Julie Post-Trip 35 Comments

We are lucky. We have been to a lot of places. 70 countries, to be exact. There are a few countries that stole our hearts, countries worth visiting again.

Typically, we do not return to many places. There are just too many new places in the world to explore. But if we ever did go back, which countries make the list?

Every country on our list makes a fantastic vacation destination. Read about why we loved each country and get recommendations for where to go on your next big trip.

Since writing this post in 2016, we actually did return to several countries on this list. Some of these places are just so wonderful and offer so much to do that they just keep pulling us back. 

10 Amazing Countries to Visit

New Zealand

Anyone following our travels knows that New Zealand is our favorite country. We would travel back here in a heartbeat.

Why is New Zealand so awesome? Every wonderful thing you have ever heard about New Zealand is true. It is gorgeous. Around every bend is a stunning view. For outdoor lovers, it does not get any better than New Zealand. Hiking, kayaking, camping, bungy jumping, heli-skiing, and snowboarding just start the list of adventure activities to do. Visit New Zealand any time of year and you will have an incredible experience.




Roys Peak

Roy’s Peak Track




What do we recommend in New Zealand?

Queenstown, the Milford Sound, Wanaka, and driving around the South Island are must-do experiences. LOTR and Hobbit fans can hike around Mt Doom (Tongariro Alpine Crossing) and visit Hobbiton. Wine lovers can sip on Sauvignon Blanc at the wineries in Marlborough. Queenstown and Taupo are a must for thrill seekers. We liked the South Island more than the North Island, but honestly, New Zealand is pretty freaking awesome wherever you go.

Read more about New Zealand:

New Zealand

Lake Pukaki


Fiji is paradise. How could we not want to go back? Just look at this place!


Like New Zealand, Fiji lives up to its reputation. Go swimming, snorkeling, surfing, scuba diving, and paddle boarding. For those who like a side of culture with their beach vacation, Fiji is the place.

And for those flying to New Zealand, many flights travel through Fiji. Why not change your layover into a stopover and visit two of our favorite countries?


What do we recommend in Fiji?

Fiji is a collection of islands. In order to have enough time to tour the smaller islands, you will need a minimum of five days here. The Mamanucas are close and convenient to the main island of Viti Levu, and a great destination for families. From here you can visit Modriki Island, the filming site for the movie “Cast Away.” Other popular islands include the Yasawas and Taveuni.

Read more about Fiji:

Tim Rivenbark Fiji


Japan was better than we were expecting, and we expected a lot. Clean, safe, efficient, packed with culture and history, this country offers something for everyone. We loved the Shinkansen trains, the temples of Kyoto, watching Sumo wrestling, eating sushi every day, learning about Japanese culture and customs, and wandering the busy, crowded streets of Tokyo. The people here are some of the friendliest and most polite we have ever met. And the food is amazing.

Why would we go back? We want to see Kyoto in autumn. To see the Japanese Maples ablaze in yellows and reds at the temples would be amazing. Other things on our bucket list are to visit Hokkaido, traverse the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, and go hiking in the Japanese Alps.

Nara Japan

Nara, Japan

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto

Kyoto Japan

Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto

What do we recommend in Japan?

Definitely visit Tokyo and Kyoto. These two cities are connected with the Shinkansen Train, another must-do activity while in Japan (these are the fastest, coolest, and most efficient trains we have ridden). From Tokyo and Kyoto, day trips are easy, and you can visit Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara, Nikko, and Kamakura. Hokkaido is fantastic and little cooler than the rest of Japan if you are visiting during the summer months.

By the way, Japan is uncomfortably hot in July. I would recommend visiting another time of year if hot weather is not your thing.

Read more about Japan:


Tokyo, Japan


We spent about ten days in Germany, visiting Munich and Bavaria, in August 2014. I fell in love with this part of Europe. Oh…the mountains, the clean, crisp air, castles, hiking, quaint Alpine towns, and the friendly people all stole my heart. Of the four of us, I am the biggest fan of Germany. This is a place where I could live. Yes, I liked it that much.

In 2017 Tim and I returned to Germany, visiting Berlin and day tripping out to Saxony to visit the Bastei Bridge, Gorlitz, and Rakotzbrücke.

We could easily go back to Bavaria, plop here for a week or two, relax, go hiking, eat German food and drink German beer, and just enjoy Germany. But there is a lot we have not seen yet. Oktoberfest, Cologne, and the Rhine River all make the list. Hopefully one day soon we will be here again.


