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The 50 Most Beautiful Landscapes in the World

See and be seen at these stunning natural wonders.

U.S. News & World Report

The 50 Most Beautiful Landscapes in the World

Most Beautiful Landscapes in the World

(Getty Images)

From St. Lucia to Morocco, find the locale that'll make your journey soar.

Whether you're ready to hike in or Instagram the moment, odds are you'll enjoy experiencing the scenery at a new destination, especially if it's different from back home. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, these 50 places are bound to take your breath away with their awe-inspiring settings.
Most Beautiful Landscapes in the World

(Getty Images)

Gower Peninsula: Swansea, Wales

Crabbing, surfing, bicycling, walking and bird-watching are favorite pastimes on the beaches of the Gower Peninsula, one of Great Britain's designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Rhossili Bay's white sand, saltwater and freshwater marshes, towering cliffs and sparkling blue water attract summer visitors in droves. Come at sunset to hear the gulls, blackcaps, warblers and goldcrests, and stay to watch the stars rise over the quiet beach.

From St. Lucia to Morocco, find the locale that'll make your journey soar.

Whether you're ready to hike in or Instagram the moment, odds are you'll enjoy experiencing the scenery at a new destination, especially if it's different from back home. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, these 50 places are bound to take your breath away with their awe-inspiring settings.

Gower Peninsula: Swansea, Wales

Crabbing, surfing, bicycling, walking and bird-watching are favorite pastimes on the beaches of the Gower Peninsula, one of Great Britain's designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Rhossili Bay's white sand, saltwater and freshwater marshes, towering cliffs and sparkling blue water attract summer visitors in droves. Come at sunset to hear the gulls, blackcaps, warblers and goldcrests, and stay to watch the stars rise over the quiet beach.

Vestrahorn: Iceland

Nearly 1,500 feet tall, Vestrahorn mountain towers above a lagoon and black sand beach so dramatically that some travelers refer to it as Batman Mountain. Remoteness is one of the sight's greatest assets, so expect to walk after driving to the Stokksnes peninsula to get the most stunning views. On sunny days, reflections in the water lapping on the black sand shore accentuate the unusual peaks.

The Pitons: Soufriere, St. Lucia

These lush twin peaks rising straight from the Caribbean Sea are St. Lucia's most famous sights. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Pitons Management Area, the Pitons feature fumaroles, hot springs, petroglyphs and ample wildlife-viewing opportunities. At 2,619 feet, Gros Piton is the taller and easier of the two to climb, though Petit Piton looks nearly identical in height when seen from the north.

Denali National Park & Preserve: Alaska

It's hard to miss this national park's centerpiece and namesake, which stands 20,310 feet above sea level and is North America's tallest peak. Formerly known as Mount McKinley, Denali attracts approximately 1,100 permitted climbers each season, though it's just as beautiful to admire from the ground.

Halong Bay: Vietnam

While many agree that Halong Bay's (also Ha Long Bay) more than 1,600 monsoon-eroded islands are beautiful and deserving of a place on UNESCO's World Heritage List, others warn that six million annual cruisers are ruining the environment and ambiance. The best way to view the area's upright karst formations is on a licensed three-day cruise. These excursions include time to explore the bay and some of its more remote islands before and after visitors from Hanoi arrive.

Luberon Regional Nature Park: Ménerbes, France

Though Provence features a variety of stunning landscapes, few are as breathtaking as the Luberon Regional Nature Park. Visit between the end of June and early August and you'll see (and smell) acres of blooming lavender plants. The herb's oil, which is known for its medicinal qualities, is pressed in local distilleries and workshops that welcome travelers, but for more insight about the plant, head to the Lavender Museum in Coustellet.

Laughing Waters: Jamaica

This gold-hued shore east of Dunn's River Falls & Park is where Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) famously rose from the waves to greet James Bond (Sean Connery) in "Dr. No." Today, the beach is home to a private wedding venue with fern covered cliffs, small waterfalls and shallow surf, but it can be seen during select boat tours or by invitation from the St. Ann Development Company, its protector.

Mauna Kea Observatories: Hilo, Hawaii

Rising 33,000 feet above the sea floor, the sacred mountain of Mauna Kea supports deep space observatories that take advantage of the Big Island's arid climate for celestial viewing. Go at sunrise or sunset to see the spectacular dark sky showcase millions of stars, or hike down the summit for miles of dusty black and red rolling hills, which are said to so closely resemble the surface of the moon that plans are underway to build a moon base research prototype on-site.

