12 countries in 12 months
Hi! Thanks for the lead on the book. I must say it has got me thinking in earnest. Mine has to be a backpacker's version though. Irene Butler and Rick certainly have given something to think about.
While 12 countries in 12 months would be sided away by travel purists, we must say that it promises to bring in such an amalgam of varying cultures, sights and experiences that there can be no prosthetic for it.
Travelling. (Source: Mr. iMaxx)
What I have done here is that I have selected some of the most engaging destinations that I have come across in my close to two years of trip planning. I have left the most common/easiest destinations such as the United States and some of Europe out of this.
Here are 5 of my picks. They differ in every aspect conceivable but share one common string - the very best of travel charm. If you give me the go-ahead for these, I can chalk out the rest keeping these ones as the pivoting points.
Da la bienvenida a España! Spain Welcomes you! One of the most visually stunning countries in the world, the awe that it inspires comes not only from nature's extravaganza but also from the myriad of tastes, colors and fragrance that run a riot with one's senses.
Albarracín (XVI) (NO HDR) (Source: José Luis Mieza)
Weather is Spain usually reminds us of a sun-soaked afternoon withe the soft humming of bees, a soothing breeze and the heady aroma from the vineyard yonder.
The Alhambra or the Calat Alhambra meaning "the red fortress" gives you a glimpse of the Oriental. Built by the Moorish Empire of the Emirate of Granada in the mid 14th Century, it is a tribute to medieval Islamic architecture and grandeur.
Granada - Alhambra Corner - Shoes on Wires (Source: Justus Hayes)
Also nearby in Granada is the La Catedral de Granada and the Capilla real.
A 16th century cathedral containing the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella (the famed Catholic Monarchs who conquered the city), Juana la Loca, and Felipe el Hermoso.
Seville, the capital of Andalucia is the 4th largest city in Spain, with a population of about 1.4 million. With all the people, this city is also the very charm of Southern Spain. Located on the banks of the placid and smooth Guadalquivir River, the city is divided into two, on on either side of the river - Sevilla and Triana.
Plaza de España de Sevilla (Source:Alquiler de Coches)
Get yourself the Sevilla Card ;
The card includes free admission to most Seville museums and monuments, unlimited use of public transportation (TUSSAM Buslines, NB: only for Cards with Public Transport), a guided visit of the Real Alcazar of Seville, unlimited use of sightseeing buses, boat rides on the Guadalquivir River and admission to the Isla Mïgica Theme Park. The card also allows access to significant discounts in shops, restaurants, shows and leisure centres for adults and children. The Sevilla card is accompanied by a guide and city map. However, please note that Sevilla Card cannot be used for trams and buses.
(Source: Seville - Wikitravel)
Must-sees here include the Cathedral of Seville, once judged the third largest cathedral in the world, it is now considered to be the largest, at least when measured in terms of volume as opposed to area. This 15th Century facade is built atop a mosque which was built during the 12th century and is the final resting place of Christopher Columbus.
Cathedral of Seville (Source: Parthiban Amarasigamani)
Walk around the Cathedral which makes up the ancient Jewish Quarter also known as the Barrio Santa Cruz. The place is a maze of small winding lanes and is by far, the most charming part of the city. Also noteworthy are the Plaza de España, the site for the 1929 Spanish exhibition.
Cuentos cortos de pura espeluznancia (Source: peribanyez)
Wine in Spain is as renowned as its sparkling twin is from the Champagne district of France. The heritage, the aroma, the rich color and the silk smooth taste..not to mention the almost sinful allure in the grapes even before they are plucked. A walk in the morning in the vineyard, and often poetry makes a lot more sense.
The capital and largest city of Spain; Madrid. This city is a wonder onto itself, from the awe-inspiring architecture and frescoes of El Prado museum to its buzzing with world famous nightlife, it is a city that never sleeps if there ever was one. Home of Real Madrid, football is a religion here and one should be careful what colors he wears on the streets, specially on match days.
The largest palace in Europe and certainly also one of the most beautiful. Palacio Real also houses a vast plain of concrete around it and the Real Armorial (Royal Armory), a two-story collection of medieval weapons and armor.
El Prado finds its rival only in the form of the Louvre. This place is an art lover's mecca. And even if one is not particularly an art enthusiast, the Prado is worth visiting just for the sheer feel of the place. Over 7000 masterpieces from the masters spanning centuries. The wealth of this place is staggering. Naked Maja, Velázquez, Las Meninas, you name it. Particularly notable are the works of Goya.
Cuadros en El Prado (Source: Antonio)
Barcelona, heart of the Spanish country, is one of the most exquisite cities that you can visit in all of Spain. This city is a Gothic and at the same time a Modernist marvel that makes the Mediterranean Sea, to give birth to it.
