Top 10 Geological Wonders

Below we list our Top 10 natural wonders, from Asturias to the Azores, and from Tenerife to the Tyrol.
Whether they are huge volcanoes that dominate the skyline, dramatic canyons or mysterious underground caves, these Top Ten Geological Wonders add an awe-inspiring extra dimension to your explorations.
  • In the Südtirol’s only canyon, 20-metre-high rock walls frame the river dramatically, revealing the structure and evolution of the Dolomite range. As you walk through it, you are able to distinguish three layers of rock: porphyry (a form of quartzite), followed by a layer of sandstone, which in turn is topped by dolomite rock, a limestone. Of course, the Dolomite peaks which often frame the horizon as you walk in the Südtirol are a geological wonder in their own right, having been eroded over the millennia into towers and steep cliffs.
    Related holiday: Secret Dolomites walking holiday >
  • The sheer grandeur of Norway’s western fjords is awe-inspiring – and humbling. They were formed during the last Ice Age, when the weight of the vast ice sheets that covered Scandinavia pushed the existing river valleys further and further down, lower even than the ocean floor, creating vast coastal basins that filled with water as the ice retreated. Perhaps the most majestic of them all is Sognefjord, in which the water depth is around 1,250 metres, ten times that of the Norwegian Sea.
    Related holiday: Bustling Cities & Serene Fjords journey >
  • Faial’s badlands are very new, relatively speaking, the stark – and very eerie – landscape of volcanic ash and large rocks having been created by a year-long eruption in 1957. So much volcanic matter spewed from the volcano that Faial increased in size by two kilometres to the west. Almost fifty years on, signs of life are appearing in the form of occasional, very hardy flowers growing amid the expanses of lava, but visitors still have the impression of walking on the moon.
    Related holiday: The Archipelago Experience walking holiday >
  • The correct name is the Cares Gorge, but Garganta Divina – which translates as ‘Divine Ravine’ – better conveys the drama of the landscape. It is hard not to feel a sense of awe as you explore. Almost as astonishing as the gorge itself is the path (and water channel) that has been carved into the side of the gorge, a real feat of engineering that allows you to admire breathtaking views of the mountains at the heart of the Picos de Europa.
    Related holiday: Slow Train through Asturias combined with Arenas de Cabrales >
  • Seeing as we're on the subject, it would be remiss of us not to mention the White Mountains of Western Crete. These rugged limestone peaks are home to countless beautiful gorges, including what is probably Europe's most famous ravine. And although we can't blame the crowds who rush to walk through spectacular Samaria, which descends an impressive 1,200m over 16 kilometres to reach the beach at Agia Roumeli, the island has many other superb - and much quieter - gorges that are a real joy to explore. Our favourites include the intimate Anidri Gorge, and Palea Roumata, which offers precious shade on a hot Cretan day.
    Related holiday: Crete's South-West Coast walking holiday >
  • The vast, gaping sinkhole measuring 33 metres in diameter and 75 metres deep was once commonly believed to have been created by Satan. Although the creation of the caves was, of course, much more mundane, they are still just as impressive, and the guided tour is partly on foot, partly by boat so that you can discover the immense caverns, spectacular stalactites and underground lakes.
    Related holiday: Villages of the Dordogne walking holiday >
  • Located in the heart of the most glaciated part of the Alps, in an area that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Aletsch Glacier (which you can visit from the Goms) is the largest and longest in western Eurasia, making it the subject of many studies into glacial history and climate change. As with so many of the other Top 10 Natural Wonders listed here, its sheer size cannot fail to impress.
    Related holiday: snow holiday at Hotel Castle, Blitzingen >
  • These unusual rock formations, near Italy's Lake Iseo, are not unlike those of Cappadocia in Turkey, but on a smaller scale. Geologically, they are different too: rather than being formed from volcanic matter, these rock structures originated from moraine deposited by a glacier, which has gradually eroded to create these giant pillars (some of which are 30 metres high) topped by umbrella-like boulders.
    Related holiday: Secret Lake Iseo walking holiday >
  • Spain’s highest mountain, El Teide (3,718 metres), is in fact a stratovolcano which is surrounded by a gigantic caldera known as Las Cañadas. Geologists do not know for sure what created the caldera (in fact two semi-calderas separated by a ridge), but whatever it was – a landslide or a volcanic explosion – created a desert-like landscape of great drama and stark beauty in which tones of yellow, red, brown and ochre dominate. Needless to say, the views from these great heights are astonishing.
    Related holiday: To the Top of Spain walking holiday >
  • With its classic, pyramid-shaped peak, the Matterhorn is one of the best known and most photographed mountains in the world. Standing tall at 4,478m, it dominates the skyline above Zermatt and provides a breathtaking backdrop to our walking routes in the area. Although the Matterhorn is notoriously difficult to climb (certainly beyond the scope of an Inntravel Slow Holiday!), you can still reach the lofty heights of 3,089m on the famous Gornergrat cog railway. There is also an extensive network of cable cars operating from Zermatt, providing easy access to some exhilarating high-altitude routes and unparalleled mountain vistas.
    Related holiday: From the Eiger to the Matterhorn walking holiday >

More top tens...

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