One of my favorite things about traveling is the opportunity to fall in love repeatedly with all the uh-mazing scenery around the world. After spending almost three months abroad, here are the moments that took my breath away:
1. The farming terraces in Nagarkot, Kathmandu
In the early morning, the fog envelopes this valley but by midday, the fog has burned off revealing the results of the hundreds of years of work it took to carve every inch of the valley into farming terraces. In the distance, there are the occasional villagers plowing the soil and harvesting the potatoes, corn, and rice from their terrace. It’s hard work, but the families here live off the land. As I hiked through this part of Nepal, I caught myself stopping over and over again in awe of the beauty of the valley and envying the simplicity of life here.
2. Sunrise over the Sahara
It’s not the expansiveness of the Saharan sand that is hard to believe nor the realization that sitting atop this sand dune I was literally in the middle of nowhere. It was sitting there and witnessing the colors of the sand shift magically during the sunrise and sensing how quickly the temperature rose as a result. And realizing that there are tribes of people who call this place home – far from a real bathroom, running water, and wifi connection. It’s just amazing how resourceful and adaptive humans can be!
3. Dades Gorge, Morocco
Towering red mountains on either side. Pockets of lush green valleys with bushes and bushes of pink flowers. Tiny silver streams carve through this rough terrain. Remnants of ancient kasbahs (some still in use) dot the landscape. And the friendliest Moroccans you’ll ever meet invite you to a cup of tea. Welcome to the south eastern part of Morocco!
4. Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
Speaking of kasbahs, here’s one of the most famous kasbahs in all of Morocco. It’s been used in numerous movies as the mere sight of it conjures up images of ancient civilizations when kings reigned, gladiators fought, and history was recorded by stone tablets – not handheld ones. Seeing this in real life was about as unreal as it gets… as is the realization that some families still live here.
5. Goats in trees, Morocco
Until I saw this in person, I thought any pictures of goats standing tall in trees had to be photoshopped! But, no, this is legit and you can see it as you’re driving down the freeway near Essaouira. Over the years, the goats have evolved the ability to climb onto the trees in order to eat the argan fruit. I suppose when you’re hungry enough, you’ll do anything. Now that I’ve seen goats in trees, I’m looking for flying pigs next.
6. Douro Valley, Portugal
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of wine and wine tasting and having been wine tasting in plenty of vineyards around the world, this was one of the most stunning views of “wine country” I’ve ever seen. In fact BBC ranked this as one of the best views in the world – a tall order that led me to high expectations. Do I think it’s the best in the world? It’s hard to define the “best view” but I’d gladly concede that the view from this look out point was memorable indeed.
7. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
I’ve seen Niagra Falls, Iguazu Falls, and even Victoria Falls. None, however, were as pretty as the waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes! It must be all the cascades into turquoise pools and the miles and miles of trails that welcome visitors to get up close and personal with the falls. Plitvice is the place where waterfall desktop pictures are born.
8. Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
This tiny island jets off Montenegro’s Adriatic coastline and is a sight to behold. Today it’s occupied by Aman Resorts so if you can afford the highfalutin life (and prices), you could actually stay there! For the rest of us plebeians, we’ll view the island from this vantage point – a lookout point off the side of the Montenegrin freeway.
9. The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, as seen from Kotor’s town wall
Seriously, who knew that Kotor was as glam as it is? I hiked over a thousand steps to get to the top of the town wall and along the way, I was rewarded with increasingly better views of the Bay of Kotor and the city below. I love this view because it was so unexpectedly gorgeous – fitting since this whole part of Montenegro rivals the glamour you’d expect to see in the French Riviera.
10. Florence, Italy, after a thunderstorm
It rained in the late afternoon every day I was in Florence and it was the worst on the first day. The thunder roared angrily, the rain poured with a vengeance, and the hail fell furiously. In short, the heavens were mad. But when the storm subsided that day, the city was bathed in the most incredible light – even the river had a soft warm glow.
11. Tuscany, Italy
My favorite part of Italy was driving through the Tuscan countryside. You know those stereotypical Tuscan scenes with the rolling hills, the golden vineyards, the lone farmhouse, the olive groves, and the tall cyprus trees? Well, they really do exist! And Tuscany does look like that! I loved that cars were far and few between. It was perfect for admiring the scenery and daydreaming about retirement – under the Tuscan sun.
12. Tuscany’s sunflower fields
Since I’m on the topic of Tuscany, the advantage of being there in mid-July was that was it prime time to see all the glorious fields of sunflowers! I had seen pictures of these before, but getting to see them in person was 100 times better. There is something so idyllic about the view that for that moment I relished in not having a single worry in the world.
13. Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy
This little hamlet built 2,500 years ago looks like it belongs in a fantasy movie moreso than in the middle of Umbria. It looks even more incredible in person than in the photo, too. It rises out of a huge canyon that is reminiscent of where dinosaurs would have ruled and is connected by a foot bridge about a kilometer long. Once you’re inside the town, it’s like you’ve traveled back in time to a medieval Etruscan village where no cars are allowed and only a handful of original residents remain. The village has doors that lead to nowhere (as result of the ongoing erosion) and cutesy fairytale-esque lanes decorated with plentiful flowers on the stone houses and walls. Rarely I’ll come across a place that is so special, I’m convinced I’m dreaming when I’m standing in the middle of it all. I’ll have to pinch myself to be sure everything is real. Civita di Bagnoregio is one of these places.
14. Positano, Italy
Of all the towns along the Amalfi coast, Positano was my favorite! I love the way the houses are terraced on the mountainside, I love that you can see the deep blue water from every street, and I love the chic ambiance of it all. Positano is the perfect excuse to wear your swankiest beach coverup, oversized sunglasses, gold bangles, a floppy hat, and high heels… then take in the view (prosecco in hand) at one of the many restaurants with prime views over the town.
15. Positano at night
Okay, I know I just said I love Positano, but I have to share one last photo from this town – at night. As beautiful as it is during the day, I loved this view of Positano at night taken during my dinner at La Sponda. This has to be one of the most romantic restaurants in Positano especially with its vine covered archways, candlelights, and Italian band serenading each table with love songs. As this was taken during one of the last days of my trip, I sat there thinking about how sweet life is and how lucky I was to wrap up my summer trip surrounding by such beauty visually, melodiously, and even tastefully!