7 Best Canyons In The World
Canyons are some of Mother Earth’s most fascinating features. These massive land forms are a testament to her uncanny ability to create masterpieces out of the ordinary. Canyons and gorges are not only dramatic landscapes. They are also full of beauty that remains hidden within their sheer cliffs and the river that run its course at the bottom. Here’s a list of what many believe to be seven of the planet’s most beautiful canyons.
1. Grand Canyon, US
Stretching some 277 miles in Arizona, the Grand Canyon is without question one of the best canyons on the planet. Every year, more than 5 million tourists tick this off their bucket list. Seventeen percent of them are tourists from all over the globe, making the Grand Canyon one of the most visited natural attractions in the world.
Mother Earth took almost 6 million years to carve the Grand Canyon. The mighty Colorado River made the painstaking task of carving through the layers of rock that now form the sheer walls of the canyon. Some sections of the canyon are so deep that you can stack 4 Petronas Twin Towers or more than two Burj Khalifas into it.
It’s every adventurer’s favorite playground and a stunning backdrop for novice nature photographers. Parachutists and aerial daredevils make its skies their stronghold. Whitewater junkies brave the Class 8s to 10s of the Colorado River while avid trekkers explore the canyon tops. It has plenty of activities to offer the millions of tourists that flock to either the South Rim or the North Rim. From rafting to hiking to helicopter tours, there’s always something for someone at the Grand Canyon.
For the best vantage point, you can head to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This cantilever bridge gives you a stunning view of the vast expanse of the canyon features. Rising some 720 feet from the canyon floor, the Skywalk is where you’d want to be for amazing sunrises and sunsets. Feast your eyes on the full spectrum of vibrant colors you never thought the sun can produce.
You can also head to the Havasupai Falls. This waterfall features deep blue waters that give rise to multicolored cliffs on the sides. The pool at the bottom of the falls is always tempting for many water-related activities.
2. Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
It may not be as long as the Grand Canyon, but the Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of Mother Earth’s deepest canyons. Two majestic Yunnan mountains form the sides of the gorge, split in the middle by the Jinsha River. On one side is the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain that rises some 18,360 feet from the canyon floor. On the other side is the Haba Snow Mountain rising up to meet the clouds at 17,703 feet. A network of rapids carves under steep cliffs to give the impression of an underground river system.
There’s a legend as to why people call it the Tiger Leaping Gorge. A tiger made a leap of faith crossing the Jinsha at its narrowest point, some 82 feet wide. This is nothing short of a miracle since the maximum distance of a tiger’s jump is about 30 feet.
The gorge is only 9.3 miles long, making hiking possible. There are hiking paths that are well-maintained and come with appropriate markings. These trails are longer than the actual length of the gorge, however. They snake through the sides of cliffs, offering different geologic features that can leave you breathless. From waterfalls to micro-ecosystems, the high road of the Tiger Leaping Gorge is the perfect place to have your adventure. Just make sure you wear a good rock climbing shoes.
For those who seek a longer trail, you can take the lower road of the gorge. This stretches for about 121 miles. You will cross several waterfalls and try your luck dodging house-sized boulders falling from either the Jade Dragon or the Haba Snow. Stay abreast of the weather forecast, however, as the Jinsha can swell in an instant. You’ll see sections of the road disappear before your eyes.
3. Bicaz Gorge, Romania
At less than 5 miles long, the Bicaz Gorge in northeastern Romania is the shortest in our list. But don’t let that fool you. It may be short, but it’s full of natural wonders that you can expect only from the Romanian provinces of Transylvania and Moldova. This stretch of narrow passageway between the two provinces is known as one of Europe’s most scenic road passes.
On one side of the road is a sheer cliff that rises several hundred feet into the blue Romanian sky. On the other side is a sheer drop. The road itself is a challenging route, often requiring nerves of steel to navigate. Serpentine roads create blind corners, made more challenging by the massive rock staring you in the face. One wrong twitch of the muscles can send you several hundreds of feet to the bottom of the gorge.
The Bicaz Gorge is a haven for rock climbers. It’s where adventurous spirits go to muster their courage in scaling a vertical face. One can go up or down on either side of the narrow road pass. Either way, it’s a challenge that requires skill, focus, and determination. Rock climbers often find themselves in the company of Wallcreepers, a species of bird that reside in these cliffs. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes or hiking shoes cause there will be a lot of walking here.
If you manage to get yourself at the floor of the gorge, you can always take a dip at the Lacul Rosu. There are numerous traditional cabins that surround this beautiful lake. Each has its own brand of lakeside activities. The lake itself is something to marvel about. This body of water is the product of a 19th century landslide.
4. Verdon Gorge, France
If North America has the Grand Canyon to be proud of, Europe has the Gorges du Verdon to boast. It is not as long as the canyon in Arizona, however, maxing out at only 15.5 miles. Nevertheless, the Verdon Gorge in southeastern France is a beautiful geologic masterpiece. You can also fit two Empire State buildings stacked on top of each other in the Verdon’s deepest section.
