Our Travel Wishlist for 2013

Posted on January 7, 2013 by

With 2013 already upon us, it’s time to start planning our travels for the upcoming year. 2012 was an extremely fulfilling year of travels for us as we covered seven continents in just one year and traveled to many places we’d long dreamt of visiting. It was a year that’s hard to beat in terms of travel. In 2013, we hope to travel as much, but at a slower and deeper pace. From our long list of dream destinations, we’ve picked out those that we want to see the most and hopefully become reality this year!


Cuba has always been on our radar, not just for its unique flair and culture, but also for its tinge of authenticity. Having been closed to the outside world for decades, Cuba continues to be one of the few remaining destinations that’s relatively undisturbed by external influences. Now that the embargo is about to be lifted by the US government, we’re worried about the possible impact of tourism. In Havana, we hope to wander through its cobble-stoned paths and along the malécon, feast on Cuban cuisine in the paladares and interact with the locals by staying in casas particulares. Then we’ll head to the beaches in Trinidad, and head inland to Camagüey, and the Afro-Cuba city of Santiago de Cuba.

Flickr photo by VisualStandpoint


We’ve long dreamt of visiting Brazil during the Carnival to join in the world’s biggest street party and explore the country’s wilderness at the same time. On our four-month trip around South America in 2008, we had left Brazil out of the itinerary as we knew such a big and diverse country needed more time to explore just on its own. It’s about time we head back to the continent we love so much. From Rio de Janeiro, we hope to meander along the Brazilian coastline, exploring colonial towns like Paraty, venturing into the Amazon and going kitesurfing on Jericoacoara with Sunvil Traveller. But most of all, we want to venture into the wet, swampy forests of El Pantanal, one of the few places in the world where jaguar sightings are possible. Besides jaguars, Pantanal is also home to a myriad of wildlife like tapirs, otters and howler monkeys.

Flickr photo by Tambako

Trans-Mongolian Train and Mongolia

At the beginning of 2012, we had originally planned to go overland from Asia back to Europe and experience the Trans-Siberian journey, a voyage that’s been on our wish list for many years. We didn’t end up taking the train last year due to time and budget constraints; but this year, we really want to make it happen. Our current Ice Run train journey has gotten us hooked on train travel and we know we’re going to enjoy crossing from Europe to Asia by train. Starting from St Petersburg, we hope to hop on the Trans-Mongolian train, zip through Siberia, see some sights in the region, and end up in Mongolia where we’ll spend time exploring the steppes and getting to know the nomadic locals. Real Russia is the most reliable company for Trans-Mongolian travel and we plan to travel with them on this journey.

Flickr photo by scott.presly

Central Asia

Since we’ll be in Asia at the end of the Trans-Mongolian journey, we want to make use of the opportunity to venture into Central Asia which we’ve read so much about. Places like Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakstan interest us for their mix of cultures and history – in this little known region, we want to visit their majestic mosques, meet locals who are best known for their hospitality, and tread the Silk Road just like the ancient traders used to. We haven’t made very concrete plans but we’re thinking of first heading to Xinjiang, China, then finding our way towards Almaty (Kazakstan), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and then head straight back to Moscow, Russia.

Flickr photo by Adam_Jones

West Africa

Having been to several countries in Africa, we’ve long been drawn to West Africa for its troubled history and intriguing Voodoo culture. This part of the world can be dangerous especially when traveling on your own, so we’ve been researching to find the best way to explore the region. G Adventures recently launched a West Africa cruise that sails along the entire coast from South Africa, through Congo, Benin, Sierra Leone, and all the way to Dakar. The voyage is on board the MS Expedition, the same ship that I sailed with to Antarctica and Arctic. The trips for 2013 are already fully booked, but I’m hoping to join the cruise in another year’s time.

Flickr photo by babasteve

Are these places on your wish list too? Where do you plan to travel to in 2013?

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

19 Responses to “Our Travel Wishlist for 2013”

  1. Nick Rutten January 7, 2013 10:01 am #

    Great post, Cuba is definitely on my wishlist as well. I'll get there, eventually.

