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2020 was the yr that journey floor to a halt for most individuals. While most individuals didn’t journey in any respect this yr, I really feel terribly fortunate that I obtained to expertise as a lot as I did.
How was I capable of expertise a lot journey in 2020? I started the yr in Cuba and was scheduled to be in Mexico till the top of March. COVID didn’t start to influence day-to-day life in Mexico till mid-to-late March, and I stayed till April, then flew house to the States.
In June, Charlie and I had been nonetheless banned from one another’s nations and determined to satisfy up in Serbia, because it regarded just like the Czechs had been about to permit companions of Czech residents to return to the Czech Republic. We would spend time in Serbia till I obtained the clearance to return.
After just a few weeks in Serbia, nonetheless, we obtained unhealthy information and excellent news: solely companions of Czech residents can be allowed to return (Charlie is a everlasting resident, not a citizen)…however Croatia was welcoming Americans with correct documentation.
It was a no brainer. We crossed into Croatia and spent two months there ready for updates. Then we moved on to Italy, who welcomed Americans who had spent the previous 14 days within the EU (Croatia is the EU however not half of the Schengen Area). Then Charlie went again to Prague and I stayed in Italy. On September 21, the Czechs lastly introduced that companions of Czech residents may return.
I got here again to Prague on September 26 and have been right here since. I’ve solely left the town limits to choose up my kitties at their foster house.
It was an surprising yr, and regardless of the challenges that our beloved business is dealing with, I’m grateful for each minute of journey this yr.
So what made the record of my favourite locations?
In 2012, I selected locations like Iceland, Montenegro, and South Africa.
In 2013, I selected locations like Japan, Berlin, and the Scottish Highlands.
In 2014, I selected locations like Sri Lanka, New Orleans, and Skellig Michael, Ireland.
In 2015, I selected locations like Nicaragua, Albania, and Chicago.
In 2016, I selected locations like Puerto Rico, Alsace, and Western Australia.
In 2017, I selected locations like Ukraine, the Florida Keys, and St. Petersburg, Russia.
In 2018, I selected locations like Antarctica, Hokkaido, and St. Croix.
In 2019, I selected locations like Newfoundland, Georgia, and Lake Orta, Italy.
As a reminder, locations I visited previous to 2020 won’t be included — in order that excludes locations like Mérida (first visited in 2019), Ferrara (first visited in 2013), and Rovinj (first visited in 2012) from the record. With ONE exception, for an distinctive cause!
Here are my favourite new locations of 2020.
Is Bacalar my favourite vacation spot of 2020? I believe it is likely to be! While Mexico is a rustic with unbelievable range and so many desirable locations to go to, I really feel like Bacalar is one of probably the most particular locations within the nation.
Located within the far south of Quintana Roo state, near the Belizean border, Bacalar is a small city on the sting of an enormous freshwater lake — a Lake of Seven Colors, the shades of water altering from aquamarine to turquoise to cerulean to royal blue to ink. Bacalar is one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, cities honored for his or her cultural influence.
You spend your days out on the water — taking a ship journey throughout the lake, swimming in close by cenotes, floating down the river at Los Rapidos. It’s splendidly chill and an amazing place to take it gradual.
Rather a lot of folks say that Bacalar in the present day is what Tulum was — a once-peaceful and quirky village that has now develop into bloated, costly, and outlined by “scene.” And truthfully, I see the primary indicators that Bacalar goes to be transferring on this route as properly.
We can be clever to go to Bacalar presently, figuring out that this valuable place might change enormously sooner or later.
I ought to add that my journey to Bacalar befell with a couple of dozen of my pals in mid-February 2020. It’s my last journey reminiscence of the “before times,” earlier than we realized the influence COVID would have on the world. My reminiscences of Bacalar are sweeter for that cause.
Kate’s Top Recommendations for Bacalar
Spend a day at Los Rapidos. Los Rapidos is a day membership subsequent to a wild dashing river. It was insanely enjoyable leaping within the river again and again, getting pulled downstream! Get lunch there, too — the margaritas are fabulous.
