Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

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Wonder is nourishment for the soul. We are the only animal on earth, as far as we know, that can be moved to tears by a sunset, that marvels at the stars at night, that feels awe, and humility, at the achievements of our past. Wonder defines us as human beings.

Of the original Seven Wonders of the World, only the Great Pyramids of Giza remain. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Temple of Artemis, the Colossus of Rhodes have all faded to dust and memory. These, instead, are seven wonders for our time. They are the Acropolis of our day, the Stonehenge of now. Which also means they can be seen firsthand. And so they should. Because the real magic of wonder is not in the thing itself, but in the fact that the more you look for wonder in the world the more the wonder of the world becomes a part of you.

Socrates said: ‘Wisdom begins in wonder.’ Studies show that the awe induces deeper levels of cognitive processing; it boosts empathy and helps us connect with the world around us in meaningful ways. Art and science are borne from it. Wonder is more than just a good feeling; it is a seed from which our greatest treasures grow.

Explore, dream and feed your spirit well.

Seven wonders of the world for 2021

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    1. THE NAZCA LINES, PERU

    These enormous geoglyphs, which were etched into the earth by hand around 2,000 years ago, are some of the globe’s most enigmatic wonders. Located in the arid Pampas de Jumana in southern Peru, the drawings depict a complex array of animal, humanoid and geometric shapes, some about 1,000ft long, and are scattered across 170 square miles of barren desert as if they were a strange and ancient art installation. There have been many theories about why the Nazca people would have created such vast works: a landing track for aliens (one image famously looks a little like an astronaut); a folly of the earliest hot-air balloonists (the outlines are best viewed from the air). Whatever their purpose, one thing’s for certain: they just got a little stranger. A new drawing was discovered in October 2020, a 120ft cat carved into the hillside. The world’s first space cat? Perhaps. Or maybe just another piece of the enigma waiting to be revealed.

    See it: For the best view, book an early morning flight from the city of Nazca. viator.com

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION, TANZANIA AND KENYA

    The annual relocation of about one-and-a-half million wildebeest across the Serengeti in Tanzania and parts of the Maasai Mara in Kenya is an incredible spectacle. The 1,000-mile circular journey is the largest migration of land animals on the planet. Herds can stretch on for 25 miles, the ground shaking with the thunder of hooves. Their movement fertilises the land and provides vital protein for predators. But they are now under threat like never before. Travel is one of the leading drivers of conservation in Africa, but Covid-19 has decimated visitor numbers. Without that income, game parks are struggling to keep their borders open and fauna protected. African animals need our support and tourism pounds: there will be no better time than 2021 to witness the greatest wildlife show on earth.

    See it: July to October is the dry season and offers the chance to see the crossing of the Mara River into Kenya, while January to March is the calving season around Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Note: the migration is driven by rains so does not operate on a strict schedule. tanzaniatourism.go.tz; magicalkenya.com

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    3. ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH

    This otherworldly expanse of red rock and stone spires is like nowhere else. With more than 2,000 sandstone arches, the largest concentration in the world, the place is like another planet, an enormous natural sculpture garden carved by eons of wind and rain. And 2021 is a good time to visit. The national park will turn 50, plus there are many rock stars to explore: Landscape Arch, the longest at 306ft and in the shape of a rainbow; North Window, the sun rising through it each morning like a golden iris. Come here at dawn and the stone glows soft pink; at sunset, it lights up in a fiery orange. This spot is unique among the landscapes of the world.

    See it: Under Canvas offers desert glamping right on the edge of the park. undercanvas.com

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    4. MOUNT FUJI, JAPAN

    With the 2020 Olympics postponed due to the coronavirus, all eyes will be on Japan when the games return in the summer of 2021. The country is home to many wonders, but Mount Fuji is top of the list. Rising 12,388ft from the island of Honshu, about 62 miles west of Tokyo, it has a near-perfect conical form and is a symbol of Japan, inspiring countless poets and artists over the centuries. But it’s more than that: the peak, or Fuji-san, is also the most revered of the country’s three Holy Mountains and is still used to this day for spiritual pilgrimages. Thousands of visitors make the tough eight-hour ascent each year, stopping off at shrines along the way to worship and make offerings. The focus may be on the Olympics, but if you want to understand the soul of the Japanese people, Mount Fuji is where to go.

