Discover Ideas For Your Photography Bucket List With These 20 Must-See Destinations Around The World
As photographers, there are too many places to see and not enough time to see them all! Some of these places are so extraordinary they’re worth a visit in your lifetime. So we’ve made a list of 20 of the most fantastic places to visit in the world and capture with your lens.
But first, I wanted to write a quick PSA about tourism and traveling to incredible places.
Without question, the world is a fabulous and incredible place. It’s extraordinary landscapes are breathtaking and worth viewing for yourself.
However, the Earth is changing, more people are traveling, and some of these places won’t be around forever.
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When traveling, it’s important to be considerate of the place, culture, and people around the area you’re visiting. There are stories like the one of the man who was arrested in Myanmar after pulling the plug of the amplifier that was broadcasting a prominent monk’s sermon because it was disturbing his sleep. Of the tourist who scratched “XYZ was here” on the back of an Easter Island statue. Events like this are happening more and more as tourism booms around the world and people from different cultures mix and sometimes clash.
With any natural wonder of the world, you’re bound to see crowds. These places are so popular because of their incredible nature. But overcrowding and disrespectful tourists are definitely issues in many places that aren’t equipped for the fascinated crowds they draw.
It’s our responsibility as photographers, and as humans, to treat these places and their inhabitants (man as well as animal) with respect. Being respectful means not only making your impact as small as possible but being aware of the culture. This not only helps ensure a harmonious trip, it’s just a nice thing to do.
For photographers, in particular, you probably already know that taking photos of people is taboo in some cases. But in places where you think it might even be okay, it’s still your respectful duty to ask when you can.
You may not agree with certain customs or traditional views within a culture. You can even voice your disagreement, but always do so in a respectful manner, and prepare to go along anyway. Enjoying and fulling experiencing the place or adventure sometimes requires acceptance and willingness to be humbled in the face of the new and extraordinary.
1: Cueva de Los Cristales, México
Unlike any other place in the world, the Cueva de Los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) in Mexico is a sight rightfully reserved on many people’s bucket lists. The gorgeous cave contains thousands of crystals, some of them giants that are several meters thick, that will take your breath away with their beauty.
The limestone cavern was discovered as recently as 2000 by two brothers drilling thousands of feet below ground in the Naica mine – a huge mine in Mexico that produces tons of lead and silver each year. The geologic forces that produce lead and silver, it turns out, also provide the raw materials for crystals.
2: Wulingyuan, Hunan Province, China
One can’t help but be in awe of the Wulingyuan, the towering 200-meter-tall sandstone pinnacles covered in foliage that stand resolutely throughout China’s Hunan Province. For photographers, this place is unlike any other on earth and invites you to capture the amazing beauty at every turn. When thick clouds of mist roll in, the effect is even more spectacular: floating mountains like the sort you’d find that inspired those in the 2009 science fiction film Avatar.
The pinnacles, as part of the Wuling Mountain Range, have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1992. There are more than three thousand sandstone pillars and peaks throughout the area, many over 200 meters (660 feet!) in height. You’ll also find deep ravines, streams, waterfalls, as well as two natural bridges running throughout the Wulingyuan.
3: Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is on many photographer’s bucket lists for a number of reasons. The reef is one of the world’s largest living structures; currently, it covers a span of around 2,200 km (1,400 miles) and is visible from space, but this is rapidly decreasing as it becomes threatened by acidification of the oceans as a result of climate change.
You’ll still find breathtaking beauty in this fragile ecosystem that has allowed marine life to flourish there for many hundreds of years. By the numbers, it contains 600 different types of hard and soft corals, 1625 types of fish, 100 different species of jellyfish, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, and around 30 species of whales and dolphins swim through its waters.
As the world’s largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef remains a place where visitors and photographers flock to see it in all its glory. But recently, larger sections of the reef are beginning to lose life and slowly die out (a process scientists call ‘bleaching’), so this is one of those places you’ll want to see and record before it’s too late.
4: Valley of Flowers, India
India’s Valley of Flowers lies at the beginning of the Himalayas, where many explorers have begun their treks into the mountains. Like its name suggests, flowers bloom in abundance here in a swath of colors and sizes. To one side of the valley, you’ll find tall cliffs speckled with flowers, on the other, looming snow-clad mountains rise into view. A river winds serenely through the bottom of the valley. The place leaves many visitors awestruck.
You’ll find the exhilarating trek to Hemkund Sahib – a pristine alpine lake nestled at 14,300 ft. – to be just as worth taking as your visit to the valley.
