Did you know an estimated 5.9 million people visit Arizona’s Grand Canyon every year? While the U.S. national park certainly deserves such an astounding number of visitors due to its unparalleled beauty, it can also make for an extremely crowded trip.
If you don’t mind traveling outside of the U.S., there are plenty of canyons around the globe that offer similar knee-buckling views and awe-inspiring perspectives. These amazing canyons are impressive in their own rights, with astonishing depths, amazing overlooks, and incredible trails — making them the perfect destinations to add to your bucket list.
Colca Canyon, Peru
Formed by eroding volcanic rock from the Colca River and descending 11,155 feet, Colca Canyon is nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. It's located in the Andes Mountains of Peru, and is easily accessible by car from the city of Arequipa.
Visitors often book multiday excursions in order to see Colca’s many wonders, such as the magnificent viewpoint from Patopampa Pass, which stands 16,109 feet above sea level. Not far from the pass, the town of Chivay is home to terraced agricultural fields that date back to the Inca Empire, while the Calera hot springs are perfect for unwinding after a long day of hiking.
There are also numerous hiking trails in Colca, many of which involve camping overnight. A common starting point is the village of Cabanconde, where visitors can trek over three miles into the canyon to the village of Sangalle. To extend the journey, the hike to San Juan de Chuccho turns the trip into a three-day, 12-mile trek. Although the canyon is open to visitors year-round, the best time to visit is between March and June when the soaring condors are active.
Blyde River Canyon, South Africa
With an average depth of 2,460 feet, Blyde River Canyon is considered the world’s largest green canyon. It was carved by the Blyde River and dates back millions of years, and its official name is Motlatse, which means “river that is always full” in the native language of the Indigenous people who once lived between the canyon walls.
Today, Blyde River Canyon offers plenty to do and see, including Mariepskop, the canyon’s highest peak at 6,378 feet tall, and the Three Rondavels, distinctive circular peaks that resemble beehives. A short loop trail takes visitors to Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a geological phenomenon featuring deep wells and plunge pools, while the Rainforest Trail to God’s Window offers a stunning view thought to resemble the Garden of Eden.
Driving along Panorama Route provides views of many of these landmarks, but one of the best ways to see the park is undoubtedly the Blyde River Canyon Trail. The 37-mile trek takes you through the heart of the nature reserve over the course of three to five days and is best arranged through a safari company.
Fish River Canyon, Namibia
At 99 miles in length and 17 miles at its widest point, Fish River Canyon is one of the most impressive canyons on Earth. Located within the Ais-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park in southern Namibia, the canyon plunges to depths of up to 2,300 feet.
Although the canyon is open year-round, the best time to visit is during winter, between June and August in the Southern Hemisphere, as the summer months are too hot. Visitors must check in at Hobas Camp to enter Fish River, located approximately six miles from the canyon, with bookings made in advance.
From Hobas, travelers can begin the 53-mile trek through the canyon — a journey that can be completed in four to five days. Along the way, hikers will see the Three Sisters Rock Towers, travel through Palm Springs, and pass by Von Trotha’s Grave. Often considered one of the toughest treks in Africa, the trail ends at Ai-Ais Resort, a luxurious hot spring spa.
Waimea Canyon, Hawaii
Located on Kauai and measuring 14 miles long, one mile wide, and 3,600 feet deep, Waimea Canyon is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Its name means “reddish water” in Hawaiian — an apt description for the canyon’s red walls, which were formed as a result of erosion and cooling lava.
Open to visitors year-round with free admission, Waimea is best visited in the early morning before clouds form and obscure the views. To access the park, visitors can take Waimea Canyon Drive, which passes by Waimea Canyon Lookout and Pu’u Hinahina Lookout, before ending at Kōke’e State Park. Kōke’e serves as the starting point for hikers to explore the canyon on foot, such as via the Kukui Trail, a five-mile path that descends into the canyon through the jungle.
Another must-see is Kalalau Lookout, offering unobstructed views of the Kalalau Valley, which served as a backdrop in Jurassic Park (1993). Otherwise, the picturesque valley is only accessible on foot via the Kalalau Trail, a grueling 22-mile journey that requires a backpacking permit from Hāʻena State Park.
Verdon Gorge, France
The deepest gorge in France, Verdon Gorge began to form 250 million years ago, when the region was a coral reef that existed underwater. After the Alps were formed and frozen during the last Ice Age, the melting of the glaciers and the flowing Verdon River formed the gorge’s staggering limestone cliffs.
Reaching a depth of 2,296 feet, the gorge has no roads. As a result, it’s an ideal destination for adventurous travelers, who can access the gorge by mountain biking, kayaking, or hiking. One such hiking trail is the Lower Gorges du Verdon, which journeys for six miles through the canyon, leading trekkers through caves, up and down ladder rungs, and past a small chapel.
