While most people are busy making New Year’s resolutions, I’m busy making travel plans. A whole, shiny new year to dream up trips on! In 2015, I was fortunate enough to travel to quite a few countries – Vietnam, Indonesia, Spain, Greece, Germany, Austria – but this year I’m hoping to do even more!
I cannot be sure of how realistic my ideas are at the moment, as I still need to finalise where I’ll be based for the majority of the year. My vague ‘base plans’ currently include two European countries, a Middle Eastern country and an Asian country, so my travel plans will, of course, end up being hugely affected by wherever I end up.
However, this is a wish list, so I’m not limiting the plans I make, and even if I only visit a handful of these places I’ll be happy! I’ve only included the main places that I have in mind otherwise we’d be here all day. So without further ado, in 2016 I hope to…
Drink Champagne in a country house in Sweden
This is my only near certain travel plan for 2016. Back in September when I was on a writing retreat in magical Skyros, I met a wonderful group of people, many of whom have become lifelong friends. One of the lovely ladies who I became close with won a week-long stay at a beautiful country house in Sweden in an auction, and I’ve been invited along with a couple of others to go and stay!
Our plans are vague, and I cannot even remember the exact name of the place that the house is situated in, but what I do know is that it is relatively remote! So we’re planning to drink loads of Veuve, catch up, and take walks in the Swedish countryside (yes, this does sound like the setting for an episode of Absolutely Fabulous).
Get cultural and focus on my writing in Berlin
I am currently borderline obsessed with Berlin. A few of my favourite travel bloggers, like Dale and Franca from Angloitalian Follow Us, have spent time there and their blog posts have made me fascinated with the place! I’ve also had a few people say that I’d love the city, and the more I read about it the more I can see why. For one, it’s an art lover’s paradise – with 44o galleries and endless world-class collections, you could live there for years without managing to see them all.
So it’s arty, it’s creative and it’s got culture. Add to this great food, fascinating street art and reasonable rent prices and what you have is the recipe for my perfect-sounding city. Being a writer, I was also interested in articles like this one and this one, which report on how loads of writers are moving to Berlin because of the affordable rents and ever-growing literary scene. With this in mind, it sounds like the perfect place in which to focus on my novel writing, too.
Fulfil a lifelong dream in Japan
Japan has topped my travel wish list for years now, and I’m really hoping that 2016 is the year that I finally make it there, even if that potentially means having to cut back on some of the other trips I want to take. Why Japan? Well, I’ve always been absolutely fascinated with Japanese culture, and friends of mine who have visited or lived there say it’s like being on another planet.
Ideally, I want to spend a full month there during autumn (it’s just as beautiful as the country’s famous cherry blossom season, if not more so). I will probably ‘hit’ the usual suspects first – Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto. I also want to visit Nara; one of the country’s first permanent capitals, here you’ll find eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I really want to see the Great Buddha, which is said to be one of Japan’s most impressive monuments. I love temples, especially Buddhist ones, so this is on the top of my list.
I could spend forever listing out the things I want to do in Japan, but the main ones are: eat my body weight in sushi, stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), take a dip at an onsen (hot spring) and go Harajuku girl-spotting in Harajuku, Tokyo!
Go back in time in Rome
Rome has been a main fixture on most traveller’s to-do lists for decades, and it’s not surprising. I’m so happy to currently be back in Europe because it makes destinations like Rome so much more accessible to me. Italy as a whole has been high on my list for a while now, too – I mean, who doesn’t want to go there? For lovers of sites of historical importance (like me), Rome is as good as it gets. You get to roam around ancient icons such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon, which echo the city’s past as the capital of the Roman empire, as well as other gems such as St Peter’s Basilica – a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.
Timeless buildings aside, I also want to do a tour of the Vatican museums, explore Bohemian Trastevere, eat delicious Roman food and get lost in Centro Storico. Oh, and drink espresso until I’m bouncing off the Spanish Steps!
Uncover Athens’ secrets
Speaking of cities of historical importance, they don’t get much more renowned than Athens. Lonely Planet describes the city as an “open-air museum,” which is apt considering that you have the Acropolis, Agora and Temple of Olympian Zeus all vying for your attention. I used to be really fascinated by ancient Greek mythology and it would be a dream come true to see some of the landmarks associated with all the things that I read. Also, after having Greek history rammed down my throat throughout my childhood in Cyprus, it will be nice to put some of this knowledge to good use.
Athens also has some of the world’s best museum collections; just some of the things I want to see include the riches that used to be housed in the Acropolis at the Acropolis Museum, as well as pieces that depict Greek art and history at the National Archeological Museum.
Athenians are notorious partiers, so I’d also love to soak up the city’s nightlife; the streets are lively until the early hours and some of the best bars in the country are said to be in the capital. Then there’s Greek food – sigh.
If I do make it to Athens, I’ll be very tempted to also head to another Greek island. I enjoyed my time in Skyros – an island that’s largely off the tourist radar, and I’d love to find a similar island to explore. Recommendations are welcome!
Get outdoors in Iceland
Iceland has intrigued me for years. The country is a wonderful mix of bubbling hot springs, awe-inspiring glaciers and rugged fjords – so unlike anything I’ve ever seen first-hand. I’d love to swim in the famous Blue Lagoon, see the Stokkur geyser, and explore the beautiful Skaftafell National Park. As I usually love travelling to cities, this would be a little bit different for me, which is why I’ve added it into the mix. 2016 is all about trying new things!
Discover incredibly cool Taipei
I have a strong inkling that I will be in Europe this year, which is why most of the places that are on my list so far are European. However, my heart will always belong in Asia, and I am itching to get back there soon. If I do manage to go to Japan, I will be tempted to add on a few extras, like Taiwan! I was supposed to go on a press trip there a few years back, but if fell through. I did loads of research on the country at the time, though, and I loved the sound of Taipei.
The city has an incredible street food scene, gourmet cafés, temples, and buzzing neon neighbourhoods. They also have quirky themed restaurants – there’s even a toilet themed one, although I’m not sure how I feel about that…
And just a short MRT ride takes you to hot springs, river parks and colonial towns. There are plenty of fascinating things to do and see (as well as loads more of my beloved Buddhist temples), which is why I’d love to go and explore!
Capture photogenic Prague
Beautiful, quirky Prague. This another city that people always exclaim I will absolutely love, and it’s been on my radar for a while now. The old town, for one, looks incredibly romantic with its mixture of architecture and famous astronomical clock (the oldest one in the world that’s working) – the photographer in me could get lost there for hours!
There are so many things I’d love to do here, like see the stained glass inside St. Vitus Cathedral – they are designed in an Art Nouveau style and look breathtaking! The Jewish quarter also sounds fascinating, as well as the Golden Lane, which is located within the Prague Castle. Oh and there’s also The Museum Of Communism!
I will be steering clear of absinthe, though. That stuff is just wrong. I’m pleased to read, however, that the city has some of the best beer in the world!