I suppose that this list was pretty much unavoidable. It’s right there in the name, ‘Wonders of the World’. Seven of them. And this being a website about all the best places to visit in the world, it had to be done. My bucket list will probably differ from yours and this list, which was created by an organisation with their own opinions, but there is no denying that each of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World are worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.
- The Great Barrier Reef
- Mount Everest
- Victoria Falls
- Northern Lights
- The Rio de Janeiro Harbour
- Paricutin Volcano
- The Grand Canyon
The Great Barrier Reef
Located just off the coast of Queensland, stretching over 1400mi and consisting of over 900 islands and 2900 individual reefs, The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world and can be seen from space. Unfortunately only a very select few would ever be able to see it from high above, so for us regular folk, a trip Down Under is our only option. Built by coral polyps, these billions of tiny organisms expands the Great Barrier Reef with approximately 1 inch in diameter a year and is home to a wide diversity of life, which includes more than 1500 species of fish, 17 species of sea snake and 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. And, yes, Nemo lives there too.
Composed of over 900 islands and 2900 individual reefs, this is the biggest single structure made by living organisms in the world. If nothing else, upon viewing The Great Barrier Reef, you will be able to say that you have witnessed something which is the most extreme in its category.
Flights to Australia start from £550 or $630 as the reef generates around AUD$3 Billion a year in tourism revenue, which means that this is a very popular destination and definitely worth seeing at least once in your life time, should you have the opportunity. The water is warm and clear, which makes this the perfect place for scuba diving to view the reef and its wide biodiversity up close. Between the saltwater crocodiles living in salt marshes close to the coast and the 125 species of sharks and stingrays, you will definitely remember a holiday like this for the rest of your life. Even if it is for the fact that you crapped your pants every 2 seconds.
You can visit the reef however you want, but a good starting point would be Port Douglas, which is a hotspot for visitors, even celebrities. If you ever come across Justin Bieber, please do the world a favour and hold his head under water until the bubbles stop. Bruce from ‘Finding Nemo’ will help you make him disappear. It will be the perfect crime.
Port Douglas is a tropical jewel and paradise; guaranteed to give you the time of your life. Cruises cost AUD$253 per adult, AUD$131 per child, AUD$642 per family, leave daily and take you to a massive floating platform on top of the reef where you will feel like a kid in a candy store and daily activities include the following:
One of the best ways to view the reef in all its spectacular glory, is snorkeling. Tours leave from a protected snorkelling platform and are divided into 2 groups: introductory and advanced snorkel tours. Introductory tours cost AUD$62 per adult, AUD$32 per child, AUD$156 per family and take around 30-40min and are designed for the novice snorkeler, which is tailored for those that want an educational experience. The advance tour cost AUD$80 per adult, AUD$50 per child, AUD$210 per family and is about exploring and you will be taught how to duck dive. These tours take around an hour and you would need to proof to them that you can swim on your own without any floatation devices, because you can easily travel several hundred yards. If you get tired, you can always hook up to a sea turtle and catch a ride back to the platform.
Seated in an air-conditioned chamber and 3 feet under water, this is the perfect way to explore the reef if you don’t like to get wet. Tours depart every 15 min from the rear of the platform, take around 25 min and comes with commentary from a tour guide to give you the best possible experience and will cost you nothing as it is included in the cruise price.
Located directly in front of the platform, this observatory has spectacular views of the water and all its inhabitants around you. And hey, guess what! It’s another freebie; also included in your cruise price.
Now this is probably the best way to discover the rainbow coloured reef. You will get up close and personal with the reef and its residents and it is suited for novices or professionals. Just follow the guy in the picture by falling backwards into the water when you go diving, because if you fall forward, you’ll fall back into the boat. Underwater cameras are available for hire as well as videos shot by professional photographers to keep your memories alive forever. As a novice, you would have to complete an onboard physical and 30min dive brief before they will allow you to go scuba diving. The introductory course and diving cost AUD$168 for people of all ages and the dive itself lasts around 30 min.
If you’re an experienced diver and in possession of an internationally recognised SCUBA certificate card, you can dive twice, lasting approximately 40 min each, which will take you deeper into the heart of the reef. At AUD$170, this is really not bad at all and to top it off, you will get a certificate at the end that shows you have dived The Great Barrier Reef, even if you’ve only done the introductory course. All equipment is included in the price, so no hidden extras there.
After a short briefing and and quick check-up, you will be able to walk under water on a specially built platform, wearing a helmet and breathing in fresh air from the surface, fed to you by a long pipe. Just don’t get a kink in that pipe, otherwise you’ll turn as blue as the water around you in a matter of minutes. As with all other diving activities, you need to be at least 12 years of age and unlike snorkeling, you don’t have to be able to swim. You can even keep your glasses on so that everything will be crystal clear. Prices are AUD$168 per person, all equipment is included and you will get a certificate once you are done to make your friends jealous.
