preloadA spectacular display of the northern lights fills the night sky above a peaceful beach with a sheer rock formation to the side.

Travel is all about transcending the ordinary, and that’s doubly true if you happen to be visiting one of the top 10 most beautiful places in the world.

As a seasoned traveler, I’ve created this guide to share what I consider the most extraordinary destinations on the planet, filled with captivating natural wonders to explore and cultural richness to discover. So, let’s dive in.

When booking your next adventure, remember the journey can be as diverse as the destinations themselves. Keep an eye on flight prices with KAYAK’s price alerts to make sure you get the best deal available”

Santorini: A gem of the Aegean

A woman in a blue dress stands on top of a whitewashed building overlooking a calm blue sea.
A beach with big boulders along a red steep cliff.

Nestled in the southern Aegean Sea, Santorini is a dazzling jewel among the Greek islands. Renowned for its captivating beauty, unique architecture, and breathtaking sunsets, this crescent-shaped island has earned its place as one of the top 10 most beautiful places in the world, in my book.

Aesthetic marvel: Santorini’s allure lies in its distinctive landscape, formed by a volcanic eruption in 1600 BC. The island’s cliffs feature whitewashed buildings adorned with blue-domed roofs and churches, which create Santorini’s instantly recognizable silhouette.  

Caldera views: The island’s western side is home to the dramatic caldera, a vast basin filled with crystal-clear waters. Perched atop the cliffs are the picturesque villages of Fira, Oia, and Imerovigli, offering enchanting panoramic views. Sunset in Oia is a spectacle that draws visitors from across the globe, as the sun dips below the horizon and casts shades of pink, orange, and purple across the sky.

Culinary delights: Santorini is a haven for foodies. The local cuisine is a fusion of traditional Greek flavors with a unique island twist. Fresh seafood, flavor-packed tomatoes, fava beans, and capers take center stage in local dishes. Wash it all down with a glass of Assyrtiko wine, cultivated in the island’s volcanic soil.

Best time to travel: The best time to visit Santorini is during the late spring and early autumn months, from April to May and September to October. During this period, the weather is pleasantly warm without being too hot. If you’d rather avoid the crowds, I’d recommend that you steer clear of the peak summer months.

Machu Picchu: The enigmatic citadel of Peru

Machu Picchu, a hilltop ruin of an ancient settlement amongst the steep mountains as seen from a grassy summit with two Llamas.

Tucked away in the Andes mountain range in Peru, Machu Picchu is an ancient marvel and a testament to the engineering prowess of the Inca. This UNESCO Heritage Site is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and captivates visitors with its beauty, mystical aura, and historical significance.

Aesthetic grandeur: Machu Picchu’s charm lies in its stunning natural setting. Perched on a ridge overlooking the Urubamba River Valley, the site is surrounded by towering peaks and lush greenery. The Inca’s intricate stonework, seamlessly integrated with the natural landscape, adds to the visual appeal, creating a harmonious blend of architecture and nature.

Architectural marvels: Visitors to Machu Picchu can explore numerous architectural wonders, from the iconic Intihuatana stone, believed to be a ritualistic sundial, to the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. The precision with which these structures were built continues to baffle archaeologists and contributes to the site’s status as a cultural treasure.

Activities and exploration: Aside from marveling at the ancient ruins, adventurers can embark on the Inca Trail, a multi-day trek that culminates at Machu Picchu and journeys through diverse landscapes and ecosystems. Alternatively, a visit to the nearby Huayna Picchu offers panoramic views of the citadel and the surrounding mountains.

Best time to travel: The best time to visit Machu Picchu is during the dry season, which spans from May to October. During these months, the weather is generally clear and the risk of rainfall is lower, providing prime conditions for exploration as well as beautiful views. The high season attracts more visitors, particularly during June and July, so those looking for a quieter experience may prefer to travel in the shoulder months of May or September.

Petra: The rose-red city of Jordan’s desert

A carriage travels along a road amidst the granite rock formations of the desert.
A crowded path towards a pillared temple carved on the side of a sandstone cliff.

Located amidst the rugged landscapes of southern Jordan, Petra is a prime example of the ancient Nabatean civilization’s architectural ingenuity. Carved into rose-hued cliffs, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a captivating blend of natural beauty and human craftsmanship, earning it the nickname “The Rose-Red City” as well as a spot on my list of the top 10 most beautiful places in the world.

