It’s been a grand year of great adventure, and though the clock is ticking the final seconds ’til 2014, I am glad for the chance to review all that we’ve been through in the past twelve months:

I opened 2013 on the streets of Edinburgh, exploring the land of my forefathers before leaping back across the globe to the frozen white mountains of Montana. Then we ventured south to the wild Galapagos, and then deep in the heart of Texas, where I clocked more than 5,000 miles, all in the state of my birth, then hopping over to Norway for a wee bit and then to Mexico City for a vacation from my travels. Summer saw me travel from Miami Beach to Tanzania to Iceland via Amsterdam, then back to Montana, up to Alberta, and back to Scotland before kicking off an epic 3-week journey through six of our nation’s National Parks. Then, in commemoration of National Geographic’s 125th Anniversary, I embarked on the expedition of a lifetime, jetting off to some of the rarest spots on the globe (Bhutan and the Kalahari were some of my personal favorites). And then, for my final assignment, I explored South Africa, crossing the country overland and falling in love with that beautiful country all over again.

Now, in these last days of the year, I am back home in Washington, DC, immensely thankful for a marvelous year of travels. Above all, I am filled with a huge sense of gratitude to all of you, my readers, and for my amazing team at National Geographic, who make all my journeys possible. None of us ever really travels alone, and I only wish I could personally thank all of the guides, chefs, bellhops, mechanics, gas station attendants, park rangers, hotel owners, servers, and fellow travelers who’ve helped along the way—thank you!

It’s quite challenging to pick out “the best” from so many magnificent moments, but after reviewing a year of notes and reliving each trip, I present you the BEST OF 2013:

TRAVEL

Best Flight: Nothing beats our private jet to Kathmandu, but . . . Best commercial flight? SAS, Copenhagen-Washington, DC (Business Class). Best Economy seat? British Airways Washington, DC to London Heathrow.

Best Airport: Schiphol AMS (Amsterdam, Netherlands). Time and time again, Schiphol reminds me what every airport should be like.

Best Cruise: Circumnavigating Iceland with Lindblad Expeditions. Not so much a cruise, but a true expedition, sailing around my favorite island nation in the North Atlantic. It was real honor to travel with National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths.

Best Tour: Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Fort Worth, Texas)

Best City: Glasgow! (I am terribly biased on this one, but even out of all the fabulous places I’ve traveled this year, nothing compares to Scotland’s greatest city).

Most Scenic Drive: From Star Valley, Wyoming to Logan Canyon, Utah. I drove this in mid-October, just as all the colors were changing, painting the mountains in red, yellow, and orange. Descending through the Canyon and into Logan was remarkable (though Glacier’s “Going to the Sun Road” isn’t so bad, either).

Most Peaceful Destination: Luang Prabang, Laos. I was happily surprised by the quiet and relaxing mood in Laos, versus the more chaotic experience of neighboring Thailand and Cambodia.

Reader’s Pick (Best Destination for 2013): Scotland

Best Beach: 12th Street Beach, South Beach (Miami Beach, Florida) I didn’t travel to so many beach destinations this year (although Iceland has some amazing black sand beaches along its southern coast). I did however spend a few weeks working down in Miami Beach, and for all the hoopla of the city, I found great solace on the beach, with soft sand, bath-warm water, beautiful skies and on occasion, swimming manatees. I loved it.

Best Sunsets: Botswana

Best Thunderstorms: Central Montana

Summer storm blows across the golden wheat fields of Central Montana (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Travel)

Summer storm blows across the golden wheat fields of Central Montana (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Travel)

ADVENTURE

Best Hike: Tiger’s Nest (Bhutan), though Glacier National Park is a very close second.

Best Boat Trip: Floating Down the Missouri River (Montana)

Best Dive: Palau with National Geographic Explorer Sylvia Earle!

