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Photographer's Haven: 8 Insanely Picturesque Countries Across the World

East Iceland-Iceland

| 9 mins read

Photography is that potent medium that freezes the ever-evolving beauty of our planet in still frames. It captures the spectrum of our diverse world, from deep blue seas to verdant forests and majestic mountains to pulsating cityscapes. Luckily, our planet is a tapestry of splendid landscapes and intriguing cultures that yearn to be captured through the lens.

Undeniably, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet often, it requires a journey beyond our comfort zones to discover and capture the most breathtaking scenes. So, with a camera in hand and wanderlust in the heart, journey through eight insanely picturesque countries across the globe! Here is a recommendation of the most popular countries, along with their eye-catching highlights, to offer endless photo opportunities. 

Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice

A land of dramatic landscapes, Iceland is undeniably a feast for any photographer's lens. From icy glaciers and active geysers to volcanic mountains and hauntingly beautiful black sand beaches, every element in Iceland seems carved for a stunning photograph. 

Some of the most famous spots are the enchanting Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach, with their surreal scenes of ice fragments scattered on dark sands, presenting incredible visual narratives. Then, there's the Reynisfjara Beach (known for its towering black basalt columns and roaring Atlantic waves), the Great Geysir (believed to be one of the world’s oldest geysers located in southern Iceland), and the iconic Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, cascading down with ferocious beauty!

tourHQ recommendation: Apart from the world-famous phenomena of the Northern Lights, an equally enchanting spectacle is the Midnight Sun. During the summer months, the sun barely dips below the horizon, painting the sky with an extended golden hue for hours on end. It casts the awe-inspiring Icelandic landscapes in a soft, perpetual glow, creating a magical canvas for capturing the country's diverse beauty in a completely unique manner.

New Zealand: Middle Earth in Reality

Next on the list is New Zealand, presenting an unparalleled variety of landscapes that cater to nature and adventure photography. The tranquillity of its sun-kissed beaches, the majesty of its towering mountains, and the soothing allure of its undulating green hills blend together to form an incredibly photogenic canvas.

When in New Zealand, capture the South Island’s mesmerising sites of Milford Sound (with its cascading waterfalls and dramatic cliffs), the exhilarating hiking trails of Tongariro Alpine Crossing (boasting active volcanoes and emerald-coloured lakes), and the panoramic views offered by the majestic Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Additionally, on the northern side are the enchanting Waitomo Glowworm Caves, which offer a mystical experience, while the Bay of Islands, with its pristine beaches and turquoise water, is the best spot for a quintessential coastal scene.

tourHQ recommendation: Though less frequented than its renowned sibling, Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound's secluded charm has earned its popularity among nature photographers. Located within Fiordland National Park, the breathtaking beauty of Doubtful Sound lies in its untouched wilderness, boasting towering fjords, emerald forests, and cascading waterfalls that paint an ethereal masterpiece. 

Japan: Where Tradition Meets Modernity

If you are into essentially capturing culture and traditions, then Japan is definitely a fascinating subject. Its seamless blend of the old and the new, the peaceful coexistence of neon-lit skyscrapers and ancient temples, and the stunning natural beauty that varies with each season create a myriad of photographic opportunities.

While the city of Tokyo is best for dynamic cityscapes, the historical shrines of Kyoto, such as the Kinkaku-ji Shrine and Fushimi Inari Shrine, serve as perfect postcards for Japan's rich cultural heritage. For landscape photography, the iconic Mount Fuji is the best testament to Japan's natural beauty. And how can one miss the ephemeral cherry blossoms in spring? In fact, spring is the best time to visit Japan, not only because of its cherry blossoms but also because it is followed by the festival season! A must-attend festival is the exuberant Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, which perfectly captures the cultural spirit of Japan. 

tourHQ recommendation: Nestled in the heart of Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku district, Golden Gai is a must-visit for capturing Japan at its best. This atmospheric labyrinth of narrow alleys is adorned with vibrant neon signs, traditional lanterns, and quaint bars. Capturing the juxtaposition of old and new, Golden Gai offers a unique visual experience.

Peru: The Gateway to the Lost Incan Civilization

Another picturesque location, Peru is known for its vast landscapes, ranging from lofty Andean peaks to the dense expanse of the Amazon rainforest. The fusion of stunning natural vistas and profound cultural roots pave the way for endless captivating photographic opportunities.

Interestingly, Peru is home to some of the most shot sights in the world, such as the mystical Incan city of Machu Picchu, the enigmatic Nazca Lines, the man-made island of Uros Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca and the visually breathtaking Rainbow Mountain with its multi-hued strata. Some of the other must-capture sights are the lively markets of Lima pulsating with life and colours, the vibrant Festival of the Sun in Cusco, and the traditional villages of the Sacred Valley. 

tourHQ recommendation: An offbeat recommendation but greatly worth visiting is Ollantaytambo, located in Peru's Sacred Valley. With its ancient Inca ruins towering over the town, cobblestone streets, and picturesque terraces, Ollantaytambo exudes mystique and history, especially the interplay of shadows and light amid the ancient stonework creates a captivating ambience for a photographer to capture. 

