Help me plan a Grand Tour!
July 8, 2008 1:30 AM   Subscribe

I've recently been gifted a round-the-world plane ticket, and have the cash and time to support maybe three to four months of travel. I've already penned in visits to friends in NE America, Japan, and France, but otherwise am paralysed by choice - there's nowhere in the world that I don't want to see, if that makes sense. Does anyone have any links that might help with planning such an epic trip, or even suggestions for YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY MISS THIS destinations? Other, miscellaneous globetrotting advice is also welcome.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
What are the details and restrictions of your plane ticket, and where will you be starting from?
posted by farishta at 1:49 AM on July 8, 2008

Don't miss New Zealand. Seriously. Amazing place.
posted by gen at 1:53 AM on July 8, 2008

The most beautiful place I've ever been is Guilin, (Guangxi Province), China.
posted by strangeguitars at 1:58 AM on July 8, 2008

From East coast Australia, travelling West - don't think there's a time limit.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 2:06 AM on July 8, 2008

Guilin looks fascinating, and I'd never really heard of it before, thanks.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 2:08 AM on July 8, 2008

If you like tranquil places and fantastic scenery I can only recommend to do some island-hopping in Scotland! Skye (Neist Point, the most beautiful spot of world I have seen so far), the Hebrides, the Orkneys, Shetland, ... Gosh, now I want to go again too :)

posted by Presentnapper at 2:19 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't miss Africa, and the wild life there. Or even the not-so-wild. The most awesome experience of my life was to become acquainted with lions. To cuddle little lion cubs, play with older cubs, and understand when an adult male lion wants me to scratch his ears, then understand his growl when he means 'thank you'.

Redwood forests in California.

Amsterdam: If you aren't excited by coffee shops, go for the Van Gough Museum, and the otherwise beautiful city. The Dutch countryside is also beautiful, if you appreciate the man-made beauty of a tree-lined canal cutting straight across pasture lands (for whatever reason, I find such views amazingly relaxing).

Belgium: Chips w/mayonaise in the country of their origin. Have them with abbey beer.
posted by Goofyy at 2:47 AM on July 8, 2008

Both Tallin in Estonia and Riga in Latvia have beautiful castle town areas that I really enjoyed. Tallin has these little side streets full of artisan workshops. There are people carving wooden statues and making felt hats. It was really charming. There's also a cafe with the most amazing cakes and a beautiful atmospheric interior called Chocolats de Pierre. You can then take the ferry over to Helsinki or Stockholm, which are both lovely.
posted by Magnakai at 2:50 AM on July 8, 2008

See this previous AskMe post for lots of ideas.
posted by netbros at 4:17 AM on July 8, 2008

Going to a square dance in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia during the summer, ideally a Saturday night at West Mabou in the summer, is a really unique experience. It may not sound like much but it's a totally unique experience that you really can't have anywhere else on the planet. Cape Breton is the most beautiful place I've ever been and the people are lovely.

Other favorites:
The Slieve League mountains in Donegal, and all of Donegal in Ireland. Likewise the Burren.

Personally, I'd give Vienna a pass.
posted by sully75 at 4:32 AM on July 8, 2008

This isn't so much about the places to visit as some considerations on the ticket.

Usually, RTW tickets will have some restrictions. For example, a OneWorld RTW will have a limit on segments and continents. Star Alliance has various prices based on overall distance traveled for your itinerary.

The alliance will also impact your choices of main stopping off points. But, none of that will impact 'side-trips' you book for yourself. So for example, China is dominated by Star Alliance and you'll have lots of choice. OneWorld, and not so many.

All that aside, Northern Scotland for rugged. Rural India and China for magical and mystical. Given you're in eastern Australia, hold off on NZ unless you're desperate to get there (it's worth it btw) or you're returning from South America as most return flights from S.A. connect through Auckland.

One last piece of advice: Don't try to get it perfect, just start planning the second trip when you return :-)
posted by michswiss at 4:33 AM on July 8, 2008

Dubai, for urbanism writ large. Istanbul, for sights, sounds, and colors.
posted by elfgirl at 5:32 AM on July 8, 2008

Chiang Mai, Thailand!
posted by konolia at 5:48 AM on July 8, 2008

I'm seconding Thailand. I've never been but know people who have been there for a trip and then love it so much they've gone back to live there for months at a time. Also: as a developing country, it's cheap!
posted by symbollocks at 6:18 AM on July 8, 2008

Today I was reminded that the list of World Heritage Sites numbers 855. The list is actually not a bad place to start for your planning question - but it also illustrates the amount of filtering you have to do to get an itinerary that will not overload your time.

I think that the travellers who get the most out of trips like this are often those who have specialist interests: if you are passionately interested in sea birds or massage or volcanoes or canals or trad jazz then it becomes easy to put together a shortlist of places that will be meaningful for you to visit and often not swamped by other tourists. You might also meet a number of local people who share your interest as you travel.

