The mountain country of Nepal is predictably stunning. The capital of Kathmandu is possibly the most famous, and has exceptionally distinctive architecture, but the second largest town of Pokhara is the real jaw-dropper as it is looked upon by some of the tallest mountains on earth, in the Annapurna massif.
At the time of this list’s publication, Nepal has been rocked by a devastating earthquake that has claimed the lives of many. Our thoughts are with the people of the beautiful mountain nation.
Australia has 16,000 miles of coastline, boasting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the greatest natural wonders in the world, the Island of Tasmania is one of the world’s 10 most beautiful, and Sydney is one of the world’s ten loveliest cities. The Hamersley Mountain range is the second oldest in the world. The Land Down Under is over the top beautiful!
Often overlooked because of neighbouring beauty Thailand, the Philippines is one of the most stunning countries in the world. It’s made up of over 7000 stunning islands in the Pacific Ocean! Palawan in particular has been called the most beautiful island in the world!
Land of trolls and fjords, Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. While fjords such as Geiranger, Nærøyfjord and Sognefjord dominate the mental images of this Scandinavian gem, the Lofoten Islands are debatably its visual highlight. If you’re surprised by the Northern Lights while taking in these stunning sights, your mind may just start playing some Edvard Hagerup Grieg in spontaneous celebration!
The world’s most biodiverse country is also its fifth largest. Within such a massive area, it is unsurprising that there are scenic highlights. Foremost is undoubtedly the unparalleled Amazon Rainforest and Amazon River. The Rain Forest is by far the largest on earth, and would be the sixth largest country in the world were it independent. The Pantanal is one of the best wildlife destinations in the world, the Iguazu falls named the second most amazing waterfall in the world, and Rio de Janeiro has been named the second most beautiful city in the world.
Chile spans almost from the equator to the sub Antarctic, making it the longest contiguous country in the world as measured by latitude. Crammed into the almost 40 latitude degrees are some of the world’s most beautiful places. Last Hope Fjord is one of the most beautiful in the world, and the Atacama desert is astonishing, partly because it is the driest non-ice desert on Earth. Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is probably the most beautiful of all Chile’s wonders, and is South America’s answer to our own Yosemite.
Home to stunning places like Rajasthan and Goa, India has everything from tropical beaches to the glacier capped Himalayas. From the town of Varanasi, to the great monument of love which is the Taj Mahal, to possibly the finest wildlife offered outside of Africa, the diversity, colors and frequent chaos of this nation can be overwhelming. Despite that, it undeniably has many of the most stunning places on planet Earth.
“The Pearl of Africa” is incredible. Though a small country, it is the starting point of one of the most amazing rivers in the world – and its very longest - the Nile. The river is born in the ‘mountains of the moon’, more accurately known as the Rwenzoris, which are some of the mountains you’ve probably never heard of but have to try see! Lake Victoria has been called the most amazing lake on earth, and the country is one of the best wildlife viewing destinations on earth thanks in large part to the stunning Murchison Falls National Park.
Europe’s mountain nation encompasses probably the very most beautiful parts of the Alps. The Matterhorn is listed number two on the most incredible mountains in the world list, and the Bernese Oberland makes up some of the most beautiful highlands on earth. The country has earned it’s cliché for near-perfection, as it is amongst the cleanest on earth. Wandering through the streets of some of the most beautiful towns and villages in the world, like Lugano and Luzern, one feels it would be possible to eat off the streets themselves!
The Canadian Rockies are justifiably famous as amongst the most beautiful in the world. The stunning view of the Twelve Apostles from Moraine Lake in Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful in the world, Vancouver is one of the world’s loveliest cities, the Baffin island mountains are known by few but are totally unmissable travel highlights, the country has the longest coastline in the world, and as featured in a recent list the mind bending Sam Ford Fjord is seen by some as the world’s most impressive fjord on planet earth! And you thought they only had Bieber?
Land of the Maasai Mara and image of wild Africa. The country has been rated in the top 3 wildlife countries on Earth, and Mount Kenya is the second tallest mountain on the continent. The spectacle of the great migration is one of the greatest in the world, and the views of Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park are ironically probably better than from Tanzania itself, in which the great mountain is situated!
