Choosing the best marathon to run is like picking a flavor of ice cream at your favorite ice cream shop. You can go with something super popular, a tried-and-true classic like vanilla or something more adventurous and unique sounding like coffee cookie crumble. There are so many choices, and while they may all look so good, you can only get one flavor at a time.
Bringing it back to running, most runners can only safely train for about two marathons a year, depending on fitness levels, goals, experience, and health as a runner; therefore, you have to be choosy about the marathons you decide to run.
You can go with a big city marathon, the vanilla ice cream, so to speak; something you know will be well-organized and well-attended but not necessarily scenic. Or, you might want one of the most beautiful marathons in the world, the exotic coffee cookie crumble marathon.
Running a scenic marathon may not necessarily equate to the fastest time, as many of the most picturesque marathon courses are quite hilly, but you can almost guarantee that the 26.2-mile race will fly by because you will be so enraptured by the gorgeous scenery along the course.
So, what are the most beautiful marathons in the world? The short answer is that it would be absolutely impossible to make a definitive list with all of the amazing places around the world to run.
Every continent has some stunning marathon courses, making the list of scenic marathons endless. However, we’ve chosen some of the best of the best and reviewed them below.
Get ready to find some inspiration for your next marathon training cycle! Keep reading to see our picks for some of the most beautiful marathons in the world.
#1: Dingle Marathon, Ireland
The Dingle Marathon takes place around the gorgeous Dingle peninsula. The marathon course is beloved for the breathtaking scenery as it winds along the beautiful rugged coastline, with some areas affording magnificent views of the Blasket islands.
Over 17 miles of the course is right along the sea. The route also takes you through idyllic villages and historical sites.Once you have run through the cute village of Ballyferriter, you are treated to special views of Murreagh before tackling some grueling hills.
Though you’ll be panting after this extremely tough section, your work will be rewarded with sweeping views of the entire landscape. It’s by no means an easy course, but it’s absolutely one of the most scenic and most beautiful marathons in the world.
#2: Jungfrau Marathon
You probably won’t get a PR on this tough marathon course; after all, the race is mostly uphill. In fact, the finish is nearly two kilometers higher than the starting point.
However, during the Jungfrau Marathon, runners are rewarded with stunning views of Switzerland’s Alpine nature, including the picturesque snow-capped mountains such as Jungfrau and Morich and the impressive Elger Glacier.
One of the reasons this is often voted one the most beautiful marathons in the world has to do with the sweeping vistas of the mountains, but also the diversity in the landscape you will get to enjoy over the 26.2 miles.
For example, you also get to see the pristine Lake Brienz and lush vegetation along the route between the stars in Interlochen and the finish line in Kleine Scheidegg.
#3: The Gold Coast Marathon, Australia
Many of the lists of the most beautiful marathons in the world include Australia’s stunning Gold Coast Marathon.
The route meanders around the beautiful coastline, giving you picturesque views of the azure ocean.
#4: Australian Outback Marathon, Australia
Although the Gold Coast Marathon is often the pick for Australia’s most beautiful marathon, the Australian Outback Marathon is certainly a veritable rival.
Runners can enjoy stunning rock formations (such as the famous Uluru and Kata Tjuta rock formations!), sacred aboriginal sites, azure open skies, and the soft red earth upon which you will run during this nature lover’s marathon.
#5: The Schneider Electric Marathon, Paris, France
Although many of the most beautiful marathons in the world take place in the mountains, countryside, or along the coast, you can also find very scenic city marathons.
One great thing about this marathon is that unlike most of the other bucket list marathons on this list, the course is relatively flat and very beginner-friendly.
The Paris Marathon has a rich history, with its inaugural run dating all the way back to 1896. You certainly won’t be alone for any long stretches like some of the other unique marathons on this list, as the Paris marathon has over 40,000 participants sharing the course with you.
You’ll get to enjoy urban and historic sites, Paris’ emblematic monuments, as well as charming neighborhoods, and a surprising amount of lush green landscape of the Bois de Vincennes.
The marathon starts on the Champs-Élysées, with the backdrop of the iconic Arc de Triomphe. Some of the course highlights include the Place de la Concorde, Rue de Rivoli, Opéra Garnier, the Hôtel de Ville, banks of the Seine, Notre-Dame de Paris, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Eiffel Tower.
#6: The Great Wall of China Marathon, China
One of the most beautiful marathons in the world is the Great Wall of China Marathon. This exotic and demanding course takes place on the famous Great Wall.
Runners have to ascend 5,164 steps of the Great Wall of China and then descend the steps to journey through the rice fields and traditional villages along the route. If you love ancient history and want a truly beautiful but grueling marathon course, this is one of the most unique marathons to add to your bucket list.
#7: Big Sur International Marathon, California, USA
The Big Sur International Marathon is known for its sweeping ocean views, and cliffside course and is often dubbed the “most beautiful marathon in the USA.”
The challenging course travels along the gorgeous Pacific Ocean coastline in Northern California, beginning among the giant Redwoods in Big Sur and then meandering along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Runners ascend five tough hills at the start of the route and climb another 13 hills near the end, but there are unique entertainers along the way, such as the Taiko drummers at the base of Hurricane Point and a grand piano player at Bixby Bridge. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
#8: Patagonian International Marathon, Chile
If you don’t mind a bit of adventure and want a true bucket list marathon, one of the most beautiful marathons in the world is undoubtedly the Patagonian International Marathon in Chile.
The course meanders through the breathtaking landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park, giving you vistas of aquamarine waters that look like they have been painted in a fantasy book rather than created by nature, towering peaks of the impressive mountains, and pristine, shimmering glaciers.
Another cool feature of this scenic marathon is the eco-friendly bend to the race. Instead of receiving a medal, marathon finishers get a tree planted in their name to improve the health of the planet. How cool is that!?
You are also encouraged to carry your own water bottle to reduce plastic waste.
#9: Mount Desert Island Marathon, Maine, USA
The Mount Desert Island Marathon in Bar Harbor, ME, may likely be one of the most scenic marathons in the USA, featuring coastal views, stunning fall foliage, and quaint New England towns.
It’s very well organized, and runners often rave about the awesome “Crusher Claw” medals.
#10: Midnight Sun Marathon, Norway
True to its name, the Midnight Sun Marathon in Tromsø, Norway, is run at night because, at the latitude of the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set at night from May 20 to June 22.
Much of the course is along the coastline, with lovely views of the Norwegian sea on one side and snow-capped peaks on the other. You get to cross a bridge over the Norwegian Sea and also can enjoy views of the Tromsdalen (the famous Arctic cathedral) while sharing the course with about 6,000 other enthusiast marathon runners.
#11: The Kauai Marathon, Hawaii, USA
It’s hard to argue with a marathon in Hawaii earning a place on the list of the most beautiful marathons in the world.
The Kauai Marathon follows the coastline of Hawaii’s fourth biggest island, offering jaw-dropping views of the ocean and beaches, along with the lush green rainforests, foggy Omao, ancient Tunnel of Trees in the wilderness, and rocky volcanic peaks.
It’s like a moving postcard for 26.2 miles.
What marathons have you run? Which marathons are on your bucket list? Let us know!
If you want to run a marathon in the United States, we also have a list of the 11 Best Marathons in the USA (+ 11 honorable mentions) for you to check out.
And what about half marathons? Here is our list of the 12 Best Half Marathons in the USA + 9 Honorable Mentions.