Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be easy to forget how wondrous the world is. From magnificent bodies of water to astounding geological formations, there’s no shortage of breathtaking sights just waiting for you to behold.
Lifetime memories and vacation photos aren’t the only things you’ll come away with when you travel to these wonder-filled destinations. You’ll also be forever changed by a deep understanding of the natural forces that helped shape them and the cultures that live alongside them.
Visit these wonders of the world, and you’ll experience a life-changing trip well worth the cost.
Ayers Rock (Uluru)
Also known by its aboriginal name of Uluru, Ayers Rock, located in Australia’s Northern Territory, is approximately 1,150 feet tall — taller than the Las Vegas Stratosphere, which is the highest freestanding observation tower in the western U.S. You can climb the rock for a commanding view of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and its service village, Yulara.
When planning your trip, keep in mind that Australia’s seasons are opposite of those in the U.S. Visit during May and September for cooler weather and to discover plants, animals and waterfalls that diminish during the Australian summer.
Flights to Uluru, Australia will likely set you back between $988 and $1,200 per ticket, and a hotel stay on the Ayers Rock Resort will cost $260 a night or more booking directly through the resort. You can buy a family visitor pass — good for two adults and two or more children — for $65. Single adult passes cost $25 each.
The Bay of Fundy
Witness the fast-rising and receding tides at the Bay of Fundy, which stretches more than 155 miles between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Even though Fundy fell short of being named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, it is still a wondrous sight to behold.
The Bay of Fundy’s extreme tides will change water levels by as much as 48 feet each day as more than 100 billion tons of water travel in and out of the narrow bay. When the tide is low, visitors can head to the bay’s northwestern tip to see Hopewell Rocks, which are towering boulders carved with tunnels and holes by the pounding surf.
Flights to Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada — which is about 22 miles north of Hopewell Rocks — can be had for as little as $400 per ticket but range to upwards of $1,000. A hotel room will set you back roughly $65 per night for the lower-priced options. A two-day pass for Hopewell Rocks costs $10 for adults and $7.25 for children 5-18. Children under the age of 4 are admitted free of charge.
Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico are a wonder to behold, and the destination is a great place for an unforgettable family vacation.
During the day, you can tour the Big Room, which is just one of the 119 caves that make up Carlsbad Caverns. Or, take a guided tour to one of several other caves in the system. Any time between May and October is an ideal time to visit, as you can watch and learn about the millions of Brazilian free-tailed bats that emerge from the caverns each evening to hunt bugs.
You can purchase a ticket to El Paso International Airport for less than $200, but you will need to factor in the cost of a rental car for the 150-mile trip to the park. The closest hotels to the park are approximately 20 miles away and cost between $160 and $400 per night, and camping is only permitted in the backcountry near the park. All adults over the age of 16 must pay a fee of $12 to enter the park. Guided tours come at an additional cost, and reservations are highly recommended.
Life is like a box of chocolates in Bohol, Philippines, where wondrous cone-shaped brown mountains called the Chocolate Hills can be found. There are more than 1,200 Chocolate Hills — which range from 100 to 390 feet in height — that cover a 20 square mile area.
The Chocolate Hills are actually grass-covered limestone. Green for most of the year, the hills acquire their chocolatey hue only during the Philippines’ dry season — December through March — when the grass dies and browns. There’s abundant lore about how the mountains formed but little scientific agreement.
Head to the Chocolate Hills Complex for the best vantage point. A few hundred steps take you to a platform atop one of the hills where you’ll get a panoramic view of the “chocolate drops” surrounding you. There are shaded balconies along the way where you can stop to catch your breath and enjoy the view.
A round-trip ticket to Tagbilaran Airport will cost you around $1,200. Your dollar goes further in this travel hot spot, as made evident by the low hotel prices, which cost as little as $12 a night just 8 miles from the Chocolate Hills. The hills themselves are free to see.
One of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the Dead Sea is the perfect destination for those looking for a relaxing vacation complete with a little skin rejuvenation.
Bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and Palestine to the west, the hypersaline lake lies approximately 1,400 feet below sea level. The Dead Sea is nearly 100 feet deep and has water that is nearly 10 times as salty as the ocean. One of the world’s first health resorts, the Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years.
For your visit, head to the Neve Midbar Beach on the northern area of the Dead Sea, which has an abundance of black mud, as well as showers, changing rooms and toilet facilities. Or dip into mud pools at Biankini Beach, where you can also cool off in an 82-foot swimming pool.
A flight to Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, will set you back around $900. There are plenty of hotels around the Dead Sea in Jordan and Israel. Most prices are between $100 and $200 per night. Tent and lodge camping is also available. Some Dead Sea beaches, such as Kalia Beach, require an entrance fee.
More than 40,000 interlocking basalt columns make up the natural wonder known as the Giant’s Causeway in Bushmills, Northern Ireland, where U.K. Legends, lore and scientific ponderings combine at this UNESCO World Heritage site.
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Take the long way down to the causeway along cliff-side paths for the most breathtaking views of the seacoast. Relish panoramic views from 162-step stone stairway known as ‘the Shepherd’s Steps’ to stone formations that include the Organ, Amphitheatre and Chimney Stacks. Step out onto the Honeycomb for some memorable Giant’s Causeway photos with the sea in the background.
Flights to Belfast City Airport, which is more than 60 miles southeast of Giant’s Causeway, cost from $625 to over $1,000 per ticket. Rooms can be found in Belfast for under $100 a night. The cost to see the Giant’s Causeway is 25 pounds for a family with two adults and up to three children, which translates to roughly $33.
Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole — a dark blue underwater sinkhole in an otherwise turquoise sea — is a wonder to behold.
Located approximately 60 miles off the shore of Belize, the Great Blue Hole measures 984 feet across and plunges 394 feet deep. Experienced scuba divers can descend into the hole’s depths to see dramatic stalactites and overhangs. Visitors without scuba experience are welcome to go snorkeling along the limestone and coral reef rim, where they can see the neon goby, angelfish, butterfly fish and other colorful species.
Flights to Belize City can be had for just $340 to $700. Hotels range greatly in price, with some costing as little as $54 a night and others almost $200. The cost to snorkel or dive depends on the company. For example, diving with Belize Diving Services costs $275 for a full day of diving. Like with any trip, you could end up spending a good chunk of change, but the experience will be worth every penny.
Ha Long Bay
Little islands in the shapes of teapots, dogs and other unique forms jut from the turquoise waters of Ha Long Bay in Quảng Ninh Province, Vietnam. Considered one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, Ha Long Bay — sometimes written as Halong Bay — is ideal for engaging in a variety of outdoor activities.
Ha Long Bay is a great vacation spot for adrenaline junkies. Scuba dive, rock climb, kayak, embark on a junk boat tour or strap on your hiking shoes to explore mountain trails in Cát Bà National Park. Delve into the depths of hundreds of limestone caves on the islands. Uncover military history, old French graffiti, legends and lore surrounding the island caves. Marvel at the floating fishing villages or unwind at a beach resort. All can be done in Ha Long Bay.
You can get to Ha Long Bay by car, air or boat. To get there by air, fly to Hanoi for about $700 and get a transfer to Ha long Bay. Hotels around the bay vary greatly in price. Some rooms can be reserved for under $20 per night. How much you will spend while visiting Ha Long Bay depends on your activities.
Kerepakupai Merú (Angel Falls)
Travel to Canaima National Park in Bolívar, Venezuela, to marvel at the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, Kerepakupai Merú, also known as Angel Falls. Considered one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, Angel Falls is 3,212 feet high and plunge 2,648 feet.
