Since 2005 Amateur Traveler has been talking about a different destination every week. It covers destinations all of the world with an emphasis on culturally rich travel. Learn more about your world.
Amateur Traveler won its creator Chris Christensen a Travel+Leisure award as the "best independent travel journalist".
Travel to Sonoma County, California
Hear about travel to the wine region Sonoma County in California as the Amateur Traveler talks to Brooke Herron about this popular tourism region where she grew up.
Why should someone travel to Sonoma County?
Brooke says, "A myriad of reasons, in my opinion beyond wine. It is an absolutely stunning region from an outdoors perspective. You've got the coast, you've got hiking trails, mountains, hills and then you've got also lots of farms, distilleries, breweries, cideries. And what I loved the most about living there for 20 years and now coming back home to it on a regular basis is really first, the outdoors and the beauty, right? The access to the ocean and trees. And then next, of course, the fact that you can get amazing food, and craft drinks everywhere."
Brooke lays out a 5-day itinerary:
Day One: The Sonoma Coast
The first day begins on the breathtaking Sonoma Coast. Drive along Highway 1, skip the touristy Bodega Bay, and head to Shell Beach near Jenner. Here, you can choose between a leisurely stroll on the Kortum Trail or a more challenging hike on the Pomo Canyon Red Hill Loop. Chris recommends history buffs take the drive up to Fort Ross which was the Russian presence on the California Coast.
After the hike, consider a stop in Jenner for a smoked salmon bagel or clam chowder with a view over the bay. For dinner, Santa Rosa offers the Bird and the Bottle, a favorite, or a more casual option at Russian River Brewery.
Day Two: Sebastopol and Russian River
On the second day, Brooke will explore the charming town of Sebastopol and the Russian River area. The Barlow, an open-air marketplace, is a must-visit. Enjoy craft cider, spirits, and unique food options. Highlights include Golden State Cider, Blue Ridge Kitchen, SpiritWorks Distillery, and the recently added Rewind Arcade for a playful touch.
If you're not into alcohol, explore Goldridge Organic Farms for olive oil tastings and Bohemian Creamery for a delightful cheese experience. For wine enthusiasts, Horse and Plow, Dutton Estate Winery, and the unique Radio Coteau are recommended stops.
Day Three: Relaxing in Petaluma
On the third day, Brooke recommends a leisurely drive to Petaluma. Explore the historic downtown, and if in the mood for seafood, the Shuckery is a great choice. For a more casual experience, Brewster's Beer Garden offers a relaxed atmosphere with great outdoor seating.
Accommodations in Santa Rosa can be found at Hotel E, a boutique luxury option in the heart of downtown. In Petaluma, Brooke suggests considering the charming Metro Hotel for a unique and affordable stay.
Day Four: Explore Hillsburg and Windsor
Brooke's top winery picks in Hillsburg include Idlewild Wines for unique Italian varieties like Arnés, Fresa, Dulcetto, Grignolino, Barbera, and Cortese blends, with educational Sunday events. Orsi Vineyards, a hidden gem in Dry Creek Valley, offers distinctive varieties like Sagrantino and Biancolella. Unty Vineyards, known for sustainable practices, provides a casual Rhone and Italian variety tasting experience. Gary Farrell in Sonoma County is recommended for exceptional Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, especially from the Russian River Valley. Aperture Cellars, known for Bordeaux blends, stands out, with a focus on texture.
In Windsor, Artisan Alley hosts Two Shepherds Wine and Tilted Shed Cider. Two Shepherds offers organic and natural wines, including orange and skin-contact varieties. Grand Cru Custom Crush offers a diverse micro-winery tasting experience. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy Shiloh Regional Park's hikes and mountaintop views, while Riverfront Regional Park offers a scenic water setting.
