has been known for at least 2000 years as Emperor Augustus and Emperor Tiberius both had homes here. The area is also home to some Italy’s most fabulous hotels.
- Recommended hotels: click here for my top 10 list with the best hotels on the Amalfi Coast
3. WALKING THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU, PERU
Without any doubt, Peru’s greatest attraction is the mist-shrouded Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was only discovered in 1911 and is believed to have been used by the Incas as a secret ceremonial city. No matter how many times you have seen a photograph of the iconic Inca ruins, nothing prepares you for the sense of awe that this magical place elicits in its Andes mountain setting, clinging as it does to rock and jungle. And there’s nothing like the satisfaction of approaching Machu Picchu by feet, which is why the incredibly scenic Inca Trail should be on every one’s bucket list. In 4 days of hiking and 3 nights of camping, the Inca Trails crosses 39 km (25 mi) of paths and mountain passes that were built by the Incas hundreds of years ago. The trail ends at the Intipunku sun gate, which offers a great view of the sun rising over the surrounding mountain peaks, as the first rays of soft light hit and illuminate the world-famous ruins. I hiked the Inca Trail as a student and it’s a travel experience that I will never forget.
- Recommended hotel: Belmond Sanctuary Lodge
2. FALLING IN LOVE WITH CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
“This cape is the most stately thing we saw in the whole circumference of the earth”, wrote Sir Francis Drake in 1580 when he discovered the cape. A vibrant city has sprung up since then (often dubbed South Africa’s Mother City), but the surrounding breathtaking coastal and mountainous scenery remains unrivaled on the planet. Often described in the international press as the world’s most beautiful city, Cape Town has always had a special place in my heart since I spent part of my studies here. Blessed with some of the world’s most amazing beaches, jaw-droppingly beautiful mountains, rolling hills of vineyards, spectacular drives and tons of trendy bars and fine dining restaurants to choose from, it is hard to imagine a more picture perfect city destination (and frankly, you won’t find a better one). Combine this with some of the best accommodation, hospitality and service on offer anywhere in the world and you are left with one of the hottest city destinations you will ever visit.
- Recommended hotel: The Silo Hotel
1. GORILLA TRACKING IN RWANDA
Tracking the endangered mountain gorilla through the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colorful birds and chattering of the rare golden monkey, is one of the most unique, memorable and life-changing travel experiences one can have in a lifetime. Gorilla trekking takes place from Volcanoes National Park’s headquarters where you are allocated to one of the twelve habituated gorilla groups. Only eight visitors are allowed per gorilla group each day, and to minimize possible transmission of human diseases, visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m (about 22 feet) from the gorillas. Typically, tracking can take from one to ten hours and requires some level of fitness since the hikes goes through dense jungle vegetation up steep and often muddy slopes. A maximum of 80 gorilla permits are issued per day and during high season these sell out far in advance, so it is therefore important to book gorilla permits as early as possible.
- Recommended hotel: Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris
- Review: read a review of my gorilla trekking here.