    See it: Book one of the overnight huts that line the trail to the top. Climb up the day before, then wake in darkness to watch the sunrise over the summit. jnto.go.jp

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    5. LARGE HADRON COLLIDER, Switzerland

    There’s been a lot of talk recently about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the planet’s foremost atom smasher – making contact with a parallel universe. It’s nonsense, though scientists are in the process of trying to prove the existence of other dimensions, hence the confusion. But it does go to show how absolutely incredible this machine is – designed to crash together subatomic particles, the building blocks of the universe, at 99.999999 per cent the speed of light. In a single second it will complete its 17-mile loop 11,245 times. At the point of impact, the temperature is 100,000 times hotter than the centre of the sun. But these are just numbers. The true marvel of the LHC is the questions it’s asking. Thousands of years ago human beings made fire for the first time. Now, we are building machines that look into the very origins of reality itself.

    See it: There are regular guided tours of Geneva’s CERN institute, where the LHC is located; virtual tours are also available online. visit.cern

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    6. AMAZON RAINFOREST, BRAZIL

    For the Brazilian Amazon, 2020 was the worst year in more than a decade. Under President Bolsonaro’s direction, the deforestation of the largest tropical rainforest on the globe is being accelerated year on year. But the Amazon needs to survive. It’s said to be home to around 400 billion trees, essential for helping to combat global warming, along with 10 per cent of the world’s species. About six per cent of the planet’s oxygen is produced here, while one fifth of its freshwater is stored in its basin. Remarkably, 25 per cent of all prescription medicines are derived from rainforest plants, yet less than five per cent have been studied for their medicinal potential. There could be cures for numerous conditions waiting to be discovered in the Amazon, but if we’re not careful it’ll be gone before we’ve had a look.

    See it: Cristalino Lodge is located in the southern Amazon and is known for its conservation and regenerative-tourism work. cristalinolodge.com.br

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    7. CALLANISH STONES, SCOTLAND

    It will be a good time to travel locally and remote in 2021, and the Callanish Stones – on Scotland’s Isle of Lewis – ticks both boxes. Although Stonehenge is larger, this Neolithic ring of 13 standing stones, built roughly 5,000 years ago, is thought to predate it and is filled with just as much mystery. Legends speak of petrified giants, supernatural beings and, more recently, if you’re a fan of Outlander, a portal back in time. In truth, no one knows why they were put here. That’s part of their magic, but so too is the access they provide. Stonehenge is like a stadium concert, while the Callanish Stones are a private show in the far north of the country, all to yourself.

    See it: Loch Roag Guest House is a five-minute drive away from the stones. lochroag.com

    Aaron Millar’s book, 50 Greatest Wonders of the World, is available on Amazon and other retailers.

    Keep scrolling to see more Seven Wonders of the World for our time, from 2020, 2019 and 2018

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  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    1. MOSQUITO BAY, PUERTO RICO

    Mosquito Bay is the best place in the world to see one of nature’s most fascinating spectacles: bioluminescence. Located on the isle of Vieques, off the eastern coast of the main island, this sheltered inlet is home to a special kind of plankton, called dinoflagellates, which emit a blue-green light when agitated. On their own, they’re barely perceptible. But here in Bio Bay, as it’s also known, there are enough to hold the Guinness World Record for the brightest bioluminescence ever recorded. That’s incredibly rare. While the phenomenon occurs spontaneously around the globe, there are only six places on the planet where it does so regularly. Of those, Mosquito Bay is by far the brightest. Come and see waves shimmer like disco lights or sparks trail from your fingers like the tail of a comet. At night, when its easiest to see, it’s like floating in liquid stars.

    See it: A kayak tours is the best way to experience Mosquito Bay (some have see-through bottoms). Time your visit with a new moon. biequecotrips.com

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    2. SON DOONG CAVE, VIETNAM

    Son Doong is the largest cave on the planet. Located deep in the jungles of Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park, in Vietnam, the largest chamber measures 600-feet high, 300-feet wide and more than 2.5-miles long. You could fit an entire New York City block inside, skyscrapers and all. A Boeing 747 could soar through it and not so much as dent its wings. It’s so massive, in fact, that it has its own weather system. Clouds gather around colossal natural skylights, 300-feet across, which pour beams of light into the darkness inside. And where that light shines, life springs up: a rich subterranean jungle filled with rare plants, milky white insects and hanging vines that creep around enormous stalactites and stalagmites. There’s even a troop of monkeys – surely, the only ones on the planet to make their home underground, rather than in the trees. Only a handful of tourists are allowed in each year, part of a five day expedition that includes two nights camping out in Son Doong itself. What they see is a landscape unlike anywhere else on Earth, a gargantuan lost world hidden beneath the ground.

