Our very best of 2017

2017 has been another incredible year on the road. In 2015 when we left the Netherlands to see the world we didn’t think we would still be traveling more than 2 years later. Yet 2017 brought some of the most incredible sights in our journey. We want to share them with you in this pretty compact list. Hopefully it will bring you inspiration for travels in the years ahead.

  1. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

We travel to discover something foreign, a culture, a sight, a cuisine which we don’t have at home. Gardens by the Bay is something truly unique, that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. For me it felt like a vision of a future city, green, modern and a perfect symbiosis of nature and people. I could go back there a thousand times, over and over again and to all of you I recommend it as my unbeatable number 1. Don’t miss the light show by the main Super Trees site. More about the Gardens here.

  1. The Kaluts desert, Iran

That’s Jandirk’s  number 1 and the first place we saw in 2017. The silence, the rock formations and the feeling of landing on the Moon made it one of our very favorite sites. Not to mention the beauty of solitude out there. More about the journey here.

  1. Fuji mountain, Japan

Japan as a country has stolen our hearts. Jandirk has been fascinated by their manga, food and culture for a long time but for me it’s a very new love. Japan as a whole is an incredible journey full of surprises on every corner. But if we had to choose a specific place we would say Fuji Mountain. It can be seen from so many different places and it’s so perfectly symmetrical and majestic. We were lucky enough to see a lot of it from many different angles and we somehow can not imagine a trip to Japan without it.

  1. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

In 2017 we saw many incredible mosques in Oman and Iran but there was one winner and surprisingly it was in Abu Dhabi. It was completed in 2007 so I didn’t expect more than tons of gold and kitsch. I was wrong, the mosque is breathtaking! Every bit is magnificent, stylish, very thoughtfully made. In the evening it looks like a fairytale palace from Aladdin or 1001 Nights. It’s lit according to the phases of the moon so the color and intensity of the light changes every day. That should give you an idea about the amount of work and thought that went into this masterpiece.

  1. Pingxi mountains, Taiwan

I love mountainous views. Especially at sunrise there is something magical with the morning mist and clouds disappearing in between rays of light. I have to admit that I am not the type of person who likes hiking just for the joy of it. I have to have something spectacular at the top of the peak. Well Pingxi mountains gave us just that, super short, strenuous hike and absolutely magnificent views worth every bit of sweat and fear. About how to get there and exactly what to see go here.

  1. View on Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka

I’m not going to lie to you. We were not enchanted by Sri Lanka. We were stunned by the amount of garbage, scary transportation and not overly kind people. But one view stayed with us and it was the one on the Sigiriya Rock. It looked so blissful, so green, so Avatar-like, something we won’t ever forget. Tempted by this sight we actually visited the fortress on the top of that rock. We recommend you guys not to make that same mistake. It’s not worth the overpriced entrance and the slow, tiring walk up in a column of tourists.

  1. Japan in bloom

People tend to think that bloom in Japan means only cherry blossom and cherry blossom is only seen in Kyoto and Tokyo. The truth is cherry blossom is everywhere but just varies in period very much. This spectacle of nature, although very brief, brings Japan to life, pushes locals to celebrate and cherish what's fugacious in life. There are picnics and festivals everywhere and the trees look just breathtaking. After few days when the petals start falling it almost looks like snow. More about where to see cherry blossom here.

Except for cherry blossom we were lucky enough to see plum blossom which is almost as beautiful. It comes before the cherries and it’s more peaceful, less touristic.

  1. Kyoto, Japan

Every bit, every kilometer of it. It’s the city that charmed me the most this year. Kyoto is just pure essence of Japan for me. There is so much history there, so much soul but also plenty of modern, pleasantly weird Japan. I seriously can’t wait to go back there. For more info about our favorite places in Kyoto go to the post.

  1. Montserrat, Spain

No mountains are like those surrounding Montserrat Monastery. They look like sleeping giants overgrown with plants. I still can’t believe that all these times I came to visit Barcelona I didn’t think about coming here. Short trip away to huge joy.

  1. Tea plantations, Malaysia

We are massive tea drinkers and disappointed by tea plantations on Sri Lanka we decided to give it another tea try in Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Although the villages in the tea region were hideous, the plantations made up for it pretty fast. Hills of green, filled with bushes of tea. Unforgettable experience.

