Most beautiful places in the world include international destinations like Greece, Croatia, Chile, and Italy, as well as U.S. places such as Colorado, Washington, South Carolina, and many other states. Visitors get to choose among spectacular mountain ranges, sparkling emerald lakes, thundering waterfalls, dreamy ancient towns perched on high cliffs, and parks that attract millions of people from all over the world. CDC information for travelers.
Maroon Bells, USA Located only about 10 miles from Aspen, Colorado, the Maroon Bells are two 14,000-foot peaks in the Elk Mountains that are reflected in crystal-clear Maroon Lake, snuggled in a glacial valley. They are the crown jewels of the Rocky Mountains and by far one of the most photographed scenes in the country. It is difficult to say when the timeless beauty of these two sentinels mirrored in the lake is more striking: In the summer, when every hiking trail takes you through fields of wildflowers, in the fall, when tall aspen trees dazzle with a rainbow of fall colors, or in the winter, when snow and ice silence the world. The best photo opportunities are from one of the many hiking trails – access by motor vehicles is limited. The lake is popular among fly-fishermen – even if they don’t catch anything, the beauty all around them is enough.
Grand Canyon, USA The Grand Canyon is a steep, 1-mile-deep, and up to 18-mile-wide gash in the fabric of the world, an immense gorge carved by the Colorado River over the last 5,000 years. Its sheer size is breathtaking and although you can see only a small portion of it even from the best vantage point, its geology and its age fire the imagination. The layers of colorful rock show the passage of time and some of the rocks at the bottom are 1,8 billion years old. There is a lot of life growing on the canyon’s steep sides – you can see more of it hiking the trails of the northern rim, where it is also less crowded. Most people limit their visit to the breathtaking views from the southern rim. Some of the most popular viewpoints are Yavapai Observation Station, Mary Colter’s Lookout Studio, and Mather Point.
Blue Ridge Mountains, USA Located in the eastern United States and part of the massive Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Mountains stretch from their southernmost end in Georgia all the way northward to Pennsylvania. Between the Blue Ridge and the rest of the Appalachians lies the Great Appalachian Valley. When seen from a distance, the Blue Ridge Mountains appear blue – the trees that release a gas called isoprene are responsible for the bluish color and thus the mountains’ name. Within the Blue Ridge Mountains are two large national parks: The Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains. The best way to enjoy and get to know Blue Ridge is by taking the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile-long beautiful scenic highway that runs along the ridge together with the renowned Appalachian Trail and which connects the two parks.
Oia, Santorini, Greece Located on top of a cliff with a spectacular view of the Palea volcano, Nea Kameni, and the island of Thirassia, Oia is the most popular and arguably the most beautiful of all the picturesque villages of the Greek island of Santorini. Only about 11 km from Fira, on the north of the island, Oia will charm you with its traditional stone houses lining the narrow streets, breathtaking blue-domed churches, and sunbaked verandas. While the village has its share of taverns, souvenir shops, and cafes, Oia is more quiet and laid-back than busy Fira and most people enjoy its quaint beauty by slowly exploring its narrow streets. Stroll through the village’s small port of Ammoudi by descending 300 steps down the cliff, or visit colorful galleries showcasing art from the many artists who fell in love with the village and made it their home. Oia, Santorini is considered by many one of the prettiest places in the world.
Scenic Spots: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia Located about halfway between the Croatian capital Zagreb and Zadar on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, Plitvice Lakes is a magical world of the living, moving water surrounded by ancient forests, 16 lakes linked by waterfalls, bridges natural and man-made, and 300 square kilometers of wild beauty full of bears, wolves, boars, and birds. The difference in altitude between 1,280 meters at the highest point and 280 meters at the lowest creates a seemingly endless number of falls, big and small, that permanently fill the air with spray and fog. Wooden and natural walkways and hiking trails spin around and across the lake and a ferry on Lake Kozjak shuttles people between the upper and lower lakes. The lakes are beautiful all year round, but especially when mirroring magical fall colors or the lacy frozen branches of the surrounding trees.
