Most beautiful places on earth: Seven paradises that are heaven on Earth

The most threadbare word in travel would surely be “paradise”. But what exactly do people mean when they over-use this descriptor? The simplest manifestation of a traveller’s nirvana is a magnificent location. But one person’s notion of beauty is another’s monochrome. 카지노사이트

Deserts or big-sky plains could be heaven to some, alarmingly unstructured to others. Mountains and forests are one person’s spiritual home, another’s claustrophobia. Thickly peopled cities, with their weight of history and culture, are the essence of civilisation or its betrayal. Even the ocean and its salty associations, though commonly accepted as the apotheosis of paradise, has its critics.

Paradise is more a state of mind – not simply a beautiful place but an emotional condition, a spiritual epiphany, a sense of serendipity or accident of fate where perfection collides – or all of the above. Paradise is highly personal, because it’s where you feel happiest.

At its most complex, it could be a yearning for something unique, pure and mystical, for perfection in a flawed world. It might relate to our happy childhood places. It could be a counter to the lives we lead – serene or frenetic.

Seven of our writers have thought about the many destinations they’ve visited and chosen their “paradise found”. We have three wild places, a village high on a mountain lake, two islands and, interestingly, only one city, perhaps reflecting our first-world perspective.

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR

It is first light when we put ashore at Isla Bartolomé, our boots crunching on volcanic rocks as we step across the heaving bow of our Zodiac. A few metres in, a fluted peak rears behind the ocean, dappled with orange spatter cones and sooty lava flows. A lunar landscape born of fire, it is as fierce as it is fragile. Reaching the summit we look down on a perfect arc of beach, a spearheaded obelisk known as Pinnacle Rock anchoring its furthermost point. From our lofty position the beach below is a sash of gold, a painter’s stroke separating turquoise water from singed land.

The Galapagos Islands, a remote archipelago of 13 volcanic islands straddling the equator, is not your typical island paradise. It’s more than that. It’s a place where cormorants have forgotten how to fly and iguanas have learned to swim; where the ocean floor is speckled with choc-chip starfish and boobies in red boots hang on branches like Christmas baubles. It’s a place where half the animal species that call it home are found nowhere else, and most don’t give a toss that you are here.

I’m travelling with Lindblad Expeditions aboard the 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour II, a 10-day expedition that will bring us close to natural wonders that most people can only dream about. We’ve already visited Espanola Island, created more than 3.5 million years ago and one of the oldest in the archipelago. Here, we witnessed the courting dance of blue-footed boobies, were sneezed on by snotty marine iguanas, and watched in awe as waved albatross landed from the heavens on an “albatross airport”.

On Floreana Island we wade ashore on a green sand beach, spot lipstick pink flamingos and snorkel over coral gardens. Afterwards, we flop on the warm sand alongside sleeping sea lions an later, as the sky blushes pink, we kayak amid pairs of loved-up sea turtles.

What else is there to do in paradise? 바카라사이트

Snorkelling around the base of Pinnacle Rock with penguins (yes, penguins), I feel like I’ve slipped through a fissure that has brought me to another dimension. Even Darwin was compelled to write, “whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

If this isn’t paradise, I don’t know what is.

MAKE IT HAPPEN

WHEN Year round, but breeding seasons vary depending on species.

FLY LATAM Airlines now operates three non-stop flights per week from Melbourne to Santiago, Chile, with onward connections to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. LATAM also offers daily flights from Sydney to Santiago, via Auckland, with onward connections to more than 124 destinations, including the Galapagos Islands. See latam.com

DO Passengers can explore the islands by foot, kayak, paddleboard or glass-bottom boat with plenty of time for swimming, snorkelling or diving (selected sites). Photography is also a prime pursuit. 온라인카지

CRUISE Lindblad Expeditions operates 10-day voyages year-round with weekly departures. Fares start from A$8700. See www.expeditions.com

ESSENTIALS The Galapagos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 97 per cent is protected as a national park – Parque Nacional Galapagos. See galapagos.gob.ec

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