Probably the most beautiful country in all of Europe, Italy is one of the world’s great tourist destinations for a reason. Not only are the Dolomite Alps some of the loveliest mountains on earth, but the Mediterranean finds its very most beautiful landscape on the Amalfi Coast, named the third most beautiful coastal drive in the world. Rome is one of the most stunning cities on earth, and Positano has been named the loveliest town in all the world. Some more of the world’s loveliest coast is found in the stunning island of Sicily, which also boasts some of the world’s most beautiful wildflowers in spring – as does Umbria! Add lakes like Como, a huge number of the most beautiful churches in the world, some of the greatest art works on the planet, and several of the most beautiful small cities on earth – including Florence and Venice – and Italy is certainly one of the most beautiful countries on earth!
Land of the Serengeti, Lake Victoria, Lake Natron and Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, Zanzibar, the Spice Islands, Dar Es Salaam and a million more, Tanzania is almost beyond belief.
Mount Kilimanjaro rises over 3 miles above the surrounding plains, making it one of the world’s two mountains with greatest vertical relief, together with our own McKinley. It is also the largest free standing mountain in the world.
Birthplace of Freddie Mercury, the country is one of the very best wildlife destinations on earth. During the great migrations between Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, which means ‘Endless Plains’, the largest migration of mammals in the world takes place. This spectacle sees millions of animals moving in search of better grazing and prey, and has been called the greatest sight on Earth. In February alone, an estimated 500,000 wildeest calves are born on the planes!
The immense flamingo flocks that dominate Lake Manyara and Lake Natron are breathtaking, and this is made all the more stunning by the fact that Natron itself is a vivid pink color due to its chemical content. Tanzania is almost too beautiful to believe.
This may be an unexpected addition to the top 10, but Colombia deserves its spot! It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, due in part to its incredible altitude differences within the tropics. The country has some of the most impressive sections of the Andes, and Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain range on Earth. Within only thirty miles of the Carribean Coast, the range rises over 18,000 feet!
Caño Cristales is often called the most beautiful river in the world, due mostly to being multi-colored, and spots such as Cabo de la Vela Tarona National Park and Salento and the Coffe Triangle ensure this country’s undisputed place on a world’s most beautiful list.
It is not only natural beauty that defines the country though. Cartagena is one of the most beautiful small cities in the world, and the country is justifiably famous for its fascinating architecture and Spanish Conquistador influence. Las Lajas Sanctuary is one of the most incredible and beautiful churches in the world, and its location is almost unbelievable. Cali, Mompox, Medellin and Popayan are other beautiful settlements in the country that ensure its cultural as well as natural beauty.
She may have wanted the country to hold back its tears, but it’s pretty certain Evita shed a few when considering its incredible beauty.
From the urban splendor of Buenos Aires, rated one of the most beautiful cities in the world, to the massive expanse of the Pampas, Argentina is a land of evocative beauty. The Iguazu Falls, which straddle, Argentina and Brazil, are generally regarded as one of the two most impressive and beautiful waterfalls in the world – with only Victoria Falls in Zambia / Zimbabwe being rated above it with frequency.
Probably the scenic highlight of the country, though, is Patagonia. It is a world of stunning glaciers and impossible towering spears that tear the sky. Monte Fitzroy and Monte Cerro are possibly the most famous of all the mountains in the area, skewering the air above them with their six thousand feet high cliff faces. Aconcagua is the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that is actually growing, Its average height is 240 feet above the water, and 558 feet ice depth.
Considering that it makes up an area almost five times the size of Manhattan, it’s unsurprising that this area makes up the third largest fresh water reserve in the world – and it is visually astonishing.
The desert nation of Africa is hauntingly beautiful. It’s Germanic influence is evident throughout the country, which is one of the world’s natural treasure troves.
Etosha national park is indisputably one of the world’s greatest game reserves. Before the rainy season, it offers wildlife viewing that rivals the very best reserves on Earth. The Caprivi Strip is a water wonderland, with the Epupa falls generally regarded as the second largest waterfall in an arid area. The Erongo mountains, Spitkoppe and Brandberg are amongst the most remarkable mountains in the world, and the Namib Naukluft feature on the list of mountains that one must see, but that are often unknown.
