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The best places to travel according to OISE alumni

Our alumni share their top spots for vacation and adventure. Plus, tips on local attractions and responsible travel

Some say traveling is one of the best forms of education. No doubt, travel is a great way to learn about the world and find inspiration from the many people and cultures in it. But it is important to be mindful of the impact travel can have on communities and the environment. 

We asked our alumni to share some of their favourite places to travel, what makes these destinations so special, and what they learned along the journey.

Did you know the University of Toronto Alumni Travel Program offers boundless opportunities to connect with alumni and other travelers who share your interests?  Join adventurers like you for the trip of a lifetime.

Top places to travel

The Spitzkoppe, Namibia. It's an incredibly remote and peaceful desert area in Namibia in southwest Africa with breathtaking granite peaks, stunning sunsets, and the most unpolluted star-filled sky you'll see in your life. The perfect place to soak up the silence of nature and feel humbled amongst the vastness of a desert. 

To get here, fly into Namibia's capital city of Windhoek. Then, rent a car with camping gear and hit the road for about 3 hours. Make sure your car has enough gas, and that you arrange to arrive before sunset so you have enough time to set up camp before the light is gone. Oh, and don't forget to eat all the meat you cook or else the lions will come to your grounds at night!

Amy Bajurny, MT '14

Luoyang City, China. The ancient capital for multiple dynasties, Luoyang City is one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. It’s also home to the first Buddhist temple. Its enchanting Chinese Buddhist art and Longmen Grottoes, featuring tens of thousands statues, are a must-see. I recommend visiting during the Peony Festival and seeing Mount Song, one of the five sacred Mountains of Taoism. The Shaolin Temple, Shaoling Kong Fu's school, and the Pagoda Forest were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

The city preserved its traces of history, and blended it well with modern life and natural scenery. This impressed me most. 

Celina (Sulin) Cheng, MEd ‘14

Isle of Pines, New Caledonia. The Isle of Pines,  a dreamscape in the tiny South Pacific French territory of Nouvelle-Calédonie, is a colour wheel of blue that your eyes will revel in for how spectacularly beautiful it is. Sail along the Baie d’Upi on a traditional Melanesian pirogue feeling like the pages of Condé Nast Traveler as the sun skims your skin and the peculiar Colonial pines sparkle a tropical evergreen alongside coconut trees waving at an endless horizon.

Lisa Mancini, BEd '96

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil“When she walks, she’s like a samba…” The strains of this song, The Girl from Ipanema, resonate as I think about my recent trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a large urban centre with diverse neighbourhoods, expansive beaches and a warm and hospitable culture. I recommend especially a trip to the botanical gardens, the panoramic views from the Christ the Redeemer iconic statue and a leisurely stroll through the historic Santa Teresa neighbourhood.

Michael Salvatori , PhD '07

NoviSad, Serbia. I travelled here with a group of friends before attending a wedding in Belgrade, Serbia and we were so overjoyed just walking through the streets. Though I did not speak any local language, the warmth and kindness of those whom I met there was so grounding. The architecture and beautiful parks made it feel like everyone is welcome here as locals kindly offered explanations of buildings and suggested places to eat. Dinner in outdoor restaurants where you can get a view and enjoy incredible food is the way to enjoy your evening there.

If you land is Belgrade, you can take a really comfortable bus ride to NoviSad in just one hour. 

Sabrina Persaud, MEd ‘13

Accra and Cape Coast, Ghana. The year 2019 marks 400 years since the first slave ship from Africa arrived in America. Hence, there a lot of activities lined up to commemorate and welcome people back home in August 2019.

Ghana has a rich history, cultures, beaches, national parks, waterfalls, food, forts and castles, and above all fantastic and hospitable people. Additionally, Ghana is at the center of the world and the first Black African country to gain independence. Plane tickets are cheap from January to May and August to November.

Suleyman Demi, PhD '19

Kingdom of Bhutan, South Asia. I am not a travel agent, neither am I the son of a travel agent, but…I am leaving this spring for my third visit to Bhutan. Described as “a tiny, remote and impoverished kingdom nestling in the Himalayas between its powerful neighbours, India and China”. Put it all aside and enjoy this ancient Lamaistic Buddhist culture — and breathtaking scenery. Tourism is restricted ($250 US per day pre-paid for an all-inclusive travel visa). Here’s some information about  tours and treks which offer high value, low impact tourism that respects the unique culture and values of the Bhutanese people.

Jim Cunningham, EdD ‘81

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy. For postcard-worthy views, turquoise waters and delicious pasta and vino, a trip to Positano is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For a secluded, romantic getaway, hike up to the small village of Montepertuso situated in the mountains above Positano and check out unbelievable restaurants like Il Ritrovo, La Tagliata and the incomparable Donna Rosa (a place Diane Lane used to frequent while filming Under the Tuscan Sun).

If the food, Mediterranean sea and city views aren’t enough, hike up The Path of the Gods mountain trail between Montepertuso and Ravello and see the “hole in the mountain”, which the town of Montepertuso is named after. I t’s my favourite place because it’s where I got engaged! I learned that some things  – like love and sharing good pasta  – transcend all language barriers!

Alysse Kennedy, MT '16

Buganda Kingdom, Central Uganda. Home to UNESCO World Heritage site Kasubi Tombs , Buganda Kingdom is believed to be the most vibrant region in the Pearl of Africa. Buganda Kingdom is the political and economic hub of Uganda whose cultural norms have heavily influenced the East African country. Her Indigenous inhabitants are known as the Ganda people but it’s also home to a diverse group of migrants who chose to settle there for her economic prowess. While in Kampala ensure to visit Lubiri Palace, the cultural home the Kabaka , the spiritual, social and political symbol of the Baganda people.

Henry Ssali, MA '19

Istanbul, Turkey. A vital crossroads for Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Istanbul is the meeting place of numerous ancient trade routes and civilizations and this is reflected in its people, cultures, architecture and landscapes. Whether looking across the Bosphorus, towards the Black Sea and the hundreds of ships going to and from the Mediterranean or exploring its incredibly rich multicultural heritage, Istanbul will transform you.

Carlos Ruano, EdD '99

Prague, Czekoslovakia. One “must-visit” destination is Prague. Many of the major historical attractions that imprint a real sense of life in an old European city are within walking distance of the Charles Bridge Palace Hotel. Stroll down the ancient winding cobblestone streets, and hear classical tunes from street corner musicians along the way, to view the incredible monuments, architecture, shops and restaurants leading to Prague Castle, before making your way to the City Centre for a Trdelnik (spit cake).

Evening river cruises are entertaining and inexpensive. Public transportation is cheap and accessible. Early Fall is a good time to travel, and the best time to book flights online is after midnight.

Cindy Sinclair, MEd ‘09, PhD ‘17

Three considerations about the impacts of travel: 1) Travel can have a major environmental impact. I try to remember that restaurants, hotels, resorts and cruises are among the greatest waste culprits; choose them wisely. 2) Travel can commodify culture. Cultures are complex, and I believe it takes an active effort to experience them without also perpetuating stereotypes and stagnating natural cultural development. 3) Travel can perpetuate neo-colonialism. Many of the world's resorts, hotels and cruises are owned by remote corporations and profits do always not feed back into the local economy. Try to find sustainable accomodations where you can.

Angela's takeaways: Relax and explore closer to home! Travel for love, learning or opportunity.

Angela Berry, BEd '09

Where do you want to go? The University of Toronto Alumni Travel Program offers boundless opportunities to connect with alumni and other travellers who share your interests. Start your next adventure .