2015 was a year full of adventure, surprises and amazing opportunities to discover even more of great and off the beaten path places. Just like a year ago, based on my own experience (I've been to all the countries described below), I'd like to present my list of destinations to visit in 2016 (click here to see the post from 2015). As usual, it will be different than most of such lists released by meainstream travel magazines. Instead of repeating all the well known places, I'd like you to get inspired and explore new adventurous and exciting spots. It has probably never even come to your mind that you could visit some of them and you'll surely get shocked when you learn where those amazing wonders actually are located!
The Shipwreck Beach (also called Navagio) on the Greek island - Zakynthos is the most beautiful beach I have seen. It's claimed to be the most beautiful - and I agree. After visiting numerous beaches in other, also way more exotic destinations (like Brazil, Thailand, Italy, Mauritius, Georgia, India, Croatia, Albania, Spain, Portugal), I have yet to discover a place that would enchant me as much as Navagio Beach. But there is a flaw in this perfection. The beach is indeed the most beautiful in the world, granted that it's viewed from the edge of the cliff that surrounds it. Looked at from the sea level, it looses its charm. However, most of the tour agencies offering a trip to the beach arrive there by boat and in this case you will not see it as it is on the postcards or leaflets - from above. It's also impossible to climb the steep rocky cliff from the beach. So what's the solution if you want to admire the famous view from the top?
The hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is without a doubt the most famous attraction of this beautiful region right in the middle of Turkey. To fly quietly over the unbelievably shaped and colorful rock formations is an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience. It was the first balloon flight in my life and although I was thrilled by the whole event, everything went so perfectly and smoothly. The views of the rock pillars, canyons and the village of Goreme itself were indescribable as was the first rays of the sun emerging from behind the horizon. Although a bit pricey, everyone should experience it at least one time, if I were asked to do it again, I'd definitely would with no hesitation!
One of the most important religious sites in Myanmar, seemingly defying the law of gravity - Golden Rock Temple (Kyaiktio or Kyaikhteeyoe Pagoda), although quite famous, is surprisingly not as touristy as the other destinations in the country - Bagan, Mandalay or Yangon. There are good and bad sides to it. The good thing is that the authenticity of the place is still preserved (unlike the temples in Thailand) and you'll see many more locals than foreigners around. The bad thing - to get there without an expensive, privately run tour or a taxi is pretty complicated, the bus schedules are not clear and the level of English among the Burmese is very low. And... to be honest, the site is one of those that look absolutely spectacular in the photos, a bit less so in real life. Having said that, the whole journey was a great adventure, definitely worth the effort and it left some priceless memories in my mind.
It might be a bit strange to see a post about a spa on a blog that describes mainly an active way of traveling and discovering some forgotten and unknown places where few even think of visiting. But Blue Lagoon in Iceland is different. It's an amazing proof how human engineering and nature can cooperate perfectly. It's not an ordinary, boring spa with swimming pools and massages. The Blue Lagoon is one of those experiences that, I think, everyone should try at least once in life. Especially after exploring some of the marvelous sites of Iceland - an outlandish island on the periphery of Europe.
Achill Island, Ireland's largest island lies in the western part of the country, in County Mayo. It's not far from Connemara, quite famous and beautiful National Park and 200 km (125 miles) north from the most popular attraction of the Emerald Island - Cliffs of Moher. Achill Island has a lot to offer: the natural beauty with beautiful coast, imposing mountainous peaks and, in my opinion, the most spectacular sandy beach in Ireland - Keem Bay. However, surprisingly, for some reason, (just like the magnificent Skellig Islands and Benbulben Mountain) Achill Island is virtually unknown to visitors. It's usually omitted in the tourist guides about Ireland and there are no tours available from Dublin (although the tours include the nearby Connemara). I found out about it by coincidence while browsing photos on google maps and decided it's a place well worth visiting! I wasn't wrong! For me, Achill Island was definitely one if the most spectacular spots not only in Ireland!
Ashgabat (or Ashkhabad) is usually the first point of entry for everyone visiting Turkmenistan - one of the most secluded, eerie and peculiar countries on Earth. And, believe me, there are not many who would choose it as a holiday destination. For me, however, traveling to Central Asia was always a dream. I love discovering all the unpopular and seemingly not attractive from a tourist's point of view places. And I love getting surprised that those places are in fact a lot better and exciting than some overrated spots in Western Europe! So why not start the Central Asian journey from the state reputed to be the most difficult to enter? In this article I will describe my expectations and reality, what is true and what is a myth about Ashgabat, from my own perspective.
The very south corner of Albania - the country which is still a black spot on the touristic map of Europe offers, in my opinion, the best beaches in the entire old continent: white sand, tropical color of the clearest possible seas, the exoticism of the area and most friendly locals. Most of the very few individual foreign tourists who get to the beach village of Ksamil arrive by ferry from the neighboring, overcrowded by tourists Greek island - Corfu. I followed the same route. And, I really thought that Corfu is amazing until I set foot in Albania's shore. My jaw literally dropped. I immediately felt as if I was transferred to one of the tropical, paradise-like postcard spots. It's a mystery to me how this exceptionally beautiful piece of land lacks any recognition among foreigners. But maybe it's better this way!
Most of those who visit Czech Republic head straight to Prague which is undoubtedly as beautiful as famous. However, very few travelers ever leave the capital and know about located on the other side of the country, near the Polish border, Adrspach-Teplice Rock Town. It's not a "town" meaning a settlement built by people. The "town" is made naturally of huge rock formations that take the shape of pillars, columns, walls and labyrinths. It kind of resembles the famous Cappadocia region in Turkey. What's interesting is that almost every rock has its distinctive name, for example "the lovers" or "the Johann Wolfgang".
Machu Picchu, located 2400 meters above sea level, is without any doubts one of the most breathtaking tourist destinations. However, it is not very easily accessible, but nonetheless, worth the effort! First, quite a long trip awaits you from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.
Then, if you are fit enough you can walk and then climb the mountain with the ruins (quite steep and difficult, for about 1,5 hours) from the village of Aguas Calientes, which is basically the base for tourists visiting Machu Picchu (with the exception of the Sanctuary Lodge Hotel right beside the ruins, the only hotel at the site - 'only' about 700 USD per night).