2017 was an odd year for me. It was the least amount I have traveled since I started traveling full time in 2007. I “only” stepped foot in 14 countries this year. I did make the most of it as I visited 27 new UNESCO World Heritage Sites this year (plus 1 that was added this year which I previously visited). I also managed to visit over a dozen National Park Service sites in the US on various domestic trips I took.
Photography wise, I launched the Travel Photography Academy, which is my online travel photography training course. I also won 11 awards in the annual North American Travel Journalists competition and took home a bronze prize in the Single Subject Portfolio category of the annual Society of American Travel Writers photography competition.
As always, I hope you enjoy my images as much as I did taking them!
1 I began my travel year going to the Netherlands to speak at a conference in Utrecht. While I was there I took the time to visit some of the World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands. I was able to spend time in Rotterdam, which is a city I had pass through, but had never really explored before. One of the highlights of Rotterdam was visting the Van Nellefabriek factory.
2While in Rotterdam I revisited Kinderdijk, which is the nearby world heritage site which preserves many of the old Dutch windmills which were used regulate water levels. Today, the water is still regulated by pumps but electric or diesel pumps are used. The windmills at Kinderdijk are still functioning and are also used as homes.
3 From the Netherlands I went to visit more World Heritage Sites in Belgium. Several of the sites I visited in Belgium were serial sites, sites which are scattered in multiple locations. One of the stops was in the City of Ghent. While Ghent itself is not a world heritage site per se, it is home to several of the serial sites including the Belfries of Belgium and France, and the Flemish Béguinages. Ghent is a wonderful city which is rich in history and is one of the top destinations in Flanders.
4 I revisited the City of Bruges, which I first visited in 2009. I enjoying revisiting places I visited early in my travels just because I am a much better photographer now. There is a part of me which would like to re-photograph everything I did from 2007 to 2009.
5 I also spent a few days in Antwerp where I visited the Plantin-Moretus House. There are many world heritage sites I visit which are not well known to myself or the public, yet turn out to be fascinating places to visit. The Plantin-Moretus House is one such place. It is a home/workshop which held a printing business for several hundred years with much of the original equipment being used the entire time. Two of the oldest printing presses in the world are located here. In addition to the printing heritage, the family’s home contains a large collection of original paintings from Rubens.
6 I finished off January in New York City. Normally when I go to New York I don’t bother doing tourist things. This time I set out to visit many of the National Park Service sites in the New York Area. Most of them are pretty easy to visit and are quite small. One of the sites I revisited was Federal Hall, the location where the first Congress sat in session and where George Washington took his first oath of office.
7 March brought be back to Israel, another place that I hadn’t been since 2009. Jerusalem confirmed my earlier belief that it is one of the most photogenic cities in the world. I can easily spend a full day wandering the Old City, taking photos.
8 My favorite building, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is also in Jerusalem. It wasn’t the best experience given that much of the interior is under a much needed renovation. Nonetheless, there were still great photos to be had and parts of the interior look much cleaner.
9 After Jerusalem, I went on a tour of the remaining World Heritage Sites in Israel that I hadn’t been to before. This included a visit to Tel Megiddo, which is known in English as Armageddon. A tel is basically a city built on a hill which over centuries grew on top of itself. I got to tour the excavation with one of the top researchers who has been working there for over 25 years. There is so much history packed into such a little place.
10 One of the spots I visited was Bet Guvrin. I had never heard of it before, but it was an amazing place. It is one of the few places where you can actually participate in an archeological dig. It also has a collection of enormous hand excavated caverns which date back almost 2,000 years. The image gives you an idea of just how large the caverns are.
11 I went into the Negev desert and visited Mitzpe Ramon and Makhtesh Ramon, aka the Ramon Crater. It isn’t actually a crater, but the name has stuck. True craters are caused by impacts. A makhtesh is caused by erosion. I met a geologist who does presentations to the public. He was so excited that I studied geology, that we went out into the crater the next day.
