As 2012 draws to a close it’s tempting to look ahead to your next holiday. At HomeAway.co.uk we have asked our team of travel experts to look back over the past year and share their favourite destination of 2012 and give us all some inspiration on where to travel to in 2013.
There is an interesting mix of familiar favourites alongside a few places which you might not have thought of before. Whilst some of our travel experts revisited favourite destinations from the past such as the Hawaiian Islands, others touched down on new ground in places such as South Africa’s Tembe Elephant Park or Santorini. Behind every great holiday destination is a love affair with the place as well as the people and gorgeous foods.
Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa
My top destination of 2012 was Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa. It’s home to some of the largest elephants on the continent. It also has a special viewing place set up near the water hole where visitors can spend unlimited time observing elephants and other African wildlife in their natural habitat.
It was also at Tembe that I also saw a lioness hunt – unsuccessfully before staring down our safari jeep full of tourists. Perhaps evaluating which one of us looked the tastiest? Either way, Tembe offered the most incredible wildlife viewing that I have had ever had!
Monkeys & Mountains
I’d always hoped that my first visit to Hawaii in 2001 wouldn’t be my last and I was very pleased to return again in 2012. It’s not the famous beaches in Maui or Waikiki that drew me back, but the world’s most continuously active volcano, Kilauea on the Big Island. There are fabulous hiking trails within the Volcanoes National Park, but the real attraction is the chance to see molten lava at very close range. This time I came equipped with a long stick and was able to poke at the flowing red rocks, bursting the lava bubbles open before they set and watching them pour out onto the ground nearby. I even saw lava falling from the cliffs into the ocean, a bright red waterfall pouring out from the belly of the earth. I knew before that one visit to Kilauea was not enough; now I hope that there’s room for a third visit sometime soon.
My top pick of 2012 has to have been Greece. Having never been I was more than a little curious as to what would be on offer. But Greece more than surprise me. From the moment we landed in Athens I was transported to the days of classical Greek civilisation and the absolute highlight of 2012 for me was climbing the Acropolis rock to see the Parthenon up close, or the view from the top of lycabettus hill. The second half of my trip was spent on Santorini, hands down the most spectacular and beautiful place I have visited. It’s best seen as you approach from the water, turning into the lagoon and seeing the iconic blue domed churches dotted through the villages draped down the cliffs. No stay on Santorini is complete without seeing the sunset from the castle at Oia. Simply breathtaking.
Puglia and Basilicata, Italy
We had many incredible trips in 2012 but our spring holiday to the less traveled regions of Puglia and Basilicata in southern Italy is on our ‘best trip ever’ list. From the UNESCO-protected Trulli houses in Alberobello, to the splendid Baroque architecture of Lecce, to the inhabited 9,000-year-old caves of Matera, the cultural gems are numerous and fascinating to visit. Cooking using regional, fresh ingredients is taken very seriously resulting in a glorious meal at every turn. Add in the 800km of coastline with some of Italy’s best white sand beaches for lounging and swimming for vacation perfection.
Sunriver Resort, Oregon, USA
Our favorite family vacation this year was the week we spent at Sunriver Resort in Eastern Oregon. Covering 3,300 acres in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range, there’s tons for families to do. Bike trails connect tennis courts, swimming pools, a year-round tubing hill, an equestrian center, a nature center and observatory, kids club a dock and more. Add to that a wide range of outdoor activities like rock climbing, rafting, fly fishing and hiking. A quaint centrally located village provides a grocery story, a variety of restaurants, shops and kids activities. Accommodatons here range from condos to huge homes that would accommodate a family reunion.
The twelve days I spent in New Zealand, touring both the North and South Islands by campervan were among my most memorable of 2012. With the almost impossibly blue waters of Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki, the otherworld like fjords at Milford Sound and the fascinating history of Napier, a town that was flattened in an earthquake in 1931 and then rebuilt almost completely in art deco style, New Zealand exceeded the high hopes that I already had. A personal highlight was the view from the top of Queenstown Hill, our walk up which was rewarded with a famous FergBurger. Needless to say the cool Kiwi coffee culture and award winning wine scene also helped to make New Zealand my favourite destination of 2012.
As the Bird flies
Finding a last-minute, cheap flight to Oslo turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in 2012. Sailing through the deep, dark waters of the Oslo fjord, admiring the Norwegian capital’s multi-coloured summer houses topped with grass, the week-long trip exceeded my expectations in every way. When I wasn’t perusing the quirky shops and stalls of Grünerløkka, or enjoying the panoramic views from atop the spectacular, Vigeland sculpture garden, I was making my way around the fascinating Folk Museums along the Bygdøy Peninsula. In the evenings, the city was alive with fairy lights and music, as locals and tourists alike wrapped up in blankets outside cocktail bars. From seeing Edvard Munch’s The Scream to jumping into the icy waters of the beautiful Huk beach, Oslo’s got to be my winning destination of 2012.
Have you ever dreamed of sailing past storybook villages aglow in the night, plying the waters beneath towering castles perched upon their craggy peaks, or waking up in a land of whimsical windmills? Dreams really do come true when you embark on a European river cruise and topping the list of my most memorable travels in 2012 is a five-day cruise onboard the Viking Odin. After embarkation in Amsterdam, we set sail on a fantastic voyage in the Netherlands—to seaside villages of Volendam, Marken and Edam; to the enchanting windmills of Kinderdijk; and wrapping up where traditional and 21st-century worlds collide in Rotterdam. From intimate settings onboard and friendly staff to epicurean adventures and ports of call; each moment a memory of an unforgettable voyage—truly a journey to remember!
Ljubljana in Slovenia is my favourite city in Europe and was the highlight of my travels in 2012. This gorgeous city is compact and easy to get around with all of the attractions within walking distance of the pedestrianised Old Town. The Old Town itself is one of my favourite places to relax and spend a few hours people watching. Restaurants and cafes line the streets and river and are full year-round with locals and tourists alike. My favourite Ljubljana experience would have to be hiking to Ljubljana Castle to watch the sunset, where I am always rewarded with a stunning view of the entire city lit up at night.