I’ve started – so I’ll finish. In my lengthy prelude, I promised to lay before you my updated Top-100 Must-See Places in the World in several portions over several posts. You’ve already had my new – extra – Top-20 Cities. Next up is a set of Top-Non-City-Must-See-Places – actually 17 of them – out of the Top-100, all of which are in the first continent I’ll be tackling: North America. A quick guide to the most astonishingly amazing places therein – most of which I’ve been lucky enough to visit in person, and all of which contain a particularly high concentration of natural and/or man-made beauty and/or unusualness. In this post – the first 10 entries; in the next post – the remaining seven.
So why North America? Or, rather, why this particular continent first?
Well, it just seemed the natural place to start, as it’s – normally – up in the top left-hand corner of a world map. From there I’ll be taking you on a trip around the globe with the following route: down through Central America, and through South America. Next – across the Atlantic to Europe, across Russia to its far eastern reaches. Then it’s back west and down to the Middle East, across Central Asia to India and Indochina, then up to China itself with brief stops at other assorted Asian spots. Next: again back west to start another eastern movement: Africa > Australia and Oceania. And last but not least: Antarctica. That’s the basic outline of the route as I see it now, anyway. So, ready? // Phone off, popcorn microwaved, beverage prepared, soft armchair… off we go!…
Of course, if I lived in China or America the world map used in the above snakes and ladders across the globe might have looked a little lot different. Or, if I lived in Australia, it might have looked like this:
Straight off I’d better EULAize a bit: In the new Top-100 list of unusualnesses… size doesn’t matter.
There are natural-uniquenesses suitable for Top-100 inclusion which, though not tiny, are hardly the size of countries. Examples: the Niagara Falls, Lake Victoria, Iguazu Falls, Pamukkale, Mount Fuji, the Pyramids, and the Central Moscow foursome (Red Square, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s and GUM). Like I say: relatively compact.
At the other end of the scale are the gargantuan giants: formations stretching hundreds of kilometers or made up of many interconnected geological elements forming a string of connected Top-100nesses. Examples: New Zealand, Kamchatka, Hawaii, Utah and Arizona. If these colossuses were to be divided up into their component parts, we’d have more like a Top-150 than a Top-100. That would be too much, at least for now.
So I’ve had to group some natural outstandingnesses together along the lines of suitably logical principles. (Other times, I’ve been able to split large ones into their separate parts, so it’s not all bad:) Hope you don’t mind!
Briefly, a few words on the format of the list:
For each entry there’s a number, the name of the place, then a short text on why it’s been included in the Top-100. And if I have something else to share in addition to the short commentary, I’ll of course mention it – normally through links to already imparted tales, stories and fables. Then there are photographs of the places. And next is normally a link to the place’s Wikipedia page, and link to an Internet map of the place, and links either to my pics on Flickr or others’ pics on Google.
Ok, all set; off we go… Oh no! One last word…
… of warning:
1. This list was made up by me personally and reflects only my personal subjective opinions. And this isn’t a scientific journal piece with footnotes and references in which accuracy is of paramount importance: there could well be a few factual errors in the texts.
2. Only unique objects of natural or human origin make the list.
Ok. This time: really ready. Let’s go!…
Southern Alaska is a land of mountains, waterfalls, lakes and glaciers. More salmon than you can shake a fishing rod at, whopping whales in the ocean, and all sorts of other interesting beasts. Northern Alaska is all about harsh Klondike Gold Rush scenes straight out of Call of the Wild or White Fang. We were there in August and all it did was pour it down. They say the best time to visit is in June or July. Details – here.
2. Yellowstone National Park
I haven’t been here, but have long dreamed of doing so, as it’s full of geysers, hot springs and other volcanisms. Reports on the Internet claim that its resident super volcano is about to wake up from a long sleep and cover everything in lava. So hurry and get here asap, otherwise there might not be much left to see.