Las Ramblas - the central most boulevard that cuts straight through the middle of the Barcelona. The vibrant colors and lively atmosphere will make you want to sing and dance.
Malabares en Las Ramblas de Barcelona (Source: Kom bo)
Tibidabo is one place that's very hard to miss. No matter where you'll be standing in Barcelona, you'll always be able to see the mountain with the church on top. Tibidabo is the tallest mountain in the Serra de Collserola at 512 meters. It gives you absolutely fantastic views of the city while rising towards the north west.
Parc Guell was constructed by Antoni Guidi, a Catalan architect. It is a garden with architectural elements all around located on top of el Carmel hill in the Gracia district of Barcelona. Built between 1900 to 1914, Parc Guell is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, "Works of Antoni Gaudi".
Parc Guell (Source: Robert Young)
The ethereal natural sights, the lingering Viking spirit, the cobbled stone streets of quaint little towns and cities still etched with medieval links.
Galway - a quaint but thriving artsy city on Ireland's rugged western coast. The city's labyrinth of beautiful lanes, some dating back to the medieval times, still remain intact. At the same time, Galway has progressed to be a rich cosmopolitan city. Here you will find stone-walled cafes and enchantingly pastel-colored boutiques at the Quay Street. Traditional Ireland still lingers here; do not miss out on a sip of creamy Guinness at any of the numerous pubs where you will witness many a fiddler and singer hold court beside turf fires. Add to that the pristine coast and the seaweed-decorated shore of the Galway Bay.
Perch yourself at the Salmon Weir Bridge and watch the fishermen do their thing at the River Corrib down under. Catch the same river meet the Atlantic Ocean beyond the Spanish Arch at Claddagh district, where marvelous sunsets and whitewashed cottages amidst wild swans bring out a very lovely scene.
River Corrib from Salmon Weir Bridge (Source: Rowan Townsend)
In Limerick, you will notice two things almost as soon as you enter the city. First - that in a country as tiny as Ireland, an otherwise mediocre population of 90,000 is quite enough to make Limerick the third-largest in the Republic. Second - that it has worked hard to shed the image that Frank McCourt's best-selling book Angela's Ashes bestowed it with; a city where a childhood was spent in excruciating poverty.
Limerick (Source: William Murphy)
The riverside Medieval Heritage Precinct and the overshadowing 13th-century King John's Castle are a must visit. Apart from that, the place's real beauty lies in its outskirts; no matter in which direction you go, you will find lush green river sides and pleasant farmlands. Nearby is the postcard perfect village of Adare.
Adare (Source: Edward O'Connor)
Kenmare, however, has more to it than its landscapes. Elegant streets and some fantastic restaurants fan out from Fair Green. Be warned though, it can get busy in the summer. Try out Prego (Henry St, Tel.: 064-664 2350, Price: mains US$ 11.59 - 36.22) for some delightful dodgy black pudding and their renowned salads and soups.
Kenmare, Ireland (Source: Kathy)
Cork offers a long and rebellious history. Wholly and intrinsically tied to Ireland's fight for independence, the city today is fast developing a reputation for its growing restaurant scene and its flamboyant people, ones who delve in the perks of an urban life. Being a university town, the population keeps young and the arts' scene continues evolving.
Liam Ruiseal Teo (Book Shop) - 49/50 Oliver Plunkett St. Cork (Source: William Murphy)
For something quirky, head over to the castle-like Cork City Gaol where the ghosts of prisoners from a past long gone are known to make themselves eerily felt.
Don't miss out on all the fresh seafood. Even if you are not a vegetarian, the intimate Cafe Paradiso (16 Lancaster Quay, Cork 1, Tel.: 00353214277939, Price range: $32-$158) is a must visit; the food is beyond match. For meat lovers, and if you are willing to splurge, try out The Ivory Tower (Centre Princess Street, average price: $88), where chef Seamus O'Connell dishes out one gastronomical delight after another.
While you move around, keep a look out for the city's engaging and sometimes bizarre wall art.
Street Art - Crosses Green, Cork. (Source: William Murphy)
Thailand is a plethora of exotic temples and ethereal beach-front beauties. There is plenty for both the offbeat and regular traveler alike. Weather in Thailand can get tricky. One of the many things that are diverse in the peninsula. While one end of the country is soaked in sweat, the other is drenched in rain. Having said that, April will be warm to hot but you will escape the torrential rainfall.
Located about one hour north of Krabi is Koh Hong or "Room Island". A towering limestone facade into the sea surrounded by aquamarine water, mesmerizing school of colorful fishes, and the pristine white sands of the Pelay Beach welcomes you.
long-tail boat inside koh hong (Source: jim Winstead)
The Krabi Province in Southern Thailand is this almost elvish archipelago out of which only the Ko Phi Phi Don is inhabited. If you are looking for some serenity amidst Nature's master work, go there. The sands are white, the crowd minimal, the breeze soulful.
