TOP 10: Places I've Visited

Travel enthusiasts are always eager to hear about favourite destinations and rankings. I thought I'd attempt to come up with my personal Top 10 places visited. Purely subjective, I tend to favour places with rich culture or stunning sceneries.

Apologies to Siem Reap, Cambodia and Budapest, Hungary that just missed the cut.

10. Machu Pichu/Inca Trail, Peru

Machu Picchu at the end of its 43km path makes the Inca Trail the world’s most famous trek. Whilst you can do a day-tour by train, if you’re reasonably fit and can dedicate at least four days to the experience, arriving along the Inca Trail offers the most atmospheric and rewarding option. The trail involves tough altitude trekking at times, but this is rewarded by spectacular scenery, deep valleys, glaciated mountain peaks and remote Inca structures. Nothing matches the sensation of walking over the Sun Gate that leads to the Lost City of the Incas just as the sun casts its first yellow glow over the ancient stone buildings.

9. Petra, Jordan

The spectacular sandstone city of Petra was built in the 3rd century BC by the Nabataeans. Strategically positioned at the continental crossroads of ancient spice, silk and slave trade routes the city experienced incredible wealth - before its slow decline under the Roman Empire and eventual abandonment in the 6th century AD.

The highlights of the ancient city do not disappoint. The approach is simply epic, a 1.2km trek through the tall, echoing Siq canyon, preceding a jaw-dropping encounter with the Treasury, Petra’s iconic facade. Further on, past the huge Theatre, are the giant Royal Tombs, gazing out over the hidden valleys. Then there are the various treks, such as the stepped climb to the Monastery, a magnificent carved facade from the mountain.

8. Fez, Morocco

Fez is the medieval capital of Morocco founded in 789AD, and a treasured city of high Islamic civilization. Within the modern city, is the huge sprawling, labyrinthine medina (old city) of Fes el-Bali. Still contained within its original ancient walls, it is the best-preserved old city in the Arab world, a UNESCO world heritage site, and also the world's largest car-free urban zone.

A stroll through the medina is like an enchanting time warp to a bygone era, where all the senses engage into overdrive. Navigating through over 9,500 narrow lanes and bustling crowds whilst keeping a look out for hurtling donkey carts is a monumental task by itself. But the real focus is on the hundreds, if not thousands of stalls in the medina. Row after row vendors line the walkways, touting every type of food and wares imaginable. Everything from pottery, tiles, cloths, leather and silver products and more, are all made and sold here in exactly the same way they were made a thousand years ago. A wander through the market district presents a dizzying array of foods - fruit and vegetables, spices, refreshment cafes, raw meats dangling over counter tops, desserts and bakeries just to name a few.

Then, you might just stumble across the stench of the tanneries, or venture past the stunning architecture of a centuries old mosque or visit University of al-Qarawiyyin - the world's oldest university. A visit to Fez will surely leave memories lasting a lifetime.

7. Amalfi Coast, Italy

The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline on the southern coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Province of Salerno, Southern Italy. Deemed by UNESCO as an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, the Amalfi Coast is a beguiling combination of sheer beauty and gripping drama: coastal mountains plunge into the sea in a stunning vertical scene of precipitous crags, picturesque towns and lush forests.

Among the glittering string of coastal gems, legendary Positano and Amalfi sparkle the brightest, while mountaintop Ravello has the glossy fame of its grandiose villas and Wagnerian connection. Sorrento and Salerno are the two main entry points to the coast. The former, a cliff-top resort, has miraculously survived the onslaught of package tourism while Salerno is a workaday port with an unhurried charm and vibrant historic centre.

6. Cappadoicia Region, Turkey

Cappadocia is an area in Central Anatolia in Turkey best known for its unique moon-like landscape, underground cities, cave churches and houses carved in the rocks.

The irregular topography is a result of ancient volcanic eruptions which once blanketed the region with thick ash, solidifying into a soft rock - then eroding into fairy-tale invoking cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys.