Best Adventure By Air: Flying over the Grand Canyon

Best Winter Adventure: Yellowstone by Snowmobile

Best Summer Adventure: Climbing the Black Cuillin (Isle of Skye)

Best Adventure With Kids: Hunting for Dinosaur Bones (Bynum, Montana)

Best Educational Travel: National Geographic Student Expeditions (Maji Ya Chai, Tanzania)

Can’t Wait To Go Back & Do It Again: Horseback riding at Lucasia Ranch

Best Wildlife Encounter: Leopards in Londolozi (Sabi Sands, South Africa)

Most Unusual Wildlife Spotting: Ocean Sunfish (Galapagos, Ecuador)

Best Dog: Skeeter (San Francisco, California)

Most Extreme Board Game: Scrabble on the Arctic Circle

Coldest Swim: Two Medicine Lake (Glacier National Park, Montana)

Hottest Swim: Fontana (Laugarvatn, Iceland)

leopard

Leopards in Londolozi (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Travel)

FOOD

Best Meal: Langass Lodge, (North Uist, Scotland). No question—out of all the fancy meals I devoured in 2013, this was by far the most memorable, creative and flawless, from start to finish. Bravo to the chef and staff of this Hebridean hideaway.

Best Restaurant: Springfontein (Stanford, South Africa) A nice surprise towards the end of the year, Springfontein just opened. I loved every aspect of this simple, but spectacular dining experience, from the modern farm design, down to every little bite of this artistically-crafted food. My favorite dish? “Orange, Seven Ways” which is a culinary masterpiece. Worth the drive to the hinterlands of the Western Cape.

Best Café: Shelley’s Gourmet Café (Cape Town, South Africa)

Best Breakfast: Kinloch Lodge (Skye, Scotland)

Best High Tea: Cape Grace Hotel (Cape Town, South Africa)

Best French Fries: Knife & Fork (Spruce Pine, North Carolina) I’ll go so far as to claim these are the best french fries in the world. Truly knockout.

Best Burger: Marv’s Classic Soda Shop (Black Diamond, Alberta) With peanut butter, who knew?

Best Fish: Room service at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel (Oslo, Norway)

Best Cheese Cart: Isle of Eriska Hotel & Spa (Scotland)

Best Tacos: El Rincón de la Lechuza (Mexico City, Mexico)

Best Pie: Log Cabin Cafe (Choteau, Montana) All home-baked, with so many different kinds, but all delicious.

Best Bartender: Hotel Paisano (Marfa, Texas)

Best Sandwich: Crofutt’s (Bayside, Texas)

Tanzania kids

Best Photo Bomb of 2013 in Maji Ya Chai, Tanzania (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic)

ACCOMMODATION

Best Hotel: Uma (Paro, Bhutan)

Best Boutique Hotel: Blythswood Square (Glasgow, Scotland)

Best Budget Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn (Gatlinburg, Tennessee)

Best Camp: Selinda Camp (Botswana)

Best Celebrity Run-in: Reykjavik Marina (Reykjavík, Iceland)

Coolest Hotel Rooms: Hotel Zaza (Houston, Texas)

Best Staff & Customer Service: Isle of Eriska Hotel & Spa (Scotland)

Best Bed: Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa (Maldives)  I’ve slept in more than 150 beds this year, and this one was outstanding.

Best Bathtub: Mandalay Bay (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Best Shower: Tau Pan (Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana) Out in the open, my shower at Tau Pan was all about the view–the open, arid Kalahari. Nothing beats washing your hair while lions are roaming through the shrubs below.

Best Spa Treatment: Seaweed bath at Blythswood Square (Glasgow, Scotland) 30 minutes soaking in a warm bath, wrapped in a ball of Scottish kelp from the Outer Hebrides. Felt spectacular, both during and after.

Best Massage: Chi Spa, Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa (Maldives).

Best Swimming Pool: Al Bustan Palace, Ritz Carlton (Muscat, Oman)

Dollar

Visiting the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Kathy Altaras, National Geographic Travel)

CULTURE & SHOPPING

Best Museum: Royal Tyrrell Museum (Drumheller, Alberta). Never in all my travels have I encountered a better dinosaur museum than the Royal Tyrrell.

Best Art: Rothko Chapel (Houston, Texas). A personal favorite, I was glad to return under the auspices of “work” only to be surprised again by its subtle beauty.

