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7 Beautiful Places in the World

7 Beautiful Places in the World

La Gomera, Canary Islands

On a bus into downtown Seoul from ICN airport a couple years ago, I chatted with a French-Canadian guy who was interested in my travel experiences. He asked me a question that has always stumped me:

“What is your favorite country?”

I never know how to answer that one, because I honestly have no idea. When I started traveling years ago out of a search for something indefinable, I think I expected that somewhere along the way I would find the perfect place. As long as I had that expectation in mind, I was continually disappointed throughout the journey – or if not disappointed, I was certainly unfulfilled.

Since then, I’ve heard the “favorite country” question countless times. Now that this site has a fairly broad readership, I do interviews for other blogs at least once a week. Whenever the interview is with a travel-related site, I can always count on that question coming up.

My favorite country… my favorite place… hmmm.

Somewhere along the way, I decided that I simply don’t have one favorite place in the world. There are still a lot of countries left on the list, and of course many places in the countries I’ve already visited that I haven’t been to, but as of now, I’m no longer expecting one clear favorite to emerge.

Instead, I’ve developed a larger perspective, where I have not one but several favorite places in the world. Maybe it’s a cop-out, but I think it’s also a reflection that many of us enjoy different things about different places. No single destination is the best.

Here are some of the most beautiful places I’ve been to since I got serious about travel.

***

ohrid, macedonia
Image by Ewa

Ohrid, Macedonia – In the summer of 2007, I toured the Balkans by flying into Sarajevo (Bosnia) and out of Belgrade (Serbia). In between I took the long way around, traveling around through Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. In Macedonia I stopped for three days in the small town called Ohrid. I loved it.

***


Image by Slack12

Cape Town, South Africa – On this I am fairly conventional: Cape Town is my favorite city in Africa. I have good memories of spending three weeks there in 2006. I usually return to Jo’burg at least once a year for transit, but I haven’t been back to Cape Town yet. I miss it.

***

eugene-oregon-pacific-northwest
Image by d70focus

Pacific Northwest (U.S. and Canada) – Hey, I live here now – but I can still count it, right? I love Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. I haven’t spent hardly any time at all in the interior part of the region, so I can’t comment on that yet. But here on the coast, life is good. I like the culture, the coffee, and the nature.

***


Image by Leo-Seta

La Gomera, Canary Islands – I’ve been to Tenerife at least six or seven times (I lost count) in between sailing from Europe to West Africa over the course of several years. It’s not a bad place to go, especially if you’ve been hanging out in Sierra Leone for six months before you visit. But one time Jolie, me, and a couple of friends took the ferry off to La Gomera, a much smaller and less inhabited island an hour away. We rented a car and drove on every road of the island, climbed to the top of the mountain, and watched the ocean.

***

torshavn
Image by FDVG

Faroe Islands – North of Scotland and technically governed by Denmark, I spent five days in Tórshavn, the capital. I flew in from London via Iceland and almost didn’t make the connecting flight due to it departing from a different airport. (I had no idea until I was on the plane.) Once I finally made it, the Faroes were as breathtaking as reported.

***


Image by RahelSharon

The Old City in Jerusalem – I wasn’t sure what to expect before I went, but this is one place that lives up to the hype. Wow. I enjoyed visiting the Western Wall and walking through the streets at all hours. It’s definitely worth a trip, especially if you are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.

***

damascus
Image by NM

Damascus, Syria – Even better than Jerusalem, but naturally more difficult to get to. As a U.S. citizen, I had a hard time getting a visa to Syria, but when I finally made it to Beirut, Lebanon, getting over the border by land was easy. My stop in Damascus was fairly short, and I wished it had been longer.

***

Update: Before I published this post, I asked on Twitter for other recommendations. Here’s what I heard in the initial replies:

Itpodcast: Cathedral cove, NZ. recently featured in Narnia: Prince Caspian

zoewesthof: Merzouga, Morocco and anywhere in Galicia (Spain)!

obsalah : Petra in Jordan, one of the 7 wonders of the world (the new ones) not much known kind of hidden away

eighteyes : Canyon Dechey, Sighisoara -> Romania, Mono Lake, Lost Coast

theo_chiari: Québec City

ElasticMind : White Desert, outside Bahariya Oasis, Egpyt

Earl52 : Hatteras Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina. Absolutely remarkable.

melissamcd: 2 of My Favorite Places: Camp Leaky (Tanjung National Park, Borneo); Bonaire National Marine Park

amoir : I adore ShinSekai in Osaka. ShinSekai is Japan at its most accessible, alive, vibrant, humble and real.

rose_w:The drive from Fairbanks, AK to the Artic Circle, desolate, breath taking and cool to say you’ve been there

krippl : Puerto Pinaso, Mexico. Better known as Rocky Point.

