The rate at which January has whizzed by is mind-boggling. It is evident that this has been the quickest month in the history of 2017. Wink, wink. Jokes apart, if there’s any consolation these days, it is that the days have started getting longer here and I can’t help but feel a tad bit more hopeful. And, with hope comes waves of nostalgia.
While February has a tonne of reasons to get me nostalgic, it also reminds me that I am lagging behind in the department of travel blog trends. I mean who really does a 2016 travel round up in February? Yours truly. Who believes in the adage that it is better late than never (mainly because it gives a darned good excuse to put up such a post so late)? Once again, yours truly.
Also, this post is to serve as a marker for some of my future posts where I plan to write about my individual travel experiences at the places listed, though not in the same order. I will eventually update this post with the relevant links to make it easier to find them all in one place at a later date.
Off we go!
1. Goa, India
January | I started off 2016 with sun, sand and sea in India’s most famous (almost only-famous) beach destination – Goa. Back then, I was still living in India and this was a much needed getaway in a long long time. Gorging on some amazing food, wading in the waves, simply lying in the shacks while sipping on Piña coladas and reading some Murakami made this short vacation a perfect way for some self-healing and introspection after the particularly hard and trying times that I encountered in 2015.
2. Big Bear Lake, California
March | I moved back to the US in early March to a warm welcome, and within the week (jetlag be damned!) set out on a weekend trip to Big Bear Lake in order to catch a glimpse of the very little snow that southern California had been blessed with. Sightseeing around the beautiful lake, some first-timer snow shenanigans with friends, snow-tubing and the return drive along the ‘Rim of the world’ highway made it all seem like the weekend went past in a jiffy.
3. Lake Tahoe, California
March | Lake Tahoe is one of the top winter getaways in California and rightly so. The picturesque views of the incredibly blue lake sprinkled with emerald glory and the snow-capped Sierras surrounding were highly evocative, to say the least. Combine that with lip-smacking food and a private hot-tub under the star-studded sky for a date-night, this turned out to be an amazing romantic getaway.
4. Death Valley National Park, California
April | It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I said that my trip to Death Valley National Park changed my perspective manifold. For starters, I wasn’t expecting to be astounded by such stretches of barren lands. I didn’t imagine that a place so devoid of vegetation would still look so colorful with all the hues. The surreal panoramic landscapes left an everlasting impression that I can’t wait to go back.
5. Pacific Coast Highway + San Francisco, California
April | The scenic Pacific Coast Highway reads like poetry describing the love affair of oceanscapes with land. With dramatic cliffs and raging ocean waves, every bit of the meandering coastline is instagram-worthy and we couldn’t help but pull over every few miles just to drink in the views. The stretch we covered was only from San Francisco till Big Sur but I would love to cover the entire route till San Diego one day. We topped off this trip with a touristy two days in San Francisco before flying back home.
6. Portland, Oregon
May | Whoever gave Oregon’s Portland its name must have most definitely intended to name it ‘Port to Wonderland’. Apart from being a cultural hub, and housing one of the best bookstores in the USA, Portland is the perfect pit-stop for nature lovers. The incredible views of Columbia river gorge, the numerous waterfalls, and the unforgettable hiking experience (which involved climbing up a log jam and wading through water) through the slot canyon in Oneonta gorge – all made this an extremely memorable trip.
7. Pismo Beach + Hearst Castle, California
May | The memorial weekend trip that we undertook with friends was all about lounging around a campfire by the ocean, trying our hand at kayaking despite being non-swimmers (Thank humans for life-jackets!), and a visit to the Hearst Castle. The grandeur and the history of this relatively-modern castle is bound to leave any visitor spellbound.
8. Yosemite National Park + Mono County, California
June | I kid you not when I say Yosemite is mighty – in terms of its splendor with jaw-dropping landscapes. From the towering granite structures, gushing waterfalls, serene meadows, to scenic drives – Yosemite managed to steal my heart in every way.
On our way out of the National Park we exited East end and spent a day in Mono County, being amazed by the surreal tufa formations along the electric blue Mono lake and had a lovely time soaking in a natural hot water spring with the views of what can be called “Switzerland of California”
9. Kaua’i + O’ahu + The Big Island, Hawai’i
September | My gypsy soul couldn’t be more blessed to have an incredible spouse such as S who planned this dream vacation as an almost-birthday-surprise. (‘Almost’ because I discovered the plan before he could shout ‘surprise’). With postcard beaches, tropical weather, lush green cliffs, roaring waterfalls, volcano sightings, a short cruise and a skydive – this was a soulful vacation. And there’s no way I can encapsulate the intensity of this trip spanning three islands in a few words or just one blog post for that matter. I will try to do a series of posts about our incredible experiences here.
10. Monterey + Big Sur, California
October | This getaway to the sea-side town of Monterey was to meet a few friends and all of us had a lovely time catching up and exploring. On the drive back home, we split off and headed out on the PCH again, this time making sure to hit some of the spots we we had missed earlier like the purple sand beach, Henry Miller Memorial Library, and finally McWay Falls just in time for the sunset.
11. Fall colors at Mammoth Lakes, California
October | Nature’s annual fashion parade is not to be missed. Even though California’s fall colors are not as extensively vivid as in other parts of the country, we managed to catch glimpses of this wonderful phenomenon dotting the various lakes that constitute the Mammoth Lakes. This was the first colorful autumn I had ever experienced and I loved every bit of it.
12. Grand Canyon + Page, Arizona
November | The trip to Grand Canyon was every bit grand in terms of the varied experiences that it rolled out on our plates. Be it the stupefying views of the Canyon itself or the experience of having an exotic animal trainer as a host who had close to six pet snakes living in the same house, or surrealistic terrains with sculptures of rock weathered by wind, or hiking up a slot canyon and having it all to ourselves – this was the getaway that made me realize how much I had underestimated the beauty of South-Western desert wilderness.
13. Las Vegas, Nevada
December | Urban jungles are the least of my preferences. Even so, I was mildly curious about Vegas having heard so much about it. The city has its own unique vibe with all its dazzling lights, hordes of excited people thronging the streets and each of the casinos trying to outdo the other in terms of grandeur. As a tourist, I was most definitely entertained throughout my stay here.
The year ended at Yosemite National Park where we went to spend time amidst nature to bid adieu to 2016, glad to put some tough times behind us while being thankful for the wonderful moments. And oh, Yosemite donning its winter’s cape in all-white looked every bit of the ravishing beauty that it is.
Phew! It turned out to be a long post after all. But I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together, going through the pictures (finally!) and recounting it all. I’d like to know if you have visited any of the above places. If not, which of these would you like to visit?