Travel highlights of 2018

Another year has come and gone (well, almost). 2018 was a terrific travel year for me, with trips in four continents, including visits to two new countries: Nepal and Lithuania, and several places I’d not been to in many years. Without further ado, here are my travel highlights of 2018 by destination:

Brussels, Belgium

I was in Brussels to speak at a travel blogger conference and decided to add an extra day to see a bit of the city. The Grote Markt or Grand Place is always a treat to visit, as are the little streets that fan out from the square. This time, I also explored the Marollen (Marolles in French) neighbourhood behind the Palace of Justice. With its cobblestone streets, typical Brussels cafés/restaurants and markets, this neighbourhood is absolutely charming!

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The Grote Markt or Grand Place in Brussels.

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Cute ‘store window’ art in the Marollen neighbourhood.

Leeds, England

Leeds was one of the biggest surprises for me this year. I only spent a day there but I got to see quite a bit of the city centre. It was a joy to stroll around the streets and admire the grand Victorian architecture, the picturesque River Aire, the stunning Corn Exchange and the beautiful arcades.

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The Corn Exchange in Leeds.

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One of the many beautiful arcades in Leeds.

Frozen canals of Amsterdam

A cold front descended upon Amsterdam for about a week in early-March, plunging the city into a deep freeze. The Amstel River and the historic canals froze, making for lots of winter fun on the ice! It’s an incredible experience to walk or skate on a frozen canal, surrounded by Amsterdam’s famous canal houses. Read my post about the frozen canals in Amsterdam.

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People out on a frozen canal in Amsterdam.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town and the Western Cape in South Africa are one of my favourite destinations in the world. I always make it a point to visit every year, and this year was particularly special as my brother, who was celebrating his 50th birthday, joined me on this trip. I first stayed at the beautiful Jordan Wine Estate in Stellenbosch (in the Cape Winelands) before making my way along Route 62 and the Garden Route to George Airport where my brother arrived. We kicked off our trip with a safari at the amazing Gondwana Private Game Reserve, then made our way to Cape Town where we spent several days. I showed him my favourite things to do in Cape Town, including a spectacular drive around the Cape Peninsula and dinner at Camps Bay. On his birthday, I took him on a helicopter tour of Cape Town. Later in the day, we went to Stellenbosch, where he got to create a wine of his own at Middelvlei Wine Estate, a special wine blend for his birthday!

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Zebras grazing outside a Kwena Lodge suite at Gondwana Private Reserve.

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Camps Bay in Cape Town, South Africa.

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My birthday gift to my brother was a helicopter tour of Cape Town. Always a treat! We even spotted whales and dolphins along the way!

We ended our trip with an afternoon at the fabulous La Motte wine estate in Franschhoek before catching our flight home.

Kathmandu, Nepal

I was invited to speak at a conference in Kathmandu and I extended my stay by a few days to see a bit of Kathmandu. It was my first time in Nepal and I was blown away by Kathmandu’s charm (and chaos), and that unforgettable flight to see the Himalayas and Mount Everest. My trip to Nepal was arguably one of my favourite travel highlights of 2018. Read about my photo impressions of Kathmandu and my flight tour of the Himalayas.

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A street scene in Kathmandu.

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A panoramic view of Boudhanath, the holiest shrine in Kathmandu.

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Mount Everest from my plane window!

Bologna & Rimini, Italy

Another speaking engagement brought me to one of my favourite destinations in Europe: Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy. I spent a day strolling (and eating my way) around the capital, Bologna, before heading to the beachside town of Rimini.

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Strolling around the historic centre of Bologna.

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Enjoying a cocktail at the beach in Rimini.

Read about things to do in Bologna and what you must do in Emilia Romagna.

Athens, Greece

I’d not been to Athens for more than twenty years so it was a joy to return. I was there to pick up a World Travel Award that my company, iambassador, had won (in the category ‘Europe’s Leading Marketing Campaign 2018‘). I took some time off to wander around the charming streets surrounding the Acropolis.

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The Acropolis in Athens.

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I was pretty excited about winning this World Travel Award, the second in a row. 🙂

Sitges, Catalonia

Sitges is a beach town near Barcelona and I always enjoy spending a few days there whenever I can. It’s a short flight to Barcelona from Amsterdam (1.5 hours) and a swift 20-minute bus ride from the airport to Sitges; perfect for a short (digital detox) break. It’s a gorgeous town with beaches, a long beach boulevard, historic monuments, beautiful Art Nouveau buildings, quaint streets and fabulous restaurants. Read about things to do Sitges.

