Every country has its marvels and breathtaking landscapes, but these ten are blessed with a rare package of outstanding natural beauty and man-made wonders that enhance their territories with everything from beautiful cities to timeless villages, magnificent parks and pristine scenery. They are countries that offer a variety of sights and an abundance of inspiration from man and nature.
1 | ITALY
The world’s most beautiful city, the most inspiring cultural treasures, and magnificent scenery: Nowhere else in the world will you find a bigger concentration of beauty. There’s Venice, Florence and Rome with their varied architecture, the natural masterpiece that is Tuscany with its rolling hills, vineyards and snow-peaked mountains. Then there’s the perfect naturalist painting that is the Amalfi Coast or Lake Maggiore and the Alps and you get the sense that no country on Earth offers as much beauty anywhere you turn as Italy.
2 | SPAIN
The most common image of Spain is of the dreadful overdevelopment of the Costa del Sol or of the coastline of some of the Balearic Islands, but Spain is so much more than that. It’s perhaps the most diverse country in the world, with everything from white Mediterranean villages to sophisticated urban centers. You won’t find a city with a greater sense of individuality than Barcelona, and from the Pyrenees to Andalusia, Spain could serve as the backdrop for any kind of film, book or painting. It’s also the world’s most seductive country, passionate about living the good life reflected on grand plazas in even the smaller cities, in well-preserved historic centers, and in the smallest of villages perched on hilltops. To top it all off, there are some of the world’s grandest, most powerful and incomparable architectural treasures, from the Alhambra to the Great Mosque of Cordoba.
3 | FRANCE
Paris exudes the most perfect atmosphere of cultural grandeur but although the capital gets all the attention, France offers so much more. Villages with abundant Old World charm are all over the country, from around the magnificent Loire Valley to verdant Provence. Then there’s the glamorous Riviera and if you want to see the world’s greatest palace (Versailles) and museum (the Louvre), here they are. But France is also a country of world-class living in outdoor cafes, in perfectly-preserved towns and in wine-producing regions such as Bordeaux and Champagne. If that’s not enough, see the majesty of Mont St. Michel, the numerous chateaux all over the country and the spectacular panorama of the Chamonix valley.
4 | AUSTRALIA
Australia is more than a country, it’s a continent and still more than that. It’s its own world, from the Outback and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park with its world-renowned stone monolith to the Kakadu National Park. It’s in fact wild parks and a wide range of landscapes that make Australia so extraordinary, from the Mornington Peninsula National Park facing the open sea to the Great Barrier Reef that’s one of the natural wonders of the world, to the unspoiled tropical Whitsunday Islands, but then there’s Sydney and its harbor, one of the most beautiful and iconic urban areas. Australia has it all, to be admired before or after a ride down the Great Ocean Road.
5 | GREECE
The Greek Islands on the blue waters of the Aegean Sea are home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. They’re the first images of the country but then there’s the majestic Mt. Olympus, extraordinary Meteora, and ancient ruins around the country. While Athens disappoints those looking for aesthetic inspiration, Greece is a country that truly satisfies all the senses and it’s understandable how the idea of so many gods originated here.
6 | PORTUGAL
For the pristine natural wonders of the volcanic Azores alone, Portugal would be on this list. Then there’s the “floating garden” that is Madeira, the dramatic coastline and mystical capes of the mainland, the serene plains of the Alentejo with the stunningly-sited white medieval vilages of Marvão and Monsaraz, the Peneda-Gerês National Park, or the perfect collaboration of man and nature in the magic fantasy of Sintra and verdant Douro Valley. And while the old centers of Lisbon and Porto are inexplicably rundown and stubbornly neglected, it’s hard to match their scenic beauty with their grand riverside settings. Everything is in a small scale but when all combined it’s impressive how so much diverse beauty somehow fits in such a tiny country that seems to be a favorite of the sun.
7 | USA
It has the ugliest cities in the developed world linked by shopping mall roads of fast food joints, car lots, billboards, cheap hotels and soulless suburbs (with populations obliviously living the American nightmare), but when it comes to nature, America really is the beautiful. There are the Hawaiian islands, the epic scale of the Grand Canyon, the extraordinarily clear waters of Lake Tahoe, California’s Big Sur, the wildlife in Alaska, the breathtaking scenery of Monument Valley or of Yellowstone, Yosemite and the other great national parks, the forestland of the Great Smoky Mountains… The list of natural wonders seems to go on forever and then there’s San Francisco to save the country on the offer of beauty in an urban setting.
