The List: The World’s 7 Best Canyons

The Seven Summits are easy to decide: Pick the highest peak on each continent and, voila, you have your list.



The Seven Summits are easy to decide: Pick the highest peak on each continent and, voila, you have your list. The “Seven Canyons”? Not so easy. Deepest? Sure, that could be fun. Largest? Well, you could estimate volume, but is that better than deepest? It’s not really worth the debate. Instead, we took a more aesthetic line and asked longtime Grand Canyon guide and world traveler Bruce Corey, owner of Canyon Tough Adventures, for his list of the seven “best” canyons in the world.

1. Colca Canyon, Peru
Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon (and at 13,650 feet deep touted as the world’s deepest, though it isn’t), Colca Canyon’s colorful 45-mile length is rife with cultural history, with Inca and pre-Inca settlement and indigenous peoples who maintain ancestral traditions. Its main attraction is the endangered Andean condor, which regularly float on thermals at close range to tourists, especially at the pass at Cruz del Condor, the edge of a 1,200-foot drop.


2. Copper Canyon, Mexico
The Barrancas del Cobre, six canyons formed by six rivers draining the western side of the Sierra Tarahumara, form a network larger and more complex than the Grand Canyon. Thousands of feet of elevation separate the canyons’ two ecosystems, a high alpine environment and a sub-tropical forest climate. The Tarahumara, the indigenous, natural ultramarathoners made famous in Christopher McDougall’s Born To Run, call Copper Canyon home. The Copper Canyon Railway, a 400-mile, 16-hour trip from Los Mochis to Chihuahua, climbs 8,000 feet over 36 bridges and through 87 tunnels on its breathtaking route.


3. Echidna Chasm, Australia
This sandstone joint in the Bungle Bungle Range in Western Australia’s Purnululu National Park is only a 1.5-mile walk from the parking lot. Its narrows slot down to six feet wide in spots, with 600-foot walls above, bouncing sunlight around to glow red and orange, making it a photographer’s dream.


4. Fish River Canyon, Namibia
At 1,800 feet deep, 100 miles long, and 18 miles wide, Fish River Canyon is the largest canyon in Africa and Namibia’s second-most popular tourist attraction (behind Etosha National Park). The Fish River Canyon Trail, a stout 54-mile hike along the Fish River, is one of the most popular in southern Africa.


5. Grand Canyon, United States
Probably the most famous canyon in the world (and one of the Seven Natural Wonders), the Grand Canyon receives five million visitors each year, mostly to the South Rim but plenty from boaters tackling the 12- to 18-day drip down the Colorado River, which cut the canyon over millions of years. At 6,000 feet deep, 277 miles long, and up to 18 miles wide, it’s not the world’s deepest or longest, but the view from either rim might be the most visually arresting (and accessible) in the world. Plus there’s two billion years of exposed geology visible by hiking the 4,400 feet from rim to river.


6. Verdon Gorge, France
The cool turquoise-green Verdon River cut this canyon in southeastern France (top photo, above), hailed as Europe’s most scenic canyon, 2,300 feet deep and 13 miles long. Rock climbers have developed more than 1,500 routes along the limestone walls of the gorge, and hikers, kayakers, and motorists visit this “Grand Canyon du Verdon,” close in proximity to the French Riviera.


7. Yarlung Tsangpo, Tibet/China
A lot of folks say the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world, and it’s definitely longer than the U.S.’s Grand Canyon, making it one of the world’s largest. As it passes between the Namcha Barwa and Gyala Peri mountain ranges, it’s 16,000 feet deep, and explorations of the gorge by boaters have led to nicknaming the Yarlung Tsangpo “The Everest of Rivers” because of its harrowing conditions. A full descent of the gorge has yet to be completed, although a group of kayakers completed a bold descent of the upper gorge in 2002.


Photos by Shutterstock, except for Echidna Chasm (Andy Tyler) and Yarlang Tsangpo (NASA).

Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.
Showing 9 comments
  • James
    Reply

    I cycled through the Verdon Gorge a couple of weeks ago. We had a long ride in the morning, cooled off in the lake during the afternoon then set off through the gorge road during the afternoon, but miscalculated how long it would take and had to pedal the last 20km along the river in the pitch darkness with just a headlamp between the two of us. A brilliant adventure!

  • Tommy
    Reply

    Most tourists only see the Grand Canyon from the rim, but there are amazing spaces in between. There are literally hundreds of explored technical slot canyons below the rim of the Grand that are each an amazing world in their own. It’s a secret that is slowly getting out, but due to the level of difficulty getting into and out of these places, it should remain mostly untouched for generations.

  • Richard Harris
    Reply

    No mention of the Blue Nile Gorge in Ethiopia? I found it more arresting than the Fish River Canyon (and that was good!)

  • Gabe
    Reply

    No Tiger Leaping Gorge?
    That place is beautiful! Especially when compared to Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon.

  • MIchael Irving
    Reply

    Is the Capertee Valley the widest canyon/valley in the world?

  • Dave
    Reply

    Tara canyon in Montenegro is deepest in Europe and much more attractive than this Verdon Gorge…

  • Eric Jergensen
    Reply

    We traveled to the Grand Canyon in February and June, South Rim and North Rim, respectively. Our youngest son loves the Grand Canyon. He especially like seeing the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry. Pretty amazing!

  • John
    Reply

    Good job however you forgot one of the biggest and beautiful canyon in the world, the Chicamocha Canyon in Santander Colombia. take a look

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicamocha_Canyon#/media/File:Ca%C3%B1on_del_Chicamocha.jpeg

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