3. Niagara Falls
I’ve seen these only once from a plane, but really need to get down on the ground to check out these fearsome falls in the flesh. I’m told they need viewing from both sides; that is, the Canadian and US sides.
4. Black Rock Desert, Nevada
A desert with a salt lake. I’ve been recommended this place many times, and the photos on the Internet do look impressive. Hey, the Burning Man festival can’t be wrong, right? :-)
It also features the Fly Geyser. The jury’s still out on this one – is it beautiful, or is it a tacky monstrosity? Still, guess we won’t find out as it’s situated on private property, and you can only get to have a look with the permission of the owner of the territory.
5. Bonneville Salt Flats
Bonneville – another salt lake, a gigantic one, with unearthly landscapes all around, mountains and mirages! A good few hours strolling around and about here: simply mandatory. If you walk away from the road a few kilometers deep onto the flats the feeling that overcomes you is just unreal. Next time I’ll have to have a drive across the salt plains, just like all the world speed record hopefuls… And since Salt Lake City is just nearby, I think a spot of downhill skiing would also not go amiss.
6. Utah/Arizona Red Rocks, Arches, and Caves
Red rock formations scattered across sizable territories of two neighboring states – Utah and Arizona. Enormous expanses of different red stone species: rocks, labyrinths, columns, arches, caves and other wonders. The main places with a high concentration of objects of interest are as follows:
Arches National Park
Zion National Park
7. Grand Canyon, Arizona
Who on this planet hasn’t heard of this grand canyon? Cave men and babies? Something like that.
A grandiose catastrophe that occurred millions of years ago left us this grandiose canyon to behold today – a unique super-colossal scar across the face of the planet. A visit once in a lifetime: mandatory. If you’ve time, raft down it, take a chopper excursion over it taking off from nearby Vegas, or at the very least walk the plank – the Grand Canyon SkyWalk.
8. California Redwood Parks
National parks in California – you just can’t get enough of them. Forests, rocks, desert, waterfalls, volcanisms… – all of them are to be found here. But perhaps the leader of the pack in terms of uniqueness are the Californian redwoods and other gigantic trees here.
I was first in the Golden State as far back as in 1997 – the year in which KL was founded, incidentally – but I still remember as if it were yesterday how these towering titans in Big Basin Redwoods State Park completely blew my mind. What I recall the clearest was seeing the tiny new trees starting out in (a very long) life, which stood next to their parents and other older relatives – who were more than a thousand years old!
9. Yosemite National Park
This national park (incidentally, pronounced yo-SEM-it-ee:), though in the same state as the redwood national parks mentioned above, needs a separate mention; because it’s just so OMG-amazing and unique. At least, that’s what everyone tells me who’s been, for I still haven’t made it here! It’s a mountain valley with wonderful waterfalls and rapturous rocks. It’s all so beautiful Apple named its latest OS after it, mispronounced the world over :-).
10. White Sands, New Mexico
I haven’t been here either, but, judging by what I’m told and the abundant photographic evidence, it’s one more unique place that needs checking out.
Of course, you won’t see all North America has to offer with this 10-point list of must-sees. The continent is packed so full of mind-blowing places, a Top-1000 would be more appropriate. But in the meantime before I get round to attempting such an opus, here are a couple more places of merit that, though not making the Top-10 (just), are still worthy of a mention due to their breathtaking beauty.
At the southernmost tip of Florida, stretching out in the direction of Cuba, there’s a string of islands – the Florida Keys – all joined up by bridges that carry Route 1. The last in line of this archipelago is one Key West. The town-island itself plus Route 1 getting there combine to give this location a very special feel-good vibe; so special, it earned the place a spot in the Top-100.
Perpetually picturesque rockiness on the Pacific coast, featuring highlights Well of Torah (in the below pic) and Devil’s Churn – an inlet from the Pacific that emits a demonic sound that could well be the sound of the devil’s tummy churning!
And on that macabre note, I close this chapter on North American sights to die for :-). I’m off to work on the rest of the Americas…