From The Straits Times    |

Photo: 123rf


June holidays are just around the corner and it’s time to plan your annual vaycay. But with so many travel-worthy destinations around the world, it can be hard to decide where you and your family or friends should spend your precious vacation time. Take your cue from these Instagrammers who have explored the most magical and picturesque of places. With pictures that are at times ethereal and captivating, you’d be inspired to plan an epic trip there yourself.


1. Amsterdam, Netherlands


A post shared by Polina | Полина (@polabur) on

This beautiful city houses the most stunning and quaint gabled houses that are narrow, crooked and sometimes tilted. Weird and wonderful, every photo you take is guaranteed to be gorgeous. The city is known for its picturesque canals, charming architecture and boat houses, with winding cobbled streets thronged by cyclists and trams.

There’s also plenty to see, from the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum to the Anne Frank House, Vondelpark and Dam Square (its main town square). Unfortunately, the iconic I amsterdam sign outside the Rijksmuseum — possibly the most photographed spot in the city — was removed by the authorities in December 2018. You can still find smaller versions around the city, such as at the plaza of the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.


2. Lucerne, Switzerland


A post shared by Nadine (@___nadinesworld___) on

What’s most iconic about this charming little city is its photo-worthy Chapel Bridge, a landmark medieval wooden bridge from the 1300s that is accompanied by a distinctive water tower. Straddling the River Reuss and with the Jesuit Church and postcard-worthy Mount Pilatus as its backdrop, it’s easy to see why this spot has been a coveted spot for many a photo. After snapping your #ootd here, make sure you cross the covered bridge and look up while you’re there — there are amazing restored paintings at the eaves of the ceiling.

While at Lucerne, make sure you stop by Lake Lucerne, Switzerland’s fourth largest lake which is reminiscent of a fjord landscape. A boat cruise on board a historic paddle wheel steamer on a sun-filled summer’s day will be unforgettable. Another must-see tourist attraction is the incredible Lion Monument, a staggering statue of a dying lion carved into a cliff face in 1820 to remember the hundreds of Swiss soldiers who were massacred during the French Revolution.


3. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico


A post shared by Haley • Austin Travel Blogger (@readysetjetset) on

With brightly coloured restored buildings, narrow cobbled streets and a festive air, this historic city is simply enchanting. One of the most Instagrammed streets is the Calle Fortaleza, a romantic street that leads up to the Governor’s residence, a blue and white colonial building at the end of the street which is equally picture-worthy. Stop by the Plaza de Armas, found along Calle San Francisco, which is near places to eat and shop.

It’s beautifully decorated during Christmas and is the site of the San Sebastian Street Festival (Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian) in January. Plaza Dársenas is another spot you have to be — overlooking the San Juan Bay, the public plaza has a lovely view and celebratory vibes, with street vendors harking their products, food trucks selling nosh and impromptu musical performances by buskers.


4. Patagonia, South America


A post shared by Wendy | Nomadic Fare (@nomadicfare) on

Rugged terrain, scenic lakes and forestry, glaciers, clear blue lakes and majestic peaks — these are just some of what will take your breath away when you visit the Patagonia region, which stretches across Chile and Argentina. This vast and wild land is pristine and almost mythical, and will thrill any traveller with its incredible display of nature’s magnificent creations. The Torres del Paine, with soaring mountains, bright blue icebergs and grasslands with rare wildlife such as llama-like guanacos, is one of the largest and most visited parks in Chilean Patagonia. An extremely popular hiking destination, it’s impossible to get a bad photo in this gorgeous area.

Other picturesque spots include the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse at the historic Beagle Channel where you can spot the Magellan Cormorant bird and seals. The Perito Moreno Glacier, located in the southern region of Los Glaciares National Park, is another epic attraction in Argentine Patagonia. The monumental ice mass towers above turquoise glacial water and is a blinding white and blue hue. The glacier inches forward up to 2m per day and is one of the world’s few glaciers that is still growing.


5. Sigiriya, Sri Lanka


A post shared by Alexandra Saper (@thewayfaress) on

An ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, the Sigiriya is often referred by locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Also known as Lion Rock, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is extraordinary mainly because of its massive rocky outcrop that rises dramatically over the grounds at nearly 200 metres high. Its steep, near-vertical walls sport a flat-topped summit that contains the ruins of an ancient civilisation, and is spellbinding especially when shrouded in the mist of the morning. The palace complex there houses beautiful landscaped gardens and canals.

To get a spectacular view and that Instagram-worthy snap, climb the nearby Pidurangala Rock instead. It’s not an easy hike (it takes roughly 30 minutes and requires you to go through dense forests and clamour up some boulders with the help of a guide), but the expansive panoramic views of the Sigiriya rock and the surrounding plains is astounding. Watch the sunrise here for an unforgettable experience. While at Sigiriya, visit the nearby Golden Temple of Dambulla, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a view of the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. Also make a stop at the Minneriya National Park to experience elephants in the wild.

