23 Travel Pros Share The Best Place They've Ever Been

01/31/2017 05:35 pm ET | Updated Feb 01, 2017
Photo courtesy of Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa in Trancoso, Brazil

In honor of the new year, when the whole curious, beautiful world seems to loom expectant with possibility, we asked 23 travel experts: “Where’s the best place you’ve ever been?”

Those we spoke to — among them the founder of Tiny Atlas Quarterly magazine, the director of the world’s largest adventure travel company, and an affordable-travel pro—travel constantly and, like all frequent nomads, struggle with this deceptively simple question. How to choose just one?? But after a little hedging and some flip-flopping, they each landed on the one place most etched in their brains—destinations (and experiences) that range from visually astounding to physically challenging to, in some instances, utterly life-changing.

From the team at Spot.com, a simple, beautiful, intuitive way to find cool places in your city & around the world.

Photo courtesy of Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa in Trancoso, Brazil

“Trancoso, Brazil is the perfect combination of wild and untouched nature, very warm people, and chic accommodations and restaurants. Brazilians do it better!” —Zoie Kingsbery Coe, founder of family travel firm Kid & Coe

“Hands down Gokyo Lakes in Nepal. It’s an understated gem among the endless beauty of the Himalayas. Not many Everest Base Camp treks go through this region (ours do!) but it is wholeheartedly worth a detour however you travel.” —Leigh Barnes, North America Director of Intrepid Travel

Amsterdam by JeniFoto/Shutterstock

“I absolutely adore Amsterdam and here’s why: It’s a beautiful bite-size European city, so it is a wonderful introduction to the continent for first-timers to Europe. Filled with art, canals, cobblestones, and flowers, it has all the history of Paris and Rome, but it’s not overwhelming and is very easily walkable (or bikeable). Everyone is friendly and helpful, and most people speak English, so it’s easy to ask for directions or recommendations. Trains and buses are very accessible which make day trips to smaller towns convenient and fun. I once spent an afternoon at a cheese market in the town of Gouda, which was a blast.” —Juliana Dever of Clever Dever Wherever

“I don’t think I have a favorite place because I love going to new places so much! But if you were to say to me, ‘you can have a house anywhere in the world,’ I would pick Hanalei Bay, Kauai. Warm water, good surf, healthy tasty food, and a gorgeous location.” — Emily Nathan, founder of travel magazine Tiny Atlas Quarterly

Rock Islands around Pianemo, Raja Ampat by Miniloc/Shutterstock

Raja Ampat is a series of islands in the remote western region of Indonesia. They require a bit of work to get to — a couple buses, two flights, and two boat rides — but they’re well worth the long journey! The diving is amazing—Raja Ampat has the most pristine underwater marine life I’ve ever seen. But even if you don’t dive, all the island piers have the most stunning coral reefs right under the dock! Visit Arborek village for top-notch snorkeling, Sawinggrai village to feed the fish, or hike Pianemo for a view out over islands that create the shape of a star.” —Sher, photographer and editor behind Sher She Goes

“Trekking the Alps’ Grand Randonnée 5 [GR5] from Geneva to Chamonix is one of my favorites. It was great exercise. It was well-marked (no need for a guide). We booked and stayed in huts each night, with better food that you’d get in a restaurant — the huts/refuges were all on local farms and meals were home cooked. The views were tremendous as you might imagine from the Swiss/French Alps. And then you end up in Chamonix, the quintessential French ski village. Perfect!” — Clem Bason, CEO of hotel-search site goSeek.com

Florence, Italy by Cristina Gottardi/Unsplash

Italy is a journey to the crossroads where culture, cuisine, and community come together. Some have called it La Dolce Vita, but after traveling to Tuscany, Sicily, Sardinia, Venice, Rome, Florence, and Trento, I’ve realized that it’s more than a simple motto. It’s finding meaning in the mundane, it’s elevating the everyday, it’s having harmony and happiness without needing a reason. It only takes one day of soaking up Italy’s sun-kissed scenery to discover that La Dolce Vita is more than a Fellini film. In Italy the sweet life is the way of life.” — Monique Soltani, journalist and travel-show host

São Tomé and Príncipe, a tiny two-island nation off the west coast of Africa. You get there via a flight from Portugal or continental Africa, or a ferry from Cape Verde. It’s a place where the tourism industry is so small that you get to experience life as a local really quickly. The food is all fresh and locally grown or fished (conch, homemade chocolate, jackfruit off the streets). As a solo female traveler, I’ve always felt incredibly safe there. If you’re looking to travel off the beaten path, this is a surefire way to do it.” — Beth Santos, founder of women’s travel community Wanderful

Ljubljana castle, Slovenia by Tomas Kulaja/Shutterstock

Slovenia is absolutely stunning—the culmination of Germanic and Austrian cultures making way to a Venetian-style coastline. It’s rustic, charming, sophisticated, and, at the same time, alternative: Hip, artsy coffee shops shoulder up to bavarian sausage stands across the cobblestones from old-world cathedrals. Ljubljana, the capital, is pedestrian friendly and a foodie haven. It’s affordable, the public transportation is second-to-none, and it’s safe. Even serial travelers will stop in awe of this country’s beauty!” — Megan Lee, director of meaningful-travel site GoAbroad

Leon, Nicaragua has always topped my list of destinations. The city is ‘right sized’ for tourists, so you can get around the center by foot but it’s big enough that you won’t get bored. I love the sheer variety of activities: You’ll find everything from volcano climbs to museums to a beach 20 minutes away. But best of all, it’s inexpensive, so you can enjoy great meals and experiences at a fraction of what they might cost elsewhere. Just beware: Most hotels in this hot city don’t have air conditioning!” — Becky Pokora, blogger behind The Girl and Globe

