The Best Landscapes in the World

Avalon Harris-Trussell, 25.09.19
Alternative Destinations

Alternative Airlines specialises in helping travellers search and book flights to some of the most remote destinations across the world—we’re experts when it comes to discovering incredible locations! We’ve put together a list of our top picks for the most jaw-droppingly stunning natural landscapes on Earth, complete with travel guides for those who’d like to explore these unforgettable destinations for themselves.

Europe

Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is a central region of Turkey and sits on a high, dry plateau. A vast and arid wonderland, Cappadocia has to top the list as one of the world’s most otherworldly landscapes.

Cappadocia 1 Every morning during the summer months over 150 hot air balloons fly over Cappadocia for the sunrise, offering tourists a magical and once in a life-time experience.

The fantastical topography of the plateau could be straight out of a dark and magical fairytale. Discover twisted rock formations, including towering pillars, pinnacles and mushrooms—which stretch as high as 130 feet (40 meters) into the sky. Cappadocia is a World Heritage Site and bizarre rock formations can be found clustered throughout the region’s deep valleys, but Monks Valley and Göreme are particularly popular spots for tourists.

The landscape was formed when ancient volcanic eruptions blanketed the region with thick ash, which solidified into a soft rock. Since then, it has been slowly eroding away over the past millennia forming some of the spectacular shapes you can see today. But it’s not just nature which helped to form the landscape. Göreme has been inhabited as early as the Hittite era, circa 1800 to 1200 B.C, and the region is honeycombed with a network of cave dwellings. Historically, the region has sat on the boundary between rival empires, including the Greeks, Persians, and Byzantine Greeks, and the curious landscape made the perfect hiding place. Known as troglodyte dwellings, there are whole towns carved out of the soft rock. The rich history of the region is, quite literally, etched in stone.

Take me to Cappadocia

The fastest and easiest way to reach Cappadocia is by air. There are two airports that you can fly into. The first is Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR), which is located near the city of Kayseri and about an hours drive to the Cappadocia region. Turkish Airlines, Onur Air, and Pegasus Airlines operate direct daily flights from newly opened Istanbul Airport (IST) to Kayseri Erkilet Airport. From Istanbul Airport connections can be made onwards to destinations throughout Europe.

The second airport is Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV), which is 30–60 minutes from Cappadocia, depending on the part of the region you are heading to. Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Jet also operate direct daily flights from Istanbul Airport (IST) to Nevsehir Kapadokya.

Pragser Wildsee Lake, Italy

pragsar 1

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Pragser Wildsee Lake is the largest natural lake in the Dolomites, which is a stunning mountain range in northeastern Italy. With a picturesque mountain backdrop, the lake is the perfect way to absorb the full majesty of the landscape, which is reflected in the mirror surface of the lake.

Aquamarine and brilliant blue in the summer, draped by warm hues during fall, and a crisp white wonderland during the winter, the lake can be enjoyed year-round. Depending on the time of year, visitors can picnic on the shore, explore the lake on a cute wooden rowing-boat, or follow one of the many walking trails—the lake is a starting point for a number of scenic hikes within the nearby area.

pragsar 2 Take a tranquil boat ride on Pragser Wildsee Lake

Did you know? There is a local legend, dating back many generations, about an ancient underworld empire. An underground gateway to this hidden empire is said to be somewhere at the southern end of the lake!

Take me to Pragser Wildsee Lake

Pragser Wildsee Lake is located in the municipality of Braies/Prags in the Dolomites. There is no international airport within Lago di Braies. One of the closest airports is Innsbruck Airport (INN), which is actually in Austria. Fly to Innsbruck from destinations across Europe, including London, Dublin, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen, with airlines including easyJet, TUI Airways, Scandinavian Airlines, Flybe, British Airways and Austrian Airlines. Hiring a car and driving from Innsbruck to Pragser Wildsee is the fastest option and takes about an hour and a half, although a daily bus service is available and takes about three and a half hours. Another option is to fly to Venice, which is about a three hour drive away, or other popular cities within Italy, including Verona or Milan.

