This past year has been another year jam-packed year with a lot of epic travels and it was my first time stepping foot in South America. So far in 2017 I have visited Colombia, Peru, Brazil (Carnival), Thailand, Qatar, the USA and plan to visit Costa Rica and Mexico later this year. Throughout the past 8 months I have captured some of my all-time favorite pictures and I wanted to compile my best photos of 2017 and a few of my favorite videos & time-lapses. I normally post my photos and videos on my Instagram @SwigMeetsWorld, but decided to compile a few of my favorites in a blog post. All of my pictures are taken with the Sony RX100-M3, but there is a newer and improved version of the Rx100 which you can check out here. I outline my favorite travel cameras in this blog post here.
The photos and videos are in chronological order. Feel free to leave a comment about which pictures you like the best or any constructive criticism from any fellow photographers is always appreciated.
My first destination in South America was Medellín, Colombia and it was love at first site. After spending a month here, I decided to make this my new hub since I love the city so much. Overall, I have spent around 4 months here and plan to spend 2 more this year since I am only allowed 6 months on a tourist visa. During my time here I have gotten to visit beautiful parts of Colombia, like Guatape, Cartagena and Santander. Even though I loved all the cities for different reasons, Medellin is still my favorite city to live in, since it really does have it all!
I was lucky enough to be in Medellín during their world famous Festival of the Flowers (Féria de Las Flores) and took this opportunity to capture this photo from the beautiful festival.
If you are wondering what the magical city of Medellín looks like at night here is a time lapse that I took from my apartment. This city’s beauty never ceases to amaze me and each week I seem discover a new place that impresses me even more.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Visiting Peru was a bit of an unexpected journey and what began as a short layover on the way to Carnival in Rio turned into a week stay and I am really glad it turned out this way. I liked Peru so much that I am actually traveling back to Lima and Machu Picchu next month! Below are a few of my favorite photos and a cool time lapse that I was able to capture while spending the day at Machu Picchu. The ruins are absolutely breathtaking and photos and video hardly do the 360 degree views justice. If you are planning to visit Machu Picchu, I highly suggest reading my Machu Picchu Travel Guide.
Machu Picchu is an Inca city located high up in the mountains and is approximately 2,400 meters or 8,000 feet above sea level. Getting to Machu Picchu there are a lot of ways, but most people fly to a city called Cusco, which is actually located 11,000 feet above sea level. It’s pretty crazy to think that Cusco is higher than Machu Picchu. Once you arrive in Cusco the best way to reach the Inca city is by an expensive, but scenic train ride! If you are planning to visit the ruins I suggest bringing some of my recommend travel items. Looking forward to returning to this magical place in September.
Carnival – Rio, Brazil
Visiting Rio for Carnival has been fairly high on my bucket-list and I was extremely excited to check out all the hype. Rio lived up to the hype for the most part, but there were a few things that I didn’t like about Rio. I’ll start off with the good though. Rio is a very beautiful city and there is a type of atmosphere in the air, the city just feels alive and especially during Carnival. All of my interactions with locals was very pleasant and for the most part, everyone is in the city to just there to have an amazing time! People visit all over the world and all come together to dance and party in the streets. Overall I spent 8 days in Rio, which was way too long in my opinion (during Carnival). I was burnt out of Carnival after 3-4 days and wish I would of spent more time discovering other parts of Brazil. During the 2017 Carnival, Rio had more than 1.1 million tourists visiting. This big surge of tourists makes the prices of accommodation skyrocket and makes transport a nightmare. Brazil is an expensive city to begin with, which I knew going into. I didn’t mind the higher prices, but I felt like there was little value found throughout the city. This high prices, with low quality was my biggest gripe about Rio: the food, accommodation, internet, infrastructure was all very over-priced, but quite low quality. Despite these reasons, I do HIGHLY recommend visiting Rio and attending Carnival. I think at some point in the future, I’ll give Rio another visit, but I don’t think it will ever be a place I spend more than a week.
