Dictionary.com defines a natural wonder as a "clearly defined natural site or natural monument that was not created or significantly altered by humans." At one point, there were only thought to be 7 such sites on the planet but human beings are becoming increasingly aware of the natural wonders around them.
While there are many natural wonders that everyone should visit, there are just as many that are a total waste of your time. If you are planning a trip, unique natural wonders always pop up as popular tourist attractions in the area. But just because something is popular doesn't mean that it is actually fun to visit. How are you supposed to know which natural wonders are actually worth your time to visit, and which are not?
This article is here to help. It will list the 13 natural wonders that will never be worth our time, and 10 actually worthy of the hype.
To be considered for this article, a site has to adhere to the definition that I listed at the start of this introduction.
23 Never Worth Our Time- The Most Overcrowded Peak
There was a time when Mount Everest would have been one of the first entries in the other side of this article. Mount Everest has become such a popular tourist destination, however, that it has ruined some of the majesty and natural wonder from the world's highest peak. You can now pay a guide to practically carry you up the mountain. This means that climbing Everest isn't about how skilled or experienced you are, it is about how much money you have.
In fact, there have been recent reports that too many people are on the mountain during peak times, making the threat of avalanches much greater.
22 Worthy of the Hype- Picturesque Rio de Janeiro Harbor
I don't know if there is another natural wonder in the world that intersects as perfectly with civilization as Rio de Janeiro Harbor. Rio is the capital and largest city of Brazil. If you have ever seen any movies or TV shows that take place in Brazil, the footage that they use of the giant Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city and the ocean is of the Rio Harbor.
I was in Rio during the World Cup and I don't know if I have ever had more fun in such a big city. A big part of that was the harbor which has a ton of vibrant and culturally significant attractions.
21 Never Worth Our Time- Aurora *BORE*alis
It is hard to justify going to the far reaches of the earth for something that might entertain you for less than an hour. I think that seeing the Aurora Borealis for the first time would be incredibly cool, but only for the first 15 minutes or so.
After that, I feel like I would get bored and start to wonder why I flew all the way into the Arctic Circle to see lights in the sky. Then again, I'm one of the few people who doesn't enjoy fireworks, so maybe this just isn't my cup of tea.
20 Worthy of the Hype- Get Lost at the Cliffs of Moher
I don't normally like the attractions where all that you have to do is look at a couple cool things and leave, but even I have to admit that the Cliffs of Moher are impressive. These cliffs in southwest Ireland border the ocean and are over 155 meters tall. There is a fence that keeps you from going to the very edge of the cliffs but this border is almost universally ignored by visitors.
I could honestly sit at those cliffs for hours, and I am someone that bores easily. I think that this speaks to how breathtaking the Cliffs of Moher are.
19 Never Worth Our Time- The Most Overrated of Falls
Just thinking about all the trips that I took in grade school to Niagara Falls makes me cringe. I think that part of the reason why Niagara Falls is considered such a spectacular site is that it is in North America, on the border if the United States in Canada.
This means that is it more accessible to most people than other (and I would say more superior) falls in Africa and South America. The problem with Niagara Falls is that nothing about it is all that spectacular.
18 Worthy of the Hype- Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls might be the most overlooked natural attraction in the entire world. Located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Falls aren't easy to get to. Africa is an expensive destination if you are coming from the Western Hemisphere and the infrastructure on most of the continent isn't well developed enough to make travel within Africa any easier.
If you are willing to make the trip to Victoria Falls, however, you will see one of the most beautiful attractions in the world. The falls are about 108 meters tall and the water is supposed to be incredibly clear.
17 Never Worth Our Time- Millionaires on the Maldives
The Maldives might be an amazing place to visit but I might never know because a normal person has no chance of being able to afford a vacation there. Part of the cost is just getting to the Maldives, which is a small, isolated island in the Indian Ocean. Even once you are there, however, it is still ungodly expensive.
