Marco Traveler picks top destinations
Dave Pattison selects his best from dozens of places
As a world traveler, I have often been asked to name and describe my favorite destinations. Here I will attempt to list my 10 favorite places and why they deserve to be seen and discovered.
Since I have traveled to over 100 countries on all the Continents, my selections required some difficult choices. My rankings do not only reflect the historic places, monuments, castles, cathedrals and museums I have seen, but emphasize the culture and unique characteristics of each location and the experiences that make them memorable.
Such choices, of course, reflect my individual preferences that will vary widely among travelers. I also tend to enjoy lesser known and explored places that retain their original appearances and also inspire me. My list and brief descriptions of their merits follows.
1. Easter Island: This most remote place on earth, furthest from land, lies alone in the Pacific Ocean. It is a magical, marvelous and mysterious island, made famous by the historic "Kon Tiki" expedition that sought to discover how it was found. Its huge hand-carved Moai statutes have fascinated historians and explorers for years, and how they were carved, raised and moved remains uncertain to this day. I had the pleasure there of having a Rapi Nui (native) guide who explained the island's history and showed me its sights. It was the most awesome place I have seen and the start images of the Moai statutes remain a vivid memory.
2. Mongolia: Genghis Khan's descendants still live in isolated, remote Gers (tents) alongside yaks, camels, sheep or ponies in the forbidding high plains of the Gobi Desert. Their lives have remained unchanged for centuries, and no place I have ever visited has preserved and retained its past and history to a greater extent. One feels while there as though he is a visited a distant past in the present. It is the most unique and original land I have seen.
3. Antartica: Cruising in the realm of the South Pole with its extreme cold and massive icebergs is a special challenge. Looking at these huge glaciers rising from the frigid ocean causes one to imagine seeing the Rocky Mountains emerging from the sea. It is a harsh and forbidding experience but worth seeing despite the cold and discomfort. It remains frozen in my memory.
4. African safari: A life of travel is not complete until one has embarked on a safari in the jungles and plains of tropical Africa. On a visit to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, I witnessed the living zoo in the interior of the continent and felt the legacy of Nelson Mandela in his home country. And standing before the massive flow of Victoria Falls is a remarkable sight worthy of a long journey. Seeing the animals of Africa roaming free in their natural habitat is unlike any view that one will see and witness in one's life. It is a trek one must take.
5. Italy (including Sicily): All the countries of Europe and deserving a visit and recognition on this list, but I have often said that if you have only one country to visit it should be Italy. Its legendary and historic cities and sights are too numerous to mention, but on top of any list are Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa and Pompeii. Lesser known places in southern Italy like Matera and Alberobello should also not be missed. Sicily is one of my favorite places in the world deserving a visit to see its combination of Greek and Roman ruins, the Mt. Etna volcano, its remarkably preserved historic cities, and surely its cuisine. It is a culture to taste and savor.
6. Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand): Visitors to these countries will observe Buddhist cultures, rice paddy economies, motorbike mayhem, and an oppressively tropical environment. The Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia is one of the most spectacular and interesting ruins in the world. Anyone who lived through the era of the Vietnam War will marvel at the progress and changes in this country. All these countries have fascinating and different cultures to observe and appreciate.
7. India: I was enthralled on a recent visit to India to discover a unique and amazing culture based on its Hindu faith that has endured for many centuries. Its Taj Mahal temple is a splendid example of its many engaging sights. And to witness the sunrise and sunset rituals on the Ganges River that involved thousands of the faithful citizens in an inspirational scene equaling any in the world. India, soon to be the most populated country in the world, is a somewhat undiscovered but worthwhile place to journey.
8. China: China edges out Russia as one of our advisories most deserving of an extended visit. It has the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and its most unusual underground city of terra-cotta warriors at Xian. China is a land of mystery and intrigue that should be explored and discovered by any world traveler. Its peoples are among the friendliest anywhere and welcome Americans. It is a place worth returning to because it is so vast and interesting.
9. Amazon River: Journeys on the mile wide entry and the primitive backwaters of this massive and legendary river is a trip revealing vastly different images and experiences. I have entered from both sides and was amazed at its entry that I could see neither bank of the River. On the backwaters I saw dugout canoes and huts on stilts with thatched roofs. Remains of the rubber baron culture dominated the high waters and ancestors of the indigenous races dominate the primitive areas of the remaining jungles. It is another worthwhile journey back in time and largely unchanged.
10. Galapagos Islands: Darwin formed his evolutionary views, in part, after a visit to these remote islands in the Pacific Ocean. Even today one can see the amazing animals and birds that helped him form his theories. A journey here is special because the Islands remain protected and have preserved a natural environment and habitat that allows the wildlife to flourish and roam free. It is one of the most peaceful and scenic place that one can visit today as an observer of nature and its creatures.
Author’s note: Selection of 10 places worthy of an extended visit is very difficult because it excludes so very many places and counties equally worthy of touring, such as France, Russia, Australia and New Zealand, Scandinavia, Greece and its Islands, Greenland and Iceland, Morocco and Tunisia, and all of Central and South America and Europe. It is hard to choose from so many worthy places.
Most of my trips to these destinations were taken with Grand Circle Travel and its subsidiary of Overseas Adventure Travel, or independent on my own. Just recall, as St. Augustine said, "The World is a book and those who do not travel see only one page."
I would encourage everyone to open the book and begin reading.
See a spread of Pattison’s photos of the top 10 on pages B6 and 7, and also a gallery on this site.