Tag Archives: Uzbekistan

Machu Picchu, Peru

Great Inspiration for Graduation Trips

The gift we can give our graduates—and the gift they’ll give back to us

Graduation trips are among the most popular family trips we see here at WendyPerrin.com, and we agree that an academic achievement deserves to be marked with a fun, memorable (and yes, sometimes even educational) experience. To provide inspiration for your own travels with your favorite grad this year, we’ve looked back at the graduation trips arranged by our WOW List destination experts that have most delighted your fellow travelers. Here’s how to get your own WOW trip.

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Switzerland: “Our time in Interlaken included a private chocolate-making workshop and the highlight of the trip for my daughter, a hike with St. Bernard dogs…”

Travelers hiking with St. Bernards in Switzerland.

Jennifer, David, Veronica, and Reed Datwyler hiking with St. Bernards.

“My daughter recently graduated from high school. She chose a family trip to Switzerland as a celebration of her accomplishments. My husband and I, along with our 18-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son, had a ten-day trip to three distinct regions of Switzerland. This trip was expertly planned by Nina and Annina.

We flew direct from San Francisco to Zurich. The afternoon of our arrival, we toured the city of Zurich in a tuk-tuk where we were welcomed with chocolate fondue en route. The next day, we took a short train ride to the town of Appenzell, where we visited with a local bell maker who demonstrated the art of forging cow bells. My daughter even got to participate in the forging process!

From Zurich we traveled by train to Interlaken. We stayed in a beautiful wellness hotel right on the water outside of town. Our time in Interlaken included a private chocolate-making workshop and the highlight of the trip for my daughter, a hike with St. Bernard dogs.

The third stop was the Italian region of Switzerland, where we stayed in the town of Ascona. Here we rode E-bikes to a small family-run grotto where we learned to make risotto. We spent another day exploring the Bavona Valley. We enjoyed a hike through the most beautiful terrain we have ever seen. The entire trip was flawless. We will never forget this time together as a family.” —Jennifer Datwyler

Read more reviews of Switzerland trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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African safari: “My two children and I celebrated my son’s college graduation by taking a trip for the ages!”

Lynn Casper

Thomas Casper celebrated his college graduation with a safari. Here, he’s atop Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Traveler Clare Casper

“Just back from South Africa and Botswana! My two children and I celebrated my son’s college graduation by taking a trip for the ages! We worked with Christian from Julian‘s office, who put together an itinerary that included places we had not even considered. Five days in South Africa included the awe-inspiring Grootbos Nature Preserve at the bottom of the continent. We explored ancient caves, went whale watching, hiking and thoroughly enjoyed the unforgettable cuisine at Grootbos! We loved our guide Hosea who gave us such in-depth history and cultural insight on the area. It was a small gesture, but my kids really appreciated Hosea taking them into a local market in Cape Town’s Bo-Kapp neighborhood to enjoy a mid-day snack.

After a day touring and hiking on the magnificent Table Mountain, we set off to Botswana for 6 days at 3 different safari camps. Each camp was in a different ecosystem, which was something we never would have considered and were so appreciative of Christian to plan in that manner. I knew I would see the animals but did not expect to learn so much from the guides at each camp. The magnificent birds were also an unexpected surprise. The delicious food and lovely staff will never be forgotten and really made the trip our favorite so far!

Kudos to Christian for setting up this amazing experience!”—Lynn Casper

Read more reviews of South Africa and Botswana trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Paris: “Our January trip to Paris was for our daughter’s college graduation. She was interested in fashion, food, and the Louvre…”

Louvre Museum at night, Paris, France

The Louvre Museum at night, Paris. Photo: EdiNugraha/Pixabay

“Our January trip to Paris was for our daughter’s college graduation. She was interested in fashion, food, and the Louvre. Let’s start by how incredibly smooth our airport arrival was! Upon exiting the aircraft, we were whisked away by Mohammad, who led us through customs, helped us with our luggage, and delivered us to our driver. I bet we saved two hours not having to wait in the line at customs.

Jennifer, our trip planner, did a great job planning our tours and making our dining reservations! We were very impressed with each tour guide: our private half-day tour of the Louvre could not have been better! We loved our croissant-making class and our chef was fabulous. We were pleasantly surprised with our tour of the Dior museum—so unexpected and maybe one of our most favorite things. We had the museum to ourselves and our guide was fantastic! Jennifer secured a fashion expert who took us to neighborhood boutiques featuring up and coming Parisian designers, and this was a real treat! We loved meeting the shop owners, and we felt like locals shopping for the afternoon.

Each and every restaurant reservation that Jennifer procured provided the best table in the restaurant with amazing views of the Eiffel Tower. One of the restaurants surprised us with a sparkler in my daughter’s dessert, which was so fun.” —Kim Brown

Read more reviews of Paris trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Norway: “My husband and I wanted to take our four children on a graduation trip to Norway…”

Barbara Lich's son climbing in Norway's mountaineering capital of Andelsnes.

Barbara Lich’s son climbing in Norway’s mountaineering capital of Andelsnes.

Our trip (planned by Torunn and Karin) exceeded expectations! Wow! My husband and I wanted to take our four children on a graduation trip to Norway. When we first talked with Torunn, she listened to what worked for my family in previous trips, what we were looking for (an active trip to see and experience as much as possible). And she delivered!

Our children are ages 25, 22, 18 and 14. When Torunn heard that our daughter is a competitive figure skater and wanted to see sights near the 1994 Olympic venue in Lillehammer, she arranged that we would stop in Lillehammer and even set up bobsledding (!) at the Olympic Training site! That was an experience to remember.

We next enjoyed a beautiful train ride to Andelsnes! Our historic hotel was so beautiful! We felt like we were sitting in the middle of a postcard. Andelsnes is near the most gorgeous mountains and top destination for mountain climbers. Our oldest son is a climber and has earned some certifications for climbing. Karin arranged the most expert mountaineering guide with international certification and amazing demeanor for my oldest son—it was the highlight of his trip. They climbed for 12 hours and the Alpine Hike was one of the most difficult. It was an experience he will never forget… and the lovely staff at Hotel Aak held his dinner for him to enjoy when he returned at 11 pm at night!

In Bergen my daughter and I had a great morning horseback riding! with the most friendly and kind trainer. That afternoon, my husband and children took a 90-minute helicopter tour over Hardangerfjord. My family loved that helicopter experience. Sadly, it was time to depart the next morning. What a beautiful country and special family time! We really loved every minute and would recommend Torunn to everyone.”—Barbara Lich

Read more reviews of Norway trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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The Philippines: “Taking advantage of the time left before my 18-year-old daughter leaves to start college, the two of us jetted off…”

Traveler Andrea Phillips and daughter Rachel underwater, diving off Balicasag Island, Bohol, Philippines.

