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Top Fives

 

A wholly biased and unscientific list of favourite places, people, natural wonders etc. And not many are Top Fives, more like any number you can think of..

 

Friendliest people

Iran - unbelievably hospitable, from bus drivers driving an extra 30kms without pay, to free food, present-buying, queue jumping and lifts without asking. Every traveller I've met has the same experience

Burkina Faso - they don't have much but that doesn't stop them being kind and generous

Ghana - very welcoming, friendly and proud people in a lovely country

El Salvador - whether I needed it or not, they looked out for me; even the soldiers were friendly (though I wouldn't test this out too much..)

Northern Ethiopia - I'd have said the whole of Ethiopia but for the effect the narcotic qat has on the locals in the east

Special mention to Thailand whose people, considering the number of tourists they see, are extremely helpful and friendly

 

Rivers

Mekong, Laos - enjoy a speedboat then join local wildlife on a slow boat between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang via Pakbeng

Saloumb river near Mar Lodj, Senegal - see freshwater dolphins in this beautiful area of Senegal

Nile - take a felucca ride on the Nile at Luxor, Egypt; absorb the views of the Nile at Jinja, Uganda

Ganges, India - it might be heavily polluted but walking along the ghats at Varanasi is a very atmospheric experience

Amazon, Brazil/Ecuador - take a boat trip along an Amazon tributary

 

Lakes

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala - beautiful, just beautiful. A stunning lake surrounded by laid-back villages and walking trails. A place I could stay for a long time

Lake Toba, Indonesia - a similar chilled feel to Lake Atitlan. Gorgeous

Jokulsarlon lagoon, Iceland - take a boat around the floating icebergs at the edge of Vatnajokull glacier

Lake Malawi, Malawi - there's plenty of lakeside towns and villages on the beautiful lake shores

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia/Peru - lie on a beach 4000m above sea level with snow capped mountains as a backdrop

The flight in to Canaima in Venezuela is also great, with falls cascading into the central lake

 

 

Islands

A top ten jobby..

Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua - straddled by two volcanoes, ancient history, rural life and walking trails

Zanzibar - powder-white sand beaches, turquoise waters, a lush interior, fresh fish & fruit and a lovely old town

Ssese Islands, Uganda - a relaxed island in Lake Victoria offering country walks and small beaches

Cuba - great live music and dance, glorious colonial towns, fascinating history, beaches, rum and cigars

Iceland - plenty to savour, including active volcanoes, glaciers and waterfalls

Isla del Sol, Bolivia - a high altitude island set in Lake Titicaca with the Andean mountains in the background

Likoma Island, Malawi - a laid-back island in Lake Malawi offering beaches and diving

Malta - historic buildings, beaches, great nightlife and all within an hour or so's drive of each other

Floating Islands of the Uros, Peru - the Uros poeple live on floating islands made from woven reeds on Lake Titicaca; touristy but enjoyable

Ganvie, Benin - Ganvie village may not be 100% an island but it's definitely worth spending time at this stilt village on Lake Nokoue

 

Volcanoes & mountains

Pacaya, Guatemala - walk through billowing steam while climbing this active volcano, and finish off with superb views of three more volcanoes rising above the clouds

Karakoram Highway, Pakistan - bus it from Rawalpindi to Kashgar via the Khunjerab Pass, taking in some lovely towns and mountain scenery on the way

Himalayas, Nepal - take in stunning views on one of the many Himalayan treks on offer

Mt Bromo, Indonesia - another volcano in a beautifully barren setting on the island of Java

Arenal, Costa Rica - for lazing around a cocktail bar floating in a thermal pool at the base of a rumbling, lava-glowing volcano

 

Desert towns

Ghadames, Libya - an amazing network of covered walkways, whitewashed buildings and palm trees

Ouadane, Mauritania - a crumbling town in the Sahara

Chinguetti, Mauritania - the surrounding sand dunes are stunning

Jaisalmer, India - a grand city in the Thar desert

Timbuktu, Mali - just to say you've been there, nothing else

 

Other natural wonders

Gorilla trekking, Rwanda - see these awesome creatures close up

Turtle egg-laying, Ghana/Costa Rica - see the huge leatherback turtles on coastal shores

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia - possible on a shoestring and take a morning/afternoon/night tour when you want

Liwonde National Park, Malawi - be part of the food chain on a walking safari, and drift on lagoon waters

Snorkelling, Belize/Kenya - bright colours and beautiful clear waters. If only I could swim properly! Many recommend the Honduran Bay Islands and the Red Sea at Sinai, Egypt

 

Events & activities

Another deserving of a Top Ten

Arirang Mass Games, North Korea - 100,000-strong synchonized dance with an incredible human mosaic backdrop. Welcome to North Korea!

