In Travel IQ

best_of_travel_2016

It has been a crazy busy year here at allé- we’ve been having the time of our lives crafting incredible travels for awesome clients. There’s quite literally no corner of this globe that we left untouched this year, and as we sit down to write our New Years cards, we’re taking the time to reminisce on the adventures that we’ve been a part of (both our own and our clients’) and all the new friendships we’ve made along the way. Here’s our roundup for the best of travel 2016:

 

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Our most popular destination of the year: Iceland

Without a doubt, the most popular destination amongst our clients in 2016 was Iceland. We planned family trips, friends’ trips, couples’ trips and even sisters’ trips to the adventurous island country. What we love about Iceland is that even though it’s definitely paradise for those who love hiking and rugged adventure, the country also has a wealth of experiences for foodies, art and culture lovers and even those seeking relaxation (have you seen the hot springs there!?). We also love working with Icelanders- they’re so accommodating to our travelers and are always so excited to show off their country and its charms to those coming from afar.

 

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Our most exotic destination of the year: Bazaruto Island

After Corey and Lisa, honeymooners from Minneapolis, wrapped up a safari in South Africa and urban exploration in Cape Town, Bazaruto Island was the perfect place to kick back and relax for a few days before returning to real life. Chances are you haven’t heard of Bazaruto Island, and you are not alone in that — its very remote! It’s a white sand island that looks like heaven itself and is just off the coast of Mozambique in the warm waters of the southern Indian Ocean. Often referred to as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean and considered by many to be an untouched paradise, there are just a few resorts on the island, and the entire area around it is protected as a conservation area and national park.

 

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Our favorite destination of the year: Italy

It may sound like the ultimate cliche, but Italy is the kind of destination that never goes out of style. The history, the culture, the nature, the cuisine, the seaside – there is nothing one could want that a trip to Italy cannot provide. We particularly love organizing multi-city trips that allow our clients to really get to explore the country’s many different flavors. From the beautiful small villages that dot the Amalfi coast, to the picturesque rolling hills and vineyards of Tuscany, the imperial ruins of Rome, the romantic canals of Venice, and the colorful jagged coastline, Italy is ideal for history buffs, foodies, wine enthusiasts, nature lovers, beach bums and even those wanting to go completely off the beaten path

 

Our favorite experiences that our clients have had on their travels in 2016

 

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Tuscan cooking class in Italy

One of the best ways to experience the heart and soul of a place is through its cuisine, and an authentic cooking class makes for exceptional memories. We are truly in love with Cucina Giuseppina, a small cooking school tucked away in the Tuscan village of Certaldo, Italy. We had a lucky few clients who had the pleasure of enjoying a cooking class with Simone and her crew, and it nearly always ends up being the highlight of their trip. Our clients, Jim and Sarah, loved getting to know the other participants and say the bubbly cooking instructor makes the experience “phenomenal”.

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Climbing into a volcano in Iceland

The Schwarcz family experienced Iceland in many ways that average visitors don’t, from Glacier climbing to off the beaten path hiking, but their most jaw dropping experience was a trip deep into the center of the earth (literally) by being lowered into the magma chamber of a volcano- something that is only possible in Iceland.

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Eating with locals in Paris and Rome 

A truly authentic local dining experience as a traveler can be a difficult feat, which is why it’s such a special experience to be able to visit the home of a local and dine together with them. This is why we are absolutely enamored with EatWith, a platform that connects travelers with hospitable locals who cook their favorite regional fares for them. EatWith experiences are a cross between a family dinner and a supper club;  a great way to meet both locals and other travelers and visit a local home – an opportunity that certainly is not awarded to the average tourist.

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Village trek with rural Bali

Bali is no newcomer to the travelers scene, and it’s lauded by some as being overrated (for the record, we disagree). Sure, Kuta beach may be overtouristed, but the second you leave the beach centers Bali is just waiting to be uncovered and discovered. One of our favorite such experiences is a trek through the northern part of Bali with Putu, a local farmer. He took our clients, Annie and Zach, through the rural farmland and verdant rice paddies, and then afterwards, they enjoyed a meal together at Putu’s home.

