When you head out on a long-term trip, every single person you meet will ask you what your favorite experience has been. We have been asked this question hundreds if not thousands of times, and for several months it was very hard to answer as we have had just too many great experiences to pick the very best.
As a way to share our favorite experiences and give you inspirations for activities to do on your own long-term trip, we decided to put together a ranked list of our Top 100 experiences, destinations, restaurants, and moments from around the world.
When reading, keep in mind that we haven’t been everywhere. This list represents our favorite experiences as of now, from all of the destinations we’ve been to (500+ cities in 67 countries), and will be updated as we travel more and find great experiences that make the Top 100.
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#20 – Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka
The September-November weather patterns in Sri Lanka are responsible for one of the most amazing congregations of wild elephants you’ll ever see. On our journey out into Kaudulla National Park we expected to see close to 50 or 60 elephants due to our arrival toward the end of the season in mid-November. This expectation was already incredibly high, as our trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana (an elephant haven) was a huge let down compared to what we were promised. Amazingly, upon entry into Kaudulla we were greeted with a sight of nearly 200 elephants! Suffice it to say, if you love elephants at all and want to see them in the wild, Sri Lanka is for you.
#19 – Coffee in South America
Coffee is one of our biggest culinary passions, so we knew we had to make the most of our visit to the Colombian coffee growing regions. On several small, family-owned coffee fincas, we learned that the work that goes into bringing you your morning cup of joe is incredibly complex. We saw first-hand the care that goes into growing the coffee plants, harvesting the coffee cherries at just the right ripeness, and fermenting and drying the cherries so that they’re ready to be exported. We also got to try our hand at roasting beans and, of course, drinking what was quite possibly the freshest cup of coffee we’ll ever have.
#18 – Diving with Hammerheads
Jeremy says that he is a scuba addict, but when it comes to his chosen dive sites they are few and far between. The problem he has is that although he likes to dive, spending up to $100 just to see coral often is not worth it. As a result, he only hits truly unique dive sites around the world. At the top of his list was diving with hammerhead sharks, and seeing them at Kicker Rock in the Galapagos did not disappoint. Watching these sharks circle in the water is just as eerie as you’d expect, but these creatures are some of the most beautiful you can witness under the water. Add in the eagle rays, reef sharks, turtles, and other kinds of fish that you can see in the Galapagos and you have what may be the world’s best diving for spotting creatures of the deep.
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#17 – Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
Orthodox monasteries in Eastern Europe all follow a set design inside and out. There are several components we could name, but our favorite is the fact that most monasteries are covered from floor to ceiling in murals depicting various scriptures, saints, and other religious themes. The problem with many of these murals is that due to the centuries of candle use within these holy places, many paintings are blackened from smoke and in disrepair. One monastery stood out from the crowd, and that was the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria which has maintained its beauty over the years (mostly because the original monastery burned down and was rebuilt about 200 years ago). We’ve often called this monastery “the most beautiful monastery in the world,” and we truly mean that. Both the inside and outer walkways of this monastery are covered with bright and vibrant paintings that are simply jaw dropping.
#16 – Releasing Baby Turtles
We often joke that we love animals more than most people, so it’s no surprise that we jump at any chance to protect these amazing creatures. While visiting the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, we had a serendipitous and unexpected opportunity to release just-hatched baby turtles on the beach. Sea turtles face many obstacles to successfully hatching and returning to the ocean, so turtle breeding centers have popped up along the coast to monitor sea turtle populations, collect eggs, incubate eggs, and release the baby turtles back into the ocean. With rubber gloves on, we carefully released the tiny creatures that were no bigger than the palms of our hands. It was incredibly moving to see dozens of these little guys crawl down the sand to their home in the ocean, and we’re so happy we had a hand in giving these little creatures a better chance at life.