    See it: Oxalis is the only operator to offer overnight tours inside the cave. oxalis.com, sondoongcave.org

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    3. METEOR CRATER, ARIZONA

    The Barringer Meteor Crater is the best-preserved meteor impact site on the planet and it’s an unsettling place. Some 50,000 years ago, a 300,000 tonne rock burned through the atmosphere, striking the Earth with a force 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima. The ground melted instantly, leaving a hole 550-feet deep and almost a mile in diameter that can still be seen to this day. It’s like seeing the moment of impact frozen in time and you can still feel the power. But it’s inspiring too. Barringer’s Crater was the first impact site conclusively proven to have been caused by a meteor. It changed the way we think about the stars, the planet an perhaps even ourselves. Looking across the rim of Barringer’s Crater is like facing the unfathomable forces of the universet makes you feel small yet part of something incomprehensibly bigger than yourself.

    See it: The Barringer Crater is near Winslow, Arizona,a couple hours east of the Grand Canyon. meteorcrater.com

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    4. MARIANA TRENCH, MARIANA ISLANDS

    The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of all the world’s oceans. At its lowest depth, known as Challenger Deep, the sea floor is a staggering 35,787-feet beneath the surface. Look down at the land from an airplane window: that’s how deep it is. If you were to drop Mount Everest inside it, the summit wouldn’t even break the waves. There are many wonders inside: strange creatures that glow in the dark and have never been seen before, thermal vents that may hold the clue to the origins of life on Earth. But, in truth, we know almost nothing about it. Fewer people have visited these depths than stood on the surface of the moon. The oceans are, perhaps, the last great frontier on Earth and now you can be part of that adventure too. Deep sea tourism is on the ascent. It’s now possible for ordinary non-divers to explore hitherto impossible depths, from a few hundred feet to more than two-miles down, where the bones of the Titanic lie. Who knows what you might find?

    See it: The Caribbean island of Curacao has private submarine tours to a depth of 1,000-feet www.substation-curacao.com, or splash out and sign on for an deep sea expedition to explore the world’s most famous shipwreck, The Titanic. oceangate.com

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    5. DON SHELDON AMPHITHEATRE, ALASKA

    The Don Sheldon Amphitheatre, a near-perfect semicircle of jagged snow-swept peaks surrounding the Ruth Glacier, is one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in America. But you’ve probably never heard of it before. Located deep in the back country of Denali National Park, for years it was inaccessible to all but a few hardy mountaineers. Now, a new luxury lodge, Sheldon Chalet, has opened on a nunatak, or rocky outcrop, in the middle of it all, meaning that now even the most cold-adverse adventurers can now enjoy the view. Named after the legendary Alaskan aviator, Don Sheldon, who first scouted this spot more than 50 ago, the amphitheater is flanked on one side by the 20,308-foot-high east face of Denali – the tallest summit in America –and the Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier on the other, sheer 5,000-foot cliffs framed by an enormous band of sparkling white ice. Forget Yosemite and the Grand Canyon: you’ll share that view with thousands. Here, it’s just you, the mountains and the sound of your jaw dropping to the floor.

    See it: Come October to February and there’s a good chance you’ll see another wonder of the world here too: the Northern Lights. sheldonchalet.com

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  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    6. INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION, LOW EARTH ORBIT

    In June 2019, NASA announced plans to allow regular tourist visits to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020. How the spread of coronavirus has affected that is not clear, but the announcement remains a huge deal. The ISS is not just the largest and most complex machine ever flown in space. It’s also our first real colony in the stars. Think about it. November 2nd, 2020, will mark two decades that the ISS has been continuously inhabited. That’s remarkable: human beings have been orbiting the planet every 90-minutes, every single day, for the last 20 years. But even more remarkable is the fact that we did it together. The ISS was not built by one single country, but by a family of nations working together. And it’s still crewed that way too. In a very real way, it’s our first true planetary achievement. It may not be cheap to visit (expect to pay more than one million dollars for the trip) but it’s a view that might just change your life. Astronauts, on returning home from space, report, almost without exception, a profound, almost spiritual, realisation of the fragility and beauty of our planet. One day, just maybe, you’ll be able to see that view too.