Scenic Helicopter Rides
Departing from a heli-pad close to the platform, these rides lasts around 10min and will take you around 500 ft up in the air to view the reef from the top. Costing AUD$179 per person, this will be the perfect way to cap off your time at the reef. Be sure to bring your camera to take those postcard photos. You can book your flight onboard the platform, but places are limited, so I would advise you to book it in advance.
At 29,035 ft, Mount Everest is the highest point in the world. Plenty of people have climbed it and many have failed as there are over 200 corpses on the mountain and some even serving as landmarks. I don’t really get it though. I mean, it’s just climbing. Yes, it’s steep and yes it’s a little chilly, but once you get going, you’ll easily work up a sweat.
As mentioned before, I’m here to tell you about all the wonderful places in the world for you to see, but I don’t want to be responsible for sending you head first into a lion’s cage. I want you to safely return back home every time, so let’s stick with the touristy stuff and let the professionals climb the little mole hill all the way to the top.
If you are professional and good enough to climb it to the top, you will be one of thousands that had already made it to 29,035 ft. Yay. So make sure you take a shovel with and when you’ve reached the top, build yourself a platform with snow and be the first to reach 29,050 ft.
For us regular folk there are a few ways to see Mount Everest and the best times to go are between May and October. The first way would be to travel to Shigatse; a city of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and at the base of Mount Everest. This city, located in a valley, has magnificent views of the mountain and can be reached in 3 ways; rail, road or air. Travelling there by road or rail will take a very long time, so unless you have more time on your hands than you know what to do with, I would suggest going there by air. Currently there are 2 flights a week from and to Chengdu; the capital city of China’s Sichuan Province, where you can expect to pay around £350 or $400 for a return flight. After you landed at the airport, you can either hire a car or jump in a taxi, because from there it is just a quick 27-mile trip by road to get to the city. Another way would be to board a plane in Beijing and fly for 5 hours to Lhasa, but then it will still be a 7-hour drive to Shigatse.
Shigatse has plenty of accommodation available as it is a haven for tourists wanting to see the highest point in the world; even if it is from a distance as you would still need to travel around 150mi to get to the top of Mount Everest. Prices start at around £80 or $100 a night per person, per room and comes with all the regular amenities.
When in Shigatse, be sure to check out the Tashilhunpo Monastery, which was founded in 1447 by the 1st Dalai Lama and is situated on a hill in the center of the city. In the late 18th century, a British officer called Captain Samuel Turner had the following to say about the monastery:
‘If the magnificence of the place was to be increased by any external cause, none could more superbly have adorned its numerous gilded canopies and turrets than the sun rising in full splendour directly opposite. It presented a view wonderfully beautiful and brilliant; the effect was little short of magic, and it made an impression which no time will ever efface from my mind.’
Another great attraction are the hot springs located all over Tibet and around Mount Everest, but expect to travel up to 150 mi to some of the more famous hot springs. One of the most visited and probably the finest hot springs are Tidrum Hot Springs, where you can go for a dip in a swimsuit or your birthday suit. Situated around 90mi northeast of Lhasa, this hot spring has legendary healing powers and locals believe that it can reduce or even cure a whole bunch of symptoms, including arthritis. The water is piping hot and can be a shock to the system and even cause dizziness. You are advised to soak for short periods at a time, 15-20 min at the most, get out and then go back in a little later after you had a rest. Also, try to avoid any exercises when swimming, don’t go swimming within 1 hour after eating and definitely don’t go in drunk. And it goes without saying; don’t pee in the water.
The last stop for tourists before climbing Mount Everest is the northern base camp. This is a long trek, around 55 mi and will take you past the Rongbuk Monastery, which is the highest temple in the world and you are more than welcome to visit. You would need a permit to visit this camp, which can be acquired in Lhasa from travel companies and costs around £23 or $28. Because of the extreme weather conditions, there are no buildings after the Rongbuk Monastery, just tents. For around £3 or $4 you can send your jealous friends a postcard from the world’s highest post office; a green tent labeled ‘China Post’.
If you didn’t bring your own tent, you can rent one for around £1.70 or $2 a night with just the basics. Toilets are shared among all the guests, so don’t forget to flush after you’re done. Because of the high altitude, it can be very difficult to sleep at night, which will be the perfect opportunity to do some star gazing; unblemished by pollution, the sky is crystal clear. Sunrises and sunsets are magnificent and a very special experience at the north camp, so don’t forget to send me a thank-you postcard. Because of the surrounding mountains, the sunrise is delayed, catching Everest in a golden glow.
