The Grand Canyon, United States
A steep gorge by the Colorado River, Arizona in United States, this has the most enjoyable scenery. It is 277 miles in length, 4 to 18 miles in width and about a mile in depth. Scientists are of the opinion that the canyon has been created by the Colorado River over a six million year period.
Native Americans built settlements in the caves within the canyon before the emigration of Europeans. It was also considered to be a site of pilgrimage by the Pueblo people. The first recorded visit to the Grand Canyon by the Europeans was in 1869. Although, it is not the deepest canyon in the world, it is known for its extremely huge size and beautifully intricate landscape. The Grand Canyon National Park is said to be one of the first National Parks in the United States and attracts more than five million visitors a year. Weather conditions in the Grand Canyon vary a great deal between seasons as well as elevation. While winter snow is experienced by the higher elevated forested rims, the inner gorge has a desert temperature because of the low elevation.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
One of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia is the world’s largest coral reef. It has the distinction of being placed in the World Heritage as well as the National Heritage lists.
With more than 600 islands and coral cays, the reef covers more than 300,000 sq. km. Corals make up the several reefs and cays and are responsible for a huge variety of sea life in the reef; including green turtles, several varieties of whales and dolphins, dugong, about 4000 types of mollusk, 1500 different species of fish as well as a beautiful colored bird life with 200 species. The Great Reef Marine Park is a huge tourist attraction with more than a couple of million tourists visiting the area each year. Sporting includes activities such as reef sailing, scuba diving and snorkeling amongst several others.
Cape Town, South Africa
Aptly called “heaven on earth,” this beautiful town at the tip of the African continent, with small roads surrounded by huge mountains, makes a person feel small; showing how marvelous and dominating nature can actually be.
The Cape Dutch style buildings depict the architectural heritage of the place. Beauty abounds in the black clouds that seem to pay homage to Table Mountain at all times. Cape Point, Signal Hill, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Robben Island, Rhodes Memorial and the beaches are some of the famous tourist attractions. Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town is famous for its natural floral kingdom as well as its harbor. This town is one of the most popular tourist attractions of South Africa, with its wine tasting day trips, whale watching and dolphin watching.
Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal in India is one of the wonders of the world and is one of the most beautiful mausoleums constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Located in Agra, white marble is used in the creation of this symbol of love and is considered to be the pinnacle of the famous Mughal architecture.
Story goes that the emperor was grief stricken when he lost his beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It took several thousands of craftsmen, artisans and about twenty years to construct it. The masons, stonecutters, carvers, inlayers, calligraphers, painters and others were brought from the entire empire as well as from Iran and Central Asia. Semi-precious stones were used for inlay ornamentation. It later became the mausoleum of Shah Jahan too. This is a huge tourist attraction with one to two million tourists visiting it every year.
Canadian Rockies, Canada
The majestic Canadian Rockies are the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky mountains. They are a visitor’s wonderland and the playground for western Canada. They are older than the American Rockies and are formed from over thrusting.
The Canadian Rockies house five national parks, out of which four of them along with other provincial parks form a combination of a single UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of beautiful mountain landscapes, lakes, canyons, waterfalls, glaciers, peaks, limestone caves as well as fossils. Mount Robson is the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies and climbing it is considered a challenge. These beautiful mountains are a haven for hikers and walkers alike.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu in Peru, which means ‘Old Peak,” is one of the most enigmatic ancient sites in the world. According to legend, Machu Picchu was a long time ago considered to be a sacred place. The credit for the creation of the extraordinary city goes to the Inca people who have erected many stone structures and turned the place into an art form.
Two thousand feet above the Urubamba river, these ruins consist of baths, temples, palaces and about 150 houses, all very well preserved. These gray granite structures, some of which weigh more than 50 tons are so perfectly sculpted that they are nothing less than architectural genius. They were rediscovered by a Yale archaeologist in 1911. The ethereal beauty, the workmanship and history of the place attracts millions of tourists each year.
The Pyramids, Egypt
The Egyptian pyramids are massive monuments with a square base and four triangular sides rising up to a point. There was a lot of curiosity associated with the pyramids as to their formation, whether it was natural.
However, the Egyptians started constructing them after 2700 B.C. and were built as tombs for the Pharaohs. The most well-known and the largest pyramids of Egypt are the Pyramids at Giza which are said to be the largest ever built, and the Great Pyramid at Giza took 23 years to complete for about a work force of 30,000. About 118 pyramids have been identified and are very popular with people from all over the world.
Described by the UNESCO as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage, Petra is an archeological site on the slope of Mount Hor. It is one of the new wonders of the world and is famous for its rock cut architecture.
This site was kept hidden till 1812 when it was discovered by a Swiss explorer. It was said to have been prepared by God for the Jewish people. Petra once flourished under the Roman empire but a rapid decline began with the Arabian trade being taken elsewhere. Then an earthquake caused a lot of destruction. Tourists throng the place to get a glimpse of the ruins of this beautiful city.
Great Wall of China, China
One of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China is a man-made structure that was constructed over two thousand years ago and took about 100 years to complete. The vastness of this project brings to light the immense capabilities of man.
The constructions started in the 5th Century B.C. It is actually many walls put together and stretches over 4,000 miles and was constructed to protect the Chinese Empire from the Xiongnu people in the north. The wall was initially built of stone, grass, earth and wood, but bricks were used once the production started. It is believed that about 2-3 million Chinese died as part of this project.
The Iguazu Waterfalls, Argentina-Brazil Border
Heralded as the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, the Iguazu Waterfalls are a true wonder of nature. They are located at the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. While the Argentinean side allows visitors to walk right around the water or explore the National Park; the Brazilian side is known for its panoramic views and splendor.
First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, upon seeing these falls is claimed to have exclaimed “poor Niagara.” The area of the falls provides ample opportunities for rock climbing as well as water sports. Iguazu has the distinction of having the greatest annual flow when compared to any other falls in the world.
With all these and many more beautiful places that exist in our world, we are lost for choice and the only way to decide on the places to visit is to follow the heart. While some may love the tranquility of water, others may bury themselves deep in the architectural miracles or the serenity of a small town.