Oh, the Places Nat Geo Goes

When you work at National Geographic, one of the first questions people ask is if you get to travel. The answer is often yes, but one of the best parts of the job is being surrounded by sharp, globe-trotting people, and getting to hear their stories.

That’s why we asked folks on the Nat Geo Travel team to share a story about the best trip they’ve taken in the past year with our readers.

Need inspiration for your next adventure? Look no further:

Ethiopia: “Visiting this place of dramatic landscapes and Biblical scenes was surreal. What has stayed with me: green-misted Bale Mountain National Park, in the south, home to the new Bale Mountain ecolodge and the extraordinary Sanetti Plateau, a moorland some 13,000 feet high dotted with primeval-looking giant lobelia plants, where the last viable population of rare Ethiopian wolves roam (I spotted five of an estimated 500 that remain). The Debre Birhan Selassie Church, in the town of Gondar, for its ceiling portraits of hundreds of intense black-eyed angels. The thousands of tiny settlements of round straw-and-mud tukuls built by farmers who still depend on donkeys and hand plows. And the two-hour flight from the capital, Addis Ababa, to Lalibela, the land of rock-hewn churches, which soars over one plunging escarpment after another. “Little wonder Ethiopia is the only African country Europeans never fully colonized,” said the person seated next to me. “How could any military force possibly tackle this fierce, glorious landscape?” —Jayne Wise, senior editor, National Geographic Traveler

The replica Parthenon was built in 1897 for Tennessee's Centennial Exposition. (Photograph by Hannah Sheinberg)
The replica Parthenon was built in 1897 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition. (Photograph by Hannah Sheinberg)

Korčula (Croatia): “The island, along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and accessible only by boat, was ruled by Venetians for hundreds of years and its fortified heart, Korčula Town, has the gorgeous Renaissance architecture to show for it. My husband and I stayed in the Lešić Dimitri Palace, occupying an 18th-century bishop’s residence, complete with a Romeo-and-Juliet balcony. We kayaked aqua waters to a nearby uninhabited isle, home to a 14th-century Franciscan monastery, sipped cocktails and watched the sun set over the sea from atop a medieval tower, and dined on the freshest of fresh fish at a local plein-air konoba (tavern). Life does NOT get better than this!” —Barbara A. Noe, senior editor, National Geographic Travel Books

Nashville, Tennessee (USA): “Though I don’t own a pair of cowboy boots, any city that’s known for live music is a must-visit for me. In Nashville, you can find plenty of tunes on the neon-studded Broadway and at Puckett’s, an eatery that’s also part grocery store, part music venue. During the day, picnic on the lawn of Centennial Park under the shadow of a full-scale replica Parthenon that houses an art museum. And if you’re looking to drink in more Southern culture, the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg offers in-depth tours—but, fair warning, it’s located in a dry county.” —Hannah Sheinberg (@h_sheinberg), assistant editor, National Geographic Traveler

Matera (Italy): “This fall I traveled to southern Italy and spent two nights in the mysterious town of Matera, a World Heritage site where people have been living in cave homes dug out of rock since Paleolithic times. I fell in love with this place before I even set foot in it because I had been the fact-checker on the 2011 Traveler story “The Towns Italy Forgot.” Matera has a magical quality enhanced by its history, by the quietude (most streets are staircases, impassable by car), and by the way the sunlight hits the stone houses. It was fun exploring the labyrinthine old town (watch your step!), poking into chapels adorned with fading Byzantine frescoes, and eating the fabulous food. Because it was a National Geographic Expeditions trip, we had photographer Massimo Bassano along, who arranged a treat: two octogenarian residents who regaled us with stories about growing up in the caves. This just in: Matera was recently picked as Italy’s candidate for European Capital of Culture 2019.” —Marilyn Terrell (@Marilyn_Res), chief researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Tyler Metcalfe went cross-country in style with the Millennial Trains Project. (Photograph by Tyler Metcalfe)
Tyler Metcalfe (not pictured) went cross-country in style with the Millennial Trains Project. (Photograph by Tyler Metcalfe)

London (England): “This fall I stumbled upon St. Etheldreda Church, which has stood in the same location since it was built in the 13th century. Hidden on a side road off busy Charterhouse Street, the modest structure is almost dwarfed by the townhouses on either side. But standing on Ely Place in the misty night, I had one of those magical transporting moments: I looked around and was able to clearly envision a landscape from 700 years earlier—the cars on the bustling street in the distance became carts on a dirt path; the houses in front of me disappeared to reveal undulating fields, vineyards, and orchards; the commuters hurrying home attached to their mobile phones morphed into farmhands rigging their ploughs; and St. Etheldreda’s itself went from being just another small old church on another London street to a tall and proud edifice, worthy of awe, dominating the skyline around it.”  —Larry Porges, National Geographic Travel Books

