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temple bell jeju island koreaEach month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

In this month’s featured review, reader Margot MacPherson Brewer explores a country few Westerners visit: Korea. “Jeju Island is a tropical paradise that is under the radar and hosts mainly an ongoing influx of tourists from the Chinese mainland,” wrote Margot. “Jeju’s location in relation to South Korea combined with North Korea’s nuclear sabre-rattling this spring had clearly discouraged many Western visitors and we encountered less than a half dozen in our travels on Jeju.”

Read the rest of Margot’s review here: Korean Adventure. This reader has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

glacier bay alaskaEach month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

In this month’s featured review, reader olddocw writes about a recent adventure in Alaska. “The wildlife were the real stars of the show. Many sightings of humpback whales, harbor seals on the ice floes, Steller sea lions basking on the rocks, taking in the rare sunny day,” olddocw tells us. “Saw some Dall sheep up on the hillside of some of the larger islands. A group of dolphins enjoyed racing in front of the boat for about 20 minutes. Overall a wonderful experience which I would highly recommend.”

Read the rest of olddocw’s review here: DIY Alaska Adventure. This reader has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

thailand boatWe recently challenged our readers to write a trip review about their travels for a chance to win a $150 Amazon.com gift card. Reading the submissions that poured in — which described trips to places from Alaska to Amsterdam — gave us a severe case of wanderlust.

It was tough to pick the best review to win the prize, but in the end, we gave the nod to D. Rockett for a review called Thailand Epiphanies. Here’s a taste of the winning review:

“A recent trip to Thailand took me to the bustle of Bangkok, the serene majesty of Chiang Mai and the natural beauty of Phuket … all places that made me realize I didn’t really know who I was until I got there. No. I didn’t channel Julia Roberts in ‘Eat Pray Love.’ Real life can’t be weeded down to a 2-hour revelation of life’s big meanings. Instead, epiphanies occur in the margins of your story’s notebook — notes culled during a boat ride with friends that makes stops to let customers feed catfish and allows for bartering for tchotchkes from a vendor in a canoe; life’s big plan can be witnessed in the humble nature of a people via a refugee camp of women and children from Padong, Aka, and Yao tribes; and balance can be pondered when riding in a barely air-conditioned van on the shoulder of a road for miles on end butted next to a truck who will not budge an inch or cause an accident while he is riding in the proper lane.” Read the rest!

While we only had one prize to give, we want to give a little love to a few runners-up that also wrote excellent reviews. Have a sampling:

Road trip to the Grand Canyon North Rim by Katie Matthews: “During our four-day stay we saw sunsets and rain clouds, lightning and rainbows, and Jupiter and its rings (!!!) all from our little spot on the seemingly top of the world.”

My Week as a Marine Biologist by GingerD: “We would then all go down to the shore where we drew a line in the damp sand, had everyone gather behind the line, ‘wash’ their hands with dry sand to remove oils and give everyone a baby turtle to put down and watch as they made their slow journey down the sand and into the ocean.”

Embracing Amsterdam by Christian Dew: “If you like free beer, yes I said free beer, then you must visit the Heineken Experience and that is located at Stadhouderskade 78, 1072 AE, Amsterdam.”

Accessible Santa Fe by Helen Gallagher: “As we traveled around, my husband, with his transport chair, found doors were opening for him, a hand was ready to help over a bump in the road, space was made available in small cafes, and certainly our accessible hotel room was more than gracious.”

Feeling inspired? Write about your latest trip!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

white face monkey costa ricaEach month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

In this month’s featured review, reader Diana Ziemniak writes about her first trip to Costa Rica. “I took over 800 photos to capture our memories of the white face monkeys in front of me at the beach, howler monkeys just above me, colorful macaws soaring the skies, toucans and a variety of so many other birds — a nature lover’s paradise,” Diana wrote. “The flowers were so colorfully vivid, reflecting the lushness we experienced in the rain forest.”

Read the rest of Diana’s review here: Captivating Costa Rica. Diana has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

12 Best Costa Rica Experiences

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review! When you write one by June 17, you’ll be entered to win a $150 Amazon.com gift card.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

sydney opera houseEach month, we highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

In this month’s featured review, reader Carmen Critchlow writes about her first trip Down Under — a cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice. “We had an informative backstage tour of the Opera House, what a fascinating history that building has,” Carmen wrote. “We took a leisurely stroll across the Harbor Bridge and enjoyed the great view.

“We were lucky to be here in March because on June 30, 2013, the Sydney Light Rail and Sydney Monorail will cease operations and will be removed to facilitate the development of the new Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct at Darling Harbor. The trains are marked ‘Farewell Sydney.’ We were glad to be able to take a ride on a piece of history before it was gone.”

