It has been an incredible decade for travel, adventure and experiences. I can honestly say that I practised what I preached over the last ten years, and made travel a main priority based on my personal goals, interests and hopes.
It has required a lot of sacrifice, financial discipline and preparation but it has also resulted in some of the best memories I have ever held. Since 2009, I have been fortunate enough to travel to thirty-seven countries and over eighty different cities. This post is a reflection on my all-time top ten destinations I visited during the last ten years. I hope it can provide you with some inspiration for your next adventure.
Some interesting things that stood out to me when I made the list included the fact that I am clearly happiest travelling in winter or colder conditions, I am more of a rural rather than city break adventurer and a lot of the attraction of a place has to do with the food.
Here are the top ten, ranking in order, with my favourite places first.
Japan – Kyoto
A country which fuses modern and ancient traditions seamlessly, Japan is a melting pot of culture, tech, art and history. Everything you want to say about Japan can be summarised as a perfect juxtaposition. Chaotic but ordered, futuristic and yet so deeply rooted in tradition, high-rises circling around historic gardens and shrines. This place on paper doesn’t work, but in reality it’s a place which offers you a wealth of different experiences in such a short space of time, and it’s enthralling.
Arriving in Kyoto you quickly get the sense that this city is a cultural and spiritual hub of Japan. There’s over 2000 different shrines, temples and statues hidden amongst the modern city centre. Explore traditional Japanese wooden houses in the Gion district, taste local delicacies in the sprawling markets and enjoy traditional tea ceremonies or stay in a local Ryokan to truly immerse yourself in the historic culture of Japan.
Eat: Ramen, Okonomiyaki, Sushi and Korokke
Stay: In a traditional ryokan
See: Shrines, markets, Gion district, surrounding mountains
A magical combination of glaciers, geysers and volcanos make Iceland a truly unique landscape. A place where you can experience the joys of wilderness, the warmth of the locals and the true power of earth and Mother Nature.
It is the stark juxtaposition of the fire from the volcanos and ice from the glaciers that give Iceland its staggering landscape and distinctive opportunities for experiences like no other for tourists. In just a day you can soak in a geothermal lagoon, walk on lava fields and black sand beaches, stand atop ice-covered volcanos and under ice cold waterfalls, and take in the sparse and captivating glaciers.
Visit: February / March for snow and Northern Lights, July / August for hiking and outdoors
Eat: Fresh fish, hearty stews and strong drinks!
Stay: In a Reykjavik hotel with a good spa
See: Waterfalls, Glaciers, Natural Hot Springs and Volcanos
Full visit guide – open here
Norway – Tromso
If you are looking for a magical break, to a place where nature truly delivers breathtaking experiences at every moment, look no further than Tromso, a cosy town nestled right in the heart of the arctic circle.
Surrounded by small peaks, icy fjords and covered in a blanket of soft snow for six months of the year. Tromso is Norway’s most northern city, located in the heart of the Arctic Circle, and it makes a great base for exploring the many wonders mother nature has to offer.
This small city is the gateway to the Northern Lights, in close proximity to several breathtaking fjords and home to the historic Sami culture. Visit and experience a weekend filled with Reindeers, skating on frozen lakes and late night chases to catch a glimpse of the rare but wonderful northern lights as they fill the dark night skies.
Visit: November through March
Eat: Local foods and plenty of Christmas Tea!
Stay: In the Radisson Tromso City Centre
See: Northern Lights, Arctic Fjords, Reindeers and Frozen Lakes
Full visit guide – open here
I am incredibly lucky that a place we as a family decided to relocate to nearly fifteen months ago is now one of my all time favourite countries. Switzerland has so much to offer, and I am thankful every day that I get to explore so much on my doorstep.
With glacier-topped mountains seemingly on every corner, incredible alpine lakes and long green valleys to hike through, there’s so much to offer in this picturesque Alpine paradise. There’s a plethora of outdoor activities to be enjoyed. From skiing and skating in the snow, to biking and hiking in the summer. Here we have experienced more adrenaline activities such as paragliding and climbing in a year, than we have in our lifetime.
Plus, there’s always the draw of the UNESCO heritage vineyards and local caves serving their finest produce every spring and autumn.
Visit: Year-round, depending on your activity and weather preference
Eat: Fondue, Rosti, Chocolate and Fine-dining
Stay: Zurbriggen Hotel Zermatt
See: Mountains, Gorges, Lakes, Valleys and Old Alpine Towns
Full activity guide – open here
Italy – Tuscany
When you think of romantic retreats, Italy is always a good idea. The Tuscan region brings together everything that Italy has to offer, and goes above and beyond with the delivery.
Rolling vineyards, rustic farmhouses and B&B’s, old winding Italian roads and some of the best local foods and wine money can buy are all found in this quaint and historic region on the Italian west coast.
Stay in the hillside outside of Lucca, Siena or Florence and spend your days walking, exploring local farms and producers and cooking at home with the best local ingredients you can source each day after a quiet brunch in town.
There’s so much history and things to do, especially in central Florence that I don’t have space in this post without boring you all. However you can read my upcoming guide to Florence specifically in the next couple of weeks’ if you are feeling inspired.
If you want a guaranteed break filled with delicious food, romantic walks and breathtaking landscapes then book a flight to Tuscany today.
Eat: Pasta, Stews, Wine, Bread
Stay: Old Farmhouse Hotels / AirBnBs
See: Vineyards, Florence, Old Tuscan Villages, Rolling Hills
Full visit guide – open here
Cuba, the Caribbean destination for culture, history, Cadillac’s and true escapism. Although it’s not got the reputation of the nearby islands for luxury five star retreats and resorts, it offers so much more in the experiences and opportunities you can digest whilst exploring this magical isle.
