My Best Travel Experiences in 2016

2016 has been my biggest travel year to date and now I’m ready to retire. Ok, just kidding. But, seriously, I put in some serious miles this year and had some incredible & breathtaking adventures along the way!

Here’s a breakdown of my 2016 travels:

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Countries Traveled
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Miles Flown

Countries Traveled: Brazil, the Bahamas, Indonesia, Austria, England, South Africa, Mexico, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, China, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Belize, Japan, Iceland, Colombia, Ecuador, French Polynesia

I can’t believe that I can now say I’ve traveled 54 countries since starting this blog just 4 years ago — which is incredible to think about!

Here are the highlights from my 2016 travels!

New Years in Rio

Brazil

I took my mom on her first ever international trip last year for Christmas aboard a cruise where we sailed from Puerto Rico to Rio! We explored the Brazilian cities of Fortaleza, Salvado De Bahia, Recife, Olinda and Buzios, and rang in the New Year in Rio!

It was one of the most luxurious travel experiences I’ve been on– and my first cruise!

Bimini Islands

The Bahamas

I got to travel to The Bahamas for the first this year! I spent some time exploring the islands of Bimini and and later fulfilled a childhood dream of staying at the famous Atlantis Resort.

The Bahamas are a haven for beachgoers, fishermen, and water sports enthusiasts, and only a short flight from Miami!

Miami Beach

Miami

How it took me 28 years to visit Miami is beyond explanation. And, just my luck, a massive cold front hit when I visited. So, aside from sporadic windows of sunshine, I mostly spent my time exploring Miami by bike and cozied up at my hotel.

However, I will admit the Edition Hotel takes the cake for coolest setup with a full club, bowling alley and ice skating rink in their basement!

More on Miami Travel:

Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay

Bali

I returned to Bali for the first time in 5 years — it’s always held a special place in my heart, so I was excited to return. I then returned TWO MORE TIMES later in the year! Yes. Three trips to Bali this year.

You could say that I’m mildly obsessed 😉

On my first trip this year, I went to Bali to participate in a 10-day coding course from the Institute of Code. Taught poolside in a villa, I can say it is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my blog and my business.

I returned to Bali later in the summer to hide away for a week between trips in Asia and then I returned again later in the year to spend a few days relaxing before setting off to explore more of Indonesia.

As I’ve said, time and time again, Bali is a heaven on earth! It is one of the best (and cheapest) places to unwind, relax and focus on wellness.

Austria

I visited Austria this spring for The Ski Week in Obertauern, Austria! Organized by the same awesome people who organize The Yacht Week, this is the ultimate winter getaway– lots of fun, fresh snow and people from around the world!

More on Austria Travel:

London The Churchill Arms

London

After The Ski Week, I made a quick stop in London for some business meetings, afternoon tea and a visit to the Natural History Museum!

Highway 1 California

California Coast Road Trip

With a goal to explore more of my home state this year, I thought, “What better way to do so than by road trip?!” The iconic Pacific Coast Highway continues along most of the California coast up to Oregon and Washington.

The drive up California can be enjoyed at any pace — whether it’s over the course of a day or a couple weeks!

From San Diego to San Francisco, we had so much fun going up the coast and stopping in Santa Barbara, Big Sur and Monterey! We also celebrated “The Blonde Abroad” blog’s 4th birthday at the famous Madonna Inn!

Cape Town

South Africa

My first visit to the continent Africa was to explore South Africa — specifically Cape Town and the amazing wine region of Stellenbosch. I fell in love with the food, wine and culture of the region and can’t wait to explore more of Africa.

In case you missed it, I’m moving to Cape Town in just a few weeks, so stay tuned!

Isla Holbox

Mexico

The Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico has always been one of my favorite getaways for relaxation and beaches. So, I returned this year to spend more time in Playa Del Carmen.

Its world-class diving and beautiful beaches have made it one of Mexico’s hot spots for people from around the globe.

I did my Advanced PADI Scuba certification while I was there, and also took the ferry over to Isla Holbox to relax for a few days (check out my daily vlogs here!). It was absolutely amazing, and somewhere you NEED to visit!

Wyoming USA

Wyoming, USA

Being from the US, it can be easy to overlook my own country when I’m planning my next trip. There are so many beautiful destinations in North America and I’m glad I was able to spend a few days off-the-grid in Wyoming for a girlfriend’s wedding this year!

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Wonder why they call Sri Lanka “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean?” Well, I found out. Going into my first trip to the island destination, I didn’t know what to expect. But, I was blown away!

There’s definitely no shortage of natural beauty between the tropical, green mountains, overgrown forests, sparkling coastlines and lush rivers.

I also attended the TBCAsia Conference while there and The Blonde Abroad was awarded Travel Blog of the Year, which was such a huge honor!

Maldives drone

Maldives

After visiting Sri Lanka, I hopped over to the Maldives for a few days. The Maldives is super close to Sri Lanka and has been on my bucket list for a long time!

I spent two days scuba diving, experienced my first seaplane flight, swam with whale sharks, and stayed in my first overwater bungalow!

Qinghai China

China

This was my second trip to China and I was lucky enough to visit the Qinghai region of China, which is highly regulated and not very accessible to Westerners.

It was an amazing cultural experience and I learned so much more about local culture, cuisine and customs than I ever expected.

This region is China’s most sparcely populated province – with 1 yak to each person – and is known for its strong Tibetan and Mongol culture.

Deserts of Dubai

Dubai

This was actually my second trip to Dubai. I visited back in 2012 on my first trip to the Middle East in my early blogging days.