Cross-Country USA: “My favorite travel experience this year didn’t include just one location, but seven, as I visited cities across the northern United States by rail on the 2014 Millennial Trains Project. Notable stops included Seattle, Milwaukee, New York City, and Whitefish, Montana, which included a visit to a yak farm and stand-up paddle boarding on Flathead Lake. While visits to each of these places opened my eyes to America’s outstanding diversity, memories of daily life on the train are what stuck with me most. On assignment for Nat Geo, I was among more than two dozen emerging leaders from different backgrounds in life (including five Fulbright students from countries abroad). We entered the 10-day journey as strangers, but left as lifelong friends.” —Tyler Metcalfe (@tyler_metcalfe), associate photo producer, National Geographic Travel

Faroe Islands (Denmark): “Most tourists visit during summer puffin season, but this wrinkled archipelago offers so much more, as I discovered during the September off-season: epic views around every turn, sheep sometimes used to mow grass roofs, legends passed through generations, a spirit of survival inherited by Viking renegades, and a burgeoning creative class. I would return for the langoustine alone.” —Christine Blau (@Chris_Blau), researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Buenos Aires (Argentina): “My first trip to South America was by far one of the best travel experiences of my life. I visited Buenos Aires in early June—the start of Argentina’s winter—which made for pleasant weather, smaller crowds, and cheaper airfare. Buenos Aires has it all—incredible food and wine (hello, Malbec!), wonderful shopping, and culture to boot. I can’t wait to go back.” —Megan Heltzel (@MeganHeltzel), associate producer, National Geographic Travel

Sarah Polger stretches out for a break from behind her camera in Canyonlands. (Photograph by Sarah Polger)
Sarah Polger stretches out for a break from behind her camera in Canyonlands. (Photograph by Sarah Polger)

Budapest (Hungary): “Budapest was the most fascinating city I visited this year because I was surprised by the language differences between the adults and youth. Due to Eastern and Western influences through the decades, the older generations learned to speak Russian in school while their children learned to speak English. That means that for many families the only language they share is Hungarian even though they are bilingual. Pest—on the mighty Danube’s eastern bank—has the coolest street art and graffiti on historic buildings, and “ruin bars” are the place to go at night because they are decorated with repurposed and mismatched items in old indoor/outdoor spaces. If you’re a film fan, stay at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest, the reported muse for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.” —Andrea Leitch (@andrealeitch), producer, National Geographic Travel

Moab, Utah (USA): “Monolithic and stunning are two adjectives you’ll be using, repeatedly, when you visit Moab. The city is know for slick-rock biking, but Moab is also a hiker’s delight, from casual walks in Arches National Park to challenging hikes in the Needles section of Canyonlands. Photographers should arrive with plenty of empty memory cards—and patience. Both parks are popular in the warmer months and aspiring photographers arrive early and stay late at famous landmarks to capture “the” photo they’ve seen splashed across calendars for years. Remember to look up from your viewfinder because in the end nothing can outdo the sense of having a national park all to yourself. Cliff edges and stone scrambles called to me at each turn, luring me to lean over the edge and look down into the unreal and endless swathes of land. To avoid the crowds, and heat, visit Moab in October when the weather remains temperate and the crowds disperse, leaving you more elbow room to get the shot and get about as far away as you can from the stresses of your daily life.” —Sarah Polger (@sarahpolger), senior photo producer, National Geographic Travel

Yvoire (France): “Vacation time, where to go? When in doubt, visit a place you already know and love. For me, that’s Yvoire, a 14th-century walled village along Lake Geneva. It is easy to get to—there’s a train from the Geneva airport to Nyon and then a boat waiting at the bottom of the hill to cross the lake from Switzerland to France. I’m fortunate to have a friend who owns a place three houses up from the dock with a view of the castle (yes, there is still a baron), so I drop my bag and off I go to explore the new shops and familiar haunts along the car-free streets. Named one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France in 2006, Yvoire can get a little over-touristy once the ferries start to arrive in the morning (I was there in May). But if you stay in the village, you can enjoy the evening lamp-lit streets and watch the morning beauty appear as the sun rises on one of France’s hidden gems.” —Caroline Hickey, National Geographic Travel Books