Read the rest of Carmen’s review here: Fantastic Cruise to Australia/New Zealand. Carmen has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

li river chinaEach month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

In this month’s featured review, reader Lara G writes about a half-day spent cruising along China‘s scenic Li River. “The 83-km-long waterway from Guilin to Yangshuo is like an artist’s masterpiece,” Lara wrote. “The landscape is decorated with rolling hills, steep cliffs, fantastic caves.

“Once in a while we [passed] by little villages, where women were washing clothes in the river; water buffalo wandered in the greenery; sometimes ducks — entire families with little baby ducks were gracefully crossing the river from the one bank to another; flocks of cormorant birds were resting (or fishing?) on the floating wooden pieces; little fishermen boats or bamboo rafts were scurrying around doing their business as usual…”

Read the rest of Lara’s review here: From Guilin to Yangshuo, The Li River Cruise – China. Lara has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

st ignatius church rome domeEach month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

In this month’s featured review, reader Amelia Hesson spends three days exploring Rome, the Eternal City. “We walked from our hotel to the king of Baroque churches called St. Ignatius. The Romans call this the 3D church because the artist Pozzo painted a fake dome which looks very much like a dome if you are standing in the proper place to see it. It’s very cool — moving through the church you see it become distorted and even then it is something to behold. This church is painted very much like the Sistine Chapel with biblical scenes rising up the walls and onto the roof of the church. Don’t forget to turn on the lights of the dome, they really illuminate it well and it only costs one euro.”

Read the rest of Amelia’s review here: Roma, Roma, Roma. Amelia has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag.

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

11 Best Italy Experiences

– written by Sarah Schlichter

gentoo penguins antarcticaEach month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

In this month’s featured review, reader Dileep Bhandarkar goes penguin- and glacier-spotting on a cruise to Antarctica. “The weather could not be any better!” wrote Dileep. “With temperatures in the mid-40′s, we dropped our jackets on the rock near the beach and hiked up to see the gentoo penguin colony. We were within 100 feet from a large group of penguins. Some were still building their nests — stealing rocks from each other. Some had eggs they were protecting. We even got to see some mating activity! … This was our most favorite landing site!”

Read the rest of Dileep’s review here: Air-Cruise with Antarctica XXI on the Ocean Nova.

Dileep has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

Slideshow: 9 Best Destinations to See from the Water

– written by Sarah Schlichter

pen paperWe recently challenged our readers to write a trip review about the best journey they’d taken over the previous year. We received dozens of submissions detailing our readers’ travels to places like Curacao and Cambodia, Mexico and the Mediterranean, France and the Philippines.

It was tough to pick the best review to win the grand prize, a $250 Best Western Travel Card. But in the end, we gave the nod to Heather Ranes for her review of her trip to the Emerald Isle, Ireland – The 40 Shades of Green. Here’s a snippet of her winning review:

“Killarney is the poster-child for what we, as Americans, want to see when we travel to Ireland. The city is surrounded by lush meadows and forests, its adorable Main Street is bursting with pubs and eateries, and there are lots of stone ruins to explore. Taking the advice of friends, we rented bikes (about $20 USD per person) for the day and spent most of the morning and early afternoon biking around Ross Castle and one of the lakes nearby (the bike rental shops have plenty of advice and maps available). This decision was one I consider to be a once in a lifetime experience … being on bicycles, we were able to pass the pedestrian traffic (Ross Castle is a walkable distance from downtown Killarney) and spend several hours in virtual isolation surrounded by the mystical forests of Killarney National Park. If I were a fairy, I’d want to live here.” Read the rest!

We also chose five runners-up at random to win IndependentTraveler.com duffel bags. Click on the title to read more of each review.

Aloha from Morro Bay by Tim Owens: “We paddled near some sea lions gathered in the middle of the bay, and later came close to a couple of flocks of beautiful white pelicans.”

Back-to-Back Cruises are a Gift to Yourself and Other Guests by Ralph Koerber: “A Chocolate Lovers’ Buffet featured ice carvings displayed with any type and shape chocolate desired.”

Thailand-Cambodia by Lisa Boruff: “The smell of ginger, garlic, lemongrass, flowers, incense floating in air. Orchids of all colors, roses, and spices at the flower market…”

The AMAZING Oasis of the Seas by Lisa Brommell: “We were six women traveling for a girlfriends cruise (no husbands/kids allowed)!!”

London by Marcia L Hill: “Having lived in London, I was eager to return with [my boyfriend] nearly 10 years later to see what had become of this wonderful city.”

Feeling inspired? Write about your latest trip!

– written by Sarah Schlichter