TR Robertson — In Part 2, of Some of the Most Beautiful and Magical Places in the World, we will once again travel around the world to destinations that are again accessible to travelers. As you begin to make travel plans, look beyond the initial destination, and see if there are points of interest that can add additional chances to see unbelievable places of beauty to the trip as well as a little mystery and magic to make your trip even more memorable.
Pamukkale Thermal Pools, Turkey – The most visited landmark in Turkey is a site that has been millennia in the making. These shimmering snow-white limestone pools have been shaped by the build-up of calcite rich springs forming beautiful travertine terraces. The hot pools can reach temperatures of over 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The ancient Greek city of Hierapolis was built at the top of the pools in the second century B.C. There are 17 hot springs in the area. The remains of hotels that once surrounded the area are also visible, torn down as they were damaging the thermal pools. The terraces are accessible to the public via pathways, but the pools are off-limits. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A similar, smaller set of limestone pools exist at the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park in the United States.
Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile – This impressive national park is filled with amazing granite peaks, turquoise lakes and rivers, glaciers, and other wonders. The three distinctive peaks in the park rise to over 8,000 feet. There are 4 large lakes in the park and 2 others just on the outside borders of the park. Three glaciers comprise the Southern Patagonia Ice Fields. The Paine River flows through the park through several of the lakes. There are 15 bird of prey species in the park, including the massive Andean Condor. The endangered South Andean deer can also be found. Chile is a popular destination for back packers and hiking trails abound in the park. In the summer months 17 hours of daylight leaves a lot of time for an abundance of outdoor activities.
The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland – Two hundred years ago the Stuart family began to plant an avenue of trees leading to their impressive home, Gracehill House. These trees have now grown to a magnificent, entwined canopy that has been used in shows like “Game of Thrones,” used for Kings Road, and in the 2017 Transformer movie. The 150 beech trees run down Bregagh Road in County Antrim. Fear of excessive traffic on the road damaging the tree’s roots led to a traffic ban between the junctions of Ballinle Road and Ballykencer Road. Pictures can still be taken at the entrance to the Dark Hedges tunnel, and you can walk through the canopy. A ghost is said to frequent the site, some say it is one of the Stuart’s daughters.
The Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines – These colorful cone-shaped hills in the middle of the Philippines are a National Geological Monument. Between 1,260-1,776 mounds of conical and almost symmetrical shapes are covered in a species of grass that during the dry season turns a chocolate brown color. They are a source of pride for the region and featured on the provincial flag. The hill sizes range from 98 ft. to 390 ft. tall and cover a 20 square mile range. Those visiting the Philippines in the summer are encouraged to visit the area to see the beautiful chocolate brown landscape.
Cancun Underwater Museum, Riviera Maya – Located off the coast of Isla close to Cancun is the world’s largest underwater museum. Over 500 life-sized sculptures lie in water ranging from 9.8 to 19.6 feet deep. The sculpture park was developed to encourage snorkelers, scuba divers and glass bottom boat enthusiasts to choose an alternative destination to save the areas coral reefs. Over 400 of the statues were designed and built by British sculptor Jason deCains Taylor. This largest display consists of life-sized human statues in a variety of ways of enacting with the environment, both positively and negatively. This is called Silent Evolution. The museum is in the Cancun National Marine Park. Mexican sculptors have also contributed to the exhibition. Cuban sculptor Elier Amado is developing a new gallery. The original plan is for 1,412 artificial habitats (sculptures) to be put in the underwater museum.
Gates of the Artic National Park and Preserve, Alaska – This part of Alaska is only for the most experienced wilderness explorer. It is considered the #1 least visited National Park, but in 2019 the park did have 10,518 visitors. There are no roads, established trails or visitor services in the park, but the majesty of the mountains and forests are incredible. Winter temperatures can drop to minus fifty degrees Fahrenheit. For those that genuinely want to experience the wilderness of the United States and to get away from civilization, this would be the place to visit.
National Park of American Samoa – Another park that is not well attended, not because it does not have conveniences, roads, trails, and other amenities; it is because it is 2,600 miles from Hawaii. This beautiful park on American Samoa in the Pacific Ocean is located on 3 different islands with a ranger station, hiking trails, beach walking and snorkeling in the protected waters. What does draw people to American Samoa is the tranquil lifestyle, the quiet and peace of uncrowded beaches. The large national park is located both on land and into the waters where the coral reef is located. It is on the islands of Tutuila, Ofu and Ta u. Inland visitors can also visit the tropical rainforests of the region.
Isle Royal National Park, Michigan – This national park is located on an island in Lake Superior. The park is also not a well-attended park, but those that visit love the peace of the island as well as the hiking, fishing and boat tours offered. The island can only be reached by boat or plane. Many take the ferry to the island from Houghton, Grand Portage or Copper Harbor. There is one place to stay on the island, the Rock Harbor Lodge. Divers can also brave the chilly water of Lake Superior to explore shipwrecks.
Hobbiton, Waikate, New Zealand – “Lord of the Ring” and “Hobbit” movie enthusiasts can add to their movie experience by visiting a location in New Zealand where many scenes of the movies took place. Hobbiton is the location of the Hobbits Shire. Visitors to this region travel through a 1,250 acre privately owned sheep farm to the 14-acre series of hobbit homes. Located on the site is a gift shop and the Shire’s Rest Café. The 2-hour walking tour takes guests around the 44 hobbit holes with special stops at Bag End, Party Tree, and Green Dragon Inn. Beautiful views of the Kaimai mountain range are in the distance. This site remains a Tolkien tourism destination, located in a beautiful part of the world.
Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar – This may become Madagascar’s first natural monument. Located on an 850-foot stretch of a dirt road are 20-25 very unusual trees, called Baobab trees. Locally called Renada (Mother of the Forest), the 98-foot-tall trees are the legacy of a once dense tropical forest that once covered the island. Other than these trees, there are an additional 25 baobabs growing near rice paddies and meadows. Local officials want to declare these trees as national monuments, as they are still threatened by deforestation and the encroachment of civilization. Their outstanding feature is the umbrella like top section of the trees.
The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland – This unique natural feature is surrounded by Irish legend. The story says that the Irish giant Fionn mac Camhaill built the natural wonder so he could cross the Irish Sea to reach Scotland and fight a Scottish giant. The 40,000 interlocking basalt columns are mostly hexagonal shaped, some over 39 feet tall. They are the result of being formed from an ancient fissure eruption millions of years ago. The causeway goes from the coastline into the water and are easy walking distance from the roadway. They are in County Antrim on the north coast of Northern Ireland, three miles from the city of Bushmill. The Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are hundreds more unusual, beautiful, and magical sites around the world waiting for travelers to visit, enjoy, photograph, and add to their memories. When you plan your trips, do you research and look for those spots that will add new adventures to your vacation.