Formed by the erosive activity of rivers over the course of eons, canyons also present a fascinating geological snapshot of Earth’s past. The following are some of the world’s greatest canyons, each spectacular in its own right, calling on intrepid travellers to discover the awe-inspiring might of Mother Nature.
1. Colca Canyon, Peru
The Southern Peruvian canyon is home to vast Andean landscapes and traditional Quechua- and Aymara-speaking peoples. Often rated as one of the world’s best hiking experiences, the two- and five-day hikes are extremely popular, with the summer months (November through March) being recommended. Experience homestays and vibrant cultural exchanges with locals, catch sight of the rare and endangered Andean condor and even enjoy rejuvenating hot springs.
Though there are several companies doing tours of the canyon, one top-rated operator, Peru Hop organises an excellent two-day hiking expedition for only US$40, excluding certain entrance fees, etc.
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2. Grand Canyon, USA
They don’t call the world’s most famous canyon ‘grand’ for nothing. Consistently voted as the number one thing to see before you die, the Grand Canyon’s deep chasms, never-ending horizons and desert landscapes offer unforgettable opportunities for some truly wild travel experiences. Choose from a variety of hiking and touring options, including day hikes, canyon tours and even more gruelling multi-day camping treks, all of which are generally provided by a number of different local outfits. Two great companies to go with are Pygymy Guides and Wildland Trekking.
3. Blyde River Canyon, South Africa
Hailed as the largest green canyon on the planet, the Blyde River Canyon’s most iconic features include a massive domed outcrop and the so-called Three Rondavels (Three Huts), large rock formations resembling the indigenous huts of the region.
Though it’s possible to hike the Blyde River Canyon on one of the reasonably easy to moderate trails (you can organise hikes through Thaba Tsweni Lodge), you can just as easily drive to a viewpoint overlooking the canyon. Bringing a picnic basket along would be a good idea too.
4. Fish River Canyon, Namibia
It’s the largest canyon in Africa and therefore one natural formation well worth the visit. Spectacular views and lifelong memories are guaranteed with every excursion through Namibia’s acclaimed attraction. The four- to five-day recommended hiking trail through the canyon is fairly demanding. The 90-km trek is only accessible to hikers between May and September. They also only allow 30 people per day so make sure to plan accordingly.
5. Fjaðrárgljúfur, Iceland
While it may not be as deep or long as others, Fjaðrárgljúfur in southern Iceland demands attention and inclusion here, if for no other reason than its epic, rather otherworldly appearance. Due to its location near Iceland’s Ring Road, the canyon is accessible if you have transport and doesn’t require going through an official tour operator. To take in the gorgeous views, it’s recommended to take a walk around the top of the canyon. Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon that everyone, regardless of fitness level, can enjoy.
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6. Sumidero Canyon, Mexico
Carved out by the Grijalva River, Sumidero Canyon in Mexico’s Chiapas State is as impressive as the Grand Canyon. One of the best ways to experience and appreciate the natural marvel is by boat ride from Chiapas de Corzo to Chicoasén Dam. Select one of the local tour operators and expect not only stunning natural scenes, but also encounters with local wildlife, such as crocodiles, birds and even monkeys.
– TEXT BY SAUL LIPCHIK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.