I’m not usually a fan of round-ups but I’ve come across so many great hidden gems over the last 12 months that, as the year comes to a close, I wanted to share my top 5 hidden gems of 2012 with you below. There were so many hidden gems to choose from it took me a while to decide on my favourites so see if you agree. Or if there are any you’d care to share or add let me know. Happy New Year and looking forward to giving you the low-down on lots more hidden gems in 2013.

The best place to see the Northern Lights, Myvatn, North Iceland

Northern Lights Iceland

Northern Lights in North East Iceland

I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for years to see the Northern Lights but 2012 was the year my dream finally came true. I went courtesy of Explorers on an out-of-this-world astronomy tour to the North East of Iceland. My trip began in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik , click here for my post on Reykjavik’s best restaurant, before heading up to Lake Myvatyn, one of Iceland’s hidden gems, click here for my post on Myvatyn Nature Baths in Iceland. There I was lucky enough to see impressive displays of the Northern Lights three nights in a row. Click here for my post on the best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

London’s only gospel brunch at Altitude 360

London Community Gospel Choir Altitude 360 gospel brunch

London Community Gospel Choir Altitude 360 gospel brunch

Of all the hidden gems in London that I’ve come across this year I’d have to say that this gospel brunch at Altitude 360 was my absolute favourite. Click here to read my blog post on London’s only gospel brunch. It’s a brilliant concept and whether you’re religious, or a fan of gospel music or not, you’d be hard-pushed not to sing along to the uplifting sounds of the London Community Gospel Choir. Sadly this WAS the only gospel brunch in London as this hidden gem isn’t running any more. So you’ll have to make do with this video click here to watch a video of London’s only gospel brunch. But I’m saying a prayer that it will be back again in 2013.

Boipeba island, Brazil

Boipeba beach Bahia Brazil

Boipeba beach Bahia Brazil

Hidden gems don’t come much more hidden than the island of Boipeba, south of Salvador in the North East of Brazil, as most Brazilians have never even heard of it. It may be a bit of a trek click here for my post on how to get to Boipeba from Salvador, but once you set foot on this tropical paradise you’ll never want to leave it. Forget Rio, as Boipeba is home to some of Brazil’s best beaches and the ultimate honeymoon destination.

De Kas restaurant, Amsterdam

De Kas restaurant Amsterdam

De Kas restaurant Amsterdam

This year Sharps whisked me off to Amsterdam for my birthday, click here for my post on Amsterdam’s hidden gems. Of all of the hidden gems in Amsterdam I uncovered (some with Sharps’ help as he’d planned a few lovely surprises along the way, click here for my blog post on Amsterdam’s quirkiest restaurant) I’d say that De Kas, a restaurant built in a greenhouse, was my favourite. The quality of food was second to none, you could taste the freshness of the ingredients, some of which had literally just been picked from the gardens outside. And if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam I’d recommend a stay at the Hotel V, click here for my post on Hotel V Amsterdam as it’s Amsterdam’s friendliest hotel where nothing, not even retrieving a mobile phone lost in the laundry, is too much trouble.

Lancashire’s hidden gems, the Pendle Witch trail

Forest of Bowland Lancashire

Forest of Bowland Lancashire

I’ve always been fascinated with the sorry story of the Pendle Witches. I’ve been to Salem in the US but until 2012 I’d never managed to get round to visiting Pendle in Lancashire – the English equivalent and scene of Britain’s most famous witch trail. This year it was the 400th anniversary of the trail of the Pendle Witches and thanks to Visit Lancashire I had the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the Pendle Witches, click here for my post on the Pendle Sculpture Trail. During my trip I learned about the history of the area – one for Hobbit fans, Stoneyhurst college is the place it’s thought JRR Tolkein wrote part of Lord of the Rings. Click here for my post on Lancaster Castle. I also discovered some of the most incredible countryside England has to offer, including the Forest of Bowland, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

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