How well do you know your geography? Travel not to see the usual tourist traps but to uncover the world’s most intriguing wonders like these. Check out 40 amazing places — world-record holders and hidden gems — thriving under the radar that you should add to the top of your travel bucket list.
1. Hotel de Salto – Columbia
Afraid of heights? Come face your fears in the eerie hotel. Set atop the breathtaking Tequendama Falls, Bogota River, this now-abandoned 1920s hotel is said to be haunted. Dare to venture?
2. Atacama Desert – Chile
Mariano Mantel / Via Flickr
Known as one of the driest places on Earth, this desert records less than one inch of rain per year. Hard to imagine that such a harsh place bordered by the gorgeous Pacific Ocean and a spectacular 41,000 sq. mi. coastal plateau west of the Andes.
3. Dallol – Ethiopia
Achilll family | journeys / Via Flickr
The incredible yellowish colors of the scenic lakes of Dallol are due to high concentration of sulfur and acid from the nearby volcanoes. Not the most welcoming destination, but certainly one of the most beautiful and unique.
4. Cave of Crystals – Mexico
Just imagine crystals bigger than you are. The biggest ones are as much as 40-feet-long and weigh more than 50 tons. If you visit Naica, Chihuahua, you must explore this cave if you can.
5. Iguazu Falls – Brazil
Located between Argentina and Brazil, the Iguazu Falls is a system of over 275 individual waterfalls scattered over 1.6 miles. Most falls drop for about 200 feet but the most impressive — the Devil’s Throat — is more than 270 feet high. Truly a humbling site.
6. Siem Reap – Cambodia
Beautiful, ancient and multicultural, Siem Reap is not only the renowned resort town but also a popular gateway to the Angkor region. Siem Reap itself is an architectural marvel blending french and chinese influences.
7. Robinson Crusoe Island – Chile
This island of the shores of Chile might have been the one who inspired the famous novel of Daniel Defoe. It is certainly awe-inspiring with a luxuriant flora and perfect tropical climate.
8. Torres del Paine National Park – Chile
A true paradise for hikers and those who dream to get lost in the most jaw-dropping sceneries in the world. It would take almost a week to complete a circuit but the memories of the park last a lifetime.
9. Hallelujah Mountains – China
Out-of-this-world pillar-like rock formations you must see to believe, the Hallelujah Mountains are a national pride—and the inspiration for the backdrop of Avatar. They are part of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park which, itself, is included in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area.
10. Gate To Hell – Turkey
Go to the Turkish village of Darvaze in the Ahal Province if you ever feel like knocking on hell’s doors. This fire has been continuously burning for decades fueled by the most important natural gas reserve in the world. A sight that is truly unbelievable.
11. Underwater Hotel – Dubai
“Sleeping with the fishes” would no longer be a threat but rather a treat after you spend a night or two in this over-the-top luxury hotel and its sunken suites.
12. Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort – Dubai
No, it is not a mirage. Yes, it is an oasis in the middle of the Dubai desert. It offers all the amenities you can expect from the highest-rated luxury hotels of the world… and much more…
13. Black Forest – Germany
This forested mountain range has an incredible natural beauty and tourist attractions year-round. Its varied terrain offers hiking trails, mountain bike routes, and — in wintertime — downhill ski facilities.
14. Ko’olan Range Mountains – Hawaii
Mark A. Johnson / Via photoshelter
Who says Hawaii means beautiful tropical terrains and climate. A dream vacation spot embellished with natural marvels like the Ko’olan Range Mountains—which also served as many shooting locations for Lost.
15. Olde Mountains – Italy
The breathtaking Olde Mountains sit in the a heavenly valleys high the Italian Alps. Stroll the Dolomites mountain range with amazement: a land this beautiful can only be on the domain of the ancient gods.
16. Riomaggiore – Italy
Sebastian Wasek / Via Getty Images
If you are looking for a good reason to hate Italy, visit Riomaggiore. This coastal village, first of the famous Cinque Terre, is stunning, picture-perfect, and colorful. You will love to hike through it and discover its cafes but will soon hate it when comes time to leave.
17. Hitachi Seaside Park – Japan
The Hitachi Seaside Park has become famous for its blooming flowers covering its 190 hectares all year long. Hard to imagine a more beautiful public park in the world.
18. Leshan Giant Buddha – China
A 70-meter-tall giant buddha figure carved out of the cliff at the confluence of three rivers in Leshan. The sight of this spiritual icon is as inspiring as it is humbling.
19. Underwater Sculpture Museum – Mexico
Dive into marine bliss in this sunken sculpture garden slowly turning into the world’s biggest artificial reef. The sea life off the Yucatan coast is taking over this underwater museum making it a dream spot for snorkeling.
