A visit to a garden can add a touch of beauty and serenity to any trip. It might be a zen rock garden outside a Japanese temple, a maze of box hedges around a French chateau, or an oasis of cacti and palms in the midst of Marrakech; even if you can’t tell a dandelion from a daffodil, it’s hard to resist their appeal.
We’ve stopped and smelled the roses all around the world to come up with this list of the planet’s most gorgeous gardens.
Butchart Gardens, Canada
This world-famous garden in Victoria, British Columbia, started out as a humble limestone quarry. When the deposits were used up, Jennie Butchart, the wife of the quarry owner, transformed the rugged space into what would later become the Sunken Garden. Over the decades the property has grown to include a Japanese Garden, a Mediterranean Garden, and a concert lawn where visitors can sprawl out in the grass to enjoy fireworks and live music. The gardens are still owned by descendants of Jennie Butchart.
Getting There: The gardens are about a 30-minute drive from downtown Victoria.
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Hamilton Gardens, New Zealand
At Hamilton Gardens, you can travel around the world without leaving the North Island of New Zealand. You can step from the Italian Renaissance Garden, complete with a bronze wolf sculpture alluding to the story of Romulus and Remus, into the Indian Char Bagh Garden with its Persian design and colorful flowers. We also love the Rogers Rose Garden and the serene Bussaco Woodland.
Getting There: Hamilton is about an hour and a half south of Auckland by car, and just 45 minutes from Hobbiton.
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Jardin Majorelle, Morocco
Palm trees, cacti, fountains, and cobalt blue buildings are the hallmarks of this small but stunning garden in Marrakech. Jacques Morelle, a French artist, lovingly developed this garden for nearly 40 years before ill health forced him to sell it. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, are the most recent owners of the property; a memorial to Saint Laurent was added to the garden after his death in 2008.
Getting There: The gardens are a short ride by petit taxi or bus from Jemaa el-Fna Square.
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This Loire Valley chateau offers three tiers of spectacular Renaissance-era gardens, starting with the geometric Ornamental Garden, which uses plant-based symbolism to evoke the many shades of love. (In one section, for instance, the box hedges form a maze to conjure up the whirlwind and confusion of passion.) The Kitchen Garden displays some 40 species of vegetables, arranged in a colorful but orderly patchwork.
Getting There: Villandry is nine miles from Tours and 150 miles from Paris. Without a rental car, you can take a train to the Tours station and catch a cab from there.
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Japan is famous for its gardens, painstakingly designed and groomed to create serene spaces for contemplation. You can see some of the country’s best at Kyoto’s Daitokuji, where numerous temples are surrounded by several types of zen gardens, some with lush green moss, others with raked sand.
Getting There: Daitokuji is within walking distance of the Kitaoji subway station and the Daitokuji-mae bus stop.
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Few places on the planet welcome spring as colorfully as this Dutch masterpiece in Lisse, where millions of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and other seasonal blooms blanket the grounds. Steal a kiss in the Romantic Garden (with its pastel blossoms) and breathe deeply in the fragrant Herb Garden — and after you’ve gone through the park itself, rent a bike and cycle through the nearby tulip fields. The park is only open for a couple of months each year, with peak blooms in April.
Getting There: Keukenhof is accessible by bus or car from Amsterdam, less than an hour away.
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Yuyuan Garden, China
This garden offers a five-acre oasis in the midst of bustling Shanghai. Also known as Yu Garden, Yuyuan dates back to the 16th century, when a Ming government official built it for his parents. You can wander among pavilions, rockeries, and koi ponds, many with charming names such as the Zigzag Bridge or Exquisite Jade Rock. When you’re ready for a break, there are numerous places to grab a cup of tea or a souvenir.
Getting There: Take the subway to the Yuyuan station. City buses also stop nearby, and it’s included on various city tours.
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Nestled in the Cotswolds is one of England’s most beautiful spots. The gardens at Hidcote Manor were created in the early 20th century by American horticulturalist Lawrence Johnston, and they’re divided by hedges into little “rooms,” each unique in design and color.
Getting There: Hidcote is only a 20-minute drive from Stratford-Upon-Avon; via public transportation, take the train to the Honeybourne station and then a cab from there.
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If you love art as much as flowers and plants, you won’t want to miss a trip to Inhotim, a 5,000-acre, open-air contemporary art garden in southeastern Brazil. Pavilions and galleries are interspersed with sculptures and lush landscaping in a sprawling feast for both the eyes and the mind. Works on display come from Brazilian and other international artists, including Matthew Barney, Olafur Eliasson, Adriana Varejao, and Tunga.
Getting There: A bus is available from Belo Horizonte, a little more than an hour away.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 7 Picture-Perfect Airport Gardens
- 12 Things You Don’t Photograph (But Should)
- 9 Incredible Spring Flower Blooms Worth the Trip
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
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