Laamu Atoll: Maldives

Travelers flock to Laamu Atoll to surf its world-renowned Yin Yang wave and look for abundant coral, tropical fish and green sea turtles while snorkeling in its transparent waters. Having the island of Gan represent the mythical planet Scarif in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" brought more attention to this tropical paradise, yet its location five degrees north of the equator is remote enough to keep away the crowds.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park: Arizona and Utah

The red desert sands of Monument Valley, where sandstone rock formations tower above valleys and mesas, have been featured in films by John Ford and other legendary Western directors for years. You can explore this can't-miss destination in Utah by car on a 17-mile scenic road, or have a local Navajo guide take you through the spectacular terrain on horseback, by foot or by Jeep.

Great Barrier Reef: Australia

With 1,430 miles of reef to explore, the Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate destination for divers, snorkelers and fans of marine life, especially in June. Fly into Cairns or Hamilton Island before joining a sailing excursion or a flightseeing tour to the reef. Despite suffering from two coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, you still have the chance to see colorful fish and coral during your visit.

Three Gorges: China

Three Gorges Dam brought the world's attention to this scenic area of the Yangtze River, which was threatened with flooding before the dam's completion in 2012. While not as dramatically steep as others, the sheer faces of the Qutang, Wu and Xiling gorges are just as impressive and beautiful. Boats ply the calm water between Chongqing and Yichang year-round during multiday cruises.

Mount Desert Island: Maine

Although the 2 million-acre Acadia National Park has hundreds of places to hike, bike, snowshoe, boat, swim and horseback ride, crowds can make it hard to fully appreciate the park, so consider taking a break from the area to explore Mount Desert Island's Cadillac Mountain. From this impressive natural wonder, which stands above the charming port town of Bar Harbor, you'll enjoy views of the Atlantic Ocean, glacier-carved cliffs, granite hills, forests and Somes Sound, a 7-mile-long fjard.

Li River: Guilin, China

The winding jade green Li River originates from Mao'er Mountain in Xing'an County and flows south to Guilin, a major tourist hub. The unusual jagged karst formations, in vivid contrast to the verdant hills and rice paddies, have been a favorite subject of Chinese poetry and paintings for centuries. To appreciate the river's timeless beauty, take a guided cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo.

James Bond Island: Thailand

"The Man with the Golden Gun" transformed Khao Phing Kan into James Bond Island seemingly overnight after its 1974 release. While the sheer limestone rocks and cliffs rising from the turquoise Phang Nga Bay are still there, the view can be marred by hundreds of long boats bearing selfie-hunting tourists. Opt instead for a full-day excursion that includes a quiet afternoon of kayaking closer to shore through the island's karsts.

Skellig Michael: Ireland

Even before "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" put Luke Skywalker's forbidding cliffside hideaway on travelers' bucket lists, the Skellig Islands were packed with sights worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage List designation. Each of the 180 visitors who arrive daily by boat can climb Skellig Michael's 618 slippery stone steps to a monastery where breathtaking vistas are available in every direction.

Milford Sound: Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

The navy blue water of this South Island fjord is framed by steep, glacier-cut cliffs, which are covered in greenery and hundreds of shimmering waterfalls. Book an overnight cruise that allows you to kayak and absorb this habitat without the crowds, and keep an eye out for New Zealand fur seals and rare Fiordland crested penguins swimming or resting on the shore.

Santorini Caldera: Santorini, Greece

While Santorini's cliff-hanging, whitewashed villas juxtaposed against the brilliant Aegean Sea make it one of Greece's most popular islands, its caldera – which some scientists believe was formed by a volcanic eruption in the 15th century – is really special. Spend sunset in Oia at the high fortress ruins of Kastro to sense the caldera's ring underwater and how it connects Santorini to the nearby island of Thirasia (or Therasia).

