There are 197 official countries in the world and I’ve only been to 39 of them. Don’t get me wrong. I get that’s quite a few but why when the opportunity arises to choose a new destination why am I pulled back to the same places? Why do us travellers often forfeit exploring a new country for a place we’ve already been?
One advantage of returning to the same place means we gain a deeper understanding of a country and it’s culture and quirks. I asked some fellow travel bloggers which countries they are obsessed with and why? And what pro tips can they share with us on the best things to see and do there. It turns out many of us are a little obssessed with certain places so I’ve had to divide this post into two parts. This is of course ‘Part 1’.
For me personally there are several countries that just keep pulling me back, drawing me in like a kid to candy via pricey plane tickets. I have a love affair with three countries. In no particular order the threesome includes Thailand, Spain and The Netherlands. All completely different countries. Not really any obvious similarities. But when I arrive I get that “I’m home” feeling. For crying out loud I’ve been to Thailand over 20 times but I keep returning for more… I may or may not…. be here right now…
Let’s see what countries other travel bloggers keep returning to and what tips they have for you!
Scotland by Sarah from The Girl with the Map Tattoo
Scotland has always felt like home. From the moment I touched down in Edinburgh for a semester abroad at the University of Glasgow, it spoke to me. I am a huge history nerd – not your standard war history, but the ancients. Everywhere you go, you hear stories of the ancients. Places like fairy glens, fairy pools, and fairy bridges mark more than their fair share of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Stone circles, like the renowned Callanish stones on Lewis or the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney, mark places of ancient ritual, sacrifice, sun worship, and more. I find nothing more soothing than to sit with my back against a warm stone looking out over the rolling green hills of the islands, the distant water crashing on to the rocky shores. To explore the prehistoric settlements at Skara Brae and marvel at their ingenuity – and the other-worldliness with how they vanished. To walk across fields of heather, remnants of ancient volcanic eruptions, through glens once filled with ice. This is what I love!
Looking for an insider’s tip to Scotland? Don’t spend your vacation in Edinburgh. Stay there for a day or two to visit the museums and the castle – then rent a car and go north. Scotland’s claim to fame is the Highlands, that vast mountainous region of clans and warfare, murder and mayhem. From Inverness, explore around. Go to the Isle of Skye. Go even further west to the Outer Hebrides. Go north to Orkney. Go even further north to the Shetlands. Read the history, talk to the people. Try the local foods, the locally brewed beer, take a ferry, bicycle around an island. Take the world’s shortest flight from Westray to Papa Westray: all 45 seconds of it. In Glasgow, have dinner at ‘Two Fat Ladies’ on Dumbarton St. In Edinburgh, visit the Writers Museum. In Inverness, seek out Nessie. In St Andrews, walk through the golf course to the beach. On Skye, stay with Margaret and Sandy at Cuil Lodge in Uig. In Barra, watch planes take off and land at the world’s only beach runway. Don’t just stay in Edinburgh, you will miss seeing Scotland.
Italy by Sally from Safe Travels by Sally
Italy is where I found myself at sixteen and where I will forever return to get that feeling of independence and possibility. When I was in year eleven at school, I decided, on a whim, that I wanted to go on a student exchange program to Italy and I am so glad I did. I found myself living with a beautiful and generous host family in north eastern Italy in a place called Udine. Surrounded by the Italian Alps and just a short train trip to Venice, I was in love!
I have since returned to Italy twice where I find myself continually entranced by the language, the people and the food. If you ever find yourself in northern Italy, take a trip to the quaint town of Cividale del Friuli or the Castello di Miramare in the port town of Trieste where you can see the gorgeous Mediterranean sea. After all, Miramare literally means “to see the sea”.
Thailand by Anne from Wonderluhst
I’m truly in love with the land of smiles, it has the friendliest people, great food, gorgeous sights, and year-round sunshine. You might know this country as Thailand, but I call it my second home! When I visit you can usually find me down south where the islands are, since I’m a massive beach bum and water sports fanatic! Totally picturing myself on the beach right now, and literally can’t wait for my next visit.
