52 Gorgeous Places That Need to Go on Your Bucket List ASAP

by Theresa Edwards
May 11, 2017 at 3:00 a.m. ET

We get so caught up in our own little bubbles that sometimes we forget there's a whole world of wonder beyond our usual hometown haunts. So many gorgeous landscapes exist out there, just begging to be explored.

Sure, some of these destinations are in far-off exotic lands, but there are also some pretty dang amazing places that you really need to visit right here in the U.S. From magical fairy forests to rocky ocean views, all of these places deserve to go on your bucket list. And even if you can't go, they make for some amazing pictures.

Originally published January 2016. Updated May 2017.

1 /53: California: Yosemite National Park

1/53 :California: Yosemite National Park

There's a reason John Muir said, "the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness." 

He shunned society to survive alone in gorgeous Yosemite National Park because of all the beauty the woods held — and still holds today. You can walk John Muir Trail, hike up Half Dome, or just relax among the trees and watch for wildlife.

2 /53: The Bahamas: Exuma

2/53 :The Bahamas: Exuma

On the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay in Exuma, the ocean is a perfect clear turquoise and the beaches are filled with soft, shimmering white sand.

And did we mention the waters are teaming with swimming pigs?

It's not exactly known how the feral — yet extremely cute and friendly — pigs ended up on the island, but popular lore suggests there was a nearby shipwreck and the pigs swam to safety, according to bahamas.com. For now, it doesn't really matter how they got there, but it does matter that you can partake in the unique experience of swimming with them in the sea.

3 /53: Isle of Skye: The Fairy Pools

3/53 :Isle of Skye: The Fairy Pools

The largest of the islands in the Inner Hebrides off the coast of Scotland, the Isle of Skye is already an ethereal and beautiful place, often shrouded in mist. Near the town of Glenbrittle, though, at the foot of the Black Cuillin mountain range, you'll find these frigid, crystal clear pools. Called the "fairy pools" and filled by stream-fed waterfalls, the view is breathtaking.

4 /53: Northern Ireland: The Giant's Causeway

4/53 :Northern Ireland: The Giant's Causeway

According to legend, a mythological giant named Fionn MacComhail built this causeway to reach and fight his Scottish foe, Bendonner. In reality, these massive pillars are basalt columns, a natural consequence of prehistoric volcanic eruptions.

5 /53: Australia: Uluru

5/53 :Australia: Uluru

Uluru, or Ayer's Rock, is arguably one of Australia's most recognizable landmarks. The sandstone formation stands over 1,000 feet high and is located in the Ulu?u-Kata Tju?a National Park in Australia's Northern Territory. Depending on what time of day it is, the massive land-island appears to glow and change color.

6 /53: Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls

6/53 :Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls

To truly understand how large Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls are requires a birds-eye or panoramic view: They are the world's largest. For years, the pounding water of the Zambezi has carved a zigzag path through six massive gorges with sheer, steep walls.

7 /53: California: Zabriskie Point

7/53 :California: Zabriskie Point

There's a lot to see at Death Valley National Park, but one of the most recognizable (and beautiful) attractions is the badland formation of the long-gone Furnace Creek Lake at Zabriskie Point. At night, you can get an unadulterated view of the Milky Way.

8 /53: Arizona: Antelope Canyon

8/53 :Arizona: Antelope Canyon

You probably recognize this picture from the default screensaver on your computer, but the landscape actually exists, and it is awe-inspiring. Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Land. Its Navajo name means "the place where water runs through the rocks," and that's precisely how it got its unique swept-wall feature: During flooding season, the canyons fill with rushing water and Antelope Canyon can be a dangerous place to be.

9 /53: India: The Golden Temple

9/53 :India: The Golden Temple

You'll find the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a city in India's Punjab. The gurudwara's actual name is Harmandir Sahib and it is the most holy site in the Sikh faith. People of all faiths are welcomed equally, and anyone may participate in the gurudwara's community prepared and served meal called a Langar, a vegetarian meal that allows people of any faith to eat side-by-side, regardless of dietary restriction.

10 /53: Greece: Santorini

10/53 :Greece: Santorini

Of the Cyclades Islands off the coast of mainland Greece, Santorini is one of the most easily recognizable with its boxy, whitewashed architecture, capped by bright blue domes. It's the perfect place to enjoy a breeze off the Aegean, explore places of archaeological significance and enjoy a little Aegean wine.

11 /53: Cambodia: Ta Prohm

11/53 :Cambodia: Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is a relatively simple Buddhist temple located in Angkor, Cambodia, except for one small detail: The site has been relatively untouched for 800 years, which has allowed silk-cotton, strangler fig and spung trees to take root and grow to massive heights. This gives the temple the appearance of becoming one with the jungle around it.

