North America isn’t the largest continent on earth, nor is it the most populated. But let us tell you this: it is undoubtedly one of the more plentiful when it comes to things to see.
For outdoorsy types, there are canyons, mountain ranges, waterfalls and jungles that are, in one word, awe-inspiring. (A photograph won’t do them justice; you’ll need to visit.) For those who prefer the bright lights and bustling streets of big cities, you won’t be left disappointed with the melting pot that is America’s New York City or the cultural mecca that is Canada’s Montreal, just to name two.
Yes, it is near impossible to list all the fantastic sights, sounds and places to visit in North America, but let’s start with the best ten. Scroll down to discover the must-visit places to travel to next time you’re heading out on vacation.
For the truly wild at heart, Alaska makes the perfect pit stop. From the capital city of Juneau, you can take a whale-watching boat tour and stop in at the incredible Mendenhall Glacier. From Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, you can catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, if you’re lucky. Then there are Denali National Park’s six million acres, where you might just catch a glimpse of bears, moose, caribou and wolves – not to mention Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) itself, North America’s highest mountain peak. If it’s adventure you’re after, Alaska delivers.
2. The Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains – known colloquially as the Rockies – are a mountain range stretching some 3,000 miles from British Columbia in western Canada down to New Mexico in the southwest of America. With so much ground to cover, it can be hard to know where to start. If you’re into mountaineering, fishing, mountain biking, skiing or snowboarding, specific areas will strike a chord. If not, Glacier National Park in Montana, the Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies, and Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park are all must-visits.
3. Chichén Itzá
If you are making your way to Mexico, you’d be crazy not to factor in a visit to the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the new seven wonders of the world and with good reason. The ruins, which date back to 600 A.D., are dominated by El Castillo, a colossal step pyramid, the Temple of the Warriors, and the stunning carvings on the Wall of the Skulls. If you can, try and devote a full day to Chichén Itzá; every night, a sound-and-light show puts the ruins on full display.
4. Sima de las Cotorras
In Chiapas, southern Mexico, you’ll find Sima de las Cotorras, which translates to Sinkhole of the Parrots. The name is spot-on. The 160 metre wide sinkhole is home to ancient rock paintings and thousands of Mexican green parakeets. A trail around the sinkhole will provide you with a great view, but if you’re game, you can rappel down the walls to see the sinkhole, in all its beauty, from the ground up.
5. New Orleans
“There is such a lush sense of colour, style, architecture – and the people themselves,” British singer/songwriter Anika once said about New Orleans. She sums up the southern American city perfectly. New Orleans is thriving, known for its soul music and Cajun food. Every visitor should stop in at Bourbon Street in the French Quarter for some good old-fashioned fun. Then, for a quieter moment, a cruise down the Mississippi on the iconic Steamboat Natchez should hit the mark.
6. Niagara Falls
It’s a little hard to convey in mere words or photographs the grandeur of Niagara Falls, a collection of three waterfalls that sit on the border between America and Canada. The largest, Horseshoe Falls, is an imposing sight to behold, as much for its height as its width. While visitors can see the falls from both America and Canada, the Canadian side offers a more extensive view, as well as floodlights for those who plan to visit at night. But why do one side, when you can travel across the border and do both?
7. The Grand Canyon
If you’re at a loss for words after a visit to Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon can do you one better. Looking out from a viewpoint over millions of years of red rock, carved through the middle by the emerald green waters of the Colorado River – well, let’s just say it’s one of the most naturally beautiful sights you’ll ever see. Make a pit-stop at Horseshoe Bend and then head out on the Skywalk, if you can handle the immense adrenaline rush that comes with having the whole world beneath you.
It’s hard to pick a winner when Canada has so many amazing cities, but if you want an all-in-one experience, we’ll shine the spotlight on Montreal. Each Montreal neighbourhood has something unique to offer. The Plateau is filled with creative sights, sounds and souls. Old Montreal is teeming with brilliant architecture and history, including access to the underground city, which lives up to its name. Pro tip: Brush up on your French before you make a pit stop in Montreal.
9. New York City
Many a word has been spoken about New York City, but Nora Ephron summed it up best when she said: “I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.” The Big Apple has so much to do, it’s hard to narrow it down, but include a stroll through Central Park, a visit to the Met, and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on your agenda.
10. Banff National Park
Fact: You can officially consider Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, an outdoor dreamland. The only problem? Thanks to its plethora of glacial lakes, hiking trails, and mountains, you’ll never know where to turn your gaze. Start by taking a leisurely hike along the Johnston Canyon trail for instant access to limestone walls, rugged scenery and the Ink Pots, six emerald green spring-fed pools. That will feed the soul for quite some time, and rounds out your North America tour nicely.
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