Have you ever made a special trip to see one of Virginia’s spectacular sites and thought you may have been dreaming? Or stumbled upon a breathtaking vision of nature that seemed too beautiful to be real? If you live in Virginia, chances are this happens quite often. You might argue that Virginians have a high tolerance for beauty, being surrounded by such diverse landscapes. However, this luxury is never one we take for granted. It’s frequently celebrated, and these 11 places seem especially exquisite. Be sure to take a camera with you, because you might not be able to believe your own eyes.
1. Great Dismal Swamp
The Great Dismal Swamp Refuge is home to the Chesapeake's Lake Drummond, one of only two natural lakes in the entire state. In August 2011, there was a tragic wildfire that devastated much of the wildlife in the area. This happened due to lightning strikes hitting dry land. Fortunately, much has grown back and the area still retains much of its ethereal beauty.
2. Luray Caverns
It'd be difficult to get used to the majestic beauty of Luray Caverns, or any of the Virginia cavern systems for that matter. A visit to the caverns may be one of the most unearthly experiences you'll have on the East Coast. The tours are informative and engaging, and you'll enjoy the refreshingly cool temperatures of being underground. The rock formations, known as stalactites and stalagmites, are truly mesmerizing. Be sure to toss a coin into the Wishing Pond for an even dreamier experience.
3. Mabry Mill
Mabry Mill is an idyllic vision located in Floyd Virginia, off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The historic watermill continues to function and visitors can enjoy its products in the form of delicious cornmeal, grits, and buckwheat flower. The National Parks Service conducts live demonstrations of blacksmithing, spinning, and other activities from the time period when the gristmill was built.
4. Great Falls Park
Great Falls Park is approximately 400 miles of pristine land operated by the National Parks Service. The Potomac River is the main attraction of the park, which includes waterfalls so gorgeous they seem unreal. This beautiful shot captures the morning mist and a beautiful sunrise at Great Falls. Those that live in DC benefit frequently take advantage of this incredible escape from city life. There are plenty of trails and water activities to engage in, but you might spend a majority of your time just marveling at the waterfall.
5. Light of Truth Universal Shrine
The Light of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) is a temple dedicated to many faiths and spiritual paths of the world. The temple was dedicated in 1986 and resides in the scenic countryside of Buckingham, Virginia. You might hear the area referred to as "Yogaville" due to the retreats held here. All year round, the temple is open for Noon Meditation, which takes place from 12 pm - 12:30 pm.
6. Fairy Stone State Park
Fairy Stone is a pristine state park that features an impressive 168-acre lake connecting to the Philpott Reservoir. The small pebbles, known as Fairy Stones, are what make the state park so enchanting. They have somewhat of a cross shape and are "hunted" by many of the park goers as tokens of their visit.
7. Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
Anyone who has visited Richmond's Lewis Ginter can attest that it is one of the loveliest botanical gardens in the entire country. Patrick Henry once owned these 9-acre grounds until they were purchased by Lewis Ginter himself in 1895. Today, its landmark is the incredible 11,000 square foot glass temple. The gardens offer educational classes, children's programs and many tours. Currently on exhibit is the magical butterfly room, where visitors can interact with these delicate creatures.
8. Natural Chimneys
Natural Chimneys are spectacular rock formations located in a state park which is named after them near Mt. Solon. These structures are formed from limestone that accumulated and eventually began to form solid stone over 500 million years ago. The land was actually under water at this time, until intense pressure that formed the Appalachian Mountains caused this dramatic upheaval. Over time, weaker layers of stone eroded away and what is left we now know as the chimneys. They loom up to 150 feet over ground level, and are quite a wonder to behold.
9. The Devil's Bathtub
Devil's Bathtub is a spectacular naturally-formed swimming pool that can be accessed by the Devil's Fork Loop Trail in Scott County. While the trail is over 7 miles long, fortunately you'll only have to go a little over a mile before you reach the swimming hole. It's one of the most beautiful places to cool off if you're in need of an escape from the summer heat.
10. High Knob Scenic Tower
While the tower itself is an impressive structure, the true beauty of Virginia's observation tower in Norton is the view. In fact, from this vantage point, visitors are able to see 4 states: Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee. One of the most magical times to go is during sunset, when you can admire the gorgeous colors framing miles of mountains that stretch before you.
11. Burke's Garden
Burke's Garden in Tazewell is often referred to as "God's Thumbprint," because it is the highest valley in the state. Surrounded by mountains, this pastoral haven feels like something out of an enchanted storybook. The land itself is some of the most fertile for farming and it has been designated as a National and Virginia Rural Historical District. Visitors can enjoy biking along the beautiful scenic roads.
Whether it’s a natural scene or a manmade wonder, there are some places in our state that seem too beautiful to be real. If you make the trip out to any of these places, you’ll be happy you did. What are the places that come to mind when you think of out-of-this-world beauty in our state? We’d love if you’d share with us!