9 of the World's Most Breathtaking Canyons
Although there is only one that has been named as such, our planet is home to many grand canyons. From steep cliffs to narrow valleys, each evoke a sense of wonder and amazement while documenting thousands of years of geological history. Although each is unique in its own right, we have found nine canyons that are must-sees for any nature lover. But beware, if you have a fear of heights, you may feel uncomfortable just gazing at these pictures, as some of these grandiose layers of rock plummet to depths of close to 10,000 feet.
Sandstone walls and rocky domes come together to form this spectacular sight. Found in the southern region of Australia's Northern Territory, the canyon attracts travelers who wish to experience the highly scenic rim walk around the canyon walls. But when visiting, make sure you stay on the designated trail; a part of the canyon is a sacred Aboriginal site and visitors are warned against wondering off-trail.
8. Colca Canyon
Although it does not receive nearly as much traffic as the Grand Canyon, this monumental landmark is twice as deep as the Arizona wonder. Situated in the Andes mountains in southern Peru, Colca Canyon isn't only a place travelers come to admire the landscape. One of the main attractions is the sighting of the Andean Condor -- one of the largest flying birds in the world with an average wingspan of 10 feet and weighing up to 33 pounds.
Nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific" this gorgeous natural feature is said to be one of the world's most colorful canyons. Nestled in the southwest side of Hawaii's oldest main island, Kauai, Waimea Canyon stretches 14 miles long, 1 mile wide and 3,600 feet deep. This scenic wonder attracts tourists with its numerous trails for both the experienced and inexperienced hikers.
6. Tiger Leaping Gorge
Arguably the deepest canyon in the world, the Tiger Leaping Gorge is located in southwestern China. The stunning canyon sits 9,842 feet above the Yangtze River, where tourists can be found rafting or wading in the navigable areas of its stream. In the narrowest section of the river is a large rock that sits in the midst of its flow. Legend has it a tiger used this rock as a stepping stone to leap across the gorge, thus giving this natural feature its name.
5. Gorge du Verdon
In Southeastern France a vibrant emerald river runs through one of the most beautiful canyons in the world, Gorge du Verdon. This spectacular feature rises 2,300 feet above the Verdon River and stretches 82 feet wide. The picturesque structure and clear waters attract hikers and water-sport enthusiasts from all around the world. And with a stunning canyon like this, we can see why.
4. Fish River Canyon
Located in the Southern Region of Namibia, this breathtaking natural wonder is the largest canyon in Africa.
Boasting a huge ravine stretching 100 miles long, and almost 17 miles wide, this canyon will leave you in awe of its stunning views and immense size. Although hikers frequent this canyon during the summer months, it may have its highest influx of visitors during the annual marathon hosted at the site. With the sheer cliffs and rough trails that make up this canyon, it is said to be quite a challenging run.
3. Antelope Canyon
On first glance you may think we inserted the wrong picture. But when you look closely you realize that these images that appear as smooth as silk are in fact layers of rocks that form the Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona. This curvy and colorful canyon is separated into two parts -- Upper and Lower Antelope -- both equally stunning. But before you plan an excursion to this gorgeous monument, be sure you choose a skilled tour guide because this beauty can be quite dangerous. In 1997, 11 tourists were killed during a flash flood that swept through the Lower Antelope.
2. Blyde River Canyon
Although it is nowhere near the size of some of the larger canyons mentioned, Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, South Africa, is one of the greenest, saturated with vibrant subtropical plant life. With an average depth of 2,500 feet and width of 16 miles, the canyon's lush greenery is home to five species of South African primates and over 1,000 endemic, rare, or endangered flora species. Raging waterfalls and panoramic views of South Africa (from some of which you can see over the border to Mozambique) push this green slice of paradise to our number-two spot.
1. The Grand Canyon
Many are grand, but this northern Arizona treasure still holds first place in our book. Take one look at its breathtaking colors and contours and it is no surprise that the Grand Canyon is one of America's most famous natural landmarks. This magnificent canyon may not be the deepest or longest in the world, but its rich and unique color scheme and unparalleled geological structure makes it a must-see for millions of tourists every year. At 277 miles long and one-mile deep, the Grand Canyon is one of Earth's most stunning natural features. If you have yet to visit this wonder, you're missing out.
images courtsey of istockphoto/demerzel21, istockphoto/fernandoAH, istockphoto/JanRoode, istockphoto/clodio, istockphoto/lillisphotography, istockphoto/MichaelUtech, istockphoto/rchphoto, istockphoto/kerriekerr, istockphoto/SabrinaPintus, Wikimedia Commons
Brittany Johnson is an editorial intern at Sierra. Her interests include social and environmental justice specifically among underrepresented and disadvantaged communities. She majored in Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, taught English in Tanzania and answered phones in various offices before joining the Sierra family.