Where would you go if you could go anywhere? Why?
December 20, 2017 9:12 AM   Subscribe

We have 3 months and a generous stash of money for travelling. Where should we go? Why?

My husband and I are in our mid-thirties and in the amazingly fortuitous position to have the time to spend on a 3-month trip. We'll have a good income to support our flights and expenses. We don't want to do cruises or epic train journeys this time, and we are going to end our journey in New Zealand in early August. Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Why?

A bit more about us:

-We love diving, walking, hiking and one of us is keen to do more cycling (the other will consider).
-We prefer staying in hostels although the occasional swanky boutique hotel would also be nice.
-We love the outdoors and are fairly fit.
-Destinations we're considering: Galapagos, Rapa Nui (Easter island), Japan, much of Latin America, the Himalayas.
-We'd like to be aware of the impact our tourism has and make considered choices.
-No need to rush, we're happy taking our time.
-We've both enjoyed learning more about places we visit and like the thought of having a focus or a theme while we travel.
-We can drive.
-One of us spent a couple of years in China (southwest and northeast) almost a decade ago and still has friends there.
-One of us spent a year in Madagascar.
-One of us has traveled extensively around SE Asia so might be giving it a miss this time round.
-We've spent a few weeks in New Zealand last year and loved it so we plan to carve out some time there to explore more.
posted by mkdirusername to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Namibia. There's so much to see and do and it's usually off many travelers radar. See the sand dunes, the Zambezi, safaris. You could also pair it with more time around Southern Africa.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:25 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'd go back to:
* Alaska, astonishing for hiking, and to visit glaciers while you can - Denali (now with a range of hotels) was spectacular
* Ireland, great for hiking and history
* Peru, specifically Cuzco and Machu Picchu, also for hiking and history (and if you want to splurge somewhere, stay at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge right outside the entrance to the Machu Picchu grounds, before it's full of people -- or time your hike into the area so you can get up Huayna Picchu and look back on the grounds as the sun rises
* A few different locations in Africa:
-- Cape Town in South Africa, including Table Mountain
-- National park(s) in Kenya
-- Victoria falls at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe
posted by filthy light thief at 9:27 AM on December 20, 2017

Best answer: RE: Himalayas - if your timing is roughly May-July for this trip, then you'll either want to do a trek in Nepal right at the beginning, before the rainy season hits OR go to Ladakh in India once the passes open (mid-June). Both are amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
posted by lunasol at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2017

Best answer: GREENLAND!! Everything about it costs a fortune but it's my once-in-a-lifetime trip. This is in part because I love cold weather, but also for the stark beauty of the place. Also, selfishly, how much longer do you think all that ice is going to be around? See it while you can!
posted by orrnyereg at 9:36 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Depending on when you're going you should seriously consider the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory in Australia. You can do it on your own or as part of a guided tour. People I know who've done it count it as a peak experience.
posted by firstdrop at 9:37 AM on December 20, 2017

Best answer: Where would I personally go? I'd do a gigantic slow road trip following the Rockies up through Canada and into Alaska. I can only speak to the Colorado-Montana portion but there are dozens of opportunities to stay in cabins (not sure about hostels) as well as luxury resorts.

Out of the country, I'd go from Peru to Patagonia, but I haven't done enough research to give you any specifics. In conclusion, I love wilderness and mountains.
posted by AFABulous at 10:09 AM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you wanted to do a bunch of South America, you could start in Colombia, travel to Ecuador and see the Galapagos, continue down into Peru, eat great food in Lima (culinary capital of Latin America), and see Cuzco & Machu Picchu, go over the Andes via Lake Titicaca into Bolivia, see the Altiplano, Salar de Uyuni, then back over to Chile for the Atacama Desert, travel overland all down Chile, see the Lakes District and the far south, Torres del Paine, travel over to Patagonia, come upwards to Buenos Aires, maybe from there up to Foz de Iguacu, you could explore Brazil from there, if you were up for it.