Chinese food, or as they call it in China, food, is available, but you can bring your own if you’re not in the mood for fried rice and noodles. You will have access to hot water, but will not be able to take a shower. The generator, supplying very low voltage electricity, is switched off at midnight and is not strong enough to charge your phone or anything else, so make sure that all your devices are charged beforehand. Then finally, don’t forget to pack your long johns, because…, you know. You will have access to stoves burning cow dung to take the edge off, but you can’t stand next to them forever. And no, the stoves don’t smell. Even if they did, no one has access to showers anyway, so everyone will stink after a few days. It’s also a good way to ensure that you are alone in first-class on your way back home.
The base camp is as far as it goes for tourists. Only professional climbers are going further, but don’t worry; a plane ride around and over the peak of Everest will show you everything the professionals will get to see. Costing at around £140 or $170 per person you will witness the highest peak on earth without freezing your balls off. Tickets can be bought from 3 airlines, but after extensive research I have found that Buddha Air is the most popular.
With this one we are on a schedule. Sort of. Due to the fact that Robert Mugabe has driven away millions of tourists since the early 2000’s, the Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls have declined in popularity; so much so that United Nations are thinking of revoking its status as a World Heritage Site. So the crazier Mugabe gets, the less chance you have to see see the falls as a World Heritage Site. After Mugabe has messed it up for the entire planet (there always has to be one person that ruins it for everyone else), upon seeing the falls, you can just tick it off your list as some regular old waterfall. Best get going then.
For the purpose of this post and the fact that Mugabe will never have my support, we are going to visit the falls through Zambia, where flights will start around £382 or $440 per person. The Scottish missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, was the first European to set eyes on the falls in 1855. It might just be a myth, but he also invented the first speedboat. As he was lazily rowing down the Zambezi River in a canoe, he noticed the increase in speed as he approached the unknown falls. As soon as he heard the rumbling of millions of litres of water plummeting down to the depths below, he turned around and worked those oars at the same speed as 10,000 HP Mercury Racing Twin Turbo Engine propellor.
At 5604 ft wide and 354 ft high, the Victoria Falls are not the highest, nor the widest waterfall on earth, but is the biggest due to the combined width and height, resulting in the largest sheet of falling water on planet earth. It’s also more than twice the size of North America’s Niagara Falls. From late November to early April, upstream from the falls, the Zambezi river experiences the rainy season, but the floods only occurs between February and May, peaking in April. The spray from the falls typically rises to around 1300 ft, but sometimes even twice as high and is visible from up to 30 mi away. The noise of the falls can be heard up to 25 mi away. At the Knife-Edge Bridge, spray shoots upward like inverted rain. During the full moon cycle, a ‘moonbow’ is visible in the spray instead of the usual daytime rainbow, resulting in spectacular views. This to me looks like the breeding ground for werewolves. If you can’t position a lookout, at least make sure that you can run faster than your mother-in-law.
Both Zambia and Zimbabwe, allow tourists to cross the border and view the falls from both viewpoints. Visitors with single-entry visas need to purchase new visas every time they cross the border, even if it is just a day trip to the other side. Visas cost around £70 or $80 and the regulations keep on changing, so you are advised to check the requirements before you travel.
On Livingstone Island between September and December, when the river flow is at a certain level, you can approach the rock barrier’s edge, which has minimal current at that time and splash around in the shallow waters. This feature is called ‘Devil’s Pool’ and I can imagine why as some deaths have been reported over the years when swimmers had slipped over the edge. I understand the thrill it must be to swim around the shallow pool, inches away from a certain death, but I still don’t think it should be allowed. Or at least put some safety measures in place. They can easily tie a long length of rope to one of your legs and insure that you get to continue with your holiday. So please be careful when you do go for a dip.
2 wildlife parks surround the falls; Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (16,309 acres) and Victoria National Park (5683 acres). Both are relatively small, however, next to the latter, Zambezi National Park extends 25 mi along the river towards the west. Animals such as buffalo, giraffes, Katanga lions, African leopards, South African cheetahs, antelopes, baboons and more are able to move freely between the parks. They are in abundance, so chances are you will be able to see the lot. Large populations of hippopotamus and crocodile reside in the river above the falls. So between the hippos (which kills more people each year than any other animal on earth) and crocodiles on the one side and the vertical drop on the other side, you will need to bring spare underwear with when you to go for a swim in Devil’s Pool. I would also advise against mentioning those plans to your travel insurance agent.
Klipspringers (small antelope), otters, honey badgers, lizards and more live in the gorges as well as various species of birds of prey, such as peregrine falcons, black eagles and augur buzzards. Waterfowl, herons, fish eagles and more live above the falls, so don’t forget to bring your binoculars. Lastly, 39 species of fish live in the river below the falls and 89 species live above it. I doubt if you are allowed to fish, in case you accidentally hook a hippo. They definitely don’t like getting reeled in.
