2017 has been another epic year of travelling. I’m lucky enough to have visited some amazing places. In no particular order, here are some of my travel highlights of the year. Hopefully, they can give you some great ideas for your 2018 travels!
1. Living in Paradise: Isla Holbox
I made my love of Isla Holbox very apparent in my blog post about it. White sands and blue water make it a must on any trip to the Yucatan peninsula. Swap Cancun for Holbox if you want a slower pace and friendlier vibe. I can’t praise this island enough and how much I felt like I was in paradise for three days. Set your Skyscanner alerts for Cancun in 2018 and hop on the next flight to find paradise a bus and boat ride away.
2. Making New Friends in Plovdiv
Plovdiv is the European Capital of Culture 2019. As such, the city has received a lot of money in recent years to make it into the lovely town that it is now. It’s a wonderful place to visit and only a couple of hours from Sofia. Lots of history, good food and a lively nightlife make it a great trip. However, for me, what made our Plovidv trip extra special was the people we met.
It just so happened that the weekend we were there, Devin Townsend was playing. I’ve never heard of Devin Townsend but he has fans across the globe and these fans travel all over the globe to see him. We ended up on a free walking tour with some of his fans from the UK, USA and The Netherlands. We hung out with these guys over a couple of days and they were all so lovely. That’s my fond memory of Plovdiv, the people we met – as well as the beautiful city.
3. Learning About and Drinking Mezcal
While visiting Mexico, we knew that we’d be trying a lot of Tequila. However, once we arrived we discovered another local spirit which we soon grew a taste for, Mezcal. I’ve never seen it in the UK as it’s exported less. It’s made from the same plant as Tequila but it’s a slightly different variety. We had the joy of visiting a local Mezcal farm and drank the wonderful (strong) spirit with some local Mexicans. Discover more about Tequila and Mezcal in my blog post!
4. Seeing the Biggest Annual Animal Migration: Monarch Bufferlies
I was keen to leave Mexico City in time to see the Monarch Butterflies. Their annual migration to Mexico is primarily between November and March. We were there at the end of the season but still got to see thousands of these amazing orange and black butterflies. Each year, millions of them fly down from Canada and the USA to mate in Mexico. Once the mating is done, they fly back north. I feel so lucky to have been able to see them and this unique experience.
5. Eating Tacos in Guadalajara
I love food. Enjoying new foods while travelling is one of my favourite things. It’s safe to say that there isn’t Mexican food in the UK. I was excited to try food while in the country and it didn’t disappoint at all. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint just one of the many great restaurants we ate in, I have a fond memory is eating in Guadalajara. La Tomate Taqueria is full of great food and quick service. A highlight if you’re in the city!
6. Exploring the UK: Glasgow and Newcastle
We found a cheap flight from Cancun to Glasgow so thought we’d take a long route back to Bristol from Mexico. We touched down in Glasgow as the rain was coming down – Ah, Britain. Despite how much of the world we’ve seen, I’ve not done much UK travelling so it was lovely to see visit some of the UK and see some of what it has to offer. We spent a few days in Glasgow and Newcastle. We caught up with some family and friends and realised that more UK travelling is 100% needed next year.
7. Ek Balam and the Empty Cenote
Mexico is really old. I found out so much history about the country while visiting. One of the many highlights of Mexico is all of the historic ruins. Chichen Itza certainly steals the limelight as it’s listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world. However, the country has so many more great ruins to check out.
One of my personal highlights is the underrated Ek Balam. A short taxi ride away from Valladolid, Ek Balam has some stunning ruins. What really made it stand out to me was the fact that it’s in the middle of a forest. When climbing to the highest peak, you look out and see nothing but trees. It’s pretty damn beautiful. Another highlight of visiting Ek Balam is that it’s right next to a Cenote. Not quite as crystal clear as other cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, but, this one was amazing because we were the only people there. Blissful on a hot day!
8. Drinking Wine in San Cristobal
If somebody made me pick my favourite place in Mexico, San Cristobal would come in a very close second place to Isla Holbox. The town was much cooler than the rest of the country and we experienced quite a lot of rain whilst there, but, it still remains one my favourite place. Great food (of course), combined with some trendy wine bars along a pedestrian street made it a wonderful location to stay in for a while. If I were to go back and stay in Mexico more long-term, SC would be the place. With both National and International Wines, eating cheese and drinking wine in this town is amazing.
9. Sunshine and Wine in Veliko Tarnovo
Nestled in the mountains, Veliko Tarnovo was once the capital of Bulgaria. The town’s history remains with a big fort on the hill and various monuments around town. The houses look like they’ve been there for a hundred years and the cobbled streets and great for wandering and finding souvenirs. The pace is much slower than Plovdiv and Sofia but that suited us just fine.
We were planning to stay in the popular hostel mostel but they didn’t have any private rooms left. Instead, we opted for Rooster Hostel and it was one of the best decisions we made. We got upgraded to the best room in the hostel (for free!) which has a stunning balcony overlooking the city. The decor is awesome and it’s in a perfect location. Despite it being October, the sun was shining and we drank wine on the balcony. Perfect.
10. Climbing Mount Vitosha
From Sofia, you can see Mount Vitosha. In the winter months, the mountain is a popular ski resort. In the summer, it makes for an epic hike. Our first weekend in Sofia we decided to tackle the hike. There are various routes to walk but we wanted to reach the highest one possible peak available by foot. We made it! It took us about two and a half hours and there were some steep and strenuous parts, from the top though, the view was great and the air was fresh.
11. Christmas in Almeria
Mitch’s parents have temporarily moved to Spain. In the province of Almeria is the small coastal town of Mojacar. In the summer months, there are plenty of tourists enjoying the sunshine and food. In the winter, there is a few British folk milling about and all the locals. I’ve never been in a hot country over the festive season but it was lovely. Not crazy hot but enough to sit outside and have a beer. We ate some good food and drank a lot of cava. Lovely to see a beautiful town in the quieter months and catch up with family.