Mount Rainier National Park: Washington

With a snow-clad peak ascending 14,410 feet, the iconic Mount Rainier demands respect. It is both the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 states and an active volcano, and this diverse national park has alpine and subalpine ecosystems with mountains, forests and meadows. Most beautiful in winter, visitors can borrow gear for ranger-led snowshoe walks or bring their own for sledding, backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

Ölüdeniz: Turkey

Offering some of southern Turkey's most stunning white sand beaches, Ölüdeniz is a prime spot for yachting and tandem paragliding. The destination fills with tourists every summer, making it necessary to climb higher or go farther for more elbow room. But if you don't mind the added effort, you'll be rewarded with unobstructed views of the region's crystal clear water, sunsets and far-off Greek islands.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: Zhangjiajie, China

A model for the suspended mountains of "Pandora – The World of Avatar" at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Zhangjiajie protects ornately eroded sandstone columns – some draped in greenery – that tower above an ecosystem of small streams and indigenous wildlife. Popular for hiking and photography, the park is packed with must-see sights, including Yuanjiajie Scenic Area (a traveler favorite), the mist-shrouded Tianzi Mountain and the undeveloped Laowuchang region.

Whitehaven Beach: Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Within the Whitsundays lies Whitehaven Beach, voted the No. 3 beach in the South Pacific in TripAdvisor's 2018 Traveler's Choice Awards. Other than admire the blinding white sand and aquamarine sea, there's not much to do but go for a swim. However, getting there is part of the fun: You can sail to or fly over it and the Great Barrier Reef by catamaran, helicopter or seaplane from Hamilton Island or mainland Australia.

Road to Hana: Haiku, Hawaii

This scenic highway is so packed with canyons, beaches, waterfalls and other natural attractions that you need to devote a day to driving its length to do it justice. Be sure to save time for Wai'anapanapa State Park, a turnoff at mile marker No. 32 that's home to a black sand beach, an offshore lava arch, freshwater caves, ancient Hawaiian pictographs and a campground with picturesque vistas, especially at sunrise.

Plitvice Lakes National Park: Croatia

When Walt Disney Imagineering chose this region as the visual inspiration for the waterfalls at "Pandora – The World of Avatar" in Orlando, Florida, it put this Croatian national park on the tourist map. Already a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice's otherworldly travertine formations, lush forests, gushing waterfalls and serene mountain lakes draw nature lovers in droves.

Grace Bay Beach: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands

A consistent winner in Best Caribbean Beach polls, this 3-mile-long white sand beach is made of pulverized coral. It overlooks the crystal clear waters of Grace Bay, which is protected from Atlantic seaweed and debris by a barrier reef a mile offshore. Plus, Grace Bay Beach's proximity to Providenciales' expensive resorts means this stretch of sand is less crowded than other similarly beautiful beaches on more affordable Caribbean islands.

Scala dei Turchi: Agrigento, Sicily

This unusual terraced cliff of marble and sandstone gets its name, which means "Stairs of the Turks" in English, from the marauding Ottoman pirates who used to shelter behind it. The bright white formation separates two beach coves in Agrigento and contrasts strikingly with the marine blue sea. To fully explore its ever-shifting steps without crowds, be sure to arrive early. Also, keep an eye out for young daredevils diving off its peak.

Giant's Causeway: Bushmills, Ireland

Whether you believe this unusually geometric rock formation that juts into the Atlantic Ocean was caused by volcanic activity 60 million years ago or by a local trying to defeat an invading Scottish giant, Giant's Causeway is a must-see. Go early to catch the first guided tour – you'll want to learn about the sight's tales before you set out to explore its 40,000 basalt columns on your own.

Sunwapta Valley: Jasper National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway is just one of several can't-miss sights in Jasper National Park's Sunwapta Valley. Traversing North America's largest ice mass south of the Arctic Circle, this famous highway offers a front-row seat to beautiful (but rapidly receding) glaciers. Go now and stop at the Glacier Skywalk, a cantilevered glass overlook that features stunning glacier vistas from 918 feet above ground.

Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area: Bloomfield, New Mexico

Once a swamp that's now an otherworldly desert landscape, this protected area beckons to photographers and campers. The eastern part features smooth eroded rocks with an array of colors, while the rest of the park is marked by hoodoos and sculpted rock spires that mimic the moon's surface. Pack plenty of water, layers of outerwear and binoculars to use for observing the region's golden eagles, ferruginous hawks and prairie falcons.

