5 Places You Know Exactly What to Expect – And Are Still Wowed!

Let’s make this clear, this list is not our top five, nor is it exhaustive.

We sat down and considered the question:  Having researched extensively in advance, having seen many pictures beforehand, what locations in the world still made us say “Holy S#*t!”?

These are the first 5 that came to mind for us:

The Palace of Westminster, London, England


Often referred to as British Parliament this is one of the most famous buildings in the world.  The clock tower, often incorrectly called Big Ben (which is actually the name of the bell) automatically causes London to spring to mind.  It has been seen in countless shows, and news reports, and movies (too often being destroyed by aliens or supervillains), but it is so much more impressive in person.  It’s a beautiful building inside and out, and the worldwide impact of the decisions within its walls over the centuries is incredible to think about.

Banff, Alberta, Canada


We may be a bit biased on this one, Banff is about an hour from our house.  Maybe that is the biggest reason to have it on the list, no matter how often we are there it still elicits a wow!  Banff is the name of the first national park in Canada, as well as a small town of less than 10,000 people located in the park.  The town itself is gorgeous and is completely surrounded by the spectacular Canadian Rocky Mountains.  The natural beauty of this place cannot be overstated.

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy


This is the largest amphitheater ever built, is almost 2000 years old, and has an incredible history.  It’s also smack dab in the middle of modern metropolis, and I do mean in the middle.   Somehow this massive structure snuck up on us and turning a corner from a commercial street the sight hit us like a ton of bricks.  Like all the classical buildings in Rome it’s gorgeous, despite the fact it was once filled with up to 80,000 screaming people encouraging a lion to eat a guy.  Rome is an amazing city to start with, and having the Colosseum as a centerpiece is just the icing on the cake, or more appropriately the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top of the Eggplant Bolognese.

Santorini, Greece


White washed buildings and blue domes.  Hillside towns and incredible beaches.  Unbelievably blue water and sky.  Everyone that goes to Santorini expects all of it, but it doesn’t matter, it still astounds.  It is a place like no other, a true standout in a sea full of stunning islands.  I can’t oversell the sunset, every night thousands of people gather to watch the sun sink below the horizon and receive thunderous applause from the onlookers.  There are shades of pink and orange that you didn’t even realize the sky was capable of turning and must be seen to be believed.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia


For those that have visited Angkor Wat, there is really nothing more to say, you have already felt the same sense of awe.  Angkor was the former capital of the Khmer Empire and at its peak covered over 1000 sq kms – an area larger than New York City.  Angkor Wat is the crown jewel and simply unbelievable in its size and beauty.  Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm are the other most popular stops, but the variety and sheer number of other temples in the complex is overwhelming (in a good way).


    1. You will love it there, you will have to let me know how you feel when you see the Colosseum.

  1. A great great post. All the places you mentioned are beautiful. But Banff and Santorini goes to my favorite list. Perfect shot of Sunset and the Banff town looks so picturesque and quite.

    1. Thank you very much! The sunset in Santorini is easy to capture – apparently it is gorgeous almost every single night.

  2. I know what you are talking about. There are some places on this planet which takes your breath away no matter how many times you have explored it. Such a unique topic to write on. I have been to Goa so many times and I still keep going back to Goa.

  3. Cool article! I’ve never been to England and I feel like even though I’ve seen it so many times, once I am there, I will definitely be WOWed. I love the places that you listed as well, Santorini is definitely one of my top 10!

    1. London is our favorite, you can’t believe how much history is packed into a few square miles. Santorini is pretty much loved by all 😉

    1. Thank you, I think you will be. As you have already experienced some places have to be seen to be believed!

  4. I really love how you have captured the setting sun in Santorini instead of the blue and white houses. I have visited the British parliament. Ankor Vat remains on my to do list.

    1. Thank you, but the blue and white houses were also pretty amazing. British parliament is beautiful inside and out.

  5. i totally agree with you, great article and lovely pictures. I love Alberta its amazing. but i can go back to Ankor Vat anytime.

  6. I always love it when a place lives up to its reputation! London always kills me with its beauty. Angkor Wat is also just so amazing. I lost all my photos from it. Guess I just have to go back!

  7. Santorini is big on my list but I heard that there are so many tourists these days.. Will probably go anyway as it is supposed to be so beautiful 🙂 Can’t wait to watch the sunset there! X

  8. All the items in your list are really breathtaking. I have only been to Angkor Wat among the five, and I can say that it is still hard to imagine being able to walk to such an amazing and huge religious complex site. This inspires me to draft my own version of breath-taking locations!

  9. The epic view of Bnaff and the amazing sunset of Santorini just made my travel wishlist spectacular! Cambodia though is an altogether different world. It makesus want to get to Angkor Wat ASAP.

  10. Interesting way to put it. Considering the fact that I have been disappointed by many famous destinations, I’d take these any day. Angkor is surely one my most favorite destinations.

  11. Colosseum completely took my breath away too. I don’t know why but that much history associated with that place must have been the reason for it. I don’t remember much of Westminister since I went when I was still a kid. All the other three are on my list.

  12. Haha I have been to all of them except angkor watt and i completely agree with what you’re saying. I’d seen so many photos and was like meh I suppose I’ll go look anyway and then was so completely mind blown. I suppose they all have the reputation they have because they are just that amazing. I actually kind of felt bad about how much I loved santorini I felt like I’d sold out or something by loving something so mainstream haha

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