Favourite Five To Return To

It must be quite apparent from my effusive travelogues that I leave a piece of my heart in most every place I visit. And given a chance I would return to every one of them……almost. Sadly, the inverse relationship between time and my ever lengthening bucket list makes return trips impractical.

Compiling a hypothetical list for the ‘Top Destinations To Go There‘ challenge hosted by Booked.net, proved even harder than I anticipated. How could I ignore the magic of Egypt, or the charm of Provence? The romance of Greece, or the awe inspired by China? The breathtaking temples of Cambodia, or the colour and energy of India?

But five is the limit, so here is the final list of my favourite places to return to:

5. Kyoto

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Kyoto is the old capital of Japan and its cultural heart. With its floral Kimonos, hand raked Zen gardens and a treasure trove of heritage monuments within easy access, it measured up to every one of my preconceived notions of Japan and then some.  I barely scratched the surface of what the city had to offer on my impromptu trip with my sister in 2012, and am eager to return to experience its charms my way….preferably timed for the sakura (cherry blossom) season.

4. Venice

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A new favourite. And one of few places I returned to, albeit after three decades! I spent an amazing solo week there in April and would gladly return for another week or longer. Believe me, its monumental center is the least of its attractions.

3. Istanbul


Istanbul is drop dead gorgeous in every way. Beautiful architecture, fabulous food and wonderful people make it one of my top destinations. It would have featured higher on this list if I hadn’t already visited twice. I would return in a heartbeat.

2. Rio de Janeiro

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We aren’t really beach people. So we allowed ourselves just three days in this city, and regretted it big time. The magnificent landscape alone is worth returning for. The Samba and Bossa Nova is another compelling reason. And the cuisine isn’t far behind. We rate our lunch at Aprazivel, high on our list of memorable meals…think casava and shrimp au gratin, baked palm hearts, grilled Tilapia and a guava ice cream dessert named Guava do  Paraiso that was to die for! We hope to return sooner than later.

1. Paris. Always Paris!

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Many thanks to Kan Walk Will Travel for nominating me for this challenge. Being constrained for time in the run up to our forthcoming Africa trip, I shall take the easy way out and throw open this challenge to all my readers.  You know what to do: five places, five photos, five nominations. Terms and conditions here. The prize, if you are lucky, is a brand new iPhone6.

What are you waiting for?

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

69 thoughts on “Favourite Five To Return To

  1. Is it true that there is a movement to rid the use of rickshaws as a form of transportation? While I’m sure that it’s VERY hard work. It’s work that is healthy for the planet and a form of income for its owners. Oh, and Paris, we can never go there too many times.

    1. Sally, I was surprised the rickshaw was still in use in Japan! India tried banning it arbitrarily, but there was some protest by the rickshaw pullers, mainly from Kolkata. It forms their chief livelihood and banning without providing them alternate employment was foolhardy. Clicking on the image will take you to my earlier post on the Jinrickshaw if your are interested.
      Glad you agree with me about Paris. I know many who don’t share my fondness for the place 🙂

      1. I agree with most of it, but I met a couple of really bad people when I was there. We had to escape one of them as he was harassing and stalking this woman that I traveled with. She was rightfully extremely scared of him and he didn’t have good intentions. Would I return to Istanbul? No, but the architecture & food is great.

    1. 🙂 You’ll get there eventually. We aren’t shoppers at all, but I would think it is a treasure trove. Carpets, quality cotton apparel, spices, nuts….you name it. I did break my no shopping rule for a set of gold rimmed Turkish tea glasses. And some amazing Baklava. That didn’t last too long.

      1. haha! I’m expecting that answer 🙂 . Turkey has some of the oldest supermarkets in the world. I so want to see it one day and get one of those awesome carpets and ancient-design doors..(I wonder how to bring huge doors home.)

  2. Great choices! For me though Istanbul would be the top European spot (if you call it Europe). Kyoto and Siem Reap would certainly be up there for me too! 😀

    1. Thanks Lee. Istanbul was my top destination until I rediscovered Paris. Not saying that will not change when I ‘rediscover’ London! Or visit New York 🙂

  3. All are fascinating to me. The only place I’ve been to in the list is Kyoto. Your post reminded me of the wonderful time, company, and food that I enjoyed in Kyoto.

    I love your Paris picture – it is not the usual Paris photo I see. 🙂

    1. Thank you Imelda. Kyoto was truly charming. We wished we had more time there. Happy you like my snapshot of Paris. I prefer these to the better known monuments as well 🙂

    1. Thank you Dilip. I know you will love it. Most Turkey itineraries do not allow much time for Istanbul. Make sure you do. It will make all the difference.

  4. I concur with your last one. Everyone who’s travelled to Paris always think of Paris. The ones who said don’t are liars in my opinion. 😀 Your Rio de Janiero image belongs to Travel Magazine. Well, most of your pics are. That one just a perfect stand-out. When I saw this list from other blogs, it was you that I thought of who wouldn’t be able to come up with listing it.

    1. 🙂 Thank you for the kind words Rommel. The Rio and Istanbul images are from my pre DSLR days….shot with a P&S!

    1. 🙂 Not yet Gilly. My memory of our long ago trip is very fuzzy. I have no doubt England will feature at the top of the list when I do return.

