Largest Canyons in the World: Top 12 Gargantuan Gorges


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.

Largest Canyons in the World (By Depth)

  1. Kali Gandaku Gorge, Nepal | 5,571m (18,278 feet)
  2. Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, TIbet | 5,300m (17,000 feet)
  3. Colca Canyon, Peru | 4,160m (13,648 feet)
  4. Cotahuasi Canyon, Peru | 3,350m (10,990 feet)
  5. Hells Canyon, USA | 2,400m (7,900 feet)
  6. Chicamocha Canyon, Colombia | 2,000m (6,600 feet)
  7. Copper Canyon, Mexico | 1,870m (6,135 feet)
  8. The Grand Canyon, USA | 1,829m (6,093 feet)
  9. Tara River Canyon, Montenegro | 1,300m (4,300 feet)
  10. Waimea Canyon, USA | 900m (3,000 feet)
  11. Blyde River Canyon, South Africa | 800m (2,624 feet)
  12. Fish RIver Canyon, Namibia | 550m (1,805 feet)

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Colca Canyon, Peru

colca canyon, peru,south america. the incas to build farming terraces with pond and cliff. one of the deepest canyons in the world

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.

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4. 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.

5. Hells Canyon, USA

snake river from idaho
A view of the Snake River at the stateline of Idaho and Oregon in Hells Canyon.`

Depth: 2,400m (7,900 feet)

Despite the name, it might surprise you to know that the Grand Canyon is not actually the grandest in the USA, Hells Canyon is around 600m deeper.

Located on the border of Oregon and Idaho, carved by the winding Snake River, Hells Canyon reaches just over 2,400 metres deep (nearly 8,000 feet), surpassing its more famous cousin by nearly 30%.

It’s also a sanctuary for wildlife, home to animals like elk, bighorn sheep, river otters, and bald eagles. The area has an important historical significance for some of the Native American tribes, that have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The Nez Perce, Shoshone, and Paiute tribes have all called the Hells Canyon area home, utilizing its rich resources for survival and cultural practices. The canyon walls and surrounding areas contain historical artifacts, including petroglyphs and pictographs, which offer a glimpse into the lives of these early inhabitants.s.

6. Chicamocha Canyon, Colombia

chicamocha canyon view
View of Chicamocha River meandering through Chicamocha Canyon near Bucaramanga, Colombia

Depth: 2,000m (6,600 feet)

Carved into the Colombian landscape, the Chicamocha Canyon stretches across Boyacá and Santander. Its sheer cliffs and rugged terrain, descend to depths of 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) and span 227 kilometres in length.

At the heart of this natural wonder is the Panachi (Parque Nacional del Chicamocha), where visitors can gaze upon the sprawling canyon from viewpoints from the tops of the valley. A journey across the canyon via cable car presents a unique aerial view, while the adventurous can indulge in paragliding, capturing the essence of the canyon’s majestic landscape.

7. Copper Canyon, Mexico

scenic copper canyon in mexico

Depth: 1,870m (6,135 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 Urique Canyon, which is part of the Copper Canyon system, is the deepest, reaching a depth of approximately 6,135 feet (1,870 meters). This makes it the deepest canyon in Mexico. Other notable canyons within the Copper Canyon system include the Sinforosa Canyon, which is about 6,000 feet (1,830 meters) deep, and the Batopilas Canyon, with a depth of approximately 5,900 feet (1,800 meters)

8. The Grand Canyon, USA

grand canyon

Depth: 1,829m (6,093 feet)

Definitely the world’s most famous canyon and 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.

9. Tara River Canyon, Montenegro

bridge across 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.

10. Waimea Canyon, Hawaii, USA

stunning aerial view into waimea canyon, kauai
Stunning aerial view into Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

Depth: 900m (3,000 feet)

I found conflicting stats about the Waimea Canyon in my research, but either way I think it would sit at 10 on the list of biggest canyons in the world, as the quotes range from 900m to 1,097m, which wouldn’t be enough to push it up a place.

Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” on Kauai, the oldest island in the Hawaiian. Stretching approximately 14 miles long, up to a mile wide, and more than 3,000 feet deep, the canyon is a spectacle of deep valley gorges and rugged crags. Formed by both the collapse of the volcano that created Kauai and the Waimea River cutting through the island’s volcanic rock, the canyon reveals a colorful and diverse history. The layers of rock in the canyon walls display a vibrant tapestry of red, brown, and green hues, attributed to the various volcanic soils and lush vegetation. Rainfall, which is abundant in Kauai’s highlands, further carves and shapes the canyon, creating an ever-evolving landscape.

11. Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

three rondavels blyde river canyon
One of my photos of the Three Rondavels, taken as a kid on an old ME Super film camera

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

12. Fish River Canyon, Namibia

fish river canyon
Fish River canyon- the second largest canyon in the world, South 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.

the reeves family picture

AUTHOR – BEN REEVE

Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.

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Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie

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Obaid
5 months ago

Thanks for the list but I think you need to research a little bit more. Hells canyon for example is deeper than GC

Jane Doe
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben Reeve

The Chicamocha Canyon in Colombia is also very large.

Mona
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben Reeve

Also Copper Canyon information seems wrong I learned is deeper and bigger than the grand canyon??

1 month ago
Reply to  Ben Reeve
1 day ago
Awaiting for approval

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