You might have seen my previous posts on 7 Off The Beaten Path Wonders Of The World and 7 Off The Beaten Path Wonderful Experiences In The World. Lists to be sure that will cause some debate and maybe even an argument or two. I will now be tackling the 7 Off The Beaten Path Natural Wonders Of The World.
Currently, there is no universally accepted list of the 7 Wonders Of The Natural World today, but there are several competing lists. I have highlighted two of them.
CNN compiled their list in 2007 with some extremely popular and beautiful locations.
• Aurora (northern lights)
• Grand Canyon
• Great Barrier Reef
• Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
• Mount Everest
• Parícutin Volcano in Mexico
• Victoria Falls
And the New7 Wonders of the World group also compiled their own list in 2011 along with their man-made version, which I highlighted in this previous post.
• Iguazu Falls
• Hạ Long Bay
• Jeju Island
• Puerto Princesa Underground River
• Table Mountain
• Komodo Island
• Amazon rainforest
I have been to eight of the fourteen listed above. And I have no real argument, they are all spectacular places. It is difficult to imagine anyone would be disappointed with a visit to these spectacular natural monuments.
But of course, we live on this grand blue marble. And the above two lists are mentioned constantly in the media and guidebooks.
This allowed me the opportunity to create my own list, from my own travels. 7 Off The Beaten Path Natural Wonders Of The World. Natural beauty of course is in the eye of the beholder, and of course all the places I listed met my expectations. Off the beaten path is also difficult to define but can be considered a bit more objective. The less tourists and the less infrastructure contribute to a less known touristy destination. I encourage you to create your own lists as well as comment below with your feedback of where I slipped up.
The Pamir Highway is the second highest international roads in the world. The Pamir Highway carves and slices its way through Central Asia with most of its time spent in Tajikistan. These roads have been used for a millennial but construction in earnest began in the 19th century and continued with the Soviets into the 1930s. The road’s highest point is the Ak-Baital Pass at 4,655-meter (15,270 ft). The landscape falls into the superlative category ranging from snowcapped mountains to crystal clear alpine lakes to meandering rivers.
For pure natural beauty, the landscapes on the Pamir Highway are not comparable. I was anticipating this trip for quite some time. I began my trip in Osh, Kyrgyzstan and for eight days I explored the mountainous panoramas. The journey for me ended in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Part of the journey traces both the Panj River and the Wakhan Corridor, meaning you will have a bird’s eye view into Afghanistan. And at some points, where the river is dry, you can amble right into Afghanistan. The tourism infrastructure is basic, meaning a lot of homestays, and the roads can be rough. This is a journey not to be missed.
The Mergui Archipelago does not roll off the tongue when imagining island paradises but this needs to be on the top of your list. Over 800 islands comprising the archipelago lie off the coast of Myanmar in the Andaman Sea. The islands range from tiny to Kadan Kyun which is 450 square km. Most of these islands are uninhabited with the local population being primarily the Moken people known as Sea Gypsies. These islands are limestone and granite and are typically covered with thick, verdant tropical growth. Traveling these islands, you will encounter pristine beaches and kaleidoscopic colored corals.
I’ve picked up countless postcards depicting beaches of fine white sands and transparent blue waters. But the Burmese islands combine that pristine beauty with truly little tourism. The convenient launching point is Ranong, Thailand. In less than 15 minutes on a speedboat, you will arrive in the islands of the Mergui Archipelago. There are only a handful of hotel options on the islands, meaning you will have to do either day trips from either Ranong or Kaythoung, Myanmar. Thailand has the equivalent islands in the Andaman Sea but they are overrun with tourists. For the best experience, sleep on one of the Burmese islands and avoid the day trips.
While quite isolated, Easter Island is well known for its mysterious Moai statues that dot the landscape. Besides the magnificence of the Moai, I was struck by Rano Kau, an extinct volcano located on south west corner of the island. Rano Kau is nearly one mile wide containing a lake that is one of only three natural bodies of fresh water on Easter Island. The crater towers to a height of 324 m (1,063 ft) and even has its own microclimate.
While I was mystified and beguiled by the Moai, Easter Island offers a beautiful setting. Rano Kau sits on the corner of the island with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. The crater is full of greenery with sprouts of colorful vegetation. A large lake spreads across the crater. I visited the crater several times, including a visit that began in darkness before sunrise. I sat on the edge of the crater as the sun rose in complete isolation.
Northeast Greenland National Park
The Northeast Greenland National Park is the largest national park in the world. The park was established in 1974, and it is actually larger than 164 countries in the world. It is larger than 100 Yellowstone Parks. That’s big. There is no permanent civilian population and less than 40 people make their home there, which comprise scientists, military, meteorologists, and members of the Sirius Sledge Patrol. The park hosts musk oxen, walrus, polar bears, Arctic fox, and Greenland wolf among others. Less than 500 tourists come here each year.
This park is not easily accessible with no facilities or infrastructure for tourists. I was able to visit this vast park via a cruise ship that made several landings via a Zodiac. I also had the opportunity to meet with several service members of the Sirius Sledge Patrol. The panoramas are full of stunning ice landscapes and Arctic wildlife.
Yap is one of the four states of the Pacific island nation of the Federated States of Micronesia. Less than 20,000 people live here with only a couple of flights a week from the outside world connecting to Yap. The main island is filled with rolling hills, mangrove swamps, and thick green vegetation with accompanying beaches and corals.
Yap punches above its weight with WWII history, a currency made form stone that can be over 7 feet tall, and a unique culture. Beyond that Yap has stunning beaches, verdant foliage, and amazing corals for snorkeling and diving. I arrived to Yap on an early morning flight from Guam and spent five days exploring this compact island. I spent my times snorkeling and taking a tour of the island.
Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
You can find the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary in the northwest corner of Senegal. The park is centered on the Senegal River delta and is the home to over 1.5 million birds. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains nearly 400 different avian species. Many of these birds are migratory, crossing the Sahara from Europe and wintering in Djoudj.
I left Saint Louis in darkness and headed to Djoudj. After speaking with the guide, I found myself in a boat being overwhelmed by the immensity of the bird life. The pelican density was staggering. While this is a well-known sight in Senegal, there are relatively few tourists here.
Sahara Desert in Mauritania
The Sahara Desert is considered the largest hot desert in the world. The desert spans the northern part of Africa from coast to coast, over 3,000 miles. The Sahara is 16 times larger than France. The desert is known for its unforgiving environment with a lack of water and hot temperatures. Approximately 75% of Mauritania is desert.
Mauritania is not known for its cosmopolitan cities but for its beautiful nature. I spent a week driving through the deserts, sleeping in oases, small Saharan villages, and desert camps. The solitude and simplicity of desert life makes this a required visit.
Check out these other lists.
7 Off The Beaten Path Natural Wonders Of The World