Our planet is full of amazing natural landscapes. Among these beautiful sceneries, some are simply so stunning and breathtaking that they are a travel magnet on their own. I hereby present you a top 10 list of my favorite, most scenic places on the globe that should be on every one’s bucket list for an active, outdoors holiday!
There is more info below the slide show (including my selection of luxury hotels & lodges). Think I missed one? Share your favorite scenery in the comments section, or take my poll below!
10. SPECTACULAR SCENERY OF THE CAPE PENINSULA
Just minutes away from the bustle and buzz of downtown Cape Town unfolds a nature lover’s paradise, with dramatic mountainous scenery, fantastic hiking trails, incredibly beautiful and sometimes deserted beaches, and reach-for-your-camera views on one the world’s most spectacular road. Capetonians are blessed, not only with a magnificent city, but also with unrivaled natural surroundings.
- Highlights: Table Mountain National Park, Chapman’s Peak, beaches (Clifton, Camps Bay, Landudno, Noordhoek), Houtbaai, Cape Point Nature reserve.
- Best time to visit: Cape Town’s hot, dry summer months run from late October to March/April. Temperatures reach their peak between December and February, and this is generally seen as when to go to Cape Town when you want a beach holiday.
- My selection of luxury hotels: One&Only Hotel, 12 Apostles Hotel, Ellerman House.
Related post: top 10 things to see and do in Cape Town.
9. ROOF OF THE WORLD IN NEPAL
Birth place of Buddha and the only official Hindu Kingdom, the small country of Nepal is situated in the Himalayan Mountains at the foot of Mount Everest and a category on its own in the list of most scenic places on earth. Eight of the fourteen eight-thousanders (14 independent mountains on earth that are more than 8,000 meters or 26,247 feet high above sea level) are located in the country, offering strikingly beautiful mountainous scenery with intense trekking opportunities.
- Highlights: Chitwan National Park (jungle, rhinos, and tigers), Sagarmatha National Park (Mount Everest).
- When to visit: October and November, the start of the dry season, are the best months to visit Nepal. With the monsoon only recently finished the country-side is green and lush, the air is sparkling clean, visibility is unexcelled and the Himalayan views are as near perfect as you can ask.
- Luxury hotels: not present (yet) in Nepal.
8. RAINFORESTS, VOLCANOES AND BEACHES OF COSTA RICA
When you hike in the majestic cloudy rainforest of Costa Rica, watch the eruptions of explosive volcanos or relax under the palm trees of the white sandy beaches, the thought of an eco-paradise and the most beautiful place on Earth will be on the tip of your tongue. The Corcovado peninsula in the south is one of the most diverse biotopes on earth and will leave an astonishing impression (so be sure to put it on your itinerary when visiting the country).
- Highlights: Arenal Volcano National Park, Poas Volcano National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park, Tortuguero National Park, and Corcovado National Park.
- Best time to visit: The dry season is the best time for a visit to Costa Rica and it begins in late November and lasts through mid to late April.
- My selection of luxury hotels & wilderness lodges: Lapa Rios Lodge, Four Seasons Papagayo, Andaz Papagayo, Tabacon Grand Spa, Arenas Del Mar, Oxygen Jungle Villas, Rancho Pacifico, Gaia Hotel & Reserve.
7. VOLCANOES AND COASTAL CLIFFS IN HAWAII
With their lava-spewing volcanoes, lush valleys, glorious waterfalls and towering coastal cliffs, the islands of Hawaii boast some of the most spectacularly beautiful scenery on earth (although they may generally be more known for their palm-fringed white, red and black beaches). No wonder Hawaii, especially the island Kauai, is Hollywood’s favorite location for movies looking to capitalize on those landscapes and surroundings. Despite their isolation, 2000 miles (or 3000 km) out in the Pacific, they belong very definitely to the United States. Do not forget to enjoy all this scenic splendor by taking a helicopter flight and do (a lot of) hiking.
- Highlights: Hawaii Volcano National Park (Big Island), Haleakala National Park (Maui), Napali Coast (Kauai), Waimea Canyon (Kauai).
- When to visit: the off-season, when the best rates are available and the islands are less crowded, is spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) – a paradox because these are the best seasons to be in Hawaii, in terms of reliably great weather. Winter (December to March) can be a surprisingly cloudy and wet affair.
- My selection of luxury hotels: Travaasa Hana, Andaz Maui, St Regis Princeville, Four Seasons Lana’i, Four Seasons Hualalai, Four Seasons Wailea, Fairmont Kea Lani, Halekulani, Grand Wailea.
6. MOUNTAINS AND OCEANS OF THE NATIONAL PARKS OF WESTERN CANADA
Deep in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, you will find world-class and jaw-dropping scenery, centered around glacial lakes that are filled with deep crystalline waters, mirroring pine forests, dizzying mountains and endless sky. Wildlife is abundant in these areas, especially to the north (Jasper National Park), where grizzlies, bisons and wolves roam free. More to the West, in British Columbia, you can explore the Great Bear Rainforest in splendid isolation and enjoy spectacular coastal scenery with some of the most scenic beaches in the world.
- Highlights: Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, Jasper National Park, Inside Passage, Great Bear Rainforest, Pacific Rim National Park.
- When to visit: the Canadian Rockies and Canada’s West Coast are best visited in summer to have the best chance for good weather. If you want to avoid the tourist crowds, travel in June or September.
