We're not sure about you, but we LOVE to travel. It has something to do with the new people, food, cultures, landscapes that just exhilarates us and makes us continue to want to see more. As Seekers (people who love the outdoors, travel and adventure) we rarely leave a trip feeling completely satisfied. Instead, we leave with a desire to plan our next trip and an even longer list of future travel destinations. This isn't a bad thing, in fact, it's all part of the excitement of getting out of our comfort zone and exploring something new.
In the last decade, we have visited 10 countries around the world and countless cities and states throughout the United States. Based on all of these, here's a list of our most favorite destinations for food, culture, people and more! If you haven't been, add them to to your own travel list. If you have, let us know what you thought about them in the comments below!
For the Hiker: The Tour du Mont Blanc
Imagine this: Wake up every morning to crisp mountain air and views of the Alps in all directions. All you have to do that day is put on your boots/pack and hike. You'll be rewarded that evening with a warm home-cooked meal and stories of the day's adventures from your fellow hikers. That's just a normal day on the TMB. The Tour du Mont Blanc is a 100-mile hike that circles around, you guessed it, Mont Blanc in a small corner of Europe. The full trek takes you through sections of France, Switzerland and Italy as you hike over a new mountain pass with varying views of the Alps each day and covering about 40,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. Most people complete the full trek in about 10 days, but you can adjust based on your personal preference.
There are various ways to book this trek. 1) Plan it all yourself: there are plenty of blogs, books and resources to help you plan and book an amazing trip. This is how we did it and couldn't have been happier with the entire adventure. 2) Hire a company to book it for you, but handle all of the logistics once you arrive in Europe. This is great for those who like to keep to your own schedule once you arrive, but don't want to spend the time planning/booking/etc. 3) Hire a company to book, plan and transfer you. This one is more hands-on. There are many companies that will do the entire planning and logistics for you so all you have to do is show up. Some will even carry your bags throughout the trek so you just need a daypack each day of hiking. Others will also drive you past some of the more difficult sections to your day's endpoint.
Trekking the Tour of Mont Blanc is a great resource (click link to see it on Amazon) for planning your trek as well as a must-have guide when you're on the trails.
For the Foodie: Vietnam
In recent years, Vietnam has been talked about more and more as its tourism scene grows and people from around the World visit this amazing country. Looking at Vietnam's past, it has been through a lot. Vietnam was a dynasty for many years, but in the 19th century it became a French colony. Then after World War 2 the country became divided as a communist movement sought after independence. The Vietnam War came shortly after and by the time it ended, the country was unified again. It wasn't until the 1980's that Vietnam's government opened itself up to a more open economy.
We deemed this our "Foodie" destination for good reason. Food is major part of their culture, religion, festivals and balanced daily life. The Vietnamese focus on a balance of texture, flavor and appearance in every dish. Ingredients are very healthy and fresh, mostly consisting of vegetables, rice or noodles, eggs and meat. Each balanced dish includes a bit of sweet, salt, acid and spice. You can feel the love that goes into every meal through its flavors.
The country of Vietnam is long and narrow, with the majority of major cities/towns along the coasts. Also, food is very different in the North compared to that in the South. For example, Northern Pho (probably Vietnam's most famous dish) has a different flavored broth and does not come with any add-ons; while Southern Pho is what you traditionally see in the United States- a big bowl of soup with a side plate of thai basil, jalapeno, sprouts, lime, etc. Even better are the prices! Food is very inexpensive in Vietnam. For example- you can get 2 bowls of pho, 2 Vietnamese coffees and a side dish for under $8! We even found beer for $.05 in one city.
To get a true foodie visit to Vietnam, we recommend visiting three key sections of the country (oh- and drink their amazing and strong coffee everywhere!):
1) The North. Hanoi is the largest city in the North of Vietnam. It has a lot of history and museums to check out as well as some amazing food. Spend some time here, trying street food, pho, fresh seafood, vermicelli noodles and just walking/exploring. Also consider taking the train to see the rice paddies in Sapa or doing a boat cruise in Ha Long Bay.
