The Best of our Year of Travel: Our Favorite Foods, Places & Experiences

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Best of our year in travel: our favorite foods, places & experiences

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!

Istanbul Favorite City
  • Istanbul, Turkey

  • Ljubljana, Slovenia

  • Chaing Mai, Thailand

  • Budapest, Hungary

  • Luang Prabang, Laos

  • Udaipur, India

  • Kraków, Poland

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • Hoi An, Vietnam

Favorite Small Towns

There’s nothing better than the small town feel. We couldn’t get enough of these cute little towns!

Cesky Krumlov Favorite Small Town
  • 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!

Lunch Lady Soups Saigon Best Street food

Favorite Local Dishes

Why is it that the most traditional and delicious dish in every county is the also the highest in calories?!

Chimney Cake Best local dishes
  • 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 Best Cooking Class
  • Cookistan, Istanbul, Turkey

  • Green Bamboo, Hoi An, Vietnam

  • Thai Secret Cooking School, Chaing Mai, Thailand

  • Shashi’s Cooking Class, Udaipur, India

Responsible Companies

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 Ethical Companies

Best Hostels

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 Best Hostel

Most Unique Accommodation

We’ve laid our heads in a cave, a teepee and even next to sheep. 

Camping in Iceland Sheep

Counties with the friendliest people

There are wonderful people all over the world, but these are the places where the kindness just overflowed!

Friendliest People are in Myanmar
  • Myanmar

  • The town of Phong Nga in Vietnam

  • Turkey

  • Bulgaria

  • Bosnia

  • The Sikh people in Amritsar, India

Off-the-beaten-path experiences

We love to find secret spots everywhere we go, and here a few of our favorites.

Off the Beaten Path Experience Trang An Vietnam
  • 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

Adventurous Activities

Here are a few things we did this year that got our blood pumping!

Adventure Activities Hot Air Ballon Ride Turkey

Best Waterfalls

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 Best Waterfall Iceland
  • 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

Best Sunrises/Sunsets

The most beautiful times of day is when the sun is rising and falling. Here are some of our most magical moments this year. 

Bagan Temples best sunrise
  • 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

Best Hiking

There’s no better way to explore the great outdoors than lacing up a pair of hiking boots!

Best Hiking Trek to Everest Base Camp
  • Everest Base Camp, Nepal

  • Zabljak, Montenegró

  • Sapa, Vietnam

  • Kalaw, Myanmar

  • Zakopane, Poland

Best Nightlife

Who wants to party?!

Best Nightlife Koh Pha Ngan
  • Koh Pha Ngan for Full Moon, Thailand

  • Budapest, Hungary

  • Koh Tao, Thailand

  • Koh Rong Samloem (for Full Moon), Cambodia

Best Scenery

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 Best Scenery Slovenia
  • Soca River Valley, Slovenia

  • Sapa, Vietnam

  • Butterfly Valley, Turkey

  • Zabljak, Montenegro

  • All around Iceland. period.

Natural Wonders

Mother nature is one crazy lady.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland
  • 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
  • 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!

Pamukkale Hot Springs Weird Nature
  • Tiered Hot Springs of Pamukkale, Turkey

  • 2 different secret hot springs in Pai, Thailand (directions here)

  • Hidden hot spring pool near Vik, Iceland

Best Beaches

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 Best Beach
  • 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!

Best Tour Mostar
  • 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 Tour London Best Tour
  • 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 Best Cultural Experiences

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 Amazing Religious Sites
  • 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. 

Killing Fields Cambodia skulls
  • 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.  

Cliff Jumping Chiang Mai Thailand
  • 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

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever been to any of these places? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments (6) on “The Best of our Year of Travel: Our Favorite Foods, Places & Experiences

  1. reem.adel8293@gmail.com says:

    Hi Katie and Ben,

    Where are you planning to go next?! Your travel blogs are very interesting. Makes me want to try this out with my partner.

    • bwzweber@gmail.com says:

      Hi Reem! Well, Katie is currently traveling with the UNWTO promoting sustainable tourism on an around the world trip. I am currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and after the holidays we plan on coming back to Thailand to live here for a few more months.

      Thanks for the nice comment about our blog, please make sure to stay in touch!

  2. syazwani.baumgartner@gmail.com says:

    Hi guys,

    Been to a number of the places you’ve mentioned in this article. I probably wouldn’t have considered Ljubljana and Luang Prabang as big cities but I did like them.

    Cesky Krumlov, Bovec and Veliko Tarnovo are easy to fall in love with.

    Street food in Asia is truly the best! You will have to visit Malaysia soon.

    We couldn’t get enough of the chimney desserts when in Prague in May this year. One can’t go wrong attending a cooking class in South East Asia. We attended a great one in Siem Reap.

    One of the more unique accommodations I’ve experienced is in an igloo in Davos, Switzerland. I wouldn’t recommend it. It was too cold.

    Any activity on the Soca River is a must. Did you drink the water from the river too?

    Iceland certainly has some amazing waterfalls. I’m glad Plitvice made it on your list. I LOVE that place!

    Did you go to Kotor in Montenegro?

    Your picture of the glaciers in Iceland is remarkable. You’ll have to do Greenland someday if you haven’t already. It was quite an experience to see the hot springs in the middle of all that snow outside Ittoqotoormiit.

    Asia is certainly blessed with many beautiful beaches but so is the Caribbean.

    Loving the website!!

    • bwzweber@gmail.com says:

      Thanks a lot Wani. We had a blast traveling around the world for that year. Still can’t believe all the things we did. Yes the Soca River is beautiful and the water was delicious! We did go to Kotor in Montenergo. Walking around in that town feels like a time warp to medieval times!

  3. Laurence says:

    Hello guys,
    thanks for the great articles!
    I was in Amritsar back in 2010 and I LOVED the atmosphere. We were with some friends and we stayed there for 3 days.We were sleeping near by the temple and loved the peaceful feeling and the people’s smiles so much that we kept on going back any time of the day.
    I highly recommend experiencing it at least once!

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