We may not be on the road at the moment, living as we do in the great comforts of our San Francisco apartment. There are times, though, when we take a bit of time away from our busy schedules to poor over maps and travel guides, dreaming of the next trip. In anticipation of that happening, here’s a little write-up on eight places we’re currently drooling over. If you know of places that are equally awesome, do by all means let us know!
Allow me to casually drop one name on you: Transylvania. If you’re anything like us, that ought to evoke images of fortified castles sitting among dark and foreboding mountains; backwards villages where garlic-and-pitchfork toting locals are going about their days, always with one eye on the local lord and his late-night habits. Located in the Carpathian mountain range, this province was recently described to me as ‘what the Alps were like 100 years ago’. Apart from Transylvania, Romania also has a ton of interesting culture and sights, and it’s generally a lot cheaper than the rest of Europe. Spring in Bucharest, anyone?
Travel itch factor: 7 pants out of 10.
2) Cadiz, Spain
Researchers recently found the lost city of Atlantis here. Heard that before? Well this time it may actually be true. Using ground radar and various other technological magic, a team from the University of Hartford, Connecticut, say that they’ve found the remains of a concentric cityscape, buried underneath a sun-baked mudflat. There is various evidence that support the idea that this could be the city described by Plato 2,600 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I think it would be totally great to go there and… put a spade in the ground and see what comes up? Kick around the mudflat and dream a little bit? I don’t know about you, but I’d totally love getting my inner Indiana Jones on.
Travel itch factor: 9 pants out of 10.
For many people, the very word ‘Serbia’ has taken on a pretty negative sound, one that evokes memories of wars and troubles dating back to the painful break-up of Yugoslavia in the early nineties. Things are far better there now though. The nation has opened up a fair bit to the EU and the wider world around them. This is probably the perfect time to visit – get in before everyone else does (I remain undeterred by rumors of hordes of Slovenian tourists frequenting the joint). Another reason to go there would be to discover another branch of the seatofourpants family tree – apparently wifey is a quarter Serb. I can’t help but wonder what adventures a quest to rediscover long lost family would lead us to.
Serbia gets 6 pants out of 10, with potential for an upgrade once we’ve done our homework.
4) The Aral Sea, Uzbekistan
Oh boy. A visit to this ecological disaster zone would definitely have to be filed under ‘adventure travel’ rather than sunbathing or relaxing. The lake is located in Qaraqalpakistan (one of the coolest place names in the universe), a remote region of Uzbekistan (which is a remote region of Central Asia), and it would be a bit of a hike to get to its shores. Or rather, once you reach the towns around the lake shore, there are still 8 hours of dried up sea bed to traverse before you’re actually at the lake. This because extremely shoddy irrigation work by the Soviet Union during the last century, irrigation that diverted all the water from the rivers that fed the Aral. The result? One of the world’s worst eco disasters. Personally, I want to go there to take pictures of the many ships that now sit uselessly on the sea floor, but this could probably end up being one of those destinations where the journey there is worth at least as much as the ultimate destination. Oh and the country lies on the Silk Route. Oh and Samarkand, one of the three corners of the world is there. Count me in.
Travel itch factor: 8 pants out of 10.
(Photo: Steve Evans)
5) Mexico City, Mexico
Americans (that’d be us) tend to regard the great nation south of the border with more than a bit of suspicion. The motives are no doubt colored by violent movies and an almost exclusively negative news flow (and perhaps by the odd drunken afternoon raid into the lugubrious streets of Tijuana). As someone who has managed to (occasionally) find interesting sides to Tijuana, I can’t wait to see what Mexico City has to offer. No matter what method you use to count, it is one of the absolutely biggest cities on earth, populated by far more than 20 million people. I’d love to explore what this mega city has to offer in terms of culture, food and sights – the DF has a few of those, being built upon the ruins of at least a couple of ancient empires as well as having a half millennium of colonial history to fall back on.
Travel itch factor: I’ll give it 7 pants out of 10.
6) Mustang, Nepal
We’ve stood on the very threshold of this ancient Tibetan city state once before (where the above picture was taken), and I guess we won’t be completely satisfied until we’ve cleared that Kagbeni checkpoint and ventured into the kingdom itself. At this point in time, Mustang is probably more Tibet than Tibet itself, and a road that actually would allow jeeps to enter have yet to be completed. Extreme remoteness combined with fees and the legal obligation to bring a liaison officer along keeps mass tourism at bay. And if Mustang seems to be too exploited there’s also the similarly alluring Dolpo region to explore to the west. A surrounding flock of 8000m peaks, all-world scenery and dahl bhat tarkari makes this one of my personal favorite targets.
Mustang gets 9 pants out of 10.
7) Ethiopia, Africa
Ethiopia. I can almost hear the guffaw and incredulous head-shakes over this one. Why would anyone want to go to that strife-torn, landlocked slab of hunger catastrophe waiting to happen? True, things may not be completely stable in some parts of this country, but a healthy dose of caution has to be one of the tools in any traveler’s toolbox. Lots of cons, so what about the pros? Well let’s see. The oldest human-like creatures ever found were discovered in these highlands, making it the cradle of humanity. In other words, it has a 3 million year history of human habitation. It has villages and towns that have very little connection to the outside world – a fellow traveler recently told me about a town in a far-flung corner where the men venture outside the walls of their city to feed a pack of hyenas every night. Remarkable? Yes even more so when you learn that they do it by approaching the murderous beasts with raw meat hanging from their mouths. The hyenas seem to go along with this, and for the most part they don’t eat the people feeding them. Yeah, I’d go there. No I wouldn’t participate in the feeding. I’m sure there’s a sign that says ‘don’t feed the animals’ somewhere. The cautious traveler knows that it’s best to heed all signs.
Travel itch factor: A steady 7 out of 10.
Salar de Uyni, Bolivia
Perhaps a romp upon the world’s largest salt flat doesn’t sound exciting or fun to you, but that could be because you haven’t seen the pictures. You may have heard of the ice hotel, well, here they have a hotel made out of salt – not because for gimmicky tourism, but because of a total lack of other building materials. Throw in a helping of sublime photo ops and yes, I can see myself traveling to this place. If this doesn’t sound convincing, perhaps coupling this with a visit to the nearby Atacama desert will help, because who wouldn’t want to check out a place where it has rained only once since 1570 (in 1971 to be exact).
This camera-friendly destination gets a solid 8 out of 10 on the seatofourpants travel itch scale (one extra point for the hundreds of nearby destinations we’re also drooling over).
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