27 Eye-Popping Travel Photos You Won't Believe Are Real
You'll have to see it to believe it.
Some landscapes on earth are so majestic, you'll truly think your eyes are playing tricks on you. Yet, these stunning sights aren't optical illusions. They actually do exist! From crystal blue ice caves to ancient mountaintop monasteries, these jaw-dropping travel photos are sure to leave you breathless.
This medieval abbey in France sits atop a rocky islet in the bay between Brittany and Normandy. Over three million tourists visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site for both the rich history contained within the fortified walls, and to watch the tide roll in, turning the outcrop into a bonafide island. A causeway keeps the site accessible to tourists even during high tide.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Known for its 16 cascading lakes and over 90 waterfalls, this national park is one of the oldest and largest in Croatia. More than a million people visit the site each year to follow the trails over the color-changing lakes.
Roussanou Monastery, Greece
Roussanou Monastery is one of only six monasteries left on the Meteora mountains in Greece. The clifftop convent may look impossible to access, but it is indeed open to visitors. Steps and bridges were added in 1930 to make the trip less treacherous.
Vatnajökull Ice Cave, Iceland
Located in Vatnajökull National Park, a protected wilderness area in southern Iceland, these ice caves are formed anew every winter. Each topaz blue cave creates a dazzling opportunity for exploration and photography, and since new caves are created annually, they also lend themselves to repeat visits.
Pagodas in Old Bagan, Myanmar
This breathtaking ancient city in Myanmar is home to over 3,000 pagodas and temples, and is the largest archaeological site in the world. At nearly 800 years old, the structures have survived 400 earthquakes. They'll now be further protected thanks to a UNESCO World Heritage designation received last July.
Hang Sơn Đoòng Cave, Vietnam
Hang Sơn Đoòng is the world's largest cavern by volume. If that's hard to imagine, just use the person pictured in the center of this image for scale. Although it was created million of years ago, it was found in 1991 by a Vietnamese local and became accessible to tourists in 2013. To see it for yourself, you'll need to snag one of the limited annual permits.
Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
These Bolivian salt flats are the world's largest at 4,086 square miles. The by-product of a prehistoric lake run dry, the area is especially photogenic during the wet season, when rainwater collects on the surface of the flats, creating a massive mirror and some mind-bending photographic opportunities.
Neist Point Lighthouse, Scotland
Built in 1900, this famous Scottish lighthouse has been alerting seafarers to the presence of Neist Point for a century. Although it's no longer manned, the lighthouse is packed with visitors who make the 1.3-mile walk to the cliff's edge for sunset. Of course, it's clear that the photos are just as spectacular for those who admire the lighthouse from afar.
Lake Baikal, Russia
Holding 20 percent of the world's fresh water, Siberia's Lake Baikal is the world's oldest, deepest, and largest by volume. The lake is also renowned for the clear, turquoise-colored ice that forms on the water's surface in the winter months. The blocks of ice can become a whopping 80 inches thick, creating other-worldly frozen sculptures.
High up in Switzerland's Appenzell Alps is Ebenalp, the northernmost peak. Although the mountain—which has a 5,000-foot elevation—is a popular hiking destination, there's also a cable car for those not inclined to make the trek. Whatever you do, save time to stop at Aescher Guesthouse, a 170-year-old restaurant and former lodge built directly into the cliff.
This town in western Turkey features natural travertine terraces with flowing thermal waters. Although visitors used to be able to dip in the healing baths, the pools are largely off-limits due to too much foot traffic. Still, it's worth a visit to see the stunning landscape (and take an Insta-perfect picture).
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
If you've ever wanted to feel like Indiana Jones, a visit to the Ta Prohm temple at Angkor Wat is a must for your bucket list. Built between 113-115 BC, this jungle complex is the largest religious monument in the world, and a powerful symbol of Cambodian pride. At sunrise, you'll find tourists camped across the reflection pool to capture their own version of the iconic Angkor Wat silhouette.
Nā Pali Coast, Hawaii
Known for its towering, emerald sea cliffs, the Nā Pali coast spans 17 miles of Kauai, Hawaii's wild northern island. Exploration of this lush and largely untouched natural wonder is easiest by sea. In a raft or kayak, visitors can paddle right up to the soaring bluffs, hidden sea caves, and remote beaches. For fans of air travel, the Manawaiopuna Falls, which were featured in Jurassic Park, are just a helicopter ride away.
