21 Mind-Blowing Escapes

The Best Nature Has to Offer


simon Brown

For those of you who sometimes feel overwhelmed about where to go on your next vacation, this list is key. From Arizona to Zambia, all the places on this list offer eye-opening natural wonders and once-in-a-lifetime experiences sure to blow your mind.

21. Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Kicking off the countdown is Iceland's Blue Lagoon, home to the world's largest geothermal pool. The pool's saltwater gets completely renewed every 40 hours and never drops bellow 100 degrees. Visitors to the pool swear by its positive effects on the skin and the soul. Guests are also welcome to indulge in the spa's many massages and treatments offered indoors and in the lagoon's healing water.

20. Four Seasons Tented Camp, Thailand
The Golden Triangle is where Thailand, Burma and Laos meet and where the Four Seasons Tented Camp offers the ultimate jungle luxury. Fifteen elevated, freestanding accommodations allow for privacy and spectacular views of the Ruak River, Burma, the Laotian mountains and lush jungle. The resort specializes in 3- or 4-night adventures, which include an elephant trek, hiking and a river excursion.

19. Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico
The small island of Isla de Vieques was primarily under the control of the United States Navy until 2003. Therefore it lacks crowds, tall buildings, traffic and commercialized oceanfront property. The beaches here are pristine, the green flora lush and it's located only 6 miles from San Juan. The island is home to Puerto Mosquito, which despite its name is one of the most romantic places in the world. The bright bioluminescent bay will have you feeling as if you're floating among the stars.

18. The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong
The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong offers an elite experience that makes all guests feel like royalty. The hotel opened in 1928 and is the city's only historic 5-star luxury hotel. Its spectacular vistas of the Victoria Harbour in combination with top-of-the-line amenities make this the only Hong Kong hotel for the discerning traveler.

17. Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
If cityscapes and neon lights remind you a little too much of your 9 to 5, then escape to one of the most beautiful regions of Switzerland. The Bernese Oberland captures nature at its finest: snow-capped mountain peaks, fresh air and lush rolling greens. The quaint town of Interlaken lies between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and is only a short train ride to the beautiful ski town, Grindelwald. This magical Swiss region truly offers the best of summer and winter and is a must for outdoor enthusiasts.

16. Secret Beach, Kauai
Nestled at the base of a sheer cliff just north of Kilaua, the Secret Beach truly is one of the island's best-kept secrets. Sunbathers will have to hike down a rocky, near-vertical trail to find the magnificent stretch of sand and sea. Your effort will immediately be rewarded as cares and worries melt away in this secret Hawaiian paradise.

15. Sequoia National Park, California
Number 15 on the countdown takes us back to the continental United States and straight to a national treasure. Sequoia National Park in California is home to some of the oldest trees on the planet. Three-thousand-year-old giant Sequoias cover the park's 400,000 acres. Activities within the park vary according to season, but its majestic and awe-inspiring beauty is a constant.

14. Milford Sound, New Zealand
In New Zealand's Fiordland region, visitors are awe-struck by the scenery of Milford Sound. Tumbling waterfalls, ancient rain forests, sparkling lakes and granite peaks capture the heart and the imagination. Travelers can experience the region via kayak, on foot and by air.

13. Cinque Terre, Italy
Just south of Genoa lies Cinque Terre, a national park and protected UNESCO territory. Over time, farmers in the Cinque Terre region transformed the area's steep natural slopes into fertile terraces for the cultivation of wine. The dry stone walls guide you through a varied network of paths with beautiful views of the Mediterranean. Those who like to hike should find the Cliffside trail, which passes through 5 coastal villages.

12. Wakaya Club and Spa, Fiji
The Wakaya Club is located on Wakaya Island in Fiji, a private 2,200-acre retreat belonging to Fiji's 333 islands. Wakaya Island features serene lagoons, majestic cliffs, beautiful beaches and is encircled by a coral reef. The resort includes 10 freestanding waterfront cottage suites where guests experience unparalleled pampering. From gourmet cuisine to luxurious spa treatments, the resort provides everything you could possibly desire in one of the world's most idyllic settings.

11. Ski Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is the fastest-growing city in the world and quickly becoming a place where anything is possible; proof of this is the creation of a man-made indoor ski slope. Ski Dubai has 5 runs varying in difficulty, a free-style zone and a family-friendly Snow Park. Don't worry about packing your skis or parkas -- both are available for rent at the one-of-a-kind desert ski mountain.

10. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Two of the world's most active volcanoes sit inside Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park. There are many ways to experience the power of these natural wonders -- scenic drives, hikes and ranger-led tours being the most popular.

9. Marrakech, Morocco
In Morocco's historical Marrakech is the notorious Jamaa El Fna marketplace. Here, storytellers, shopkeepers and snake charmers vie for your attention while you enjoy traditional foods like escargot and couscous. You truly will feel as though you've entered another world, tantalizing to the senses.

8. Monument Valley, Utah
The continental United States are back on the countdown at number 8. Monument Valley in Utah has been the setting for more Western movies than any other site in the US. Its iconic sandstone formations and the Four Corners Monument are unforgettable and absolutely breathtaking in person.

7. Venice, Italy
The city of Venice conjures images of stunning architecture, artistic masterpieces and incomparable wine and cuisine. Get lost in the St. Mark's Basilica and St. Mark's Square; experience the sites and sounds of the Venice Carnival; and walk across the Rialto Bridge.

6. Singita Lebombo, South Africa
At the Singita Lebombo Lodge, travelers experience the perfect combination of luxury accommodation and safari adventure. The resorts 15 suites all include indoor and outdoor showers and private terraces where you can sleep under the stars. During the day, explore the African wilds accompanied by an experienced guide and tracker.

5. Jellyfish Lake, Palau
Palau truly is one of the world's most beautiful tropical paradises. Located 500 miles from the Philippines, the island is famous for Jellyfish Lake. Here, a special species of jellyfish has been trapped in the lake and, over time, they've lost their ability to sting. A unique and unforgettable swimming and diving adventure, it earned the number 5 spot on our countdown.

4. Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece, is located in the Cyclades of the Aegean Sea and has one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The villages are built on cliffs and overlook a submerged volcano. Those who visit Santorini flock to Oia, a town offering stunning views of the sunset.

3. Grand Canyon, Arizona
Carved by the mighty Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is an unbelievable chasm that cuts 5,000 feet into the earth's crust. The canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over one mile deep. Its vista is mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.

2. Zambezi River Rafting, Zambia
From a mighty river in America to another in Zambia, only the truly brave of heart risk whitewater-rafting on the Zambezi River. The river is classified as a high-volume, pool-drop river and floods between February and the end of June. At times, the volume is 4 times that of the Colorado River, so make sure you're prepared before running the Zambezi.

1. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Another UNESCO-protected location, it contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, including the Temple of Angkor Wat and the Bayon Temple. Marvel at this jaw-dropping and eye-opening historical preservation.

Next Up

Europe's Earth Wonders

Visit Iceland and Norway to experience Europe's natural wonders with glaciers, volcanoes and fjords galore.