Re-post time – from Lonely Planet (must sees, some day)

I love this article from Lonely Planet. All on my bucket list:

Most everyday experiences are lessons in the inevitable pull of the future: books are replaced with e-books, laptops are replaced with tablet computers, billions of dollars are replaced with trillions of dollars, fresh is replaced with cling-wrapped. When travelling, however, you may find fragile environments that have resisted the future. There you will experience a moment more concerned with the present or the past and time will seem to stand still. Here are some places to go and things to do for those times when you just want the world to stop spinning for a while.

Mountain gorillas, Rwanda & Uganda

Image by naamanus

Few experiences compare to crouching within a whisper of the greatest of the great apes and holding your breath because there’s nothing separating you from these amazing animals except for a rather tangled family tree. This is all thanks to the willingness of mountain gorillas in Rwanda‘s Parc National des Volcans and Uganda‘s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to let you get close to them. You’ll only spend an hour in the vicinity of the gorillas once you’ve tracked them in their native jungle, but those 60 minutes will endure for a lifetime.

Bhutan

Image by jmhullot

The Kingdom of Bhutan, known to its inhabitants as Druk Yul (Land of the Thunder Dragon), is imagined by many outsiders to be a land frozen in a highly traditional past. This is not true – a thoughtful programme of modernisation began here 40 years ago. However, Bhutan’s culture is underpinned by an ancient Buddhist mythology, emblemised by the ethereal dzongs (fort-monasteries) of the Bumthang region. Combined with Bhutan’s extraordinary geography, it’s this that brings visitors to a standstill while they’re trekking between Himalayan peaks in the north, delving into deep central valleys, or roaming the rolling southern hills.

Djenné Mosque, Mali

Image by 300td.org

The mosque in the island-bound Mali town of Djenné seduces travellers with the mudbrick hue of its fortresslike exterior and the large supporting cast of wooden beams that protrude through the walls into the brilliance of the African sun. So captivating is this earthen marvel, the world’s largest mud-brick structure, that it makes little difference to the experience to learn that the current building only dates from 1907. It was modelled on the Grande Mosquée erected on the same site in 1280; the original building fell into ruin in the 19th century.

Amazon River, Brazil

Image by passer-by

A slow trip down the world’s second-longest river means unbearable monotony to some, but glorious idleness and immersion in nature’s timelessness to others. To decide for yourself, board one of the gaiolas (river boats) that navigate the Brazilian Amazon between the interior settlement of Manaus and the port of Belém. These boats get insanely crowded and their open-sided nature (hence the name, which means ‘birdcage’) guarantees exposure to fierce Amazonian rainstorms. But just climb into a hammock near the railing, consign the sounds of boat life to background noise, and lose yourself in the passing of the world’s greatest rainforest.

Antarctica

Travel to Antarctica is expensive. Getting there by boat also involves a challenging sail across the Southern Ocean from bases like Hobart (Australia) and isolated Punta Arenas (Chile). But those who make the trip are rewarded with close-up views of the stunning cliffs marking the extremities of ice shelves, mountainous icebergs, the wildlife of the island-crowded Antarctic Peninsula, and fierce sunsets that can last for hours. Notwithstanding the presence of other cruiseship passengers, visitors also get to experience a glacial solitude that freezes the present.

Serengeti National Park by balloon, Tanzania

Image by wwarby

Imagine being hoisted up into the sky at daybreak and sailing serenely over expansive savanna plains dotted with wildlife, warmed by the rising sun and with only the occasional sound of a burner to break the silence. Such is the experience you’ll have in Tanzania‘s epic 1.5 million–hectare Serengeti National Park if you forego the standard on-the-ground safari and opt instead for a hot-air balloon odyssey over this African wildlife playground. The trip is at its most dramatic in May and early June when massive herds of wildebeest and zebras dodge predators during their annual migrations.

Mont St-Michel, France

Image by JackVersloot

Mont St-Michel is a mesmerising mix of town, castle, island and abbey. The Benedictine abbey’s striking Gothic architecture was completed in the 16th century and is surrounded by a village that is in turn surrounded by defensive ramparts and towers, all of it perched on a large granite islet in the English Channel that’s connected by a causeway to Normandy‘s shoreline. Mont St-Michel is often rated as France‘s most visited attraction, hence its narrow streets get absolutely jammed with pilgrims and other visitors. Some prefer to gaze at it from a distance and meditate on the beauty of its silhouette against the surrounding bay.

Swimming with whales, Tonga

Image by Antoine Hubert

Between June and November, humpback whales congregate in Tonga to mate and breed. Observing the whales from the deck of a boat as they slowly frolic and occasionally slap their flukes on the water’s surface is one thing. But strapping on a snorkel and paddling amongst these majestic cetaceans is something else entirely, particularly when a mother and calf are nearby. Swimming with whales is mostly undertaken around the Vava’u and Ha’apai island groups.

Petra, Jordan

Petra is an ancient city that was sculpted out of sandstone cliffs in the southern deserts of Jordan to become the capital of the Nabataeans. This staggering feat of rock-carving is entered via the Siq, a narrow, high-walled gorge that leads directly to Petra’s Treasury – the squeezed view of its elaborate façade from within the Siq has to be one of the world’s most snapped photographs. Many visitors devote themselves to the hillside tombs along Petra’s one ‘street’. But for some quiet reflection and an awesome view, tackle the more than 800-step climb up to the monastery.