So I would start by asking yourself what your particular interests are and then see if there is a potential to string together an itinerary using them.
posted by rongorongo at 6:54 AM on July 8, 2008

Fair point. If it helps, my reasons for travel are - roughly in order of importance - checking out historical sites (the older and more alien the better), debauchery, and navigating the weirdness / richness of other cultures.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:08 AM on July 8, 2008

You need this site. Also, make sure you do one stop on your journey that would ordinarily (if not on a RTW ticket) be astronomically expensive. ie. Stop at Easter Island en route from Chile to Tahiti. Have such a wonderful time!
posted by meerkatty at 7:08 AM on July 8, 2008

Also I actually lived in Thailand for a few years, so it's probably not going to be on the itinerary, but for anyway else reading the thread - yeah, definitely worth it.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:10 AM on July 8, 2008

The Karakoram Highway. Without a doubt.
posted by Autarky at 7:11 AM on July 8, 2008

Petra, Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco.
posted by hellopanda at 7:33 AM on July 8, 2008

If it helps, my reasons for travel are - roughly in order of importance - checking out historical sites (the older and more alien the better), debauchery, and navigating the weirdness / richness of other cultures.

Location: 5,000 year old Neolithic sites on Orkney, Scotland
Nearest Debauchery: The Ba if you happen to be there at New Year.

Location: The Mayan ruined city of Tikal in Guatemala
Nearest Debauchery: Plenty of opportunities in Yucatan Mexico or the islands off Belize.

Location: The area around Göreme in Cappadocia, Turkey
Nearest Debauchery: The coast - and specifically here if you want to live in a tree with an internet connection.
posted by rongorongo at 9:19 AM on July 8, 2008

Luxor, Egypt. The valley of the kings, the temple at Karnac, Rameses' mausoleum... the sites are just amazing. These people had a written language and were building massive structures whilst the rest of us were hitting two rocks together. Take a felucca ride on the Nile (little sail boats). Drink tea in the markets.

And whilst you're there, visit the pyramids (by Cairo). You can do the pyramids in a (long) day from Luxor though. and I found Cairo itself a bit much (dirty massive smelly city).
posted by handee at 9:19 AM on July 8, 2008

To take advantage of this ticket I would suggest going to the places (allowed by the ticket) that are the farthest away, most expensive to get to normally or hardest to get to. For instance, most Americans I tell not to bother with Mexico because you can get there cheap and quick. Even Europe can be seen on a 1-2 week trip. Since you'll be away for a longer length of time see the places that you can't reasonably get to on a "normal" holiday. If you live in Australia (which I understand isn't too close to much) that might include SE Asia, China etc.

Because I've taken two RTW trips (buying tickets along the way, not on a RTW ticket) I understand how hard it is to whittle down the locations. Is there somewhere that you've heard of that you've always wanted to go to or been interested in? Your conditions aren't too specific, there's tons of interesting cultures out there. I would suggest going to those that are more closely in danger of being lost due to encroaching Western clothes and way of life.

Some cultures that I found really interesting: Ethiopia (North and South, they are very different), Egypt, Yunnan Province in China and all of the hill tribes in the region around the borders of Vietnam, Laos, China & Myanmar. Myanmar is amazing, I loved Central Asia but it might not be easy to get to on a RTW ticket, Tibet, Syria, Iran... I could go on.

Do you like to be in cities, to be outdoors hiking, see museums.... that should help point you in the right direction. You could have a theme to your trip (hiking, seeing the top museums in the world, tallest buildings, follow world festivals, world heritage sites, new wonders of the world, wildlife etc.). My trips were much longer (6.5 months and 14 months) and traveling mostly by land but I'll send you a link to my route maps to give you an idea of what I did.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:04 AM on July 8, 2008

Iceland, Iceland, Iceland. More for astounding scenery than for culture, but seriously, go to Iceland. There is plenty of debauchery in Reykjavik on a friday night. It's a good stop between Europe and North America too.

This Australian loves Scotland too, to the point that I live here, at least for now.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 10:19 AM on July 8, 2008

I'd add religious and military sites, but that's mostly my interests: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Rome, some Indian Temple City, Machu Picchu, Kyoto, Normandy, Nagasaki, Auschwitz. I'd love to go to Iran...
posted by Jahaza at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2008

If it helps, my reasons for travel are - roughly in order of importance - checking out historical sites (the older and more alien the better), debauchery, and navigating the weirdness / richness of other cultures.

The menhirs of Meghalya (nth east India) and the Angkor temple complex in Cambodia are my two recommendations. The former is visited rarely by westerners, and the landscape is awesome. For extra adventure points, travel overland from Bangladesh into Meghalaya and enjoy the border crossing from a Muslim patriarchal state to the matriarchal and matrilineal state of Meghalya. It's a culture switch and a half in 300 paces.
posted by Kerasia at 2:31 PM on July 8, 2008

Nepal. If you are at all interested in nature = Himalayas and trekking. But, also very rich in history and culture (especially Katmandu).
posted by hazel at 3:40 PM on July 8, 2008

I have been a few places and I thought Hong Kong was awesome. You should have no problem getting there on your RTW ticket.
posted by jasondigitized at 3:55 PM on July 8, 2008

Seconding rongorongo - pick a theme based on what you're interested in. If it were me, I'd do a Bright Lights, Big City type thing and see Tokyo, Paris, London and New York. Or pick places that would ordinarily be too expensive to get to. Since you're in Australia, I think that means places like New Zealand or a lot of South-East Asia should be lower on your list than Europe, Africa, the Middle East or South America, since they're closer and cheaper - you'd be able to see them easily without wasting your free round-the-world ticket.

Or you could read through Lonely Planet's Code Green or Bluelist 2008 for some ideas.
posted by harriet vane at 12:54 AM on July 9, 2008

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