Lately, we have been asked often what holiday destinations we recommend and which are the most beautiful places we have seen so far.
Well, although it was not an easy decision, we chose 5 destinations from the ones we visited, which we highly recommend each time. These are places of amazing natural beauty, where you can have unparalleled experiences no matter what your passions are.
1 South Africa
No other place visited by us compares to South Africa. It is impossible to visit this country without falling in love with it.
It is amazing that you can have so many different experiences in one country and it’s no wonder that South Africa is called “A Whole World in One Country”.
Why should you visit South Africa?
Because it is an amazing experience that you will certainly never forget.
South Africa is like an animal kingdom, where animals live freely, in their natural environment in the many reservations in the country and it is possible to self-drive in most of the South Africa National Parks.
Besides the rich and diverse wildlife, the landscapes in this wonderful country are beyond any imagination: spectacular waterfalls, mountain trails with delightful views, picturesque beaches, impressive gorges, and glamorous cities.
For the first position on this top, we had a choice between South Africa and Australia, and one of the main reasons why we chose South Africa is because a holiday in South Africa is more accessible than a holiday in Australia. A 3 weeks’ vacation in South Africa cost us 4 times less than a 3 weeks’ vacation in Australia.
We liked anything about South Africa: the food, restaurant service, guides, beaches, activities, accommodations.
A couple of retirees from Canada, whom we met in Hermanus, when we went on a kayak tour, best described South Africa: they said they used to visit a new country every year, until 6 years ago when they first visited South Africa and since then they return annually to this beautiful country, and with each visit, they seem to like it more and more: ” … it’s like when you find your soul mate and you fall in love again and again with the same person … “, they said.
What to visit in South Africa?
The Route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town and the Garden Route
It is the most popular and accessible route, given that in only 800 km you have the chance to experience and see little of everything that South Africa has to offer.
If you visit only this part of the country, your vacation costs will be significantly lower.
Although it is a short route, the attractions in this area are countless and the experiences you can enjoy here are formidable: safaris, whale, dolphins, sharks or penguins watching, ostrich farm safari, kayaking, cruises, hiking and amazing beaches.
We dedicated an article to this region of South Africa and you can read it here.
Kruger National Park and the Panorama Route
If you want to take a break from your daily routine, or isolate yourself from the crowded cities, or spend quality time with your family and friends, we recommend you visit Kruger National Park, a huge nature reserve located in the northeastern part of South Africa.
Imagine what it would be like to drive through a Belgium-sized park among a multitude of animals (elephants, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, rhinos, countless species of prey birds or beautifully colored birds, crocodiles, hippos, buffaloes, antelopes, leopards, lions, and other captivating animals), wouldn’t that look like heaven on earth to you?
Well, this is how a safari in Kruger looks like, after you pass the entrance gates, you are in the animal realm, where there are only a few accommodation units and some other cars with tourists, who, like you, are in the park to see the animals.
If you want to know more about this fantastic park, read this article.
The Panorama Route is situated very close to the Kruger National Park and you must spend at least one day on this route. With breathtaking landscapes, spectacular waterfalls and the largest green canyon in the world, Panorama Route is one of the most spectacular routes on earth.
Read about the attractions on the Panorama Route here.
St. Lucia, Hluhluwe – Imfolozi Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park
St. Lucia, a city with a special charm, is visited by hippos every night. If you come to St. Lucia, you must take a cruise on the St. Lucia Estuary, the place where 800 hippos and 1200 Nile crocodiles have their homes.
This charming city is located in the south-east of South Africa and it is the starting point for a safari in Hluhluwe – Imfolozi and iSimangaliso Wetland Parks.
In Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park you have the chance to see the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo) during a safari, and in iSimangaliso Wetland Park , you can see the Big Seven (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo + white shark, and whale).
The iSimangaliso Wetland National Park stretches 220 km along the coast of South Africa and offers the possibility of combining the safari with some water activities (snorkeling, diving or cruising).
We wrote a guide for visiting St. Lucia and the 2 parks in this article.
Articles about South Africa:
- What Do You Need to Know Before You Travel to South Africa?
- A Journey into the Land of Animals – Complete Guide to Kruger National Park
- Panorama Route – The Place Where Nature Amazes with Its Beauty
- St Lucia – Safari in Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park
- What to visit between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town and on the Garden Route?
Australia is a country that fascinates you from the first moment with its diverse sceneries: tropical forests, pink lakes, white beaches, exotic islands, corals, colorful gorges, savannas, mountains, and charming cities.
What to visit in Australia?
We made a top of Australia’s sights in this article.
Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef
About the Great Barrier Reef, you have already heard, it is the largest coral reef in the world and it is situated near the northeast coast of Australia.
It is definitely one of the places you need to visit at least once in your lifetime.
Here you can dive or snorkel to admire the wonderful underwater world or relax on one of the charming islands that are part of the Great Barrier Reef.
The most spectacular islands we visited here, are the Whitsunday Islands, near which you can snorkel and see some amazing underwater gardens. On these islands, you will find one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – Whitehaven Beach.
Ningaloo Reef stretches along 300 km near the western coast of Australia and it can be reached directly from the beach, if you swim a few meters, there is no need to take a boat.
Daintree National Park
It is a very beautiful region, where tropical rainforest trails combine harmoniously with the white sandy beaches and the underwater gardens.
One of the most popular activities here, is the cruise on the Daintree River, where freshwater crocodiles, as well as saltwater crocodiles, live.
Sydney is Australia’s best-known city; the city and its surroundings are very beautiful.
The Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge are the most popular attractions in the city, and the Blue Mountains is the most popular place, close to the city, for spending time in nature.
Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park is located in Western Australia and it is one of the most spectacular parks we have ever visited.
The trails among the red rocks, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and the wonderful animals you can encounter here make this park one of the biggest attractions in Western Australia.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
The park is located in the southern part of the Northern Territory and it is famous for the divine sunsets that make Uluru change its color.
The pink lakes
There are several pink lakes in Australia, and one of them should be on your bucket list. We visited the pink lake Hutt Lagoon in Western Australia.
We have said countless times that we love Western Australia and it is our favorite region in Australia. We spent 2 amazing weeks in Western Australia and we wrote about the route we traveled in this article.
Articles about Australia:
- Western Australia 2-Week Itinerary.
- Top 10 Attractions We Recommend You Visit in Australia
- What Do You Need to Know Before You Travel to Australia?
3 New Zealand
New Zealand is a destination for dreamers, with parks of perfect natural beauty, wonderful beaches, colorful lakes that you look at and you can’t believe that they are real and vast pasture lands. This country was blessed with landscapes of striking beauty, which is why New Zealand is also called called “God’s own country”.
It is an island country, consisting of 2 main islands: South Island and North Island.
On the South Island of New Zealand, we recommend you visit the Fordland National Park, a truly magical place, with lots of spectacular trails, fjords, waterfalls and lakes, a real Mecca for nature and hiking lovers.
Mount Aspiring National Park is another amazing park on the South Island, here you will see many natural attractions: waterfalls, glacial lakes, and glaciers.
Read more about these beautiful parks here.
On the North Island of New Zealand, we recommend you visit Rotorua, the place where nature shows its beauty in a spectacular display of color. The geothermal activity in this area is impressive, and the intense color of the lakes here is beyond any imagination.
One of the most popular attractions on the North Island is Hobbiton, the hobbits village made especially for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a fairytale place that you will love not matter if you’ve seen the movie or not.
We wrote about the places we visited on the North Island of New Zealand in this article.
Articles about New Zealand:
- What Do You Need to Know Before You Visit New Zealand?
- North Island of New Zealand – a Jewel in the Pacific Ocean
- The charming South Island of New Zealand
4 The Azores
We visited the Azores archipelago at the end of April 2019 and promised to return there in the summer, when the blooming hydrangeas give a special beauty to the islands.
We have not yet written an article about how much we liked these islands, but we will write here why these islands are our favorite place in Europe and why they should be on your bucket list.
The archipelago, part of Portugal, consists of 9 islands (Corvo, Flores, Faial, Pico, Graciosa, São Jorge, Terceira, São Miguel, and Santa Maria) and lies in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 1400 km from continental Portugal.
What really impressed us here is the fact that every piece of land is taken care of, the roadsides and the lookouts are decorated with flowers so that everywhere a festive air dominates and you have the impression that you are walking or driving on a flowers carpet.
How can you get here?
To Ponta Delgada (PDL) – on the São Miguel Island, there are direct flights from several cities:
- with Ryanair: Lisbon, Porto, London, Frankfurt on Main.
- with Swiss: Geneva.
- with Azores Airlines – SATA: Lisbon, Porto, Boston, Gran Canaria, Montreal, Toronto, Praia – Cape Verde.
- with TAP: Toronto, Lisbon, Porto.
The most accessible flights are from Lisbon or Porto, we flew from Lisbon with Azores Airlines and returned to Lisbon with Ryanair.
Between the islands, you can travel by plane (with SATA Air Acores), or by ferry.
What to visit on the Azores?
The islands are very beautiful and the vegetation varies greatly from one island to another, our favorites are the islands of São Miguel, Terceira, and Flores.
São Miguel Island, the largest island in the archipelago, is an incredibly green island, with breathtaking landscapes that reminded us of New Zealand.
The most spectacular place on this island, in fact from the whole archipelago, is Boca do Inferno.
Flores Island, one of the most isolated islands in the archipelago, has a remarkable natural beauty that makes you think of Hawaii, due to the waterfalls that are flowing over the green cliffs. The biggest attraction of the island is Poço da Ribeira do Ferreiro.
The most visited tourist spot on the island of Terceira is the volcano Algar do Carvão.
The Azores are the ideal destination for hiking, diving, swimming with wild dolphins, whale watching, kayaking, thermal baths or surfing.
The whales can be seen around the islands from April to October.
Russia, the largest country in the world, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia.
Most tourists choose to visit only Moscow and St. Petersburg, but Russia has many more spectacular attractions including 35 National Parks and 100 Nature Reserves (the largest of which is The Great Arctic State Nature Reserve), where you can appreciate the beauty of the unaltered nature: stunning landscapes, high mountains, and rich wildlife.
If you do not have time for a holiday in the fascinating Siberia, visit at least the vibrant capital of Russia – Moscow. Admire the amazing architecture of St. Basil’s Cathedral, which rises magnificently in the Red Square, eclipsing everything around it.
Walk inside the Kremlin, a place of major importance in the history of Russia or visit other places where important pages of the history of this country have been written.
We wrote more about the attraction in the Russian capital here.
St. Petersburg is also called the Venice of the North, due to the many canals passing through the city. If you are planning to visit St. Petersburg, do not forget to put in your baggage comfortable shoes, because you will have to walk a lot through the huge Hermitage Museum, the charming gardens in the city or if you want to discover the city on foot.
The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and most renowned museums in the world and certainly the largest attraction in the city.
The Peterhof Palace with its impressive gardens and fountains is another attraction which you should not miss in St. Petersburg.
Read about the sights of St. Petersburg here.
Articles about Russia:
These are our recommendations for 2020. These are amazing holiday destinations, which have remained in our soul and which we always remember fondly.