12 /53: Montana: Lake McDonald

12/53 :Montana: Lake McDonald

All of Glacier National Park is very beautiful, but people flock to Lake McDonald for the incredible vista: Mountains, dense forest and a placid waterway give visitors a feeling of being surrounded by untouched wilderness.

13 /53: Bolivia: Salar De Uyani

13/53 :Bolivia: Salar De Uyani

Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat, with a surface so reflective during the rainy season that tourists appear to be walking on the clouds.

14 /53: Botswana: Okavango Delta

14/53 :Botswana: Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is fed by a river of the same name and is completely inland, meaning it does not flow into a larger body of water, but instead eventually evaporates until the next rainy season. When it appears, though, the view is absolutely stunning, and it hosts a slew of magnificent creatures like giraffes and cheetahs.

15 /53: Japan: Kawachi Fuji Garden

15/53 :Japan: Kawachi Fuji Garden

The wisteria tunnel in Japan's Kawachi Fuji Gardens lets visitors walk through an overhead arbor of beautifully draping fragrant wisteria while sunlight filters through, giving the walkway an ethereal feel.

16 /53: Madagascar: Avenue Of Baobabs

16/53 :Madagascar: Avenue Of Baobabs

These baobab trees are more than 800 years old. Once they were not so prominent, but since forests in Madagascar have been clear cut, only these stately "mothers of the forest" remain as a testament to the dense forest that once was.

17 /53: Maldives: Sea Of Stars

17/53 :Maldives: Sea Of Stars

The "sea of stars" on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives is actually a colony of bioluminescent phytoplankton called dinoflagellates, which emit an otherworldly cerulean glow.

18 /53: Colorado: The Maroon Bells

18/53 :Colorado: The Maroon Bells

Twin peaks Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak outside of Aspen make up the landscape over Maroon Lake that has become the most photographed spot in Colorado. Another name for this stunning vista? The Deadly Bells. Hikers beware!

19 /53: Northern Ireland: Dark Hedges

19/53 :Northern Ireland: Dark Hedges

If this arbor path looks familiar to you, you may be a Game of Thrones fan: A scene from the popular show was filmed here. The grove of 300-year-old beech trees is said to be haunted by the sorrowful "Grey Lady."

20 /53: France: Provence Lavender Fields

20/53 :France: Provence Lavender Fields

If you visit Provence during lavender season (June to August) you'll likely notice three things immediately. The heady scent of hundreds of thousands of lavender bushes blooming simultaneously; that there is more than one shade of lavender, ranging from a washed-out pale shade to vibrant jewel-toned flowers; and finally that you can put the plant in anything. Everything from lavender honey to sorbet to lavender-flavored syrup can be had for a pittance. 

21 /53: Wyoming: Grand Prismatic Spring

21/53 :Wyoming: Grand Prismatic Spring

The Grand Prismatic spring is the third largest natural hot spring in the world and the largest in the United States. It gets its name (and dizzying array of color) from a type of microorganism that grows around the edges of the spring.

22 /53: Turkey: Pamukkale Pools

22/53 :Turkey: Pamukkale Pools

The Pamukkale Pools are a collection of geothermally warmed travertine pools formed by calcium deposits located in a region of Turkey that is fairly temperate year-round. People have come to bathe in the pools and marvel at their natural beauty for thousands of years.

23 /53: Ukraine: Tunnel Of Love

23/53 :Ukraine: Tunnel Of Love

When trees are allowed to grow on opposite sides of a passageway, their canopies will sometimes mesh, giving the impression of a tunnel. That's what's happening here in "The Tunnel of Love" in Klevan, Ukraine, so named for its popularity among couples that like to walk along the railway.

24 /53: Iceland: Landmannalaugar

24/53 :Iceland: Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar, located at the edge of the Laugahraun lava field in Iceland, is best known for its picturesque hiking trails. That's not entirely just for the exercise, though; the area is difficult to traverse by car. If you're not up for a hike, you'll have to go old school: Tourists will often take Icelandic horses and ponies into the pass.

25 /53: Vietnam: Mu Cang Chai

25/53 :Vietnam: Mu Cang Chai

One of the few man-made wonders on this list, the terraced rice fields of Mù Cang Ch?i in Yên Bái Province, Vietnam is a sight to behold. Farmers in this district have been growing rice this way for centuries. By planting in this ingenious step formation, every rice harvest is watered equally: The layout keeps the water from flowing down the mountain, making the most of that precious resource.

