Landmarks of North America

Empire State Building rising above Manhattan
Empire State Building rising above Manhattan / Ibagli, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Most interesting landmarks of North America

Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of North America.

Natural landmarks of North America

Rock formations

Half Dome, California
Half Dome / docentjoyce, / CC BY 2.0
  • Bimini Road – Bahamas, Bimini. Unusual natural monument – some 0.8 km long geological formation which resembles ancient man-made linear structure, located in 5.5 m depth. For a while it was considered to be a unique megalithic structure. There are several more similar sites in the Bahamas – f.e. Andros "Temple".
  • Devil’s Tower – United States, Wyoming. Igneous intrusion – a steep, unusual rock rising 386 m above the surroundings.
  • Grand Canyon – United States, Arizona. 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.
  • Half Dome – United States, California. Granite dome rising 1,444 m tall above the surroundings.
  • Landscape Arch – United States, Utah. The second widest natural arch in the world, 100 m wide.
  • Mount Thor – Canada, Nunavut, Baffin Island. Granite cliffs with the possible highest vertical drop on Earth – 1250 meters high, average angle 105 degrees.


  • Cave of the Crystals, Naica – Mexico, Chihuahua. Cave with giant selenite crystals up to 12 meters long and 55 tons heavy. Air temperature in the cave is up to 58 °C high.
  • Chiquibul Cave System – Belize, Cayo District and Guatemala, Petén. Group of giant caves, one of the longest cave systems in Central America. Earlier served also as an underground bed for Chiquibul River. Contains some of the largest known cave passages (often 100 m wide and 50 m high) and rooms (Belize Chamber – 200 m wide and tall) in Western Hemisphere, countless dripstone formations. Total length of hydrologically linked explored passages – 97 km. Four largest caves are – Actun Kabal, Actun Tun Kul, Cebada Cave and Xibalba. Contains Maya artifacts.
  • Mammoth Cave – United States, Kentucky. The longest known cave system in United States, 643.7 km long.
  • Systema Ox Bel Ha – Mexico, Quintana Roo. World’s second largest known underwater cave system, total explored length – 270.1 km.
  • Systema Sac Actun – Mexico, Quintana Roo. World’s largest known underwater cave system, total explored length – 371.958 km.


Great Blue Hole, Belize
Great Blue Hole / Eric Pheterson, / CC BY 2.0
  • Black Hole of Andros – Bahamas, South Andros. 300 m wide and up to 47 m deep round water filled sinkhole with a layer of violet jelly layer of bacteria at 18 meters depth. Microorganisms have heated up the water to 40°C.
  • Dean’s Blue Hole – Bahamas, Long Island. Spectacular, 202 metres deep sinkhole in the sea. It is only 25 – 35 meters across.
  • Great Blue Hole – Belize District, Belize. Perfectly round undersea sinkhole, 318 meters across and 124 meters deep. Contains tilted stalactites possibly hinting at tectonic movements.
  • Sótano de las Golondrinas (Cave of Swallows) – Mexico, San Luis Potosí. The largest cave shaft in the world – enormous 49 x 62 meters wide hole, 372 meters deep. Famous due to a group of green parrots who have to fly ascending in circles around the cave until they get out of it.
  • Sistema Zacatón – Mexico, Tamaulipas. 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.

Geothermal features

Grand Prismatic Spring, United States, Wyoming
Grand Prismatic Spring, United States, Wyoming / Ziinkova M. CC-BY-SA-3.0
  • Grand Prismatic Spring – United States, Wyoming. Third largest hot spring in the world. Enormous spring pool and its surroundings are adorned with microbial mats in vivid colors.
  • Mammoth Hot Springs – United States, Wyoming. These hot springs have produced some of the most impressive travertine terraces in world.
  • Old Faithful – United States, Wyoming. The most predictable geyser in the world, erupting almost every 91 minutes. Height of eruption is up to 56 m.
  • Poás volcano – Costa Rica, Alajuela. 2,708 m high, very active and unusual volcano. Contains Laguna Caliente – lake of extreme acidity reaching up to 0.0 of pH, filled with acid-sulphate-chloride brine of light green color. Lake is up to 50 m deep, 300 m wide, temperature: 22 – 94 °C. Frequent phreatic eruptions may eject this acid up to 1 kilometer high. Sometimes this effect is considered to be a kind of geyser activity but the mechanism behind this phenomenon is different than in true geysers. Another unique phenomenon linked to this monument is acid clouds of Poás Volcano. Around the Laguna Caliente and for several kilometers down from it all the vegetation is stunted brown and black by the extremely acid clouds coming from this lake. As a result here exists one of the most weird "elfin forests" of the world, often adorned with beautiful flowers.
  • Steamboat Geyser – United States, Wyoming. The tallest geyser in the world, erupting up to 90 m tall.


