Paris, London, Barcelona, San Francisco — most of us are familiar with what these cities and their most famous monuments “look like.” In fact, with the internet nearly fused to our fingertips, it’s tempting to assume we know all the world’s places and panoramas.

But what does Earth look like from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town? From the bright-as-day nighttime streets of Tokyo? From a patch of grass near a herd of zebras outside of Nairobi? There’s always more of the world to explore, something you haven’t encountered yet waiting to be uncovered. Here are 16 images you’ll want to see for yourself — and not just from a screen.


Calanques National Park, Marseille, France

A short bus ride (Bus 21, if you're taking notes) from Marseille gets you to the French coast, where you’ll find Calanques National Park. It’s mostly water, though there are 33 square miles made up of steep walls of limestone that fall directly into the sea—that’s what a calanque is. You swim around them, you jump off them, you hike all over them, you wander their pebbly beaches…the attraction is pretty simple here: Earth.

Photo: Shutterstock / Andre Quinou


Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand

If there’s one landmark in Bangkok to be deemed “iconic,” it’s Wat Arun, or Wat Chaeng, as it’s known locally. The “Temple of Dawn” sits right on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, and it’s best arrived at by boat. Try to catch this Buddhist temple in the light of early morning, if you can.

Photo: Shutterstock / Nukul Chanada


Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary

Most travelers remember their first truly beautiful city bridge. For some it might be Brooklyn, others Pont Neuf, St. Charles, Rialto, Golden Gate—Budapest’s chain bridge plays on the same team. At night it oozes Eiffel Tower elegance, acting as the proverbial red carpet up to Buda Castle.

Photo: Shutterstock / Littleaom


The Dubai skyline, UAE

Dubai's skyline borders on the fictional. The city is dedicated to everything luxury: shopping, eating, architecture, and nightlife, all rolled into one. The city's Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest building, topping out at 2,722 feet up in the sky. Most everything Dubai ends in "-est."

Photo: Shutterstock / Iakov Kalinin


Aksla viewpoint, Ålesund, Norway

There are few places in the world where Art Nouveau architecture is crammed onto the hillsides, desperately grabbing at land until it falls precipitously into the sea. Where mountains pop out of nowhere all the way to the edge of the horizon, until the ocean deepens and hides them from view. Ålesund—one of Norway’s larger towns—is one such against-all-odds place. Take it in from the Aksla viewpoint, a mere 418 steps up from Town Park. Technically, you can also drive…but where’s the beauty in that?

Photo: Shutterstock / Fure


The streets of New Delhi, India

Calm, golden light and orderly traffic are likely not two things that come to mind when you picture New Delhi, a city of over 21 million. And yet, here we are, the sun setting behind the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president's residence. Considering size alone, it's one of the grandest presidential residences on the planet—matching the scale of New Delhi itself.

Photo: Shutterstock / Kriangkrai Thitimakorn


Nairobi National Park, Nairobi, Kenya

This national park is about six miles from the city center of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital—get the angle just right, and you can watch giraffes wandering in front of skyscrapers. It’s a strange juxtaposition that serves as a reminder that the wonders of nature are all around us. Black rhino, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes, baboon, gazelle, hippos, and over 400 species of birds call the area home.

Photo: Shutterstock / Andrzej Kubik


Belém Tower, Lisbon, Portugal

Luckily for us, the 1500s were a tough time. That's when King John II ordered this tower built as part of Portugal’s first defense system. It still stands today, a stalwart guardian on a small island in the Tagus River, highlighting the Lisbon shore. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders.

Photo: Shutterstock / TTstudio


The Parthenon, Athens, Greece

The Parthenon, on the other hand, would look at the 1500s and laugh—it predates the Middle Ages by 1,900 years. Its first stone was laid in 447 BCE(!), and the remains of it stand today as a monument to the ancient Athenians, Classical Greece, and Doric architecture. This marvel for the ages was originally a temple to the Goddess Athena and a treasury, though history made sure it also briefly served as both a church and a mosque. Ah, the tides of culture.

Photo: Shutterstock / Sven Hansche


Cathedral Cove, Auckland, New Zealand

This is one of those spots that manages to be well-known despite the effort it takes to get there—that's how you know it's worth the trek. It's a 1.5-mile hike to these famous rocks, or you can arrive by boat or kayak. Spend some time wandering the Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve, but also know you're a ten-minute drive from Hot Water Beach. Yep, hot water bubbles straight up through the dark-gold sand.

Photo: Shutterstock / Christian_B


Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Blue ceramic tiles numbering some 21,000 adorn the interior of this monumental place of worship, giving the Sultan Ahmed Mosque its unofficial moniker. At night, the mosque shines blue, its domes and minarets (the tall, spiky towers) lit up opposite the city and the Sea of Marmara. Inside is just as picturesque, with 200 stained-glass windows and dome after dome after dome drawing your view skyward.

Photo: Shutterstock / Samet Guler


Petra, Amman, Jordan

Nearly every list of "places to see before you die" includes Petra. Its passages and facades are carved right into the pink sandstone, and the surrounding archaeological park is over 2,500 acres—there are trails, museums, and more recent excavations to see, apart from the wonder that is simply staring at famous structures like the Treasury and the Monastery (pictured above).

Photo: Shutterstock / Snapshopped


Lake Bled, Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled’s beauty is like a set of matryoshka dolls: A church sits on a small island, which rises out of a glacial lake, which rests in the Julian Alps, which line one of the most beautiful countries in Eastern Europe. As if the Slovenian fairytale needed a little extra flair, Bled Castle overlooks it all, too.

Photo: Shutterstock / Andrew Mayovskyy


Cape Town and Table Mountain, South Africa

When the clouds lie low in the sky, Table Mountain—which never needs pointing out when you're in Cape Town—gets adorned with a puffy white “tablecloth,” as if important company are imminently arriving. Seeing this historical port city from any vantage point is a stunner, but don’t miss taking the Table Mountain Cableway all the way to the top. It's one panorama worth writing home about.

Photo: Shutterstock / Alexcpt Photography


Beach scenes, Mauritius

For starters, let’s cover the 101: Mauritius comprises a pair of main islands some 700 miles east of Madagascar and 1,200 miles east of the African mainland (yes, the Indian Ocean is huge). The other thing you’re probably wondering is if the water actually looks like this. By and large, yep. The world’s third-largest coral reef surrounds the island, and therefore its 100 miles of beaches and lagoons are protected from the open sea.

Photo: Shutterstock / Leoks


Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya has been called a “fashion paradise,” a Tokyo ward dedicated to elegance, class, and style. Blocks of cafés, restaurants, boutiques, and shops draw your eye, and the people-watching is just as notable as the merchandise. Here, it's hard not to feel the hum of the world vibrating around you.

Photo: Shutterstock / Siriwat Sriphojaroen