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Explore 14 Incredible Countries: Our Around-the-World Itinerary

For over 5 months (165 days), we travelled around the world. Initially, the around-the-world itinerary was planned for 6 months, but unfortunately, we had to end our journey earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Travelling around the world was a unique and enriching experience for us; we returned more knowledgeable about the world but also more aware of our capabilities and limitations as travellers. Reflecting on our around-the-world itinerary, we realized how each destination contributed to our journey.

Check out how we planned our trip and how we built the around-the-world itinerary.

We initially had a planned around-the-world itinerary, but as mentioned earlier, this itinerary allowed for some flexibility, and there were long periods when the detailed itinerary was not set, so we will share with you the actual itinerary and the main reasons that led us to adjust the around-the-world itinerary during our journey.

around-the-world Itinerary

  • Duration: 165 days (between October 2019 and March 2020)
  • Countries: 14

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South Africa

City View, Cape Town, Start of the around-the-world itinerary, South Africa
  • Duration: 15 Days
  • Month: October
  • Destinations: Cape Town; Stellenbosch; Overberg; Garden Route; Wilderness; Knysna; Port Elizabeth; Kruger National Park;

The first stop on our around-the-world itinerary was South Africa. The initial idea was to start with Namibia; however, we had to make choices and leave that country for a future trip. Visiting South Africa was a pleasant surprise for us. We loved the diversity of the country, the friendliness with which we were received, and how safe we felt during our journey. We mostly travelled by car within the country, although for longer distances, we flew.

What was left to do: Explore more wine regions; cross it by train;

Hong Kong

Nathan Road Area, Hong Kong
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Month: October

Initially, on our around-the-world itinerary, we hadn’t planned to visit Hong Kong; however, when we bought the flight from Johannesburg to Ho Chi Minh City, we had the opportunity to extend the layover and took advantage of it. A few days earlier, we considered replanning and going to Macau since protests were happening in the city. But after talking to locals, we realized it was safe to visit Hong Kong.

What was left to do: Visit the Tian Tan Buddha; Visit the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery; Visit Macau

Vietnam

Hanoi, street market, Vietnam
  • Duration: 16 days
  • Month: October/November
  • Destinations: Ho Chi Minh; Mekong Delta; Hoi An; Da Nang; Hue; Hanoi; Halong Bay;

When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh from Hong Kong, the contrast between an organized city and the typical chaos of major cities in Southeast Asia couldn’t have been greater. This is one of the details we enjoy most when travelling, the cultural shock. On one hand, upon arrival, the traffic, cockroaches, and rats were a bit overwhelming, a city full of life all day long, but after two days, we were more than accustomed. 

Vietnam is not just chaos, and visiting the Mekong Delta, Hoi An, or experiencing waking up on a boat in Halong Bay are clear examples of a diversity that many countries don’t have, and those were also the reasons that led us to include this wonderful country in our around-the-world itinerary.

What was left to do: Visit Ninh Binh

Laos

  • Duration: 9 days;
  • Month: November
  • Destinations: Vientiane; Vang Vieng; Luang Prabang;

Laos is an untouched paradise. The natural beauty and the simplicity and tranquillity of the cities are undoubtedly reasons that would make us want to revisit this country. Sometimes overlooked by many itineraries in Southeast Asia, it is a country we advise anyone with the time or opportunity to visit, or to include it in an around-the-world itinerary.

Thailand (first part)

  • Duration: 10 days
  • Month: November
  • Destinations: Chiang Mai; Chiang Rai; Bangkok;

To optimize our transportation budget and save some time on travel, we chose to divide Thailand into two parts, the North and the South. We wanted to visit the temples of Angkor, and we found a combination of flights that would allow us, at a low price, to go from Bangkok to Siem Reap and from Siem Reap to Phuket. We even considered leaving Cambodia for another trip, but perseverance in flight research allowed us to fit in four days to visit the country during our visit to Thailand.

It was our first trip to Thailand, so initially, the fascination with the numerous temples in the northern cities was evident, however, we recognized that when we arrived in Bangkok, we were already a bit saturated with temples and began to make some selections of what we wanted to visit.

We loved all the cities we visited and fell in love with the cuisine, the markets, and the atmosphere of each place, but Bangkok won a special place in our hearts. This city, where modernity and Thai cultural tradition meet, with the influence of being the “capital of Southeast Asia,” is a unique place from which we didn’t want to leave so soon.

Cambodia

  • Duration: 4 days
  • Month: November
  • Destinations: Siem Reap;

Visiting the temples of Angkor was something that was on our Bucket List, so there was nothing better than including this destination in the around-the-world itinerary. Since we were travelling so close, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit them. We visited the country only for this purpose. We arrived one night, we had previously hired a tuk-tuk driver, and we agreed on the time with him the next day. We didn’t need to worry about any other details of the temple visit.

