Best Travel Experiences
Updated January 26, 2017 / João Leitão / 16 Comments / Filed in: Antarctica 🇦🇶 / Reading time 13 minutes
Throughout the World, there are many wonderful places to travel to. Yet, some unique experiences remain secrets, only a few people having the chance to become involved with them.
On this page, I will describe some of the best travel experiences I’ve had, examples that can easily provide inspiration and motivation for your future travels.
Please note: I’ve been traveling for more than 16 years. So, some of the older photographs on this page are taken with more standard equipment and are of lesser quality than more recent images.
✅ Berber Triple Marriage in Sahara Desert
ℹ️ I had the opportunity of being invited to an authentic Amazigh (Berber) triple marriage in the southeast Moroccan Sahara Desert. Having been living and working near the Erg Chebbi Dunes for four years, previous involvement with the local community facilitated my reception of this type of invitation. Although many people no longer marry in such a way, one of the grooms chose to have this kind of traditional ceremony so that local youth could witness and experience how the Berber marry in this region of the Sahara.
ℹ️ Riding a camel, the fiancés arrived at the marriage campsite in Hassilabied village. The grooms arrived riding a… four-by-four! All in all, from the clothes and music to the ceremony itself, the experience as a whole was absolutely fantastic.
Read the page: People of Morocco.
✅ Driving from Mitad del Mundo to Fin del Mundo
ℹ️ Departing from the city of Quito, I drove a car along “Mitad del Mundo” (half of the world), near the Equator line, to Ushuaia, often called “Fin del Mundo” (end of the world), located in the southernmost part of Argentina and the continent itself. On my own, I crossed half of the planet’s continental landmass, driving 13351 km / 8296 mi through some of my most memorable, top-listed moments: the Andes Mountains, the Atacama Desert, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
Read the page: Driving in South America.
✅ Being a monk in a Buddhist Monastery
ℹ️ Lumbini, Nepal, is the birthplace of the Buddha. Now donned with several Buddhist monasteries surrounding the actual site of his birth, I was fortunate enough to spend some time living a similar life to that of a real monk here. The daily schedule included a very early wake-up, Buddhist prayer, meditation and healthy food. My time in Lumbini proved to be a great experience for my soul during a time of great need.
✅ Feeding Wild hyenas in Harar
ℹ️ During a few days’ sojourn in Harar, I had the incredible opportunity to hand-feed a group of wild hyenas. It was a truly rare experience in which, after a ritual, these scavengers were called to approach and eat offered, raw meat. With hyenas a part of Harar mysticism, this ceremony has been enacted for a few decades, passing from generation to generation. During the night, you can even hear the animals running through the dark, empty streets of this Muslim, Ethiopian holy city.
Read the page: Feeding Hyenas in Ethiopia.
✅ Crossing Sahara Desert with a moped
ℹ️ Back in 2010, my friend Samuel and I decided to go on an adventure from Erfoud to the Erg Chebbi Dunes along the Algerian border, passing through the Tisserdmine army base. True, motocrossing the Sahara Desert on a Motobecane moped is not something you find yourself doing every day!
Read the page: Moped in Sahara Desert.
✅ Joining the Central Asia Rally
ℹ️ In 2012, I participated in one of the most adventurous and alternative car rallies of the World. A few teams joined together at the Central Asia Rally to travel overland, all the way from Europe to Central Asia. It is, indeed, a unique and top travel experience if you’re looking for different forms of wayfaring. Hungary, the Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan accomplished in 14 days via 6500 kilometers (4000 miles) of endless dreams!
Visit the website: http://www.centralasiarally.com/.
✅ Hot air balloon ride in the Valley of the Kings
ℹ️ During a stay in Luxor, I had an opportunity to ride a hot air balloon over the breathtaking Valley of the Kings. It was such an enlightening experience from an alternative perspective combining Egypt’s beautiful sunrise with farmers burning their fields, below.
Read the page: Visit Luxor, the World’s greatest open air Museum.
✅ Living with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon
ℹ️ For four days, I had the chance to live with an authentic, indigenous Brazilian tribe. There, I was taught Amazon Forest survival, local customs, and traditions. Living with an indigenous Tatuyo tribe in the Amazon Rain Forest is possible while it is also a great way of familiarizing yourself with a completely different culture and way of living.
Read the page: Amazon Brazilian tribe.
✅ 22 hours pick-up truck trip to Timbuktu
ℹ️ On a truly insane, rough 22-hour journey from Gao to Timbuktu, Mali, I traveled while mounted atop the cargo of a Mauritanian smuggler’s pick-up truck along with 18 other people. All seemed well until a sand storm approached and we had to jump out of the truck bed at 1:30 AM while under threat of the Malian army, at gunpoint. Indeed, it was day’s worth of an unforgettable experience!
📹 Pick-up truck travel in Mali:
Read the page: Photos of Timbuktu the Mysterious.
