2022 was the greatest year of travel I’ve ever had. My retirement late last year allowed me the opportunity to pursue my lifelong passion for travel in a way that I’ve never been able to. Slower travel. A chance to spend a longer period of time in some pretty amazing places. A chance to really absorb the history, culture, and cuisine of each destination, rather than just quickly hitting the highlights before needing to return to the grind of work. During this past year, I was able to spend nearly 3 months in Europe, while exploring 3 different countries – Spain, Malta, and Greece. And as you can imagine, choosing favorites from these great adventures wasn’t easy. But here they are – my favorite Food and Travel of our epic 2022.
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How’s this for mind-boggling? During 2022, we visited The Alhambra in Granada Spain and The Acropolis in Athens Greece – two of the most amazing sites in the world. And neither of those was my favorite.
That distinction goes to another UNESCO World Heritage Site – Meteora Greece.
Meteora wins due to its trifecta of otherworldly natural beauty, incredible history, and mind-blowing architecture.
At Meteora, six 14th-century monasteries sit atop pinnacles of rock. The landscape itself is breathtaking – especially at sunset. But then climbing the rock-hewn stairs, along the edge of these unusual rock formations, to tour these ancient architectural wonders. Wow!
You can click here to read all about our 2-day Trip to Magical Meteora Greece
Riding the Dghajsa – The Three Cities, Malta
Malta’s Grand Harbour is certainly one of the most scenic harbours in Europe. The tiny capital city of Valletta sits on the north edge of the harbor, while the historic fortified cities of Senglea, Vittoriosa, and Cospicua (collectively known as The Three Cities) sit to the south. The easiest way to get back and forth between these two popular areas of Malta is via boat. And the most charming boat option is the traditional Maltese water taxis called Dghajsa.
For the majority of our time in Malta, we stayed in The Three Cities. From there, we would make the trip across to Valletta almost daily for one reason or an other. I called it my daily commute. And even though a larger more modern ferry is available, we always rode in a dghajsa.
We would walk down to the edge of the harbor, raise our hand to signal a passing boat (if there wasn’t one already waiting), and happily ride the 5-10 minutes to the other side, often the only riders in these small 6 passenger boats. And the cost was only 2 Euro each. Not only my favorite experience of the year, but one of the least expensive too!
The views around to all the historic buildings surrounding the harbor… the conversations we had with the drivers – many of them third generation, driving their grandfather’s boats… the occasional ocean spray from the Mediterranean…. Couldn’t be beat as my favorite experience in a year of great experiences.
Cooking Class & Market Tour – Seville Spain
Finding great locals tours is always an important part of my travels. My favorite this year was in Seville Spain.
I’ve taken plenty of food tours over the years. It’s one of my favorite things to do when first exploring a new place. After all, trying new food is one of the reasons that I travel (as should be obvious since I named this post Favorite Food & Travel of 2022, not just Favorite Travel).
But I’ve never taken a cooking class before while traveling. When I came across the Taller Andaluz de Cocina experience on Viator.com, I jumped all over it.
And we had a great time.
We first toured Seville’s main market with our guide, learning about the most common foods and ingredients in this part of Spain. We then spent the next few hours learning to cook three different Spanish dishes at the company’s kitchen – located inside one of the market stalls. Followed by a great meal featuring our culinary creations.
On the menu – Salmorejo (a bread-thickened cold tomato soup), Garbanzo Beans with Spinach, and Paella.
You can click here to check out my full accounting of our Cooking Class in Seville and you can click here to book the class for yourself.
While we were in Spain, Salmorejo became one of my favorite tapas. And I’m so grateful that I learned to cook it in this class. Samorejo was a regular menu item at our house the past summer. An authentic taste of Spain back in Utah, flooding our palates with great memories every time we ate it.
Byzantine Road – Lefkes Paros Greece
I started this blog shortly before the pandemic began, and so the majority of our actual travels in 2020 and 2021 were to Utah’s great national and state parks. Consequently, there was lots of travel hiking during those two years.
