The world is an incredible place, and when it comes to travel we’re faced with an exciting plethora of places that we can visit.
And while almost all destinations have their merit, there are some places — be it as a result of their indigenous beauty, manmade magnificence or impressive natural phenomena — that are simply unmissable.
The places on this list have been chosen not only for their ability to evoke a feeling of wonderment, mystery and beauty, but for the quality and variety of light for the photographer.
In no particular order, let this list inspire your next photographic holiday.
Lake Louise boasts entrancing turquoise-blue waters in summer, awe-inspiring golden trees in fall, mystifying fog, magnificent blankets of snow, and the frozen lake in winter, and luscious greens and wildlife in spring. The most beautiful photographs of Lake Louise have been taken from the front of the lake at sunrise to mid-morning in summer. A graduated filter will be useful in capturing the lake in all its glory because of the high-contrasting lights and shadows on the lake and the mountains.
One of the most beautiful examples of architecture you can photograph, the Taj Mahal is a stunning Islamic tomb memorializing the love of Mughal emperor Shah Jehan and Mumtaz Mahal. Capture the intricate details of the Taj Mahal with the morning sun or a silhouette with a smaller crowd at sunset. Attracting 2-4 million visitors annually, expect a lot of foot-traffic on the grounds so consider coming early or shooting from different angles like the Mehtab Bagh, the riverbank, or rooftops of surrounding hotels.
Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, is a famous subject for photographers because of its nearly-perfect, graceful form. Some of the best photographs of Mt. Fuji have been taken from the Fuji Five Lakes Region, located north of the mountain. From surrounding areas, Mt. Fuji is most visible early mornings during colder months — between October and February — which is also when the picturesque snow capping the mountain is at its fullest.
With its sandy dunes, mountains, canyons, and desert wildlife, Namib-Naukluft National Park is a sight for sore eyes, offering plenty of possibilities to get that perfect shot. For greener landscapes, consider going during wet season, particularly April and May, but for vibrant colors, wildlife, and clearer skies, try shooting during the dry season which lasts from May to October.
This is the world’s largest salt flat, and thanks to its featureless and completely flat nature it holds infinite creative possibilities for the photographer. When it rains, Salar de Uyuni becomes the world’s largest mirror, with the sky reflected on the ground in a dizzying illusion.
In Bagan, an ancient city more than 800 years old, stands more than 2000 temples, stupas, and pagodas. Aside from the Shwesandaw Stupa and Shwegugyi Temple, which have the best views but can be quite crowded, some of the best places to shoot are the North Guni temple because of its greeneries and the lesser known Khaymingha complex of stupas. November to February is the peak season and is the best time to go to avoid the heat and the rainy season. Try shooting early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is golden, complementing the marvelous architecture.
Reine is a quaint fishing village set against huge, strong jagged mountains. Magnificent from any viewpoint, in any weather, and at any time of the day, the idyllic setting offers endless creative possibilities for photographers. If you’re lucky, you might just catch the Aurora Borealis.
From floating villages, limestone pillars and caves, islets, arches, hidden beaches, to wildlife, Ha Long Bay is a spectacular location to shoot. Go in the hottest months—April to July—with the serene, emerald-green waters of the bay basking in the sunlight, or on October to November for mysterious and magical misty waters. For a complete view of the bay, consider roughing it in the surrounding mountains such as Bai Tho and Ti Top.
Camps Bay, one of Cape Town’s largest beaches, is another stunning location to photograph because of its fine white sand and magnificent backdrop — the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range, often with thick white clouds spilling over the tops of them. Get a better view of the long stretch of beach by hiking the trails in the area, starting early in the morning to catch the sun illuminating its cool blue waters by the time you shoot.
With clear blue skies and the glory of nature reflecting on its waters and waterfalls cascading from the surrounding steep mountains, Milford Sound lends plenty of creative possibilities for photographers (just as it did for filmmakers). Try shooting at high tide in December, March and April, with the best view of the Mitre Peak facing west.
Endless plains against clear blue skies make an excellent backdrop for safari photography. Home to wild animals, such as lions, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards, and rhinos, Serengeti offers plenty of possibilities to capture some of nature’s most majestic creatures in their rawest forms. The dry season, late June to October, is the best time to go with perfect lighting early in the morning.
Morocco’s blue city in the Rif Mountains is just something else with steep, mazy streets lined with houses in marvelous traditional Moroccan architecture all covered in blue and white. Simply walking through the twisty streets of Chefchaouen, it is impossible not to see and want to capture its dreaminess. To fully capture the bright blues of the medina and avoid tourists ruining your shot, try shooting in the morning with the pale sunshine.
