While nature and its beauty are everywhere around us, there are some natural sites truly majestic and breathtaking. Seven Natural Wonders – an organization set up with the mission of protecting and promoting natural wonders of the world – has compiled this list of awe-inspiring seven natural wonders of the world. This is distinct from the New 7 manmade wonders of the world.
Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
– Hans Christian Andersen
I have visited 2 of these natural wonders on my travels and I write about a family trip experience to the popular Grand Canyon later in the post. For the other natural wonders, I reached out to Travel Experts to write about their experiences at these breathtaking sites including a friend who scaled the heights on this planet by reaching the Mount Everest summit!
Aurora Borealis / Northern Lights
A wonder that will make you laugh, cry, and feel like a small spec in a large, beautiful, wonderful world, and that is just looking at the pictures. If you are lucky enough to experience them in person, there is nothing to really compare it to.
Unlike the other natural wonders, the Northern Lights can be experienced from several locations across the world. Here are 2 such experiences from Canada and Iceland.
The Northern Lights in Canada
Growing up in rural Saskatchewan Canada, I have been experiencing the northern lights since I was a little girl. It’s not until about 10 years ago that I started capturing them with my camera – watching weather forecasts, joining other aurora hunters on the quest, driving out to the middle of nowhere in the night. Some epic nights and memories to go along with them.
The northern lights are visible all year long. It’s just because daylight hours are so few in winter, and you need it to be dark, that winter is the best time to view them. I don’t know the exact science, but solar flares from the sun are what causes the northern lights to happen. Which also means that it’s a bit of a guessing game as to when or if you will see them. I have gone out on nights that nothing has happened, and nights where they were out in all their majesty for all of 10 minutes, to nights where they are out for hours dancing across the sky in every direction you can possibly look.
Few things you can do to maximize your chances –
- Get an Aurora forecast app, my favorite is called Aurora Forecast. This will show you where the aurora will be visible. The app will also show you the KP index, which is how they measure the solar flares coming into the atmosphere, the higher the number the brighter and more spectacular they will be. It will also give you a time frame when it will be the most active.
- Get out of the city. You need to be away from light pollution to see the northern lights. Hop in your car and take a drive out in the country. The darker the better. Make sure to dress warmly if you are going in winter, it gets cold out there just standing around waiting for things to happen. And turn OFF your car. Your headlights and even dash lights can impede you from seeing the lights.
- Search Facebook for a local Aurora hunters’ group or photography group. They usually know when and where are the best spots around to view them.
It might sound like a lot of work for a little payoff, but let me assure you, it is well worth the effort, and missed sleep. Standing there under the dancing lights is an experience you will never forget.
Contributed by Denise Mayree | Denise’s Photography website
The Northern Lights in Iceland
Watching the northern lights in Iceland was an extraordinary experience. We stayed at one of the campsites in Reykjavik and planned to go to the city center. Suddenly, I saw the green light in the sky. The Aurora was so strong, that it was visible even from the city.
We quickly took the car and drove along the Ring Road to stay out of the city lights and have a better view. It was a bucket list experience for us and we managed to see Aurora a few more times during our 7-days in Iceland.
Watching the Northern Lights is one of the many activities that you can do in Iceland. There are a lot of tours that can take you for Aurora Hunting, but if you want to organize it by yourself, the best way to visit the country is to rent a car and go on a road trip around Iceland. This allows you to have the freedom to explore top sights, as well as Iceland off the beaten path. You can cover the Golden Circle, visit wild hot springs, drive close to the glacier and hike on the volcanoes. And at night, you can camp under the stars and look out for Aurora.
If you are visiting Iceland in summer, do look at this Iceland Ring Road Itinerary in 12 days.
Contributed by Aga at Worldeing Around
Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The city of Rio de Janeiro is blessed with a gorgeous natural setting. A safe harbor with white sand beaches, surrounding by hills – it is simply breathtaking to visit the city for its landscape and vistas alone.
