The world’s most beautiful views

For most of us, for too much of the time, the routines and humdrum necessities of normal life keep us firmly entrenched within the confines of our ordinary horizons: the sights and sounds of work, family, home, shopping, and so on. It’s easy to forget, or more sadly, remain blind to, the fact that the planet we go about our normal business upon is studded with the most sublime and spectacular vistas of beauty, places where Nature has thrown her clay to miraculous effect, or where the human imagination has crafted magnificent structures with astonishing ingenuity. Here are some of them, in no particular order of wondrousness.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The largest bank of coral in the world, this vast structure sits off the eastern coast of Australia in an azure sea which melds into luminous turquoise as it surges over the reef. Spanning 300,000 square miles, this miraculously ornate coral resembles a massive range of exquisite, interlocking marine palaces, arranged into over 600 islands and cays. And these natural palaces provide the habitat for a marvellously diverse assortment of marine creatures, including green turtles, whales, dolphins, more than 1500 species of fish, and over 200 fabulously incandescent bird species. Over two million people visit the breathtaking Great Reef Marine Park every year, taking advantage of the reef sailing, snorkelling and scuba diving on offer in one of the most beautiful spectacles in the natural world.


I believe it’s the world’s largest living organism

Niagara Falls – New York, United States and Ontario, Canada
Formed when the glaciers receded at the end of the last ice age, allowing water from the newly formed Great Lakes to carve a vast path through the Niagara Escarpment as it cascaded toward the Atlantic Ocean, this thunderous waterscape is guaranteed to take your breath away. No less than 4 million cubic feet of water roars over the crest line every minute on average, rising to a mind-boggling 6 million cubic feet per minute at high flow. Contrary to popular belief, the Niagara Falls are not especially high as giant waterfalls go, ranging from 75 to 173 feet; but they are exceptionally wide – 2,600 feet on the horseshoe-shaped Canadian side and 1,060 feet on the American side – a geological feature which makes them a quite literally awesome spectacle to behold. Famously, the cascading water is used to generate hydroelectric power but the sheer power of these gigantic falls is palpable to anyone who simply stands beside them and looks. A boat cruise, the infamous Maid of the Mist, has been taking tourists to the rapids directly at base of the falls since 1846 (not for those of a nervous disposition, perhaps).

Iguazu Falls – Misiones, Argentina and Parana, Brazil
Whilst we’re on the subject of waterfalls, it would be remiss to move on without a mention of the Iguazu Falls. When Eleanor Roosevelt visited them as American First Lady, she is reported to have exclaimed ‘Poor Niagara!’ This immense phenomenon is best described as system of waterfalls rather than a single fall, extending along 1.67 miles of the mighty Iguazu River, with the U-shaped ‘Devil’s Throat’ portion (82 meters high, 150 meters wide) being the most visually stunning. Iguazu boasts the greatest annual flow of water cascading over its multiple crests than any other waterfall in the world. The falls may not appear as thunderous as Niagara’s but they certainly compete in the ‘breathtakingly beautiful’ category. The Argentinean side has a series of walkways allowing visitors to stroll right around the water, whilst the Brazilian side offers the most unforgettably panoramic views.


This looks pretty cool!

Petra, Jordan
An eerily beautiful ancient city in the desert, this miracle of human endeavour was literally carved out of the surrounding mountains in Petra by the Nabataeans (Aramaic-speaking Semite people) in 100BCE. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the city’s rock-cut architecture has been described by UNESCO as ‘one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.’ In 363 AD, an earthquake destroyed many of the buildings and human habitation effectively ceased. Discovered after centuries of deserted invisibility by a Swiss explorer in 1812, today it attracts huge numbers of tourists eager to behold these enigmatically moving ruins, with their almost luminous pink stone and grand, exquisitely carved pillars, architraves, doorways, and windows.


The palace carved out of stone…

The Taj Mahal, India
This jewel of white marble, with its fairy-tale towers, majestic arches, intricately gorgeous stonemasonry and elegant domes was listed as a UNESCO World heritage Site in 1983 and took several thousands craftsmen, artists and builders over twenty years to construct. A mausoleum commissioned by the grieving Emperor Shah Jahan following the death of his beautiful and beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal,  this serenely beautiful palace of remembrance combines Islamic, Persian and Indian architectural styles to stunning effect. Building began in 1632 and was not completed until 1653, so exquisite and ornate was the craftsmanship which now forms its very fabric. Semi-precious stones were used throughout in innumerable ornamental inlays. Shah Jahan was also interred with his wife at the end of his life; this magnificent building attracts two million visitors every year from across the globe.


Perfect

Machu Picchu, Peru
Built at the height of the Inca Empire in about 1430, 2,430 meters above sea-level and using huge blocks of granite (some of which weigh in excess of 50 tons), this marvel of architectural beauty is also a miracle of ancient engineering. Built in classical Inca style with dry stone walls and exquisitely sculpted granite bocks, Machu Picchu comprises temples, baths and 150 houses and is believed to have been a sacred Inca site. It survived the Spanish plundering of Inca civilisation’s precious artefacts in the sixteenth century and is incredibly well-preserved. It only became widely known beyond Peru after it’s ‘discovery’ by an American historian, Hiram Bingham, in 1911.


Great country, great place

These are just a few of the astounding views the earth has to offer – space precludes mention of other jaw-droppingly spectacular vistas, like the  Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA, the Great Wall of China, Ayers Rock in Australia, Table Mountain in Cape Town … and the list just keeps going on and on. Every now and then, it is good for the soul to leave our familiar worlds and routines behind for a while and simply marvel at the beautiful world we might otherwise never even know exists.

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