In my last post, I wrote about my affinity for big cities. Cities are where my wanderlust started and I am still drawn to them.
But a few years ago, I started feeling the appeal of big open landscapes.
It started in the USA
I was on a road trip with family. We’d been to Vegas, flown over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter, and explored Zion national Park in Utah. But the most memorable, meaningful moment for me was in Death Valley National Park.
We’d been driving all day, turned up in Death Valley to find the RV park full, so we had to keep driving – but took a detour via the Badwater salt flats just as the light was starting to fade. We’d all been a bit frazzled, but a walk on the salt dissolved all that. The wind was strong but warm, the landscape vast and strange. We wandered in awe. It felt like freedom.
That buzzy feeling of exhilaration really stayed with me and I have both serendipitously found it in other places since, and I’ve actively sought it out.
I will definitely write more on this topic in the future, but for now, here are some of my favourite awe-inspiring landscapes (so far)…
Peru has a different kind of landscape to Death Valley, but it is also quite spectacular, in a couple of ways.
Firstly, I saw the desert around Ica and Nazca from the air – and I loved its fascinating patchwork of sand dune systems and dried up river beds, which looks like white scars on the plains (I found the surrounding desert to be far more interesting than the Nazca lines themselves, actually!).
I also did the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which is in the Eastern Cordillera, a region of the Peruvian Andes. The views of vertiginous lush green mountains were breathtaking. And when you add Inca ruins into the mix, the scenery was beyond spectacular.
It must have been quite something to live in that fortress in the sky!
Salt flats of Bolivia
After Peru, I spent some time in Bolivia, and the highlight was visiting Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flats in the world.
We raced in a 4×4 across hundreds of miles of white salt, and not much else. I found it liberating and thrilling to be so boundless – the only edges desolate volcanoes in the vague distance. It felt like anything was possible.
We were lucky enough to have a private tour, so we were able to get out and wander in the vast whiteness whenever we wanted. It was like being on another planet, and I loved it.
Deadvlei, Namib Desert, Namibia
Deadvlei is a place of contrasts; a barren beauty, painted from a palate of drama. I’d love to go back to this eerie, wonderful place!
The white ground used to be marshy clay before it dried up (though it does still occasionally gather water). The trees are thought to have died 600-900 years ago, and have been preserved by the dry air and blackened by the sun. To me, they’re a bit like macabre performers in a theatre of clay and sand.
This iconic place is one of the most unique features of the Namib Desert.
Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Iceland
The scale of this place blew me away: from the glaciers snaking down from the icecap in the distance, to the massive snout of the glacier and the floating blue icebergs, it was all so dramatic and invigorating! It is also a great place to visit if you are doing Iceland on a budget.
I picked a small chunk of ice out of the lake and ate it. So weird to think it had been frozen for thousands of years…
If you get a chance to go to Jökulsárlón, definitely take a boat ride on the lagoon to get close to these graceful beauties. There are two types of boat to choose from: we went for the smaller inflatable boat because they get in between the icebergs and speed across the lagoon to the snout of the huge Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. It was cold and exhilarating!
Now I’m addicted, I’m on the prowl for more dramatic landscapes to experience!
I have the following places on my travel wishlist (some I’m more likely to visit than others)
- Wadi Rum, Jordan – I’m super keen to get into a desert again, and this red, rock & sand one looks gorgeous.
- Torres del Paine, Patagonia – brutally steep mountains and bright blue glacial lakes.
- Perito Moreno glacier, Patagonia – this massive blue glacier is the world’s only advancing glacier.
- Ha Long Bay, Vietnam – green water sprinkled with stunning, tall islands.
- Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China – tree-topped steeples of stone, the inspiration for the floating forests in the movie, Avatar.
- Mount Bromo, Indonesia – a moody cluster of volcanic cones and craters.
- Danakil Depression, Ethiopia – hot springs and lava lakes can be found here, one of the most inhospitable places on earth.
- Mount Roraima, Venezuela – a spectacular table-top mountain, which inspired The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle.
- Gobi desert, Mongolia – to be honest, almost every desert is on my wishlist!
What about you?
What landscapes do you like? Are there any striking landscapes you recommend exploring?