Mountains are mesmerizing. They are often shrouded in myths and legends. They inspire spirituality, which is why monasteries and shrines are built on some of the world’s most inaccessible peaks. They can be both destructive and productive; you only have to look at crops and vines growing on the fertile slopes of a volcano to understand this.
Mountains are something humans feel compelled to conquer, or capture in a beautiful photograph or painting. Anywhere your travels take you, if there’s a mountain in view, there will be a way to climb it, travel up it, admire it, photograph it, or fly over it.
Here are 20 of the most beautiful mountains in the world.
Despite its height of only 1,520 feet, there are few more memorable sights in Iceland than the conical peak of Kirkjufell, north of Reykjavik. Seen under the dancing Northern Lights, it’s an unforgettable image.
Kirkjufell means “Church Mountain”, a nod to the spire-like appearance of the peak. It stands near several pretty beaches and the beautiful Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall.
Photographers can frame Kirkjufell and the three streams of the falls in the same shot. It’s an image that’s been captured many times but is still absolutely remarkable, whether in snow or sunshine.
Mount Dalsnibba, Geiranger, Norway
Dalsnibba sits at the end of the Geiranger valley, overlooking the spectacular Geirangerfjorden. It is topped by snow, usually even in summer, and makes a beautiful sight reflected in the waters of the fjord.
The 10-mile-long Geirangerfjord is part of the West Norwegian Fjords UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several waterfalls cascade into it, helping make it one of the country’s most visited—and photographed—fjords.
The road up to Dalsnibba is a man-made wonder, a set of switchbacks delivering dramatic views. At the top, test your nerves on the glass-fronted viewing platform over a vertigo- inducing sheer drop.
Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain
Montserrat, translated as “Saw Mountain”, is a range taking its name from its ragged appearance. The name is also used interchangeably for the famous monastery about halfway up the mountain. Both mountain and monastery are an easy day trip from Barcelona.
Santa Maria de Montserrat, still home to 60 Benedictine monks, is the most important pilgrimage site for Catalans. It holds an icon of Our Lady—a rare black Madonna known popularly as La Moreneta, or “Little Brown One”, dating to the 12th century.
A cable car and funicular railway allow easy access to the monastery and surrounding natural park for visitors and hikers. With its highest peak, Sant Jeroni, reaching 4,055 feet, Montserrat’s pink-hued rock makes for beautiful sunset photos.
Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
The only active volcano in mainland Europe (the rest are on islands) had its last major eruption in 1944. That length of time is either reassuring or worrying but residents of Naples, which sprawls below it, seemingly prefer the optimistic outlook.
Dominating the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius makes for one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. The best views may be from Posillipo, an upmarket Naples neighborhood with some of the most coveted real estate in Italy.
Vesuvius’s most famous eruption, of course, buried the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD. A visit to those fascinating historic sites will only increase your respect for the power of nature.
Mount Olympus, Thessaloniki, Greece
Mount Olympus is actually a range of 52 mountains, with the highest being Mytikas at 9,570 feet. Its height and beauty led to Olympus being seen as the home of the Greek gods in mythology.
These majestic peaks, often shrouded in fog or low cloud and riven by storms, still inspire much of the awe experienced by the ancients. Dominating the view over much of Northern Greece, Olympus is visible from Thessaloniki, 53 miles away.
Enveloped in a national park, a World Biosphere Reserve, Olympus is notable for its rich flora. More than 30 species of mammals, 18 species of reptiles and 100 species of birds are also found here.
Read: Best Hikes in Europe
Mount Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands
At 12,188 ft, Teide is the highest point in Spain and one of the highest volcanoes in the world. If it were to be measured from the ocean floor, its height would reach a dizzying 24,600 ft.
The volcano is surrounded by the most visited national park in Europe, one recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The landscape may seem like a desert but holds hundreds of plant and animal species, many unique to the region.
You can explore the upper slopes of one of the most beautiful mountains in the world from the top of the cable car, an aerial tramway that whisks you up to 11,663 feet, high above the cloud. In winter, you can throw a snowball on Teide—and then head down the mountain and bask on one of Tenerife’s stunning beaches.
Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy
More than twice as big as Mount Vesuvius, Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. It is also one of its most beautiful, especially when covered with snow in winter and spring.
