Top 5 Nat Geo Travel Favorites

In our digital world, we don’t have to rely on guidebooks to tell us where to go and what to see when we travel — we can just ask our friends. Since we announced the beta launch of Travel Favorites — a new social sharing tool that will help you have the most memorable trips around — in February, thousands of Nat Geo readers from all around the world (including our own writers and photographers) have added their own pet picks.

Travel favorites are places, things, events, customs — anything you care about and want to share with fellow travelers around the globe. They aren’t meant to be reviews or critiques (there are plenty out there already). This is a place to share your actual favorites — your favorite restaurant, trail, shop, hotel, street food cart. You get the picture.

No one knows the world better than our readers. That’s why we picked five of our favorite entries to get your imagination going. After you’ve checked them out, visit the Travel Favorites home page and poke around the interactive map (use the “staff favorites” filter to check out insider tips from National Geographic staffers), then scroll down and add your own travel favorites to the mix.

Off-Roading in Angola: El Arco Oasis

My favorite place in Angola is the El Arco Oasis south of Namibe on the coastal highway. Drive south on the highway until you see a small metal sign that says “Bem Vindo ao Arco” on the lefthand side. Nearby is another small sign — an arrow pointing into the desert. With no road, only tracks in the sand, drive in the direction the arrow points and wind through some dunes until you come to a tiny town. Park under the large tree, then hike a short distance to see amazing rock formations and a huge oasis in the middle of the desert — truly spectacular in scale and beauty. Afterwards head into Namibe for delicious fresh crab and lobster at casual plastic-table restaurants by the bay.

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Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, VT. (Photo: Michael Richards/My Shot)

Waxing Idyllic on Lake Champlain: Shelburne Farms 

A fairy-tale farm of sorts, with its own dairy herd and cheese-making facility, llamas, cattle, fowl, horses and more, allows everyone in the family to get into the feel of the farm. The big barn houses a wonderful education program for all ages, in which students come to understand the relationships between people and the land. That would make the original residents at the farm very happy! The farm was founded by William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb in 1886 as a model agricultural estate. It’s now a National Historic Place landmark, and continues as a working farm.

Creating Calm in Costa Rica: La Luna Lodge 

The beautiful lodge has retained its natural state and is home to many animals and plants that are unique to the Peninsula de Osa. The bungalows with private open-air baths are exquisite in their hillside locations, and above, the tent-camp is rustic, but with the best view in the peninsula. The yoga platform is even higher, and makes for the best yoga and mediation that can be had. I’ve hiked to waterfalls, to mud baths, and to the beach. In wading up-river on the Madrigal, we found outstanding monkeys, hummingbirds (and a nest), a Northern Tamandua (form of anteater), and other water birds–a natural wonderland. The food is exquisite (much of it grown on the property) and the staff outstanding!

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A tamandua in the wilds of Costa Rica. (Photo: Charlie Fayers/My Shot)

Peeping on Paris: Promenade Plantee 

Sometimes referred to as Coulée Verte (Green Flow), the Promenade Plantée is a lovely way to see a little-visited part of Paris—and from an unusual angle. Ingeniously converted from an abandoned 19th century railway viaduct, the Promenade Plantée runs almost the length of the 12th arrondissement and overflows with herbs, greenery—and yes, romance. Hide away from Paris (if that is your wish!) and pretend you’re in a forest of cherry, maple, and lime trees, or take photos of Parisian rooftops peeking amongst the roses and lavender. Don’t miss the unique view of the twelve reproductions of Michaelangelo’s “The Dying Slave” which adorn the Police Station, or the artists’ workshops that make up the Viaduc des Arts. This much-loved elevated linear park was the inspiration for the High Line adaptive reuse project in New York.

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Chilika Lake at sunrise, Orissa, India. (Photo: Shaibal Bhattacharya/My Shot)

Getting Lost in India: Chilika Lake 

Chilika Lake located in Orissa is one of the best winter weekend family destinations. The pleasant boat cruise on the lake will take you to Nalaban Island, the wintering ground for millions of migratory shorebirds every year. You may get lucky if you can spot the Irrawaddy dolphins near Satapada Island, where the Chilika merges into the sea. A Kali Mandir on the Kalijal Island hosts a fair annually on Makara Sankranthi in January. There is also a small Lord Shiva Temple called Kaliyugeswar Mandir. Overall, a dream destination for birdwatchers, nature lovers and photographers. To get there, the nearest rail-station is Balugaon from where a taxi or auto-rickshaw can be taken to reach the lake.