  5. Madhu, those five cities would easily make it into my list of favorites as well, although I’ve only been to Istanbul (one of the most fascinating cities ever!) and Paris. Shame I didn’t spend a considerable amount of time in the City of Light, plus it was mostly cloudy when I went.

    I believe two years from now you’ll find it more difficult to make this kind of list as you will have visited more interesting and fascinating places around the globe by then. 🙂

    1. You are right, I have a sneaky suspicion Africa and Indonesia might take over the next list 🙂 Thanks Bama.

    1. Ah, happy to be able to do that Angeline! I am hoping more people will be inspired to travel independently.

  6. Ah, this post sets me daydreaming, Madhu! Both Istanbul and Rio are near the top of my wish list, for very different reasons. Kyoto and Venice are places I would love to return to – my previous trips there were far too short and hurried; I did not see much more than the main sights. Paris was beautiful too, even in winter (no queues at the Eiffel Tower and no crowds at the Musee d’Orsay!), and I can easily see why it made your list. Not sure if I could do this challenge myself… as you said, it is so hard to whittle it down to five.

    1. Of my five, I fell in love with Istanbul and Rio at first sight. Paris and Venice needed more time to get to know better, the first touristy impressions were actually a bit offputting!! And like you I just didn’t have enough time in Kyoto for all that it had to offer.
      I am almost certain Indonesia will take up a large percentage of your list James 🙂

  7. I love visiting Japan. One of my memories is of driving through Tokyo at night. It’s beautiful and never seems to have an end! But I venture to add that the little hamlets tucked into the hills are my favourites and cherry blossom time is a unique experience too. I guess I just likes it all.

  8. Fantastic list! I agree with every single destination, except Venice…but then again, I’ve never spent more than a few hours there each time I visit, because the cray cray tourist crowds get to me. I imagine it must be quite a different place after most of the tourists leave for the night! I’m booked for Kyoto/Osaka/Kobe in October. Very excited about checking it out!! 🙂

  9. Madhu, thanks for participating, and sharing your fantastic list! I knew Paris and Venice were going to make their way on to your list… it was great to read about the others. I agree… Rio is an amazing city! The kasura blossom season in Kyoto and Istanbul are certainly on my must-visit list. Perhaps, next year 🙂

  10. Of your five, I’ve only been to Venice (fortunately twice) … yet, Istanbul is a place to has captured my imagination for a long time … as do many of the major cities of Europe that I haven’t seen (as Paris).

  11. Just amazing! Im happy you included a Brazilian city 😀 and also Istanbul, it makes even more excited for my trip next week! Great choices… and I loved the photo of Venice, wow! 😀

  12. love your fav five! and as always i love your images! Rio, Venice are also in my top five to return to, along side Bali, Kular lumpur, And Antigua ( guatemala)!

  13. Great choices to return to. I feel like the clock is ticking so we keep moving on. Right now Ron and I are in Paris participating in a photographic workshop. Loving Paris and see the need to come back.

    1. A brief tryst with the mountain Gorillas in Rwanda first and then a driving safari through Tanzania. We leave early on the 20th. Fingers crossed that Ebola behaves and the Wildebeest hang around in the Mara till we get there 🙂

      1. PS: Brian, you could direct readers to your site with a single click if you add the link to your website to the ‘links’ field here: Dashboard> Users> My Profile> Links.

      2. Hope you got the reply I sent via my mobile.
        “Safari mzuri” just means (have a) good trip!
        (And Ebola is more to the west: Guinea, Sierra Leone)
        Hope you took the camping option in Masai Mara. 🙂
        Enjoy Africa my friend. Noting like it!

  14. Madhu … Narrowing down your choices to five had to be difficult. You named two places that fascinate me: Paris and Venice. We’ve been to Paris and it is a very beautiful city with much to offer: food, excellent sites, and friendly people.

    Venice is on my bucket list. Something our family hopes to see next summer. 😉 Thank you for sharing your picks and your photos.

  15. 10 days! Meg asked the question for me and by my reckoning you’re down to 6! Bet you’re excited 🙂 Will it make your top 5 ‘return to’s’? I do envy you Kyoto, Madhu. Happy travels, hon.

  16. I am trying to catch up my reading, so happy I didn’t miss this one. Love your choices. Istanbul is on my current bucket list, haven’t been there yet and dearly wish to visit. Paris and Venice are cities I wish to see again, Paris is a ‘always’ favorite and Venice one I wish to see through the eyes of an adult versus the eyes of a child. Love Kyoto, beautiful city. Haven’t made it to Rio yet and it hasn’t climbed up my list yet.

  17. Good to know that Paris is still ranking first 🙂 Beautiful, grand captures of all five. Take care and enjoy Africa, Madhu!

  18. I havent been to any of those.. oops.. but i so want to go see Istanbul..its been on my list forever..
    you have got an awesome list madhu.. great going..!!

  19. Really interesting to see your choices, Madhu, and the photos are beautiful. Paris, always Paris…I have similar feelings about Rome 🙂

  20. Wow ow every pic made me say that .. I so want to see Istanbul it looks so exotic…

    The cities you have mentioned are all on my list god willing one day will get to see these beautiful places..

  21. Kyoto… for ever! ❤ been there twice and I could live there or anywhere in Japan or/and Iceland… 🙂 P.S. I lived in Paris for several years, our 2 kids were born there and we have to admit: Paris will always be… Paris – the heart capital of the world… 🙂

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