✅ Exploring Antarctica with Shackleton and Scott
ℹ️ Along with a team of experts aboard the Ocean Diamond and en route along a 15-day Antarctica cruise, I had the pleasure of traveling in the company of descendents of two great explorers: Jonathan Shackleton, the cousin of Ernest Henry Shackleton, and Falcon Scott, the grandson of Robert Falcon Scott. How sensational is that?
✅ Swimming with sea turtles in the Galapagos
ℹ️ Swimming with sea turtles proving to be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever done in my life, snorkeling in the Galapagos is always a really great decision to take. I highly recommend your sea turtle rendezvous to occur at San Cristóbal Island’s La Loberia Beach on the Galapagos Archipelago. You will never forget it!
Read the page: Galapagos Last Minute Cruises – What to Know.
✅ Meeting local people and making new friends
ℹ️ When I travel, one of my goals is to meet people, to talk and discuss cultural differences with them, even banal aspects of life, politics, spirituality and religion. By taking on this approach to making new friends around the world, I become wiser in familiarizing myself with other ways of thinking and living other than what I have been limited to or have even adopted. One of the most important Schools of Life, traveling never ceases in its teachings.
✅ Driving in Iraq
ℹ️ In Amedi, I met a caretaker of a Syriac Orthodox church who invited me to drive his car and take him all the way to Barzani village to visit the Kurdish nationalist’s cemetery. Due to the man’s old age, he had lost part of his eyesight and could no longer drive. So, instead of having his car parked in front of his house, he resolved the issue by finding a private chauffer. Me!
En route, I also discovered many other villages and churches along the way. Beyond interesting, in this instance, the destination and the journey all offered incredible insight of the region’s struggle, history and politics.
✅ Maracanã Epic Football match in Rio de Janeiro
ℹ️ I attended an unforgettable Maracanã football (or, soccer) match in Rio de Janeiro. Battled between the Flamengo and Fluminense teams, the match ended in a final score of 2-0. The Flamengo team victorious, this famous Fla-Flu game was an epic experience!
✅ Religious ceremony in Lalibela’s Rock-Hewn Churches
ℹ️ Attending a religious ceremony in Lalibela’s Rock-Hewn Churches is an incredible and unique travel experience. During this Christian Orthodox celebration, there are prayers, music, incense and Bible recitations. I attended this special ceremony at Bet Maryam Church.
Read the page: Visit Ethiopia – Historical Places.
✅ Fully crossing the Amazon River
ℹ️ Francisco de Orellana completed the first known navigation the Amazon River’s entire length, as far back in time as the 16th century. I followed his voyage from a point in Macapá, Brazil (near the Atlantic Ocean), to Iquitos, Peru, from there taking the Napo river all the way to El Coca, Ecuador. With a schedule consisting of much of the same itinerary as the famous “conquistador”, I will never forget enduring nearly 600 hours aboard boats and sleeping on rocking hammocks.
Read the page: Travel Amazon River – 543 hours on Amazon Boats – Brazil, Peru & Ecuador.
✅ Gaijatra, Festival of Cows in Tansen
ℹ️ While in the picturesque, southern Nepal town of Tansen, I was surprised to encounter the rather interesting Festival of Cows. Locally known as Gaijatra, the streets were lined by thousands of people and live music performances while many young boys and girls arrived in traditional full-dress. A welcoming surprise, the entire scene was delightfully transporting!
✅ Dubai by night from the top of the 2722 feet Burj Khalifa
ℹ️ While in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), one of the best experiences to have there is to ascend downtown Dubai’s Burj Khalifa building and dare the view from its observation deck. The tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa is 829.8 meters / 2722 feet tall! It also ranks as the tallest existing structure, the tallest structure ever built, the tallest freestanding structure, the tallest skyscraper, the building with the most floors: 163, the building with the world’s highest occupied floor: 584.5 meters, the world’s highest elevator installation, the world’s longest elevator travel distance: 504 meters, the world’s highest nightclub: 144th floor, etc. etc.! Not yet convinced?
Read the page: Visit United Arab Emirates.
✅ Romantic gondola ride in Venice
ℹ️ A Romantic gondola ride in Venice is one of many people’s Top 10 best travel experiences ever. Personally scheduling my navigation along the Grand Canal during sunset, so the building facades and labyrinthine canals took on a bit more of a romantic scene, my wife just loved it!
✅ Swimming with Whale Sharks in Holbox Island
ℹ️ On Mexico’s Holbox Island, you can make amazing dives into the Mayan Riviera while swimming in 10 meters / 32 feet of crystal blue waters populated by whale sharks.
✅ Meeting Afghan Troops in the middle of nowhere
ℹ️ While driving in Afghanistan on my own, I had the opportunity to meet Afghan troops patrolling the dangerous northern sections of the country. I found them to be very hospitable and friendly people while managing a highly demanding job.
Read the page: Visit Mazar-i-Sharif – Afghan city of the Noble Shrine.
✅ Visiting the Korean Demilitarized Zone DMZ
ℹ️ During my travels in North Korea, I was able to visit the most heavily armed region in the world: The Korean Demilitarized Zone, commonly called The DMZ.
Read the page: Visit North Korea.
