Which are the most beautiful places that I visited this year? I hope that this article will inspire you to find new destinations to visit!
The year was full of travels – I flew exactly 75 flight segments and spent over 95 nights sleeping in the hotels. I added 5 new countries to my “visited” list, which is now 54 total. Malta, Argentina, Brasil, Belgium and Svalbard (in most lists considered separately from Norway). I also visited quite a few places I had been to before!
If you are interested in seeing the lists from previous years, you can find them all here:
15. Wieliczka Salt Mine, Krakow, Poland
I have visited Poland many times, and this year I finally had a chance to go to Krakow to see the salt mines, which are part of the UNESCO world heritage list and goes 327 m deep! It was a funny coincidence that I got a chance to go there twice in two days! I was mostly impressed by the great chapel, but also the various long hallways were impressive. Definitely worth a visit, if you are in the area, and be sure to have a meal in the underground restaurant!
14. Google headquarters, Mountain View, California, USA
I had to pinch myself when I heard that I was going to Google headquarters! I did visit USA three times this year, doing a bit of shopping in Kentucky and Ohio, visiting New York, Texas and finally California, but Google trip was the most unexpected one for me! Not only I got a chance to visit the Merchandise store (open for public), and ride the colorful Google bike, I also got a chance to see inside. For various reasons, no pictures from inside, but the second best – one from the yard!
13. Hamburg, Germany
If I am not mistaken, I have made at least 12 trips to Hamburg this year! Could I call myself an expert of the city? Not a all! I usually have just a few hours to spare, but I do try to make the most of what I have. This year I took a boat trip in the harbor to see the Elbphilharmonie from water, as well as the rich people’s houses nearby and the picturesque warehouse area. In October I had a wonderful walk around Elbphilharmonie on land, it was a warm evening, about 25 degrees, sunny and we did the GPS adventure in Germany known as ipad rallye, walking around Spice museum and the surrounding area for about 1.5h, doing small quizzes and having tons of fun! For Christmas, I returned to do the exact same activity – just in a different area, the famous red light district of Hamburg, Reeperbahn. We also paid a visit to the kinky Santa Pauli market, allowing us to explore “St.Pauli colored” Christmas, where apart from regular toys you can buy also different kind of toys, as well as see a show or two. It is called one of the most unusual Christmas markets in Europe not without a reason!
12. Intrepid Sea & Space Museum, New York, USA
This spring one of my long time dreams came true – I got a chance to see the first space shuttle prototype Enterprise. My love for space shuttles started back in 2013, when I did my first grand road trip on the West coast, seeing Endeavour in LA. The year after I saw Atlantis in Kennedy Center in Florida, and then same year Discovery in Washington (thanks to winning National Geographic travel story of the year!) Enterprise is located in Intrepid Sea & Space museum in New York. As a Star Trek fan, I just couldn’t miss it! I got lucky, on that day the museum guide was especially knowledgeable and friendly, so I spent about 30 min discussing NASA space program with him! And, Enterprise wasn’t the only NASA object I saw this year, there is another one later in my list! If you are planning to visit New York, check out this blog post about things to do there!
I had been thinking of going to Malta for quite some time, so when the opportunity presented itself in August, I was very happy to jump on board! It was slightly different trip than the ones I usually take, with my girlfriends! We spent a week enjoying ourselves, staying at the pool, visiting the most known historic sites, eating seafood and having tons of fun in Malta and Gozo! Check out this article to find out more information on things to do in Malta!
10. Buenos Aires, Argentina
When it is cold and misty in Europe, it is time to go to Argentina! November in Buenos Aires is the time of spring – the temperature can reach even 25 degrees, bright purple jacarandas are starting to bloom and it smells like flowers! Visiting Buenos Aires was part of our 2.5 week long trip we took with “Dabas Tūres“, a Latvian tour agency, and the full travel story is coming soon!
9. Istanbul, Turkey
Seeing the famous Turkish tulips was a long time dream of my grandmother, so I invited her and my mom on a spring adventure in Istanbul. This was my 5th time in this city, and just a few months later I visited for the 6th time! But definitely, 5th time’s a charm, as it was the most memorable of my visits. In some of the sights we even booked a guide to find out more about the places, and I feel like I saw them from a different side. I am no foodie, but Turkish food is absolutely out of this world! If you would like to find out more about things to do in Istanbul, head here!
8. “Deep”East Texas – Nacogdoches, Kilgore, Texas, USA
This definitely was a year of making sure other people get their dreams – my brother got a trip to Texas as his graduation present from me. Our plan was to visit some of his friends, so apart from staying in Austin, Houston and Galveston, we explored a lesser known “deep” East Texas, seeing ranchos, oil pumps, cowboy hats & boots in action and meeting super friendly people! And, there is plenty to see from nature’s perspective as well! Beautiful cypress trees growing in water in Big Thicket National Preserve is something worth an “honorable mention”! If you are curious to know more about my second visit to Texas, read more here!
7. Peninsula Valdes – seals & Magellanic penguins colony, Patagonia, Argentina
I had seen penguins and seals in the zoo, obviously. I even had seen seals very far in the distance in nature (Svalbard), but near Trelew, peninsula Valdes (which is a UNESCO heritage site), I got a chance to see these animals up close and in the wild! As well as many more!
This was also part of our trip to Argentina with “Dabas Tūres“. Full travel story soon!
6. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, USA
“Houston, we have a problem” is something everyone has heard about. Finally I got a chance to see the enormous and famous Johnson NASA center in Houston! It is a working NASA center, so while on an excursion, you actually can see scientists and engineers working, and might even see some astronauts training for their space walk in the astronaut training pool or getting accustomed to the small living quarters in the main training center! You can see the Boeing that was used to carry the space shuttles and learn all the latest on NASA in Mission updates presentation! Surprisingly, near the space center we also saw one of the most beautiful natural areas we saw this year – a stunning alley! More on Texas here.
5. Iguazu waterfall, Argentina & Brazil
I had heard about Iguazu already long ago, it almost became one of my destinations back in 2015, but in the end I opted to go to Cuba instead. But this year I had a chance to see the magnificent 275 cascades with my own eyes both from Brazil and Argentine sides! The power of water is immense here! The nature is stunning as well – we saw toucans and hummingbirds here in the wild! While the falls are located at the Argentine side, you can see them better from Brazil, but I would recommend seeing both sides, as crossing a border is not that difficult here! This was another part of the trip we took with “Dabas Tūres“, and full travel story to follow soon.
4. Ibera marshes, Argentina
My first question to Marcos, the owner of San Juan Poriahu was “what about internet around here?”. I know, pretty stupid, but I had promised to share as much as I can with my followers on Instagram stories and one does need internet for that! Turns out, no internet here, and no cellular network either, as the communication tower was hit by lightning and when it would be fixed, noone knows. In the end, these were some of the most incredible three days of my year, a real “digital detox” without any interruptions, no email, no calls, just bird chatter before sunrise waking you up every day, and bell ringing announcing communal meals (which we ate from hand painted plates with incredibly beautiful birds, done by Marcos’s sister). This area, located in Ibera marshes, is famous for birds and wildlife. And that’s what we did! We saw caimans from the boat just nearby, we rode horses, seeing hundreds of the 2500 cattle living here, hoarded by real Argentine gauchos. In the evenings we saw owls, lightning bugs and skies full of stars, and in the mornings and evenings we hopped into Marcos’s car to look for rare birds in this area. He is the most knowledgeable bird guide I have met in my life, and he showed us all the treasures of his land, where some birds are marked “only seen in Estancia San Juan Poriahu” in Argentine bird guide.
Estancia used to be Jesuit mission, and two of the master bedrooms in the main house are decorated in a manor style, which adds to the experience. But to me the most cherished memory of this trip is the last evening here, looking for the strange tailed tyrant (an unusual bird with its tail seemingly upside down), the final rays of sun illuminating the marshes, standing back to the car and discussing something with Marcos, looking at the birds in the distance.
This is a place I want to come back to some day. Without a doubt. Spend a month or two here, enjoying the wilderness and writing without interruptions. We visited Ibera marshes as a part of the Argentine spring tour we did with “Dabas Tūres“. Full story to be published soon!
This year it was especially hard to choose one best place. So as in sports, I have three shared places from 1 to 3. These are locations that have changed me, my perception of travel and left me with memories that I will never forget!
On our first big trip of the year we decided to do a small side-trip, visiting Tromso in Norway. We had one aim, to see the northern lights in the world’s northern light capital. And we did! I will never forget the excitement I felt when I saw the bright green tails in the sky! It was so much more than what I had hoped for! I still see auroras in my dreams sometimes.
The cold Norwegian winter, when you really need hand warmers and a thermos with tea, still left us impressed beyond belief. Snow capped mountains, deserted rocky beaches with crystal clear water and sunny skies. Read more about Tromso here.
“We might be able to get into Global Seed vault”. Was all I needed to do to drop all my plans. And that’s what I did, declining not one, but two other trips offered at the same time. Luckily, I was able to do one of the other trips later in the year, and the second one, hopefully, if not in 2019, then 2020!
Visiting Svalbard was a glimpse into a different world. In intrigued me not just because of everything I had heard or read before, but because it is relatively unknown to most of tourists, as it is very remote, very cold and very dark. We visited with the first rays of sun in February, and here I learned to appreciate the beauty of cold worlds. After seeing Svalbard I realized that visiting Arctic circle locations is actually something I might be interested in doing more of in the future! But seeing the bright blue ice of the glacier while riding a snowmobile, is a memory I will always cherish. Who could have thought ice can be this stunning?! And yes, we did get inside the Global Seed Vault, off limits for most, and we even made a small video about out trip!
1. Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina
Finally, the one place that really took my breath away and I will remember it no matter what happens in the future. Is Perito Moreno glacier the most beautiful place I have seen in my life? Quite possibly! This has been the year of starting to love ice for me. And the scale of this ice is something as I had never seen before.
Between snowy peaks, on a cloudy day, suddenly the skies start clearing. We walk a pathway to the glacier, surrounded by bright green trees with fresh leaves that smell faintly of pine after the mists and rains of spring in Patagonia. And then, as in a wedding ceremony, when groom sees the bride for the first time, the famous “first look”, we see the magnificent ice. Blue. White. Cracked. Whole. So unbelievable large. And it is not keeping quiet, as it is like a small thunder, cracking under pressure. Moving further. Pieces falling down into the brightest blue Largo Argentino, rumbling through the valley. Three hours is just not enough to spend here. I would not get bored of looking at it every day. I would want to get to know every crack it has, walk on it’s surface, swim to it in a boat and learn the name of every bird that lives here. That is how out of this world beautiful Perito Moreno glacier is!
I am very happy that we did choose to do the one last trip this year after having done several extensive trips earlier in spring and summer, as Argentina with “Dabas Tūres” was worth every minute spent there! More on Perito Moreno and Patagonia in the blog very soon!
If you are interested in seeing the lists from previous years, you can find them all here: