When any vacation sadly comes to a close, the only sanctitude you have when you get home is going through all the amazing photos you took. But when it comes to photography, not all holiday destinations are created equal. Have you ever planned a trip based on the pictures you’ll take? Well, it might be time to start. Everyone is a professional snapper these days thanks to the high-tech cameras on our smartphones, and we take billions of images around the world every day—here are a few photography pointers before you leave.
So how do you plan a trip based on the photos you'll take? Well, you consider the natural beauty, of course, but also the culture, the colors, the people, and the history too. When all of these collide in one location, you have guaranteed photographic magic. Not to mention these are also the ingredients you need for any great vacation too, so it's a win-win situation.
Read through our list of the best places to photograph around the world and start planning your next adventure. (And if we missed a place, don't worry, we plan on adding to this bucket list. Consider it a work in progress.)
A quick drive down the Pacific Coast Highway leads you to one of the most photographed American coastlines: Big Sur. Located on California’s central coast, it’s also one of the most iconic road trips thanks to Jack Kerouac’s book by the same name. The rugged beauty of this natural wonder and impressive views from the jagged cliff side guarantee gallery-worthy frames at every shutter.
From the marshes and grasslands of the Amboseli National Reserve, which provides refuge for elephants during the dry season, to the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro and the savannas, Kenya is home to some of the world’s most dynamic landscapes. Combine this with wide-ranging wildlife and the colorful Massai communities, and you have the perfect recipe for photography magic.
Fusing phenomenal heights and an impressive history, it’s no wonder Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Situated almost 8000 feet above sea level on a mountain ridge over the Sacred Valley, the stunning views alone are cinematic gold. But then there are the incredible Inca temples and local llamas that capture your imagination and your camera’s lens.
As a remote volcanic island in Polynesia, this destination may be a little trickier to travel to, but the archaeological sites are worth it. Easter Island has about 900 monumental statues that were created by the early Rapa Nui people during the 10th to 16th centuries. This is a powerful place; just imagine the imagery you could create with these famous Moai statues in the background.
Bound by massive roots from gigantic trees, the Ta Prohm temples look like something straight out of an Indiana Jones film. In fact, it was used in the Tomb Raider blockbuster with Angelina Jolie. Shrouded in dense jungle, the temple exudes an ethereal energy and atmospheric aura that countless professionals have tried to capture. Will you be the next to try?
As the oldest and largest of the three pyramids, the Great Pyramid is one of the world’s greatest ancient structures. The mystery surrounding its engineering and structure just adds to the beauty and allure of this timeworn masterpiece. Doing it justice in a single frame is all part of the challenge.
Stretching 186 miles along the border of Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell on the Colorado River is one of the second largest manmade reservoirs. Attracting about two million people every year, the popular pool’s surrounding landscape, stark red sandstone spires, ridges and semi-submerged sand castles and small islands provide a pretty picture.
These incredible stonewalls circle the entire city of Dubrovnik and despite their obvious beauty, they once provided protection for the cities ancient citizens in the 12th to 17th centuries. Stretching 6000 feet and reaching 82 feet high, the complex wall structure is considered one of the great fortifications systems of the Middle Ages.
If you want to document a fairly untouched wilderness, then the Chugach State Park in Alaska is your destination. Spanning 495,000 acres, it’s the third largest state park in the country and home to a seriously stunning mountain valley, granite cliffs, a glacial river, and epic waterfalls. What more could you want?
You’ll find this jewel of the Adriatic less than 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. The unique island is a fusion of international influences from the colorful Dutch architecture in the capital city of Willemstad, to the Jewish history that sees most residents speak Dutch, English, Spanish to the indigenous dialect of Papiamentu. It’s clear to see why this archipelago is commonly known as the Caribbean’s hidden treasure.
The world’s largest salt flat is located in the Andes of southwest Bolivia, and its bright white, desert-like appearance has been the creative backdrop for many surrealistic photographic moments. At 4086 square miles, its expanse alone sets the tone for incredible imagery and is the perfect place for fun optical illusions.
This natural limestone cave has been one of the most interesting attractions of Guilin, China, for over 1200 years. The landmark tourist destination plays on the cave decorations and distinct stalactites by illuminating them with multicolored neon.
The jewel-like interior of this imperial ice cave coaxes adventurers and photographers into its frozen lair every year. Located at the bottom of the Vatnajökull glacier, this breathtaking experience is one of the unique wonders of the world that is begging to be explored and photographed.
This post was originally published on September 1, 2015, and has since been updated.