Where in the World to Go?
April 29, 2008 11:13 AM   Subscribe

What is the most beautiful place on Earth? I'd like to make plans to go there.

I understand the answers will be subjective and partial. Let's assume cost and time are not factors. What are your reasons for your choice? If possible, please provide links to assist with research. Thank you in advance for your assistance.
posted by netbros to Travel & Transportation (114 answers total) 176 users marked this as a favorite
Coronado Island, San Diego, CA
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:14 AM on April 29, 2008

Milford Sound and almost any other place on the South Island of New Zealand would be the most beautiful places I have ever been. The people, the pace of life, the scenery, the love of the outdoors. They have it figured out down there.
posted by pixlboi at 11:19 AM on April 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

A beachside cafe on Bali in December when there is no moon and the thunder clouds are rolling in from the sea, pitch black except when illuminated by periodic lightning flashes.

I recommend the fish.
posted by tkolar at 11:20 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

im not such a seasoned traveler, i know this is such an obvious answer, but i have been to hawaii a few times, and its beauty never fails to amaze me. AND ive only been to oahu, which i believe is snubbed by the more in-the-know travelers.

freakin beautiful. north shore, sandy beach, waikiki, the east coast of the island.
posted by gcat at 11:20 AM on April 29, 2008

Santorini ranks highly.
posted by caddis at 11:20 AM on April 29, 2008

i also found certain spots in montana are amazingly beautiful. of course, i happen to be partial to awesome creeks flowing over lots of big round stones, and falls, and wonderful trees.

this is a tough question. im convinced the world is chock full of amazingly beautiful spots.
posted by gcat at 11:23 AM on April 29, 2008

My "most beautiful place" so far is the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. So many different ecologies there, and the coast is breathtaking. I'm pretty sure you'll have a lot of options for this one.
posted by sararah at 11:25 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I never made it, but the photos of Todja in Tuva are breathtaking.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:25 AM on April 29, 2008

posted by echo target at 11:27 AM on April 29, 2008

This is an awesome question because there's no quantitative way to measure the answers. I just heard an awesome piece on NPR the other day about working in Antarctica, where it's beautiful because it's barren and empty, not even any birds, and more stars than you can see anywhere else in the world.
I've stood on the tops of Austrian Alps, where mountains are so big and in your face they don't even look real. I was scuba diving off Grant Cayman island and reveling in the beauty of everything from the underwater scenery to the rocks of Hell. I want to go to the Grand Canyon so badly, but I fear I'll never ever come home because I'll be so hooked.
There is beauty in complexity, beauty in simplicity, beauty in nature and beauty in architecture. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen was the native rainbow trout I pulled out of a creek with my flyrod, 3 days into a solo hike in the Appalachian National Forest. I think that Denali would be high on my list of places to go if I knew I was dying, the whole park---not just the mountain.
posted by TomMelee at 11:28 AM on April 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

Second Santorini and other Greek islands. Iceland is quite beautiful too.
posted by flxyp at 11:30 AM on April 29, 2008

I call where I live in Central Vermont the most beautiful place on earth because in a lot of ways I'm stuck in the past and I enjoy living where people are a little slower-paced, like and help their nieghbors and try at least to some extent to live with nature and not subdue it. It's a subtle landscape, small rivers, rolling hills, lots of little hollows and bends in the road and this time of year just breathtaking in the sheer explosion of nature, everywhere, after the long (and equally beautiful in a different way) wintertime.

Vermont has four seasons and so the changing nature of it makes every morning a peek out the window an adventure at the same time as the more slowly-moving human landscape keeps the place anchored in time and place. Here are some photos I've taken of it. Please do look me up if you come through here.
posted by jessamyn at 11:30 AM on April 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

My favorite place (that I've been) is Gunsight Lake based on sheer beauty and difficulty reaching the location.


