Instagram is changing the face of travel, with globetrotters seeking backdrop vistas over the common sights now more than ever. While that may seem like a pretty narcissistic reason to visit a new city (are people really travelling just to snap that perfect shot for their followers?), it’s an easy way to discover new destinations to visit, and opened up a new way to find restaurant recommendations and not-so-secret hidden bars. And for that, we’re thankful.
Here are five of the most beautiful, and Instagrammed, locations around the world and why you should visit.
1. Marrakech, Morocco
Morocco’s bold colours, vibrant textiles and expressive locals make it a very photo-friendly destination for those seeking desert sunsets, camel rides, spice markets and designer hotels and spas.
El Fenn is one such hotel (owned by Vanessa Branson, Sir Richard’s sister) that has garnered quite a following on Instagram. The Marrakech location is made up of seven courtyard houses decorated in ornate hues and traditional textures. It boasts pool pavilions to cool off in and a rich contemporary art collection to gaze upon. Morocco has a strong link to fashion and was much loved by designer Yves Saint Laurent. A visit to his Marrakech home, Jardin Majorelle, is a must.
The heartbeat of Marrakech is its bustling Medina, a maze of souks (a must-shop for homewares, leather and jewellery lovers) and cafés serving mint tea. Within the medina is the Jemaa el-Fnaa, a World Heritage square that comes to life with snake charmers, acrobats and street vendors every evening.
2. Esperance, Australia
This coastal haven in Western Australia is sending Instagram into meltdown with its pink lake that sits right next to the aquamarine surf. The astonishing bubblegum-pink hue of Lake Hillier is due to an unusual combination of salt-loving algae and a type of pink bacteria that thrive in the salty lake.
As a result, Esperance has now become a global destination. Just a few months ago it was known only to a few surfers and hardy souls making the seven-hour drive from Perth. Now, it teems with tourists from all over the world who are finding that there’s a lot more to love than just the pink lake.
Situated in the Bay of Isles, Esperance sits on a pristine coastline of endless beaches that offer both calm waters and gnarly surf breaks. It has lots of tranquil hideaways for swimming and snorkelling, with about 100 visitable but uninhabitable rocky islands.
3. Cappadocia, Turkey
Lying in the heart of the Anatolia region is the lunar landscape of Cappadocia. The area southeast of Ankara is most famous for the unique fairy chimneys, strange rock formations found in the Göreme National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The main hubs of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are sprawling underground cities that fill you with imaginings of past civilizations. Many of these cave dwellings have been updated to cater to travellers on every budget — from contemporary hostel digs to high-end hotels like Argos, a site that was once an ancient Byzantine monastery and a lodge for camel caravans running the Silk Road.
Some cave rooms date back a mind-boggling two millennia. The best way to soak up this incredibly vast scenery is by hot air balloon. Hundreds of balloons fire up for tours at sunrise and are a big drawcard for the Instagram generation. To relax, visit a hammam — a traditional Turkish bathhouse where you can steam, soak and enjoy a mud facial and massage.
4. Queenstown, New Zealand
Lake Wanaka is consistently one of New Zealand’s most photographed places. Close to Queenstown, known as NZ’s action sports destination, the South Island lake’s bewildering beauty is nestled below towering mountains and is best photographed in autumn and spring.
In winter, skiers flock here from all over the world for the superb powder at Cardrona and Treble Cone, but warmer weather activities like fishing, hiking, canyoning, climbing and skydiving, are attracting visitors year-round.
Lake Wanaka combines the warmth of small-town living with the quality and attention to detail you’d expect of an international holiday destination. Accommodation ranges from luxury lodges and boutique B&Bs to backpacker lodges and family holiday parks.
5. Courchevel, France
A favourite among royals and cosmopolitan alpine glitterati, this French Alps destination has 600km of slopes over three valleys, making it the largest linked ski area in the world. But there’s more to do here than just ski.
Michelin-star restaurants and glamorous resorts assure you’ll have as much fun off the slopes as you will on them. The Six Senses Spa inside the luxurious Courchevel 1850 resort is frequented spot by the whos-who while spectacular spots for apres-ski festivities include chalet-style restaurant Le Pilatus and the Fire and Ice bar for happy hour.
The nearest airports are in Geneva and Lyon, but if you can afford it, you can fly a light aircraft or small private jet directly into Courchevel’s own airport. The train is also an option, with regular services from London arriving at the nearest town, Moutiers, 24kms away.
This story originally appeared in Fitness First magazine. Author: Kelli Armstrong