The world is full of them – inspirational forms of nature that are simultaneously stunning, unique and powerful. From towering waterfalls to vast underwater kingdoms, these geographic wonders are well worth seeing in person.
In honor of Geography Awareness Week, Cheapflights is celebrating 10 great freaks of nature.
This is one geographical wonder that has a lot of monikers. Most people know it as Ayers Rock, but its sacred name according to the Aboriginal people is Uluru, so some also refer to it as the Living Rock. Whatever you call it, this sandstone outcrop southwest of Alice Springs lies in the Australian Outback and is famous not only for its breathtaking appearance, but also its springs, water holds, rock caves and ancient paintings. It’s listed twice as a World Heritage Site (once for its beauty and once for its paintings) and seems to change color by day or season. Getting here is no small feat – fly in through Connellan Airport and go from there.
The height of a 24-story building, Iguazu Falls stretches along a two-mile rim that straddles Argentina and Brazil. Each side has its claim to fame: Argentina’s offers varied close-up views, and Brazil’s view is best for stunning panoramic images. Fly in through Puerto Iguazu (IGR) on the Argentinean side and Foz do Iguacu (IGU) on the Brazilian side.
Gunung Mulu National Park
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo is celebrated for its caves and karst formations, all within a mountain rainforest setting. It contains one of the most extensive cave systems in the world, which includes 600-foot indoor waterfalls, rock pinnacles, cliffs and gorges – Mount Mulu is its highest point. Supposedly, millions of bats descend from the caves all at once at nighttime, creating jaw-dropping views. It’s way out there, but your best bet is to find flights to Mulu Airport.
Usually attached to the phrase “pictures don’t do it justice,” this gigantic monster has been carved out by the Colorado River for millions of years. It rolls through the desert 277 miles long and 18 miles wide and a little less than a mile deep. Sixteenth-century Native Americans referred to the Grand Canyon in the Hopi language as the “Ongtupqa,” which designated it as a holy site and a place of pilgrimage. It’s a road trip from either Phoenix or Las Vegas, and can also be accessed through Flagstaff’s airport.
Great Barrier Reef
The world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef is made up of more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands that stretch over 1,600 miles on the northeastern coast of Australia. It is home to an enormous cast of biological diversity of both plants and animals, and although it exists as an environmental treasure, the Great Barrier Reef is also perfect for adventurous travelers to scuba dive and snorkel. Fly in through Cairns for the easiest access.
Travelers with a fear of heights need not apply. Mt. Everest is easily the most renowned mountain on earth, mostly for being the tallest, at 29,015 feet high, not including snow covering, and it reportedly grows five millimeters every year. Its summit ridge marks the border between China and Nepal, and while it’s not by any means easy to climb, it’s not terribly difficult to fly in through Tenzing-Hillary Airport (also known as Lukla Airport) to see it.
Sure, it’s not technically a landmass, and it doesn’t exactly exist in one place, but it’s certainly a natural wonder worth appreciating first hand. The Northern Lights show up as a freakishly gorgeous light phenomenon in places like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and Canada. They dance across the sky from September to October and from March to April, and they never put on the same show twice.
The highest free-falling waterfall in the world has an uninterrupted drop of 2,648 feet. Discovered in 1933 by American aviator, James Crawford Angel, the Venezuela waterfalls are far removed from civilization, but worth visiting. Taking a short flight from Caracus to Canaima and then a boat trip is the best bet for your trek. Not in the mood to get drizzly? You can also take an aerial fly-by tour of the waterfalls.
Apparently, this is the volcano that came from nowhere. In 1943, a farmer’s cornfield in Mexico opened from the ground and began to erupt, and lava flowed from it with little interruption until 1952. It covered two villages but caused no casualties. Many travelers have climbed to the top of the volcano, which towers at almost two miles in the air, and the top of a church can be seen peeking out of the solidified lava. Fly into Uruapan airport to see it.
Size-wise, the Amazon Rainforest rivals that of Western Europe, which speaks not only for its physical mass but its colossal reputation. More than 3,900 miles long, the Amazon River is its lifeblood and the two coexist in nine South American countries. The jungle is thick and its ever-present water is hard to navigate by land, but a guaranteed memorable adventure. Two major gateway airports are Manaus in Brazil and Iquitos in Peru.