The unique culture of Rio de Janeiro revolves around its natural setting. After all, the city center is right next to two of the most famous beaches in the world – Ipanema and Copacabana on Rio de Janeiro’s Harbor. Beach volleyball and sunbathing are the most popular activities here. Everywhere you look, you’ll see laid-back beachgoers wearing Speedos, bikinis, and thongs – even beyond the beach boundaries. It’s definitely interesting viewing!
The indigenous culture of Rio de Janeiro is dedicated to these waters. As part of Brazilian New Year’s Eve tradition in Rio de Janeiro, offerings are meant to honor Yemanja, the African Goddess of the Sea. As the tradition goes, you must wear white clothing while attending the world-famous New Year’s Eve Celebration on Copacabana Beach!
Some of the hills surrounding the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro are definitely worth exploring. The highlight is the granite peak of Corcovado Mountain. There, you’ll find the massive Christ the Redeemer statue, overlooking Guanabara Bay and the Rio harbor. Another place worth mentioning is Sugarloaf Mountain, where you can take a scenic gondola ride. The view from the top is unforgettable – you will appreciate Rio de Janeiro’s beauty the most from here. Adventure-seekers should head to the peak of Pedro Bonita, another hilltop overlooking the harbor. If you’re looking for a thrill, strap yourself to a hand-glider and run off the platform at the top of the hill for an experience that you won’t forget.
Contributed by Halef and Michael at The Round The World Guys
Grand Canyon, USA
A visit to the Grand Canyon South Rim
Visiting the Grand Canyon in Arizona, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world was high on my wishlist and I am glad it got covered on a family trip to the US west coast. With over 200 miles in length and over 1 mile deep, maybe ‘covered’ is the wrong word to be used 🙂
The vastness of the Grand Canyon is on show from a large number of viewpoints. We visited several of these viewpoints at the South Rim. And if you add the beauty of the sunrise or the sunset colors warming the rocks shaped over the past millions of years, the experience is wondrous. I have visited Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon, on a road trip in Namibia. But the Grand Canyon is something else.
We stayed at a hotel within the Grand Canyon National Park for a couple of nights. I highly recommend that over a day trip to the Canyon. The overnight stay allows you on see the glowing star-studded night and chase the dawn to see the sun rays hit the rocks and turn them golden. Since even the shortest hike would have been too much for my daughter, we took a 3-hour bike tour to see the best viewpoints of Grand Canyon South Rim. It was easy to bike this 5.5-mile long route and turned out to be a family-fun experience.
Contributed by Shweta at Zest In A Tote
Hiking the Bright Angel Trail
Hiking down into the Grand Canyon gives you a different perspective on this natural wonder. The most popular hike below the rim is the Bright Angel Trail. The complete hike is not to be taken lightly – it is 8 miles from the south rim to river and another 2 miles to the Bright Angel Campsite and Phantom Ranch cabins, with a total elevation change of 4,400 feet/ 1,340 meters. It takes about 6 hours one way, and it’s impossible to do the full hike down to the Colorado River and back to the rim in one day.
Many people do part of the hike only – because it is so physically challenging and getting reservations at the bottom is difficult – and this is equally rewarding. The hike starts with a gentle slope and this first section is good for young children. However, it soon starts to get steeper and after passing through the second of two tunnels cut into the canyon wall, the going starts to get really steep. There are 4 major switchbacks on the trail, and 3 of them are in the first half of the hike. The 1.5 Mile Resthouse is a commonplace to turn back – there are great views from here, and you definitely get a sense of the being in the canyon.
If you have more stamina, climb down another steep switchback to Three Mile Resthouse. This is another popular place to turn back. It’s possible to continue on down the third major switchback to Indian Garden, the half-way point, and the final turnback point for day hikes. There is a natural spring here and some remains of ancient Native American ruins, as well as a campground and picnic tables. It’s a nice shady spot for a picnic lunch. If you have reservations at the bottom of the canyon, continue on down to the river. This second half is easier going and eventually, the river comes into view and the trail flattens out. Being in the canyon, surrounded by the walls towering above you really gives you a feeling for the grandeur of this place.