The Golden Circle, Iceland

The Golden Circle is a popular circular drive which connects three of Southwest Iceland’s most stunning and popular locations: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. Following the route is one of the best ways to experience Iceland’s diverse and special landscape. Each of the three locations are equally unique and spectacular.

Touring the Golden Circle is a popular day-trip from Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. The first stop is usually Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and about a forty five minute drive away from Reykjavík’s city centre. Iceland is the only country where the Mid Atlantic Ridge can be seen above sea level, and Þingvellir, with its torn and wild landscape, is the best place to see it. Next on the route is usually Geysir Geothermal Area, about a fifty minute drive from Þingvellir. Experience the valley’s intense geothermal activity, a rare and natural phenomenon, where boiling water spurts high into the sky from geysers. Don’t miss the popular Great Geysir and Strokkur Geysir!

iceland Gullfoss Waterfall, one of the highlights of the Golden Circle

The final stop is Gullfoss, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland (less than 10ten minutes down the road from the Great Geysir). The waterfall is in a plunging, ancient valley, and the powerful flow plummets over two drops, from an overall height of 32 metres (105 ft). Gullfoss is known for its beautiful rainbows, which are thrown from its spray on bright and sunny days.

Take me to the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is the ultimate tourist trail in Iceland. If you plan on exploring the route, you can choose between two options: join one of the many, many private tour companies, or drive the route yourself.

Fly to Keflavík International Airport (KEF), also known as Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport, which is the largest airport in Iceland and the main hub for international flights to/from the country. A number of airlines provide services to destinations across the world, including Icelandair, Wizz Air, United Airlines, TUI Airways, Lufthansa, Eurowings, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Air Greenland. From KEF you can either hire a rental car, or head into the city to join a tour.

Africa

Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

south africa One of the views along the Panoramic Route

Known as 'World's End' by locals, Blyde River Canyon is a fresh and lush green landscape, providing panoramic views over the Drakensberg mountain range. The canyon is one of the most phenomenal geological phenomena in South Africa, the result of the corrosive power of two rivers meeting - the Blyde River, the ‘river of joy’, and the Treur River, the ‘river of sorrow’.

The Panoramic Route is a popular drive, with many scenic viewpoints along the way. The best view is arguably of the Three Rondavels (‘Three Sisters’), three huge dolomite rock formations which rise out of the Blyde River canyon. Their domed heads are softened by green foliage and their sides are stained a fiery orange by webs of lichen. As well as stunning views, along the route you’ll unearth a strange and secret world, including masses of gushing waterfalls, a result of high rainfall climate of the plateau.

Did you know? The Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons on Earth and could be the largest ‘green canyon’, the result of its lush subtropical covering. The canyon provides a rich natural habitat and is a home to hippopotamus, crocodile and monkeys, as well as a varied fauna and flora.

Take me to Blyde River Canyon

The easiest way to get to Blyde River Canyon is to fly into O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), an international airport near Johannesburg. Airlines that fly to JNB include South African Airways, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Lufthansa, RwandAir, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, KLM and Cathay Pacific. From JNB you can catch a connecting flight to Nelspruit (KMI) with SA Airlink. Top tip: You can search and book your SA Airlink tickets through Alternative Airlines!

Nelspruit is a city in northeastern South Africa and the closest to the canyon. From there, you can either hire a car and self-drive the Panoramic Route, take one of the many coach tours that tour the route, or book a private tour that stops at all of your chosen highlights.

The Sahara Desert, Morocco

There are not many places on Earth which can compare with the incredible landscape you’ll witness when visiting the Sahara Desert. With gentle undulating dunes, warm tones and fine cinnamon coloured sand, the Sahara is a desert dream.

sahara Travellers taking a camel ride through the Sahara Desert

The Sahara runs along Morocco’s eastern border with neighboring Algeria, and is the largest hot desert on Earth. Many tourists head out into the desert as part of an organised tour, to take a camel ride along the dunes or spend a night under the stars. Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga are the two sand dunes that most travelers will head to. Each offers a unique experience. Erg Chebbi is more accessible, with a number of modern hotels just a 30 minute camel ride away. If you’re looking to get off the beaten track, Erg Chigaga is likely to be less touristy, and offers a number of adventurous experiences, such as dune surfing.

