It’s that time of the year again when everyone gets nostalgic and we are no different. To be honest, curling ourselves up on the couch while drinking hot tea, eating some chocolate and talking about ‘the good times’ is the only thing we want to do on a dark, chilly December day.
Another year has passed so fast again. And it brought 9 countries (Poland, Switzerland, Croatia, France, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Italy, Netherlands) and countless beautiful moments. We know that 9 may seem a ridiculous number for travel bloggers but we are actually very happy about it. And a bit proud, too, because hey, we’ve got the best out of 20 vacation days + the weekends. Uhm, yeah, if you don’t know yet we are not full-time travellers but full-time working professionals who are passionate about travel. And our travels are definitely not about numbers.
We’ve been to far more places than we originally planned and we had several last minute trips. 6 of the countries we visited were completely new for us (Poland, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Netherlands) but actually, almost all the places were new no matter whether we’ve been to the country before or not. We travelled within Europe this year and also, we’ve done a bunch of short trips in our own country, Hungary.
Here’s the collection of our best moments and the places we loved the most in 2016 – in no particular order.
Krakow was on our bucket list for too long. And spending a long weekend there this March convinced us that it was well worth looking forward to visit this charming city. Now we are eager to return again in a different season (Christmas, probably?) and also to see more of Poland.
Best experiences: strolling through Krakow’s Old Town, Rynek Główny (Main Square), Wawel Castle, colorful interiors of St Mary’s Basilica and the Church Of St Francis Of Assisi, visiting Wieliczka Salt Mine, Zapiekanka (hint: this last one is something to eat! and quite delicious)
The Swiss Alps are hikers’ paradise so we knew we would love Switzerland. Not surprisingly from all of the Swiss cities we visited this spring (Zürich, Lucerne, Basel) Lucerne became our favorite. This enchanted little town is on the shore of a pretty lake and it’s surrounded by giant peaks of the Alps. An irresistible combination. Of course, we had some time up in the mountains, too.
Best experiences: Lucerne Old Town, walking on the shore of Lake Lucerne, hiking in the Swiss Alps! (Mt Pilatus and Niederbauen Chulm)
- How We’ve Fallen In Love With Lucerne
- Hiking Mt Pilatus, Switzerland: Snow vs. Us – 1:0
- Conquering Snowy Niederbauen Chulm In The Swiss Alps
National parks of Slovakia
We’ve spent most of our summer weekends in the national parks of Slovakia. We found our perfect mountain paradise there – it’s close to us so we could go even for a weekend, it’s breathtakingly beautiful and it’s much cheaper than the Alps. There are stunning views, more than a hundred alpine lakes, fairy tale valleys, ice caves, lovely waterfall glens. Our favorite park is the High Tatras National Park, but Little Fatra and Slovak Paradise closely follow.
Best experiences: the charming glens of Slovak Paradise National Park, hiking to Green Lake (High Tatras), climbing Kriváň and Rysy peaks (High Tatras), Mylnická and Furkotská Valleys (High Tatras), climbing Veľký and Malý Rozsutec peaks (Little Fatra National Park)
- Best Day Hikes In The High Tatras, Slovakia
- 10 Reasons To Fall In Love With The High Tatras
- A Place Called Slovak Paradise
Vienna is a place where we return quite often and it’s probably our all time favorite city in Europe. It has everything what we can love in a city: great vibe, stunning architecture, beautiful parks, nice chocolateries, exciting events throughout the year. Not to mention its 3 majestic palaces!
Best experiences this year: visiting Vienna at spring flower blooming, seeing all the fountains of Schönbrunn Palace, Christmas market, Hundertwasser Haus, Naturhistorisches Museum
Loire Valley, France
We love everything about castles: their atmosphere, their amazing and colorful gardens, their elegant interior and furniture and all their delicate decorative elements. We’ve visited Paris for the first time this year but what we were even more looking forward to visit was the castles of Loire Valley. This region has almost 50 castles! We visited 7 of them including both very famous icons and hidden gems. It was definitely one of the highlights of this year and our best castle experience ever.
Best experiences: everything in the Loire Valley 🙂 but especially Château de Chenonceau, Château de Chambord, the gardens of Château de Villandry, Château de l’Islette, the interior of Château de Cheverny, the towns of Blois and Amboise
This was a last minute trip in November. One that we are very happy about. Amsterdam was one of those cities that we were completely sure we would visit somewhen we just didn’t hurry too much with it. Though we only spent one day in the city this time, but we instantly fell in love with its wonderful city center!
Best experiences: the countless charming canals of Amsterdam, view from the top of NEMO science museum, the historical courtyard of Begijnhof
Last but not at all least comes the two new countries that have quickly reached the top of our all time favorite countries list. One of them is Slovenia, a small country with such a diverse and beautiful nature! We loved everything in this country. The huge caves that reminded us of Moria from the Lord of the Rings. Ljubljana, the most charming European capital we’ve ever seen. The cave castle of Predjama. Colorful little town of Piran on the Slovene seashore. And Triglav National Park with its huge cliffs, wonderful lakes and Soča, the most beautiful river in Europe.
Best experiences: Predjama Castle, Postojna and Škocjan Caves, Ljubljana, Piran, canoeing on Lake Bohinj, hiking in the Soča Valley
- A Castle Carved Into Rock: Predjama, Slovenia
- Bled vs Bohinj, Slovenia
- Scenic Drive Through Triglav, Slovenia
- Hiking In The Soča Valley, Slovenia
The other astonishing new country on our favorites list is Croatia. With about 3600 miles of seafront and more than 1100 islands and islets, magnificent historical towns, charming beach towns, lively harbors and stunning beaches we couldn’t really think of anything we didn’t love there.
Best experiences: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Krka National Park, Mljet Island, Split, Dubrovnik, Lokrum Island, Zadar, Kornati Islands National Park
- Land Of A Hundred Islands: Kornati, Croatia
- Heaven On Earth: Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Our Weekend Getaway To Zagreb, Croatia
Our plans for 2017
What’s coming next year? Honestly, we don’t know it yet. There’s still a lot of European countries we haven’t seen – and many where we want to go back. We’ve just bought air tickets to a country we started dreaming about a couple of years ago. But we are wandering about visiting a new continent, too.
And for sure, we want to continue exploring our own backyard which hopefully means a bunch of short trips in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia and Serbia.
How was your 2016? What are your favorite travel experiences?