The 24 Most Beautiful Places in the World to Add to Your Bucket List
The definition of beauty has many interpretations, but whether you’re talking awe-inspiring landscapes or wildlife, feats of architecture, or cultural immersion, these 24 destinations are the most beautiful places in the world, IOHO. Just try to take a bad picture—we dare you.
The rose-colored buildings that comprise Rajasthan’s capital city, either built from natural red sandstone or painted to look so, have earned Jaipur its nickname as “The Pink City.” The Mogul architecture is mesmerizing, especially the Royal City Palace and its most famous section known as Hawa Mahal, or “Palace of the Winds”—a façade of 953 windows built so royal women could look down on street life unseen.
Of all the Caribbean islands, none capture photographers’ imaginations quite so much as St. Lucia, whose southern city Soufrière seduces with its ancient plantations and secluded beaches and whose most luxurious hotels claim postcard-perfect views of the breathtaking Pitons.
This crescent-shaped volcanic island in the Aegean Sea is honeymoon gold. Why? We chalk it up to those fabulous black-pebble and red-sand beaches, iconic whitewashed buildings that cling to precipitous rocks overlooking the underwater caldera, that iconic blue-domed monastery (and Instagram mecca), and those legendary sunsets from its main town of Oia.
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The temples and pagodas of Bagan, totaling some 2,200 structures, are among the largest concentration of Buddhist temples anywhere. (They tallied over 10,000 in the kingdom’s glory days during the 11th and 13th centuries.) The best way to see them is by hot-air balloon ride at sunrise, when mist still hovers above the surrounding forests.
Na Pali Coast, Kauai
Despite being the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai remains one of its least developed, dominated by raw, wild landscapes that have evolved over the centuries due to weather and erosion. Its most famous landmark: Na Pali, a velvety 15-mile coastline of sheer cliffs that fold in and out like a handheld fan. That the area is impenetrable except by catamaran or a challenging 22-mile roundtrip hike (or glimpsed by helicopter) adds to its mystique.
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To think this ancient city was carved, by hand, into a cliffside as early as 312 BC is mind-blowing. Even more so considering it wasn’t discovered by the western world until the 1800s.
Despite the sublime beauty of Turkey’s Cöteme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, the real story here lies on—and beneath—the surface. Within many of these towering pinnacles, you’ll find domestic homes and churches housing frescoes dating back to the 11th century. Underground, subterranean cities and cave dwellings were carved right into the bedrock, and house some incredible preserved works of Byzantine art.
This labyrinthine city at the foot of the Atlas Mountains is a world all its own—a colorful cacophony of alleyways, souks, gardens, and riads famous for their painted wood and tilework. At its center is Djemaa el-Fna square, where vendors, musicians, and snake charmers all vie for your attention.
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Okavango Delta, Botswana
Northern Botswana’s Okavango Delta, fed by a tributary of the Zambezi River, is a rich garden oasis in an otherwise desertous African landscape. Zebra, elephant, cheetah, rhino, buffalo, lion, giraffe, and hippo can all be found here, drinking from the floodplains and feasting in the grasslands. Your best bet for taking it all in is from the safety of a dug-out canoe, piloted by an expert safari guide.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Pictures fail to capture the true scope of the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Measuring a mile deep, 10 miles across, and 277 miles in length, these tributary canyons that make up America’s second most-visited national park (it welcomed an estimated 6 million visitors in 2016) were carved by the powerful currents of the Colorado River and reveal hundreds of millions of years of rock erosion dating back to Precambrian times.
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Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
You might consider Torres del Paine National Park a miniature version of Patagonia, the vast region straddling Chile and Argentina dominated by snow-capped granite mountains, glittering glaciers, ice-blue rivers and lakes, and rolling grasslands and pampas roamed by horses, pumas, and guanacos (a relative of the llama).
It’s a place few people have heard of and far fewer have actually seen—a collection of 18 treeless islands linked by causeways and road-tunnels that emerge from icy waters somewhere between Iceland and Norway, far from any tourist path. Life in the Faroes revolves around the sea—mostly fishing and boating—just as the landscape is shaped by it: craggy cliffs carved from the north Atlantic’s strong swells level off into verdant meadows, where colorful cottages and churches disappear and reemerge with the rolling clouds.
