Plotting your next far-flung escape? Make it more than your standard weekend city break and pencil in a visit to one of these whimsical global wonders. From tumbling waterfalls to mystical frozen lakes, here are the most spectacular sights in the world to inspire your wanderlust...
Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA
Nestled in Arizona, water carved out these smooth rock formations millions of years ago, leaving a stunning series of narrow passageways in a soft, smoky red hue. The way the light hits each wall illuminates the rocks in a carpet of dazzling shades, creating a wondrous natural display of light and colour.
Abraham Lake, Canada
A photographer’s dream, this beguiling, frozen spectacle of ghostly dots are frozen bubbles of methane gas, released from plants that reside underwater. The sub-zero temperatures freeze the pockets of gas, creating an enchanting, eerie landscape.
General Carrera Lake, Chile
Carved into the Patagonian Andes, Chile’s breath-taking Cuevas de Mármol – marble caves – are a natural wonder not to be missed. A mesmerising, cavernous temple buried deep in the heart of Patagonia. The glistening, water-sculpted walls emerge from azure waters, and the light bounces off every crevice to create the most enchanting light show.
Hirosaki Castle Botanic Garden, Japan
The beautiful cherry blossoms in Japan are a sight everyone should see at least once, particularly when set against the remarkable backdrop of Hirosaki Castle. Springtime is the best season to marvel at the sea of cherry trees and their perfect pink blooms.
Famed for its colourful lakes, snow-specked mountains, beautiful valleys and virgin forests, Huanglong’s World Heritage Site – often referred to as a ‘fairy land on earth’ – is one of the world’s greatest natural beauties. The limestone travertine formations are among the most recognisable, scattered with lakes, beaches, caves, trickling waterfalls, hot springs and surrounded by verdant forests. Huanglong is also a home for the endangered Giant Panda and Sichuan Golden Snub-nosed Monkey. Make sure you explore the whole of the nature reserve, which features temples and Buddha statues as well.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
With crystal clear waters, lush green landscapes, and stunning waterfalls, this heavily forested national park is one of the most enchanting places on the planet, where 16 shimmering lakes tumble dramatically via a series of waterfalls and cascades.
Reed Flute Caves, China
This natural limestone grotto is over 180 million years old, and is one of China’s most popular tourist attractions. But don’t let the crowds put you off, the craggy 240-metre stalagmites, stalactites and rock formations are completely hypnotising, particularly when illuminated by the glowing, multi-coloured lights, which gives the whole cave a magical, fairy tale feel.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is considered one of the most extreme and remarkable vistas in all of South America, if not the world. This gigantic salt flat spans a massive 4,086 square miles. It’s the world’s largest salt flat, left behind by prehistoric lakes that evaporated long ago. Here, a thick crust of salt extends to the horizon, covered by quilted patterns of salt rising from the ground – a view unlike any other.
The Great Blue Hole, Belize
This "vertical cave" is a paradise for divers and photographers alike. Just off the coast of Belize, divers flock in their droves to a submarine sinkhole called The Great Blue Hole, where the water is 407 feet deep. It’s over 980 feet wide and the striking contrast between the shallow, coral edge and the seemingly bottomless centre gives these blue holes their vibrant, colourful name.
To Sua Ocean Trench, Samoa
Possibly the world’s most stunning swimming location, this glistening emerald gem comes complete with blowholes, hidden tunnels and scatterings of lush greenery. Utterly awe-inspiring, this 30-metre, almost perfectly symmetrical swimming hole sits in the middle of a lava field near Lotofaga village atop a jutting edge of spectacular coastline on the south coast of Samoa's main island, Upolo. It formed during an ancient lava eruption when the land around it slipped away, and now consists of two large holes joined by a lava tube cave. The main hole – the pool – is filled with seawater and is connected to the ocean by an underwater cave and a series of canals and tunnels.
A majestic marvel that soars about 1,100 meters above sea level, and some 700 metres above Lake Ringedalsvatnet, the panoramic view of clouds, rolling peaks and dreamlike-turquoise lakes is nothing short of breath-taking. The hike to Trolltunga (literally, ‘the troll’s tongue’) in Skjeggedal is around 20 kilometres long, with an ascent of about 900 meters, and will take around 10 hours in total, but believe us, it’s so worth the effort.
Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Zambia
This tourist-magnet is one of the world’s greatest spectacles. Whether you’re there simply to take in the sight of these magnificent, plummeting waterfalls , or for an adrenalin hit via rafting or bungee jumping into the Zambezi, Victoria Falls is a place of natural beauty that’s sure to form part of any globetrotter’s bucket list.
Yellowstone National Park, USA
Spanning over three states, Yellowstone is home to over 60% of the world’s geysers – natural hot springs that sporadically erupt. But it’s not just the hot springs and bubbling mud pits that draw the crowds, the surrounding canyons, jagged mountains and thick forests are a spectacle to see first-hand. Teeming with moose, elk, bison, grizzlies and wolves, America's first national park also contains some of America's wildest lands – a treasure trove of wonders just begging to be explored.