A 21st century travel itinerary needn’t be exclusive to cities and iconic man-made structures. With the insurgence of technology and constant connectivity, a trip dedicated to exploring Mother Nature’s hard work is beneficial in more ways than one. Discover eight awe-inspiring natural wonders that have to be seen to be believed.
The country is a natural wonder in and of itself, but head just over 4 hours out of the capital of Reyjkavich and be mesmerised by what’s become known as Diamond Beach. Officially Jokulsarlon Beach, the globally-known moniker has come from the off-shaped icebergs that end up on the black sand, striking a stark resemblance to the revered gem. A mixture of opaque white, black and blue shades, the icebergs are remnants of the 1,000 year old Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, where they break off and float in the lagoon before some escape to the sea and end up washed ashore.
Where to Stay: Sand Hotel, Reykjavik
A restored collection of art deco townhouses, Sand Hotel boasts an impeccable style with an art deco touch. It features 66 guest rooms, including 11 suites, a communal lounge area, and hotel restaurant and bar. Set at the heart of the capital, the hotel is in easy reach of local hotspots, with attentive staff on hand to assist with any reservations, recommendations and excursions.
Great Barrier Reef
A true natural wonder of the world, Great Barrier Reef is undoubtedly one of the most unique places on earth. Stretching 2,300km just off the north east coast of Queensland, Australia, the coral reef system comprises over 3,000 islands and individual reefs, and is the largest living structure viewable from space. With turquoise blue waters and endless wildlife to uncover, this unique corner of the world offers some of the best swimming, snorkelling and diving you could ever come by. A year-round travel destination, the dry season, from May to October, offers the best conditions with plenty of tour companies offering different tours and day trips.
Where to Stay: Located in the Whitsundays, an archipelago floating between Great Barrier Reef and the coast of Queensland, qualia is an adults-only retreat offering unrivalled luxury, nestled amongst untouched nature. There are just 60 water-facing pavilions, plus an Activities Team to help arrange helicopter or seaplane trips to the reef.
Bohol Island, Philippines
Just one of the many captivatingly beautiful islands in the Philippines, Bohol is home to white-sand beaches, undisturbed jungle and, of course, the famous Chocolate Hills. Stretching a 50 square km area, these 1,000+ conical hills have been mesmerising tourists and locals for decades. Named Chocolate Hills because of their resemblance to Hershey’s chocolate kisses, local legend has it they’re the result of two giants fighting, hurling boulders at each other; another says the hills have grown where a heartbroken giant’s tears fell. The scientific explanation however, is that they’re grass-covered limestone once part of the marine floor, that’s been uplifted and slowly eroded to create the look we see today. Equally impressive in dry and wet season, the hills can’t be climbed, and only admired from two viewpoints, or above by plane.
Where to Stay: Eskaya Resort and Spa
Located on Panglao Island, a small islet off the southernmost tip of Bohol, this beautiful resort is a heavenly retreat. Set right on the beachfront and comprising just 15 thatched-roof villas, including some with private pools, this beautiful estate is the perfect base for exploring the natural wonders of Bohol.
Luang Brabang, Laos
Just a 30 minute tuk tuk drive from the centre of Luang Prabang, the Kuang Si Waterfall is reminiscent of a fairytale. Three tiers of cascading water, broken by natural baby blue pools, sit amongst a limestone rich, tropical jungle with beams of natural light adding to the site’s ethereal glow. A must-see attraction for tourists, the more intrepid travellers can wander off the beaten track and discover untouched, hidden gems on the surrounding trails.
Where to Stay: Amantaka
Luxury hotel and resort Amantaka, is just a short walk from the centre of Luang Prabang, Laos’ ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Housing 24-suites in a French colonial-style building, it’s a place of complete tranquillity and serenity while still boasting all the benefits of being near culturally rich attractions.
The Dark Hedges
Stranocum, Northern Ireland
This natural wonder, propelled to fame after serving as a set for Game of Thrones, is now the most photographed site in Northern Ireland. The tunnel-like, tree-lined avenue originated in the 18th century when the Stuart family planted the trees along the entrance road to their newly built estate. With 90 of the original 150 trees still standing and intertwining harmoniously above Bregagh Road, preservation and protection is of upmost importance. An attraction for visitors all over the world, explore the enchanting avenue before high traffic causes irreversible, long-lasting impact.
Where to Stay: Culloden Estate and Spa
Awarded Luxury Hotel of the Year 2017 at the Irish Hotel Awards, Culloden Estate and Spa is a must-visit destination. Set amongst acres of secluded gardens and woodlands, the once Palace turned prestigious accommodation offers an array of room types exuding tasteful opulence. Notable features and facilities include the Spa, a mind-body sanctuary complete with swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and fitness suite, the Mitre Restaurant, and the convenient ease of getting to local attractions.
For the more audacious traveller, the active, second highest volcano in Indonesia might be the destination for you. Towering the island of Lombok, Mount Rijani promises a challenging climb with incomparable views. With restricted access, guided trips of varying lengths are recommended. Start at the foot of the mountain and wake the following morning with sunset views of the entire island and neighbouring Bali.
Where to Stay: The Lombok Lodge
Serving up a new standard of luxury accommodation for the picturesque Indonesian Island, The Lombok Lodge and its nine exclusive suites will be a welcome escape from an evening in a tent. The relaxed yet refined interiors, sea views and hospitable staff promise comfort, while the food at the three onsite venues, directed by Indonesian chef Wayan Jiwa Raga, will delight your taste buds with local ingredients and exquisite flavours.
Misiones Province, Argentina
Bordering Brazil and Argentina in a large expanse of national park, the Iguazu Falls is the largest waterfall system in the world. Spanning almost 3km in width, and cascading 82m at its deepest drop, the awe-inspiring natural wonder can be viewed from all angles. Marvel from the walkways and viewing platforms, get to water-level and experience the thunderous beauty by boat, or seek unmatched aerial views by way of helicopter.
Where to Stay: Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas
A spellbinding location literally metres away from the spectacular Iguazu Falls, Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas is the only accommodation within the National Park. Containing 193 uniquely designed rooms, two restaurants, a tennis court, swimming pool and spa, it’s the perfect base for experiencing the natural wonder. As well as exclusive early-morning access to the falls, the dedicated concierge team is also on hand to arrange boat tours and priority access helicopter rides.
Grand Prismatic Spring
For outdoor enthusiasts, head to Yellowstone National Park and discover the technicolour splendour of the Grand Prismatic Spring. The now dormant geyser and largest hot spring in the USA (third largest in the world), can attribute its rainbow coloured shade to the presence of bacteria. Known to change hue with each season, select your visit date wisely and admire the sight from the surrounding boardwalk or head to the nearby Fairy Falls for an elevated view.
Where to Stay: Amangani
Contemporary in style and zen in vibe, Amangani (‘peaceful home’) promises uninterrupted luxury and unforgettable memories. The three-story resort is a few hours’ drive from Yellowstone National Park and sits on a cliff’s edge surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lush meadows. A perfect place of refuge after a day exploring the natural grandeur of the American West, other activities include wildlife viewing, skiing and snowmobiling.