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Grand Canyon, USA: Holidays just don't get any deeper

This nearly 450 km-long hole in the ground and superstar of eco-tourism destinations bears a beauty that can reduce grownups to tears.

One of the crown jewels of the U.S. parks system and an internationally renowned icon of the American Southwest, Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919 to showcase and preserve the gargantuan desert chasm whose age is estimated at around two million years. The visually stunning landmark and UNESCO World Heritage site slices 445 kilometres through the Arizona desert, plunging 1.5 km at its deepest and varying in width from one-half to 30 km. The strikingly stratified walls of its three main gorges display a geological record that spans the four main eras of Earth's evolutionary history, from the Precambrian to the Cainozoic.

Geologically speaking, the "canyon" is actually classified a fissure of the Colorado Plateau, but its diverse landscape includes plateaus, plains, deserts, forests, lava flows, streams, waterfalls, not to mention the raging white-water rapids of the majestic Colorado River. The vast undisturbed solitude serves as an ecological refuge, where remnants of increasingly rare eco-systems such as boreal forests and desert riparian communities continue to flourish.

There are a number of options for visiting the canyon--peering over its precipitous rim, exploring its arid floor and interior or viewing it from the air.

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