Brooke suggests exploring farmers' markets in Windsor and Healdsburg for fresh produce and vibrant atmospheres. Dining recommendations in Healdsburg include Bravas Tapas Bar, Willie's Seafood and Raw Bar, Valette Restaurant, and The Matheson. Lo and Behold is recommended for
Travel to Uluru and Central AustraliaAT#874 - Travel to Uluru and Central Australia
Hear about travel to Uluru and Central Australia as the Amateur Traveler talks to travel blogger Chris Fry from AquariusTraveller.com about her most recent trip to the red center of Australia.
Why should someone go to Central Australia?
Chris says, "I Like visiting Uluru for the Aboriginal culture, the art, the history, learning about the Dreamtime. I think it's where I first started learning about the Aboriginal history and our First Nations people and it's one of the best places to actually learn about it there. Some of the tour guides are actually Aboriginal, so they will actually tell you their history, how they grew up and everything like that, so yes, I think it's great for Australians, it's great for tourists to actually learn about that first hand from the people who have been living here for 65 million years."
Chris recommends this itinerary:
Day 1: Arrival in Alice Springs
Arrive in Alice Springs and check into your accommodation.
Take some time to explore the local area and get acquainted with the surroundings.
Day 2: Exploring Alice Springs
Visit the Royal Flying Doctors Museum to learn about its vital role in providing healthcare to remote regions.
Explore the town's Aboriginal galleries, showcasing dot paintings and supporting local communities.
Wander through Todd Mall, the central shopping district, where you can find souvenirs and enjoy lunch at one of the cafes.
Discover the fascinating animal parks in Alice Springs, including a desert animal park and a kangaroo sanctuary.
Day 3: Road Trip around Alice Springs
Embark on a road trip along Larapinta Drive, exploring various gorges and stunning landscapes.
Visit Simpson Gap, known for its white ghost gums, and a chance for a refreshing swim.
Explore Standley Chasm, a narrow gorge with striking rock formations, best experienced during midday sunlight.
Discover Ochre Pit, showcasing Aboriginal history through vibrant rock colors used for painting.
Enjoy a swim at Ormiston Gorge, a popular swimming spot surrounded by towering cliffs.
Explore Glen Helen Gorge and witness part of the Finke River.
Day 4: Palm Valley 4WD Adventure
Join a 4WD bus tour to Palm Valley, experiencing the rugged terrain and unique red cabbage palms.
Learn about the Aboriginal history of the area and witness the contrasting colors of the landscape.
Stop at Hermannsburg, an Aboriginal community, for a cultural experience.
Return to Alice Springs in the evening and relax.
Day 5: Journey to Kings Canyon
Begin the road trip to Kings Canyon, taking the longer route for a scenic drive and passing notable landmarks.
Fuel up at the Old Andado Roadhouse and explore the surrounding area.
Arrive at Kings Canyon Resort, check-in, and relax for the evening.
Day 6: Kings Canyon Hiking Adventure
Embark on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, a challenging but rewarding hike with stunning views.
Explore the Garden of Eden, a sacred Aboriginal site with a water pool.
Exercise caution around cliff edges and enjoy the unique rock formations.
Optional: Take the shorter Kings Creek Walk, providing a different perspective of the area.
Return to the resort for a relaxing evening.
Day 7: Exploring Yulara, the Gateway to Uluru
Wake up and start the day by driving to Yulara, the town that services visitors to Uluru.
Yulara: Learn about the town, which has hotels, camping facilities, a tourist information center, restaurants, cafes, groceries, and fuel stations. Consider hiring a car for convenience.
Distance from Uluru: Yulara is about 30 minutes away from Uluru, making it a convenient base for exploring the area.
Relax and familiarize yourself with the amenities in Yulara. Consider a shuttle bus for convenient transportation within the town.
Day 8: Uluru National Park Exploration
Purchase a National Park Pass for 3 days and start your first day in Uluru.
Sunrise and Sunset: Enjoy the specific sunrise and sunset
Travel to Papua New Guinea
Hear about travel to Papua New Guinea as the Amateur Traveler talks to Chris Shorrock from TravelObscure.com about the Milne Bay Province of this exotic island country.
