The megacity of Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, and the third largest in Europe. A booming center of finance, economics, and culture, Istanbul’s metro area is home to over 13 million people. The city is considered by some to be the epitome of East meets West culture. Istanbul has been known by many other names, most notably Constantinople and Byzantium. With a rich cultural heritage, it’s no wonder that the city is home to a variety of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Also notable is the Byzantine and Ottoman architecture present in the city, and picturesque mosques such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Visitors to this fine city can enjoy all the pleasures and excitements any big city affords, and there is something fun to do for any budget.
Yosemite is one of the most well known national parks in the world. With over 3.7 million visitors every year, this California park is an incredibly popular nature destination in the United States. Yosemite National Park is known for its awe-inspiring granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and over 800 miles (1,300 km) of hiking trails. Half Dome, a massive granite cliff jutting out of the earth, is one of the famous icons of the park, along with Cathedral Peak and El Capitan. Most of Yosemite’s iconic peaks, lakes, and waterfalls are located in the tourist-heavy 7 square mile (18 sq. km) area of Yosemite Valley, but the entire park actually encompasses an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 sq. km). Yosemite has the honor of being the first national park ever designated, thanks in large part to conservationists like John Muir and Galen Clark. These men and others worked hard to protect the park both for the impressive diversity of plants and animals that lived there, and also for the enjoyment of future generations. Today, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a favorite destination for hikers, rock climbers, campers, and nature lovers of all kinds.
Easter Island is an isolated Polynesian island located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Politically, Easter Island is a special territory of Chile. Easter Island is famous for the almost 900 stone statues, called moai, that are in the shape of human heads and simple bodies. These moai statues were created by the Rapanui people hundreds of years ago. It is believed that the Rapanui people’s numbers dwindled due to the overexploitation of their tiny, isolated island. Others claim diseases from Europe are to blame for the decline. The island’s name was given in 1722 by a Dutch explorer, who landed on the island on Easter Sunday. The Polynesian name for the island is Rapa Nui, meaning “Big Rapa” in reference to a similar looking Polynesian island called Rapa. Today, Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and destination for history loving tourists.
Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan site located on the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico. These famous pre-Columbian ruins signify the rich history of the ancient Mayan civilization. Chichen Itza was likely built around 600 BCE, making the ruins roughly 2600 years old today. The large ruin complex contains many stone buildings, including temples, pyramids, and platforms, as well as various statues and caves. Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the second most visited archeological site in Mexico. A visit to the site is a popular day drip from nearby Cancún.
The picturesque Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada is known for its breathtaking mountain scenery with calm clear lakes framed by jagged snow covered peaks. The national park is the largest of its kind in the Canadian Rockies, covering a total area of over 10,878 square kilometers (4,200 square miles). Within Jasper National Park lies an amazing collection of lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers, and massive mountains. Visitors to the park can enjoy a vast array of activities, including hiking and mountain biking on extensive trails, skiing at Marmot Basin, fishing, swimming, kayaking, whitewater rafting and boating on many of the lakes and rivers, plus camping in numerous areas. For those looking for some quiet relaxation, Miette Hot Springs is the perfect place to go. Tourists can visit the park via car or motorcycle, or by train. The closest international airport is in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. Also nearby is Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
The famously beautiful Glacier National Park is located in the US state of Montana. The park is massively large, encompassing over 1,000,000 acres (4,000 square km). In the mid 1800s the park was named for its roughly 150 glaciers, though only 25 remain today and it’s estimated that all the glaciers will have melted by 2030. With over 130 lakes, two mountain ranges, over 700 miles of hiking trails, and many miles of scenic road, the park is a popular hiking, camping, and scenic driving destination for all manner of tourist. The nearest airport is in Kalispell, Montana, and the Amtrak train line stops at East and West Glacier, but most visitors choose to drive to the park. The park is also home to historic chalets and hotels if you’re looking for a more relaxed than rugged experience.
The Great Wall of China runs from Shanhaiguan in the east, to Lop Nur in the west, spanning 8,851.8 km (5,500.3 miles) of Northern China. It was arguably the longest running work in progress in history. Construction of the Great Wall began in the 5th century BCE, with rebuilding and maintenance efforts continuing into the 16th century CE. Today, the Great Wall of China is a must see destination for visitors to China. Many of it’s popular sections are well maintained. In some areas, tourists can climb the wall and then opt for a zip-line ride back down. The Great Wall of China is, of course, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The majestic Mount Roraima is the highest mountain in the Pacaraima Mountains. Roraima lies on the three borders of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana. The mountain is part of Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Angel Falls is also part of this beautiful park. Mount Roraima’s highest point is Maverick Rock at 2,810 meters (9,219 feet), and the whole of Mount Roraima’s fairly flat top surface area is surrounded by 400+ meter (1,312+ feet) high sheer cliffs. Mount Roraima can be climbed, though all routes besides the Paraitepui route require technical climbing gear. Visitors can get a stunning view of Mount Roraima and the greater Canaima National Park from a memorable helicopter ride.