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The World's Prettiest Places

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The World's Prettiest Places


The Lau Archipelago, Fiji
The Lau Archipelago, FijiThe Lau Archipelago, Fiji

"Most people define beauty by sunsets. In this incredible group of islands, it's the sunrises as well," notes Greenberg of this remote collection of 50-plus atolls and islands located 200 miles from the mainland of Fiji. The region sees few tourists, but those who make it are rewarded with a mind-blowing array of marine life and a gentle, carefree vibe. "No phones, no Blackberries, no TVs—just the intoxicating sounds of a cappella harmonies sung by the islanders each morning and each evening," Greenberg adds. "Great storytelling, and a never-ending feeling of community and love that lives with you forever."

The Lau Archipelago, FijiThe Lau Archipelago, Fiji



Fjordlands National Park, South Island, New Zealand

Fjordlands National Park, South Island, New ZealandFjordlands National Park, South Island, New Zealand

Says Patricia Schultz: “Think fjords, and one usually thinks Norway, or even Chile. But visit Milford Sound—one of the 15 fjords that make up New Zealand’s largest national park—and you’ll see why Rudyard Kipling claimed it as the Eighth Wonder of the World." Both North and South Islands stood in for Middle Earth during the filming of Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring series. Watch the movie and you'll find an impressive array of landscape ranging from snow-capped mountain ranges to vast marshes. The South Island is the less inhabited of the country’s two islands, meaning lots more open areas of astonishing beauty to yourself.

Fjordlands National Park, South Island, New ZealandFjordlands National Park, South Island, New Zealand


Petra, Jordan

Petra, JordanPetra, Jordan

“With the rise of Palmyra in Syria and sea-trading routes, the death knell was sounded for Petra, ancient capital of the Nabateans,” say the Geographic Expeditions experts. “By the Arab invasion of the 7th century AD, Petra was a forgotten city and remained so until it was rediscovered in 1812 by the young Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt.” Today the elegant site, which dates back to 1200 B.C., is known as the “Pink City” because of the rose-hued sandstone used to create the phenomenal palaces and tombs. It’s perhaps most stunning at dusk, when the ancient city is aglow with thousands of candles.

Petra, JordanPetra, Jordan



Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, BrazilRio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Rio is possibly the most beautifully sited city on the globe,” Schultz says. “Head up to the statue of Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado for a take-your-breath-away view of la Cidade Maravilhosa (the Marvelous City). It is a unique city in many ways—where nature collides with a thrumming metropolis, the elegant with the seedy, and the rich with the poor.” The spot's proximity to the water makes for arresting views.

Rio de Janeiro, BrazilRio de Janeiro, Brazil


Midway Island
Midway IslandMidway Island


Located about halfway between the United States and Asia, this stunning atoll is a U.S. territory known for the Battle of Midway, which played a major role in World War II; today it’s home to massive albatross population, and is a designated National Wildlife Refuge. “History lives here,” says Greenberg. “The site of the most decisive naval battle in world history, Midway is where I go to think, to write without interruption. If you’re looking for footprints in the sand, just look behind you, because the only ones are the ones you made.”

Midway IslandMidway Island


Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, BotswanaOkavango Delta, Botswana


“A tributary of the mighty Zambezi, the Okavango River creates a unique ‘water in the desert’ ecosystem - considered the world’s largest inland oasis and a magnet for wildlife,” notes Schultz. “Explore it by dug-out canoe (makoros), jeep, by foot or on elephant-back—a safari here promises birdlife second to none." Add to that: legions of elephants, zebras, buffaloes, giraffes and hippos.

Okavango Delta, BotswanaOkavango Delta, Botswana


Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux, FranceBordeaux, France


“Truly a beautiful location, and a wine connoisseur’s delight,” says Friedman of this historic and fertile region. It’s studded with more than 7,000 wineries and bursts with sweeping vineyards, mighty rivers, gorgeous beaches and picturesque villages and the stunning city itself, which has earned Bordeaux a place in the collection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Bordeaux, FranceBordeaux, France


Mount Everest, Nepal

Mount Everest, NepalMount Everest, Nepal


“Mount Everest is perhaps nature’s most magnificent creation – certainly it is the raison d’etre in the climbing world,” offer the travel planners at Geographic Expeditions. Part of the Mahalangur Himal—a link in the Himalayan chain—Everest, soaring to 26,035 feet, is the highest mountain on Earth. “The Tibetan word for Everest is Chomolungma, which means ‘Mother of the Universe,’ and the Nepalese, Sagarmatha means ‘Goddess of the Sky.’ Both are perfectly fitting, as there is no other mountain as grand as Everest.” Friedman of Unique Travel also has a soft spot for Everest—along with Himal Chuli, Manaslu, Pabil and the many other peaks dominating the spectacular views from Kathmandu. “Looking out at some of the tallest mountains in the world,” he says, “you ponder the reality of how small we truly are.”

Mount Everest, NepalMount Everest, Nepal


Fire Island, New York

Fire Island, New YorkFire Island, New York


“This might seem a surprising choice, but imagine a 32-mile long barrier island—and National Seashore—just 50 miles east of Manhattan. No cars, just bicycles and wagons and bare feet. Fire Island is the Hamptons without the attitude,” says Greenberg, who has lived there, at least part-time, since infanthood. Accessible via ferry, the island is home to 17 different resort communities, a massive white-tailed deer population, plus extraordinary stretches of sand dune–edged beaches. “It is a place I return to every year in April, May, June, and again in September (the most magical month), where I can relive my youth, my freedom and my innocence.”

Fire Island, New YorkFire Island, New York


Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, ChilTorres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chil

“Looking across the lake from the Explora Lodge you see one of the most magnificent mountainscapes in the world,” says Friedman, citing his favorite spot from which to take in this, one of the newest and grandest parks in South America, and a UNESCO World Heritage Reserve. The 598,000-acre park, tucked at the far south end of the Andes, offers stunning mix of landscapes and fauna, making it a gem. Say the folks at Geographic Expeditions (who had it on their shortlist, too): “Paine’s unique physical attributes of glaciers, lakes, gnarled Magellanic trees, and dramatic mountains offer some of the most awe-inspiring hiking in the world.”

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, ChilTorres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chil



Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany, ItalyTuscany, Italy

“From Piemonte to Sicilia, each of Italy’s regions has its own magic, but hill-town-studded Tuscany (Toscana)—like the timeless location you’ve seen in Merchant-Ivory films—takes the prize,” Schultz deems. “The showcase city of Florence is its zenith, but look just beyond the city walls to a painting-perfect campagna of rolling hills blanketed with Chianti vineyards and olive groves, ancient Etruscan sites and history-rich towns like Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano." Along its less-visited coast, the added surprise of sandy beaches and a sprinkling of islands is a welcome sight (Napoleon spent years of exile on Elba), Schultz adds.

Tuscany, ItalyTuscany, Italy


Plain of Temples, Bagan, Myanmar

Plain of Temples, Bagan, MyanmarPlain of Temples, Bagan, Myanmar


“One of the great sights of Asia, Bagan’s Plain of Temples displays pagoda after pagoda, large and small, rising up from the green delta plain,” notes Geographic Expeditions, which chose this sacred spot. The kings of ancient Bagan built more than 4,400 Buddhist temples here in only 230 years. Today, around half of the red brick works of artistry are still standing; many of them, such as Anando Pahto, are on every visitor’s hit list, though the more obscure ones offer thrills, too, from hidden frescoes to spectacular views of the landscape.

Plain of Temples, Bagan, MyanmarPlain of Temples, Bagan, Myanmar


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