Dominica fruit stand by Shannon West/Shutterstock

“Right now I’d say the Caribbean island of Dominica. It still feels largely undiscovered, the people are kind, and every scene is Instagram-worthy.” —Kristen Kellogg, founder of online travel magazine and creative agency Border Free Travels

“I have several favorite places! The most beautiful beach/snorkeling destination I’ve been to is the Maldives. Overwater bungalows and fantastic snorkeling make this an unforgettable trip. Other places I love include Mumbai, India because it’s like no place on earth, and Paris, France for its eternal beauty and charm. But one of the most rewarding trips I take is going home to see my 86-year-old grandmother. I relish every moment we spend together, watching old movies, dancing to music, and eating our favorite foods! Life can be lonely when you get to be her age, and seeing her smile makes the trip so worth it!” — Emily Jablon co-founder of affordable travel-tips site Million Mile Secrets

El Calafate, Argentina via Travel Coffee Book

“We recently visited the Patagonia region of South America. A remote destination, Patagonia is uncrowded, stunningly beautiful, and a great place to explore nature. If you like hiking or glaciers, you will not be disappointed.” —Elizabeth Rudd, co-founder of Compass & Fork

“Every time I travel, I fall a little bit in love, so choosing a favorite place is nearly impossible. If I have to pick just one though, it would have to be Paris. It sounds so cliché, but there is just something so magical about Paris. The buildings, the gardens, the food, the wine. I could spend every day of my life wandering her streets and be very happy.” — Meaghan Murray, editor of The Stopover

Part of the Taj Mahal complex, by Spot

“I just got back from India and I am already planning to return. The country is filled with so much beauty, the culture is unique and interesting, and the exchange rate is great for budget travelers. I only had the chance to tour the golden triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur), which is barely just scratching the surface, but I’m already looking into visiting south India.” —Tessa Torrente, blogger behind Travel Where to Next

Antarctica. Quiet, unspoiled, pristine, and a million shades of white. I live in Oregon and people say it is green—a million types of green. Antarctic is like that: white with tints of pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.” —Marcia Miller, president of tour-company You Go Girls!

Cappadocia, Turkey via Travel Coffee Book

“So far, it’s Cappadocia, Turkey. We travel to explore the unfamiliar and we haven’t been to many places as otherworldly as Cappadocia. It’s a magical, alien-like place.” —JB Macatulad, co-founder of Will Fly for Food

“The best place I’ve ever been is Chobe, Botswana. Part of this is thanks to the fact that I stayed at an amazing lodge settled on the Chobe River, but it’s mostly because of the awe-inspiring sight of African animals in the wild.” — Kimberly Tate, founder of Stuffed Suitcase

Temples of Bagan, Myanmar by Martin M303/Shutterstock

“Personally, my favorite place in the world is Myanmar. It’s a country full of smiles, age-old traditions, fragrant foods, and a wealth of cultural sites and temples. Whether you like hiking, exploring ruins, wandering through markets, or simply relaxing on white-sand beaches, Myanmar has it all.” —Daisy Cropper of Insight Guides

“I really love Europe travel. There’s a ton to see and experience, making the hardest part deciding where to go. But, what’s especially great about traveling in Europe is the ease at which you can see a number of places in one trip. Flights between countries can be scored cheaply on budget carriers such as Norwegian and Wow Airlines. In one trip I went from Amsterdam to Prague to Copenhagen paying very little for flights. Plan where you’ll start and end, and how much time you have and then shop around for flights between countries. If you’re flexible, you can put together a really cool itinerary without spending much more than you would had you stayed put in your original destination.” —Amanda Festa, editor of travel-deals publisher Cheapflights.com

Lipari Island, Aeolian Islands, by Andrey Bayda/Shutterstock

“The Aeolian Islands is a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily. The largest island is Lipari (the islands are sometimes referred to as the Lipari Islands or Lipari group), but the other islands include Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea, and Basiluzzo. I loved being there because it’s a place where time seems to have stopped. You have all the colorful and fragrant vegetation, the crystal sea, the amazing food of Sicily, but you feel more free and wild.” —Elena Bisio, co-founder of Foody

“It’s tough, but I’d probably have to say Mount Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro challenged me mentally and physically in a way I’ve never been challenged before. It forced me to look life directly in the eye and make redefining changes. Six months after my first summit of Kilimanjaro I quit my job and started WHOA Travel with my best friend, all because of this mountain. I have since summited it SEVEN times, inspiring more women to take on its peaks and to share in this journey together. I guess you can say this mountain is miraculous and magical — and I keep going back for more!” — Allison Fleece, co-founder of women adventure company WHOA Travel

“One of the most special places I’ve ever been is Trinidad and Tobago. First, the islands truly feel undiscovered. When you arrive, there are barely any other foreign travelers exploring, so you feel like you’re privy to a tropical secret. Second, it’s not your typical Caribbean vacation of laying around on beautiful beaches, piña colada in hand. Instead, this is a culturally and biologically rich country with plenty to discover. Over 40 percent of the population is East Indian, which has lead to this crazy fusion of Indian-Caribbean food (try the curry-crab dumplings and doubles sandwiches) and music (imagine Bollywood beats mixed with soca) that seeps into various aspects of the overall travel experience. On top of all the cultural richness, there are endless jungle pools, waterfalls, and secret snorkeling coves to indulge in.” —Katalina Mayorga, CEO of small-group travel company El Camino Travel

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