To see the falls in all their splendor, you must hike Angel Falls Trail. The hike is uphill on uneven and sometimes muddy terrain and takes about 90 minutes. While on your hike, keep an eye out for five endangered species protected in the park: giant anteaters, jaguars, giant armadillos, giant river otters and ocelots. You’re sure to see many species of bird, also, as more than 100 live in the park, including 29 that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
The journey to Angel Falls Trail is arduous. Coming from the U.S., about $750 will get you to Caracas, but from there you will likely have several connecting flights, as well as a four-hour boat ride, so the final price is anyone’s guess. To make the journey less of a hassle, some companies offer packages that include airport pickup, lodging and tours. One such option from South America Journeys starts at $1105 but pricing depends greatly on the season and the volatile Venezuelan economy.
The Northern Lights
The Aurora Borealis — better known as the Northern Lights — is possibly the most breathtaking of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
You don’t have to travel too far to view the Aurora Borealis, as its bright lights are visible in Alaska, Canada and sometimes in certain areas of the continental U.S. To really experience this wonder, however, head to Norway, where an entire travel industry is designed around the colorful phenomenon.
Plan your trip for months with the most activity. While anytime between September and April will do, you’ll witness the most activity in September, October and March. The further north you go, the better your view will be. Go all out and head to Hammerfest, the world’s northernmost town. The dark sky and clear, crisp weather create the ideal conditions for viewing.
A roundtrip ticket to Hammerfest can cost you as little as $1,675 to upwards of $6,000. A room in town will cost you about $120 per night. And if someone tries to charge you for looking at the night sky, well, that’s a scam.
Old Faithful Geyser
There’s no doubt that Old Faithful is among the world’s most wondrous sights. Located in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Old Faithful is one of the more predictable geysers in the world.
Old Faithful erupts once every 51 to 120 minutes and shoots between 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of water into the air over the course of 90 seconds to 5 minutes. While it is certainly Yellowstone’s biggest draw, Old Faithful isn’t the only geyser in the park. In fact, it is just one of 150 in the Upper Geyser Basin area of Yellowstone.
You can see even more geysers, as well as hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots, in other areas of the park. Another notable Yellowstone geyser is Excelsior Geyser, which spurts 4,000 gallons of water each minute into the Firehole River from its 200×300-foot crater.
You can fly into Jackson, Wyoming, for between $350 and $650 per ticket, and then drive a rental car nearly 100 miles north to reach Old Faithful. If that sounds like a drag, though, it’s worth noting that said drive will take you right by the Grand Tetons, so there’s an abundance of scenery to go around. You can book packages with stays at the Old Faithful Inn through the park, with an all inclusive five-night Couples Adventure Package starting at $2,145, or about $715 a night. Be wary of these hidden expenses when vacationing in Yellowstone.
It might not be the world’s widest or tallest waterfall, but Victoria Falls is certainly one of the most impressive. Considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the mile-wide waterfall is located on the border between the African countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Visitors can access the falls through Livingstone, Zambia, or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Day trips require a visa — prior application not required — that can be obtained at border posts in either country. Should you wish to see both sides, there is a bridge over the falls that connects the two countries. The Knife Edge viewpoint on the bridge gives one of the best views of the main falls, Eastern Cataract and the Boiling Pot.
Viewing the falls by air — whether by a helicopter or an ultralight aviation vehicle called a microlight — is most ideal; however, visitors can also view the falls by hiking various trails. Tourists who go during dry season (mid-August through mid-January) are able to swim in a natural infinity pool. A lip keeps swimmers from plummeting over the sheer drop.
A round-trip flight to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, costs between approximately $1,800 and $2,400, depending on the airline and time of year you plan on traveling. You can get a two- or three-star hotel in Victoria Falls for as little as $15 per night. The entrance fee for the park is $30 for international visitors, and other activities might cost more.
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Joel Anderson contributed to the reporting for this article.
Methodology: Flight data included in this article was found using Google Flights. Round-trip flight dates from Saturday, Oct. 6 and returning on Wednesday, Oct. 10 with Los Angeles, Calif., as the city of origin. Flights to some destinations included in this article were not available on those dates and were, therefore, readjusted by a couple of days. Hotel information was found for hotels on the same dates (Oct. 6-10) using Hotels.com unless otherwise noted. Prices accurate as of Sept. 20, 2018.