Add the experience and I'd say the 'fishbowl' on Maui.
posted by tickettrader at 11:30 AM on April 29, 2008

The most striking and beautiful natural landscape I've ever seen is a relatively short cliff over a still lake in a naturally woody part of Austria, seen from an opposite cliff accessed via a gravel path. During 4 months of travel in Europe, it was the only sight that moved me to just sit and look at it for an extended time. It was a cold, still day and the edges of everything seemed abnormally crisp; the crags of the rock, the slow ripple in the lake.

I'm not really a fan of the outdoors, typically, but I felt totally connected to that spot and I could have stayed for hours.

The sight I enjoyed so much is actually part of a disused quarry, directly opposite the "Stairs of Death" at the Mauthausen concentration camp. I'm not trying to convince you to go visit the camp for any reason, and I'm not trying to be controversial. But that was the most beautiful spot that I've ever seen in my travels all around the planet. But it was also the saddest one, because of the knowledge that when the Nazis got there, they decided to commit atrocities instead of just enjoying the view. Sorry if I spoiled the thread for anyone. This just sorta came out when I read the question.
posted by chudmonkey at 11:31 AM on April 29, 2008

Rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Havasu Canyon was one of the many highlights.
posted by Sculthorpe at 11:32 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might want to have a look at the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which includes 166 places noted for their spectacular natural beauty.

Personally, I would recommend Iceland, which has an extraordinary range of different beautiful environments in a relatively small area: spectacular coastlines, active volcanic areas, breathtaking glaciers, and remarkable fjords. Its worth it.
posted by googly at 11:36 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dothan, Alabama.
posted by saladin at 11:38 AM on April 29, 2008

Iceland. In any season.
posted by worker_bee at 11:39 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

More info on Yellowstone: you may never find a place with such varied and fantastic scenery as Yellowstone. It's a popular tourist destination, so there's plenty of accommodations, but walk more than 20 minutes from the main road and you'll think you were the only person there.

It's the largest concentration of geothermal features in the world, and it may one day kill us all.
posted by echo target at 11:42 AM on April 29, 2008

The Cotton Castle in Pamukkale, Turkey. Calcium deposits look like snow! Or, I guess, cotton. Additional images here.
posted by rokabiri at 11:43 AM on April 29, 2008

Beautiful places I’ve been:

Jasper NP, Alberta Canada. The heart of the Canadian Rockies. Not as touristy as Banff. The drive from Calgary through Banff to Jasper just kept getting better and better. Watch out for elk.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland. You know how people who have been to Ireland won’t shut the hell up about how green it is over there? They’re understating it.

Chimney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine. Takes some effort to get there (logistically and physically) but it’s pretty much the most magical place in New England.

Mt. Rainier, Washington state. This is beautiful the way I imagine the Moon is beautiful. “Magnificent desolation”, as Buzz Aldrin called it. Nothing but snow and rock. Really fucking big. When the sun sets you get to see the shadow of the mountain cast over an entire state and then the stars come out.
posted by bondcliff at 11:43 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've not travelled all that much, but yes, the Grand Canyon is probably the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. It literally took my breath away when I first saw it, and tears sprang to my eyes so fast it was painful. And I'm not easily impressed.
posted by wafaa at 11:59 AM on April 29, 2008

Thailand. Just look at it.
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:59 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've never been out of the lower 48, but I was lucky enough to spend a few months working in Yellowstone and it wins hands down. I could never have imagined being able to see so many drastically diverse landscapes all within a few hours of each other. The Geyser Basin, Hayden Valley, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs; all amazing and all seem like a different corner of the world. There are obviously a lot of tourists, but like echo said, about 90% of the park is devoid of humans. The drive through Wyoming ain't too shabby either.
posted by Roman Graves at 12:03 PM on April 29, 2008

I went to Hawaii (Maui) in February and I was blown away by it. That whole "paradise" thing you've heard about is actually true, it turns out. I have a Flickr set with photos, if you want to get a sense of the range of scenery there. I loved the lush jungly bits and I loved the moonscape lava rock bits and everything in between.
posted by chowflap at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

If isolation/hiking is your bag, I have found no better location in the Midwest than Isle Royale National Park. Nestled in the northwestern corner of Lake Superior, Isle Royale sees as many visitors in one year as Yellowstone does in one day!

