6 day itinerary for Romania and the Transylvanian region

Romania, and in particular Transylvania, conjures up images and feelings of some far off place . . . in the mountains . . . in the forests . . . with castles . . . kind of like Lord of the Rings, but with a spooky vibe . . . and indeed it is all of this.  And while there are not as much of a concentration of stellar attractions as you would get in Western Europe, that is kind of Romania’s charm and it makes for a great roadtrip for a week or so, with the itinerary below

A supercharged week seeing the highlights of Israel and Jordan

I say this trip is supercharged because it doesn’t leave much time for chilling out.  But, if you’re like most of us and only have a limited amount of vacation, then this is a fantastic weekend to weekend trip that takes in the world famous sites of Jerusalem, Petra and Wadi rum; while providing time for some fun experiences like floating in the Dead Sea, scuba diving in the Red Sea, driving through sparse deserts and a party in Tel Aviv

You’ll need energy for these 7 days, but you’ll be rewarded as, in my opinion, its one of the world’s best week long trips in the world

I was hesitating in going in winter as I’d seen low temperatures.  Don’t.  The winter helped with reduced crowds, not needing to book far ahead and not getting exhausted by the heat.  Perfect trip for a week-long winter break

Itinerary for 10 wonderful days in Guatemala

We were blown away by our 10 days in Guatemala.  Two of the most idyllic and beautiful places you can imagine with Lake Atitlan and Semuc Champey; a gorgeously preserved insight into former Spanish colonial times in the Old Town of Antigua; world-class ancient ruins with the #1 Mayan site of Tikal and the adventure into the jungle to see the mystic El Mirador; gorgeous jungles and mountains across the country; and all done so with the wonderful Guatemalan people

Really rated Guatemala and I’d place it as my favourite country for travelling in Central America

Going back in time for a week in Cuba

Cuba really does feel like going back in time . . . or like you’re in a parallel universe as the country went off on a tangent to the rest of the world.  Havana for sure has glimpses of this – the vibe is of a historic Old Town that generates thoughts of what it must have been like back in the days of Spanish colonial pomp, Caribbean pirates and vast trade running through to create such fine architectural buildings and general buzz – but it is when you start to leave the capital that you feel this more slightly . . . odd . . . feeling about the place.  As you drive through the vast swathes of untouched tropical Cuban countryside you’ll see the pace of life drop significantly and small towns that feel more like small town America of the 1950s – a single main street with shops, each complete with a long porch for people to watch the world go by and an even longer queue outside of people there to buy whatever they are trying to buy.  As you go a bit further out you will see evidence of the centralised planning with large complexes of apartment blocks or hotel grounds with practically no one there.  And, in amongst all of it, the Cuban people who are as friendly as they are proud of their country

All this really is slightly odd – but it is also the key ingredient that makes Cuba such a unique experience

The itinerary I’ve listed here is more for the west of Cuba and the one we enjoyed.  Your other option of course is to head south from Havana to the colonial landscape of Trinidad and then dive in Bahia de Cochinos, both of which we’ve heard great things about.  The below itinerary though gets you more off the beaten tourist track and this was in particular something that we enjoyed so much about Cuba – a glimpse into that strange tangent the country has taken

Island hopping through the main Galapagos Islands

Spend a week lying on world class beaches, island hopping and seeing wildlife that often feels straight from a David Attenborough documentary. The Galapagos Islands are a world famous nature reserve around a thousand miles from the mainland, but don’t let that put you off – this wonderful experience is far more accessible than you would think

 

If you combine this trip around the main Galapagos Islands with Scuba diving at Wolf and Darwin Islands in the Galapagos, this truly becomes the trip of a lifetime

Scuba diving at Wolf and Darwin Islands in the Galapagos

8 days / 7 nights on one of the liveaboard dive boats sailing around the Galapagos Islands was an experience I’ll never forget. Whilst visiting the nesting sites of the Frigate Birds, Marine Iguanas and Blue Footed Boobies was super cool, it was the trip up to Darwin and Wolf Islands (to the north of the main Galapagos Islands) that was the highlight. The sheer number of Hammerhead Sharks we saw was mind-boggling, along with Manta Rays, Devil Rays, Sea Lions and Turtles. To add to the experience, spending time next to the sheer cliffs of these dramatic and isolated islands makes for a true feeling of adventure

Yes its expensive, but so are most trips of a lifetime

A week for the best of mainland Ecuador

This below 9 day itinerary is a good combination of some of the best things about mainland Ecuador – the old town of Quito; stepping back in time to a Lord of the Rings-style adventure around the Quliatoa Loop; a major challenge in summiting Cotopaxi; and getting to meet a range of local people along the way

 

Obviously, for many people Ecuador is all about the Galapagos Islands (see Island hoping through the main Galapagos Islands and Scuba diving at Wolf and Darwin Islands in the Galapagos for tips on these wonderful experiences).  But it also has some world-class experiences to be found on the mainland

A week for the highlights of Patagonia

So you have a week and you want to see the highlights?  Likely flying in from somewhere 12+ hours away and have from one weekend to the next for vacation?  My suggestion would be to focus on Torres del Paine National Park and the Perito Moreno Glacier from El Calafate

You could make your way down to Punta Arenas, but I just think that the scenery around El Calafate area beats it in every respect.  You don’t really have time for the Navimag ferry through the Fjords.  Parque Nacional los Alerces is too far away.  And don’t waste your time going to see the King Penguins at Porvenir

The only place that you should consider squeezing in is the hiking around El Chalten, but we didn’t get a chance to check it out and it would be tight

By giving yourself 4 nights in Torres del Paine / Puerto Natales, a day to see the Perito Moreno Glacier and a day and a half or so of driving (including crossing the Argentina – Chile border), you’ll leave tired but not exhausted, and with a feeling of awe for Patagonia

4/5 days in Uruguay

Chances are you won’t be flying over to South America just to visit Uruguay.  Most likely, you’re already over in this part of the world to check out Argentina, Brazil or as part of some bigger bolder adventure around South America.  If this is the case, then Uruguay is well worth the visit.  No, it won’t blow you away with a wonder of the world or one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences everyone salivates over.  But, it will be one of those 4/5 days you look back on and think “that was cool”, in large part because of the people – they are super proud of their country and make Uruguay a great little spot to visit

A week in Bhutan

Stunning Himalayan scenery and a traditional culture that permeates throughout your whole visit – a visit to Bhutan is a great experience and one that is anchored in the Bhutanese prides in maintaining its traditional culture, environment and people’s happiness rather than focusing on purely economic factors.  This extends to the tourist industry where the minimum spend of USD250 and a strong government hand restricts some of the more commercialised downsides of the industry and makes it feel like you’re stepping back in time to this slightly forgotten Himalayan kingdom

 

You’ll have to go with an agency (and pay the minimum spend of USD250 per day), but considering you don’t have to travel as a group, can arrange your own itinerary and the $ includes everything other than flights, it’s a good deal.  We went with Swallow Tail Travels on a 7 day / 6 night trip for USD1400, who we would recommend.  This is the itinerary