2023 – A Year in Travel

Another year has passed, and before heading into the next one, it’s always fun to reflect on the year that has been.

2023 has been a mixed year. There were some incredible highs and some sad lows.

I turned fifty towards the beginning of the year which saw the end of my “Fifty before 50” bucket list and the start of the new one, “Sixty before 60“.

I only got to leave Australia once during the year, but it was for an epic 50-day trip to South America and Antarctica.

There were plenty of local trips during the year, many to places I had already been, but some new ones too. Cairns, the southwest corner of Western Australia, and the town of Robe here in South Australia were all new to me.

Here’s what my 2023 travel looked like

(Note: Some links will take you to my other South Australian website)

Sadly my mother-in-law passed away just three days before we were due to go to another new country, so South Korea has gone back to the wishlist.

Instead I got to experience making a large travel insurance claim, which thankfully went very smoothly.

New Countries in 2023

My country count is slowly, slowly, edging upwards, with three new countries in 2023 making it fifty-five in total. I also added two new territories, and the sixth continent to my tally.

Chile

Josie in a red apron stirring a mixing bowl. Out the windows behind here is a scenic view of the city of Valparaiso Chile

We flew into Chile to start our Antarctic cruise. We were embarking in San Antonio, and spent two nights there before the cruise, mostly sleeping to get our body clocks in sync with the 13.5-hour time difference.

Our cruise stopped at the ports of Puerto Chacabuco and Punta Arenas, where we were able to jump off and have a look around. It included scenic cruising in the Chilean fjords which was just stunning with the snow-topped mountains and glaciers falling into the sea.

After the cruise we spent time in Argentina before returning to Chile by road across the Andes. If you are in this part of the world, don’t fly, get the bus across from Mendoza in Argentina to Santiago (or, perhaps Valparaiso like us). The dramatic scenery is completely different to the rest of the trip.

We spent four nights in colourful Valparaiso, a seaside town squished on the side of the mountains with a gritty feel. There is plenty of history here, and of course the incredible street art!

It was here I took a cooking class – one of the things on my bucket list – just one day before my birthday to tick another item off the bucket list.

Our final stop was in Santiago where I celebrated my 50th birthday by making my way to the top of the Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest building in South America, to watch the sun go down.

We spent a few days doing different free walking tours and learning about the history of this intriguing – and still troubled – country. There are some great museums here, and the street art scene is almost as good as Valparaiso.

Overall, this small glimpse of Chile has only made me want to visit more. I’d love to head to the north of the country to see the Atacama Desert and south to explore more of Patagonia – particularly Torres del Paine National Park. And of course, Easter Island is a must-see as well.

Argentina

Looking from a cruise ship towards Ushuaia. There are more cruise ships in the foreground, and towering mountains behind

My first stop in Argentina was Ushuaia, as our cruise ship stopped in for a day. We did a short tour of Tierra del Fuego, seeing just a glimpse of the beautiful landscape here.

After we visited Antarctica and the Falkland Islands, we were back to Argentina, stopping at Puerto Madryn. This port is best known as the gateway to the UNESCO-listed Peninsula Valdes, but we did a day tour to the penguin colony of Punt Tombo instead.

Our next ports were in Uruguay before we disembarked our ship in Buenos Aires, and we were now onto the land portion of our trip.

A brightly coloured mural of a man and a woman dancing and a young boy kicking a soccer ball

Our days in Buenos Aires were spent doing many walking tours in all the different neighbourhoods. We particularly loved colourful La Boca and the Recoleta Cemetery.

We did some wine-tasting, ate empanadas and asado and really enjoyed this almost-European city that has a faded beauty, troubled history and ongoing problems today.

We headed north to the magnificent Iguazu Falls, before going south to Bariloche at the top of Patagonia.

Often known because of its connection to the Nazis who fled Germany, it could be mistaken for being in the European alps, with lakes and mountains, hiking in summer and skiing in winter.

Josie taking a selfie, with lakes and mountains behind her

Cordoba was the next stop, Argentina’s second city. This is often bypassed, and I tossed up whether to include it, but it was more convenient to fly there, so visit we did – and we liked it a lot!

Our final stop in Argentina was Mendoza, home of incredible wine, fabulous food and multi-coloured fountains.

A fountain in a shady mall. The water in the fountain is red

I was apprehensive about Argentina before we visited. The media often gives it such a bad rap. Yes, it absolutely has issues, but we did not feel at all unsafe just using the usual precautions I would when travelling anywhere.

I liked it so much that it will be on my list of places to go back to one day.

