The 55 most breathtaking destinations in the world
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but some destinations leave us all in awe. From gorgeous landscapes to elegant city skylines, we’ve narrowed down a list—in no particular order—of the 55 most amazing places to visit in the world.
Of course, we haven’t explored every exquisite corner in the world…yet. But life’s a journey and we’re always happening upon photo-ready coastlines, extraordinary architecture, and historic hideaways. Some of the world’s most beautiful places are small towns or wide open spaces, while others are busy urban centers filled with colorful and crowded street markets. Add some of these breathtaking destinations to your must-visit list.
Paris, nous vous aimons. Settle in with a hot cup of creamy café au lait and a croissant to catch your breath between strolling in Luxembourg Garden and perusing famous paintings at the Musee d’Orsay, which was once a bustling train station. After dark, you’ll see how The City of Lights got its nickname when you climb to the platform of the Arc de Triomphe. Yes, that’s the Eiffel Tower glittering to the south.
From its peaceful waterfront parks and pineapple-shaped fountains to jaw-dropping manor houses, Charleston has charm to spare. Built in 1676, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is just one of Charleston’s enchanting estates, where the white columns of the plantation house offer elegant contrast to Spanish moss growing wild in the trees. When the ocean calls your name, walk to the waterfront at Battery Park, named for the cannons lined up at attention looking out to sea.
3. Jackson, WY
Dream up your wildest outdoor adventures and Jackson, Wyoming, will come to mind. The downtown streets feature rustic architecture reminiscent of its early days along the Lewis & Clark Expedition, and nearby Grand Teton National Park will inspire your own inner explorer. If a bird’s-eye view of one of the most beautiful places in the world is on your bucket list, paragliding over Jackson will do the trick.
Cappadocia is home to cave dwellings carved in stone, but its beauty is simply buoyant. Wander through the ancient monasteries and churches carved in the mountainside at the Goreme Open Air Museum, and catch sight of hot air balloons floating into the bright blue sky.
Built above the banks of the Vltava River, the State Castle of Cesky Krumlov dates back to the 13th century. Like any work of art, the castle has been expanded throughout the centuries and you can explore the region’s history one exquisite room at a time.
You’ve heard of Seattle’s Space Needle. Well, Tennessee has a celestial spire, too. In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, you can take in an exquisite view of the Smoky Mountains from their 407-foot observation deck. Or climb to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can see a lot from 6,643 feet.
Everything is lovelier after a glass of wine. Take a tasting tour on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and treat your eyes and your palate to the beauty of the Finger Lakes.
8. Mitchell, OR
Mitchell is surrounded by some of the most interesting landscapes in the world. You may confuse the Painted Hills with a modern work of art, but have no doubt: Those strokes of red and burgundy are au naturel.
For a getaway you’ll savor, travel to the world’s largest salt flat, located at the foot of the Andes Mountains. If you love the look of freshly fallen snow but can’t be bothered with freezing temperaturess, then say “hola” to Salar De Uyuni.
10. Aspen, CO
Aspen’s snow-covered slopes and lakeside trails are undeniably rugged, but don’t worry if you aren’t the outdoorsy type. You can admire the purple peaks of the Elk Mountains from a luxurious and cozy ski lodge, like The Little Nell, or on a hike through the wildflower fields of Maroon Bells (weather permitting, of course). Ah, Aspen.
If you’ve never taken up kayaking, a visit to Halong Bay is the perfect opportunity skim across peaceful emerald waters. Float out to nearby Ti Top Island for a misty beachfront picnic, or stay close to the delicious scents wafting from the Halong Night Market on Doan Station Street.
Sitting pretty near the depths of the Boka Kotorska, a bay on the Adriatic Sea, Kotor will make you swoon. There is much about this town to love, among them its still waters, medieval stone architecture, and winding Old Town streets dotted with red-tiled roofs.
San Juan’s golden sand and colorful Old Town porticos are dazzling. And that deep blue sky? Endless. But there’s more. Snorkel or scuba dive to discover another—absolutely brilliant—side of San Juan.
14. San Diego, CA
Whether you’re gazing into tide pools from the Cabrillo National Monument or wandering through the Spanish-inspired Prado at Balboa Park, it’s indisputable: San Diego is dashing. Add a pint of golden IPA from local brewery Green Flash Brewing Co. and a walk on La Jolla Shores to this scenario and you’ll wish the seals could take your photo for you.
Each spring, the flower fields come to life with bright blossoms…and hundreds of thousands of visitors come out to the farms near Mount Vernon for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. When spring melts into summer, make sure you spend some time in La Conner, a picturesque small town where beautiful Mt. Baker will photobomb every snapshot you take.
