Bucket list travel destinations for 2017 and beyond
2016 was a hell of a whirlwind for so many different reasons: from the changing US political climate to learning to embrace and grow from some difficult things in my life to landing my dream job. For me, 2016 was a year of extreme growth and self-love. Although I've always been really independent, this year I've learned a lot of lessons on adulting and how to navigate the "real world" better than I've done before. I've honestly been so thankful to be working at a job that combines three things I love: social media, food, and traveling. It's challenging work, but I couldn't be happier with where I'm starting 2017! My new job plays a big part in this list since I'll be doing quite a bit of US-based traveling (plus eating!).
The following is a list of places that I'm planning on going this year or places I've been wanderlusting at for ages. I hope to at least check a few of these outstanding places off this year! As a bonus, I've included a few foodie spots for most of these destinations.
I'll be visiting Louisville for the first time this year to attend the IACP Conference and I couldn't be more excited to get a taste of The Bourbon Trail. Besides being the home of the Kentucky Derby, Louisville boasts a wide range of food options that aren't just southern. The art scene is also taking off with boutique hotels like the 21c Museum Hotel which features its own art gallery!
Tired of the Carribbean? The colorful (and safe) seaside city in Colombia is rich in culture, food, and charm. Explore historical colonial sites, take day trips to tropical islands, and enjoy the art scene. The El Centro Historico, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is in the heart of the city and is not a place you should skip. Keep checking JetBlue Deals as flights to Cartagena are always popping up!
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni has been on my bucket list ever since I came across it during my last job. It is the largest salt flat in the world at 4,806 square miles! When water covers the salt flats, it turns into an incredibly magical place that creates a giant mirror effect. You definitely want to bring your camera.
Iceland seems to be on everyone's bucket list, but it's for some very good reasons! You can explore the Skaftafell Ice Cave, dip in the geothermal Blue Lagoon, go whale watching, and stare in awe at the Gullfoss Waterfall. Don't forget about the beautiful Northern Lights!
Not only have I never been to Austin, but I'm going twice this year! Once for SxSW, which I'm utterly and completely stoked about, and the second time for the Austin Food + Wine Festival. Mural hunters will love this city — there's an endless amount to discover! Feast on BBQ and Tex-Mex in this city without any regret and listen to as much live music as you want!
If you're a fan of colorful architecture, you'll love Granada, Nicaragua. Similar to Cartagena, the city boasts colonial architecture. Want something more adventurous? Use San Juan del Sur as your starting point. From here, you can go surfing, horseback riding, and beach-hopping to Playa Hermosa and Playa Maderas. Don't forget to try out volcoano boarding in León!
One of my ultimate bucket list items is to watch the sunrise or sunset in a hot air balloon looking out over the temples in Bagan, Myanmar. Bagan is sprawling with temples of various sizes and materials from small to large to brick and gold-plated. To get around to all of the different temples, you can either rent a bike or motorbike. Popular temples to visit are the Dhammayangyi Temple, the Shwezigon Pagoda, and the Sulamani Guphaya Temple.
Head to Eastern Europe for one of the most romantic destinations for you and your boo. The town of Bled is great to explore and has picturesque views of Lake Bled and Bled Castle. Walking around the lake will take 2 hours or so, but it's worth it for a secluded, romantic spot.
Lisbon has been getting a lot of attention lately, but I want to call out the northern Portuguese city of Porto. Blue tilework called azulejos are all over this city. The architecture of the houses in Porto are so Instagram-worthy too! Porto is also home to one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, Livraria Lello. Don't forget to taste a lot of wine here.
How GORGEOUS does Banff National Park look? I've been lusting after this piece of undisturbed nature for over a year now. I find it so important to take trips that are relaxing every once in awhile, and there's no better way to relax than here. And the best part is that all Canadian parks this year are free in celebration of Canada's 150 year anniversary!
I'm so excited to be exploring more of California! Looking back, I feel incredibly silly for not being an immediate fan of this state, being from the east coast and all, but don't worry. I'm all for it. Encinitas is a small beach town suburb of San Diego, which offers beautiful beaches and a quaint main street. This town boasts a lot of delicious seafood and taco spots, so bring your appetite!
The third largest city in Japan is home to shogun era castles, like the famous Osaka Castle, and incredible street food. Explore Dontonburi, a popular spot with both locals and travelers, for tax free shops, street food stalls, and popular restaurants. The Osaka Aquarium houses the largest tank in the world and is a great activity for everyone. For the famous deep fried skewers, kushikatsu, head to Shinsekai. Make sure you don't double dip!
Can you taste the lobster rolls? Because I can probably eat four of these real quick. Portland is a hip little coastal city with tons of bed and breakfasts to choose from. There's an endless amount of small shops to discover here. Did I mention the food though?!
The islands of Malta are Europe's best kept secret. Malta is made up of 7 different islands, 3 of which are inhabited. You'll find a slow-paced vibe here where the sunshine is endless. Malta also has historical sites to explore like the UNESCO World heritage site of Ggantija Temples — they're older than the Pyramids of Giza!