The Year That Was

By | Category: Travel destinations

It’s been a busy year of travelling and it’s time to take stock. Here Just About Travel contributor and travel enthusiast, Kaye Holland, shares some of her favourite destinations from 2017

 

Panama

The waistline of the Americas, Panama flies under the radar – in part because it’ s overshadowed by its more developed and better known neighbours, Costa Rica and Colombia.
But if you want azure waters, confrontingly good cuisine, heritage sites, nightlife and affordable adventures, Panama delivers. And then some.
The traditional travellers’ route into the country is via Panama City – Latin America’s most cosmopolitan capital that’s the gateway to the famous Panama Canal, an awe-inspiring modern engineering marvel which was built by the U.S. between 1904 and 1914.
Yet much of Panama’s appeal lies beyond the city. When the noise and frenetic activity of the capital gets too much, seek out the San Blas islands – 365 pieces of remote paradise, perched off the coast of Panama, that feel exactly like what they are: off the beaten track and undiscovered. Alternatively make a beeline for Bocas del Toro – a dreamy Caribbean archipelago blessed with Bounty advert beaches.
It’s a great spot to end your trip to this underrated, affordable corner of Central America – and perhaps start planning your next one. Return is inevitable.

 

Hull

Hull often gets a bad rap for being a place where “only salesmen and relations come,” as Philip Larkin once put it.
But just because it was, doesn’t mean it is. A cool £25million has been invested into revamping the city centre, in a bid to put the port city back on the travel map and there’s a palpable sense of excitement in the East Riding air.
Not that Hull has forgotten its past: expect to see a cornucopia of cream coloured telephone boxes, for Hull has had its own telephone exchange (KCom) –  the only city in the UK to do so – since 1902.
Hull’s shopping scene is another symbol of it’s uniqueness, of its determination to be different from other British cities. Instead of gigantic shopping malls, you’ll find the locally loved Grade 11 listed Victorian Hepworth Arcade –  home to Fanthorpes  which has been serving music lovers since 1946 and Dinsdale’s Joke Shop (01482 223622), one of the country’s oldest joke shops.
Hull is also home to some exceptionally good museums  (named in the UK’s Top 10 free attractions by Guardian readers) that are also free, as well a plethora of characterful pubs.
Bottom line? Hull is no longer just “a place for salesmen and relations.”


Rwanda


Let’s face facts: if we’re talking about which country to visit next, we probably wouldn’t put Rwanda  – an African nation whose name will always be tinged with tragedy – at the top of the list. But we’d be wrong. For there’s more to this tiny state – measuring a mere 10,169 square miles, Rwanda is the fourth smallest country on the African mainland – than the legacy of genocide.
The 
Land Of A Thousand Hills happens to be only one place in the world where you can look a mountain gorilla in the eye – a moment that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, something the great Sir David Attenborough can attest to.
The veteran broadcaster and naturalist famously recounted in his 1978 Life On Earth series that meeting Rwandan gorillas was “one of the most exciting encounters of my life. There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than any other animal I know.”
Yet while Rwanda maybe famous for its gorillas,it’s also the place to gawp at golden monkeys – another species found only in the tiny East African nation. Stir into the mix the full quota of the Big Five and you have an unsung safari destination.
What’s more, reaching Rwanda is easier than ever: RwandAir  – Rwanda’s national carrier – now flies direct from London Gatwick to Kigali (the capital) three times a week.

 

Athens

Our lives are short and the world is interesting so why do we spend so many of our weekends away in bland, well behaved cities? Athens is anything but. 
The charismatic Greek capital – easily one of the most exhilarating cities right now – is often overlooked by travellers in favour of Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and Rome. Error.  If good nightlife, bars and shops are your thing, then Athens is where it’s at.
The iconic Acropolis – the greatest symbol of ancient Greece and a wonder of the world – tops most first time visitor’s itinerary list but Athens isn’t about sightseeing per se but about exploring. It’s about wandering around neighbourhoods like Kolonaki and stopping for a leisurely coffee in a people watching cafe, gorging on fantastic Greek food and putting your bargaining skills to the test in the lively Central Market. Athens is made even more inviting by its people who are happy to share their world with you. Charming and hospitable, they always have time to talk.  Everyone knows somebody who has a friend, who has a cousin, who can help you out.


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