Rothenburg ob der Tauber




What do we recommend in Germany?

Munich is a pleasure to visit…small, easily walkable, with a great public transportation network. If you are here at the end of September, join in the festivities of Oktoberfest, the largest beer festival in the world. Bavaria is breath-taking in its beauty. The quaint towns only make it more picturesque. Berlin is packed with history. For those who like cruises, travel down the Rhine River, castle hopping along the way.

Read more about Germany:


Neuschwanstein Castle


Norway is a top contender for our #1 spot in the world. If you like the great outdoors, scenic landscapes, hiking, camping, and epic road trips, it’s hard to beat Norway.

In 2013, we spent 10 days in Norway. One of the best 10 days EVER in travel history for our family. It was an epic road trip with some of the most gorgeous scenery ever, competing with New Zealand and Fiji for the most beautiful country. Sure, we could go back to Trolltunga and Kjeragbolten again (and have a blast!!) but there are other amazing Norwegian sites to see.

In 2018, we went on our second epic road trip through Norway, this time driving from Tromsø through Senja and the Vesteralen Islands, ending in the amazing Lofoten Islands. It’s hard to say which one was better…the fjord region or the Lofoten Islands?

And if you really want to go on an epic vacation, you can add on several days in Svalbard. Cruise or kayak among the glaciers, go sled dogging or snowmobiling, and explore the tiny town of Longyearbyen.

Earth Trekkers

Hiking to Trolltunga in 2013


Tim Rivenbark





Lofoten Islands Norway

Lofoten Islands



Hiking in the Vesteralen Islands

What do we recommend in Norway?

Skip Oslo. If you only have a little time, there are better places to visit such as Bergen, Stavanger, and Gierangerfjord. Norway has three popular hikes, all a bit on the crazy side, which makes them so appealing: Kjeragbolten, Trolltunga, and Pulpit Rock. These are bucket list items for hikers. In the wintertime, the Northern Lights can be seen from northern Norway.

You can also spend 10 days road tripping through northern Norway. Visit Tromsø and the Lofoten Islands. Senja and Vesteralen Islands are much less popular than the Lofoten Islands, but in our experience they were just as spectacular (and less crowded!!).

Svalbard makes a unique travel destination. Journey up to 78° north and beyond for an amazing arctic adventure.

Read more about Norway:

Hiking with Kids

On the hike to Trolltunga


Nepal stole our hearts. Tyler is the only one of us who did not vote for Nepal. Kind of funny, since he is the one who talks about summiting Everest someday.

Why do we love Nepal? Nepal takes you outside of your comfort zone and then rewards you for it. Kathmandu, the Everest Base Camp trek, bus rides through the countryside, eating the food…all of these seem a little terrifying at first, but then you see the beauty here.

Even now, when I look at our photos of the Himalayas, and can hardly believe that they are real. It’s hard to put into words just how magnificent these mountains truly are.

Everest Base Camp Trek

On the trek to Everest Base Camp

Kathmandu, with its dirt, potholes, noise, and congestion, has an allure to it. One of our favorite things to do in Nepal was to get lost in Kathmandu’s chaotic streets.

Why would we go back? Tim and I want to wander through the streets of Kathmandu again. And I can’t tell you how many times we have watched the movie “Everest” that was released in 2015. This movie was filmed in Kathmandu and on the trek to Everest Base Camp. Watching this movie brings back so many fond memories, memories we would like to relive again.



What do we recommend in Nepal?

Be prepared…Nepal is not for the faint of heart. It is challenging but oh, so rewarding. Kathmandu cannot be missed. Trekking in Nepal is also a worthwhile experience. Trekking options include shorter five days treks, the 11 day Everest Base Camp trek, and the 21 day trek to Annapurna Base Camp. If trekking is not your thing, take a plane flight over the Himalayas…they are absolutely amazing.

Read more about Nepal:

Nepal with Kids

Trekking to Everest Base Camp


Thailand is delicious!! Sometimes, you want to go back to a country just for the food.

But there is more to Thailand than curry and street food and pad thai. There are ancient cities to explore, modern Bangkok, tourist friendly Chiang Mai, and of course, the beaches of Thailand.

