Exploring the most beautiful regions in the world
Author Amin Maalouf urges us to “never hesitate to go far away, beyond all seas, all frontiers, all countries”. He, like many travellers, believes that it is often by discovering distant and unfamiliar lands that you experience the best moments in life.
What makes a trip unforgettable is going out of your comfort zone but being soothed at the same time. When visiting somewhere you’ve never been before, you recognise forms that speak to you, a detail: a blossoming flower, birdsong, or the fragrance of a spice. Then it all makes sense, as if by some kind of miracle. Your surroundings take you away; wisdom and happiness are at the end of the road.
Sometimes certain regions are more likely to inspire these great encounters than others, due to their spectacular beauty, ancient heritage, or the unique lifestyle of their inhabitants. Here is our selection of ten destinations that will leave a long-lasting impression.
The Far North
Few travellers dare to brave the deserted expanses of Greenland. Yet, with its polar landscapes and colourful villages, the Danish island has the power to create memories that will last a lifetime. Its must-see sites include Scoresby Sund, a gorgeous wild fjord system that cuts into the east coast. Closer to the North Pole, the icy nature of Northeast Greenland National Park is untouched by human hands. To the west, Baffin Bay invites visitors to go back in time and discover the last remaining Inuit hunters and to marvel at the scenery provided by the fascinating Disko Bay and Ilulissat Icefjord. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the icefjord is a massive collection of icebergs that have calved from Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the most active glaciers in the world.
On the other side of the continent, Greece charms visitors with its sweet way of life. Ancient sites take pride of place in Attica and Peloponnese: from the Parthenon to Olympia via Corinth, legendary cities reveal their most beautiful secrets. Turning to the islands, the white architecture of the Cyclades, the medieval feel of Rhodes, and the Venetian treasures of Crete are quite the draw. And don’t forget to enjoy the grilled food and fresh produce that make the Greek diet one of the healthiest in the world.
On the edge of the Americas, the Alaskan wilderness is all about adventure. History buffs should visit Skagway, the legendary town of gold prospectors, where the gold rush museum will satisfy your curiosity. Looking out to sea, the coastline is trimmed with incredible fjords – Tracy Arm, with its waterfalls and bird colonies, is probably the most beautiful. Boasting glacial valleys, snow-covered peaks and rivers teeming with fish, the wide open spaces further inland invite you to contemplate the beauty of the earth.
The waistline of the Americas, Panama and Costa Rica immerse visitors in the heart of an unspoilt tropical world. A land of plenty famed for its biodiversity, Costa Rica is home to several national parks where you can encounter monkeys, iguanas, and colourful birds in the dense jungle. Darién Province in Panama offers equally amazing nature and the chance to have a unique encounter with the semi-nomadic Emberá people. Crossing the legendary Panama Canal is also a must: the 82 km waterway was built in the early 20th century under extremely challenging conditions.
Antarctica is an unmissable destination if you’re looking for untouched lands. People have explored the continent without changing it at all: the sea ice and glaciers remain pure white under the immense sky, while the penguins and whales frolic in peace. Nothing is decided in advance; everything depends on the ice: a true voyage of discovery
In Africa, head to the Bijagos archipelago, a group of 88 islands off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. Designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2006, it is one of the most protected zones in the world. And this shows in the diversity of its wildlife and the traditional way of life of the local populations. As the majority of the archipelago is covered with mangrove swamps, it offers an excellent opportunity to watch birds – egrets, vultures, and hornbills – in their natural habitat.
What traveller hasn’t dreamt of a paradise of turquoise waters and pristine beaches? Fulfil this desire in the islands of the Indian Ocean, from Seychelles to the Maldives. Nature paints with a marvellous palette of blues and whites, highlighted by the colourful splashes of the birds and tropical flora. But perhaps the best part is underwater, where exceptionally rich fauna frolics in the coral atolls. Tropical fish, turtles, and manta rays are just waiting for you to dive in and discover them.
India and Sri Lanka are multi-faceted countries that are worlds-in-themselves, where the power of Hindu culture is closely entwined with the traces of their colonial past. From the long beaches of Goa to the lush landscapes of Kerala and the carefully preserved ex-trading posts, the region never fails to leave a lasting impression. It offers you the chance to immerse yourself in a South Asian world full of fragrances and colours.
In Indonesia, each island has its own unique beauty and diversity. In Sumatra, for example, tigers reign supreme in the heart of a lush jungle. While in south Borneo, orangutans have appropriated the incredible Tanjung Puting National Park. In the Lesser Sunda Islands, including Bali, hedonism on the pristine beaches is the order of the day. And you can also enjoy unforgettable encounters with the traditional Pemulung and Lombok communities. This truly is a chance to get away from it all.
The pearl of Oceania, French Polynesia enchants everyone who visits. With sparkling lagoons, unrivalled atolls, and colourful wildlife, nature shows its full potential, offering an enchanting setting. The art of living isn’t far behind, as Polynesia is the birthplace of surfing and some charming polyphonic songs. From pleasant Papeete to the volcanic island of Bora-Bora, via the untouched beauty of the Austral Islands and the proud Marquesas Islands, it’s easy to surrender to the relaxed pace of life that reigns in this remote destination.