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Best of 2016

From Israel to Iran to Istanbul; my year in travels

Story by Thomas Flensted February 12th 2017

When the calendar changed from 2015 to 2016, I told myself 2016 would be the year in which I would say yes every time I got the possibility to travel. I wanted to put traveling over studies and work, because I'm sure that it will give me value and experiences I won't find in a classroom or at a regular day job. So that's what I did. Now, the year is over and I have been to 10 different countries in different parts of the world - Central Asia, the Middle East, Northern Europe, Central Europe, Southern Europe, and the United States.

I have chosen what I think are my best photos from these trips and compressed them all into one photo set. 2016 was great, and 2017 is, hopefully, going to be even greater. Also, while I still have your attention, suggestions on where I should go in 2017 are very welcome in the comment section below or on my email. Two destinations are already scheduled.

Israel/Palestine, january

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First stop in 2016 was Israel/Palestine (I am calling it that because I don't want to take any political stances on a subject this sensitive) where I celebrated New Year with my family. I have always found the Middle East captivating, and as Israel/Palestine is one of the most contested, I naturally found this place intriguing. A country of contrasts, culture and conflicts. What you see above is an overview of Jerusalem with the golden dome being the Dome of the Rock. Below is a photo from the Negev Desert and one of praying Jews at the Western Wall.

Entire story can be found here.

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Iran, January

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I was in Iran with my family in 2012. That country left me with impressions so strong that I knew I had to go back. So, four days after I returned from Israel, I headed toward Iran. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The trip was on of the best of my life (if not the best). I met the kindest people, saw the most gorgeous nature, and walked through the most exotic cities. Of all photos I have taken, these are also the ones that have garnered most attention and I am grateful for all the praise and compliments (and website traffic) I have gotten since I posted the story.

Above is a photo of the enchanting city of Yazd, and below you will find a praying mullah in the Vakil Mosque in Shiraz, the kind Hossein I met in Isfahan, and the stunning Nasir ol-Molk Mosque in Shiraz. Entire story can be seen right here.

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Rig-e jen, iran, january

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This photo series is from the same trip to Iran as the above photos. I decided to split the trip into two series because the nature (no pun intended) of the two is so different, and I felt there was too much to cover in one set.

I teamed up with local explorers, the awesome guys from RO Nature, and spent the last four days in the distant and desolate desert of Rig-e Jen. Here, we crossed massive sand dunes, camped under bright stars, and ate food cooked over big bonfires. Along with the Iran series above these are my most viewed photos on my site. It was even featured by Business Insider.

Find the entire story here.

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Norway, march

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In March I went on a short 4-day roadtrip to Western Norway from Bergen to Trondheim with my friends Max and Merlin. We spent 4 days roaming Western Norway seeking spectacular sceneries, and we were not disappointed. It was 4 days of very little sleep, and lots of driving and hiking. We hardly saw the sun, but instead we got moody and atmospheric landscapes

See the entire story right here.

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kygyrzstan, june

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For several years, I have been dreaming of visiting Central Asia. It is one of those places in the world that we only have few of left: Still largely untouched by tourism and international influence the distinctive culture of the region is still very visible, and very few people know of these countries, let alone consider traveling here.

Anyway, I went to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for 3 weeks with a very good friend of mine. It was, by far, the most challenging place to travel that I have ever been to. Communication was hard, and the infrastructure was horrendous. However, the authenticity and feeling of adventure made up for all this. We met fascinating people, and saw magnificent nature. We are definitely going back at some point.

See entire story here.

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tajikistan, july

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Second part of the Central Asia adventure took place in Tajikistan. A country that differs a bit from the rest of Central Asia as they speak Tajik which is very close to Farsi, while the other countries speak languages belonging to the Turkic family. In Tajikistan my friend Jakob and I drove through what is by far the most hostile, barren, and wind-swept landscape I have ever seen. We drove through part of the famous Pamir Highway. We never dipped below 3000m (9800 ft), we slept in a tent, and we felt like explorers of the 16th century seeing new places for the first time ever.

For the entire story, head over here.

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california, july

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Just 4 days after I had landed back home after 3 weeks in Central Asia I took off to California (that's a 14-hour difference) where most of my family already was. We stayed in Mill Valley just north of San Francisco. From there I took a few day trips out to different places like Yosemite and Point Reyes. After 3 weeks in Central Asia I enjoyed relaxing and taking it slowly in California.

Go here to see the whole story.

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Istanbul & Ankara, August

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While I was in Central Asia, my girlfriend and I decided to head to Istanbul in August. So my girlfriend and I booked tickets to Istanbul for August. Then about 3 weeks passed and there was a coup attempt, several terror attacks and for a short while it almost looked like Turkey was going to implode into civil war with conservative government forces fighting liberal rebel forces. However, none of this happened. Instead it calmed down somewhat, but everybody still advised us not to go. We did go anyway, and we had an amazing trip because Istanbul was virtually empty from tourists. We also took a small detour to Ankara because we have two friends there we wanted to visit.

Read and watch the story here.

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Tirol, September

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Around September, my good friend Matias Molina sent me a message asking if I wanted to join him on a trip to Tirol in Austria that we had been invited on by Visit Tirol. Because of my resolution and eagerness to go, I couldn't turn it down. We spent about a week roaming massive mountains, scrambling up mountain sides and sleeping very, very little (as a photographer you want to catch both sunrise and sunset and edit photos when you come home). We had an amazing trip in one of the most awe-inspiring places I have been. We also took a little detour to northern Italy - also known as Southern Tirol.

See the story in its entirety here.

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Lago di Braies in Northern Italy

Bologna, December

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For New Year 16/17 my girlfriend and I decided to head to Bologna, Italy. We enjoyed 5 superb days there. We spent most of the time enjoying each other's company, eating great food, and drinking good Italian red wine. Bologna oozes of history and you almost feel like you are back in medieval times when passing through narrow passages and porticoes.

For all the photos, head here.

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Miscellaneous from 2016

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Finally, a few photos that do not really fit into any of the travels above. I spent part of 2016 in Munich in Southern Germany. So here are a few photos from that region. Two from the beautiful lake Eibsee - one when the first snow had just fallen and one of my girlfriend doing a yoga pose there in the late summer. The last photo is an elegant lady we met in Salzburg. She was there for the Mozart concerts - Salzburg is, after all, the birthplace of Mozart.

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where should i go next?

That was my 2016 in terms of traveling. It was a great year with amazing experiences in abundance. I cannot complain. Where do you think I should go in 2017? I have two destinations scheduled already, but I am not going to tell you about them just yet. If you have any suggestions as to where you think I should go in 2017 let me know in the comment section below or on thomasflensted@hotmail.com. Also, remember to follow me over on Instagram.

Footnote: Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 24mm f/1.4 ART, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II
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