Spend a time out on the lagoon — privately when you can. One of the very best elements of touring to Bacalar with a giant group of pals was getting our personal boat and lengthening our journey for longer. If you’re not in a giant group, simply be part of one of the boat journeys and also you’ll in all probability make a ton of new pals!
Rent a stand-up paddle board or kayak. It’s a lake — so it’s clean crusing. If you’re seeking to strive SUP, this can be a excellent place to study, because it’s a really benign surroundings. If you’re photography-focused, sunsets from a kayak are dreamy! (Don’t overlook your dry bag!)
Read More: A Travel Guide to Bacalar, Mexico’s Lake of Seven Colors
If any vacation spot shares the highest place with Bacalar, it’s the island of Vis (pronounced VEES) in Croatia. I’ve been very fortunate to go to heaps of locations in Croatia through the years, however Vis has been the island I’ve been dreaming of visiting ever since my first go to.
Vis is SO totally different from different Croatian islands. It’s the furthest island from the mainland, and as a navy base, it was off-limits to guests till 1989.
Because of this, Vis has an unique vibe. I discovered it so attention-grabbing how totally different the clientele was right here in comparison with different islands. You may undoubtedly inform that individuals had cash from how they dressed and the way they carried themselves. Many of them got here in by sailboat.
It feels intentional. Who are the sort of individuals who select the remoted, pricier, hard-to-get-to island with no enormous apparent attracts? You don’t get the vacationers who’re simply searching for solar and a seaside.
Every bit of Vis feels particular. The seaside the place you should swim in by means of cliffs to get to shore. The shimmering blue cave positioned off shore on Biševo Island. The upscale Kut neighborhood on the sting of Vis city, which manages to really feel each lazy and high-end.
In Vis, I obtained to expertise all the things I liked about Croatia — however on a better degree. I’m already hoping we will return to Vis for an extended go to in 2021.
Kate’s Top Recommendations for Vis
Spend a day on the boat journey across the island. These boat excursions take you to the Green Cave, then you definitely swim by means of the cliffs into Stiniva Beach, then you definitely seize lunch on Biševo island and go to the Blue Cave. It’s a wonderful method to take pleasure in the very best of Vis in a day journey!
Explore the navy tunnel advanced. Get an official information and you’ll discover the insides of the tunnels, sometimes breaking out to see beautiful views of the island.
Relax by the seaside with cocktails. You’ll haven’t any scarcity of bars in Vis or Komiža.
Where to Stay in Vis: There are solely three inns on the island! We stayed at Hotel San Giorgio, a incredible little boutique lodge within the Kut neighborhood of Vis city with a stunning, gregarious proprietor. Very extremely beneficial; guide as far forward as you’ll be able to as a result of in non-COVID years it books out shortly. (We paid a diminished media price because of my boyfriend’s work connections.)
Read More: AK Monthly Recap: August 2020
Some locations appear to exemplify the nation, stuffed with all the things you’ve dreamed of. You go to Munich and it’s BEER STEINS! LEDERHOSEN! CUCKOO CLOCKS! SUPER GERMANY! You go to Kyoto and it’s TEMPLES! SKYSCRAPERS! KAISEKI! SUPER JAPAN! You go to Sevilla and it’s FLAMENCO! BULLFIGHTS! ORANGE TREES! SUPER SPAIN!
Of course, there’s lots of range in every of these nations, however Munich, Kyoto, and Sevilla are usually a lot like the way you image a rustic in your thoughts. And when you’re searching for a spot in Mexico that has that very same high quality, it’s Oaxaca.
In Oaxaca you’ve gotten robust Indigenous cultures, their crafts and patterns including coloration to each clean edifice. You have low cost meals markets and excellent haute delicacies. You have historical ruins, colonial church buildings, and simply outdoors the town, excellent pure wonders. Oaxaca is the land of mole and mezcal, and it’s one of the very best locations within the nation to have fun El Día de Muertos.
If you wish to bounce into Mexico headfirst, Oaxaca is a GREAT place to do it. I fell in love with Oaxaca pretty shortly, and it’s one of the locations I’d be glad to spend just a few months in Mexico. An excellent medium-sized metropolis? Excellent climate year-round? Best meals within the nation? Sign me up.