St. Lucia“I was blown away by how gorgeous St. Lucia is. For panoramic views of the island, I recommend the Tet Paul Scenic Trail (the more adventurous can try climbing the Pitons). Scuba divers and snorkelers should head to Anse Chastanet, where the reef starts just 30 feet from shore. The people were incredibly kind—we got a flat tire in the middle of a downpour, and every single car that passed stopped to offer help.” —Erin Spencer (@etspencer), production assistant and Nat Geo Young Explorer

Osa Peninsula (Costa Rica): “Few things are more peaceful than waking up to singing macaws and then walking a few hundred feet to see the sun rise over subdued waves on the beach. This is life as usual on the Osa Peninsula. I spent a week connecting with the region’s abundant wildlife—from scouting for humpback whales on a boat to ziplining across the jungle canopy—and with my inner self through practicing yoga at Blue Osa‘s rooftop studio. Needless to say, I returned from this trip feeling revitalized.” —Monika Joshi (@TweeterMJ), researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Taos, New Mexico (USA): “Ever since I took Archaeology 101 in college, I’ve been fascinated by the American Southwest, and my visit to Taos served as an excellent gateway to this diverse region. Though the city is known for its hip arts scene (it was founded as an artist colony almost 100 years ago) and rich Native American heritage (it’s home to Taos Pueblo, the only “living” Native American community that is also a UNESCO heritage site), outdoor enthusiasts won’t be disappointed. After working up an appetite at the Taos Ski Valley or trekking with llamas—depending on the season—refuel at one of the many restaurants in town. My favorite dishes: the elk burger at the Farmhouse Cafe and Bakery, the posole verde at El Meze, and the homemade red chile truffles at Gutiz.” —Jeannette Kimmel (@JeannetteKimmel), editorial business manager, National Geographic Traveler

Have you taken a great trip lately? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

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Comments

  1. Tracy Ryan
    Australia
    January 28, 2015, 6:26 pm

    Hi there,

    I’m an Australian professional photographer and Kakadu National Park Tour Guide, that in October went on an epic journey to find my ancestory and take photos at the same time. Travelling to Denmark, we then cruised on the ferry for 3 days, from Denmark to Iceland with a stopover at the Faroe Islands then onto East Iceland and Seydisfjordur. This is the amazing town where ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ movie was based. Beautiful! We then drove the ring road for the next 10 days taking in many wonderous sights along the way, including the amazing Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, the mighty Skogafoss and the Aurora Borealis just to name a few. Visit my website at http://www.tracyryanphotography.com/iceland to view some of the photos. :)
    From there we travelled back to Denmark and took a great train journey from Copenhagen to Ringkobing where my ancestors resided. Fabulous countryside and people. It was amazing! Travelling back to Australia via a few days stopover in Dubai just topped it off! Amazing experience and more to do soon. :)

  2. Shayna
    Easter Island
    December 31, 2014, 1:45 pm

    We took a second trip to EI this year. From there we went to Tahiti. EI is fantastic and even with the long route to get there, worth every flight. Ypu must see the Moai!

  3. Nancy Zyburt
    All 56 states and US territories
    December 31, 2014, 9:21 am

    In August 2012, on my 56th birthday (and I was born in 1956) I left on a 56-week road trip to all 50 states, the 5 US territories and Washington DC. I spent 1 week in each of the states and territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico), and made a daily $56 donation to food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters etc. my dog and I also walked 8 miles a day (56 miles a week!) and my national park pass was well used!

  4. Polina
    December 22, 2014, 3:01 pm

    Great job! It’s my dream working there

  5. monalisa saikia
    Itanagar, India
    December 22, 2014, 5:22 am

    travelling is what i love… since a very young age.. and by Gods’ grace, thankfully i don”t have any kind of motion sickness! :D The last memorable trip was my trip to Nepal, with my friend. the Darbar Square, the temples and monasteries were so authentic. but the best part in Kathmandu was Thamel street. it was so colourful, so vibrant, and lively!
    the BESTEST part in the trip was the bungee jump!
    all in all a memorable trip to the mystical land!

  6. Alexander
    Berlin, Germany
    December 21, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Wonderful and inspiring impressions of extraordinary trips to breathtaking cultures – thank you very much for sharing, Leslie!
    I have been lucky enough to have been brought up in different countries: Finland, Austria, Greece, Egypt and Ethiopia.
    These countries, their cultures, the people and the experiences I have had curing these 18 years have taught me two very important things:
    – respect for every individual surrounding I come to see, and
    – not to compare, because comparisons tend not to consider the very individual features of countries, cultures and people.
    Nowadays I spend part of the year in Berlin, Germany, and part of the year on the Algarve, Portugal…
    http://algarve-entdecker.com/