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The Rainbow Mountains in the Peruvian Andes is a difficult to reach, but highly rewarding destination. These colorfully striped mountains are considered to be the holy deity of Cusco by the local Peruvians. The magnificent colors, which striate from lavender and turquoise to gold and red, were caused by weathering and unique mineralogy that is millions upon millions of years old.
Torres del Paine is in Chile’s Patagonia region. This majestic stretch of wilderness includes turquoise lakes, pristine ancient forests, vast valleys, golden grasslands, massive granite pillars, piercing blue glaciers, and an abundance of unique wildlife. Patagonia is one of the most beautiful and diverse places on the planet.
Salar de Uyuni is the most expansive salt flat in the world. This extreme environment is something straight out of a dream. Between December and April, water overflows from a nearby lake and leaves a thin layer of water on the flats creating a spectacular reflective mirror effect. There are several different approaches and starting points to explore these flats, but all will offer a truly other worldly experience.
Rio Celeste is part of the Tenorio Volcano National Park in Costa Rica. The alluring opaque neon blue water is actually an optical illusion. Hiking through the park to this beautiful river and waterfall is truly awe-inspiring, and aside from the magical water, the dense forest and wildlife alone make this trip worthwhile.
The Great Blue Hole is a World Heritage Site that is located next to the Lighthouse Reef. This magnificent 150,000 year old sinkhole is 300 meters wide (984 ft) and 124 meters deep (406 ft) at its deepest point. Jacques-Yves Cousteau really put this natural phenomenon on the map when he declared it as one of the top dive destinations on the planet.
Big Sur is the epitome of rugged beauty. Located on California’s central coast, this region is host to multiple state parks, world-class hiking, exquisite vistas, and remote beaches. The 145 kilometer (90 mile) stretch of coastline is lined with impressive redwood trees and is the perfect place to go camping and reconnect with nature.
The Sagano Bamboo Forest is one of the most gorgeous groves of trees and a place that inspires total zen. The sound of the bamboo trees swaying in the wind and gently colliding with one another is a music that you’ll never forget. This peaceful forest, which was planted in the 14th century, was named one of the top 100 soundscapes by the Ministry of Environment.
The Great Barrier Reef is made up of over 3,000 individual reef systems with 6,000 different species of coral present. It is so expansive that it can be clearly seen from space. This is a place that should be high on every bucket list because there is a good chance that it might not be around forever due to the devastating effects of global warming. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and it is quite easy to understand why.
The North Island of New Zealand is home to the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The glow worm, Arachnocampa luminous, is endemic to New Zealand. These small worms glow an iridescent blue and as a whole resemble a magical starry night on the ceiling of the Glowworm Grotto.
The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. When thinking of a picturesque tropical utopia, the Seychelles are probably what comes to mind. Divers and snorkelers, water sports enthusiasts, fishermen and fisherwomen, and beach and nature lovers will find these islands to be truly enchanting.
The Okavango Delta has been described as the “Last Eden.” The delta is home to an extraordinary number of animals and is one of the best places in Africa to experience wildlife up close and personal. There are 530 species of birds, 160 species of mammals, 155 species of reptiles, 500 species of fish, 35 species of amphibians, and 1,500 species of plants. Expect to see plenty of elephants, hippos, water buffaloes, wildebeest, lions, hyenas, antelopes, rhinos, zebras, and wild dogs.
Nazaré is home to one of the world’s biggest waves. In fact, in 2011 Garrett McNamara broke the world record for the largest wave ever surfed, which topped out at 31 meters (100 ft). This is the place to experience the raw and unforgiving power of the ocean. There is a lookout point to watch some of the most insane big wave surfers battle the sea.
There are multiple places in the Netherlands to witness the exquisite tulip fields, including Lisse, Noordoostpolder, the Keukenhof Gardens, and Noordwijkerhout. Late April to early May is the prime season for the great tulip bloom. There are many different colors of tulips for as far as the eyes can see throughout the Dutch countryside during this short spring.
The Mentawais are an island chain off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. These islands are home to a rich population of wildlife, including several endemic species of primates. There are also pristine beaches and coral reefs, and some of the more consistent surf in Indonesia. There are three main islands and plenty of activities to do including fishing, hiking through the tropical rainforest, sunbathing on remote beaches, and snorkeling.
There are thousands of ancient temples that dot the landscape in Bagan. The Bagan Archeological Zone has been named the richest archeological site in all of Asia. At one point, there were over 10,000 temples here, but between invasions and earthquakes, most of them were destroyed. A ticket to this zone is good for five days and once there travelers can explore this cultural marvel at their leisure. It is also possible to walk inside many of these temples.