The world’s most beautiful spots

June 16, 2021 • 1:30 pm

I guess I’ve written a post like this before, but like to periodically refresh it. Today I’ll simply list the five places that I consider the most beautiful spots I’ve seen. Most of the pictures I have of them are on 35 mm Kodachrome slides, so I really can’t reproduce my photos here. I will add two of my own for Antarctica.

Click the photos to enlarge them.

1.)  Mount Everest from the Khumbu Valley, particularly from the Thyangboche Monastery. At the monastery one gets a view of not only Everest, but the great wall of Ama Dablam rising up before you. Since there are primitive guest facilities at the monastery, you can watch the Himalayas become gold and purple at sunset, and then reappear in the morning. The view looks something like the photo below. But one can’t convey in a photo how high these mountains really are, rising up to nearly the height of the Sun in the sky:


 2.) Machu Picchu, especially viewed from the overlooking Machu Picchu Mountain.  When I visited decades ago, all one could see was a solid green forest stretching to the horizon, and then these ruins sprouting from a hilltop. It was fantastic, especially seen from above. What a place to build a city!

3) The view of the extinct volcano from high up on Santorini.  Before Santorini became popular and a tourist madhouse, I visited it in 1972 on my way back to mainland Greece from Crete. We stopped for a few days on Santorini and were able to get a room right on the cliffside (the island is the remnants of a huge volcano that blew up, supposedly destroying the Minoan civilization. The main town sits on a vertical cliff that was once the inside of the crater.  The view down toward the still-active area (a few smokeholes on a small island) is fantastic, and to sit on your balcony and watch the sun set over the Aegean Sea is to get as close to paradise as you can on this orb. A view (I bet these hotels are now pretty expensive):

4.) The Taj Mahal, especially during a full moon. Yes, it’s one of the most touristed spots on Earth, but it justly deserves its fame. Just try to go at a time when it’s not crowded (probably almost never) and especially at night during the full moon. Fortunately, we stayed in Agra at such a time, and in full moonlight the great mausoleum turns pearly blue, almost appearing to float above the ground. If you’re in northern India, you must go.


5.) The Antarctic continent. My latest discovery, and there is so much that’s beautiful that I can’t single out one spot. Just go, and go where you can cruise along the Antarctic Peninsula, with icebergs floating by, and see the majestic mountains which are, to steal a Gordon Lightfoot phrase, “too silent to be real.” Here are just two photos I took in the late fall of 2019. I am desperate to return late this year or early next year: keep your fingers crossed for me. I swear I’ll give great lectures to the passengers!

But of course there are also birds:

The point of this post, of course, is not only to cheer myself up (when I’m low I like to remember how lucky I’ve been to see these places), but to ask readers to list the most beautiful places they’ve been. I’d be really curious to hear!

42 thoughts on “The world’s most beautiful spots

  1. I’ve never seen a picture of the Taj Mahal at night. That’s amazing. Ethereal. I afraid my most beautiful place is rather prosaic. It’s Chicago at night, viewed from the top of the John Hancock building or from a plane. Nothing is more beautiful to me than the net of yellow lights.

    1. Yes, ‘ethereal’ is exactly the right word. A terrific image.

      My four outstanding scenic memories are:

      1) Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan. I saw it in winter when it was largely empty of people: no pretty flowers as shown in tourist brochures, but a frozen waterfall, the valley’s sides in various shades of brown and grey, and a succession of clear, turquoise lakes.

      2) The landing approach to Mount Cook airport in the Southern Alps, descending above an ice field or glacier. Quite literally, a breathtaking sight.

      3) Heilongtan (Black Dragon Pool) in Yunnan: still water reflecting a snowy mountain in the distance, temple, bridge, towering hillside to the left, colourful flowers in the front.

      4) Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui: spectacular land forms, pines in varied shapes, misty clouds.

    2. Ooh – I was about to suggest somewhere local to me, but that’s a great suggestion. Top tip, widely known to Chicagoans is to head to the bar near the top of the Hancock before sunset, order a cocktail and watch the city change from it’s daytime garb to nighttime.

