2018 has been a good one for a lot of reasons, and it’s been a great year for travelling too. I ticked off quite a few places that had been on my bucket list for years and had fun discovering new countries. In the last few years I’ve tended to save up my annual leave to take a big trip (Vietnam in 2017, Bali in 2015), but this year I did things differently. I didn’t plan any big trips but instead took weekends here and there throughout the year to enjoy short city breaks. It was great always having something to look forward to and to be honest I can get bored if I spend too long in one place anyway, so it suited fine. Planning ahead to use bank holidays to my advantage and being savvy with my annual leave allowed me to take 5 great trips this year as well as having time off to explore my home country, Scotland. Here are just a few of my highlights, which will hopefully inspire you to explore new places in 2019!
Against all odds (remember the ‘Beast from the East’ storm?), we made it to Iceland in March. After a long delay, we only had around 48 hours to spend there, but we sure packed a lot in! From seeing the natural wonders the country has to offer on the Golden Circle Tour, to unexpectedly witnessing the Northern Lights right in Reykjavik city centre, it was a trip to remember. I’ve always preferred sunnier climates (to get away from the miserable Scottish weather), but Iceland changed my mind on this and was by far one of my favourite trips of 2018. It was truly like no other destination I’ve been to! The landscape is so diverse and naturally beautiful, no wonder it has been the setting of many popular films and TV shows such as Game of Thrones.
Top 3 must see in Iceland
- The Golden Circle Tour
- The Blue Lagoon/ The Secret Lagoon
- The Northern Lights Tour (or you might be lucky enough to spot them yourself)
We spent 5 nights in Barcelona in June. The city is a great destination for those who want to combine the attractions of a city along with stretches of golden sand beaches to relax on. There’s so much to see and do in Barcelona, and we could have easily spent more than 5 nights there. It’s such a buzzing city, full of culture and colourful history. One of the highlights was Park Güell, designed by famous architect Gaudi, which is covered in thousands of colourful mosaic tiles. You can spend hours here wandering around the vibrant winding paths and there’s great panoramic views of the city from the iconic viewpoint.
If you love a cocktail, the little known Paradiso Pastrami secret bar is a must-visit. Hidden behind the facade of a fully functional pastrami shop, lies the Paradiso cocktail bar. We had cocktails like no other here, and it’s no surprise it was named as one of the top 50 bars in the world last year. I would highly recommend a visit, if you can find it! 😉
Top 3 must see in Barcelona
- Paradiso Pastrami Shop (secret bar)
- Park Güell
- The Magic Fountain
Switzerland in October was a surprise birthday trip and after keeping it a secret for 4 months I was so excited to go! It’s always been on my bucket list and it did not disappoint. The wooden chalets against the backdrop of snowy mountains in Interlaken were exactly how I have always pictured Switzerland. It was the cleanest and one of the most naturally stunning places I have been, I just wish we had longer to spend there! We were based in Basel, but flew into Geneva and took a day trip to Interlaken, so we got around in the short time we were there. Going up Harder Kulm in Interlaken and chilling with a wine and the best mountainous views on a glorious sunny day was a highlight for me and gave us a taste of the mountains, without needing to spend hours on a train or a hike. Switzerland has something for everyone, with luxurious spas and retreats if you want to relax, or adventure activities such as parasailing and river rafting if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush. It’s somewhere we will definitely visit again, as I would love to explore the small village mountain towns such as Grindelwald and Mürren in the stunning Bernese Alps, and take a visit to the iconic Villa Honegg (look it up – an absolute dream).
Top 3 must see in Switzerland
- Explore Old Town Geneva
- Spend a day or two in Interlaken (Go up Harder Kulm)
- Take a trip to Grindelwald or another mountain village
Visiting Lisbon in November was my first time in Portugal. The city is so colourful and almost every building seemed to be vibrantly painted or decorated in traditional patterned tiles, of which there must be millions of across the city! We spent 3 nights in the Barrio Alto area, and although it didn’t feel like the safest of places at times, it was a wonderful area to explore with so much history behind it, great food and nightlife and plenty to see and do. São Jorges Castle is worth a visit if you fancy exploring the history, and it offers great views over the city.
Lisbon is very hilly (and nobody tells you how slippy the tiles are!), but it’s lovely to walk around. However, if you don’t fancy walking you can catch one of the traditional trams, but hold on as they can get pretty rough!
If you’re into food (who isn’t?), make sure you take a trip to the Time Out market, where you can taste amazing street food from a variety of vendors – the perfect place to go if your group can’t decide what cuisine to eat! There’s everything from traditional Portuguese food to Chinese, Italian and seafood, and the laid back atmosphere is the ideal place to start your night and enjoy a few drinks.
Top 3 must see in Lisbon
- São Jorges Castle
- Take a tram ride (hold on tight!)
- Time Out market
I’m looking forward to seeing where 2019 will take me and I’m excited to be planning a trip a little further afield this time. What are your travel plans for next year? 🙂