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List Words : Various contributors | 26 December

Travel experts' top experiences on the road

Earlier this year we asked for your ultimate travel experiences – you responded in your thousands. Here, travel experts and celebrities share their top moments

Earlier this year we asked readers of Wanderlust travel magazine and users of the Wanderlust website to share their top travel experiences... Ever! Check out the final top 100 list here. How many have you tried?

We want to know what has been your top travel experience of 2011... Post yours below.

Steve Backshall, adventurer, author and TV presenter

1. See the Himalayas

The Himalayas are the most overpowering place on the planet, the place that makes you feel most insignificant. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Himalayas. There’s nowhere else like it.

2. Explore the Amazon rainforest

Swim with pink river dolphins. See giant bird-eating tarantulas. It’s the most vital place on the planet and it’s disappearing at a frightening rate.

3. Dive with sharks

Somewhere, anywhere around the world. Whether it’s great whites or reef sharks – it doesn’t matter. Put your fears aside and see these extraordinary fish in the wild. They are nowhere near as dangerous to us as most people think.

4. Find bubble-netting humpback whales in Alaska

Watch pods of humpback whales catching vast shoals of herring. They work cooperatively – 15 whales each over 30 tonnes in weight, crashing to the surface and swallowing tonnes and tonnes of herring. It’s probably the most impressive wildlife spectacle on earth.

5. Spend a night out in the desert

Deep desert, miles from anywhere. The sky just seems to have been rinsed clear. You can see every single star. It’s so silent it seems to roar in your ears. It has a beauty, a desolation and wonder about it that is very spiritual.

Kate Humble, TV presenter

1. Exploring Bagan by bicycle

Bagan is a vast plain in Burma covered in hundreds of ancient temples of all shapes and sizes. We borrowed wonderfully old fashioned bikes with no gears and weighing about half a tonne each and spent days exploring this incredible site.

2. Snowball Fight in Afghanistan

We went to Afghanistan in 2008, to walk in a region called the Wakhan Corridor. The mountain scenery here is dramatic and the walking is often exhausting and always exhilarating. We were climbing to get to the top of a 5,000 metre pass and I was in the front with our guide, Amin Beg.

When we reached the top we were greeted by the most staggering view; an ice blue glaciated lake among jagged, snow-covered peaks. We had a snowball fight to celebrate the sheer joy of being there.

3. Swimming with dolphins in Lamu

We stayed at a laid-back beach paradise called Kizingo. The family who run it monitor the pods of dolphins that frequent the channel and take guests out in the hope of seeing them. We were extremely lucky, not just seeing them but spending 45 minutes swimming with them. An unforgettable wildlife encounter.

4. Cycling around Cuba

This is best way to get under the skin of this fascinating island and a great network of family run B&Bs helps you experience the real Cuba.

5. (Cheeky one, this…!) Visiting a ‘Stuff Your Rucksack’ Charity

On a trip to Nairobi last year we spent a morning at the SOS Children’s village, which we found out about on www.stuffyourrucksack. We took books, school equipment and toys. We were shown around and then spent a very happy hour playing football with the kids. It was great to see that our little contribution could make such a difference and bring such joy.

Simon Calder, all-round travel guru

1. Climb a mighty mountain

Kinabalu in Borneo and Toubkal in Morocco are both fabulous experiences, but better yet is Mount Kenya: it may not be the highest in Africa (Kilimanjaro pips it), and the real summit may be out of reach to mortals like you or me, but the 'Trekker’s Peak' is as far as you need to go to see the world’s longest view: 200 miles to the top of Kili.

2. Spend the day walking the length and breadth of Monaco

Probably the richest country in the world – watching the exotic species of humans and super-yachts, and spending only €3. One on a coffee, the next on the waterbus across the harbour, and the third on a baguette.

