2015 Top 7 Travel Surprises (+ 2016 Preview)

2015 Top 7 Travel Surprises (+ 2016 Preview)

2015 was a crazy year in terms of travel. I visited 17 countries, 9 of which new countries I had never been. I never expected to do so much travelling, but I can honestly say it was the best travel year of my life! I decided to put together a list of the top 7 travel surprises of 2015. These are all places that far exceeded my expectations and shocked me/blew me away. I have also included a list of my (tentative) travel plans for 2016. Cheers to a new year of travel!

1. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Charming Ljubljana, Slovenia

Charming Ljubljana, Slovenia

Never had I before experienced a capital city so charismatic as Ljubljana. I wasn’t expecting much going into the Slovenian capital, as I usually don’t care too much for most capital cities these days. I’d rather visit a smaller, more unique village on the outskirts. However, Ljubljana blew me away! Ljubljana had a small town vibe indeed. The one word that comes to mind when I think of Ljubljana is charming. It was an eclectic mix of elegant/classy and bohemian/hippy, if that makes sense. The cafe culture was alive outside and it was almost impossible not to sit down at one of the trendy cafes overlooking the river. With only 1 day there, it wasn’t enough and I hope to go back soon to enjoy it more.

2. Interlaken, Switzerland (aka “Narnia”)

 

The ultimate winter wonderland in Interlaken, Switzerland

The ultimate winter wonderland in Interlaken, Switzerland

With only a short amount of time in Switzerland, we had a lot on our lists of things to see. But when traveling, sometimes you realize that plans don’t always work out the way you would like. Me and my friend Carey planned to see Jungfrau and/or Harder Kulm, yet due to the heavy snowfall, the visibility was slim to none and these activities never happened. We were a bit disappointed, to say the least, as the only 2 things we came there to see were closed. So we decided to take a paper map and explore the city. Well, we got lost and ended up walking through a park in the middle of a snow storm. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, with nothing in sight except for white powdery snow. At one point, a man on a horse rode by covered in a robe (a sort of “black knight”)and we looked at each other like, is this real life? We played in the snow and had numerous photo shoots, just the 2 of us. Something so simple brought us so much joy and it ended up being our favorite part of the trip. You know what they say, sometimes no plans are the best plans.

3. Israel and Palestine

Culture shock in Israel

Culture shock in Israel and Palestine

It was surreal to be able to stand on the same ground where Jesus once stood and to see his birthplace. The whole visit to Israel seemed like a dream and it’s something I have wanted to do my whole life. And I can honestly say that I experienced the biggest culture shock in all of my travels to date visiting this area. To see young military personnel walking around with guns was something very new to me, yet it’s a normal way of life over there. Also, the clash of multicultural people within the city walls of Jerusalem who were all living harmoniously together was incredible to see. If only those walls could speak. It was truly an eye-opening experience and I’m so glad I was able to witness it. Another huge bucket list item was also checked off for me here-floating in the Dead Sea!

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4. Cappadocia, Turkey (aka “Mars”)

Cappadocia

Cappadocia, aka Mars

If you’ve ever been to or seen pictures of Cappadocia, I think you can agree that it is like somewhere from a different planet. The landscape is like no other place on earth and the memories made there will last forever. From eating in a local family’s house sitting on the floor, to watching the famous hot air balloons rising above the land at sunrise, these are some memories I will never forget.

5. Rovinj, Croatia

streets of Rovinj, Croatia

The picturesque streets of Rovinj, Croatia

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Croatia, but visiting Rovinj catapulted this obsession to a whole other level. The fact that I waited so long to visit this area baffles me. The streets of Rovinj were some of the most picturesque streets I have ever seen. The mixture of Croatian, Italian, and German languages spoke in this city really surprised me, until I learned some of the history behind it. The architecture especially had a strong Italian influence and at times I forgot I was in Croatia. How could I not like a city that felt like a mixture of Croatia and Italy, my 2 favourite countries! If you haven’t been to Rovinj yet, you’re really missing out on a hidden gem of Croatia!

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6.Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, Austria in winter

The unreal village of Hallstatt, Austria

This is a place I had been dreaming to go ever since I saw pictures that actually made me think this place was fake due to its stark beauty. Usually when I give myself high expectations I am let down, 9 out of 10 times. But this wasn’t one of those times! Hallstatt might be the most beautiful/quaint/cute small village I have ever seen. The fact that it is set on a breathtaking lake just magnifies its beauty. Visiting Hallstatt was also very special since I went on my birthday and also because I’m half Austrian. Hallstatt definitely did not disappoint.

7.Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle in winter

Feeling like a princess at the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle

If you’ve ever traveled in Europe, you come to realize that extravagant castles appear to be the norm there. Once you’ve seen a dozen, you start to become immune to their grandeur. However, Neuschwanstein Castle is the epitome of a fairytale, and in my opinion it was the most spectacular castle I’ve ever seen. This was also part of my birthday trip so it was extra special. But when I arrived, it almost didn’t happen. Due to the weather, the lookout bridge with the best view of the castle was closed. But of course that didn’t let it stop me. I jumped over the fence and decided to go anyway, as many others decided as well. As a tried to take the “easy route” against my boyfriend’s wishes, I slipped on ice ad fell hard on my left shoulder. I then grabbed the bottom of the fence with my right arm, as my feet were dangling off the mountain. My boyfriend ran to my rescue and grabbed me by my left shoulder to help me up. The rest of the trip I could barely move my arm, but it was well worth it for the amazing views! I certainly felt like princess on my birthday.

Where Am I going in 2016?
That’s a very great question! So far, I only have a short trip to Reykjavik, Iceland and Bergen, Norway booked for Winter 2016. The rest is up in the air for now! However, I have a tentative plan that I hope will get put into full effect. Here it goes:

Spring 2016 wish list:

  • Portugal
  • Croatia
  • Italy

Summer 2016 wish list:

  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • Finland

Fall 2016 wish list:

  • Norway fjords

2016 “maybes”:

  • Morocco
  • South Africa
  • South America
  • Bulgaria

I can’t afford to go to all these place, so I will probably pick just one or 2 out of this category. It’s such a hard choice!

*As with most travelers, plans can always change and new destinations will be chosen last-minute (which is what happened with Israel and Egypt last year!)

So, here’s to not knowing exactly what my plans are and the fun part of figuring that out. Happy New Years to everyone and I’ll see you in 2016!

WHAT WERE YOUR 2015 TOP TRAVEL SURPRISES? AND WHERE WILL YOU BE HEADED IN 2016? DO TELL!

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