World view: From architects to explorers, experts reveal what they feel are the most beautiful places on earth

What inspires some of the world’s most visionary people?

Zaha Hadid: Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is like a second home to me, somewhere I try to come at least once a year. The city has inspired me since I first visited with my family as a teenager. We did the full tour – Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the island of Buyukada, where my cousins and I piled into a donkey cart that took us to the Aya Yorgi church and monastery. I fell in love with the complexity of Istanbul. There are so many rich layers to the city and you never know what to expect around the next corner. It’s a metropolis built of small villages, with distinct shapes and personalities. I think the many layers of Istanbul are evident in my work. When there are many different uses within one project, we think of the building as an urban landscape.

Supermoon rises over Istanbul, Turkey Supermoon rises over Istanbul, Turkey The Grand Bazaar is a labyrinth of streets and shops, full of unexpected treasures, and I never tire of going there. When the sun sets, the architectural structures around the bazaar always somehow catch the light. The Basilica Cistern is one of the most stunning things in the world – it’s a magnificent piece of engineering and infrastructure. Towards the back there are two marble stone capitals with Medusa carved on them, that reflect beautifully in the water. And the world wouldn’t be the same without Dolmabahce Palace, with its carved gates that have the texture of stone lace. I like the futuristic shapes of the minarets of Suleymaniye Mosque and the Church of St Stephen of the Bulgars, which is one of the world’s last surviving prefabricated cast-iron churches. Throughout the city you feel the mixture of East and West. It’s like a fantastic collage of many histories and cultures, a beautiful landscape floating on the Bosphorus.

Zaha Hadid is an architect. She designed the Messner Mountain Museum Corones, located at the top of Mount Kronplatz in South Tyrol, Italy, which will be completed this September (zaha-hadid.com).

Quentin Blake: Romney Marsh, England

Wind turbines on windfarm with sunbeams through clouds at sunset, Little Cheyne Court, Romney Marsh, Kent Wind turbines on windfarm with sunbeams through clouds at sunset, Little Cheyne Court, Romney Marsh, Kent I was brought up in the London suburbs and I remember going on a school outing to Winchelsea, just near Romney Marsh. Maybe it’s because I went there when I was young, but I’ve been impressed with the area ever since.

I like that flat landscape, it has a wonderful light. It’s constantly changing and the skies above it as well. Somehow the atmosphere has a special magic. A lot of the things I draw are people talking to each other, gesturing, running about. I put the scenery in as I need it and I suppose a vast landscape like that in Kent is quite the same – you don’t have to put the scenery in unless you need it. Everything within it becomes much more important. If everything is flat and you see only a tree, the tree becomes very important to the landscape. It’s endlessly  fascinating to me.

Quentin Blake is an illustrator. See “Quentin Blake: Inside Stories” at London’s new House of Illustration (houseofillustration.org.uk).

Robin Hutson: Kalahari Desert, Botswana

A year ago, I took on a month-long motorbike expedition across southern Africa – biking through Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, sometimes taking unmapped tracks, along which I didn’t see humans for a whole day. The highlight was staying at Jack’s Camp on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. It’s a luxury camp that looks a bit like something from an old-school safari expedition: tents full of antiques, looking out over the savannah. But what I found most beautiful was its location: in a wilderness unblemished  by humans.

As well as game drives, the guides took us out into the salt pans of the Kalahari. Maybe an hour from the camp we were in a place where there was absolutely no physical reference point for 360 degrees: not a tree, not a rock, just shimmering nothingness. The guides said to us: “Go and lie on the salt for five minutes and gather your thoughts.” In my business there are a million details to pay attention to – you get slightly obsessed with getting them all right. But this place reminded me that the world is in fact big, and sometimes we’re all too wrapped up in the comings and goings of our own little worlds.

Robin Hutson is a hotelier and the chairman of the Lime Wood Group (limewoodgroup.co.uk) and Home Grown Hotels (thepighotel.com).