26 /53: Bavaria: Neuschwanstein

26/53 :Bavaria: Neuschwanstein

Built as a refuge for King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle looks to be straight out of a fairy tale. If you think it looks familiar, but can't quite place it, maybe this will jog your memory: The castle inspired Aurora's in Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

27 /53: China: Zhangye Danxia Landform

27/53 :China: Zhangye Danxia Landform

These layers of sandstone in the rock formations of Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park are so vivid and varied that it's almost impossible to believe that they're real. 

28 /53: Arizona: The Grand Canyon

28/53 :Arizona: The Grand Canyon

If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, it's hard to fully grasp just how huge it is. But the steep-sided fissure is a whopping 277 miles long and nearly a mile deep, giving us a rare glimpse into almost 2 billion years of Earth's geographical history.

29 /53: Brazil: Rio De Janeiro

29/53 :Brazil: Rio De Janeiro

So many of us think only of the world-famous "Christ the Redeemer" statue when we think about breathtaking sites in Brazil. That's not a bad thing: The colossal statue is truly a sight to behold. It's what we see when we look beyond the statue, though, to Guanabara Bay, that we see what's truly awe-inspiring. 

30 /53: Chile: Atacama Desert

30/53 :Chile: Atacama Desert

Chile's Atacama Desert is a vast stretch of land near the Chilean coast. It's the best place to go if you never realized your childhood dreams of being an astronaut. The soil in the arid expanse is similar to that of the planet Mars and because it is rarely overcast and relatively unpolluted by light, it makes for unreal stargazing for amateurs and professionals alike, and the desert is home to two observatories.

31 /53: Chile: Torres Del Paine National Park

31/53 :Chile: Torres Del Paine National Park

This national park in Chile's Southern Patagonia is full of geographical wonders including glaciers and lakes, but the most famous of these are almost certainly the peaks from which the park gets its name: three peaks that have also been called "Cleopatra's Needles."

32 /53: China: Tianzi Mountains

32/53 :China: Tianzi Mountains

These distinctive, heart-pounding pillars of quartz sandstones can be found in the Hunan Province of China, where, when fog creeps in, they appear to literally be touching the clouds.

33 /53: Egypt: The White Desert

33/53 :Egypt: The White Desert

The White Desert in Farafra looks like snow-covered sand at first glance. It's not snow, but white chalk that gives the desert its name. The expanse is marked here and there with distinctive rock formations that resemble everything from chickens to maidens. Pictured is "Mushroom Rock," named thus for obvious reasons.

34 /53: France: Giverny

34/53 :France: Giverny

Here's another picturesque scene that savvy travelers will find familiar: The one-time home of Claude Monet, the famous impressionist painter, has drawn artists and art-lovers alike for centuries to see the landscapes that Monet immortalized with his body of work.

35 /53: Ireland: Cliffs Of Moher

35/53 :Ireland: Cliffs Of Moher

Fans of The Princess Bride will recognize these sheer cliff-faces immediately: They were "The Cliffs of Insanity" in the beloved movie. But these cliffs have been standing sentinel in what we now call County Clare for millennia. The cliffs are also home to nearly 30,000 birds, a factoid that's much more unnerving when you're looking at the cliffs from sea level and a flock or two take flight.

36 /53: Italy: Pompeii

36/53 :Italy: Pompeii

The ruins of Pompeii look eerie set against the towering and deadly Mount Vesuvius. Both Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum were destroyed just one day after the celebration of Vulcanalia (a festival honoring Vulcan, the Roman God of the forge, who was believed to use volcanic fire to smelt with) in 79 A.D. People flock to both towns to see the eerie ruins and beautiful frescoes and mosaics left untouched by the carnage.

37 /53: Japan: Hitachi Seaside Park

37/53 :Japan: Hitachi Seaside Park

In this famous public park, all species of flowers have been strategically planted so that something remains in bloom all year long. Most eye-catching, however, is the pictured swirling rows of "burning brush," which seem to light the countryside on fire.

38 /53: Jordan: Petra

38/53 :Jordan: Petra

Sometimes cited as "The Rose City," for the pinkish hue of the city's sandstone, Petra in Jordan is best known for its stone-carved domiciles and tombs, particularly Al-Khazneh, or "the treasury" — the city's most recognizable feature.

39 /53: Kerala: Athirappilly Falls

39/53 :Kerala: Athirappilly Falls

These vast waterfalls in India's southwest state of Kerala are so huge that they've been nicknamed "The Niagara of India." You won't find Athirappilly Falls's fauna anywhere near Niagara, though, including elephants, tigers and pythons.

40 /53: Netherlands: Tulip Fields

40/53 :Netherlands: Tulip Fields

If you can, go to Holland in the month of April. That's when a simple drive through the countryside becomes a psychedelic, practically unreal rainbow of vivid colors, as tulip bulbs are cultivated in the fields from Leiden to Haarlem near the coast.