Accommodations are plenty and can range between £170 or $200 a night, all the way up to £900 or $1000 a night, per person, where you can share a luxury tree house suite with your loved ones. This is as close to heaven on earth as you can possibly get. The prices can seem quite steep, but you get what you pay for. Spectacular views of waterholes where animals will quench their thirst, or relaxing in a hot tub with the Zambezi River lazily flowing past; tranquility at its very best.
You will feel like a child at Disneyland and wouldn’t know where to start with all the activities the falls have to offer. I don’t even know where to start, so let’s do this alphabetically:
Before you can jump into a canoe, you would need to sign an indemnity form. This absolves the lodge from any injury you might incur while dodging the hippos and crocodiles around you. The canoes are inflatable, so take a needle with you. As soon as a hungry hippo gets too close, poke a hole in the back of the canoe and off you go.
You need to be at least 10 years old and 2 people before boarding one of these dinghies. They then have 3 types of cruises for you to choose from, starting at £31 or $35 per person for a Kandahar Island Picnic Lunch tour, where you paddle to Kandhar Island and have a picnic. These tours usually last around 2-3 hours, depending whether or not you unfolded your picnic blanket on top of an ant’s nest. Half day tours cost £68 or $75 per person or you can do a full day at £105 or $115, which also includes a picnic lunch. Lunch for you, not the crocodiles.
Consisting of 9 different slides and a cable bridge walkway, these canopy tours offer magnificent birds-eye views of the falls and the riverine forest below. Lasting 2-2.5 hours and costing £45 or $52.50 per person, you can stop at any of the viewpoints while playing Tarzan and observe the wild life and birds around you. Before you get going, you will get a safety briefing to ensure that you know what you are doing and then 2 tour guides will show you around.
Bungee Jump and Bridge Activities
Now this is the ultimate thrill at an unbeatable location. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Bungee! At 364 ft high and free falling for 4 seconds, you will jump into the rainbows and spray from the falls below. If that is not enough you can do a bridge swing; free falling 262 ft and then swing a huge arc with the falls right by your side. Then for children 7 and up, they have bridge slides available where the zipline will glide over 300 yards and come to a stop on the Zimbabwean side of the falls. Not a bad way to cross the border. Bungee jumps are strictly solo and cost £135 or $160 per person. A bridge swing will cost you the same or for £170 or $205, you can do a tandem swing with your better half. Bridge slides cost £35 or $45 per person or £43 or $55 for a tandem swing. You will get a nice little discount should you want to do the lot; costing £170 or $205, it really is a bargain. And remember, the rope goes around your waist, not your neck.
They will supply you with a rod, bait and fishing boat at £16 or $20 per hour or you can fish from the jetty for £16 or $20 for the entire day, which also includes a rod and bait. They will also make you sign an indemnity form in case of any accidents. Sounds a little ominous, since you will be fishing. How dangerous can it get? Then again, T.I.A. – This is Africa, so I suppose anything can happen.
The Flying Fox
At £35 or $42 per person, this zipline will make you zoom through the air and over the Zambezi below. Don’t let the 200-yard wide and 120-yard deep gorge below frighten you.
Here you have a choice of either a 13min flight for £130 or $150 or a 25 min flight for £250 or $284, which will take off on a hill above the Zambezi, over the falls and up the river. The pilot will then take you over the Zambezi National Park and back to where you started to complete the ‘Flight of Angels’. The longer flight take you over the Batoka Gorges and further up the river, enabling you to spot more animals. So don’t forget to take your camera with. If your memory is anything like mine, you will need it to preserve those memories forever. These helicopter tours are a must as you will get to see the falls up close; much closer than any of the lookout points can ever take you.
River Cruise and Safari Experience
Included in your accommodation price, these two activities are freebies. Which, for my wife, will be the best kind of activity. Nothing she likes more than a bargain. You can choose between a sunrise or sunset river cruise on the Zambezi; so close that you could see the spray from the falls, while having panoramic views of Africa and its wildlife around you. Sure you can see sunsets and water sprays any time of the day, like when you turn on the hosepipe and runs through the sprinkler on your lawn while the sun is setting behind you, but it’s just not the same. In between the 2 daily cruises, you can choose between a morning or afternoon game drive. Trained field guides will show you around as you navigate through the 150,000 acre Zambezi National Park, where you will get to see plenty of wildlife and if you’re really lucky, even a big cat. Unfortunately children under the age of 4 will not be able to do either activity and the Lodge state on their website that they reserve the right to remove disruptive children. Game drives include snacks and sundowners, as much as you like, since you won’t be driving. Just don’t go looking for a fight with one of the local baboons. They have a bad habit of giving you the stink eye when you invade their territory, so just ignore them.