The Maldives is billed as the exclusive island paradise if the rich and famous, and the high cost of staying there ensures this exclusivity. I am almost always willing to trade money for amazing experiences but I would have a hard time stomaching the cost of a trip to the Maldives.
16 Worthy of the Hype- Gone Reefs Gone
If you only take one piece of advice from this article, take this one: "go see the Great Barrier Reef as soon as you are physically and financially able." Not only is it one of the most awe-inspiring habitats in the entire world, but due to climate change, it is also highly endangered. All of the acid in the ocean is bleaching the reef, turning it white.
This makes it much less of an ideal habitat for the various species of ocean life that call it home. This natural wonder certainly seems like it has an expiration date.
15 Never Worth Our Time- Jeju Smeju
Southeast Asia is full of natural wonders. One wonder that isn't that well known internationally is Jeju Island. Jeju is a small island off the shore of the Korean Peninsula. The volcanic ash from past eruptions has led to vibrant vegetation growth on the island. The main attraction on Jeju is Manjang Cave. The problem with Manjang is that it is not entirely stable. This means that visitors can only visit one small portion of the cave. There are many natural wonders that are more interesting and that you will have better access to.
14 Worthy of the Hype- Be Like Yellowstone
My support for Yellowstone National Park is a hill that I am willing to die on. The most famous piece of federal land in the United States, Yellowstone is the home to hundreds of unique species. Rather than sequester these animals from contact with humans, Yellowstone is set up so that people can visit the park and enjoy the scenery without upsetting the animals.
Yellowstone has been successful on a variety of environmental fronts but perhaps their crowning achievement is the reintroduction of wolves into an area where they had been hunted to extinction.
13 Never Worth Our Time- The Amazon Rainforest
There is a difference between natural wonders that are culturally and environmentally important and natural wonders that are actually fun to visit. The Amazon Rainforest certainly fits into the former category but I am not convinced that it fits into the latter.
The Amazon is an expansive (though shrinking) place but there isn't a lot of touristy things to do once you're there. Hiking is a big deal, and there are guides who can show you some of the native wildlife, but one of the things that make the Amazon such a great nature preserve is that its dense jungles are very hard to traverse.
12 Worthy of the Hype- Respect the Matterhorn
Climbing the world's tallest peaks isn't the insane challenge that it used. The combination of climate change and an influx in available tour guides has made it so that almost anyone can climb the world's most famous mountains, as long as they can afford a skilled guide to lead them. But the Matterhorn might be an exception.
The Matterhorn is the tallest peak in the Alps, the mountain chain that separates Italy and Switzerland. For centuries, the Matterhorn has widely been considered the hardest mountain on earth to climb, and that has stopped it from becoming overcrowded like other famous peaks.
11 Never Worth Our Time- A Spontaneous Vacation to the Sahara Desert
Everyone knows about the Sahara Desert. When you learned about biomes in your third-grade science class, you were taught about the giant desert in Northern Africa and how certain species of plants and animals were able to live there despite the harsh environment.
The climate there is just as extreme as your grade school teacher led you to believe and it certainly isn't the type of natural wonder that is welcoming to tourists.
10 Worthy of the Hype- You Won't Be Blue at This Lagoon
Iceland has become quite the tourist destination in recent years. The small island in northern Europe has such a unique culture, and travel to and around the island is so cheap, that it is no wonder why so many young people are taking their vacations there. One of the primary attractions on the island is the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is a natural hot spring that is supposed to have healing properties. People of all ages come to the Lagoon to relax and loosen their muscles. This is definitely one of the most “tourist-friendly” natural wonders.
9 Never Worth Our Time- The Dead Sea
At one point, the Dead Sea might have been in the other half of this article. The Dead Sea is famous for having so high of a salt content that you can float there without having to swim. This site has an ancient reputation as a health center and everything from herbal salts to mummification supplies can be found in the surrounding markets.
Due to the effects of climate change, however, the Dead Sea is receding at an alarming rate. It was always a natural anomaly, so once it is gone, there will not be another wonder like it anywhere on earth.