Since the Verdon River flows through the canyon for 15.5 miles, summer is undoubtedly the best (and busiest) time to visit, when boat rentals are open to visitors. Pedal boats and kayaks can be rented by a bridge called the Pont Du Galetas to explore calmer sections of the river, while rafting companies take groups down the river’s Class 5 rapids between the months of March and October.
Samaria Gorge, Crete
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Samaria Gorge is one of the largest draws to the Greek island of Crete. At 10 miles in length, Samaria Gorge measures 1,000 feet deep and 13 feet wide at its narrowest point — a dramatic section of the canyon known as the Iron Gates.
Nestled in Samaria National Park among the White Mountains, the gorge is best viewed along the Samaria Gorge Trail. The 10-mile trail begins at 4,000 feet and descends to sea level, ending at the Mediterranean Sea. Open from May 1 to October 30, the trail is best visited in the spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom and the temperatures are cooler.
The dolomite beds of the gorge were formed 2.58 million years ago during the Quaternary Period, making a hike through Samaria a fascinating journey into the past. One such trail that provides staggering views of the gorge’s rocky formations is the Mount Ginglios Trail, a challenging trek that ascends Giglio Peak, where hikers are rewarded with stunning views of the sea.
Copper Canyon, Mexico
Situated in Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert, Copper Canyon is actually a series of 20 canyons that connect to create a staggering network of gorges. Formed by six rivers and reaching a depth of 4,600 feet, the Copper Canyon network is four times larger than the Grand Canyon. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, encompassing 10,000 square miles — nearly one-third of the state of Chihuahua.
Even more intriguing, descendants of the Aztecs, known as the Rarámuri people, have resided in the canyon for thousands of years, with many of them continuing to live in traditional cave dwellings today. The region is easily accessible via El Chepe, the train that runs from the Pacific Ocean to Chihuahua, a journey that takes four hours and must be booked in advance.
For safety reasons, hiking through the canyon is best accomplished with the assistance of a local guide. Backpackers can attempt hiking from rim to rim, while day-trippers can stop by Basaseachic Falls National Park to see the highest year-round waterfall in Mexico. As the rainy season occurs in summer, the best time to visit the canyon is in October and November.
Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
Created by a tributary of the Yangtze River, Tiger Leaping Gorge plunges an astonishing 12,434 feet to the rushing Jinsha River. Nearly 9.3 miles in length, the Jinsha carved its way through the limestone cliffs to create the staggering gorge, named for a tiger who leapt over the river to evade a hunter at Tiger Leaping Rock.
The gorge opened to the public in 1993 and has since become a popular destination in the Yunnan Province. To see the canyon in all its splendor, visitors should plan to make the trek from the village of Qiaotao to the high-altitude town of Shangri-La. This feat can be accomplished on Tiger Leaping Gorge Trail in October, November, and May, in order to avoid the rainy season.
As the canyon is flanked by Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain, visitors can expect phenomenal views along this 10-mile trek, which is relatively moderate, despite its high altitude.
Itaimbezinho Canyon, Brazil
Located in Aparados da Serra National Park, Brazil’s Itaimbezinho Canyon reaches a depth of 2,362 feet and measures 656 feet wide. Translating to “cut rock” in the Indigenous Tupi-Guarani language, Itaimbezinho formed 130 million years ago when South America split from Africa, resulting in the basalt lava eruptions that formed the canyon.
Day trips to the canyon and its many trailheads can be arranged from the town of Cambara do Sul. Cotovelo Trail leads to Bridal Veil Falls, where the Perdizes River drops dramatically into the canyon, while the Vertex Trail travels from the visitor’s center to the Cascata do Andorinhas (Cascade of the Swallows) and Elbow Lookout.
The River Boi Trail is a more arduous trail that descends to the River Boi on the canyon floor, allowing visitors to view the lush escarpments and rushing waterfalls from a different vantage point. Open year-round, the canyon is best visited in winter, between May and August in the Southern Hemisphere, in order to avoid excessive rain and fog.
Bicaz Canyon, Romania
Situated in Cheile Bicazului – Hășmaș National Park, Bicaz Canyon is a dramatic gorge in the Hășmaș Mountains of Romania. Dating back to the Cretaceous Period, when the region was a coral reef under a tropical ocean, the 1,000-foot-tall limestone cliffs were carved out over millions of years by the Bicaz River.
A popular spot for fearless alpinists who ascend the gorge’s steep walls, Bicaz is bisected by DN12C national road, a serpentine roadway that traverses the canyon. The harrowing journey includes driving through Stone Gate, the narrowest spot in the gorge, with only enough room for a single vehicle to pass.
About halfway between Transylvania and Moldavia, Red Lake is a popular stop along the canyon’s roadway. Situated at an altitude of 3,215 feet, the lake was formed after a 19th-century landslide created a natural dam. Several trailheads are located at the base of Red Lake, including Avenul Licaș and Suhardul Mic, which are both challenging routes into the canyon.