Stuðlagil Canyon, Iceland
Until quite recently, Stuðlagil Canyon in eastern Iceland was hidden under water. When a newly constructed hydroelectric plant vastly reduced the water level of the Jökulsá á Brú river in 2009, the sheer beauty of the canyon was discovered. Although it takes some effort to reach it, a day spent hiking down the basalt towers, with the sun reflecting off the turquoise water below, is well worth it.
Atlantic Road, Norway
Eight bridges cross this scenic five-mile stretch in an archipelago in Norway. Whether traveling during summer with a view of the sun-kissed bright blue waves, or through the angry, sea-sprayed winds of autumn, a trip down this road is a once-in-a-lifetime ride.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
This colorful slot canyon on Navajo land in Arizona features red sandstone that has been carved by wind and seasonal rains over thousands of years. Here, shifting sunlight radiates down into the canyon and reflects off its orange walls. Because of the danger of flash floods, the canyon, which is technically comprised of two separate sections, is accessible only by guided tours.
Benagil Cave, Portugal
The Portuguese fishing village of Benagil used to survive off the strength of its catch—that is until its sea caves were discovered and tourism took the lead. Home to numerous sea caves, the size and beauty of Benagil Cave is unrivaled. Boat and stand-up paddle tours are the best way to access the cave and the hidden beach within. (Make sure to reserve a visit in advance!)
With more than 3,000 sandstone pillars and peaks, Wulingyuan is a sight to behold. The scenic area in China's Hunan Province is comprised of four national parks and spans 200 miles. The spindly peaks, deep caves, rock formations, hidden valleys, and water features all make up what are called the Five Wonders of Wulingyuan.
Catedral de Marmol, Chile
Formed in monoliths of marble, the Catedral de Marmol have been hollowed over 6,000 years. The multi-hued blue stone reflecting in the azure water below make all of the colors seem even richer. The natural beauty of the Marble Caves draw tourist boats daily and have become one of the must-see destinations in Patagonia.
The Subway, Utah
This hard-to-reach slot canyon in Zion National Park, Utah, can only be accessed in one of two ways: a strenuous hike from the bottom up, or a long trek from the top down, complete with rappelling. Whatever you choose, once you reach The Subway, the payoff is apparent.
Note: Despite the difficulty to reach the canyon, there's no shortage of hikers wanting to explore it. Daily permits are in high demand and are decided by a lottery.
Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar
This incredible road in Madagascar is lined with some rare and ancient giants. The trees, which are hundreds of years old and nearly 100 feet tall, make a stroll down the avenue a surreal and humbling experience. Once surrounded by forest, the trees are now all that remain due to population growth and the resulting deforestation. Luckily, some private organizations have begun to campaign to have the avenue preserved as the country's first protected natural monument, ensuring that generations to come will be able to walk the same incredible path.
Playa De Sakoneta, Spain
Located between the Basque Mountains and the Bay of Biscay, this Spanish beach is unlike any you've been to before. The limestone and mari rocks have been eroded by the sea for over 60 million years. Although the area can be toured by boat, you're also allowed to explore the flysch cliffs on foot.
Phu Langka Forest Park, Thailand
Thailand's Phu Langka Forest Park looks like another planet when it's covered in a sea of fog. The majestic four-square-mile park includes three overlapping mountains, many rare plant species, and a whole host of wildlife who call the forest home. If you plan a visit between spring and fall, the wildflower bloom on Phu Langka mountain is not to be missed.
Zhangye National Geopark, China
The rainbow mountain ridges in Zhangye National Geopark are considered one of China's most beautiful landforms. They were created over millennia as wind and weather eroded the layers of sandstone, resulting in warm stripes of red, orange, and yellow rock.
Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes, Germany
This trio of caverns in Germany has been designated the most colorful cave grottoes in the world by Guinness Book of World Records. With 'fairy' in its name, tourists can expect an experience that's nothing short of magical.
Lynn Canyon, Canada
Hope you're not scared of heights! The Lynn Canyon bridge in Vancouver, Canada, is suspended 160 feet above waterfalls, deep pools, and raging waters. The views are breathtaking… that is if you can take your mind off the suspension bridge bouncing and swaying with each step.
Lavender Fields, France
It's hard to believe this is a photograph and not a painting. Each year between June and August, the lavender fields bloom in Provence, France. The tidy rows of vibrant purple flowers coupled with the intoxicating scent, draw crowds to the fields and nearby markets that sell 'blue gold'-infused soap and honey.
And if you're looking for a few stateside escapes, be sure to check out the 100 Destinations So Magical You Won't Believe They're in the U.S.