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Now that we’re nearing the end of our list, we’re starting to come to the very best of different themed experiences. Coming in at #15 is our favorite meal which we had at La Oliva in Granada, Spain, while on our honeymoon. This meal may not have been the most gourmet, the best plated, or the best in most categories you can use to describe a meal. The reason this meal takes our top spot is because it was so unsuspecting. You see, La Oliva isn’t a restaurant. They don’t even have a kitchen. It is actually an olive oil shop that sells dozens of products that contain olive oil as an ingredient. But at night the owner and his assistant serve an incredible 17-course dinner that features his products in every dish. Not only was the entire meal divine, the shocker was at the finish. We asked to see his kitchen and were taken into the backroom to see a two-burner camper stove and nothing else. It truly is amazing what you can do with a passion for food and olive oil.
#14 – Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel is a temple that requires a bit of an adventure to reach. Abu Simbel, built by the famous Ramesses II, is located in the extreme south of Egypt, just a few miles from the border with Sudan. Those who do not pay for a short flight must take the early morning convoy from Aswan complete with armed guards. Sweet! Once there it only takes a few moments to realize why we place this temple high on our list. Abu Simbel is simply beautiful, and is leaps and bounds ahead of its time architecturally when you consider it is nearly 3,300 years old. But what makes this temple truly stand out is that it was moved brick by brick in 1968 to accommodate the reservoir created by the Aswan High Dam project, and it was reconstructed with incredible precision. To give an example of the mastery of this move, Abu Simbel was said to be constructed such that the inner sanctum is lit on Ramesses II’s birthday and coronation days. The move was so precise that this phenomenon only became off by just one day. If you visit Egypt and miss this one, we are going to be very upset at you.
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#13 – Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia
Much like with other premium activities featured on this list, if we’re going to do them, we want to do them in the world’s best spots. When it comes to taking a Cappadocia hot air balloon, we knew the splurge was worth it. Cappadocia is home to the famous fairy chimneys, tall rock spires that protrude from the ground, as well as several other geographical wonders. Over the years travelers have realized that one of the best ways to enjoy this scenery is from the air, and Cappadocia has now become a hot spot for hot air ballooning. On a clear day you may spot over 100 balloons in the sky, making this spot great not only for the natural beauty but also for the hot air balloon watching.
Munnar, India, caught us off guard. We knew that this town was the access point for one of India’s best tea producing regions, but we didn’t realize that the tea fields are incredibly expansive. Starting from the edge of town, you can quite literally drive for hours in the tea fields and not even scratch the surface. We found this out for ourselves when we hired a Jeep to reach the Kolukkamalai Tea Plantation, famous for being the highest organic tea plantation in the world. The tea plantation makes our #12 spot not for its beauty (okay, it is gorgeous), but for the drive to get there. The two-hour drive each way seems daunting at first, but when you consider that each turn presents a view of the tea plantations that is more beautiful than the last, you won’t want the day to end.
#11 – Sunflowers in Tuscany
Unlike some of the other seasonal activities featured on this list, when driving in Tuscany our stumbling on a field of sunflowers happened entirely by chance. Being there in the right season is the first step, but those driving around Tuscany in their own car may not know exactly where to find these fields. This was the problem we had during our travels in Tuscany, and we hoped and prayed that one of our days out in the countryside would put us by a massive field of Angie’s favorite flower. During our drive from Siena to San Gimignano on Highway 2 we happened upon our field. Seeing Angie’s eyes light up at a field of hundreds of thousands of her favorite flowers was an incredible feeling and after seeing the massive field for myself, I can see why they are her favorite. It was incredible.
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How We Came Up With This List
- Angie and I each put together Top 100 lists based on our favorite experiences both together and separately.
- We then compared our two lists and averaged out items that appeared on both lists.
- Example: An experience ranking #12 on Jeremy’s and #20 on Angie’s list was re-ranked at #16
- Roughly 50 items appeared on both lists.
- We then critiqued experiences which only appeared on one list.
- For experiences that we both had, the one who did not list it originally assigned their own rank and we averaged them out like above.
- For experiences that only one of us had from traveling solo, we accepted the listing as ranked and promised to take the other one day.
- Roughly 20 of Angie’s items and 30 of Jeremy’s unique items made the final cut.
- We then came up with a final Top 100 list based on these adjustments and then tweaked placements together as needed to fix any unusual averaging errors.
- Destinations visited by staff members were not considered.
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