Kate’s Top Recommendations in Oaxaca
Visit a Temezcal, also referred to as a sweat lodge. Ceviarem Temezcal offers you the total expertise, hosted by an area Zapotec couple. It’s an effective way to respectfully have interaction in an Indigenous expertise, and Blanca and Joshave take nice care of you as you squirt oranges on your self (“like a turkey!”), cowl your self in chocolate and clay, and luxuriate in an natural tub, all at a excessive temperature.
Go for a mezcal and mole tasting with a sommelier. One of my favourite actions in Oaxaca was a mole and mezcal pairing with an superior sommelier named Daniel who taught us SO a lot! We had half a dozen moles, every paired to an ideal mezcal.
Splurge on one high-end meal. Most Mexicans agree that Oaxaca has the very best meals within the nation. My private favourite meal was at Origen, which was an outstanding expertise. We additionally loved Los Danzantes and Maguey y Maíz.
Where to Stay in Oaxaca: I don’t suggest the place we stayed (it was REALLY low cost and a cockroach got here out to greet us each night time at 11:00 PM…) however location-wise, follow the town heart. It’s a bit hilly however very walkable.
Read More: AK Monthly Recap: March 2020
Novi Sad, Serbia
I’ve liked spending summers within the Balkans. But as a lot as I like Croatia and Albania, North Macedonia and Slovenia, I’ve by no means felt as a lot love for Serbia as the opposite nations. Serbia is a bit of a troublesome promote, and as soon as you permit Belgrade, you’re formally off the crushed path.
I didn’t love most of Serbia. But Novi Sad was fantastic.
Maybe it was that it felt extra European; perhaps it was the Hapsburg-era structure. Maybe it was the incredible and absurdly low cost house we rented. Maybe it was the plethora of cafes, every serving beautiful flat whites, and precise sushi eating places!
It was a gorgeous place to go to, and only a bit tough across the edges. Novi Sad undoubtedly falls into the “livability category” that I involuntarily assess all over the place I journey.
Charlie and I agreed that we may have stayed in Novi Sad for awhile — however between anti-government protests and rising COVID numbers, we determined it might be prudent to cross into Croatia whereas we may.
Kate’s Top Recommendations for Novi Sad
Walking round city and having fun with the cafes, sushi, and road life. That’s just about the majority of what I did in Novi Sad. Fortunately, it’s a metropolis that lends itself to wandering!
Check out Petrovaradin Fortress. Located on the other aspect of the river, this can be a good place to discover and revel in views of the skyline.
Visit Fruška Gora National Park and attempting some of the native wines. I didn’t have time to do that on my journey, however Fruška Gora is simply outdoors Novi Sad and makes a gorgeous day journey! They have wineries, too.
Where to Stay in Novi Sad: Please keep at this wonderful house!! The greatest house I stayed all yr. Super fashionable, tons of area, nice location, comfy furnishings, fantastic homeowners, and simply $30 an evening! I want extra leases had been as good as this one.
Read extra: Traveling in Serbia — Takeaways from an Unexpected Trip
Korčula (Beyond Korčula Town), Croatia
Technically I first visited Korčula (KOR-chu-la) in 2012, on my Busabout backpacker crusing journey — a really enjoyable journey, however I solely spent about 24 hours in Korčula, all of it concentrated within the previous city. This time, I spent a full week in Korčula and explored the island in depth.
While I totally loved myself on each Korčula journeys, it was solely on this yr’s most up-to-date journey that I gained an understanding of simply how wonderful Korčula is.
Korčula has so many of the attributes of different Croatian hotspots — beautiful seashores, a gorgeous protected previous city, scrumptious seafood — however what units it aside is the wine. Korčula is house to some excellent varietals which are unimaginable to seek out elsewhere (the world-famous Grk) in addition to different varietals like Pošip.
The single greatest city to go to moreover Korčula city is Lumbarda. Just 10 minutes down the street, you’ll discover a low-key seaside village the place youngsters play within the water, grapevines develop wild, and locals correctly dine on the very best seafood on the island.