Oh, personally I'd skip Rapa Nui, but if you did want that, you could do a return trip from Chile as part of this itinerary.
posted by vunder at 10:12 AM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been to the Bolivia side of Lake Titicaca during clear night with a new moon. Being able to see the entirety of the milky-way so bright you can read a book by it was the closest thing to a religious-level experience I've ever had. I would make that trip again in a heartbeat.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:13 AM on December 20, 2017 [17 favorites]

Best answer: There are so many places I'd go in your shoes - Namibia, Iceland, Mongolia, northern Scandinavia, Costa Rica...

... but I can at least put in a very solid plug for the Galapagos. It's practically like another planet, or really, 10 other planets because there are so many amazingly DIFFERENT islands. They are worlds unto themselves. The animals are tame, the biology is weird, the ocean is gorgeous, the people are lovely, and it's just an amazing place to be. If you are light skinned, get really REALLY serious about sun protection though - the group I was with had the most unbelievable array of sunburns despite plenty of sunscreen. You'll need hats and sunblock clothing and all that stuff. Also, don't forget your antibiotics. All of the drinking water on the island is imported from mainland Ecuador and... well, we had a 30/30 rate of illness (but it was easily fixed with Cipro).
posted by Cygnet at 10:38 AM on December 20, 2017

Best answer: Came here to echo Namibia too. We went there for two weeks but it was not enough. Would love to go back, hire a camper van and travel this amazing country. So safe, so surreal, so beautiful. Hardly any tourists. The geology is amazing. A lot safer than South Africa (we felt safe enough to pick up hitchhikers in Namibia, not so in South Africa). Less touristy than South Africa, or Victoria Falls.
posted by moiraine at 11:19 AM on December 20, 2017

Best answer: Japan: I've never been but every single person I know who has said they loved it and want to go back. I really want to go!

Tierra del Fuego: I went there briefly on a cruise and loved it. The light seemed different there than it does just about anywhere else - the only thing similar I've experienced was during a partial solar eclipse. I'm not sure how much there is to do but it was amazing to see and I'd love to go back.

Iceland: My best friend went and absolutely loved it, I've heard great things. I don't think it's at the very top of my to-visit list but it's up there.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:59 AM on December 20, 2017

Best answer: For me it would be India because it is has a wide variety of things to fill up 3 months. You could start in the Himalayas and go through Nepal and Bhutan before entering India. Then, you can work your way south and do some diving in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is right there, too.
posted by soelo at 12:16 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd echo the suggestions to do South America (start in Colombia and work your way down the West side) and -- this is the key bit -- go to NZ via Easter Island (there are regular flights from Santiago, Chile to Easter Island).*

*From Easter Island, you may have to then hop to or over Tahiti; I recommend hopping OVER Tahiti, as it is not the island paradise most of us imagine and it is stupidly expensive.
posted by Halo in reverse at 12:20 PM on December 20, 2017

Best answer: 3 months is perfect to see quite a bit of Central America and do everything you like to do: hike, dive, cycle, get immersed in the different cultures, get lost in cities and rural areas, sleep in hostels and sometimes a nice hotel.