Aesthetic marvel: Petra’s beauty lies in its unique geological setting. The city is accessed through a narrow, kilometer-long gorge known as the Siq, with towering cliffs on either side. The most iconic structure, Al-Khazneh (or The Treasury), greets visitors with its intricately carved façade, revealing the city’s blend of Hellenistic and Middle Eastern architectural influences. Petra’s allure lies not just in its iconic structures but in the sense of stepping back in time. The colors of the rock, especially during sunrise, create a surreal atmosphere that transports you to a bygone era”

Architectural wonders: Beyond The Treasury, Petra unfolds as a vast archaeological site. The Monastery, the Royal Tombs, and the Great Temple are just a few examples of the mesmerizing structures that dot the landscape and make this one of the most scenic places in the world. The city’s rock-cut architecture, combined with its desert surroundings, creates a surreal and otherworldly atmosphere that transports visitors back in time.

Best time to travel: The ideal time to visit Petra is during the cooler months, from late autumn to early spring (October to April). Summer temperatures in the desert can be scorching, making exploration uncomfortable. The cooler months offer pleasant weather for exploring the site, and the soft sunlight enhances the colors of the rose-red rocks, creating an even more enchanting experience for visitors.

The Northern Lights in Iceland: A celestial spectacle

A vibrant night sky hovering over the snow-covered Kirkjufell Mountain.

Iceland, with its mystical landscapes and ethereal beauty, serves as a prime destination to witness the enchanting phenomenon of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. This celestial dance of colors in the Arctic sky transforms the Icelandic nights into a mesmerizing spectacle, making it one of the top 10 most beautiful places in the world. Come to chase this awe-inspiring phenomenon during winter nights.

Activities and exploration: Aside from witnessing the Northern Lights, Iceland offers many other experiences to enjoy. Visitors can explore the country’s unique geological features, such as hot springs, glaciers, and volcanoes. The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa surrounded by lava fields, provides a relaxing retreat. More adventurous souls, meanwhile, can embark on ice cave tours, go on snowmobiling excursions, or explore the iconic Golden Circle route, which encompasses Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall.

Global beauty: Iceland’s Northern Lights are famous the world over due to the ethereal beauty of the natural light show against the backdrop of the Arctic landscape. The stark contrast between the dark, star-studded sky and the vibrant hues of the auroras creates a visual spectacle that is both awe-inspiring and humbling. It’s a reminder of our interconnectedness with the cosmos and the sheer beauty of nature.

Best time to travel: The best time to witness the Northern Lights in Iceland is during the winter months, from September to March. The long nights and clear skies provide prime conditions for viewing the auroras. However, it’s worth remembering that you can never guarantee a sighting of the Northern Lights, so it’s essential to keep an eye on solar activity and weather forecasts for the best chances of experiencing this celestial marvel.

The Taj Mahal: A timeless ode to love in India

Many tourists visit the iconic Taj Mahal passing through the ornate pointed arch entranceway.

Nestled on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra, India, the Taj Mahal stands as an enduring symbol of love and architectural mastery. Commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is revered around the world for its beauty and cultural significance.

Architectural splendor: The Taj Mahal’s pristine white marble façade, adorned with intricate carvings and inlaid with semi-precious stones, reflects a blend of Persian, Islamic, and Indian architectural styles. The central dome, flanked by four towering minarets, is a symmetrical masterpiece.

Symbol of love: The Taj Mahal’s exquisite beauty lies not only in its architectural grandeur but also in the love story it embodies. The mausoleum is a testament to Shah Jahan’s undying love for Mumtaz Mahal, with its serene gardens, reflecting pools, and the iconic “Great Gate” leading to the mausoleum.

Exploration and activities: Visitors to the Taj Mahal can explore its various components, including the main mausoleum, the mosque, and the guesthouse. The intricate detailing of the marble, especially the delicate floral motifs and Quranic inscriptions, showcases the craftsmanship of the artisans. The gardens, laid out in the traditional Persian Charbagh style, offer a tranquil space for contemplation and reflection.

Aim to get to the Taj Mahal either first thing in the morning or just before dusk – to see it bathed in the soft light of sunrise or sunset is a particularly magical experience”

Best time to travel: The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is during the cooler months in winter, from October to March. The weather then is more comfortable, allowing for a more enjoyable exploration of the site. The crisp winter air also helps to enhance the clarity of the views and the radiance of the marble.

