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What a year! we really outdid ourselves in 2012, traveling to India, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Buenos Aires and now Santiago de Chile. We are putting together lists of our ‘top five favorites’ to help you with some inspiration for where to go in 2013. Earlier this month we looked back at our favorite beaches of 2012and now our favorite overall destinations of the year. We hope you get some ideas for your own travels. As always, we are happy to answer any questions in the comments about your trip planning for 2013.

5. Arenal, Costa Rica

I thought we knew Costa Rica up and down, except for the Osa Peninsula, which is a truly off-the-grid adventure deserving of its own dedicated trip.  That’s why, after our housesit on a small Costa Rican beach this year, we didn’t plan to travel much. We slipped in a short stint at one of our favorite nearby beaches, Samara, and headed to La Fortuna to see Arenal Volcano, which neither of us had been to yet. In a rare move for Central American travel, we rented a car and drove from the Pacific coast,through national parks and jungles, curved and swiveled around Lake Arenal and arrived in town, thinking the gorgeous ride would be the highlight of our stay. We couldn’t have been more wrong. We love everything about the set up in Arenal. Even though it hasn’t erupted in years, the volcano is an imposing figure you can’t miss from anywhere in town. At a certain point on the road out of town, practically every hotel has hot springs and we spent a day at the best choice of them all, Tabacon Grand Spa. There are massive waterfalls and a full range of day hikes around the volcano, depending on your level of fitness. Restaurants in town are overpriced tourist traps, but we opted to eat in the typical Costa Rican ‘sodas’ which offer great value for money and the healthiest option in town, a vegetarian casado.
Arenal La Fortuna Costa Rica

4. Kampot, Cambodia

This little city is not the first place you’ll hear about in Cambodia – that would be the ancient kingdom of Angkor Wat outside of Siem Reap. You would probably also hear about Phnom Penh, the country’s capital and the beautiful coastline of the Sihanoukville area (which we named one of the Top 5 favorite beaches we visited year). Somewhere further down the list is the sleepy city of Kampot, famous for its production of both salt and pepper. Kampot Pepper is served on the table of the finest restaurants in Paris, we were told on a day tour which brought us out to the salt fields, the pepper fields, a fishing village,and a gorgeous hike in the countryside. Everything in this quiet, riverside town is accessible by bicycle and the restaurant scene is surprisingly developed – we had easily the best coffee of our time in Cambodia right here in Kampot.
Kampot Cambodia

3. Mexico City, Mexico

We have spent quality time in Mexico City before, including two weeks in 2010, but there is a specific reason why it makes our list tin 2012. Mexico City has what only the greatest of all cities have, and that is the ability to be all things to all people and yet completely different with every single visit. We returned to Mexico City in August for a long weekend and managed to pound the pavement for hours on end and not retrace our old stomping grounds and favorite spots from our trip in 2010. We spent one day at an art market in San Angel, another in the suburb of Ciudad Satélite, where we stayed at the beautiful Casa Roa Bed & Breakfast,and another on a walking tour of the San Rafael neighborhood. Two months later, we ended up back in the city during a 12 hour layover, so with limited time we headed straight to the Centro Historico and scarfed down our favorite tacos on Calle Uruguay and hit up Dani’s favorite La Ideal bakery for some fresh pastries. As we walked through the streets back to the modern, efficient airport bus that evening, we couldn’t help but notice the smiles. For being such a big city in a country with such a dangerous reputation, the capital is packed with families, lovers, artists, businessmen and women, police, protestors, market vendors and tourists all going about their days and we loved every chance we had this year of dipping into Mexico City life.
Mexico City

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Popular with tourists and expats of all kinds, this northern Thai city has the magical ability to make its visitors adapt to its pace and style, which is a far cry from buzzing, booming Bangkok. Both within the brick square mile of its more touristy city walls and out into the more local neighborhoods, Chiang Mai incorporates all the things we love about Thailand without most of the mess we disliked in the capital and down on some of the overrun islands. For example, the city is practically littered with ornate, peaceful Buddhist temples and monks in their orange robes constantly sweep past on motorbikes and bicycles, in tuk tuks and on foot, always with a smile that feels both insanely exotic and totally normal at the same time. And yet, Chiang Mai is also stocked with modern coffee shops, really fun walking markets, super fast internet, fashionable locals and online entrepreneeurs from all walks of life. Most of all, we ate like Kings in Chiang Mai. Organic, healthy food at under $4 a meal, fruit smoothies for under a dollar…yes, we most definitely miss Chiang Mai…
Chiang Mai Thailand