Andrea Phillips and daughter Rachel diving off Balicasag Island in the Philippines. Photo: Sander

“Taking advantage of the time left before my 18-year-old daughter leaves to start college, the two of us jetted off on a 10-day scuba diving trip to the Philippines. After in-depth planning with Andrea, an expert on unique travel in Asia, we chose the Dauin coast and Panglao Island, off Bohol, for our trip, as this was an excellent time to visit for great weather and diving conditions. Our goals were simple: level up our scuba certifications, immerse ourselves in welcoming cultures, and, finally, cross off swimming with whale sharks from our bucket list!

Andrea and his team planned it perfectly, starting with a special airport welcome that whisked us from the arrival gate and quickly through a chaotic Manila airport. Our first stop was Atmosphere Resort, where my daughter earned her Advanced Open Water Diver certification under the guidance of their skilled dive masters. We explored local dive spots and Apo Island, a beautiful marine reserve. The relaxing resort was wonderful after diving, with its refreshing pools, delicious food, a sanctuary spa, all while being cared for as a VIP guest by the warm and friendly Filipino staff. It all brought back memories of doing my own AOW certification in Asia 25 years ago.

Moving on to Amorita Resort, we spent our days diving at Balicasag & Pamilacan Islands with another great dive team recommended by Andrea and earned our Enriched Air Diver certifications. Andrea also surprised us by sending an underwater photographer along on our first dive to capture a forever moment on our mother-daughter adventure under the sea. Saving one of the best days for last, our Bohol countryside tour was incredible, from swimming with a group of large whale sharks to cruising on a private Lomboc River boat with live music, hanging out with Tarsier and macaque monkeys, admiring the famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol and even enjoying coconut wine at a local’s home. It was a perfect conclusion to our unforgettable journey in the Philippines.

This trip was tailored-made for our needs, combining the best dive resort locations for our goals, avoiding crowded tourist spots for the whale shark encounter, and adding in authentic cultural stops and touches to make each day unforgettable, including celebrating my birthday. Pushing ourselves to try somewhere new, and doing it together, made it even more thrilling.” —Andrea Phillips

Read more reviews of the Philippines trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Switzerland: “We booked a trip with our 18- and 21-year-old children to celebrate graduation and be outdoors as much as possible…”

Andy Shafran

Andy Shafran and family spelling out OHIO on top of Switzerland’s Mt. Jungfrau during their graduation trip.

“Switzerland was a beautiful country and our active hiking, kayaking, paragliding trip was exactly what we were looking for. We booked a trip with our 18- and 21-year-old children to celebrate graduation and be outdoors as much as possible. Nina and her staff helped us build an itinerary that maximized the experiences and minimized the hassle and travel time. We spent two days in Zurich/Rhine Falls, three days in Grindelwald, and three days in Lucerne. There is so much to do that we felt we could have stayed an extra week just in these three locations.

Our major interest was hiking, and we had a guided tour up Mt. Grindelwald first, which included a gondola ride up and a Trottibike ride down (highly, highly recommended). Then we took the train to the Jungfrau and even though it was pricey for that part of the trip, well worth it for the views and incredible Alpine experience. Thumbs up: Rhine Falls, Trümmelbach Falls, Aare Gorge hike, Lake Brienz kayak trip, and our full-day peak-to-peak hike on Mt. Rigi where we ate lunch at Berghaus Unterstetten on the side of the mountain with incredible views and good food.

All three hotels we stayed in were unique, terrific locations, and have fun quirks, such as the private funicular car that takes you up from Lake Lucerne to the Art Deco Hotel Montana…” —Andy Shafran

Read more reviews of Switzerland trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Uzbekistan: “My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia…”

Poi Kalon Mosque and Minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Poi Kalon Mosque and Minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo: Shutterstock

“My son was graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School with a degree in public policy, and his interest is Central Asia, so as a graduation present we took him to Uzbekistan. Not only would I recommend Uzbekistan as a travel destination, but I would highly recommend Zulya to anyone planning a trip there. She arranged for a wonderful guide to accompany us throughout the country; our guide stayed with us day and night, shared meals and her culture, and helped us navigate a very foreign language. Zulya even arranged for us to have lunch with her family in Bukhara. It was amazing. Her mother taught my son how to make Plov. The lunch was a true feast, with about 20 family members. After lunch we all got up and danced together. It was an experience my wife, son, daughter-in-law, and I will cherish forever.” —Ron Klausner

Read more reviews of Uzbekistan trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

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Portugal: “It was a special trip to celebrate our son’s graduation from college…”

The river Guadiana and the village of Mertola. Alentejo Region. Portugal

The village of Mertola in Portugal’s Alentejo region. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was our first trip using a recommended Wendy Perrin trip planner. We travelled to Portugal March 8th—March 15th, 2024. It was a special trip to celebrate our son’s graduation from college. Our trip was planned by Goncalo and Joanna.  WOW!  What an amazing trip they planned for us. The accommodations that they chose for us were fantastic! Very unique and customer oriented. The destinations and route they planned—from Lisbon to the Alentejo region and the West Region—were perfect. Our driver, Sandru, was amazing and he made sure everything was taken care of when we reached our destinations. (He also knew our itinerary and was always able to answer questions.) Sandru went above and beyond to make our trip very special.

We had a wonderful cooking class and gastronomic tour with Lara in Lisbon and even attended a Benefica Football game. In the Alentejo region we experienced an outstanding lunch with a wine pairing, horseback ride, cork factory and hikes. In the West Region, a full day tour which included Obidos, Nazre, and Alcobaca. The details were taken care of for us, from tours to restaurant reservations, it was the best trip I have ever been on. I can’t wait to plan our next trip with a Wendy Perrin recommended trip planner.” —Lori Bentley

Read more reviews of Portugal trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Scandinavia: “Will is graduating from high school this spring, and so we let him choose the destination for a family vacation…”

Kate Ogg and son Will see the northern lights from the driveway of their lodge in Alta.

Kate and Will Ogg view the northern lights from their lodge in Alta, Norway. Photo: Traveler Ryan Ogg

“My husband, Ryan Ogg and I (Kate Ogg), and our three children, Will (17), Charlotte (15), and Wyatt (12), went to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Oslo and Alta, Norway, from December 28 through January 6. Will is graduating from high school this spring, and so we let him choose the destination for a family vacation this year. He wanted to go someplace cold, snowy and dark, where we could do some fun outdoor adventures, and hopefully see the Northern Lights (which we had tried and failed to do in Iceland a couple of years ago).