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A stroll around the maze of streets and lanes of Sitges historic centre is a joy!

Portugal

I spent my summer holiday with my family in Portugal. We stayed a few days in Porto Covo, a lovely coastal town in the Alentejo region south of Lisbon, before heading further south to Algarve where we enjoyed the beaches and the terrific food. We then drove back to Lisbon where we spent a few days before flying home.

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A beach in Porto Covo.

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The rugged coastline in Algarve.

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It was great to return to Lisbon after more than ten years! Lots has changed but the city is still as charming as ever!

Kuala Lumpur & Melaka, Malaysia

My family lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia so I always make it a point to visit them at least once a year. Each time I visit, we plan a trip somewhere, such as Penang, Langkawi or Melaka. This year, we spent a few days in Melaka (Malaysia’s oldest town) again. Read my post about exploring Melaka and things to do in Penang.

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Gorgeous blue houses in Heeren Street, Melaka.

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A wondrous shop in Jonker Street in Melaka.

In Kuala Lumpur, I got to check out a new rooftop bar and witnessed a spectacular sunset! Read about my visit to Vertigo Bar (don’t forget to check out the video as well!).

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Panoramic view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline at sunset from Vertigo Bar.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

My company organises a travel influencer conference (the Social Travel Summit) every year, and this year, we took our conference to Belfast. I got to visit the city four times during the course of the year to plan the conference and I loved every single visit. The conference took place in The Merchant Hotel, with events in other locations in the Cathedral Quarter such as the unforgettable Gala Dinner in St. Anne’s Cathedral! The Social Travel Summit Belfast was truly spectacular!

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The Umbrella Passage in the Cathedral Quarter.

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Dressed up Game of Thrones style at the Social Travel Summit Gala Dinner at St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.

Read about the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast.

Vancouver, Canada

Another one of my favourite cities in the world and it’s a good thing my best friend lives there! We visit each other every year and this year it was my turn. I spent a week going on long walks with my best friend, which was necessary as we quite literally ate our way around the city! Haha! Read about our exploration of the food scene in downtown Vancouver and things to do in Vancouver.

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Take the False Creek Ferry to Granville Island for one of many foodie treats in Vancouver!

Check out my list of where to go in 2019.

Weimar & Erfurt, Germany

I was invited by the German National Tourist Board to learn about Bauhaus architecture and design in Germany. This Modernist movement was born in Weimar, in central Germany, in the 1920’s and has since influenced architecture and design around the world. Two cities I absolutely enjoyed were Weimar and Erfurt (a stunning medieval city).

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The Neptune fountain and City Hall in Weimar.

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Domplatz or Cathedral Square in Erfurt.

Read about my evening stroll around medieval Erfurt.

Lithuania

I was invited by the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to speak at a conference in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It was my first time in Lithuania and I absolutely loved this trip! In Vilnius, I stayed at the gorgeous Hotel Pacai. I had sufficient time to explore the historic centre of Vilnius and discovered charming streets, stunning churches, top-notch restaurants and cool bars. Read about my stay at Hotel Pacai.

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The Town Hall Square in Vilnius.

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I stayed at Hotel Pacai, just off the Town Hall Square.

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The stunning St. Anne’s Church in Vilnius.

I spent a day exploring Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city. I loved the city’s Old Town and the eclectic architecture, especially the Art Nouveau buildings, in the New Town.

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The Town Hall Square in Kaunas’ Old Town.

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The St. Michael The Archangel Church in Kaunas.

After the conference, I spent two fabulous days in Birštonas, a spa town west of Vilnius. Read about my visits to the spa resorts in Birštonas.

I loved the colourful rooms at Vytautas Mineral Spa, a gorgeous blend of minimalist design and modern comforts.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my travel highlights of 2018. I’ll be taking a short break over New Year’s and I’ll be back with more blog posts in 2019.

I wish all my readers a healthy and successful 2019! I hope the new year will be filled with amazing (and safe) travels, with lots of inspiring experiences! Cheers! 🙂

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2 Responses to “Travel highlights of 2018”

  1. Keith Jenkins 03/01/2019 9:24 am
    #

    Hi Veronika,
    Yes, they do when the ice is thick enough.
    Happy New Year to you too! And safe travels in 2019!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  2. Veronika Primm 28/12/2018 9:59 pm
    #

    What a year you’ve had! And so many destinations! I didn’t realize people were ice-skating on the canals of Amsterdam, that looks really cool 🙂 I visited just 8 countries this year, of those 3 new. I’m quite satisfied, though 🙂
    Happy New Year Keith and have an even more amazing 2019!

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