#21 The Rock, Gibraltar

When people think of Gibraltar, the small British enclave in southern Spain, they usually think of the famous wild monkeys that roam around freely. While I don’t mind monkeys per se (you won’t find me playing with them, though) my interest revolved more around experiencing British culture in the Mediterranean and, especially, hiking. Namely, hiking up the widely recognised Rock – as Gibraltar is also known as.

There are a few easy ways to reach the top but I had my eyes set on a steep hike called the Mediterranean Steps. Living true to its name, it has no shortage of steps and climbing them can be a pretty gruelling endeavour on a hot day. Once you reach the ridge of the 426-metre peak you get a stunning view of both the Mediterranean Sea and the Rock itself, which immediately makes the effort more than worth it.

Olá Brasil… 

I’m not going to lie, I was super excited about returning to Brazil. The first time I visited – in 2016 – ended up being a bit rushed as I was at the tail-end of an 18-month round-the-world trip. While I did get to explore the city in the few days I spent there, I felt like it was a place I would eventually have to return to. Rio is a special place and you can feel its uniquely awesome energy pretty much as soon as you arrive.

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Last Month in Colombia

Arriving in Bogotá after four months in Santa Marta was a breath of fresh hair. Quite literally. Unlike the intense heat I’d experienced on the Caribbean coast, the temperatures in the capital were much cooler. Thankfully, I had brought warm clothes so that was not going to be much of an issue. And to be honest, I was excited about it. I also missed rain (for some reason) and was hoping Bogotá delivered on that front. Ironic, seeing how I’d ran away to the Caribe precisely to escape the cold and rain.

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#20 Gokteik Viaduct, Myanmar

Myanmar is a beautiful country with plenty of spectacular attractions to discover, natural and man-made. One of them is the Gokteik viaduct, a place not many tourists make a point of visiting due to its rather remote location. Well, not remote per se but certainly not on the tourist trail! I love railway bridges and this one seemed far too good to even contemplate skipping so I had to add it to the itinerary.   

Built by the British in 1901, it stands at over 100 metres high over a deep gorge. To reach it you need to take the Lashio-bound morning train from a small town called Pyin U Lwin. The ride is quite uneventful until you get to the viaduct and the train slows down for the crossing, making the experience even more exhilarating – or terrifying, depending on how you look at it. Needless to say this one is best avoided by vertigo sufferers!

#19 Great Wall, China

One of my biggest fears before travelling to China was that I’d have a horrible time at the Great Wall. Most of the pictures I’d seen seemed to have a lot of people in them and that was definitely not the experience I was after. Thankfully, my hostel in Beijing had a ‘Secret Wall Tour’ and I just went for it. To say it was one of the best decisions I ever made is an understatement.

The Wall (which can’t be seen from space, by the way – that’s a myth) extends for more than 20,000 kilometres and was built over several centuries and dynasties. Not all sections are open to tourists so we really struck gold with this tour. I was the only one who climbed to this tower and the reward was a view that left me absolutely speechless. It really is great.

Taganga & Rodadero

Before I went back to Bogotá there were two nearby places I did not want to leave without checking out: Taganga and Rodadero. What I find fascinating about them is how they sort of represent polar opposites; while Taganga is usually compared to a hippie haven, Rodadero is tailor made for the resort types. They’re both very popular and also part of the reason Santa Marta sees so many visitors, with a considerable amount choosing to stay there instead of the city proper.

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Three Months in Santa Marta

When my short stay in Palomino came to an end it was time to return to Santa Marta. I’d been away for a couple of weeks and felt ready to get back to work. One thing I didn’t realise was that January is peak season in Colombia, proper peak season – like August in Southern Europe. To say I was surprised by how busy I found Santa Marta is an understatement. So much so I had to spend a week in a different hostel because República was full. Madness!

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#18 Baalbek, Lebanon

Despite the small size, Lebanon is a beautiful country with plenty of things to see and do. One clear advantage of its reduced dimensions is that you can base yourself in Beirut, the vibrant capital, and explore the rest of the country from there. Baalbek, easily reached by shared van in a couple of hours, is the one destination (aside from Beirut, of course) I’d say is absolutely unmissable.

Its biggest attraction is the archeological site that bears the town’s name. The ruins date back to Roman times and are some of the best-preserved in existence. The whole place is spectacular and lots of fun to explore, but it’s the Temple of Bacchus – its crown jewel – that makes jaws drop. The lookout within the temple grounds gives a good idea of how massive it is. A stunner, inside and out!

#17 Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making when they visit Sri Lanka is going to Sigiriya and skipping Pidurangala at sunset. Located practically in the middle of nowhere, Sigiriya is one of the most spectacular destinations in the country and one that features on most itineraries. Its biggest attraction is Lion Rock, a massive rock that sort of looks like a lion. You can climb to the top and explore the ruins of a former royal palace, which is pretty cool.

While Lion Rock is a stunner and well worth a visit despite the excessive admission fee, the outstanding view you get from Pidurangala – a nearby rock – doesn’t lag far behind. Better yet, it’s free. You can easily reach the entrance on foot or by tuk-tuk. The climb up can be challenging at times but the reward awaiting at the top is more than worth it. As beautiful as Lion Rock may be from the ground, this view is very hard to beat. Especially at sunset.

#16 Ouzoud Falls, Morocco

Despite being one of the most visited destinations in Morocco, Marrakesh is far from being its most exciting. Very far, actually. In my opinion it lacks the traditional charm of places like Chefchaouen, Fes, or Essaouira. It’s still worth a visit, of course, but I find that one of its major highlights is being relatively close to places like Imlil (for Mt Toubkal), the ancient fortress of Ait Ben Haddou, or the stunning Ouzoud Falls.

When I decided to visit the falls my expectations were little to none, it simply seemed like something cool to do. But when I got there my jaw dropped immediately. Measuring over 100 metres in height, the falls are a sight to behold. What’s best is you can actually explore the area via a path that takes you to the bottom of the dramatic cliff. It can get busy and feel a bit too commercial at times, but one quick look at this natural beauty will quickly make anyone forget that.