It was a fantastic trip. Copenhagen was still pretty magical the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and we found some good restaurants despite a few of the ones we had hoped for being closed. We got to see the Christmas lights in Tivoli Gardens and took a ride on a wild roller coaster, wandered with some hot drinks, shopped and just enjoyed the festive vibe. The next day we started the day with a boat ride through the harbor and some of the bigger canals, which gave us a sense of the city’s geography as well as a lot of the architecture.

Oslo was all closed while we were there because it was both Sunday and New Year’s Eve, but a walk through the sculpture garden, to the Fram museum to see a polar expedition ship, and a chance to see the Nobel buildings and then along the harbor was a nice way to spend the day before a fancy dinner at our hotel (The Thief) and a midnight toast on the roof. On New Year’s morning in a snowstorm, we made it to Oslo airport and up to dark Alta. The Sorrisniva Hotel was fully booked by the time we planned our trip (August), so we stayed in a little fishing lodge in the woods, down the driveway from Tristin and Trine Restaurant and past some sled dogs.

It was absolutely charming, and best of all, the very first night as we walked out of our lodge to dinner, the sky lit up with northern lights that continued to brighten and dance until we gave up and went to bed. I credit our very dark spot in the woods for the fantastic viewing. Our adventures in snowmobiling, reindeer sledding, snowshoeing, and king crab fishing all showed us different parts of the landscape and culture in northern Norway, and it was just…magical. We truly loved it.” —Kate Ogg

Read more reviews of Norway trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Romania: “Since the trip was last-minute (before my daughter began her new career as a RN), and it was the height of tourist season, we wanted to pick a destination that was less traveled…”

Legendary Bran (Dracula) historical castle of Transylvania, Brasov region, Romania, Eastern Europe

Bran Castle (a.k.a. “Dracula’s Castle”) in Transylvania, Romania. Photo: Shutterstock

“I traveled to Romania on a last-minute graduation trip with my daughter, Amelia, in August 2023. We have done numerous trips with Wendy’s WOW List agents before and knew that finding an agent through Wendy was the only way to go. Even the destination of our trip was inspired by articles written by Wendy.

Since the trip was last-minute (before my daughter began her new career as a RN), and it was the height of tourist season, we wanted to pick a destination that was less traveled. We chose Romania, and Wendy matched us up with Raluca and Ioana. Important to us was connecting with the local people and understanding the country.

Raluca and Ioana set us up with a local guide, Tavi, whose personality matched well with us, which was a good thing since we drove around Romania for 10 days with him. We started in Bucharest, which was great for my daughter to learn what can happen to a country if you vote in a narcissist authoritarian as a leader and to understand what life was like under the latter parts of communist ruling. We had a university history professor give us a tour of an apartment frozen in time from the 1980s under communist rule. We enjoyed wonderful restaurants, an amazing art exhibit, and historical sites in the city.

In Transylvania we enjoyed visiting the Cris Bethlen Castle. It was particularly fun for us since one of our favorite horror movies, The Nun, was shot there. A local man who lives in town jumped in and gave us a detailed tour, including side stories on the actors during the filming. We went on an amazing mountain bike ride (about 20 miles) primarily in the hills and forests with some fun single track as well. The mountain bike guide had helped to build the trails, which will eventually connect a large portion of Transylvania for mountain bike tours.

We saw wonderful fortressed churches and cities throughout our trip, including the beautiful Sighisoara. Always enjoying them without crowds and with a random local who had the keys to let us in the church or describe some interesting tidbit of history through our guide as the interpreter.

We met a local weaver whose family had been doing traditional weaving for generations and who rescued a loom headed for destruction. We enjoyed a visit with a local herbalist whose herb garden was expansive and whose knowledge of remedies was sought out throughout the area. Here we enjoyed a dinner in her home, again understanding her story and her life and sharing ours. We enjoyed seeing the UNESCO site Viscri, supported by King Charles, and enjoyed the views from the fortressed church over the rolling hills.

We moved on to Brasov. Here we had a private tour of Bran Castle and had the opportunity to climb into the highest turret to view the mountain pass that the lookouts would use in centuries past. When we expressed interest in a hike, Tavi took us up a mountainside where he had helped a friend build a cabin. We met one of his friends, a local shepherd, and discussed bears threatening his flock.

Bottom line our visit was filled with unique experiences where we connected with the people of Romania and attempted to understand their stories. Romania is a beautiful, relatively undiscovered country with rich medieval history and more recent history of the rise and fall of communism. It is not as restored as other places in Western Europe, but its beauty, its history, and its people are wonderful to experience. The smaller crowds allow for a much more enjoyable visit than other European countries.”—Theresa Boone

Read more reviews of Romania trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Japan: “I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation…”

Kyoto, Japan gardens at Heian Shrine in the spring season. - Image

Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan, during cherry blossom season. Photo: Shutterstock

“I wanted to take my youngest daughter to Japan to celebrate her high school graduation. Scott planned a fabulous and varied itinerary, and our guides were fantastic: They were very flexible to accommodate our interests and energy levels and very understanding of how a teenager would like to travel.

Scott arranged several special experiences based on the relationships he has formed. We had a cooking lesson with an amazing woman in her home, a fascinating dinner at a club with geishas, and a calligraphy lesson with an excellent teacher. We both loved Studio Ghibli and the Monkey Park.

Scott’s choice of hotels was wonderful. We slept so well every night, particularly at our ryokan. The Mandarin Oriental serves a fantastic breakfast buffet. The Ritz-Carlton was very luxurious (and yes—we did see Leonardo Di Caprio there). We were particularly fortunate that the cherry blossoms came out when we got there and we got to experience the beauty of the season. Throughout the trip, I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy everything because of Scott’s careful planning and knowledge of Japan. I would absolutely use him again and recommend him. I have been a fan of Wendy’s since her Condé Nast days. This is now my second special trip with her experts, and I plan on more. The level of professionalism is exceptional.” —Patricia Klein

Read more reviews of Japan trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

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Austria: “The official occasion for the trip was my son’s graduation from high school and sending him off to music school…”

Mirabell Gardens with the old historic Fortress Hohensalzburg in the background in Salzburg, Austria.

Salzburg, Austria, is Mozart’s birthplace and home to the Salzburg Music Festival. Photo: Shutterstock

“We just returned from a 14-day family trip in Austria planned by Gwen. I can only describe the experience as life-affirming. The official occasion for the trip was my son’s graduation from high school and sending him off to music school in the fall, so we had a heavy musical focus, but there was truly something for everyone in the family. We toured palaces and cathedrals in Vienna, experienced local food, watched the Lipizzaner stallions perform and had a private tour of the stables.

