2009 Travel in Review: Best Surprise

by Chris on December 29, 2009

The best travel surprise of 2009? Guanajuato, a Colonial city in central Mexico


“Omigod. It’s gorgeous!”

Such was the tenor of comments uttered by our group of normally jaded travel writers as we viewed the colorful rooftops of colonial Guanajuato.a university town in central Mexico, for the first time this October. Comparisons were thrown out: Portofino. San Francisco.

Nah. Just the absolute best of what Mexico has to offer.

Over the next few days, surprises kept coming. The macabre stories at Museo de Momias (mummies).  The Churrigueresque facade of San Cayetano de La Valenciana, a Baroque church built by a silver baron. Haute Mexican at Las Mercedes, where standout dishes included a salad of cacti and squash blossoms.

Yet Guanajuato was at its best in the evening, when mariachis strolled through La Jardin and its plazas filled with laughing students and friends meeting up for drinks.  It felt just like Europe – only with tasty chorizo tacos sold streetside. Bliss.

What destination surprised you this year? Tell me below!

Read more 2009 Year in Review posts: Yesterday, Best Bargain

Coming tomorrow: Worst Experience.

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Don Nadeau December 29, 2009 at 11:30 am

During February and March, I visited South Africa for first time since apartheid.

I had heard a great deal about the safety issues that attract so much media attention, but wasn’t prepared for the lack of bitterness toward whites prevalent everywhere. You could have cut the tension between races with a knife the last time I was there.

Obviously, the conciliatory tone set by people like Nelson Mandela, F. W. de Klerk, and Desmond Tutu prior to and during the first years of post-apartheid rule worked miracles, not just between blacks and whites but also among various people of color who had displayed so much intolerance toward each other prior to 1994.

The result of all this was a joy to experience this year.

If you haven’t, I urge you to visit this amazing and beautiful country.


craig zabransky December 29, 2009 at 8:51 am

Before this year, I never heard of Hocking Hills, OH. But a recent trip opened my eyes to a true surprise on the tip of Appalachia. It’s a place where you can truly get lost in yourself and really appreciate nature. For anyone close by, definitely pay a visit during autumn, the fall foliage rivals anywhere in the US.

You can read about it here;

stay adventurous,


Kirsten Alana December 29, 2009 at 9:21 am

Hocking Hills, Ohio. A truly great choice for midwestern hospitality, calming influence of nature, great cuisine, rest & relaxation and fun activities like kayaking and zip line adventures…

Very surprising, very worth the trip!


Chris December 29, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Craig & Kirsten – I’ve never been to Hocking Hills, but now I just might have to look into it. It sounds like the type of destination that would also be affordable, at least for East Coasters.

Don – I am dying to go to South Africa! That’s great that you saw such a change over the years. I might have a chance to go in January..we’ll see.


Don Nadeau December 29, 2009 at 10:30 pm

That’s wonderful! Go for it.

“A History of South Africa” by Leonard Thompson (3rd ed.) helps you understand what happened leading up to 2000. Of course, everyone reads Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, but I shamefully haven’t finished it.

One travel tip: Arrive in Cape Town, a perfect place to settle in after a long flight, not Johannesburg.


Amy Weirick December 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

We work with the Hocking Hills Tourism Assoc, so yes, I am biased, but I agree with Craig – it is an amazing place. So surprising. Was talking to the pilot at Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tours yesterday and he said the place is covered with gorgeous snow right now and the view from above — snow-covered forests, gorges, caves and frozen waterfalls everywhere — is spectacular.


Lisa Davis January 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I am on the Hocking Hills band wagon. This is one spot in the U.S. you can’t miss – even is a Bucket List contender for its sunrise kayaking excursions; hikes through caves that have the natural beauty of something you might find in New Zealand; and restaurant “finds” like the Lunchbox with one of the world’s largest collections of lunchboxes, some of which might date back to WWI or maybe even earlier. Spend the night in a cabin at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls with views of the surrounding woods and hills – a true getaway.


Sandor January 4, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I love Hungary – Its my favorite country 😉 I mostly like Budapest and the lake Balaton so I love to rear and hear about it. Great post


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