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The Friendly Planet Blog

The 20 Best Places to Travel in 2018

It’s that time of year again! Every travel publication is putting out their Top List of “must see” and “trending destinations” for next year’s globetrotters. We don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when you look from list to list, it seems like the whole world has made the cut! So we decided to do the dirty work for you. We took a look at all the most popular lists, from Travel+Leisure to Pinterest (and everything in between), and aggregated and tallied up all the trending destinations to give you the true Top 20 Destinations for 2018. You can see the full list below. Then click on the links or scroll down to learn more about select destinations that we visit on some of our tours.

 

  1. Mexico
  2. Canada
  3. Portugal
  4. Australia
  5. Chile
  1. Italy
  2. Malta
  3. Morocco
  4. Spain
  5. Argentina
  1. Croatia
  2. England
  3. France
  4. Greece
  5. Scotland
  1. South Korea
  2. Thailand
  3. UAE
  4. Vietnam
  5. Ireland

 

 LISBON, PORTUGAL | Lisbon Sky ©Deensel / FlickrPortugal

The Friendly Planet Take: Watch Portuguese water dogs help fishermen bring in their nets, then dine on their fresh catch at an outdoor cafe. Explore countryside castles proudly bearing Roman and Moorish heritage. Shop by foot or funicular in the stunning and sophisticated capital of Lisbon. Algarve’s southern beaches beckon, while Porto lures the aficionado of port wine with its ancient traditions and cave cellar tours. We recently released our brand new 11 day Best of Portugal small group tour because we knew how popular the country would be in 2018. Or, you might prefer our classic Douro River Valley Cruise.

What the trendsetters are saying:

  • “Heightening Portugal’s appeal are its incredible affordability and its natural wonders: in 2016, more than 300 beaches earned the coveted Blue Flag rating and two new biosphere reserves were named. It’s no surprise everyone is talking about this small, seafaring nation.” -Lonely Planet
  • “This coastal Portuguese city has all the elements of a world-class travel destination: a striking shoreline, charming architecture and historic sites, plus a one-of-a-kind export – port wine.” -U.S. News & World Report

Read more…

A picture is worth a thousand words: 5 photos that define Vietnam

Liz Hutchins, a member of our Reservations Team, is also an amateur photographer, and took many pictures during her trip to Vietnam. So we thought it was fitting to ask Liz to share her five favorite photos of Vietnam with our blog readers. Scroll down to see her choices.

“As I was preparing for my first trip to Vietnam, and my first trip to Asia, I bought a 32-GB memory card. I was determined to take as many photos as possible to make sure I’d remember my fabulous experience, and I surpassed 1,500 images. Of course, I still wish I could have seen more, but that just gives me an excuse to revisit this beautiful and culturally astounding country. Allow me to share with you my favorite moments:

#1:


Everyone always asks me, “What’s the strangest thing you saw someone carry on a motorbike?” This picture shows just one of the 12 locals I saw transporting TVs on their bikes. I think 40 inches was the largest TV I saw, but the biggest cargo I saw being transported via motorbike was a full-size mattress! Sadly, I did not capture this. Other extreme cargo included a stack of cages with chickens, a 6-foot-tall pane of glass, and a family of four.

I really enjoyed riding on the back of a vintage Vespa myself on our Vietnamese food tour. Taking pictures while holding on for dear life was a bit difficult, and they all turned out blurry. But the one thing that I’ll remember from the ride is that my face hurt from smiling so much. It was amazing! Read more…

A traveler’s review of authentic Vietnamese cuisine

We shared a bit about Liz Hutchins’ first trip to Vietnam in a previous post, but Liz has more to share with us! Read on for her personal account of experiencing authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

“The most interesting food I encountered in Vietnam was the infamous durian fruit. I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater, and after hearing many stories about the world’s stinkiest fruit, I decided I had to try it.

I thought I’d be clever and try durian-flavored ice cream, and found it at Fanny’s Ice Cream Parlor in Ho Chi Minh. As I scanned the pristine ice cream selections, I noticed that the durian ice cream was not in the glass case in the front of the store, but in the back freezer. I became apprehensive, so instead of getting an entire serving, I asked for a sample to taste only. I was alone in my adventure, as no one else in my group had any desire to try it.

These signs should have tipped me off that I was in for an unpleasant experience. I had been warned that durian ice cream smelled like dirty gym socks or garbage, so I held my breath and just went for it. At first, it wasn’t that bad … different is the only way I can describe it. Afterwards however, oh boy! Every breath I took, every sip of water, every attempted bite of food, all I could do was relive that awful bite of ice cream. Sadly, I had to endure a night of illness and plain rice, as the dreaded durian got the best of me. I’m told that many Vietnamese people love it though, and the fruit is sold all over the country.  All I have to say is … consumer beware of this funky fruit.

I certainly did not, however, lose faith in Vietnamese cuisine after this incident. As they say, when one door closes, an open window with delicious smelling food wafts through it. Case in point was my amazing tour with food blogger, cookbook author, and restaurateur Daniel Hoyer, who owns a restaurant in Hanoi and knows all of the best places to eat in this fabulous city. Read more…

The sights and tastes of Vietnam

Known for its extraordinary beauty, charming people, and delicious food, Vietnam remains a favorite destination among travel enthusiasts. Here Liz Hutchins, one of our reservations agents, shares her account of her trip to Vietnam:

“After months of preparation for my trip to Vietnam, I knew to expect certain things when I got there: lots of motor bikes, terrific food, and sights that I have come to know from countless movies and TV shows. What I didn’t expect was that I’d immediately fall in love with this beautiful country.

As soon as I landed, I was overwhelmed by the seemingly endless swarms of motorbikes, crowds, and food. People were either bustling about or sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal. Food stands selling Pho (a dish made of broth, rice noodles, a few herbs, and meat), broken rice, and Banh Mi sandwiches were everywhere, and I couldn’t wait to try them all!

I first tried Vietnamese food around 12 years ago, and ever since, I have been obsessed. When I had my first crispy spring roll all those years ago, who would have thought someday I would be making them in a cooking class on the Mekong Delta? Vietnam is a foodie’s paradise, and every day is an adventure! Read more…