We moved on to the Wachau Valley for wine tasting and breathtaking Danube scenery, then visited the abbeys of Melk and Stift-Admont. In Salzburg, we soaked up the music festival, saw the fortress and countless Sound of Music film locations, attended a Mozart opera, a Vienna Philharmonic concert, and a world-class string quartet. We learned to make apple strudel and Salzburg Nockerl, and visited the charming lake district outside Salzburg. We rounded out our trip with several days in Innsbruck and a final train ride to Munich, where we celebrated my son’s birthday at a beer hall and caught our flight home.

Gwen was helpful and responsive and understood my family’s diverse needs. She steered us away from tourist traps and embraced our interest in some off-the-beaten-path locations. She suggested lovely boutique hotel experiences and guides with extraordinary depth of knowledge of their cities.” —Katherine Stadler

Read more reviews of Austria trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

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Italy: “Our eight-day food tour was requested by our 21-year-old son who was graduating from university…”

Bologna, Italy Food store food market showcase full of food in Bologna city in Italy

Bologna’s markets are a great place to learn about the renowned foods of the region. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our eight-day food tour of Italy was requested by our 21-year-old son, who was graduating from university. Milan was the starting point, next was Bologna to learn about the renowned foods of the region, and then a repeat visit to Florence—and we absolutely loved everything Maria planned. The drivers, guides, food tours, wine tasting, cooking class were all impeccable. In Milan, when our guide found out our son loved fashion, she made a call to a fashion designer, and we were able to meet with the designer. We spent an hour-plus speaking with him, trying on his designs, and buying some of his pieces.

In Bologna our guide took us on a delicious food tasting that culminated in copious amounts of prosciutto, hams, cheeses, bread, balsamic vinegar, wine. Our all-day food tour through Parma and Emilia-Romagna was incredible, as was the private wine tasting where we sat in the cellar with the vineyard owner for more than two hours, tasting food and wine pairings. The vineyard owner then asked our driver to detour us through the medieval village of Fontanellato, to view the castle and moat and to indulge in gelato.” —Deb Lurie

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

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Western Canada: “We recently traveled to British Columbia to celebrate our son’s high school graduation…”

Turquoise Wedgemount Lake and wild alpine flowers, Whistler, British Columbia Canada

Whistler, British Columbia, is a mecca for sporty travelers. Photo: Shutterstock

“We recently traveled to British Columbia to celebrate our son’s high school graduation. On Wendy Perrin’s recommendation, we contacted Sheri, who suggested that, given our time constraints, we limit our visit to Whistler and Tofino. That proved to be an excellent recommendation which allowed us to enjoy our vacation without being rushed. Our son wanted to mountain bike on Whistler/Blackcomb and truly enjoyed it.

Sheri suggested other activities which kept the rest of us active while our son spent the day on the mountain. Her recommendation that we stay at the Four Seasons Whistler was great. It’s a beautiful hotel with great staff and a wonderful breakfast. We enjoyed our time in Tofino as well; Sheri’s recommendations for lodging, food, and activities were perfect for us.” —John Masko

Read more reviews of British Columbia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

START A TRIP TO BRITISH COLUMBIA

Peru: “This was a special trip to Peru for my niece just graduating from high school. She is about to study marine biology in college…”

Aerial view of Amazon Rainforest, near Iquitos in Peru.

The Peruvian Amazon is a great place to learn about river wildlife. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was a special trip to Peru for my niece just graduating from high school. She is about to study marine biology in college, so Marisol steered us toward the right Amazon basin area we hadn’t even considered. My husband, niece, and I just returned yesterday from Peru and wanted to send a HUGE GRACIAS to Marisol and her crew for making this trip one of a lifetime! There’s no way I ever could have constructed such a wonderful journey on my own. For sure, it was packed, but we came back feeling we’d seen such a diversity in Peru.

It was a perfect balance of wildlife, culture, adventure and a bit of relaxation. And although the weather was terrible during our one-day Inca Trail hike, with rain and clouds obscuring Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, we still wouldn’t change a thing. I will of course recommend and tell everyone I know to use Marisol—and to once again trust a Wendy Perrin specialist. Over the years, I have used and vetted many of Wendy’s travel specialists—and, no doubt, Marisol and her team are top of the list.” —Jon Paul Buchmeyer

Read more reviews of Peru trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below. 

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Uzbekistan Khiva wedding couple in traditional costume

What Made Uzbekistan Special

Note from Wendy:  Uzbekistan was a hard sell at first.  For seven years Zulya Rajabova, the Uzbekistan native who is the Silk Road trip-planning specialist on my WOW List, had been trying to show me her homeland. She was excited to introduce my teenagers to her cadre of youth ambassadors and teenaged guides-in-training back in Bukhara.  Finally, my family of four managed to get there—and it was the last trip we made together before the pandemic hit.  In the months of being homebound that followed, stuck around our kitchen table, we’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing about our exotic adventure. My photojournalist husband, Tim Baker, decided to write it all down. Here’s Tim, along with a few of the thousands of photos he shot: 

When people ask me my favorite place to travel to, I often quote travel writer and friend Bob Payne: “Someplace I haven’t been before.”  So when Wendy said we were going to Uzbekistan, I was thrilled.  I knew nothing about Uzbekistan, other than it was on the Silk Road and, along with a handful of other ‘stans, a former member of the USSR.

As I often do, I purposely avoided learning more about the country until we got there. Arriving with a blank slate is my own personal protest against all our modern travel information sources. You can learn so much about a place in advance, right down to the view you’ll have out of your room in your hotel, but all that info deprives me of the sense of adventure I love and actively seek. Uzbekistan: Here was a clean slate. What is there to see? What are the people like? What do they eat? What are the flora and fauna? What’s the weather like? How will Americans be treated?

What we found were warm and welcoming people, a fascinating culture, world-class historic sights, simple yet delicious food, and very, very few other foreign travelers.

If you are looking to sit poolside at a five-star resort and have umbrella drinks brought to you, Uzbekistan may not be for you. But if you are willing to endure a handful of bumpy roads and occasionally deal with Soviet-era logic and an early-stage tourist infrastructure, you will be rewarded with an unforgettable adventure. We certainly were.

What made it so special for us? The natural warmth of the people, for starters. We never had any reason to feel, anywhere, that we weren’t entirely welcome. In fact, we were invited into people’s homes and to family parties and celebrations. Our son Doug said we got a “firsthand look at the true culture” of the country. Our boys still keep in touch (through social media) with some of the young friends they made there.

