From epic waterfalls, to towering mountains, colorful coral reefs, and forests that are teeming with life, this planet is a truly beautiful place. Here are seven of the most stunning places around the globe, guaranteed to reignite your wanderlust and sense of adventure.
Switzerland & Italy
The Matterhorn is a very unique (and treacherous) mountain. It’s a beautiful and awe-inspiring reminder that man is not greater than nature. Standing at almost 14,700 ft high, the Matterhorn is known as one of the most challenging mountains the climb in the world. Because it’s a solitary mountain, banner clouds regularly form around the Matterhorn, creating condensation on the rock. That, combined with the mount’s steep faces and breakable sedimentary rock, has proven to be quite the challenge for the world’s rock climbers. In fact, the north face wasn’t fully climbed until 1931, and the west face wasn’t climbed all the way until 1962!
But travelers don’t need to worry. While climbing to the peak of the Matterhorn isn’t advised, there’s still lots to do. Lower portions of the mountain are filled with trails for hiking and biking, and the surrounding alpine lakes like Moosjisee, Gringjisee, and Leisee offer photo-perfect views of the mountain and provide for excellent swimming and boating. For anyone looking to get a taste of the Matterhorn without traveling to Europe, there’s always the famous Disneyland ride!
Argentina & Brazil
Creating the border between Argentina and Brazil, the Iguazu Falls is one of the most captivating sights on the planet. Lush jungles dangle over cliffs, and rushing waterfalls surround you at every turn. The unique landscape is formed due to the Parana Plateau. The Iguazu River literally falls straight off the plateau into the valley below, creating a mystical and dazzling spectacle. So dazzling in fact, that many Hollywood blockbusters have used the location for filming, including Moonraker, Black Panther, and the newest Indiana Jones movie.
With all the falls combined, they form the largest waterfall in the world. The falls and surrounding area are protected as a National Park, and being a rainforest, the region provides for some excellent wildlife viewing as well. The area is home to monkeys, tapirs, toucans, and coatis, along with a whole array of colorful, tropical birds.
The Guilin mountains in southern China are massive karsts that jolt out of the ground, creating a landscape that is truly unreal. The region is also known for its fragrant Osmanthus trees that grow throughout the hillsides. On top of the green spires and sweet aromatics, the Li River runs through the region, winding its way throughout the rock formations. It’s no wonder this area is one of China’s prized possessions.
The most popular of the karsts is Moon Hill, a giant triangle formation with a moon-shaped hole through the center. The rock was formed naturally, and passing through the center is believed to provide good luck. The most popular village to begin your trek through the Guilin Mountains is Yangshuo. There, you’ll find multiple lodging and dining options, many of which create drinks and sweet treats out of the nearby Osmanthus trees. Visitors to the mountains are offered a plethora of opportunities for hiking, biking, and river tours.
MILFORD SOUND (PIOPIOTAHI)
The Milford Sound is a giant fjord on New Zealand’s South Island that runs inland from the Tasman Sea. Towering cliffs line both sides of the sound, dropping tannins into the water, giving it its trademark black color. The fjord has two year-round waterfalls, and during the rainy season, the entire area is filled with cascading falls. It’s no wonder why Peter Jackson used New Zealand for filming The Lord of the Rings.
While the sound is saltwater, the abundance of fresh water that falls into it creates an interesting scenario. At the surface level, Milford Sound is freshwater, while the lower layers are saltwater. Because of this, you won’t find any large shark species in the sound, making it the perfect sanctuary for other marine animals such as dolphins, whales, orcas, seals, and even the native Fiordland penguin.
Maori legend tells of a goddess who didn’t want people to settle in the region because of how pristine and beautiful it is. The tale states that she wanted it all to herself, and after one visit to New Zealand’s Milford Sound, you’ll know why. It isn’t called “The 8th Wonder of the World” for nothing.
The Namib Desert is a coastal desert located in Namibia on the Atlantic Ocean. The region’s desert climate date backs to around 70 million years ago, making it possibly the oldest desert on Earth. The sands have a high concentration of iron in them, giving off colors of orange, red, pink, and deep yellow, caused by oxidation.
The desert is also home to animals like oryxes, ostriches, and springboks, as well as ancient plant species that have remained relatively the same for millions of years.
Visitors to the Namib Desert can take off-road tours, hike the giant orange sand dunes, and walk along the Atlantic coast, where towering mountains of sand lead straight into the crashing waves.
The volcanic Caribbean island of St. Lucia holds the twin peaks known as the Pitons. The Pitons are volcanic spires that still have some geothermal activity beneath them, which has created natural hot springs. The rich volcanic soil also makes the area a fertile wonderland for colorful, tropical flowers and swaying palms. Directly off the coast lies a massive coral reef that’s home to numerous endemic species of fish.
The area has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the basis of its beauty alone…And you know a place is truly stunning when it’s being protected simply for its awe-inspiring scenery.
Both of the Pitons can be hiked, and you can even hire a local guide to give you insights into the history of the island and the wildlife that calls St. Lucia home. For water-lovers, the surrounding coral reef (which also receives nutrients from the volcanic rock) provides some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the entire Caribbean.
Mount Kirkjufell, on Iceland’s western coast, will probably look familiar to Game of Thrones fans. The mountain (which translates to “Church Mountain” because of its resemblance to a church steeple) sits directly on the coast, overlooking the ocean. Kirkjufell is also surrounded by stunning vistas, dramatic cliffs, inland lakes, and even waterfalls.
The mountain was millions of years in the making, being formed from the collective rock spewed out by various volcanic eruptions. It’s dramatic shape then formed from the shifting of two different glaciers that slid past the plateau, carving it down little by little, until it formed the steeple shape its known for today.
The area is great for hiking and horseback riding, and many visitors even choose to go on a kayaking adventure around the mountain. If relaxing is more your style, you can also chill out at one of the many nearby beaches that offer excellent views of the mountain. In winter months, Mount Kirkjufell transforms into a winter wonderland, with ice-covered waterfalls, a blanket of snowfall, and the aurora borealis dancing in the skies above.