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Wonders of North America

Grand Prismatic Spring, United States, Wyoming
Grand Prismatic Spring, United States, Wyoming / Ziinkova M. CC-BY-SA-3.0
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Countries, regions

North America is a continent with 23 independent countries and 22 territories which to a different extent are dependant on other countries. Alaska – a distant state of the United States and the disputed islands – Bajo Nuevo Bank (Petrel Islands) and Serranilla Bank are reviewed separately as well.

Two subregions – the Caribbean and Central America – are reviewed separately.

Northern America

Central America

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Highlights of North America

Antigua Guatemala and Agua volcano
Antigua Guatemala and Agua volcano / Stacy Cashman, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

North America is a very diverse continent that extends from the northernmost land of the world to the moist tropical wilderness of Darien Gap. This continent has extremely diverse landmarks – many of the most impressive natural landmarks in the world, great prehistoric structures, and exquisite modern architecture.

The highlights of North America are:

  • Prehistoric monuments of Mesoamerica. One of the great civilizations of the world developed in this region. Like mighty waves in the time, cultures of Olmecs, Zapotecs, Toltecs, Mayans, Aztecs, and many others developed and left countless amazing monuments – cities, pyramids, stelae, and sculptures.
  • Geothermal features in Yellowstone. There are no analogs in the world to the richness of amazing geothermal features in Yellowstone – here are located most geysers of the world, giant hot springs, travertine terraces.
  • Colonial architecture. As if competing with the magnificent developments of indigenous people, Europeans built great buildings and cities here. Such beautiful cities as Antigua Guatemala, Guanajuato, Taxco, Trinidad were built, with hundreds of magnificent structures in Renaissance, Baroque, and other European styles.
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Top 25 wonders of North America

Geological wonders

United States

Possibly the most impressive canyon in the world. This 446 km long canyon is up to 1,800 m deep and has with rugged, nearly vertical walls.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Canada / United States

The most popular waterfall in the world is 51 meters high and 1203 meters wide. The shape of the waterfall and its proportions have become somewhat synonymous with the word “waterfall”.

Horseshoe Falls in the evening, Niagara

United States

Visually the most impressive meteorite impact crater on Earth. The diameter of the crater is about 1,180 m, depth – 170 m. The outer side of the rim rises 45 m high above the surrounding plains. The bottom is covered with a 210 – 240 m thick layer of rubble. The impact took place some 49,000 years ago.

Meteor Crater from the south
Mammoth Cave

United States

The longest known cave system in the world, 651.8 km long.

Selenite flowers in Mammoth cave, United States
Geysers of Yellowstone National Park

United States

This is the largest concentration of active geysers in the world with more than 500 active geysers. Currently, the world’s most powerful geyser, the Steamboat geyser (up to 90 meters high) is here. It consists of several groups of geysers, many being the most spectacular in the world.

Fishing cone geyser, Wyoming, United States
Old Faithful

United States

The most predictable geyser in the world, erupting almost every 91 minutes. The height of the eruption is up to 56 m.

Old Faithful geyser, United States, Wyoming

Belize

Perfectly round undersea sinkhole, 318 meters across and 124 meters deep. Contains tilted stalactites possibly hinting at tectonic movements.

Great Blue Hole, Belize
Mammoth Hot Springs

United States

These hot springs have produced some of the most impressive travertine terraces in the world.

Mammoth Hot Springs, United States
Delicate Arch

United States

Beautiful natural arch, 20 m tall.

Mexico

Unique karst field created by thermal acidic waters heated by volcanic heat. Contains world’s deepest water-filled sinkhole, the 339 meters deep El Zacatón sinkhole with 319 meters deep lake, and floating islands. Poza Seca is one of the unique travertine capped sinkholes of Sistema Zacatón – here the formerly open sinkhole has sealed itself with a limestone lid. Most likely it hides unknown life forms, not investigated.

El Zacaton and Nacimiento spring
Devil's Tower

United States

Igneous intrusion – a steep, unusual rock rising 386 m above the surroundings.

Biological wonders

United States

Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), the largest tree in the world by volume. Volume 1,487 m3. Height 83.8 m, girth at the breast height 25.9 m. Believed to be 2,300 – 2,700 years old.
Giant Forest with General Sherman tree - the largest tree in the world in the centre

Archaeological wonders

Mexico

One of the largest ancient cities in the world with numerous monuments of architecture and art. Established sometime around 200 BC and was abandoned in the 7th – 8th centuries AD. A hugely impressive monument of urban planning is Avenue of the Dead. Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest ancient pyramid in the world. Height – 71,2 m. Pyramid of the Moon is an older pyramid from 200 – 450 AD, 42 m high.

Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan, Mexico

Mexico

Ruins of a Mayan city that flourished in the 7th century AD. The city is located in the middle of the jungle, on the hill overlooking the coastal plains. Another is the fact that Palenque contains some of the finest known Mayan architecture and artwork. The most interesting structures are the Palace of Palenque and Temple of the Inscriptions with important records of the history of the city and sarcophagus of Pakal – ruler of the city.

Palenque, Mexico

Mexico

The major urban center of lowland Maya culture with numerous monuments of world importance and fame. Chichen Itza became an important center around 600 AD and remained such a center until its fall around 1000 AD. Some of the best-known monuments are El Castillo pyramid, the Great Ball Court, Temple de Los Guerreros, El Caracol observatory, Ossario pyramid.

El Castillo pyramid, Chichen Itza
Tikal

Guatemala

One of the largest and most important cities of the Maya civilization. The city flourished in the 3rd – 10th century AD. The city contains an impressive complex of ruined structures, including a 47 m high pyramid. Numerous art values – stelae, burials.

Ruins of Tikal in the endless forests of Petén, Guatemala

Guatemala

around the 9th century AD. At times here were living more than 100 000 people – thus it was one of the largest cities in the world then. The central part of the city takes some 26 km². The tallest pyramids are more than 70 m tall (La Danta) and belong to the largest constructions in the ancient world. There are other enormous pyramids: El Tigre is 55 m tall, Los Monos – 48 m tall.
El Tigre pyramid in El Mirador, Guatemala

Architectural wonders

Manhattan

United States

The most prominent historical skyscraper district in the world. First highrises were built here in the late 19th century. Contains a huge number of beautiful Art Deco and later skyscrapers. The most prominent buildings here are Empire State Building (381 m tall, 1931) and Chrysler Building (282 m, 1930).

Empire State Building rising above Manhattan

United States

Iconic bridge, one of the most popular bridges in the world. This 2,737 m long suspension bridge was constructed in 1933 – 1937. Pylons are 227 m high, the span under the bridge is 67 m.

Golden Gate Bridge, California
Las Vegas

United States

Enormous entertainment and resort city, developed in the middle of the desert in the middle of the 20th century. Contains a huge number of spectacular buildings, built to impress the guests of the city.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Empire State Building

United States

This 381 m tall skyscraper has 102 stories. It was built in 1931 and was the tallest building in the world until 1972.

Mexico

Unique monument of urban planning inherited from Aztec times. Here has been preserved the network of ancient channels with chinampas – island gardens. Channels are traveled by special boats – trajineras. Channels and islands contain endemic plants and animals including unique salamander – axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum).

Landscape in Xochimilco

Mexico

A beautiful colonial city with numerous impressive buildings in Mexican Baroque style. Many historical streets are under the ground.

Guanajuato
Mount Rushmore

United States

Unique sculptural group – portraits of four presidents of United States, each 18 metres tall. Sculpted in live rock in 1927 – 1941.

Mount Rushmore, United States
Old Havana

Cuba

A center of the Caribbean metropolis, established in 1519. The best-preserved large historical city in the Americas. The enormous historical center of the city has a huge number of valuable buildings in Baroque, Neo-Classicism, Eclecticism, Art Nouveau, and Modern styles. Buildings have retained their original details of wrought iron and wood. Malecón is one of the most picturesque promenades in the world.

El Capitolio in Havana
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Recommended books

An Introduction to Native North America

An Introduction to Native North America provides a basic introduction to the Native Peoples of North America, covering what are now the United States, northern Mexico, and Canada. It covers the history of research, basic prehistory, the European invasion and the impact of Europeans on Native cultures. A final chapter covers contemporary Native Americans, including issues of religion, health, and politics.

North America: A World in One Continent

The North American continent stretches over 9.5 million square miles, and is home to more than 500 million people, who share it with hundreds of thousands of species of mammals, birds, insects, and plants—many of them extraordinary, unforgettable, and unique. With 150,000 miles of coastline, North America also has the longest and most abundant shores of any continent on Earth.
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