A huge part of the education we got from the Uzbek people was learning firsthand the history of the Silk Road, the millennia-old overland connectors between Asia and the Mediterranean. The Uzbek people are rightfully proud of their history joining East and West.

While we had a number of meals in the finer restaurants, our favorite dishes were found at the simpler local bistros. Uzbek food—the quality of the ingredients and produce—was similar to what I remember from my childhood growing up on our family farm in northern California’s Sonoma County: Carrots tasted like the ones we grew on our farm, and the barbecued lamb chops were every bit as good as Mom’s!  The watermelons and cantaloupes were the sweetest and juiciest I’ve ever tasted. The biggest strawberries were only the size of quarters but exploded with flavor. The round national bread was among our favorite breads anywhere, especially when we got it right out of the oven in the markets. Which we often did, as nearly every town we visited had a market.

You might get a little “plov” weary. Plov is similar to rice pilaf and usually made in huge three- to six-foot diameter pans daily. Uzbeks put great pride in their plov. It varies slightly from region to region, with each region claiming that theirs is the best. And they are out to prove it, by making sure you get a plate full at almost every meal. The country’s nascent wine industry has nowhere to go but up.

One of our most adventurous experiences was spending the night in a yurt on the edge of the steppes next to the ruins of a centuries-old mud fort along the Silk Road. The yurt experience was questionable in terms of modern creature comforts, with blowing sand everywhere, but we all agreed that it was one of our most memorable nights in all of our travels. Other favorite places we stayed were a former caravanserai where long-ago merchants from the Silk Road slept and traded, and a centuries-old former madrassa, a school for the study of Islam.

As a photographer, I found the whole country rich in subjects to shoot, from the colorful festivals to the many fine examples of Islamic architecture. Unlike in many countries, the people in Uzbekistan actually liked having their picture taken. The lack of tourist infrastructure works to a photographer’s advantage too: Historic sights and landmarks had few, if any, signs or parking lots to shoot around or places you could not access for the best angles.

Would I go back?  You bet.  Tomorrow!  Before you and everyone else gets there.

Uzbekistan old woman smiling with gold teeth

I was rarely turned down when I asked if I could take a photo. Gold teeth are something of a fashion statement.

 

Uzbekistan military band dancing

Part of a military band in town for a local festival. We were encouraged to dance with the locals wherever we went.

 

Uzbekistan local family birthday party

A family invited us to a birthday party for a 63-year-old woman. 63 is called “Prophet Age,” since the Prophet Muhammad was 63 when he died. The family and friends invited to the party each took turns presenting a scarf to her and wrapping it around her head, on top of the other scarves. By the end of the party she probably had 30 scarves on her head, in a room that was hot and humid to begin with it.

 

Uzbekistan men praying Bolo Hauz mosque in Bukhara

Men pray during Friday services at the Bolo Hauz mosque in Bukhara. Uzbeks pray with their hands held open.

 

Uzbekistan Rabbi Abram Ishakov smiling

Interlacing his fingers to show unity between the overwhelming majority Muslim and miniscule Jewish communities, Rabbi Abram Ishakov of the oldest synagogue in Bukhara welcomes visitors. Once a thriving Jewish community, it’s estimated that only about 150 Jews still live in the town.

 

Teenage boy helping young Uzbeki boy with homework in clothing shop

Son Doug has a shirt custom-made and helps the shopkeeper’s boy with his homework while he waits.

 

View from airplane flying from Tashkent to Urgench Uzbekistan over desert

Flying from Tashkent to Urgench, the desert below resembled the skin of a cantaloupe. But along the banks of rivers and Soviet-era canals, the view was of lush, green farming areas.

 

Uzbekistan Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum

The 600-year-old Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum, the burial site of the country’s founding hero, Timur, who dominated central Asia in the late 1300s.

 

Uzbekistan Tilya-Kori Madrasa ceiling

The ceiling of the Tilya-Kori Madrasa in the Registan in Samarkand. Every ceiling of every mosque we visited had some special feature. I could do a photo essay of just ceilings.

 

minaret inside the city walls of Khiva at the Islam-Khodja complex Uzbekistan

The minaret inside the city walls of Khiva at the Islam-Khodja complex. Climb the circular stairway to the top of the 148-foot minaret if you are fit, unweighted by backpacks, and comfortable in tight, steep spaces where people squeeze past you on their way back down. You’ll be rewarded with a nice view of the city and its walls.

 

Uzbekistan Tashkent market

The main hall at the market in Tashkent. The mezzanine is a great vantage point for taking in the commerce below.

 

baker baking bread in oven in Uzbekistan

“Bread is Life” is a saying we heard many times on our trip. Get caught wasting even crumbs and you could get scolded by a local. The bread was best right out of the oven!

 

melon stack at Khiva melon festival Uzbekistan

We were lucky enough to be in Khiva for their melon festival. Being a foreigner at a festival had its advantages, as the local melon producers—proud of their work—offered us samples of their best.

 

beautiful fruit carving at Uzbekistan Khiva melon festival

A local chef shows off his carving skills at the festival. I have never tasted better melons, nor have I ever seen so many, in my life.

 

aerial photo of food at a familys table for a party in Uzbekistan

The spread at a family party we were invited to. Simple, fresh, and tasty.

 

Uzbekistan Men cook a truck tire sized pan of plov over a fire pit

Men cook a truck-tire-sized pan of plov over a fire pit made expressly for the dish.

 

camel stealing a pumpkin at a yurt camp in Uzbekistan

The manager of our yurt campground isn’t pleased that a free roaming camel has stolen part of tonight’s dinner off the wall to the kitchen. She got the pumpkin back after a couple of slaps with a dish towel.

 

tourists and locals dancing around a campfire at a yurt camp in Uzbekistan

Evening music and dancing around the fire at our yurt campground. Uzbeks love to dance.

 

two teenage tourist boys resting inside a yurt at a yurt camp in Uzbekistan

It was stuffy inside our yurt. But if you opened the flaps to get a little fresh air, you risked getting desert sand blown into your room and all over your belongings. Don’t ask how I know this.

 

Ayaz Kala fortress in the desert in Uzbekistan

Ayaz Kala, in the Karakalpakstan autonomous region, dates back to the 4th century BCE. The mud-built fortress on the Silk Road was just a hike up from our yurt lodge experience. Tourists can get a totally organic run of the fortress. The interior is almost seven acres. But not much to see other than a few walls and arches.