Amalfi Coast, Italy The Amalfi Coast is an extravagantly beautiful stretch of rugged coast in Campania, Italy, at the edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula. For about 50 kilometers, the coast looks like something a romantic artist might have conjured – sheer cliffs plunging into the azure sea, tiny golden beaches hidden in secluded coves, pastel sun-washed villages hugging the steep slopes of Mount Ravello, and fragrant orange groves competing for attention with ancient vineyards. You can take a typical Mediterranean coastal road between the port of Salerno, famous Positano and Amalfi, and lovely Sorrento perched on the clifftop to enjoy the landscape in all its majesty, or you can take one of the many hiking trails that will take you past old villages, offer spectacular views, and introduce you to some fantastic quaint local restaurants and tavernas. If you are looking for famous places to visit around the world, Amalfi Coast is an amazing destination.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia The only living thing on Earth that can be seen from space, the Great Barrier Reef is immense. Located in northeastern Australia off the coast of Queensland, this 2,300-km-long complex ecosystem comprises more than 3,000 individual reef systems, coral cays, and hundreds of islands, big and small, with sparkling white sandy beaches. While immensely beautiful on the surface, the true beauty of the reef is underwater, where there is a living world composed of more than 600 types of soft and hard coral, creating a colorful and mesmerizing home to endless numbers of species of tropical fish, sea stars, mollusks, turtles, sharks, and dolphins. This divers’ paradise can also be enjoyed snorkeling, in a glass-bottomed boat, sailing, from semi-submersibles, and just by plain swimming.
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile At the southern tip of the Andes in Chile’s Patagonia lies Torres del Paine National Park, a place with more than its fair share of nature’s majesty: It has soaring mountains, cold blue icebergs cleaving from ancient glaciers, bottomless lakes, spectacular geological formations, narrow fjords, deep rivers, ancient forests, and endless golden pampas covered with wildflowers and providing a home to such rare wildlife as pumas and the llama-like guanacos. The best way to see Torres del Paine is on foot following one of many famous tracks, but if you have to limit yourself to just a few iconic sites, visit the three majestic granite towers, or torres del paine, Los Cuernos, Grey Glacier, and French Valley.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado, USA A short drive from Colorado SpringsGarden of the Gods is a public city park that does not need any attractions – nature took care of that. Hundreds of immense red sandstone spires, bridges, and other precariously balanced rock formations are intersected by 15 miles of well-managed trails. As expected in a park with so many interesting rocks, rock climbing is very popular. The park formations were formed out of bedded sandstone, limestone, and conglomerates by the forces that built nearby Pikes Peak massif, tilting it into a vertical position. It is easy to spot the remnants of marine fossils and even the fossils of dinosaurs. The largest rock formation is the 320-feet-tall Gateway Rock. Many animals have made the park their home – it is easy to see bighorn sheep, mule deer, and foxes as well as more than 130 species of birds.
Moraine Lake, Canada Located in the remote Valley of the Ten Peaks in the Canadian Rockies, Moraine Lake is an emerald beauty, a small, cold glacier-fed jewel surrounded by towering mountains, immense waterfalls, and ancient rock piles, so beautiful it takes the breath away. As the glaciers melt, the water in the lake rises and changes its color. It might take away some of its magic to know that the color is affected by the sediment brought by the glacial waters. The whole area is crossed by scenic hiking trails that offer different perspectives of the lake depending on your elevation or location. You can also enjoy its beauty from a kayak or canoe, or just by sitting on a rock at its bank.
Lake Bled, Slovenia If you glimpse Lake Bled in Slovenia from one of the distant mountaintops, you will be convinced that you are seeing some magical, lost fantasy world of dragons and knights: A vivid emerald-green lake with a tiny island in the middle with a church perched on its cliff and an ancient medieval castle clinging to its slopes, hugged on all sides by enormous mountains, snow-topped and covered with dark, green, ancient forests. Lake Bled is just as beautiful as you get closer and is a popular Slovenian tourist destination that attracts those seeking romance on Bled Island, visitors enjoying a leisurely hike around the lake or rowing its placid waters, and young adventurers exploring the steep hiking trails of the surrounding Julian Alps and the Karavanke Mountains.
Mauna Kea Beach, Hawaii, USA Mauna Kea Beach is a stunningly beautiful golden sand beach, one of the most beautiful of all the great beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii. Long and wide, the beach is fabulous for long walks but is even better for swimming as the sand slowly slopes out into the water, so entering it is easy even for children or beginners. You can keep wading for quite a while until you reach waist-deep water. Snorkeling is also popular, but only at the two extreme beach ends where the beach is guarded by natural rock promontories. Because the beach is connected to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, it is never crowded, although parking is limited.
Niagara Falls Niagara Falls are three massive waterfalls that form the border between Canada and the United States. The falls are located on the Niagara River between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The falls were formed at the end of the last ice age when the water from the Great Lakes broke through the Niagara Escarpment on the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The falls are a hugely popular tourist destination and have attracted honeymooners, families, and daredevils of all kinds, from those who went down the falls in a barrel to those who stretched a wire over the falls and walked across it. The falls have inspired hundreds of artists to create wonderful art and are still inspiring the millions of people who come to admire the majesty of nature as well as its power and its magnificent beauty.
