Pack your bags and check out these global beauties!
BY JILL FERGUS
AUG 13, 2018
Amalfi Coast — Italy
One can never run out of options when it comes to jaw-droppingly beautiful spots in Italy, but the Amalfi Coast just might take the torta. Just south of Naples, this incredibly scenic stretch, with towns like Ravello, Amalfi, and Positano, is known for its colorful houses built into steep hills (and they’re often right above black-sand beaches).
More: 2018’s List of the Best Countries to Live in the World
Lake Louise — Canada
Located within Canada’s Banff National Park, Lake Louise is famous for its insanely blue glacial water — framed by the snowcapped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. There are plenty of challenging hikes nearby that feature gorgeous lake views, and you can reward yourself afterward with a glass of wine at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Rainbow Mountains — China
You’ve never seen anything quite like the Rainbow Mountains within Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in China’s Gansu province. A combination of sandstone and minerals being pressed together over millennia and erosion have created vibrant streaks of reds, yellows, greens, and blues across the mountains to make a bizarre but fascinating Technicolor landscape. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is definitely one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Santorini — Greece
Photos of Santorini, a volcanic island in the Aegean Sea, are instantly recognizable — whitewashed buildings with cobalt blue domes. Can’t you just imagine yourself there right now, sitting in a sun-drenched taverna with a plate of grilled fish and a glass of ouzo? Ahh. These gorgeous vistas can be found in the town of Oia, which has plenty of romantic hotels, shops, galleries, and open-air restaurants.
Cliffs of Moher — Ireland
Ireland is known for its lush scenery — they don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing! — and one of the most stunning natural attractions are the Cliffs of Moher on the western coast of County Clare. Reaching 702 feet high, these jagged limestone cliffs stretch for 5 miles along the Atlantic Ocean coastline to create an awe-inspiring panorama.
Machu Picchu — Peru
There’s no doubt that Picchu is one of the world’s most beautiful places, but it’s also one of the most mysterious. Built in the mid-15th century, this Incan fortress sits high up in the Andes Mountains, above the Urubamba River valley. The complex, encountered by American explorer Hiram Bingham III in 1911, features a series of intricate stone buildings and agricultural terraces where llamas graze.
Petra — Jordan
One of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, Petra is located in Jordan’s southwestern desert. Fun fact: Several scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed here. The site’s ancient temples and tombs are carved directly into the pink sandstone cliff faces, creating a beautiful but eerie stone tableau. It’s definitely worth seeing at sunset.
Red Rocks of Sedona — Arizona
Be prepared to be blown away by the otherworldly beauty of Sedona’s Red Rocks, an artsy and adventure-minded town known for its spiritual vortexes, which are thought to be energy centers that can help you heal and strengthen your inner balance. In town, you can get readings, aura photos, and healing crystals if you’re into that sort of thing, but all you really need to do is get out among the ancient red and pink canyons, mesas, and buttes to feel a more mellow vibe.
Taj Mahal — India
One of the seven wonders of the modern world, this ivory-white marble mausoleum, complete with a domed central tomb and surrounding minarets, never fails to impress with its imposing yet sublime design. Located on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, the Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house his beloved late wife Mumtaz Mahal — a true monument to love!
The Pitons — St. Lucia
Mention the Caribbean, and most likely you immediately think of white-sand beaches with aquamarine waters. Mountains probably don’t factor in, but that’s just what the island of St. Lucia is known for: the twin peaks of the Pitons — Gros Piton and Petit Peton (neither of which seems to ever take a bad picture). You can hike on and around both mountains. Better yet, take in the views from the comfort of your hotel room.
Geirangerfjord — Norway
In a country known for fjords, Geirangerfjord tops the list as not only one of the most stunning natural attractions in Europe. The best way to see this glacial waterway and its multitude of waterfalls cascading down forest-covered mountains (including a famous cluster known as the “Seven Sisters”) is to take a scenic cruise. You can also go kayaking, biking, or hiking, and even a helicopter tour is an option.
Tegallalang Rice Terrace — Bali
If you were a fan of the book Eat, Pray, Love, you probably had fantasies about running off to Ubud, the cultural heart of the Indonesian island of Bali. One of the town’s most distinctive topographical features are its terraced rice patties, especially the Tegallalang Rice Terrace, about 20 minutes north of town. The emerald green terraces spilling down the hillside and framed by coconut trees are truly an unforgettable sight.
Torres del Paine National Park — Patagonia
It’s all about rugged beauty and eco-friendly adventures at Torres del Paine National Park on the Chilean side of Patagonia (an incredibly scenic and remote mountainous region shared by Chile and Argentina). You can see the park’s abundant natural beauty any number of ways, including horseback riding through the pampas (grasslands), hiking beside expansive glaciers, and taking a Zodiac boat tour.
Bruges — Belgium
It seems wrong not to highlight Venice when talking about a beautiful city with canals, but hey, Venice gets a lot of attention — why not show a little love to Bruges? This beguiling Belgium city has cobbled streets and charming canals where you can take a scenic tour to see its historic churches and half-timbered buildings. Afterward, lunch on moules frites at a cafe in 13th-century Market Square, then stop into one of Bruges’ many chocolate shops for dessert.
Uluru — Australia
Ayers Rock, also known by its aboriginal name, Uluru, is the centerpiece of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory. This massive sandstone monolith, in one of the most remote outback areas of the country, is sacred to the local Anangu aboriginal people.
Sign up for a guided hike around the base, where you can see its canyons and caves and learn more about its history and legends. Be sure to stick around for sunset when the rock glows a deep rusty red color.
