This year has brought me some amazing travel experiences in Southeast Asia and here at home in Australia. So as 2016 comes to a close, it seems only fitting to reflect on my favourite destinations I’ve travelled to in the last twelve months. With a number of cities explored and many more incredible memories made, it was certainly no easy task to name the top 16 travel destinations that scored a spot on my list for 2016.
1. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Cambodia has been on my travel radar for as long as I can remember, and I finally got to tick it off my bucket list earlier this year during a trip to Southeast Asia with my mum. From the temple of Ta Prohm, where the Cambodian jungle has snaked its roots around ancient stone structures, to the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap takes top spot! Not only is this my favourite destination I travelled to this year, but it is also one of my favourite places in the world.
2. Luang Prabang, Laos
During that same Southeast Asia trip, we visited the enchanting city of Luang Prabang, Laos. One of the highlights of the short few days we spent there was Kuang Si Falls. The many-tiered waterfall is – hands down – one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen and experienced. There are endless milky emerald pools and a trail, surrounded by lush, green rainforest, that leads to the head of the waterfall. Luang Prabang was so incredibly beautiful that I’d fly back there in an instant.
Read more: Discovering the magic of Kuang Si Falls in Laos
3. Tay Ninh, Vietnam
Tay Ninh is about two hours from the fast-paced, traffic-packed, death-defying streets of Ho Chi Minh City and happened to be a stop on my day tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels. In Tay Ninh, we stopped at one of the most beautiful and intricate temples I’ve seen thus far in my travels – the Cao Dai Temple. My tour bus arrived at the temple just in time for one of the four daily prayer ceremonies, which visitors were allowed to observe. This part of the day tour happened to be one of my favourite experiences during my time in Vietnam.
Read more: Cao Dai Temple in Vietnam
4. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef is a bucket list dream for many travellers, and I was lucky enough to tick it off mine during a spur of the moment trip to Queensland in July this year. Swimming with the fishes and exploring one of the seven natural wonders of the world was definitely one of the best experiences of 2016. But flying in a helicopter for the very first time and experiencing the stunning aerial views takes the Great Barrier Reef to a whole other level, becoming one of my all-time favourite travel adventures!
Read more: Under the Coral Sea: Snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef
5. Uluwatu, Indonesia
In February, I got the chance to take a week-long tropical getaway with one of my best friends from college. We ventured up to Uluwatu for breath-taking coastal scenery, cliff views, and to explore some of Bali’s most beautiful beaches. We also discovered one of my new favourite places to wine and dine – El Kabron!
Read more: Cliff-side Spanish: Tapas and sangria at El Kabron in Bali
6. Hanoi, Vietnam
Unfortunately, travel does not make you immune to sickness and I spent most of the few days I was in Hanoi unwell and in bed. Luckily for me, the beauty of the city’s lake areas, lively old quarter and centuries-old architecture couldn’t be surpassed by sickness, placing Hanoi on my list of best destinations. One of my favourite spots was Hoan Kiem Lake. Although it was a touristy spot, walking over the vibrant red Huc Bridge into the tranquil Ngoc Son Temple was a really special experience.
7. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In April, I started work as an Editorial Intern in Kuala Lumpur, a city I knew for its shopping and as an international layover hub. As I began writing and learning more about the city, I was excited to discover that there was much more to Kuala Lumpur than its malls and airport terminals. During my time in Kuala Lumpur, I developed a real appreciation for street art and was mesmerised by the vibrant Hindu and Taoist temples that I stumbled upon in Chinatown. Don’t get me wrong though, the malls are ginormous and there’s almost every store you can think of so I definitely took advantage of being in one of the world’s biggest shopping hotspots.
Read more: My top 11 things to do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
8. Daintree National Park, Australia
When I headed to Cairns in July, I couldn’t visit tropical Queensland and not venture out to the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest. In fact, the Daintree National Park is the oldest, surviving rainforest in the world. Its 120,000 hectares of forest is home to tens of thousands of different plant and animal species, but it is the age-old trees and Mossman Gorge that most definitely made this place magical to me. The trees were incredibly tall and their trunks were dressed thickly with moss. Tree roots – growing every which way – lie over the pathways, which lead you to the fast flowing Mossman Gorge, where you can even jump in for a swim!
9. Jurien Bay, Australia
Earlier this year, I stayed overnight in Jurien Bay with one of my friends who was visiting from the USA. After a two and a half hour drive from Perth, we were welcomed to the small coastal town with stunning beach views and a fiery sunset. In the morning, we were greeted back to the beach by clear mint green waters, friendly water birds and some typically hot February weather for a relaxing few hours in the sun.
10. Port Dickson, Malaysia
Port Dickson is about an hour away from Kuala Lumpur, which made it the perfect spot for a weekend getaway from Malaysia’s bustling capital city. My favourite part about Port Dickson was simply switching off; wandering along the stretch of beach, finding unique stones among the pebbles in the sand, watching a fisherman wade through the water in search of fish, and gazing toward the horizon as the sun set over the Straits of Malacca.
