Every traveler knows that when they return home there's a specific set of questions they're asked from nearly everyone they see:
What was your favorite city? What was your favorite food? What is the craziest thing you did? What was the most powerful thing you saw?
We already tallied all our travel stats (the number of beds we slept in and number of sunglasses broken)... but choosing favorites is a different beast. It's hard to pick just one food or town or experience that was "the best". So we decided not to choose just one. Problem solved!
This list is where we've put together some of the most memorable places, meals and experiences that made our last year so special. If we had Oscars to give away, this would be it. Sadly we don't have any little golden men, but we hope you still enjoy reading through our list of favorites!
Related: Eco-friendly travel gear you can take anywhere in the world
How this list works: We started by trying to find the "Top 5" in each category, but sometimes we'd think of more... And "Top 10" would have been way too overwhelming. So you'll find this list to be somewhere in the middle – Goldilocks style.
Just coming up with our favorites was hard enough, so we haven't put them in any particular order. And lastly, these are just our favorites from this trip. We have so many favorite experiences from our past travels in Europe, our 3-month trip in South America and time we lived and taught English in South Korea. We didn't include any of those favorites on this list because we wanted to keep it limited to experiences we had just this year.
Favorite Big Cities
Big cities sometimes overwhelm us and seem to blend together, but these metropolises really surprised us!
- Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
- Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
- Bovec, Slovenia
- Sibiu, Romania
- Zakopane, Poland
Best Street Food
We would take food trucks and plastic chairs over white tablecloths and salad forks any day!
- Soup at Lunch Lady street stand, Saigon, Vietnam (daily menu changes)
- Khao Soi stand, Chaing Mai, Thailand (directions to this stand here)
- Bahn mi sandwich at Bahn Mi Phuong, Hoi An, Vietnam
- Fish sandwich, Istanbul (we explain how to find this tasty sandwich in our Istanbul article)
Favorite Local Dishes
Why is it that the most traditional and delicious dish in every county is the also the highest in calories?!
- Chimney cakes, Hungary
- Pho, Vietnam
- Bun cha, Vietnam
- Cevapti (Balkans)
- Kampot pepper crab in Kep, Cambodia
- Khadai paneer, India
- Börek, throughout the Balkans
Best Cooking Classes
We love to try to new foods and one of our favorite things to do while traveling is to take cooking classes. Here are some of our favorites from our year.
- Cookistan, Istanbul, Turkey
- Green Bamboo, Hoi An, Vietnam
- Thai Secret Cooking School, Chaing Mai, Thailand
- Shashi’s Cooking Class, Udaipur, India
Seeking out ethical organizations that are doing good in their communities is something we love to do while traveling. Here are just a few that are giving back to those in need.
- Haven Café, Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Sheroes Hangout Café, Agra, India
- White Elephant Adventures, Luang Prabang, Laos
- Phare Circus, Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Brown Bread Bakery, Varanasi, India
- Mad Monkey Hostels, Cambodia
Staying in hostels are the the best way to meet fun people and get local information about the cities you visit. Here are our top picks from this year.
- Soca Rocks Hostel, Bovec, Slovenia
- Vietnam Backpackers Hostel, Hanoi, Vietnam
- Hostel Mostel, Sofia, Bulgaria
- Majdas Hostel, Mostar, Bosnia and Hercegovina
- Hedonist Hostel, Belgrade, Serbia
- Mad Monkey Hostels in Koh Rong Samloem and Kampot, Cambodia
Most Unique Accommodation
We’ve laid our heads in a cave, a teepee and even next to sheep.
- Tent Camping in Iceland
- Fairy Chimney Cave, Kelebek Cave Hotel, Goreme, Turkey
- Teepee at Shiva Camp in Farayla, Turkey
- Tea houses (for $1) on EBC trek, Nepal
- Freedom Island Halong Bay, Vietnam
- Maya Bay Boat, Thailand
Counties with the friendliest people
There are wonderful people all over the world, but these are the places where the kindness just overflowed!
- Boat through Trang An, Vietnam
- Biking around Hsipaw to hidden hot springs and waterfalls, Myanmar
- Watching millions of bats fly out of the caves in Battambang, Cambodia
- Looking for Rhinos at Chitwan National Park, Nepal
- Motorbiking through Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam and sleeping in a "stilt house" in the park
- Biking through Romanian countryside near Sibiu, Romania
- Hiking to a hidden/local hot spring near Vik, Iceland
- Motorbiking through Bokor National Park near Kampot, Cambodia and exploring the ruins of an old villa
Here are a few things we did this year that got our blood pumping!
- Hot air balloon ride with Turkiye Ballons, Goreme, Turkey
- Motorbiking Hoi Van pass, Vietnam
- Whitewater kayaking on the Soca River, Bovec, Slovenia
- Scuba diving, Koh Tao, Thailand - How to choose the best dive school in Koh Tao
- Canyoneering in Dalat, Vietnam
- Ziplining with Angkor Zipline, Angkor, Cambodia
- Paragliding, Oludeniz, Turkey
We saw so many waterfalls this year that it was hard to choose the best. But here are just a few of our favorite falls we chased.
