8 Incomparable Landscapes Around the World

Some places on the planet are just so beautiful that they blow your mind. From towering red sand dunes in Namibia, to underwater caves in Mexico, to epic rock canyons in the Southwest United States, here are some incomparable landscapes that will take your breath away.

U.S. Hwy 89 A, Marble Canyon, AZ 86036, USA
Bordered on the south by its eponymous deep-red cliffs, the national monument is home to broad plateaus, endangered California condors, and some of the oldest petroglyphs in the United States. But the area’s greatest hit is the Wave, a dramatic, undulant orange rock formation. There are trailheads, maps, and minimally marked checkpoints along the trail leading to the famous spot, but unless you opt to hire an authorized guide, you’ll have to pick your way carefully across relatively untouched desert—that is, if you manage to snag one of the 20 daily hiking permits. Apply online four months in advance or enter the daily lottery at the visitor center in Kenab, Utah. Didn’t make it? Grab a map, make sure you have a spare tire, and explore the monument’s lesser-known slot canyons and gulches, or head to the Grand Canyon or Zion National Park; both are within a two-to-three-hour drive. You can always try again the next day. Permits are $6 and $7.
Don’t let the eerie name fool you. Namibia’s Hoanib Skeleton Coast, a 310-mile stretch of sand scattered with animal bones and shipwrecks, is home to plenty of life: the Himba bushmen, fur seals, and desert-adapted flora whose sole water source is the morning fog that rolls in off the Atlantic. Getting here, however, is tricky. The shoreline, which is a national park, fringes the Namib Desert—where some of the world’s tallest dunes can be found—and is accessible only by tiny plane. Willing to wing it? Stay at Wilderness Safaris’ new eight-tent camp where, when not relaxing on your own deck, you can take to the sky for a tour of the coast. From $565. This appeared in the October 2014 issue.
Carretera Federal Libre Chetumal- Puerto Juárez Km. 283.5 Ejido Sur, 77712 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Thousands of years ago, the entire Yucatán Peninsula was under water, as evidenced by its massive network of rivers that flow beneath the region’s limestone surface. No place better presents the area’s captivating caverns and underground water systems than majestic Río Secreto, a nature park just south of Playa del Carmen that offers adventurous travelers wide-ranging cave tours. Extending for miles, its river system wasn’t discovered until 2006, when a local man accidentally stumbled across an entrance while chasing an iguana through the jungle. When you go, guides lead you through a maze of stalactites and stalagmites that ends with a swim in subterranean waterways that vary based on the path you choose.
Located near the coastal city of Šibenik, Krka National Park is named for the river that runs through its lush forests and feeds its most famous site, Skradinski Buk—a huge, clear pool that starts and ends in waterfalls. The park is home to seven travertine waterfalls, all fringed by pristine woodlands that attract a variety of birds, both common and rare. Take a boat tour to Roski Slap waterfall, which features an old watermill complex that locals used for centuries, or visit the island of Visovac, located in the center of the Krka River. Visovac was first settled by Franciscan monks, who built a monastery on the island in 1445. The island’s current monastery, which dates back to the 18th century, features a small museum and lush gardens full of peacocks.
Outdoor Adventure
Salar de Uyuni, located in the Daniel Campos province of Bolivia, looks like it belongs on another planet. Stretching for more than 4,050 square miles—a little smaller than the state of Connecticut—it is the world’s largest salt flat, formed when several prehistoric lakes dried up 25,000 to 10,000 years ago, leaving behind hexagonal patterns of salt on the otherwise featureless surface. When nearby lakes overflow, or the area gets rain, a thin layer of water covers the expanse, transforming it into a massive reflective mirror that makes for jaw-dropping, dreamlike photos.

The natural wonder has served as a valuable source of salt and lithium for Bolivia, and it has long been a hot spot for tourism in South America. There’s even a hotel built out of salt bricks: the Palacio de Sal. If you’re planning a trip to witness the surreal beauty of the Salar de Uyuni salt flat, here’s what you need to know.

To see Salar de Uyuni’s breathtaking mirror effort, visit during wet season, from December to April—but be aware that when it gets too rainy, it can be hard to get around and you might not be able to access certain areas. May to November is the dry season, which means temperatures are colder, but the ground is harder and you can drive across the land more easily.

The ideal month to visit is May, when the seasons transition from wet to dry and you’ll have a good chance of seeing the salt flats both dusty and reflective.

Salar de Uyuni sits near the point where Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile meet, so tourists tend to come from three different starting places.

The town of Uyuni in Bolivia is the most popular place to embark on tours of the salt flats. The small town is so close to the flats, you can easily take day trips. If you’re traveling from La Paz to Uyuni, you can take a one-hour flight or an eight-hour overnight bus.

San Pedro de Atacama in Chile is another well-known starting point for tours of the salt flats, but because it’s about 200 miles away, most tours are three days long.

If you’re coming from Argentina, look into multi-day tours operating out of Tupiza, Bolivia, a good base less than 60 miles over the Argentinian border.

Tour operators in the region offer shared or private tours. Shared tours are more affordable, but they don’t offer much flexibility when it comes to your schedule. Also, most shared tours are led by Spanish-speaking guides, while private tours can offer English-speaking ones.

Many tours of the salt flats also go to other attractions in the area, such as the Polques hot springs, the Atacama Desert, and high-altitude lakes like Laguna Colorada. Look into tours originating in San Pedro de Atacama and Tupiza for itineraries that include these destinations.

Salar de Uyuni is located nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, so you might experience altitude sickness symptoms such as nausea and headaches and should plan accordingly.

To enter Bolivia, travelers must have a tourist visa, which costs $160 for U.S. citizens, and a yellow fever vaccination certificate if they are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever.
Park Road
Each year, six million–acre Denali National Park and Preserve gets roughly 400,000 visitors, who come in hopes of spotting the park’s own version of the Big Five (grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolves, and flocks of Dall sheep) and to take in majestic views of the highest mountain peak in the country. Only a fraction of that number, however, escape the crowds and tour buses to make their way to the tail end of the 92-mile-long Park Road, which winds deep into the heart of Denali’s rugged backcountry to the old gold town of Kantishna. Those who do are rewarded at this all-inclusive vacation resort with 42 rustic cedar cabins, some of which have private decks facing secluded Moose Creek. (All come equipped with private indoor bathrooms and heaters, welcome treats in these parts). Activities range from morning yoga classes and gold panning to guided hikes and mountain biking excursions. After an invigorating day outdoors, guests can pamper themselves in the new spa, which offers treatments like Swedish massage with hot stone therapy.
White Pocket, Arizona 86036, USA
Didn’t get your permit to see The Wave? Have no fear. You can have the same experience (some say better) at White Pocket, part of South Coyote Buttes. Although you do need a permit, you don’t need to win the lottery to do it and the experience is unforgettable!
Highway 98
Antelope Canyon has been on my “must see” list for a very long time so you can imagine my excitement when I got there. I love how the lighting and shadows made the most interesting palette of colors hug the sexy curves of the canyon. The land belongs to the Navajo nation and they are the one hosting the tours. You show up at the booth, pay $40 plus a land fee of $6 and off you go. The tour is about an hour long not including the 10 minute drive to the canyon.
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Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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