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Stunning sights

Stunning sights
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After long periods of being cooped up indoors due to COVID-19 and unable to physically explore beautiful places, one of the ways we’ve been able to find comfort is by looking at beautiful places. But instead of showcasing (albeit gorgeous) spots you’ve probably seen tonnes of times, these 15 images show lesser-known places whose beauty deserves more notoriety. Put them on your bucket list for when travel to far-flung places is a part of all of our lives once more.

Salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia

Salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia
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From lakes to deserts, Bolivia offers many natural wonders, including the world’s largest salt flat. Set in the southwestern part of the country, the Salar de Uyuni delivers 10,583 square kilometres of glistening white salt. “Few travellers ever get to Bolivia, opting for more popular Peru, Chile and Argentina,” says travel specialist, Rebecca Rhyan. “The salt flats are another-worldly landscape for anyone who enjoys a bit of adventure.” Although the topography is mostly flat, the destination sits on the Altiplano at 3656 metres above sea level; expect chilly temperatures when the sun goes down.

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Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)
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One of the richest archaeological sites in Asia, Bagan (also referred to as Pagan) is home to a collection of more than 2200 temples, stupas and pagodas. The collection represents a scenic tribute to the religious history and devotion of the settlers of Myanmar over the centuries; some temples, such as the graceful circular Shwesandaw Pagoda built by King Anawrahta, date back to 1057. The Buddhist culture in Burma is among the most authentic in any Southeast Asian nation. “Burma is like Thailand 30 years ago,” says Asia travel specialist, Vinni Bernal. “The Buddhist culture is fully intact and the tourism infrastructure is improving.”

Karijini National Park, Australia

Karijini National Park, Australia
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Karijini National Park in Australia’s Pilbara region in Western Australia is the country’s second largest park, offering more than 6216 square kilometres of mountains and escarpments rising from flat valleys, rocky water pools, waterfalls and unique wildlife like red kangaroos and rock wallabies. While the water of the gorges and pools can be alarmingly cold, summer temperatures in the desert environment can soar to more than 40°C. Summer is also the wet season here.

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Capadoccia, Turkey

Capadoccia, Turkey
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Set on a high plateau in Turkey’s central Anatolia region, Capadoccia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known for its unique moon-like landscape and mushroom-like volcanic rock sculptures, known as fairy chimneys. Settlement of the area dates back to the Paleolithic era. During the reign of the Roman Empire, Christians used the area as a place of escape, building homes and churches into the caves and rocks. “Capadoccia and its almost moon-like surface is unlike anywhere on Earth,” says Dania Weinstein, a destination specialist, for Africa and the Middle East.

Magnetic Hill, Ladakh, India

Magnetic Hill, Ladakh, India
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Located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that extends from the Kunlun mountain range to the Himalayas, Ladakh is a remote high desert valley known for historic medieval temples, Buddhist monasteries and rugged terrain. It’s also home to Magnetic Hill, a gravity-defying phenomenon. Located at an elevation of 4267 metres, Magnetic Hill and its surrounding topography produces the optical illusion that a slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope – and a vehicle left out of gear will appear to be rolling uphill. The optical illusion is attributed to an obstructed horizon. “Magnetic Hill can really play tricks with your eyes,” says Seema Prakash, senior India travel specialist.

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Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
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The UNESCO World Heritage site, also known as ‘Descending Dragon Bay,’ is an ethereal and scenic mix of more than 3000 limestone karsts and isles jutting out from an emerald sea. The biodiverse bay is home to numerous marine and land animals, as well as 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic fauna species. “The limestone karsts rise right from the water, and the destination is home to lots of wildlife, like cheeky monkeys,” says Bernal.

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Table Mountain, South Africa

Table Mountain, South Africa
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South Africa’s Table Mountain is a 1086-metre historic peak with rocks that are more than 600 million years old and a system of rare sandstone caves. More than 70 per cent of the plants found on the mountain are endemic. It’s also home to the ‘dassie,’ or rock hyrax, and 22 species of snakes, including the five most venomous: cape cobra, puff adder, boomslag, rinkhals, and berg adder. “Table Mountain looms over Capetown,” says Danalee May, a senior travel specialist for Africa

Wadi Nakhar, Oman

Wadi Nakhar, Oman
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Known as the Grand Canyon of Oman, this remote valley is located on Oman’s highest mountain, Jebel Shams (mountain of sun) in the Al Hajar mountain range. This rugged terrain boasts extremely rare plant life and a body of water so blue, it mirrors the sky on some days. “On the outer rim, there is a narrow access point that leads to the Balcony Walk – a 15-metre wide ledge, perched in the middle of the canyon, running about five kilometres long and leading to an abandoned village,” says travel manager, Nathan Lane.

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The Burren, Ireland

The Burren, Ireland
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Set in County Clare in southwest Ireland, the Burren region is home to one of the most extensive areas of limestone pavement in Europe, a rare global land form. The vast windswept landscape features a cracked pavement of glacial-era grey limestone, dramatic cliffs and caves, lakes, rock formations, and archaeological sites. During the spring, the Burren showcases 75 per cent of Ireland’s wildflowers, offering a colourful contrast to the stark beauty of the lunar-like landscape. “It does not stop at the geology and the botany,” says travel agent, Tony Kirby. “The region is a memorial to bygone cultures with over 2000 archaeological monuments in the 517 square kilometres.”

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