Krabi is our favorite spot in Thailand. We spent nine glorious days here, snorkeling, swimming, and exploring the islands by longtail boat. Krabi is one of the premiere spots in the world to learn how to rock climb, which we took full advantage of. From Krabi, the beautiful beaches of Phra Nang and Maya Bay are just a longtail boat ride away.

Ao Nang

Krabi, Thailand



Wat Arun, Bangkok



Sukhothai, Thailand

What do we recommend in Thailand?

For people traveling to Southeast Asia for their first time, Thailand is a great place to start. On a first visit to Thailand, most visitors go to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and the beach. Of the beaches, you can choose between Phuket (more touristy, has more of a resort feel), Krabi (a better choice for those who like adventure sports or a quieter beach destination), or Koh Samui (younger crowd, quietest of the three options).

Read more about Thailand:


Krabi, Thailand


So, Peru only got two votes. Why? Because only Tim and I have been here so far. In 2012, we left Tyler and Kara at home (sadly) and spent 10 days in Peru without them.

So, why would Tim and I want to go back? In ten days, we hiked to Machu Picchu, explored beautiful Cusco and the Sacred Valley, went rock climbing and mountain biking, and even spent several days in the Amazon. It was another epic traveling experience for the two of us.

Now we want Tyler and Kara to see Peru. Machu Picchu is magical and one of our favorite places in the world.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu


Pisac Peru

Pisac, Peru



In the Amazon

What do we recommend in Peru?

For first timers to South America, pick Peru! With only 10 days you can see Machu Picchu, explore Cusco and the Sacred Valley, and even tour the Amazon rainforest. It is a trip of a lifetime and a great introduction to South America.

Read more about Peru:

Cusco Peru



Indonesia is huge. We spent two weeks here (two weeks in Bali), and barely scraped the surface of what there is to do in this amazing country.

Seimnyak Sunset

Seminyak Beach


Ubud Monkey Forest

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Ubud

What do we recommend in Indonesia?

Sure, you can do what we did, plop yourselves down in Bali. Visit Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali, and then relax at a resort at one of Bali’s many beaches. But there is so much more you can do.

Visit the very quiet Gili Islands, not far from Bali. Search for Komodo Dragons on the island of Komodo. For adventurers, hike up Bromo, a volcano on the island of Java. Visit Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Go off the beaten track to the island of Flores (it’s gorgeous!).

Read more about Indonesia:

Rice Fields

Tegallalang Rice Terraces


Of the countries on our list, Italy is the most popular destination. For an epic vacation, Italy is hard to beat. With Italian food and wine, Renaissance art, gorgeous cities, ancient world history, and fabulous beach towns, Italy does not disappoint!!

We would go back and repeat a few of our favorite places (Tuscany, Venice, and the Dolomites) but there is still so much to explore.






What do we recommend in Italy?

Most people tour the grand circuit: Rome, Florence, and Venice. With more time, spend several days touring the small towns in Tuscany, or head north to the Dolomites. If you had to choose between the two, we would pick the Cinque Terre over the Amalfi Coast.

Read more about Italy:



You Might Also Like:


10 Countries We Would Travel to Again


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Comments 35

  1. Great post!! Italy & Fiji are worth visiting places again and again. I love to explore the world and travel thrice a year. I have added some to my travel list. I just loved your posts. Thank you for sharing such an amazing post.

    Keep posting such an informative blog with amazing content.

    Cheers !!

  2. Very interesting read on your blog about the south east asian and european parts, though you just visited a little part of Bali (need to see Amed, Sidemen, Nusa Penida, and the volcano area. As I see you love outdoors you would be amazed with the landscapes of Bromo Semeru and Komodo national parks, as well as Nubra valley in Ladakh and the Annapurna region in Nepal (also in late september to beat the crowds)

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  3. Wonderful List! Some of the great travel destination which we can visit again. I also can visit these places again and again. I have visited most of the places on your list, but some of them are left, now I will definitely visit those places. I completely agree with New Zealand and Thailand, I can visit these places as many times I get a chance. I Really loved your Blog. Thank you so much for sharing. Keep Posting.

  4. I agree that Nepal deserves many visits. The people are amazing, the scenery can’t be beat, the culture is unique. I would add Tibet to the list. The people are wonderful. The temples and monasteries are incredible. You need to be aware that Tibet is occupied by the Chinese, and you really need a guide if its your first visit.

