Your face has felt the warmth of the sun as you crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and your toes have felt the sand of Oahu. At this point, your passport is pretty comfortable being stamped by solemn-faced customs agents across the globe. There comes a moment in any traveler’s life, however, when it’s time to take wanderlust to the next level.
If you’ve seen the rest, and you’re ready to experience the best, here are 10 breathtaking sites you don’t want to miss:
Uluru in the Northern Territory’s Red Centre Desert, Australia
Image credit: nosha
Uluru, better known as Ayers Rock, is a stunning formation in the Northern Territory, Australia. The sandstone is remarkable in a geological sense, because its creation began over 500 million years ago. But it’s not just geologists that marvel at Uluru: people trek from around the world to see this majestic monolith. At sunset, the rock glows crimson red—you don’t want to miss it.
Marble Caves in Patagonia, Chile
Image credit: Javier Vieras
Formed by the crashing waves of Lake General Carrera, the marble caves of Patagonia are practically an art installation. The caves showcase a breathtaking array of colors and textures, and have earned the nickname of Marble Cathedral. While the journey to get here is a long and arduous one, you are rewarded with breathtaking formations dripping in character. The caves are a bit like a chameleon: in the spring, the water creates a turquoise tone on the walls, but when summer rolls around, the marble glow a darker blue.
Sea of Stars in Vaadhoo Island, Maldives
Image credit: Will Ho
You may usually try to avoid creatures in the water, especially the kind you can’t see. But in the Maldives, phytoplankton creates a marine bioluminescence that results in eye-catching neon stars just beneath the water’s surface. When the water is stirred, by a boat or even your hand, it lights up like a Christmas tree. If you ever find yourself in the Maldives, heading out after dark to experience this breathtaking natural phenomenon is a must.
Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona
Image credit: Moyan Brenn
You might think you’re walking through a painting during your visit to the Antelope Canyon. The swirling rock formations look as if they were plucked from an artist’s canvas and meticulously draped across the desert landscape. Located on Navajo Nation land just outside Page, the canyon was slowly carved by flash floods over millennia. Today, you’re welcome to hike through the canyon chasing tunnels of light and marveling at the bright color palette that surrounds you.
Northern Lights in Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
Image credit: Moyan Brenn
You can see the Northern Lights at various points across Iceland, but one of the best places to witness this awe-inspiring natural wonder is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. What causes the Northern Lights, otherwise known as Aurora borealis? Long story short, when electrically-charged particles released from the sun enter Earth’s atmosphere, ribbons of vibrant color burst across the sky. It’s no surprise this place is often considered one of the most breathtaking sites on the planet.
Great Blue Hole in Belize City, Belize
Image credit: Eric Pheterson
Jacque Cousteau made this site famous, and now that the secret’s out people flock to the oceanic spectacle in droves. Just off the coast of Belize City, the Great Blue Hole is quite the sight from above. It pulls double-duty as a diver’s dream, sending a siren song to scuba enthusiasts around the world. Formed over time by changing sea levels, the sinkhole is home to a bevy of exotic sea life and the surrounding shoreline has caves worthy of investigation.
Taj Mahal in Agra, India
Image credit: Dennis Jarvis
Not just breathtaking, this marble mausoleum might leave you momentarily paralyzed as you take in the elaborate architecture and meticulous calligraphy decorating the exterior. The building was constructed in the 1600s by Shah Jahan to honor his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It remains a meaningful monument and was named one of the New7Wonders of the World in 2007. Make time to stand in front of the reflection pool after you tour the building.
Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France
Image credit: tom.Bricker
When you tour this ornate palace, it might be hard to picture it as a hunting lodge. But when Louis XIII first constructed the famous chateau, that is exactly what he used it for. The Palace of Versailles was later expanded into the ostentatious estate you’ll find today, dripping in gold and adorned with finishes such as polished marble and lush fabric. The chateau’s gardens are world-famous, and beg you to meander through them.
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Image credit: Chrisian Junker
The largest religious monument known to man doesn’t disappoint. This UNESCO World Heritage Centre was once a Hindu temple before evolving into a Buddhist temple and spiritual retreat for the modern traveler. It also happens to be where Lara Croft journeyed on her quest for the Triangle of Light, so you can visit sites where the movie was shot. Don’t miss an opportunity to catch the sun breaking over the temple at dawn. The breathtaking sight of a gold and amber sky showering the structure with a warm glow is a memorable one.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, Japan
Image credit: Casey Yee
If you need a reprieve from city life in Japan, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is the perfect place to visit. Towering bamboo create grand spirals of light, providing this enchanting space with a sense of serenity. There is just one main trail through the forest, leading to the Okochi-Sanso Villa. While you’re here, visit the on-site temple and shrine.
Despite your temptation to take oodles of photos when you visit these breathtaking spots, why not slow down a bit and soak it in?
Challenge yourself to be present during your every moment in these 10 amazing locales, as you never know when you’ll have a chance to return.
Featured photo credit: Moyan_Brenn via flickr.com