Between the moose, gray wolves, and abandoned copper mines, it's a true backpacking adventure.

Flickr photoset from the trip.
posted by corranhorn at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2008

Glencoe, Scotland. Let me just give you the Google Image Query. I sat on the side of a slug-covered mountain there once and listened to Bjork. It was pretty nice.
posted by selfnoise at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2008

Anywhere on Kauai other than the SE portion. You can go from sparsely populated beaches to cliffside hiking trails to waterfalls to bird preserves to the wettest spot on earth to canyons in a single day. Early June is especially nice.
posted by zeugitai_guy at 12:07 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Santorini ranks highly. Second Santorini and other Greek islands.


Also -- Big Sur.

And (as above) New Zealand has so many breathtaking, beautiful and diverse vistas. Gorgeous.
posted by ericb at 12:09 PM on April 29, 2008

100% Pure New Zealand [4:22].
posted by ericb at 12:11 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

The view at sunrise over the Dead Sea from Masada in Israel is a hard one to beat. Amazing.
posted by youcancallmeal at 12:11 PM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Maybe beauty isn't about where you are; maybe it's about how you are.
posted by xod at 12:17 PM on April 29, 2008 [6 favorites]

I'll second the suggestion for cherry picking from the UNESCO World Heritage list. That list has lead me to some utterly breathtaking places.

Having spent much of my youth in British Columbia and in the Philippines, I have a deep-embedded love for forestry, both temperate and tropical, and particular old-growth forests with the palpable presence of living plants that are hundreds of years old. In my sleep, I dream of Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, and one of the more memorable trips that I've taken recently was to Yakushima Island in Japan, which is doted with its own ancient cedars and is just filled with this sense of deep, rich life.

Also seconding and thirding Iceland and Yellowstone.
posted by bl1nk at 12:25 PM on April 29, 2008

I've been to many beautiful places, but very few beat the views at Bondcliff in the Pemigewassett Wildnerness, White Mountains, New Hampshire.

Although Glendalough, not far from Dublin in Ireland was also quite beautiful.
posted by dseaton at 12:28 PM on April 29, 2008

Nearby users:netbros (18 miles)

You already live here. ;-) Seriously, I do think the Southern Appalachians and WNC in particular are up there among the most beautiful places on earth. Sometimes just coming off the Patton Avenue bridge at sunset and seeing Mt. Pisgah all lit up by crepuscular rays - it's unbelievable. Just drive on out to Max Patch or take a spin up to Craggy Gardens and there you are.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:30 PM on April 29, 2008

posted by popcassady at 12:36 PM on April 29, 2008

I've haven't been yet, but when I saw photographs of Patagonia I couldn't believe the place was real.
posted by inactivist at 12:43 PM on April 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

The Hudson River Valley. There's a reason that a school of painting is named after it.
posted by CiaoMela at 12:43 PM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

I tend towards mountain tops and remote places personally. There are many striking and beautiful places in Nepal along the trekking routes. The Annapurna Loop is the most trekked, for good reason. I also recommend the Langtang region - much less travelled.

And other random gorgeous areas;

The South Coast Track along the southern edge of Tasmania.

Anyplace in New Zealand.

The Yasawa chain of islands in Fiji.

And lastly, the Ancient Bristlecone Forest Park, at a wedding in the middle of an epic thunderstorm of such transcendant beauty that it nearly turned this Recovering Catholic back to God.
posted by elendil71 at 12:52 PM on April 29, 2008

Hokkaido during the summer is spectacular. There is a lot of natural beauty and interesting spots like Tomita farms.

Machu Picchu also knocked me out with its beauty. The nearby mountains are visually arresting and the way the weather moves through the area is fascinating. Nearby Cuzco has some of the best cuisine I've ever eaten, especially because there were so many varieties of vegetables in Peru that I'd never seen before.

I'm also in love with Ao Phang-nga National Park in Thailand. The wildlife, the peculiar islands, the bizarre rock formations are all amazing.
posted by Alison at 12:53 PM on April 29, 2008

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island.