The Verdon River meanders through the canyon floor with its turquoise-green water. This is very unlike other river systems you may have seen. It has that remarkable tropical lagoon-like feel to its water that hypnotizes you to take a dip. Surrounding the river are towering limestone cliffs. They aren’t as vertical as the rock faces of the Grand Canyon. However, there are more than 1,500 rock climbing routes on the Verdon, making it a challenging feat for rock climbers. Endless walls, towering pillars, and deep cracks await the outdoor junkie. Just make sure you have your climbing rope and climbing helmet handy!
The Verdon Gorge lies in close proximity to the French Riviera, making it a popular destination among tourists. They can rent kayaks from the beach and make their way through the Verdon River. As they move along the river, they’ll find the waters of the Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon to be very inviting.
The southern route of the Verdon is perfect for viewing the summits of the le Mourre de Chanier, the la cime de Barbin, and the Plein Voir. A must-do is driving through the Tunnel du Fayet where you’ll get a different view of the gorge.
5. Copper Canyon, Mexico
The Copper Canyon is not a single geologic architecture in northwestern Mexico’s state of Chihuahua. This canyon is a blend of six different canyons that form a sizeable portion of the Sierra Madre Occidental. Six different river systems carved the canyon before converging at the Rio Fuerte. The canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon by at least 400 feet. Because the canyon is a system of valleys, it is quite difficult to establish its length. It does, however, cover some 25,000 square miles. This is roughly the size of West Virginia.
Copper Canyon got its name from the copper and green hues of its canyon walls. Its mountainous sections have an alpine climate while near the canyon floor is warm and humid. The rainy season blankets the canyon in green. During hot dry spells, foliage turns reddish brown to give the canyon its characteristic copper color.
Taking in the views of the Copper Canyon is easy. You can ride on the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico as this train chugs through the Canyon Urique. The train route takes you through 405 miles of tracks complete with 86 tunnels and 39 bridges. This runs from the city of Chihuahua all the way to Los Mochis. Of course, the Canyon Urique is a mere section of this 15-hour train ride. The best part of the train ride is when you pass along the Copper Canyon. From your train window, you’ll get a good view of the canyon’s towering cliffs.
If you don’t like riding in a train, then you can go on horseback. This should give you a different experience altogether. You can also rent a car or take your mountain bike for a more thrilling ride. Extreme adventurers often opt for the best way to explore the canyon – by foot.
6. Fish River Canyon, Namibia
Namibia is not only famous for its wild African safaris. It is also popular for its canyons. To be more specific, Namibia is home to Africa’s largest canyon. This geologic feature boasts of a gigantic ravine that measures 100 miles long, 17 miles wide, and 1,800 feet deep. It is not the longest or the deepest gorge in the world, but the Fish River Canyon is one of the world’s largest.
Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park provides the best views of the massive landscape. But the best way to experience the Fish River is to take on one of its many hiking trails. Its rugged terrain and massive scale continue to draw visitors from around the globe. This is the best place to experience what trail running is all about.
The hiking trail is about 55 miles long and follows the Fish River. There’s a 1.2-mile descent near Hobas which can be quite challenging for newbie trail runners. There are rocks and boulders everywhere that can complicate hiking on slippery river crossings. Deep sand can be a real pain to deal with. The canyon is also home to poisonous snakes and scorpions as well as aggressive baboons.
What makes it more difficult is that the 55-mile trail doesn’t feature any amenity or facility to aid hikers. As such, you’d have to carry everything with you to complete the 5-day trail.
7. Colca Canyon, Peru
The Colca Canyon is one of the world’s deepest canyons at 10,730 feet. It sits high up in the Peruvian Andes. Ancient Incas believe that the Colca River flows into the galaxy, often offering gifts and sacrifices to the river gods. The belief is that these river gods will bring good fortune to the communities in the valley.
Soaring above the skies of Colca are Andean condors. These birds of prey are one of the more popular reasons to visit the canyon. The Andean condor is the subject of global conservation efforts. These birds symbolize eternity as they can reach a ripe age of 70 years. The best way to marvel at their flight is to scale the canyon walls. There are also the giant hummingbird, the Chilean flamingo, and the Andean goose that share the Colca limelight.
Hiking the various trails in the Colca valley can give one a glimpse of the other indigenous creatures of the land. From the vizcacha to the zorrino and the vicuna, there are wildlife that you can see only in this part of the world.
You can also take a dip at the natural hot springs in Chivay or at any of the tens of others dotting the canyon and the valley. If you’re into spelunking, the caves of Mollepunko are worth visiting. Within its walls are ancient rock art that depicts the way of life of the ancient inhabitants of the land.
Gorges or canyons are a sight to behold. They tell stories of a glorious past. And they are a beautiful reminder of how artistic Mother Nature can be.