People have also long utilised the region's soft stone, seeking shelter underground and leaving the countryside scattered with fascinating troglodyte-style architecture. The fresco-adorned rock-cut churches of Göreme, the subterranean refuges of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli or taking a scenic hot air balloon ride are highlights, whilst bedding down in one of numerous cave hotels is a fascinating experience.

5. Yosemite National Park, United States

The jaw-dropping head-turner of America’s national parks, and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Yosemite garners the admiration of all who visit. From the waterfall-striped granite walls buttressing emerald-green Yosemite Valley to the sky-scraping giant sequoias catapulting into the air at Mariposa Grove, the place inspires a sense of awe and reverence – attracting four million visitors all year-round for sightseeing, camping, hiking and climbing

Revel in the splendour of Half Dome's haunty profile, El Capitan's sheer hulking presence, the drenching mists of Yosemite Falls, the gemstone lakes of the high country’s sub-alpine wilderness and Hetch Hetchy’s pristine pathways.

4. Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

Welcome to the fairy-tale alpine creation they call the Bernese Oberland, a place so silver-screen perfect you'd think you were dreaming.

The region concentrates some of the best features of rural Switzerland: awesome mountain panoramas, massive glaciers, crystalline lakes, gorges and waterfalls, chic ski resorts, dense pine forests, and charming gingerbread chalets. A picture perfect postcard every which way - I could spend hours just staring at the sheer, outrageous beauty abounds.

3. New York City, United States

New York New Yorkkk! Epicentre of the arts. Dining and shopping capital. Leader in commerce, finance, media, fashion and entertainment. Global city. What can't you find in NYC? New York is a compact melting pot of cultures, non-stop action and simply irresistible.

There are so many big ticket items - Times Square, 5th Ave, Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Wall St, World Trade Centre, Grand Central, Madison Square Garden, Empire State Building, Met, MOMA , TV and Movie landmarks just to name a few. An initial visit to NYC an be overwhelming. I saw them all, but I had to come back again to just walk around, soak it all in and live like a New Yorker. That is when I began to truly appreciate the buzz, depth and richness of it all.

2. Andalucia, Spain

Andalusia occupies the southernmost portion of the Iberian Peninsula and is the most populated of the autonomous communities in Spain. Many cultural phenomena such as flamenco and bullfighting that are seen internationally as distinctively Spanish are largely or entirely Andalusian. There is real heart and soul in this region. I love the nocturnal lifestyle - cheap food (tapas!) and drinks - and stunning beaches on the Costa Del Sol. Seville, the regions capital is also a real highlight with its enchanting old-town.

Above all, what really makes this region special, is the stunning Moorish architecture throughout.

The Moors were a mixed race of Berbers and Arabs who crossed into Spain from North Africa in 710 AD, and within four years virtually conquered the entire nation. Over the next 8 centuries the Moors established a medieval civilization of great heights - epitomised by the many grandiose structures then left behind. Granada, their last kingdom in Spain, (which featured the breathtaking Alhambra fortress) finally fell in the Christian Reconquest of 1492. Other Moorish highlights include the Mosque of Córdoba (subsequently turned into a cathedral) and the Real Alcázar (Palace) in Seville.

1. Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, the capital of Japan for more than 1000 years (794-1869), is endowed with an almost overwhelming legacy of ancient Buddhist temples, majestic palaces and gardens of every size and description, not to mention some of the country’s most important works of art, its richest culture and most refined cuisine.

Close your eyes and picture everything quintessentially Japanese and you will likely find it all in Kyoto. Streets of traditional wooden houses, the click-clack of geta (traditional wooden sandals) on the paving stones, geisha passing in a flourish of brightly coloured silks and temple pagodas surrounded by cherry blossom trees. The vast amount of culture and history to explore in Kyoto is simply mind-boggling.

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