If you love to travel, it’s likely the coronavirus shutdown across much of the world has you feeling a bit antsy. Even if you are a frequent traveler (and already know how to fly for nearly free) to the point that it feels as if there’s nowhere left on Earth you haven’t been, you may be ready to pack up and head back to place you’ve already been just to get away.
Well, that may not be necessary. We’ve put together a list of the 21 most beautiful places in the world that you probably haven’t visited yet. We encourage you to get there once the pandemic is over.
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1. Namib Desert, Namibia
Stretching 1,200 miles along the Atlantic coast of Namibia in South Africa and reaching inland some 100 miles, the Namib Desert is a vast and unforgiving landscape. Almost totally uninhabited except for a few towns here and there, the Namib Desert is also the world’s oldest desert. Its name means “an area where there is nothing” in the local Nàmá language, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to explore.
Home to a surprising amount of wildlife, the Namib Desert is a remarkable place to traverse. From desert-adapted elephants and two-leaf succulents that can live for more than 1,000 years to the soaring red dunes and rugged mountains that rise majestically above the valley floor, the beauty of this 55 million-year-old (at least) desert is a must for any traveler looking for a unique place to visit.
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2. Painted Hills, Oregon, United States
Just a 20-minute drive northwest from the spirited frontier town of Mitchell, Oregon, are the breathtaking landscapes of the Painted Hills. Appropriately named, the Painted Hills are distinguished by tan, red, orange, and black stratifications in the soil. Don’t be surprised if you find the hills seem to have different tones and hues each time you visit, as moisture levels and the fluctuating light from different times of the day cause the hills’ appearance to change.
One thing is for certain, however. Millions of years of history can be found in these beautiful layers of earth, and that makes the Painted Hills a must-see for any traveler.
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3. Huacachina, Peru
No, it’s not a mirage. Huacachina is the only desert oasis in South America and is a must when traveling to Peru. The small village in the middle of the desert was formed thanks to an underground stream of water that made it possible for plants and trees to grow. The oasis sits just 15 minutes away from the city of Ica in southern Peru and five hours south of the capital city of Lima.
The village is home to some of the biggest sand dunes in the continent, which makes it a prime spot for sandboarding and dune buggy rides. Venture to Huacachina, climb one of many dunes, and get ready for some of the dreamiest sunsets you’ll ever see.
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4. Cappadocia, Turkey
In the heartland of Turkey is the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia. Known for its fairytale chimneys, Cappadocia’s landscape features remarkable expanses of volcanic rock shaped by erosion into towers, cones, pinnacles, and caves. Although Mother Nature got the ball rolling, humans from thousands of years ago continued the efforts, carving incredible chambers, a church, and tunnel complexes throughout the countryside.
Today, Cappadocia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And although extensive preservation efforts are underway to keep erosion from finishing its job, you can visit this natural (and man-made) wonder for yourself.
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5. Gdansk, Poland
It was here that the first shots of World War II were fired, when a German battleship shelled the Gdansk peninsula and Polish naval depot at Westerplatte. After years of painstaking restoration, this thousand-year-old city remains a showpiece for classical European charm.
Situated at the mouth of the Vistula River on the Baltic Sea, the city of Gdansk showcases some of Poland’s best features. The charming, cobblestone streets of the city’s old town are lined with colorful homes, historical monuments, and architectural gems, which makes Gdansk a destination not to be missed.
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6. Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena is a city rich with history, lush landscapes, and a vivid nightlife. The juxtaposition of old and new — the city’s historic influences and vibrant modern attractions — is alluring, to say the least. As you walk the picturesque streets of its old town and past the brightly colored Spanish-colonial architecture of the 500-year-old city, you’re reminded of the history within its walls.
Beyond the city’s enchanting historic center, you’ll find the traditional cuisine and enough activities, festivals, and romantic charm to make Cartagena a special place to fulfill your wanderlust.
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7. Valparaiso, Chile
About an hour-and-a-half drive northwest of Chile’s capital city of Santiago is the hillside port city of Valparaiso. Situated on the coast, the city is known for its steep funiculars (a transportation system that combines the technology of an elevator with that of a railroad, resulting in a cable pulley system and a car on a track), charming colonial architecture, and cliff-top homes.
New visitors can spend endless hours strolling the city’s narrow streets, discovering the different levels as they climb its endless staircases, and taking in the sweeping views from the city’s many lofty lookout points.
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8. Guanajuato, Mexico
Located in central Mexico, the city of Guanajuato is full of color and history. Founded in 1554, though the first known settlement dates back to between 500 and 200 B.C., Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to one of the richest silver mines in the world.
Visitors can walk the streets and alleys to admire the unique baroque-colonial architecture of the various buildings and homes. Then, visit its historical monuments and wander the 17th-century gardens of the Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera. However you spend your time, Guanajuato needs to be on your list.
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9. Jodhpur, India
Situated just north of the Luni River in northwestern India, Jodhpur is a city famous for its blue houses and magnificent forts and palaces. Jutting 400 feet above the surrounding plain, the colossal Mehrangarh Fort dominates the city. Inside, you’ll find palaces and a historical museum. Below the towering fort, the boutiques and markets of its bustling old city, the surrounding palaces and ruins, and a sea of blue houses continues Jodhpur’s marvelous uniqueness.
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10. Kotor, Montenegro
With its stunning backdrop of imposing gray mountains that plunge into the narrow inlet of the shimmering Adriatic Sea, Montenegro’s fortified city of Kotor is guaranteed to leave an impression.
