Without a doubt, 2016 has been my most intrepid year of travel yet. I’ve taken 38 flights, been on 13 trips and visited 15 countries. I visited 9 of these countries for the very first time, which is an all time high for me. Every trip this year has been professional, apart from a girl’s holiday to Spain in July. A 6-week adventure through Vietnam and The Philippines with Scott was my first real experience of backpacking, and when I look back on the year I can’t believe how many incredible memories I’m left with. Here’s a run down of where I went and when.
January – Bali
February – Lisbon
March – Cyprus
April– Dublin, Guatemala, Belize
May – Greece (Kefalonia)
June – Italy (Ishica and The Amalfi Coast)
July – Spain (Almunecar)
August – Croatia and Mauritius
September – Vietnam
October – The Philippines
November – Madeira and Sri Lanka
Choosing just 10 moments from this unforgettable year of travel wasn’t an easy feat, but I have shortlisted the best of the best. If you want to read more about a particular moment, just click to the link in each paragraph and you’ll be taken to a full blog post about the experience. Here are my Top 10 Travel Moments of 2016
Wandering the streets of Antigua, Guatemala
Back in April I took my first ever trip to Central America which combined Guatemala and Belize. The intense week-long tour took us from Guatemala City to Belize City by road, and crossing the border between Guatemala and Belize was a surreal moment I’ll never forget. There were tonnes of border police with machine guns who watched us as we were made to step out of our van and walk over the border with our cases. My favourite place on the trip was the colourful colonial town of Antigua, famous for it’s coffee and surrounding cocoa fields. With coloured walls around every corner, it’s an Instagrammer’s dream and it’s somewhere I probably would have never reached without my travel blog.
Horseback riding in the Alpujarras Mountains, Spain
My only ‘actual’ holiday of the year was to Almunecar in Spain with my best friends. As we were staying in my parent’s villa, it was my job to make a little itinerary for the week, which included a 3-hour horse riding trek up in the Alpujarras Mountains. I wasn’t sure what it would be like but the experience exceeded all expectations. The views were breathtaking and it was such a clear day that we could see Morocco in the distance.
Cruising through Halong Bay, Vietnam
One of our first stops in Vietnam was the famous Halong Bay, where we took a 2-day and 1-night cruise on a traditional teak wooden junk boat. At $110 each, it was one of the more high-end cruise options, but it was worth every penny. Cruising through the mysterious limestone landscapes was a totally enchanting experience and we got closer to the secret coves by kayak. On the evening of our cruise we indulged in a gorgeous 5-course meal and learned to make spring rolls on deck. I saw one of the most spectacular sunsets of my life that night and we watched the bay turn from light pink to dark purple in about 30 minutes. Find out more about the cruise in my 3 week Vietnam travel itinerary.
A Helicopter Ride over Mauritius South Island
In August I went to Mauritius for 5 nights to visit a social media client. The highlight of the trip was without a doubt the Air Mauritius helicopter ride over the south side of the island. Soaring over the deep green mountains, cascading waterfalls and turquoise waters and coral barriers felt like a dream.
Arriving into The Amalfi Coast by Boat
Visiting The Amalfi Coast with my best friend Naomi was one of my favourite trips of the year. It was the quintessential Italian experience with all the glamour, glittering coast lines and indulgent food you might dream of. We took an open top ferry from Sorrento to Positano and neither of us we’re prepared for when the colourful hill-top town came in to sight. It looked like something from a post-card and was a real bucket-list moment.
Yoga and Mediation in Ubud, Bali
If there is 1 place that I had the biggest emotional connection with this year, it was Bali. I visited back in January when I was feeling confused about my future and stressed out from London living. One hotel I stayed at was The Four Seasons Sayan, a little way outside Ubud. It sounds silly, but the series of yoga and meditation sessions I did there felt life changing. The meditation therapist spoke so much sense to me and even brought me to tears at one point. It was here in Bali that I realised I wanted to change my life and get out of London (I wrote about that in a personal post here).
Surprising my boyfriend with a surprise trip to Lisbon
This was the first surprise trip that I’ve ever planned and I have to say, I pulled it off well! Scott didn’t find out where we were going ’til I handed him a wrapped up Lisbon guidebook on the train to Gatwick. Because it was a surprise, I organised the whole trip including a press stay at the gorgeous Pousada de Lisboa. This was my first ever time in Portugal and we both loved it. After this trip I wrote a Lisbon City Guide.
The best Scuba Diving of my life in Moalboal, Cebu, The Philippines
I got my PADI Open Water license when I was 14 and have been diving around the world ever since. Before now, Thailand has been the best place I’ve ever dived, but Moalboal knocked it off the top spot with ease. The dive sites were completely empty, the coral was alive with colour and marine life and the visibility was perfect (even underneath rain). One dive site was a Turtle Sanctuary off the coast of Moalboal, where we saw at least 5 turtles in 1 dive. The dive was unbelievable and we arrived back on dry land feeling on top of the world.