I would like to let you in on a little secret area that not many tourists seem to know about yet. It’s called the Similan Islands and is a small archipelago in the south-west of Thailand. They are a group of uninhabited islands located in some of the clearest and bluest waters you’ll ever see. It’s the perfect place to go diving or snorkeling, and some of the islands have incredible viewpoints with adventurous hikes to get there. A cool fact is that just last year, National Geographic put the Similan Islands in their top ten destinations in the world!
Puerto Rico by Jen from Jen There Done That
Our first visit to Puerto Rico, was really unintentional. My husband and I booked a romantic cruise for our fourth anniversary. The particular cruise was selected based on timing for our anniversary, price & amenities, and it had to include St. Martin! The other island stops were just “extras” to us. Our first stop was Puerto Rico, there was something a little magical about Old San Juan. With no prior plans, we walked around the (very touristy) Spanish Fort of El Morro, explored the shops, and ate dinner at the most famous tourist restaurant on the island. As we left, I knew I wanted to return, someday. Puerto Rico stayed in my mind and my heart. A couple years later, we spent two amazing weeks on the island traveling the East coast of the Island. Then, we returned six months later for another couple weeks. Earlier this year, we packed up our dog and we moved to the island!
Every month we hike El Yunque rain forest and head towards Mount Britton and El Yunque Peak hiking trails which attract more serious hikers. Nearby Fajardo, has plenty of small, local food stalls and delightful cafes; it is a gorgeous little foodie paradise, with great views of both the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean! There are tons of secluded beaches, hiking trails, and hidden snorkeling spots all around the island. My favorite recent kayaking trip was to nearby Monkey Island, home to about 1,000 Rhesus Monkeys, and a small ship wreck for snorkeling. Deep in the jungle, there is one of the largest radio telescopes in the world. Puerto Rico is filled with unique and amazing activities, that had us coming back for more!
Cambodia by Bianca from The Altruistic Traveller
If there’s one place in the world that will always have a place in my wanderlusting heart it’s Cambodia. After my first trip back in 2014 I fell in love with Siem Reap. I wasn’t sure exactly why because it isn’t Paris or Rome or anything at all like that but something about it just stuck with me and I returned again that September, and again early 2016 when I travelled the whole of Cambodia for 6 weeks.
It’s a country full of the most friendly people, the most delicious foods, the obviously famous Angkor Wat, but what I love the most is that it’s a country full of opportunity. There are so many good people here working together to help the country move forward from the hardships it has faced in the past. If you love social enterprises, community ambiance and an overall welcoming atmosphere then you will love visiting Cambodia. It’s a place that will ground you and make you worldly at the same time.
Some tips for you! Ride a bicycle through rural Battambang, spend a few days exploring Angkor Wat and visiting some of Siem Reap’s social enterprises, trek through the Cardamom Mountains, visit Cambodia’s most responsible Elephant sanctuary in Mondulkiri.
Borneo by Angie from Feet Do Travel
Borneo is an island we just keep returning to; there is just so much to do there! Pristine rainforests? Check. Ancient biodiverse land? Check. Wildlife? Check. Super-friendly people? Check Amazing food? Check. Some of the best scuba diving & snorkelling in the world? Check. Now can you see why?
If you want a real jungle experience, you can stay at Sepilok Nature Resort in Sandakan, the Sabah region which is a stones-throw from the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre and of course, Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre! You can also catch a taxi to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary which is about 30 minutes away. How about staying in a tree house? We loved our time at Permai Rainforest Resort in Damai which is about 45 minutes from Kuching in the Sarawak region and Bako National Park is also close by.
Borneo is famous for its stunning scuba diving and snorkelling and if you visit for this reason, you should seriously check out Scuba Junkie on the island of Mabul – it has something for everyone from dorm beds to beach rooms – and of course, they have some of the most amazing diving in the world!
I hope this post has give you some new, amazing places to explore. If you enjoyed it please enter your email in the subscription box on the right so Part 2 is sent to you.
And, how about yourself? Is there a country or place that keeps pulling you back?