The World’s Most Beautiful Travel Destinations
By Scott Dicken
Every now and then I’ll come across articles online that proclaim to identify the “World’s top tourist attractions”, “place to see before you die”, or “the ultimate bucket list destinations”. They always catch my eye, and I inevitably spend the next 30 minutes combing through the submissions to see which I’ve already visited, and where I should add to my own personal, ever-growing, bucket list.
In the interests of travel journalism or, more accurately, having succumb to classic click-bait, I’ve decided to take a deeper dive into 10 of the destinations one recent report identifies in an effort to analyze just how accurate I think their list is.
And so, with no further ado, here are 10 of the World’s most beautiful travel destinations, together with my thoughts on their inclusion on the list….
Venice, Italy: Undeniable Romance and Crowded Canals
Ah, Venice…Probably one of my favourite city destinations anywhere in the world, and undeniably one of the World’s most beautiful travel destinations. You simply can’t fail to be taken in by the romance of it; from the luxurious settings that house its museums and cultural attractions, to the watery transport arteries that move its population and tourists from place to place. Everything has been designed to exude opulence, romance, and indulgence (don’t even get me started on Italian cuisine). If you can get past the crowds with some careful planning (the shoulder seasons in April and October provide some respite from the crowds whilst still having a good chance of reasonable weather) then Venice is truly one of the most remarkable cities on earth.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The Over-priced Concrete Jungle
I’m not sure I’d personally classify this urban jungle one of the World’s most beautiful travel destinations! Lumbering skyscrapers, overpriced meals, preening socialites, and Instagram influencers are what come more immediately to mind than beauty. However, if you have the chance to escape the humidity of downtown and visit the desert then, arguably, Dubai’s stunning arid landscapes hold appeal. The concrete and steel of the city stand in direct contrast to the beauty of the desert. As such, perhaps the best way to summarise Dubai is by labelling it as a ‘marmite destination’ – you either love it or your hate it; Just make sure to read the Take Photos Leave Footprints guides to visiting the United Arab Emirates, and how to navigate Dubai on a shoestring budget before you go!
Dubrovnik, Croatia: Stunning Sights and Medieval Masses
The first time I visited Dubrovnik I remember being charmed by the quaint, narrow, cobbled streets and imposing fortresses overlooking the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean. It was a relaxed and, dare I say, quiet old town that you could explore in relative solitude. On that basis I still think of it as one of the World’s most beautiful travel destinations! But that was some 15 years ago, and a lot has changed. The old town, which features several Game of Thrones filming locations, has witnessed a rapid rise in tourism. Largely gone are the quiet cobbled street scenes; replaced by feverish masses of GoT enthusiasts and cruise-goers following umbrella-wielding guides in full medieval costume (my wife described it as walking on to a Disney set). But behind the gaggles of tour groups the same old Dubrovnik remains intact; it’s just a matter of timing your visit to avoid the crush. If you can manage that then spectacular Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture, stunning sea views and a charming coastal old town await.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia: Watery Heaven and Crowded Hell
We had been told to expect startling, other-worldly, turquoise, blue and green waters. We’d been told to expect stunning landscapes and autumnal foliage. We’d been told to expect cascading waterfalls in numbers that belie the size of the National Park we were visiting. What we hadn’t been told was to expect tourists in numbers more akin to New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Plitvice Lakes National Park, whilst undeniably capable of being categorized as one of the World’s most beautiful travel destinations, is not always suitable for Enochlophobics. A visit to this 115 square mile National Park in Croatia is all about timing.
Meteora, Kalabaka, Greece: The Breath-Taking, Little Known, Gem
Monasteries dating back as far as 1356 sit perched on rocky monoliths that tower high above the haze in the valley below. Ancient cave dwellings, continuously inhabited for over 50,000 years, remain carved into vertical cliff-sides as if in testament to the endurance of man. It’s no wonder that monastics seeking spiritual enlightenment, and those searching for untouched isolation in this breath-taking setting, have done so for millennia. It’s also no wonder that Meteora is viewed as one of the World’s most beautiful travel destinations. It has a serene, otherworldly atmosphere that can make you forget that you in fact in central Greece. This is Meteora; a site of religious reflection for the Christian Orthodox and an unearthly and inspirational landscape that must be seen to be believed.
Petra, Jordan: The New Wonder of the Modern World
Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and undoubtedly the crowning jewel of Jordan’s tourism industry, was the impressive capital of the Nabataean Kingdom and is believed to have been founded around the 6th Century BC. It was pretty much lost to Western society until it was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. Since then its most famous moment came when it featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989. Since then, it was also chosen as one of the New Wonders of the Modern World which has engrained its position firmly at the top of the tourist map for tourist hotspots worldwide! It also means that it thoroughly earns its status as one of the World’s most beautiful travel destinations!
Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Zambia, and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe: The Smoke That Thunders
You can hear the Falls before you’re even close to seeing them. A gentle murmur slowly transitioning to a deafening roar as a fine mist generated from the world’s largest curtain of water soaks you through. There’s no doubt that Victoria Falls, one of natural wonders of the world, and a sight locally known as the “Smoke that Thunders”, is a riot for all five senses. Whether it be from the Zambian or Zimbabwean side of the border, a visit is a highlight for any tourist itinerary in Southern Africa. For a truly spectacular view of the Falls consider a once-in-a-lifetime trip on “The Flight of Angels”, a helicopter ride over the falls.
Lake Bled, Bled, Slovenia: The Fairy-tale Destination
Once upon a time there was a lush, fertile valley and in the very centre of that valley was a small hill. The hill, which sat in the middle of the green pastures, was the favourite gathering place of fairies, who liked nothing more than to spend their time dancing around its base. The fairies lived a happy, peaceful existence until, one fateful day, a group of shepherds arrived. As you can imagine, the shepherds were keen to use the fairies’ lush, green pastures as grazing land for their herds. The fairies took umbrage to this most obvious invasion of their peace and, after a bit of a conflab, opted to flood the entire valley. To this day the only part of the valley that remains visible is ‘Fairy Rock’ – the small hill around which the fairies danced. This, according to our guide, was the legend of how Lake Bled came to be, and what led to the creation of one of the World’s most beautiful travel destinations.
Giza, Egypt: Ancient Wonder, Modern Nightmare?
The Pyramids of Giza need little introduction and are undoubtedly a sight to behold. However, it’s long been known to be challenging when it comes to the sheer numbers of tourists that visit, keeping control of those tourists, and the borderline harassment exerted by hawkers and guides (on my last visit it felt as though I was being chased around the pyramids by a guide desperate for me to ride his camel). Online images inferring that the site is hundreds of miles from civilization also bely the fact that you can take pictures of them from inside a nearby KFC! None of this is to say you should never visit the Pyramids – they truly are one of the most awe-inspiring sites a traveller can behold, and a carefully planned visit can help to avoid the potential pitfalls.
Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa: Peak Penguin
In and of itself, Boulders Beach on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa is little more than an average beach. But when you add a colony of 2,000-3,000 African Penguins into the mix things start to get a little more interesting! The chance to get up close and personal with this waddling, endangered species is enough to attract 60,000 visitors a year. As the only place in the world where you can get close to the African Penguin, it makes Boulders Beach truly worthy of being included as one of the World’s most beautiful travel destinations, even if the beach itself isn’t all that much to write home about!
About the Author: Scott Dicken is a seasoned traveller who appreciates all corners of our world. If you want to learn more about any of the featured destinations, make sure to visit takephotosleavefootprints.com – photos by Scott Dicken