TheGirlPie: We LOVED our month at Ein Bokek at the Dead Sea in Israel in 10/01. No one else would though… it was beyond dead.

***

I’ll add to my list as I keep traveling. Early in 2009 I’ll be heading to a big part of Africa that I’ve never visited before – the region that includes Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. In the spring I’ll resume my OneWorld Round-the-World trip with visits to Haiti and South America. After that, I’m not sure what comes next.. but my journey will still be far from over.

But wait, what about you?

A couple weeks back I told you about 9 Overrated Tourist Destinations and asked for your feedback, which resulted in a great conversation. Is the Grand Canyon more than just a Not-Bad Canyon? Is Dublin worth visiting? I don’t think we ever came to a consensus, which isn’t too surprising considering how passionate people can be about travel.

Well, here’s your chance again – what would you add to the above list of beautiful places? Is there anything you’d take off? Let me know.

###

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Header Image of La Gomera by Leo-Seta

35 Comments

  • Christy says:

    Ushuia, Argentina. Southernmost city in the world. It’s on Tierra del Fuego. From the city, it’s a short trip to penguin nesting grounds. The continuously-whistling wind is simultaneously overwhelming and comforting. The Andes ARE that big. And there are massive glaciers all over the place.

    A lovely place … and only a hop away from Antartica. Another place I’d put on this list. The sort of desolate that takes your breath away, and for which words are insufficient.

  • Anne says:

    Yosemite National Park is just stunning. One of my favorite places in the world.

  • Ted says:

    Blacksburg, Virginia: Virginia Tech, the home of the Hokies is absolutely stunning all year but especially in the Fall football season. Tragedy be damned, for us Figthing Gobblers, there’s no where else we’d like to be more.

    New York, NYC: The city is absolutely electric, of course. And so much has been written that there is no need to duplicate it here. (The trading floor gives me a rush everytime.) But head out to the Atlantic shore beaches on Long Island. Many of the federal, state, and township beaches are unspoiled, uncommercialized, and fantastic. You’d never guess the City was 30 mins away.

    Madrid, Spain: Tapas. Especially pig-based variety. Museo de Jamon is a carnivore’s delight. Churros are a phenomenal pleasure as well.

    Jerusalem, Israel: Climb above the markets to enjoy some quiet time in the cradle of religious history.

    Capri, Italy: Take the ferry from Naples. See the grottos. Enjoy the smell of lemons and phenomenally gorgeous scenery.

  • Tara Joyce says:

    I mentioned the White Desert in Egypt last night on Twitter (I’m @ElasticMind) but I wanted to mention so many more places. I have had the pleasure of visiting a fair amount of the world and each place I have traveled to has made a lasting impact on me. To say that one is better than the other, it is nearly impossible. Saying that, I do have a few locales that have given me stronger “memory burn” than others.

    Thorong-La, Annapurna Himal, Nepal
    Julian Alps, Slovenia
    Plitvice Waterfalls, Croatia
    West Coast of Vancouver Island, Canada
    Arambol, Goa, India
    Namtso Lake, Tibet

    Tara

  • I have not traveled very much but I would recommend Salamanca, Spain. The university is the oldest in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. The population is under 200,000 so it is quiet yet still lively. I also thought the people there were very friendly.

  • Lori says:

    I did some traveling around Ireland this summer and fell in love with Howth. It is so close to Dublin, yet nothing like it which is a good thing in my book. The Cliff Walk in Howth is so beautiful.

    When it comes to tropics I am always overwhelmed with the beauty of the beaches and Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Even my travels in Brazil haven’t topped it.

  • Linnea says:

    If you like travelling by car, I recommend the Shoreline Highway in Northern California. It’s Highway 1, from San Francisco to approximately Fort Bragg. Surf on one side, redwood trees on the other. Beautiful.

  • Hi Chris,

    That’s bound to be a hot Q – most beautiful places. On the whole planet? I’m sure everyone has one, or many. I am trying to narrow it down to one and that isn’t easy.