- My selection of luxury hotels & wilderness lodges: Fairmont Banff, Fairmont Jasper, Fairmont Lake Louise, Moraine Lake Lodge, Cathedral Mountain Lodge, Post Hotel & Spa, Emerald Lake Lodge, Sonora Resort, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Long Beach Lodge, Wickaninnish Inn, Nimmo Bay Resort.
Related post: top 10 things to see and do in the Canadian Rockies.
5. NATIONAL PARKS OF THE LOWER, CONTINENTAL USA
The National Parks of the USA are so iconic that they should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Alaska and Hawaii deserve a separate spot in my top 10 list of most scenic places in the globe, but the national parks in the lower states are equally impressive and worth the journey alone. Nowhere else on earth offers landscapes as stark yet beautiful or as dramatic yet intimate.
- Highlights: the crown jewels of the National Park system are all located in the West : Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Park (wildlife, mountains, geysers), Yosemite National Park (mountains, valleys), Glacier National Park (mountains and grizzlies), and Grand Canyon National Park (canyons).
- Best time to visit: depends on the park you want to visit, but generally try to avoid the summer peak months of July and August in order to avoid the crowds, sourcing temperatures and monsoon rains. May to June, and September to October are generally considered the best months as weather is balmy and wildlife at its most active.
- My choice of luxury hotels & wilderness lodges: Amangani, Four Seasons Jackson Hole, Jenny Lake Lodge, the Ahwahnee, Amangiri, Sorrel River Ranche.
Related post: top 10 most beautiful National Parks of the USA.
4. EPIC LANDSCAPES OF NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand is a land of immense, natural diversity. You’ll see things that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. Within a day or two’s drive, you can see spectacular glaciers, picturesque fiords, rugged mountains, vast plains, rolling hills, subtropical forests, a volcanic plateau, and miles of coastline with sandy beaches. New Zealand also offers world-class hiking, so bring those hiking shoes!
- Highlights: towering Volcanos of Tongariro National Park, majestic Milford Sound in Fiordsland National Park, alpine scenery in Mount Cook National Park, tropical beaches of Abel Tasman National Park.
- When to visit: New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, and therefore, all seasons are the opposite of those in Northern Hemisphere locations. Weatherwise, the best time to visit New Zealand is between October and April, with high season (meaning high prices and low availability for hotels) between mid-December and the end of January. In the New Zealand winter months (June to September) tour, lodge, and adventure operators may take advantage of lower tourist numbers and take their own holiday breaks, closing their businesses for 1- to 3-month periods.
- My selection of luxury lodges and hotels: Huka Lodge, Matakauri Lodge, Fiordland Lodge, Hapuku Lodge, Azur, the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs.
3. WILDERNESS OF ALASKA
Raw nature awaits you in America’s Last Frontier, which once was part of Russia. The unspoiled wilderness, mountainous grandeur, mighty rivers, open tundra and awe-inspiring wildlife is overwhelming.
- Highlights: Mount McKinley in Denali National Park, grizzlies in Katmai National Park, coastal scenery and wildlife in Kenai Fiords National Park, fiords of the Inside Passage, and tumbling glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park.
- Best time to visit: You can’t go wrong visiting Alaska anytime between May and the first half of September. The days are long, nature is in full bloom, and the air is alive with energy, but prepared for rain (lots of rain) and storms at any time of the day. Between September and April, travel to Alaska is not recommended (most parks are closed), except when you would like to see the Northern Lights.
- My selection of excellent wilderness lodges (as close to luxury as you can get in Alaska): Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, Camp Denali, North Face Lodge, Kulik Lodge, Ultima Thule Lodge.
Related post: top 10 things to see and do in Alaska.
2. GLACIERS, MOUNTAINS AND PLAINS OF SOUTHERN PATAGONIA
Spectacular vertical granite peaks, immense rivers of ice, wind-swept plains and native beech forests define this spot of intense rugged beauty in the South of Chili and Argentina, where the Andes mountains are covered by the most extensive area of glaciers outside the world’s polar regions.
- Highlights: the jaw-dropping scenery of the Torres del Paine (Chili) and Los Glaciares (Argentina) National Parks.
- Best time to visit: the best time to visit Patagonia is November to early March (summertime in the southern hemisphere), although you’ll compete with heavy crowds during this peak season and can face gale-force winds over the plains and in the mountains. September to November (spring) welcome colorful blooms, while March to May (fall) usher in autumnal hues, with both of these times experiencing mild temperatures and fewer crowds.
- My selection of luxury hotels and wilderness lodges: Explora Patagonia, Tierra Patagonia, Eolo, Awasi.
Related post: top 10 most amazing places to visit in South America.
1. DUNES, CANYONS AND WILDLIFE OF NAMIBIA
One of the most scarcely populated countries in the world, Namibia is not the right place to get lost. But it is a top destination for those who enjoy unrivaled natural scenery, unearthly looking landscapes, spectacular sand dunes and first-class wildlife viewing.
- Highlights: Fish River Canyon National Park (third largest canyon in the world), wildlife in Etosha National Park, grandiose scenery at the sand dunes of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei in the Namib Desert.
- Best time to visit: the dramatic sand dunes at Sossusvlei can be visited at any time of year but the dry May to October winter months are widely regarded as the best time to visit Namibia for game viewing, especially in Etosha National Park. The skies are clear, the risk of malaria is at its lowest, and animals are increasingly concentrated around water sources as the dry season wears on.
- My selection of luxurious wilderness lodges: Little Kulala, Little Ongava, &Beyond Sossusvlei desert lodge, Villa Mushara.