For two days, we visited the most important temples, including watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat. On the last day, we went to visit one of the floating villages on the outskirts of the city. Both experiences were fantastic.

What was left to do: Visit Phnom Penh;

Thailand (second part)

  • Duration: 16 days
  • Month: December
  • Destinations: Phuket; Krabi; Ko Lanta; Ko Lipe;

After two months of travelling at an almost frantic pace, the islands of Thailand seemed like a great place to slow down and recharge. But on the one hand, while it felt good, after a few days, the atmosphere starts to be always the same, and the fact that they are highly touristy places means that what you hear most on the street is always the same things: massage, tuk-tuk, longboat, tour, etc.

Of all the places we visited in that area, what we loved the most was Ko Lipe. If today we were planning an around-the-world itinerary to travel in that area, we would probably have reduced the time in Thailand and would have gone to Malaysia earlier.

What was left to do: Islands of the Gulf of Thailand;

Malaysia

  • Duration: 13 days
  • Month: December
  • Destinations: Langkawi; Penang; Kuala Lumpur; Malacca;

We entered Malaysia by boat, at Langkawi Island, coming from Ko Lipe. It’s a very quiet island with paradisiacal beaches, and some tourist attractions (including a cable car with a fabulous view and an amusement park). We stayed in Kuah, which is a duty-free zone and has many tax-free shops; however, there’s little else happening in the city, and the area by the sea is a port. If we were to return today, we would probably choose another area to stay, such as Pantai Cenang, which is more lively and has a pleasant beach.

From Langkawi, we travelled by boat to Penang. This was one of the most unique places we visited in Malaysia. The city is magical with its gastronomy, urban art, and architecture. From Penang, we travelled to Kuala Lumpur and ended up spending Christmas in Malacca.

Within Malaysia, we always travelled by train or bus, which work well and are much more economical than flights. To leave the country for Singapore, we also used a bus. Making these more economical choices allows us to optimize the budget and maximize the around-the-world itinerary.

Singapore

  • Duration: 3 days
  • Month: December

We had wanted to visit Singapore for a long time. When we found a flight promotion from the city to Australia at an unbeatable price, we booked right away and included the city in our around-the-world itinerary.

We visited Singapore in the days immediately after Christmas, so the city had a special magic, and the Gardens by the Bay were hosting the Christmas fair, which made everything even more magical. Besides loving the futurism and modernity of many parts of the city, we also enjoyed the older and more traditional parts like Little India.

Australia

  • Duration: 21 days
  • Month: January
  • Destinations: Melbourne; The Great Ocean Road (Warrnambool; Apollo Bay; Geelong); Brisbane; Pacific Highway (Gold Coast; Byron Bay; Port Macquarie; Newcastle); Sydney;

Australia is one of those almost classic dream destinations. When we started planning the visit to Australia, we quickly realized that many things would remain unseen. It is a really large continent, and the cost of travelling in Australia is higher than in most other countries we visited.

We visited Australia during the major fires at the end of 2019, and even before we travelled, we thought our around-the-world itinerary would be compromised, however, we ended up sticking to the plan we had made without any problems.

We visited Melbourne and rented a car to do the Great Ocean Road, where we saw some of the most beautiful coastal landscapes in the country. We flew from Melbourne to Brisbane and rented another car to drive down the coast to Sydney. Both experiences were incredible. We left the country from Sydney to Fiji.

What we didn’t get to do: Visit Adelaide; Visit the Great Barrier Reef;

Fiji

  • Duration: 9 days
  • Month: January
  • Destinations: Nadi; Nacula Island;

Our goal when we included Fiji in our around-the-world itinerary was to find the true tropical paradise, so we chose to spend most of our time on one of the Yasawa Islands, Nacula Island.

Access to the islands can be done by seaplane or boat from Viti Levu. We opted for the more economical solution, travelling by boat. The boat leaves early in the morning and takes about 6 hours to reach the destination, so it was essential to book a hotel in Nadi for the first night and the night after the return. This boat makes several stops along the way on the various islands of the country. There is a ticket option that allows you to travel for some time between the various islands; however, as we intended to rest and thought we had found the perfect place, we stayed the entire time on Nacula Island.

We stayed at a resort managed by the local community of the island, and it was an incredible experience. The warm weather, the blue sea with transparent waters and corals right there, the green island, the friendliness of the people, and the relaxation that that place provided us are undoubtedly reasons that would make us return. It is important to note that the islands have small villages of locals, so the isolation when visiting these islands is real and ideal for relaxing.

