There are more beautiful places in the world than any one person could ever hope to visit in their life. Thankfully there are dedicated photographers out there who spend their lives capturing these locales and landscapes with an eye for what makes them truly beautiful. Whether it’s getting the right angle, catching the sun’s rays, or simply being there at the exact, perfect moment, sometimes the photos of these places turn out more beautiful than if you had seen them in real life.
Photos can’t capture many things, though. The true scale of something. The sights, the sounds, the smells of these surreal scenes. The people you might meet. While an avid traveler would be hard pressed to make it to all the places in this list, it’s certainly nowhere near impossible. If you’ve got that itch, there are plenty of ways to take in a variety of gorgeous, one-of-a-kind experiences and views. Even on a budget.
If you’d rather stay home, well, have we got a lovely armchair vacation lined up for you.
1. Starting our trip off with a bang, let’s head under a glacier in Kamchatka, Russia, into a cave carved out by a rushing stream. The stream is not from the ice itself, but a volcanic hot spring source in the nearby Mutnovsky volcano.
2. Thankfully we’re not flying, so our next stop in Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, in Brazil, takes only as much effort as a click of the mouse. If you’re in a cold part of the world right now, just imagine those warm beaches.
3. The Painted Dunes of Lassen Volcanic National Park in California certainly earn their name, don’t they? I always associate California with surf and celebrity, not shots like this.
4. If tranquility and sunsets are more your speed, how about a quick jaunt to Palawan Island, in the Phillipines?
5. Be glad you’re going on this vacation, or you’d be unlikely to see this particular Arizona landmark. The Wave is a protected environment and to visit, you’ve got to literally win the lottery. Well, a lottery. But it’s a lot easier this way, trust us.
6. La Pelosa Beach, Sardinia. Blue water, white sand, and an island tower used as part of a national defense network against piracy from the Middle Ages until the 1800s. We’re surprised Jack Sparrow didn’t show up for the photo.
7. You can walk on this water but you probably couldn’t swim in it. Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flat. The remnants of an ancient body of water, locals rake up piles of the salt bed and then dry it in the sun.
8. Unlike some waters known for their clarity, Alberta’s Lake Louise is known for its cloudiness. An overabundance of finely ground minerals called “rock flour” and the icy glacial temperature result in a gorgeous blue-green lake that’s almost completely opaque.
9. Preikestolen is Norwegian for “preacher’s pulpit,” and we can see why the dramatic rock formation in the icy Northern European country got that name.
10. Can you believe people work in here? This is a tea field in Japan, and when it’s time to harvest, farmers squeeze down the narrow rows to pick the tiny leaves by hand. I thought I had a pretty nice desk but it just got downgraded.
11. While we’re in Japan, let’s check out the hanging wisteria tunnels. Less for work and more for appreciating, we can’t imagine how wonderful it must smell in there.
12. Back in South America, these caves of pure marble are actually smack in the middle of Lake Carrera. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Carrara marble is that white stuff from Italy, the material of choice for kitchen counters and famous historical sculptors alike. Oddly, there’s not relation between the two!
13. Would you take the classic American car commute or a stroll down the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar? We suppose it probably depends on the work at the end of the road, but we’d still love to see trees like these every day. Their unusual shape is an adaptation that allows them to store up water to survive droughts.
14. Let’s take a break from the heat and return to Russia and Lake Baikal. Being the deepest lake in the world gives it some fairly unique benefits, including bafflingly clear ice that glows like a blue gem in the daylight. It’s also a great spot to take in the Northern Lights, as you can see from this picture.
15. If that’s not cold enough for you, how do trees frozen like some sort of twisted ice monsters sound? Lapland, the northernmost reach of Finland, is the place to be for sights like that. It’s the kind of thing you see a lot of above the Arctic Circle.
16. Believe it or not, we haven’t left Earth. This is an acidic hot spring in Ethiopia. There’s no lifeguard on duty, but that’s the least of your worries if you try swimming in this place.
17. And finally we make it to the Kyaut Sae cavern in Myanmar, its natural beauty enhanced by the integration of a Buddhist temple into the rock walls.