After a few years of traveling around the US and a few trips abroad, I’ve found a few places that I just really love and find myself wanting to go back to more than others. I love exploring the outdoors, but when you find a city you love, you can’t help but dream of going back. While I haven’t been to that many cities yet I do have some favorites. A couple of these are more towns than actual cities, but hey, I’ve only got so much to work with.
Taipei is probably the city I think of going back to the most often. It’s probably a weekly thought. I love Taipei for a lot of reasons, but a few that stick out the most are how safe it is, as a female, I didn’t feel scared at all, even walking alone at night. I love its food scene and I wouldn’t even consider myself a foodie. It’s super easy to get around on foot or by MRT. And, if you want to get out of the big city a bit, there are tons of easy day trips you can take to nearby towns. There is also quite a bit of hiking in the area if you want to get out and be a little more active.
While you’re there, you definitely need to visit at least one night market. Make sure you try a few of these: oyster vermicelli, oyster omelets, stinky tofu, fried and steamed pork buns, and large fried chicken. Visit the cute coffee shops, see Taipei 101, walk around the various markets, and just explore the city.
At first, I planned to just pass through Antigua and only spend a day or two there on my way to Lake Atitlan, but I ended up there for five or six days. It may not be as safe as Taipei, but I never felt in danger when I was there. I spent my days there drinking coffee, reading in parks, climbing a volcano, hiking up to Cerro de la Cruz, and wandering the markets on an almost daily basis. It’s a charming little city that’s great for exploring on foot. I would spend a few hours just wandering around, getting a little lost, taking pictures of the city. It’s a place I would love to return to.
While you’re there, even if it’s a quick trip, make sure you explore the markets near the chicken bus station area. You could spend hours looking at everything. Also, if you have time, try to climb a volcano. Whether it’s Pacaya in an afternoon or Acatenango overnight, it’ll be worth it. If you like the chicken buses of Guatemala, this is a good place to see them.
Moab is a tourist mecca in Southeastern Utah, and for good reason. It’s a popular stop on road trips around the Southwest US due to it’s prime location right by Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. And that’s not even including every other outdoor activity you can do in the area. While it may be pretty busy in the summer, in the winter it’s nice and quiet. No matter when you visit, you’ll have great scenery all around you, delicious food everywhere (I’d recommend The Spoke), and charming hotels to choose from.
While you’re there, visit the nearby national parks. Check out Potash Road and hike to Corona Arch. You can also see petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks along the road. If you want an adrenaline rush, try skydiving over Canyonlands.
After a hectic time finding the night bus from Tokyo, we made it to Kyoto and I loved it. It’s a charmingly flat city full of temples and cute little streets and alleyways. We made a day trip from Kyoto to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Nara Deer Park, then spent our other days just wandering around the Gion area, checking out some of the nearby temples and little shops. Visiting Kyoto in winter is especially wonderful.
While you’re there, rent a bike to explore the city and all of its temples, or at least some of them. Kyoto is extremely flat making it biker friendly. Map out the temples you want to see and hit the road in the morning. Also, make sure you try Japanese Beef. There are great places, usually with a line, in the Gion area. It’s totally worth the wait.
San Ignacio, Belize
While this may not be considered a city, it’s a cute little town in the jungles of Belize, not too far from the Guatemala border. San Ignacio is your typical little Central American town, but it has its own charm. It isn’t crazy busy with tourists, so it’s food and accommodation options are a little more limited, but that makes it all that much better. You can climb up nearby ruins, having them all to yourself. You can find delicious, super cheap, local food on the streets. You can still go out to clubs in this tiny little town. It’s a really fun little place with plenty of adventure around, but it’s also perfect for relaxing.
While you’re there, take a tour of the A.T.M. Cave. It’s expensive, like all tours offered here, but it’s a lot of fun. If you’re on a budget, splurge on one tour, like the A.T.M., and visit the nearby free Cahal Pech Ruins. If you want to see more ruins for less money, spend a couple days at Tikal, only a few hours away in Guatemala.
I almost forgot about Jackson and that’s just ridiculous because I love it so much. It’s actually probably my favorite place on this list. Just a short drive from Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park you’ll find the charming little western tourist town of Jackson. Make sure you take a stroll around town, no matter the time of year you’re visiting. It’s not the best for budget travel, but let me tell you, that $14 juice is worth it.
While you’re there, take a drive through the National Elk Refuge, enjoy the Tetons and hit the trails in the park. Yellowstone isn’t too far, so plan a day or two there as well. Spend some time walking around town enjoying the galleries and little shops.
Asheville, North Carolina
While there isn’t a huge part of me that wants to live in a city, I would definitely live in Asheville. It’s just got everything I could want. It has delicious food, awesome little coffee shops, tons of art, and it’s close to tons of hiking. You can make day trips to Great Smoky Mountains and Congaree National Parks easily, but there are plenty of trails closer to town. It’s the perfect artsy city.
While you’re there make sure you try as much food as possible. This probably won’t be particularly cheap, but it’s worth it. You’ll be hard pressed to find “regular” food as most of it is pretty creative. Make sure you see some waterfalls (Triple Falls, Looking Glass Falls, and Sliding Falls are great options but there are hundreds to choose from), walk around the River Arts District, and hit up a local trail or two.
These are all places I either love going back to or dream of going back to on a regular basis. They are all totally different but have tons of amazing things to offer for anyone that decides to visit.
Have you been to any of these? What are your favorite cities? What is one city you can’t wait to go to?