Semuc Champey tufa terraces, Guatemala
Semuc Champey tufa terraces, Guatemala / Mickaël T, / CC BY 2.0
  • Hunlen Falls – Canada, British Columbia. A very picturesque and impressive waterfall, which leaves the lake in a 26 meters wide stream and plunges 374 meters into a deep canyon.
  • Niagara Falls – United States, New York and Canada, Ontario. One of the most popular and impressive waterfalls in the world. Height of falls is 51 m, flow rate – 2,400 m³/s.
  • Semuc Champey – Guatemala, Alta Verapaz. Tufa terraces over a 300 m long section of Cahabòn River, forming a group of small, emerald colored pools. These pools are in a deep, dangerous canyon and end with a cave, where the river disappears.
  • Yosemite Falls – United States, California. The highest waterfall in mainland United States, 739 m high.


Giant Forest with General Sherman tree - the largest tree in the world in the centre
Giant Forest with General Sherman tree – the largest tree in the world in the centre. Note the people at the base of the tree. / Famartin, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Giant Forest – United States, California. Unique forest with stands of giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindl.) J.Buchh.) – the largest trees in world. This is the easiest to access sequoia grove but also contains the largest trees – five of the ten largest trees on Earth are located in this grove. Area – 7.6 km2. In California are located several more notable groves of these giant trees.
  • Marine terraces of Maisí – Cuba, Guantánamo. Possibly the most prominent limestone marine terraces in the world – a rugged coast with several impressive marine terraces starting under the sea and rising up to 460 m above the sea level. Terraces contain unique ecosystems with many endemic species of plants and animals. Some of the most exotic are the large, colorful land snails of Polymicta genus.
  • Monteverde cloud forest – Costa Rica, Puntarenas. Cloud forest with extremely high biological diversity. Nature reserve Bosque Nuboso Monteverde has the highest diversity of orchids in the world with more than 500 species, 34 new species were discovered in this forest. Here are found more than 2,500 plant species, 400 bird species and numerous other organisms.


  • General Sherman tree – United States, California. Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindl.) J.Buchh.), the largest officially known tree of the world by volume (there are larger ones). Volume 1,487 m3. Height 83.8 m, girth 33.0 m. Believed to be 2,300 – 2,700 years old.
  • Hyperion – United States, California. Tallest announced tree in the world (there are known taller ones), coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl.). 115.85 m tall, diameter 4.84 m. Contains 502 m3 of wood. In total more than 500 coast redwoods exceed height of 103 m.

Other natural landmarks of North America

Meteor Crater from the south
Meteor Crater, view from the rim / Graeme Churchard, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Barringer crater – United States, Arizona. Most impressive meteorite crater on Earth, 1,180 m in diameter and 170 m deep.
  • Ikaite tufa columns in Ikka Fjord – Greenland, Sermersooq. Almost unique phenomenon – submarine tufa columns created by cold seeps from submarine springs. Columns are formed of ikaite – unstable mineral which disintegrates in temperatures above 6 – 7 ° C. In total here are more than 600 such columns up to 18 m tall.
  • La Brea pitch lake – Trinidad and Tobago, Siparia. Natural asphalt lake, the largest in the world. In some areas one can sink in the asphalt if he stands in one place long enough. Water on the surface of asphalt may become sulfurous. Contains unique ecosystem of microorganisms.
  • Moraine Lake – Canada, Alberta. One of most iconic scenic spots in the world, unusually blue colored lake with surrounding extremely beautiful mountains mirrored in it.
  • Wakulla Spring – United States, Florida. One of the most impressive cold water springs in the world, the diameter of this spring pool is 96 meters, its depth is 56.4 meters. One of the most powerful springs in world, its discharge has reached up to 54,226 liters per second.