2) Central. Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang are the larger central cities here. Our most favorite town in this area was Hoi An. It's a little beach town with a HUGE foodie scene. The town itself is about 5km from the beach with windy streets, clothing shops and tons of restaurants. We highly recommend starting your visit with a walking food tour to get a lay of the land and some recommendations on where to eat. The Original Taste of Hoi An was amazing with over 40 tastes in 4-hours! Hoi An is known for quite a few dishes. One in particular is the Cao Lau. It's a special noodle and pork dish made with a yellow noodle that can only be made in Hoi An due to the type of water available in the city. Other food highlights: Quang noodle, White Rose Dumplings, Banh Mi (go to Banh Mi Phuong for the BEST EVER), Pho (duh), and oh so much more!
3) The South. Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon) as many know it is the largest city in Vietnam. The motorbikes are abundant and a bit scary as they don't slow down when you cross the street! Also, the food is just wonderful here. With so many restaurants, we again recommend a food tour to get an understanding of what's available and to find some of the hidden gems. Food to try: Pho (Pho Hoa Pasteur is super authentic and you have to get their coffee and banh bao too), Banh Xeo, Bun Bo Hue, and really any safe-looking street food or the Food Market!
For the Architecture, Outdoors and Beaches: Spain
Spain is a beautiful country and pretty easily accessible from the United States. Known for its wine, cava (sparkling wine), tapas, beaches and architecture, Spain has a lot to offer. Each region has its own dialects, culture and food which makes it fun to travel around.
There's something special in every section of Spain. In the North, go to San Sebastian for amazing Michelin-starred restaurants, pinxtos (tapas on a stick) and beach. Visit cities like Madrid, Seville, Malaga, and Barcelona for each of their own history, architecture, museums, etc. See things like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Plaza Espana in Seville, Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and so much more.
If you're a beach lover, plan a few days in Costa Brava on the south eastern coast near Barcelona. There are countless beach towns from touristy hot spots to smaller more local towns to medieval villages. The beaches hear are crystal clear and amazing for snorkeling, diving and kayaking. Get a way from the beach for a day and explore the medieval city of Girona.
There are various wine regions throughout Spain, where you can spend a day or even a few days in an old farm house or B&B. Well known regions like Rioja, Andalusia, Catalonia and other small regions amass the country. If you don't have time to visit any of these regions, most restaurants carry local wine at under $20 a bottle!
If you love mountains and hiking, there is plenty for you to see in Spain as well. Near Barcelona, Montserrat is a rocky massif seeming to come from nowhere. There's a beautiful monastery built into the mountain and cable cars to take you near the top if hiking isn't your thing. Then there are the Sierra Nevada, Pyrenees, Picos de Europa and more. Depending on where you are staying in Spain, you shouldn't be too far from one of the many mountain ranges.
US Outdoor Hot-Spots: Burlington; Telluride; Santa Fe
Burlington, VT is a little college town located on Lake Champlain. It is very walkable, has tons of shops and restaurants, and is near some gorgeous hiking trails in summer and ski resorts in winter. Go here any time of the year, but we highly recommend Fall. The leaves in Vermont in the Fall are something else. The vibrancy is incredible and the weather is just delightful. Go for a hike along the the Appalachian Trail and/or Long Trail. Take in the view of the lake. Enjoy the many local breweries like Long Trail Brewery. Drive around the small towns. So much to do!
Telluride, CO is on its own magical universe. We were here in the summer, so we focused our time on the hiking, mountain biking, lake swimming and river running. Winters are a whole other adventure when the town turns into a skiers paradise. If you're lucky enough to get on a flight into Montrose, CO then you have it easy. Otherwise, it's a 6+ hour drive from Denver. BUT we can tell you the drive is worth it. Try the Thai food at Siam, Brown Dog Pizza or one of the many cute coffee shops as you stroll around town. There are plenty of places to stay- hotels and bnbs or you can camp walking distance to town.
Santa Fe, NM is a gem of a city. We can't even really call it a city because it feels more like a little town. Santa Fe is known for its art scene, with Friday evening gallery openings on Canyon Road for anyone who wants to visit. The food here is not your typical "tex-mex." Try anything with Hatch green chili sauce or go "Christmas" style with a mix of green and red like the Christmas enchiladas at Maria's. Santa Fe is surrounded by desert, mountains, Native American lands and more. Bandelier National Monument is a must-see with ruins and history from over 11,000 years ago!