Over the course of billions of years, Earth has shaped up some astonishing sights that can’t be labeled as anything but “wonders.” These wonders are of many types, categorized by certain criteria. Even though humankind can definitely pride itself on being responsible for some truly incredible constructions, Mother Nature remains the best sculptor. Scattered all over the globe, the 10 World’s Most Astonishing Natural Wonders are definitely destinations that anyone should have on their bucket list.
1. The Grand Canyon
There isn’t one person that hasn’t heard about the Grand Canyon before. Not just Arizona’s trademark, it’s one of the most visited tourist attractions in the United States. With a length of 277 miles (446 km) and a width of 18 miles (29 km), this rocky landform gained its unique appearance as a result of millions of years during which the Colorado River has been digging its course through layers of stone. It was considered to be holy land by many Native American tribes, including the Pueblo people, who held pilgrimages in it.
2. The Great Barrier Reef
Located in the Coral Sea near Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is considered by CNN as one of the Seven Wonders of the World – for good reason, too. The coral reef can be seen from outer space, as it’s the biggest living organism structure on Earth. It became a World Heritage Site in 1981 and ever since numerous organizations are trying to protect it against climate change and coral bleaching. In 2012, it was revealed that the reef lost in the last thirty years more than half of its initial corals.
3. Mount Everest
The tallest peak in the world is located in the heart of the Himalayan mountain system, bordering Nepal, Tibet, and China. It became the biggest dream of any professional climber. However, the dire conditions resulted from altitude take the lives of those that try to conquer it yearly. The first people to reach Everest’s top were Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.
Auroras are nature’s best spectacle of lights. Caused by a reaction between solar waves and magnetic fields, they can be seen around the extreme poles of the Earth. Depending on their location, there are two types of auroras: aurora borealis (also known as the northern lights), and aurora australis (also known as the southern lights). The latter can be seen forming in areas such as Antarctica, New Zealand, and Australia. Moreover, Earth isn’t the only one that benefits from spectacular displays of light: other planets’ skies are also lit up by auroras.
5. Iguazu Falls
A system of waterfalls positioned on the border between Argentina and Brazil, the Iguazu Falls are astonishing through their sheer massiveness. While most waterfalls average around 64 meters in length, the Iguazu Falls reach an impressive 700 meters. An old myth says that they were formed by a deity that was so upset his lover ran away on the river with her mortal lover, he split the water in two and condemned the couple to an infinite fall. The biggest attraction of the waterfalls is Devil’s Throat, a narrow chasm shaped like an U.
It may be surprising that a volcano managed to land a spot on this list, but Paricutin isn’t just any volcano. What makes it stand out is the fact that its whole life cycle, from birth to extinction, has been witnessed and documented by humans. First emerging from the cornfields of a local farmer in 1943, it became a topic of interest for many scientists worldwide. Even though today’s Paricutin is extinct, the forces that led to its birth sometimes still quake the Earth. The volcano is a common recurrence on many lists and versions of the Natural Wonders of the World.
7. Jeju Island
Also known as Jeju Province or Jejudo, it’s the biggest island in Korea and the smallest province. There are many wonderful things about this idyllic location, including the fact that its secluded position resulted in a civilization that developed its own language and culture. The people of Jejudo are famous for the matriarchal system governing their society. Back in the day, women made roughly 60% of the island’s profit from free diving. They would dive in cold waters without any scuba gears with the purpose of harvesting various marine products. Jeju Island is the home of South Korea’s tallest mountain, which is also a dormant volcano.
8. Table Mountain
A fascinating looking mountain with a completely flat peak, Table Mountain became a landmark of Cape Town, South Africa. Many tourists are drawn to this wonderful landform on a yearly basis, preferring to get to the top either by hiking or using the cableway. Table Mountain is considered to be one of the New Wonders of the World.
9. Puerto Princesa Underground River
North of the Philippine city of Puerto Princesa lies a true paradise corner. Also known as the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, it became a protected area that’s been managed by the government since 1992. Their goal is to try and preserve the natural, raw beauty of the area. During a 2010 expedition, several journeys led to the discovery that the river has a second floor, something that hinted at an alleged existence of a waterfall system. Moreover, the national park houses one of the most complex cave systems in the world.
10. Ha Long Bay
Exhibiting thousands of islets and limestone karsts, Ha Long Bay is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as a highly popular tourist destination. Due to the fairly isolated location of the bay, much of the area has remained unaffected by human intervention. Formations in its composition are the result of over 500 million years of evolution. Also, historical research has shown that pre-historical humans may have inhabited this area.
Our world is big and spectacular. Many of the entries on this list aren’t generally well known, but perhaps in years to come, they will become as famous as the occupants of the first three spots on the list. I’m certain that, despite everything, there are still countless wonders we don’t know much about. These were the 10 World’s Most Astonishing Natural Wonders… at the moment.