Why should someone travel to Papua New Guinea?
Chris says, "There's a million reasons why someone should go to Papua New Guinea, it's such a varied country. I would say the main reason to go, is the people are amazing and there's A lot of culture there as well. Also, the amazing natural environment. We're talking jungle-clad islands, beautiful coral reefs, dolphins, birds of paradise, pristine rainforest, and then basically no other tourists. So that was a big draw for me, it's quite off the beaten track and obscure."
Chris flew to Alatau and then headed to the east cape, the Dento Castro Islands, and the Louisiade Island chain.
As a good transition to the country, he stayed at the Tewali Dive Resort for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. While there he took a side trip to a skull cave and a waterfall.
From there they arranged a dinghy to take them from the east cape to Normandy Island and the Sibonai Guest House. Wayaki who owns the guest house introduced them to the local culture including magic, the secret to good yams, and local birdlife. They also took a dugout canoe tour of the nearby bay.
They took a boat next to Ferguson Island. One of the reasons they visited Ferguson Island was to see the hot springs. They also met a Kula Trader. Kula trading is a ceremonial exchange system.
Chris also recommends a visit to Gonubalabala Island which is a great place to snorkel with manta rays. Samarai Island used to be the capital of the province and still has 24-hour electricity which is a rare thing in the area.
Back on the mainland he also recommends a visit to the Ulumani Treetops Rainforest Lodge. The owner of the lodge is using the proceeds from the project to protect a patch of tropical jungle from logging. Chris went on a hike into the jungle to see tropical birds like the bird of paradise... and not a few mosquitoes. They also went down to the shore to snorkel in the wreck of an old ship.
This is an adventurous trip, but if you are willing to dive into the deep end of travel, Papua New Guinea can reward your wanderlust as a tropical paradise should.
AT#718 - Travel to Malta (Repeat)
Hear about sightseeing in the island nation of Malta as the Amateur Traveler talks to Michelle and Nikki from cheekypassports.com about their native country.
They say, “The island is small and that has its restrictions but it’s also a nice thing to have because you can visit and do a lot of activities in a short span. Nowhere is more than 15 minutes by car. The island is maybe 27 kilometers about 17 miles long and barely 14 kilometers wide. There is a lot of history and culture in Malta. There are small villages you can visit. There are large fortified towns. Visitors usually like the historic aspect of Malta. There are some of the oldest free-standing temples in the world. It is a pleasant island. There are the beaches. There’s a lot to do in Malta despite its size.”
Michelle and Nikki lay out a one-week itinerary for us. They start us in the small capital city of Valletta (only 5,000 people). Many of the buildings in Valletta were built by the Knights of the Order of St John (Knights Hospitaller). Not surprisingly, therefore, the largest church in Valletta is Saint John’s Cathedral. St John’s has a rather plain exterior which hides an ornate interior.
Valletta shares the Great Harbor with the Three Cities of Birgu (Vittoriosa), Senglea (Isla), and Bormla (Cospicua) which are also fortified cities. The harbor itself dates back to the Phoenicians. Get a great view of the harbor from the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta.
They recommend a visit to the “quiet city” of Mdina and its sister city of Rabat which is riddled with the underground catacombs of St Paul. St Paul spent some time on the island and brought Christianity to Malta which almost has a church for every day of the year. They recommend checking the local tourism board calendar for when the various churches are having festivals and planning your trip to attend some, if only to see the pageantry and sometimes the fireworks.
Stop by one of the small fishing villages like Marsaxlokk for fresh seafood right off the boat. In the cooler winter months, visit the western shore of the island and the Dingli Cliffs. The western shore of the island is less built-up and better for hiking.