    I agree with your choice on Capetown. I really like South Africa, places and people.

    But above that I put the drive into Prince Rupert, Canada from Prince George through the Frazier River Valley over the Mountains to the coast as top best recommended trip. That is, you go through Canada to get on the ferry at Prince Rupert. Which leads to the rest of the most incredible trip, the Marine Highway up through the Inside Passage to Juneau or beyond to Haines. Breathtaking. I’ve done this highly recommended trip a number of times both directions. I think I covered that in my OnceAnAlaskan.blogspot.com posts.

    Another one is in England where it feels like I’m home again, except I’m a born-and-raised American. There is a dozen places there, like East Grinstead, but Camelot Castle in Tintagel, Cornwall tops it, particularly for a writer or artist.

    It’s really a beautiful planet though, so I could name a lot more.

    Robt.
    WhoWouldWrite.blogspot.com

  • Tzaddi says:

    I’ll second your vote for the Pacific Northwest, and add to it. I live on the Sunshine Coast which is a short ferry ride from Vancouver. I’m so thankful for where I live and think it’s truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.

    Wonderful list, fuel for the holiday I’m hoping to plan soon. Thanks :-)

  • Alan says:

    Istanbul! Not Constantinople of course. A unique balance of tradition and modernity, with all kinds of exploring to do. The Bosphorus, mosques, alleys, vendors – the city is animated, bustling, full of surprises. Ideal for the world traveler, and easy to get to by plane. Don’t forget to take a bath, Turkish style.

  • Heather says:

    To me the most beautiful place in the world in Fern Canyon, in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California.

    The Ihlara Valley in Kapodokya, Turkey, is amazing.

    I am also a sucker for the UK countryside, especially Ireland.

    I don’t know if I would say the old city of Jerusalem was *beautiful*, but it is amazing – like an Escher picture.

    There are so many beautiful places! It sounds a bit Pollyanna, but isn’t that really the point?

  • Jonathan says:

    Some of the most beautiful places that I’ve been to in the world are, in no particular order:

    - the Thousands Islands Parkway along the shore of the St. Lawrence River between Brockville, Ontario, Canada, and Gananoque, Ontario, Canada.
    - the Seawall Promenade through the Stanley Park and by the English Bay Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
    - looking down from the Seven Sisters trail, the mouth of the Cuckmere River near Alfriston, East Sussex, England.
    - the Burren southwest of Galway, Ireland.
    - the Cabot Trail on the Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    - the islands on Lake Champlain between New York and Vermont, USA.
    - the sand dunes at the Sandbanks Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada.

  • Manizales, COLOMBIA. Or any place in Zona Cafetera of Colombia (Pereira, Armenia, or any of the small towns – Santa Rosa de Cala, etc.).

    Runner-up: Mt. Hagen, PAPUA NEW GUINEA.

  • Capetonian says:

    Cape Town – good choice – it of course being fortuitous that that is where I live :)

  • Peter Devon says:

    Ladakh, India is the most stunning place I have even been to in my last eight years of travel around the world.

  • Susan Parker says:

    Two of my favorite places are found in Italy and Switzerland: Traveling the approx. 40 miles of ancient footpaths between the five fishing villages of Cinque Terre is absolutely stunning and sledding down the 7.2 kilometer natural sledge run at Les diablerets is like something out of a post card but a whole lot more fun.

  • Jenn says:

    Wadi Rum…the desert area between Petra and the port of Aqaba, Jordan….a new brilliant every hour, especially if you spend the night in a Bedouin camp, which is really the only way to explore Wadi Rum.

  • Flying into England over the white cliffs of Dover is amazing. Also, low level flying thru the Grand Canyon is incredible. Flying over the Mediterranean from Italy to Egypt and beyond is absolutely beautiful!

  • Audrey says:

    We get this question a lot, too. Even after all this time, we’re still tongue-tied for an answer…we better develop an elevator pitch before visiting family over the holidays!

    Here’s my top five list of favorite countries on our journey so far. This list is Asia focused as that’s the region where we spent the first eighteen months of our journey.

    Georgia: Unfortunately, Russian tanks seem to be the first image in people’s mind when they hear Georgia these days, but the country is beautiful and the people are possibly the friendliest, gregarious and hospitable I’ll ever see. The Svaneti region (High Caucasus Mountains) is really unique.