Take me to the Sahara Desert

If you think you can day-trip into the desert from Marrakech or Fez (two of Morocco’s most visited cities), think again. It will take at least a day to travel from each city to reach the sandy dunes! But flying into these cities, home to major international airports, will be the best way for most to be able to travel into the desert.

Marrakesh is roughly 600km (370 mi) from Merzouga, the closest town to the Erg Chebbi sand dunes, and about 360km (225 mi) from Zagora, the closest town to the Erg Chigaga dunes. Fly to Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK) from destinations around the world with airlines including Ryanair, EasyJet, British Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar, Air Europa and Norwegian Air Shuttle.

Oceania

Great Barrier Reef Island, New Zealand

Great Barrier Island, close to the world renowned Great Barrier Reef, can guarantee to fulfill all your underwater dreams. From diving and snorkeling to surfing and scuba diving, Great Barrier Island is the perfect base to head out to sea to explore the Great Barrier Reef, one of the planet's most extraordinary natural wonders.

great barrier islans The Great Barrier Reef - a beautiful ‘seascape’

But Great Barrier Island isn’t just included on our list just for its stunning seascape. Magnificent views aren’t only found below the surface. The island itself is also stunningly beautiful, and has the rare feeling of being an undiscovered paradise. If you're looking to escape the crowds, the island is pretty off-the-grid. Uncover a beautiful wilderness, home to luscious forests, a sweeping coastline and unspoilt sandy beaches.

Trek through deep gorges and wide wetlands, where you can also watch the island’s unique birdlife. For stunning and secluded beaches, head to the eastern side of the island. If you want to hit the waves, the windier western side is a surfer’s dream. As well as downwards and outwards, the majestic views also extend upwards: Great Barrier Island is also a protected Dark Sky Park, perfect for marveling at the night sky in all its magical glory.

Responsible Tourism

Of course, most tourists head to the island to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Sadly, the complex structure of the reef is under threat from global warming and irresponsible tourism. Tourists who plan on visiting the reef are encouraged to be proactive and consider the impact of their tourism. If you plan on visiting the reefs, you can support the work of charities including Greenpeace and Fight for the Reef, organisations dedicated to highlighting and protecting the fragile ecosystem.

Take me to Great Barrier Island

Fly to Great Barrier Island from Auckland Airport (AKL), in New Zealand. Barrier Air and Fly My Sky operate scheduled daily flights to the island. The scenic flight takes about thirty minutes. From Great Barrier Island, planes land and depart from the Great Barrier Aerodrome (GBZ), which is a small airfield near the centre of the island. The aerodrome is known locally as Claris Airport, after the nearby town. From Auckland Airport connections can be made to destinations across the world, on airlines including Air Canada, Air New Zealand, American Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Virgin Australia, United Airlines, Emirates, and Jetstar Airways.

The Americas

Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, USA

There are eight unique and diverse islands which make up the tropical US state of Hawaii, home to some of the most dramatic landscapes on Earth. The islands emerged from the sea millions of years ago, forged by the powerful volcanoes in the area - a natural force which is still transforming the landscape today.

hawaii volcano Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is on Hawaii Island—the largest Hawaiian island—is one of the only places on earth where visitors can get face-to-face with an active volcano. Hawaii Island has four active volcanoes: Kīlauea (currently the most active), Mauna Loa (the largest volcano on Earth!), Hualālai, and Lōihi. Lōihi is offshore and is still an underwater volcano, but the growing seamount is expected to break the surface soon, to be the latest addition to the chain of Hawaiian islands.

Visitors are free to roam Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, to explore the many hiking trails and discover the volcanoes for themselves. A number of unique tours are also available—expert-guided night tours are a popular option, as night-time reveals the true sizzling power of the landscape.