Ko Phi Phi (Source: Robert Brands)
There are noteworthy attractions within this small island. The view point stands 186 meters above and offers a bird's eye view of the island. Talking of birds, the island is also an ornithologist's haven. Don't miss out on the ethnic fire show in the evenings. There are a number of beaches here - the Yao, Lanti, the Ton Sai Bay and the Laem Tong. Then there is also a Tsunami Memorial. It is a tiny island and all the attractions can easily be covered by a lazy stroll through the day.
Ko phi phi, Thailand (Source: Peti Morgan)
Wat Phra Kaew (Bangkok) is a symbol of tranquility and a riot of colors; showcasing Thailand's most revered icon - the Emerald Buddha. Deep legend lives here:
The earliest legend narrated to the ionic emerald image of the Buddha is that of Nagasena, a saint in India who with the help of Hindu god, Vishnu and demigod Indra got the Emerald Buddha image made, 500 years after Buddha attained Nirvana, from the precious stone of Emerald. Nagasena had, with his psychic powers predicted then that
Wat Phra Kaew (Source: Wikipedia)
Thai offerings, Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand (Source: R Barraez D´Lucca)
Thailand's historical roots date back to times prior to Anno Domini. Ayutthaya was the capital of the Siam kingdom and was one of the most populous, prosperous and advanced cities in the world reaching its epitome in 1700 CE before it was ransacked by the Burmese in 1756. It still holds relics of its former glory. It is located at less than an hour's drive from Bangkok.
Ayutthaya, Thailand (Source: Russ Bowling)
Sukhothai was established in 1238 and "The City of Dawn" was an important capital of the early Thai Kingdom. It still has some relics and ruins preserved amidst a well-maintained surrounding.
Ayutthaya #8 "Smooth And Soft" (Source: Kazuhiro Nakamura)
The National Museum (Bangkok) (Thanon Na Phra That, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang Phra Nakhon, Bangkok - 02-2812224) and The Hall of Opium (Chiang Saen)(Tel:+66 (0) 5378 4444). They are home to some of Thailand's most prestigious and historic reminders. The Hall of Opium is a sight onto itself which is reached by a subterranean tunnel.
Incredible India. The question here is not why India but rather why not India? Be it for a 2 hour lay over in an airport or a month long trip across this country of colors, India never fails to mesmerise. From the Great Thar Desert to the wettest place on earth, Cherrapunji, the cold desert and the Himalayas in Ladakh, the world's highest motorable road, the pristine Andaman and Nicobar Islands, yoga, the beaches of Goa, to Kerala's back waters, called God's own country. The list would go on.
Jaipur, oh all right, the Pink City, is rather chaotic and congested. It does manage to tickle the traveler pink, though. Stunning forts atop hills and glorious palaces are leftovers from a very rich, royal past. You won't have to look far to catch the candyfloss-bright turbans creating a riot of hue, the bargain bazaars, and the fluttering and astonishingly bright saris appear like butterflies.
01214 - Jaipur - (Source: xiquinhosilva)
Jaipur does not end here; there are world-class hotels with clammy sophistication, as well as camel carts and cows that waddle through the diesel-soaked streets while the rampaging rickshaws hustle and jostle past the myriad of businessmen and tourists.
01146 - Jaipur - (Source: xiquinhosilva)
Founded by Rao Jodha, Jodhpur dates back to 1459 AD. It was the seat of the Rathore Kingdom, more commonly known as the Marwar clan; the largest in Rajputana.
Today it is Rajasthan's second-largest city and much of it is a sprawling and polluted metropolis. However, look within the old walls, and you will find almost every building painted in the same light blue hue, giving Jodhpur the name of "Blue City". A teeming maze of narrow medieval lanes and colorful bazaars greet you.
The largest fort in Rajasthan, this grand structure dominates the Jodhpur skyline. Built in 1458, this fort has never been captured by force in it's 500 years of glorious history.
Mehrangarh Fort (Source: Alicia Nijdam)
Welcome to the Ocean of Sand or the Thar Desert. “Thar and my heart are the two names of the same desert”, wrote Mazhar-ul-Islam.
Every person who visits it leaves with a little bit of the desert in him. Spend two days discovering an area in excess of 3150 sq km. Jutting rocks, a salt lake and dunes till the horizon makes up the topography of one of India's largest national parks.
Thar Desert VII. (Source: Honza Soukup)
A one hour drive from Jaiselmer are Sam and Khuri are two exotic villages which offer similar sights of golden dunes and orange vistas in the setting sun as those of the Desert Park. However, if you want to experience the real desert life take a camel ride here.
Recommended: Join a camel caravan from Jaiselmer and take in the splendor of solitude as the trail takes you through the heart of the Thar desert. You can also sign up for a Desert Safari here.
