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10 Most Exotic Places in California

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Jen Hong

California is a state of contrasts. Combining jaw-dropping coastlines and majestic national parks, the Golden State and its incredible views are sure to starstruck every traveler. Any way you slice it, Cali has endless opportunities of having fun and exploring, so the most challenging task will be planning your itinerary.

In this article, we dive into the ten most exotic places in California.

1. China Town

To get a taste of China, you don’t have to travel oceans away. Did you know that California has its own China Town? The fascinating neighbourhood is one of the most popular attractions and most picturesque areas in San Francisco.

Once you arrive, start your adventure by seeing the Dragon Gate, a gateway to modern Chinatown. At night, it becomes especially beautiful as the lights come on.

What makes China Town so magical is the history behind it. There, you will find the oldest Buddhist temple in the United States. But, even if you don’t go inside, the facade will enchant you with its beauty.  Amidst all the colors and lanterns, the Gothic Old St. Mary’s Cathedral may seem a bit odd but is also well worth the visit.

China Town is also the best place in California to try exotic foods. Whether it’s silky noodles of Shaanxi, boba tea, rice plates, dumplings, or spicy red peppers, your taste buds are in for an adventure. Currently, Jackson Street is considered the best pick for eating out since it offers diverse menus.

2. Lake Tahoe

The large lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is a spectacular sight to see. With its crystal clear waters and breathtaking mountain backdrop, it is the perfect travel destination for admirers of beauty. In fact, you’ll be surprised to discover the many shades of green-blue that exist!

On every corner, travelers will find many photo opportunities. Stop and smell the divine roses, go chasing waterfalls, or simply drive the winding roads, which offer mesmerizing views of the landscape. Then, stop by the nearby places like Meeks Bay, the Heavenly Village, and Zephyr Cove to have an even more magical experience.

3. Yosemite National Park

A true paradise for outdoorsy travelers, the Yosemite National Park is one of the most impressive destinations in the country. Just imagine – green forests, blooming meadows, spectacular lakes, giant sequoia groves, waterfalls, granite cliffs, and even glaciers on every step you turn.

It is difficult to fathom that so many different natural wonders can be seen in just one place. Within the park’s territory, you will find five waterfalls of 1000 feet and more. 

During the summer months, Yosemite gets packed with people who wish to experience its famous starry skies. In fact, curious travelers may even participate in guided astronomy walks. Those who prefer a more active way of exploring can join nighttime bike tours.

To soak in incredible vistas, plan a stop at Glacier Point. The viewpoint offers a stunning perspective of Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls.

4. Algodones Dunes

If you decide to visit the Algodones Dunes, it will feel like you’ve traveled to an entirely different planet. The largest dunes in the state of California are a real treat for the eyes. Taking up more than 26 000 acres of land, the sand formations are surprisingly remote and, therefore, such an attractive destination.

If you are looking for an exotic place in Southern California, this will be an excellent choice. Since there is an absence of light pollution and few crowds, it is the perfect place for astrotourism. Due to its dark night skies, stargazing will be a wonderful adventure. 

Even if you have never visited the area before, chances are you have seen the famous dunes in Hollywood films like Resident Evil and Star Wars. The eastern part of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area features soft, small dunes. However, on the west, you will find larger ones, which are believed to be around 15 000 to 18 000 years old.

5. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

Spotting wildflowers is possible in many places in California, but The Poppy Reserve is surely the dreamiest. The more than 1700-acre park of poppy-blanketed hills can be found near the city of Lancaster. But, to see the magnificent view in person, you will have to follow a couple of steps. 

Since you can spot the beautiful flowers for only a short period of time (when they are blooming), it is important to follow updates on their growth. Usually, in late March or early April, the magical moment has already passed. On the California State Parks website, adventurers may follow updates on bloom predictions. 

To experience the best views, some planning is required, but don’t let that stop you. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve really is one of the most majestic places to see California wildflowers in all of their glory!

6. Death Valley

As far as exotic places in California go, the lowest point in North America is definitely worth your attention. The valley of extremes is where the hottest temperature on Earth has been recorded (134° F),  so make sure to dress lightly. 

One of the most incredible points of Death Valley is Racetrack Playa, a dry lakebed where ‘sailing’ stones inscribe linear ‘racetrack’ imprints. 

The whole park is dotted with unusual ghost towns, rainbow-colored rocks, and impressive dunes. Due to its unobstructed landscape, Death Valley is another excellent stargazing location. If you can bear the hot temperature, visiting the park will be an experience unlike any other. Even just a drive through the incredible landscapes will give you a healthy thrill.

7. Big Sur

California has its fair share of fantastic beaches, but only a few come close to the beauty of Big Sur. The stunning coastline stretches over 90 miles and includes many fascinating sites and attractions. The highlight of the area is the famous McWay Falls, which flows straight into the Pacific Ocean. The 90-foot waterfall is a unique sight that you won’t see in many places around the world. 

While wandering around the area, don’t miss out on the opportunity to stop by Pfeiffer Beach – a mesmerizing shoreline with plum-colored that seems too beautiful to be true. Due to the erosion of garnet crystal, the sand turns into the unusual color. Also, don’t forget to check out the Bixby Bridge, which is known as one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges.

8. Napa Valley

While China Town takes you to China, visiting Napa Valley will feel like traveling to Tuscany. Set in Northern California, the valley is famed for its impeccable wineries. With more than 400 in the area, you can expect to see grapes on every corner you turn. 

To enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery to the fullest, embark on an adventure by heading on one of the many hiking trails. Classic architecture, gorgeous caves, towering castles, and incomparable sunsets – what is there not to love? 

Those who aren’t afraid of heights should consider seeing the area through a hot air balloon ride. The sky-high view really is the best!

9. Avenue of Giants

When is the last time you felt really small? While visiting the Avenue of Giants, you’ll understand how grand nature can really be. The one-of-a-kind 31-mile drive is located in Northern California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park. 

The famous route is home to 60% of the tallest trees in the world, most of which are Redwood trees. So soak in the rich greenery, admire the lush forest vegetation and take in the beauty of some of the oldest trees on the planet. As you drive through the avenue, you will be surrounded by Redwoods that are as high as some skyscrapers, making it a memorable adventure.

10. Santa Barbara

Once you visit Santa Barbara, you will never want to leave. Thanks to its laid back atmosphere, scenic views, and great cafes, it is an excellent destination for solo adventures, romantic getaways, and family vacations. Santa Barbara is known to be a favourite choice for many celebrities, so – if you’re lucky – you might even stumble upon your favourite actor or musician. 

The central California coast has the majestic Santa Ynez Mountains as a dramatic backdrop, so finding the perfect photo angle won’t be a big challenge. All around the city, you can see examples of the Spanish colonial heritage, which make it much more special. 

Santa Barbara also has some of the best vineyards in California. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Urban Wine Trail, which includes more than 30 wine bars. But if you aren’t a fan of the drink, observing the scenic vineyard views will be a treat itself!

So if you are looking for an exotic place to stay in California, Santa Barbara won’t disappoint. Plus – there are plenty of fabulous hotels and rentals to choose from in the American Riviera.

Feeling inspired for your next travel adventures?  After reading about the most exotic places in California, it would be difficult not to be. If you wish to experience the magic for yourself, you need a proper plan. Check out our guide on how to create a travel itinerary for your next vacation or business trip.

Jen Hong

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