Man made landmarks of North America

Mayan heritage

El Castillo pyramid, Chichen Itza
El Castillo pyramid, Chichen Itza / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Chichen Itza – Mexico, Yucatán. 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 center until its fall roughly in 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. The unique Sacred Cenote is natural sinkhole – human sacrifice site. In deposits of cenote have been discovered huge amounts of gold and jade artefacts as well as human remains.
  • El Mirador – Guatemala, Petén. Ruins of the largest Maya city which flourished in the 3rd century BC – 150 AD, last time abandoned 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. Central part of the city takes some 26 km². 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. City is connected to the neighboring cities with magnificent straight roads – sacbeob.
  • Loltun Cave – Mexico, Yucatán. Cave with some of the best Mayan cave paintings as well more ancient carvings and remnants of prehistoric animals hunted by Paleoindians.
  • Naj Tunich – Guatemala, Petén. Unusual Maya archaeological monument in a cave, extremely rich with artifacts. Buildings inside the cave, the only known masonry tombs of elite inside a cave known to science, petroglyphs, inscriptions.
  • Palenque – Mexico, Chiapas. Ruins of Mayan city which flourished in the 7th century AD. City is important nowadays due to several reasons. One is magnificent, romantic location in the middle of jungle, on the hill overlooking the coastal plains. Another is the fact that Palenque contains some of the finest known Mayan architecture and artwork. Most interesting structures are 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.
  • Quiriguá – Guatemala, Izabal. Ruins of a very interesting Maya city which was founded around 200 AD and abandoned by 850 AD. Here have been preserved some of most elaborate stone sculptures in Central America and the tallest prehistoric stone sculptures in America. Stela E is 10.6 m tall and weighs approximately 65 tons, it has been brought from quarries 5 km away. Some other steles are very large as well. Site contains sculpted Maya calendars which have provided much knowledge about this civilization.
  • Tikal – Guatemala, Petén. One of the largest and most important cities of Maya civilization. City flourished in the 3rd – 10th century AD. City contains impressive complex of ruined structures, including Temple IV – 64.6 m tall structure and 47 m high pyramid. Numerous art values – steles, burials.

Viking heritage

  • Brattahlíð – Greenland, Kujalleq. Erik the Red’s estate, established at the end of 10th century AD. Here most likely was built the first Christian church in New World – Þjóðhildarkirkja. This small chapel is reconstructed now. Another church was built in the 14th century, with tombstones and runes for Ingibjørg’s Grave. The best farmland in Greenland is here.
  • L’Anse aux Meadows – Canada, Newfoundland. Remnants of the only known village of pre-Colombian Europeans in America. It is possible that it was established by Norse around 1003. Found remains of eight buildings. The site has traces of additional five – six occupation periods by native people.

Other archaeological landmarks of North America

Cliff Palace, United States
Cliff Palace, United States / Borchert A. CC-BY-SA-3.0
  • Cliff Palace – United States, Colorado. Largest cliff dwelling – settlement in North America, built over a cliff overhang around 1190 and abandoned roughly in 1300 AD. Largest building – Square Tower – has four floors.
  • Diquis Valley Spheres and Spheres on Isla del Caño – Costa Rica, Puntarenas. Very unusual monument – perfectly round stone (granite) spheres, some up to 16 tons heavy. This is an ancient monument, although exact timing and culture are unknown. Many spheres in Isla del Caño are still in their original place – some are located in an ancient cemetery of Boruca people. Spheres have been found also in some remote parts of Osa Peninsula.
  • Great Pyramid of Cholula – Mexico, Puebla. World’s largest structure, built in the 3rd century BC – 9th century AD. Base of pyramid is 450 x 450 m, height – 66 m. The volume of construction material exceeds the volume of Great Pyramid of Giza nearly two times.
  • La Venta – Mexico, Tabasco. Impressive achievement of ancient urban planning, art and architecture, one of the important centers of the ancient Olmec culture. Occupied since 1200 BC and becoming important center 900 – 400 BC. Complex of clay buildings extending for some 20 km, includes 33 m tall pyramid. Renowned monuments of ancient art – four colossal sculptures of heads.
  • Monte Albán – Mexico, Oaxaca. One of the earliest urban centers in Mesoamerica, center of Zapotec culture for nearly 1000 years. Founded roughly at 500 BC and inhabited until 750 AD. Contains remnants of many impressive structures such as Main Plaza, Ballgame Court, numerous stone carvings.
  • Rock Paintings of Sierra de San FranciscoCueva del Batequi, Cueva de la Natividad, Cerro de Santa Marta, Cueva de la Soledad, Cueva de las Flechas, Gruta del Brinco and many others – Mexico, Baja California Sur. One of the most significant collections of prehistoric art in the world. Diverse prehistoric rock paintings of high artistic quality and well preserved in the dry climate of Baja California. Created in 1100 BC – 1300 AD.
  • Teotihuacan – Mexico, México. 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. Hugely impressive monument of urban planning is Avenue of the Dead. Exceptional structure is Pyramid of the Sun – 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. Site contains numerous valuable murals.