Uruguay

Our visit to Uruguay was short and sweet, and to be honest, we probably would not have visited if it wasn’t part of the cruise because it was not at all on my radar.

Our first port was Punta del Este, a beach city that reminded me of the Gold Coast in Australia – and what I imagine Miami to be like in the US – just smaller.

Our second day was spent in Montevideo, the capital, where we did a short city tour to learn a little about Uruguay and their history.

White Montevideo sign in front of a long beach lined with high rise buildings

Uruguay will forever be remembered for our mission to get a t-shirt from the Hard Rock Cafe – it ended up being the most expensive t-shirt in my husband’s collection (to date!)

It’s hard to make a judgement on a country with just two short cruise ship days, and to me, Uruguay is a place that I still feel a little ambivalent about. There is nothing wrong with it, but nothing memorable about it either.

I would likely visit again if I was nearby, but I wouldn’t go out of my way and I would likely choose somewhere else instead.

Falkland Islands

Josie sitting on a beach looking away from the camera at all the penguins just metres in front of her

This was my favourite day of our whole cruise! I hadn’t envisaged going to the Falkland Islands, but when I saw it on my cruise itinerary I was excited.

We spent much of the day walking and ended up having an incredible encounter with penguins on the beach.

So many of the other cruise ship passengers paid hundreds of dollars to see penguins on tours, but here we were, seeing them with no restrictions, all for free.

I could rave on about the Falklands for ages, but you can instead do over and read all about them here.

While it’s nice to imagine spending a whole week on these windswept islands, just enjoying the nature and small-town vibe, if I am realistic I don’t see myself visiting the Falklands again.

Mostly because they are difficult to get to, and because there are so many easier places to visit I’ve not yet been to. But if the opportunity came up, I would be jumping at it.

Antarctica

josie standing on the deck of a ship with a snowy landmass in the distance. Josie is wearing a black hooded jacket.

And the reason we went on this trip – Antarctica!

While I didn’t actually set foot on land, I am claiming this one since we spent four days in the Antarctic waters just metres away.

The weather wasn’t amazing for our visit, but it was so cool having snow on the ship, and not even bad weather can dampen the experience of this white continent.

It was such an awesome experience that I am planning to visit again, next time I will set foot on land!

What You Loved in 2023

These are the top twenty blog posts from 2023.

There has been a bit of a changing of the guards with the list changing significantly after it remaining similar for the last few years.

Now there is a real mix of posts from all over the globe. Some old, some new, some local, some as far away as you can imagine.

  1. Langkawi Itinerary – 5 Days in Langkawi
  2. Skopje Public Transport
  3. How to Take a Day Trip to the Borromean Islands, Italy
  4. Day Trip from Hobart to Richmond Tasmania
  5. 11 Important Things to Know Before you Go to Argentina
  6. Money in Argentina – It’s Complicated!
  7. 7 Best Luxury Wildlife Lodges in India
  8. Falkland Islands Shore Day – Penguins, Beer and Red Phone Boxes
  9. Santiago to Buenos Aires via Antarctica
  10. The Perfect Itinerary for 2 Weeks in Jordan
  11. 15 Fun Things to do in Siena, Italy
  12. 23 Fun Things to do in Singapore on a Budget
  13. A Day Trip to Versailles from Paris
  14. Visiting MONA, Tasmania – a Review for the Artistically Challenged
  15. How to Get from Santiago to San Antonio Cruise Port
  16. Sixty before 60 – the New & Improved Bucket List
  17. How to Get from Gold Coast Airport to Broadbeach
  18. Crossing the Nullarbor
  19. Visiting La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires
  20. 17 Places to Stop on the Great Ocean Road

Coming Up in 2024

As always when one year ends, another begins, and of course I already have some fantastic travel plans for 2024.

I will be starting the new year with a weekend in the Flinders Ranges with SA Eco Tours, which I am really looking forward to.

Later in January will be a trip across to climb Australia’s highest mountain.

March and April will be spent in the Middle East & Europe, and I will be back again in Europe late in May. This will include six new countries and a few return visits as well.

I’m still on the lookout for an international trip for later in the year. Maybe I’ll revisit South Korea, or perhaps something completely new will pop up.

I have so much exciting content to bring you, so I hope you will stick around. Sign up for the newsletter to keep in touch.

Want to read more now? Here are some of my favourite Travel Diaries posts
Travel Diaries – Brno
Travel Diaries – Jordan
Travel Diaries – Riquwihr
Travel Diaries – Vancouver to Calgary Road Trip

This article may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I may receive a small commission. Read the full disclaimer here.

TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS

Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs

Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.

Hire a rental carRentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.

Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.

Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.

Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.

Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.