If you are anything like me, when I’m looking for travel inspiration, the first place I look is Instagram. I’m no pro photographer but l love to see where the pros have been and the dream destinations that have inspired them.
If you’re looking for your next Instagram-worthy destination for your next trip, look no further. Every one of these top 10 destinations from around the world is breathtakingly beautiful and is sure to UP your Instagram game. Bonus! I have also included some more tips on where to go once you get there and how to get the money shot for each destination.
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
A visit to Peru in South America is not complete without seeing this 15th century Inca citadel, built almost 8,000 ft above sea level.
How to avoid the crowds: Everyday, at least 2,500 visitors show up to take their turn to witness the grandeur of Machu Picchu. Most people show up mid-morning. Even if you wake up early, like really early, to stand in line at 4 am in the dark, be forewarned: plenty of other travelers also have the same idea.
If you do decide to show up in the wee hours, act quickly to get the shot you want, for your best chance of getting people-free shots. During certain times of the year, you may be surrounded by cloud or fog during the early hours of the day, which can produce some interesting shots, as the cloud burns off.
Consider getting your shots during the mid- to late afternoon, when many of the day’s visitors are gone and you can capture the afternoon light. You may even get some llamas in your shots for some fun compositions.
Tip! Take the classic shot of the ruins by the little hut at the beginning of the path that leads to the Sun Gate. The next best option is to visit the Watchman’s Hut to get a great view of the terraces with the ruins further in the background.
Current rules say that tripods are not allowed. Even large, “professional” looking camera bags and equipment are frowned upon and you may even get charged a higher permit fee. Best to travel lightly.
2. Banff National Park, Canada
The Canadian Rockies in the province of Alberta are an unbelievably beautiful part of Canada. There is no shortage of Instagram-worthy shots amidst the mountain landscapes. They encapsulate the raw, natural alpine beauty that Canada is famous for.
Amazingly, the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights, is visible from the park. Both Bow Lake and Lake Minnewanka are known for being two of the best viewpoints and are within a short drive away from town.
The many lakes within the park are also prime photography spots for upping your Instagram game. Vermillion Lakes, Two Jack Lake, Lake Louise and the ever iconic Moraine Lake are always very good Instagram-worthy options. The stunning mountain vistas paired with glassy waters will never disappoint.
3. Big Sur, California
Big Sur itself is a small village which takes about five minutes to drive through. Big Sur Coastal Drive, on the hand, stretches around 130 miles between Monterey and Morro Bay along the coastline and offers countless stunning photo opportunities.
Here are three popular options:
Morro Bay offers the 180-meter tall rock which is magnificent, especially during sunrise and sunset.
McWey Falls is a popular Instagram hotspot for good reasons. There is no beach access, however… so everyone tends to take their shot from the same perspective. Don’t deny yourself though. Under the right light conditions, the golden glow of the beach is magical.
The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge is another popular choice. Tip! Don’t stop at the bridge (or the adjacent parking lot); that’s not where the view is. Instead, park about 1 mile south of the bridge to take in the best view of the bridge and the breathtaking seascape.
4. Moab, Utah
Located just 5 miles (8 km) north of Moab in eastern Utah is the spectacular Arches National Park, home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches and countless other formations. For photographers, there is an overwhelming abundance of choices in addition to the popular Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Balanced Rock, Double Arch and Park Avenue, all of which can be reached within 10-60 minutes by hiking.
The trick to shooting in the Moab area is to embrace the changing lighting conditions throughout the day. The most interesting times, of course, are during sunset and sunrise. If you can get up early enough and get set up, you can capture the most astonishing shots as you witness the changing of the colors from orange to red to yellow as the rising sun casts its light across the vast landscape.
Even something as mundane as cloud formations can add a dramatic appeal and depth to your photos.
5. Petra, Jordan
Many know Petra to be the ancient Nabatean city renowned for its preserved temples and tombs. For 800 years, this sandstone city was lost, only to be rediscovered in 1812 by the Anglo-Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt.
Today, Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its fascinating architecture and dramatic landscape draw hundreds of thousands of visitors, archaeology enthusiasts, and photographers every year.
Tip! When shooting the famed Treasury, get an interesting perspective by going higher. After you arrive by the Siq, which is the dim narrow gorge, hike up for about 20 minutes to get a top-down perspective. Capture the Treasury in the afternoon sunlight. It’s magical!
6. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is easily one of the most photogenic cities on earth, no matter which direction you look. Blessed with breathtaking coastlines, rugged mountain ranges, and awe-inspiring sunsets, you have plenty of photo ops when you get here.
Here are two good options:
Kloof Corner, which is a rocky ledge on the front of Table Mountain, is the ultimate sunrise or sunset spot where amazing panoramic views are (almost) guaranteed. It’s an easy 20-30 minute hike on a gravel path from the Kloof Corner parking lot, which is nothing compared to the reward. Here you can get some of the best shots available of Camps Bay, Lion’s Head and Mother City. Just check out the shot below by YouTuber and professional photographer, Ben Brown.
Tip! Be sure not to confuse this with the Kloof ridge hike or you’ll be doing one of the most challenging hikes on Table Mountain! Go early in the morning to catch the magical glow of sunrise.
Signal Hill is where you can get a great shot of both Table Mountain and Lion’s Head from afar. Arrive by car and walk down on the hiking trail away from the parking lot towards Lion’s Head.
Tip! The best photo moment is during the golden hour when the city is bathed in the glow of the setting South African sun. Arrive early though, well before the golden hour as there is limited parking.
7. Cappadocia, Turkey
Located in Turkey, the Cappadocia region is infamous for its unusual out-of-this-world, rock formations, underground cities, cave churches and homes carved in the rocks. It is also well known for hot air balloon rides, which make for some unusual and stunning photo compositions.
According to photographer Brendan van Son, he’s got at least two excellent spots for getting the perfect shots.
The first spot is the Panoramic View Point (google map). Come here for sunrise and you will be rewarded with perfect conditions: with the rising sun at your back working to light up the many hot air balloons, you could frame them against the rock formations in the canyon.
The second spot is Sunset Point (google map) located above the town of Göreme. Here you can get a variety of compositions, from the town below to the stone pillars seen in the valley or more of the hot air balloons juxtaposed against the town. Come here to get your money shots during sunrise and sunset; you won’t be disappointed.
Of course, one cannot help but think of Iceland when naming some of the most insanely beautiful destinations around the world. This tiny Nordic island nation has more jaw-dropping natural beauty than it knows what to do with, what with its many waterfalls, volcanoes, mountains, geysers, glaciers, hot springs, and lava fields, all within a short driving distance of its capital Reykjavik.
Here are just a few of the many Instagram-worthy hotspots:
Iceland is best explored with your own car and you will be rewarded with photo ops everywhere you go. Even if it’s on a simple dirt road in the Westfjords, as shown by professional photographer Chris Burkhard.
Kirkjufell (aka Church Mountain for its distinct shape) has the honor of being the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Located on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula, it is within a short drive from the town of Grundarfjörður (about 2 hours away from Reykjavik).
Within walking distance of Kirkjufell is the waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss, which is arguably the best place to shoot the mountain. Juxtaposing the waterfall against the mountain makes for a particularly stunning composition. Provide scale by including your travel companion in the shot.
Tip! The best spot will need you crossing the river and climbing up to frame the top of the waterfall, like so:
Visitors to Iceland quickly realize that Iceland is the land of waterfalls. The biggest of them all is the mighty Dettifoss, which is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Great views can be had from either the East Bank or West Bank.
9. Havasupai Falls, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon overwhelms any visitor with its immense size. Not surprisingly, there are endless possibilities when it comes to shooting this iconic landscape. There is one particular place in the park that holds magic for the Instagram photographer.
Accessible from the South Rim, Havasupai Falls are the crown jewel of the Havasupai Indian Reservation. Don’t wait to make reservations as space is limited. In order to be rewarded with views of these stunning blue-green waterfalls, one must be willing to hike for 10 miles and book and stay at least one night.
10. Palawan, Philippines
El Nido on Palawan Island is best known for its clear, turquoise blue waters, white-sand beaches, and steep karst cliffs. Explore by renting your own kayak or join one of the many boat tours available. Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon, in particular, offer multiple surreal photo ops for Instagrammers.
Another must-visit spot on Palawan Island is Lake Kayangan in Coron. After a steep 10-minute climb, visitors are rewarded with the sight of the cleanest and clearest lake in the country. The underwater views are just as stunning with the natural rock formations. Go for a swim, bamboo rafting or a diving session while you are here.
Tip! Go early to catch the morning light and for the calm waters. Not surprisingly, this lake gets super busy by mid-day. Best to avoid the crowds for the best Instagram shots possible.
Have I missed any? What destinations would you have added to this list?