Wadi Rum Protected Area: Wadi Rum Village, Jordan

A 278-square-mile red rock desert occupied for thousands of years by Bedouins, the undulating dunes of Wadi Rum caught the West's attention a century ago when T. E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) fought occupying forces during World War I. Today, locals welcome tourists to their goat-hair tents and lead camel rides to see the area's desert sunsets, mile-high sandstone pillars and ancient petroglyphs, sharing their culture along the way.

Lake Louise: Banff National Park, Alberta

In the heart of Banff National Park lies Lake Louise, a turquoise glacial lake surrounded by towering evergreens and snowclad summits. During the summer months, hike its trails and visit its classic teahouses. And in winter, bundle up and join the crowds to ice skate on the lake or hit the slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Funafuti Atoll: Tuvalu

Home to Tuvalu's capital, Funafuti's profile – a skinny atoll composed of 30 islets – is best appreciated by drone. However, the views are just as impressive from the ground; you'll be surrounded by sea, coral and sand as you walk around the 66- to 1,300-foot-wide atoll. The islet of Fongafale on the eastern side is the most developed, with a small airstrip, a deep-sea wharf and a causeway built by Americans during World War II.

Grand Teton National Park: Wyoming

A neighbor to Yellowstone but much less crowded, this northwestern Wyoming park is easy to reach from Jackson and the popular Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. In addition to featuring towering evergreens and snow-capped mountains year-round, Grand Teton bursts with golden foliage, wildflowers and herds of elk every autumn. In fact, little has changed since Lewis and Clark trekked through this land as they headed west. Get a sample of what the iconic explorers saw while biking, canoeing and hiking with a ranger.

Queenstown: New Zealand

Surrounded by The Remarkables mountain range, this lakefront resort town attracts active adventurers from around the world. Queenstown is the birthplace of bungee jumping, which was first tested at Kawarau Bridge in 1988, but adrenaline junkies can also go zip lining, jet boating, skydiving and more. For those who prefer less extreme activities, Queenstown offers guided tours to historic Arrowtown and nearby vineyards, plus hiking trails, ski slopes and sightseeing cruises.

Terra Nova National Park: Traytown, Newfoundland and Labrador

This lesser-known gem on the island of Newfoundland boasts high cliffs and steep canyons, where hikers can get a bird's-eye view of boreal forests and sea kayakers paddling Atlantic inlets. Book a Happy Adventure Tours excursion at the Terra Nova National Park Visitor Centre to see whales, icebergs and puffins.

Lake Tahoe: California and Nevada

Although the emerald-green Lake Tahoe was carved 2 million years ago by shifting tectonic plates, only its past 10,000 years of erosion shaped the stunning recreational area into what's on display today. The four-season playground is home to trails, a pool, the Olympic Museum and more at High Camp, an area of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows resort that sits 8,200 feet above sea level.

Uluru: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

Uluru is the indigenous name given to this sacred sandstone tabletop formation. Nestled within the UNESCO-designated Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, this natural wonder's isolation and striking palette of reds and oranges are most photogenic during sunrise and sunset hours. To avoid crowds, base yourself in Alice Springs and experience its singular beauty at other times of the day via a guided hike, camel ride, parachuting adventure, Segway tour, overnight trek or hot air balloon ride.

Rangiroa Atoll: Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia

Rangiroa comprises 240 motu (islets) arranged in a loose ring across 110-plus miles. The second largest atoll in the world, it attracts honeymooners and scuba divers keen on enjoying breathtaking scenery and exploring diverse marine environments. The primary lagoon is home to multicolored butterfly fish and turtles, while the open ocean is a prime spot for diving with whales, manta rays, dolphins and sharks. Look for accommodations, guides and gear on Avatoru and Tiputa, two of the motu that encircle the lagoon.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park: Hawaii

Most visitors turn onto Crater Rim Drive to circle Kilauea Volcano, but Chain of Craters Road, which travels past Makaopuhi Crater to the coast at Kalapana, showcases more of this park's remarkable volcanic activity and biodiversity. If you only have a half day, hike the Halema'uma'u Trail to see smooth pahoehoe (lava) and Kilauea's caldera.

Pulpit Rock: Songesand, Norway

More than 300,000 visitors flock to Lysefjorden in Songesand to see its flat-topped Pulpit Rock. Measuring only 82 square feet, this natural granite lookout is cantilevered nearly 2,000 feet above the fjord, affording vistas for miles. To take in the view without hordes of tourists, hike up before dawn and watch the sun rise. Guided hikes and sightseeing cruises are also available (for a fee) between April and October.

Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona

As its name suggests, this natural wonder is impressive, measuring 277 river miles long by as much as 18 miles wide by up to 1 mile deep. To avoid crowds of tourists, skip the South Rim and head to the North Rim. But keep in mind that this area only permits backcountry hikers in winter. For the grandest thrills, join a licensed river rafting tour or visit Skywalk, the Hualapai Tribe's vertigo-inducing, glass-floored attraction that projects 70 feet from Grand Canyon West's rim.

Victoria Falls: Zambia and Zimbabwe

Nestled between Zambia and Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls – which also goes by Mosi-oa-Tunya (or "The Smoke that Thunders") in Lozi, the local language – can be heard nearly 25 miles away. Considered the largest waterfall in the world at more than 328 feet tall, it remained relatively unknown until Scottish explorer David Livingstone spotted it in 1855. The waterfall is risky to explore, but if you're up for the challenge, head to Knife-edge Bridge for breathtaking panoramas.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve: Alaska

Both a UNESCO Biosphere and World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay is a picturesque landscape that boasts glaciers shaped by snow melt from the surrounding mountains, evergreen forests full of wildlife and a marine habitat where sea life flourishes. Whether you're on the deck of a cruise ship, in a helicopter or paddling a sea kayak, you'll enjoy taking in the park's gorgeous scenery. If cruising is more your speed, you're in luck. Because of Alaska's immense popularity as a cruise destination, deals can be found year-round.

K2 Base Camp and Concordia: Pakistan

Accessible only a few months of the year, the trek to the base camp of K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, is one of the most rewarding routes available to hikers. From Skardu on the Karakoram Highway, travelers set out with guides on a monthlong journey across hills, gorges, roaring rivers and the Baltoro Glacier, catching glimpses of the peaks of Trango Towers, Masherbrum, K2 and Broad Peak as they go.

Waimea Canyon State Park: Waimea, Hawaii

Plunging as much as 3,600 feet below its walking path, the 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. But unlike its cousin to the east, Waimea features jagged lava peaks that are often blanketed in lush ferns and trees. Get a closer view at two scenic lookouts – Pu'u ka Pele and Pu'u Hinahina – or during a guided downhill mountain bike adventure.

Mount Pilatus: Alpnach, Switzerland

While the entire lakefront city of Lucerne is incredibly picturesque, once you reach the 7,000-foot peak of nearby Mount Pilatus, the view of 73 Alpine peaks will take your breath away. To ascend, take a scenic cruise from Lucerne to Alpnachstad and, if you're hardy, start hiking. You can also reach the top via the world's steepest cogwheel railway or an aerial cable car.

Kirkjufell: Iceland

If you recognize Kirkjufell from "Game of Thrones," you'll understand why this unusually steep, conical mountain in West Iceland is one of the country's most photographed natural wonders. Formed by layers of sedimentary rock pressed tight between ancient glaciers, it's best seen from the black sand beach below or from the walking path that circles its base. Hikers should hire a guide in the nearby town of Grundarfjördu, where multiple apartment rentals are available.

Silk Caye: Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, Belize

Among the thousands of sandy cayes off the coast of Belize, Silk Caye is one of the easiest to reach. Local tour operators provide scuba or snorkel gear, plus a picnic lunch for daylong excursions. Even before you suit up, you may spot a whale shark or loggerhead turtle casting its shadow on the shallow sea floor.

Mount Toubkal: Atlas Mountains, Morocco

The route to Mount Toubkal is one of the Atlas Mountains' most challenging walks, yet its summit in Toubkal National Park showcases the rugged, golden beauty of North Africa's tallest peak. Instead of staying in Marrakech, about 50 miles away, sample the local Berber culture at the rustic Kasbah du Toubkal, an inn in the village of Imlil. The property was used as the Tibetan monastery the Dalai Lama fled to in Martin Scorsese's "Kundun."

Valley of Flowers National Park: Uttarakhand, India

India's famous high-altitude Valley of Flowers is only open from July to October, with peak bloom for its multicolored flowers occurring in August or September. From several vantage points in the 34-square-mile valley of the Chamoli District, visitors will see rare varieties of lilies, orchids and mountain wildlife framed by the Zanskar Range and the Eastern and Western Himalayas, which meet here in snow-capped glory.
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