I always have had, and still have, a great curiosity about the world. I’m fascinated by people, by different cultures with their seemingly infinite variety of manners, customs, food, clothing, and housing; by all the different ways in which people do life. After years of travelling my fascination has not lessened but the differences have coalesced into one immutable truth: that we are all far more alike than we are different. Far more often than not our encounters with people opened our hearts.
As much as I’ve wanted to know about the peoples of the world, I’ve also wanted to explore its beauty. Away from the noise and busyness and crowds of the cities our encounters with the natural world always nourished our souls.
Following on from my recent post of my favourite photographs of people, I’ve now chosen my favourite landscape photographs. As with the photographs of people it was really hard to hone it down to just a few. I’d originally selected 100! Here then are those that made the final cut.
Back in 2011 one of the first places we went to when we began our nomadic journey was Tuscany. We stayed in a farm house near San Gimignano, and this photo was taken in the surrounding area.
One day in Bali we got up at 2am and went to climb an active volcano in the dark. This is the view, all steamy from the bubbling volcano crater, that we were rewarded with as the sun rose.
This is in Vang Vieng in Laos. We decided on only one night there because we’d read that the town had become a backpacker drunk party. It was nothing of the kind and we could have happily spent a few days there. I think it’s about the prettiest place in Laos.
This is a small portion of the cascading emerald pools of Kuangsi Waterfall, 32 km from Luang Prabang, Laos. We didn’t swim (the water was surprisingly cold) but we did hike the trail up one side of the falls, across the top and down the other.
Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile. We’d planned to do some trekking but the previous two days there had been a roaring freezing gale which left us with time for only a day tour. The place was so magnificent, and the day was so shiny and sunny, that we had no complaints.
We travelled to the far north of Chile through the Atacama desert to San Pedro de Atacama. From there we did a day trip to see the extraordinary landscapes of the Valle de la Luna, a few kilometres outside the town.
From San Pedro de Atacama we did a three day overland tour across the Bolivian altiplano, an uninhabited high desert with no roads and an ever-changing landscape with lakes and flamingoes. It was one of the highlights of all our travels.
The Bolivian altiplano. Every one of those tiny white dots is a flamingo. Further on in the journey we got really close to some of them.
On the Bolivian Altiplano.
Finally we arrived at the great Salar de Uyuni, one of the biggest salt flats in the world, covering an area of 10,500 sq km.
On South Plaza Island, Galapagos we hiked through a cactus forest and were surrounded by iguanas. The iguanas feed on the cactus and are very territorial, each guarding its own tree. We visited eight of the islands and each one had its own unique vegetation and wildlife.
After traveling around South America for six months we went to Cyprus for two months to recover. This is at Cape Greco on the south coast.
Sometime later we decided to cross the Pacific to visit Australia and New Zealand. We stopped on the South Pacific island of Samoa on the way over and stayed for five days. It was a mini tropical vacation. On one of our walks we saw this fabulous rock formation.
New Zealand is without doubt one of the most beautiful countries in the world. This shot was taken on the road from Queenstown to Dunedin.
More New Zealand beauty in Mount Aspiring National Park.
The top of Mount Ruapehu on New Zealand’s North Island, with Mount Ngauruhoe in the distance. Mount Ngauruhoe was the famed Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films.
New Zealand again. Lake Taupo sunset.
In the Whakarewarewa thermal valley in New Zealand the Pohutu Geyser erupts up to twenty times a day. We waited and waited to see it. Many in our group wandered off, but most of us waited, determined to see what all the fuss was about. At first it started bubbling and steaming. It looked a little like soapsuds frothing up on the rocks. We continued to wait. Is that it? Then it got a little stronger, a little higher, but it still wasn’t all that spectacular. We waited some more. And then it went. With a giant whoosh it exploded higher and higher into the sky, as high as thirty metres. I was afraid it would stop any second and that it would be over before I’d had a chance to really take it in. But no. It went on and on, shooting into the sky, a giant natural fountain of boiling water and steam. We watched for fifteen or twenty minutes and it was still going when we walked away completely awed.
Ah such beauty. This is Cathedral Cove on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula.
And now we’re in Australia, in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, or the Top End as it’s known. We took a sunrise cruise on Yellow Water, a backwater of the South Alligator River.
Also in Kakadu National Park – sunset at the top of the high escarpment at Ubirr.
From the top of the escarpment at Ubirr, looking out over the valley, still green from the wet season rains.
The spectacular travertine terraces of Pamukkale, Turkey.
Very early morning after a sleepless night on a train from Izmir to Konya, Turkey – through the train window.
The landscape of Cappadocia in central Turkey is one of the most extraordinary to be found anywhere, especially when seen from a hot air balloon at sunrise.
Cappadocia. The rock is soft and hundreds of feet deep. There are entire underground cities and many of the “chimneys” have been hollowed out to form homes, monasteries, and churches.
“Vast, Echoing and God-like”: the burnt-orange desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan. We spent a night here in a Bedouin tent and the next morning rode camels to an escarpment, which we climbed to watch the sunrise.
Twice we rented a perfect casita from friends in La Manzanilla, Mexico. The first time we stayed for four months, and the second time for two months, both times pure heaven. This is the view from the patio with the sunset reflected in the pool.
A quiet morning at the beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
The road from the highway (I use the term loosely) down to San Pedro La Laguna on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala is one of the worst “paved” roads we’ve ever experienced with so many potholes they become the road. Oh but it’s so worth it – for views like this and villages like San Pedro, which can be seen in the distance.
From the village of Sapa in North Vietnam we spent the day hiking from village to village through and around the rice fields escorted by a young six-month-pregnant local woman who knew every crevice and terrace of the area.
Sunset at Jericho Beach, Vancouver, Canada. We’re a bit of a drive from Jericho now, but will no doubt make the trek often enough in the summer. Summer of 2016 we housesat for friends who live just a five minute walk away so we were at the beach almost every day.
Today I wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t go to the door of the study and read a book.
Instead, take down the dulcimer,
let the beauty of what you love be what you do.
There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground,
there are a thousand ways to go home again. – Rumi
Next post: A summer trip to Vancouver Island
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2018.