The great barrier reef: Australia’s underwater extravaganza

A heart-shaped coral reef emerges from the turquoise ocean waters.
A green sea turtle swims underwater beside a colony of beautiful corals.
A male diver swimming among orange fish and a diverse array of coral reefs.

Stretching over 2,300 kilometers along the northeastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made up of a network of vibrant coral formations and marine life, it’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful natural places in the world. 

Underwater paradise: The Great Barrier Reef’s unparalleled beauty lies in its kaleidoscope of colors and diverse marine ecosystems. The coral formations, ranging from intricate coral gardens to the colossal outer reef, host an astounding variety of colorful marine life, from tropical fish and rays to sharks and turtles. The clear turquoise waters amplify the vibrant hues, creating a mesmerizing underwater landscape.

Activities and exploration: Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef can take part in a wide range of activities. Snorkeling and scuba diving provides up-close encounters with the diverse marine life and the intricate coral formations, while for those who prefer to stay dry, glass-bottom boat tours and helicopter rides offer panoramic views of the reef.

Best time to travel: The best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is during the Australian winter, from June to October. This period offers dry and mild weather, providing ideal conditions for underwater exploration. The water temperature is comfortable for snorkeling and diving, and visibility is generally at its best during this time.

Victoria Falls: The majestic cascade of the Zambezi River

A man stands at the edge of a rock cliff with views of a waterfall that pours into a raging river.

Straddling the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa, Victoria Falls is a breathtaking natural wonder known for being the largest waterfall on the planet, as well as one of the top 10 most beautiful places in the world. Locally known as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” or “The Smoke that Thunders”, this UNESCO World Heritage Site captivates visitors with its awe-inspiring beauty and sheer grandeur.

Natural splendor: The beauty of Victoria Falls lies in its powerful cascade along the Zambezi River, plummeting over 100 meters into a vast gorge. The mist generated by the falls creates a perpetual spray, visible from miles away, and gives rise to rainbows that adorn the surrounding landscapes. The lush rainforest that lines the gorge adds to the enchanting atmosphere, creating a verdant backdrop against the roaring waters.

Activities and exploration: Visitors to Victoria Falls can take part in a variety of activities to experience its magnificence. A walk along the network of trails on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides provide different vantage points, each offering unique perspectives of the falls. For more adventurous types, activities such as whitewater rafting, bungee jumping from the Victoria Falls Bridge, and helicopter rides provide exhilarating views. Sunset cruises along the Zambezi River also offer a tranquil way to appreciate the falls from a distance.

Best time to travel: The best time to visit Victoria Falls is during the dry season, from June to September. During this period, the water flow is at its peak and the mist and spray are less intense, providing ideal visibility. The rainy season from November to March, meanwhile, brings higher water levels, which results in a more dramatic flow and particularly lush vegetation. Travelers should consider their preferences, whether they’re looking to prioritize water volume or clearer views, when planning their visit to this natural spectacle.

The Maldives: Paradise in the Indian Ocean

A picturesque coral landscape under the turquoise sea near a lush forested island on a scenic sky.

Situated in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a tropical archipelago comprising 26 atolls and over 1,000 coral islands. This sun-kissed destination is celebrated for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and luxurious overwater bungalows, earning its place as one of the most enchanting and sought-after destinations on the planet. The Maldives offers a serene escape where time seems to stand still. The overwater bungalows allow you to wake up to the gentle lapping of the Indian Ocean – a luxury beyond compare

Natural beauty: The Maldives’ unrivaled beauty is characterized by its powdery white sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and the stunning sapphire hues of the surrounding waters. The crystal-clear lagoons reveal a kaleidoscope of marine life, making it a paradise for snorkelers and divers. The overwater bungalows, perched above the azure expanse, provide a luxurious and intimate way to experience this tropical haven, which is particularly popular with couples and honeymooners. 

Activities and exploration: While in the Maldives, visitors can enjoy an array of water-based activities. Snorkeling and diving trips reveal the vibrant underwater world, where coral gardens teem with colorful fish, rays, and even the occasional shark. Water sports enthusiasts can sign up for kayaking or windsurfing, or embark on a sunset cruise. Those looking for some peace and tranquility can unwind in world-class spas or enjoy a romantic dinner on a private sandbank.