 

Toprak Kala palace ruins Uzbekistan

Toprak Kala, a fortified palace from the 1st or 2nd centuries, is visible from Ayaz Kala on a clear day.  It’s another example of the lack of tourist infrastructure. You get a truer sense of adventure, but if you don’t have a knowledgeable guide, you will be left with lots of questions. Some of which I was able to answer once I got home.

 

 farmer brings lively bull to a market in Uzbekistan

A farmer brings his spritely young bull to the early morning market. The market begins at 5:00 am. Being from a farm myself, I’m interested in markets and will set it up with a guide several days in advance.

 

Local Uzbek tourists pose in front of the Registan in Samarkand Uzbekistan

Most of the tourists we encountered were Uzbeks visiting from other regions of the country. Here, a group poses in front of the Registan in Samarkand.

 

The Registan in Samarkand Uzbekistan lit up in blue green and white for a music festival

One evening at the Registan, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a dress rehearsal for the opening of an international music festival. We were treated to live music, hundreds of costumed dancers, and a colorful light show on the 400- to 600-year-old structures. During the finale, the band played, and dancers performed the Uzbekistan national anthem. The buildings of the Registan were lit to represent the nation’s flag.

Transparency disclosure:  Most of our travel arrangements on the ground in Uzbekistan were complimentary, thanks to Zulya Rajabova’s deep connections there and the Uzbek people’s culture of hospitality. Tim paid Zulya back in photos!  Lest you think his reportage is biased, you can read your fellow paying travelers’ reviews of Zulya’s trips here.

Giant dancing bears delighted young and old.

Bring Your Dancing Shoes to Uzbekistan. You’ll Need Them. We Did.

The ballroom of the “wedding palace” could hold its own against any European palace.
Our guide called this a “wedding palace.”
Men sat at tables on one side of the room, women on the other side.
Each table had its own banquet.
Wendy and a new friend toast each other.
Our boys try a shot of brandy.
Our boys try a shot of brandy.
Charlie on the dance floor.
Charlie on the dance floor.
Giant dancing bears delighted young and old.
Giant dancing bears delighted young and old.
The polar bear leaves the dance floor.
Unibrows are considered a positive fashion statement in Uzbekistan.
Goodbye hugs for the three celebrants.
At the Registan in Samarkand, wedding couples pose for photos.
A couple in traditional wedding garb at the Registan
Wedding parties are a common sight in Uzbekistan.

 

It was one of the craziest hours of my life.  An hour in which I dined, danced, and drank with strangers, superheroes, and a pair of 10-foot bears. It was totally unplanned. Yet, somehow, Uzbekistan had prepared us for it.

It started simply enough: Walking with Wendy and the boys from dinner back to our hotel in Samarkand, we passed a large building that looked like a cross between The White House and a university library. A crowd of men loitered outside, and loud party music came from inside.

Earlier in the day we had been told it was a wedding hall. Since weddings happen every day of the week in Uzbekistan, we had seen—at every monument and national shrine we’d visited—numerous brides, grooms, and wedding parties posing for photos. At the Registan alone, we’d seen five bridal parties, with the brides in floor-length, white, poofy, western-style wedding gowns and silver tiaras. The grooms wore simple, classic dark suits, white shirts, and black ties.

As we passed the wedding hall, some of the men out front beckoned us inside. Since the boys and I were extremely underdressed for a wedding reception—we were in shorts and T-shirts—we quickly agreed that Wendy should go in alone to squeeze off a few photos for her stories and then report back to us. Next thing I knew, we were all being ushered inside by several men. I wasn’t afraid because I had come to learn that Uzbeks are some of the most hospitable people on the planet. In our two weeks in the country, we had already been invited into numerous private houses and parties. In fact, the “prophet age” party for a 63-year-old woman in Khiva was a close second for the craziest hour of my life. But that’s another article….

The scene inside the wedding hall was like nothing I had ever seen. The ballroom was the size of a high school gym and as elaborate as any ballroom in any western palace. There was gold everywhere, a giant chandelier above the dance floor, twin curved staircases, and a band playing between them. It was out of a fairy tale. Cinderella would have been right at home—and Disney would have been hard pressed to make it look more opulent.

The dance floor was about the size of half a basketball court and was filled with kids and women, all dressed in their finest. The men, by contrast, were seated and casually dressed. The band played the high-energy, never-stopping music that we’d heard throughout our trip. Above the band, a giant TV screen showed live video of the party fed from multiple cameras.

On each side of the floor were 20 tables, each seating 14 people. Women sat on one side of the floor, men on the other. It wasn’t clear whether this was official policy or just basic self-selection. Each table was heaving with platters of food; on the men’s tables were bottles of both clear and dark brown liquor.

The only thing missing was a bride and groom. I thought maybe they were in another part of the hall or off signing documents.

As I was shooting photos, I got dragged onto the dance floor. That is a very normal thing in Uzbekistan. Dancing is a huge part of Uzbek culture. My advice to anybody going to Uzbekistan is to pack your dancing shoes. We were invited to dance almost daily, either at some sort of celebration or just because music was playing.

From the dance floor, I could see my two teenaged sons being handed shot glasses of clear liquid and toasting a group of men. They looked at me for approval. I grimaced and shrugged and thought, it’s cultural?!?

It’s rare when I get up and dance at any function, and—yes, I’ll admit —alcohol may have played a small part in my dancing at this one. While I turned down dozens of offers of vodka shots from party guests wanting to toast international friendship between our countries, I did drink my share.  Enough that I flat-out don’t remember the party host handing me the microphone and asking me to give a speech. Which apparently contained my views on world peace through travel and a tribute to the bride’s and groom’s health and future. Fortunately, only a handful of the guests spoke English.

The dance floor was packed with women and kids and, while I was doing my best to dance in flip-flops and with two large cameras hanging off me, a woman danced up next to me and gave me a 500 Uzbek som note (worth about 50 US cents). Not sure why? I figured I’d dropped it and she’d picked it up and returned it. Turns out, if you like how someone dances, you give them money.

Also on the dance floor was an attractive woman with a fist full of 500 som notes and a couple of men in Power Ranger costumes encouraging the kids to dance. Then entered a pair of 10-foot-tall dancing bears (actually people in costumes); they whirled so fast that their moves were dizzying.

Then a woman who lives in Brooklyn half the year and in Uzbekistan the other half approached and, yelling over the loud music, introduced herself. I asked her where the bride and groom were. She explained that it wasn’t a wedding reception. It was a circumcision party for three young boys. Her son was one of them. Well, that explained the Power Rangers and the dancing bears.