    See it: If you can’t afford the ticket up, follow a live stream of the ISS. ustream.tv

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    7. CARACOL, BELIZE

    The ancient Mayans were a remarkable people. Without the wheel, or advanced tools of any kind, they managed to build vast stone cities in the middle of one of the densest jungles on Earth. Chichen Itza and Tulum, in Mexico, are perhaps the most famous sites, but today they are a crush of souvenir stalls and mass-market tourism. Caracol is different. Located in the rainforests of western Belize, this enormous 30 square mile site is utterly undeveloped, free of crowds (less than a dozen people visit per day) and, because of that, perhaps, the most authentic way to experience the mystery and magic of the ancient Mayans today. There are thousands of individual ruins to explore, but the most impressive is Caana, the Sky Palace, a 143-foot pyramid where the king of this Tollan, or great city, once lived. Climb to the top and the view is the same as it would have been more than 1,500-years ago: no tourists, no souvenir stalls, just jungle and stone pyramids as far as the eye can see.

    See it: Francis Ford Coppola’s boutique hideaway, Blancaneaux Lodge, is less than an hour from Caracol and offers guided trips to the site. thefamilycoppolahideaways.com

    Seven wonders of the world for 2019

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    1. Grand Canyon, USA

    Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Grand Canyon National Park is America’s most spectacular landscape, a 277-mile long, 5,000ft deep kaleidoscopic gorge of the Colorado River that cuts through the high desert plains of Arizona like a golden knife. At dawn, the cliffs are brush-stroked in pink and gold; at dusk, they glow red like embers. But the true wonder of the Grand Canyon is in the rocks themselves. Written into these sheer cliffs is one of the most complete geological records on the planet – nearly two billion years of the earth’s history etched into stone, from the Kaibab Limestone laid down at its summit 260 million years ago to the 1.8-billion-year-old Vishnu Schist at its base. Studying the rocks, layer by layer, you can almost see desert become swamp, oceans advance and retreat, and mountains rise and fall again. It’s like looking at time itself.

    See it: More than five million visitors a year come to Grand Canyon National Park, but only a tiny percentage make it to the canyon floor. Celebrate the centennial by having the park all to yourself at Phantom Ranch, an oasis of historic log and stone cabins by the banks of the Colorado River, the only accommodation inside the canyon itself. grandcanyonlodges.com

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    2. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

    Salar de Uyuni, in southwestern Bolivia, is the largest salt flat in the world. About 4,000 square miles of stark white hexagonal patterns stretch out to an infinite horizon, like the surface of another world. In dry season it’s spectacular; in rainy season, as a thin film of water gathers on the surface to create what amounts to the world’s largest natural mirror, it’s jaw-dropping. The world above is reflected in perfect symmetry; below, you can walk on mirrored clouds in the day or float amid the Milky Way at night. This year, you can see it in style, too. Kachi Lodge, which opens in spring, is the first permanent luxury camp on the flats, made up of just six luxury geodesic domes, each gorgeously designed, with panoramic views across this strange, ethereal world from the comfort of your plush double bed. It doesn’t get better than that.

    See it: Kachi Lodge opens this spring. kachilodge.com

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    3. Teide National Park, Tenerife

    20 July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing. Follow in the First Man’s footsteps this year with a trip to Teide National Park in Tenerife, which Neil Armstrong described as the closest thing to the lunar landscape he’d ever seen on earth – a vast expanse of jagged red rocks and volcanic crags unfurling in all directions like an ocean of frozen stone. It’s as close as the layman is likely to come to walking on the moon. But there’s something else here that’s just as special: the stars. Low light pollution, high altitude and good weather contribute to the best star-gazing conditions in Europe, so you can marvel at the spiralling Milky Way while you’re there.