20. Tulip Fields – Netherlands
Holland is known for many things, including Amsterdam’s canals, its laidback culture, and its tulip fields. These fields are a colorful display of pink, red, yellow, and other blooms. There is no better way to announce the beginning of spring.
21. Waitomo Glowworm Caves – New Zealand
Behold the beauty of bioluminescence in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves located on the North Island of New Zealand. These glowworms are endemic to the caves, which means this experience is absolutely unique.
22. Kjeragbolten – Norway
Imagine a 5-meter-cube rock wedged in a mountain crevasse suspended over a 984-meter-deep abyss. This site is popular among photo enthusiasts, adventurers and adrenaline junkies.
23. Cordillera Huayhuash Mountains – Peru
Jack Brauer / Via mountainphotography
An ice waterfall from a calving glacier, and Laguna Quesillococha and Laguna Siula, on the extremely rugged eastern side of the Cordillera Huayhuash.
This 18-mile-long mountain range in the Peruvian Alps has become a popular trekking circuit, more challenging than the nearby Inca Trail and perhaps more breathtaking as well.
24. Nazca Lines – Peru
The Nazca Lines is a delight for conspiracy theorists and those who believe the truth is still out there. The patterns, only seen from a bird’s eye view, date as far back as 400 AD. How they were drawn with such precision remains a complete mystery.
25. Island of Corvo – Portugal
With a population of less than 500, the Vila de Corvo is a quaint and beautiful part of the Azores. This massive landmark was formed by a 5 meter volcano that at one time was roughly 1000 meters tall at its peak, but collapsed to its current form roughly 430,000 years ago.
26. Neemrana Fort-Palace – India
This 15th-century stronghold, carved straight into the rock of a hill, is now a luxurious resort with world-class amenities including pools, spas, and Delhi’s very-first zipline.
27. Baikal Lake – Russia
Baikal is the oldest and largest freshwater lake in the world, and a natural wonder you must see at least once in a lifetime. When it freezes over, the water is so clear, one can see to the bottom and the light colors of the shards of ice are a perfect turquoise.
28. Mir Diamond Mine – Russia
Another world-record site in Russia, the Mir diamond mine is the second largest excavated hole in the world with a depth of more than 1,700 feet. Above all, it is a place that looks straight out of a Sci-Fi movie.
29. Adansonia Trees – South Africa
Via National Geographic
The Adansonia is a particular type of baobab tree that are hundreds of years old. Gazing upon one is a look down history. The trunks of this species of trees can reach 10-15 meters (50 feet) wide.
30. Sigiriya – Sri Lanka
The Lion Rock sits amidst the ancient palace located near the town of Dambulla. The 660-feet-tall column of rock is a site of the most historical and archaeological significance… and of great beauty.
31. Jade Mountain Resort – St Lucia
The Jade Mountain Resort was built on a mountain-side above the Caribbean coastline of St. Lucia. This luxury resort was designed to blend into the luxuriant tropical nature. Each suite has a stunning view of the Pitons.
32. Zermatt – Switzerland
Zermatt is a famed mountain climbing and ski resort town sitting in a scenic pass in the Swiss Alps. This village sits at the foot of the Switzerland’s highest and most impressive peaks.
33. Interlaken – Switzerland
Interlaken is the gateway to the lake and mountain region of Bern, an area renowned for its amazing natural beauty and elevated sites. Interlaken is popular among backpackers, hikers, and nature lovers.
34. Tunnel of Love – Ukraine
Located in the deep woods near the town of Kleven, the Tunnel of Love seems like site of a fairy tale. This leafy tunnel is known as a romantic spot when couples come to exchange promises.
35. Goreme – Turkey
Located among “fairy chimneys” rock formations, Goreme is like nothing you can see anywhere else in the world.
36. Angel Falls – Venezuela
Angel Falls is quite an angelic sight in the Canaima National Park. It is a 2,600-ft plunge with several cascades, rapids, and river tours at the base of falls. The ascension is daunting but rewarding.
37. Mount Roraima – South America
Mount Roraima is unbelievable and unique in many ways. Each of its facades have 1,300-ft-high cliffs, and waterfalls. It is a common border between Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela.
38. Dean’s Blue Hole – Bahamas
If you love snorkeling and sea-life exploration, you must visit the Dean’s Blue Hole. More than 600 feet deep, it is the world’s deepest sinkhole with an underwater entrance.
39. El Rey – Mexico
Visit the ruins of the ancient Mayan town of El Rey and pay tribute to the new tenants: a population of iguanas.
40. Ayutthaya Kingdom – Thailand
Marvel at the majesty of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. These elegant ruins were once the ancient capital of Siam, and extended into Burma, Laos, and Cambodia. Now it is an impressive tourist site you must visit in Southeast Asia.
What do you think of these places. Which ones have you visited or plan to visit? Tell us more in the comments.