Explore the most beautiful places in the world on your next bucket-list vacation
Plan a vacation where spectacular scenery takes center stage, and all you have to do is sit back and soak up the views. By Joanna Tweedy | September 24, 2021
Are you ready to actually visit that destination you saved as your computer desktop background? We thought so. Set up your out-of-office message and book your dream vacation to one of the world’s most beautiful destinations. Instead of staring at your inbox, you can wake up each morning to mountain vistas, shimmering ocean horizons, ancient ruins, lands sculpted by millennia or tropical rainforests. Read on to learn about 10 destinations across the globe that will wow you and create lasting memories, including:
European rural beauty: Retreat to Germany’s Black Forest to wander through villages that inspired fairy tales and to taste the famous cake named after this region
Have it all in Mexico: Lounge under a palm tree and explore Mayan ruins in Tulum
Make for Malaysia: Langkawi is an island paradise, home to both verdant jungles and picturesque beaches
Greece is stunning everywhere you look, from sugar cube houses to half-moon bays. The sparkling waters change from turquoise shallows to deep, cobalt blues on the horizon. Crete, the largest of the islands, sits in the southern Aegean and delights visitors with its bewitching seascapes. There are pink-hued sands at Elafonissi Beach in the west and craggy, canyon-like terrains in the south (which is quieter than the north, even in peak season). Wander into the interior and you’ll find snow-capped mountains. The laid-back ambiance is just as good for the soul. Head to any local taverna for an ice-cold Lyra beer (locally brewed) and small plates of delectable dishes like kalitsounia, little cheese pies, or dakos, a local take on the famous Greek salad.
Be warned, North America’s jaw-dropping mountain scenery can be a conversation killer. Whether you’re cruising on four wheels through the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93), hiking backcountry trails or canoeing on a glacial lake, you’ll want to stop and stare at these staggering vistas. Plan a trip to see Moraine Lake’s vibrant, milky-blue waters in Alberta’s Valley of the Ten Peaks. The walks are as gentle or as challenging as you’d like to make them. There’s beauty in the wildlife, too. Spot elk, marmots, gray jay birds and, if you’re lucky, even the increasingly rare black bear. Remember your layers; the weather can quickly change no matter the season.
“Some of the really cool things to do in Alberta include dog sledding in Canmore, a gondola ride to the top of the mountain in Banff, a horseback riding tour in Lake Louise, and day trips to the Drumheller Badlands for amazing Instagram photos. Plus, while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Dinosaur Provincial Park.” – Harleen Chauhan, Hilton Team Member, Homewood Suites by Hilton Calgary-Airport
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Offering possibly the best-value vistas in the United States — it costs just $35 for a seven-day vehicle pass — Bryce Canyon National Park instantly feels like you’ve been transported to another planet. This red-hued beauty in southern Utah is geology at its most fascinating. Canyons run deep, pinnacles soar and delicate arches meet otherworldly walls of layered rock. Visit Sunrise Point in the morning to see how the light paints the landscape golden. Later, when the sun sinks down, the rocks and spires are vivid red, making it one of the world’s most unique places to see a day out. For another show-stopping panoramic, strike out on foot on the Queen’s Garden Route, a gentle 2.1-mile (3.4 km) trail that introduces walkers to a statue of Queen Victoria carved out over 240 million years. England’s former monarch would almost certainly approve of her place in this stunning plateau playground.
St Lucia’s diverse topography is a huge part of its visual charm, from its emerald green interior to its more than 200 square miles (about 518 square km) of pristine beaches. The Pitons are hard to miss — they’re sky-soaring columns of rock — and they’re surrounded by swaying, lofty palms and close to the gorgeous town of Soufrière. Head to Anse des Pitons for the most majestic views of them from the beach. The rest of the island has beauty in spades too, though. Inland, you can zip-line through the glistening rainforest or chase down some of St Lucia’s spectacular waterfalls — don’t miss Toraille, Diamond and Superman. There are also no resort-only beaches on St Lucia, meaning you can unfurl your towel almost anywhere you desire. Head southwest to Anse Chastanet for idyllic tropical views from every angle and to lounge on soft, alabaster sands, or grab a snorkel and view colorful fish darting around the coral reef.
