Ten places I would like to visit in 2016
“Where do you find inspiration for your travels?” people often ask me.
“Anywhere,” I say. “It can be a book I am reading, a story I have heard, a conversation with a fellow traveler, a documentary I have seen on tv.”
But I would lie if I didn’t say that, as of late, my biggest inspiration for my travels came from a number of other blogs I follow and a few good Instagram accounts who post stunning picture after stunning picture. Talk about the power of blogs and social media when marketing a destination! Yes, I admit it: reading a bunch of posts and seeing some fantastic pictures of some destinations has been influencing my travel plans.
Furthermore, I have lately come to terms with my obsession for volcanoes. There is something about them that draws my attention and if I can express one wish for 2016, I’d say that I wish to hike many more volcanoes. The good news for me, in this case, is that I don’t have to travel too far to find them. Italy itself is home to at least 10 active volcanoes.
Drawing from my old passion for adventure travel, hiking and archeology and for the curiosity instilled in me by travel blogs and social media, I have been thinking that I should really narrow down the number of places I would like to visit this year (“Keep it realistic!” I keep telling myself). The fact that quite a few of them are close to each other (and not too far from where I live) gives me hope that I will manage to visit them all.
So, let me cut the chase and name 10 places that I am really keen on visiting in 2016, divided by continent.
South East Asia
South East Asia has been on my radar for a while now. Last October I have visited the continent for the first time, going on a crazy 3 weeks trip across Indonesia that left me longing to visit more of this incredible part of the world. So, my plan for 2016 is to see more of it.
Read more about Indonesia and the many things to do there on my post “Fantastic Things to do in Indonesia.”
Traveling to continental South East Asia seems fairly easy, as transportation works quite well there, plus there are a number of budget airlines that offer very cheap flights. My idea is to spend a month wandering around, during which I will probably only manage to scratch the surface of the many incredible sights this part of the world has to offer. There’s two main places I would like to visit in South East Asia.
The Sapa Valley in Vietnam
The first country I would like to visit in 2016 is Vietnam: the mixture of interesting history, unique culture and minority groups, buzzing cities and incredible natural sites is what attracts me to it. If I had to pick one place in Vietnam that I wouldn’t want to miss during my trip, I would say the Sapa Valley. Cascading rice terraces, mountains, small villages where people still follow a traditional life style, colorful markets, and the possibility to go on amazing hikes: it seems that Sapa Valley has all that I look for in a destination! I have even found the perfect tour operator that may organize my trip there – Vietnam Discovery offers a great range of tours, including excellent in depth tours of Sapa.
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
I love visiting archeological site and I would never dare going to South East Asia without planning a visit to Angkor Wat, the most famous UNESCO protected site of Cambodia. The Khmers’ national symbol is a fantastic example of architecture, the epicenter of their civilization and it is little wonder why Cambodian are so proud of it. My plan is to spend at least 3 days wondering the entire complex of Angkor and one of them would be definitely used to visit it at sunrise, to admire it under a special light.
Europe is an incredibly varied continent, with landscapes that span from the picture perfect beaches of Sardinia to the astonishing fjords of Norway. Europe has a lot to offer to its visitors, and despite the reputation of being incredibly expensive for travelers, with a few tricks and research it is possible to visit it even on a limited budget. Eurorail passes connect the entire continent and budget airlines make traveling cheap and easy. I intend to explore more of Europe this year and I have a few places in mind to check out.
Read more about my beloved Sardinia on my post “Beyond the Sea: fantastic things to do in Sardinia other than going to the beach.”
Meteora in Greece
I am embarrassed to admit that, despite having been to Greece 3 times already, I haven’t made it to Meteora yet. Ages ago, when social media didn’t exist and internet wasn’t really a thing, I saw a documentary about it and thought it would be a great place to visit, yet for some reason I had this idea that it would be almost impossible to get there, thinking it would be too remote and isolated. Yet this UNESCO World Heritage Site intrigued me.
I then started researching and reading around (bless the many blogs I follow) and realized Meteora is less than a 4 hours drive from Athens, there are many lovely villages to stay nearby, and several hiking trails to get to the many monasteries. There even is a monk jail – how weird and interesting is that?
Bergamo in Italy
I have resolved to visit more of Italy in 2016. Despite having lived in Italy most of my life, the fact that Italy has way so many interesting places to explore means I only know a limited amount of them. Big cities and smaller villages, museums, archeological sites, fantastic mountains, incredible coastline and regional cuisine, Italy really has it all.
One city I am curious to explore but that doesn’t get much attention from travelers is Bergamo, a lovely hilltop town that owes much of its architectural splendor to the influence of Venice. I don’t know much about Bergamo, aside from the fact that it is divided in two main parts: Bergamo Alta which crowns the hill with its cluster of medieval and renaissance buildings, and the more modern Bergamo Bassa below. I am curios to find out more, and the good news is that thanks to In Lombardia I will have a chance to tour the city and its surrounding for a few days in February.
