Valley of the Ten Peaks, Canada
Located in Alberta’s Banff National Park surrounded by the Canadian Rockies, the ten peaks some 180 kilometers west of Calgary cast the reflection of their jagged shadow into the pristine blue waters of the Moraine Lake above which they sit. Many hanging glaciers can also be seen from the perspective of the valley, adding to the picturesque scenery. The peak time to visit falls between May and August, but one must remember that a pass is needed to enter the park. Rich in flora and fauna, the high traffic has had a negative impact on the region, from introduction of invasive species to running over animals crossing the highway.
Described as an experience of a lifetime, 3,927,557 tourists visit Banff National Park annually, many flocking to the Moraine Lake in summer. The park is traversed by the Trans-Canada Highway as well it is easily reachable from Banff, with the Moraine Lake Road leading from inside of the park to the valley. The views of the emerald crystal-clear waters glistening against the peaks, containing the third highest of the Rockies, make the location perfect for hiking, climbing, canoeing, sightseeing, and wildlife watching, with many choosing to camp right at the site. In winter time, the area is frequently traversed by cross country skiers.
Jiuzhaigou Valley, China
Sitting at the edge of the Tibet Plateau, Jiuzhaigou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992 and World Biosphere Reserve since 1997, is a jagged 72,000 ha valley in the northern part of Sichuan Province, with the highest peaks in the southern Minshan Mountain at some 4,800 m. It contains amazing landscapes sitting in a series of narrow conic karst land forms, limestone terraces, multi-level waterfalls, blue-, green- and purple-hued lakes and pools, caves, and snowy peaks. The diverse forest ecosystems in the region host some 140 bird species that fly over the valley, as well as a number of endangered plants and animals, such as the giant panda and the Sichuan takin.
The scenic and aesthetic majesty of the Jiuzhaigou Valley is highlighted by the well-preserved quaternary glacial remnants. Unfortunately, the beautiful nature of the region has suffered from forestry activities, with many initiatives being taken to restore the lost precious materials through tree planting and strict management and protection of the water quality, air quality, and forests. Although it is recommended that human interception in the area be limited in order to preserve the precious natural life of the valley, the breathtaking views have not been forbidden yet although one must seriously consider the consequences of the ecological footprint.
Kalalau Valley, United States
Discretely sitting along the Nā Pali Coast, Kalalau Valley, on the Kaua‘i Island of Hawaii, arguably one of the Earth’s greatest natural wonders showcasing a remote beach surrounded by high-reaching peaks, is regarded as the island’s cathedral. Almost since its inception, the valley was valued for its beauty, as a historically highly populated place with a large thriving community living there until the 20th century, after which, only those with permits were allowed to occupy the “unspoiled” land. With a pass that takes 90 days to process, one can see the esteemed valley if prepared to show some athleticism by trekking a few days-worth 11-mile hike inclusive with camping overnight(s), from the Ke‘e Beach.
Reaching the valley begins with hiking two miles to the Hanakapi‘ai Beach, where one shall cross the Hanakapi‘ai Stream known for flash flood-causing rapidly rising waters. At the seventh mile of the way begins the “Crawler’s Ledge”, a mountain-embracing narrow footpath that drops steeply off into a vast chasm with tumultuous sea. Only in good weather, those fit with cat-like grace and instincts, wishing to commune with nature, self-reflect and unwind from the city, should commence. Meandering through hidden paths in the rainforest and relaxing by the ocean, as well as spending the nights under the stars comprises for an unforgettable trip. Tours by boat or helicopter are available for everybody else.
Romsdalen Valley, Norway
The view of this beautifully wild valley with vegetated floor within the long and narrow granite-walled gorge encompassing a foaming salmon-abundant Rauma River, is, perhaps one of the most photographed natural scenes in the country. The mountains, towering majestically, contain Trollveggen at At 1,000 metres, which is Europe’s tallest vertical overhanging rock face. Upon running through a 30-40 metre-deep gorge at the village of Verma, the river tumbles down in Slettafossen waterfall, which is encased by fences and has a bridge to obtain the perfect view of the spectacle.
One can view mountaintops such the Romsdalshorn across the valley at 1,555 m, Kongen, Dronningen and Bispen. Romsdal Mountains, featuring some of the world’s most challenging climbs, is where Scandinavian rock climbing has started. At the foot of the Trollveggen, there is a picnic area, a cafeteria, a souvenir shop, toilets, children’s play area, as well as Trollveggen Besøkssenter, all conveniently located by the E 136 road and offering majestic mountain views.
La Gran Sabana, Venezuela
Located in south-eastern Venezuela the region of La Gran Sabana or the Great Savannah, is 10,820 sq. km (4,180 sq. mi) and part of the second largest National Park in Venezuela, the Canaima National Park. The valley is also part of the Guianan Savanna ecoregion, which contains the regions of the Guiana Highlands and part of the Bolívar State, and extends all the way to the borders with Brazil and Guyana. Most known for its impenetrable biodiversity-rich jungle, there are also rivers, waterfalls, gorges, grand valleys, as well as isolated tabletop mesas, known as tepuis or plateaus.
With the area having been historically affected by erosion, uplift and subsidence which creates inverted relief shaped these raised sandstone beds, the highest of which is Tepui Roraima plateau in the Gran Sabana at nearly 2,800 m (9,200 feet). These randomly distributed ancient massifs of the Gran Sabana are typical of the Guiana Highlands, with the rocky and sandy soils supporting savannah vegetation at high elevations, dense jungle within depressions, and dense forests where rivers run. The place where the elevation of the El Dorado to Santa Elena de Uairén road inclines from 200 m to 1,500 m (660 to 4,920 feet) in less than 30 km (19 mi) is known as “La Escalera” or the stairs.
Valley of Flowers, India
Sitting at the conversion of the Zanskar, Western, and Eastern Himalayas ranges this heritage site high-altitude area of some eleven thousand feet, is surrounded by the jagged peaks. In the hotter months from August to September, one may become overwhelmed when facing the multitude of the exotic flora the region has to offer, including dwarf iris, dwarf larkspur, dwarf rhododendrons, primula and blue poppies sitting among ferns and hundreds of other wild species. The thousand varieties of shrubs, flowers and other plants of all colors, creating a multi-textured blanket cover against the backdrop of the stunning Himalayan ranges, is a treat for the botanists, alpinists and amateur eyes.
The valley was discovered and named in 1931 by Frank Smythe upon completing his expedition and descending the slopes of Mt. Kamet. The trek from Govindghat to Ghangaria is popular for its climax of seeing the wildflowers in full bloom. Upon overcoming the awe of the colourful carpet encountered by the flowering fields and the snowy ranges, one will also notice the glittering glaciers in the vicinity. The stream Pushpavati, a tributary of Alaknand runs through the valley, multiplying the effect. The annual monsoons keep the soil raw and fertile until it is time to bloom again. The iced land protecting the precious seeds within and grasses underneath the snow are unreachable by most during the colder months.
Thorsmork Valley, Iceland
The lush oases with moss, fern, and birchwood sitting contrastingly to the jagged and ice-capped peaks that crown the horizon, as well as the turbulent glacier rivers that cut brazenly through the black desert, present Þórsmörk in all its raw glory. Despite its wildness, it is a good-feeling, peaceful place to be one-on-one with nature, and warmer than the rest of the country. With moderate climate, warm air rises from the ground to collude with the cool glacial breezes at the top, forming mists that surround sheltering the mountains. A rather high count of wet days in the area helps the richly-vegetated heart of the valley, thrive.
Upon the pagan God of Thunder, Þór, striking down his hammer, Mjölnir, “The Valley of Thor” was created, tugged in the Icelandic South Highlands between the Tindfjallajökull and the famed Eyjafjallajökull mountain glaciers, with Mýrdalsjökul in the rear. There are also the rivers Krossá, Þröngá and Markarfljót, cozily hugging the luscious paradise islands. One can hike the never-ending trails that start there, while getting to the location can also be done through trekking the Laugavegur trail. Geological wonders including volcanic mountain scenery of craters that sit right above the valley and juxtaposing glacier views are guaranteed.