Yellowstone National Park, USA Yellowstone National Park is the oldest national park in the world, consisting of 3,500 square miles of wild, untamed beauty left aside for the enjoyment of humankind, but also for its own protection. It is a recreation area that is spread across several states, from Wyoming to Idaho and Montana, featuring spectacular and diverse natural features – fast alpine rivers, a simmering volcano displaying its power in gushing geysers and hot springs, deep canyons, dense ancient forests, snow-covered mountaintops, breathtaking vistas, and magnificent trails. And among all that beauty there is a whole world that calls it home – bears, elk, wolves, bison, and antelopes. The park is much more than a place to come and have fun, it is a precious national treasure.
Scenic Spots: Arches National Park, USA At an altitude of over 5,000 feet in the high desert of eastern Utah is Arches National Park, a magical place of red rocks and blue skies. It is what we imagine the surface of Mars to look like, with more than 2,000 rocks in vivid reds and muted buffs precariously piled up on top of each other to form delicate bridges, pinnacles, and arches. The park stretches over 76,679 acres across the Colorado Plateau, with the Colorado River bordering it to the southeast. The strange landscape is mostly the result of the salt composition of the underlying soil, the effects of pressure from the sediments, and the relentless work of wind and water. The best way to see the park is by following one of the many trails, which range from really difficult hikes to easy ones suitable for families. There is a ranger program that offers guided tours, imparting riches of information about the geology, history, and flora and fauna of this magnificent world.
Joshua Tree National Park, USA Where the two distinct desert ecosystems of Southern California, the high and low deserts of the Mojave and the Colorado, come together, they create a world totally its own. Protected as Joshua Tree National Park, this unique world features plants and animals whose lives are shaped by frequent drought, strong winds, and rare torrential rains. Combined with fascinating geological features and a rich history, Joshua Tree National Park is a very special place that attracts wanderers and explorers. The Colorado Desert, part of the Sonoran Desert, is mostly covered by the abundant creosote bush and small stands of cholla cactus and spidery ocotillo. The higher, wetter, and cooler Mojave Desert is home to weirdly twisted and misshapen Joshua trees. The unique plant life is interspersed with equally unique geological formations. Mountains of exposed granite monoliths and twisted rocks, arroyos, alluvial fans, playas, bajadas, pediments, granites, aplite, and gneiss all weave a giant mosaic of rare beauty.
Apenzell, Switzerland Apenzell is the most traditional of all the Swiss regions, a rural world where time has stopped, where culture and tradition are celebrated, and where the charming landscape of rolling green hills full of plump cows is guarded by the 8,200-foot Mount Säntis. The village of Apenzell is the Switzerland of our imagination and in the fairytales of our childhood, with its lavishly carved chalets, carriages drawn by horses in full feathered headdresses, a busy village square where all the village business is conducted, richly painted emblems and panels on all of Appenzell’s buildings, and gnomes competing for space with flower boxes dripping with vivid red geraniums. There is always a festival going on, or a concert, wedding, or celebration in which everyone participates, and there are seemingly endless hiking trails that turn into magical cross-country trails when the winter throws its white blanket over everything.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland The Blue Lagoon is a rare geothermal spa in Iceland located between Reykjavik and Keflavik International Airport in the heart of a lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Even for Iceland, which is famous for its strange and curious landscapes, the Blue Lagoon, with its milky-white quiet waters, is a bizarre sight. The lagoon is man-made and fed by water from the Svartsengi, a nearby geothermal power plant. Actually, the water that comes to the spa has a few jobs to do before being used for beauty and relaxation: superheated water is channeled from underground near a lava flow and is then used to run turbines and generate electricity. After passing through the turbines, the hot water and steam pass through a heat exchanger and provide hot water for a city water heating system. Only then is the water fed into the lagoon for medicinal and recreational purposes. The warm waters in the lagoon are rich in silica, sulfur, and other minerals, and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is considered beneficial for certain skin conditions.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia Far, far away in the vast South Pacific lies a dreamlike island with a dormant volcano at its heart, covered by thick jungle, surrounded by an emerald necklace of tiny sand-fringed islands that form a turquoise lagoon hiding rich coral reefs and thousands of colorful fish. As you spot this magical place while landing in a small plane from nearby Tahiti, you become aware that you are reaching one of the most beautiful islands in the world, where luxury resorts compete with lavish nature to fulfill your every wish. Many people come to Bora Bora on their honeymoon to snuggle in one of the many thatch-roofed romantic villas perched over water, where room service is delivered by canoe. There is no place more romantic and more extravagantly beautiful than Bora Bora.