The deserts to the South of the country are in many ways the highlights of the stunning nation. The skeleton coast, where glorious dunes plunge into stunning Atlantic waters with almost no inhabitants, is justifiably world famous. Even more so is the area of Sossusvlei, also in the enormous Namib Naukluft. It is usually seen as the single most beautiful desert scape on Earth. Dead Vlei, found within the greater Sossuvlei area, is an astounding area featuring trees petrified by centuries with little rain, and it often reduces first time visitors to speechless wonder.
Namibia is without any doubt one of the world’s most scenically magnificent countries.
The world’s third largest country has some of its finest scenery. The Mekong River is one of the most extraordinary rivers in the world, arising in the vast Tibetan Plateau. This plateau is the largest and highest plateau in the world, with tens of thousands of glaciers including the Rongbuk, Midui and Hailuogou that eventually help feed the Mekong and many other rivers. If regarded as a canyon, the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon is certainly the largest on Earth, stretching over 300 miles in length and attaining a mind boggling maximum depth of almost 20,000 feet near Mount Namcha Barwa in the Himalayas.
And of course the Himalayas are probably the ultimate visual highlight of the great country of China. Everest and Mount Qogir, the two tallest mountains on earth, are both on the border of China. Nine of the world’s fourteen ‘Eight Thousanders’ are in China or on the Chinese border.
Aside from the Himalayas, Mount Hua, Mount Tianmen and mount Tianzi are stunning. The Detian Falls, on the border with Vietnam, have been listed as some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world and the hills of Guanxi province are utterly astonishing.
As if that wasn’t enough, China has urban beauty and cultural beauty that rivals anywhere on the planet. Its cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, are world famous and in a prominent list Hong Kong has recently been rated one of the world’s most beautiful. The Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall of China are just three of the magnificent ancient structures that justify China’s place in the most beautiful countries on earth.
3. New Zealand
The “World’s Most Beautiful Island-Nation” is so stunning that it even makes the Top 3 for Beautiful Countries. It’s hard to know where to begin with such a scenically magnificent place.
Wellington has been named one of the ten most beautiful small cities, and Auckland is famously attractive with a host of beaches dotted around its fascinating isthmus setting. Queentown is the obvious ‘urban’ scenic highlight of the country, because it is so stunningly situated on Lake Wakatipu in the shade of ‘The Remarkables’ mountain range. It’s no wonder it has been named one of the five most beautiful towns in the world.
Of course, though New Zealand’s urban centres are very pleasant, they tend not to be the scenic highlight compared to the stunning natural beauty of the country. Not many places could pass for everything from Mordor to Rivendell, but Peter Jackson’s home country is the obvious country that does!
Only a stone’s throw from Queenstown is Fiordland National Park, home to Milford Sound. Arguably the scenic highlight of the whole country, the Sound has been rated Most Beautiful Fjord in the World and in 2008 was named World’s Top Travel Destination by Traveller’s Choice. The Mitre rises over a mile above the deathly still waters of the sound, in which pods of dolphins and sometimes even whales can be seen.
Nearby Doubtful Sound and Earnslaw Burn are almost as magnificent, and the Southern Alps are amongst the most beautiful mountains on Earth. Mount Cook or ‘Aoraki’ as it is known in local Maori has likewise been named the eighth Greatest Mountain in the World.
The Glowworm caves of Waitomo are a world wonder, as are the magnificent Kauri Forests of the far North Island. Tāne Mahuta and Te Matua Ngahere are the most famous trees in New Zealand, and some of the most incredible in the world. The Kauris are magnificent, and said to have the fourth largest tree volume of any tree species in the world thanks to Tāne Mahuta. Discovering them while walking through the incredible Waipoua Forest, complete with the magnificent ferns for which New Zealand is famous, is an incredible experience.
The Coromandel Peninsula boasts one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world. The Waikato river is so blue it’s hard to believe it’s real. Of course many of the country’s rivers are an unbelievably blue colour due to the glaciers that feed them! The Franz Josef Glacier is maybe most famous of all, but the Fox Glacier literally ends in rain forest!