Morocco: A Kaleidoscope of Colors and Cultures

With its vibrant colours, diverse cultures, and rich tapestry of textures, Morocco is a photographic wonderland. It offers a dynamic tableau of scenes, from bustling marketplaces to serene landscapes, serving as a perfect paradise, especially for street photographers. 

The lively souks of Marrakech immerse you in a myriad of colours and sounds, offering compelling street photography opportunities. The ancient city of Fes, with its maze-like streets and architectural marvels, bears witness to a rich history. Chefchaouen, renowned as the 'blue city', is undoubtedly the most aesthetic site! Additionally, the golden dunes of the Sahara Desert offer a stark contrast. If you plan to capture the authentic culture, you can time your visit with the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival (June-July) for a vibrant showcase of Moroccan culture.

tourHQ recommendation: A one-of-its-kind spot, the tanneries of Fes offer a unique glimpse into the traditional leather production process. The large stone vessels filled with dyes and white pigeon poop (used for curing leather) create an incredibly vibrant, albeit stinky, spectacle. It's a visual feast that guarantees spectacular shots.

South Africa: The Wild Heart of Africa

Next is the perfect destination for wildlife photographers, South Africa, with its untamed landscapes and abundant wildlife. The stunning topography and diverse ecological regions make it a spectacular canvas for creating captivating images.

Explore the Kruger National Park (where the Big Five roam) and the unique topography of the Table Mountain National Park. Other picturesque spots include Durban's vibrant beachfront and the Namaqualand Flower Route during spring, stretching through the Namaqualand region in the Northern Cape Province. Although Namaqualand is a semi-desert area that experiences very little rainfall throughout most of the year, during the spring months, the landscape undergoes a remarkable transformation as millions of wildflowers bloom, covering the arid land in a vibrant carpet of colours. 

tourHQ recommendation: For an unusual and enchanting photography subject, head to the Boulders Penguin Colony. You can photograph the charming African penguins against the stunning backdrop of Boulders Beach, promising a unique and unforgettable experience that transcends conventional wildlife photography.

India: A Mosaic of Diverse Landscapes and Cultures

India, with its surprising blend of diverse landscapes and rich cultures, is a dream destination for photographers. From the towering Himalayas cloaked in snow and the sun-drenched deserts of Rajasthan to the lush greens of the Western Ghats and the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, it offers an array of breathtaking vistas that tantalise the senses and captivate the lens.

Although the country has too much to offer, some of the must-visit sites are one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal, the famous South Indian temples (like the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur and the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai) and the majestic forts in the state of Rajasthan. For capturing the 'real India,' do not miss the floating vegetable market in Srinagar's Dal Lake and the bustling Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi. Additionally, the vibrant festival of colours or Holi also presents a fantastic opportunity for photography. The joyous faces, playful splashes of colours, and festive atmosphere make for captivating and culturally rich images that truly embody the spirit of India's celebrations.

tourHQ recommendation: Adorned with the timeless elegance of Banarasi sarees and other traditional products and presenting a fascinating picture of life and death sharing the space together, the ghats of Varanasi are truly a place to be! The sights of daily rituals, burning pyres, and spiritual ceremonies offer a compelling narrative that's both visually and emotionally impacting.

Italy: A Symphony of Art, History, and Natural Beauty

Italy's blend of historic treasures, scenic coastlines, verdant vineyards, and enchanting towns weave together to form an appealing visual narrative that's hard to resist.

From the ageless charm of Florence, with its winding canals and ornate architecture, to the monumental ruins of Rome that whisper tales of a grand past, each locale offers unique photography opportunities. The rolling hills and sun-soaked vineyards of Tuscany provide a picturesque landscape, while the sheer drama of the Amalfi Coast promises striking coastal shots. On your visit, don't overlook the lively markets and street life of Naples or the chance to capture the unique vibrancy of Italian festivals like Venice's Carnevale.

tourHQ recommendation: Beyond the obvious highlights, Cinque Terre, a chain of five quaint fishing villages on the Italian Riviera, promises a visual feast. The colourful homes clinging to rugged cliffs, with the azure Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop, create a dreamy setting for capturing picture-perfect images. To discover the best spots, simply ask your knowledgeable local guide, who will reveal the hidden gems of this charming locale, offering an equally captivating facet of Italy's visual diversity.

Each of these countries presents a unique visual palette that promises to enrich your photographic journey. Whether you're a professional photographer or a hobbyist, these picturesque countries provide a perfect backdrop to fuel your passion and enhance your craft. So pack your gear, embrace your wanderlust, and capture the world through your lens. The world, indeed, is a photographer's haven!