3. Take the shortest flight in the world

Loganair’s two-minute hop from Papa Westray to Westray in Orkney. Not just because of the experience – but because it will deposit you in one of the most wild and wonderful parts of the world’s most beautiful country – at least when the sun shines, which it does. Honest.

4. Walk through the Valley of Marvels in south-east France

A marvellous one-day hike that takes you across a high pass, through spectacular terrain and ancient history, and deposits you close enough to Italy to make dinner in Turin a tempting prospect.

5. Visit Easter Island

Infuriatingly hard to reach, even more difficult to leave when you discover the extraordinary beauty of this isolated fragment in the South Pacific, the friendliness of the locals – and the mystery of those heads.

Andy Kershaw, music broadcaster

We only managed to squeeze Andy's top three travel experiences out of him

1. Sky-high in North Korea

Save a fortune on psychedelic drugs. Just go there and have the most absurd, unsettling, psychedelic experience that you can have anywhere on planet earth.

2. Touring Zimbabwe with Biggie Smalls

I’m so lucky to have gone around that country at that particular point in its history – still in the honeymoon of independence, before Robert Mugabe went mad with the music driven by that optimism. Glorious music driven by that optimism with a friend. That trip had everything.

3. Deep South, USA

For variety, stories and musical encounters, my ‘Promised Land’ trip back in ‘87 where I followed Chuck Berry’s Promised Land across the southern United States. I was meeting old Blue’s men, I visited Hank Williams’ grave, I was hanging out with REM in Athens, Georgia.

I was in Cajun country for a while where that music wasn’t a tourist attraction, it was still being played in bars. Then we went up the West Coast, the whole kind of Paisley underground, psychedelic rock thing still happening with the likes of The Long Riders, the Rain Parade and Green on Red. It was like, ‘Here is American Music.”

There was black American gospel in little towns in churches on a Sunday in the south. It had everything really. Finding Blind Willie McTell’s grave, long before they put a proper memorial there, hanging around in Nashville, going to the Grand Ole Opre, Hank Williams’ museum and former home. Austin, Texas, the whole hotbed of country music away from Nashville. That trip was fantastic.

Simon Reeve, author, adventurer and broadcaster

1. ‘Extreme tracking’

We stalked lions, on foot, during a dawn safari in Limpopo National Park, Mozambique. A walk to remember, forever.

2. Arriving on a ferry in Symi harbour, off Rhodes

I think little Symi is the most beautiful island in Greece. The harbour hillside is lined with neo-classical buildings. Arriving at dusk is a magical experience.

3. Hugging a manatee

Swimming with wild, cuddly, inquisitive manatees in Crystal River, Florida – a world away from the theme parks.

4. Exploring the Gomantong Caves in northern Borneo

A cathedral-sized home to hundreds of thousands of swifts and bats. There was a small hill in the cave built entirely of their droppings. The stench was incredible, but I’ll treasure the memory.

5. The more the merrier

Every single group holiday I have ever had with friends. There’s just nothing like it. Sharing the experience makes it so much more special.

Simon Reeve spent 2011 travelling around the Indian Ocean filming an epic new six-part series. The programme is set to be broadcast in 2012 – don't miss it!

Hilary Bradt, writer and founder of Bradt guides

1. Discovering Culbone church, Exmoor

I adore little English churches, so the sight of tiny Culbone church squatting in a woodland clearing brought tears to my eyes.

2. Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees, Tanzania

As a fan of Jane Goodall, I was thrilled to find myself face to face with Fifi and her son Freud.

3. Galada monkeys in the Simiens, Ethiopia

The baboon-like geladas have beautiful long blonde hair and pose in front of Africa’s most dramatic mountain scenery.

4. “What we learned in school” – Azafady charity in Madagascar

When I visited this charity in southern Madagascar the littlest school children performed a dance showing the importance of washing hands after having a poo. Graphic and delightful!

5. Rodeo at The Cow Palace in San Francisco

When I lived in San Francisco I went to my first rodeo. Amazing! So different from anything in Europe.

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