I recently shared my travel highlights from 2013, which included moments both huge (the top of Mount Kilimanjaro) and small (watching the rain fall in La Jolla, Calif.). I asked readers to share theirs, and they responded in force.
Here are highlights, which have been edited for space and clarity.
Monument Valley in northeast Arizona is out of the way, and there isn't much around it in terms of places to stay and eat. I drove through it on a Jeep tour in June and was overcome with the feeling that I felt as if I were on Mars. Amazing landscape. Breathtaking. Worth the trip.
— Laura Font, Elmhurst, Ill.
My wife and I visited Normandy, France, in September. Time spent at the D-Day beaches and reflecting on the shared sacrifices of the Allied invasion force are memories that will never leave me.
— Don Popillo,Glastonbury, Conn.
Kailua is a small town 30 minutes northeast of Honolulu with the most beautiful beach I have seen. There is no plant material in the water, which makes it a downer for fishing or snorkeling, but an absolute joy for stand-up paddle boarding. Asking my instructor how deep the water was, he offered, "Probably 20 feet." I could see the bottom clearly. That's when I noticed a "swimmer" coming toward me, head down. When he got within 5 feet, I realized it was a sea turtle. I was so surprised I fell off my paddle board!
— Deb Gulbrandson, Cary, Ill.
Our surprise highlight came from the Yarmouth Clam Festival in Yarmouth, Maine, in July. It was charming! It was relaxing! It was wonderful! The best part was seeing a full community effort hosting this festival. It reminded my husband and me of a bygone era.
— Joy Michele Katzenberg, Reisterstown, Md.
Flights to the start of our Himalaya trek to Everest Base Camp were canceled because of persistent fog and snow. We instead trekked to the aptly named Annapurna Sanctuary, an area surrounded by a visual feast of glaciers and towering snow-capped 25,000-foot mountains. Travel reminds us to be patient and open-minded. When things don't go as planned, the alternative is usually just as great and memorable.
— Mark and Mary Kay Biernacki, DeKalb, Ill.
Our trip to Oregon began with a book recommendation from a former classmate: Stephen Ambrose's telling of the Lewis and Clark expedition, "Undaunted Courage." As our plane was on its final approach into Portland, Lewis and Clark were reaching the same point in the book. What took the Corps of Discovery many months to travel, we had accomplished in less than four hours, all while viewing from 30,000 feet the same terrain the Corps had struggled through.
— Ed Leighton, Chicago
Aurland is nestled in the Norwegian fjords and just off the main tourist route. From the town, my husband and I took an overgrown hiking trail to a Mount Prest lookout above the fjord. Photos don't adequately capture the brilliant colors and scale — 4,200-foot peaks towering above ice-blue water where ferry boats seem like tiny specks. Our 12-mile round-trip hike gave us a vast view that we had to ourselves.
— Kelly Spong, St. Charles, Ill.
Pearl Harbor was exceptional. We were amazed at the museum, which taught us new facts about the event. Even our teens felt the solemn atmosphere surrounding the area.
— Pam Keseric, Hinsdale, Ill.
I went to see my grandparents in Pueblo, Colo. We worked in my grandpa's woodworking shop, and we went fishing.
— Nolan Shen (age 7), Naperville, Ill.