Slieve League Mountains in Donegal, Ireland.
posted by sully75 at 12:55 PM on April 29, 2008

It was the mossy rocky alpine crest of a sharp mountain ridge, under a grey sky. To the right was a sheer cliff which disappeared down into the sea of cloud far below. To the the left, the ground sloped down at a gentle angle down to a basin of mist, which caught the wind, whipping clouds up the slope towards us, through us and flinging them out into the void beyond the cliff.

I was too young to know my location. I have searched for it since. All I know is that it was somewhere in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Possibly one of the ridges near Cass. If you ever find it, tell me where it is.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:59 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

My faves:

Harney Peak in South Dakota's Black Elk Wilderness. Black Elk had his visions there - he said that he saw the spirit that guided the universe. As you stand on top of Harney Peak and gaze at the curvature of the Earth, it does indeed seem like a very beautiful, very spiritual place.

Any place off the beaten path in Glacier. If you go, take the Grinnell Glacier hike that involves the boat ride. All of the glaciers in the park will be gone in the next 10-20 years, maybe sooner. See them before they're lost.

Yellowstone is beautiful, and everyone should see it at least once. However, it it very crowded with lots of RVs and busloads of tourists. It's almost like goin' Christmas shopping at the mall - you may have to circle the parking lots at the scenic points a few times to get a space. Plus half of Yellowstone's majestic bison herd died or was slaughtered over the winter.
posted by Ostara at 1:06 PM on April 29, 2008

I've been to many beautiful places, but very few beat the views at Bondcliff in the Pemigewassett Wildnerness, White Mountains, New Hampshire.

I couldn't agree more.
posted by bondcliff at 1:06 PM on April 29, 2008

The two most beautiful places I have been are Bryce Canyon in Utah and a collapsing temple overgrown with jungle vine and trees in Siem Reap (Angkor Wat). Oh, and the Peruvian Amazon jungle (I think the beauty was accentuated by the feeling of being utterly alone surrounded by vast wilderness).
posted by Falconetti at 1:12 PM on April 29, 2008

Tofino, British Columbia. Magic and a UNESCO site.
posted by saradarlin at 1:13 PM on April 29, 2008

I thought about this a good while, and I find I can't pick one "most beautiful" place. Among the especially beautiful places I've been are the Grand Canyon, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Mammoth Cave, and the Swiss Alps.

Each of them is beautiful in a very different way from the others, and I find it meaningless to try to decide which is most beautiful. You might as well ask whether Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is more beautiful than Van Gogh's Starry Night.

(And if you choose to go to the Grand Canyon, try to plan your trip during a full moon. The canyon at night under moonlight is amazing.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:14 PM on April 29, 2008

Pentwater, Michigan
posted by LakesideOrion at 1:14 PM on April 29, 2008

I'd pick a place from my favorite poem. Wordsworth's Tintern Abbeyor Thoreau's Walden Pond spring to mind. But maybe you'd like someplace more secluded.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 1:14 PM on April 29, 2008

Totally depends what you are looking for - water? No water? Urban? (I think that parts of NYC are quite beautiful, although not, of course, in a Yellowstone kind of way.) Rural? Mountains? To what extent does culture play a roll?

That said, the most naturally and physically beautiful places I have been are Santa Fe, NM (and Northern New Mexico in general) and the Negev desert in Israel.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 1:27 PM on April 29, 2008

The Namib Desert.
The Okavango Delta.
The high Arctic under the Northern Lights.
Reasons for all choices are much the same. All three places give a sense of isolation and focus. The whole big-environment-little-person feeling. The people encountered in each were lovely, kind and generous. They all offer experiences well outside most people's norm. They're all naturally beautiful. Life changing, really.
And seconding the Tofino B.C. area especially Long Beach.
posted by lunaazul at 1:40 PM on April 29, 2008

If you haven't already hiked to the top of Looking Glass Rock in Pisgah Forrest, you really should check it out.

Grand Canyon is pretty amazing, literally breathtaking. Pictures just can't do justice to the sheer enormity of it.

