These breathtaking destinations are definitely worth bumping to the top of your travel bucket list. Enjoy!
These 17 tiered pools of Pamukkale, or ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, are as beautiful as hot springs get. The stacks of white travertine in a form of limestone, overlook the city of Denizli while the 35°C still waters reflect the cerulean Aegean sky.
THE PITONS, ST LUCIA
The scenery of St Lucia can be summed up by one jaw-dropping site: a duo of striking spires known as the Pitons. The two volcanic peaks – Gros Piton and Petit Piton – are the top spots on the island, and visitors can enjoy them in a variety of ways.
PLAYA DE LAS CATEDRALES, SPAIN
As a destination on Europe’s the Iberian Peninsula, Spain is renowned for its island paradises and semi-remote beaches. Our go-to is Playa de Las Catedrales, a small stretch of sand on the Galician coast where natural stone arches form a walkable cathedral at low tide.
PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK, CROATIA
If you can make it through the crowds of selfie-taking tourists, you’ll discover that Plitvice Lakes National Park more than lives up to the hype. The 16 terraced lakes of Croatia’s most popular site are connected by waterfalls and vary in shades of blue, resulting in a scene that defies the imagination.
Seemingly endless lavender fields make Provence one of the prettiest (and best-smelling) places in France. Distilleries – where the essential oil from the flowers is bottled or used to make soaps, lotions, and creams – dot the area, but the unreal purple views are its real pride.
RAJA AMPAT ISLANDS, INDONESIA
This chain of more than 1,500 islands is strung along nearly 29,000 square miles off the western coast of West Papua. The views here are downright prehistoric: lava peaks covered in the green jungle; palms sprouting out of sheer cliff walls; mist drifting in and out of deep canyons. The biodiverse archipelago is easily one of the most captivating destinations on the planet.
SALAR DE UYUNI, BOLIVIA
South-west Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world and is about as surreal as landscapes come. When dry, it’s a sheet of blindingly white salt tiles, and during the wet season, the shallow lake mirrors the sky, which creates a dreamy illusion.
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK, TANZANIA
The ideal location for an African adventure is Tanzania’s portion of the Serengeti. Visit between January and March to witness the annual Great Migration, a phenomenon that sees 1.5 million wildebeest sweep through East Africa on a 1,200-mile journey.
Nearly 350 miles off the south coast of Yemen, Socotra has both the remoteness and surrealism of some strange, distant planet. And the UFO-like dragon’s blood trees are the island’s most notable feature.
TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK, CHILE
With its granite pillars, azure lakes, and steppes filled with grazing guanacos, Torres del Paine is one of the most spectacular places in the entire Southern Hemisphere. It also happens to be an extremely popular destination for hikers: the ultra-ambitious can travel the Full Circuit – crossing the entire park in nine days.
The protruding rock sits about 2,300ft above Lake Ringedalsvatnet, tempting travelers to inch out to the edge. Unfortunately, it has fallen prey to ‘death by popularity’ and local organizations have called for tourist caps to protect the site. But even if you don’t get your once-in-a-lifetime shot on the rock’s edge, you can still soak up some epic fjord views from the surrounding mountains.
As crowded as Ubud can get, the town is only minutes from dozens of authentic villages and peaceful countryside views. You can rent a motorbike or bicycle at your hotel and get lost in these tangerine groves and rice paddies that are kept alive by farmers just as previous generations have done for millennia.
This majesty should be on every traveler’s list, and you can visit the 700-million-year-old Uluru (or Ayers Rock) from above by hot air balloon, across the desert on a motorcycle, hiking at the base during the technicolor sunset.
VICTORIA FALLS, ZAMBIA, AND ZIMBABWE
Nothing compares to standing in front of the world’s largest waterfall, which stretches in length for a full mile. You can visit between February and May after the region’s rainy season for the clearest views of the 500 million liters of water that pour over the falls every 60 seconds.
WULINGYUAN SCENIC AREA, CHINA
Scenic might be an understatement in this case. This 100-square-mile attraction in China’s Hunan Province contains thousands of sandstone pillars that are nature’s version of skyscrapers – some are even taller than the Empire State Building’s midpoint.
Far less crowded than sister spots Mykonos and Santorini, Zakynthos has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Greek islands – particularly Navagio Beach. Sheltered by cliffs, Navagio is only accessible by boat and draws its name, Shipwreck, from a freighter that ran aground, was abandoned and still rests on its white sands today.
ZHANGYE DANXIA LANDFORM, CHINA
These striped, multicolored mountains are nature’s answer to CGI. Red sandstone and mineral deposits have been building up in China’s Danxia Landform Geological Park for more than 20 million years, causing the surreal layered effect.