Only eight of the Twelve Apostles (tall limestone pillars carved by nature) remain standing but the scene is still surreal. Take the Great Ocean Walk, passing through the many other scenic locations surrounding the Twelve Apostles including the Shipwreck Coast. The best photographs of the Twelve Apostles tend to be taken from January to March either during golden hour or mid-day when it is not so crowded.
Germany’s most famous castle, Neuschwanstein is a 19th century Romanesque Revival Castle sitting on top of a hill overlooking the Alpine foothills. The most iconic photos of the grandiose castle have been taken from Queen Mary’s Bridge, but surrounding paths and villages also offer beautiful panoramic views with the scenic nature in the background. The crowd is milder and the skies are still clear in September or October, but the castle also looks magical covered in some snow at winter.
A Hani minority settlement, the rice terraces at Yuanyuang is a great place to photograph not only for the nature but its people. The rice terraces are most magical toward the end of harvest season, from mid-September to mid-November, and before planting season, which is April. Visit Duoyishu for sunrise photography and Bada for sunset photography. Lauhuzui is the most colorful area of the terraces but with the colors of the sky reflecting on the water-filled terraces, capturing its magic any time of day is possible.
The world’s third largest thermal feature, the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, with the burnt orange land surrounding it, its red, orange, yellow, and green rings created by bacteria in its microbial mats, and its aquamarine center, is an incredible place to shoot. Because the bacteria react to the sun, the best time to go is summer at noon. Bring filters that will help minimize glare from the water’s surface and wide angle lens if shooting up close. For a full-view of the spring, consider shooting from an elevated location or the park’s viewing platform. Remember to shoot responsibly to avoid permanently damaging this awe-inspiring marvel of nature.
Built in the 15th century and later abandoned, this mysterious settlement perched high in the Andes Mountains offers panoramic views, a myriad of impressive vantage points and varied weather conditions to keep your shots interesting. Try to shoot either early or late in the day for the best light.
Established by the French in 1922, the tranquil valley of Sa Pa in northern Vietnam offers some splendid panoramic views perfect for landscape photography. Capture the hills against clear blue skies in summer from March to May and August to December from the Sapa Radio Tower, which is said to offer a magnificent 360-degree view of the area. Note that the golden yellow rice fields are best captured before harvest season, which happens around September.
Palau is probably one of the best places for underwater photography because of its rich marine biodiversity. In addition to this, it also boasts limestone and volcanic islands, caves, and lush green forests. The weather is drier and the waters are calm from December to March. If you can manage it, Palau is seriously good for aerial photography of the islands.
The Plitvice Lakes in Croatia made of 16 lakes and lagoons interconnected by waterfalls and home to deer, bears, wolves, and other wildlife is nothing short of magical. With jade-green waters and man-made wooden paths surrounding the lagoons, endless creative possibilities await photographers, but if you’re wondering, iconic photographs of the lakes have been taken from Veliki Slap.
From the glaciers at the peak of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, melted water flows through steep cliffs forming the stunning Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Whether from the front or behind the waterfall, photographers are sure to walk away with stunning shots of this Icelandic beauty. The sun hits the water perfectly, showing in June and July in the evening.
Colorful buildings line the dramatic cliffs of these five fishing villages on the Ligurian coast, providing a picture perfect location to explore with your camera. There are hiking tracks between each town that offer breathtaking views of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, vineyards, olive groves, lemon trees and bougainvillea, and of course vistas of the pastel towns. Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Vernazza are favorite shooting spots especially early morning and late evening, when the light illuminates the cliffs and houses. Also consider shooting from the sea at sunset to capture Cinque Terre in its pastel beauty with wide orange skies as your background.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is heaven for photographers looking not only for impressive landscapes but also exuberant art and traditional architecture. From sunrise to sunset, catch any of Rio’s beautiful beaches, shanty towns, waterfalls, forests, wildlife, city lights, and people. Hard to miss, of course, is the majestic Christ the Redeemer sculpture standing on Corcovado Mountain, best photographed early in the morning when the sun is overhead and the crowd isn’t bustling.
The best photos of the Great Barrier Reef aren’t just those taken from the air. Go underwater either diving or snorkeling among its over 2900 coral reefs and about 900 islands and cays to capture the bustling underwater life and, of course, bountiful reefs. Bring a good flash to excellently capture the beauty of the reef if shooting deeper than 5 meters. Otherwise, you can get enough light at noon.
A glacial lake, the waters of Lake Tekapo are milky-blue all year round. The colors in this picturesque body of water are most vibrant in summer when the pink and purple lupins that line its banks are in bloom. In fall, capture the lake surrounded by warm orange trees, and in winter, the blankets of snow that cover bordering peaks. Additionally, Lake Tekapo is an International Dark Sky Reserve, so don’t pass on a chance to shoot the star-covered night sky.