I did 3 months in C. America and my itinerary was (generally):
- start in Mexico City for a couple of days
- take night busses to different Mexican cities and towns (Oaxaca, with the cheese and the chocolate milk and the mole; San Cristobal de las Casas, particularly the indigenous villages around it; Merida, particularly the mesh of underground connected lakes and caves), make your way up to the beach towns if you feel like it. Don't skip the Mayan pyramids throughout the country, they're all unique and awe-inspiring.
- fly from Cancun to Cuba if you can enter. Cuba is a whole other world and holy wow that is the one place everyone should visit. Fly back to Cancun but don't stay there.
- I heard Belize is nice but skipped over it
- Guatemala - you can start in the north and work your way down: Tikal, Quetzaltenango, Antigua. Climb some volcanoes. Skip Guatemala City.
- Cross over to El Salvador, rent a car, go everywhere in a week-week and a half (it's small). El Salvador is less traveled and breathtaking and the culture is very different. Eat pupusas.
- Cross over to Nicaragua on a boat. Do some treks, see the lake at the top of a volcano. Check out Leon and Granada. Go north to Esteli. If you have time, go further north (I did not) - lots of wild nature.
- Continue to Costa Rica. Meet relaxed people, see lots of nature (especially lots of wild monkeys). Head south to Manuel Antonio and north to Cahuita, which is very caribbean and feels like Jamaica. Visit the sloth sanctuary and meet adorable sloths that are being recuperated into the wild.
- Fly home, or, if you have some time, check out Panama. It's not as exciting as I hoped but I was pooped after 3 months in all of c. America. If you do go, check out Boquete, David and the canal (I found it very exciting). Panama City is skippable but if you're there, the old city is very nice.
posted by alon at 12:55 PM on December 20, 2017

Best answer: Alona's suggested itinerary is a great one, but let me add one caveat:
Visit the sloth sanctuary and meet adorable sloths that are being recuperated into the wild.

If you go, please do NOT visit the Sloth Sanctuary: Read this article. I volunteered at a different, nearby sanctuary and heard similar reports first-hand from someone else who had previously volunteered there. There are other/better places to see sloths! And I regret having visited and spent my money there. :( Message me if you would like the name of an alternative rescue centre in that same area.

posted by Halo in reverse at 1:28 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would second the South America/Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego route and, because you said you had money, go to Antarctica while you're down there, too!
posted by knownassociate at 1:49 PM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I suggest a variation on the South American trip: Go to Brazil first. It’s one of the BRASIC countries and amazing in its diveraity of places and people. See the Amazon, then head to Bahia for the culture, go to Pernambuco for the Brazil most people don’t see. Go to the old mining towns rich with architecture in Minas Gerais, then hit the small beach towns between Rio and Sao Paulo. Hit SaoPaulo only if you like big big cities. You’ll have time to see Uruguay, Paraguay and the Antatartic.
posted by SyraCarol at 2:26 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing Japan and Namibia, the only two destinations I regularly think of going back to.
posted by smoke at 5:23 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cuba, for so many reasons, but also to stand outside of the current of global capitalism.
posted by LarryC at 12:34 AM on December 21, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you all for very helpful answers. Loads to think about - what fun!
posted by mkdirusername at 4:05 AM on December 21, 2017

Best answer: Different part of the world but Georgia has some wonderful scenery and hiking.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 5:00 AM on December 21, 2017

Best answer: -- National park(s) in Kenya
If you go to Kenya, try to see the wildebeest migration.
Also, the first class train between Nairobi and Mombasa will make you feel like Karen Blixen.

Trolltunga, Norway, for the hike and the view.
Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada.
Skye, for Dunvegan Castle, and the hiking in the Black Cuillin hills.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:21 AM on December 21, 2017

Best answer: I came to read the comments here again to pick up some good travel ideas. Galapagos seems pretty cool.

I was the poster that recommended Namibia earlier. I completely forgot about Japan, which I loved as well, for totally different reasons.

If you like wide-open surreal landscapes and the feeling of being completely alone, then Namibia.

If you love first world amenities (heated toilet seats, bullet trains, efficient transport system) enveloped in a culture so different from Western cultures, then go to Japan. Amazing food, great skiing and volcanic hot springs are pluses.

So Japan and Namibia, as smoke above mentions. I regularly think about going back to both these countries, among all the other countries I have visited (N America, SEA, Europe extensively)
posted by moiraine at 2:25 AM on December 22, 2017

Best answer: Canada and Alaska. I would start at the Fogo Island Inn and stay there for 2 weeks or so to explore Fogo island, then I would continue on to Banff, Then over to Tofino, and continue up into Alaska and go up into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and see it before it becomes an oily superfund site.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:42 AM on December 22, 2017

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