It‘s important to note that, due to the unexpected and destructive nature of volcanoes, access to certain areas of the park may be restricted. On occasions the park is also forced to close—most recently, the park remained shut for four months during the 2018 Lower East Rift Zone eruption.

hawaii islands Kauai Island in Hawaii, home to one of the most incredible views on Earth

If you want to really experience all of the stunning views that Hawaii has to offer, you’ll have to do a bit of island hopping. From Hawaii Island, head to Kauai Island, home to the Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park. Kauai could be straight out of the film Jurassic Park and is best known for its towering sea cliffs, punctuated by deep valleys, and its wild, cascading waterfalls. The island’s deep valleys are home to unique native plants and ancient agricultural terraces. Visitors to Hāʻena can choose to explore by foot, bike, or (for the best views) via a scenic flight.

Take me to the islands of Hawaii

Those flying to Hawaii are likely to land on Hawaii Island, home to the Hawaii Volcano National Park. You can fly to one of two airports on the island. The first is Hilo International Airport (ITO), near the small town of Hilo, to the east, and about 30 minutes drive from the entrance to the park. Hilo Airport is serviced by Hawaiian Airlines, which provides flight to/from domestic destinations across the US.

The second option is to fly to Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport (KOA), near the town of Kona, to the west, and about an hour and a half from the park entrance by car. Kona Airport is also served by Hawaiian Airlines, as well as inter-island carrier Mokulele Airlines. Mokulele offers scheduled flights between Hawaii’s beautiful islands and connects Hawaii island with Kauai. It’s one of the many small, regional airlines around the world that you can search and book flights with through Alternative Airlines.

Top Tip: It is easy to use Alternative Airlines’ multi-stop flight tool to easily search and book multiple flights at once!

Banff National Park, Canada

Banff National Park was Canada’s first national park and is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has all that you could want from a national park: a quaint, picture-perfect mountain village, scenic drives, turquoise mirror lakes, high mountain peaks, lush green countryside and an abundance of wildlife.

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The aquamarine blue Lake Louise and Lake Moraine will treat hikers to stunning views of the mountainscape. The park is open year-round, and for those who love adventure holidays, the park provides activities for all abilities. If you visit in the summer you can enjoy hiking, fishing and canoeing on the park’s bright blue lakes. If you visit in winter you can enjoy high-adrenaline sports such as skiing, sledding and ice climbing on the park's frozen waterfalls.

Take me to Banff National Park

For most, the easiest way to access the park will be to fly into the nearest airport, Calgary International Airport (YYC). There are many major airlines that provide a service to the airport, including Air Canada, Continental Airlines, Delta, Horizon Air, United and WestJet. There are numerous daily connections to regional hubs throughout the United States.

Once you land at YYC, you can rent a car and drive to Banff, a journey which takes about an hour and a half. If you plan on spending a week or two hiking between and camping at a couple of the park’s thirteen campsites, you take an airport shuttle bus from the Calgary International Airport to the entrance of the park.

Padar Island, Indonesia

Part of the Komodo National Park, Padar is a small and unpopulated island and home to divine scenery and epic sweeping vistas. The island also offers the chance to encounter the Komodo dragon in its natural habitat! How can you look at this photo of Padar Island and not want to add it to your bucket list?

indonesia Padar Island is an Instagrammer’s dream

All tourist boats dock at a little shingle beach on the island. Depending on how long you have to explore the island, you can either relax on the beach or follow one of the many hiking trails. For the best views, you’ll have to hike up to the Pulau Padar lookout, a trek which takes an hour to an hour and a half each way. From the beach, the route up to Pulau Padar is clearly signposted. Note that the terrain is not paved and can be challenging, shade is limited and the temperature is likely to be humid and dry. But your climbing and scrambling will be rewarded by stunning views.

indonesia 2

Take me to Padar Island

Indonesia is an island archipelago made up of over 17,000 volcanic islands. The easiest way to reach Padar Island is by catching a domestic flight from one of Indonesia’s main islands. Bali is one of the most popular and provides a seamless way to travel to Padar Island.

Fly from Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), the main airport on Bali, to Komodo Airport (LBJ), on the island of Flores—the gateway to Komodo National Park. Airlines that operate the route are Batik Air, Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, NAM Air, TransNusa, and Wings Air. The short-haul flight takes just over an hour and offers incredibly scenic views. After arriving at Komodo, you will need to join one of the many tour operators or hire a privately chartered boat for the journey across to Padar Island.