Looking for a special kind of inspiration? There are stunning views all around the world, but some unique destinations appear other-worldly when captured on film. All you need is a plane ticket and a photographer's eye. While they probably aren't the most predictable locales, these magnificent bucket-list destinations will stoke your adventurous spirit. From dense and leafy jungles to crowded, colorful streets, you'll find each of these getaways is a work of art unto itself.
Nestled in the heart of the Balkans between Albania, Greece, and Bulgaria, Macedonia boasts a moderate Mediterranean climate and stunning landscapes. Among its rocky mountains and winding rivers, you'll discover Lake Ohrid, a natural and cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to visiting the Byzantine-era Church of St. John, take a boat trip to an ancient monastery and stroll around the picturesque old town. Lake Ohrid is surprisingly affordable, and you'll have photo-worthy views from almost any hotel or BnB.
In the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, you'll find the idyllic Cesky Krumlov. Situated on the Vltava river and wrapped snugly around a 13th-century Gothic castle, the town offers a quiet but striking respite from the country's bustling center of Prague. The self-proclaimed city of frescoes, the medieval elements here provide ample backdrops for unforgettable photos; if you prefer natural landscapes to dense cobblestone streets, venture 10 minutes in any direction to enjoy lush feudal landscapes and rolling hills.
Offering a quiet space for introspection and unparalleled views of the Kashmir Himalayas, Ladakh is not a place many people visit in their lifetime. It's a difficult town to reach and, as such, has one of the lowest populations in India. If a journey through these historic, winding mountains doesn't scare you away, you will be rewarded with rare views of Neolithic rock carvings and ancient Buddhist architecture. Plan your trip during summer to experience vibrant Buddhist festivals and a flood of food and culture.
If ancient towns and imposing natural landscapes aren't your cup of tea, venture to Mexico City for a modern scenic experience. This thriving metropolis is teeming with energy and innovation, and it's relatively easy and affordable to visit. Old and new converge in this Latin American city — during a short walk, you can see contemporary art museums, lush city parks, and historic government buildings. At every turn, radiant color and artful expression make this town a must-see for photographers with a passion for culture.
Fans of Miyazaki films might recognize Jiufen's hillside tea house from his most famous work, Spirited Away. A beautiful memento of Taiwan's Japanese Era, Jiufen is characterized by tightly stacked buildings and steep stone streets which lead to bathhouses, ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), and restaurants. Once a mining town, Jiufen has become a popular tourist destination for off-the-beaten-path travelers. It isn't far from Taipei but requires a tricky combination of bus and train rides. For those unafraid to explore narrow alleyways or look beyond the obvious for inspiration, Jiufen won't disappoint.
Enemies of winter, beware. The temperature in Gokayama Village hovers well below freezing with heavy precipitation throughout the cold season, but the quaint thatched-roof farmhouses and snow-dusted mountains are worth the chill. Most travelers choose to visit Gokayama after seeing a photograph. Hopefully, your lens captures the same dreamy tranquility you experience during your stay. Aside from its sparkling white aesthetic, visitors also enjoy experiencing Japanese traditions at the Suganuma and Ainokura UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Travelers to Africa often choose Kenya or Tanzania for the famous safari attractions. Still, they shouldn't overlook the island country of Mauritius for tropical views and excursions that rival anyplace on the continent. Bursting with diverse, unique wildlife and surfable beaches, Mauritius is one of the most awe-inspiring places in Africa. The clear sapphire sea makes a remarkable backdrop for sunset photos, and divers can try their luck at catching a glimpse of sea turtles, whales, reef sharks, and octopuses.
It's difficult to imagine a place feeling less like Earth than the majestic Kirkjufell Mountain in West Iceland. Hardly the world's highest or longest range, this 463-meter mountain is muse-worthy for another reason. Surrounded by green valleys, waterfalls, and dazzling icy pools, this freestanding mountain is nearly symmetrical and is the perfect spot to view the Aurora Borealis in winter. There are plenty of tours and excursions available, or you can rent a camper van and bundle up under the stars. Visiting Kirkjufell Mountain is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so make sure you come prepared!
Marvel at colorful spices and handmade tapestries in the markets of Marrakech. Visitors tend to either love or hate the city's buzzing, chaotic energy. From dawn to dusk, the city is bursting with great food, music, and artisanal goods. Here, dusty streets and real-life snake handlers are juxtaposed against luxury-chic spas and sports cars, yet nothing seems out of place. If you feel a bit overwhelmed, take a weekend trip to the Sahara, where you can gaze across dunes at the seemingly infinite horizon.
If you want to level-up your long walks on the beach, visit Assateague Island in the Northeast United States. These islands, claimed by both Maryland and Virginia, are home to galloping herds of feral horses. Like something from a dream, you can experience these majestic animals up-close at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. There is minimal human interference on the island, but the National Park Service allows limited camping and kayaking from spring to fall.