    See it: The rustic mountain lodge Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide is the only accommodation in the park itself and hosts complimentary star-gazing tours every Friday night. parador.es

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    4. Total Solar Eclipse, Argentina

    For thousands of years, a total solar eclipse filled humankind with dread. In ancient China, people believed it was a dragon devouring the sun. In Hindu mythology, it was the head of a demon. In Babylonia, the wrath of the Gods. Today we know better: an eclipse is simply a fluke of nature, when the moon momentarily blocks the sun and casts its shadow across the earth. Nonetheless, seeing one first hand, watching day turn to darkest night and then back again, is an eerie experience that resonates long after the spectacle has receded. That narrow band of complete darkness is only ever visible in a few locations around the globe. But this year, on 2 July, it falls across one of the most beautiful places in South America – the lush winelands and valleys south of Buenos Aires, Argentina. No matter where you see it, a total eclipse is a wonder; here it is truly breathtaking.

    See it: The total eclipse will be visible in Chile and Argentina on 2 July. For details of a tailor-made trip to see it, visit pura-aventura.com. For more information, go to chile.travel, argentina.travel

  • 5. Wapusk Polar Bears, Canada

    Head to Canada’s Manitoba province to be part of a unique wildlife event: every winter, more than 1,000 polar bears congregate in Wapusk National Park, the largest polar-bear denning site on the planet, to birth and raise their young. It is one of the most exclusive wildlife experiences in the world, with only a handful of people able to witness it each year – and one of the most endearing sights. In mid-February, hundreds of new cubs emerge simultaneously, exploring the icy world for the first time, slipping on the snow, playing, learning how to hunt and survive in this extremely inhospitable environment. It may be cute, but it’s also bittersweet. Sea ice levels are declining at alarming rates, and polar bears depend on ice for survival. The bears are literally losing the ground beneath their feet. See it for yourself, via sustainable operator, and help ensure a future for Canada’s great white bears.

    See it: Wat’chee Lodge, located just outside the park boundaries, is right at the centre of the denning area. watchee.com

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    6. Tutankhamun’s Tomb, Egypt

    When Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922, it was in pristine condition, having, incredibly, remained undisturbed by grave robbers through the centuries. Since then, tourism has taken its toll, with the marks of millions of visitors diminishing its grandeur. Tutankhamun’s glory was starting to fade. Now, following nearly a decade of painstaking conservation work, King Tut’s tomb is finally completely restored and returned to its original splendour, the walls adorned with brightly painted murals in colours as vivid as when the doors were first sealed 3,300 years ago. But it’s not the only wonder here. The Valley of the Kings holds 63 mausoleums in total in its vast necropolis stretching across the red desert, including the elaborately painted tomb of Ramesses VI and the vast subterranean chambers of Sety I. Like the Great Pyramids of Giza, these historic sites give a powerful sense of the world’s most mysterious and fascinating civilisations. See it now as it’s never been seen before.

    See it: A Valley of the Kings ticket gives you access to three of the main tombs in the complex; Tutankhamun’s tomb requires an additional ticket. Visit egypt.travel for more details.

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    7. Blombos Cave, South Africa

    In September 2018, the oldest human drawings ever recorded were found in Blombos Cave, 200 miles east of Cape Town. Created about 73,000 years ago, these simple cross marks etched in ochre, like some kind of primeval hashtag, blow away previous estimates by more than 30,000 years. Drawings such as these represent the birth of human creativity and symbolic thinking, marking a turning point in evolution when we began to transcend our animal instincts and expand our imagination. The Blombos Cave proves that this process started far earlier than previously thought possible. Learn more about these fascinating excavations at the Blombos Museum of Archaeology.

    See it: The Blombos Cave is currently closed to the public due to ongoing excavations, but you can visit nearby Blombos Museum of Archeology in Stilbaai (hesva.org.za). Or for a nearby alternative, check out Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat, a luxury lodge and game reserve that’s home to over 130 rock art sites dating back 10,000 years. bushmanskloof.co.za

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  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    1. Great Barrier Reef

