20 World's Most Beautiful Mountains

Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

Fans of the "Lord of the Rings" movies will recognize New Zealand’s Mount Ngauruhoe as the stand-in for Mount Doom. In real life, the mountain isn’t so ominous; it’s part of a beautiful North Island hiking route with views of Lake Taupo and Mount Tongariro. The volcano is still active — it last erupted in 1977 — and visitors to the summit can see fumaroles in the crater and smell strong sulfurous gases.
Mount Everest, Nepal-Tibet
The lucky and ambitious few who get to stand atop Everest are rewarded with a view from the rooftop of the world. The rest of us will have to settle for photographs of the magnificent 29,035-foot peak. Everest was first climbed by these men in 1953, who have been followed by ambitious climbers ever since. Sadly, some attempts, notably during 1996, ended in tragedy.

Matterhorn, Switzerland

Many mountains in the world are higher than the Matterhorn (14,692 feet), but few are as distinctive in shape and as recognizable. The pyramidal Matterhorn sits near the border of Switzerland and Italy, and on a visit to nearby Zermatt, this famous filmmaker was so inspired by its beauty that he made his own miniature version in a California theme park.

Mount Fuji, Japan

A rite of passage for many Japanese — and ambitious visitors — is to climb this sacred mountain through the night to witness the sunrise from the 12,389-foot summit. The hike takes eight hours, but there are 10 resting stations along the way. A Shinto shrine to the goddess Sengen-Sama can be found at the top of this dormant volcano, which last erupted in 1707. The mountain's nearly perfect conical shape is just west of Tokyo, and has been featured in poems and paintings for centuries.

Mount Cook, New Zealand

Mount Cook was the training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary, who used the highest peak in New Zealand as preparation for his ascent of Mount Everest. Today’s travelers hike Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, ski on Tasman Glacier and stroll the shores of the impossibly emerald-colored Lake Pukaki, which is fed by the park’s melting glaciers. 

Mount Rainier, Washington

While Mount Rainier isn’t the highest mountain in the Lower 48, it’s one of the most popular for amateur climbers. Located less than a two-hour drive from Seattle, Mount Rainier is also one of the most photographed peaks in the country. Lupine and Indian paintbrush carpet the meadows at Paradise visitor center in summer.

Piz Bernina, Switzerland

Glacier- and snow-covered Piz Bernina, visible from popular ski town of St. Moritz, is the highest peak in the eastern Alps and a dramatic part of the picturesque Engadin Valley. Travelers shouldn’t miss the chance to take the Bernina Express train over the pass to the high-altitude spa town of Pontresina and then down to Tirano, Italy, a journey through some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe.

Mount Ararat, Turkey

Mount Ararat, in eastern Turkey near the Armenian and Iranian borders, is worth visiting just for the jaw-dropping views of its snowcapped summit. However, its biggest draw for eons has been the enduring legend that Ararat is the burial place of Noah’s Ark. Explorers from Marco Polo to modern-day archaeologists have looked, but so far no one has found it

Alpamayo, Peru

The sheer icy face of Alpamayo, tilting at about 60 degrees, makes this peak in the Cordillera Blanca range of the Peruvian Andes one of the most stunning mountains in the world. (In fact, in 1966 an international survey officially designated it the world’s most beautiful mountain.) The peak is part of Huascarán National Park, home to jaguars, tapirs and endangered spectacled bears. 

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

While the legendary Snows of Kilimanjaro have melted — some say up to 82% since 1912 — the highest peak on the African continent maintains its alluring beauty. Kili rises 19,341 feet in dramatic isolation above the Serengeti plains and lures visitors from all around the world to attempt the nontechnical, but still extremely difficult, hike to Uhuru Peak, the mountain’s highest point. Most climbers struggle with this while en route.

Chimborazo, Ecuador

Quito is the launching point for visits to Chimborazo, whose claim to fame is that its summit is the farthest distance from the Earth’s core: 3,968 miles.It is also 241 feet taller than this famous American peak. Still, it’s easy to forget the numbers when you’re standing in its snowcapped presence. In the heart of the Andes, Chimborazo and the surrounding lands are home to alpacas, llamas and vicunas.

Mount Robson, British Columbia

Early explorers called Robson’s Peak a "giant among giants," and today the massive 12,972-foot peak stands sentinel on the western edge of Mount Robson Provincial Park and adjacent to another famous Canadian park. As the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson continues to inspire awe among visitors. For places to stay, base your exploration in Jasper, Alberta.

Ama Dablam, Nepal

Ama Dablam translates roughly to "mother’s necklace," referring both to the glacier shaped like a Sherpa woman’s charm necklace and to the maternal embrace formed by the two extending arms of rock. This 22,349-foot jewel is in the Khumbu region of Nepal, in the same neighborhood as Mount Everest and other spectacular mountains popular with trekkers and climbers.

Mount McKinley, Alaska

Mount McKinley, one of the Seven Summits, is known to the Aleut people as Denali.Measuring 20,320 feet at its summit, McKinley is the dazzling centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve. Most nonclimbing visitors base their activities at the entrance to the park or in Kantishna, the small town at the end of the 92-mile road through the park.

Fitz Roy, Patagonia

On the southern border of Chile and Argentina, this Patagonian mountain is an eye-popper for its craggy, toothlike appearance. Named for the captain of the HMS Beagle, Fitz Roy is also the backdrop for the logo to a popular line of outdoor clothing.

The Eiger, Switzerland

People have died trying to climb the Eiger — notably the north face, as detailed in a recent movie — so opt for walks in the alpine scenery, not far from Interlaken. Even better, splurge on a ride on the Jungfraubahn, a railway that tunnels through the Eiger and allows you to view the scenery from two platforms cut into the mountainside. The trip ends at the highest railway station in Europe.

Aiguille du Dru, France

Also called Les Drus, this pointy peak is a standout among the already magnificent Chamonix region of the French Alps. It’s part of the Mont Blanc massif and amazingly, in the early 1900s, a team of climbers hoisted a 28-pound aluminum statue of Our Lady of Lourdes to the summit. It took two attempts by two teams, but it finally got to the top in 1919.

Mount Shasta, California

Shasta is one of California’s "fourteeners" and is at the heart of a wilderness paradise that encompasses the scenic Cascade Mountains and Lake Siskiyou. The volcanic peak is the focal point for hiking, climbing and skiing – and some fascinating folklore. In the 1800s, a book was written that claimed that survivors of a lost continent called Lemuria were living in tunnels in and under Mount Shasta.

Aconcagua, Argentina

At 22,841 feet, Aconcagua is the second-highest of the famed "Seven Summits," after Everest, and is the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere. That makes it popular with climbers, who on a clear day can see the Pacific Ocean from the summit. 

Shivling, India

Bearing a striking resemblance to the Matterhorn, Shivling is a striking pyramid in the Garhwal Himalaya of northern India. It is close to the Hindu holy site of Gaumukh, and the sheer rock walls stretch as high as 21,466 feet. The mountain is also near the glacier that’s the source of the Ganges River.