Beyond that, an island day journey can take you to the perspective over Zavalatica, small household wineries in Smokvica and Pupnat, enjoyable seashores in Pupnatska Luka and Bačva, and extra.
Korčula has a lot to supply that it actually deserves every week of your time. I virtually really feel indignant with myself for not realizing this again in 2012!
Kate’s Top Recommendations for Korčula
Go for a motorcycle experience to a vineyard in Lumbarda. This is likely to be my favourite exercise I did in all of Croatia this summer time! Lumbarda is a spectacular place for a motorcycle experience, with inexperienced vineyards up in opposition to the brilliant turquoise ocean! And the Grk wine is particular and distinctive.
Spend a day island-hopping the archipelago. There are just a few small islands off the coast of Korčula and you’ll take a water taxi to Badija and Vrnik. You can loosen up, have lunch, swim in a seaside, or discover the islands.
Check out the southern seashores. There are small coves on the southern edge of the island house to pebbly seashores. They require driving down a steep switchbacked street! Pupnatska Luka and Bačva Beach had been two good ones.
Where to Stay in Korčula: Hotel Korčula de la Ville in Korčula city is the sort of place I really like — a snazzy boutique lodge within the coronary heart of the motion. It appears like a four-star, however as a result of there’s no elevator, you get three-star costs. (This was a comped keep from my work with the Korčula tourism board.) Otherwise, if you wish to keep in a rural village, we loved this house in Žrnovo. Say hello to Bobby the cat!
Read More: A Travel Guide to Korčula, Croatia’s Coolest Island
I had excessive expectations for Havana, however the metropolis didn’t do a lot for me. I discovered Havana to be anxious — the sort of place that saps your vitality. Very uncommon for me, as I normally thrive in cities.
Luckily, Viñales was rather more my pace. A city within the rural western half of Cuba, house to verdant tobacco farms and towering mountains, Viñales was as not like Havana as a spot might be.
As you drive the winding roads into city, you move infinite inexperienced fields. Mountains within the distance appear to be the limestone karsts of southern Thailand.
You enter city and also you see brightly painted houses, neon Cadillacs stationed alongside the aspect of the street. This is a spot to take a seat in a rocking chair in your entrance porch and simply take all of it in. Whenever you’re not out climbing or horseback driving, that’s.
You’ve obtained no respectable web right here. That’s incredible. In Viñales you’re meant to benefit from the open air.
Kate’s Top Recommendations in Viñales
Spend a day climbing out to the farm. A well-liked tour in Viñales is to hike or drive out to a farm, the place you’ll be able to pattern native rum and low, discover ways to make cigars, and get to know the farm’s animals. Say hello to Montecristo the black kitty!
Go horseback driving. If you’re seeking to go horseback driving whereas in Cuba, Viñales is the very best place to do it. The surroundings provides a lot to the expertise!
Have some piña coladas at 3 Jotas. This bar within the center of the city allows you to make your individual piña coladas — and add as a lot rum as you’d like. Beware, the extra rum you set in, the extra undrinkable it will get!
Where to Stay in Viñales: In Cuba folks keep at Casas Particulares, folks’s houses that they lease out. Many of them might be booked on Airbnb. We stayed at this casa and liked it. Our fantastic hosts organized all the things that we would have liked, together with our experience again to Havana.
Read extra: Can Americans Travel to Cuba? I did in 2020.
Everyone desires to go to Croatia’s islands. But what about Pelješac (PEL-yeh-shatz)? This peninsula is positioned between Split and Dubrovnik. Rather a lot of folks find yourself driving by means of Pelješac, having fun with probably the most spectacular driving views in Croatia, however they don’t even cease to see what’s round!
I hadn’t given a lot if any thought to the Pelješac peninsula past this yr. And what I discovered was a treasure.
Pelješac is the sort of place the place you present up at an area vineyard and the household is outdoors consuming lunch collectively, however the younger man says, No downside, please, let me pour you some of our wine. It’s the sort of place the place you’ll be able to keep at a donkey farm and dine on freshly made cheeses. Not to say sip wine saved on the backside of the ocean!