An Arab-influenced palace complex more than 1000 years old, Granada is quite an interesting place to capture. With the Islamic architecture, art-filled streets, and the Sierra Nevada in the background, something wonderful is sure to catch your eye. Shoot from Alhambra Palace, Mirador de San Nicolas, and Mirador de San Cristobal in the mornings of late April to June when flowers are in bloom, or capture the majestic Alhambra Palace in winter when the Sierra Nevada is covered in snow.
680 square kilometers of flat lavender fields bloom in summer (July to August) in the medieval village of Valensole for some of the most gorgeous photos of nature that you can capture. Hit Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque at sunset or dawn to see the fields in their most vibrant colors.
This beguiling natural attraction is a sight to behold and is located on Middle Island, the largest of the islands that make up the Recherche Archipelago off the southern coast of Western Australia. The way that this lake got its bubblegum pink color is a bit of a mystery, but scientists speculate that it’s the result of a dye produced by bacteria that lives in the salt crusts. One of the best ways to take in the spectacle is from the air on a scenic helicopter flight or you can take a boat cruise to the island.
A prime spot to catch the violet, green, and blue lights of the Aurora Borealis dancing in the sky is in Sweden. Because it isn’t as cold as neighboring locations, working with long exposures is easier in this location. The Aurora Borealis is visible from September to May, but you will need patience as the skies need to be clear enough to see the northern lights.
This mystifying place is one of the most photographed slot canyons in the world, and for good reason. The famous flowy sandstone formations are a photographer’s dream, made up of spectacular colors, textures, shapes and light. The natural light beams are unmissable and are most impressive in the Upper Antelope.
Surrounded by crystal-blue waters and towering glaciers, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is a majestic sight. The national park encompasses mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers and is home to over 126 species of wildlife such as pumas, South Andean deers, black-necked swans, and lesser horned owls, offering photographers endless choices for the perfect shot. The magical colors of nature are best captured at sunrise.
With the sun filtering through thousands of towering, swaying bamboo stalks, it’s hard not to find Zen walking through the wooden paths of the Sagano Bamboo Forest. Try shooting before sunrise when the place isn’t packed. Wait for the warm, mellow light to hit the forest right after sunrise, shooting upward for a full portrait shot of the strong, tall stalks. While the seasons pretty much do not affect the tranquility of the Sagano Bamboo Forest, it is less crowded in winter and summer, and the lantern-illuminated path is quite the view in December.
The red, green, yellow, and blue covered Rainbow Mountains of Zhangye Danxia make an unbelievable scene. The colors are from sand and silt deposits that have mixed with iron and trace minerals, and the mountains were carved by weathering and erosion. These colors stay the same year-round, so you can go anytime, but the light is best in the morning and at dusk in summer and fall (June to September). The best photographs of the mountains have been taken on viewing platforms built all around the area.
The impeccable Faroe Islands in Denmark is another out-of-this-world location that is sure to capture the eyes and hearts of anyone who’s lucky enough to see it. It boasts of birds, sheep, lakes, waterfalls, cliffs, and quaint villages, but the most iconic lake in the Faroe Islands is probable Sørvágsvatn because of its seemingly unrealistic formation. The weather can change almost instantly in a day in the islands, so go in June and July when it is most stable. The fair weather can last until September.
The oldest of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is home to clear blue waters, golden sand beaches, lush rainforests, valleys, and gardens, majestic waterfalls, awe-striking tidal pools and blow holes, and a picturesque canyon. To capture Kauai in all its glory, one of the best places to shoot is from the air with a helicopter tour. The best times to visit are between September and November or April to June.
Aside from hiking and wine tasting, the tranquil Tuscan countryside is a photographer’s dream. Ancient farmhouses sitting atop rolling hills, vineyards bordering rustic medieval towns, olive groves and depending on the time of year, fields of yellow sunflowers, are made all the more special thanks to misty mornings and golden sunsets. Some notable places to capture Tuscan countryside at its best include Val d’Orcia and the towns of Pienza, Montepulciano, or Monticchiello.
From November to March, photographers are given the chance to capture Vatnajökull’s otherworldly ice cave, making one feel as though walking into water or looking out from inside a crystal gem. Yearly, the forms and colors of ice inside the cave change due to continuous melting and refreezing. Because light hardly gets in the cave, try shooting with longer exposure.
This algae-rich lake located in a small wildlife reserve just south of the equator in Kenya is often home to one of the world’s largest populations of lesser flamingoes. Whether you’re into wildlife photography or not, the sheer number of flamingos is an awe inspiring scene and definitely worth photographing. To increase the likelihood of seeing the flamingos the best time to visit is during the cool-dry season from July to October, and the best time of the day to visit is early morning when the park first opens.
