This otherworldly landscape is full of scenic panoramas and geological extremes. There are colorful rhyolite peaks, volcanic craters and steaming hot springs. Neighboring black lava fields make the peaks stand out even more, especially at sunrise and sunset. During summer, hiking is popular, as are dips in the hot pools. While a trip to Iceland may sound pricey, there are ways to visit this Nordic country without spending a fortune.
golden gate bridge
Have you really been to San Francisco if you haven't stood in awe of the Golden Gate Bridge? You can cross the famed orange suspension bridge on foot or bike during daylight hours. For that incomparable sunset shot with San Francisco in the background, head to Battery Spencer in the Marin Headlands just north of the bridge. Taking in the famed landmark is just one of many fun cheap or free activities to enjoy in the City by the Bay.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Visit the observation deck at the world's tallest skyscraper for outstanding views of the manmade splendor of Dubai, as well as the desert beyond. But don't miss the view at the bottom, too — the whole building often becomes a canvas for a spectacular LED light show, and the Dubai Fountain show below runs every half-hour at night. Closer to home are numerous other skyscrapers that also belong on your bucket list.
A cruise along this well-known South Island fjord yields loads of truly spectacular scenery: There are craggy mountains shooting straight up from the water, including famous Mitre Peak; stunning waterfalls; and wildlife galore, including fur seals, dolphins, and penguins. Hiking and kayaking are also popular here, but bring your poncho: The area gets plenty of rain.
san pedro de atacama
Salar de Atacama, the biggest salt flat in Chile, lies just beyond this adobe village. Here you'll find huge pools of shallow water that reflect the Andes Mountains as well as stunning birds, including several kinds of flamingos. At night, the Atacama's clear skies and high altitude also make the desert an ideal star-gazing location.
The panorama of north-central India's Taj Mahal and its long reflecting pool is one of the most iconic in the world. Get up early to be among the first to enter the grounds of this massive marble mausoleum and take comparatively uncrowded photos, or venture across the Yamuna River to the Mehtab Bagh Gardens and snap some sunset pictures in relative peace.
peggy's point lighthouse
Nova Scotia, Canada
No list of gorgeous views is complete without a lighthouse standing proud on a rugged, rocky shoreline. Built in 1915, the Peggy's Point Lighthouse in Nova Scotia fits the bill and is among the most photographed lighthouses in Canada. Scramble over the rocks to savor the scenic coast and explore the equally photogenic fishing village of Peggy's Cove while you're there.
It's hard to find a corner of the Cinque Terre that isn't irresistibly picturesque. Made up of five seaside villages on the Italian Riviera, you'll find pastel buildings threatening to spill into the sea, bustling harbors, steep stairs and narrow lanes. If you're looking for postcard-worthy pictures, don't miss the gorgeous harbor at Vernazza.
Gazing upon the ancient Buddhist temples of Bagan, many built between the ninth and 13th centuries, will transport you to another time. There are more than 2,000, many of which are open for exploration. There are several hills and platforms that allow views of the whole area, or travelers with deep pockets can splurge on a hot-air balloon.
the twelve apostles
Views of this stretch of the southeastern Australian coast can put most others to shame. The "apostles" are actually limestone pillars that rise imposingly out of the ocean, cut off from the cliffs on the mainland by the forces of wind and water. Experienced hikers can save the Twelve Apostles as the finale for the eight-day Great Ocean Walk along the coast.
Cape Town, South Africa
Located between Table Mountain and Signal Hill, Lion's Head is well known for its striking 360-degree panorama: Gaze down upon all of Cape Town on one side, and Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. During a full moon, take an hour-long hike to the top for a striking and unique perspective.
This breathtaking Incan empire was built atop the Andes Mountains. Called the "Lost of City of Incas," the combination of intense landscape, archeological sites, and excellent trekking conditions has earned Machu Picchu the reputation as one of most beautiful places in the world. Get there on the famous Inca Trail, or take a train and a bus without breaking a sweat.
Once you've tired of the stunningly grand vistas at the Grand Canyon, get a far different take on the desert. To the north is Antelope Canyon, the most visited slot canyon in the American Southwest. The surreal landscape was formed by flash floods rushing through sandstone. Seeing the rays of light shooting through Upper Antelope Canyon is worth the drive alone.
If any town on Earth reaches fairytale levels of perfection, it's the small village of Hallstatt. Wedged in between the mountains and an alpine lake, Hallstatt has it all: the cobblestone center square, timber-framed baroque buildings with generous flower boxes, and a beautiful church with a tall steeple. Take a boat tour for the best views.
The stunning white travertine terraces of Pamukkale — that's "Cotton Castle" in Turkish — are deposits left over from the area's abundant hot springs. Though sunset is especially picturesque, anyone who wants to splash in the pools should go in the morning to beat the crowds. If the terraces aren't enough for you, there are also remains of an ancient Greco-Roman spa city to explore.
Layers of mineral deposits have formed the spectacular spectrum of colors in these mountains, found in the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in north-central Gansu province. Several viewing platforms inside the park allow awesome views of the colorful, undulating peaks, which are particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset.
