FOR MANY TRAVELERS, once a place gets hit so much it becomes a “tourist attraction,” it loses much of its attraction. Still, there are some places so epic in scale and uniqueness and cultural relevance that even if they’re blown out with other visitors, you still gotta check them out.
1. Yosemite National Park (California, USA)
Famed for its wildlife, granite rock structures, and sequoia trees wider than cars, Yosemite National Park spans over 700,000 acres in Northern California and contains 13 different campgrounds.
2. Angel Falls (Canaima National Park, Venezuela)
3. Ha Long Bay (Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam)
4. Preikestolen (Forsand, Ryfylke, Norway)
5. Torres Del Paine National Park (Patagonia, Chile)
6. The Alhambra (Granada, Andalusia, Spain)
An inspiration to M.C. Escher, the Alhambra was originally a small fortress until it was converted into a royal palace by the Moors hundreds of years later. The tiles of the Alhambra contain nearly all of the 17 mathematically possible plane symmetry groups.
7. Everglades National Park (Florida, USA)
8. Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangon, Burma)
9. Lumpinee Boxing Stadium (Bangkok, Thailand)
10. Jellyfish Lake (Eil Malk, Palau)
Jellyfish Lake’s tourists are able to snorkel with hundreds of harmless jellyfish, which do not have nematocysts strong enough to harm humans. The lake is currently the only marine lake in Palau open to tourists.
11. Northern Lights (Northern Norway, Scandinavia)
Seen above the magnetic poles, the aurora are created due to collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter Earth’s atmosphere. Auroral displays peak roughly every 11 years.
12. Waitomo Glowworm Caves (Waitomo, North Island, New Zealand)
13. Iguazu Falls (Foz do Iguacu, Argentina / Brazil)
Forming a boundary between Brazil and Argentina, Iguazu Falls can be viewed from both (though Brazil has the better lookouts). A boat ride can be arranged that takes visitors right underneath the falls.
14. Casa Milá (Barcelona, Spain)
15. Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada)
Canada’s oldest national park, Banff comprises 6,641 square kilometers of wilderness in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. The park is most famous for its glaciers, coniferous forests, and glacial lakes.
16. Petra (Ma’an, Jordan)
17. Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, USA)
18. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (Bilbao, Spain)
Built of limestone, glass, and titanium, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao cost $89 million to construct. The building itself is frequently considered one of the most important works post-1980 by architecture experts.
19. Jeita Grotto (Nahr al-Kalb, Lebanon)
20. Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
21. Terracotta Army (Lintong, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China)
Over 8,000 terracotta soldiers were buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Studies show that eight different face molds were used to form all the soldiers, with additional clay used to give each soldier unique features.
22. Palace of Versailles (Ile-de-France, France)
23. Perito Moreno Glacier (Santa Cruz, Argentina)
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of Argentine Patagonia’s most popular attractions. The ice formation is 250 square kilometers, and part of the world’s third-largest reserve of fresh water.
24. Salar de Uyuni (Potosi/Oruro Departments, Bolivia)
25. Serengeti National Park (Mara, Tanzania)
26. Sơn Đoòng Cave (Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Vietnam)
This is the largest cave in the whole friggin’ world. Not in Vietnam. Not in Asia. The whole world. It also has a huge underground river. As if that weren’t enough reason to visit, organized tours only began in August 2013, making this one of the least spoiled attractions on this list.
27. Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Built from concrete and soapstone, Christ the Redeemer is a 30m statue of Jesus Christ that peers over Rio de Janeiro. Situated at the top of Corcovado mountain, the statue’s armspan is 28 meters.
28. Dead Sea (Jordan Rift Valley)
29. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC, USA)
30. Santorini (Greece)
31. Giant’s Causeway (Country Antrim, Northern Ireland)
32. Plaza Mayor (Madrid, Spain)
33. Machu Picchu (Cusco Region, Peru)
34. Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (Cordoba, Spain)
35. Sydney Opera House (Sydney, Australia)
36. Great Barrier Reef (Coral Sea, Queensland, Australia)
Located off the east coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system. Easily visible from above, it helps related businesses generate over $3 billion of revenue yearly.
37. Milford Sound (South Island, New Zealand)
38. Uluru (Northern Territory, Australia)
39. Vatican City (Rome, Italy)
40. Hitachi Seaside Park (Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan)
41. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, USA)
42. Park Güell (Barcelona, Spain)
A failed housing development, Park Güell is now a public garden showcasing Gaudi’s, um, interesting architectural taste (the man was not afraid of color and, apparently, hated right angles). Fun fact: A whole bunch of wild parrots live in the park.
43. The Louvre (Paris, France)
44. Avenue du Baobab (Menabe Region, Madagascar)
45. Sagano Bamboo Forest (Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan)
46. Table Mountain (Cape Town, South Africa)
47. Tsukiji Fish Market (Tokyo, Japan)
Ever seen a 300lb bluefin tuna quartered on an industrial bandsaw? All that and then some at the world’s largest fish market, where a chaotic scene of buyers, sellers, and brokers haggle over a whole bunch of dead fish.
48. Canals of Venice (Venice, Italy)
You’ll put up with the sometimes unpleasant smell, occasional flooding, inconsistent garbage collection, rude gondoliers, hordes of tourists, and overpriced everything because the canals of Venice simply cannot be beat. Someday you’ll be able to tell your great-grandkids about the mythical city of Venice and its wondrous canals that long ago slipped back into the sea.
49. Koyasan (Japan)
The spiritual home of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, Koyasan is a perfectly preserved town located on a mountaintop outside Osaka that somehow manages to keep out modern Japan. Visitors can stay at Buddhist temples that double as guesthouses.
50. French Quarter (New Orleans, USA)
Get up early to stroll the streets at daybreak before a fresh beignet at Cafe Du Monde, or stay out late drinking Abitas at Lafitte’s — the French Quarter is an amazing experience 24 hours a day. Just remember: Bourbon Street is one of many, so explore them all.
51. Okavango Delta (Botswana)
Every year, 11 cubic kilometers (which is to say a lot) of water floods the inland delta, bringing sweet relief to migratory herds across this arid region…and to predators looking for well-hydrated prey.
52. Blue Lagoon (Grindavík, Iceland)
Less than an hour outside Reykjavík, the Blue Lagoon’s mineral-rich geothermal waters delight bathers and cure psoriasis. Water temperature averages about 100 degrees Fahrenheit after leaving the nearby geothermal plant where it generates clean energy.