The Best of Travel in 2019 – the best destinations, food, adventure and more!

2019 was an interesting year. I’ve visited 14 counties, including 8 new ones, celebrated my 30th birthday in the Galápagos Islands, together with my 60th country, and travelled to a new continent. 

The best of 2019

Disclaimer – this year review was written on a plane. Partially between my home in Poland and my second home of Aberdeen, Scotland. And on a flight from Aberdeen to Norway, and Oslo, my current home.

I wasn’t planning to publish it today since I just arrived last night and I’m leaving again tomorrow morning. This time for NYE to Turkey. (If I forgot something while rushing through packing to write this post, it is your fault. Just kidding 😉).

But this is exactly how my 2019 was. A bit chaotic, full of travelling and exploring, but also crossing a few milestones and making plans for the future.

Laguna Grande in the Amazon in Ecuador
Laguna Grande in the Amazon in Ecuador

Travels of the year

Here, I do not normally go too much into details about my personal life. Instead, I focus on travel, as this is what we all love, and why you come here. I hope that these short year reviews will inspire you to travel more yourself. To visit new places and get out of the comfort zone. To see that you can fulfil your dreams of travel, travel more with a full-time job or how I afford to travel as much as I do.

I tried to write a few of my personal favourites and highlights from this year. I’d love to hear some of yours, too! 

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Frozen Lake Almaty in Kazakhstan, Central Asia
Frozen Lake Almaty in Kazakhstan, Central Asia

14 countries in a year – again!

In 2019, I visited 14 countries, while working full time, again. This has already happened last year, and none of these times it was planned. Maybe 14 is just my number 😉 This year I also hit my 60th country, which marked 60 countries before I turned 30 years old (this wasn’t planned either!).

2019 was a year of diversity. I’ve covered places located on the far west, north and south of the world. The countries that I’ve visited for the first time were Ecuador, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, Lithuania, Jordan and Turkey (tomorrow, on the 31st ). And the ones that I’ve been to before – UAE, Oman, UK, Poland, Romania, as well as more of Norway, where I currently live. Some of the new places in Norway were Senja island, hiking the Kjeragbolten, and visiting Bergen in winter. All great adventures!

It was also my first time to South America and Ecuador was a perfect introductory country to this colourful and interesting continent.

I started 2019 in Petra, in Jordan, which couldn’t be a better beginning to the year it has been!

Cheers after landing the hot air balloon in Vilnius
Cheers after landing the hot air balloon in Vilnius

The best destination

It’s very hard for me to decide on the best destination of the passing year. There were so many great ones. I managed to visit a few places that I have been planning to see for a long time.

For the first time, I travelled to Central Asia, which was on my list since forever. And I did it solo. I felt totally safe in Uzbekistan, I fell in love with all the unique things to do in Kyrgyzstan and had a lot of fun following my Central Asia itinerary.

For my 30th birthday, I visited Ecuador with out of this world Galápagos Islands. The amount of wildlife that I’ve encountered there and in the Amazon rainforest was breathtaking. 

There was also Jordan where we started the New Year walking in the lost city of Petra. In May, I went to South Africa where I spent a few weeks working in Cape Town and exploring the Cape Point, meeting penguins on the Boulders Beach, climbing the Table Mountain (from the hard side), and standing on the south corner of the African continent. Tomorrow, I fly to Turkey, where I’ve never been before, even though I almost moved there 8 years ago.

All these places were different, but all fascinating.

The best food 

During my travels, I appreciate good food. You can call me a foodie, as that is what, next to the outdoors, gets me excited about the next destination.

From the past year, I dream about the fresh seafood and wine of South Africa, delicious dumplings (manti) of Central Asia, falafel and hummus in Jordan, pink soup in Vilnius. I’m looking forward to baklava on 31st December in Turkey 🙂

Breakfast in Uzbekistan
Breakfast in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan dumplings - Manti in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan dumplings – Manti 

The biggest surprise 

When you travel to many places in a short amount of time, sometimes you might not know what will await you there.

I didn’t know what to expect from Vilnius, Lithuania and I fell in love with the city. Also, the diversity of Ecuador blew me away, and our stay in the Cuyabeno Reserve in the Amazon Rainforest. Cape Town was also uncertain for me, but it lived up to the hype and I had a blast travelling there solo. 

When I planned my trip to Central Asia, I was mostly focused on the very mountainous regions of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and South Kazakhstan. because of the hiking conditions during the time of the year, that I went, I decided to spend some time also in Uzbekistan, that I initially almost ruled out. And I was very positively surprised. Especially by how safe I felt in Uzbekistan as a female solo traveller.

View to Vilnius, Lithuania
View to Vilnius, Lithuania
Khiva, Uzbekistan
Khiva, Uzbekistan

The best adventure 

The passing year, gave me a fair amount of adventures! From swimming with sharks in Galápagos, exploring the Amazon jungle and climbing 5600 m volcanoes in Ecuador, to discovering the post soviet ghost town hidden in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, and hitch-hiking in Oman to name some of my favourite ones.

