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Great Travel Destinations for Women: The Art (and Science) of Deciding Where to Go

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If you're relatively sure of where you want to go, use the thumbnails below to navigate to the continent that tempts you most. You'll find a variety of things - specific travel guides for women, stories of my own travels, memories... this isn't a traditional destinations section but one stuffed with history and observations and anecdotes. 

But if you don't know where you're going yet... skip the thumbnails and keep reading.

The art of choosing travel destinations

Choosing the best travel destination is hard work.

Imagine having to decide between going to Madrid and Milan, Malaysia and Mexico...

How on earth do you make up your mind? 

Of course it's part art (flair, instinct, desire, dreams) and part science (budgets, visas, distance, time...)

But knowing that doesn't really help.

Travel DestinationsSo many choices!

Here's what does: QUESTIONS.

Each time I can't decide, I ask myself questions that help narrow choices down and eliminate confusion.

Why exactly do you want to travel?

It's not always obvious.

Usually, it's because you want to visit a destination - a country, a region, a city.

But your travels can be about many other things: 

Understanding your motivations and your desires will help in your decision. 

HOW you travel is as important as why.

Ask yourself...

  • Are you traveling solo? Some destinations are more fun on your own, but some - like honeymoon destinations - will leave you feeling like the odd woman out.
  • Do you want to take a short holiday or leave it all behind and go for the long haul, for months or even a year or more?
  • Do you like the new or the old? Do you revisit places a dozen times or do you hanker after the thrill of discovery or are you happier with what's familiar?
  • Are you a slow traveler or are you the 'If it's Tuesday it must be Belgium' type?
  • Do you like to schedule your travel around special events? A national day or a festival? 
  • What do you eat? If you're a vegan you might not do that well in Spain or Argentina...
  • Distance and cost are often factors. If you only have a week you don't want to spend half of it traveling around the world, jetlagged.
  • How do you feel about local culture? I have several friends who won't go to countries where hair must be covered. Make sure you're all right with local culture before you take off.
  • Are you connected all the time? Addicted to your iPhone? Some parts of the world won't even have a signal, let alone a wifi connection.

Asking the right questions about WHY and HOW you travel might help you decide WHERE you want to go.

Do you dream of tropical rainforests, of the twitter of exotic birds at dusk?
Think of Costa Rica, the Kinabatangan River in Borneo or the Brazilian Amazon

What about stalking wildlife with a guide at dawn?
South Africa is ideally diverse.

Are you an avid chaser of amazing natural beauty?
The Grand Canyon or Alaska, perhaps? Iceland's glacier caves? Australia's Great Barrier Reef or the Gibb River Road?

Are you more of a culture vulture, with history in your future?
You can't go wrong with places like Italy, Turkey, Greece, India or Peru, and certainly China is replete with history.

Or perhaps you're drawn to the mystical...
To secret places like Mamoiada in Sardinia or hidden places in the Philippines

You're a city slicker... happiest sipping an espresso in a sidewalk café
Your ideal destination could be Paris... or San Francisco... or perhaps in the casinos of Las Vegas

And if these are on the expensive side and budget is your major issue
You'll find Bangkok, Lisbon or Kuala Lumpur a bit more affordable - and this cost of living chart can help (so can this one)

Maybe you're an inveterate shopper
The world is full of fabulous markets - here are my top 7. Or head for the world's great clothing centers, Florence for example.

festival junkie?
Then it's Rio for the Carneval, Hong Kong for the Dragon Boat races, New Orleans for Mardi Gras...

A wine lover?
That will get you to France, California, Chile, Australia, Italy...

A food tour fanatic
This is one of my favorites! I've tried them Istanbul, in New York... - and then there's this amazing food market in Lyon... and these in Madrid. I could go on. And if you're hooked on coffee, there's a visit waiting for you in Colombia's coffee triangle.

Or at least your own street food tour
So many places have wonderful street food traditions - Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok...

Do you want to see some unforgettable building sites?
The Colosseum in Rome? The pyramids of Egypt or Mexico or Central America?

First time traveling? 
You might choose one of the safer destinations for women - like Singapore or perennial favorites in Europe, like Portugal

Or maybe first time solo?
Some countries simply lend themselves to independent travel because they are so organized and simple to navigate, like Switzerland or South Korea.

What about being sporty - sailing, biking, hiking...
Now that's not (at all) me but - there are few places you CAN'T indulge in your sporting passions. An up and coming adventure sports destination? Albania!

Do you dream of sun and sea?
Sample the beaches of Turkey, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Zanzibar or the Seychelles... or one of my top destinations, Sabah, Malaysia

Travel DestinationsAssisi, Italy, one of my favorite destinations ©WOTR

Maybe you're a mountain girl...
You could follow in Birgit's footsteps and climb Kilimanjaro, or walk around the Mont Blanc or, more like me, play it safe with a visit to a lower-altitude ski resort like Charmey in Switzerland

Would you prefer going off the beaten track?
Try spending a week in Sri Lanka, exploring Saharan sand dunes in Morocco or bumping along the roads of Brazil (and stopping in Rio for a while) or Cuba, utterly unforgettable.

What about something on the beaten track?
It's not hard to find top 10 lists online - I even have one!

If you like to follow in the footsteps of great explorers...
You can follow the footsteps of great explorers like Freya Stark or Alexandra David-Neel or Marco Polo

Maybe you're the really adventurous type?
Your travel destinations could be Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan, for example), Iran, Inner Mongolia - or why not one of the world's unrecognized countries?

Or desperately curious about places like the Middle East...
In which case you could try the safety of Doha, the surprises of Dubai, the mysteries of Muscat, Oman, or why not solo in Lebanon?

What about developing and emerging countries?
Like Nairobi in Kenya, or Vietnam?

And if adventure isn't enough...
You'll always have the world's dangerous places - though I wouldn't encourage you to put yourself in danger...

If you're a lover of nature and the environment...
The lemurs of Madgascar, the whales and dolphins of British Columbia or the magic of Lake Song Kul in Kyrgyzstan

Would you like to explore a specific region?
Try Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, Central America, the Andes, North Africa, the Baltics - you can organize a circuit and never have to backtrack. Or use a city like Annecy, France as a jumping off point to the French Alps?

Or maybe travel across continents to many countries?
There's Cape to Cairo, Bangkok to Hanoi, the Panamericana or the Silk Road, London to Istanbul, Beijing to Moscow, the Trans-Siberian... (I'm partial to long journeys!)

You might be curious about the New Europe...
Budapest, Bulgaria, the Baltic States, or even Moscow.

Or you might simply want to take...
The trip of a lifetime.

I'll stop with the questions now - your head must be reeling but if nothing else, you now have too many ideas rather than not enough.

You should be well on your way to choosing where to go.

Of course you could do it the fun way and just throw a dart on a map - and see what happens!

How to choose your travel destination

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