No single photo can do Victoria Falls justice. The Zambezi River tumbles more than 350 feet here, and rainy season can send more that 500 million cubic meters of water over the edge each minute. There are several awe-inspiring vantage points: One of the best is from a stomach-churningly high pedestrian span named Knife Edge Bridge. The water is most forceful from April to June, but that also means there's an intense spray from the falls.
Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, has long been a source of stunning but mysterious views for travelers who make it out to this isolated Pacific island, more than 2,000 miles from the Chilean coast. Breathtaking panoramas of the famous half-buried moai statues await on the slopes of Rano Raraku volcano and the Ahu Tongariki ceremonial platform.
Striking Deadvlei presents a desert landscape unlike any other: spindly tree limbs from dead camel thorn trees shooting up through a white clay pan floor, silhouetted against towering golden-red dunes. One of those dunes, known as "Big Daddy," towers over most others at more than 1,000 feet tall. The truly ambitious can climb it for a panoramic view of Deadvlei.
You'll have your pick of stunning views in Big Sur, along California's rugged northern coast. Most Pacific Coast Highway travelers pull over at the iconic Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed spots in central California. Or head to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and take a short hike to McWay Falls for a spectacular view of a massive waterfall meeting the beach.
Arrive early to the village of Oia, famous for its white hillside buildings and blue-domed churches, to watch the sun set into the azure Aegean Sea. Most evenings, crowds gather in the streets and around the crumbling castle on the town's highest point to watch the fiery orange-red burst meet the blue sea.
This monastery, also known as Taktsang, clings to the cliffs thousands of feet above the Paro Valley in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Though it can be viewed from afar, the more adventurous can follow a steep trail and visit the temples themselves, where views of the valley below are spectacular, too.
No, it's not a mirage: In the summer, dazzling freshwater pools form between the sugary white sand dunes of this obscure national park in northeastern Brazil, creating a landscape like no other. Visitors can climb the dunes and swim in the pools at will, and those who really want to splurge can take a scenic flight over the area.
avenue of the baobabs
This humble dirt road on Madagascar's western coast is downright otherworldly thanks to its collection of rare, 800-year-old baobab trees. Their massive trunks are more than 150 feet around, and root-like, spindly tops give them an unmistakable silhouette, especially against the rising or setting sun.
Northern Territory, Australia
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a massive sandstone formation that rises suddenly and imposingly from the barren Australian outback. Visitors can trek to the top if weather permits, but only for a short time longer, as a ban will take effect in October 2019. But paths around the base will remain, and visitors can even dine under the stars after watching the sun set on Uluru.
Experience the beauty of these surging falls in Jasper National Park from several different walkways and bridges. Considered the most powerful falls in all of Canada, Athabasca has a beautiful mountain backdrop and plummets into a gorge below. Bring a waterproof jacket no matter the weather — you'll probably get sprayed.
Ascend more than 14,000 feet on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway for views that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write "America the Beautiful" in 1893. You can bike, hike, or drive to the summit, but we prefer to sit back and enjoy the scenery. In autumn, the golden aspens are particularly striking.
Now famous for being Luke Skywalker's hideout in recent "Star Wars" movies, Skellig Michael is a place like no other. Eight miles off the coast of County Kerry, you'll climb ancient stone steps to dizzying heights to find a monastery built sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries. Sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish coast await at the top, too.
Close your eyes and imagine a line of camels trekking over the unending dunes of an Arabian desert: That's what you'll see in real life at Wahiba Sands in Oman. Though there are a sprinkling of tourist camps, the windswept dunes are how they should be: spectacular in their emptiness. If you're up for something more exciting, try dune-bashing in a four-wheel drive.
Stroll along the miles of wooden footbridges of Croatia's Plitvice Lakes National Park to gaze at the blue-green water of over a dozen lakes, countless cascading waterfalls, tall cliffs, and the lush green tree canopy. Boats and buses also allow weary walkers some time off their feet.
christ the redeemer
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This iconic Art Deco statute is nearly 100 feet tall, and its outstretched arms span more than 90 feet. While the statue itself is certainly worth a closer look, its dramatic perch on 2,310-foot Mount Corcovado provides stunning views of Rio de Janeiro and its beaches, famous Sugarloaf Mountain, and the Atlantic Ocean.
The extensive Roman ruins at Volubilis, silhouetted against mountains beyond, are among the most atmospheric you'll find anywhere. This partially excavated city includes intricate mosaics, a basilica, an aqueduct, and plenty of storks that like to roost on the ornate columns. Go at sunrise or sunset to wander the ruins at their most photogenic.
