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.
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).