Because the flowering doesn’t happen year-round, you’ll want to plan your trek during an opportune time of year, which will generally be around July and August, or during the monsoon season.
5: Yosemite National Park, California, USA
Yosemite holds a special place in the hearts of many explorers, past and present, who have made the trek to California and have visited this wondrous national park. Tucked into the mountains, away from most cities and towns, this place is an obvious bucket list choice for outdoor photographers from around the world.
The valley is generally open year-round to people who wish to hike, camp or climb in Yosemite while absorbing its natural beauty. The Ahwahnee Hotel, built in 1927, captivates visitors with its own architectural grandeur nestled within Yosemite Valley.
John Muir, the famous writer-explorer, was the first to observe the valley and postulate its formation was the result of glaciation. Over millions of years, the granite rock formed by volcanic heat and pressure has been carved away previously by massive glaciers within the valley, resulting in magnificent rounded valleys and granite cliffs.
Half Dome and El Capitan, two of the most famous granite cliff formations in the park, have inspired great artists such as Ansel Adams, who helped make them famous with his photography. Beyond the main attractions, you’ll also find numerous other photographic wonders, such as waterfalls, glaciers, and sweeping vistas that make Yosemite a place like none other in the world.
6: Victoria Falls, Namibia/Zimbabwe, Africa
Next on our list is Victoria Falls, one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls in the world. At 1.25 miles wide, this natural wonder is a big tourist draw for both Namibia and Zimbabwe (both of which claim roughly half of the falls).
These falls bear the native name Mosi-oa Tunya which is Kololo for “the smoke that thunders.” One of the most impressive facts about these falls is their age, estimated at around two million years old! Prepare to be awestruck as you look upon this natural wonder located in the heart of Southern Africa.
It took thousands of years of erosion for Victoria Falls to become what it is now, but only recently has tourism to the falls become popular. As David Livingstone recorded in 1855, after he first set eyes on the waterfall, “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
7: Saturnia Hot Springs, Tuscany, Italy
Saturnia is a small town nestled in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, which has become more well-known to those outside of Italy because of its picturesque hot springs. Enjoyed by the ancient Etruscans and Romans, the hot springs of Saturnia were believed to have been a creation born from the exact point in which Jupiter’s thunderbolt fell in a battle against Saturn. The Romans, in particular, had built a resting station in Saturina along the Via Clodia route specifically for the purpose of enjoying the baths. Back then and to this day, the mud deposited in the baths is rich in sulfur. Locals still use the baths as a healing place and you’ll some people coating themselves with mud as they lounge around the springs.
The Romans, in particular, had built a resting station in Saturina along the Via Clodia route specifically for the purpose of enjoying the baths. Back then and to this day, the mud deposited in the baths is rich in sulfur. Locals still use the baths as a healing place and you’ll some people coating themselves with mud as they lounge around the springs.
For photographers, it may be tricky to capture images of the hot springs due to people relaxing in them and enjoying their privacy. You may need to plan your visit during a time when they aren’t in use, or in the off season. If you travel during the peak tourist season, when foreigners and locals alike relax in the hot springs, then this may be a bucket list item to immerse yourself in the healing waters and enjoy them for yourself.
8: Zagorje Region, Croatia
With many cities and landmarks in Croatia experiencing an overwhelming surge in tourism, the Zagorje region of Croatia remains a relatively undiscovered area with plenty of beautiful sights to see. If you’re wanting to visit Croatia but don’t want the crowds, consider exploring the medieval castles, delightful villages, gorgeous vineyards, and thermal springs that Zagorje has to offer.
The region begins near Mt. Medvednica, north of the more popular city of Zagreb, and reaches west to the country’s border with Slovenia. Trakoscan Castle is a notable landmark within the region; built in the 13th century this fortress on a hill is complete with medieval turrets, man-made lake, and a drawbridge.
Croatia, like most destinations on this list, is best enjoyed during the “off season” between October and May when crowds of tourists in cities and along the coast have gone home. You can then explore and photograph these places in all their beauty, without worrying so much about the crowds and higher prices.
9: Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
An absolutely magical destination next on our list is the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves in New Zealand. Located on New Zealand’s North Island, you’ll venture over 45 meters (150 feet) underground into the inside of the 30 million-year-old limestone caves. Every year, thousands of visitors come to see and experience the caves in all their glowing beauty, as thousands of glow worms illuminate the cave walls inside.
These caves remain one of the best places in the world to view these glow worms as they produce light during their quest for food. Hanging from the ceilings, the worms cast an alluring blue glow to draw in flying bugs and trap them in the threads of a sticky web. This display creates an amazing show of light that you can view and photograph from far below.