The view of Lake Tahoe nestled amid snowcapped mountains from the base lift of Heavenly ski resort is pretty epic, if you're into skiing/snowboarding -- and if you ski just around the mountain, you have a panoramic view of... desert!
posted by LordSludge at 1:41 PM on April 29, 2008

Cape Town, South Africa. Trust me.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:43 PM on April 29, 2008

I am not telling. I don't want anyone else to go there.
posted by msali at 1:55 PM on April 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

Banff/Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada - The Rocky Mountains, azure lakes, glaciers...I've been all over Canada and this is the most stunning spot. The Icefields Parkway is also the most scenic drive I've ever done.

Anywhere you can get a clear view of the Northern Lights - For me that's been over lakes in rural Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada. The Aurora Borealis is a MUST SEE natural phenomenon.

Venice, Italy - The whole city is full of crumbly little passages and canals. And no cars! The built environment is getting no love in this thread...
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 1:57 PM on April 29, 2008

Sicily. To the west, you have Erice covered in fog; to the east, you have Taormina overlooking the Ionian Sea; in the middle, you have a hundred breathtaking ancient sights and everything looks better when you've been drinking fresh-squeezed blood orange juice.
posted by kittyprecious at 2:11 PM on April 29, 2008

Lay on the roof of a Marrakech riad in October, on a clear day. Look East to the High Atlas range rising in the distance. Have some tea and a nap, wake up around sunset to the sounds of the call to the Al Maghib prayer. Look up at the deep blue night sky with a sliver of moon, then out at the marvellously crammed-together hodgepodge of the medina.
posted by Liosliath at 2:11 PM on April 29, 2008

Swiss Alps.
Foothills of the Alps in southern Germany.
Santorini, Greece.
Rome (for the built environment).
Yosemite, California.
Aran Islands, Ireland.
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Sorry, no references, just throwing my votes in in case you're making a spreadsheet. :)
posted by rhys at 2:19 PM on April 29, 2008

the Berkshires in autumn
posted by jne1813 at 2:28 PM on April 29, 2008

I second Maui. Especially the drive along the Kahekili Highway.
posted by 912 Greens at 2:50 PM on April 29, 2008

Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy. Wow. Seriously. Just wow.
posted by pised at 3:03 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Southern Utah, the Escalanate Grand Staircase national monument. If you like the Grand Canyon, you'll die over Escalante. All the tourists go to places like the Grand Canyon/Bryce/Zion, leaving Escalante (and to a lesser extent Canyonlands) as the True Believers' Great Secret. (Oh crap!)
posted by phliar at 3:03 PM on April 29, 2008

Places that really knocked my socks off:

- Anywhere New Zealand. It's simply astounding.
- Valle de la Luna in the Atacama desert of Chile
- Uyuni Salt Plains, Bolivia
- Yangshuo, China
- Badlands Nat'l Park, SD
- Canadian Rockies
- Garden Route, South Africa
posted by wayward vagabond at 3:14 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cathedral Cove
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2008

posted by CunningLinguist at 3:29 PM on April 29, 2008

I grew up in Maui (so I'm anything but objective), but I do believe I have never seen anywhere so varied and beautiful in such a small place. Kauai is also extremely beautiful.
posted by rooftop secrets at 3:35 PM on April 29, 2008

Someone's already mentioned the Annapurna Circuit, and I'll heartily second it. If you go during the off season, when you're the only one on the mountain, you're completely dwarfed by the Himalayas and it's one of the most beautiful and terrifying experiences I've ever had.

The Cinque Terre in Italy has some incredible cliff-top views over the Mediterranean.
posted by twirlypen at 3:37 PM on April 29, 2008

The Maine coast--especially north.
I'll second the Dingle peninsula in Co. Kerry, Ireland and add the view from the Rock of Cashel in Co. Tipperary, and the cliffs in Co. Clare.
Driving up to Jerome, AZ and looking down.
posted by jdl at 3:39 PM on April 29, 2008

Anywhere on the South Island of New Zealand.
posted by andraste at 3:47 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Isle Of Skye.
posted by elmono at 3:49 PM on April 29, 2008

Fourthing Cathedral Grove and Jasper National Park. Gorgeous.
posted by anthill at 3:49 PM on April 29, 2008

Based on my personal travel experience:

The Pamiri Region of Tajikistan, in particular the Wakhan Corridor bordering Afghanistan, including Karakol Lake in Tajikistan near the Kyrgyz border.

