Choosing the destination can be THE hardest part of any trip. Here are a few lists to get your wanderlust cranking, and click here for destinations we advise you steer clear of.
Great Times, No Worries
Great times guaranteed without too much to worry about
- Train/Hostel through Europe or Japan
Striking Beauty & Culture
Great regions that are compact, have lots to see and aren't inundated with tourists
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta of Colombia's Coast - amazing mountains meeting perfect beaches, or Merida across the border in Venezuela
The Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, plus North-East Turkey) - deserts, mountains, churches, mosques and lots of wine/vodka
Jordan/Lebanon/Israel - don't be put off, amazing
North Laos/Vietnam - difficult and bumpy transport, unique and beautiful region
Central Sulawesi and Eastern Indonesia - a whole world to explore
Southern Africa - best with your own transport: Deserts to Vic falls to Great White shark dives
Honorary mentions: Chilean lake district and Patagonia (very south), Cape Verde (little expensive, but part hikers/bikers paradise) and Yunnan province (Xishuangbanna is over-rated, but mountains around Dali are not) in China.
Less Travelled Countries We Adore
Anywhere in the Middle East, apart from Syria that is.
Leave the SE Asian mainland crowds behind and check out the amazing Philippines and South West China
Ethiopia, Uganda, & forgotten Kenya including Lamu Island
Neglected Europe: Romania/Bulgaria/Macedonia/Serbia/Georgia
Mozambique (parts away from South Africa), Cameroon & Zimbabwe
Honorary mentions: Dominica, Cuba and Israel/Jordan. In South America try Venezuela. If you really want less travelled countries head to West Africa or Central Asia, but they are not particularly pleasant to backpack in. The advice is: don't worry about it - even in the most visited countries you can always find gems if you have the time.
Ancient Wonders Of The World
Best Places To Beach-Out
- South Africa
Places That Make You Happy To Be Alive
Some cities or hang-outs that make you feel amazed and happy to be alive...
The great cities of Europe (London, Paris, Krakow, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Venice/Rome)
Jerusalem, rather a lot in a small area, or New York, a modern wonder of the world
South America: Cusco in Peru, Valparaiso in Chile, San Agustin/Zona Cafetera in Colombia and Merida in Venezuela
Okay it doesn't come for free. You'll certainly spend more time/money than you wished, but if you are looking for some fun try these are great places to start
Greek Islands and Turkish Coast
Thailand (especially the islands and Bangkok) and Boracay, Philippines
Carnival! (the week before Lent). New Orleans, Barranquilla (Colombia), Northern Germany, Port of Spain (Trinidad), Brazil or Santiago de Cuba (this one is over the summer)
Jamaica (Negril) although crowds can be too much
Bay Islands, Honduras. Get 'yer scuba on or just party like an Aussie.
Top Tourist Traps, But Deservedly So
Agra (home of India's Taj Mahal)
Florence, Venice and Rome
New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, New Orleans, London, Paris, Amsterdam and Sydney
Nepal & Thailand's islands and beaches
Northern Tanzania Safari circuit /Zanzibar Island
Honorary mentions: Bolivia's 'death road' out of La Paz, Edinburgh, Romania's Transylvania with its rolling hills, mountains and medieval towns and castles, Bali and the Gili Islands, Kyoto and Gyeongju, Korea.
Natural Wonders of the World
Almost any major mountain range or altiplano in the world. For accessibility the Himalayas in Nepal and, more so the Alps. For extra wow and isolation theKarakoram, the Pamir highway or Kyrgyzstan 'the Switzerland of Central Asia'. The Switzerland of Europe isn't bad either.
Stunning Islands: Jamaica/Dominica (and much or the Caribbean), Fraser Island (Australia) and Santo Antão (Cape Verde).