Na Pali Coast — Hawaii
Kauai is one of the lushest places on Earth, and its most famous natural attraction is the Na Pali Coast. This stretch of incredibly rugged coastline on the island’s North Shore is brimming with emerald green cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and tropical plants and flowers. The 11-mile Kalalau Trail is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re up to the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with once-in-a-lifetime views.
Dubrovnik — Croatia
This medieval walled city on the Adriatic Sea, with its imposing limestone walls, rock solid ramparts, and terracotta-tiled roofs, easily goes to the top of the pack among the world’s most beautiful places. Stroll the Stradun (main street) lined with monasteries and museums, and when you need to escape the crowds, drift down a narrow medieval alleyway. You might recognize some of the sights from Game of Thrones, as it doubles for King’s Landing (you can even take a tour of filming sites).
Bora Bora Lagoon — French Polynesia
Sometimes, you just need to stretch out on a gorgeous beach — or fantasize about doing so, perhaps while lolling on a hammock strung between two coconut trees, frozen drink in hand. That dream beach can be found on the island of Bora Bora. The lagoon is so clear, you can see straight to the bottom (no snorkeling equipment needed to see tropical fish), and the water is bathtub-warm. Sounds like heaven!
Victoria Falls — Zambia/Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River. One of the best vantage points in which to view this mile-long curtain of thundering water is from Livingstone Island, so named for David Livingstone, the first Westerner to come across the falls in 1855. Vic Falls have long been considered one of the most beautiful places in the world — and one of the most adventurous, with bungee jumping, zip lining, and white-water rafting all in the vicinity of the falls.
Sugarloaf Mountain — Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro has plenty of iconic attractions, including Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach (cue Antonio Carlos Jobim’s famous “Girl from Ipanema” bossa nova song), and the Christ the Redeemer statue, but Sugarloaf Mountain is perhaps its most well-known landmark. The bullet-shaped mountain sits at the mouth of the Guanabara Bay, and you can take a cable car to the summit for views over the entire city.
Crater Lake — Oregon
The centerpiece of Crater Lake, a national parkin the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon is, of course, the lake itself, a 6-mile-wide caldera created by the eruption and collapse of Mount Mazama thousands of years ago. The stunningly scenic freshwater lake, surrounded by old-growth forest and 2,000-foot-high cliffs, is the deepest lake in America, and it’s known for its insanely deep blue color.
Mont Saint-Michel — France
Mont Saint-Michel, the tiny medieval walled city in Normandy, never fails to take your breath away. Built on a granite outcrop in the Couesnon River’s flats and dominated by a massive Gothic abbey, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The area is known for its tidal activity, and during the spring and autumn equinoxes, water can surround the structure, creating quite the photo op.
Tulum Ruins — Mexico
Mexico’s Rivera Maya has a number of Mayan ruins worth exploring, but the only one that’s smack-dab on the Caribbean Sea is Tulum. Perched high above crystal-clear turquoise waters in a spectacular cliffside setting, the ancient archeological site is home to numerous stone temples, which are decorated with carvings of Mayan gods.
Playa Mayor — Spain
Salamanca (a 2.5-hour drive from Madrid) is home to one of the most beautiful squares in all of Spain, the Plaza Mayor. Surrounding this grand central square in the Old Town are elegant Baroque-style buildings, featuring graceful arches and balustrades. One of the best times to visit the plaza is in the evening, when the buildings are illuminated, creating an almost magical effect.
Abu Simbel — Egypt
The Abu Simbel temple complex, built on the west bank of the Nile River in southern Egypt, is one of the country’s most famous ancient sites. Built by Ramses II, the complex consists of two sandstone temples built into the mountainside, one of which is the impressive Great Temple, which features four intricately carved seated figures on the façade, each of which is 65 feet high.
Antelope Canyon — Arizona
Antelope Canyon, on Navajo land in northern Arizona, is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in the Southwest (and with the Grand Canyon nearby, that’s saying something)! You can visit the Upper and Lower canyons, formed thousands of years ago by erosion and flash flooding, which has resulted in bizarre-looking formations.
Reynisfjara Beach — Vik, Iceland
From waterfalls to geysers, the compact country of Iceland is packed with exceptional natural scenery, and one of the most memorable sites is Reynisfjara Beach, a black-sand strandnear the village of Vik in southern Iceland. This ink-hued beauty is known for its pyramid-like rock formation of basalt columns, as well as rock formations jutting out from the sea.
Cappadocia — Turkey
Cappadocia, in central Turkey, is famous for its otherworldly volcanic rock formations, including pinnacles known as “fairy chimneys.” One of the best ways to see this lunar-looking landscape is from the air, especially via a sunrise balloon ride. In fact, Cappadocia is one of the hot air ballooning capitals of the world, so don’t miss the chance to take one during your visit.
Kinkaku-ju Temple — Japan
Japan has several notable temples, but none can compare to the beauty of Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ju, built in the 14th century for a leading shogun. Known as the Golden Pavilion, this three-story Zen Buddhist temple is covered in gold leaf — especially dazzling in sunlight — and sits at the edge of a reflecting pond amid landscaped gardens.
Sossusvlei Sand Dunes — Namibia
Located in the southern portion of the Namib Desert, the Sossusvlei sand dunes are some of the largest on Earth. These massive rust-hued sand mounds are simply stunning to see in person — but visitors don’t just look at them, they get to climb on them as well! Sunrise and sunset, when the arid landscape is awash in shades of red, and orange, are peak climbing times.
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