Harbin Snow & Ice Festival, China - it's tacky and over the top but it's also brilliant. Huge snow sculptures and neon-flashing ice castles

Climbing Pacaya volcano, Guatemala - smell the sulphur at the top of this active volcano; the views of three more volcanoes rising above the clouds are magnificent

Glacier walking and snowmobiling, Iceland - a short but exhilarating snowmobile ride on Vatnajokull glacier

Chichicastenango market, Guatemala - more than just a colourful indigenous market; observe a local ceremony wishing for a good harvest

Candomblé ceremony, Cachoeira, Brazil - possessed believers perform a spirit dance before the Mother of the Saints

Fiesta de la Virgen de Copacabana, Bolivia - an Aymaran festival on the shores of Lake Titicaca featuring men and women dressed up in fantastic costumes, along with music and dance. And a lot of very drunk locals. Superb

PDC World Darts, London (evenings, quarter-finals onwards) - the darts take second stage as the crowd stoke up a great atmosphere at Alexandra Palace. You'll love it or hate it. I love it

Olodum, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil - the energy and rhythm from these street drummers is immense

Trans-Siberian railway, China/Mongolia/Russia and Karakoram Highway, Pakistan/China - take a train ride across Asia to Europe or another across the roof of the world

 

I'm sure Glastonbury festival, Oktoberfest and the Brazilian Carnaval would be in there if I'd been

 

Beautiful women

Venezuela - all the women are glamorous, even the students

Indonesia - very exotic mix of dark skin and dark eyes

British Indian - so many Miss Worlds seem to be Indian..

Israel - olive skin and green eyes, a great combination; definitely the world's hottest army!

Sri Lanka - again the beautiful mix of dark skin and dark eyes

 

Beaches

Zanzibar - the east coast has stunning powder-white sand and turquoise waters. I stayed around Paje and Bwejuu

Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic - a series of arching bays laden with palm trees

Ankobra, Axim, Ghana - a great hotel that blends with this small but gorgeous beach

Arraial d'Ajuda at New Year, Brazil - included for the sight of hundreds of Brazilians dressed in white welcoming in the New Year

Ada Foah, Ghana - the beach is not a world beater but the location of a very basic pension in the 50metres between a lovely stretch of the Volta river and the Gold Coast is a delight

Las Lajas, Panama - not the most stunning beach but you can walk for miles without seeing a soul

Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panama

And one day I'll get to the Maldives..

 

Microstates & enclaves

Monaco - so many sights packed into such a small area

Hong Kong - as well as bright lights, shopping and crowds it's got beaches, forest trails and tranquility if you know where to look

Ceuta - a second Spanish African enclave dishing up beaches, a fancy waterpark, marinas and hillside trails

Melilla - some aren't bowled over by this Spanish enclave in north Africa, but prove them wrong by mixing beachtime with marinas, waterside bars and Modernist architecture

Gibraltar - give it more time than an afternoon booze and fags trip - the Rock has plenty to offer

And don't forget San Marino's capital city with its superb hilltop views

 

Micronations

Micronations: Unrecognised territories, often created by the quirky and eccentric

Seborga in Italy - the least quirky, mainly because it has a valid claim to independence

Achzivland in Israel (scroll to middle) - Eli Avivi is a true eccentric

Uzupis in Lithuania (scroll to middle) - an artists' enclave

Kemetia in England (scroll to bottom) - now defunct

Lagoan Isles in England (scroll to bottom) - not much to see here..

 

 

WORLD MAP  WORLD BEERS

 

This page is a work in progress - keep checking back

 

Ancient sites & buildings

Big enough for a Top Ten (make it eleven), with some older than others..