From a traditional Turkish hammam experience, to hanging out with camels in the desert, to climbing to the top of the Burj Khalifa (1,820 feet high!), I quickly remembered that there’s no shortage of adventure and new experiences to be had in Dubai.

Montreal Street Art

Montreal

One of my bigger trips in North America this year was to Montreal with Refinery29. I fell in love with the city’s European charm and Canadian hospitality (and, of course, the poutine!)

It’s a totally unique city that everyone should experience!

More on Montreal Travel:

Twin Peaks San Francisco

San Francisco

Music festivals have always been one of my favorite experiences in travel, so I had to check out Outside Lands up in San Francisco this year. I got to see some of my favorites like Radiohead and RÜFÜS — and my girl crush, Lana del Rey!

Rancho Mirage

Palm Springs

Traveling full time can take a toll on relationships, so when I have the opportunity to plan a girlfriends’ getaway with my besties, I’ll jump at the chance. Me and three of my best friends planned an ultra-luxe weekend poolside at The Ritz-Carlton in Palm Desert!

More on Palm Springs Travel:

Diving Belize

Belize

My trip to Belize was an adventurer’s dream! Within the first 24 hours, I got to fly over the iconic Blue Hole and fall sleep in a gorgeous treehouse suite at Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort.

Other highlights were spearfishing lionfish and helping with conservation efforts, waterfall rappelling, and scuba diving to my heart’s content– 7 dives in 3 days!

More on Belize Travel:

Burning Man 2016

Burning Man

Annually, my week at Burning Man is my “offline” time, where I disconnect from the world out in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

I say this every year, but my third Burn was even better than the last. I’m so grateful for the incredible moments I get to share with old friends and new every year. The magic of the Playa is in the wonder of the often uncomfortable and utterly unbelievable.

Which is why I can’t wait to attend AfrikaBurn this year in South Africa!

More on Burning Man:

Shibuya Crossing Tokyo

Tokyo

I’m still SO excited about my trip to Tokyo this year! Japan had been on my travel bucket list for so long and I finally got the opportunity to go with one of my best friends and explore the city.

We spent our first day exploring quirky Harajuku District- eating fairytale cupcakes, spending WAY too much time in photo booths and even trying rainbow spaghetti. Other highlights from the trip were the famous Robot Restaurant, the Shibuya District, and exploring Golden Gai– check out my daily vlogs here!

Padar Island

Indonesia

Because I had really only been to Bali in Indonesia, I was so excited for the opportunity to explore more of the country. Spending time in Komodo National Park and on the beautiful island of Flores was more amazing than I could have imagined!

During our days in Labuan Bajo, we ventured to Padar Island and Pink Beach, Melo Village, Cunca Waterfall, got to scuba dive, and spotted Komodo dragons! We also spent some time on Ende and experienced the Wologai cultural village and a sunrise hike to Kelimutu Volcanic Craters— it was unbelievable!

Iceland Road Trip

Iceland

My first trip to Iceland was back in 2014, so I had been daydreaming of a return trip for the last two years! I was able to spend a few days in Reykjavik as well as do an epic camper van road trip around the iconic Ring Road.

We spent 10 days exploring the rugged and stunning landscapes, dipping in geothermal lagoons, chasing waterfalls, trying new kinds of foods and drinks (like fermented shark!) and, I have to say, it was one of my favorite trips of the year!

Empire State Building

NYC

Immediately following Iceland, I headed to New York City where I was asked to speak at the PhotoPlus Expo with Fujifilm! It was such an honor, and a great event to both attend and speak at.

More on NYC Travel:

Bogota Colombia

Colombia

Before flying to The Galápagos, I spent a couple days exploring Bogotá, Colombia for the first time. The city is known for “not-so-great” weather, but we got lucky with a couple of sunny days perfect for exploring!

I’ll have a guide to Bogotá in 48 hours up soon, but some of the highlights were staying at Click Clack hotel, taking in the view from the top of Monserrate, walking around La Candelaria and having a night out at the famous Andrés Carne de Res restaurant!

Blog posts coming soon!

Galapagos Style Inspiration

The Galápagos

After spending a few days in Bogotá, Colombia, we flew over to San Cristóbal Island in The Galápagos to board the luxurious M/V Origin vessel for an eight day cruise through the islands!

I was especially excited for the diving and learned there are amazing dive locations off of San Cristóbal, namely Kicker Rock, famous for spotting Galápagos and hammerhead sharks. I’m still organizing all of my photos so stay tuned for many more blog posts on the trip!

More on The Galapagos Travel:

Tahiti

French Polynesia

My most recent (and last) trip of the year took me to the islands of French Polynesia! We spent a few days exploring each of the islands: Taha’a, Rangiroa, and Tahiti.

Taha’a is known for spectacular vanilla, while Rangiroa has the most diverse marine life and is known around the world for its diving and snorkeling sites. I also discovered the untouched side of Tahiti where you can explore lava tubes and trek to waterfalls.

Read More: 10 Reasons to Visit French Polynesia

Las Vegas for New Years

Las Vegas

I couldn’t think of a better way to end the year than in Las Vegas with my best girlfriends! The ultimate party city, a helicopter rode over the Grand Canyon, and dancing until the sun came up made for an amazing way to end the year!

More on Las Vegas Travel:

No matter where life takes you in 2017, may your destination always be happiness!

Happy New Year!

You can continue to follow along with my 2017 adventures on the blog, Instagram and YouTube!

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Kiersten Rich
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed author of award-winning solo female travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad, featuring travel tips, fashion, food, festivals and photography from around the world.