#1 The Galapagos Islands.
To start off the list is the Galapagos Islands. Straddling the equator, this tiny group of volcanic islands boasts both striking geologic features and amazingly docile wildlife. Like smooth folds of black satin flowing into the sea, lava fields provide a unique hiking experience. Cormorants dive smoothly in and out of the water, and marine iguanas hiss and sneeze from the shore. If you do decide to dip your toes into the ocean, make sure to bring a wet suit and snorkel masks. Though the water is frigid, and occasionally holds jellyfish, colorful coral reefs and playful seal lions make the freezing conditions worth it. If you're lucky, you might get to swim with a group of majestic sea turtles, or see a trail of silver bubbles as penguins zooms by.
#2 Bryce Canyon.
When I first saw Bryce Canyon, I let out a small gasp of wonder. Like a maze reaching out from the bottom of the canyon, a beautifully variegated group of rock columns, called hoodoos, poked out into the desert sun. While the main color of the canyon is a red-orange, it sometimes softens to a light pink or is streaked with dashes of vanilla white. At night the purple sky is sprinkled with the stars of the Milky Way. Though it may not be as big as the Grand Canyon, Bryce more than makes up for it with its astounding beauty. If hiking in the canyon, I would recommend starting early in the morning, right as the sun cracks above the horizon. The heat won't be scorching then, and you'll have as much time to wander in this maze of rock walls and columns as you'd like.
#3 The Castles of Germany.
I was young when I visited the castles, but I have vivid memories of weathered towers poking out of tendrils of mist and lush green mountains. When I visited Germany it was pouring down rain, but that did not take away my excitement at seeing a real castle. With winding stairs, fancy furniture, and huge blocks of stones looming over the hall, if you've ever wanted to feel like a king, or queen for that matter, this is the place to go. I cannot describe the feeling of seeing these majestic buildings sitting on the mountainsides. It felt like something out of a fantasy. There were several beautiful turquoise lakes hidden on the way up to the castle too, adding the final diamond to the jewels that make up this travelling crown.
And of Course, #4... Alaska.
If you've been following my blog, you've probably seen so many blog posts about Alaska. I'm very sorry, but Alaska and Galapagos are the two places I hold closest to my heart. The frigid seas lapping at the boulders resting on shore, the mossy rain-forests and cold glaciers peeking out between the mountains still make my heart soar. If you do visit Alaska, try to go in June or July. The days will be longer and sunnier, and it won't be so bitingly cold. It may take a while to get past the numerous tourist traps, but once you do, you will see a wild and untamed world, one that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
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