This is for the more adventurous. Described by many as the world’s best white river rafting run, these 19 rapids are also some of the biggest in the world. Between August and December it will cost around £120 or $150 to do a low water run and between December and March you can do the high water run when the rains send flood waters down from the Barotse Plains in Zambia. The falls then swell to its maximum capacity and you are in line for an adrenaline rush like no other white water river rafting run on earth can offer. And all that for a tenner cheaper than the low water run. Strange, but true.
Victoria Falls Tour and Walking Safaris
A guide will show you around as you visit the falls; the main reason you came to Zambia. Included in your accommodation price, the guide will take you to a couple of lookout points where you can take enough photos to preserve these memories forever. They will supply you with a raincoat, because… you know. Walking safaris are not included in your accommodation price and rates are available on request.
Suspended 120 yards above the mighty Zambezi and hurtling 66 mi/h across the 425-yard gorge, even children of all ages can do this activity. They are not allowed to sit in the comfort of a game viewer truck under the watchful eyes of their parents, but it is alright to send them flying down a mountain at break-neck speeds. Lovely. Costing £55 or $68.50 for you alone or £90 or $110.50 for a tandem slide, this seems to be one of the more affordable activities to do.
Don’t adjust your screens. What you see is real. Predominately seen at the Arctic or Antarctic regions, these natural light displays or auroras if you will, are called the Northern Lights. I saw the same stuff one day after I won the who-can-hold-their-breath-the-longest competition against 4 of my friends. They had to wake me up afterwards, but it was amazing. And I got to save on flight tickets. Win win.
In order to see the real thing, you would still need to go there. I can try and explain how and why these light displays are formed, but you will hit the back button on your browser faster than when Apollo 13 had left for the moon. You can see the light displays almost anywhere in high latitude, but if I had to choose one place, it would be Iceland, and more specifically its capital, Reykjavik; the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world and a very popular tourist destination. At night it looks like a fairytale land. Flights start from £70 or $89 per person with an airbus called WOW, but I have never heard of it and don’t know if I could trust it and that will only be from the closest countries. You can check flight prices here.
One of the best ways to travel to Reykjavik will be to purchase a Groupon deal; typically for £199 or $240, which will include a boat cruise and 2-night stay in a hotel for 2 people and are specifically for those who want to see the Northern Lights. These deals are not always available, so keep an eye out. Accommodation starts at £30 or $40 per person, per night, but I think those prices will be very rare. Normal room prices are around £79 or $99 per person, per night and can go up to £1319 or $1520 per person. You can check full prices here.
Reykjavik is an adventure city with plenty of things to do. Freezing your balls off would probably be first on the list, but I’m not going to count that as an activity. The nightlife is amazing and the city is known for it, especially over weekends. Alcohol is very expensive, so people tend to drink at home before they hit the streets. There are well over a hundred bars, especially in Laugavegur, which is one of the oldest shopping streets in downtown Reykjavik, but none cooler (pun intended) than the world famous Kaffi Ice Bar, where the temperature is kept at -6 degrees Celsius and everything is made out of ice from the Icelandic glaciers, including the glasses. The bars will seem quiet and then fill up suddenly after midnight as people normally go out late. You can make a game of it and go for a drink at each of the 100 bars. Then try and find your way back to your hotel room.
The Blue Lagoon Spa is the place to leave your troubles behind. One of the most visited attractions in Iceland and around 24 mi from Reykjavik, the water stays between 37-39 degrees Celsius. As with many of the other hot water springs around the world, these waters are rumoured to have healing powers that have cured people with skin diseases, like psoriasis, in the past.
Just a short 10min walk away, you can stay at the Silica Hotel in one of their 35 spacious double bedrooms where a night will cost you around £360 or $420 a night. Double occupancy costs around £440 or $510 per room, per night and a family of three will pay around £550 or $630 for a room for the night. These rooms come with all the regular amenities as well as an en-suite. So rest assured, you won’t have to go outside into the freezing cold to make a number 1 or 2. Apart from the magnificent location, which is set in a lava landscape, wi-fi, gym facilities, breakfast and entry to the lagoon are included in your accommodation price. The guided tour takes around 40min and will cost a little extra; not much, just £14 or $16 and is definitely worth it. After you played the whole day until you are sore all over, you can get an in-water massage while floating around the lagoon; guaranteed to turn you into a lump of clay. Just don’t get too relaxed, because they don’t like it when someone pees in the water. 30 min with your own masseur will cost you £73 or $88, or you can go for the full monty; a rejuvenating wonder promised to be a cleansing, nourishing and revitalizing experience. Total cost – £220 or $280 for 2 hours.
55 mi east of the capital is Bruarfoss Waterfalls; just one of hundreds spread out across Iceland. The water is magnificently blue and will provide you with some of the best photographs that you will take on your travels there. They are not high or big, but still something that you shouldn’t miss.