Song Kol Lake in Northeast Kyrgyzstan. Altan Arashan isn't bad either.

Tibet! Yamdrok Lake sure is pretty but the mountain passes between Tingri and the Nepal border are breathtaking. Hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal will bring you lots of pretty landscapes: Like this and this.

Madagascar has some striking scenery including the avenue of balboabs.

Can you tell I live in a flat place? Almost all of my links are mountains. It takes a lot for a beach to excite me, maybe because there are so many beautiful beaches out there.
posted by Bunglegirl at 4:02 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Bunglegirl, what kind of trees are those in Madagascar? Fascinating.
posted by netbros at 4:52 PM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: Ah. Found it now. Baobab. Very cool.
posted by netbros at 4:58 PM on April 29, 2008

Wester Ross, Scotland
posted by idiomatika at 5:05 PM on April 29, 2008

I guess you may be looking for natural beauty only, but I have seen cities gleam in a certain kind of light, usually after a passing rain storm - I'm thinking of London from Waterloo Bridge, New York from the George Washington bridge or from the Staten Island ferry, or Venice from a water taxi from the airport approaching St. Mark's Square - that have taken my breath away. I guess these places may be more obvious, and easier to get to, in terms of traveling, but anyway, I wouldn't necessarily discriminate against them. Something to consider, maybe.
posted by chinston at 5:10 PM on April 29, 2008

Ungh. Santorini would be far more beautiful if it wasn't for the ever present gaggle of cruise ships surrounding it.

I'll throw the following in:
the Dolomites
the Perigord
the Grand Canyon (yes, it's super touristy, but it's easily accessible and it's a majestic thing to behold, especially if you get yourself away from the crowds)
New Zealand (precise locations mostly dependent on what you enjoy doing)
the Pacific Northwest Coast
the Main coast

who knows!
posted by Project F at 5:18 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Kyoto was spared a nuclear holocaust because of its beauty.

Just sayin'.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:22 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Lake Atitlán in Guatemala.

But I'm also gonna second xod - I've been plenty of beautiful places, and plenty of mundane places, too, and sometimes experiencing the latter is much better simply because of my state of mind. Brings to mind a bike tour I did through the US West, traveling through many places others mentioned above. Scenery was definitely easier to appreciate upon or after reaching a summit.
posted by LoneWolfMcQuade at 5:34 PM on April 29, 2008

Mmm. I've got to agree with Xod - there are a lot of great places mentioned here and pretty much every one I've been to I agree with, but the beauty of travelling is not just how gorgeous the site; it's about the state of mind. So, you know ... two cents from this gal who's tramped the seven continents.

(For the record, the happiest I've been travelling that I can think of is albatross-watching while on a boat somewhere between the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica. Sometimes penguins porpoised out of the water in little flotillas. It was indeed beautiful, but on a strictly visual aesthetic scale you couldn't always see much.)
posted by bettafish at 5:36 PM on April 29, 2008

For me? Scotland and Iceland. But I love water and hate trees and heat.
posted by dame at 5:46 PM on April 29, 2008

I love Point Lobos. It's got trees and ocean and animals and bugs and some parts are quiet and some parts are loud and it makes me feel very good to be there.
posted by dogmom at 6:31 PM on April 29, 2008

New Zealand
Maine coast
posted by starfish at 7:02 PM on April 29, 2008

Belize is absolutely gorgeous--a fantastic coral reef, clear waters, unspoiled beaches, rain forests, Mayan ruins. . .fantastic.
posted by EarBucket at 7:18 PM on April 29, 2008

Belize is on my radar screen for all that, and it is affordable too. I still want to experience Santorini someday though. Everyone I know who has gone there says that it is far more beautiful than any picture can do justice.
posted by caddis at 7:51 PM on April 29, 2008