Eruptions have been recorded here for 2,700 years, a fascinating database for scientists that helped make the mountain a Unesco World Heritage Site. A nature park and two ski areas are part of a vast protected area covering 224 square miles around the peak. Where you can visit, though, depends on the volcano’s mood. Even if you don’t see it erupting, walking on still-warm lava flows is quite an experience.
Etna’s name comes from the Greek, meaning “I Burn” and its fire lights up the night sky of Sicily. In Italy, they call it Montebello: “Beautiful Mountain”, despite its destructive force.
Mt. Fuji, Tokyo, Japan
Mount Fuji is such a familiar image that it can seem unreal when you see it in reality, although its beauty is in no way diminished.
Long considered sacred in Japan, Mt. Fuji has been visited by pilgrims for centuries. Nowadays, hikers add to the visitor numbers and yet arguably, Fuji remains a popular Japanese landmark best seen from a distance.
Topped by snow in winter, its perfect cone towers over 12,000 ft above the landscape. Whether you’re admiring it from a skyscraper in Tokyo, or a bullet train on its way to Osaka, Mt. Fuji retains the majesty captured in ancient paintings.
Hallasan Mountain, Jeju Island, South Korea
The highest mountain in South Korea is 6,400 ft high and dominates Jeju, the largest island in the country. “South Korea’s Hawaii” welcomes millions of visitors every year to enjoy its tropical landscape and climate.
A shield volcano, Hallasan is visible from almost everywhere on the island and stands in a large protected area. This lush national park is a popular spot for hikers and a honeymoon destination for Korean newlyweds. Trails lead to the crater rim, from where you can look down at a lake, surrounded by greenery.
In Korean, the mountain is known as Yeongjusa: “Mountain High Enough To Pull The Galaxy”. You’d fully understand this if you were to see Hallasan on a clear starry night but even by day, it’s a dramatic sight.
Canadian Rockies, Canada
Stretching from Montana north to Alaska, the Canadian Rocky Mountains reach 12,000 ft high and take in five national parks. They’re more rugged than the American Rockies; in Alberta they rise dramatically from the plains in an image beloved of Western film-makers. Without doubt, this is one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.
In 1880, the discovery of hot springs made Banff National Park a major spa destination. The mountains are at their most beautiful when reflected in the still blue water of the park’s Lake Louise.
A drive or train journey through the Rockies is an unforgettable experience. The snow-capped peaks, glaciers and turquoise-blue lakes along the Icefield Parkway are some of the most memorable sights in North America.
Denali Mountain, Alaska, USA
The highest peak in North America rises to 20,310 ft, topped by snow year-round. It’s an even more beautiful image when mirrored in the still water of Reflection Pond below it, making it a favorite for couples on an Alaskan honeymoon.
Long known as Mount McKinley, Denali reverted to its native name in 2016. In one of the indigenous languages of Alaska, Diinaalii means “The Tall One”.
Denali rises three-and-a-half vertical miles from its base; using this measurement, it’s actually a mile taller than Mount Everest, and is one of the most impressive sights on Earth. Everest stands on a 14,000-foot high plain, while Denali’s foot is only 2,000 feet above sea level, making its sheer bulk all the more imposing.
Mount Rainier, Washington, USA
Standing 14,400 ft high in the Cascade mountain range, Mount Rainier makes a postcard-perfect photo, even from a distance. One of the most beautiful mountains in the world, it is also potentially one of the most dangerous.
Although it last erupted about 500 years ago, Rainier is highly glaciated and spawns five major rivers. Any eruption could trigger serious flooding downstream, so the mountain is closely monitored.
Only 60 miles outside Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park was established in 1899, 17 years before the National Park Service. It offers a wonderful contrast between massive snowy peaks, colorful wildflower meadows and ancient forest.
Mont Pelée, Martinique
The lovely island of Martinique has a mountain worthy of its beauty in Mont Pelée. Its distinctive volcano cone, often wreathed in cloud, rises majestically over the north end of the island in a bird-rich tropical reserve.
“La Montagne Pelée”, or “The Bald Mountain” last erupted in 1902. One of the worst eruptions of the 20th century, the eruption devastated the nearby town but led to major improvements in the study of volcanoes.
Volcanic ash has created unusual black and gray sand beaches along this northern coast. It’s a strong contrast to the more usual white Caribbean sands elsewhere on Martinique.
