Another beautiful travel year is over, and it’s time to look back at some of the most amazing new places that I saw this year. In 2017, I visited 14 countries of which 7 were new ones. I spent 18 days in Iran, explored some more of Europe, visited the Faroe Islands twice, saw a total solar eclipse on a Route 66 tour in the United States, ticked off Belarus and Wales at the end of the year and finally saw my family in England after 2,5 years!
Honestly, I feel like it has been a slightly quiet travel year with too much time spent in Denmark – especially compared to last year, where I visited 24 countries. But that’s how it is when studying also becomes part of ones life!
In 2015, my favourite new places included the Westfjords in Iceland, Svalbard, Girona in Spain and Kangaroo Island in Australia.
In 2016, my favourite new places included Lithuania, Taipei in Taiwan, Sultan Eshkashim in Afghanistan and the Åland Islands.
And now it’s time for me to choose my favourite new destinations of 2017. So here they are, in chronological order!
The first trip of the year went to Iran, and Kashan was the first destination that Steve and I got to after leaving Tehran, Iran’s hectic capital.
Kashan is quite popular with tourists, and for good reason. It’s an ancient city surrounded by desert with many exciting archaeological sites to be explored. The city center of Kashan is all mudbrick, as well as some gorgeous historical houses, colourful mosques and Persian gardens in between.
We both loved exploring the streets of Kashan and the nearby archaeological site of Tapeh Sialk.
The red village of Iran is only just over one hours drive from Kashan, so of course we had to include that in our itinerary. Of all the small villages we visited during our 18 days in Iran, Abyaneh was by far my favourite!
We climbed the mountains surrounding the village, leading up to two old fortresses, from where the view of the red village was mesmerizing.
If you’re ever in the area, don’t miss out on Abyaneh! It’s a truly unique place.
Of all places in Iran, Kharanaq was the one that I was most excited to see (even more than Persepolis!).
Kharanaq is an (almost) abandoned 4,000-year-old village, located 70 km. north of Yazd. The village is built entirely of mudbrick, and because it is literally crumbling to pieces, most of the residents have been evacuated in the recent years. But a few remain, as they don’t want to leave their childhood homes abandoned.
Steve and I spent an hour exploring the village, through the labyrinth of streets and tunnels, climbing every half-broken staircase and walking on the roofs of the crumbling houses. The experience of exploring Kharanaq was pretty special, since walking around in (and on) ruins would usually not be allowed, at least not in the west. It was a unique opportunity to thoroughly explore one of the remaining villages of Ancient Persia.
Qeshm Island, Iran
Oh, Qeshm. What a place! Steve and I only spent a day there, but we saw and experienced so much!
The island is extremely rich in natural beauty; it’s definitely the Arizona of Iran. With countless canyons, salt caves, gorges, wild camels and the largest mangrove forest on the Persian Gulf, Qeshm Island was a real gem.
Going to Qeshm Island really got us off the beaten path in Iran. The island is popular with Iranians, but tourists and backpackers rarely include it on their itineraries, although I definitely think they should.
I know, I know – another place in Iran, haha! That country certainly is special, and Kandovan is a truly unique place that undoubtedly deserves a place on this list.
Kandovan is a troglodyte village, meaning that most of its residents live in manmade rock dwellings! It’s located in the northwestern corner of Iran – a place that most tourists don’t go.
Steve and I spent some great hours there, walking through the tiny streets among the stone houses, cuddling adorable cats and drinking tea with the locals!
In early March, my mum and I went on our yearly mother-daughter trip, and this time we had chosen Romania! We spent three days in the country, exploring Bucharest, Brașov and Bran Castle. Of all the places we saw, Brașov was a winner.
The city is located high up in the Carpathian Mountains, and it’s a perfect mixture of old and beautiful architecture, cozy cafés and wonderful nature to be explored around it.
Not long after the trip to Romania, I was off to Albania, another country that I hadn’t yet seen. I was only there for four days, but I saw so much! I managed to get to Gjirokastra on my first day, and spent the next morning exploring.
Gjirokastra is an old city, founded in the 3rd century AD, and has a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. It’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and has a well-preserved fortress from the 12th century AD as well as many houses built in the characteristic Ottoman style. It’s a pure Albanian gem.
Another UNESCO site in Albania, the city of Berat! The city was first mentioned in the 6th century BC, and is actually one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.
I spent an entire day hiking up the mountains on both sides of the city, enjoying the spectacular views, and exploring the old fortress, which is perched right above the center of the city. Although I also loved Gjirokastra, Berat definitely takes 1st place in Albania!
Hestur, Faroe Islands
April came, and it was time to head back to my beloved Faroe Islands! I got to visit the Faroe Islands twice this year, in April and November, but it was in April that I finally discovered my favourite place on the islands – hands down.
There are many beautiful places on all of the 18 islands, but nothing beats the magic of Hestur. Especially the very top of the islands is so beautiful, I simply couldn’t stop taking photos! There are lakes everywhere and the views to the nearby islands of Sandoy, Koltur, Streymoy and Vágar are amazing.
This is my new favourite island in the Faroe Islands, and I can’t wait to go back there!
Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden, is located just across the bridge from Copenhagen, but I hadn’t found time to go there until one glorious day in June, when my friend Anna and I decided to cross the bridge and finally explore Copenhagen’s closest neighbouring city!