Best Sculpture: Ekebergparken (Oslo, Norway) Brand new this year, this woodsy sculpture park on a hillside in Norway’s capital is both beautiful and strange–I was happy for the chance to explore it before it opened!

Best Album: Desire Lines, Camera Obscura (Glasgow, Scotland)

Best Musical Discovery: Hector Bizerk (Glasgow, Scotland)

Best Shopping: Copenhagen Airport (CPH) (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Best Antiques: Virgelle Mercantile (Virgelle, Montana)

Best Farmers’ Market: City Market on 104th (Edmonton, Alberta). Highlights? Bacon Jam!

IMG_4799

Sampling the deep-fried Mars bars at the Montana State Fair (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Travel)

BLOGGING

Best Find: Queen Victoria’s Underwear (Calgary, Alberta)

Highest Viewed Post: The Rangerettes (Kilgore, Texas), followed by Why Leaves Change Color (Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

Personal Favorite Post: Midnight in Greece, which I wrote in flight, on my way to Ethiopia.

Most Commented-on Post: Why I Won’t Go Shark Cage Diving

Most Viral Video: The Real Housewives of Glasgow (Facebook: 9,376 likes, 3,909 shares, 851 comments)

Most Popular Instagram Post: The White House (Washington, DC) with 441 likes and this Ghost Town (near Paris, Idaho) with 328 likes.

Best Internet Café:Lochboisdale (South Uist, Scotland)

Best Hotel Wi-Fi: Hilton (Not an endorsement, just a fact–this year, no other hotel has offered more free, fail-proof internet than the Hilton brands. They’re doing something right.)

Best Interview(s): Marfa Public Radio (Marfa, Texas) & NPR’s Here & Now (Boston, Massachusetts)

On the Air at NPR (Photo by Lauren Hodapp, National Geographic Travel)

On the Air at NPR (Photo by Lauren Hodapp, National Geographic Travel)

Comments

  1. Bryson Moore
    Chattanooga, TN
    December 30, 2013, 12:35 pm

    Great list! Sounds like quite the year. What resources do you use to decide where to spend your time in each location and make sure that you are exploring the best of what that area has to offer?

  2. M.e.e.
    Edmonton, Alberta
    December 30, 2013, 7:11 pm

    I love seeing Alberta on your list of bests! However, if you liked you pb burger in Black Diamond, then you should try the peanut butter cheeseburger at T-Bocks in Decorah, Iowa. Soooo good. Decorah itself is truly a gem of a place!

  3. Gail McLennan
    Edmonton, Alberta
    December 30, 2013, 7:18 pm

    How wonderful to see our beautiful province mentioned in National Geographic! I travel a lot and I am always so happy to come home to our beautiful province. My goal is to travel more roads in Alberta than my Mother and Father-in-Law. Thanks for recognizing some great things about my home.

    Gail

  4. […] Our very own City Market on 104th, was recently recognized by National Geographic blogger Andrew Evans, as the BEST Farmers’ Market in 2013!  Andrew has travelled the globe and visited our lovely street this past summer…  We have to agree with Andrew on this one…  Congratulations to the City Market and all those that have worked so hard to make it as successful as it is today!  Read Andrew’s Post here. […]

  5. Dorothy ( nevisvida )
    Inverie, Knoydart, Scottish Highlands
    December 31, 2013, 10:14 am

    Thank you Andrew for bringing the world of most interesting
    places and yourself to our rural lives. How through your
    travels we can see glimpse of a world quickly changing
    and most precious indeed. Slainte mhor from Inverie.

  6. Maureen Shenher
    Elk Island National Park
    December 31, 2013, 12:30 pm

    Hello Andrew! What an amazing year! Thanks for visiting Elk Island National Park when you were in Alberta. Will you come back to help us translocate some bison to American Prairie Reserve in March? Our bison management facility will be more exciting to see, then :) Best wishes for a happy New Year, and happy new travels!