In February, I had a chance to try some ice climbing on the frozen waterfalls, which is one of the many undeniable reasons to visit Norway in winter.

Sary Jaz, Kyrgyzstan
Sary Jaz, Kyrgyzstan
Ice climbing in Rjukan, Norway
Ice climbing in Rjukan, Norway

The best animal activity 

The wildlife in their natural habitat it’s what I am thrilled to see every single time. Last year, I was in awe when watching the big animal migration in Masai Mara in Kenya. This year, I was able to see the wild penguins in South Africa for the first time, get very close to the sea lions and iguanas in the Galápagos Islands, and try traditional horse riding in the Kyrgyz mountains.

Sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Getting friendly with penguins in South Africa, the Boulders beach
Getting friendly with penguins in South Africa, the Boulders beach
Penguins in the Boulders Beach in South Africa
Penguins in the Boulders Beach in South Africa
Iguanas in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Iguanas in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Horse riding in Kyrgyzstan
Horse riding in Kyrgyzstan
Galapagos, Ecuador
Galapagos, Ecuador

The best hike

I wouldn’t be myself if I wouldn’t do some hiking this year (unless I broke my ankle again, like last year during snowmobiling in Svalbard, but luckily, the fate left me safe this time).

The highest hikes of this year were hiking by ourselves to the top of the Ruku Pichincha in Ecuador (4,696 m)  and climbing to the glacier (5,100 m) on the active Cotopaxi volcano (5,897 m) the next day. I felt like flying. 

I did some hiking in Cape Town, taking the hard route involving scrambling (and 6 hours!) to the top of Table Mountain. Comparing to that, the hike to see the sunrise on Lion’s Head felt like a breeze. These colours though!

In Norway, I finally managed to do the famous Kjerag hike, the one with a stone hanging 1000 meters above the fjord. And also visit funny-looking Trollpikken. Another spectacular walk, that I did was the Hesten hike on Senja, with the great views of Segla.

Sunrise from Lion's Head, Cape Town
Sunrise from Lion’s Head, Cape Town
A view of the cable car from the Table Mountain. I took it down after hiking 6 hours up!
A view of the cable car from Table Mountain. I took it down after hiking 6 hours up!
cotopaxi volcano ecuador
Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador, we climber to the glacier level – 5100 meters above sea level.
Looking at Segla from the Hesten hike in Senja, Norway
Looking at Segla from the Hesten hike in Senja, Norway
Kjragbolten hike, Norway
Kjragbolten, Norway

The best hospitality

Everywhere I go, I usually meet very kind people. The world is a good place and people welcome me in their countries, with all the love and hospitality. However, this year, the most hospitable people I met in Central Asia. Uzbeks showing me the hospitality and Uzbekistan safety when I was travelling there solo, and locals treating us like a family in Kyrgyzstan will stay in my mind for long.

With Uzbek ladies, Uzbekistan
With Uzbek ladies, Uzbekistan

The cheapest destination 

The cheapest destination that I visited in 2019 was Uzbekistan. Everything there was very cheap – transport, food and accommodation. You can see some of the costs in my Central Asia travel guide

Khiva city walls, Uzbekistan
Khiva city walls, Uzbekistan

The best value for money

Out of the countries, I visited this year, I feel like the trip to Ecuador was the best value for money. Getting there wasn’t cheap, but the diversity of the country and the number of activities to do in a relatively small area and time was worth it!

Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador

The best off the beaten path destination

Central Asia still lies away from the mass tourism and I loved exploring the Silk Road in Uzbekistan as well as less known things to do in Kyrgyzstan.

In Norway, the island of Senja was wonderful off the beaten destination in comparison to more popular Lofoten.

Canyon of Forgotten Rivers, Kyrgyzstan
Canyon of Forgotten Rivers, Kyrgyzstan
Senja, Norway
Senja, Norway

The most breathtaking nature

This is a hard one! This year, I’ve seen lush Amazon forest full of wild animals, tall snow-capped volcanoes in Ecuador, white sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Galápagos Islands. The dramatic landscape of Senja island in Norway, Table mountain of Cape Town in South Africa, high peaks of Kyrgyzstan and horses galloping through the green steppes of Kazakhstan. The Middle Eastern fjords of Oman, red desert of Wadi Rum and mountains of Petra in Jordan. And there is, of course, the whole rest of Norway, which I have the opportunity to visit every month. My favourite is Norway in winter, that always takes my breath away.

What was the best? That I was able to see them all. 

Milky Way in the Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador
Milky Way in the Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador
Winter in Norway
Winter in Norway

Petra, Jordan
Petra, Jordan

 


And what were your travel highlights of 2019? Let me know in the comments!


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