12 Coming back out of the Negev I stopped at several of the Desert Cities in the Negev which were part of the old Incense Route. The original route started in what is today Oman and went up the western coast of Saudi Arabia, through Petra. It ended in Gaza where they incense was then loaded on ships to be distributed throughout the Mediterrean.
13 While in Israel, I wanted to visit the World Heritage Sites in Palestine as well. At the time of my visit, there were only 2, both of which were close to Jerusalem. The best known is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church was undergoing a major renovation which should be mostly done by now. Surprisingly, we were first in line to enter the small area under the altar where it is believed the manger was located. I took this photo of a priest celebrating mass as we were waiting.
14 You can find several works of art by Banksy in the Bethleham area. We spied this one on the way out of the West Bank. The Judean Desert is actually a really small desert as deserts go, but one which is packed with history.
15 My last adventure in the region was going out into the Judean Desert where we saw the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Saba.
16 I’m getting close to visiting all 59 national parks in the United States. One of the parks which wasn’t near any of the others was Congaree in South Carolina. I was attending a conference in Huntsville, Alabama so I rented a car and drove all the way to South Carolina just to visit the park.
17 In June I went with Adventure Canada to Sable Island, one of the hardest to visit National Parks in Canada. The trip was by ship and started and left in St. John’s, Newfoundland. As we pulled out of the St. John’s harbor we saw this view of the houses on Signal Hill, which can only be properly seen from the water.
18 The horses on Sable Island have been there almost 200 years. The trip I took was the only organized trip to Sable Island in 2017. Unlike most expedition ships I’ve been on, the passengers on this trip were mostly horse fanatics. The horses themselves were gorgeous.
19 There is very little on Sable Island other than sand, grass and horses. Thankfully, that combination can make for some beautiful scenery. The horse population on the island is now estimated to be close to 500. There are no predators on the island other than the elements.
20 One of our last stops on the Sable Island tour was the village of Francois (pronouced Fran-sway) in Newfoundland. It is a tiny fishing village with no road access. Like most fishing villages, it was hit hard by the cod fishing moratorium in 1992. I know it is a travel writing cliche, but it was a very charming village. Very difficult place to live without road access.
21 One of the most fascinating parts of Sweden is the High Coast. It is an area which attracts few foreign tourists but is incredibly beautiful and geologically interesting. The entire area is undergoing isostatic rebound, which is the uplift which occurs after glaciers retreat. This photo is of the island of Ulvön, which can only be reached by ferry. There I was able to try Surströmming, which is fermented herring and perhaps the worst smelling food in the world.
22 One of the most interesting world heritage sites I visited in 2017 were the Decorated Farmhouses of Helsingland. It is really different from almost any other world heritage site I’ve visited. The farmhouses are simple structures which were built by common people. Primarily used for weddings and other celebrations, they were mostly unused by their creators when they weren’t throwing a party. While only 7 of the farmhouses are on the world heritage list, there are actually close to 1,000 in the region.
23 During my tour of Swedish world heritage sites, I visited the copper mine in Falun. The mine extends well below the surface of the open pit shown in this photo. The mine at one point was responsible for over half of the world’s copper production and was singularly responsible for a large chunk of the wealth of Sweden. Much of the area around the mine where the workers lived is also part of the world heritage site.
24 Many people are not interested in industrial heritage. Personally, I love it. Learning about the history of how our modern world was made is something I will never get tired of. In Engelsberg, Sweden there is a world heritage site ironworks. It was interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the nearby Oil Island, home of the world’s oldest oil refinery. Oil refining in the 19th century was very crude (excuse the pun). They imported raw oil from Pennsylvania to create kerosene and other petroleum products. They located the refinery on an island in a lake for safety reasons. You can still smell the oil inside today.
25 My Sweden trip ended in Stockholm, a city which I had never visited before. I visited the three world heritage sites in the area, including Drottningholm Palace. There are many palaces in Europe which are modeled after Versailles in France. Drottningholm is the Swedish Versailles.