Make a side trip to the island of Gozo which is “more quaint” than the main island. While you are there you should make a visit to the Ġgantija megalithic temple. In the center of Gozo you will find the Cittadella which is a small fortified “city”. Some of the best diving spots are on Gozo such as the Azure Window.
For a relaxing day, off-season, charter a boat or take a ferry to the Blue Lagoon on the mostly uninhabited island of Comino.
There is much to do, see, and eat in Malta. Come see why so many nations have wanted to pocess Malta over so many years.
Travel to the Charente Region of France
Hear about travel to the Charente region of southwest France as the Amateur Traveler talks to Kylie Lang from LifeInRuralFrance.com about her adopted home.
The Charente region, part of Nouvelle Aquitaine in southwest France, is known for its charming sunflower fields, historical chateaux, and rich history. Visitors to the Charente can explore picturesque vineyards, taste world-renowned cognac, and indulge in fresh oysters. The region hosts daily markets offering fresh produce throughout the year, providing an authentic taste of French life. Its quaint villages appear almost frozen in time, creating a sense of stepping back to the 15th century.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, a prominent historical figure, played a significant role in this region. She was the only woman to be queen of two countries, France and England. The Charente, which was under English rule for about 300 years, now has a diverse community of English-speaking expatriates.
Angoulême, one of the notable towns in the Poitou Charente region, sits on a hill with ancient roots dating back to Roman times. The city is also known as the European capital of comics, hosting an International Comic Festival annually. It features impressive murals and a well-known automobile race.
Kylie suggests exploring the Hotel de Ville, which offers insightful tours about its history, and walking the city's ramparts. Angoulême's strategic location allows easy access to Bordeaux, which is just under 90 minutes away. Bordeaux, often referred to as the capital of wine in France, provides a great day trip opportunity. Visitors can explore the Cité du Vin, a modern wine museum offering immersive experiences and a panoramic view of Bordeaux. She also recommends the unusual Bassins des Lumières which is a digital art museum in an old German submarine base.
Cognac, another jewel in the Charente's crown, is renowned for its historical significance and world-famous cognac houses such as Hennessy, Martell, and Remy Martin. Kylie recommends the Hennessy tour, a three-hour experience that delves into the cognac-making process, and a river cruise to witness the scenic beauty of the region.
The Chateau Royal de Cognac, built in the 11th century, offers historical insights and a glimpse into the past. Cognac also hosts events like the Blues Festival, attracting big-name musicians and creating a vibrant atmosphere.
Moving toward La Rochelle, it was a significant port and stronghold for the Knights Templar and later for the Huguenots. The city is known as the "jewel of the Atlantic coast" and offers historic sites like the towers of Saint Nicolas and La Chaîne. La Rochelle has a vibrant maritime history that influences its present identity as a popular tourist destination.
The islands of Île de Ré and Île d'Oléron, connected by bridges, are known for their oyster and salt beds. These islands have stunning beaches, making them perfect destinations for beach lovers.
Kylie mentions the Battle of Tours, a pivotal event during the Middle Ages which happened outside Poitiers. Poitiers also has connections with Eleanor of Aquitaine and offers historical sites such as the Palace du Duc, which is now the local courts.
Futuroscope, located near Poitiers, is a digital theme park that offers a unique and futuristic experience. It is home to various thrilling rides and attractions. Additionally, the Valley of the Monkeys (Vallée des Singes) near Poitiers is a 44-hectare reserve where monkeys roam freely. The park offers an up-close experience with various monkeys and primate species.
Aubeterre-Sur-Dronne is a picturesque village with a fascinating monolithic church known as the Eglise Saint-Jean. The church, carved into a limestone cliff, showcases remarkable ancient craftsmanship. The village is classified as one of the "Plus Beaux Villages de France," recognizing its scenic beauty and historical significance.
AT#871 - Travel to Egypt and Mount Sinai
Hear about travel to Egypt including Cairo and climbing Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula as the Amateur Traveler talks to Greg from ThePresentPerspective.com about their recent trip to see a different part of Egypt.