I count myself incredibly lucky to have seen so many of the places mentioned here at my tender age. My own list:

-Kauai, parts of the Big Island (what can I say, I love lava fields)
-scuba diving in the Philippines
-Cinque Terre
-the Alhambra
-Walden Pond
-driving through Central CA - the orderly rows of crops are kind of amazing
-Kartchner Caverns in southern AZ
posted by crinklebat at 8:48 PM on April 29, 2008

My most beautiful place is Grassy Cove, Tennessee. First drove through it as a child when we were taking an alternate route to visit my grandmother, and it was at sunset - the road cut through the middle of a large, deep valley filled with gold, with dark green mountains on all sides. Not sure what trick of light made it look like that, but it was certainly the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Part of the Cumberland Trail overlooks it.
posted by frobozz at 9:33 PM on April 29, 2008

Newfoundland. In Gros Morne National Park, there is an area called the Tablelands. Everything is huge and orange and barren and a little frightening. Icepack stays there all summer, and feeds little trickles that join into a big boisterous stream at the bottom of valley, and then the land opens up and calms again, and the water comes out over a peat bog full of grasses and tiny flowers. And rising up on the other side are lush, smooth mountains.
There is also, somewhere in Newfoundland, a bluff I have always wanted to find again. It's sheared off sharply in a cliff that drops to the ocean, but the top is a broad field dotted with small pointed hillocks, and the whole thing carpeted in low-growing deep green shrubs and berry bushes and grass.

Denali, particularly Polychrome Pass.

La Juderia (the old Jewish quarter) in Córdoba, Spain. Narrow alleys between white-washed buildings, with hidden courtyards and flowers. It's all contrast--the simplicity of the walls and white and light with the unexpected shadows and cool and spots of color. Cordoba also has the Mezquita.

I've been wanting to go are Scotland, New Zealand (alright, I have a theme with my landscapes), western China, Canyonlands, and the Arctic tundra. And the places I've loved most are often unspectacular objectively, but overwhelmingly beautiful to me because of their associations.
posted by hippugeek at 11:38 PM on April 29, 2008

Many people mention Fiji, but nobody seems to have chimed in with Vanuatu.

Tanna, home of Mt Yassur, the worlds second most active (and most accesible) volcano is mindblowing. There are also a number of islands to the north of the main island which are so picture perfect I thought I was in a dream. Landscape, people, it's absolutely amazing. I've also heard that Espiritu Santo if particularly beautiful.
posted by cholly at 2:15 AM on April 30, 2008

Most beautiful place I've been: Palau, a nation of dozens of islands in Micronesia.
posted by univac at 3:24 AM on April 30, 2008

Lysfjorden - the fjord of light, just north of Stavanger, in Norway.

Huge, sheer cliffs. Impossibly deep fjords. Just incredible.
posted by flutable at 4:17 AM on April 30, 2008

Ah, nearly forgot: Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.
posted by kittyprecious at 4:22 AM on April 30, 2008

Three of my favourites:
Milford Sound in New Zealand.
The Brecon Beacons in Wales.
The Hebrides of Scotland.
posted by tnai at 5:11 AM on April 30, 2008

French Polynesia wins the island paradise category. Tahiti and Bora Bora are just insanely beautiful.
posted by NexEffect at 5:29 AM on April 30, 2008

St. John in the USVI - or many of the other islands.
posted by cptnrandy at 7:52 AM on April 30, 2008

Black sand desert in Iceland. So quiet you'll still your own breathing so as not to make noise.
posted by monocultured at 8:30 AM on April 30, 2008

The Thousand Islands post made me want to visit.
posted by hootch at 12:56 PM on April 30, 2008

Hunza valley
posted by Autarky at 2:17 PM on April 30, 2008

Halong Bay, Vietnam.
posted by ChrisNoXmas at 3:39 PM on April 30, 2008

Someone mentioned Point Lobos, near Monterey, CA, so if we are going to include really beautiful places under water I have to add;

Point Lobos, particularly the Blue Cove area which is hard to get to;

The Channel Islands. Best. Cold. Water. Diving. Anywhere. (Well where I've been anyway);

The Turneffe Island area, near Belize. Fantastic warm water diving.

