The end of the December is the time when to reflect on the travels of the year. This has been a truly special year, as I have done two road trips in the USA and one super-journey to Seychelles. Of course, there were numerous smaller trips in Europe, but the top 15 will be based on vacation trips only, the most memorable beautiful places. Some of these places I have mentioned before and some I am mentioning for the first time. As always, the author of all pictures is my husband.
15. Adirondacks, state of New York
If you are not afraid of small bugs, Adirondacks are a must! This place hosts one of the American North Poles, which begins to operate every year in summer, as well as Lake Placid of the Olympic Games is here. From the Whiteface Mountain observation deck you can see skyscrapers of Montreal. Since we arrived in the evening, the deck was closed, so I will be returning to this place in the future. Despite the enormous amount of bugs, this place is gorgeous.
14. Disneyland, Florida
They say Disneyland is suitable for all ages. I wouldn’t quite agree with such saying, but it truly was one of the most beautiful places I saw this year. As soon as it gets dark, thousands of bulbs turn on. They shine from the walls and signs, and even more in the Electrical parade. The fireworks are beautiful too. Both grownups and kids will find it beautiful, but still most fun it’s going to be for kids.
13. Celebration Town, Florida
I’ve heard many rumors about this town, for example that only those passing an interview may buy a property here. In reality no one interviews anyone, and if you have the funds, you are welcome to buy. Everyone with not enough funds is still welcome to visit and spend a day without hurry. It’s a small, charming town with a café serving incredibly tasty ice cream, nice restaurants, statuesque hotel and a sizable pond in the center. Definitely the best spot for walking in the Orlando vicinity.
12. Washington, District of Columbia
Being the winner of the National Geographic Latvia first ever travel story contest I was awarded a unique opportunity to go to Washington and visit the headquarters of the magazine. Impressions from the editorial office of course were a major reason for the placement in the top, but also the city itself is memorable as extremely clean and orderly, with an immense amount of free museums and other places to see.
11. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, the pearl of the South, with noble buildings, imperial cemetery and vast parks! I did not expect to be wooed by this place so much! Definitely there are bad neighborhoods too, where we did not dare to stop and take out our camera, but the city center was extremely pleasant. And, I’ve never seen so fat squirrels anywhere else!
10. Sunshine Skyway, Florida
The enormous bridge in Florida is a place where hundreds of pelicans live. They are almost not afraid of the people, and are very used to anglers (and scrounging the fish from them!), walk around slowly and seemingly half-asleep observe the surroundings.
9. Seneca Rock, West Virginia
The rock itself may not be as mighty, but the view from the observation deck really is amazing! Garnished mountains, vast meadows, it’s an amazing place to have a pick nick! You must be mindful of the climb though, as we came unprepared. It’s quite much farther than it seems, but it is definitely worth it!
8. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah was the second “layers” park that we visited this year. Hazy peaks in the distance, abundant wildlife and the opportunity to see black bears nearby is just a bit of what this park has to offer!
7. Tybee Island, Georgia
It’s the place where inhabitants of Savannah come to relax. You get to see fun sights due to the tides, for example an enormous sign in the middle of a sandy field stating „Danger, risk of drowning beyond this point”, small “ponds” where sometimes a lone fish is lost, and oysters.
We had some issues with parking here, as we paid the fee, but did not get the ticket. I already started writing a note when the parking inspector arrived, told me it’s a good idea in such cases and got my ticket out of the machine, where it was stuck behind the cover. We chatted a bit about Superbowl and then went on to the beach, no longer worried about possible fine.
6. Sanibel & Captiva islands, Florida
These islands are among the best shelling locations in the North America and worldwide, due to currents pushing them out to the land. After I wrote about this place earlier in the year, some Latvian tourist agencies even started offering organized groups to Sanibel!
Coincidentally we visited this place on a Valentine’s day, and it’s difficult to imagine a more romantic setting – shelling at the sunrise, having key lime pie for lunch, walking on the beach and observing the dolphins, sunset and the view of an eagle protecting it’s nest with the Moon in the background.
5. Santa Rosa Island, Florida
Santa Rosa was a place we hadn’t planned visiting and heard about it for the first time when driving through it. It’s on the way from New Orleans to Clearwater, if you don’t pick the interstates and driver as close to the water, as possible. It’s a very narrow island and on several occasions we could see water on both sides simultaneously. Bleach white sand and turquoise water, almost no other visitors, light wind and bright sun. This was also the day when I found out that I became the winner of the National Geographic Latvia travel story contest.
4. Niagara Falls, the border of USA and Canada
I’ve seen the falls before from the Canadian side, but this year I had the opportunity to see them from the States side as well as once from the Canadian. It was very difficult to make any decent pictures, as from one side a man from India kept putting his head into the lenses, and from the other, a Korean woman was poking the tripod with a purse, even after multiple pleas to stop. So we watched a beautiful light show in this hostile environment, but it really is worth to see. You do have to count on vast tourist masses.
This is also the place where another special event took place. On the next day, when my husband saw my pink dress, he said it’s fine as long as no one wants to take a picture with me. And few hours later I had my “extremely tall, white celebrity” moment, when a bunch of Asian women wanted to take a picture with me and not the falls. Too bad we did not make a picture with our own camera too! So unless I stumble upon it somewhere on the internet as “the pink giantess”, it’s forever lost.
3. Georgia Aquarium, Georgia
One of my dreams came true this year; I finally got the aquarium of the aquariums in Atlanta, Georgia. Aquariums are the kinds of places where I can sit at the glass wall and observe whale sharks and stingray for hours. My love for all things underwater started with aquariums, then snorkeling and now has grown into diving. I hope to see a whale shark in the wild, but this dream still is to be reached, so for now I have to be content with the whale sharks.
2. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
On a gray day, as gray as they get we were at the Smoky Mountains National Park. It was drizzling, the clouds were low and you couldn’t see a thing. It’s a good thing we decided to stay one more night next to the park in Pigeon Forge and try again! Oh, boy, did we get lucky! Dark forest covered in frost seemed blue and the pictures we took that day are some of the most amazing we’ve ever made!
1. The beaches in Seychelles
Although all of the previous locations were in USA, but there is one another place that deserves to be on the top. The most beautiful trip of the year was definitely to Seychelles, where we got married. It’s difficult to say which of the beaches was the most beautiful, as all of them were breathtaking. It could be famous Anse Source D’argent, or Anse Lazio with trees in full bloom. Or the amazing beach on the Silhouette island, where we had our ceremony. The underwater world was heavenly, and exactly what you would expect of the Indian Ocean – turtles, thousands of colorful fish and sharks. Unfortunately we did not see a whale shark, but we got lucky and saw bio luminescent plankton and the Milky Way in its full delight.