41 /53: New York: Niagara Falls

41/53 :New York: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, the shared natural spectacle visible from both the U.S. and Canada, is a destination that you really must see in person to fully understand the magnitude and how humbling it is possible to feel when standing nearby. The Horseshoe, Bridal Veil and American Falls deposit more than 6 million cubic feet of water per minute over their combined crest; a powerful rush of water that is so loud tourists must shout to be heard over the din.

42 /53: New Hampshire: Kancamagus Highway

42/53 :New Hampshire: Kancamagus Highway

If you don't associate "highway" with "beautiful" you need to take a trip on the 56-mile-long Kancamagus, which winds its way through New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest. You'll find every possible color of fall foliage along the way, and popular stops include the beautiful Sabbaday (pictured) and Lower Falls.

43 /53: New Zealand: Matamata

43/53 :New Zealand: Matamata

Yep, that's a hobbit hole! Matamata in New Zealand was chosen to be the backdrop for Hobbiton in The Lord of The Rings series, and the landscape surrounding the now-abandoned set is absolutely idyllic. Fans can still visit the little hobbit holes — because they were designed to fit into the existing landscape, the New Zealand government saw no reason to remove them.

44 /53: Namibia: Deadvlei

44/53 :Namibia: Deadvlei

In English, its name means "Dead Valley," and it's an apt moniker. This valley is flat and dry, a clay pan where nothing can grow. The wizened acacia trees you see here probably died almost a thousand years ago, but without even the barest moisture in the air, they cannot decompose.

45 /53: Norway: Lofoten Islands

45/53 :Norway: Lofoten Islands

There are multiple places across the globe to view the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, but the Lofoten Islands off of Norway's coast are arguably some of the most beautiful, since they lie within the Arctic Circle and thus offer a view that's essentially as close as you'll ever get to the charged-particle light show.

46 /53: Peru: Macchu Pichu

46/53 :Peru: Macchu Pichu

Believed to be the mountain estate of Incan Emperor Pachacuti, Machu Picchu holds a lot of mystery for would-be explorers, with rumors of human sacrifice and a number of structures that bely a technological advancement like Inti Watana, a calendar or clock, and the "Eyes of Mother Earth," believed to have once been mirrors designed for astronomical observation.

47 /53: Scotland: Finnich Glen

47/53 :Scotland: Finnich Glen

Finnich Glen is a narrow gorge near Drymen in Scotland. It's not nearly as monumental as some spots on this list, but it's twice as eerie, owed perhaps in part to its other name: the Devil's Pulpit. Parts of the Glen are so narrow and deep that in order to traverse them, you'll have to swim through.

48 /53: Taiwan: Rainbow Family Village

48/53 :Taiwan: Rainbow Family Village

Its proper name is Taichung, but this "Family Village" — another name for a miltary dependent's village — is better known by its nickname. It isn't nearly as ancient as some of the other beautiful places on this list, but only because "Grandpa Rainbow," a 93-year-old military vet whose real name is Huang Yung-fu, might not be done painting it yet. He started with a bird in his own room, and told NDTV he kept going because he was "bored." It's truly a cheerful, one-of-a-kind place.

49 /53: Thailand: Railay Beach

49/53 :Thailand: Railay Beach

You want to go to Railay Beach. It has white beaches of soft, fine sand and towering rock formations that attract all kinds of climbers. It's tough to get there, though: The exotic peninsula is accessible only by boat. That's a good thing, though, because it helps to keep the gorgeous beach relatively secluded and avoids some of the traffic damage that other, easily accessible beachfronts suffer from.

50 /53: Russia: Valley Of Geysers

50/53 :Russia: Valley Of Geysers

Located in the Kamchatka Peninsula, this basin with more than 90 geysers accounts for the second largest natural concentration of geysers in the world. Below ground, temperatures reach 480 degrees Fahrenheit, and the basin is so remote that it is only accessible via helicopter.

51 /53: Israel: Dead Sea

51/53 :Israel: Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is so named because due to its high concentration of salinity, it isn't particularly conducive to life. In fact, the salt level is so high here that you can't really swim — instead, you'll float on the surface. Besides being something of a natural phenomenon, the Dead Sea is gorgeous, holy (it's referenced in the Bible as King David's refuge) and thought to help alleviate common symptoms associated with psoriasis, arthritis and even respiratory maladies.

52 /53: California: Pfeiffer Beach

52/53 :California: Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur is home to this rock monolith, a sea arch with a perfect little keyhole where it meets the water. Adventurers flock to the beach to photograph the beauty of a California sunset peeping through the opening, but for something truly unforgettable, swing by during the winter solstice when the sunset lines up perfectly for a view you'll never forget.

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