Sala Regia, Vatican City
Photograph by Victor Boswell, National Geographic
Swiss Guards greet with salutes in the Sala Regia, a hall adjacent to the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. Also known as the Holy See, Vatican City is the world's least populous country, located entirely within the city of Rome.
Dead Sea, Israel
Photograph by George Steinmetz, National Geographic
Swimmers float effortlessly in the salt-laden waters of the Dead Sea near Ein Bokek, Israel. Ten times saltier than seawater, the lake is extremely buoyant and a popular destination for holidaymakers. It's also Earth's lowest point on land.
Atacama Desert, Chile
Photograph by Richard Nowitz, National Geographic
The Atacama Desert covers 600 miles from Peru's southern border into northern Chile. At its center, a place climatologists call absolute desert, is the driest place on Earth. There are stretches where rain has never been measured.
Photograph by Cory Richards, National Geographic
A camp on Pumori offers a stunning view of neighboring Mount Everest, the highest peak on Earth at 29,029 feet. Before being named Mount Everest by the British in 1865, the mountain had gone by many names in many languages over the centuries. Tibetans call it Chomolungma, often translated as "mother of the universe."
Metropol Parasol, Seville
Photograph by Dorothea Schmid, laif/Redux
The Metropol Parasol at the Plaza de la Encarnacíon in Seville, Spain, is the largest wooden structure in the world. Completed in 2011, the multifunctional landmark—home to a museum, restaurants and bars, and a farmers market—offers shade below and panoramic views from up top.
Lake Biwa, Japan
Photograph by Toru Hanai, Reuters
A Shinto shrine gate rises from Lake Biwa, Japan's largest freshwater lake. Surrounded by mountains and fed by 460 streams, the vast lake provides water for 14 million people.
Chiar Khota, Bolivia
Photograph by Sergio Ballivian, Tandem
A Bolivian woman stops her burros for a drink at Lake Chiar Khota in the Cordillera Real section of the Andes. The South American mountain range, which runs from Venezuela to Argentina, is the longest continental mountain chain in the world.
Rome Colosseum in Snow
Photograph by Gabriele Forzano, Reuters
A rare snow shower falls on Rome's Colosseum, built 2,000 years ago to host gladiator duels, battle reenactments, and other public spectacles. Today the 50,000-seat amphitheater serves Rome in another capacity: as a major tourist attraction.
Mother Tree, Russia
Photograph by Justin Jin, Redux
Symbol of eternity, a "mother tree" overlooking frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia is wrapped in cloth offerings. Pilgrims from throughout Central Asia come to trees like this one to offer tea, milk, vodka, and candy and to adorn them with the ceremonial scarves, called khadag.
Lake McKenzie, Australia
Photograph by Peter Harrison, Getty Images
Sugar white sand and windowpane water attract sunbathers to Lake McKenzie, one of dozens of lakes on Fraser Island in Queensland. The island is a big sandbar, more than 75 miles long, with dunes that can top 800 feet.
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