Contributed by James Ian at Parks Collecting
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is a 2,300km long ecosystem composed by thousands of barrier reefs and hundreds of islands, which is also home to over 600 types of hard and soft corals and countless species of fish, turtles, sharks and more. It’s the largest living being on Earth.
Great Barrier Reef from Cairns
Out of the seven natural wonders of the world that I’ve seen the Great Barrier Reef is the one that impressed me the most. Being so huge there are plenty of opportunities and areas of the Great Barrier Reef that you can visit. The most visited and popular part of the GBR is in front of Cairns. Cairns is also known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and you will find numerous tours that will pick you up from your hotel and take you out at sea where you can scuba dive or snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef.
There are so many companies that offer tours to the Great Barrier Reef that you can really customize your experience, from a one-day trip with hundreds of other people to an overnight live-aboard boat all to yourself. We did a one-day trip but if you can I would recommend doing a live-aboard experience since you will be able to spend more time seeing the reef.
On the one-day tour we got picked up from our hotel at 7:30AM and returned at 6PM, but only spent 2 hours in the water. The cruise out to the GBR takes several hours, where the guides onboard give you explanations about the local flora and fauna and teach you the basics of scuba diving or snorkeling. While it’s fun to learn more about the GBR and socialize with other fellow travelers I would have preferred to spend longer on the Great Barrier Reef. This is definitely one of the more amazing places to visit in your lifetime.
Contributed by Greta Omoboni at Greta’s Travels
Great Barrier Reef from The Whitsundays
The World’s largest living organism – the Great Barrier Reef – is so vast that it stretches over 2,300 km. Whilst the majority of people visiting the reef go to the North, those who visit the Southern section will often have a quieter experience.
Our favorite base for visiting the reef is around The Whitsundays, a collection of paradise islands that are only a couple of hours by boat from the outer Great Barrier Reef. Heading to the outer reef will allow you to explore more pristine sections of coral. The Whitsunday Islands are the perfect base for exploring the nearby Hardy Reef, a great place for divers and snorkelers to get up close to the coral and colorful fish that characterize the Great Barrier Reef. It is also a top spot to see turtles and if you hang around long enough you will likely see at least one. If you want more adventure, you can even sleep overnight on a pontoon on the reef, seeing the incredible stars at night and waking up to the peace and tranquillity of the reef at sunrise.
However, we’d argue that the best way to understand the scale of the Great Barrier Reef is from the air. If you take a helicopter or small plane you can cover a great distance, including the chance to see the famous heart reef, endless coral formations and the stunning passage between Block Reef and Circular Quay Reef. It is one of the most spectacular flights in the world.
If that wasn’t enough, then you can check out one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches – Whitehaven. This huge beach has powder-fine sand that is so white that it doesn’t ever get hot, no matter how intense the sun is. Don’t miss the spectacular view of Hill Inlet from Tongue Point, a short 10-minute walk from the beach, best visited at low tide. Getting to the Whitsundays is straight-forward as you can fly from most major Australian cities to Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach (on the mainland). Most people choose to stay on Hamilton Island, but there are many smaller islands too if you have more time.
Contributed by Cat Smith at Walk My World
At 29,035 feet above sea level – the altitude at which commercial airplanes fly, the summit of Mt Everest is no place for humans. With winds blowing at hurricane speeds, temperatures as low as -60 deg C , and atmospheric oxygen at one-third of sea level, it is no wonder that this altitude is called the ‘Death Zone’.