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  5. Wonderful list! I completely agree with New Zealand…I spent a few months there back in 1996 (after a year in Japan and then a lengthy stint in SE Asia and Australia) and would love to return. Vietnam was also a favourite country of mine. As for travelling as a family, we are looking ahead to more adventures in our own country (Canada!) and to an adventure in Costa Rica next spring. And…possibly an around-the-world trip in a few years. I love following your blog…keep the stories coming!

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  6. Definitely agree with Peru and Italy.
    My must return to countries include Poland, Estonia, Turkey, Morocco, Namibia, Bolivia, Chile.
    The list gets too long. Too many places to visit and revisit.
    I love following your journey 🙂

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  7. Wow, what an inspiring story you have to share!
    This is so awesome now to live your life and know that you have done something so remarkable!
    I found your blog while researching Bryce Canyon and Escalante areas where we will be going this summer.
    We will never be brave enough to go around the world for a year but we will keep reading your stories for any future travel plans.
    Traveling with kids around the US kind of discouraged us to take them abroad, especially to cultural places like museums and churches. But when four of us went to Spain last Thanksgiving week, we were very surprised how totally engaged they were and how much they enjoyed the trip! They could make it even through churches and palaces, but sure enough their favorite activity was biking around Barcelona and taking strain rides.
    Thank you for your wonderful blog and happy travels!

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      You’re very welcome. Thank you for writing to us…we love these comments. Sounds like you will have to plan another trip to Europe with your kids! 🙂 Cheers, Julie

  8. Well,In our planet there are really beautiful countries consisting beautiful places around.I hope you guys had a lot of fun in your expeditions.I really appreciate and loved reading your blogs.I’ll surely bookmark your blogs and look forward for more interesting content.Thanks for sharing!! CHEERS

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      You’re welcome! Some of our fondest travel moments took place in Nepal. What a gorgeous country filled with friendly, welcoming people. Cheers, Julie

  9. Your photos are breathtaking and invoke a yearning to go travel. Thank you for such spectacular images!
    I’m currently planning my odyssey overseas and came upon your blog site which is a godsend because I am trying to decide between a few countries. From my research Japan seems phenomenal.
    Your family trip to Kyoto looked wonderful. And the story behind it a delight to read. Since I’m an outdoors type my aim is to see majestic vistas and hike scenic trails to get there. However, it wouldn’t be a complete experience without taking in the grandeur of Tokyo. Besides who wouldn’t want to have water shoot up into their nether region on a trip to the toilet?
    I’ve been to Ireland and England but never made it to Scotland. Reading your Isle of Skye adventures was fun and I have to say regardless of clouds, fog and rain those elements lend to a very fantastical aura in those photos! It looked epic! I’d love to go there and experience those same places. And being not far from England I could visit the Lake District in northern England. A win win.
    I forget if you guys went to Jordan but that is a place I’d like to see because I’m all about being out of my comfort zone. Petra looks so very cool. To be there in person would be awe inspiring. While Israel is only a hop and a skip away. I’m a lover of history and man is there history in those two countries.
    So, that is my dilemma if you can call it that. So here are my questions. Do you recommend taking a coach bus tour to experience the Scottish highlands and to go onto the Isle of Skye? The trip is only myself, approximately how much did you guys spend in pounds on the Skye trip? In Japan was your guys eating out more or the same as the total price of taking the subways and trains? It seems you guys used those systems often. What concerns did you have and what safety precautions did you take while in the middle east? What kind of camera did you guys shoot with including lens? What is the make and model of the drone Tyler flew? Lastly, what is the name of the little lion your daughter has with her in those photos?
    Thank you for all you do with the blog site. It is very informative ironically enough making it a little bit harder to pick my next adventure. Cheers!

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      Hello Jack. We prefer to be on our own, so we choose rental cars over bus tours. There’s more flexibility and even if you make a wrong turn or even get lost it’s just more fun. I don’t have exact prices, but on the Isle of Skye we spent roughly $400-500 USD per day, including hotel, car, and food. In Japan, we spent more on food than on transportation, simply because we only used the train a few times and the rest of the time got around by subway or by walking (which saved a lot of money).

      We have been to Jordan and Israel. We felt very safe in Jordan during the three days we were there. We didn’t take any precautions in either country. I was out on my own a lot in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and never had any issues. If you are a history lover, check out our Israel Jordan itinerary.

      Most photos on this website are taken with a Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-70 mm 2.8 lens (I recently upgraded to the Mark IV). Our drone is a Phantom 4. And Kara’s lion’s name is Simba.