New Zealand’s coast is one of the most beautiful on Earth, and Rotorua Geysers are second in the world only to Yellowstone in terms of geothermal activity. Sutherland Falls, in Fiordland, has been named one of the most amazing waterfalls in the world, and Lake Pukaki one of the three most beautiful lakes in the world. Unbelievably, Tekopo, Taupo and Wanaka seem just as beautiful!
Aotearoa, “The Land of The Long White Cloud” is not only the Most Beautiful Island Nation in all the world, it is beyond any question one of the most beautiful countries on our beautiful planet.
2. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Half of the most beautiful canyons in the world are here, including Zion, Antelope, Bryce, Paria, Waimea and of course the Grandest of them all. The Painted Desert is one of the most beautiful in the world, and Tracy’s Arm is amongst the most beautiful fjord’s in the world. The Everglades are amongst the most beautiful wetlands, Yellowstone is by far the world’s greatest geothermal site and it’s not too bad for wildlife either. The States has two of the world’s top ten waterfalls in the form of Niagara and Yosemite, one wide, one tall, and both stunning.
The country has some of the most stunning mountains in the world, including the Colorado Rockies, the Grand Tetons and the Sierra Nevada. Glacier National Park is incredible, and the most awesome forest in the world is Sequoia. It is home to the largest living thing by volume, the magnificent General Sherman tree.
As if that were’t amazing enough, the oldest trees are also found in the US! Methuselah is a Bristlecone Pine estimated to be 4,846 years in age! That means he’s been looking over the stunning California landscape since before the Great Pyramids of Egypt were even dreamt of!
There are also ancient mountains including the Appalachians, St Francois and the Black Hills all of which are over a billion years in age and amongst the ten oldest ranges in the world. The Mississippi is one of the great rivers of the world, and Lake Superior is just the biggest of five great lakes which together hold one fifth of the world’s fresh water reserves. For beauty though, Crater Lake is pretty much as pretty as its possible to be, although Tahoe gives it a run for its money, as does St Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, or Jenny Lake in Wyoming.
Not only does New England have the most beautiful Fall in the world, but Texas, Mount Rainier and California are three of the world’s ten best places to go in Spring and witness wildflower displays. The Bering Glacier is one of the most amazing glaciers in the world, and Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on Earth. The Mammoth Cave System is the longest known in the world, and the Na’apali coast is one of the most beautiful on Earth! Denali, as Mount McKinley is traditionally known, is not only North America’s tallest mountain, but has probably the greatest base to top height distance of any mountain in the world at an incredible 18,000 feet.
All of which makes the country pretty much perfect for road-tripping, which one can choose to do on not one, not two, but three of the twelve most beautiful coastal drives in the world - Oregon, Hana and Big Sur.
Even without the nature, this country is incredible. Whether you’re looking for beautiful small towns, small cities or huge cities, the US features on every list in the form of places including Bardstown, Santa Fe, Savannah, San Francisco and New York. New Orleans has been named one of the most beautiful small cities, and their Mardi Gras is probably the world’s biggest and coolest party outside of Brazil’s carnival! Las Vegas has to have more lights per inhabitant than anywhere else on the planet, and was voted the second highest city ‘you have to see before you die’ by the BBC.
The urban skylines in America are the stuff of legend. New York takes the cake, with probably the most iconic skyline in the world, but Chicago is not far behind, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, Seattle and Atlanta are all pretty much instantly recognisable too from their awesome skylines.
The Chrysler Building has repeatedly been named the world’s most beautiful skyscraper, and The Empire State Building is arguably the most iconic building in the world. The Brooklyn Bay Bridge is only beaten by the magnificent Golden Gate to the title of world’s most famous! With incredible monuments like Mount Rushmore, The Lincoln Memorial and the Statue of Liberty, this is a country with more beauty than anyone could handle.
Whether you’re looking for a glacial lake or bright lights to shop by, we’ve got it. Basically, the States has just about everything, and is one seriously bad-ass beautiful country.