Petra, Jordan - magnificent rock-cut city built in the 3rd century

Bam citadel, Iran - breathtaking abandoned mud-brick city, but destroyed in a 2003 earthquake

Lalibela, Ethiopia - a series of 10th-13th century rock-hewn churches, linked by pathways. Amazing - worth going to Ethiopia for

Taj Mahal, India - stunning 17th century marble mausoleum

Angkor, Cambodia - centre of the Khmer empire from 9th-15th century boasting many temples. Another sight worth going to Cambodia alone

Teotihuacan, Mexico - huge pyramids just outside Mexico City, built between 100BC-250AD

Borobodur Temple, Indonesia - 9th century monument laden with Buddha statues inside bell-shaped stupas

Ksar Ouled Soltane, Tunisia - a 15th century fortified granary store

Qasr Nalut, Libya - another fortified storeroom dating to the 11th century; full of alleyways, nooks and crannies

Chichen Itza, Mexico - Mayan city inhabited between 7th-13th centuries

Machu Picchu, Peru - 15th century Inca site in the Andean mountains

 

Never been to Mada'in Saleh but one day I hope to see Petra's rival in Saudi Arabia

 

Waterfalls

Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe - you can see the water vapour rising several kms away; take a helicopter ride above this awesome site

Kaieteur Falls, Guyana - take a five-day overland trip from Georgetown to this beautiful waterfall; stay the night and have the place almost to yourself

Angel Falls overland trip, Venezuela - world's highest waterfall and another one where the overland trip multiplies the experience, via a four-seater plane to Canaima

Iguacu Falls, Brazil/Argentina - these set of falls are mightily impressive

Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia - smaller than they used to be but nevertheless a worthy trip

 

North Korea Travels to the Hermit Kingdom by Mark Wilkinson | Make Your Own Book

Mosques

Grand Mosque, Djenne, Mali - an amazing structure built from mud

Taj Mahal, Agra, India - not quite a mosque but a mausoleum. Stunning

Imam Mosque, Esfahan, Iran - the green, blue and turquoise tiles typical of Persian mosques are beautiful

Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey - Better known as the Blue Mosque. Definitely a 'wow' moment when seen for the first time

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria - maybe not on the tour itineraries right now, but the world's fourth holiest mosque is gorgeous inside

Shah Faisal Mosque, Islamabad, Pakistan - King Faisal of Saudi Arabia financed construction of this imposing, modern mosque, one of the world's largest

Also spare time for the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco

 

Churches & cathedrals

Pokrovsky Cathedral, Moscow, Russia - better known as St Basil's Cathedral, it's colourful onion domes are stunning

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain - Gaudi's immense and quirky structure is fascinating both inside and out

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, St Petersburg, Russia - a cuter version of St Basil's

Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, England - for the excellent 'Sean Henry 2011' statues throughout the cathedral and its grounds

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England - seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England

 

Off-the-beaten track

Bam citadel, Iran - unfortunately this breathtaking abandoned mud-brick city was destroyed in a recent earthquake

Zipaquira underground salt cathedral, near Bogota, Colombia - a cathedral built into an abandoned salt mine, complete with Via Dolorosa stations. Wow

North Korea - the whole experience! Take a surreal tour and feel like you're part of The Truman Show

Lome, Togo - Negotiate a sale with a voodoo priest and ask the spirits to reduce their price. Not forgetting nearby Benin which is awash with fascinating voodoo culture

Candomblé ceremony, Cachoeira, Brazil - get lucky and experience a genuine ritual at the heart of Brazilian Candomblé. Possessed believers perform a spirit dance before the Mother of the Saints

 

 

Plazas & squares

Imam Khomeini Square, Esfahan, Iran - a truly beautiful array of blue and turquoise tiled mosques surround this square

Djemma el Fna, Marrakech, Morocco - really comes to life in the evening with food stalls, music, dance and hustlers

Old Town Square, Prague, Cezech Republic - surrounded by grand buildings.. and several bars to take it all in

Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy - difficult to choose between all the squares in this city

Hasan Pasa Hani, Diyarbarkir, Turkey - Not really a square but a converted caravanserai. Absorb the wonderful evening atmosphere over a nargileh and mint tea

Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza Vieja or maybe even Plaza de Catedral, Havana - the Cuban capital is full of glorious plazas, buildings and outdoor cafe-bars so take your pick

 

European city breaks

Split, Croatia - my new favourite; a beautiful old town set on the Adriatic coast with plenty of outdoor nightlife

Dubrovnik, Croatia - my new second favourite. A fantastic walled old city and a nearby island to escape from it all

Seville, Spain - meandering cobbled streets and alleyways complement lush gardens and Moorish architecture

Budapest, Hungary - take in views of a city spanning a picturesque river and experience a lively old town centre

Malaga, Spain - underrated city on the Costa del Sol. Lively and fun with grand buildings and an excellent old town

Prague, Czech Republic - lots to see and do in this tourist friendly city

And walk the lovely cobbled streets of Trastevere in Rome

 

Cities

Dominated by Latin America..

Havana, Cuba - beautiful Spanish architecture, great live music and vibrant people

San Juan, Puerto Rico - huge fortresses and historic streets on the edge of the Caribbean Sea

Zanzibar Old Town, Zanzibar - nature and time try to engulf this beautifully run down 'city', with a fascinating but tragic history

Tel Aviv, Israel - for the lively character of this beach city rather than sights to see. For those who love the outdoors - pavement cafes, bars and beaches

Cartagena, Colombia - more glorious Spanish architecture and a nearby fortress. And the Caribbean helps too

Antigua, Guatemala - glorious setting among volcanoes with a colourful indigenous population, bars and colonial buildings

Taxco, Mexico - small but gorgeous silver mining town

 

UK cities

York - a walled city that's home to quaint independent shops, ancient buildings, cobbled streets and seemingly a pub every other building

London - soak up the South Bank, River Thames, exhibitions, museums, galleries, concerts, parks, pubs, clubs, restaurants. More?! A world melting-pot

Bath - another historic English city complete with Roman baths

Edinburgh - for an overdose of culture try to go around Fringe time

Cardiff - a pleasant surprise. Shopping arcades, a lively port area and plenty of bars makes the Welsh capital a worthy choice

 

Drinks

Green Devil IPA by Oakham Ales, England - seriously hoppy, great taste

Lamu fruit juice, Kenya - freshly made, thick and with a zing of lime. The best juices ever

Vietnam roadside beer - tanks of dirt cheap home-made beer cooled by blocks of ice are for sale roadside. Sit in pathetically small plastic chairs for a real Vietnamese experience

Addis Ababa juice stall - I didn't expect Ethiopia to do great juices. A glass of layered avocado, papaya and banana was a highlight

de Koninck - Antwerp's a lucky recipient of this tasty Belgian beer

Page 24 - If you like de Koninck you'll probably go for this excellent beer from French Flanders

 

I love the majorly hoppy beers such as the trendsetter Punk IPA by Scotland's Brew Dog and also Jaipur by Thornbridge in England

My world beers page

 

Gluten-free beers

Scarborough Fair IPA by Wold Top - Yorkshire, England. The best gluten-free beer by a mile, which I'd drink even if not a Coeliac. Triple hopped

Or is it?! Pip by First Chop is brilliant. Hoppy and with a citrus taste (grapefruit to be precise). Might be my new 2017 favourite..

Hop Zij Met Ons by Jopen - Haarlem, Netherlands. Lovely IPA with a superb (hoppy of course) taste

Hoptical Illusion by Brass Castle - Malton, England. Great sorghum-based beer that's also vegan

Brunehaut Tripel by Brunehaut - Belgium. Found this strong tasting beer at Delirium Bar in Brussels

Gorgeous Blond Ale by Greens - Stockport, England. The key is in the name; if you like Belgian-style beers this is for you

I Wish IPA by Mikkeller - Copenhagen, Denmark. Bought this in London but can no longer find it here or on their site. Hoppy! Update: Mikkeller Or Die is a top substitute.

Finally, choose one from Against the Grain (bitter by Wold Top - England), Daas Ambre similar to Brunehaut (Daas - Belgium) or hoppy IPA Vagabond (BrewDog - Scotland)

 

My world beers page - Gluten free labels at bottom of page

 

this other world travel store

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