The reason we came to Iceland, was to see the light displays and the seaside at Seltjarnarnes is just the right place to do that. Away from the city lights, you will be able to experience the Northern Lights at their fullest. While you are there, be sure to check out the charming little lighthouse as well. I can’t really think of a more romantic place to ask your partner…..to get bigger boobs.
The Rio de Janeiro Harbour
You would think that a harbour is a harbour. 100’s of them all over the world. But if you look at the photo above, you would see that this is not just any old harbour. It has to mean something that it made the top 7 list of natural wonders of the world. Even above Cape Town’s harbour, and that says a lot. With a perimeter of 89 mi and an area of 159 sq mi, the Rio de Janeiro Harbour, a.k.a. Guanabara Bay is the second largest harbour in Brazil, South America, after the All Saint’s Bay. The bay is littered with over a 130 islands and surrounded by granite monolith mountains, including the famous, Sugar Loaf Mountain and some peaks as high as 3350 ft. Based on the volume of water, this is also the biggest bay in the world, so another extreme and reason for you to visit. Flight prices will range from around £200 or $250, should you fly from a neighbouring country or the USA. Flying from the UK or most other countries, you can expect to pay around £1100 or $1400 per person for the 12-hour flight.
Finding a place to stay will be absolutely no problem at all. This city’s bread and butter are the tourists, so they make sure that there is enough accommodation for everyone. As with everything else in life, you get what you pay for, but this city seems to be less expensive than other places we already covered in this post. So you get to see a natural wonder of the world at a very affordable price. Two birds with one stone.
Prices start from free, where you can share a single bed with a ladyboy. Just be careful. They are notorious for hogging the covers. If that’s not for you, expect to pay around £16 or $19 per person, per night, but it will be just the basics and chances are that you won’t even have an en-suite. A 5-star hotel room will cost you between £120 or $150 per person, per night and up to around £320 or $380 per person, per night, where you would a have a room and a view like in the pictures above. Full prices can be checked here. Marble en-suites, gym facilities, free wifi and heated swimming pools are just some of the luxuries you can expect to experience to make your stay memorable.
Rio de Janeiro is a party town and there is so much to do that it deserves its own page. I cover more of it in another post, so for now let’s just stick with a few of the golden oldies.
Christ the Redeemer
This attraction is covered in the post titled, ‘New 7 Wonders of the World’.
Copacabana and Ipanema Beach
‘Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl’. That’s right. It’s that Copacabana. Stretching 2.5 mi, this beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world and the neighbourhood (also called Copacabana) has 63 hotels and 10 hostels. The white, sandy beach is usually packed with tourists and locals alike and activities like beach soccer, swimming and sunbathing will keep you busy. The weather stays lovely all year round and rarely dips below 21 degrees Celsius. That’s why it looks like a beach full of roasted potatoes. The water is around 23 degrees Celsius, making it the ideal place for a swim. I’m not a big fan of any water colder than my usual bath, but even I would go in there. I’ll even wear a speedo, but only because the wife wouldn’t like it.
Ipanema beach is another beach made famous by a song. Or maybe it was the other way around. Beach goers play volleyball, go surfing or wake boarding or just roast in the sun as you normally do. This upscale beach also has venders that sell almost anything that you would need for a day at the beach. You wouldn’t even have to lift a finger, unless you drank too much water or beer. Then you are on your own and as always, I strongly advise against peeing in the water. The surrounding mountains make for a great view, so all in all, a very enjoyable and memorable experience.
Known for it’s panoramic views of the city, Sugarloaf Mountain rises 1299 ft above the harbour, which you can reach with a cable car. Holding 65 people at a time, the glass-walled cable car runs every 20 min along the 1400-yard cable, stopping at another mountain in between where visitors need to change cable cars to get to the top. It will take around 3 min from start to finish to reach the summit and you have a 360-degree view of the city beneath you while travelling to the top. So as soon as you booked your holiday, make sure to put a reminder in your phone to remember your camera. It will be a disaster should you forget it at home. Surfing on top of the cable car is probably prohibited, but you can climb to the top if you are an experienced rock climber.
Tours from the South Zone take around 4 hours and cost £60 or $80 per adult (ages 13 and up) and children between the ages of 3-13 will pay £45 or $60 per ticket. Tours from Barra da Tijuca also take around 4 hours, cost £67 or $89 per adult and £51 or $68 per child. Children under the age of 3 get to go for free. Roundtrip transport is available for all visitors and from most hotels, so you don’t have to wear yourself out.
Sugarloaf Mountain is also the entrance to the harbour and part of the mountain chain, Serra do Mar. These granite stone peaks run for over 1500 mi along the coast of South America. The spectacular shapes of the mountains are from the interaction between harder granite with that of the softer gneiss rock. Wind, rain and the ocean waves also played a part in the formation of these valleys and cliffs as erosion done its job throughout the years. Charles Darwin once wrote that the location seemed like some kind of immense theatrical stage; almost unreal. But trust me, it’s real.