It’s quiet and it’s underdeveloped. Most of the tourism is low key. Almost all of the vacationers listed below are European: Austrians and Poles and Germans and Slovenians. And a big quantity of them have road-tripped right here with RVs in tow, having fun with the various campgrounds on the peninsula.
I really feel like Pelješac is what Croatia’s common islands had been like earlier than they turned worldwide hotspots. And that alone is a superb cause to go to.
Kate’s Top Recommendations for Pelješac
Go strive some oysters in Ston. Ston is house to some of the very best oysters in Europe — briny and juicy with a satisfying firmness. You can strive them at a restaurant on the town with a view of the longest partitions in Europe, or guide a tour that takes you out to the water!
Taste all of the wine. Dingač, a deep purple much like Zinfandel, is the very best of what Pelješac has to supply! My private favourite Dingač is from the small family-owned Bartulović Winery. Also, maintain your eyes open for wine saved on the backside of the ocean.
Spend a morning at Divna Beach. I’m fairly certain that is my favourite seaside in all of Croatia! It’s a good-sized stretch of grey pebble seaside on the north aspect of the peninsula, and the water is a few of the clearest and brightest I’ve ever seen.
Where to Stay in Pelješac: Orebić is an efficient, central base with heaps of eating places and outlets. There aren’t lots of high quality inns right here — I like to recommend renting an house as a substitute. We stayed in this pretty one-bedroom house. Say hello to the little grey kitty who lives close by. We miss her.
Read extra: AK Monthly Recap: August 2020
I visited Mexico City beneath the strangest of circumstances. We arrived on March 15, simply because the influence of COVID started to achieve Mexico. Right earlier than we arrived, our Lucha Libre efficiency and Xochimilco boat journey had been cancelled. Then all the things occurred without delay.
We had been in Mexico City for practically a month. When we arrived, no person was sporting masks; by the point we left, masks had been required and just one family member was allowed within the grocery retailer without delay. Because this was the early days of COVID, there was lots of conflicting info on the market and we didn’t know what to do.
But every day, we’d take an extended stroll. And THAT is after I fell in love with Mexico City.
We stayed in La Condesa, one of the good neighborhoods I’ve ever skilled anyplace. It’s full of lush greenery, cool bars and cafes, and brightly coloured buildings that made you smile simply taking a look at them. And past that, neighborhoods like Roma and Polanco and Coyoacán had been house to colourful buildings, attention-grabbing outlets, and blooming purple jacaranda bushes.
This is the sort of huge metropolis I like.
Kate’s Top Recommendations for Mexico City
While we didn’t get to do as a lot as we had hoped, I do have just a few suggestions.
Explore La Condesa and take heaps of walks on the round road of Avenida Amsterdam. La Condesa is one of the good neighborhoods I’ve ever visited. Its vibe really jogs my memory of Paris! Enjoy each bar and cafe and breathe within the clear air from all of the bushes.
Spend a Saturday at Xochimilco. Charlie has performed this and it’s an enormous occasion with boats and music and much of enjoyable folks. Too unhealthy ours was cancelled!
Splurge on high-end eating. Mexico City is one of the very best cities for world-renowned eating places at inexpensive costs. We needed to cancel our reservations at Pujol and Quintonil, however we did take pleasure in a scrumptious supply meal from Contramar!
Where to Stay in Mexico City: La Condesa, palms down. This is the cool neighborhood. We stayed in this house, and the proprietor kindly saved extending our keep at a decrease price. However, it’s throughout the road from a loud nightclub; I in all probability wouldn’t keep there once more for that cause. We had been okay as a result of the membership shut down as a result of COVID. See extra La Condesa leases right here.
This is one place the place I’m decided to return and do proper.
Read extra: Sheltering in Place in Mexico City
The Third Time Around Award: Venice
Yes, I’ve been to Venice twice earlier than: in 2004 and 2006. But every of these visits was a day journey. This time, we determined to remain every week in Venice, which become twelve days.
