From the National Geographic book The 10 Best of Everything
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Our friend, noted photographer Gordon Parks (1912-2006), gave this advice when viewing the Grand Canyon: “Leave your binoculars at home.” The biggest, most spectacular canyon on Earth, the Grand Canyon is 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) deep, 16 kilometers (10 miles) wide, and covers 405,000 hectares (more than 1 million acres). For starters, you’ll find staggering views along the South Rim; take the Park Loop Drive, which has a number of exceptional lookout points.
Niagara Falls, United States & Canada
Niagara Falls—actually three different falls flowing from the Niagara River—is one of the mightiest waterfalls on Earth, with 2,648,800 liters (700,000 gallons) of water washing over 56-meter (184-foot) cliffs each second. The best views are from the Canadian side, which takes in Horseshoe Falls and the smaller American Falls. After dark, the falls are illuminated with colored lights. The “Maid of the Mist” boat takes you right up to the base of the falls.
San Francisco Bay, California
Beautiful San Francisco Bay is the world’s largest deep-water harbor. The 60-story-high Golden Gate Bridge, the city’s most famous landmark, guards the bay’s Pacific Ocean entrance. A walkway offers easy access to the world-famous view back to the city, with the sailboat-dotted bay sparkling far below. An even better view awaits on the other side of the bridge, if you drive into the Marin Headlands and, from the Civil War fort, look out over the top of the giant, fog-swathed towers to the seemingly tiny city beyond.
Florence Cityscape, Italy
The Florence of Renaissance masters Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo remains much the same to this day. The massive yet refined 15th-century dome of the Duomo (the cathedral) dominates the tower-dotted skyline. The 360-degree view from the top of its dome is breathtaking. Other city-defining structures include the Palazzo Vecchio tower and the 14th-century shop-lined Ponte Vecchio. The hillside Piazzale Michelangelo lookout, across the Arno River, provides a splendidly classic view of Florence.
The West Coast of Ireland
Ireland’s wild west coast, where the Atlantic crashes against high rugged cliffs, appears to stand outside of time. Eire’s fabled green hills run right up to the cliffs, edged with fence rows and blooming lilacs and dotted with centuries-old keeps and thatch-roofed homes. Chances are, you’ll probably spot a rainbow or two arcing over the land. You will discover one vista more spectacular than the next as you drive along the narrow country roads lacing this magical land.
Louis XIV, the Sun King, nearly bankrupted France in adorning Versailles with the finest furnishings to impress his subjects and foreign dignitaries. Versailles was once home to thousands of nobles, bureaucrats, soldiers, and servants. The stables alone held 2,000 horses. The most renowned chamber at Versailles is the Hall of Mirrors, so named because the light from the tall arched windows on one side of the room is reflected by the corresponding mirrors opposite them. Fine art and chandeliers embellish the hall. The royal chapel and living quarters also define grandeur, as do the immense formal gardens adorned with statues and fountains.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
You’ll find endless breathtaking coastal views on a visit to the Amalfi coast of southern Italy. Picturesque villages cling precariously to steep sea cliffs. During spring and summer bright-hued wildflowers bloom in profusion. The narrow and twisting 50-kilometer (31-mile) Amalfi Drive between Sorrento and Amalfi is inarguably the world’s most beautiful and thrilling sightseeing road. Take care as you drive: The road has only occasional railings to keep your car from plunging onto the breaker-washed boulders far below. If you’re a fainthearted driver, you’ll probably want to motor north, along the road’s inner lane.
The Serengeti, Tanzania
Africa’s Serengeti migration is known as the greatest animal show on Earth. More than a million wild animals—gazelles, zebras, and other ungulates—blanket the Tanzanian landscape as far as the eye can see. When a seasonal drought dries up grass and water supplies in one area, the grazing animals move to the next area where seasonal rains are falling. Although lions and other carnivores do not migrate with the grazing animals, they feast on them when their paths cross. To fully appreciate the magnitude of this animal spectacle, hire a small plane and soar high above.
Manhattan Skyline, New York
New York City probably has the world’s most recognized skyline. The buildings soar upward in two Manhattan clusters, midtown and downtown, with a “valley” of low buildings in between. The most sensational daytime views occur in the morning, looking west, and late afternoon, looking east. At night the lights of the buildings make the skyline glitter. The best skyline vantage points are from the observation areas on the 86th and 102nd floors of the Empire State Building and from a boat in the harbor.
Hong Kong Harbour
Hong Kong Harbour teems with all kinds of boats, from tiny fishing skiffs to great ocean liners, with sparkling skyscrapers rising beyond. From a boat you can study the harbor activity up close, and the promenade along the Kowloon side provides a good vantage as well. But for a truly spectacular view, head to the top of 552-meter-high (1,811-foot) Victoria Peak. From here you take in not only the city but the South China Sea and some of the outlying islands as well. In the evening, boat lights sparkle and lights dance across the water, joining in the frenzy of electric activity produced by one of the world’s greatest cities.