where to travel for stunning natural scenery
From pink lakes to flaming gas craters, here is our guide to the weird and wonderful, by Joanna Simmons of Responsible Travel.
Cone-shaped rock formations are the topographical USP of Cappadocia in central Turkey, a landscape of crinkles and valleys, carved by volcanic activity and water erosion. People have long taken advantage of the region’s soft rock to create underground homes, cavern architecture and rock-cut churches.
Exodus runs an eight-day Cappadocia walking holiday from £649 excluding flights.
Uyuni salt flats, Bolivia
The world’s largest salt pan stretches over 10,000km2. It’s blindingly white but, when covered by water, all perspective gets bent as the surface reflects the vast altiplano sky above. Drive through it and you feel like you’re flying through the clouds. At 3,656m above sea level, this is also a bitterly cold prospect.
Latin America Journeys offers a 26-day tailor-made tour taking in the Uyuni salt flats, from $3,895 (£2,895) excluding international flights.
This wild panorama of blue lakes, jagged peaks and glaciers is at the tip of South America. Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park glows luminescent blue, while the granite towers that give Torres del Paine National Park its name deliver unadulterated drama.
Adventure Life operates a nine-day tailormade hiking itinerary in Patagonia from US$2,795 (£2,075) excluding flights.
Spruce trees blanketed in snow are a surreal sight, like towering shaving-foam sculptures. The best way to see them is to strap on snowshoes and go for a hike. Oulanka and Riisitunturi National Parks are great locations for a winter exploration, with snow-caked trees aplenty, but also frozen lakes, icy rivers and crashing waterfalls.
Exodus has an eight-day group showshoeing trip in the area from £1,099 excluding flights. .
This idyllic mountain retreat in southern China’s Guangxi region sits beneath soaring limestone pinnacles on the banks of the Li River. It can get busy, but the views never disappoint: water buffalo grazing by the river, farmers tending the land, tall stands of bamboo, all laid out beneath exquisitely odd mountains.
World Expeditions offers a 12-day group Beijing to Hong Kong trip, taking in Yangshuo, from £1,850 excluding international flights.
One of the world’s most remote sanctuaries, this is a wilderness of thermal springs, rivers bursting with fish, wild coastline and 300 volcanoes. Despite covering 500,000sq km, Kamchatka has the human population of Bristol – you’re more likely to encounter bears, walrus and reindeer.
Heritage Expeditions offers a 14-day Kamchatka adventure cruise from US$8,000 (£5,942) excluding flights.
You only need venture a little way outside Reykjavik to stumble across vast fields of moss, towering escarpments, glaciers and regularly erupting geysers. Iceland’s north-west is a particularly wild corner, with black-sand beaches, spectacular lava fields, volcanic craters and serene lakes.
Wild Photography Holidays has an 11-day photography tour of the region from £2,950 excluding flights.
Spiny Forest, Madagascar
An eco-region in the south of the island, this surreal, inhospitable habitat is filled with cactus-like shrubs and trees that have adapted to withstand droughts, and are found nowhere else in the world. Ring-tailed lemurs, tortoises and mongooses have adapted to survive here.
Pioneer Expeditions offers an 11-day tailormade southern Madagascar trip from £2,150 excluding flights.
The Namib Desert, Namibia
The towering, rust-red dunes at Sossusvlei are some of the highest in the world. You can climb the S-shaped Dune 45, which is more than 170m high.
Intrepid Travel’s 22-day Victoria Falls to Cape Town group trip taking in the Namib Desert costs from £1,870pp excluding flights.
Lac Rose, Senegal
Anyone with basic French can guess that this lake, just an hour from the capital Dakar, isn’t going to be blue. Bacteria attracted to the salt and high concentration of minerals in the water give it a pink hue, at its most vivid during the dry season, November-June.
Native Eye Travel has a 15-day West Africa group tour that visits Senegal and the lake from £3,175 excluding flights.
The Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan
Travel for miles through the bleak Karakum desert and you suddenly come to this 30m-deep pit of flaming methane, also known as the “Door to Hell”. Its origins are still unknown, but it’s been burning for 40 years.
Wild Frontiers has a 14-night Silk Road tour that visits the crater, from £2,995pp excluding international flights.
You don’t come on holiday here, you come on an expedition, sailing for days, traversing the notoriously choppy Drake Passage, before reaching this vast polar desert. The accessible Antarctic peninsula is an icy extension of the Andes, but it’s full of life, too, from leopard seals and penguins to whales.
Chimu Adventures has a 12-day Antarctic cruise from £5,295 excluding flights.