Best time to travel: The best time to visit the Maldives is during the dry season, from November to April. During these months, the weather is characterized by clear skies, calm seas, and plenty of sunshine. While the wet monsoon season (May to October) brings occasional rain and stronger winds, it also offers a chance for surfers to ride the waves. Travelers should choose their time to visit based on their personal preferences, whether they’re looking for calm seas to experience the vibrant underwater life or planning to hit the waves.

The Grand Canyon: Nature’s timeless masterpiece in the American Southwest

A woman clutching trekking poles walking on a narrow path carved into the rocky mountains of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA.
An empty road between the red and orange sandstone canyons with riverfront views.
A man stands on top of a rocky mountain overlooking the Grand Canyon landscape.

Carved by the mighty Colorado River over millions of years, the Grand Canyon stands as a geological marvel and one of the most iconic natural wonders in the world. Located in the state of Arizona, USA, this immense canyon stretches over 277 miles, revealing rock layers that chronicle the Earth’s geological history.

Activities and Exploration: Visitors to the Grand Canyon can explore its wonders through a variety of activities. Hiking trails like the Bright Angel Trail and the South Kaibab Trail provide opportunities to descend into the canyon, offering different perspectives of its geological features. The North Rim is less visited but equally stunning, providing a slightly more private experience. Helicopter tours, river rafting expeditions, and the iconic Grand Canyon Skywalk – a glass bridge extending over the canyon – offer unique ways to appreciate this natural marvel’s grandeur.

Best Time to Travel: The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is during spring (March to May) or fall (September to November), when the weather is mild and the crowds are less intense. Summer can be hot, particularly at the canyon’s depths, while winter brings colder temperatures and occasional snow.

Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine: A tranquil haven in Japan’s sacred landscape

Stunning pagoda temple set against a backdrop of forested mountain range and cascading waterfalls beneath a serene cloudy blue sky.

Located in the serene Kumano region of Japan and nestled amidst lush landscapes, Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine is a serene retreat that stands as a testament to the country’s spiritual heritage. Revered as one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano, this sacred site harmoniously blends Shinto and Buddhist traditions, surrounded by verdant forests and cascading waterfalls. Kumano Nachi Taisha in Japan offers a tranquil escape. Surrounded by ancient cedar trees, the shrine exudes a sense of peace and reveals a connection to Japan’s rich spiritual heritage

Architectural elegance: The shrine’s architectural elements contribute to its beauty. The crimson-colored buildings with their gracefully sloping roofs, juxtaposed against the lush hills, create a visually striking contrast. The pagoda, known as the Seiganto-ji Pagoda, adds an extra layer of cultural richness to the site, making it not only a spiritual haven but also an architectural gem.

Activities and exploration: Visitors to Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine can engage in a variety of activities that offer insight into Japan’s spiritual traditions. Pilgrimages along the Kumano Kodo – ancient trails that connect various sacred sites in the region – provide a contemplative journey through diverse landscapes. The Nachi Fire Festival, held every year in July, is a vibrant event that features traditional performances and illuminations, attracting visitors from near and far.

Best time to travel: The best time to visit Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine is during the spring (April to June) or autumn (September to November) when the weather is mild and the surrounding landscapes are adorned with cherry blossoms or vibrant fall foliage. Visiting during these seasons allows visitors to appreciate the spiritual and natural beauty of Kumano Nachi Taisha in its most picturesque state.

How does KAYAK know what to put in this guide?

Drawing on my extensive travel experiences and a profound love for natural beauty, my ability to curate an article on the most beautiful places in the world stems from a deep passion for exploration. Having explored diverse landscapes across continents, I’ve encountered breath-taking vistas, serene landscapes, and awe-inspiring wonders. These journeys have not only broadened my perspective, but have also fuelled a desire to share the magnificence of our world with others. I hope I can inspire you, my fellow wanderers, to embark on your own adventures and witness the splendour that our world has to offer.


As we come to the end of this list of the top 10 most beautiful places in the world, remember that the planet is a canvas of beauty waiting to be explored. But traveling around the globe doesn’t need to break the bank – there are plenty of gorgeous destinations on a budget that you can visit. 

Each of the locations on this list offers a unique blend of nature’s wonders and cultural richness. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out which travel experiences you should sign up for next, and brush up on the latest travel news. Bon voyage!

About the author

Paul D.Paul loves just about anything that involves cold weather – skiing, hockey, and Christmas are a few examples. If there’s snow coming down, he wants to be there. That’s why you can find him on the slopes in Montana or reading a book by the fire in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His ultimate bucket-list destination is Ireland.

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