✅ Trekking Machu Picchu Mountain
ℹ️ To escape the crowded ruins of Machu Picchu, you can also consider scaling 3082 meters / 10111 feet up the sacred Machupicchu Mountain. Although the ascension’s route may be a bit difficult, the spectacular view from above the ruins is breathtaking and rewarding! This part of the Peruvian mountains is beyond incredible.
Read the page: Visit Peru.
✅ Visiting Fatima Masumeh Shrine in Qom
ℹ️ Located in the Holy city of Qom, the Shrine of Fatimah bint Musa al-Kadhim, commonly known as Fatimah al-Masumah. Considered to be one of the most significant Shi’i sites in Iran, it houses the shrine of the daughter of the eleventh Twelver Shiah Imam, Musa al-Kadhi, and sister of the eighth Twelver Shiah Imam, Ali ar-Ridha.
Upon entering the Mosque, watching thousands of people praying and worshiping such a place was incredible and unforgettable. Inside the mausoleum are several rooms, each leading to the main tomb area where you’ll find everyone pushing each other to touch the tomb, some even crying in their attempts. Customarily, visitors should seat themselves, grab a Koran and enjoy this moment as an important pilgrimage for Muslims of the region. When invited inside the shrine by others, non-muslims can easily get in as long as they behave accordingly for the occasion.
Read the page: Visit Iran.
✅ Joining the Caucasus Challenge Rally
ℹ️ In 2008, I participated in a 7500 km / 4660 mi adventurous automobile rally across Europe. The voyage took me from Hungary all the way to the Caucasus region of Georgia, then through Armenia and into the troubled region of Nagorno Karabakh. As one of the selected travelers representing the leading Virtual Tourist travel website while driving a 25-year-old Russian Moskvitch, this crazy 11 country border hopping adventure was an experience of a lifetime! The 2008 Rally Route traversed: Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Visit the website: http://www.caucasianchallenge.com/.
✅ Climbing the Cerro Blanco sand dune
ℹ️ The world’s largest sand dune, Cerro Blanco, is located in southern Peru, near the well-known city of Nasca. Here, you can trek the five-hour climb up the dune escalating to an elevation of 2100 m / 6889 ft. Then, take an exhilarating slide down on a sand board!
✅ UN army escort in DRC
Read the page: African Bread Recipe – Democratic Republic of the Congo.
✅ Évora – Tambacounda Expedition 2004
ℹ️ The name Évora Tambacounda 2004 references an overland expedition starting in Évora, Portugal and ending in Tambacounda, Senegal. This journey of over 13000 km. took 32 days, round-trip, through Portugal, Spain, Morocco, the Moroccan Western Sahara, unprotected Western Sahara regions, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia.
Visit the website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evora_Tambacounda_2004.
✅ Mauritania Desert Expedition
ℹ️ Although I’ve been to Mauritania seven times, one of my most unforgettable trips indeed occurred with my Moroccan friend Moha, when we explored the desert on a four-by-four, from Morocco all the way down to Chinguetti, Mauritania. For desert lovers, you can be sure the Mauritania’s conditions are as harsh as its name sounds.
✅ Kung-Fu training in Iran
ℹ️ Kung-Fu TO’a is a modern, Iranian martial art developed by Ibrahim Mirzaei in the 1960’s.
Having practiced this style of Kung-Fu since 1994, I was welcomed to join classes at an Esfahan and Qeshm Island Kung-Fu TO’a school during my first trip to Iran, in 2004.
✅ Children Summer Volunteering in Kazakhstan
ℹ️ During the Summer of 2004, I volunteered as a child mentor in Almaty, south Kazakhstan. My job consisted of taking care of children while offering art workshops and teaching English in a summer camp.
✅ Army Escort Somalia Taxi Ride
Read the page: Somaliland Travel Guide.
✅ South Sudan Independence
ℹ️ Actually congratulated by a border immigration officer for the accomplishment, I can say “I was the first Portuguese national to cross the border of South Sudan”. I was also the first travel blogger to enter the newest country in Africa.
I traveled to South Sudan to participate in the 11th July 2011 Independence Day celebration, but the border was closed due to national security. The next day, I reentered the country to find everyone still jubilantly partying on the streets of the capital, in Juba.
Read the page: South Sudan Travel Guide.
✅ Working on a Farm in up State New York
✅ Flight Over Mount Everest
✅ Whale Watching in Iceland
Read the page: Visit Iceland.
✅ Hitchhiking West Africa
ℹ️ In 2002, I hitchhiked all the way to the border of Senegal, crossing the Moroccan Western Sahara and the Mauritanian Desert.
✅ Living Abroad
ℹ️ So far, I have lived in Finland, Brazil, Turkey, Portugal, Morocco, Poland, the Ukraine and the United States. Leaving the comfort zone back home is, indeed, a fulfilling experience that enriches our spirit, towards ourselves and others, while endowing life with a multitude of practical information. I can say, above all, living abroad is the absolute best self-development practice, ever.
✅ Being Invited to stay with a nomad Kazakh Family
Read the page: Nomads of Kazakhstan – Ile Alatau Range.