10: Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
See Ireland’s coast at it’s most natural, rugged, and panoramic at the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs take their name from a ruined peninsular fort known as ‘Mothar,’ which was demolished in the 1800s during the Napoleonic wars to make room for a signal tower at Hag’s Head. The word Moher in old Gaelic literally means “the ruin of a fort.”
Located on Ireland’s incredible west coast, the cliffs offer a beautiful, multi-faceted experience of the country and its geography. The cliffs stand over 213 meters (700 feet) tall and stretch over 5 miles in length; the cliffs are vertical and their edges are abrupt. Currently, a site of global conservation efforts, the cliffs also boast a fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean that stretches out as far as the eye can see on a clear day.
Offering a fantastic landscape for photographers, the Cliffs of Moher and the raw natural beauty of the ocean that bombards them are a must-see for any photographer.
11: Isle of Skye, Scotland
The Isle of Skye, located on the west coast of Scotland, is home to a remarkable collection of natural pools, Lying just southeast of the Glen Brittle Forest, about two miles before you reach Glen Brittle Beach itself, you’ll find these remarkable natural wonders with an appropriate name. The Fairy Pools contain crystal clear water that perfectly reflects the sky above in the right conditions – it’s an absolutely magical sight to see!
Visiting these famous pools requires a short hike around 2.4km, complete with multiple waterfalls and photo opportunities. The pools themselves contain mysterious underwater arches and brightly colored rocks. They are part of a stream running down from the Coire na Creiche, fed from the slopes of the Black Cuillin Mountains nearby. Visitors from all over the world are drawn to seeing the pools (and sometimes even swimming in them!) and experiencing the state of wonder that accompanies the area.
Photographers will find some of the best times to visit are the day after a rain storm with some thin cloud cover, to obscure enough light so that the stunning colors underneath can show through. If you own an IR filter you can use it to help you properly delete unwanted reflections.
12: Gran Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Looking out upon the world’s largest salt flat, you’ll feel like you’re on another planet. The Gran Salar de Uyuni covers a whopping 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi) like a giant flat ocean. The huge salt flat was formed when a prehistoric lake evaporated, leaving behind a dry, salt-covered lakebed that was eventually baked by the sun enough to form the geometric patterns you see across it today.
The Gran Salar de Uyuni is located in the Daniel Campos Province in southwest Bolivia, near the majestic mountain range of the Andes. The salt flat itself is at an impressive elevation of 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above sea level.
The extraordinary flatness of the Gran Salar de Uyuni makes it worth seeing for yourself. Often, rain will cause temporary collections of water to pool in the salt flat and create a huge, mirrored surface that melds the earth and sky together.
You’ll also find an interesting site next to the salt flats: a large antique train cemetery. The railroad graveyard is found about 3 km outside of the city of Uyuni and is still connected by old train tracks. The trains here, however, were abandoned decades ago after the British failed trying to create a transportation system in Bolivia. Now, the trains still sit where they had been left, rusting in the sun, to this day.
13: Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland
Journey to the Center of the Earth, the classic novel by Jules Verne, was set in the beautiful Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland. Start at the nearby fishing village of Grundarfjordur and explore the area that includes Iceland’s most photogenic Mt. Kirkjufell. If you’re lucky, you’ll find Snaefellsnes during a bit of good weather and see the whole peninsula bathed in beautiful golden light during the evenings.
This area of Iceland also happens to be one of the best places in the world to experience and photograph the Northern Lights. This natural phenomenon occurs when highly charged electrons from solar winds interact with the Earth’s magnetic fields, creating a stunning array of light in many different colors.
14: Crater Lake, Oregon, USA
Crater Lake looks exactly like it sounds; a deep blue lake sitting inside of a huge crater formed by an ancient volcano, Mt. Mazama, that erupted over 7,000 years ago. Wizard Island sits near the western edge of the lake, formed into a volcanic cinder cone shape, and a smaller island, the Phantom Ship rests on the other side of the lake.
Fed over thousands of years by rain and snowmelt, Crater Lake is officially the deepest lake in the USA with an average depth of 350 meters (1,148 feet) and one of the most pristine on earth. Visitors can take the Rim Drive all the way around the lake, which offers panoramic views of the Cascade Mountain Range from almost any direction you choose.
For photographers, Crater Lake offers a wonderfully serene blue surface with minimal sediment stirring within its waters and exceptional water clarity. Early in the morning, you’ll often find a calm, glass-like surface over the entire lake, and deep blue-emerald colors reflecting beneath. This is a place many photographers will add to their bucket list.
