January 1st. Your annual leave count is back up to a full years entitlement. In Oz, that means 4 weeks, in the UK that can mean up to 6 weeks. Either way, it seems precious little for all the plans you have.
You sit down to map out the year. You want some culture. A bit of adventure, maybe some trekking. Food, that’s a definite must. Shopping would be a bonus. And if you’re living in the UK, you definitely want some sun lounging action.
So – four or five different places to satisfy your desires? All with potentially hefty airfares and travel time to boot?
Or just one, fabulously well rounded country so you can spend a bit more time on holiday and a bit less time actually getting there?
If you’re wondering if such magical places exist, I’m here to share with you at least three countries you can head to and ensure all your urges are satisfied.
If you haven’t already been to Italy, you need to get yourself there pronto. Sparkling clear water with amazing coastline? No problem, head to the Amalfi Coast or the Cinque Terra. A country so rich in culture it’s practically pouring out of your ears and you actually start fantasising about being a Roman? Just look around. But if you’re talking specifics, scoot on over to Rome and Pompeii. Looking for romance? Try Venice or Florence. Iconic landmarks? Hit Pisa on your way through. Impossibly cute cities with colours so vivid they sear into your memories? Sienna’s your place. Mountains? The Dolomites. Lakeside relaxation? Como. Fashion? Milan. Food? Just try not enjoying the amazing fare that oozes out of every corner of this country. Just remember, if you’re heading to Bologna to try bolognaise – you need to ask for ragu.
Long considered a land of cartels, corrupt law enforcement and cocaine, Colombia’s reputation precedes it. Take it from someone who has backpacked through Europe, Asia, Central and South America – Colombia is one of the safest countries you can visit.
Far more cosmopolitan than you would expect, Colombia has everything you could desire. Beaches and ridiculously fresh and cheap fruit shakes await you at Taganga. Expect perfect white sand and no electricity at Playa Blanca and Parque Tayrona. Parties galore at hip bars and clubs, topped off with fantastic international food offerings, are beckoning you from Medellin. Historic sites dating back to the dawn of civilisation are littered through St Augustin. Fresh coffee at a plantation plus mountainous walks that take your breath away are yours for the taking in Salento. Shopping, partying, an historic old district and museums abound in Bogota. And the most beautiful historic port town, bar none, awaits you in Cartagena. Love at first sight.
Okay, okay, I’m cheating here. The United States are huge, but the fact remains – it is a gorgeous country with absolutely everything. Even if you have to choose just one microcosm (but let me tell you, if you never party in Vegas, drive down the Big Sur, stand awe struck above the Grand Canyon, or dine out in San Francisco you will be missing out), then head to New York.
There you will find every kind of food you can think of. Every kind of shop you can think of – selling brands for cheaper than you can get anywhere else. Skyscrapers and rooftop views to leave you reeling, and an expanse of beautiful parkland located right in the heart of a metropolitan landscape. Bridge walks across a stunning waterway, quirky neighbourhoods, a subway system that actually runs all night, major landmarks, and if you head out down Long Island, some of the prettiest beaches around. Sure, the culture may be young, but by golly – they sure are proud of it.
So there you have it. Three of my worst kept secret, have it all countries to explore. I would love to hear if you’ve been to other countries that you think have it all too, and am always happy to share any hints or tips if you’re looking to visit anywhere I’ve been.
Until then – happy travels!