Lhasa, Tibet

Image by watchsmart

The name of the Tibetan capital means ‘Holy City’, a fitting description for a city lodged in the Himalayas at an altitude of about 3600m and the spiritual centre of Tibetan Buddhism. The thin air will take your breath away, but so will the incredible spectacle of the surrounding Himalayan peaks and the golden-roofed Jokhang Temple. And, unlike the exiled Dalai Lama, you can also enjoy the serenity of Potala Palace. Most beguiling, however, is the indomitable cheerfulness of the Tibetan people amid the impositions of Chinese administration.

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Another 7 Natural Wonders?

Lonely Planet has decided that they do not agree with the New7Wonders, as many controversies have come from this voting competition. Instead, they chose the following, of which 4 were the same (Amazon, Iguazu Falls, Komodo, and Puerto Princesa Underground River):

1. Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

Photograph: Judy Bellah

South America’s gushing spectacle washes away the competition as Lonely Planet readers’ top natural wonder. From the dizzying walkways to the spray from Devil’s Throat, the sight of this colossal waterfall is seared into traveller’s brains.

2. Grand Canyon, USA

Photograph: Mark Newman

The rocky wonder favoured by the New7Wonders list was Table Mountain, but the Grand Canyon, with its vermillion cliffs and river-carved rock faces, takes the number two spot among Lonely Planet readers.

3. Komodo, Indonesia

Photograph: Kraig Leeb

Teeming mangrove swamps and basking lizards hurtled Indonesia’s Komodo National Park into third place.

4. The Amazon

Photograph: John Borthwick

Finally, something we can all agree on. The rich jungles of the Amazon’s river basin are big hitters for Lonely Planet readers, as well as New7Wonders and the G Adventures bloggers. Check out our tips for Amazon riverboat trips.

5. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Photograph: Leonard Zell

Another firm favourite, this azure expanse of Queensland coastline is a magnet to snorkellers, scuba divers and beach hoppers.

6. Puerto Princesa Underground River, Philippines

Photograph: Tom Cockrem

This subterrannean river captured your imaginations, but it seems the whole country is dear to your hearts. Our survey showed an incredible 8 destinations from the Philippines were put forward, from the Banaue Rice Terraces to the Chocolate Hills of Bohol.

7. Uluru, Australia

Photograph: Richard l’Anson

The second Aussie highlight on our top 7, the sacred site of Uluru remains an unmissable icon for Lonely Planet readers.

 

So the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef and Uluru are the wonders that Lonely Planet decided to use to replace Halong Bay, Jeju Island, and Table Mountains. Hmmm….I love them all, so just take me to all of them for me to decide on my own!!

The New 7 Wonders of the World

About a month ago, I wrote about The Bay of Fundy and this wonder’s chance to be voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Alas, this wonderfully natural, Canadian phenomenon was not selected. But some great new wonders were chosen:

1. The Amazon

The Amazon Rainforest, also known as Amazonia, the Amazon jungle or the Amazon Basin, encompasses seven million square kilometers (1.7 billion acres), though the forest itself occupies some 5.5 million square kilometers (1.4 billion acres), located within nine nations. The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world. The Amazon River is the largest river in the world by volume, with a total flow greater than the top ten rivers worldwide combined. It accounts for approximately one-fifth of the total world river flow and has the biggest drainage basin on the planet. Not a single bridge crosses the Amazon.

2. Halong Bay

Halong Bay is located in Quáng Ninh province, Vietnam. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. The bay has a 120 kilometre long coastline and is approximately 1,553 square kilometres in size with 1969 islets. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves, other support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish and 450 different kinds of mollusks. Another specific feature of Halong Bay is the abundance of lakes inside the limestone islands, for example, Dau Be island has six enclosed lakes. All these island lakes occupy drowned dolines within fengcong karst.

3. Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls, in Iguazu River, are one of the world’s largest waterfalls. They extend over 2,700 m (nearly 2 miles)  in a semi-circular shape.  Of the 275 falls that collectively make up Iguassu Falls, “Devil’s Throat” is the tallest at 80 m in height. Iguazu Falls are on the border between the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones, and are surrounded by two National Parks (BR/ARG). Both are subtropical rainforests that are host to hundreds of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.

4. Jeju Island

Jejudo is a volcanic island, 130 km from the southern coast of Korea. The largest island and smallest province in Korea, the island has a surface area of 1,846 sqkm. A central feature of Jeju is Hallasan, the tallest mountain in South Korea and a dormant volcano, which rises 1,950 m above sea level. 360 satellite volcanoes are around the main volcano.

5. Komodo

ndonesia’s Komodo National Park includes the three larger islands Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as numerous smaller ones, for a total area of 1,817 square kilometers (603 square kilometers of it land). The national park was founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon. Later, it was also dedicated to protecting other species, including marine animals. The islands of the national park are of volcanic origin.

6. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located about 50 km north of the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. It features a limestone karst mountain landscape with an 8.2 km. navigable underground river. A distinguishing feature of the river is that it winds through a cave before flowing directly into the South China Sea. It includes major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and several large chambers. The lower portion of the river is subject to tidal influences. The underground river is reputed to be the world’s longest. At the mouth of the cave, a clear lagoon is framed by ancient trees growing right to the water’s edge. Monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels find their niche on the beach near the cave.

7. Table Mountain

Table Mountain is a South African icon and the only natural site on the planet to have a constellation of stars named after it – Mensa, meaning “the table.” The flat-topped mountain has withstood six million years of erosion and hosts the richest, yet smallest floral kingdom on earth with over 1,470 floral species. Table Mountain boasts numerous rare and endangered species. It is the most recognized site in Cape Town, the gateway to Africa, owing to its unique flat-topped peaks which reach 1,086 m above sea level.

* all pictures from New7Wonders of Nature

The website also states that this is not the “official” finalists, and that the “official” results will be announced in early 2012. Perhaps a tiny glimmer of hope for Canada?