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Our Absolute Travel Highlights of 2015 | Bizarre Globe Hopper

 Our year in travel could be described by one word: mind-blowing. We visited in 8 countries altogether, 5 of them being new ones. One of our all-time dreams came true when we started out the year by visiting Tanzania in March. It was our first time in Africa. During the year, we ended up visiting Africa three times! That was something we couldn’t even have dared to dream about for some time back.

 

When experiencing so many remarkable things during the year, it made it tough to choose the best ones for this recap post. But we managed to narrow it down to these eight. It may not come as a surprise that the majority of them is from Africa, but the “Mother Continent” deserves all the glory it can get.

This list is in chronological order because we just wouldn’t be able to put it in any other order, nor to choose any of these experiences as the “best of all”. Every trip is different, and every experience is memorable in its own, distinct way.

The year is just about to change now and we already have more great plans in store. But first of all, we’d like to thank all you people who have made this possible: our readers, partners, and all who have supported us along the way! Thank you so much! Together we can make incredible things happen! We hope to continue doing our best to bring you engaging stories and visuals from all around the world, as well as actionable tips and tricks so that you too could travel more! Here are our top moments from 2015.

Serengeti National Park, TANZANIA

Since I was a kid, I’ve always dreamed of visiting in Africa. In March 2015, this dream came true. It was incredible to drive around the iconic Serengeti National Park and see all its magnificent wildlife: lions, zebras, hyenas, hippos, countless species of antelopes and birds, and even the start of the migration of the wildebeest. My feelings were mixed with awe and gratitude that I was able to be there to see it all with my own eyes.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, TANZANIA

This unique conservation area is home to some of the world’s last black rhino populations. The landscape of the crater itself is sometimes almost moonlike. The crater has a unique ecosystem and is strictly protected. There are not many black rhinos living in the area. It’s never guaranteed to see them when visiting Ngorongoro. We were there for only one(!) day, but had the best of luck: we saw four black rhinos altogether, and even managed to get three of them in the same picture! That was something that even our experienced guide hadn’t ever seen before!

Zanzibar, TANZANIA

Zanzibar was a place which deserves to be mentioned separately. The distinct mix of the Arabic, Swahili, and Indian cultures makes it a unique place to visit. Get lost in the narrow alleys of Stone Town and visit a museum to have an insight into the old, brutal business that once made Zanzibar the center of the slave trade. Spend the day watching the boys dive into the ocean from the stone walls of the city, or head out to the numerous white sand beaches of Zanzibar to enjoy the sea with a sunset drink.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, UGANDA

Visiting Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda in June and meeting the critically endangered mountain gorillas was one of the best travel experiences we’ve ever had. A real once-in-a-lifetime experience! There are only about 800 mountain gorillas living in the world and Bwindi is one of the three places to see them. The other places are Virunga National Park in DRC and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Being only a few meters away from this distinctive species made us understand how close relatives they actually are to humans. It wasn’t easy to reach the gorillas in this forest that actually lives up to its name, but it truly was worth every effort! If you ever have the chance to go gorilla trekking, don’t hesitate for a second!

Nyiragongo Volcano, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

One of our more daring adventures was climbing to spend the night at the rim of the boiling lava crater of the volcano Nyiragongo in DRC. We struggled to get visas to the DRC, which is not easy for anyone. But we finally managed to get them and had the chance to see the spectacular lava show at night on top of this volcano – one of the most active ones in the world. The boiling crater was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

Also, spending a few days in Goma, in the war-torn Province of North Kivu, was already an experience on its own. We had mixed feelings about the streets crowded with different NGO and UN vehicles, and about seeing all the UN soldiers in full combat uniforms everywhere. However, we never felt insecure. It’s only a small fraction of DRC where you can visit at the moment; most of this huge country being off-limits because of the ongoing conflicts between the government and several guerilla soldiers.

But I would still recommend visiting DRC: in the oldest national park in Africa, Virunga. Climb to Nyiragongo or visit the mountain gorillas. The people working in the tourism business in DRC really need it, and you’ll have a true adventure tale to tell back home.

Toledo, SPAIN

This little, medieval town only a 30-minute train ride away from Madrid was worth the few days’ visit in July. World famous for its steel making craftsmanship, Toledo is one of the best places to make purchases of different knives; for cooking as well as for camping and traveling. And if you fancy a sword to decorate your house – buy it from Toledo.

Also, the medieval old town has a homey atmosphere with historical buildings everywhere you lay our eyes on. Simply put, it’s beautiful. Toledo is in Castile-La Mancha – a province of Spain best known by its most famous fictional character: Don Quijote de la Mancha by Cervantes. This sad knight is ever-present on the streets of Toledo, standing in his shining armor in different forms in practically every souvenir shop. And those iconic windmills, which Don Quijote endlessly fought against, you can find near the town of Consuegra. It’s about 60 km away from Toledo.

White Water Rafting And Bungee Jumping, Zambezi River & Livingstone, ZAMBIA

In November, we visited Africa for the third time this year and toured around Zambia. We stopped in Kafue, Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa National Parks and saw incredible wildlife and spectacular African sunsets.

When we were in Livingstone, we just had to try the two must-do activities there: white water rafting and bungee jumping. I’m actually afraid of water, but managed to win my fear and did a full day rafting on the raging Zambezi River! The rapids of the Zambezi range from scales of 1 to 5. These rapids are appreciated with even the best professional rafters of the world. We flipped over only twice during the whole day, and I didn’t like that at all, but it was a fun and challenging experience at the same time.

The other thrilling activity was a bungee jump from the Victoria Falls bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe. We made the first bungee jump of our lives from the 111 m high platform in the middle of the bridge. Sceneries were majestic and the jump itself was an adrenalin-high experience.

We actually jumped twice from the same platform. At the other time, we did a tandem jump on the gorge swing. We just stepped right over the edge into the emptiness, attached to each other with our harnesses and safety ropes. After the free-fall we were left to swing above the gorge for awhile – time to enjoy the views.

If you go to Livingstone, we can highly recommend doing all these activities, as not to miss any fun!

Széchenyi Bath, Budapest, HUNGARY

We spent the Christmas bathing in Europe’s largest medicinal bath – Széchenyi Spa in Budapest. There are three outdoor thermal baths and 12 indoor baths. The warmest of the pools were +38C and the coldest +16C. All the pools were open when we visited, so we tested them all, as well as the all the different saunas. Though unfortunately, Széchenyi did not have a unique, traditional Finnish sauna. I also have to confess that I didn’t try out the coldest pools because I had the little flu, but Niina did.

The milieu itself is fabulous; the spa, built in Neo-baroque style, was opened in 1913. The thermal waters include sulfate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, fluoride and metabolic acids. They are said to help different joint-based illnesses and chronic and sub-acute joint inflammations. My back had been hurting for almost four weeks in a row when we were there, and unfortunately, the waters didn’t help me much. But maybe they’ll help some others.

Nevertheless, it was very relaxing to soak in the warm thermal pools and enjoy the calm atmosphere created by the old men drinking beer and playing chess at the edges of the warmest pool, or the excitement of the people having fun all around. One of the best ways to spend a day in Budapest – also if you ask from locals.

 

These were our top picks for highlights of our wonderful year of traveling in 2015. Many great experiences were left out from here, but we promise to tell you all about them in other posts.

What were your best adventures this year? Tell us in the comments, we’d love to know!

For now, we have only this to say: Have a joyous New Year and safe travels in 2016! See you again next year and we hope you join us for new adventures!

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