What we didn’t get to do: Visit other islands; Explore Viti Levu Island;

New Zealand

  • Duration: 17 days
  • Month: January/February
  • Destinations: Christchurch; Otematata; Wanaka; Invercargill; Lumsden; Queenstown; Cambridge; Taupo; Rotorua; Auckland;

When we included New Zealand in our around-the-world itinerary, we divided our trip to the country into two parts: the South Island and the North Island. We travelled between the two islands by plane, since typically the cost of the ferry and the fee to drop off the car on the different islands is more expensive than connecting the two islands by plane. However, sometimes there are promotions or reallocation deals that may allow you to rent a car or a camper van for the entire trip.

We started the journey on the South Island. This island is much more natural and less populated than the North Island, mainly because the main cities are located in the north. The landscapes are fantastic, such as Mount Cook. Unfortunately, we caught floods and couldn’t visit Milford Sound and Te Anau because the roads were destroyed.

On the North Island, we loved the city of Auckland and crossing Tongariro. Having the opportunity to cross a volcano on a nearly 20km walk is undoubtedly a unique experience.

What we didn’t get to do: Milford Sound; Visit Wellington;

Argentina (first part)

  • Duration: 4 days
  • Month: February
  • Destinations: Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a huge and fantastic city, very much like a large European city. We visited the main sights of the city, tried the best food, and even saw a tango show. We were lucky to catch the Carnival season, which allowed us to see some street performances.

When we planned the South America part of our trip, we realized we wouldn’t have time to visit Chile, so we chose to add Uruguay and extend our visit to Argentina. It’s possible to visit Uruguay by taking a ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento, which is on the other side of the Rio de la Plata.

Uruguay

  • Duration: 7 days
  • Month: February
  • Destinations: Colonia del Sacramento; Montevideo

Uruguay is one of the most developed countries in South America. We knew that during our visit, we wouldn’t have time to explore everything we wanted, so we chose to visit Colonia del Sacramento and the capital, Montevideo.

To travel between the two cities, we used the bus. In reality, the return ferry ticket to Buenos Aires included the bus connection between Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento.

Colonia del Sacramento is a very quiet small town with excellent gastronomy and a very pleasant historic area to explore. For those who enjoy street photography, there couldn’t be a better place. Montevideo is a city very similar to Buenos Aires but smaller. The indoor and outdoor markets offer great opportunities to buy crafts and try national cuisine. The architecture of the buildings in Montevideo is undoubtedly a point of interest, as well as the proximity to the beach, where you can enjoy long walks along the promenade. From our experience, both cities were safe for tourists.

Argentina (second part)

  • Duration: 14 days
  • Month: February/March
  • Destinations: Ushuaia; Salta; Cachi; Cafayate; Tilcara; Purmamaca; Humahuaca; Puerto Iguazu

After returning by ferry to Buenos Aires, we stayed only one night in the city before taking a flight to Ushuaia the next day.

Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina, is the starting point for those visiting Antarctica. That wasn’t our case, however, the city is much more than that. Dubbed as the end of the world, the city provides access to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, where besides the end of the world train, you can find several trails and the southernmost post office. The natural beauty of that place is worth a visit.

After a few days in Ushuaia, we took a flight to Salta, which would be the starting point for two road trips in that part of Argentina. First, we went south to visit Cachi, the Quebrada de las Flechas, the Quebrada de las Conchas, the Los Cardones National Park, and the wine region of Cafayate, and then north on National Route 9 where we visited Tilcara, Purmamaca, and Humahuaca. The landscapes in that area are undoubtedly something we had never seen before. The diversity and the small villages, which often made us stop, made this part of the trip one of our favourites.

After visiting this part of Argentina, we returned to Salta where we took a flight to Puerto Iguazu. This city provides access to the Iguazu Falls on the Argentine side. Its proximity to the borders of Brazil and Paraguay also allows a visit to the various cities and various perspectives of the falls. After visiting the Argentine side, we crossed the border to Brazil.

Brazil

  • Duration: 3 days
  • Month: March
  • Destinations: Foz do Iguaçu

In Foz do Iguaçu, besides admiring the waterfalls from the Brazilian side, we also explored the city, with special emphasis on its gastronomy. It was there that we enjoyed one of the best barbecues of our lives while preparing to continue the journey towards Bolivia.

As we were heading to Bolivia, we were informed that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the borders would be closed the next day. Thus, we were forced to decide to return to Portugal, postponing visits to Bolivia and Peru for later.


Although this journey and this around-the-world itinerary were unexpectedly and abruptly interrupted, it was a unique life experience, being not only the first but also spectacular. We explored incredible places, tasted fantastic foods, and, above all, tested our limits as travellers. We learned a lot from travelling this way, freely, independently, and always aware that the world has much to teach us.

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