I’m currently in Nepal, where I just finished a 30-mile, five-day trek through the Himalayas. After a couple days in the lakeside city of Pokhara, where I’m recuperating, I’ll head to Chitawan National Park to see elephants and, hopefully, tigers. By the time I leave next Friday, I’ll have also explored the national capital of Kathmandu and the historical city of Bhaktapur.
And I’ll have spent just two weeks here.
My point in bringing all this up is not to brag, but rather to point out that you don’t need a ton of vacation time to have an amazing adventure. In fact, none of the trips I’m about to highlight take more than two weeks to complete.
Ethiopia’s Door to Hell
You can take many short, amazing trips to Africa—if you’ve got thousands of dollars to shell out for a safari, that is. If you want to head to the Dark Continent independently, however, and you’ve got just two weeks to spare, Ethiopia is where you should head.
To be sure, Ethiopia is an adventure in every sense of the word. But if you can deal with the challenges of exploring this beautiful country, you’ll be rewarded with otherworldly treasures like yellow sulfur fields, rock-hewn cliff monasteries, monuments to ancient royalty and one of the world’s only persistent lava lakes.
Back in Time in Myanmar
I was lucky enough to visit Myanmar back in 2010, before the once-reclusive country actively started courting tourists. It was without a doubt the most otherworldly experience I’ve had to this day, including the near-death food poisoning that led me to cut that particular short trip.
Thankfully, when I returned to Myanmar in early 2016, food safety standards were much, much higher. While it’s true that increased openness with the West has made Myanmar feel slightly less alien, treasures such as the Mergui Archipelago, the U-Bein Bridge in Amarapura and the 2,000 temples of Bagan are unlike anywhere else on Earth, let alone in Southeast Asia, and you can see them all with just two weeks of vacation time.
A Winter (or Summer) Road Trip Around Iceland
If you’ve been reading the site for a while, you probably remember my beautiful—but terrifying—winter road trip around Iceland. From beaches covered in ice, to majestic waterfalls—and, of course, the Northern Lights—my adventure around Iceland’s perimeter was slow-going (the roads aren’t de-iced outside of the capital) but still ended up taking under two weeks.
Don’t have vacation time in winter, or don’t want to use it then? Although you’re unlikely to see the aurora dance across the sky during summer, good road conditions mean you’ll be able to cover more ground and spend more time outside (which is the entire point of traveling in Iceland, after all!).
The Best (And Best-Kept Secrets) of Brazil
Brazil is a massive country, so when I say that you can see the best of it in two weeks, I’m not saying the country is only worth that much of your time. Indeed, my Brazil itinerary is for three weeks, and even that only scratches the surface of all there is to discover here.
On the other hand, I find it pretty remarkable that you can explore cities like Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and São Paulo, as well as exploring natural wonders like Iguazu Falls and the captivating—and, to foreigners, mostly unknown—Lençóis Maranhenses sand dunes, all without draining your PTO account.
The Pearl of Asia
I probably shouldn’t use the title “Pearl of Asia” to describe Sri Lanka, although this country of tea fields, sprawling temples and friendly elephants is definitely a rare find. I’ve seen this title ascribed to no less than a dozen cities and countries which, while all deserving of it in their own right, can’t really hold a candle to Sri Lanka.
So what, precisely, can you accomplish with two weeks here? Well, let’s just say that getting lost in an ancient city, sipping some of the most amazing tea in the world and surfing (or just watching surfers) on the country’s idyllic southeastern coast are only the beginning.
Europe’s Next Big Thing
For most people (and, I’m ashamed to admit, most of my fellow Americans), mention of the Balkan countries elicits memories of war, genocide and Hillary Clinton landing under sniper fire. In fact, more than 20 years after the war ended, the main danger of visiting the Balkan countries is that you’ll want to stay long past the departure of your flight.
Japan in Any Season
Like I did for Brazil, I made a Japan itinerary that spans three weeks. Thanks to how quickly you can explore Japan via Shinkansen high-speed train, however, two weeks is all you need to have an unforgettable experience in what is probably, at this moment, my favorite country in the world.
One reason I love Japan so much? It’s totally different in every season. Spend two weeks in early April chasing cherry blossoms, summer exploring the stunning Kanto region, fall trekking along the ancient Nakasendo trading route or winter skiing in Hokkaido. Or, stitch together an evergreen trip that combines cities like Kyoto and Osaka with natural wonders like Yakushima Island, Takaragawa Onsen and the Tottori Sand Dunes.
Have you taken a short trip whose adventure level exceeded its length? Share your ideas in the comments section for everyone to enjoy.