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Sailing the Dalmatian coast in Croatia

Liz and David, adventurous, foodie honeymooners from Minneapolis, headed right to Croatia just moments after tying the knot. They started their honeymoon in Dubrovnik, and when we were first planning their travels we found out that they dreamt of sailing the Dalmatian islands. So we made it happen! Liz and David spent a day on a private 33 meter sailboat exploring sand and pebble beaches, cliffs, sea caves, pine forests, olive groves, orange and lemon orchards and exotic gardens on the Elaphiti Islands, off the coast of charming Dubrovnik.

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Exploring the Ang Thong Marine National Park in Thailand

The Ang Thong Marine National Park off the coast of the island of Koh Samui in Thailand (one of our favorite honeymoon destinations) is a protected nature reserve featuring about 42 limestone islands in close proximity to each other. Now imagine the emerald green waters surrounding these mountainous rocky formations, full of colorful reefs and marine life underneath, and the opportunity of an endless day of snorkeling and kayaking in these waters. It’s a fantastic alternative to the usual beach day, even for the not too adventurous.

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A secluded island road trip in Greece

Sometimes the best experiences are those that leave a few surprises until you get to your destination, hop in a car, and just go. Dan and Danielle, a couple from Minneapolis who headed to the the land of Gods for their honeymoon, loved their day roadtripping around the Greek island of Naxos – a lesser known cousin of Santorini and Mykonos, Naxos is a little larger and offers a throve of hidden places to explore, from red rock beaches, to amazing viewpoints, monastery ruins, and cute inner villages and a day exploring the gems of the island on your own terms is a real treat.

 

And now for a page out of our personal travels this year

 

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Polly’s favorite destination this year: Taiwan

“It’s been a great year in travels for me, making it hard to pick a favorite destination, but Taiwan was definitely a major highlight of the time I spent in Asia. Underrated and perhaps misunderstood, Taiwan calls itself the real Republic of China and is famous in the region for its food – which is both incredibly cheap and delicious. Stalls, shops, shacks are open from morning ‘til night, serving local dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When asked, the locals all spoke with great pride of the night markets and walking streets that are easily found in the cities. I loved the capital city, Taipei, with Taipei 101 – the world’s 5th tallest building – somehow strangely protruding in the middle of otherwise charmingly outdated buildings, none nowhere nearly as tall. The city is a buzzing metropolis, but it’s easy to find a quiet corner, a tranquil park or a creative space to escape.”  

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Irina’s favorite destination this year: Georgia

“My family loves to travel travel together, and this year we decided to up the ante a bit and pick a place that few people think of when they think of family travel: Georgia (the country). We flew in from nearly all over the world to meet up in Tbilisi, the beautiful ancient capital where we wandered the streets, climbed fortresses, ate delicious foods and scoured Soviet kitsch/ antique markets. After that we rented a car and headed out for the super picturesque caucasus region to climb up to Stephansminda, and then continued on to Georgian wine country and rural Georgia. It was an awesome trip and truly unlike anything I have ever experienced”

What we are most excited for in 2017

Cuba!

We can already tell that 2017 is going to be the year of Cuba. It’s getting easier and easier to get to the illusive and mysterious island country, and yet it still maintains so much of its charm and old-worldliness. We’re going to check it out for ourselves in January, and we’re excited to start planning trips for our clients there later in the year.

The allé app

After lots of daydreaming and scouring the world for the tech solution that would work best for our travelers, we’re so excited to (very soon) have our very own app that our clients can access their final trip plans through. This app will also connect seamlessly to Google Maps, so at the click of a button it will take our clients from place to place, and it also has built in messaging capabilities- so keeping in touch with your travel planner will be even easier and more convenient.

More ways to travel with allé

We’ve are working on new ways to make travel easier and more accessible- from travel consultations for the DIY travel planner to expanding our roster of signature travel plans. Stay tuned; it’s going to be one exciting year around here.

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