16. Boston, MA
Without a doubt, the fountains of Boston Common and the history splashed across the harbor make the “Athens of America” a must-visit. The cobblestone streets and antique shops of Beacon Hill will charm you off your feet and right into a cozy corner market.
The name of these waterfalls may make you giggle just a little, but their beauty is no laughing matter. Wander into Minnehaha Park on the south side of Minneapolis. You’ve already heard about Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Well, the waterfalls are just as lovely. Minnehaha Falls actually freeze in the winter and you can snap some amazing photos from the footbridge above the falls.
18. Sedona, AZ
Splash away a heat wave at Slide Rock, a natural water park with stone slides formed by Oak Creek and slick with thick algae. On a cool day—yes, there are plenty of those in Northern Arizona—hike through Red Rock State Park. Cliff sides are striped in varying shades of red, which make the meadows look even greener.
To say the Columbia River Gorge has more than its fair share of cascades is an understatement. Home to Hood River and more than 25 falls, including the 611-foot Multnomah Falls, the Gorge is a lush landscape par excellence. Take a 65-mile drive from Portland to Panorama Point County Park and gobble up views of Mt. Hood and acres of Oregon wine country.
On Hawaii’s Big Island, there’s nothing small about the volcanic views and crashing cascades of the Waipio Valley. Whether you explore by land with a long hike, or by sea riding the nearby tide, visit the valley.
21. Talkeetna, AK
By rail and by river, Talkeetna is absolutely stunning. Ramble through the wilderness on the Alaska Railroad or float down the Talkeetna River for views of Denali’s south side.
Antelope Canyon looks like it has been scooped right out of the earth like ice cream, but don’t be surprised when you reach out to touch it—the gracefully eroded terracotta-colored stone only looks soft.
23. Mesa Verde, CO
Staring in wonder at the Puebloan cliff dwellings is to be expected as you wander through Mesa Verde. Built during the 13th century, these stark stone structures are hauntingly beautiful against the backdrop of Colorado’s high desert.
Craving a beach getaway? Take your towel and a good book down to Camp’s Bay, near Table Mountain National Park. Watching the sun set over the water is like watching gold melt into the Atlantic. If you’re in a land-lubbing mood, climb to Table Mountain’s summit for exquisite views and treat yourself to vineyard tours and wine tastings in Franschhoek, just 82 km east of Cape Town.
No list of the most beautiful places around the world would be complete without Lake Superior—it’s all in the name. From the lighthouse at Wisconsin Point to the icicles at Apostle Island’s ice caves, this body of water is surrounded by stunning scenery.
26. Chicago, IL
The Windy City may be big and busy, but from the top of Willis Tower all you’ll see are city lights and the reflection off Lake Michigan. Step out on the Navy Pier for an even closer look.
If you caught any of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, you already know Rio is a vibrant city surrounded by natural beauty. Climb to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain for lush views of Guanabara Bay, then hike along the Morro da Urca, which weaves along the coastline. Order a cold Caipirinha and watch the waves.
28. Lake Tahoe, CA
From stargazing to kayaking and snowboarding, Lake Tahoe offers year-round reasons to get outside. So grab a paddle and a camera—preferably the waterproof variety—you’ve got memories to make.
On the banks of Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap is home to Angkor Wat, a hauntingly beautiful UNESCO site. Wander amongst carvings and ruins of the Khmer civilization by day and graze through colorful market stalls by night.
Try to say that name five times fast…or stand in awe of the moss-lined canyon walls and green tide pools.
Since the 7th century, Chittorgarh Fort has done more than keep guard over the Rajasthan capital. On the bank of the Berach River, this fortress boasts 22 working water features, making it a cool oasis on a rugged hilltop.
The Creole architecture and verdant wetlands are not the only gorgeous features of the Louisiana Bayou. Pack yourself a lowcountry picnic and wander through the sweet-smelling Garden District of New Orleans to experience beauty in many forms.
33. Bryce Canyon, UT
Like stalagmites, each of Bryce Canyon’s natural spires has its own unique shape that reach up to the clear Utah sky. Whether you’re there for a springtime hike or a snowy ski trip, you don’t want to miss the sunrise as it lights up each nook and cranny of the canyon.
The powerful falls are mesmerizing when the crashing water is at eye level. Surround yourself with all their glory from the decks of the Maid of the Mist, a tour boat that takes you to the bottom of the falls. No barrel rides necessary!
You can never have too many California beaches, especially when you can take a Sunset Gondola tour from Huntington Harbor. Venice has nothing on the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.
36. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is full of beauty. Just take a look at the perfectly golden fries in the open-air market square, take in all the sparkles at the Diamond Museum, or float through the intricate canals en route to world-famous Belgian brews.
