Dead Horse Point, USA
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A gooseneck twist in the Colorado River in Utah winds a wonderful figure around the dusty 610-metre-high peaks that tower on the edge of Canyonlands National Park. Continual erosion from ice, water and wind created this one-of-a-kind twirl and its surrounding collection of deep dips.
Blyde River Canyon, South Africa
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While the canyon in Blyde River Canyon Reserve is certainly stunning, there are other splendours to admire in the heart of the Drakensberg mountain range – all five of South Africa’s primates live in the reserve so keep your eyes peeled for somango and vervet monkeys, chacma baboons and the possum-esque greater and lesser bushbabies.
Kings Canyon, Australia
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In the expanse of Watarrka National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory you’ll find the vibrant, burnt-orange Kings Canyon, dotted with sprouting palms and a plunging sandstone dip of 270 metres. At the bottom, there’s the refreshing Garden of Eden waterhole, perfect for cooling off from the relentless desert heat.
Waimea Canyon, Hawaii
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Strokes of striking orange mingling with tufts of green make this distinctive canyon unique even within the boundless beauty of Hawaii. The island of Kaua’i is riddled with imposing natural structures but the colours and textures of Waimea create something new, especially since persistent waterfalls have gradually left distinguishing scars on the face of the canyon.
Gorges du Verdon, France
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This water-bottomed gorge cuts through 25 kilometres of limestone, winding its way to the nickname of ‘the Grand Canyon of Europe’. Certainly, the glowing green waters that rush through make for an impressive photo op but the gorge is best appreciated as you glide through it – the lower levels are only accessible by foot or raft, explaining why white water rafting is one of the area’s most popular pastimes.
Kali Gandaki Gorge, Nepal
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A frequent stop on the hippie trail of the sixties (Jimi Hendrix allegedly took a leave of absence in the town of Jomsom in his ‘Purple Haze’ days), the sweeping canyon of Kali Gandaki is frequently topped with a dusting of snow, thanks to the area’s elevation of more than 2500 metres. This river divides the two impressive peaks of Annapurna to the east and Dhaulagiri to the west.
Vikos Gorge, Greece
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Seemingly a world away from the calm waters of the Greek Islands, Vikos Gorge slices impressively through the rocky north-western pocket of mainland Greece. At its deepest, this little-known natural feature plunges over 914 metres and, according to previous Guinness Book of World Record editions, is the world’s deepest in proportion to its width.
Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan
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Forging its own path, millions of years of water erosion from the Charyn River has engraved a permanent and picturesque canyon into the plains of the Kazakh landscape, some 200 kilometres east of the capital Almaty. The sandstone is painted in tones of varying red, gold and auburn thanks to long-term sedimentary rock transformation, explaining why the 80-kilometre area is also often compared to the Colorado canyon the world knows so well.
Cañón Del Colca, Peru
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It took 100 million years to craft the canyon known as the Colca in Peru’s south, about a four-hour bus ride from Arequipa City, resulting in a chasm twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. You’ll feel somewhat like the majestic Andean condor that frequently circles above as you peer down into the canyon from a height of 3400 metres.
Antelope Canyon, USA
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While many ravines are characterised by their jagged, craggy edges, this otherworldly canyon is distinguished from others for its fire-red glow and its impossibly smooth edges that form a kind of swirling, vaulted ceiling. The sandstone slot canyon is the result of millions of years of wind and water erosion, creating a 37-metre-deep crevice and a narrow passage through which dappled slices of light sometimes peek. Frequent flash flooding makes visiting this slice of Arizona a no-go if unaccompanied by a tour group so make certain to plan ahead.
Grand Canyon, USA
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Arguably the most celebrated canyon in the world, the clue is most certainly in the name: grand in both size and scope, this Arizona gulley stretches 446 kilometres long and 29 kilometres wide. It’s believed the beginnings of the Grand Canyon date back as far as 70 million years, although researchers can’t categorically agree. Its natural beauty, however, is something on which every visitor can concur.
