15 Mystical Destinations That Truly Inspire Awe
From hidden sea caves to natural skyscrapers, you won’t believe these destinations are real.
Located in Nairobi, Kenya, Giraffe Manor is a colonial mansion that’s home to a herd of resident Rothschild’s giraffes. Every day at breakfast and tea time, guests of the 12-room estate are granted a magical experience: The windows to the dining room are opened and majestic giraffes peek their long necks in for a visit right at your table. You can even feed them straight out of your hand! You may also like to try some of these unique hotels as well.
Nestled in the Andes Mountain Range in Peru, Ausangate Mountain has earned the nickname of Rainbow Mountain because of its striped colors ranging from turquoise to lavender and everything in between! But its appearance, created by weathering and mineralogy, isn’t the only thing mystical about this mountain—it’s also incredibly hard to get to. You must hike for several days to reach its peak. The site is a place of daily worship for locals and home to packs of alpaca. If you like this, you should also check out these photos of the most colorful towns in the world.
Also known as the Drainpipe of the Pacific, this gaping sinkhole on Oregon’s coast is a sight to behold. It literally looks as if mighty Thor smashed his hammer to create his own personal well. To get there, you can take the Captain Cook Trail from the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area visitor center, where the surf violently fills the seemingly bottomless hole to create a magnificent display.
Benagil Sea Cave
In the stunning southern coast of Portugal, you’ll find the Algarve, where breathtaking beaches and overwhelmingly large caves create picture-perfect vistas. The famous Benagil Sea Cave is the most jaw-dropping natural structure of them all, with a natural occurring oculus that towers high above its own slice of beach. When the sunlight pours through the dome, the incredible scene is simply magical to behold. Getting inside the cave is best done via boat tour or by hiking, then jumping in the brisk Atlantic, and swimming ashore. Here are 10 more of the world’s most beautiful sea caves.
Ashikaga Flower Park
Located in Ashikaga, Japan, Ashikaga Flower Park is the ultimate flower haven, with more than 350 wisteria trees and 5,000 azaleas. The best time to visit is when everything is in full bloom, between mid-April to mid-May, when the blossoms turn from a light pink to a pastel purple, followed by white and then yellow. Trying to stay close to home? These are the most beautiful places to visit in America in the spring.
If you want to test out the ultimate cosmic sleeping experience, France’s Attrap’Rêves is an absolute must. Designer Pierre Stephane Dumas created bubble dwellings that allow you to camp outside without the humidity or bugs getting the best of you. Each of the bubbles is located in a secluded glade with an impeccable view of the twinkling stars above and night and lush greenery around you. The bubble is kept inflated at all times thanks to a silent blower, which recycles the air inside as well. If you love sleeping outdoors, check out these 15 campsites that should surely be on your bucket list.
Wulingyuan Scenic Area
This is certainly more than a roadside “scenic area”: Located in Zhangjiajie, China, this 100-square-mile attraction is home to sandstone pillars that mimic skyscrapers. In fact, some stand taller than the Empire State Building’s midpoint. Between the peaks, you’ll find ravines and gorges with streams, pools, and waterfalls, about 40 caves, and two massive natural bridges.
Located in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Angkor Wat is the largest religious temple in the world and is known both for its breathtaking stature and intricate detail. Perhaps its most special component is that, unlike the other Angkor monuments, it was never demolished by the elements, and has remained in continuous use since it was built. Not surprisingly, it’s one of Cambodia’s most popular tourist destinations.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Antelope Canyon, located in the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, is one of the world’s most photographed slot canyons, and with good reason. The light beams dappling through the red-orange curved standstone walls, creating incredible patterns, shadows, and shifts in color. Upper Antelope Canyons, called Tsé bighánílíní, which in Navajo means, “the place where water runs through rocks” is more easily accessible than Lower Antelope Canyon, known as Hazdistazí, or “spiral rock arches.” Whichever you want to visit, know that you must sign up for a tour with one of the local guide companies to enter. Find out the best bucket list destination in your state.
Who needs a tropical vacation when there’s an ice hotel? Sweden’s very special Icehotel will make you feel like you’re in the next Ice Age. While you can opt for “warm accommodations,” if you’ve come this far, you should take it to the next level and spend the night in the more adventurous “cold accommodations.” Staying in an ice suite grants you access to ice sculptures, artwork, and architecture that looks like it’s straight out of Frozen.
Hurawalhi Island Resort
This private island escape in the pristine Lhaviyani Atoll in the Maldives is an adults-only slice of heaven you won’t believe exists. Along with 30 beach villas, there are 60 over water villas that allow you to jump right in the water from your front door. Oh, and if that’s not enough, how about your own private beach on “Dream Island”? You can actually rent your own private sandbank for a couple hours, where a small hut and stunning stretch of white sand await.
Also onsite is 5.8 Undersea Restaurant, residing a whopping 16 feet below sea level. It’s the world’s largest all-glass underwater restaurant. You’ll feel like you entered the mythical island of Atlantis as you dine next to floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the turquoise waters and the tropical fish. If this is up your alley, also check out 30 of our favorite secret island escapes around the world.
The Hand in the Desert
Located in the middle of Chile’s Atacama desert, this oddball work of art is the creation of Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal. The giant 36-foot hand rises out of the sand in the middle of the desert and is meant to symbolize human suffering, which is emphasized by the secluded location, 46 miles southwest of the town of Antofagasta.
Cat Island, Japan
Cat lovers, rejoice, because just a short ferry ride from Japan’s east coast resides Tashirojima. Here, cats outnumber the mere 100 humans by about six-to-one. The cats were originally brought in centuries ago to kill off the mice that were eating the silkworms producing the silk that the island was originally known for. Now, it’s most famous for the cats, who are thought to symbolize good luck and fortune. There’s even a cat shrine as well as cat-shaped cabins for overnight visits. You’ll also love these other under-the-radar hidden gems of Japan.
Located on the private land on the edge of Black Rock Desert in Nevada is Fly Geyser, a mystical structure with less than magical beginnings. It was created accidentally in 1964 when an energy company drilled down into geothermal waters. The fountain erupts up to five feet high in a gorgeous array of colors caused by mineral and algae build up. The site was recently purchased by The Burning Man Project and has a strict “no-trespassing” policy, so you do need to sign up for a tour to see it.
Located on the eastern side of Poland, you’ll find Crooked Forest, 400 pine trees that appear bent over almost 90 degrees at the trunk and then returning to straight and growing vertically up toward the sky. The result is an entire forest that looks like something out of Dr. Seuss. The reason for the wonky shaped trees is unknown, but some blame torrential snowstorms and lumberjack growing techniques. Don’t miss these 12 breathtaking photos of the world’s greatest landscapes.