We made it to Mexico. So if we’re not careful, we’ll be stuck here forever, because there is so much to do, that we will need two life times even just to talk about it all. We don’t have to jump the fence, or if we can believe Donald Trump, scale that imaginary wall that he keeps going on about to get into Mexico. This is a touristy country. They let you in.
The first thing you do when you are visiting a country like Scotland is to buy a kilt. They don’t hold it against you. They are proud of the fact that foreigners want to be a part of their tradition. When you go to Texas and buy a cowboy hat and boots, no one will even bat an eyelid, because there it is perfectly normal. Unless those boots are bright red and makes you look like a jackass. When you go to Thailand and want to dress like a ladyboy, just make sure that no one you know goes with you. Otherwise knock yourselves out. So when you go to Mexico, a sombrero should be at the very top of your list. Not only will you fit right in, it is also practical. I’m not sure if you know, but the sun can be very hot in Mexico. So unless you want to be Sunday’s roasted dinner, get one. And get sunscreen too while you at it.
Flights to Mexico City cost around $160 per person if you fly from a neighbouring country or Canada. Expect to pay £520 or more per person, depending on your seat and airline when you fly from anywhere else. After you landed at Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México, you, your fellow travellers and your sombrero would need to hire a car, unless you want to take taxis or walk. Hire cars typically cost around £32 or $40 per day with unlimited milage. Mexico is quite big, so you will need it. Accommodation is no problem and ranges between £30 or $40 per person, per night, all the way up to £300 or $400 per person, per night and even more, depending on where you stay and what your room looks like. Full prices can be found here.
7 hours and 280 mi west of Mexico City is the reason we came here. 200 mi if you’re a crow. Formed in 1943, this volcano suddenly surged from a cornfield owned by a local farmer, Dionisio Pulido. He and his family had been clearing the field that day to prepare for spring planting when they started hearing rumbling and hissing sounds and the ground swelling up. I bet this is where the legend of Speedy Gonzales was born. One moment they were there and the next moment they were gone. Locals described smelling sulphur, which smells like rotten eggs, coming from the crater that was busy forming. It must have been right around the same time Dionisio and his family streaked past. You put two and two together.
Over the next 9 years, from 1943 – 1952, the volcano erupted several times and grew into the 1391-ft high cone we know today, where it had been lying dormant ever since. 90 sq mi surrounding the volcano had been damaged and was covered with stone, ash and lava. 3 people got killed and 2 entire towns were damaged and evacuated. Strangely enough, the 3 people didn’t die from the eruption directly, but from the lightning that were created by it.
To get to the attraction, you would need to drive to Angahuan; a small village 2.5 hours away from the volcano, where you will be met by tour guides and travel by horse. It will cost you £30 or $40 per person, so it’s really not bad at all to see one of only 7 natural wonders of our world. Horses don’t go all the way to the top, so you would have to walk the last few hundred yards. Since this volcano is no longer active, there is just no point in bringing your mother-in-law with, because she’d be going back home with you. Also make sure that you eat breakfast that morning before you go. It’s understandable that people will still be a little apprehensive when getting close to the volcano. A rumbling stomach can easily send someone heading for the hills.
Part of the day trip will be to see the ruins of the San Juan Parangaricutiro Church, which withstood all eruptions the volcano could throw at it. It’s not completely in tact, but seeing as everything else got wiped out, this truly is an engineering marvel.
Wrestling and Tequila
You know the saying, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’? Well, we’re in Mexico, so let’s do what they do. It might be fake and even if you don’t like wrestling, you have to experience it at least once. Dating back to 1863, Enrique Ugartechea developed Lucha libre, which was a form of Greco-Roman wrestling. Lucha libre is what they call professional wrestling and is famous for the colourful masks, wild manoeuvres and the athleticism of the wrestlers as they put their bodies on the line to entertain people. The rules are quite similar to the American version and also consist of groups and teams; some coming from extended wrestling families with their own stables and generations of wrestlers.
If this still didn’t convince you to see a show, you definitely need some help. Tequila! A few snorts of this beverage and you will be good to go. Heading back to Mexico City, the arena is a stone’s throw from the airport and you can warm up on the way. Only if you’re not driving. Growing up, my cousin and I used to mimic the manoeuvres done by the wrestlers from the WWF, especially after we had seen a show. So I would caution United Airlines to talk to their flight crew. A guy that had just seen a Lucha libre show and drank a bottle of tequila, is not to be messed with. You try kicking him off a flight and he will perform a diving bulldog on you; a move where the wrestler has his opponent in a headlock, dives forward and smashes the poor guy’s face into the floor. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.