America's amazing national parks inc. Yosemite, Alaska and South West national parks (the Grand Canyon & Bryce Canyon NP the most notable)
Great Barrier Reef or any big coral reef - Red sea is fantastic so are the waters off Thailand, Belize, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines
New Zealand's fiordland, or similar examples in Norway, Iceland or Chile
Honorary mentions: Iguazu Falls on Brazilian/Argentinean border, Namibia's Namib-Naukluft National Park plus Skeleton Coast & the Egyptian White Desert, Ha Long bay, The karst formations near Guilin and Uluru (Ayres Rock).
Fantastic Places To Unwind
On a boat - Mekong, Niger or YangtzeKiang slow boat and Nile Feluccas (probably best to avoid public vessels if you want to chill)
On the beach - Varkala, Goa (India), Bay Islands (Honduras) or Ko Taoet al. (Small (touristy) Thai island)
Surreal Places & Landscapes
Hong Kong Island (an odd mixture of British and Chinese) and any one of the toilet restaurants to be found in North East Asia.
There are all sorts of people in all sorts of places, but the following countries are well-known for the kindness and hospitality of their population.
Iran, Pakistan (Northern areas) and Bangladesh
Ghana, Zimbabwe, Dominica & Sudan
India/Nepal (in the right places/circumstances)
Georgia & Turkey
Honorary mentions: Cuba and Ethiopia. As a general rule of thumb, the more travellers the less friendly people get. So head off the beaten track and venture to destinations most would be put off visiting. There are many such suggestions above.
For The Adventurous Traveler
Not really that dangerous, but a bad rap with the west or infant tourism keeps many travellers away...
Myanmar & Indonesia- areas off the tourist trail
Serbia & Bosnia along with other vast 'out of vogue' areas of Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine which is (apart from the break away region) super cheap and a great country.
The Caucasus (specifically Georgia) Iran and North Eastern Turkey
Caribbean South America: Colombia & Venezuela
Honorary mentions: Most of the Middle East, The Xinjiang mountains (China)
Great Train Journeys
Europe's best (and priciest): Any thing in Switzerland down Lake Geneva on in Jungfrau region or special trains like the 'Glacier Express'. Norway's Bergen to Oslo is well-known for many reasons - it's stunning.
Trans Siberian/Mongolian: Moscow to (generally) Beijing, passing through some of the worlds most remote places for days on end.
Africa's best: Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) to (almost) Lusaka (Zambia): pass through pristine African bush for two days and a night - better value than the raved about Nairobi to Mombasa line. Get off at Mbeya to travel Malawi. Or for the adventous: Dakar (Senegal) to Bamako (Mali): an out-of-this world 30-36 hours - very hard work, may leave you mentally scarred!
South America: From Calama (Chile) to Uyuni (Bolivia): a cold at times high-altitude lunar type experience.
Honorary mentions: Any train journey in India or China, Japan's Shinkansen (bullet) trains which with a rail pass are quite affordable, without - ridiculously expensive.
Amazing Buildings of the World
Taj Mahal, India
Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Most of the old city of Jerusalem
Colosseum and old city of Rome, Italy
Honorary mentions: Vatican City, The Forbidden City (China), Palace of Versailles (France), Hampi (India), Grand Palace in Bangkok, Temples of Japan (Nara and Kyoto) and Sagrada Familia (Barcelona). Plus, not really buildings, but extremely impressive - the Eiffel Tower, The Banaue Rice Terraces (Philippines) Baha'i Gardens (Israel), Venice (Italy) and Mount Rushmore (USA).
Ukraine, Indonesia, Bolivia, Argentina and South Africa
Iran, Cuba and Ghana
Iceland, although still expensive by almost any standards the economic melt-down has made it at least on par with the rest of Western Europe.
As always: India/Pakistan/Nepal/Sri Lanka/Bangladesh
Honorary mentions: as the dollar is still good value, countries with dollar fixed currencies are getting much cheaper, i.e. Ecuador, Panama (plus most of Central America and much of the Caribbean).