You know how it is over Christmas, time stands still.
For our household that means general knowledge time! Dad and I love quizzing each other and this Christmas we started working through a geography quiz have been inspired by a few weeks of competing with each other on Worldle (if you haven’t tried it you should, it’s Wordle but with geography!).
We started with longest rivers by continent (I was proud that I got most of them), then onto the tallest mountains by continent (I hadn’t even heard of half of these) and eventually, after chatting about a childhood trip to the Blyde River in South Africa, we wondered about the largest canyons in the world.
Discovering the largest canyons in the world proved difficult, with various different ways of classifying ‘largest’ (we’ve all been there gents) and also wildly different depths given depending on the source.
So I decided to do some research for myself to produce the ultimate guide to the world’s canyons (well on land that is, under the sea there are some monsters!).
So what are the largest canyons in the world?
The largest canyon in the world is the Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal which is 5,571m deep and runs alongside Annapurne, the world’s 10th largest mountain. The Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet is the second largest canyon at 5,300m deep with the Colca Canyon in Peru the third largest.
In the rest of this article I share the nine deepest canyons on earth based on my research.
Kali Gandaki Gorge, Nepal
Depth: 5,571m (18,278 feet)
The Himalayan peaks of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna are two of the highest in the world, and the Kali Gandaki Gorge runs directly between them. Although precise dimensions are disputed, the size of the neighbouring mountains probably make it the deepest canyon in the world. If you’re fit enough, trekking in this area will provide a unique experience, whether you’re down at river level looking at the steep slopes rising above you or on the foothills of Annapurna, from which you’re able to experience the full scale of the gorge.
In the gorgebed can be found something completely unique – shaligrams. These are a variety of ammonite fossils found only in this area and are considered powerful artifacts in Nepal and India, where they are literally worth their weight in gold.
Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, Tibet
Depth: 5,300m (17,000 feet)
Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon is often described as the largest canyon in the world, but from my research I have it down as the second deepest. It is home to a variety of different landscapes and ecosystems, with impressive biodiversity with a campaign currently underway for the Chinese government to designate it as a national park.
Hiking and rafting in the upper Tsangpo isn’t recommended for beginners: the Himalayas are a gruelling place to go trekking, and the area is remote and difficult to access. As for rafting, it isn’t called the “Everest of rivers” for nothing, and the list of failed attempts and casualties makes for far longer, and grimmer, reading than the list of successes.
Colca Canyon, Peru
Depth: 4,160m (13,648 feet)
Colca Canyon, situated in the heart of the Andes in Southern Peru, is nearly double the depth of the Grand Canyon. A regularly visited tourist destination, it’s the ideal place to see the majestic Andean condor, which is the largest bird in the world, in its natural habitat. There are numerous activities available to visitors, including trekking, day tours, white water rafting, mountain biking, or just taking a relaxing soak in the thermal baths.
The Colca Canyon has been inhabited for centuries. Even before the Inca Empire arose in the 15th Century, there were people living there. The local villages still largely follow traditional ways and are welcoming, accommodating places to stop and rest during treks, where you can observe traditional ways of life that have been followed since time immemorial.
- Hardcover Book
- National Geographic (Author)
Cotahuasi Canyon, Peru
Depth: 3,350m (10,990 feet)
The fourth-deepest canyon on land is Cotahuasi Canyon in southern Peru. The Cotahuasi District, which is situated in the province of La Union in the Arequipa Region of Peru, is home to the canyon, which is situated in the Andes Mountains. The Cotahuasi River carved out the canyon, which is flanked by high cliffs and sheer walls and is home to a wide range of plant and animal life.