The Pitons, St. Lucia
You know you’re arriving in wonderful St. Lucia when you first see the twin peaks of the Pitons on the horizon. Although they are on the southwest coast, you are never far away from them as their image decorates everything from the island’s logo to a popular beer label.
Looking like one mountain in photos, there are actually two peaks some distance apart. Gros Piton is 2,619 feet above sea level, while Petit Piton is 2,461 ft.
Gros Piton is a four-hour climb with spectacular views, while the steeper, wetter Petit Piton is a more dangerous undertaking. The pair are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, even better appreciated from the sea at sunset.
Sierra Madre, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
The Sierra Madre, or “Mother Mountain” range runs from Mexico’s northwest down to Guatemala in the south. It’s perhaps at its most beautiful in the tropical Occidental Sierra Madre, near Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast.
The mountains can also be explored on hikes, horseback trips or on thrilling ATV safaris that take you over escarpments and across dried up riverbeds, past fruit plantations and quaint, sleepy villages. However you choose to travel, you’ll return with remarkable memories.
Corcovado Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Corcovado’s name refers to its “hunchback” shape but the mountain is most often associated with the statue on top. The 100-ft-high Christ The Redeemer looks out over Rio de Janeiro, its arms wide to offer protection to all below.
Corcovado is surrounded by the Tijuca Forest National Park, an unexpected sight for many who take the electric train to its top. Criss-crossed by hiking trails, the park has dozens of waterfalls and rare plant species. A stroll here is a soothing contrast to the bustle of the nearby city, and a chance to connect with nature.
The views from the peak are remarkable, taking in the city and its beaches. However, it’s the view from below that remains the most familiar symbol of Rio.
Huayna Picchu, Peru
Many of the panoramic photos of Machu Picchu you have seen were taken from the summit of Huayna Picchu. The mountain stands about 850 ft above the ancient ruins and 8,835 ft above sea level.
Standing in a bend of the Urubamba River, its setting helped form a natural fortress. The peak was sacred to the Incas, who built temples on top reached by steep steps (the “Death Stairs”) carved out of the rock.
As their name implies, these steps are a daunting undertaking, but the reward is a spectacular view of Machu Picchu. Having said that, the view of the mountain itself overlooking the ruins is special enough for many.
Osorno, Chilean Lake District, Chile
A landmark in Chile’s Lake District, on the edge of Patagonia, this lovely volcano is covered in glaciers. Its perfect white peak, snow-covered year round, is reflected in the lakes below it, Todos los Santos and Llanquihué.
The sight reminds many of Mount Fuji in Japan and is one of the most photographed views in Latin America. Called “The King Of The South” by Chileans, it is protected within the Vicente Perez National Park.
Still active, Osorno rises to 8,700 ft and is regularly climbed by those properly equipped for the icy conditions. Skiers and snowboarders also enjoy its 12 trails and snow park. In summer, a chair lift whisks you up over the snowy slopes for astonishing views of the cobalt-blue lakes below.
Read: Visit Patagonia
Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
Two hours north of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a welcome refuge for city dwellers looking to get back in nature. Hiking trails cover a vast area, while small towns and spas welcome visitors.
The mountains take their name from the light distortion caused by the oil given off by eucalyptus trees. Seen from a distance, they appear to shimmer in a blue haze.
There are more than 100 different species of Eucalypt in the national park, itself a small part of the total area. Explore the mountains by road, cableway or train, or just take in one of the best sunsets in the world.
Mitre Peak, Fiordland, New Zealand
Named for its resemblance to a bishop’s hat, Mitre Peak is on Milford Sound in New Zealand’s South Island. A symbol of the Fiordland National Park, it rises to 5,560 feet straight from the water.
This high, rugged terrain and thick vegetation make climbing the mountain a tough undertaking. It’s best enjoyed on a boat trip, a chance to also see seals, dolphins and even the rare Fiordland crested penguin.
Other sights include Lady Bowen Falls, which plummet over 500 feet straight into the sea. But all eyes keep coming back to the sheer slopes of Mitre Peak.
Read: New Zealand Fjord Guide
Inspired to explore further and conquer some favorite peaks of your own? Browse itineraries for a choice of luxurious cruises that will take you on adventures around the world.