2017 has been a fantastic year packed with incredible adventures for me, and it will be hard to top it in 2018 (though watch this space, I will sure try to!). I have visited some beautiful places where I had been craving to go; returned to others that I already knew and loved; and did a bunch of things that pushed me beyond what I thought were my limits.
Sharing My Adventures With Family And Friends
Those who follow my blog and my social media, especially my Instagram, have surely seen all the beautiful photos I have taken in 2017. I wish could also show them to my family and friends who don’t use social media, though.
I have always found that sending postcards is a nice, old fashioned way to share my travels with people I care about. But sometimes postcards are just so impersonal. Besides, I don’t have time to look for good ones, and then find a post office to send them.
That’s why I am thankful for apps such as MyPostcard, which are incredibly easy to use. MyPostcard allows me to create beautiful and very personable postcards using my photos in just a few click, and have them shipped anywhere in the world.
I wish I had known about it when I was lost in the mountains of Nepal, or when I was baking in the sun in the Maldives!
Here is a round up of the most amazing adventures I have had in 2017, with just a few tips for those who wish to live similar experiences in 2018.
Five Incredible Adventures And Where to Experience Them
Admiring Petra Treasury From Above (Jordan)
I had been wanting to visit Petra since I saw the Indiana Jones movie when I was a child. In April 2017, I finally managed to go. The minute I got there, I realized that the site is much larger than what people can imagine, not to mention crowded.
The view of the Treasury from the groun is stunning, and that of the Monastery breathtaking. Yet, the best view in Petra is that of the Treasury from above. Getting to the viewpoint isn’t easy peasy, though. While most of the trails on the site are well marked, the one to the viewpoint isn’t, and it is easy to get lost.
In order to go there, I had to hire a local guide (and pay dearly for that). The hike took about one hour, and the view at the top, the complete lack of tourists (I was the only person there, save from the guide and two Bedouls who had a tiny tea shop there) and silence made every penny I paid worth it.
Tip: hiring an official guide to go to the viewpoint of the Tresury and then around the rest of the site costs the equivalent of $120 USD. That’s expensive, I know. But I was traveling alone and had no time to wait around and see if I could put together a group to share the costs. So I had to pay the full price.
However, keep in mind that the larger the group, the lesser the price. The information office on the site, the office of the tour guides in Petra or even just the hotel or hostel are good places to ask around and see if anybody wants to share the costs of a guide.
Another option is hiring one of the local Bedouls, who know the area well. Their prices can be haggled, but keep in mind they are not official guides so won’t be able to give insightful and historical information. I don’t recommend this option to women traveling alone.
For more tips on visiting Petra, check my post “11 Things To Know Before Visiting Petra.”
Hiking The Poon Hill Circuit (Nepal)
There is no doubt that Nepal is hikers’ paradise. And in case this isn’t clear yet, I love hiking. Needless to say, I was thrilled to visit Nepal last May.
Hiking the Poon Hill Circuit was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. The hike lasted 5 days, during which I endured sun and heat on day one; over 5000 steps uphill on day 2; high altitude; rain pretty much every day after lunch time; and accommodation that was rustic at best.
Yet, all my efforts were repaid by the spectacular views of the mountains – as majestic as I had never seen in my life. I was also extremely lucky to be hiking with a fantastic group, which made my experience even more special.
Tip: the Poon Hill Circuit can be hiked independently and with a relatively low budget. However, joining a guided expedition means having a guide that arranges all accommodation (which is especially useful in high season, when the “tea houses” get packed), porters that carry lugguage (but either way, pack light!) and the company of a group.
Dressing appropriately for the hike is fundamental. Ankle high hiking boots provide extra protection from leeches; and give good support to the feet and ankles. Wearing long pants is also a good idea, for the same reason. Layers and a good rain jacket or a poncho are necessary because it does get cold and it rains often.
For more tips on how to hike the Poon Hill Circuit, check my post “What To Expect When Hiking Poon Hill.”
Finally Diving For The First Time (Maldives)
Sometimes dreams are meant to come true. I had been drooling over pictures of the Maldives for years. I considered the possibility of going in September, but reading around it looked like it would not be a good season to go. So, I opted to go to Sri Lanka instead.
But the Maldives are so close to Sri Lanka, that it felt like a pity not to take that short flight and visit. So I did, and it possibly was the best decision I took this year. And in my week there, it didn’t rain once.
The Maldives are as close to my idea of paradise as it gets: tiny islands with beautiful white beaches ringed by palm trees; a light breeze that makes the weather incredibly pleasant; some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, and marine life galore – so much so, that I decided to go diving for the first time in my life.
The minute I went under water, I regretted not having done it sooner. It was absolutely incredible, and it opened a completely new world for me.
Tip: most people thing the Maldives are a luxury destination for a few privileged travelers. While this has been the case for a long time, and luxury accommodation options are the majority in the country, it is now also possible to find budget guest houses and to visit the Maldives on a lower budget. Before ruling out this paradise as too expensive, do a bit of research to find out what the options are!
If you are a solo traveler like me, check out my post on “10 Things To Do In Maldives That Aren’t Necessarily For Couples.”
Hiking An Active Volcano (Sicily)
As I have said many times, I love hiking. Coastal trails, mountain trails, forest trails – I like them all. But hiking an active volcano? Now, that is something different!
In 2017, I visited Sicily and hiked 3 active volcanoes in 5 days. One of them was Stromboli, in the Aeolian Islands and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It was an absolutely exhilarating experience.
The views throughout the hike were splendid: up until a certain point I could see the village below, and the dark blue of the sea. I made it to the peak in time to admire a beautiful sunset and only then realized that my experience would go well beyond seeing.
I actually heard, and also felt the volcano. I spent around 30 minutes sitting at the top, looking down at one of the various craters, and listening to the intermittent explosions. It was an absolutely thrilling experience.
Tip: only guided groups are allowed on Mount Stromboli. Expeditions usually start in the afternoon and come down after sunset. It can be quite hot on the way up, but it is windy at the top and it gets chilly as soon as the sun goes down: do carry an extra sweater and a good wind jacket.
Hiking a volcano is no piece of cake. The terrain is sandy, and the walk can be quite strenuous. Do not underestimate the effort it requires and do dress appropriately, because really, a mere pair of running shoes, though comfortable, won’t provide that much needed ankle support.
To read more about my experience on Mount Stromboli, check my post “Why Mount Stromboli Is The Best Volcano Hike.”
Visiting Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Ukraine)
When I received an email with an invitation to visit Chernobyl my first reaction was to think that was a joke. In my mind, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone remained completely off limits, and no visitors would be allowed.
A quick research and I realized that actually, guided tours of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone have been allowed for the past few years and there’s virtually no radiation risk for visitors. And of course I would be interested to visit: I have some very clear memories of the accident, although I was only a child when it happened.
I visited Chernobyl Excluzion Zone last February, when it was completely covered in snow. The white blanket added to the eerieness of the place, muffling any sound around. The area is completely desolated, but fascinating.
Tip: while visiting Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in February means dealing with snow and extremely cold temperatures, it is good to know that snow acts as a blanket, preventing radioactive particles to fly. Needless to say, dressing properly is a must: I wore ski pants and jacket, plenty of layers underneath, hat and gloves.
To read more about my experience in Chernobyl, check my post “I Did Visit Chernobyl, And It Was Truly Worth It.”
What adventures are you planning for 2018? How are you going to share them with your family and friends at home? Let me know in the comments below!