The Natural Wonders

Although the list itself perhaps is not as well known, the 7 Natural Wonders may rival many of the New World Wonders for popularity among travelers. Each wonder on this list must be completely natural ? not only in that it incorporates nature, but in that it hasn?t been manipulated at all. In addition, it must be unique. The Natural Wonders span six continents, with Antarctica being the only one not represented. The list and descriptions below are in no particular order of significance.

Aurora Borealis: Also known as the Northern Lights, these naturally occurring lights appear in the sky, generally around 11 PM or midnight. The closer one gets to the magnetic pole in the Northern Hemisphere, the better your chances of seeing them. Unfortunately, their appearance is rather unpredictable, but you?re most likely to see them in March, April, September, or October.

Grand Canyon: This 277 mile long gorge is located in Arizona, formed by the Colorado River. It?s over a mile deep, spanning in some parts to 18 miles wide. While visitors can simply see the canyon, which is spectacular in itself, many choose to hike, backpack, or explore the canyon on the back of a mule. White water rafting at the floor of the canyon is also a popular activity.

Paricutin: Perhaps the least well known of the Natural wonders, Paricutin is a cinder volcano located in Michoac?n, Mexico, and it?s birth was actually witnessed by humans. While still active, it last erupted in 1952. Visitors can hike or ride horseback through the banks and the lava fields surrounding the volcano.

Victoria Falls: These 360-foot high falls are located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and can be seen from either side (though it?s said that the view from the Zimbabwe side is better). While the falls have more water during the rainy season of November to early April, they also produce a lot of mist which make the view more difficult ? not to mention getting the viewers wet. The best time for the view may be June or July, though the falls will be less lush.

Mount Everest: This highest mountain in the world is located in the Himalayas on the border of China, Tibet, and Nepal. Many visitors choose to trek to the base of the mountain, allowing them to experience it without requiring extensive climbing expertise. October and November are the start of the dry season here, so probably the best time to visit. However, weather can be unpredictable, and the most important factor to avoid is active snow fall.

Great Barrier Reef: Located off the coast of Cairns, Australia, it is the largest reef system in the world, with 2900 reefs covering 1600 miles. Snorkeling and SCUBA diving are by far the best way to experience the reef. November through May is the summer season here, though also the rainy season during which the area gets the majority of its annual rainfall.

Harbor of Rio de Janiero: Also known as Guanabara Bay, it is the largest bay in the world based on water volume, and the mountainous surroundings add to its visual appeal. The most popular way to see the harbor is from either Corcovado Peak or Sugarloaf Mountain, both of which offer a panoramic view of the bay, and the city below. The best months for visiting the bay are September and October, when it?s warm enough but not yet as humid as the summer months.

WONDERful World

Travel makes the vast world much smaller. It allows us to reach destinations that people only dreamed of seeing even as recent 50 years ago. Ancient sites transport us back hundreds or thousands of years, we hike through thick jungles and rainforest, canoe down the amazon, wander through the streets of countries where no one else speaks our language, swim deep in the ocean among endangered and rare species.

Throughout the years, various people and organizations have tried to determine the ?best of the best?, so to speak. Those sites that if you saw nothing else, you must sea. We originally started with the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

? Great Pyramid of Giza
? Hanging Gardens of Babylon
? Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
? Statue of Zeus at Olympia
? Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
? Lighthouse of Alexandria
? Colossus of Rhodes (there?s been some debate on this one, as no historical depiction or description of it has been found, yet it?s mentioned frequently in literature from the time. The location is also debated).

In 2007, with only one of the original Wonders still standing (the Pyramid of Giza), a new list was created – the 7 New Wonders of the World. It was a multi-step process, which allowed the public to vote on nominees, and those with the highest number of votes won, though there wasn?t a measure to prevent multiple votes, so the validity of the list as “the best of the best” has been disputed, particularly from those countries with nominees that were not chosen. Still, there’s no denying that the new list of wonders contains some of the world’s most spectacular sites, so regardless of the procedure used to create it, it’s worth paying attention to.

Other lists of Wonders have been created over the years, which include the 7 Natural Wonders, the 7 Underwater Wonders, and doubtless other, less celebrated lists. It appears that there will soon be a “New7Wonders Cities”, as well. To kick off the new year, this issue of TraveLuxe will focus on several of these wonders, to highlight some of our world?s most treasured sights, and perhaps serve as some inspiration for future travels.