  7. […] National Geographic Travel‘s Andrew Evans logged 276 days on the road this year, quite a lot even for an official Digital Nomad. Every year he makes a list of his top travel experiences, and here’s his list for 2013, including Best Dive (Palau), Best Sunsets (Botswana), Best Winter Adventure (snowmobiling in Yellowstone), Hottest Swim (Laugarvatn, Iceland), and Most Extreme Board Game (Scrabble on the Arctic Circle). For his picks on Best Airport, Best Bathtub, Most Unusual Wildlife Spotting, Best Budget Hotel and LOTS more, check out his blog post here. […]

  8. […] For his picks on Best Airport, Best Bathtub, Most Unusual Wildlife Spotting, Best Budget Hotel and LOTS more, check out his blog post here. […]

  9. […] Downtown. And it appears as though the market made an impression on the blogger, as he rated it Best Farmers’ Market in his Best of 2013 blog. According to the blog, one of the highlights for Evans was Brad Smoliak’s Bacon […]

  10. […] undoubtedly heard by now, National Geographic blogger Andrew Evans highlighted the City Market on his Best of 2013 list. Based on the response here in Edmonton, you’d think this was the first time we’ve ever […]

  11. […] echo Mack, one National Geographic writer’s favourite market that he happened to visit in a calendar year somehow mutated into the accolade of “world’s best […]

  12. Jill Easy
    Edmonton
    January 8, 1:46 pm

    So happy to see City Market Downtown on this list! It is truly a treasure of our city.

  13. Judy Lucas
    Claresholm, Alberta
    January 8, 3:50 pm

    Thank you for your kind words Andrew. Love to have you back anytime.

  14. Ana @ CuracaoRentalHomes
    www.curacaovacationaccomodation.com
    January 13, 9:30 am

    You must have had quite a year! Hopefully 2014 will be as exciting. Have you ever thought of visiting the Caribbean islands? Surely there are plenty of interesting things to do on each.

  15. Columbia Hillen
    http://loveisphotoblog.com/
    January 14, 8:21 am

    Very interesting choices for your list, I have not been so lucky to visit many of them, but it is inspiring. And I will start with visiting Glasgow – you liked it better than Edinburgh, which does not happen so often.
    You are very welcome to visit our area, Gweedore in Co Donegal, one of the most beautiful but lesser known areas in Ireland. Have a great 2014!

  16. Real African
    Kenya
    January 15, 8:41 am

    Impressive list. Try stopping over in Nairobi Kenya in http://www.realafricantours.com/

  17. Marge
    Little Rock Arkansas
    January 16, 10:33 pm

    Ok now I have a few new things to add to my bucket list.
    Loved sharing a few of your favorites with you.

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    January 17, 1:26 pm

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  19. Passport Stamps
    www.passport-stamps.com
    January 19, 10:28 am

    Great picture of you and the kids. Cheers xx

  20. […] It’s pretty exciting that the City Market Downtown on 104th Street was chosen as the best farmers’ market of 2013 by an international travel writer, Andrew Evans, from National Geographic […]

  21. Berdj Joseph Rassam
    January 26, 10:20 pm

    Best city – Glasgow, really? Interesting.

  22. Dima
    Are you passionate about travelling
    January 27, 11:39 am
  23. Dima
    Are you passionate about travelling
    January 27, 11:39 am
  24. […] Andrew’s List: The Best of 2013 […]

  25. Go Running Tours
    February 4, 9:31 am

    Are you passionate about exploring a new city in a unique and active way? Visit http://www.gorunningtours.com/ and book a guided running tour!

  26. Harddisk Recovery
    netherlands
    March 25, 3:50 am

    Wow! that’s an impressive amount of travel for just one year!!

    funny how Schiphol seems to be the best Airport, to me it’s just like one of the most normal things in the world ;)

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  27. John smeeth
    Kathmandu, Nepal
    April 16, 6:42 am

    nice pictures, Monks at top pic are seems to be sooo happy……. Holyland Guest House also provides such life time experience in Nepal.

  28. […] My first stop was the downtown City Market on 104th street. This market is one of the many spawns of the farmers’ market resurgence that’s happened in the last five years, and has grown from humble beginnings to my favourite market in Edmonton. National Geographic digital nomad, Andrew Evans (a man I was lucky enough to take travel writing workshops from at the Iceland Writers Retreat) actually called it the best farmers’ market in the world in his 2013 review. […]

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    August 24, 5:06 pm

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