Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013: top 10 sights from my year in travel

It won't be long until the countdown to midnight begins, so let's take stock of the rip-roaring ride that has been 2013. These are my ten most memorable sights from the year.

10. Fighting gales in England's Lake District


Blustery winter's day in Tarn Hows near Keswick, England.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
You don't have to jump on a plane for a breathtaking view. The Lake District is only 90 minutes' drive from where I grew up in northwest England and hiking its dozens of trails, like this one near Keswick, is a fab way to explore my home island at its rugged (and oh-so-windy!) best.

9. Blue skies over Chateau de Chambord in France's Loire Valley


The decadent splendour of Chateau de Chambord in France.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
Francois I, who ordered the construction of this impressive castle in France's Loire Valley, barely spent any time there at all. More fool him - I could spend days admiring its ornate turrets and walking the expansive grounds.

8. Looking down from Hong Kong's peak

Dying daylight over Hong Kong's skyscrapers.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
Seeing this forest of skyscrapers at sunset was one of the highlights of my first trip to Hong Kong in 2013. That and the temples, the food, the shopping, the museums... seems like a second visit is in order.

7. A bird's-eye view over London from The Shard 

London's Tower Bridge from the top floor of the Shard.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
For all the time I've lived in London, I've never used the word 'tiny' to describe it. But from floor 72 of The Shard, I could see my city in miniature.

6. Walking an Icelandic glacier

The dramatic moonscape of Sólheimajökull glacier in Iceland.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
I wanted to pack in as many adventures to my Iceland trip as possible, and one of my favourites was strapping on some crampons to scale the ash-streaked Sólheimajökull glacier.

5. Falling head over heels with Plovdiv, Bulgaria

A lazy late-afternoon view from one of Plovdiv's seven hills.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
I had been aching to visit Bulgaria for years, and finally did some backpacking there in 2013. Rila Monastery and the capital Sofia were memorable, but it's the spirited city of Plovdiv that captured my heart.

4. Trekking in Tasmania's Cradle Mountain National Park

The mighty Cradle Mountain, in calmer weather than the days I hiked.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
Don't mess with the mountain. Even one of the easier treks around Cradle Mountain subjected me to rolling mists, battering gales and eight different kinds of weather within the space of a few hours.

3. Epic snow in Austria

Nothing but big powder and bright blue skies in Zauchensee, Austria.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
Ever felt like you were flying? The spectacular late-season snow in Europe meant abundant snow, and gliding around the silky fresh powder was the most thrilling ski experience I've ever had.

2. Descending into a volcano in Iceland

Inside the magma chamber of Thrihnukagigur.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
I'd been fascinated with volcanoes for a long time, but the vividly coloured chamber of Thrihnukagigur was a subterranean wonderland unlike anything I'd ever seen. (Read more about my Icelandic adventures in my article for Lonely Planet.)

1. Seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time

Hopefully the first of many visits to India. My first visit to the Taj Mahal.
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
It'll be no surprise to anyone who has heard me banging on about making it to India that my number 1 most treasured travel experience of 2013 was finally standing in front of the Taj Mahal. It's been a truly wild year in travel, so what's in store in 2014? Let's pop open the bubbly and start this one off in style...

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