Introduction

As the year comes to a close, I’ve determined that 2018 has been my best year of travel so far.  Fortunately, I was able to visit some far flung destinations such as Easter Island, Machu Picchu, Maldives, and Bora Bora while also finally getting some major bucket list destinations checked off such as Egypt, Okavango Delta, and Victoria Falls.

Furthermore, I was even able to go on some unique travel experiences such as touring Chernobyl and going on a Gorilla Trek in Uganda.

In total, I was able to visit 5 continents and 22 countries while flying a total of over 75,000 miles.  A feat I would be surprised to top in the future.  As always, this is all largely possible thanks to my obsession with the miles and points hobby.

Map of Flights Taken in 2018

Top Destinations

1) Exploring Ancient Egypt

This has been on my bucket list for the longest time.  With the security situation a bit better in 2018, I decided to head down to Egypt for a few days to tour the Pyramids and the temples in Luxor.  My favorite site was the Karnak Temple with all the tall columns.

Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

2) Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Visiting wild mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was profoundly unique experience I’ll never forget.  Incredible to see these gentle giants up close in their natural habitats.

See: What’s it Like to go Gorilla Trekking?

Mother and baby gorilla in Uganda

3) Machu Picchu, Peru

Seeing these ancient ruins high in the Andes mountains was truly impressive.  Hard to believe an entire civilization lived up here.

Machu Picchu, Peru

4) Mokoro Boat Ride in the Okavango Delta in Botswana

The Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland river delta located in Botswana.  The delta has all kinds of wildlife including elephants, hippos, lions, and many species birds.  What better way go on safari than in a traditional mokoro boat where your guide pushes you around with a stick?

Mokoro Boat Ride in the Okavango Delta

5) Visiting Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine

This wasn’t on my bucket list but found out it was a tourist option during my trip to Kiev, Ukraine.  Why not? Certainly interesting to see the world’s worst nuclear disaster up close.

See: What’s it Like to Visit the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone?

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

6) Cape Town Wine Tasting in South Africa

I’ve been wine tasting all over Europe, Argentina, California, and New Zealand.  The vineyards outside Cape Town was by far the most fun and beautiful wine tasting region I’ve ever visited.  Wine was good too!

Wine Tasting in South Africa

7) Hiking Around Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

The Victoria Falls region was one of the most beautiful places I have visited in Africa.  The falls, as expected, were epic.  Even though a huge baboon stole my candy shortly after this picture, I still had a good time.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

8) Camping Safari in Southern Africa

After visiting East Africa last year and going the luxury camping route, this year I decided to go on a tented safari across Southern Africa.  Starting in Namibia and ending in Zimbabwe, it was a great way to tour the region on a budget while still seeing many of National Parks along the route.  All things considered, basic camping was pretty comfortable and a worthwhile experience.

Sable Antelope in Namibia

9) Easter Island, Chile

An island with ancient megalithic statues all over while in the middle of the pacific, what else can you ask for? Best part was the peace and quiet of not having too many crowds while being in the middle of such beautiful scenery.  Also, it has the added benefit of being a stopover to Tahiti on the way from Chile.

Easter Island

10) Touring Roman Ruins in Volubilis, Morocco

I can’t get enough of ancient Roman ruins.  While Jordan has the ancient Roman town of Jerash to visit, Morocco has the town of Volubilis.  I was impressed by the incredible landscapes serving as a backdrop for all the large columns, arches, and detailed frescos all still in place like an outdoor museum.

Roman Ruins in Volubilis, Morocco

11) Eagles Nest (Kehlsteinhaus), Germany

While this site has a dark past being used exclusively by members of the Nazi Party for government and social meetings, today its a tourist site with one of the most dramatic views of the German Alps.  It was captured by allied forces at the end of WW2 and now has a restaurant and beer garden for visitors.

Eagles Nest, Germany

12) Pilgrimage to Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

The Rila Monastery was a fun day trip from the busy capital city of Sofia.  Set deep into the Bulgarian mountains, the monastery was established over 1,000 years ago and had beautiful architecture and detailed paintings throughout.

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

13) Walk the Ancient Incan City of Cusco, Peru

I love cities with layers of archeological history.  Many of the buildings in Cusco have Incan and Pre-Incan foundations with Spanish structures on top.

Walking Around Cusco, Peru Surrounded by Incan Building Foundations

14) Passing out on the Besoffenenhügel (Hill of the Drunks) at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Oktoberfest is always a great time with delicious Bavarian beer and plenty of fun festivities.  If you have one too many beers, enjoy a nap on the Hill of the Drunks.