For nature lovers and those looking for adventure, Cotahuasi Canyon is a much-loved attraction. The canyon can be explored by hikers, climbers, and rafters who want to take in the beautiful vistas and distinctive flora and fauna of the region. The canyon is also home to a number of tiny villages and settlements where tourists can discover the customs and culture of the locals. The pre-Columbian ruins and history of the canyon are abundant, and they include Tiahuanaco, an Inca city, and the old Pukara castle. The area’s hot springs and thermal baths, which are supposed to have therapeutic qualities, are also open to visitors.
The Grand Canyon, USA
Depth: 1,829m (6,093 feet)
Definitely the world’s most famous canyon adn while not the deepest, it’s certainly a contender for the most impressive. The dizzying views in the upper section are some of the most photographed in the world.
In addition, due to its status as a global landmark, a wide variety of activities are available at the Grand Canyon. In addition to the many different viewpoints, you can ride a mule into the canyon, take a guided ranger tour, walk the various trails, go camping, rafting—or, if you’re feeling brave, walk 70ft out into the middle of the canyon on the transparent-floored Grand Canyon Skywalk. An excellent base from which to visit the Grand Canyon is Flagstaff, Arizona, which is a great tourist destination in general, as pointed out by respondents in this survey.
Copper Canyon, Mexico
Depth: 1,400m (4,600 feet)
Named for the colour of its walls, Mexico’s Copper Canyon is technically a canyon system rather than a single canyon, comprising six major canyons and a number of smaller ones. At 65,000 square kilometres (25,000 square miles), it’s truly vast in scale and complexity. There’s even one location from which you can view three impressive canyons simultaneously!
The best way to get around the Copper Canyon area is by train. Known as El Chepe, the Copper Canyon train will take you to all the key locations in the area. Don’t try to go by car the roads that do exist are not well-maintained. While there, you can visit Mexico’s most spectacular waterfalls, explore the local flora and fauna, go mountain biking or horseback riding and even zipline across some of the canyons.
- Hardcover Book
- Hueneke, Erika (Author)
Tara River Canyon, Montenegro
Depth: 1,300m (4,300 feet)
Set amidst lush green forests in the Ljubišnja mountains of Montenegro, the Tara River Canyon is Europe’s largest and deepest. Located in Durmitor National Park, the scenery is remarkably unspoiled with the upper parts of the canyon only accesible by hiking or rafting. It’s well worth the effort though; whether you’re down in the canyon or up on the Ljubišnja slopes, there are spectacular sights to be seen.
For a more leisurely look at the Tara River Canyon, the Tara Bridge at Đurđevića is a great lookout, with spectacular views from the bridge up into the canyon. If you have a sense of adventure and a head for heights, there are also two spots where you can zipline across the canyon nearby.
Blyde River Canyon, South Africa
Depth: 800m (2,624 feet)
This is the canyon that prompted this whole piece! Dad moved out to South Africa when we were kids and Blyde River Canyon is a place we’d stop off on the way to adventures in Kruger National Park.
At 800m deep and 26km long it is certainly not the largest on our list, but for me, it is very special.
I have such happy memories of driving around the gorge, stopping to look out at the Three Rondavels (excuse my retro photo above), staring down at the Bourke’s Luck Potholes and gazing out over God’s Window
Fish River Canyon, Namibia
Depth: 550m (1,805 feet)
The Karas Region in southern Namibia is home to Fish River Canyon. The canyon is a vast rift in the earth’s surface that is 160 km (100 miles) long and up to 27 km (17 miles) wide. It was formed over millions of years by erosion and the flow of the Fish River.
One of the most breathtaking locations in Namibia, the canyon is a magnificent natural wonder, despite its relatively (compared to this list anyway) small size. The spectacular red and orange granite formations are at their most stunning at sunrise and sunset and can be seen from the five-day Fish River Canyon path hike.
Whichever of these canyons you visit, you’re guaranteed a wonderful experience. They all provide breathtaking views, spectacular photo ops, and exciting tourist activities. To find out the best cities to explore them from, you can try CrowdsourcedExplorer.com, where locals provide all kinds of information and tips about their hometowns.
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