10 stunning travel destinations
Take even the glorious Taj Mahal, for example—deemed “breathtaking,” “stunning,” and “spectacular” by most TripAdvisor reviewers, but “overrated,” “uninteresting” and “a disappointment” to others. Who can account for taste?
That’s exactly why attempting to narrow down the most gorgeous spots on the planet is no easy feat—and why we decided to turn to a handful of pros, who have come up with a collection of sumptuous, oft-surprising picks ranging from remote natural wonders to glittering cities:
“With the rise of Palmyra in Syria and sea-trading routes, the death knell was sounded for Petra, ancient capital of the Nabateans,” says the expert panel at Geographic Expeditions. “By the Arab invasion of the 7th century A.D., Petra was a forgotten city and remained so until it was rediscovered in 1812 by the young Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt.” Today the elegant site, which dates back to 1200 B.C., is known as the “Pink City” because of the rose-hued sandstone used to create the phenomenal palaces and tombs. It’s perhaps most stunning at dusk, when the ancient city is aglow with thousands of candles.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
“Rio is possibly the most beautifully sited city on the globe,” says Patricia Schultz, author of the best-selling trip bible 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. “Head up to the statue of Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado for a take-your-breath-away view of la Cidade Maravilhosa (the Marvelous City). It is a unique city in many ways—where nature collides with a thrumming metropolis, the elegant with the seedy, and the rich with the poor.” The spot's proximity to the water makes for arresting views.
Located about halfway between the United States and Asia, this stunning atoll is a U.S. territory known for the Battle of Midway, which played a major role in World War II; today it’s home to a massive albatross population and is a designated National Wildlife Refuge. “History lives here,” says Peter Greenberg, CBS News travel editor. “The site of the most decisive naval battle in world history, Midway is where I go to think, to write without interruption. If you’re looking for footprints in the sand, just look behind you, because the only ones are the ones you made.”
“Truly a beautiful location, and a wine connoisseur’s delight,” says Peter Friedman, a trip expert with Unique Travel, of this historic and fertile region. It’s studded with more than 7,000 wineries and bursts with sweeping vineyards, mighty rivers, gorgeous beaches, picturesque villages, and the stunning city itself, which has earned Bordeaux a place in the collection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Mount Everest, Nepal
“Mount Everest is perhaps nature’s most magnificent creation – certainly it is the raison d’etre in the climbing world,” offer the travel planners at Geographic Expeditions. Part of the Mahalangur Himal—a link in the Himalayan chain—Everest, soaring to 26,035 feet, is the highest mountain on Earth. “The Tibetan word for Everest is Chomolungma, which means ‘Mother of the Universe,’ and the Nepalese, Sagarmatha means ‘Goddess of the Sky.’ Both are perfectly fitting, as there is no other mountain as grand as Everest.” Friedman of Unique Travel also has a soft spot for Everest—along with Himal Chuli, Manaslu, Pabil and the many other peaks dominating the spectacular views from Kathmandu. “Looking out at some of the tallest mountains in the world,” he says, “you ponder the reality of how small we truly are.”
Fire Island, New York
“This might seem a surprising choice, but imagine a 32-mile-long barrier island—and National Seashore—just 50 miles east of Manhattan. No cars, just bicycles and wagons and bare feet. Fire Island is the Hamptons without the attitude,” says Greenberg, who has lived there, at least part-time, since infanthood. Accessible via ferry, the island is home to 17 resort communities, a massive white-tailed deer population, and extraordinary stretches of sand dune-edged beaches. “It is a place I return to every year in April, May, June, and again in September (the most magical month), where I can relive my youth, my freedom and my innocence.”
Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile