Think you’ve seen it all before? Not if you haven’t been to at least to one of these 6 extraordinary places. And, here’s why at least one of them should be on everyone’s itinerary. From ice caves to rainbow mountains and the world’s tallest stalagmites… you may have never heard of them before, but you will be talking about them for years after your trip!
Naoshima, Japan — the art-lover’s mecca
True art appreciation requires tranquillity and solitude. And, Japan’s Naoshima appears to be almost purpose-built for the quiet contemplation of contemporary masterpieces. The island’s transformation from a quiet fishing village to an art hotspot took place several decades ago. Today, it has emerged as an unexpected hub of thought-provoking architectural creations and gravity-defying installations. Spending your day staring at a giant yellow avant-garde pumpkin that’s seemingly melting into the concrete pier or sauntering past endless artwork displays in the island’s numerous galleries, you’re guaranteed to leave feeling inspired and rejuvenated.
Experience the drama of the Waimea Canyon State Park in Hawaii
You’ve heard of the Grand Canyon but now it’s time to discover it smaller cousin, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Rugged and handsome, this Hawaiian gem will take your breath away with miles of stunning scenery and colour. Set off on one of many hiking trails here, discovering hidden gems along the way as you head for a viewpoint where the panorama of the canyon unfolds before your eyes. Feel the goosebumps as you watch the clouds softly roll over the monolithic cliffs or gaze over the island basking in rust-orange sunset.
Be one of the first to explore the magnificent Hang Son Doong in Vietnam
If you don’t say “Oh, wow!” as you enter the Hang Son Doong cave in Vietnam, it’s probably because you’re lost for words altogether. Running right along the Laos-Vietnam border and spanning a whole 9 kilometres, the cave is home to the world’s largest stalagmites, standing at over 70m tall! Discovered as recently as 2009, the cave was only opened up to tourists in 2013, and so you’ll still be one of the first visitors to explore these and other incredible underground formations. The humbling grandeur of this vast space and the truly enchanting atmosphere here firmly establish Hang Son Doong as a not-to-be-missed destination.
Feast on a rainbow at the Zhangye Danxia National Park in China
Described by some as the Rainbow Mountains, the Danxia formations of the Zhangye Danxia National Park are one of Mother Nature’s finest works of art. This technicolour spectacle is more than 24 million years old and has probably had no fewer shares on various social networks. If you plan to take some viral photos of this destination yourself, be sure to visit in the early hours of the morning or late in the evening, when the sun’s rays hit the rock at just the right angle for the colours to truly pop.
Hike, kayak or cycle across the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin
Winter or summer, Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands will have you oooh-ing and aaah-ing every day of your trip here. A stunning archipelago of 22 islands, this national park offers an opportunity to hop from the boat to the beach to a mountainside walk or a caving expedition. Take a kayak around the islands’ rocky shores or cycle about to enjoy the best views. Home to many endangered plant species, this destination is also where some of the world’s most unique ecosystems can be found. In winter, the ice caves are truly breathtaking!
Come face to face with history and mystery at the San Agustín Archaeological Park in Colombia
Mystery and legend fill the air at the San Agustín Archaeological Park in the Colombian southwestern Andes mountain range. A UNESCO Heritage Site, it is home to South America’s largest group of monolithic monuments and ceremonial sites, all dotted around the most spectacular landscape. Mythical creatures carved out of granite will keep a watchful eye on you as you wander around the park. Dolmen-like structures and ancient tombstones offer a glimpse into a centuries-old civilisation, of which very little is known today!