6. Brighton Bathing Boxes, Melbourne, Australia


A post shared by PIMTHA (@pimtha) on

You must have seen these vibrant, multi-coloured beach huts popping up in your feed at one point or another. Lining the shore of Brighton Beach in Melbourne, these charming boxes are an eye-popping contrast to the blue waters and sandy beach, and have been a popular photo backdrop for many tourists and beachgoers. They also boast a great view of the Melbourne city skyline. Fun fact: They were built more than 100 years ago so that ladies at the time could change into their swimwear in privacy. The beach boxes, which have no power or running water, are highly coveted, with some going for more than AUD$300,000 (S$290,168) to locals living in the Bayside area.

Of course, Melbourne has plenty of other attractions, such as its thriving cafe culture, dynamic art scene and eclectic nightlife and more. The Royal Botanic Gardens is a tranquil respite from the city but we especially love Fitzroy, a suburb that is home to an alternative subculture and boasts a quirky bohemian vibe. Here’s where you can get vintage clothing, shop from their homegrown fashion labels, visit secondhand bookshops and other trendy shops. Their storefronts and street murals are of course, very Instagrammable.


7. Kyoto, Japan


A post shared by CHRISTABEL (@bellywellyjelly) on

The cultural and historic centre of Japan and formerly its imperial capital, Kyoto is like a city lost in time. Quiet temples and shrines abound, along with zen gardens with cherry blossom-lined rivers. It’s a calming antidote to a bustling city life, and it is here where you can stay in traditional ryokan inns, view centuries-old craftsmanship and drink traditional sake. Head to the quaint Gion district where you can dress up in a kimono and try to spot real live geishas, and the Arashiyama district for the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and multiple scenic temples.

The most popular photo spot has got to be the Fushimi Inari Shrine with its rows of orange torii gates. The Nishiki Market is the best traditional food market in the city known for its narrow, long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants — an all round foodie heaven. Bottomline: The captivating city is picture-perfect.


8. New York City, United States


A post shared by Andrea Chong (@dreachong) on

The bustling Big Apple has much to see and do, and even its busy streets with iconic yellow taxicabs is a spot worthy for the Gram. Head to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, an observation deck at the top of the Rockefeller Center for sweeping, unobstructed views of Central Park and Manhattan’s midtown and downtown skyscrapers. Other tourist attractions include the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, but our pick goes to the mind-boggling Times Square for its bright lights and busy ambience and the landmark Brooklyn Bridge for that classic back-view or romantic kiss snap.


9. Hallstatt, Austria


A post shared by Willabelle Ong (@willamazing) on

Austria’s oldest and possibly most photographed salt mine village is nestled on the shores of the idyllic Hallstätter See (Lake Hallstatt) while surrounded by the towering Dachstein mountains. The tiny little town is just enchanting, with traditional houses sporting flower-draped balconies surrounding its charming Marktplatz. Shops and terraced cafes line the square, and in the center of town is the landmark 19th-century Evangelical Church of Hallstatt which has an iconic tall, slender spire. Not surprisingly, Hallstatt is at the core of the Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape, which has been declared as one of the World Heritage Sites in Austria by UNESCO.

Not to be missed is the World Heritage Skywalk, a jaw-dropping viewing platform on the Salzberg (Salt Mountain) which hovers 350 meters above the roofs of Hallstatt and offers a panoramic view over the lake and the impressive mountain scenery. Don’t forget the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave too, which you can visit with experienced cave guides. Traverse through its labyrinths while admiring the spectacular ice sculptures, then head to the 5 Fingers Lookout which reaches out like a hand over the 400m drop and offers spectacular views of the entire mountain range — a great photo op if you’re not afraid of heights.


10. Cappadocia, Turkey


A post shared by Chloe Ting (@chloe_t) on

It’s not an understatement when we say Cappadocia is one of the most magical places on earth. Known for its distinctive and dreamlike honeycombed hills and towering boulders, the oddly fascinating spot boasts an otherworldly beauty that is indescribable. The rocky wonderland of Göreme valley in particular was shaped by millions of years of natural phenomena but residents there began carving an incredible chamber and tunnel complex into the soft rock. And when hot air balloons rise above this dreamy city, it creates a backdrop for a photo that is simply priceless. Head to the rock castle at Uchisar, which is the highest point in Cappadocia and gives you a great panoramic view of the area.

The Goreme Open air museum a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another essential spot to visit with its fresco-adorned rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries. End off the trip with a hot air balloon ride for a truly amazing photo and an experience of a lifetime.