11. Brisbane, Australia
I spent a mere six hours exploring Brisbane for my very first time on a rainy, grey sky day in July. Despite that, I actually had the best time navigating my way through the city – even as a solo traveller! As I strolled through the Brisbane streets the riverside city exuded a typical laid-back Aussie vibe and I felt completely at ease, just as I would at home in Perth. I explored some of the popular tourist spots such as the South Bank Parklands (where you’ll find the infamous Brisbane sign), the war memorial at ANZAC Square and heritage-listed Cathedral of St Stephen.
12. Margaret River, Australia
While my friend was visiting from the USA, we headed to the wealthy wine region of Margaret River in Western Australia, where we discovered the extensive natural riches that lie underground. Lake Cave is one among a slew of underground caves that lie below the surface of Margaret River, which formed over one million years ago. This particular cave is unique from other formations in the area because of the water body existing within its cavity, allowing stunning reflections upon the water’s surface.
13. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Cruising the World Heritage Listed Ha Long Bay on a traditional junk boat was undeniably what drew my mum and I to Vietnam on our Southeast Asia trip. On our two-night cruise through Ha Long Bay, the junk boat moved through stunning emerald waters, where towering limestone islands covered in foliage emerged like icebergs, with hazy skies making the experience all the more mystical. The scenery was unbelievably beautiful and otherworldly, and definitely a destination to add to your bucket list.
14. Railay Beach, Thailand
Thanks to Instagram, Railay beach in Krabi made its way onto my travel radar in May. I was living in Malaysia at the time and, since a long weekend was coming up, it was the perfect opportunity to jump on a plane to Thailand. The only way in and out of Railay Beach is by boat (some of the traditional long-tail boats even anchor right on the beach) setting the pace for its secluded and laid-back island vibe. Surrounded by stretches of white sand coastline and backdropped by islands in the distance, the view from the Railay Beach was beyond postcard-worthy. In the evenings, intense golden and purple hues light the sky as the sun goes down on the west side of Railay.
15. Eagle Bay, Australia
Possibly one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen is this little gem hidden away from the masses at the tip of Cape Naturaliste in Eagle Bay. In fact, this beach is so well hidden that my friend and I happened to be the only ones there on this particular day. The beautiful seascape was covered in an untouched stretch of white sand (until we came and walked all over it). What made this beach stand out from other Western Australian beaches was the huge granite rocks emerging from the sand and leading into the turquoise shallows.
16. Townsville, Australia
Townsville is somewhere I might not have ever visited if not for my day job in which I was required to do relief work. After my workday was over in the evenings, I took the opportunity and jumped right into tourist mode. From the sunset views at the top of Castle Hill to the vibrant murals painted in the city streets to viewing Magnetic Island from the Esplanade, I had an enjoyable few days in this laid-back coastal city.
What were your favourite destinations from your travels in 2016?
These are such awesome places and many are on my bucket list! I’ve been to Australia before (and loved it!) but I actually haven’t done anything that you’ve mentioned. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to go back and do the many awesome things that you’ve listed here 🙂
I think most people head to Sydney (New South Wales) and Melbourne (Victoria) when they visit Australia, as they seem to be the most well known 🙂 But I always recommend Western Australia to my friends overseas! I live here so I could be slightly biased but I do believe that this side of Australia is completely underrated! And I’d definitely recommend Queensland as well, if you do make it back Down Under! 🙂
We visited a bunch of your top travel destinations as well in the last year. We totally agree on ranking Angkor and the Great Barrier Reef in the top 5! We were really impressed with the size of Angkor and loved the tuktuk tours we took.
Last year we took lessons to become certified scuba-divers, so when visiting the Great Barrier Reef, we went on a 3 day liveaboard dive trip. It was EPIC! We had a couple of snorkelers on our boat as well, and it was awesome how much of the reef you can actually enjoy when your snorkeling instead of diving.
We’ll keep wandering the world in 2017 as well! Enjoy!
Visiting the temples Siem Reap had been a dream of mine for such a long time, but you’re right I never imagined the sheer size of the complexes. And what a way to become a certified scuba-diver than at the Great Barrier Reef! Sounds amazing. I’d actually booked a beginner’s dive but was feeling unwell on the day so I safely chose to stick with snorkelling. (Next time!) Some of the divers on my boat told us about their encounters and sightings with sea life in the deeper depths, which sounded really exciting. But as you said, snorkelling offers some incredible views over the reef too. Wishing you many more exciting adventures in 2017! 🙂
Amazing. I am gonna add Cambodi, Vietnam and Malaysia in my 2017 list 🙂 Inspired!
Great additions to any travel list! All the best for your 2017 travels. 🙂
You got to a lot of my favourites! I used to live in Cairns so the GBR and the Daintree were my backyard. This year I got back to Cambodia and Vietnam as well so glad to see they made your list for 2016.
Thanks for reading. 🙂 What an incredible part of the country to have lived! I LOVE what I’ve seen of Queensland, and I’m eager to see more.
Great post! I’m hoping to visit all of these places in the next 18 months and you’ve got me so excited!
Hope your 2017 is just as good!
I’m so happy my post has added to your excitement for your travels next year! Thank you very much for the well wishes, and all the best for your 2017 adventures too!
Wow Haylee,great places you have been to. Hope 2017 brings more exciting travel adventures.
Thank you, Mona. I’ve been very lucky to have seen all these places this year, and I can’t wait for the travels I have in store for 2017!