Panoramic views of white houses and blue-domed churches that surround the naturally-formed caldera of Santorini make for postcard-worthy photos. Capture Santorini from Imerovigli, Skaros Rock, Oia, or Fira early in the morning for vibrant colors or at sunset for a more romantic feel. The best times to visit are in March to June or September to November.
A hidden island paradise in the Philippines, Siargao boasts lagoons, tidal and cave pools, scattered isolated islands and of course, white sand beaches with clear, turquoise-blue waters. With the country recognized by many as the world’s center of marine biodiversity, underwater photography among the many dive sites in Siargao is also a must. Weather is best at summer, which is from March to May, but go in July to November to catch the surfers in action. block
A vast desert covered in picturesque sand dunes, dotted by lush greenery and wild animals, Gobi Desert rewards photographers with impressive panoramic views. While the most beautiful photos of Gobi are usually captured June to September, the views can be just as spectacular in winter. Catch the sunrise by the Khongoryn Els sand dunes or the Flaming Cliffs, the traditional Mongol families tending to their cattle in the afternoon, and the magnificent starry night skies at night. Consider looking for subjects for foreground to add a sense of scale to your shots.
Inside the million-year-old limestone cave of Waitomo are bioluminescent creatures that turn it into something arguably a little more magical than the night sky. Note that flash photography isn’t allowed in the cave, and you will need to shoot with very long exposure times to capture the glowing creatures covering its walls. While the glowworms can be seen year-round, you will find more of them in the summer, and they glow distinguishably brighter in winter.
Capture North America’s highest mountain, Denali, in Alaska. Depending on which season you go, you can either see the northern lights, the snow-capped peak of Denali, animal migrations, or wildflowers and fireweed in bloom, so plan your trip well. Some of the most striking photographs of Denali are shot with the golden light at campsites around Wonder Lake.
Venice is another popular location for photographers because of its breathtaking architecture. There are less tourists in the city in April and May and from September to November, and the best views of the picturesque city are from the bell towers and, of course, the Grand Canal. Light is best at sunrise before the streets get busy, but there is also an undeniable charm to the city as it lights up at night.
Home to massive glaciers, ice-covered mountains and boulders, deep blue waters, vast starry skies, and adorable penguins, Antarctica is a staggering location for a photo shoot. Head to Paradise Bay, Observation Hill, the Lemaire Channel, Deception Island, or South Pole at sunrise or sunset with a UV or a polarizing filter to capture the best beauty of Earth’s southernmost and coldest continent.
Ancient folklore tells us of fairies bathing in cold pools in Scotland. A hike through the Glen Brittle at the foot of the Cuillin Mountains reveals these magical Fairy Pools amidst rugged boulders and greenery. The Fairy Pools are best captured before and until sunrise before tourists start flocking it. Go between October and March when the weather is pleasant and the quality of light is at its best.
Made up of more than 200 falls, twice as wide as Niagara, the Iguazu Falls sits between Brazil and Argentina. The highest point of the falls is best seen from Argentina, but the complete panoramic view of the entire falls is best seen from Brazil. Photographers also get the chance to capture the falls in all its glory through helicopter rides. Experiment with the shutter speed to see how the texture of the waters change, shooting early in the morning to catch the mist.
During winter in December and January, flammable methane gas bubbles freeze turning Abraham Lake into a spectacular sight. The best times to shoot the lake are at sunrise and sunset when it’s partly cloudy, and, if you’re lucky enough to go when the skies are clear, do not let the chance to shoot the wide starry skies over the lake pass. The best photographs of the frozen lake have been taken from Windy Point and Preachers Point.
One of the world’s oldest and most spiritual cities, Varanasi should be part of any photographer’s bucket list. Capture the vibrant colors of the city and the deep-rooted culture of the people of Varanasi during the day. Because the heat can get exhausting, consider visiting from October to February, where you will catch many of Varanasi’s religious festivals. The fair weather lasts until February and March.
An ancient walled city, Dubrovnik in Croatia will leave you in awe. From medieval buildings and plazas within the city to the pristine blue waters surrounding it, running out of photo opportunities is impossible. You can take panoramic shots of the entire city from Fort Lovrijenac or Mount Srd. Owing to the tall structures however, you will need to experiment on the best time of the day to shoot, especially if you’re within the city. Try visiting in May to June or September to October when the weather is warm.
Okay, yes we said 50 but here’s just one more…
Capture the best panoramic views of Bondi’s pristine cool waters and golden sand walking the coast from Bondi to Coogee Beach. Get up early to catch Bondi’s surfers in action, and wait for its most amazing colors to come out at sunset. The natural beauty of the ocean teamed with the ocean pools and colorful beach goers, makes Bondi an excellent place to shoot from above with a drone. Consider going before or after peak season, September to November and March to May, or on the hottest months from December to March.