    I've done the Trans-Mongolian Express. Started in St. Petersburg, ended in Beijing. It's a great journey. Bring lots of food and wodka to share with your cabin-sharers and you'll win a Russians heart. Mongolia is one of the most beautiful countries I've seen as of yet.

    A great way to go after Beijing is just train through China. We (me and girlfriend) trained all the way through China, from Beijing to Xi'an, Chengdu, Kunming, Dali and Nanning, to cross the border to Vietnam there. Lots of amazing and dramatic scenery to be had in China.

    We're currently trying to travel around the world without stepping on a plane even once and so far it's been a great way to actually travel. It's so much more involving than the A to B feel of an air trip.

    • @WildJunket January 17, 2013 5:19 am #

      hey Nick, thanks for sharing your story! An overland trip around the world must be interesting! Whereabouts are you now?

      We did a train journey through China last summer actually and loved it. Starting from Guilin, we went to Longsheng, Chengdu, Xi'an, then Beijing. This time round, we'd love to explore Xinjiang, Dunhuang and the area around it.

      We can't wait to go to the Trans-Mongolian train! Where did you stop? We're starting to plan it and would love some recommendations.

      • Nick Rutten January 20, 2013 3:44 am #

        It's great! We're now in Chiang Mai, working for a while. We've traveled through Vietnam and Cambodia before Thailand. We're planning to go back up the coast of China towards Shanghai someday.

        We started out in St. Petersburg, we're from Amsterdam and we trained all the way from Amsterdam to Prague before, so we decided to get a flight for that part of the trip.

        From St. Petersburg we had a night-train to Moscow. Not really part of the Trans-Mongolian route, but there's a train on that line that's really authentic, with all the decorations and stuff still intact, great experience. We shared the coupe with an elderly, very sweet, Russian couple that night, they were great.

        We loved Moscow, it's clean, modern and greener than you'd expect. We loved Moscow, it's a pretty big city, plan enough time to see everything you want to see. If you saw Mao's embalmed body in Beijing Lenin is here. If you've also seen Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi you've seen all three embalmed communist leaders, which is a nice bucketlist thing to cross off. Unless they embalm Castro in the next couple of years.

        From Moscow we took a train to Yekaterinburg, which we weren't at all impressed by. There's not much to do except for some old architecture and statues. If you want to go there anyway, a day or two is all you need.

        We met some guys who'd been in Novosibirsk and they were really, really, really enthusiastic about it, so next time around, I'd go there. Not sure about specifics, sorry.

        After Yekaterinburg we visited Irkutsk which is a charming town, but the real shiner there is Listvyanka along with Lake Baikal. Great fish, great barbequed kebabs, amazing views and hikes. You definitely shouldn't miss the Baikal lake. There are several towns with guesthouses around the lake if you want to avoid the Russian tourists that visit Listvyanka every weekend. Also, avoid the weekend. We were there in summer, but to some accounts it's also great in the winter, as you can take a specially equipped bike and ride on the lake. It was around 25 degrees Celsius there in the summer (end of August), the whole lake freezes over in the winter though.

        Our next stop was Ulan Bataar. Crazy city. Not even the traffic in Beijing was so insane, piece of cake after Ulan Bataar. The city itself is great, modern, nice restaurants and cafes. Well worth to spend a day or four in the city if you can stand the traffic fumes.

        The real deal however is Mongolia's outdoor. It's so beautiful. We spent 5 days in a gercamp, but we believe a tour is more engaging, make sure to pick one that visits locals. Mongolian festivals are also great to witness. Try to visit a couple of different areas in Mongolia, as the landscapes are drastically different. Gobi Desert is great, we've been in Gun Galuut National Park, which is also beautiful.

        Post of ours about Mongolia. There are also a couple about Russia on our site. http://sparrowinspace.com/countries/mongolia/5-re

        Be careful how many stops you do, package ticket prices go up exponentially with the number of stops. Some Russian trains are amazing, not even five years old and really equipped with all comforts, while others are deteriorating pieces of junk with wooden benches. Do some research on the train you want to spend a couple of days in.