Malmö is quite an underrated city, and has a reputation of being unsafe. It has even been named the ‘crime capital of Scandinavia’. But from what we saw that day, Malmö was nothing like that at all. In fact, Malmö was quite pleasant to walk around, and it’s actually a really beautiful city that deserves so much more positive attention than it gets.
I still don’t get how it took me 22 years to get there, but now that I’ve been, I know that it definitely wasn’t the last time.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
After spending all of May, June and most of July studying and working, I was REALLY in a need of travelling! In a spontaneous moment, I booked tickets for Amsterdam and Luxembourg City, two cities that I hadn’t seen yet. While Amsterdam was definitely very pretty, Luxembourg City was by far my favourite of the two.
In my post about my time in the city, I called it the most underrated European capital, and I truly believe that it is. The city is so green and historyise it has a lot to offer. If you haven’t been there yet, go! Book a ticket right now – you won’t be disappointed!
And if you do decide to go to Luxembourg, don’t forget to take a day trip out to Vianden, probably the most beautiful and quaint place in the entire country.
Vianden looks like something out of a fairytale, it’s what I would describe as ‘the perfect village’. It’s located in the Ardennes Mountains, has stone-built bridges, colourful houses, flowers everywhere and even an old castle from the 11th century! What’s not to LOVE?
In August, my friend Amanda and I had planned an amazing two-week trip through the United States, but we were also fortunate to get a long stopover in Toronto on the way to Los Angeles!
We only had about 5 hours to explore the city, but we fell madly in love with it. We spent most of our time in the bustling skyscraper-center, but also found time to head out to the quiet Toronto Islands, from where the view of the city skyline was amazing.
Toronto was my first taste of Canada, a country that I can’t wait to explore much more of in the next years to come!
Read: 8 Hours in Toronto
Arizona, United States
During our time in the United States, we drove through 9 beautiful and unique states along the Route 66 (+ Nevada), but none blew me away as much as Arizona! I already knew before going that Arizona would be a favourite, because how could it not be?
The state is literally one big national park, in fact it’s made up of 21 national parks, monuments and historic sites. There is so much to do and see there, and we didn’t even see a fraction of it (but I will definitely be back).
But from the Black Mountains and the Grand Canyon to the Meteor Crater and the Petrified Forest, we definitely got a good taste of what Arizona has to offer.
Read: Driving Historical Route 66: Barstow through Ghost Towns to Las Vegas, Las Vegas to Grand Canyon and Almost Death Valley and Grand Canyon through Natural Wonders to Albuquerque
After having a hellish time in Los Angeles, we weren’t expecting much from the other US cities. But thankfully, Los Angeles was one of a (bad) kind. When we got to Chicago at the end of the Route 66, our very last destination on the journey, we fell in love with the city immediately – even more than Toronto!
Chicago is BEAUTIFUL, and not as windy as the nickname suggests. It seemed to me like a great place to live, and while we were there, I really felt like moving there to study. Who knows – maybe someday I will!
Braslav Lakes National Park, Belarus
After a quiet month in September, I was finally off on a solo trip again in October! I chose to go to Belarus, one of the least visited countries in Europe. It’s such a shame, because the country holds many beautiful secrets just waiting to be discovered.
Braslav Lakes National Park, the lakeland of Belarus, is one of them, and since I had to choose one, this one was my favourite (although the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is a VERY close second).
To get to Braslav, I travelled for 4,5 hours each way from Minsk, and I actually only got to spend three hours there! Some would call it a waste of travel time, but I absolutely loved it there and I was glad that I made the effort to go!
After 2,5 years, it was great to finally be back on UK ground in December. I hadn’t yet been to Wales, although the country had always fascinated me. Rolling green hills, old medieval cities and town names too long for anyone to pronounce (except from this legend).
Because of an archaeological conference happening in Cardiff, I finally got to go there with my friend Amanda. We spent three days at the conference, but also had two days before that to explore the city as well as the nearby Brecon Beacons National Park. I feel like we really got to know Cardiff well in those few days, and I especially miss our lovely hostel (River House), which had the sweetest hostel cat in the world!
Read: Post coming soon!
It has been really tough choosing only 17 favourites! I especially had to cut down on places in Iran, haha! Iran is so diverse and every place has something new to offer. I also saw many new places in Europe in 2017, which was awesome. I really love Europe, and I’m excited to roam the continent some more in 2018! Also, going to North America in the summer was definitely a highlight of the year. Amanda and I experienced so much in just two weeks, and again, it was hard to choose some places over others, but Arizona in particular definitely stuck out.
In 2018, I also have some (maybe even more) exciting new destinations planned – as well as some well loved ones. I’m starting the year off in Russia and Azerbaijan at the end of January. February is beginning in Macedonia and I will also head to Slovenia and Iceland in March-April, as well as my beloved Faroe Islands for the Easter holiday, before going on a school trip to Greece for 9 days in early May. In June, I’m flying out to Peru to volunteer at an archaeological excavation for two weeks, before travelling for a few weeks with my little brother and the excavation team. In July, I hope to visit the Faroe Islands again as well as England, and then I will (hopefully) finally set foot in Greenland in September, which has been a lifelong dream of mine!
Of course, my plans are prone to change, but I do hope that my 2018 will look something like the above!
What have been your favourite destinations of 2017?