Standing in the centre of a forest, gazing up at gargantuan trees towering overhead, is a wonderfully humbling experience – one which can instantly bring you back down to earth and diminish any semblance of stress. The mood-boosting and worry-relieving benefits of the natural world are often touted, and ambling through one of the most beautiful forests in the world is a gratifying way to reconnect with Mother Nature. From California’s ancient redwoods to Japan’s tranquil bamboo groves, there are enough bewitching woodlands across the globe to keep you wandering forever.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Japan
- The Amazon, South America
- Otzarreta Forest, Spain
- Valle de Cocora, Colombia
- Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
- Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
- Daintree Rainforest, Australia
- Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California
With green-cyan bamboo stalks that soar towards the sky and cause the light to shift as they sway with the wind, Japan’s Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a mesmerising sight. The beauty of the bamboo grove goes beyond solely the visual realm, adopting sound as part of its calming power. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the wood creaking and leaves rustling, as the wind gently coaxes the bamboo canes back and forth. Arashiyama was included in the Ministry of the Environment’s list of Japan’s top 100 Soundscapes in 1996, an initiative established to combat noise pollution and encourage citizens to soak up the sounds of nature.
Unfurling across Peru, Colombia and Brazil, and covering almost half of the South American continent, the Amazon is (unsurprisingly) the largest rainforest on earth. The vast expanse is known to be home to over 400 mammal species, 1,300 types of bird and over 40,000 plant varieties. These impressive accolades guarantee it a place on our list of the most beautiful forests in the world, yet you’ll want to make sure you explore its 4,000 miles of meandering rivers and 1.4 billion acres of dense vegetation sooner rather than later, as climate change and deforestation sadly pose ever-increasing threats to this extraordinary eco-system.
Resembling a scene plucked straight from the pages of a fairy-tale book, Spain’s Otzarreta Forest features twisted trees adorned with emerald moss, surrounded by a carpet of amber-hued oak and beech leaves. Located within Gorbeia Natural Park, the forest is the largest protected area in the Basque Country and is well-loved by mountaineers, who come to scale Mount Gorbeia. At 4,800ft tall, the summit offers stirring views across the beguiling treetops.
Colombia’s Valle de Cocora plays host to the tallest palm trees in the world, the Palma de Cera, which loom up to 197ft above the verdant valley. The collection of willowy wax palms is backed by lush, mist-shrouded hillsides and a cerulean sky, while Andean condors (the world’s largest flying bird) are often seen soaring between the trees. Trek alongside the palms to truly appreciate their stature.
Colloquially called the ‘impenetrable’ forest, anyone venturing into Bwindi National Park’s thick tangle of trees and vines will soon discover why. The UNESCO-protected primeval forest sits in south-western Uganda and possesses the biggest assortment of tree species in East Africa (with more than 200 types sharing the 79,000 acres of land). The dense habitat also houses more than half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas and if you’re daring enough to tackle the challenging conditions, there are plenty of unforgettable gorilla-trekking opportunities here.
Costa Rica is renowned for the diversity of its wildlife and the lushness of its landscapes, and Monteverde Cloud Forest offers exemplary examples of both. Situated along the Sierra de Tilarán, the abundance of biodiversity inhabiting the forest amounts to over 100 mammal species and 400 bird varieties. If you wish to get up close to the cloud forest canopy, take your turn at gliding through the treetops on a zip-line, a high-adrenaline activity that was invented in Costa Rica.
Tumbling down onto a pristine beach on the northern coast of Queensland (and serving as inspiration for the setting of Avatar), it’s clear why Daintree is considered one of the most beautiful forests in the world. It’s thought to be the world’s oldest rainforest, at over 135 million years old, and the winning trifecta of rich rainforest, white sand beach and colourful coral reef means you don’t have to skimp on any aspect of nature during your visit. Experience the forest aboard a river cruise, wander along on one of the circular boardwalks or hike Mount Sorrow Ridge for unparalleled panoramic views.
There are numerous national parks and forests scattered across the US, yet the ancient redwoods of California’s Humboldt State Park make it one of the most impressive. The 2,000 year-old natural giants reach as high as 380ft in some parts of the park and a notable clump can be found in the Rockefeller Forest. Standing among them is an immensely grounding experience and can bring a life-affirming sense of perspective.
Written by Luisa Watts