Never stop wondering and never stop wandering. There is a saying – “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” – and I think it’s the perfect proverb to guide us into 2017. Welcome to the New Year everyone. A clean slate; you can dread it, or you can embrace it.
We all know just how easy it is to fall right back into the never-ending black hole of daily to-do lists, meetings, traffic and endless nagging chores. Before the vacuum sucks you in completely, try and make time for yourself and your family. In the spirit of adventure and not knowing what comes next, get out there and explore the world. Do something your future self will thank you for.
Whatever’s good for your soul and makes you smile without hesitation … do that. And lots of it. Need some inspiration? Well, that’s what we do best. Adding to our 15 most dramatic landscapes, here are 10 (more) dramatic landscapes to get you in a travel state of mind.
1. Valley of Flowers National Park, India
A real-life Garden of Eden, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is celebrated for its vast, rainbow-coloured meadows of flourishing alpine flowers. The colourful carpet stretches out as far as the eye can see, with majestic snow-capped mountain peaks dominating the backdrop. Photos simply do not do these captivating flower-filled fields any justice. The best time to visit is from mid-July to mid-August, when the valley is in full bloom after the monsoon season.
2. Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka
This jaw-droppingly beautiful conical mountain in Sri Lanka is a biodiversity hotspot and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just before the summit is a 1.8 m rock formation, known as Sri Pada or “sacred footprint”, which is said to be the footprint of Buddha himself. This holy mountain, with its spectacular views, has become an important pilgrimage site with devotees ascending the peak in April, at sunrise, to witness the triangular shadow that the mountain casts on the surrounding landscape.
3. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Scattered along the Pacific Ocean on either side of the equator, this magnificent archipelago of volcanic islands is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream. Considered one of the world’s premier wildlife destinations, these islands inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galápagos Islands are one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, with 97% of its islands forming a protected national park. Half of its land species, and one fifth of its marine species, are endemic to the Galápagos.
4. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this dramatic, impossibly turquoise glacier is one of Patagonia’s most revered attractions. Fascinatingly, it is one of only three glaciers in the world that is actually growing instead of retreating. Best explored on foot, intrepid travellers are rewarded after their rigorous trek with a tumbler of whiskey topped with a thousand-year-old ice cube chipped from the glacier itself.
5. Machu Picchu, Peru
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new seven wonders of the world, the mind-blowing Machu Picchu is an ancient Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains. Built in the 15th century and later abandoned, not only does its astonishing construction, at +7 000 ft., remain a mystery, so too does its original use.
6. Nazca Lines, Peru
Adding yet more mystery and intrigue to Peru, the Nazca Lines (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) are a series of eerie drawings carved into Peru’s Sechura Desert. Some 300 mysterious geoglyphs stretch across a staggering 1 000 km2 of desolate desertscape and they are of course best viewed from the air on a scenic flight. Created by the Nazca people between 400 and 650 AD, the most famous figures are The Hummingbird, The Monkey, The Hands and The Astronaut.
7. Iguazu Falls, Argentina
The largest waterfall system in the world, the awe-inspiring Iguazu Falls consists of 275 falls and was named one of the new seven wonders of nature. Second only to Victoria Falls in size, the Iguazu Falls were formed by a volcanic eruption. Of the impressive 275 falls, the scene-stealer is the dramatic, U-shaped Devil’s Throat, which is shrouded in mist with half of the river’s flow thunderously plunging into its depths.
8. Kolmanskop, Namibia
This spooky ghost town in the Namib Desert is a must-see. Situated on a once thriving diamond field, this town was a wealthy mining village in its heyday, but as the diamonds were slowly depleted, the area was ultimately abandoned in 1954. Left completely untouched, its houses and infrastructure now lie beneath undulating dunes of sand, making it a photographer’s dream destination. From sand-filled hallways, decaying homesteads and dilapidated doorways, to lone Victorian bathtubs strewn onto the desert dunes, it is both eerie and enchanting.
9. Sand Forest, South Africa
Take a guided walk through the dappled shade and soft sandy floor of the rare sand forest at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. This lush, subtropical forest grows on ancient sand dunes and is home to important endemic plant species, as well as some of South Africa’s rarest animals. Of the remaining 2 000 hectares of sand forest that is being protected in the world, &Beyond Phinda is home to 800 hectares.
10. Fairy Circles, Namibia
A largely unexplained phenomenon, the Namib Desert is populated by mysterious, grass-ringed patches called fairy circles. Puzzlingly scattered across the stark desertscape, these curious circles not only appear to be evenly spaced, but they also never overlap. There are countless, some even laughable, theories, from underground fire-breathing dragons and dust-bathing ostriches, to armies of ants and termites, underground gases and plants simply competing for water. Fairy circles remain an unsolved mystery, and perhaps what we love about them the most, is that they are the perfect setting for romantic, lantern-lit dinners-for-two under the stars.