Why should you go to Egypt?
Greg says, "I think there are a million reasons why someone should go to Egypt. Warm and hospitable people. Great culture. Egyptian history obviously is vast, and it's one of the oldest civilizations in the world. There's so much to see in Lower Egypt, in Cairo there's just an endless wealth of treasures to explore but when we visited Egypt, we decided to go a little bit off of the traditional route that a lot of tourists go it's not that we weren't interested in going to Luxor and Aswan and doing a Nile cruise. We enjoy history, but we're not history buffs, and I think, to us, there was enough ancient history in Cairo."
"So while Luxor would have been great to visit, we had enough of a time with Egyptian history in Cairo, with the pyramids and Saqqara and all of that. So we decided to go a different route and instead of heading south, head east. So we headed into the Sinai Peninsula."
Day 1: Arrival in Cairo
Arrive in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Check into your accommodation in Giza. Day 2: Exploring the Pyramids
Spend the day exploring the Giza Plateau. Visit the iconic Pyramids of Giza, including the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Explore the Sphinx and the ancient temples in the area. Day 3: Saqqara and Memphis
Head to Saqqara, known for the Step Pyramid, which is one of the oldest pyramid structures. Explore the ancient city of Memphis, the former capital of Egypt. Return to your accommodation in Cairo or Giza for the night. Day 4: Coptic Cairo and St. Simon the Tanner Monastery
Explore the historic district of Coptic Cairo. Visit St. Simon the Tanner Monastery, located in caves on Mount Makatum. Enjoy the unique atmosphere of this historic site. Spend the night in Cairo. Day 5: Travel to St. Catharine
Depart for St. Catharine, a town located at the base of Mount Sinai. Choose either a road trip from Cairo or fly to Sharm El Sheikh International Airport and arrange transportation to St. Catharine. Check into your accommodation in St. Catharine. Day 6: Hiking Mount Sinai
Wake up early to begin your sunrise hike up Mount Sinai. Enjoy the breathtaking views from the summit as the sun rises. Visit St. Catherine's Monastery, one of the oldest in the world, located at the foot of the mountain. Spend the night in St. Catharine. Day 7: Dahab and the Red Sea
Head to the coastal town of Dahab. Explore the vibrant underwater world by snorkeling or diving in the Blue Hole. Visit the Colored Canyon, which offers stunning natural beauty. Enjoy the Magic Lake for a unique swimming experience. Stay in Dahab for the night. Day 8: Relaxing in Dahab
Spend a leisurely day on the beach, enjoying the clear waters of the Red Sea. Visit the Blue Lagoon for a peaceful experience. Take in the local culture and cuisine in Dahab. Relax and unwind in this beautiful coastal town. Day 9: Return to Cairo
Travel to Sharm El Sheikh International Airport. Fly back to Cairo and home Egypt has so much to see. The Pyramids are amazing, but also consider heading into the Sinai to climb the sacred mountain of Sinai.
Overall a solid podcast with coverage of several countries/ regions. Some guests are great (Colombia, Cyprus, Tamil Nadu, Chennai) and some are terrible (Western Michigan, Mysore) - great when information provided is detailed enough, clear and the guest is clearly enamored of the place discussed; terrible when information provided is incorrect, recommendations made are just not distinct enough or the guest seems hopelessly out of date. The host is fun; sometimes smart-alecky and that’s because he’s a Boomer. Boomers are often badly behaved.
Another note - please STOP using the term “tuk tuk” for motorized rickshaws in India. They are “auto rickshaws”, locally just referred to as “auto” ALL over India. We get that Westerners who have been to other parts of Asia have heard the tuk tuk phrase there but India is a different country. It’s akin to using “lift” in the US instead of elevator. Just stop!
My bucket list is growing due to this podcast.
Listened to the episodes on Washington DC. I am planning a trip there and your podcasts were full of great information. Thank you!