Itaimbezinho Canyon, Brazil
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Formed at least 130 million years ago, this lush, waterfall-littered gorge is one of the largest in Brazil. At 900 metres deep and almost 5800 metres long, it dares visitors to peer over its harsh edges but try to stay on sure-footed ground and admire the abundant wildlife instead: vinaceous-breasted parrots, ocelots and cheeky monkeys all reside in the area.
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This canyon conceals a treasure around nearly every corner thanks to the architectural genius of the Nabataeans, who created their own city in the valley back in the first century BC. At its narrowest point, the rose-coloured canyon opens up to reveal The Treasury – a grand building of columns and decorative detail carved into the rock face.
Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
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Whittled through vertiginous cliffs in China’s Yunnan Provence, this UNESCO World Heritage Site received its atmospheric name thanks to a legend that details the chase of a tiger and a farmer, with the former escaping capture by taking a wild leap of faith to the other side. While we wouldn’t recommend emulating the tiger’s jump, hiking around the canyon is a worthwhile idea: village guesthouses warmly open their doors to passers-by, offering accommodation, hot showers and endless cups of rosebud tea.
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Sheer, sharp and shooting straight down to the ground, the cliffs that border the river Fjaðrá are as harsh as they are beautiful. Made of bedrock from the Ice Age, considered to be around two million years old, the precipices continue for two kilometres towards the south Icelandic coast.
Coloured Canyon, Egypt
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Rising out of the sands of the Sinai, this sandstone canyon is labyrinthine in its sprinkling of rainbow-tinted rock formations. At Coloured Canyon in particular, cliff faces reach heights of 40 metres in some sections, cocooning day visitors who wander through it in a shelter of sandstone, providing relief from the searing Egyptian sun.
Copper Canyon, Mexico
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More accurately a collection of six canyons, the Copper Canyon National Park in Mexico’s north-west covers a staggering 40,000 square kilometres. A wide-reaching ripple of sharp peaks and cavernous troughs, the entire expanse is blanketed in pine-oak woodlands at its edges and cacti at its centre, attracting adventure-lovers keen to explore its many hiking trails and lookout points. The Copper Canyon Railway, which covers a 665-kilometre journey through the park’s many dips, is often cited as one of the world’s best rail journeys.
Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia
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The cool, glassy water that bubbles through this gorge in the north-west of Slovenia’s Triglav National Park has a sublime emerald and often aquamarine tinge, cutting a colourful streak through the lichen-draped rocks that hug it. A walkway tacked onto the flanks of the surrounding cliffs makes for a thrilling way to follow the river’s meander.
Skippers Canyon, New Zealand
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Previously a hotspot for gold hunters, the once-dubbed ‘richest river in the world’ Shotover River is now more often the track for a blood-pumping jet boat ride through Skippers Canyon. This basin of natural beauty in New Zealand’s south island draws crowds (and some concern) for the winding road that snakes around the rushing gorge, displaying the valley in dizzying detail.
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There are around 130 active and inactive volcanoes stationed on the isle of Iceland, each crafting their own unique environments. In the case of the eruptive fissure of Eldgjá – a 40-kilometre stretch of lava-carved canyon – it was an enormous eruption in 934 that created this unique ravine. Covered in lava remnants, this 270-metre-deep passage is one of the largest lava-fields on earth and is what gives the canyon its singular, volcanic-grey tint.
Horseshoe Canyon, Canada
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Not to be confused with the Utah canyon of the same name, standing at the edge of this U-shaped canyon amongst the Alberta badlands is certain to conjure images of the area’s former residents. Owing to the discovery of troodontid teeth in the canyon, researchers know dinosaurs roamed this area 70 million years ago and the exposed layers of rock hint at the natural wonder’s creation back in the Cretaceous period.
Simien Mountains, Ethiopia
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Although the mist-dusted Simien Mountains were granted World Heritage status in 1978, the area has suffered a number of setbacks to its integrity owing to human settlement, soil erosion and excessive agricultural exposure. Home to rare species such as the Gelada baboon and the Ethiopian wolf, the area’s gorges not only are unique in terms of its biosphere but also in topography: some cliffs in the canyon stand at a staggering 1500 metres tall.