26 In August, before the solar eclipse, I went out with Tempest Tours storm chasing across the Great Plains. While August isn’t the best season for storm chasing, we still managed to see some impressive storms, including this one we found in the Texas Panhandle. This is my favorite photo of 2017.
27 No photo essay of 2017 would be complete without a photo of the total solar eclipse. I caught the Eclipse just north of Alliance, Nebraska. We really had to rush to find a spot without clouds just before totality. We made it with about 5 minutes to spare. This was the first total solar eclipse I’ve ever seen and I’m hooked. I’m going to do it again, hopefully in 2019 in Argentina.
28 We stopped in Monument Rocks, Kansas to do some astrophotography before the eclipse. I took this shot of one of the people on the tour during sunset.
29 I don’t do a lot of astrophotography, but perhaps I should do more. I enjoy it and the results aren’t too shabby.
30 Iceland was the only place I had visited before I started traveling full time that I hadn’t returned to since. I rectified that in September. I was scheduled to fly to Norway with a layover in Iceland. Iceland Air allows you to do a layover without paying extra, so I took advantage of it. I wasn’t there long and just did the Golden Circle route one day. One of the stops on the route is the Gullfoss Waterfall. It was extremely windy the day I visited and didn’t have the best conditions.
31 Thingvellir is one of two world heritage sites in Iceland. It was the home to the first Icelandic parliament (Althing. It is also one of the places where the Eurasian and North Atlantic tetonic plates meet. The path shown in the photo is between Europe and North America.
32 Norway was the last country in Western Europe that I hadn’t visited. I finally got there in September and it was worth the wait. I explored the Telemark region, with a special focus on the world heritage site in Rjukan and Notodden. On the way there I stopped at the Telemark Canal. While not a world heritage site (it should be) it was extremely important in the history of industrial heritage.
33 The town of Rjukan is fascinating. Nestled in a deep valley, it doesn’t see the sun at all during the winter. It had a major role to play in the history of electricity, and also had several interesting stories which came out of WWII including a Norwegian commando raid and Nazi attempts to build an atomic bomb. I just loved the low hanging clouds I saw.
34 After Europe I flew down to Argentina to attend the Adventure Travel World Summit. I had some time before the event, so I flew up to Puerto Iguazu to see Iguazu Falls. I had never visited the falls before and I had high expectations, which were met in full. The weather wasn’t the best, but views were still incredible. I’ve love to go back.
35 While in Puerto Iguazu I jumped through all the hoops to get a Brazilian visa. It was a real pain in the ass, but I got it. It allowed me to cross over into Brazil to see the falls from there. About 80% of the falls are on the Argentinian side, but I think the views from the Brazilian side might be better because you can more easily see the Argentinian side from there. The nice part of all that hassle is that
36 From Iguazu I flew all the way south to Patagonia to visit Los Glaciares National Park which is, you guessed it, a world heritage site. I’ve seen glaciers in Alaska, Canada, and New Zealand before, but the Pietro Moreano Glacier was perhaps the cleanest glacier I’ve ever seen. Almost totally white with little in the way of gravel or debris on it.
37 From Patagonia I flew back up north to the city of Salta in the extreme Northwest of Argentina. While attending the Summit, I also took the time to visit 2 more world heritage sites, including the Quebrada de Humahuaca, which has some of the most stunning colorful rocks in the world.
38 My final trip of the year took me back to the Yukon and another flight over Kluane National Park. The icefields here are simply amazing. This was my 4th flight over the park and I’d gladly do it 40 more times. This is one of the most special places in Canada, and I wish more people knew about it.
39 I got to go dog sledding and snowmobiling outside of Whitehorse. It was the second time I had been dog sledding and it was a fun as the first time. The sun never rises very high in the Yukon this time of year, so you can get sunsets which last for hours.