February the 14th, the day where many people feel the need to exchange many novelty cards, heart-shaped gifts and perfectly petalled roses with their loved ones. Or Valentine’s Day as it is better known. This year I am going to refrain from sending out my standard love notes to the inventors of cheap air travel and instead will devote my time to sharing a little love with you all.
I am making this Valentine’s Day all about where you should love and why. Not about who you should love and how (sorry to disappoint anyone looking for tips and tricks of the love trade, I am no expert in this field). Admittedly now that I look at my list, there are some rather romantic destinations in here, but I can assure you, this is purely coincidental.
Each of these countries has so much magic to offer, and I encourage you to do a little more research. From snow-capped mountains to ground-dwelling primates there is something for everyone. Here you will find the Top 10 destinations I think you should be falling in love with this Valentine’s Day. So, for the love of travelling, put down those heart-shaped chocolates, pick up that pen and get ready to fill that cheesy card with the ultimate travelling wish list.
From fun, vibrant and beautiful cities to emerald-green countryside Ireland has it all. Although I haven’t seen much of the rest of it, Dublin is a favourite place of mine, and there is something for everyone to enjoy. You really can’t go wrong. If you are looking for a relaxing weekend away or a fun fuelled few days, then Ireland is a destination worthy of a visit. Being just a stone’s throw away from the rest of the UK, you can start or finish off any European adventure here. Is there any better way of enjoying life than with some fantastic live music and the perfectly poured pint of Guinness? I think not, it’s a recipe for utter happiness.
Pristine white sands and historical coastal towns line the beaches of Kenya. From Lamu down to Mombasa you can get a taste of the Swahili lifestyle. There are plenty of secluded and not so secluded spots for you to amble your way through life. If the sun, sea, and sand are not enough for you, then you have the pick of the lot with the endless amounts of wildlife reserves dotted all over the country. Watch Elephants in Samburu and tick off all the big five in the Maasai Mara or even skip the traffic from the airport and look out for the rhinos in the Nairobi National Park. For a more up close and personal encounter, there is the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, and Giraffe Manor for some more intimate wildlife encounters too. If you fancy a little city life, Nairobi has a vast number of restaurants and shopping malls and even the unique curio market or two. As far as African countries go it is one of the up and coming places to see and be seen in. Don’t forget the mountain either, spend a few days and see how far you get. I hear it’s a pretty incredible experience not to be missed.
Hire yourselves a camper van and buy up all the essentials, that’s it. You really don’t need much more to enjoy this fantastic place. It seems like quite a distance for many to travel but I guarantee that it is worth it. From the North Island, down to the very south, there is much to be seen and even more to do. Bungee Jump the highest and scariest, ski the copious amounts of snow-capped mountains, ogle at the blue ice on the glaciers or just sit back and relax in the world’s most beautiful place. Every city has its must dos, and no matter what you’re into, you can always find something to entertain yourself with. Camp your way around the country and keep an eye out for the Kiwis (birds not people). This is a destination that everyone should visit at least once. It’s simply breath-taking and well worth the travelling time. Ask anyone who has been there; they can’t lie.
Some say that the Victoria Falls are overrated, and they may be, but it is still a wonder that must be seen which is why Livingstone has made its way onto this list. Not only are you able to walk along the falls, but you can also hop into a helicopter and view them from above (I hear this is incredible). For anyone feeling even more adventurous than that, you have the bonus of a bungee jump off the bridge that joins Zimbabwe and Zambia. The views from up there are enough to get the nerves racing but what a way to see the water. Take a few days and relax along the river, keep an eye out for the wildlife and enjoy the fabulous sunset cruises on offer. The rest of Zambia holds much the same as all the other African countries, but this doesn’t make it any less special. Go back in time and put your feet up. Livingstone is a place for both adventure enthusiasts and the ultimate relaxers or a bit of both if that’s what you fancy.
Sip on a Mojito on the waterfront, go swimming with sharks, indulge in the cosmopolitan life or just take a tour of the wineries and game reserves. This is Europe with an African flavour. I haven’t spent lots of time here, but after just a short 10 days it is certainly worthy of a position in the Top 10. Cape Town has beautiful beaches, enough entertainment to keep you going for a while, mountains that offer endless views and some of the best seafood restaurants I have had the pleasure of enjoying. For the more city slicker type, there is, of course, the shopping side and for those just looking for a quiet life, it has that too. You really can’t go wrong, and with so much happening outside of all the cities, it would be silly not to pack a bag, book a few weeks holiday and discover everything that South Africa has to offer.