The climb to the top of Dos Hermanos was hot, hard and a tad dangerous…but man was it worth it! The reason it’s slightly dangerous is because you have to travel through a favela to get there. In addition to this, most people hire a motor-taxi to drive you to the start of the trail. The trail itself is no easy trek either, I would rate is as Moderate to Hard since a few parts of the hike are slippery and steep. All of the hard work though is rewarded by a fantastic 360 degree view of Rio. It really is worth the effort and I highly recommend it for anyone visiting Rio! Another must see is visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue. I was actually more impressed with the view from the top than the actual statue that was swarming with lots and lots of tourists.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai – UAE
After visiting Brazil, I decided to make a short pit stop in Dubai on my way to Saigon. I only had two nights and one day, but really wish I would have spent at least three full days in the city! I loved the architecture of Dubai and really hope to visit there again sometime.
This might have to be one of the my best cityscape photos from 2017 and it took me forever to capture every inch of the world’s tallest building. So just how tall is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai you might be wondering? The Burj Khalifa is 160 stories and measures 829.8 meters or 2,722 feet tall. The building is so tall, that I actually had to capture 3 separate photos and stitch them together in post production. I love this picture and so did the Official Burj Khalifa Site, they decided to re-post it on their Instagram.
The trip to Dubai would not have been complete without taking a tour to one of the world’s highest viewing decks. Getting to the top was actually pretty miserable and expensive. The observation deck is called, “At The Top” and costs anywhere from $35 up to $140. The ticket I purchased was $55 since I wanted to go for sunset…but I missed it due to a poorly managed system. When you purchase a ticket, you have to select a time. Therefore I selected 30 minutes prior to sunset and arrived on time. Once I arrived there was a huge line to just show your purchased ticket to receive an “entrance ticket.” This was a very unnecessary step in the process. After 30 minutes I received my entrance ticket and then finally got in the main line which took around 30 minutes of more waiting to get to the top. It was frustrating that I missed “magic hour” but at least I still was able to grab some amazing captures. If you do decide to go, I would suggest purchasing an “immediate entry ticket” or choosing a time that is less busy. Overall, it was a lot of waiting, but I am glad to have done it and captured a pretty amazing reflection pic.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
After Dubai I headed back to Vietnam for a highly anticipated return to a city that I had spent around 3 months in last year. I was excited to catch up with old friends and to travel to Da Nang for my boss’ wedding. If you can overcome the noise pollution, HCMC can be a fantastic place to live. There is a tight nit group of online entrepreneurs residing here and it has to be one of the best hubs in Asia for the online community. When staying in Saigon I normally prefer District 3 since the area is a bit more local, but still close enough to the action of District 1. This time around I was living near Horizon Tower and spent a lot of nights on the roof top Shooting in Vietnam, well not that type of shooting…the one with a camera.
After a month in Vietnam I headed back to Colombia for two months and then jetted off to Thailand for a work trip in Phuket, Thailand. This time around we were staying in Surin Beach, which I preferred a lot more than the notorious Patong area. Scooters are a must in this part of Thailand due to the poor transport system in place and ludicrously priced taxis. Phuket is a beautiful region of Thailand and I was really stoked to visit some of the surrounding areas of this massive island!
Above is a photo of Pileh Cove, which is about an hour and thirty minutes boat ride from Phuket and is an absolute must-see when visiting the region. I also highly recommend staying a night on Koh Phi Phi and visiting the surrounding Islands like Maya Bay. After a very productive month of working in Thailand, it was time to head off to Qatar for a short layover on my way back to Medellín.
After talking to a few friends I had fairly low expectations for Doha. Everyone I talked to told me to not leave the airport, which everyone agrees is very luxurious and extremely nice. I decided to spend two nights in Doha and see for myself. Visiting Doha in July is not advised since it is extremely hot and humid. I think the entire time I was in Doha, I spent around 30 minutes outside. Walking around in the day is not recommended and even at night I was dripping with sweat after 15 minutes of capturing the Doha Skyline. Luckily, despite the crazy weather I was able to get a great capture and then retreat to a nearby coffee shop located in the park next to the Burj Doha.