Everest Base Camp (EBC)
Standing at the bottom of the highest mountain on earth is an awe-inspiring experience and one that will be tough to beat. For people of a reasonable level of fitness, it is completely achievable and doesn’t have to cost a fortune either! The hike to Everest Base Camp takes you on a journey through the beautiful Khumbu Valley. The mountain views get more spectacular with every day, as the forest gives way to rock and glacier. This trek is definitely about the journey, not just the destination!
We completed the trek in late May, and would really recommend this time of year as the rhododendron forests are in full bloom, with sweeping reds and yellows covering the valley. There are also fewer people on the trail when compared with ‘high’ season too.
Getting to the start of the trek involves a short flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. The trek up to base camp itself takes approximately 8 days including acclimatization days and a further 3 days down. We completed the trek without a guide or porter as we were confident in our navigational skills and fitness levels. We found the path was straight forward to follow, but also carried a map (and compass) we purchased in Kathmandu and had a digital version downloaded. If you are looking for additional peace of mind, guides and porters can be hired for a daily rate in Kathmandu and in Lukla.
Accommodation along the path is basic but plentiful. We turned up to each tea house without reservation and never had any issues with availability. Costs are low and can even be free of charge if all meals are purchased there too. Prices increased the closer we got to base camp. We averaged around 25 USD per person per day for accommodation and food. There are hot showers available for an additional fee. For those feeling super adventurous, there is even the opportunity to climb a 6000m peak, or cross over a pass to the magical Gokyo valley!
Contributed by Laura and Matt at Two Stay Wild
Mount Everest Summit
While getting to the EBC is a bucket list item for most adventurous travelers, for the mountain climbers this is home over a 40-day expedition to the summit. One early morning in May 2018, we set off into the treacherous Khumbhu Icefall. After nearly 8 hours of climbing through the night, we reached Camp 1 at the top of the icefall, to be greeted by a beautiful sight of the sun lighting up high peaks in the region. We then rested for a short while and continued climbing through the Western Cwm – an incredibly stunning bowl-shaped valley between Mt Everest, Mt Lhotse & Mt Nuptse – to reach Camp 2. After an overnight rest in the cold and harsh Camp 2, we got up to start yet another tough day of a near vertical climb up the 1.5 km ice wall of Lhotse. With strong winds blowing, it was just sheer will power that helped us from not getting blown off the Lhotse Face. By afternoon we reached Camp 3, mid-way up the Lhotse Face.
We had only a few hours to rest and recover before heading up the Lhotse Face early next morning. After a couple of hours of climbing up the Lhotse Face, we reached the Yellow Band. This dreaded rocky stretch adds to the already challenging climb up the vertical ice face of Lhotse. The prospect of falling 3000 ft to my death made me extra cautious over the next 3 hours that I climbed to get to South Col.
At 8000 mts and the final site for setting up camp, the South Col is like no other place on earth. A relatively flatter area, no larger than half a football field, it has Everest & Lhotse on 2 sides and a sharp drop of nearly 5000 ft into Nepal on one side and a sharper drop of 6000 ft into Tibet on the other side.
Having reached South Col by late afternoon, we just had a couple of hours of rest and hydration before gearing up to start the final push to the summit. We climbed up the triangular south face of Everest, 10 steps at time, with our headlamps and the stars lighting up the way. After nearly 10 hours of climbing, I reached the South Summit of Everest (8750 mts).
The sunrise from the east was just incredible, a deep blue arch appeared in the east marking the horizon, slowly turned to orange and the first light of the sun came out like a flash! And as I continued climbing the sharp knife ridge towards the summit of Everest, the fear of falling off 6000 feats was replaced by the sense of awe of being able to see a hundred miles into Tibet and Nepal. At 6.18 am, I stood on top of the world, totally overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude and the grandeur of the moment.
Contributed by Vikas Dimri
The world’s youngest volcano and the only one that humans have witnessed the whole life cycle of, Parícutin was listed as one of the Natural Wonders of the World in 1997. Located in Michoacán, Mexico, the volcano first appeared in 1943 and by 1952 had become a cinder cone. Now classed as extinct, during its 9-year life span the volcano buried two villages and damaged an area of 90 sq miles.