        Hope I've helped you, if you want any more specifics, send me an email!

    • Markusvade February 26, 2013 4:55 am #

      Yep cuba is also in my wishlist……

  2. Jan January 7, 2013 12:42 pm #

    Great plans, I hope to go to Cuba and Brazil one day :-)

  3. Emily in Chile January 7, 2013 2:15 pm #

    Cuba was one of my favorite destinations so far – I have many, many posts if you guys are looking for any tips or inspiration! We only had 8 days, so we visited Havana, Trinidad and Viñales, but we met quite a few travelers who were spending three or four weeks traveling from one end of the island to the other. I hope you make it there!

    • @WildJunket January 17, 2013 5:20 am #

      Thanks Emily! I'll be sure to look through your website. Where did you fly to Cuba from? We're heading to the Caribbean and Canada this March and thinking of making a side-trip there.

  4. Jenny January 7, 2013 5:18 pm #

    I'm glad you're planning to visit West Africa, but I was sad to see that you consider it too dangerous to visit independently. That type of perception is part of the reason African countries can't fully realize their potential as tourist destinations. Of course there are some risks, and certain areas should be avoided, but it is ridiculous to think the only safe way to see West Africa is on some group tour. And a cruise will severely limit your ability to see what everyday life is like for people there.

    • @WildJunket January 17, 2013 5:22 am #

      hi Jenny, true enough. Thanks for sharing your experience. We usually like to travel independently, but these days we're restricted on budget and time. We definitely plan to see West Africa someday and perhaps we'll do it independently. Which is your favorite place to visit in West Africa?

  5. kami January 8, 2013 2:44 am #

    Russia and Central Asia are on very top on my bucket list! This area seems to be so beautiful yet so undiscovered! I hope for you guys and for myself to go there sometimes soon! :)

  6. Jeremy Branham January 8, 2013 11:11 am #

    If you make it to West Africa, make sure you connect with Phil Paoletta!

  7. Stephen January 8, 2013 10:30 pm #

    Sooooooo much awesome stuff in Central Asia!

    I hadn't realized they were starting to open restrictions on tourism to Cuba? That could definitely make it to the top of my 2013 want-list!

  8. Rebecca January 12, 2013 8:55 pm #

    Great list! Cuba is definitely on my list as well – it’s just finding the time. Also very intrigued to check out West Africa one day… going to the G Adventures website now :-)

  9. Migration Expert January 13, 2013 7:00 pm #

    I can say that you have a great list of places that you want to go for this year. I am looking forward to read your travel escapade for those following countries. My sister is also planning to go to Brazil to experience the biggest and grandest festival, the Rio De Janeiro.

  10. gauravb January 18, 2013 9:08 am #

    Great post and equally great photographs. I am going to Bhutan and North East India in April 2013.
    I will go to Turkey and Greece in latter part of 2013, i.e. around September.

  11. Ourjourneytothesea January 20, 2013 5:36 am #

    Looks like a good list!!

  12. dw January 21, 2013 3:14 pm #

    Lived there in 1981. Great offshore fishing beautiful blue water. beaches clean white sand. Cigars where the best tobacco seafood great. Streets and city life were bustling with activity. Yes the cars were always clean circa 53-58! US made. Others were European….
    Freshwater bass fishing at an old resort south of Havana was a super trip.
    day trip.( in 1981)

  13. @Onedayonetravel February 10, 2013 12:48 pm #

    Yep, it s the perfect year to discover Brasil ! I just come back from a 2 months trip in all brasil…it s beautiful, huge and amazing country ! I felt in love with Rio, i discovered the most incredible landscapes in Nordeste and was impressed by the Amazone ! I have also a travel blog. I post my route in brasil with pics, tips and videos. Have a look on http://www.onedayonetravel.com
    Wish u the best trips for 2013 :)

  14. Daniel Williams March 27, 2013 8:35 am #

    Trans-Mongolian Train sounds amazing. Ever since reading the Genghis Khan trilogy I've been fascinated by Mongolia and its definitely on my list of places Ive got to visit before I kick the bucket

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