Everything has beauty, according to Confucius, but not everyone sees it.Take even the glorious Taj Mahal, for example—deemed “breathtaking,” “stunning,” and “spectacular” by most TripAdvisor reviewers, but “overrated,” “uninteresting” and “a disappointment” to others. Who can account for taste?That’s exactly why attempting to narrow down the most gorgeous spots on the planet is no easy feat—and why we decided to turn to a handful of pros, who have come up with a collection of sumptuous, oft-surprising picks ranging from remote natural wonders, like the Lau Archipelago in Fiji, to glittering cities, like Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro.“Rio is possibly the most beautifully sited city on the globe,” says Patricia Schultz, author of the best-selling trip bible 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, recently released in its second edition. “Head up to the statue of Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado for a take-your-breath-away view of la Cidade Maravilhosa (the Marvelous City).”Schultz is among the four experts—all serious globetrotters and standouts in the travel field—whom we queried for input. They also include Peter Greenberg, CBS News travel editor and host of the syndicated Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio Show; Peter Friedman, a trip expert with the award-winning Unique Travel; and a group-effort panel of pros at the renowned Geographic Expeditions.Greenberg chose the Lau Archipelago, a remote collection of 50-plus atolls and islands located 200 miles from the mainland of Fiji. The region sees few tourists, but those who do make it there are rewarded with a mind-blowing array of marine life and a gentle, carefree vibe. “No phones, no Blackberries, no TVs—just the intoxicating sounds of a cappella harmonies sung by the islanders each morning and each evening,” he says.
Full List: The World’s Most Beautiful Places
Other gorgeous locales on the list include Mount Everest in Nepal; Tuscany, Italy; and Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile, a 598,000-acre park tucked at the far south end of the Andes, offering a stunning mix of landscapes and fauna. “Paine’s unique physical attributes of glaciers, lakes, gnarled Magellanic trees, and dramatic mountains offer some of the most awe-inspiring hiking in the world,” say tour operators at the 30-year-old Geographic Expeditions, which has a focus on remote destinations.Representing for the United States was Greenberg’s choice of Fire Island, the 32-mile-long, car-free barrier island just 50 miles east of Manhattan. “No cars, just bicycles and wagons and bare feet,”he says. “Fire Island is the Hamptons without the attitude.”