Lhasa, Tibet, China. Photograph by Michael Yamashita, National Geographic. This list was first published in the book The World’s Best Cities.
At an altitude of 11,975 feet (3,650 meters), Lhasa is higher than any other city on our list. The 17th-century Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lama, hovers above the city like a giant Buddhist scroll.
Flamingos in Tanzania
Photograph by Johansen Krause, National Geographic. As many as three million lesser flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor) live on the soda lakes scattered the length of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Lake Natron in Tanzania, pictured here, is one of the few sites in Africa where the birds regularly lay eggs. The lake’s unbearable heat, undrinkable water, and unwalkable mudflats offer safety from most predators.
ACE Basin, South Carolina.
Photograph by Vincent J. Musi. A moss-hung cypress keeps watch over the placid waters of South Carolina’s ACE Basin, named for three rivers that run through it: the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto. This relatively intact and exceptionally rich ecosystem provides feeding and resting areas for waterfowl, as well as wading birds, mink, and alligators.
Great Horned Owl, Montana
Photograph by Andrew Kandel, Alamy. A great horned owl shows off its unflinching stare in a grove of golden cottonwoods in Missoula, Montana. The species gets its name from the hornlike tufts on the bird’s head. These carnivorous creatures of the night have a wingspan that can reach nearly five feet.
Busó Celebration, Hungary
Photograph by Zsolt Repasy, National Geographic Your Shot. A traditional part of the Busó celebration in Mohács, Hungary, is the busós, a frightening character clad in a wooly coat. The end-of-winter carnival, which came to the southern Hungary town with Croats, also features the burning of a coffin that symbolizes winter.