That’s me in the red shirt and lederhosen passed out

15) Hiking in the Slovenian Alps

The eight hour drive from Germany was certainly worth seeing Lake Bled and taking hike in the Alps of Slovenia.  Plus there are plenty of great camping sites to enjoy in Slovenia.

Hiking in the Slovenian Alps

Top Beaches

1) Rangali Island, Maldives

Just about everywhere your point your camera in the Maldives is “Instagram worthy”.   I can’t wait to return to the serenity of the Maldives.

Rangali Island, Maldives

2) Boulders Beach, South Africa

A beach full of Penguins.  Need I say more?

Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa

3) Bora Bora, French Polynesia

The waters of Bora Bora are the most beautiful I have ever seen.  Not to mention the dramatic Mount Otemanu looming over the entire island providing a glorious backdrop.  Bora Bora is like a hybrid of Hawaii and the Maldives; huge mountain, surrounded by an atoll.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

4) Abu Dhabi

A bit more pristine than the neighboring Dubai, the beaches of Abu Dhabi are always a welcomed delight away from the frigid temperatures of the German winter.  This time around there was a high winds kicking up a lot of sand creating this awesome sunset.

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Beach

See: Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi

5) Moorea, French Polynesia

Full of coral reefs and just a short distance from Tahiti, the island of Moorea was a worthwhile destination on the way to Bora Bora.

Hilton Moorea, French Polynesia

6) Easter Island, Chile

Not only does Easter Island have fascinating history but it also has beautiful beaches as well.

Easter Island, Chile

7) Wolfgangsee Lake, Austria

While not on an ocean, Austria has several gorgeous lakes with beaches and camping available.  My dog Pickles was certainly happy we could bring her on this trip.

Pickles at Wolfgangsee Lake, Austria

Top Flights

1) Lufthansa First Class

After living in Germany for almost five years, I finally was able to find a milage award redemption on Lufthansa First Class.  Certainly lived up to the hype.

See: Flight Review: Lufthansa First Class

Lufthansa First Class

2) LATAM Business Class

Thanks to Alaska Airlines miles, I was able to again fly LATAM Airlines in business class from Lima to Easter Island.

See: Flight Review: LATAM Airlines Business Class

LATAM Business Class on a B787

3) Ethiopian Airlines Business Class

Being able to book a business class flight for the 28 hour journey from Rwanda to Newark, NJ surely saved me from plenty of back pain thanks to a LifeMiles award redemption.

See: Flight Review: Ethiopian Airlines Business Class

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class on a B787

4) South African Business Class

Thanks to having enough Singapore Airlines miles, I was able to book an award redemption on South African Airways business class for the 11 hour flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg.

See: Flight Review: South African Airways Business Class

South African Business Class on an A340

5) Trans Maldivian Airways Seaplane

The flight from Male, Maldives to the Hilton Conrad requires transport via Seaplane.  Taking off and landing in the water along with seeing all the other resorts below was a cool experience.

View from Trans Maldivian Airways Seaplane

Top Hotels

1) Hilton Conrad Maldives

The Conrad Maldives is one of my favorite resorts.  With beautiful ocean scenery, awesome over water villas, and excellent treatment of Hilton diamond members, this is a resort I will surely return to again.  Not to mention it is one of the few places you can book an over water villa using points.

See: Hotel Review: Hilton Conrad Maldives

Retreat Water Villa at Conrad Maldives

2) IHG Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana

Finally, I was able to get to use my annual IHG credit card award good for a stay at any IHG hotel in Bora Bora.  Unfortunately, this benefit will end for high end properties like this next year.

IHG Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana

3) Hilton Conrad Bora Bora

Even though I was not upgraded to an over water villa for having diamond status, I still enjoyed the beautiful scenery and snorkeling around Conrad Bora Bora.

Hilton Conrad Bora Bora

4) Fairmont Grand Hotel Kyiv

Super classy and inexpensive for a Fairmont Property, the Grand Hotel Kyiv was a great location to tour the Ukrainian capitol of Kiev.  Dinner was 5-star delicious at Holiday Inn prices.

Fairmont Grand Hotel Kyiv

5) Hilton Luxor

Set right on the Nile river with awesome views and breezes, this Hilton location was ideal for touring the ancient Egyptian sights around Luxor.  Price can’t be beat either.

Hilton Luxor

6) Hilton Windhoek, Namibia

Centrally located for touring the capitol of Namibia, the Hilton Windhoek has the coolest roof top bar i’ve seen in Africa.  Perfect for watching the sunset across the desert.

See: Hotel Review: Hilton Windoek, Namibia

Hilton Windhoek, Namibia

 

That all for this year!  What plans do you have for 2019?

 

If you like my photos, follow me on Instagram: @BLTraveler

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