The extinct volcano is now a tourist attraction and can be climbed. The best way to visit is to stay in the nearby town of Uruapan and get an early bus to Angahuan. You need to budget a full day if you want to climb the volcano, which is definitely worth it. Be aware, it will be a long day, but it is incredible.
I couldn’t find tour companies that went up the volcano, but this is not a problem. The second you get off the bus there will be at least one local ready to take you. You have to take a horse, so you pay for each horse and the guide, the price varies depending on the season and other factors. I and the other half paid a little under £50, much cheaper than I expected. But make sure you take extra money to tip as well. The guide will take you to the base of the cone (you have to pay a little extra to enter the park). From there you can climb the cone by foot and then scramble back down. The cone is still hot and even sizzling in places!
On the way back (or if you can’t budget a full day) make sure you visit the church of San Juan Parangaricutiro. This church was buried by lava when the volcano erupted, now it looks like a dragon’s lair. With the volcano in the background, it is an incredible sight. Be aware, by the time you are getting the bus back to Uruapan, you will be covered in ash!
Contributed by Nat Took at Natpacker
If you ever find yourself in Southern Africa, you can’t miss visiting Victoria Falls, one of the 3 great waterfalls in the world. They are located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and can easily be accessed from both countries as well as Namibia and Botswana by road, and from South Africa, Kenya and other African countries by air.
There are two main bases to visit Victoria Falls – the town of the same name, on the Zimbabwe side, and Livingstone in Zambia. There are also two national parks where it is possible to see the falls, one in each country. It’s easy to travel between the two cities and to make the most of your visit to Victoria Falls, we highly recommend spending a couple of days on each side, visiting the parks and enjoying the many adventure activities on offer.
The Zimbabwean national park offers the ‘grand overview’ of the falls, with lots of viewpoints from where it’s easy to see the grandeur of the falls, whereas from the Zambian side you can get closer and even take the trip to Devil’s Pool, allowing you to swim on the edge of the falls.
Victoria Falls are not the tallest or the largest waterfalls in the world, but they do have the widest sheet of falling water, over 1,700 meters wide. They are indeed a stunning and powerful sight – as you find yourself looking at the waterfalls, you’ll understand why the local Tonga people named them as ‘Mosi-Oa-Tunya‘, translating as ‘The Smoke that Thunders’.
Contributed by Margherita Ragg at The Crowded Planet
Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side
Victoria Falls is one of the most impressive natural sights in Africa and the world! The waterfall spans an incredible one-and-a-half kilometres, with the largest drop over 100 metres high.
No matter how many facts you read about Victoria Falls, actually experiencing them in person is an indescribable experience. As soon as you get within a few hundred meters of the falls, you can hear the mighty roar, and begin to feel the spray on your face. As you get closer, all of the sights, sounds and feels are amplified, until you are looking out over an enormous chasm as water crashes over the edge. It’s a truly incredible sight.
Although it’s well worth hiking to the viewpoint (don’t forget to bring or borrow a rain jacket – there’s plenty for hire at the entrance), you also can’t leave without trying out some of the activities in the area. Zimbabwe has more choices of adventure activities and is the more well-known option. White water rafting and bungee jumping are popular choices, however there are more sedate choices such as taking a dip in the Devil’s Pool or even doing a cooking class. Learning to cook traditional ‘mapone worms’ was a definite highlight of my stay!
As Victoria Falls is the biggest tourist attraction in Zimbabwe, there are many places to stay from super-budget through to ultra-luxurious options. I stayed in the simple but beautiful Shearwater Explorers Village, which is just 1 kilometer from the Falls, but there are so many great options!
Contributed by Georgie Mack at Journey with Georgie
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So which of these 7 natural wonders have you visited? And, more importantly, which one would you like to visit soon?
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