This riverside town in southern China is an adventurer’s paradise: hiking, biking, rock climbing—it can all be done here. Though Yangshuo proper has been overtaken by tourism in recent years, head outside of town and the pace slows down dramatically: bamboo boats slowly ply the Li River, farmers tend their fertile rice fields, and people live out their countryside lives in the shadow of the region’s towering karst mountains undisturbed.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
This rugged island off the western coast of Scotland is home to landscapes so supernatural—from the rising pinnacles and sweeping hillsides of the Quiraing and Storr to the conical hills and lochs of Fairy Glen—that it’s become a go-do backdrop for countless fantasy movies, including Prometheus, Stardust, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Spielberg’s recent adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.
Milford Sound, New Zealand
New Zealand as a whole is blessed with some of the world’s most staggeringly beautiful landscapes. Our favorite: Milford Sound, a mountainous fiord that opens out into the Tasman Sea, shadowed by sheer rock faces containing countless tiny waterfalls. Writer Rudyard Kipling was so moved by it all that he dubbed it “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”
Banff National Park, Canada
There might not be a bluer lake in the world than Lake Louise. Banff, Canada’s first national park, is an outdoorsmen’s utopia—think natural hot springs, extensive cave systems, ancient mountains framing glacier-fed lakes, and miles of trails crisscrossing the Canadian Rockies. Its other claim to fame: some of Canada’s most luxurious hotels, including the landmark Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Cape Town, South Africa
Golden beaches, world-class restaurants and art, a buzzing harbor, glamorous seaside neighborhoods occupied by a mash-up of cultures from around Africa and the globe—all capped by the steep slopes and cloud-covered peaks of the Twelve Apostles and imposing Table Mountain? This city on the edge of the world is a stunner.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Pastel-colored cities cascading over cliffs rising from the Mediterranean Sea. The scent of olive groves. Endless limoncello. From legendary Positano to hilltop Ravello, the enthralling beauty and unabashed glamour of Italy’s Amalfi Coast has not waned for centuries.
The nicknames “The City of Love” and “The City of Lights” are no mistake. Paris seduces at every turn, from its oh-so-charming curb-side cafés to its gloriously wide boulevards lined with ornate mansions and balconied townhouses, all a mash-up of Haussmann, Renaissance, Neoclassical, and Art Nouveau architectural styles. Even landmarks like the Louvre and Notre Dame are beloved as much for their exteriors as what lies inside them. The best way to soak it all in is to stroll, aimlessly, in any direction.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
No, it isn’t a Salvador Dalí painting. At 4,086 square miles, this is the world’s largest salt mine and, thanks to an overall elevation that varies less than a single meter, the flattest place on Earth. Its mirror-image reflection will have you wondering where the horizon ends and the sky begins.
The coldest, driest, and windiest continent on Earth is a land of extremes, and remains inhospitable to all but the most resilient of animal and plant species. Those that do survive here—mostly flying birds, penguins, and moss and lichen—are blessed with spectacular landscapes dominated by blue ice, snow, and raging seas.
Only 200 of this tiny nation’s 1,190 coral islands (lush, palm tree-fringed isles ringed by turquoise lagoons) are inhabited, making it the pure definition of castaway island paradise—real estate gold for the world’s top-tier hotel groups (Cheval Blanc; One&Only; COMO) whose stilted bungalow retreats are considered some of the most romantic stays in the world.
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Lake Bled, Slovenia
Despite its tiny size, Slovenia packs a serious punch when it comes to scenery. The image you’ll want to come away with is a mountainside view of glacial Lake Bled and its fairytale-like central island, home to a single Gothic church built in the 1400s—all set against a backdrop of the distant (and sometimes snow-covered, depending on the season) Julian Alps.
Fields of heady lavender that stretch on over the horizon are an iconic picture of Provence, but there’s far more beauty to be found here than just those sweet-smelling flowers—including Michelin-starred cuisine; art studios used by the likes of Renoir, Matisse, and Cézanne; and scenic roads that wind past sugar-white beaches, mountain passes, and the glittering blues of the Mediterranean Sea.
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