Crossing the Hai Van Pass by Motorbike in Vietnam
During our 3 weeks in Vietnam, we crossed the famous Hai Van Pass. This incredibly scenic road was made famous after Jeremy Clarkson and Co drove through it on Top Gear. With a tour company called Easy Riders, Scott and I travelled from Hue to Hoi An on the back of a motorbike. Being on the back of the bike felt absolutely invigorating and gave us chance to absorb all the spectacular views. It was a day I will never forget.
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Tan-Awan, Cebu, The Philippines
Taking the top spot of my Top 10 Moments of 2016 is swimming with whale sharks. This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and whenever I look back on it the whole thing seems so surreal. This took place just off the shore in Tan-Awan on the island of Cebu where the whale sharks are known to frequent. My heart was beating so fast as I lowered myself into the water where these huge animals were swimming. Seeing the sheer size of them is surreal at first.
As I relaxed in to the experience I began to swim down to get a closer look, and I’m so happy this amazing moment was captured on camera. Although this photo makes it look like there was just me and the whale shark there, it was very busy in the water and there was around 15 whale sharks in one area. It was one of the most amazing adrenaline-fuelled experiences of my life!
What did you think of my Top 10 Travel Moments of 2016? Have any of them inspired you to try something new in 2017? I’d love to hear YOUR favourite travel moment of 2016, so please leave me a comment in the box below x
Mrs Ayla's Adventures says
So many amazing adventures you’ve had this year Jess!! Swimming with whale sharks – just wow! Makes me want to visit every single one of these places 🙂
Thanks Ayla, hope you’re well lovely! It has been an amazing year. Wishing you all the best for 2017, you have the most exciting journey of all to come! Welcoming your little ba ba in to the world. Lots of love xx
OMG so many of your top moments have made me super nostalgic! Riding the Hai Van Pass by motorbike is easily one of the best things I have ever done in my LIFE, though you seem to have been slightly more sensible and rode as a passenger haha (it was also my first time riding a motorbike, let’s just say I told my mum after the day was over ;)), I fell in LOVE with Guatemala and found Antigua so gorgeous. Visited Lisbon in May and thought it was so wonderful, and have just booked a trip to Bali in Feb which has led me to consume all of your Bali posts so am super looking forward to that 🙂 Glad you found your feet in Ubud, here’s hoping I can do the same 😉 Love AP xo
This comment is amazing! I love how you have had so many similar experiences Andrea. The Hai Van pass was amazing and definitely one ofthe best days of the year. So glad you’ve enjoyed my Bali posts. It was the first place I went back in January and still my favourite country of the year. I can’t wait for you to experience Ubud. Let me know how you get on! Lots of love x
The Dame Intl says
Wow! What an epic year of travel! And so many fantastic experiences, Im only a tiny bit jealous! What have you got planned for 2017?
I went to Brighton, Budapest and Costa Rica in 2016, hoping to go to Australia (again), Cape Town and Croatia in 2017.
Thanks for your lovely comment! It’s been an amazing year. My plans for 2017 are TBC at the moment but hoping to make it to New York and India! Costa Rica is high on my list too. Sounds like you also had an exciting year of travel Xx
Incredible! All sounds incredible and exciting.
Thank you Denim Fish! And thanks for all your continued support with my blog xx
What an incredible selection of off the beaten track adventures
Thank you for this comment! I love how you describe them as “off the beaten track” 🙂
love this post! great memories to look back on x
aww thanks so much Hun! It has been a great year xx
Angie Silver (@SilverSpoonLDN) says
Love your travel moments and you’ve really inspired me to visit Vietnam! I’ll be publishing my top ten travel moments later this week!!
Ahh so glad about this Angie! If you go to Vietnam you must stay at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, one of the most incredible resorts I’ve stayed in. Can’t wait to see your top travel moments xxx
Planes & Champagne (@planeschampagne) says
What a fabulous year Jess! I visited Halong Bay about 5 years ago and found it such a mystical and spiritual place. I would love to swim with whale sharks and the street colours of Guatemala look fantastic! I can’t wait to see what exciting travel adventures 2017 holds for you! Maggie xx
Hi Maggie! Thanks for your lovely comment. Halong Bay truly is a special place. Wishing you a happy, successful and adventurous 2017! xx
Totally envious, and extremely inspiring!
You’ve made me put several new places on my bucket list!
Hi Beth, thanks for your comment. So pleased you enjoyed this post and glad that you’re adding to your bucket list. Wishing you lots of love and happiness for 2017 xx