Around Campfire at night Thar Desert (Source: amanderson)
Leave the puny hillocks behind and go for the majestic mountains of Kashmir. The snow clad mountains, the Dal Lake with the Shikara, the majestic Mughal Gardens and the pastures of Gul Marg. What could one want more! This place has more than once been called paradise on earth and everyone who has been there couldn't agree more.
Dal Lake (Source: Basharat Shah)
Then there's the famous Dal Lake whose beauty is ethereal. The reflections of the Mughal Gardens on the shore and the rippling waters as the Shikaras quietly float over them make them mesmerizing and very romantic. The green pastures of Gul Marg is another marvelous wonder. If you would like to see more of the mountains, you could go on day trips towards Ladakh for which enough cannot be said.
Clairvoyant (Source: Alosh Bennett)
Cherrapunji (locally known as Sohra or the fruitless land - annual precipitation of 11,777 mm - 463.7 in) and Mawsynram, two places separated by merely a couple of kilometres or so that they fight tooth and nail for the coveted crown of being the wettest place on earth.
This is dry winter. just Imagine how it will be in the rainy season (Source: Subharnab Majumdar)
Known as the Music Capital of Asia and also considered by many of the industry's foremost members, as the Fashion Capital of India, Shillong (the Capital of Meghalaya) is a place out of the world that many of us know of. The only thriving matriarchal society in the world, it is known not only for its natural beauty that borders on Tolkien's work of fantasy but also for a society that would make the flamboyant William Molyneux proud.
Meghalaya (Source: Satish Krishnamurthy)
While entire Europe is replete with things to see, Turkey has a charm of its own that is quite unique. You could say that Turkey is the most fought after country in the world. Something not to be too proud of, I guess. But we are talking about knights, and majestic swords and immense ships here. They were bound to leave some marks.
The country's landscape is dotted with ancient battlegrounds, ruined palaces of once great empires, and mighty castles. Alexander the Great battled the Gordion Knot here. Achilles himself had his way with the Trojans in Homer’s Iliad. The fight of the Ottomans was here that went on to shape the world. That's something to pique anyone's interest.
Feeding Mill... (Source: KÄ±vanç NiÅŸ)
By far, the spring (April to May) and the autumn (September to October) are the best times to visit Turkey. The weather remains more or less pleasant, specially along the Mediterranean coast.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Troy was destroyed and rebuilt nine times. And each of these have left a different layer of its own among the ruins. It has taken well over a century to undo the damages from amateurish archaeological excavations done by Heinrich Schliemann. However, the progress made in the last 10 years is really commendable.
Located 16 miles (26 km) from the Aegean Sea, perched atop a promontory upon the north bank of the Caicus river, is Pergamum - the older than the mountains Greek capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon which ruled in its glory during the Hellenistic period (of the Attalid dynasty, 281–133 BC).
Temple of Traian at Pergamum (Source: Julian Fong)
The acoustics were certainly better 3000 years ago, but that does not take anything away from this majestic place. From the upper tiers you get to see the sprawling vistas of the ancient Hierapolis - a place for the bards, and thanks to UNESCO, the glittering white terraces of Pamukkale.
Sacred Thermal Pool, Hierapolis (Source: Ming-yen Hsu)
The Blue Mosque has been Turkey's mascot to the world for many years. Standing majestically over the Sultanahmet Park, it proudly proclaims its stature. Under the glorious dome are hundreds of brilliant stained-glass windows that sparkle like jewels. Although called the Blue mosque, the facade is as likely to be orange, red or yellow, depending on the time that you choose to visit it.
Blue Mosque from Hagia Sophia (Source: decadence)
Down at the Cesme Peninsula is the Alacati Bay and this bay harbours a small beach so pristine that the very sand is smooth beyond belief. The aquamarine and shallow water without any obstructions and lofty winds are what characterizes this place. Beyond the beach are hills till as far you can see.
The hammam, or the Turkish bath which stems its roots from the Islamic ritual dictating cleanliness is the grand mother of all spas. Decorated with amazing artistic finesse, wooden details, candle lights, blissful and euphoric aroma, enchanting candles and a feel of royalty. The Hammam is vacation in itself.
hamam al malek al thaher (Source: Hussein Alazaat)
Ever thought of crossing over from one continent to another in 15 minutes? The silver line to Europe and quite literally, a boat ride up the Bosphorus gives you just that. Feel the breeze caressing you the way it must have caressed the likes of Constantine, Jason and Argonauts. Look upon great Ottoman domes and think of the ages gone by.
Bosphorus Bridge at night (Source: erenkumcuoglu)
Hope this helps. I would really like to plan this trip through to its end. I would suggest the following for the rest of the list: Mexico, Argentina, Cambodia, Tanzania, Turks and Caicos, Egypt and maybe Greenland.
Do let me know if you'd like to know about anything else and I will be glad to help you out.
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