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires takes the top spot by a landslide, miles beyond anywhere else we visited this year. If you remember, I wasn’t even that impressed with the city when we landed there in November, as it reminded me of anywhere I’d already loved in Europe – Lisbon, Barcelona, Paris. So, it may have taken a little while for Buenos Aires to win us over. It didn’t do so overwhelmingly, or all at once. Instead, it seeped in slowly…the romance, the food, the culture, the architecture, the street art, the hot-blooded protestors, the complicated history and complex politics of ‘isms’ and ‘ists’, the dinners at 11pm, even (and I swore I wouldn’t say this, but I am) the accent that makes ‘playa’ into ‘plaisha’, the rolling Italian speech rythyms and the hand gestures to match. The city isn’t perfect, with garbage on the streets, corrupt politicians, and rates of inflation we’ll never understand, but that only adds to the intrigue. Loving Buenos Aires was unexpected, but knowing it exists settles our wandering souls just a bit. Buenos Aires is our number one pick because it is the only place we say that you really have to go, a place where you could spend a year and not scratch the surface. It is definitely the city we visited in 2012 we could see ourselves returning to multiple times throughout our lives.
buenos aires argentina

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Tags : arenalbuenos aireschiang maifavorite travel momentskampotMexico Citytop travel moments


    1. Thanks Andi! We had such a great time in BA, I hope we’ll get to return soon. So sad though that we’ll miss you there – it would’ve been amazing to meet up again.. in BA!!

    1. Miguel – Any city in Europe during Christmas time is magical, I think! But snow really adds something special. In Chiang Mai we had some of the best food on our travels – and so cheap! Definitely plan in a couple of days there! 🙂

  1. LOVE this! We’re headed to Cambodia next week, so maybe we’ll stop there. Coffee is pretty much my favorite thing in this world outside of Sauce & Magoo.

    What cities are on your list for next year? Please add Berlin now 😉

    1. Leanne – you should! Cafe Espresso is a great place to work and every other restaurant we tried in Kampot was fantastic, too. If you end up going, I will send some more recommendations your way 🙂 And yes – Berlin is on our list for places to visit in 2013 for sure!!

    1. Thanks, Jan! You are right – there are similarities between Luang Prabang and Kampot. I guess that’s because they’re both former French colonies 🙂 The buildings look very similar, and both have an excellent coffee culture and such a relaxed vibe. And baguettes, of course!! 🙂 Happy New Year!

  2. Beautiful descriptions. Sometimes BA feels like a distant dream for me, although it’s somewhere I’m very curious about. I just hear it’s dangerous or am I thinking of Rio? Either way, it’s on the South American trail, where people say watch out for your wallet (it’s not cheap) & watch out for your wallet (it might get stolen).
    GRRRLTRAVELER | Christine recently posted..Surviving a last-minute trip: Things I did well and things I didn’t (Pt II)

    1. Thanks, Christine! People are saying that BA is becoming more and more dangerous, and there are a lot of pickpockets, but during the six weeks we spent there, nothing happened to us 🙂 And I think Rio is still more dangerous! Totally agree with the ‘watch out for your wallet’ in the sense that it is NOT cheap, btw! We were surprised (i.e. shocked!) how expensive BA was – inflation is through the roof there!

  3. Hi travelgoddesses, Jess and Dani!
    Even when we haven’t met, I secretly travelled along to all the beautiful places, thanks to your pictures and more important your writings.
    Summer 2012, my boyfriend and I travelled through Guatemala, Belize and a small part of Mexico. A lot of your tips where marvelous and useful, your blog was kind of a guide through our journey. (Yellow house was indeed a winner!)
    We enjoyed the mix of the very cultural, colorful, urban life. With sometimes a little nature/adventure, but always safe enough to feel comfortable to relax and wander/wonder around.
    We’re searching for a new destination in summer 2013 with in a way these same elements, but the choices our too many and too difficult. We sadly enough have only 3 weeks to travel, so maybe 1 (far away) country is enough for this year…
    We’re maybe thinking about Asia, (except India) we have no experience with this part of the world. What do you girls recommend for us starters to see a little bit of everything (culture, beach, sun, food, nature, open people,…) in this period of time.
    And what about the rainy season (half august, beginning of september)?
    Canada was an option but we fear there is not enough time to see it in a proper way…
    Thanks a lot for your blog, your advice, and all your top favorites!
    Sara and Pieter (Belgium)

    1. Sara, your comment totally made our week! Thanks so much for the kind words. We are so happy that you had a great trip trough Central America, too! We have been brainstorming about your summer trip and will send you an email with some ideas 🙂

  4. I’m really a big fan of Chiang Mai. In all the times I have been there, I always find something new and interesting to do. I’m considering moving up there full time, but I hear the air quality gets really bad around March-April because they burn all the fields.
    Lawrence Michaels recently posted..Top Ten Phuket Beaches

    1. Thanks, Hannah! I am actually dying to return to Buenos Aires and hope I can make it happen soon. Have to check out your Brazil post now – high on my travel wish list!! 🙂

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