The Brazilian side is more panoramic

There are so many different lists about the Seven Wonders of the World that it is pretty difficult to remember which ones are actually on the official lists, but this post is not about the official lists—it’s about my personal favourite areas of natural beauty.

Sadly, travellers often make disparaging remarks about these areas as they have become so commercialised, and while I agree that it is a shame that tourism has had a negative effect on these places, we are not lucky enough to have lived in a time when we could visit these sites without the crowds of camera-toting tourists.

This shouldn’t be a reason for avoiding them: they are popular for a reason, and that reason is that even with all the tourists these places are staggeringly beautiful.

Here are my top five to date:

Iguazu Falls: Argentina, Brazil, (Paraguay) 

The Brazilian side is more panoramic

Straddling the borders of the two largest South American countries, Iguazu Falls (literally meaning ‘Big Water’) is one of the continent’s tourist powerhouses.

Stretching for 2.7 kilometres, and with falls of up to 82 metres, Iguazu is wider and taller than Niagara Falls.

Although it is possible to visit from Paraguay, visitors tend to come from either the Argentinian or Brazilian side, with the option of a day trip to the other side for those who don’t need separate visa requirements.

The Argentinian side is renowned for getting up close and personal with the falls—and by that I mean getting wet—as well as for being able to stand at the top of the impressive Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat).

The Devil's Throat, Argentinian side

The Brazilian side offers more panoramic views of the falls, and the chance to see the Devil’s Throat from the bottom.

Ha Long Bay: Vietnam

Peaceful and Mysterious

Let’s put aside all criticisms of Vietnamese ineptitude and scams when organising tourist boat rides in Ha Long Bay, and focus purely on the fact that Ha Long Bay is truly spectacular.

In good weather the water glows turquoise reflecting the gargantuan foliage covered karsts that rise from its depths. In bad weather the jagged monoliths appear eerily through the foggy tentacles as your boat glides through the murky waters.

Either way it will capture your imagination like nowhere else on Earth.

Perito Moreno Glacier: Argentina

The face of the glacier

There is a reason why Argentina is high on any nature-loving traveller’s agenda, with the Perito Moreno Glacier being top of the list.

The glacier is one of the only advancing glaciers left in the world, and with all of the others disappearing before our eyes that is an impressive achievement.

Standing before a great wall of ice is like nothing I have ever experienced before. Firstly, it is amazing to see the colour of ice: transparent blue, opaque white, turquoise green and laced with marbled ribbons of black.

And then there is the sound of the ice, like gunshots, when a tiny sliver breaks off the wall’s surface and plunges to the water below.

Absolutely mesmerising.

Mt. Fuji: Japan

Fuji from a distance (taken a long time ago on an early digital camera)

Fuji-San is the most sacred spot in the whole of Japan. According to a Japanese proverb: “a wise man climbs Fuji once, but only a fool climbs it twice”, my two ascents of the mountain clearly putting me in the latter category.

It is fair to say that Fuji looks better from a distance, especially when the mountain wears a snow-capped halo and is framed by Japan’s famous Sakura (cherry blossom). It is best viewed from the Hakone National Park or Fuji Go-Ko (Fuji Five Lakes), where you can fully appreciate the mountain’s splendour.

Visiting Tokyo in the winter or spring offers you fleeting glimpses of the mountain as you battle one of the world’s busiest cities—in the summer the mountain will be shrouded from view by smog and haze.

Take a ride on the Sagami line in Tokyo for good views of Fuji from the city.

Amazon Rainforest: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana

Amazon Wildlife

Located in nine of South America’s countries, it is hard to miss a visit to the Amazon on a trip to the continent, and nor would you want to as this huge area accounts for over half of the world’s rainforests.

Home to some of the world’s most colourful, fascinating and, let’s not forget, dangerous creatures, the Amazon Rainforest faces severe threat from climate change and deforestation, the effects of which could be catastrophic.

My visit to the Amazon was in Bolivia when I spent three days on the Savannah—a choice we made as the wetlands makes it easier to spot the wildlife away from the denser foliage of the jungle.

Three Places I’d like to See

I still have so many places of Outstanding Beauty on my Bucket List with the three highest being:

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Antarctica
  • The Serengeti

Which do you think I should visit first, or is there something else I should go and see? Please leave a comment below, or if you enjoyed the post then share.

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