    Queensland, Australia

    The Great Barrier Reef, located on the Queensland coast of north-eastern Australia, is the largest living structure on the planet. Covering an astonishing 135,000 square miles, it is bigger than the UK, Holland and Switzerland combined. Lay it out flat and it would reach all the way from London to Moscow. It is also one of the most biologically diverse places on earth, home to more than 1,500 species of fish (10 per cent of the world’s total), 30 varieties of whales and dolphins and more than 100 types of shark. But it’s in danger. Reports this year indicate that increased ocean temperatures, as a result of global warming, are leading to catastrophic levels of coral bleaching (when the coral expels the tiny algae that live inside it, providing it with food and colour – if it continues, the coral dies). The Great Barrier Reef, which has survived for the last 18 million years, could now be in its last days. Which is why it’s so important to see it. Anyone who peers beneath the waves at this living mosaic of rainbows will know instantly that it’s a wonder of the world worth saving.

    See it: If you want to see the Great Barrier Reef, consider a volunteer conservation holiday that enables you to enjoy the underwater world while aiding its protection. No Limit Adventures offers a 12-day learning-to-dive and reef-monitoring holiday based in Cairns. greatbarrierreef.org, nolimitadventures.com.au

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  • 2. Kilauea Volcano

    Hawai’i Island, Hawaii

    Kilauea in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is the most active volcano on earth. Located on Hawaii’s Big Island, it has been erupting almost continuously since 1983, but this year marked one of its biggest outbreaks. On 3 May, following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, fissures split apart on its flanks, sending burning rivers of red hot lava down the streets, destroying hundreds of homes and causing millions of dollars of damage. But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. In local mythology, Kilauea is the home of Pele, the destructive goddess of volcanoes, and eruptions are an expression of her fiery temper. In the local dialect her name is Ka wahine ‘ai honua, the ‘woman who devours the land’ with an enormous lake of lava, surrounded by 400-foot high walls – a bubbling cauldron of fire like a giant witch’s brew. Seeing an eruption at night is like watching fireworks. But beyond their beauty, volcanoes are also world builders. Roughly 80 per cent of the earth’s surface has been created by them, and gas from ancient eruptions may have been instrumental in helping to form the first molecular building blocks of life.

    Beware: legend has it that anyone who tries to remove a piece of volcanic rock from Kilauea’s slopes will be cursed with bad luck by Pele until the rock returns. Whether you believe the legend or not, dozens of rocks are mailed back each year by tourists who failed to heed the warning. nps.gov/havo

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    3. Torres del Paine

    Patagonia, Chile

    The great travel writer Bruce Chatwin described Patagonia, on the southern tip of Chile and Argentina, as ‘the farthest place to which man walked from his place of origin’. It is a boundless, wild land, and this year it got even more spectacular: in January, one million acres of private land were formally donated to the Chilean people from the estate of the late Doug Tomkins and his wife Kris, owners of the Patagonia outdoor-clothing company, matched by a further 10 million acres from the Chilean government, creating the largest continuous network of national parks in the world. There are many magnificent sights here, but there is only one wonder of the world. Torres del Paine is quite simply breathtaking, rising 6,000 feet from the Patagonian steppe. There is something almost otherworldly about the three sharp granite towers of the Paine massif – as if you are looking at the spires of some great fallen cathedral or vast temple of stone, the remnants of a lost fabled kingdom. See it for yourself and help prove the Tomkins right: that this land deserves to be preserved for all time.

    See it:The new Route of Parks road trip covers more than 1,000 miles through some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, from the far north of Patagonia to Torres del Paine in the south. Latin American specialist Pura Aventura has a new itinerary which takes in many of these highlights, staying in gorgeous boutique hotels and guest lodges along the way. parquetorresdelpaine.cl, pura-aventura.com

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  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    4. Lake Baikal

    Siberia, Russia

    Russia is home to one of the world’s greatest but lesser-known natural wonders: Lake Baikal, in south-eastern Siberia, is surrounded by frozen tundra and vast taiga forests on all sides. The statistics of this largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world are mind-blowing: it holds a staggering 5,662 cubic miles of freshwater, 20 per cent of the earth’s unfrozen resources; it is bigger by volume than all the Great Lakes of America combined; you could stack three Empire State Buildings on top of the other and still not reach the surface. They call it the Pearl of Siberia, and that’s exactly what it resembles – a vast jewel, embedded in the earth as far as the eye can see. But just as impressive are the mysteries it holds: Lake Baikal is one of the world’s premier UFO hotspots – sightings are reported all the time, including a remarkable unexplained event in 1977. The Paysis, a deep-water submersible, was conducting scientific research at 4,000 feet, in complete darkness, when suddenly a bright spotlight shone on it for several seconds from an unknown source. To this day it has never been identified.