The old squares with modern cafes and boutiques, narrow cobblestone alleys, maze of medieval churches and cathedrals, and magnificent fortress of San Giovanni high above the town are just a few reasons Kotor needs to make it onto your travel bucket list.
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11. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland
Fjaðrárgljúfur, located in southern Iceland, is a massive serpent-like canyon about 330 feet deep and just over a mile long. Hollowed out by the Fjaðrá River over millions of years, the canyon provides stunning views over the plains and glacial brooks below. The Fjaðrá River is often low, which makes it possible to walk inside the canyon. If you venture along these paths, prepare for a breathtaking reminder of the power of nature.
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12. Chefchaouen, Morocco
Nestled in the Rif Mountains of northwest Morocco is the city of Chefchaouen. Known for the striking, blue- and white-washed building facades of its old town, Chefchaouen has a rich heritage and allure.
In the main square of Place Outa el Hammam is the clay-brown 15th-century kasbah that houses lush gardens. These make for a cool haven if you need a break from all the blue. There, you’ll also find restaurants, cafes, and views of the Grand Mosque.
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13. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a forest reserve and UNESCO World Heritage site spanning roughly 115 square miles in central Croatia. The park is situated about halfway between Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, and the ancient coastal city of Zadar.
The park is known for its chain of 16 lakes, interconnected by a series of waterfalls. Formed throughout thousands of years, the lakes are a stunning place to visit no matter the time of year — whether they’re surrounded by the lush greenery of spring and summer, the rich colors of autumn, or the magical scenes of winter.
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14. Isle of Skye, Scotland
Known for its rugged landscapes, picturesque cottages, and medieval castles, the Isle of Skye is truly a magical place. Commonly known just as Skye, it’s the largest of the Inner Hebrides islands of Scotland. Mountains and pinnacles dominate the landscape in the island’s south central region, but much of the island is moorland.
Skye is enchanting with its miles of dramatic coastline, captivating history, mystical pools of turquoise water, and waterfalls — need I say more?
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15. Lake Hillier, Australia
On the northern edge of Middle Island, a rocky island off southwestern Australia, is one of Australia’s most notable lakes, Lake Hillier. Known for its bubblegum pink color, the contrast of the lake against the surrounding lush greenery and blue of the ocean is striking. It’s not the only pink lake in the world — or Australia for that matter. But it’s definitely worth a visit if you find yourself venturing down under.
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16. Ashikaga Flower Park, Japan
Spanning 23 acres in the city of Ashikaga in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, the Ashikaga Flower Park showcases more than 350 wisterias, as well as many other flowers. The park’s wisteria tunnels span some 87 yards. Visitors can walk through to enjoy the beauty of the pink, purple, blue, white, and lavender colors of the suspended flowers.
The Great Miracle Wisteria steals the show, though. It’s a sprawling, 140-year-old wisteria in the middle of the park. Venture outside to continue the spectacle, where you’ll find numerous other wisteria displays, including domes, pyramids, arches, and a waterfall.
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17. Pangong Lake in Ladakh, Himalayas
The picturesque Pangong Lake, also known as Pangong Tso, is the world’s highest saltwater lake. Extending from India to Tibet and situated in the Himalayas at a dizzying elevation of almost 14,270 feet, the vivid blue water lies in stark contrast to the arid mountains surrounding it. The undeveloped landscape, tranquil blue water, and migratory birds that flock to the water make Pangong Lake a natural wonder that won’t disappoint.
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18. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Sprawling more than 4,050 square miles in southwest Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flat. The remnant of evaporated prehistoric lakes, Salar de Uyuni is an impressive example of a natural wonder. Rising from its thick crust are polygonal patterns of salt that stretch to the horizon.
If you visit at certain times of the year, you’ll find a thin layer of water atop the salt from nearby overflowed lakes. When this happens, the flats of Salar de Uyuni transform into a captivating reflection of the sky.
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19. Rotorua, New Zealand
Rotorua is a town situated on its namesake lake on New Zealand’s North Island. It’s famous for geothermal activity, and features both geysers and hot mud pools. The town has a strong connection to its indigenous routes and offers an opportunity for visitors to experience Maori culture.
Whether you’re mountain biking the stunning Whakarewarewa Forest, plunging into one of the area’s 18 lakes, or relaxing in one of the many spas or hot pools, one thing is for certain — Rotorua’s natural marvels make it a place any traveler should put on their list.
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20. Lofoten, Norway
Lofoten is an archipelago off Norway’s northwestern coast known for its distinctive scenery and dramatic landscapes. The beauty is evident in its craggy mountains, colorful buildings, and abundance of wildlife, from humpback whales to adorable puffins.
During the summer, the phenomenon of the midnight sun (days when the sun doesn’t ever sink below the horizon) is as epic as you can imagine. In winter, the celestial wonder of the Northern Lights stretches across the sky.
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21. Lake Baikal, Russia
Lake Baikal is a vast freshwater lake situated in southeast Siberia. It’s the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 meters) lake in the world, containing 20% of the world’s total unfrozen freshwater. The lake is so immense that it reportedly takes more than 300 years for a single water molecule to flow through it, from inlet to outlet. Surrounded by mountains and containing rich and various wildlife, Lake Baikal represents the unspoiled natural beauty of Russia.
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The world is full of unique, beautiful places that are just waiting for you to visit. All it takes is a little planning and research to find them.
Wherever you go on your next journey, travel is made easier (and less expensive) when you use a travel rewards credit card to fund it. Between travel protections, lucrative sign-up bonuses, and bonus spending categories, you’ve got everything you need to visit the destination of your dreams without breaking the bank.
If you’re gearing up for a trip, picking up a side hustle and making a little extra cash every week can help you get there faster too.
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