The Favourites of Maria Sørensen

Maria Sørensen is 45 years old and is one of the most travelled Danes. She has travelled most of her life. She likes to spend sufficient time at each place to get to know the area and people, and she often revisits places that she has not fully explored.

How many countries have you been to?

I have travelled to 138 countries and 28 territories. I have lived, studied and worked in London for a couple of years.

How many days have you approximately travelled?

I have been abroad 4,276 days which equals to around 11-12 years. I tend to work on shorter contracts, so I can travel as much as possible. I generally travel for a longer period between contracts and then optimize my travel time as much as possible during work periods with holidays and Bank Holiday etc.

What are three of your favourite countries and why?

Iran is one of my favourite countries because of the extreme kindness of the Iranian people. I have never met such friendly and helpful people, they come up to you in the streets and invite you for a cup of tea or for lunch at their house. They are very interested in meeting foreigners and they are very open and talkative. Iran is also a big country with many different sights, vast deserts, many beautiful cities with imposing Islamic architecture and ancient ruins.

Nepal is also a favourite mainly because of the fantastic mountain scenery and a large number of different hiking possibilities. Again the local people are very friendly and make it an easy country to travel around. Nepal also has interesting wildlife and the food is truly amazing.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an amazing country to sail around. Tobago Cays is one of my favourite places for snorkelling. It is not allowed to stay overnight on land, but staying for a few nights on a sailing boat is really fantastic and gives you a very calm and pleasant experience. Also several of the other islands are great to visit by sailing boat.

Are there any countries you don’t enjoy travelling?

No, I have enjoyed most of my travels and every place has something interesting to offer. But of course, countries with difficult and corrupt border crossings are a hassle. Some cities are not the most charming, but then I just travel on.

What are three of your favourite cities and why?

Cape Town
Cape Town I fell in love with the setting between the ocean and Table Mountain. I also found the surroundings full of exciting things to do. The restaurant scene is also very varied and delicious.

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Barcelona is or maybe was also a favourite, but now sadly it is way too crowded with other tourists. The atmosphere used to be really great and with fantastic food to be enjoyed at restaurants all over the place. There are so many interesting sights to see in and around the city.

Kyoto with all the impressive temples is also a great city to experience. It is a great place to people watch, with lots of school children, businessmen, tourists and locals just visiting the temples to do their praying and then carry on with the day. As in all of Japan, they have a good selection of very delicious food.

What are three of your favourite hotels or places you’ve stayed and why?

I normally don’t spend much time in my hotel room. I just see it as a place to sleep, so I haven’t prioritized staying at fancy hotels. I enjoy home-stays, where you stay with a local family and learn a bit about their daily life. I know it can be very touristy, but if you choose carefully, it is often an interesting experience. Airbnb has made it easy to book accommodation in local peoples’ houses. I find it a good way to get to know just normal local people. They are a good source of information on sights, history etc. and are always open to chat and help.

Atlantic Ocean crossing
Sleeping on deck on the sailing boat crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Cap Verde to Barbados. The feeling of just being in the middle of the ocean with nothing around you but water and more water.

Ryokan, Japan
Staying in a traditional Ryokan in Japan was an amazing experience, very different from the normal hotel stay. After eating dinner sitting on the floor in your room, the hotel staff will come in and make your bed on the floor. While they make the bed, you put on the dressing gown and go to the bathroom, where they have prepared the bath for you. The first time it is a weird experience and you are not quite sure what to do with yourself.

The billion stars hotel
Sleeping outside in the outback of Australia is an awesome experience, just looking up on all the stars and experiencing how different it looks to our normal night-sky. The absolute silence and the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.

What are the three worst places you’ve stayed?

Again I don’t spend much time in the hotel, so it is never a really bad experience.

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Some African hotels
Some hotels in Africa can be pretty basic with really rough and smelly toilets. The best trick, I find, is not to have a room with toilet, then at least the smell is a bit further away.

Airbnb in the French countryside
I didn’t enjoy much one Airbnb stay in the countryside in France, where there were dogs everywhere, even coming in through the open window in our room.

What are three of your favourite restaurants and why?

My favourite food is probably in general Asian, where I also enjoy eating local street food. I have tried all the spider, dog, insects, snakes but I’m not a great fan of that part, but it has to be tried.

Vietnamese restaurant, London
My long time favourite restaurant is a Vietnamese restaurant in Camden Town, London. The Vietnamese lady owner did the best Beijing Duck and lemon juice. I came almost every week when I lived in London.

The Waku Lodge restaurant in the resort in Canaima, Venezuela
It was very surprising that we could get a very high standard three-course meal in Venezuela. It was very fancy courses and the setting in the jungle with lots of waterfalls around made the atmosphere really great.

Cazuela Restaurant, Bariloche
Christmas in Cazuela restaurant in Bariloche, Argentina was a great experience. The whole Christmas party atmosphere was amazing. They count down to midnight and toast in Champagne. There were local musicians playing and of course, the food and wine were delicious.

What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?

There are so many great moments on every trip, so it is hard to pick.

Getting to Barbados 
Getting to Barbados after 2 weeks of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean just two people felt really great and a bit of an achievement. Great to get on shore again after two weeks on the ocean and to get fresh food and meet other people.

Angel Falls, Venezuela
Travelling to see Angel Falls in Venezuela was an amazing adventure. Not so much the falls, but the way to get there. A mix of driving and flying took us from Caracas to Canaima, and from there we travelled by canoe upriver for 10 hours to the base of the falls, having to jump out and push the canoe all the time due to low water-level. Then hiking up to the falls and swimming in the pools under the falls and then hike back down in the dark. We slept in hammocks in the jungle. The whole area is a wild jungle and hard to reach without a canoe.

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Hiking in the mountains in Tajikistan
Hiking in the mountains in Tajikistan was awesome. We did a road-trip on Pamir highway which is a really beautiful trip and not at all a highway, but a very long and bumpy gravel road. We got the chance to hike a part of it, we spend three amazing days just walking along the road and seeing the everyday life of the locals and getting to talk to them. They were all very surprised to see two girls walking alone without a car. That opened up for a lot of talking especially with the local ladies. It was a very nice break from the driving and the highlight of the trip.

What are three of your worst travel moments and why?

Getting attacked in Quito
Getting attacked by three very stoned guys early in the morning in the new town of Quito was not a great moment. Fortunately, a local taxi-driver came by and helped to scare them away. Two policemen stood on the next corner, they only came to us afterwards and asked if we were okay. Luckily we only got pushed a bit around and they didn’t get away with any money or valuables.
Apart from that, I haven’t really had any bad things happening to me while travelling, just the normal hassle for touts, police, border control etc. and a fair share of bad driving experiences, but so far I have always been lucky to come out of it fairly unharmed.

What are three of your best travel tips?

Talk to the locals
They always have a lot of interesting knowledge about their area and a lot of good stories. They are often a good source on info on how to get to hard-to-reach places, good places to eat etc.

Travel as light as possible
It makes getting around so much easier and you don’t need a lot of stuff most places anyway.

Don’t be afraid of strangers, new places and experiences
It is all a part of the adventure. Most people in the world are very kind and helpful. You only regret what you didn’t do. So get out there and experience as much as possible while you can. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Do you have any little known travel tips?

Again I’d say talk to the locals, they have the best tips.

You can follow Maria on Facebook here.

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