  2. -Point Lobos, California, with the sea otters
    -Moab, Utah, red-rock country. (Sadly, the beautiful house we rented there maybe 5 times just burnt down a few days ago because some idiot left a campfire burning during these dry dry conditions😿)
    -Grand Canyon
    -Serengeti and Masai Mara
    -Sea-to-Sky Highway, Vancouver to Whistler, BC

  3. Even if I’m a big fan of WEIT and of this blog, my tastes tend towards the mineral. It’s not particularly reposing, but I can think of no more colorful nature than the mountains and lava flows in Iceland northeast of Myvatn. The colors are incredible! There’s an example here. Hope posting such a link is allowed.

  4. I’ll say about Santorini what you said about Machu Picchu: What a place to build a city! And what a beautiful city it looks to be.

    As for my favorites that I’ve visited, I agree with DrBrydon about Chicago at night, and would also add Ithaca, New York, heading toward West Campus after classes in the autumn, when you can look out over the southern tip of Cayuga Lake at the rolling his beyond, with all the possible varieties of autumn colors in the trees. I was also pretty blown away the first time I saw the desert mountains outside Tucson, Arizona, especially from the air, with all the gigantic cacti (cactuses?) and the striking shades of the otherwise bare ground. It felt like being on an alien planet (in a good way).

  5. Some of the most beautiful places I’ve been:
    – Cycling in the Swiss and French Alps. Jaw-dropping view after jaw-dropping view. If I had to pick one in particular, it’s looking south from the summit of the Col du Galibier in France.
    – Lake Louise, near Banff, Alberta. One of the most postcard-famous spots I’ve been to.
    – To echo Merilee above, the view from the Sea-to-Sky highway along Howe sound is just stunning.
    – Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island (Tofino)
    – I have to give at least one city/town, and the first thing that comes to mind is Bruges, Belgium.

  6. Copper Canyon, Mexico, and Zion National Park are two of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

    I wanted to write that I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me… but I decided not to.

  7. Most of the pictures I have of them are on 35 mm Kodachrome slides, so I really can’t reproduce my photos here.

    Well, that’s a question of choice and application. My father is nearing the end of around 30,000 slides being scanned and then incorporated into his own database (and as executor, I am dreading working out what he’s actually doing, and what to do with it when the inevitable happens; but I have reasonable expectations of documentation). He uses a commercial scanning service. Someone in “the usual suspects” (jblilie?) is involved in a similar project, and may have useful contacts.
    It’s (moderately) time-consuming, but if there is value in the pictures, it needs considering.
    At least the problem isn’t (probably) getting any bigger. Until you find the secret box of undeveloped film from 1988.

    Plan ‘B’ is a $5 slide-scanner attachment for your scanner – which works (“quote works unquote”), but you end up with the pictures you considered important scattered all over your filing/ piling system, can never find anything a second time, have to dig the scanner out again, can’t find the slide. I’ve got that tee-shirt here.
    I’m sure I had that tee-shirt. Once.

    1. Yes, I can help with scanning advice.

      But one must commit to the project! It’s a lot of work. Use software and keywords for later searching.

      I have done all of my own scanning. Some others have used commerical services.

  8. My list:

    Norwegian Fjordlands
    The Canadian Rockies (Jasper, Banff, and adjacent parks)
    Southern Utah in general (Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Cedar Mesa)
    The North Cascades
    The Kali Gandaki river valley in Nepal
    Mount Kenya
    The Columbia River Gorge
    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    New Zealand’s Southern Alps
    Royal Basin in the Olympic Mountains (Washington state)
    The San Juan Islands (by sea kayak)
    The Cinque Terre
    The Vaucluse

  9. (I bet these hotels are now pretty expensive)

    Oh hell, yeah. OTOH, going out to the outer, shallow-angle slopes of the island(s) is a lot more reasonable, and you can get the pretty views with supper in a restaurant in Oia (which is not

    The main town

    – that’s Thira ; the walk from Oia to Thira along the edge of the caldera is one very nice way of dealing with the final half-day before your boat/ flight out.

