As photographers, we recognize beauty like no other and want to capture the most stunning places on earth, preferably without a group of tourists in our shots. To make this mission a bit easier, we’ve put together a list of 8 of our favorite under-the-radar spots …
1. Rainbow Mountains, Vinicunca, Peru
Near Cusco in Peru is a truly amazing natural phenomenon: the Vinicunca, also known as the Rainbow Mountains. This Dr. Seuss-like scene is part of the Peruvian An-des mountains and was long hidden under a thick layer of ice. Its multi-colored stripes are caused by rare and varied mineralogy, each containing diﬀerent amounts of iron, iron sulfide, chlorite, goethite, and oxidized limonite. Shifts in the Nazca and South American plates literally pushed the mountain on its side, so instead of erosion creating horizontal stripes, Vinicunca has bright vertical stripes.
Getting there is no joke: It’s a tough, nearly ﬁve-hour climb to reach the summit at 16,520 feet (5,035 meters). At that height, the air is so thin that it can make breathing diﬃcult and cause altitude sickness and headaches. But the experience of standing there, gazing out across the multicolored mountains — and your photos of it — will deﬁnitely make it worth all the eﬀort.
2. Ronda, Spain
Situated between Seville and Malaga near the southern tip of Spain, the city of Ronda is home to the most beautiful (former) jail in the world. The Puente Nuevo, or “New Bridge,” was originally built in 1741 and connects the two sides of this charming, historic town.
Not only is this 321 foot (98 meters) high monument simply fascinating to behold, but rumor has it that it is also the bridge written about in Ernest Hemingway’s masterpiece For Whom the Bell Tolls. The hiking and views from the bridge, and below it, are magniﬁcent.
3. Caño Cristales, Serrania de la Macarena, Colombia
The Caño Cristales river, also known as the “Liquid Rainbow,” is located in the Serra-Nia de la Macarena province of Meta and is said to be the most beautiful river in the world.
From the end of July through November the river stuns visitors with an explosion of colors: brilliant, yellow, green, blue, black, and especially red from the Macare-nia clavigera that grows along the bottom of the river and is only visible during that time of the year. The Caño Cristales can be reached with a charter ﬂight to the town of Macarena, followed by a trip by horseback (or donkey back).
4. Stone Forest, Yunnan, China
The region was a vast expanse of sea and, over time, the movements of the lithosphere gradually caused a retreat of the waters and the rise of the limestone landscape. Constant erosion slowly wrought the landscape as it currently appears. The Stone Forest is reachable by bus or train from the city of Kunming and has been given the highest rating by China’s tourism authority, AAAAA.
The Stone Forest in Yunnan, China, is an amazing set of limestone formations known as the “First Wonder of the World,” and which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Stone Forest formed approximately 270 million years ago — during the carboniferous period of the Paleozoic era.
5. Underwater Waterfalls, Mauritius
Oﬀ the southwest corner of the tiny island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean lies a breathtaking sight: an underwater waterfall. Not technically a waterfall, this spectacular optical illusion is caused by the Indian Ocean’s fascinating geological history. When the island was formed 8 million years ago, the Submarine Plateau of the Ocean Shelf was also created at a depth of 150 meters. (It’s the largest of its kind in the world.)
Oceanic currents pull the sand oﬀ the plateau and into the deep waters, creating what looks like an underwater waterfall. This spectacular sight is only visible from above, making photos a little more complicated but all the more stunning.
6. Christ of the Abyss, San Fruttuoso, Italy
For underwater photographers, or those wishing to add a dive onto a trip to Italy, the Christ of the Abyss statue oﬀ the coast of San Fruttuoso in the Italian Riviera is an incredibly unique and moving sight.
This 8.5 foot (2.5 meters) statue was intentionally sunk by the legendary Italian diver Duilio Marcante in memory of his friend Dario Gonzatti, the ﬁrst Italian SCUBA gear user. It rests at a depth of 56 feet (17 meters). Replicas made from the original mold are also found in the waters near Key Largo, in Florida, USA, and near St. Georges, Grenada.
7. Vatnajökull Ice Cave, Skaftafell National Park, Iceland
Vatnajökull is Europe’s largest ice cap and home to an ever-changing array of caves discovered in 2005 and known as the Crystal Caves. Unlike any cave you’ve ever seen, these ice caves melt and reform every year with stunning glacial blue colors.
Located in Iceland’s Skaftafell National Park near the city of Jökulsárlón, visits are only possible from November to March and require serious cold-weather preparations.
8. Bigar Waterfall, Caras-Severin, Romania
Located in the Cheile Nerei-Beusnita National Park in southwestern Romania, the Bigar Waterfall is one of the most unique waterfalls on the planet. Known to locals as the Miracle from the Minis Canyon, this waterfall makes a statement not for its rush but for its quiet.
Running through layers of lush moss, the water spreads out and falls in thin shred-like streams into the Minis River. Legend has it that a local girl was locked in a small cave near the current falls by her parents after she fell in love with an unsuitable boy. She eventually transformed into the waterfall herself and was reunited with her love when he drowned in her waters. While the falls themselves are reason enough to visit, the rest of the national park is also worth visiting and photographing for its natural beauty.
You’re reading “Amazing Photography” on Photofocus and own the printed version, too*
*Offer applies to the United States only
Every other week a new photo and the story behind it will be published here on Photofocus. Clemens and Ivan have made copies of “Amazing Photography” available for the cost of shipping — $8.99 alone. The book retails for $29.99 regularly. Here are some highlights …
- More than 100 breathtaking photos by professional and hobby photographers
- 13 personal stories from pro’s and hobbyists such as Albert Dros (pro-photographer), Laura Vink (pro-photographer), Andre Kuipers (astronaut and photographer), Ori Guttin (co-founder Viewbug) and Evgeny Tchebotarev (co-founder 500px)
- 4 practical photo guides to help you enjoy your photos to the max
- 7 DIY quick fixes for unexpected photography situations
- World’s top 15 under-the-radar spots for stunning photos
- Would you rather …? A hypothetical photography game for friends
- The science behind how your photos can affect your happiness and well-being.