It’s weird how there are lots of places on Earth that look and feel like heaven, especially if you’re there at the right time. Some of them are of such outstanding, pure, raw beauty that their uniqueness is not only metaphorically a sight for sore eyes, but they could also work as therapy.
The first of these natural marvels is Tianzi Mountain, China. One of the four sceneries of Wulingyuan area, ‘The Son of Heaven’, as it means in translation, is the most spectacular forest of stone towers in the world. Imagine yourself a landscape of natural towers of Sauron made of eroded mountain peaks in over thousands of years, covered with moss vegetation from where the sunrises are the most spectacular, given the out of sight panorama. The place is as stunning during misty days, when it’s only the peaks that come out of the fog, like iceberg tips upon which the seas of clouds were not enough to hide the whole wondrous spectacle.
And it gets even more outrageous, the artistry of the snowscapes. Because of the stratification process that lasted for thousands of years, each of the peaks appears in a multitude of layers, whose colors slightly differ from a forming period to another, reason for which not two of them look the same. The chromaticity of the place makes this bird’s eye view a lot more fascinating than any other similarly created environment. Even during the cold season some of these colorful natural formations unfold, to the surprise of the tourists, making the entire picture seem even more pure and unspoilt.
But you see, it’s not only for the primeval view that you have to see this mountain, but for the local people as well. The warmth and naturalness of their behavior, as the serenity peace of mind they inspire are way more shocking than the actual reason for which you decide to take the trip. They’ll even offer to walk you to the surroundings and show you the ways to all the secret places you wouldn’t know to go visit otherwise, not to mention the insistence to taste their local specialties and delicacies, or take part to their custom folk celebrations and festivals. Rumor has it that lots of people who have actually been there refused to climb other mountains because they think of it as a standard of natural beauty and hospitality that there’s no term of comparison for.
High Atlas, Morocco
The trip. Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? If you have, try to imagine it upside down, but steeper, sharper and stonier. And if you haven’t, well – there’s no way we can help you imagine the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. To start with, the car ride is dangerous enough that only expert drivers dare to take it. The hundredth part of second is more than enough to cause a disaster. It’s true that the outlook you’ll have during the fall is probably the most resplendent it gets to be seen in a lifetime. The cliffs covered with almost no vegetation at all for the most part are as frightening as spectacular as the road on the steep alpine highlands seems to get lost in the clouds, while you’re gazing dumbfounded just like Jack looked at his beanstalk vanishing into the sky.
The Morocco you leave behind so that you can embrace this bird’s eye perspective looks like a cluster of civilization that the gigantic nature allowed coexisting below it and somehow mysterious and eager to be discovered. But there’s no way back as the stunning cliff landscape drags you towards its peaks. On your way to the top you’ll see old castles built by the simple, almost tribal civilization populating the place, rising like huge rock shelves, but with windows.
The people. There’s certainly no one as fateful and pestilent like the people who you’ll meet up here and it’s even more shocking as they’re so serene in their fatality of living forsaken and isolated, so warm and peaceful in their beliefs. The image they have of death – as being imminent, yet almost trivially normal – is even more shocking if you’re an occidental. The steep steppe surroundings have raised them to be as full of contradictions and discrepancies as nature itself is. This second journey you have to check on your bucket list before turning 35 isn’t only about a matter of natural habitats displaying wondrous panoramas, but of confronting civilizations that are so discordantly different that you learn to question your entire natural way of being, as well as your perspective.
The third must-see-before-35 destination is an architectural audacity, yet not in a civilized way, at least not the way we’re used to see it. You’ll say that creating such great expectation towards a natural objective is something doomed to make you feel disappointed regardless of its cultural and visual magnificence. And you couldn’t be any more wrong! The humid forests make a great environment for the spectacularly rich plants decorating the beautiful surroundings of this over half a millennium old citadel, and it’s not only the place itself that’s striking, but the natural surrounding that remind you of the human origins and raw beauty of the setting.
This scenery can be appreciated, however, regardless of the archeological, cultural or historical inclinations of the visitors just because of its arresting harmonious concord. The best time to visit is clearly not July or August, as they’re the peak season, but since the cold season’s very rich in rains, it’s best recommended to go either on September or May, when there are no crowds and if you’re a pluviophile (rain lover) you may enjoy April and November as well. A three day trek would be a little too busy, especially if you want to visit all the objectives in the surroundings, but a whole week would give you the opportunity to see all the beautiful places around, having the chance to leisurely enjoy them as well. It’s also recommended that you either submit for a professional guide’s services or go with someone who has already been there, as the places are full of cultural and historical significance.