These days, travelling is a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to the sheer number of airlines and travel companies offering low-cost luxury travel to 21st century nomads. But, while travelling is much easier now, and quicker than it has ever been before, there is a certain joy in taking the long way round and opting for the longer scenic route, as opposed to the path of least resistance.
What I like to do is set myself a passport challenge, and take in as many countries as possible by travelling overland. This year, I’m planning to travel from Portugal to Morocco; via Spain, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Egypt before arriving at my intended destination. While this trip normally wouldn’t take very long, as there is only 20 miles between the continents, I want to make this trip a little more interesting, and so, I’m going to take in 7 countries in total on my journey. But why have I chosen these destinations?
Portugal is a real gem on the European continent, and while it’s often seen as the place to go for budget family holidays, it’s full of rich culture, beautiful historical buildings and fine food. Try traditional Portugal-style sardines after a long day’s sightseeing in Lisbon, or head to Douro, for a day trip to this beautiful landscape.
There’s a lot more to Spain than beach holidays and drinking, and so, I’m planning to head further inland and get a taste of the real Spain, that most travellers don’t get to see. Beginning in Madrid, I’m planning to head to Cordoba, Seville and Granada, taking in as many sights and attractions as possible, including trying a beer or two in one of Seville’s legendary bars.
One of the highlights of the Balkan peninsula, Bulgaria has fascinated me for a long time, and starting in the picturesque capital of Sofia, I’m aiming to see as much of this beautiful country as possible. Often seen as a land dominated by history, sites like the Varna Necropolis and traditions like rose picking often attract visitors, but I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the locals walk across hot coals and fire dancing, which are traditional celebrations on certain days of the year.
I’ve been to Greece many times, but I’ve still not seen as much of the country as I would like to. Beginning on the mainland (probably Athens) I’d like to take a tour through mainland Greece, and experience as much of the country’s culture and history as possible. Travelling by train is highly recommended, so, I would like to head north, to the hanging monasteries of Meteora, before driving to Delphi and going hiking Parnassos.
Home of beaches, beautiful historical ruins and Ottoman mansions, Turkey may be one of the highlights of the trip for me. Beginning in the capital, Istanbul, home of the world-famous Spice Market, I’m planning to head to Gallipoli, a WWI battle site, before heading to Troy to explore the ruins of this ancient, but infamous city.
The fulcrum of the most mysterious ancient civilization, Egypt has an appeal that extends way beyond the pyramids. This is the main reason why, although I’ll be landing at Cairo, I’ll soon after venture south down the Nile valley, and then further East towards the Red Sea. Here I’ve already planned a night guided visit to Mount Sinai – sleeping in its biblical wilderness will surely be one of the highlight of my whole adventure!
The final stop on my ‘Long Way Round’ trip, I’m looking forward to visiting the region’s many bazaars and spas. Fez is a popular Moroccan destination for visitors, and a great place to find souvenirs and gifts to send back home. I’m going to stay in a Riad (traditional house) and attempt to haggle with the locals, whilst drinking mint tea whenever it is offered to me – which will be often, I’m assured!
I’m very much looking forward to this trip, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the passport challenge; which provided me with much-needed inspiration for my holiday planning. So why don’t you try it?