The Seven Natural Wonders of the World

October 4, 2018

Mount Everest
Ama Dablam, a mountain in the eastern Himalayan range, near Monut Everest.

Since ancient times, people have been creating lists of the world’s most amazing places and things, and the practice continues to this day.

The original “Seven Wonders” list was created by Greek historians. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was a compendium of spectacular ancient sights that included things the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

No offense to the ancient scholars, but it takes more than a modestly tall lighthouse or an old bone yard to wow people in modern times!

Some say that including man-made “wonders” tends to dilute the impact of such lists, and since geography is our favorite subject, this article will delve into an interesting list compiled by CNN in 1997—the Seven Natural Wonders of the World:

  • Aurora
  • Grand Canyon
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
  • Mount Everest
  • Parícutin volcano
  • Victoria Falls



An aurora is a naturally occurring light display that appears in the sky above high-latitude regions like the Arctic and Antarctic.

People often refer to them as polar lights, or the more specific northern lights (aurora borealis) or southern lights (aurora australis). Disturbance by solar winds causes atmospheric components to emit light of different colors, and the resulting visual display has been puzzling and amazing the people of Earth for centuries.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River in Arizona, United States. Like a massive gouge in the Earth’s surface, the canyon is 277 miles long, over a mile deep, and, in some spots, 18 miles wide.

The steep rock walls of the Grand Canyon offer us a snapshot that captures almost two billion years of Earth's geological history. There is an interesting human history as well--the canyon has been inhabited by Native Americans continuously for thousands of years.

Great Barrier Reef

Located in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. In fact, it’s the world’s largest living structure!

Comprised of approximately 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands, the Great Barrier Reef is around 1,400 miles long and is visible from space.

The Great Barrier Reef is popular with tourists, delighting about 2 million visitors each year.

Harbor of Rio de Janeiro

Also known as Guanabara Bay, the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro is the jewel of Brazil. It’s where the mountains meet the sea in a most spectacular fashion.

Towering over the Harbor are the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain at 1,296 feet and Corcovado Peak at 2,310 feet. It’s also home to famous islands such as Governor’s island, Fundao, and Snakes Island.

The Harbor of Rio de Janeiro was created by erosion from the Atlantic Ocean and is the largest bay in the world based on volume of water.

Mount Everest

Its official elevation is 29,029 ft, but Everest is still a growing mountain—Mount Everest grows by about a quarter of an inch every year! Located in the Himalayas, Mount Everest is Earth's highest mountain above sea level.

High altitude plus nonstop exposure to the jet stream results in 200 mph winds and temperatures as low as -80F. Mount Everest is the ultimate climb for many experienced mountaineers, but almost 300 people have died attempting to reach Everest’s summit.

Parícutin Volcano

Located in the Mexican state of Michoacán, Parícutin is a cinder cone volcano that rose out of a cornfield in 1943. It is the youngest volcano to form in the Northern Hemisphere, and it fascinates scientists as the first opportunity to document the volcanic life cycle from its inception.

In a single day, the volcano rose to a height of 164 feet and one week later it was 500 feet high! As it grew, the volcano released ash, smoke and sulfur fumes.

Five days after the initial eruption, lava flow from the volcano smothered the Mexican villages of Paricutin and San Juan Parangaricutiro.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Located next to the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa, Victoria Falls is famous for being the largest waterfall in the world. But it’s not the tallest or widest. Victoria Falls gets its “world’s largest” distinction because of its combined width of 5,604 ft and height of 354 ft.

The massive flow of water cascading over these breathtaking falls is supplied by the Zambezi River, which is the largest river in Africa.