  1. Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

Already the name says it all. It’s a spectacular location that has a lot to offer when it comes to nature, culture and even modern architecture. Perfect escape from somehow chaotic cities of Taiwan. Every Dutch person will be delighted to hear that the best way to explore the area is by bike. More here.

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Nagoya, Japan

Our favorite cherry blossom spots

Spring is the most popular season among tourists coming to Japan. All dream of seeing the cherry blossom and that's the time to do it. Most crowds hit Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo. Prices there double and triple which scared us away and made us think of an alternative…

Those turned out to be endless. Spring in Japan goes from February in Okinawa to May in Hokkaido and there are many different types of cherry that bloom earlier or later than the others. We decided to go for the cheapest option, the most off the beaten track possible and it turned out to be the area around and in Nagoya. We got very lucky with that one. There were crowds where we wanted them, on picnics and festivals but we also found peace and the feeling of discovery in so many other places. Having seen the pictures and videos of crowded streets and parks in both Kyoto and Tokyo, we knew we made the right decision.

So to all of you that would like to see nature in its full glory but don’t know where, a short list from us 🙂 and believe me no picture can give you the smell of the fragrant cherry flowers or the feeling of excitement when the petals fall off the trees creating a kind of snow, carried by the wind. You just have to see it with your own eyes. Don’t forget to check the cherry blossom forecast before going!

  1. Enchanting tunnel nearby Ogaki

This one is by far the most spectacular cherry blossom spot we could ever even imagine. It’s one of those where no picture can explain the full glory of it. We discovered it completely by accident, just walking around from the Sunomata Castle. We spotted a few sakura trees and decided to take a closer look, following the trees we were getting deeper and deeper into the tunnel that in our mind should end “just after the next turn”. In reality it literally stretched over few kilometers and there wasn’t a single tree of another kind getting in the way of that marvelous spectacle.

  1. Little “one night” Sunomata Castle

According to the legend the castle was built in just one night and for that many call it a “one night castle”. Although it’s really tiny I can’t believe something that precise and beautiful could be constructed overnight. We loved it because of the surrounding cherry trees and secluded location. Not to mention the proximity to the absolute number one -“the enchanting tunnel”.

  1. Celebration town of Iwakura

This little town north of Nagoya definitely knows how to celebrate spring. During the cherry blossom festival it had just enough people to get the atmosphere right and few enough not to get annoyed with queues and waiting. Sakura was beautifully scattered all over the place with the epicenter of flowers and food stands on both sides of the river. In the evening the riverbed was bathed in warm, pink light coming from charming, little lanterns hanging above it.

  1. Park like no other- Tsurumai park

The place that showed us what hanami (enjoying beauty of flowers) and sakura (cherry) are all about. The park was not only one of the hot spots for the spring festival but a stunning picnic where people shared memories, joy, delicious food and a sea of sake. Many were literally sleeping under the trees guarding their special place under the fragrant cherry trees. There was music, there were dances, amazing food and with a bit of sake even the normally cool and collected Japanese were approaching us. We wish we could celebrate spring like that every year!

  1. Castle with a view in Inuyama

Just about when we already felt like we didn’t want to see any more castles we decided to give a chance to the last one… the one in Inuyama. We never regretted it. The castle itself was pretty empty inside but the view from its terrace was just breathtaking and the cherry blossom alley leading towards it was a little treat.

  1. Stairs to pink heaven at Yamazaki-gawa river

Very calm destination with stairs allowing a great picnic and chilling under immense cherry trees. Plenty of space, trees and stairs so everyone can really get their own little piece of paradise. We loved this place because it was really popular among families and we just loved watching parents trying to take pictures of cute, little kids dressed up for the occasion. Nothing makes us laugh more than a little human running away from a shot 🙂

  1. Nagoya castle

The most traditional spot to enjoy the blossom in the area but we wouldn’t skip it for the world. I dare to say that the most spectacular cherry trees in there are actually the ones surrounding the castle from the outside… Although the best view is from the walls within it. Those trees must have been the biggest and most wide-spread we have seen and from a distance they looked like an impressionism painting.