    Pamir Region (Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan): The jeep journey from Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Murghab (Tajikistan) provided some of the most beautiful and desolate high desert views (if you don’t believe me, look at this). Old Soviet cars and abandoned containers added to the feeling of desolation. The Wakhan Valley bordering Afghanistan is also worth exploring as you stay in the homes of Pamiri people along the way.

    Nepal: The Annapurna Circuit is a highly traveled path, but we hiked it in the off season (May), meaning we didn’t have to share it with too many people. People, landscape, feeling of accomplishment.

    Cambodia: Given Cambodia’s tragic recent history (Khmer Rouge), the spirit and positive attitude of its people is remarkable and humbling. While Angkor Wat steals all the attention, our favorite place was Battambang. Rent a motorbike driver for the day and explore the countryside and nearby villages.

    Burma: Burma has some interesting temples, hikes and sights, but it’s the kindness and spirit of the people that everyone remembers. Travel to Burma is still controversial, but we felt that local people benefited more from our dollars than the government.

  • Anca says:

    Just got back from Dublin last night. Nice place, but kinda boring. It’s got a lot of history and some interesting places/activities (bog mummies, musical pub crawl, Guinness, gaol), but nothing super thrilling.

  • I agree there is no best place. I also have plenty of favourites, which I’m adding to from time to time as I explore more corners of the world. When asked the question I answer “The best places are defined by my mind – how open I am to new or different experiences and how I am feeling now and when I visited. Each moment is unique, and so is each special place.”

    Some people get it, while others get frustrated with my response.

  • Kiro Velkovski says:

    OHRID rulez… Well, as a Macedonian myself, I go there at least 4 times a year to recharge my soul. Wonderful place, I’m just unhappy that my 4 year old daughter has motion sickness, so I cannot go to St. Naum monastery every time…
    Nevertheless, watch parts of Ohrid, the Lake and St. John Kaneo church can be seen in the best Macedonian movie of all times “Before the Rain” (Golden Lion of Venice winner, Academy Award nominee).

    So, my list is like this:
    1. Ohrid, Macedonia (avoid high season)
    2. Dubrovnik, Croatia (avoid high season too)
    3. Italy (everywhere, especially the south, Capri, Salerno, Sicilia)
    4. California (everywhere too)
    5. NYC

  • Rossi Stoyanova says:

    Seems like I should definitely go to Ohrid, it’s a shame I live so close and never been there.
    I’ll also add:
    The gorge of the river Cares in the Picos de Europa national park in Spain: 12km walk, absolutely breath-taking; it’s more than 1.5km deep; high season should be avoided.
    The Korshuna waterfalls near Lovech in Bulgaria: the nature is amazing especially in spring.
    Hallstatt, Austria: we went there by train which stops virtually in the middle of nowhere and the only way to the other coast and the village is by a small boat; the mountains surrounding the lake are so beautiful.

  • Amused to see “boring” Dublin and wonders of Howth here. The “Oar House” hidden seafood restaurant on Howth Harbour must be one of the best in the world, but onto my favourite places,
    Valley of The Gods UT, anywhere west of South Island New Zealand, Isle Of Mull in Scotland, Iona, the islands of Croatia especially Konati and Brijuni, Bearra Peninsula on Cork/Kerry border in Ireland, Carrowkeel Cairns Co. Sligo Ireland.

  • Jane Louise says:

    Havana, Cuba. When I think of it I remember it as a captivating assault on all the senses at once – the lively music, vintage cars with horns blaring, crumbling buildings, people shouting to one another in the streets, car and cigar fumes, strong coffee and of course the heat – all wrapped up in an upbeat air of people enjoying a simple life to the full.

    Being Australian I should probably plug here as well! My favourite city is the vibrantly creative Melbourne – friendly, a foodie haven and the place to be for artists of all types.

  • Paris says:

    The favorite place? actually this looks more like a collection of islands!

    Iceland, offseason
    Gotland (swedish island) during the medieval festival
    La Digue (Seychelles)
    Maupiti (French polynesia)
    The islands of the Oslo fjord, in summer
    L’île de la Cité, Paris, the most offseason as possible, avoid week ends(!)
    Naha, Okinawa, Japan
    Manhattan, NYC, USA ^^

  • Muzzman says:

    @The Global Traveller – completely agree! A favourite place has as much to do with the moment than the place. One person can have a great experience (warm, sunny, people are happy), another at the same place can have it all go horribly wrong (starts raining, hotel room leaks etc.) which certainly affects it being their ‘favourite’ place!

