The rise of Instagram has created a new wave of hobbyist photographers; in the millennial lexicon, “grammer” is not a misspelled reference to the rules of language, but rather a person who takes the social media platform seriously — and, in some cases, has made a career of it.
Instagram has also morphed the way in which avid users travel. It’s changed the way they plan, as they search hashtags of destinations for ideas and suggestions; it’s changed what they seek in global tourism; it’s created celebrities like @helloemilie and @chrisburkhart, who have turned exploring and photographing the globe into a professional venture. For those who take Instagram seriously, the goal is the aesthetic, and photogenic regions of the world that were not popular tourist hubs in decades past—Iceland is a prime example—are now seemingly on the bucket list of every young photog, hungry for that otherworldly landscape.
We’ve rounded up a list of the most photogenic places on earth — ones so beautiful that they simply demand to be captured.
Wadi Rum (Jordan)
Located in Jordan, the valley of Wadi Rum is also known as the Valley Of The Moon. The region is rich with sandstone mountains that bear evidence of a long history of human inhabitance; graffiti, paintings, and petroglyphs are etched into the rocks. The valley is so otherworldly that it isn’t hard to understand how it earned its celestial nickname. Wadi Rum has even served as a stand-in for Mars in many films; The Martian, Red Planet, Last Days On Mars, and Star Wars: Rogue One all feature scenes shot on location in this barren landscape.
For the photography lover, the redness of the terrain coupled with a clear dessert sky makes Wadi Rum a must-see.
Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)
Bolivia is home to Salar de Uyuni, which, at 10,582 square kilometres, is the world’s largest salt flat. A thick salt crust, formed during the transformation of prehistoric lakes, is almost completely inhospitable to flora and fauna and thus gives the flats their barren topography. Despite this harsh terrain that is intermittently dried or covered in pools of brine, the region is actually a breeding ground for flamingoes. If you’re lucky, you may be able to capture a photo of the brilliantly pink birds in one of the starkest landscapes on earth.
Tunnel Of Love (Ukraine)
Located near Klevan, Ukraine, this industrial railway line is perhaps the most picturesque stretch of tracks in the world. Covered in arches of greenery, the tunnel is a destination for lovers, who can often be found walking hand in hand beneath the sun-dappled canopy.
Before the explosion of social media, the Tunnel of Love was a little known entity. In 2011, Amusing Planet posted photos of the whimsical spot that set the Internet ablaze; travel and photography enthusiasts alike rushed to uncover information on how exactly the tunnel came to be. Further investigations by the organization have uncovered that the trees were originally planted during the Cold War era to conceal the transportation of hardware to a nearby military base. Today, its groomed appearance comes from the industrial freight trains that still make use of the tunnel, keeping that lush foliage evenly clipped.
Zhangye Danxia National Geographic Park (China)
Deposits of sandstone and minerals, accumulated over twenty-four million years, give Zhangye Danxia the colourful, textured rock formations for which it is beloved. Over time, wind and rain have shaped and eroded the terrain to form vast pillars, towering rock formations, and ravines, with patterns that almost appear to be optical illusions.
For the photography lovers among us with a soft spot for geology, Zhangye Danxia is well worth adding to the bucket list. With its myriad shades of red that take on a blazing glow in sunlight, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful places on Earth to capture magic hour.
Crystal Caves (Iceland)
A natural formation resulting from the Vatnajvkull’s ice cap merging with the coastline, the Crystal Caves look like the set of a fantasy film, and traversing them can be an ethereal, otherworldly experience. Extreme pressure has pushed the air from the ice, meaning that it absorbs all light, save for the tones of blue that can be seen only when the surface of the glacier has been washed clean with rain.
Given that the cave lies under a glacier that is constantly moving (albeit slowly), visitors to the Crystal Caves will hear the popping and crackling of shifting ice as they explore these magical formations.