Never has there been a better time to visit and experience the mix of faded and crumbling Spanish colonial architecture, a dose of communism, white sand beaches and dancing Salsa and drinking rum until the sun goes down. In the last decade, private enterprise has been given the green-light and so many Cuban entrepreneurs have started to offer new opportunities for visitors. From private tours in a vintage Chevrolet to delicious food served in someone’s own casa, there’s a lot more to sample, straight from the locals themselves.
A pastel paradise, Cuba is a destination for people who enjoy travelling but also can adapt to the unexpected and be prepared to slow right down and appreciate an unhurried way of life. While we were there, we got used to we came to call ‘Cuban time’. A little longer to be served, an extended wait to buy a ticket or the complexities that came with getting from A to B. However for us, all this added to the charm of being able to explore a country that seems to be hovering between the past and present.
Havana is an enchanting maze of a city, which we first glimpsed from the old Spanish fort El Morro situated across the bay, overlooking the vast capital. Instantly from afar we could see the patchwork of different architectures all woven together, Colonial, Gothic, American and Russian, illustrating the complex history of Cuba in just a glance.
We found the best way to explore Havana was on foot, weaving our way through the crumbling and pastel lined cobbled streets. Stop to absorb everything you have seen in the many bohemian bars, wander into the art-deco hotel Hemingway made his home for months and stand in one of the many squares that represent the different times and layers of history that have shaped this city like no other.
Our top sights included the Malecon seafront, the Plaza Vieja Square, Plaza de la Revolution and the old town. You should also make an effort to explore the less regenerated area of Centro Habana, in order to get a true feel of life and reality for many Cubans. It is filled with an energy and buzz, away from the crowded tourist hotspots, and showcases the less polished side of the capital, away from the pastel cafes and restored main squares.
Visit: December – April
Eat: Cuban Sandwich, Rice in Black Beans, Vaca Frita, Pastelitos
Stay: Homestay or classic beach front hotel
See: Havana, Cardenas, Varadero, Trinidad
Morocco – Marrakech
Listed as Trip Advisor’s Destination of the Year for 2015, Marrakech is an incredible sensory experience, from the warm smell of rich spices to incredible views of dusky red buildings and city walls situated in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains.
The heart of the magical city, the Medina, is bustling with excitement and history, and a maze of winding alleyways filled with souks, street food stalls and hidden Riads. If we had been alone, I am certain we would have found ourselves lost within the narrow passages, although that wouldn’t have been a bad thing. We could have stayed in the souks for hours, you could discover a new sight, smell or sound there every minute you walked around.
The city is home to many peaceful and lush gardens, which are perfect to unwind in after a morning in the medina. If you have some time, you can always take a carriage ride around several of the serene gardens to take them all in at once.
Also, make sure you head out to the Atlas Mountains, for a camping experience under the stars.
Visit: February – May
Eat: Cous Cous, Tagine, Mint Tea
Stay: Riads in the centre
See: Atlas Mountains, Medina, Souks, Spas
Argentina is a sprawling natural wonderland, filled with peaks, forests and the lively city of buenos aires, there’s just so much to see in this incredible South American country.
Watch tango, explore the markets and enjoy good food in a local restaurant whilst people watching. Get out of the city to explore the natural waterfalls, Andes Mountain range and the huge range of wildlife. Spot penguins, whales, giant anteaters and more!
Head to Patagonia, the Perito Moreno Glacier and the south to truly immerse yourself in this naturally outstanding country. Especially if you’re a big fan of winter sports.
In the capital, there are heaps of vintage bookstores, creative boutiques and local stores and bars to sip on a cocktail under the sun.
Visit: Depending on where Argentina is a year-round destination
Eat: Chimichurri, Empanadas, Mate, Steak, Barbecue
Stay: Depends where you are based!
See: As much as you truly can, you need at least two weeks to see the best of the country
Australia – Great Ocean Road
Drive along the coast of the wild southern ocean via winding narrow roads, small rainforests and amazing clifftop viewpoints. situated just a short distance from Melbourne, head out and explore all the striking coastal landscapes Victoria has to offer.
The Great Ocean Road consists of 243km of incredible landscapes, terrains and wildlife. Although it could technically be driven end to end in around six hours, I would really recommend doing this over several days to allow you to enjoy and experience the different sections of the route.
You will stop at world class surfing beaches, witness Koala’s and Kangaroos in the wild, and get to wander through lush tropical rainforests on your way to see the Twelve Apostle’s and other iconic sites towards the end of the route.
Visit: November – January
Eat: Whole foods, vegan treats, and fresh seafood
Stay: Beacon Point Ocean View Villas
See: 12 Apostles, Wildlife, Apollo Bay, Rainforests, Surfing, Lighthouses
Download my free visit guide here
Moscow – Russia
Somewhere I visited fleetingly but it left such a longing to go back it had to make this list. A historical city, sprawling out from the Kremlin and Red Square through to majestic surrounding streets, and tall imposing architecture.
Explore retro clubs and cafes nodding to the soviet era, experience luxury afternoon tea in fine dining restaurants and bars. Wander through ornate shopping malls and discover colourful hidden gems, historic fortresses and huge cathedrals dotted all across the city.
Visit: March – June
Eat: Pelmeni, Borshch, Pirozhki and luxury dining
Stay: Ritz Moscow
See: Kremlin, Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Bolshoi Theatre, The Ornate Subway, Alexander Garden, State Museum.