15: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen translates to “many fountains,” and the valley in Switzerland lives up to its name. With 72 unique waterfalls, this place is a photographer’s paradise in the Alps. The most famous of the waterfalls, Staubbach Falls, is close to 300 meters (984 feet) tall!
The valley is also one of the biggest nature conservation areas in Switzerland, with it’s small, unspoiled village of Lauterbrunnen nestled in between the sheer cliffs in the valley of the same name. To get to this pristine location, you take a train or ride by bike from Interlaken.
For photographers looking to capture the sweeping views of Lauterbrunnen, many climbing and hiking trails take you up and down the steep elevations of the mountainside. If you’re particularly adventurous, you can even base jump from certain areas on the cliffs.
16: Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA
Fewer places compare in their beauty to Antelope Canyon. The narrow slot canyon walls reach up to 36 meters (120 feet) high and are composed of the prehistoric remains of petrified sandstone, worn away by water over thousands of years. The canyon is a sacred site for the Navajo Native Americans and located on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona. Walking between the glowing reddish orange walls with cascading beams of sunlight illuminating your path, you’ll soon understand why.
Photographers are given special priority here – if you manage to book a longer photography tour. Many, many visitors travel here every year to glimpse the beauty of the slot canyons, so make sure to book your tour well in advance.
17: Aogashima, Japan
Aogashima is an active volcanic island located off the coast of Japan. Even though it’s an active volcano, it hasn’t erupted or shown signs of eruption since the 1780s, and more than 200 villagers call the island home. If you want to enjoy this tropical wonder, with its picturesque views and geothermal saunas, you’ll have to make quite a trek to get there. The island has been coined the “most difficult to reach,” out of the more remote islands off the Japanese coast (the other two being Mikurajima and Toshima island).
Although it’s current residents weren’t alive to witness Aogashima last eruption, stories recall giant plumes of gas and smoke billowing from the mouth of the island’s volcano. The villagers had no choice but to evacuate, and half of them were able to escape while the rest, unfortunately, were unable to leave and perished. Even though the danger of another eruption still lingers, the people of Aogashima are willing to take that risk to live in paradise.
18: Hillier Lake, Australia
Hillier Lake isn’t a natural wonder because of its location, elevation, or size, but because of its extraordinary color. The pink phenomenon is around 600 meters (1970 feet) long, and best viewed from above to take in all its pink glory.
Located in Western Australia, Lake Hillier lies right next to the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean, providing a wonderful photographic contrast of its unique bright pink color next to teal blue. Scientists don’t fully understand the reason Hillier Lake is such a bright pink color, but some suspect it has to do with the presence of a bacteria called known as Dunaliella salina microalgae.
Matthew Flinders first discovered the lake in 1802, taking samples with him and describing its color in his journal. He noticed that the water remained distinctively pink even when put inside a glass. The water has even been proven completely safe to swim in, but this is not allowed due to the number of tourists that visit the lake. Bring your camera and schedule a tour from the air to capture this unique lake from above.
19: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
A staple in Southeast Asia, Ha Long Bay has been beloved by locals and tourists alike who appreciate it’s beauty. The bay, with its 1,900 granite peaks rising out of the water, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994 and praised in Vietnamese poetry for being a “rock wonder in the sky.”
You could easily spend a lifetime here, exploring all the different inlets, islands, and pillars topped by forest that rise out of the emerald waters. One of the popular legends about the bay asserts that a large and angry dragon tore up the earth with its tail, creating valleys and crevices that flooded with water when the dragon jumped into the nearby ocean. In fact, over 10,000 years ago archeologists have found evidence of human inhabitants living and fishing around the area. As late as the 19th century, the bay was used by Vietnamese and Chinese pirates. This area, with its rich cultural history, is worth visiting while helping to maintain its ecological beauty and balance.
20: Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina
Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier isn’t the largest or tallest glacier in the world, but it’s one of the most beautiful. Located in Argentine Patagonia, the Perito Moreno, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is considered by many to be the 8th natural wonder of the world.
The glacier itself is over 3 miles wide, 74 meters (240 feet) tall, and reaches up to 170 meters (558 feet) below the surface of the water in which it sits. In total, the Perito Moreno covers over 250 sq. kilometers (97 sq. miles) and is one of the largest comprising the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Along with the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, this glacier is a remnant of the last Ice Age over 17,000 years ago, when all of southern Chile and Argentina was covered in a thick sheet of ice miles high.
The places and things that really capture our hearts and attention are unique for every person, especially photographers. Hopefully, this list has inspired you to make plans to see the places you dream of visiting before you (or they) are gone. Or perhaps they have led to new places and ideas of your own.