The world is brimming with places so impressive and outstanding, that they attain the status of crowd-pleasers. Jet around the world and discover these 15 totally stunning tourist attractions.
Don’t let the crowds scare you off … these places are totally worth a visit.
The blue city of Chefchaouen, Morocco
Morocco’s Blue City, Chefchaouen, though landlocked, resembles an endless blue sea quietly hidden at the foot of the Rif Mountains. The city’s foundation goes back to 1471, when Chefchaouen functioned as a Moorish fortress for exiles from Spain. Throughout time, the city welcomed people of Jewish and Christian faiths who lived alongside the indigenous Berber people.
When you stand in the middle of this blue oasis, you’ll think the people living here had a unique eye for design. Yet the reasons for painting all the houses in shades of blue are of religious nature. Jewish teachings put forward that the colour ‘blue’ reminds us of God’s power, a belief that still lives on here. There was also a widespread rumor that the color blue kept mosquitoes at bay.
The intensity of the blue buildings is punctured by the many shops displaying hand-woven earth-tone blankets, rugs and lamp shades. Get lost walking around the cobblestone labyrinth-like streets.
The salt flats Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
A seemingly infinite salt desert that turns into one of the world’s largest mirrors when covered in water? Yes, that really exists!
Covering what roughly corresponds to the size of the Bahamas, Salar de Uyuni was created when the prehistoric lake Lago Minchín dried up, leaving puddles and salt pans in its wake. More salt deposits leaked from the surrounding mountains here, since there was no opening to the sea.
Flash forward to our time, Salar de Uyuni makes for an unforgettable experience: imagine a flat landscape of dry glistening salt reminiscing of cracked mud, pierced only by a few islets adding to the surreal beauty of this place. During the rainy season (December to April), a thin layer of water transforms the salt flats into an expansive lake, reflecting the sky so perfectly, you won’t be able to tell where the horizon breaks between heaven and Earth.
Freetown of Christiania, Denmark
Copenhagen, 1971: The hippie revolution is at its peak and a group of squatters occupy the abandoned military site located in the harbor borough of Christianshavn. Police forces fail to clear the area, and a place of alternative living based on self-governance, tolerance and community is born. Though initially tolerated as a social experiment, Christiania has adapted and changed throughout the years in order to survive.
Around 1,000 people live here today and the expansive area is filled with all sorts of imaginative DIY builds, quiet gardens and cozy eateries and music venues.
Christiania has always been controversial, not least because of the hash trade. Though generally a safe area, stick to the rules written on the wall at the entrance: do not film or photograph, especially around ‘Pusher Street’, one of Christiania’s main arteries.
Terraced rice paddies in Sapa, Vietnam
Rolling slopes of paddy terraces, thick bamboo forests and mountains immersed in clouds all come together to make Sapa one of Vietnam’s most fairy-tale-like tourist attractions.
A long time ago, this area consisted of countless steep slopes that were rich in fertile soil. The locals began to gradually cut terrace steps into the slopes in order to cultivate rice. This is a common technique in mountainous areas, as it reduces erosion and is highly efficient in growing crops that require irrigation. Another positive result is perhaps of a more aesthetic nature: the terraced fields create such an eye-pleasing landscape, that you’ll quickly forget, you’re looking at crops.
The colours change seasonally. During the June-July period, the paddy rice fields are in bloom, and you’ll be met by a vibrant tableau of green nuances, while if you’re there in September-October, the rice paddies will shine like gold against the green mountain slopes.
St. Basil’s Cathedral, Russia
Part of a musical set, or maybe a real-size gingerbread house? One of Russia’s most iconic edifices, St. Basil’s Cathedral, reigns as a gaudy fairy-tale palace in Moscow’s Red Square. Officially named The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat (yes, seriously!), it goes by St. Basil’s Cathedral, referring to the ‘holy fool for Christ’ Basil the Blessed.
Its construction was ordered by Russia’s first tsar, Ivan the Terrible, in 1554 in honour of a military conquest. It was originally completely white to match with the white stone of the Kremlin and the domes were golden. The colors were added in the 17th century, inspired by the biblical descriptions of the Kingdom of Heaven.
St. Basil’s is composed of eight chapels around a central ninth, with the interior four towering over the rest. There are various unproven theories behind this architectural layout – one posits that the structure represents the medieval symbol of the eight-pointed star. Today it doesn’t operate as a church anymore, but houses a museum instead.
Twelve Apostles, Australia
Take the scenic Great Ocean Road west from Melbourne, and, after a four hour-drive, you’ll arrive at one of Australia’s most recognizable sights: the Twelve Apostles, the rugged rock formations rising up from the Southern Ocean.
The apostles came into being thanks to a long and constant erosion process of limestone cliffs: the wild Southern Ocean and the forceful winds gnarled at the soft limestone, leaving caves in the cliffs. The cliffs eventually became arches that, when collapsing, gave birth to isolated rock stacks measuring up to 147ft in height.
The name might be a tiny bit misleading, as there have never been 12 rock stacks, but nine (there’s no real explanation for the name, other than a local nickname that eventually became the official name). As of 2005 only eight remain standing, as erosion still eats at them today.
Visit at sunset or sunrise, as the apostles change colors from dark and shadowy to bright sandy.
Granted its own independent city-state status in 1929, the imposing Vatican City – technically the world’s smallest country – has always been a must visit for tourists of all denominations, Catholic or otherwise.
Yes, you’ll certainly find lots of tourist toot on the fringes of this walled enclave but, once you push passed the peddlers trying to flog Popemobile keychains, you’ll find some of the world’s best Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
Wandering passed the colorfully-dressed Swiss Guards and noted landmarks like the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica and the downright jaw-dropping Sistine Chapel feels like you’ve been whisked back in time 500 years. Best of all? You can do it all in a day.
Extra tip: Bare legs and arms are a no-go in this ecclesiastical state, so be sure you cover up.
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