Actually anywhere around Monterey. There's a place at Monastery Beach where there's this grotto of kelp and fish at only like 20 feet depth that is unbelievable. Swarms of fish, Harbor seals nipping at your fins, huge crabs, I spotted a Great White shark at the (thankfully) edge of my vision at the western drop-off once - just awesome. And you get to do the 'Monastery Crawl' coming out. Veterans will know what I mean.
posted by elendil71 at 4:11 PM on April 30, 2008

I would say - you must see Kerala at least once in your lifetime. It is located in South India.
posted by vinodlive at 4:56 PM on April 30, 2008

Romanian countryside in the afternoon outside Baia Mare!
Black Sea, off the coast of Georgia at sunset!
Mongolia outside Ulaan Bataar at sunrise when the camels are out!
In a field in Chico, California!
Old Man's caves, Logan, Ohio!
Jo Phen, Taiwan, at night, up on the mountain with all the lights on!
posted by metajc at 8:20 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Meteora, in Greece. more.
posted by granted at 9:10 PM on April 30, 2008

The place where you are most happy.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 7:23 AM on May 1, 2008

I have to second the Isle of Skye.
posted by bryanlacksfocus at 5:10 AM on May 2, 2008

Beautiful and affordable: Central America. In one short trip you're able to visit any number of countries, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica. There's so much to do and see that you'd be better off focusing on one or two places, but you won't be disappointed. Plus, ask anyone who's been down here, the people are just so warm and friendly that you won't want to leave.
posted by papafrita at 2:41 PM on May 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks very much for the cool responses everyone. There are any number of great ideas here. Feel free to keep 'em coming as this thread will remain open for several more weeks. In the meantime, I've got bags to pack.
posted by netbros at 5:39 AM on May 3, 2008

I'm seconding Zion, even if all the tourists DO go there.
posted by scarabic at 7:17 AM on May 4, 2008

anywhere in new zealand, but south island is more dense.

that country blew my mind.
posted by olya at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2008

My wife works in Tourism and many of her colleagues, when asked, tell that Tana Toraja is the most beautiful place on earth. I had heard the story before from some people in my extended network. In 2004 we traveled there. You can only reach it by car after an 8 hour drive and end up high in the mountains as suddenly a wide paradise valley opens itself up.

It's pretty free of mass tourism, its beautiful and astonishing. I now agree with the experts that this was the most beautiful place I have traveled to (and I traveled a lot).
posted by edelwater at 7:10 PM on May 4, 2008

Definitely Scotland/Ireland/Wales. Regions of countryside in France are also beautiful.
posted by puzzler at 1:15 AM on May 5, 2008

I'm incredibly late to the party, but I have to put in my vote for the Lost Coast Wilderness (in Kings Range, Humboldt County, CA). I had my first genuine peak experience backpacking the 26-mile stretch of beach during my senior year of high school, and I dream of finding the time to return and hike it again.

There are dilapidated cabins (I love decaying architectural relics), abandoned lighthouses, trickling waterfalls in unexpected places leaving multicolored mineral deposits against the cliffs, gorgeous stretches of green fields; all of this is flanked by the gorgeous Pacific ocean to one side of you, and majestic redwood trees cascading down the cliffside above the trail on the other. The last couple of miles of the route are made up of black sand beaches (check it out!).

Here is some photographic evidence of its beauty. I mean, my god.

I went in mid-September, when the wildflowers and mustard were still blooming. It looked something like this, but with greater varieties of purple (oooo, like this). It is spectacular.

Also, if you take the 101-N through Mendocino County, you will drive through a town, with a charming country market, called Ukiah - which incidentally spells haiku backwards. To my 17 year-old mind at the time, it was a perfectly fitting coincidence that presaged the truly beatific experience I had during those 3 days.
posted by numinous at 6:28 AM on May 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wadi Rum.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:30 AM on July 11, 2008

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