White water raft the Nile, trek in the mountains to spot the elusive Silverback Gorillas, drive around the many wildlife reserves or just enjoy more of what the water has to offer. Uganda is a place for the adventurous. It is a real African country full of colour and chaos. It may seem daunting to a weary tourist, but there is so much on offer. Escape from the hustle and bustle of city life is never too far away. Head towards the river and discover the world that the Nile brings. There is no better way of ending an adventurous trekking trip by sipping on an ice-cold Nile Special Beer (persevere, I promise it tastes better after you have had a few).
I have only been to Amsterdam if I am totally honest, but my 12-hour layover was enough to place The Netherlands on my Top 10. I’m a sucker for good cheese and architecture, and this country does not disappoint. Endless canal streets are filled with impressive and beautiful buildings worthy of too many photographs. The history alone is enough to keep you entertained for an entire day. If you are feeling in the mood for something, a little cheekier then hide away in a café and munch your way through some hash brownies. Don’t forget to walk down the Red-Light District either. It’s not for everyone, but it is part of Amsterdam that just must be seen. From Waffles to wacky baccy there is so much to eat and enjoy around here, you can’t go wrong. You don’t even need to spend lots of time here either. In just seven hours I covered it all. For those wanting more time to soak it all in, venture a little further afield as there is so much more history and elegant architecture to whet any appetite. Keep an eye out for the tulips too. It’s a destination that all European adventurers must have on their list.
Much like Amsterdam I am in love with Hungary and its elegant architecture. It’s not the only thing the place has going for it, I will admit, but as I have only been lucky enough to visit Budapest I can’t tell you too much about the rest of it. There is a whole quirky side to life in Budapest that I can’t get enough of. Bizarre cafes line the streets and the endless amounts of characters that can be seen from balcony gardens are an amusement. Spend some time and do a café crawl, I can promise you that entertainment is to be had around every corner. Head up the hill to the castle as well and soak in the city views. I can only imagine what the rest of Hungary is like but with only a taste of life in Budapest I am left wanting more. Well worth it’s place on my Top 10 list.
Although Mozambique isn’t entirely geared up for Tourists as much as say Kenya or Tanzania it is no less worthy of your visit. Up and down the coastline you have quaint Portuguese inspired towns and villages, and if seafood is your favourite food you will find more than enough restaurants to eat at. Head off the coast and explore the Quirimbas Archipelago Islands and snorkel until your heart’s content. Crystal clear waters make for excellent fish viewing and if you’re lucky you may be able to spot a coconut crab or two. Explore around because each Island has its own story and there is always some Mediterranean architecture to enjoy too. Head further inland to Taratibu and of course further south. There is plenty of wildlife to be seen along the way and more villages and towns to discover. As destinations go, it’s sweet. Swap those winter boots for a pair of flip-flops and brush up on the Portuguese. It’s paradise within a paradise and an up and coming African destination. Not to mention they do a good cocktail too, what’s not to like?
Much like Kenya, Tanzania has it all. Endless amounts of wildlife reserves, African cities, a very tall mountain and of course the odd beach here and there. Not forgetting Zanzibar that lies just off the coast. Whether you are looking for the big five or want to find out more about Five Spice, then Tanzania is the place for you. Head over to the Serengeti or the Ngorongoro Crater to watch the wildlife go by or jump on the ferry and hop across to Zanzibar. Spend some time exploring the Island and take a walk on the spice tour in Stonetown. You really can’t go wrong with a few days in this place. Just a short drive away from Arusha you can even climb Kilimanjaro for the more adventurous amongst us. With so much on offer you don’t need to spend much time in the cities but if you fancy walking away with a beautiful stone then stick around Arusha and explore the shops for some Tanzanite. It’s a beautiful blue gem that is bound to add some sparkle to your already amazing memories.
Well there you have it, my Valentine’s Day gift to you. I hope that somewhere amongst all this chaos and adventure you find your little slice of paradise. Happy travelling my fellow Nomads, perhaps see you on the slopes of Mount Cook or on a raft going down the rapids on the Nile.