Wait—what?  A circumcision party?!  Yes, it was a party to celebrate the fact that three little boys had been snipped. Whether they’d been circumcised years ago at birth, or yesterday, we never found out. But, according to their custom, this party needs to be held before their seventh birthdays.

After an hour of drinking and dancing, we gave the three boys goodbye hugs, thanked our hosts profusely, and stumbled back to our hotel. It was one of those surreal and totally unexpected travel experiences, yet a couple of weeks of Uzbek hospitality had prepared us for it well.

If you too are looking for an adventure packed with Uzbek hospitality, our trip was arranged by Zulya Rajabova, a native of Uzbekistan who is Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for the Silk Road. 

Transparency disclosure:  While my family paid for our airfare to Uzbekistan, most of our travel arrangements on the ground once we arrived were complimentary, thanks to Zulya Rajabova’s connections and the Uzbek people’s culture of hospitality.  Read paying travelers’ reviews of Zulya’s trips here.

 

american tourists posing with dancers in traditional blue and white dress in Uzbekistan

Photos From Wendy’s Family Trip to the Silk Road

american tourists posing with dancers in traditional blue and white dress in Uzbekistan

We met this teen dance troupe in Khiva, where they were competing with young performers from other parts of Uzbekistan as part of the annual Melon Festival.

 

I’m just back from a trip to Central Asia that was packed with UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we had almost to ourselves and neighborhoods so unchanged for centuries—so relatively undeveloped for tourists—that it felt like we had traveled back in time.  The highlights of our Silk Road adventure were Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand—legendary cities that have been a crossroads of cultures for 2,500 years and today belong to the 28-year-old country of Uzbekistan.

The Uzbek people have a strong innate tradition of hospitality toward guests and see so few foreign visitors that, we found, travelers are a curiosity who are welcomed enthusiastically. Most of the tourists in Uzbekistan are from France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Japan, and South Korea, and the few visiting Americans tend to be on group tours, so the locals were especially thrilled to meet Americans (us) who were not in a group and on whom they could practice their English.  We were able to enjoy a variety of spontaneous surprises and fascinating encounters, simply because we were American.


I shot this video with my iPhone at a dress rehearsal for the International Music Festival that is taking place in the magnificent Registan Square in Samarkand, August 25 – 30, 2019.

As an example, one evening when we were people-watching outside the Registan in Samarkand, we and other foreigners standing there were suddenly invited into a special seating area inside the Registan to watch a dress rehearsal for this week’s International Music Festival (see video above).   On another evening, also in Samarkand, we were walking home from dinner and passed by a reception hall with a party going on; some partygoers spotted us and invited us inside, where we were wined and dined and treated as honored guests, just because we were Americans in their country.  Below you’ll find photos and videos of these highlights and more, taken from my Instagram feed.  Be sure to click on the audio icon in the videos, so that you hear the music we did!

Anyone who thinks Uzbekistan might not be safe for travelers or friendly toward Americans simply hasn’t been there and experienced it for themselves.  Our trip was arranged by the Silk Road travel specialist on my WOW List, Zulya Rajabova. Zulya grew up in Uzbekistan and worked as an interpreter and guide there for visiting heads of state before starting her U.S.-based travel company.  If you would like a trip like mine, I recommend reaching out to her via this questionnaire, so that she knows I sent you and you’re recognized as a VIP  traveler, and so that I can follow your trip-planning process and advise you along the way.

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Wendy family dinner Bukhara old town square Uzbekistan

This is our favorite spot in the ancient Silk Road city of Bukhara. Lyabi Hauz is the Old Town’s main square, built in 1620 around a pond lined with mulberry trees. It’s such a lively, peaceful, joyful, thoroughly local scene.

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Transparency disclosure:  While my family paid for our airfare to Uzbekistan, most of our travel arrangements on the ground once we arrived were complimentary, thanks to Zulya Rajabova’s connections there.  In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on her part, nor was anything promised on mine. Zulya had been trying to show me her homeland for seven years, and I finally said yes!   Read your fellow paying travelers’ reviews of Zulya’s trips here.

Uzbekistan new years performance

Uzbekistan Is the Family Vacation Idea You’ve Been Missing

We’re guessing that Uzbekistan isn’t on many families’ travel radar. It wasn’t on ours—until Trusted Travel Expert Zulya Rajabova gave us five reasons why it should be:

It’s the land of famous explorers and conquerors. Have your children been learning about Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, or Marco Polo? A trading crossroads for millennia, Uzbekistan is rife with history just ready to be brought to life: You can try on costumes from the time of Tamerlane, or ride camels into the desert as the explorers would have done, learning how to make fire and sleeping in a yurt.

You can make art with local craftsmen. Participate with your kids in a hands-on tutorial in ceramics, carpet weaving, calligraphy, embroidery, or woodcarving. And since an entire Uzbekistani family usually practices the same craft, the artisan’s kids will likely work alongside you (if the tutorial is arranged outside of school hours).

You can have a kid as your local guide. Zulya runs a Young Ambassadors program, through which she trains Uzbekistanis from 7 to 17 years old to guide travelers (always with a professional adult guide accompanying as well). In addition to showing you around the city of Bukhara, the local kids will take your family to their school, share a game of soccer, maybe even invite you into their home for plov, a savory, slow-cooked medley of rice, lamb, and vegetable—and the national dish of Uzbekistan—and some sweet halva, a sesame-based dessert.

Your child will gain a greater appreciation of family. Family is strong in the Stans. In Uzbekistan, families are big, and several generations often live with or near each other. American kids experience this beautiful bond, Zulya has found, and come away with a deeper respect for their own parents and grandparents.

The shopping is off the hook. Bukhara’s bazaars are some of the world’s largest and most diverse, and it’s not all produce and housewares. Ancient designs and fine craftsmanship have made Uzbekistan a hot destination for fashion designers, so the jewelry and textiles you bring home will put your teen right on trend. (Zulya can also introduce you to some of the country’s top designers.)

Zulya finds that kids aged nine and up get the most from a trip to Uzbekistan. That way, your whole family can stay in a nomadic yurt camp, ride camels to a picnic in the Kyzyl-Kum desert, and fully participate in Uzbekistani culture.

 

Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

The Great Wall of China

Rookie Travel Mistakes to Avoid in Asia

Rookie travel mistakes happen more often than you think. In the excitement of preparing for a long-dreamed about escape or a last-minute getaway, even the savviest of globetrotters can forget the basics. A common one is not thinking about the best time of year (or time of week) to experience a destination; another is failing to allot enough time to visit each point on your itinerary. To be sure you don’t fall into any traps (tourist or otherwise) during your own adventures, we asked our Trusted Travel Experts to weigh in on the most important things to know—and the most common rookie mistakes to avoid—when traveling to China, Japan, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia.

