This is where I Wanna Be!

Ice flowed down the rivers,
trees sprouted between buoyant leaves,
ploughs went through the fields,
doves in the forest are cooing.
a doe runs in the hills
and cries her exulting songs,
tall-stemmed flowers are blooming,
steam rises from the warm gardens.
Children throw balls, they dance
on the meadow by threesome,
women wash linens at streamside
and fish for the moon,
All joy comes from the earth,
there is no delight without her.

~ Czeslaw Miloz, ‘The Song’ (1934)

For all the ugliness that humans inflict on the earth, the world is still a ravishingly beautiful place, with enough places of mist and mountain, ice and fire to transfix our imaginations. Here is a photo gallery of ten places that will surprise you, move you and maybe make you shout “I wanna be there!” the moment borders reopen.

Horsetail Falls, Yosemite National Park

Photo: Chris Burkard

Every winder, from mid- to late February, visitors to Yosemite National Park have a chance to view Horsetail Falls literally in a different light. When conditions are right, the falls transform and emit an enchanting ember glow reminiscent of lava or falling fire. Specific conditions have to be met to view the spectacle. Horsetail Falls only flows during the winter when ideal temperatures melt enough snow, or if there is sufficient precipitation. So, if the water isn’t moving, no “lava” will flow either. To set the falls “ablaze”, sunlight has to hit Horsetail Falls at the right angle, and skies need to be clear. If there is even a slight hint of cloudiness or haziness in the sky, the firefall will not have its full vibrant effect or won’t occur at all. If all these conditions are met, you have a short window of ten minutes each evening to experience the falls.


Iceland

PPhoto: Jonathan Ampersand Esper

The sun sets behind the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland. One of the most frequently visited falls in Iceland, Seljalandsfoss plummets from nearly 215 feet and covers nearby visitors in a light mist.

Photo: Chris Burkard

Sheep shack in Iceland. No fire and brimstone drama here but at times, places of solitude like this is exactly what we need.


Faroe Island, Norway

Photo: Henrique Murta

The Dragnarnir sea stack, off Vágar island, one of 18 islands that comprise the famed Faroe Archipelago. Roughly half-way between Norway and Iceland, this archipelago is famed for the sheer drama of its natural landscapes, best seen from above.

The Drangarnir sea stack up close. Photograph: Henrique Murta.

Greenland

Tasermiut Fjord, Greenland

Tasermiut in Greenland is famous for its granite rock cliffs which draw intrepid climbers from all over the world. But if you prefer moving in a horizontal direction, there is Tasermuit Fjord, probably the most beautiful in Greenland. Lined by two long mountainous peninsulas known as the “Big Walls”, the fjord stretches 70 km from the southernmost town of Nanortalik and ends where the massive ice sheet of the world’s biggest island begins. It is a popular place for trekking, kayaking or river fishing.

Korbuk Valley National Park, Alaska

Tundra in fall color at Korbuk Valley National Park, Alaska. Photo: National Park Service.

Just 35 miles above the Arctic Circle is one of the least-visited national parks in America: The Kobuk Valley National Park. There are no roads, no trails, no facilities, and no rangers. The only accessible mode of transport is by plane. The weather is dangerously unpredictable and sudden outburst of storms can make air travel a hazardous affair. The rewards of going there is a chance to see a surreal sight: the Alaskan Desert (you heard that right!). Unknown to most people, this Arctic Polar desert, with an area of more than 5 million square miles, is one of the two largest deserts on earth. It teems with unusual wild life and is carpeted by sand dunes that looked as if they’ve been plucked from the Sahara.

A caribou herd crossing a river in Korbuk Valley National Park.

It is a spectacle of the animal kingdom that most of us don’t get to see except on television. It is the migratory crossing of the Kobuk River by hundreds of caribou. This remarkable herd, with nearly half a million caribou, crisscrosses sculpted sand dunes, breaks trails through the tundra and swims across the Kobuk River in an annual tradition that has persisted for thousands of years, and which draws subsistence hunters from the Inupiaq community. 

Isle of Harris, Scotland

Shades of intense blue, Ise of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

As the sun breaks through the cloud and hits the Atlantic Ocean, the water lights up in iridescent shades from pale green through to deep, deep blue, with a broad expanse of turquoise in between. The clarity of the sea and the reflections of a blue sky combine to create these remarkable colours on the Isle of Harris, a remote windswept island in the Outer Hebrides, off the western coast of Scotland.


Spectacles of China

China is a world unto itself as far as places of natural beauty goes. Here are three stunners which must be on your bucket list.

Mount Huangshan, Anhui, China. Photo: CNN.

Renowned for its oddly shaped pines, spectacular rock formations and seas of misty clouds, Mount Huangshan (“Yellow Mountain”) is the kind of place that makes you feel you are just a prop in a gigantic Chinese landscape painting.

Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, Gansu Province, China. Photo: Michael Yamashita.

Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park lies in the eastern foothills of the Qilian Mountains in Gansu Province, China and is famous for the Rainbow Mountains which are mostly made up of deep red sandstone created by movements of tectonic plates and weathering over millions of years. These famous mountains are indeed a geological wonder of the world but don’t believe the over photoshopped photographs you might have seen on the internet. Here’s a no filter version of the mountains, which are still gorgeous.

Karakul Lake with Mt. Kongur in the background, Karakorum Highway, Xinjiang, China. At 7,649 m, Kongur is the highest mountain within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China.

Between Xinjiang Province in western China and Tashgurkan, a town that straddles China, Afghanistan and Pakistan lies the highest lake in the Pamir mountain range. At an altitude of 3,600m, Karakul Lake is famous for the clarity of its reflection in the water, whose color ranges from a dark green to azure and light blue. To top it up, it is surrounded by two of the highest Pamir peaks: Mt. Kongur (7719m) and Mt. Muztagh Ata (7546m).

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