Whichever way you turn your head on Miami’s famous South Beach, it seems, there’s a gorgeous view to take in, and almost always under a cerulean-blue sky. There’s enchanting wildlife to spot, too. Head to Oleta River State Park, about a 40-minute drive from South Beach. You’ll see great blue herons and roseate spoonbills, and dolphins and manatees in the ocean beyond. And while the natural wonders certainly vie for attention — there are 2.5 miles of golden sands to play on, after all — so does the architecture. The famous neon-lit Ocean Drive skyline is a love letter to the art deco movement and can feel like you’re strolling through a colorful open-air exhibition. Visit the city’s Art Deco Museum (1001 Ocean Drive) to dig deep into Miami Beach’s most beautiful architectural heritage.
“Come ready to enjoy the beach and the best of Miami – which is a mix of cultures, the BEST food and fun times. Don’t forget your sunscreen!” - Kheiry Echevarria, Hilton Team Member, Embassy Suites by Hilton Miami International Airport
Bondi Beach, Australia
Rarely does the tourist hype live up to reality, but Bondi Beach, Sydney’s most famous sweep of sand, doesn’t disappoint. The honey-hued sands run into the warm, tall, deep-blue waves, making it a veritable nirvana for surfers. Or go for a swim at the legendary Bondi Icebergs saltwater pool (closed on Thursdays), which sits at the southern end of the beach. It’s an Instagrammers go-to for the most idyllic shots of the bay. Dodge the crowds by heading to Bondi early in the day; a morning sunrise walk promises uninterrupted views of the whole beach and the sandstone cliffs that flank it. You can get to Bondi in about 15 minutes by car from downtown Sydney.
“When visiting Bondi Beach, wake up early, apply the sunscreen, and watch the sunrise. Then, do the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk and come back for a refreshing dip in the Bondi ocean.” - Ann Yap, Hilton Team Member, West Hotel Sydney - Curio Collection by Hilton
A clutch of 99 islands — many uninhabited — that hang off Malaysia’s northwest coast, Langkawi is the very definition of a beach paradise. Less developed than Thailand and Bali, Langkawi’s beaches boast flour-soft sand fringed by glittering azure blue waters. Pulau Langkawi, accessible by ferry, is the largest island and a gateway to the rest of this tranquil Andaman Sea archipelago. To explore the scenic thrills at leisure, charter your own boat for a day or board one of the many visitor boats that pinball between islands. Pantai Kok in the northwest is among the most picture-postcard beaches. With a crescent-shaped bay backed by limestone mountains and a tropical jungle, it’s where you’ll find the locals taking in the ocean views from underneath the shady palm trees.
The southern Yucatán peninsula, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, is the ideal way to step off grid and soak up a destination that can soothe souls with its scenic splendor. Playa Paraíso, or Paradise Beach, is pure tropical bliss; palms flutter in the breeze, the sands are soft and warm underfoot and the ocean gloriously transparent. Tulum isn’t all about idle days recharging batteries, though. There are also the Mayan ruins (on Playa Ruinas), which directly overlook the ocean. These 13th-century archaeological wonders are unmissable. Nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve remains one of the world’s best eco-tourism destinations. Make a visit and you’ll spot thousands of species that call this magical part of Mexico home.
Black Forest, Germany
There’s a reason why the Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, as it’s locally known, is the most visited region of Germany. Put simply, it’s home to the country's most beautiful landscapes. This verdant portion of Germany’s southwest offers vistas that include vibrant green meadows, deep valleys, beautiful woodlands and rustic villages. These landscapes are said to have inspired the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales and the Black Forest National Park, close to the pretty spa town of Baden-Baden, is among the best places to really immerse yourself in its full beauty. Take a hike through miles of soaring coniferous forests and fill your lungs with the freshest air or spend afternoons wandering through charming towns such as Bad Wildbad, Calw and Frieburg. There’s culinary beauty to be found, as well: The region’s famous cake, consisting of cream, cherries and a cocoa sponge, has been exported all over the world, but will never taste as delicious as it does here.
Mother Nature brought her A-game when it came to creating Niagara Falls. These awe-inspiring thundering curtains of water, where 150,000 gallons per second drop, are recognized the world over for their beauty. There’s much debate over which side gifts the most enthralling view — the Niagara River forms an international border between the US and Canada — but you won’t be disappointed whichever one you visit. There is a heady mix of tourist boats offering sunset tours, jet boats and more sedate cruises, many of which bring you thrillingly close to the spray. At Canadian Horseshoe Falls, it’s even possible to zip-line past this goliath of the natural world, too. Not only are the Falls mesmerizing to look at, the sound of them — a relentless roar that is somehow strangely calming — will stay with you long after your vacation is over.
Joanna Tweedy is an award-winning travel writer and editor who lives in London.