The Grand Canyon
Now this is some crater. At 277 mi long and up to 18 mi wide in some places, this crater was carved by the Colorado River and can be seen from space. It’s also just over a mile deep, so who knows what you will find at the bottom. It’s easy to see why the Grand Canyon made it onto this list; it is magnificent. Truly a wonder of the world.
For thousands of years Native Americans have continuously lived there and built settlements within the caves of the Canyon. If you come across them, don’t gawk, unless you want to be scalped. Temperatures vary throughout and are normally higher on the South Rim than it is on the North Rim due to the lower elevation. The North Rim can be accessed via Route 67, but we are going to concentrate on the South Rim, which has more to offer. The Grand Canyon is massive, so I might do another post later on where I will cover it in its entirety, but for now we will stick with just a few of its attractions.
First things first. We need to find a place to stay. You can hike the Grand Canyon and pitch your tent as you go along, but for the purpose of this visit, we are going to sleep in a comfy room and bed. Flights to Las Vegas or Phoenix, Arizona, will cost around the same; £775 or $990 if you fly from most other countries. To visit the South Rim and Grand Canyon National Park from either of these two cities, you will still have to travel around 240 mi, which you can do by hiring a car and drive. Or you can pay around £190 or $220 and get a flight to Flagstaff; a small city and closest to the South Rim, where you would only have to travel another 80 mi to get to the park. Flagstaff Airport is serviced by only 1 airline, so unfortunately we can’t travel there directly.
The Grand Canyon National Park covers 1902 sq mi and receives around 6 million visitors each year. Lodging will be no problem and full prices can be viewed here, where you can choose between the Phantom Ranch, Maswik Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, Kachina Lodge and a couple others. Expect to pay around £90 or $110 per room, per night and up to around £210 or $260 per room, per night. Extra people only pay £7 or $9 a night, which in my opinion is a bargain.
After a good night’s sleep it is time to explore. One of the more popular activities to do while visiting, are the mule rides, which takes you deep into the canyon and along the rim. The 10.5-mi trip will take you 5.5 hours and you can spend a night or two at the Phantom Ranch. Overnight trips like these cost $588.43 for one person or $1027.86 for 2 people, per night. It should really include a massage, because 5 hours on a donkey will create a pain in the ass. Short trips take 3 hours, stopping 6 times along the the way and will cost $142.83. To me it seems quite steep, but it probably includes repair and maintenance costs. Every night after sunset, the mules are hoisted up on block and tackles and inspected for any repairs needed.
Some of the more beautiful sights at the Canyon, surely have to be the waterfalls, spread throughout the entire Canyon. The magnificent turquoise water is a lovely 21 degrees Celsius, might range slightly from waterfall to waterfall, and normally falls into a pool where you can go for a swim. I don’t know if you will be sharing the pool with snapping turtles, so it would be best to keep your swimsuits on at all times. This is definitely one of the better swimming pools on earth with a setting like no other.
Rafting tours, boat trips, helicopter scenic flights and other stuff are just some of the activities you can expect to do when touring the Grand Canyon. Full details can be found here. You will be able to pick and choose as you like, depending on the duration of your trip. So choose well. Grand Canyon Lodges offer a Canyon adventure package for £380 or $445 per adult and $20 cheaper if you are under 12 years old, but older than 4. This will include a guided tour to Antelope Canyon where, as the name suggests, you will see antelopes. It also includes a scenic helicopter flight, a smooth water float trip, 2 meals and then the return trip in a bus or minivan.
2 hours north of the South Rim, you will see the famous Horse Shoe Bend, shown in the first picture above of the Grand Canyon section. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why it’s called Horse Shoe Bend. Along the way with a bit of a detour, you will come across the Colorado River Bridge, or Navajo Bridge; the perfect place for a bungee jump. Costing £200 or $250 per jump, this is one of the more expensive jumps I have covered so far. But as with many of the other jumps, this location is also unique and in my opinion a little safer. If the rope snaps, you’ll land in the river below.
More activities for you to enjoy are the following:
- Camping and Backpacking – Permits are required for all overnight camping.
- Bus Tours
- Fishing – Licences can be obtained from the General Store in Market Plaza.
- Nature Walks
- Museums and Galeries
- Stargazing – One of my personal favourites as the air at the Grand Canyon is some of the cleanest in the entire country. There are also no city lights to interfere, which means you will be able to see the billions of stars the galaxy has to offer you. So don’t forget to bring your binoculars and telescope. If you don’t have either or both, get it.
And this is it for the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Each of these beauties have something to offer; something you wouldn’t see if you just look out your back window. I have tried my best to describe the wonders as best as I could, but you will need to see them in person in order to appreciate the awesomeness of it all. Words cannot really describe it. Or maybe just not my words. 🙂
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Safe travels as always.