Florence Knight: Ostuni, Italy

Ostuni is a beautiful town that sits astride three hills overlooking the sea. It is known as Citta Bianca, as almost all the buildings are painted white. Ostuni is steeped in the gastronomic traditions of Puglia. I tasted the best focaccia I’ve ever eaten and it is also famous for orecchiette pasta. I’ll never forget watching the locals make it by hand, rolling out a small sausage of dough and then cutting and dragging out the shape. The women make it look easy, but it takes years of practice – and these “little ears” are absolutely delicious.

Florence Knight is the head chef at the Italian restaurant, Polpetto, in London (polpetto.co.uk).

Fabien Cousteau: Florida Keys, US 

My grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, created the world’s first ocean floor habitat for humans. Because of this, I’d always been curious about living underwater. I found out about Aquarius Reef Base in the Florida Keys – the world’s only underwater laboratory – and recently led an expedition there.

Florida Keys Florida Keys I lived inside this tube for 31 days, one day longer than my grandfather’s team, in homage to those who came before us. The Florida Keys has the largest subtropical reef system in North America: an underwater city, home to countless species. Living at this frontier, I saw a fireworks-like display of life – the majesty of Christmas tree worms giving off a purple-white smoke as they spawn, or an endangered Goliath grouper attacking a barracuda, something no one had ever observed before. The ocean is my home. I could spend an hour looking at a square metre of reef and see a tiny soap opera play out before my eyes. For me, it’s like sitting on a bench in London or Paris and watching life pass by. Returning to the surface was bittersweet.

Fabien Cousteau is an ocean explorer (fabiencousteau.org).

Jo Malone: Turks and Caicos Islands

Parrot Cay Parrot Cay I have been to Parrot Cay every year since the first month the resort opened, in 1998. It’s a very small island with a wonderful beauty to it: no cars, completely flat, with the whitest beach and blue, blue ocean. There are mangroves and a coral reef offshore, and my favourite thing is to go on to the beach when the sun is setting and collect sand dollars – the flat, dried shells of sea urchins.

The first time I went to the island, there were turtles crawling up on to the neighbouring beach as I came in by boat. Another particularly special moment happened as I was walking on the beach early one morning. I saw a stingray swimming alongside me in the water. It stopped whenever I stopped. I can’t work or be creative in a cluttered environment and Parrot Cay is very much a plain canvas. I wanted to make a fragrance that was unbelievably simple, like that white sand. The whispering citrus note of pomelo was just perfect. Parrot Cay is a place where I can just think – it’s soul food for me.

Jo Malone is a perfumer  (joloves.com).

Dan Cruickshank: Lalibela, Ethiopia

The rock churches of Lalibela are a wonderful reversal of the normal process of construction, whereby one creates space by building. Here one excavates space by burrowing in: mistakes cannot be put right because you’ve cut into the rock itself.

There are about a dozen churches around Lalibela, hewn from the rock on which the town sits. It is a remote place – more so now than it was in the 12th century, when the Ethiopian king Lalibela first created it as an African version of Jerusalem. But it still has a strong sense of pilgrimage. I visited for my series Around the World in 80 Treasures and arrived during a quite astonishing festival. Empress Helena is celebrated in Orthodox Christianity for having found the true cross and every September the town holds a feast in her honour, with parades of the Lalibela Cross – a sacred 12th-century relic. Being there at this time heightened one’s senses and inflamed one’s imagination. Ideas of the holiness of rock pop up all around the world – in the pyramids of Egypt, the structures at Petra and at Stonehenge. Seeing buildings sculpted from rock makes you think of the very nature of architecture. It makes you aware of the possibilities of invention and imagination.

Dan Cruickshank is an architectural historian.

Orla Kiely: Ballyvolane House, Ireland

County Cork is a green and magical place, and Ballyvolane is one of Ireland’s oldest houses. Built around 1728, it is wonderfully grand – the pillared hall is something quite special. The interior is perfect for unwinding, settling down to play cards or reading a book. It’s a place to find serenity and the gardens and woodland are very peaceful – in spring, the bluebells are spectacular.

Orla Kiely is a fashion designer (orlakiely.com).

This is an extract from ‘Lonely Planet Traveller’. For the full article, see the September issue, on sale now (£3.90). Five issues currently cost £5 when you call  0844 826 7350 and  quote LPTEL14

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Casual Visitor Experience Assistants

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To work within the Visitor Experience Departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high