The rush you feel while standing on the edge of the sprawling Grand Canyon is a traveler’s rite of passage. The 277 miles of gold and bronze–hued landscape is one of the natural world’s most gorgeous sights to behold; add a soft blue sky to the mix, and you’ve got yourself one of the world’s best views.
From the Grand Canyon to the Matterhorn, the world’s most iconic vistas are part of the travel canon for good reason. They induce wanderlust.
They get us thinking about the four corners of the earth as well as humankind’s minor place in the scheme of things. And when we see them in person, we are startled and humbled by their physical magnificence.
Far from nature’s wonders but equally spectacular are the world’s greatest cityscapes, which can leave an equally compelling impression: perhaps hope or opportunity, in the case of New York City, or romance in Paris.
“Parisians might be less obvious about it, but we all secretly love the Eiffel Tower,” says Paris-based blogger and travel guide Heather Stimmler-Hall of Secretsofparis.com. “Especially when it sparkles in the sun or peeks out on a foggy day.”
These days, amazing views are just a Google search away. Vacation photos from colleagues and friends fill our inbox, and both amateur snapshots and professional photography have saturated the web. Yet seeing a stunning landscape in the flesh is more than just a pretty picture—it stirs something within.
Perhaps it’s a combination of the senses: the slow progression of a copper dawn spilling onto the Urubamba Valley in Peru, the sound of fluttering prayer flags in Bhutan’s Black Mountains, or the smell of roasting chicken in Paris’s 18th Arrondissement. These elements are part of the lasting effects of an experience that can’t be captured on film.
Of course, a quintessential viewing moment can be ruined—perhaps by bad weather or a crush of tourists. That’s why for each amazing view, we’ve given you the best time to go, weather-wise, as well as a secret viewing spot to help you avoid the foot traffic when you’re there. “People will always want to see the biggies, like the Berlin Wall or the Empire State Building,” says Henrik Tidefjaerd, a Berlin-based coolhunter at Berlinagenten.com who travels around the world to discover edgy, new destinations. “That’s fine, but more and more want to have their own authentic experience with these iconic images. They want their own view, not a postcard image.”
But if there’s one thing Stimmler-Hall has learned from her years living in one of Europe’s most picturesque cities, it’s to remember to stop for a moment, put down that camera, and take it all in. “Paris never looks as good through a lens as it does in person,” she says. “So when you’re in front of the real thing, look at it with your own eyes.”