Community created Minecraft builds (opens in new tab) continue to blow people's minds, and a new map built by user qwryzu is another impressive example of what's possible with a lot of blocks. The build is called 'Vales of Amoril' and is a custom continent map complete with snowy mountains, dense forests, winding rivers, and lush valleys. The level of detail that qwryzu has put into the build is astonishing, I had to do a double-take to make sure it wasn't a photograph.
On their Planet Minecraft page (opens in new tab), qwryzu explains that the build took them four months of work, and plenty of practice through the other smaller maps they've created. They use the usual software for Minecraft building—World Machine and World Painter—but include the detail that all the rivers were created by hand, which is impressive considering the patience involved.
The map can be downloaded and played for free, so I jumped in for a quick look. I zoomed around the snowy peaks and followed a twisting river for a while, and sure enough, if you fly high enough it really does look like a photograph.
Building realistic landscapes in Minecraft is a lot more difficult than it seems. Making things look naturalistic is the hardest part, the cragginess of mountains, the curve of streams, trying to visualise the layout of a forest, but qwryzu has done a wonderful job. I might jump back in later with some realistic Minecraft shaders (opens in new tab) turned on. Here are some more screenshots to feast your eyes on.