1. South Africa
This country sweeps international travel prizes and has travellers raving about its beauty so much that it has the highest repeat tourism of any long haul destination in the world! Considering how crazy people are about the place, it’s not surprising that South Africa takes the top spot in the beauty stakes.
Not only does the country have stupendous natural beauty, but it’s urban-amazing too. The town of Franschhoek has been named amongst the five loveliest in the world, and the metropolis of Cape Town is more often than not picked as the most beautiful city on earth by travel lists and tourists alike, because of both its unparalleled natural setting and gorgeous architecture.
This setting is on a coastline hailed as the most beautiful on earth. In fact the country has three of the world’s ten most beautiful coastal drives including Clarens Drive and Chapman’s Peak. These were number one and number two most beautiful coastal drives respectively.
South Africa also has an astonishing variety of marine life, with almost twice the number of marine species as the whole Mediterranean in a coastline only 2000 miles long. It’s the best place in the world to view whales from shore, and to swim with great white sharks. The world’s largest migration of Ocean life occurs here, and is one of the two largest migrations of any kind on earth.
With some of the finest national parks in the world, including the Kgalagadi, Isimangaliso, Hluhlue Imfolozi and Tsitsikamma, South Africa has been rated the finest wildlife destination on earth and is Africa’s most biodiverse. That’s much of where it leaps ahead of other countries in terms of beauty. What’s better than a great sunset? A great sunset with giraffes or elephants in front! The Greater Kruger National Park and Limpopo Transfrontier Park has more species of large mammal than anywhere else in the world. Surrounding Cape Town is the world’s densest plant kingdom by species count. The King Protea flower is a gorgeous bloom the size of a dinner plate!
Surrounded by Cape Town is one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, Table Mountain. When viewed from across Table Bay this world wonder provides one of the greatest views on Earth, and has been named one of the world’s greatest mountains. Incredibly, two of the eleven mountains chosen for this honour are located entirely within South Africa, more than is claimed by any other country. The other is the Amphitheatre, a gigantic cliff regarded as one of the most impressive in the world. Its cliff face is around ten times the size of the main South Western face of Yosemite’s El Capitan and six times the size of the North Face of Switzerland’s Matterhorn!
The Amphitheatre is found in the Drakensberg, one of the world’s most beautiful and utterly distinctive mountain ranges. It has been named the third in the list of must see mountain ranges you’ve probably never heard of. Falling off its face is possibly the tallest waterfall on earth, though officially the second tallest, which is arout twenty times the height of Niagara! ‘The Tugela Falls’ plunge over 3000 feet in 5 abrupt steps! This, together with the Augrabies falls, is one of two South African falls named in the Top 10 waterfalls in the world. In the North of the Drakensberg is one of the greatest and most beautiful canyons in the world, the subtropical Blyde River.
Other mountain ranges in the country include the best-exposed fold mountains in the world, The Swartberg or ‘Black Mountains’. Unlike their name suggests, these mountains display astonishing technicolor sandstone cliffs folded in all directions through what geologists call anticlines and synclines. They house one of the most beautiful cave systems in the world, the Kango. Four of the ten oldest mountain ranges in the world are found in South Africa, including the breathtaking Waterberg and the stunning Makhonjwa range, the oldest in the world. This is a country of astounding age, and is the place where both the oldest fossils and the oldest gold have been found.
Even the deserts in this country are astonishingly beautiful, from the powdered red sands of the Kalahari to the Karoo and Namaqualand. The latter is an incredible arid area larger than California that turns into the world’s largest garden each Spring in a floral display unrivalled anywhere on earth. Thousands of species of flowers bloom and transform the landscape unimaginably. It, together with Technicolor city suburbs like the Bokaap, is part of why the country has been called the world’s most colorful.
Unsurpassed wildlife and mountains, whales and waterfalls, architecture and antiquity, the world’s most beautiful city, and the world’s most stunning Spring, plus a host of natural treasures make South Africa “The Most Beautiful Country In The World”, and a must-see traveller’s dream.
This article was originally featured on buzzfeed.com
Currated by Jesse Delgrosse @gringosontherunun.com