8 | BRAZIL
It has one of the world’s most beautiful cities (Rio de Janeiro) and one of the ugliest (São Paulo) but Brazil really is blessed by nature. The Amazon is incomparable, impossible to begin to imagine its magnitude, and the horseshoe-shaped falls of Iguaçu regularly watched by a rainbow is one of the world’s most breathtaking sights. The colonial baroque architecture of the northeast with their golden interiors mixed with singular traditions give it one of the world’s most soulful atmospheres, and if the country’s other major cities weren’t so bland (Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, etc.), Brazil would actually rank higher on this list.
9 | SOUTH AFRICA
Cape Town is one of the world’s most beautiful cities (let’s just say it’s number 11 on our top 10 list), and the Kruger National Park is one of the most memorable experiences on the planet for anyone who visits. South Africa offers epic diversity of landscapes, from the Blyde River Canyon to the Drakensberg Mountains. With all of that it’s almost easy to forget that it’s also a country full of problems with a capital city that is best avoided, but escape to the Cape and grab your camera to photograph all in between and you’ll be savoring one of the most awe-inspiring territories on the planet.
10 | GERMANY
Yes, Germany. Perhaps the world’s most underrated country, Germany is a place of fairytales and architectural jewels. They’re not necessarily found in the largest cities (Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, or Cologne which are more vibrant than beautiful) but Munich has its charms and smaller cities such as Dresden, Leipzig and Potsdam have been preserved or restored to fairytale eye candy. But the real storybook Germany is found all along Bavaria’s Romantic Road with its wealth of unbelievable castles, in the Alps’ gorgeous lakes and mountains, in the magical land of the Rhine with its vineyards or in the enchanting Black Forest. Begin to tour the country and you’ll discover a land of constant surprises, from the university city of Heidelberg, to old Bremen or Bamberg, to the wonderfully preserved medieval towns of Regensburg and Rothenburg.
Amazing performance by Lebanese singer Aline Lahoud.
Aline Lahoud is a Lebanese singer and the daughter of well-known singer Salwa Al Katrib and producer Nahi Lahoud. She was selected to sing for Lebanon at the Eurovision Song Contest 2005 in Kiev, where the nation had been due to make its debut in the competition. However, Lebanon abruptly withdrew from the contest.
Not only can young artist Aline Lahoud sing in several different languages, she has also proven herself as an actress. Between 1997 and 1999, Aline studied singing and dramatic art. By 2002, she had graduated from university with a BA in Communication Arts, majoring in Screenplay and Directing Studies. She supplemented her singing career by acting in plays and directing short films. In 2003 she worked as assistant director on a full length film, Mes Cousines et Moi.
Aline Lahoud is to take part in a talent show in France, but she is no stranger to the public. She was the artist that the Lebanese broadcaster Télé Liban has chosen to represent the country in its planned debut in the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest. The country had announced Aline’s participation with Quand tout s’enfuit on 3 November 2004. After a withdrawal due to financial constraints and a new confirmation of participation, Télé Liban confirmed withdrawal alleging that the it was not permitted to broadcast the performance of the Israeli participant, thereby breaching the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest 2005.
She won the international prize at the Megahit festival in Turkey, in collaboration with prolific songwriter Jad Rahbani. The Lebanese selectors looked towards recreating the same winning combination on the Eurovision 2005 stage in Kiev.
It seems I was the last to know that a Lebanese would be competing again on France’s The Voice, but I daresay the Lebanese candidate this year is probably the best so far with Salwa el Katrib’s daughter, Aline Lahoud. Lebanese people were surprised that she sang a song they all knew, in her mother tongue. French people were bewitched by her good looks and charisma.
The judges were all fighting to get ahold of her. She ended up choosing Florent Pagny, contrary to what everyone expected her to do by going with Mika, who’s of Lebanese origins. I guess it was a big risk for her to sing a style that none of the judges was familiar with, in a language that they didn’t understand, but it paid off big time with her as Aline Lahoud’s audition quickly became the most discussed The Voice audition this year with about 5000 tweets/minute.
Amazing performance by an amazing star. Aline Lahoud enchanted the Jury of The Voice France. WOW