After a few days in Doha I arrived in Miami for a long overdue reunion with my Dad. I decided to fly him down to Miami for a belated fathers day. It was awesome to see him and give back a little to the person that got me struck with the travel bug! I was debating between Airbnb, but opted for a higher quality and surprisingly more affordable stay at the Four Seasons. My Airbnb rant will come another day! The Four Seasons hotel was perfect and located in the Brickell area, which is full of fantastic restaurants and fairly central. One of the biggest highlight was surprising my dad with a rental car. I told him we had a car rented for the day and once he saw it was a Tesla, he let out a big scream. It was great! Our first experience with driving an electric car and the Tesla exceeded all the hype. Miami was a lot of fun and cruising around South Beach in a Tesla with my Dad was an experience I’ll cherish for the rest of my life!
Peru – Round 2
I was extremely excited to go back to Peru and visit Machu Picchu and Lima again! Both of these locations are extremely beautiful and to visit both again in one year was a pleasure. The weather was a lot clearer this time we visited Machu Picchu and the photos turned out pretty amazing! I normally only take landscape photos, but my girlfriend was kind enough to model so I could capture some of the most beautiful photos I have ever taken. I am still learning a lot about taking portraits, so this was perfect practice. Visiting Peru and Machu Picchu with my Dad and girlfriend is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life!
I was really excited to take a trip to Costa Rica for the first time and overall I enjoyed it, but it did not exceed my high expectations. Maybe I am just becoming a cynical travel, but I thought a lot of things were overpriced despite being in the low season for travel. The other down side was that the only real way to travel was by mini-bus, which is also fairly expensive. Luckily, my first stop was well worth the trip and the highlight to my trip. The La Fortuna area is where I spent my first three nights and I wish I would have stayed longer. The area is surrounded by greenery and the main focus is a large volcanoe in the distance.
The two main things I did in La Fortuna was head to the Tabacon Hot Spring Spa and a Sky Walk in the jungle. The hot spring was worth every penny and I was extremely impressed with how beautiful the spa and hot springs were.
I spent half a day here and thought that was the perfect amount of time. The half-day ticket also includes a meal which was some of the best food I had in Costa Rica. If you are interested in getting a ticket, you guy buy them off Viator here. Just search “Tabacon Hot Springs” and you will find a few options.
I also ventured to do a Sky Walk on the Hanging Bridges at Mistico. The park is extremely beautiful and I reccomend people to get a tour, since you will 99% of the wildlife. I opted to do a self-guided walk since I was planning to do a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park, but highly recommend getting a guide. You can pre-book a guide here, just search for “Mistico Park” and you will have a lot of options to choose from.
After spending my three days in La Fortuna, I headed off to Tamarindo, which had just been hit by a hurricane and was in low season. Due to these two things, the place was sort of a ghost town. A lot of the restaurants were closed and overall I was not a big fan of this small surf town. The surf lesson I took was a lot of fun, but the town was not for me.
My next stop was Manuel Antonio National Park, which I was very excited for due to it being one of the most visited parks in Costa Rica. On the ride in, we saw crocodiles, a sloth and lots of monkeys! The wildlife is flourishing in this area and I was really excited to learn more about the animals living in the national park. My hotel offered a guide and it was worth every penny. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife and his ability to spot animals was unbelievable. If you are visiting the park I 100% suggest getting a guide or you will miss out on almost all of the wildlife since you need a telescope to see the majority of animals.
After around two weeks in Costa Rica, I jetted off to Playa Del Carmen Mexico for a work conference.
The year is winding down and I still have some trips to look forward to. This week I jet off to Panama City, Panama followed by a short trip to Canada and back to the USA for Christmas. In 2018 I have plans to visit Chile and will be spending a lot of time in Colombia! I’ll continue to update this post with more travel pictures throughout the year and of course will keep posting more on my Instagram (@SwigMeetsWorld).
Are you traveling somewhere this year? Leave a comment below and let me know where you’re going! If you want $25 off your next Hotel, use this Free $25 Off Booking.com Coupon.