Posted on 29 June 2009.
Thousands of incredible natural wonders are available to travelers all over the world thanks to Mother Nature. Vast canyons, giant mountains and vibrant ocean scenery are found all over the globe.
Hopefully you’ll be able to see some of these spectacular sights during your lifetime. And if you’re wondering where to start, try visiting the top 7 Natural Wonders of the World.
Here you’ll find a little information about those wonders and a picture to help you envision your trip.
What are the qualifications of a natural wonder?
The primary qualification is that a wonder of nature is just that completely natural. For example, Mount Rushmore involves the splendor of a beautiful mountain peak, but it is the manipulation of that mountain creating the facial carvings that make it such a wonder. It would not qualify. Additionally, a natural wonder needs to be statistically and/or naturally unique. Statistical factors that come into play may include characteristics such as height, width, and volume – but the focus is on unique wonder, beauty and amazement.
Natural Wonder #1: Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is located in Arizona, USA and is mostly situated within the Grand Canyon National Park. The canyon itself is 277 miles long and 4 to 18 miles wide in certain areas. This massive ravine was etched into the natural landscape by the Colorado River.
If hiking is your obsession, there are many choices for exploration from traditional hikes to extended backpacking trips. If you’re looking for something more unique, try riding on the back of a mule or take a ride down the white water on a rafting trip. Of course, the enormity of the canyon can only be truly appreciated with a helicopter tour.
Travel Guide: Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide: Grand Canyon National Park
Natural Wonder #2: The Great Barrier Reef
Consisting of over 2,900 separate reefs and over 900 islands, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the biggest coral reef system on the planet. At over 1,600 miles it can even be seen from outer space. One of the most diverse ecosystems in the world is supported by the great reef system and to truly get a good view of the vibrant fish, coral and marine life you should expect to get wet. Through the lens of a snorkel or dive mask, you’ll have a personal encounter with the local sea life that will put you in awe of Mother Nature.
Travel Guide: Lonely Planet Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef (Regional Travel Guide)
Natural Wonder #3: Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
Found in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro is surrounded by stunning mountains with unique formations. Traveling to the tops of the nearby mountains and overlooking the harbor will be one of your best bets to see the beauty of the harbor. The best time to visit the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro and avoid the humidity is during the months of September and October. Rio de Janeiro actually translated means “river of January” in Portuguese. Getting to the harbor is going to be simple as Rio de Janeiro is the largest and most popular city in Brazil.
Travel Guide: Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro (City Travel Guide)
Natural Wonder #4: Himalaya Mountains
Located in the Himalaya Mountains on the border between Nepal and Tibet, Mount Everest, also known as Chomolungma, is the highest spot in the world at 29,029 feet. If you are an adventurer at heart, you’ll probably want to make the trek to see Mount Everest and hike to the base of the mountain.
If you are an advanced hiker and have $28,000 USD to purchase a climbing permit, you’ll most likely prefer to climb to the upper base camp. If you prefer a more comfortable and relaxed visit, try taking a guided flight around the mountain.
Now trying to visit at the best time is more difficult to plan. You want to go when it’s not snowing. The best time to discover Mount Everest is at the start of the dry season in October and November, or at the end between February and April.
Natural Wonder #5: Northern Lights
The Auroras, or Northern Lights, are naturally occurring lights that create fascinating and extravagant displays in the sky. The aurora lights frequently appear as diffused glow lighting up the horizon. The most remarkable sight is when the northern lights appear as waves across the sky; it is almost as if the lights are dancing.
The best place to see the Northern lights is to travel up to the Northern Hemisphere. And you stand the best chance of witnessing the dancing lights March through April and September through October.
Travel Guide: Northern Lights (Bradt Travel Guide)
This image courtesy of Raphael Kessler.
Natural Wonder #6: Paricutin Volcano
Having last erupted in 1952, the Paricutin Volcano in Michoacán, Mexico is the youngest cinder cone volcano in America. Its birth was witnessed by a human and therefore, it was established as a natural wonder.
To best see Paricutin, try to take the 12 mile round trip journey to the top of the volcano through the strenuous hike or by horseback. The volcano is located about 200 miles West of Mexico City and is surrounded by lava fields and sandy banks. On your way up you’ll pass buried village homes and a church. Paricutin can be explored at any time of the year, but if you wish to avoid the rainy season don’t plan on visiting from May through September.
Natural Wonder #7: Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is found in southern Africa and is the largest waterfall based on width (one mile wide) and height (360 feet high). It’s protected by two national parks; Zambia and Zimbabwe. From the Zimbabwean side of the falls, visitors have the ability to see approximately 80% of the falls as compared to onlyabout 25 to 30% from the Zambian side.
Visitors have the choice between two very unique and distinctive views of the falls. The first is a foot path that will put you at eye level of the falls. As soon as you enter the park and view the magnificence of the falls, you’ll understand the name, “smoke that thunders” when you witness the vapor rising and hear the water pounding. This is an essential way to experience Victoria Falls.
The other way, and possibly one of the best, to see the falls is to take a microlite (small two person motorized aircraft) or helicopter tour over the falls. There are two seasons for the Victoria Falls area; the rainy and dry seasons. Late November to early April is when to expect the rainy season, and while most think this would be a perfect time to visit you’ll miss out on some of the most scenic views. The islets and rocky faces of the base of the falls is only visible during the dry months.
Travel Guide: Victoria Falls: The Complete Destination Guide
Conclusion: The Natural Wonders
The natural wonders of the world should top everyone’s list of places to visit. You should take the time now as they might not be around tomorrow. Especially with the natural disasters, like earthquakes, and man-made natural catastrophes, like oil spills, it’s unclear how long these wonders of the natural world will last.