Seeking out great hikes continues to be a quest as we travel elsewhere. This year my favorite hike happened on a Greek Island.
Lefkes is a small mountain village on the Greek Island of Paros. 1000 years ago, during the Byzantine period of Greek history, the inhabitants built a road between Lefkes and the neighboring town of Prodromos. And they paved it with marble.
Today, a paved road connects the two towns along a different route, but the original Byzantine road still exists and is a popular hiking trail.
While we hiked along it’s 2.3 km length, we enjoyed great views of the beautiful Lefkes village, passed groves of olive trees and ancient stone fences, and gazed out across the Aegean Sea to the neighboring island of Naxos.
You can click here to read a full accounting of this Hike along the Byzantine Road in Lefkes Greece.
Casa Cueva El Arrabal – Sentenil de las Bodegas, Spain
During 2022, we stayed almost exclusively in vacation rentals, my usual lodging preference. Much more space at a lower price than a hotel room. Plus, the chance to live a little more off the beaten tourist path than you typically can with a hotel.
Our favorite this year was in Sentenil de las Bodegas – one of Andalucia Spain’s Pueblos Blancos or White Villages. Sentenil is unique because rather than sitting on top of a hill, like most of the other White Villages, much of Setenil is actually built directly into the hillside – cave houses, cave restaurants, cave businesses. It’s a beautiful and fascinating place to visit.
While in Sentenil, we spent a night in one of its cave houses – a vacation rental called Casa Cueva El Arrabal. This house was located just off one of Setenil’s narrowest, steepest, and most historic streets. Like most of the homes in the area, the bulk of its interior is within the rock itself with a manmade facade out front.
But this is no rustic cave dwelling. The interior was beautiful and large and well-appointed. The back wall of the entire house was mountainside – the chisel marks made while hollowing out the interior space part of the decor. Three stories tall, a bedroom on each upper level, a great kitchen and living area on the main floor.
Plaster and drywall meet chiseled rock wall to create a beautiful and unique living space.
We wish we would have stayed here longer.
You can click here to read even more about our stay in the fascinating Setenil de las Bodegas and you can check out its Booking.com listing here.
Taverna Aris – Athens Greece
This was the hardest choice of my favorite food and travel list for 2022. We ate a lot of great food on our travels this year…
The tapas food culture in Andalusia Spain delivered a true foodie heaven with its quality, its variety, and its low cost.
Maltese cuisine was unique and tasty, but it was the Italian cuisine in Malta that really shined. Really great pasta dishes in Malta. (Malta is only 50 miles away from Sicily)
And the Greek classics – gyros, souvlaki, moussaka, spanakopita, Greek yogurt – were everything I could have hoped for.
But my favorite meal of 2022 was a simple meal in a simple location. It’s really hard to beat simple fresh ingredients, perfectly executed, seated at a table just dripping with really cool atmosphere.
Taverna Aris is a small family run taverna inside the Central Athens Market. They specialize in cooking fresh seafood directly from the market on a charcoal grill.
Greek salad and grilled bread drizzled with olive oil.
(And let me just say that we tried to recreate the Greek salads at home. Seems simple, but it just can’t be done. Vegetables taste better in Europe. Feta tastes better in Greece)
Grilled sea bass and squid with just a few herbs, olive oil, sea salt, and citrus.
We visited Taverna Aris twice while in Athens, and I will go back immediately whenever we visit Athens again.
Cecret Lake – Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
After a year of traveling thousands of miles, my iPhone is full of some great memories and the occasionally decent photo. But my favorite photo of the year was taken only 17 miles from my house, while hiking with my daughter on one of the Salt Lake City area’s most popular summer hiking trails. This is a photo at Cecret Lake – an alpine lake sitting above Alta Utah at 10,000 feet.
And it’s a good reminder that we never have to travel far to see cool things.
So there you have it. My Favorite Food and Travel of 2022. We can’t wait now to see what 2023 has in store. And I’m excited to continue experiencing the joys of slow travel. I will give you a hint about what we already have scheduled. And since the World Cup just ended, I’ll make it a football hint. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.