What would you add? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Bali

Expecting idyllic white-sand beaches. Bali’s beaches are mostly too rough for swimming (but good for surfing), and the quieter ones have little or no sand. I listen carefully to what every client is looking for in a beach—and tell them if they’re better off in the Caribbean. —Diane Embree, Trusted Travel Expert for Bali

Read Diane’s Insider’s Guide to Bali

Bhutan

Paro, Bhutan

Paro, Bhutan. Photo courtesy Antonia Neubauer.

Not knowing that there is only one east-west road in the entire country, meaning that every tourist (and there are many, despite what anyone else says) who is not trekking is driving back and forth along that same road. —Antonia Neubauer, Trusted Travel Expert for Bhutan and Nepal

Read Antonia’s Insider’s Guide to Bhutan

Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Photo courtesy Molly Fergu

One big rookie mistake that travelers make is assuming you’ll ride through the jungle on an elephant and “discover” Angkor Wat! It’s best to be realistic that this is a major international destination and plan accordingly. You can avoid the crowds and have a more special experience if you get an early start and begin at the back entrance to Angkor Wat, or visit lesser-known temples. If you head in unprepared, you’ll be in the middle of packs of tourists and you won’t really get to see anything. —Andrea Ross, Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia

Read Andrea’s Insider’s Guides to Angkor Wat and Cambodia

China

Dragonback Rice Terraces, Guangxi, China

Dragonback rice terraces, Guangxi Province. Photo courtesy Lian Lodge.

Seeing only the famous sites, such as the Great Wall and the Terra-cotta Warriors. China has so much to offer, and major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an are only a slice of the entire country—and an overdeveloped, crowded, and sprawling one at that. I urge you to spend from five days to a week focusing on a lesser-known province, such as Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou, or Guangxi. Visit some smaller villages, enjoy the beauty of terraced rice fields, and get away from the most popular places and the wonderful diversity of the culture will come to life. —Mei Zhang, Trusted Travel Expert for China

Read Mei’s Insider’s Guides to China’s Big Cities and Small Villages, Yunnan Province, and Beijing

Cruising in Asia

Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar.

Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar. Photo courtesy the Cruise Professionals.

A rookie mistake is planning to board the ship the same day you fly into port. You’ve probably booked an Asia cruise because you want to pack a lot of destinations into a single trip—so why waste your time and money spending the first few days of your itinerary jet-lagged? Even if the ship spends the first night in its departure port, arrive a few days early so that you can properly acclimate (and not risk missing the ship due to airline or weather delays; Hong Kong in particular can get fogged in). —Mary Jean Tully, Trusted Travel Expert for Cruises

Read Mary Jean’s Insider’s Guide to Asia Cruises

India: Agra

Taj Mahal Reflection, Agra, India

Taj Mahal Reflection, Agra, India. Courtesy Sanjay Saxena

A rookie mistake is forgetting to buy tickets to the Taj Mahal in advance. Tickets are not sold at the entrance: The ticket office is actually located in the East Gate parking lot about a mile from the monument entrance. Tickets to the Taj may also be purchased at any of the other monuments in Agra—but be sure that the date stamp is for the day that you will be visiting or is an open-ended ticket. —Sanjay Saxena, Trusted Travel Expert for India

Read Sanjay’s Insider’s Guides to Delhi and Agra and the Taj Mahal

India: Rajasthan

Amanbagh, India

Amanbagh, India. Photo courtesy Amanbagh

Travelers to India—and especially to Rajasthan—love to shop for fine jewelry because the prices are so good, but you need to go somewhere reputable, otherwise you may be sold glass instead of diamonds. (One of our favorite shops is the Gem Palace in Jaipur.) —Bertie and Victoria Dyer, Trusted Travel Experts for India

Read Bertie and Victoria’s Insider’s Guide to Rajasthan

Nepal

Monk and flowers, Nepal.

Monk and Flowers, Nepal. Photo Courtesy Toni Neubauer

Not paying attention to altitude gain when trekking! People like to believe they are immortal and want to rush up mountains, but they need to study the rules for altitude acclimatization and follow them carefully. Altitude sickness is no joke. —Antonia Neubauer, Trusted Travel Expert for Nepal and Bhutan

Read Antonia’s Insider’s Guide to Nepal

Sri Lanka

Sunset in Tangalle

Sunset on a beach in Tangalle.

Sri Lanka looks small on a map, but it can take hours to get from place to place, and there are definite no-nos. For instance, don’t try to travel from Kandy to Yala National Park in one day, or from the Cultural Triangle to the beaches of Tangalle, or from Jaffna to Colombo. On the map (and on Google Maps), distances and approximate travel times are misleading. Sri Lanka offers great diversity and looks like you can tick all the boxes in one week—you can’t. If you want to speed things up a little, try flying on certain segments. Two local operators offer scheduled flights around the country: Cinnamon Air and Helitours. —Miguel Cunat, Trusted Travel Expert for Sri Lanka

Read Miguel’s Insider’s Guide to Sri Lanka

Thailand

Grand Palace, Bangkok. Photo by C Kennerly.

Grand Palace, Bangkok. Photo by C Kennerly.

Visiting Bangkok first. This sprawling metropolis of some 18 million people can be overwhelming, so I don’t recommend it for your first encounter with Thailand. It’s much more enjoyable to recover from jet lag someplace relaxing and traditionally Thai, such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, or Sukhothai. By traveling upcountry (or to the beach) first, you’ll experience traditional Thai culture, have time to acclimate to the time zone, and appreciate Bangkok much more when you visit it at the end of your trip. —Sandy Ferguson, Trusted Travel Expert for Southeast Asia

Read Sandy’s Insider’s Guides to Bangkok, Southeast Asia, and Thailand

Uzbekistan and The Silk Road

Tilla Kori Medreseh, Samarkand

Tilla Kori Medreseh in Samarkand. Photo courtesy Zulya Rajabova.

Some travelers opt to fly from one Silk Road city to another, and there is a high-speed train from Tashkent to Samarkand, but travel by car is most rewarding. There are many cultural, architectural, and archaeological treasures to find outside the main cities, as well as rural villages to visit, the ancient towns of Jizzakh Province, local bazaars, and amazing photo opportunities. —Zulya Rajabova, Trusted Travel Expert for Uzbekistan and the Silk Road

Read Zulya’s Insider’s Guide to Uzbekistan

 

Do you have tips on avoiding rookie mistakes? Share your advice in the comments.