    For me…
    - the sun setting over the outback of Central Queensland while flying at 30,000 feet
    - giant clams while diving in Fiji
    - a woman with one leg give food to a homeless man on a bus in New York
    - a gondola ride with my wife in Venice
    - the northern lights over the barren wasteland of the arctic tundra in northern Canada
    - the glorious mountain ranges of the dolomites and swiss alps
    - the dense jungles of PNG
    - 12 months on Vancouver Island, where every road is the scenic route

    and lots more!

    All beautiful in their own right for me-but not necessarily for others as each person has their own experiences and moments that are special

  • Adam says:

    I live in Canada and I’ve visited every province. My three favourite provinces are Prince Edward Island (where I live!), Alberta -Banff and Jasper are breathtaking-, and British Columbia – for it’s natural beauty. Other countries I have been to are the United States of America (Boston, NYC, Florida), Germany, Italy, Vatican City, Greece, and Dominican Republic.

    Greece is an amazing place. It has a great mix of history, culture, and scenery.

    I am currently studying in university, but after I complete my degree – WATCH OUT WORLD!!!

  • Jo-C says:

    Cathedral Cove, NZ is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve visited.. Granted, I haven’t been to as many places as you do but it is gorgeous.. When I watched The Chronicles of Narnia and saw the beach I told myself I have to go there someday, without knowing the location of the beach..
    A year later, I was in NZ and some friends took me there.. Imagine my surprise when they told me that it was the exact same beach where they shot the Narnia movie! I was ecstatic! Gotta love that kind of surprises!

    Gili Trawangan island in Indonesia comes in a close second. I love beaches. I have a list of beautiful/secluded beaches that I plan/hope to visit.. someday..

    As for my all time favorite place, it’s gotta be Bali, Indonesia. There’s just something about that place..

    Anyhoo, love reading your stuff.. Just found it this afternoon and I’m hooked! Keep ‘em coming!

  • digressica says:

    My favourite places in the world are the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and London.

    Isle of Skye = breathtakingly, jaw-droppingly beautiful. Rolling green mountains, little waterfront cottages, wonderful local people.

    London = the greatest city in the world, IMHO. So much history, yet bustling and modern and full of life and endlessly entertaining. I could spend the rest of my life there and never be bored.

  • Darlene says:

    I’ve added a few places to my list after reading this – luckily I’m headed to Turkey in May 2011 and Spain right after so will check those two off. I’ll add to this list some that haven’t been mentioned:

    - Koh Samui, Thailand – getting more touristy now but we rented a scooter for $8 a day and gas was $3 a tank and lasted 2 days, we saw the entire island. We stayed on a quiet beach near Fisherman’s Village, skip the big tourist beach. We loved the island and the scenery is breathtakingly gorgeous. What’s better than lunch ON the beach with a cold beer you paid $1 for?!

    - wine country just south of Perth, Australia. Amazing to drive through the countryside and see kangaroos in the wild. Worth it just for that experience. Wine is great too!

    - Rotorua, Tauranga, Whakatane (pronounced FA-KA-TA-NEE), Waitomo (caves), and Auckland – all New Zealand. I didn’t see more than those in my 8 trips there for work – yes work. Want to back and see the rest including north country

  • Darlene says:

    Ran out of room . . . NZ is incredible and the people are some of the friendliest anywhere.

    - Machu Picchu, Peru and the sacred valley. The place is magical is all I can say – see if before you die.

    - ditto on Vancouver Island, want to retire there

    - Death Valley, CA – beautiful in its own unique way. Abandoned ghost towns.

    - Sedona, AZ and area – stunning

  • Sera says:

    Bodrum (Halikarnassos), Turkey.
    and
    Paradise beach on Paradise Island, Bahamas…

  • Leighton says:

    Seriously dude?! No mention of the best country in the world – Australia?
    How much travel have you done here? It is amazingly beautiful everywhere here. So much diversity both in environments and animals…. it is one of the unspoilt paradises on the planet. I’m only travelling to develop an even stronger appreciation for how good we have it here in Australia. Try going around the country and avoid the capital cities. Where I’m from in the north of the state of Queensland is a MUST visit!

  • Esther says:

    Lake Balaton in Hungary.

    Lago di Garda, Asolo and the Costa Amalfitana in Italy.

    The marshland near New Orleans.

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