8 Worthy of the Hype- Down By Ha Long Bay
As flights become cheaper, it will be easier for people from the Western Hemisphere to get to places that were previously inaccessible to most of the population. Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam is a perfect example. I used to take a vacation every year to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland but this little alcove of the Atlantic Ocean has nothing on Ha Long.
Ha Long Bay is incredibly beautiful and a lively and vibrant culture has matriculated around the Bay. There have been some reports of the Bay becoming overcrowded with tourists but for the near future, it stays in this portion of the article.
7 Never Worth Our Time- Why Is Stonehenge a Thing?
I feel like Stonehenge makes a better tourist attraction on paper than it does in reality. The idea of seeing an archaeological site that is thousands of years old sounds pretty cool. The problem is that there isn't actually anything at Stonehenge that is worth doing. To get to Stonehenge takes a lot of time and energy. Then, once you arrive, all that there is to do is to look at a handful of rocks in a weird position, take a few pictures, and leave.
This wonder simply isn't worth the time and energy that it takes to get there.
6 Worthy of the Hype- The River Styx: Puerto Princesa Underground River
I have a tiny fear of water and a bigger fear of enclosed spaces but I might forego these phobias to visit Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Philippines. This river flows through a natural cavern and eventually emerged directly into the sea.
Puerto Princesa has recently become even cooler, as it was discovered that there was a second floor to this cavern that included several beautiful waterfalls.
Tours through the cavern can get pretty pricey but I would be lying if I said that I wouldn't be willing to spend some serious cash during a vacation in the Philippines.
5 Never Worth Our Time- Never Komodo Island
On the latest travel brochure for Komodo Island, the first two features of the island that get talked about are the wild Komodo dragons and the various tours that offer snorkeling. Why in God's name would people want to snorkel in an area that is famous for housing Komodo dragons?
The Pink Sand Beach draws a lot of tourists to the island but that is not enough to make me face the world's largest lizard. There are several places in Indonesia that I would rather visit than this natural wonder that doesn't live up to the hype.
4 Worthy of the Hype- It’s Called the Grand Canyon For a Reason
The Grand Canyon is on my short list of things that everyone should visit in their lifetime so of course, I consider it to be a natural wonder that is actually worth visiting. The views at the Grand Canyon are awe-inspiring but that isn't enough to get me to visit on a regular basis.
What really sets the Canyon apart from other natural wonders is that there are so many things to do there. There is hiking, camping, white water rafting, and a handful of other tourist excursions that you can do either by yourself, or with a tour guide.
3 Never Worth Our Time- Darwin and the Galapagos Islands
Thanks to Charles Darwin, the first phrase that comes to mind when people think of the Galápagos Islands is biological diversity. The islands are home to several unique species that Darwin studied before he published his masterpiece Origin of a Species.
Biological diversity may be important for the global environment but it doesn't make for a great vacation. There isn't much to do on the islands besides guided tours to see the different wildlife. Also, it isn’t easy to get to the islands, so that is just another hoop that you will have to jump through.
2 Never Worth Our Time- Pando
I was shocked when I first heard about Pando. Pando is a tree colony in Utah that is sometimes called the "Trembling Giant." What makes Pando so unique is that all the trees in the colony are actually only one organism. This means that all 6,600 tons of forest is one entity, making it the heaviest living thing on earth.
This is a cool fact and an interesting trivia question but it doesn't make for a good attraction. If you stumbled upon Pando and there weren't any markers, you probably wouldn't even know that you were looking at one giant organism.
1 Never Worth Our Time- The Black and Boring Forest
The Black Forest gets its name because the trees there have grown in so closely together that almost no sun is able to filter through the foliage. This forest in Germany is so spooky that it provided the inspiration for the fairy tales Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood. The history behind this natural wonder is cool but the forest itself is not. I like hiking through the woods but the whole point is being able to admire the natural surroundings. This can't happen if you can barely see.