Yosemite Valley, United States
This 4,000-foot-deep glacially carved valley is among the top landmarks of the United States and a natural wonder. The sheer walls of cliffs, towering magnificently along the edges, include glacially sculpted, polished rock, which is considered the real jewel in the crown of the Yosemite National Park. Having been called the ‘Incomparable Valley,’ it truly is, especially in the early morning mist, and during sunset that presents the famed Half Dome in unforgettable rosy glow. The Glacier Point, an hour drive away, offers views of this 7,214-foot granite dramatically reaching out over the valley, as well as Clouds Rest, Liberty Cap, Vernal and Nevada Falls, within the surrounding High Sierra.
While black bears, mule deer and chipmunks inhabit the area, there are also a dentist’s office, jail, courtroom, car repair and church, as well as new lodgings, campgrounds, and restaurants, among other guest services that are constantly popping up. Those preferring to reconnect with nature rather than participate in the offered organised activities can complete some of the dozens of hiking trails or take bike rides along the many paved bike paths leading to Mirror Lake and other worthy sites. There are the famed Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls and Ribbon Fall in the vicinity.
Valley of Geysers, Russia
Discovered rather recently by the reserve worker T.I. Ustinova and the laboratory assistant A.P. Krupenin on July, 25, 1941, in the vicinity of a volcanoes-stretch known as the East volcanic belt, the Geysernaya river valley sits180 km north-east of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The first gazer was discovered a few months earlier. This 400 m deep canyon of 4 km by 8 km with the Geysernaya River contains more than 40 geysers and many thermal springs within the 6 km vicinity. There is also a warm-ground ecological path in the center from which the always actively pulsating boiling springs, hot lakes, geysers, mud pools, mud volcanoes, vapour streams, can be observed. The geysers that erupt must be large and require certain thermodynamic conditions, present in only 5 places around the world.
On June 3, 2007 at 2.20 p.m. began the greatest historical landslide in Kamchatka, which covered many beautiful waterfalls, thermal grounds, and geyser constructions, when the steep slopes of the Vodopadny (Waterfall) brook failed, breaking off in major water, snow, blocks and different fragments, sliding at 35-40 km/h speed and uprooting trees along the way. The second “dry” part of the event occurred within the next three minutes, when the head of the brook broke off to cause more mass materials rushing down to form a dam in the river and a 150 m by 800 m wall, while the debris stretched for 1.7 km.
Featuring fresh springs, the blue waters of the Indus River, and high peaks, this picturesque valley in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region sits at 7,300 feet (2,225 meters) above the sea level. The long stretches of the majestic valley stretching into Baltoro, Gyari and Gyong in the Siachen region also contain impressive glaciers. The beautiful natural lake Satpara of 2.5 km (1.5 mi) in the area sits at 2,600 meters above the sea level, some 9 km (5.5 mi) north of Skardu city, as the main source of drinking water, hydroelectricity and land irrigation. The valley is often snowbound in winter, with major roads becoming blocked for several days.
Accompanied by the delicious fruits grown in the region, many historical sites, and pleasant weather to relax by one of the numerous lakes in the area, makes this destination a lesser-known heaven on Earth. As a major tourism and trekking hub, the four peaks of over 8,000 meters, some of the highest in the world, are in the vicinity, including K2, the second-highest peak in the world, as well as Broad peak, Gasherbrum, and Nanga Parbat. During summer, the Lake Kachura, the Mantokha waterfall, and the Sarfranga Cold Desert become populated, while the Shigar Fort and the Buddha Rock in Skardu are visited for their historical significance.
A true gift of nature, valleys offer unique features, unforgettable views and a variety of landscapes to traverse. With most being easily accessible to humans, one can cherish time with the loved ones there or get lost if seeking solitude, in one of the grandest memorable expeditions of a lifetime.