Preikestolen, or the Pulpit Rock, soars nearly 2,000 feet above Lysefjorden, a fjord in southwestern Norway. Enjoy the expansive view of this glacially carved landscape from the top of Preikestolen by making a four-hour round-trip hike, or simply enjoy gazing up at the rock and its stunning surroundings from a cruise on the fjord.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
The Smokies are nowhere near the tallest or most dramatic peaks in the world, but they are still among the most evocative, especially when shrouded in their trademark mist. The 360-degree observation platform atop 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome offers some of the best views in the region: Visitors can even see more than 100 miles on a clear day. Note that the road to the platform is closed from December through March.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague's historic center is so picturesque that it's hard to take a bad photo, but if you want extra insurance, head for Charles Bridge. Walk east on the bridge for an iconic view of Prague's many spires, Old Town Bridge Tower, and the span's captivating sculptures. Turn around for stunning views of Prague Castle.
This peaceful lake is lovely to behold in its own right, but it's best known as a prime viewing spot for Mount Fuji, one of Japan's most iconic sights. Cherry-blossom season in April and changing leaves in the fall can lead to particularly dramatic photos, but note that clouds often hide the mountain, especially during the middle of the day.
Parts of it blood-red from algae and other microorganisms, Laguna Colorada in southwestern Bolivia definitely stands out against its backdrop of the Andes' brown peaks. Adding even more interest to this exceptional view: blindingly white borax deposits and rare high-altitude puna flamingos.
anse source d'argent
Want some beach photos that will make everyone back home seethe with envy? Anse Source d'Argent, a beach on La Digue island in the Seychelles, has a dreamlike quality thanks to its powdery sand, turquoise water, and massive boulders. Protected by a coral reef, the water is shallow, clear, and perfect for snorkeling and frolicking.
The dizzying clusters of sandstone spires in Bryce Canyon, known as hoodoos, set this spot apart from so many other dazzling southwestern landscapes. You'll find the best views of the hoodoos and other significant formations like Boat Mesa at Sunrise Point, a trailhead for easy or moderate journeys down into the rocks.
arc de triomphe
Sure, you can climb the Eiffel Tower for a great view of Paris, but climbing the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe allows an even better city vista, including of the tower itself. The leafy Champs-Élysées is another Paris highlight. Go when the sun is starting to set to see the City of Lights sparkle.
The sight of around 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns jutting up from the shore of Northern Ireland's County Antrim is at once puzzling and dazzling, especially in the waning afternoon light. Visitors are free to hopscotch among the stones or head up for broader view along the clifftop Giant's Causeway Coastal Path.
Tucked in Erawan National Park in western Thailand's Kanchanaburi Province, Erawan Falls is a feast for the eyes. Water tumbles over slick rocks into blue-green pools under a jungle canopy while monkeys swing from the trees. The falls are made up of seven tiers, so adventurous visitors can hike up as far as they like: The higher you go, the more unspoiled your photo and views.
mrs. macquarie's point
Don't miss this little peninsula, part of the city's lovely Royal Botanic Gardens, where visitors can amble around and take in some of the best views of Sydney's iconic skyline and harbor, including the famous Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Points of interest include Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, carved out of stone by convicts in 1810.
perito moreno glacier
This 19-mile-long blue-white sheet of ice rises more than 200 feet from the water in southern Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park. Several viewing platforms and walking paths allow plenty of spots for photographs. Up for a true splurge? Companies will gladly take you on a glacier trek that lets you walk on the surface.
haleakala national park
It's worth getting up early to drive the winding roads and watch the sun rise above the clouds at Maui's Haleakalā National Park. The view of the sunrise from the summit of this dormant volcano is breathtaking. Though the fee is nominal, you'll have to make a sunrise reservation in advance, since the park is attempting to better manage crowds.
You can't miss Calton Hill, rising from the Edinburgh city center with an Athenian-style acropolis and various other monuments to explore. However, the views of Old Town Edinburgh stretching out below are what make this short, scenic walk worth it. One of the best panoramas? The view of Castle Rock from the back of the Dugald Stewart Monument.
Glacier National Park, Montana
The scenery in Montana's Glacier National Park is breathtaking no matter where you look. For some dazzling photos and a good sense of what the park has to offer, try the short hike to the stunning, mountain-ringed Hidden Lake that starts at Logan Pass Visitor Center. You'll probably spot mountain goats and marmots in the alpine meadows.
campanile di san marco
Peering out from the top of the 325-foot bell tower of St. Mark's Basilica affords visitors a breathtaking view of Venice's domes, red roofs, twisting alleys and iconic canals with the Adriatic Sea beyond. During summer, visitors can buy tickets online to skip the often-long lines for this popular attraction. Bonus: There's an elevator.
Guatemala's lovely Lake Atitlán is ringed by three volcanoes and itself fills a caldera formed by an eruption tens of thousands of years ago. For a relaxed way to enjoy the view, grab a meal at one of the many lakeside cafes in Panajachel. For a not-so-relaxed way to enjoy an even more spectacular view, you can hike to the top of 9,900-foot Volcano San Pedro.
Seattle's skyline is truly something special. It has it all: Twinkling city lights, an iconic man-made landmark (the Space Needle), the gorgeous Puget Sound, and (on a clear day) a snow-capped Mount Rainier in the distance. Kerry Park, a small public park on Queen Anne Hill, offers a postcard-perfect view of the scene. Go at sunset for particularly breathtaking light, and linger to see the city light up.