Etna volcano in Italy
In the course of time I have become more and more interested in volcanoes. I have hiked Cerro Negro in Nicaragua, Volcán Pacaya in Guatemala and Mount Bromo in Indonesia. Find out more about my adventure on Mount Bromo, Indonesia, on my post “Ring of fire or circle of hell?” There’s at least 10 active volcanoes in Italy, which is home Mount Etna, towering at 3370 meters above sea level.
Etna is incredibly active and photographers from around the world try to capture the incredible show of its eruptions. It is only fair that I put together my interest in volcanoes, my addiction to hiking and the love for my country together and pay a visit to Mount Etna – anybody can agree on that! Read more about my passion for volcanoes and Nicaragua on my post “Awesome things to do in Nicaragua.”
Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland
Following on with my interest in volcanoes, one of my biggest wishes for 2016 is to visit Iceland and hike Eyjafjallajökull. Perhaps by the time I go (hopefully in the summer) I will be able to pronounce the name of the volcano that kept Europe ransom for a good while in the spring of 2010. Rumor has it that the hike to its crater is one of the best in the world and I simply don’t want to miss on that. And I would not miss a chance to stopover in Reykjavik.
Teide volcano in Tenerife (Spain)
The Canary Islands are pretty easy to reach from Europe, and it is even easier to travel around them as – well – they are part of Europe and I wouldn’t have to bother with issues such as exchange rate (have I ever mentioned I am hopeless at math?). Lots of Europeans choose to spend their Tenerife Holidays. My trip there wouldn’t be so much of a vacation: I would go there to quench my thirst for adventure, and with First Choice that would be an easy task. Tenerife has some unique landscapes and nature. It is home to the Teide volcano, whose 3718 meters summit is the highest peak in Spain as well as the highest peak of any of the islands on the Atlantic. By now it is pretty clear that I want my 2016 to be much more about hiking and exploring volcanoes so inserting the fairly close Teide in the places I want to visit in 2016 seems quite obvious!
Aushwitz and Birkenau in Poland
Interestingly enough, I am writing this post on the Day of Remembrance, when Italy pays its respect to the millions of people who died in concentration camps during World War II. The thought of the cruelty that other human beings have gone through, of the constant violations of even the most basic human rights that still occur in the world has shaped much of who I am today – I have worked as a human rights lawyer and spent most of my life doing research for universities and non-governmental organizations.
My interest in visiting Poland and the concentration camps dates back to time immemorial. It is just something I have to do because of who I am and of what I have done all my life, a place I must visit to keep the memory of those who died there alive, to pay them my respect.
I am not sure how I may react to a visit to the concentration camps. My friend Clelia, who visited them last September, felt nothing, in what almost seemed as post traumatic stress disorder kind of reaction. Her total lack of emotions (which I interpreted as simply too many emotions to be let out) is well expressed in a beautiful post on her blog, which can be read here. What would visiting the concentration camps mean to me, considering the impact human rights issues have had on my whole life? I need to go and find out.
I am on the constant lookout for good flight deals. I have subscribed to all the major airlines newsletters so I get regular updates on their offers. With a bit of research and good planning, flying to the other side of the world can actually be cheaper than one would imagine. I will keep monitoring prices in the hope that I manage to get some cheap ticket to cross the Atlantic and go on further exploration of the Americas. I have a few places under my radar.
Banff National Park in Canada
The fact that someone like me, who is generally obsessed with South America, eventually develops an interest in Canada is the proof that social media have an incredible power in marketing and selling a destination to even the most reluctant. For a while now, each time I open my Instagram feed I see photo after photo of the incredible work of nature that is Banff National Park in Canada. Alright, I get it and yes: I want to go!
Mountains, lakes that reflect the view of the snowcapped peaks, forests of a million shades of green, wildlife that includes bears, charming chalets and quiet little towns and infinite possibilities for adventures. I can’t wait to make my way there and hike around.
Mendoza in Argentina
I have already been to Argentina twice. There are so many things to do in Argentina, and the country is so vaste, that I doubt I will ever tire of it. During my last visit I spent a few days in Mendoza, enjoying the city and wandering around the vineyards, having one too many glasses of fantastic Malbec. Needless to say, I want to drink more of it (and no, drinking it from the comfort of my home in Italy is not nearly the same thing) and I want to spend a good amount of time there so that I can also do a proper wine tasting course, enjoy the harvest festival and have a chance to hike the mighty Cerro Aconcagua.
Read more about Argentina and the many things it has to offer on my post “Great things to do in Argentina.”
It remains to be seen whether I will be able to really visit all of these places or if I will have to postpone some of these destinations further away in the future and the only way to find out is to stay tuned and keep following my adventures!
Where are your travel plans for 2016 taking you?
This article forms part of a collaboration with First Choice.