Contemporary towns and cities

Mexcaltitan from the air, Mexico
Mexcaltitan from the air, Mexico / Juan Manuel Dominguez Arenas Bass, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Antigua Guatemala – Guatemala, Sacatepéquez. Historical city with well preserved and beautiful buildings in Baroque and Mudejar style, one of the most beautiful historical cities in the Americas. This was the third capital of Guatemala, established in 1543 and destroyed by an earthquake in 1717 when more than 3,000 buildings collapsed. The city was destroyed once more in 1773. Since then the capital of Guatemala is in Guatemala City.
  • Guanajuato – Mexico, Guanajuato. A beautiful colonial city with numerous impressive buildings in Mexican Baroque style. Many historical streets are under the ground.
  • Historical center of Taxco – Mexico, Guerrero. Impressive center of colonial silver mining town located in a mountainous area. Besides the beautiful historical quarters, it contains also the incredibly ornamented Santa Prisca Church (1758) with huge gold-coated altars.
  • Manhattan – United States, New York. The most prominent historical skyscraper district in the world. First highrises were built here in the late 19th century. Currently, the most prominent buildings here are Empire State Building (381 m tall, constructed in 1931), Chrysler Building (282 m, constructed in 1930) and many others.
  • Mexcaltitán – Mexico, Nayarit. Unique monument of urban planning – man-made island city in a shallow lagoon with central, radial planning, resembling a giant wheel in a plan. At high water, the streets in the town turn into channels.
  • Old Havana – Cuba, La Habana. 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. Old Havana has many impressive places but one of the best known is Malecón – one of the most picturesque promenades in the world.
  • Taos Pueblo – United States, New Mexico. Approximately 1000 years old settlement, which includes a large multi-apartment building, built from adobe.
  • The Underwater City of Port Royal – Jamaica, Kingston and Saint Andrew. This historical city was submerged in the sea in 1692 after a catastrophic earthquake. Thus the city has been preserved very well and represents a unique testimony of English colonial town from the late 17th century. Captain Morgan was buried in a cemetery which is under the sea now.
  • Trinidad – Cuba, Sancti Spíritus. Beautiful historical center in one of the oldest cities in the Americas. The city was founded in 1514 and its center almost entirely consists of very well preserved historical buildings. Street network was developed in the 16th – 17th centuries, but current buildings are built in the 18th – 19th century.
  • Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo – Dominican Republic, Distrito Nacional. The oldest continuously inhabited European city in the Americas settled since 1496 and formally founded in 1498. Partly preserved the defensive walls and the original grid pattern. Contains many valuable and ornate buildings in late Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque styles.


  • Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral – Mexico, Ciudad de México. Largest and oldest cathedral in Americas, built in lush Renaissance and Baroque style in 1573 – 1813.
  • Santo Tomás Church in Chichicastenango – Guatemala, El Quiché. Church in Renaissance style, built in 1545 on the top of Maya temple platform. Steps of Maya pyramid are revered by Maya up to this day. Nearby is a sacred, carved stone Cofradia of Pascual Abaj.

Other architecture landmarks of North America

Golden Gate Bridge, California
Golden Gate Bridge / David Ohmer, / CC BY 2.0
  • Citadelle Laferrière – Haiti, Nord. Largest fortress in Americas, built in 1805 – 1830 in order to protect Haiti from French. Very well preserved, originally had 365 cannons, many still preserved. Even stockpiles of cannonballs still are standing. Walls are up to 40 m high.
  • Chrysler Building – United States, New York. Magnificent skyscraper in Art Deco style. Constructed in 1930 and was the tallest building in the world for 11 months, until the construction of the Empire State Building nearby. Building has 77 floors, it is 282 m high.
  • Empire State Building – United States, New York. This 381 m tall skyscraper has 102 stories. It was built in 1931 and was the tallest building in the world until 1972.
  • Golden Gate Bridge – United States, California. 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.

Described landmarks of North America

North America is a very diverse continent, extending from the northernmost land of the world to the moist tropical wilderness of Darien Gap. It has extremely diverse landmarks – many of the most impressive natural landmarks in the world, great prehistoric structures, and exquisite modern architecture.
Among the highlights of North America could be mentioned:

  • 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.

Countries and territories of North America

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

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

Northern America

Central America


Featured: Sótano de las Golondrinas

Caver rappelling down into the Sótano de las Golondrinas, Mexico
Caver rappelling down into the Sótano de las Golondrinas / Stubb, Wikimedia Commons, Free Art License

One of the most impressive sinkholes in the world is the 372 m deep Sótano de las Golondrinas – Cave of the Swallows. This hole in the ground is that large that it is nearly impossible to comprehend it – even if one is sitting at the rim of it.

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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