      There are so many places to visit in the world…it can be difficult to decide where to go.

      Cheers, Julie

  10. Awesome blog. We’re a very similar family to you as it turns out. Two kids (boy, girl), travel bug bitten, love hiking as the best way to see a place, and to top it off, I’m an Ironman tragic to boot (8 of them) !

    If you ever find yourself in Australia again, make sure you go to The Kimberley. My favorite place on this continent. Like a much better version of Kings Canyon …

    For Fiji, Taveuni with its waterfall walks and snorkelling in the Somosomo straight (Rainbow Reef) is a vastly superior option to the Mamanuca islands. Much more “your” kind of holiday I would suggest too.

    New Zealand really shines with its multi day walks. Kepler, Routeburn, Heaphy and perhaps the best of all, the Old Ghost Road.

    We’ve got Norway, Svalbard and Iceland coming up next year so a particular thanks to you for all of the suggestions.

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      Wow, thanks for all of the suggestions! I am so jealous you are going to Svalbard…that’s a place we talked about visiting numerous times. Maybe we’ll go next year (but I say that about a lot of places…there’s just so much to see!). Cheers, Julie

  11. I love your blog… Our Norway trip was nearly identical to yours and just as fun.

    Have you considered going to Iceland and doing a camping trip with the kids next summer? I think it’s time for a new country and doing multi day hikes, I think the entire family will love it. Skip Reykjavik!

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      Hello Pratik. Yes, we talk a lot about going to Iceland. Since we are such big fans of Scotland and Norway, an Iceland adventure would be perfect for our family. Thanks for the recommendation. I am glad you had a good trip to Norway! Cheers, Julie

  12. I love your blog!!! Came across it when trying to plan our day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka, while resting from a rainy day in Kyoto, after trekking Mt Inari in the rain. Bora Bora is on the top of my bucket list, among many that are in your “to travel to again” list. You’re lucky your children are as enthusiastic as you are. ENJOY THEM! I saw numerous countries in Asia. Have you thought of going to the Philippines? It is another beautiful country with the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people unbeatable. I will definitely follow your family’s travels!

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      Hello Mhia. I hope you are having a fun time in Japan. Yes, we would love to go to the Philippines one day…we were looking into going there this winter break but Tyler and Kara do not have enough time off of school for us to travel that far. One day! Another place that Tim really hopes to visit is Palau…that also looks beautiful and he wants to swim with the jellyfish. Thanks for following! Cheers, Julie

  13. You said you would pick Cinque Terre over the Amalfi Coast. What were the differences that would influence that?

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      The Cinque Terre just seemed to have more to offer: 5 cities, a chance to go hiking (if you like that kind of thing), and the Cinque Terre is just gorgeous. You can spend a day or two exploring all five towns and watching the sunset with some of the best views of Italy. We didn’t have the best Amalfi Coast experience, trying to get around by public bus (which is so inefficient in some parts of Italy), and being super crowded in July. Both are great and you can’t go wrong with either one. We fell in love with the Cinque Terre but had a so-so experience in Amalfi. – Julie

  14. All of these places look awesome. Out of this list, I’d like to visit Fiji the most. Although my ultimate dream vacation spot is Bora Bora.

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  15. What an incredible family ! I found you guys while researching for Norway .. And I am lucky I did so !! Definitely bookmarking your blog for many interesting reads and itinerary suggestions!!

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      Hello Shilpa. Wonderful!! Feel free to email us or comment on our posts if you have any questions…we love to help! – Julie

  16. Very very interesting notes. You are lucky enough to live the moments ..I intend to give a suggestion .Have a visit to India , traverse North to extreme south … You definitely feel an evident change in whole of your travel experience and the cuisine you had ever tried.

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      Hello Dhanya. We spend five weeks in India on our around the world trip. It was definitely a life changing experience. At some point, we would like to return to India, touring Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, places we have not been to yet. Thank you for you suggestions! – Julie

  17. Thank you! This is the BEST! I’ve bookmarked your post to guide us in our future travel. We feel the same about making travel decisions — there are places we would love to return to, yet so many we still want to see. While we’ve been to Germany (and loved it), a visit during Oktoberfest is on the list within the next few years. Maybe we need to coordinate our trips, bring a Maryland flag, and set up a table! Haha.

    As always, your descriptions and photos are so much fun to read and provide great insight when planning…and dreaming. Keep on doing what you do! 🙂

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