And MY WORD. This Venice was SO a lot better than any Venice I had ever skilled.
It was completely magical. Venice is such an inconceivable place to start with, a spot that’s miraculously nonetheless a functioning metropolis in the present day. How was this doable?! It practically introduced tears to my eyes.
You can’t get Venice in a day journey go to. You’ll be spending all of your time among the many crowds and barely attending to see what makes it particular. Nighttime is when Venice is at its greatest.
And as quickly as I realized this, my earlier prejudices about Venice melted away. Too touristy? Nope. (Though it does assist to go within the low season in non-COVID instances; I really choose Venice within the winter.) Bad meals? Not in any respect. There’s lots of good meals in Venice. Expensive? More so than different locations, however extremely price it.
Now, if anybody brings up Venice, I flip right into a loopy particular person: “YOU BETTER STAY FOR AT LEAST THREE DAYS!”
Kate’s Top Recommendations for Venice
Eat all of the cicchetti. Cicchetti are Venetian bar snacks, which might vary from low cost random fried objects to gourmand collections of objects on bread, virtually like pintxos. Grab wine and cicchetti and maintain ordering till you’re full! Two excellent cicchetti locations I like to recommend are Vino Vero in Cannaregio and Bar al’Arco close to the Grand Canal.
Visit Murano and Burano for the day. Murano is the glass-blowing island, which has attention-grabbing demonstrations; Burano is stuffed with vibrant, colourful houses and handmade lace outlets. Don’t miss my favourite gelato store in Venice: Murano Gelateria Artiginale. The salty pistachio gelato was the very best!
Get misplaced within the streets. You WILL get misplaced, as a result of GPS will level you the mistaken means regularly in Venice’s streets — however that’s half of its pleasure. Especially in residential areas, removed from vacationers.
Where to Stay in Venice: We stayed in this excellent house within the Castello neighborhood, near Arsenale. Two bedrooms, canal view, nice workspaces, and LIGHTNING FAST INTERNET (which I used to add all my course movies). The edges of Castello are an amazing neighborhood — a couple of 15-minute stroll from the town heart, which saved it good and quiet. See extra leases in Castello right here.
Where I Hope to Add in 2021
We don’t know what 2021 goes to appear to be — however I’m assured that by summer time 2021 issues will likely be turning round. By then, massive segments of the inhabitants in developed nations will likely be vaccinated. Hardcore vacationers who stayed house in 2020 will likely be again on the street as soon as they’ve been vaccinated, and I believe summer time goes to be HUGE.
Right now I’ve zero journey plans. But listed below are some potentialities:
Naples, Italy. My solely expertise in Naples was taking probably the most terrifying cab experience of my life from the prepare station to the ferry dock to go to Capri in 2004. But I’d like to expertise it for actual, and Charlie is a large Naples fan, so we’re hoping to go within the spring to take pleasure in all of the pizza.
Karlovy Vary and Brno, Czech Republic. Wroclaw, Poland. Slovakian Tatras. These Central European locations are excessive on my record for close by getaways subsequent yr.
New locations in Atlantic Canada. I adored my time in Atlantic Canada in 2019, obtained to know lots of of us who work in tourism, and had been planning to return in 2020. I’m hoping in 2021 we will decide up the place we left off — and benefit from the lobster, quirky cities, cliffs, and wonderful folks.
Nashville to New Orleans street journey. Charlie and I’ve been throwing out concepts of the place to go within the US, and this excites us probably the most in the mean time. We’d additionally go to Memphis and the Mississippi Delta, a area that has lengthy intrigued me. All however New Orleans can be new.
Maybe, lastly, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket?! As a Massachusetts native, it’s ridiculous that I haven’t been to both of these but!! But with a household occasion down the Cape in September, perhaps 2021 is lastly the time.
Any new nations? I hope so, however I can’t even think about the place proper now. There are so many components. I’ve a good friend who just lately went to Egypt who had a incredible time urged me to go whereas the vacationer numbers are low. Maybe there.
Did you get to go to anyplace cool this yr? Share away!