- Seljilandfoss, Þórsmerkurvegur, Iceland (pictured above)
- Kuang si, Laung Prabang, Laos
- Svartifoss (Black Waterfall), Skaftafell, Iceland
- Plitvice National Park, Croatia
- Mor Paeng, Pai, Thailand
- Erawan Falls, Thailand
- Kravice Falls, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The most beautiful times of day is when the sun is rising and falling. Here are some of our most magical moments this year.
- Sunrises and sunsets at the Temples of Bagan, Myanmar
- Sunrise in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey
- Sunset at Selijalandfoss Falls, Iceland
- Sunrise and sunset in Varanasi, India
- Sunset in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegró
- Sunsets on Koh Tao, Thailand
There’s no better way to explore the great outdoors than lacing up a pair of hiking boots!
- Everest Base Camp, Nepal
- Zabljak, Montenegró
- Sapa, Vietnam
- Kalaw, Myanmar
- Zakopane, Poland
Who wants to party?!
- Koh Pha Ngan for Full Moon, Thailand
- Budapest, Hungary
- Koh Tao, Thailand
- Koh Rong Samloem (for Full Moon), Cambodia
Over the course of the year we've seen too many jaw-dropping landscapes to count, but here are some of the ones that stick out.
- Soca River Valley, Slovenia
- Sapa, Vietnam
- Butterfly Valley, Turkey
- Zabljak, Montenegro
- All around Iceland. period.
Mother nature is one crazy lady.
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland
- Caves in Phong Nha, Vietnam
- Glacial waters of Gokyo Lakes in the Nepali Himalayas
- Butterfly Valley, Turkey
- Soca River Valley, Slovenia
Man Made Wonders
We're still in awe of all the incredible places we saw that people created.
- Angkor Temples in Cambodia
- Taj Mahal in India
- Rice Terraces in Sapa, Vietnam
- Temple ruins in Ayutthaya, Thailand
- Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar
Best Hot Springs
It's getting hot, hot, hot!
- Tiered Hot Springs of Pamukkale, Turkey
- 2 different secret hot springs in Pai, Thailand (directions here)
- Hidden hot spring pool near Vik, Iceland
Give me sun, sand and the sound of waves and I'm happy. Hand me a mojito and I'm in paradise.
- Phra Nong Beach, Railay, Thailand
- Long Beach, Koh Rong, Cambodia
- Kabak Beach, Faralya, Turkey
- Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand
Best Full-Day Tours
We usually like to explore on our own, but there were a few times hired local guides or went on tours that blew us away!
- Mostar culture tour through Majdas Hostel, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Halong Bay Party Cruise, Vietnam
- Market Tour, Varanasi, India (through Stops Hostel)
- Mr. Rot's Secret Tour, Dalat, Vietnam (book at Villa Pink House)
- Maya Bay Sleep Aboard, Thailand
- Inle Lake boat tour, Myanmar
Favorite Free Walking Tours
We went on so many free walking tours this year it's hard to count them all. Here are some of the ones that stand out as the best.
- Street Art walking tour in London
- Free Food Tour Sofia, Bulgaria
- Free Walking Tour in Sofia, Bulgaria
- Free Walking Tour in Belgrade, Serbia
- Jewish Quarter Tour and Macabre Night Tour in Kraków, Poland
- Free Walking Tour in Zagreb, Croatia
Best Cultural Experiences
The best way to understand a place is to immerse yourself in the culture. These are some of the most memorable ways we got to know the local customs. Flags are a symbolic way to show its culture. It's fun to test how well you know Asian flags.
- Holi Hai, Mathura, India (to see the best and worst, read the horror story here)
- Trek and homestay in Laung Prabang, Laos
- Mr. Rot's Secret tour, Dalat, Vietnam
- Inle Lake boat trip, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar
- Releasing Wish Lanterns at the Yi Peng Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Border Ceremony between India and Pakistan, Amritsar, India
- Attending a Punjab in Nepal
- Buddhist Monks receiving offering Luang Prabang, Laos
- Yoga class in Rishikesh, India
- Visiting the Cremation Ghats in Varanasi, India
Amazing Religious Sites
From buddhist temples to hindu ruins to a build that was once a church and a mosque, we've seen some pretty amazing religious sites this year.
- Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey
- Temples of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Amritsar Golden Temple, India
- Temples in Bagan, Myanmar
- The entire holy town of Varanasi, India
- St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle, Czech Republic (the gothic-style architecture and the stain glass windows are what caught our eye)
- Open Air Museum Ruins, Cappadocia, Turkey
Most powerful historic areas and museums
These are some of the hardest places to visit, but are the most meaningful way to understand a country's history.
- Srebrenica Museum, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Killing fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Landmine museum, Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Vietnam (American) War museum, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Auschwitz, Oswiecim, Poland
- Anna Frank House, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Craziest Things We Did
Sorry, Mom and Dad.
- Jump off a 50-foot cliff at the Grand Canyon near Chiang Mai
- Wake up in Asia (India), have lunch in the Middle East (Dubai) and go to bed in Europe (Turkey) – all in the same day!
- Participate in a sacred blessing ritual in a remote village in Laos during Hmong New Year
- Make it to Everest Base Camp without a guide or porter!
- Work on an organic farm in Pai, Thailand
- Motorbike on Hoi Van Pass, one of the most beautiful coastal highways in the world