Fiordland National Park, New Zealand According to Maori legends, the 14 fjords that form Fiordland National Park were created by a giant stonemason named Tu Te Rakiwhanoa, who cut out the deep valleys with his enormous adzes, which is as good an explanation as any for one of the most spectacular corners of the world, occupying over 1.2 million hectares at the southwestern end of the South Island of New Zealand. The fjords could also be the product of relentless carving by glaciers over some 100,000 years, which the sea then filled as far as it could reach. On all sides, these canyon-like fjords are covered by waterfalls that tumble endlessly and thunderously, taking huge quantities of rainwater towards the sea. Huge granite mountains are dotted with emerald lakes, dense rainforests, and animals that do not exist anywhere else. Walking through Fiordland, it is easy to imagine the world as it looked thousands of years ago.
Geiranger Fjord, Norway In the land of hundreds of magnificent fjords, Geiranger is considered Norway’s most beautiful: A spectacular creation by glaciers, this fjord is about 15 km long and 1.5 km wide at its widest part. With almost vertical mountainsides and no habitable coast, the occasional abandoned mountain farms bear witness to the relentless efforts of humankind to conquer nature and gain a foothold. The most popular way of seeing the fjord is by ferry, but kayaking is as much fun. You will pass by spectacular waterfalls that thunder down the steep mountain cliffs, creating a permanent veil of fog and endless rainbows. Another way of seeing the fjord is by taking the famous Trollstigen road, built-in 1936 in an amazing feat of engineering, which snakes up steep mountainsides; narrow, occasionally protected by stone railings, and passing by massive waterfalls, it is nerve-wracking yet absolutely fascinating. The whole area is a dreamland for daredevils and adrenaline junkies, who find the steep cliffs a supreme challenge for climbing, rappelling, and ziplining.
Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe Victoria Falls, aptly named Mosi-oa-Tunya – the Smoke that Thunders – by locals is a breathtaking spectacle of incomparable beauty and majesty. The largest water curtain in the world, this enormous waterfall on the Zambezi River on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe can be heard from 40 kilometers away, as the waters of the normally placid Zambezi river plummet over the edge of the wide basalt cliff into the magnificent gorge 100 meters below. The spray of the water can be seen from 50 km away as it rises 400 meters in the air, creating permanent clouds and endless rainbows. Across the falls is a basalt wall of the same height covered with dense jungle, offering magnificent views of the main falls and the number of continuous falls as the water zigzags through the series of gorges.
Sossusvlei, Namibia Located in the Namibian Namib-Naukluft National Park in the southern part of the vast Namib Desert, Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by immense red dunes. Sossusvlei, loosely translated as “dead-end marsh” and about 60 km from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, is where the dunes stop the water of the Tsauchab River from flowing any further; if there were any waters that is, something which happens very rarely. Most of the time the pan, just like the rest of the Namib Desert, is bone dry for years. But in those years when the rains are exceptionally rich and the pan is filled with water, there is reason for celebration and photographers from all over the world come to see this magnificent spectacle: The immense red dunes, among the largest in the world, are reflected in a lake that lasts for no more than a year. While many plants and animals have adapted to the harsh conditions of Sossusvlei all year round, when the waters come thousands of birds flock to the marshy coast.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Salar de Uyuni, located high up in the Andes in southwest Bolivia at an altitude of 11,995 feet, is the largest salt flat in the world, covering over 4,086 square miles. It was once a prehistoric lake that dried up, leaving behind 11,000 square kilometers of otherworldly desert-like landscape made up of sparkling bright white salt, bizarre rock formations, and strange cacti-covered islands. The best spot to observe this surreal landscape is central Incahuasi Island. There is not much wildlife in this fairly barren ecosystem, except for about 80 species of birds and the thousands of pink flamingos that come in November. The salt crust, between 7 and 66 feet deep, covers a sea of brine. The salt is very rich in lithium, accounting for up to 70 percent of the world’s reserves of the mineral.
Krabi, Thailand Krabi is a lively resort town on the Andaman coast in southern Thailand. This very old settlement, now overtaken by tourism, has been shaped by limestone karsts jutting out of the dense mangrove forest and surrounded by vast sandy beaches. One of the city’s most popular destinations is Tiger Cave Temple, a Buddhist temple perched on a hilltop that can be reached by climbing a lot of stairs, but the views are worth the effort. Rising out the water are Khao Kanab Nam, two slanting hills that form a popular local landmark. Busy and noisy, Krabi is best known as the gateway to the magnificent Andaman Sea islands and national parks that can be reached by ferries and boats.