    (a few smokeholes on a small island)

    There’s also a regular growling in the water off the NE coast of the island, intermittent hot water flows, that sort of thing. Interesting potential if you’re willing to swim a few hundred metres out. Could get a bit too much Interesting though. Read your earthquake reports!
    When we visited, on the W side of the “Nea Kameni” island there was a hot water spring erupting into an inlet of the sea, which made for an interesting swim. OK, you came out coated in ochre, which would probably have you flayed alive for cultural misapprehension or something. But it moves around and turns off and on on a monthly or shorter time base, so don’t bet on it.
    Don’t … t0o late. Someone asked for an increase in activity.

  10. I’m thinking of some caves. Some mountains. but places where I didn’t have a waterproof camera, or had decided against carrying the weight.
    Some places you could even get to with only a few hours walk, or 10 minutes swim up to the nostrils in 4 degC water. Anyone can get there. Unless you’re wheelchair bound. Sorry about that. Nature doesn’t bother with human laws.

    1. Now there are (of course) small, light, excellent waterproof digital cameras.

      One work colleague (some decades ago) told me that he thought they should build a cable car to the top of Mount Rainier, so that “anyone could see the summit”. Needless to say, I did not agree with him!

      Not to mention that seeing the summit without climbing up there under your own power, through wind, cold, steep slopes, technical difficulties, hunger, thirst, etc., you cannot have the same experience of it as someone who has done those things.

      1. A couple of years ago, the wife and I climbed Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) – which has a railway to the summit, thank you, Victorians.
        The final thousand-odd feet of the footpath up was a pedestrian traffic jam of pedestrians up chossy, unstable snow. Parents in training shoes, kids in tee-shirt and shorts – the classic mass casualty scenario. We legged it for the summit as fast as possible and walked down beside the railway line because I fully expected something to go horribly wrong for the trampling hoards – slope failure, change in the weather, whatever, – and I definitely didn’t have the reserves to get involved in that.
        (Everyone was lucky – only one heart attack medivac according to the radio as we left the area.)
        Really, it is getting there that is much more interesting than being there.
        Friends of mine would work Antarctica and NW Greenland and have no concern about using skiddoos to carry out a geological survey. But they wouldn’t do the same on a day trip in the Highlands.

  11. Kayaking the Grand Canyon – Truly amazing
    Roussillon France – Especially where the artists got their paints
    The Burren Ireland – A unique landscape
    Copper Coast Waterford Ireland – sea kayaking on a sunny day

  12. Iguassu Falls, especially the Argentine side which is kind of a Garden of Eden; a southern cypress swamp; The Azores as you pass them in a ship; John Muir Woods; South African karoo; (and though I’ve never been there: Great Barrier Reef).

  13. Two of the most-beautiful spots I’ve seen both entailed other-worldly experiences:

    1) A submerged seamount in the Caribbean, seen while SCUBA diving along a vertical cliff at 130-foot depth. In the dim light, the cliff was literallu dripping with diverse corals and sponges, Fish too were everywhere, swimming in and out through the inky blueness of the open ocean. No doubt my enthrallment was only elevated by a bit of nitrogen narcosis.

    2) An Ascension Island sandy beach at night, watching green sea turtles coming ashor to nest. The beach and sky were lit only by a new moon and a fabulous star-studded sky. I felt like I was on another planet, lost in space and time.

  14. It’s tough to narrow it to five, but here’s my shot at it. 1) There is a statue of a “Lady of the Lake”, outlined in heavy wire, overlooking Lago Llanquihue, Chili, with Vulcan Osorno in the background. Splendid. 2) The trail to Calf Creek Falls in southern Utah, particularly if you catch it with fall colors against the red rock. (Honorable mention to Monument Valley.) 3) The Potala Palace in Tibet. 4) Downpatrick Head in Ireland. 5) Hiking down from the viewpoint of the Matterhorn to which the tram delivers you, there is a lake perfectly reflecting the mountain.

  15. I think more of really pretty places to live instead of great sites on a vacation or tour. A few nice places I have lived are – Alameda, Ca. (the climate is great too). Kaneohe, Hawaii (even better climate) Okinawa, Japan – 7th floor looking out at the China Sea.