    See it: See Lake Baikal on the Trans-Siberian Railway, one of the world’s greatest train journeys, covering about 6,000 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok. Most itineraries take about two weeks and include a stop-off at Lake Baikal. lakebakail.org, trans-siberian.co.uk

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    5. NASA Curiosity Rover

    Mars

    In June this year, NASA’s Curiosity Rover, which has been wandering the surface of Mars since it was first deployed in 2012, discovered organic molecules in ancient rocks on the red planet. But what’s just as incredible as the discovery is the rover itself and that human beings have been driving a vehicle on another planet for the last six years. We may not have taken that one giant leap ourselves yet, but that we are now exploring other planets is beyond question. It wasn’t easy getting there. In order for the rover to reach Mars, NASA scientists had to perform one of the most daring manoeuvres in the history of space flight. After a journey of 300 million miles, approaching the atmosphere at some 8,000mph, the probe first deployed a supersonic parachute and heat shield, then performed a complicated sequence of rocket blasts before being finally lowered down on a sky crane. And it had to land in precisely the right place. It was like finding a needle in a haystack from the other side of the solar system. That we can build such machines is an engineering marvel. Thanks to those achievements, we may finally be one step closer to perhaps answering the question whether we are alone in the universe…

    See it: Follow the Curiosity’s progress online at NASA’s mission website, which is constantly updated with news, photographs and more. mars.nasa.gov

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    6. Carnegie Quarry

    Utah, USA

    If Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has reignited your childhood love of dinosaurs, why not go and see the real thing? The Carnegie Quarry, also known as the Wall of Bones, at Dinosaur National Monument in northeastern Utah, houses one of the best-preserved collections of prehistoric life on the planet with 1,500 individual bones, embossed into an exposed slab of mountain rock. They’re believed to be the remains of several species, including Allosaurus, Camarasaurus and Stegosaurus, and to see them so well preserved is remarkable, like travelling back in time: leg bones as big as tree trunks, eye sockets bigger than fists, ribs like rapier blades. It’s extraordinary to think that the site where these bones once lay hasn’t always been desert but swamps; and that these monsters really did exist. Who needs the movies – dinosaurs make kids of us all.

    See it: To see the Wall of Bones at the Carnegie Quarry, as well as dozens of other prehistoric sites in Utah, drive the Dinosaur Diamond Byway, a 512-mile circular Jurassic road trip that takes in many of the world’s best preserved prehistoric sites, footprints, museums and more. nps.gov/dino, utah.com

    Where was ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ filmed?

    Where ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ was filmed in Hawaii

  • Seven Wonders of the World for 2021

    7. Redwood National Park

    California, USA

    Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Redwood National Park in northern California is home to the tallest living organism on earth – Hyperion, a Great Redwood discovered in 2006, soars a staggering 379.7 feet into the sky. If it was a building, it would be more than 35 storeys tall. Great Redwoods such as these grow only in a narrow band of perfect elevation and climate in the far northern reaches of coastal California, where a cool, moist wind, blown in from the Pacific, keeps them permanently damp even during California’s notorious summer droughts. To see them first hand is a humbling experience: 2,000 years old, they regularly reach more than 300 feet in height, with fossil records dating back millions of years to the time of the dinosaurs – they are giants because they come from a land of giants. To stand beneath them, their thick red bark towering above like some colossal totem pole, is not just to be dwarfed by their size but by another era entirely. Why they grow so tall is still a mystery. Resistance to disease, insect damage and fire are all contributing factors. But in the end, the science is almost less important than the sensation of being among them. Like the stars at night, Redwoods are a reminder of how small we really are.

    See it: Combine a trip to Redwood National Park with a visit to California’s other world wonder tree, the Giant Sequoia, the largest of which, General Sherman (a staggering 52,500 cubic feet – the largest tree by volume on the planet), is found in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, near Fresno. nps.gov/redw, nps.gov/seki


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    Aaron Millar is the host of the Armchair Explorer podcast, where the world’s greatest adventurers tell their best story from the road

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