For me 2013 became the Year of Europe. I visited 16 countries: 8 new ones and 8 revisited. I went to 15 new cities, and went back to 4 previously visited ones. To celebrate the end of what has been a very successful travel year, I bring you 5 highlights of 2013.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
I was amazed by the wild beauty of Scotland. The Isle of Skye captivated me instantly, and not just because we were blessed with the best weather possible. Spring was fast approaching; flowers appeared through the frost, cracks formed across glazed ice revealing the musical sound of trickling water, and for the first time in months I felt warmth in the sun. Driving through the Glencoe mountain range I felt an elated sense of joy and freedom that often eludes me in Stockholm. Skye is a place for reflection and meditation. It is a photographer’s paradise. It has become one of my most highly recommended destinations, not just of this year but of all time.
My next recommendation is Istanbul, a city pulsing with life and energy. Despite heavy rioting occurring right up until the day I left for Turkey, I didn’t see any sign of the upheaval that had been so highly publicised in the months preceding my trip. Gezi Park was cordoned off, but Taksim Square had returned to business as usual.
Walking along the river on the Asian side of the city, and the eerie Basilica Cisterns were my favourite parts of the trip.
Bosnia quickly worked its way into my heart after a few days in Sarajevo, but it was Mostar that made the biggest impression. Not just because of the dilapidated buildings, the bullet holes in the walls, or the Stari Most Bridge, but because of the warm hospitality of our wonderful hostess. Never have I met a guesthouse owner so generous, warm, kind, and welcoming. The beauty of a place is often in its people and Bosnia is hard to beat.
The UK makes it onto this list twice—yes, that surprises me too! This time it is the tiny fishing village of Looe in Cornwall. Looe fired my imagination with romantic stories of old: ghosts, pirates and smugglers; rugged moorland and tempestuous seas. Looe is the perfect place to get lost in a good book, or to walk the coastal path overlooking wild seas that have remained the same for centuries.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
The scenery in Iceland is spectacular everywhere you go, but the sight of a lake full of icebergs reflecting in the cold, clear waters was the most awe-inspiring sight of all. And if that’s not hard to beat, you can also see huge chunks of ice glistening on the black volcanic sand of the beach as the waves of the sea pound upon them until they melt away to nothing. Nature at her very best!
With 2013 drawing to a close, I should start planning for 2014.
Did you manage to travel much in 2013? What has been your travel highlight of 2013? What are your plans for 2014? As ever, I don’t have anything definitive yet, and would appreciate some tips!