  16. In 2007 my wife and I took a cruise to Alaska. I was hoping to see one wild eagle. In Zita we stopped by a fish hactery Out in the water on posts were dozens of wild Eagles waiting for the fish to be released. It was a wonderful site.

  17. 1/just about anywhere in Norway
    2/western Uganda
    3/Grand Canyon
    4/All of NZ especially Pahia
    5/Where I live right now, the Highlands of Scotland

  18. I once watched the sun rise at the Victoria Falls and the whole experience felt like an assault on my senses. The Swiss Alps and Yosemite valley are astonishingly beautiful.

  19. Top notch places and you’re a naturally good photographer.
    Goodness – I’ve been to somewhere around 45 countries but none of the above areas.
    I hear a lot of places are quite “over tourist”ed now (or were until recently anyway), esp Maccu Pichu.
    I’m still curious and would like to go to them (not Antarctica, bit cold for me!)

  20. Lots of these great places are mostly visual and admittedly beyond beautiful. I’ve seen a great many places, none of the 5 listed here, but when I think of great places I’ve visited, they’re almost always a mixture of the senses. So I put attractions and experiences in cities as some of my favorite visits. It’s rarely about the grandiose visual for me, something I soon forget (except for the Grand Canyon); it’s about the smells, the sounds, the languages I can’t decipher, those I’m with, the way I feel- feeling detached, looking at myself askance, inwardly confused, but content. So with that caveat, I’d say: the Funicular Railway of Hong Kong Victoria Peak, the Great Wall of China (Beijing section), driving and eating/drinking along Lake Maggiore in Switzerland and Italy, fishing for Halibut on the Cook Inlet during Summer which allows for Alaska’s crystal clear skies and miles of volcanic mountain visibility, Saltzburg and Saltzburg castle Austria during Summer’s bustle, quaffing on Munich’s “Chinesischen Turm” during Oktoberfest, Venice, Venice, Venice. The first time I walked alone past midnight around Times Square and got lost in greater Manhattan (thanks Yellow Cab!). When I took mushrooms the first time visiting Seattle and ended up in a park and got lost there, started knocking on doors of those who lived in the neighborhood…cops pulled a gun on me that night. But talk about “remembering” a place and a time (1989). And what a beautiful time it was, even with the “misunderstanding” 🙂 Fun to be spurned to remember past times that really “stuck”.

  21. I have to admit that despite all the touristy crap surrounding it, Niagara Falls itself is quite spectacular.

  22. You’ve all made me miss travelling even more…

    I think there are all sorts of other associations with a description of most beautiful, which may colour my suggestion, but here it is: the Cumbrian Lake District, in the north of England. It’s only two hours drive from where I live, and is not as grand as some of the other suggestions , but it regularly leaves me literally speechless when I turn a corner or see a new view. It has constantly changing weather, and the ways the natural light interacts with the scenery is breathtaking, and it’s criss-crossed with footpaths, so you can spend all of your visit out in nature.

    When you’re done, back down the valley to the pub for Cumberland Sausage and a pint of real ale (TT’s Landlord often available but not guarenteed).

  23. I haven’t traveled nearly enough but the most beautiful place I’ve ever been is the western highlands of Scotland. I remember driving through them late in the afternoon in October many years ago. The sun dropped through the heavy gray clouds and just lit up the glen: the gorse and the heather, the rocks and the little streams.

  24. Beautiful photos!

    In the mountainous sheep country of Mallorca, Spain, I stayed briefly in a former monastery. Beautiful country but the food – a very simple stew that I’ll remember forever.

    Zihuatanejo, pre-Shawshank Redemption, and La Playa Ropa. I also saw a huge Monarch over-wintering congregation near Ixtapa in the early 80’s. I didn’t know then how fortunate I was to see the Monarchs!

    Big Bend National Park, especially by backpack. Mesmerizing stars. In 2018, a very civilized trip including hotel stay, with friends from Amsterdam, made the visit all new. It was probably my tenth trip or more, but it’s always breathtaking.

    Sorry if this is a duplicate!

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