Landscapes in North America
Wild West Coast
Tofino,Vancouver Island, British Columbia
If running off a list of 'beach holiday destinations', Canada would probably be near the bottom of the list. But with more coastline than any other country on Earth, it would be logical that Canada has some darn fine beaches. And they don't come much finer than those in Pacific Rim National Park on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The village of Tofino was once, not long ago, a tiny rain-soaked fishing village at the end of the Trans-Canada Highway. But these days, the ultra-cool surfer hippie scene has taken over. The waves, along the seemingly endless stream of pristine beaches, are finally attracting world wide attention. Although the summer is the busiest season, a visit during the wintery rainy season can be cool too. And storm watchers are rewarded with some of the wildest weather conditions.
Most of Greenland
The Greenlandic Ice Sheet is that big chunk of ice that covers the interior of Greenland. Roughly 80% of Greenland's surface is covered by this one-piece of ice sheet (also called ice cap), making Greenland very white. At its thickest, it is more than 3 km deep and it stretches about 2400 km north to south - sizes that are too hard to comprehend for the human mind. A visit to the edge of the ice sheet will put a bit of perspective to it. You can easily look across some of the glaciers that run off the ice sheet, not knowing whether a finger of ice is 150 m or 150 km wide, since the air is so clean and everything is just rocks and ice with no point of reference.
Located in a rough and wild part of Oaxaca state, down a make-shift road with 'checkpoints' by local villagers, is a very unique geological feature. Hierve el Agua (water boils) is a set of natural (and bizarre) stone and water features. Bubbling up from the earth, heavily mineralize water has flowed over the terrain for centuries. As the water cascades over the cliff face, little by little, year after year, traces of the minerals have hardened. As a result, a 'stone waterfall' traverses down the hillside. But perhaps even cooler are the natural spring water pools which literally hang on the edge. The views are awesome, the features are cool and the water is therapeutic.
© Demelza Howard
Ever wanted to fry some eggs on the bare ground? Then Death Valley is the place for you! The second hottest place on earth with summer temperatures up to 56.7° C (134° F), and ground temperatures rising up to 94° C (201° F), Death Valley is also the lowest point in North America 86 m (282 ft.) below sea level. Here you will find a diverse landscape of beautiful sand dunes, salt flats, natural marble canyons, mountains and remnants of ancient salt water lakes with unlimited back country hiking and camping. There are also ghost towns to explore, and disused mineral mines that barely lasted a year or two due to the harsh climates (and yet Native American tribes have been living here for 10,000 years). You really need your own vehicle here, and preferably a 4WD if you want to go back country as there is no public transport. There are a few tiny tourist towns with amenities, and a few designated trails, but you are free to go wherever you like here.
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is mainly a summer attraction. During winter, the park is closed for the biggest part but this means also that there won’t be thousands of people visiting at the same time as you. At the visitor centre you can borrow snow shoes and ski poles for free and you can go snow shoe hiking. A great hike is to the top of Mount Healy from where you get beautiful views of the park and its mountains. If you are lucky, you can see moose either along the trail or along the access roads to the park.
The tourist facilities right by the park are closed in winter but in the nearby town of Healy there are several places to stay and restaurants which are also open in winter.
Kiluea Volcano, Big Island, Hawaii
In Hawaiian beliefs, Pele is the God of Lava. Pele has been very busy for many years on Kiluea Volcano. Arguably the most active volcano in the world, Kiluea has been growing the size of the Big Island for over 40 years. Since lava is continuously flowing into the ocean, seeing this phenomenon is a very special experience. The best way to get there is to drive to the end of the H-130 and park in Kalapana. Walking along the ocean cliffs is amazing because it allows you to see all the past flows. The trail literally winds through recent birthplaces of the earth. On arriving at the active flow, the view is unbelievable. As the river of lava enters the ocean, steam rises into the sky. Depending on how active it is, on entering the ocean, sometimes lava explodes into the sky. Be sure to bring plenty of water and some thick soled shoes because the ground is hot and can melt your shoes.
Hamakua Falls, Big Island, Hawaii
The drive to Akaka Falls is something out of Hawaii 5-0. The Hamakua Coast wraps through beautiful valleys along steep oceanic cliffs into deep blue ocean. The walk through the park to see the waterfall is beautiful and the surrounding fauna is just as impressive. But if you want to be a little more adventurous, next to the lookout at Kahuna Falls, a trail drops to the bottom of the valley where you can swim at the bottom of the falls. It is a pig hunting trail and very steep and slippery...
Mt. McKinley (Denali)
Denali National Park, Alaska
This mountain is one of the seven summits, the highest mountains of each continent. With an altitude of 6,194 m (20,320 ft), it is one of the most difficult ones to climb because of its altitude gain (for Mt. Everest, the base of the mountain is much higher) and the cold weather. There is some dispute about its name, officially called Mount McKinley, but locally known as Mount Denali. This disagreement is purely political. You don’t have to climb this mountain to enjoy it. If the weather is clear you can see this mountain from Anchorage and it stays pretty much all the time in sight when you travel up North on Highway 3.