37. Tucson, AZ
Tucson is the first U.S. city to be named a World City of Gastronomy by UNESCO. After a breathtaking hike through the petroglyphs and towering cacti of Saguaro National Park, you’re in for an equally impressive meal.
Near England’s southeast coast, the secluded chalk hills of South Downs roll all the way from Winchester to Eastbourne. Back walking shoes for fabulous hikes near Winchester and follow in the footsteps of Keats and Austen through secluded wildflower fields.
39. Monterey, CA
Whether you’re a John Steinbeck fan or you simply love old fishing villages, get thee to Monterey for a stroll down Cannery Row. Spend an afternoon in the Lighthouse District at lively small-town festivals, then take in the fresh air as you fly a kite over the Pacific at Del Monte Beach.
You may have never thought to describe George Washington’s face as breathtaking, but Mount Rushmore sure is. Etched into the Black Hills, the former president’s features are just one of the unforgettable sights that deserve their own “Honey, stop the car” moments.
Chefchaouen is no typical city in the mountains. Taking color cues from the Alboran Sea, the residents of Chefchaouen have painted almost every building beautiful shades of blue, ranging from periwinkle to cerulean, with a splash of cobalt here and there.
Vancouver might be a busy international city, but there are plenty of ways to slow down and savor the sights. Float down False Creek on the Vancouver Aquabus for views of Yaletown’s sparkling skyscrapers, then stop for an afternoon swim at Sunset Beach. Make sure you visit Granville Island along the way for brilliant brews and elevated eats in an artsy market setting.
Between peaceful boat outings and delicious lobster rolls, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that isn’t absolutely charming about Maine’s coastal cities and small towns. Between the famous lighthouse—Portland Head Light—in Cape Elizabeth to Cross Island National Wildlife Refuge of Cutler, enchantment waits around every turn. If you aren’t already obsessed with Portland’s red brick buildings against the backdrop of a bright blue sky, start obsessing.
Follow the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls. To see the main falls, look out from Knife-edge Bridge. Oh, and did we mention you can go on safari after reveling in the mist of one of the world’s greatest waterfalls? Explore the nearby Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe and see elephants and other wildlife in a lush landscape you’ll never forget.
Replace your usual soundtrack with birdsong and rushing waterfalls in the Plitvice Lakes. The deep turquoise water rests in secluded lakes that are just begging to be photographed.
46. Petra, Jordan
One of the Seven Manmade Wonders of the World, Petra will impress. Wander through corridors carved intricately into the mountainside, step inside the remnants of ancient temples, and sip mint tea with Bedouin locals.
Take in the equally misty and mystical landscape surrounded by the brooding North Sea. Make a wish at the Fairy Pools near Black Cuillin, and if that wish happens to involve swimming at the base of magical waterfalls, then bring your wetsuit.
48. Seattle, WA
We don’t have to tell you how gorgeous Lake Union is. Sip some gourmet espresso—the city’s signature energy source—and climb to the observation deck of the Space Needle to see the Emerald City for yourself. We’re not in Oz anymore, Toto.
Whitehaven Beach lives up to its name with pristine sand so bright you’ll swear the water looks extra blue. Fly over the beach and don’t be surprised if you get a craving for blueberry swirl ice cream to match the sand and sea.
50. Meteora, Greece
Visit the monasteries of Meteora. Built into secluded cliffs, these peaceful havens have welcomed pilgrims with spiritual clarity and spectacular mountain vistas.
51. Ketchikan, AK
The Alaska wilds are never far from Ketchikan’s waterfront. Explore the museums and galleries lined up along Historic Creek Street—this former red light district is built up over the misty marina and perfect for a quiet stroll.
52. Venice, Italy
We can’t decide which contributes to Venice’s beauty more—the decadent sweets, hand-painted masks, or winding canals lined with amazing art. Hail an oncoming gondola and let us know what you think.
53. Durham, NC
Year after year, Durham keeps winning top beer awards, but bliss-inducing brews aren’t the only beautiful things on tap in this North Carolina City. That said, a canoeing excursion in the gentle currents of the Eno River to Falls Lake is even better when followed with a frosty pint of sweet potato ale from Fullsteam Brewery. (Psst! It’s called the Carver and it’s thoroughly Southern.)
Spend a day in the Museum Quarter hopping between the ponds and lawns of Vondelpark and the galleries of Rijklmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. Inspired by the idyllic landscape and Dutch masters, you might just want to paint your own interpretation of the open-air theater.
With each new season Ashikaga Flower Park turns a new shade as wisteria blossoms in purple, red, white, and yellow hang like twinkle lights over the ponds and walkways of this Central Japan landmark.
It’s your turn to name the nicest cities in the world. Journey to our favorite destinations or get swept up in spectacular scenery as you explore brand new destinations. What are the most breathtaking places you’ve ever seen?