The world is a beautiful place, and its beauty is often celebrated in famous lists like the 7 Wonders of the World or the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. UNESCO World Heritage Sites are another way to recognize and bring attention to amazing places. However, there are many other wonderful places on the globe that are sometimes missed on popular lists. Narrowing these beautiful places down to just 15 is a difficult task, but this list presents a compelling overview of awe-inspiring scenes from near and far.
14. Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a mountainous forest reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in central Croatia. It covers a total of 113.9 square miles. The parks features 16 turquoise lakes and several spectacular waterfalls, all of which can freeze during winter. The park has crystal clear waters and a delicate ecosystem that is home to species such as brown bears, wild cats, eagles, lynxes, owls, and turtles, as well as 75 endemic plant species.
13. Chefchaouen, Morocco
Chefchaouen, or Chaouen, is an old city in north Morocco within the Rif mountain valley near the Mediterranean Sea. What makes this city amazing is not only its rich history, but also its blue hue. The city got its color from Jewish refuges who, in the 1930s, painted the walls and streets blue as a reminder of God’s power.
12. Banaue Rice Terraces
The 2,000-year-old Banaue, or Banawe Rice Terraces, have been called the eighth wonder of the world. The terraces were carved into the Ifugao mountains complete with an irrigation system that taps water from the adjacent forest. Though there is little rice farming on the terraces, tourism is booming as thousands of people come to see the site, as well as interact with the unique Ifugao culture.
11. Fiordland National Park
Located in New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland National Park has magnificent rainforests, thousands of waterfalls, and breathtaking cliffs. This park is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an Important Bird Area (IBA Site), and records approximately 1 million visitors yearly who have the option of engaging in canoeing, backpacking, and ocean cruising, among other activities. There are also plenty of penguins, dolphins, seals, whales, and a wide variety of birds.
10. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the world's most recognizable landmarks. Located in the southwestern United States, the Grand Canyon receives around 4 million domestic and international visitors every year. The vast canyon is 277 miles long and one mile deep.
9. The Greek Islands
The Greek Islands are known for being one of the world's favorite tourist destinations. One of the most popular of these islands, Santorini, is a group of five active volcanic island. The city of Oia is famous for its white cubic buildings and blue roofs, surrounded by a backdrop of deep blue water. It is one of the world's most photographed travel destinations.
8. Torres Del Paine National Park
Torres Del Paine National Park is a national park in Chile consisting of diverse ecosystems and landscapes. The park covers over half a million acres. The park is found in a greater region known as Patagonia.
7. Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls, locally called Mosi-oa-Tunya for "The Smoke that Thunders", is on River Zambezi along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Two national parks lie within the area around the falls. As one of the largest waterfalls in the world, the falls spray River Zambezi forest thus giving it “rainfall” 24 hours a day. During the full moon at sunset, the moon’s reflection on the water forms a rainbow (“moonbow”).
Borobudur is a Buddhist temple in Java, Indonesia. It dates back to the 9th century. The site is well known for its beautiful design, which hosts more than 500 Buddha statues within it.
5. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, which means “old Mountain”, is an Inca fortress built in the 15th century in the Machupicchu District of Peru above the Sacred Valley. The fortress has three unique structures: the Temple of the Sun, the Intihuatana, and the Room of the Three Windows. During the winter solstice, the Intihuatana ritual stone points directly to the sun. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the architecture fits seamlessly with the mountains, and has close to 200 buildings built parallel to the terraces. Being some of the best masons of their time, the Incas mostly used dry stones that weighed over 50 tons.
4. Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is one of the world's most famous examples of funerary art. The construction of the temple was commissioned in 1632, and it was completed in 1643. The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, in northern India, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
3. Moraine Lake
Canada's Moraine Lake is found in the world-famous Banff National Park in the country's western province of Alberta. Although arguably less famous than its nearby neighbor Lake Louise, Moraine Lake offers visitors the same beautiful blue hue water. The mountains behind the lake are known as the Valley of the Ten Peaks. It is possible to canoe or kayak on the lake, but due to extremely cold temperatures year-round swimming is not recommended.
2. The Twelve Apostles
Though technically now more aptly called the "Eight Apostles" - the most recent apostle collapsed in 2005 - Victoria, Australia's Twelve Apostles landmark is still impressive indeed. Formed from erosion at the hands of the Southern Ocean, the Twelve Apostles are found off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park. They can be seen as a part of the famous Great Ocean Road journey.
Could we make it through this list without mention of an Icelandic attraction? Although there are many sights in the Land of Fire and Ice that are worth noting, there is something especially beautiful about the Svartifoss waterfall. Found in the island's southern region, Svartifoss, or "Black Falls", is one of the most photographed places on the island. Its distinctive dark rocks, which are actually columns of dark lava, are reminiscent in the rocks found in other famous places such as the Giant's Causeway or Devil's Tower.