More than laboring through a triathlon or spending time at high altitudes, there are numerous other activities that can make someone short of breath. A future groom's breath can be taken away by the sight of a bride on her wedding day. It might also happen if you hear a Mozart symphony performed by an orchestra in a large performance hall. Perhaps seeing the birth of your child would do the trick. But occasionally it's just the simple sight of something amazing, not even a life event. As you stand in front of it, a shiver spreads through you, and your breath becomes measured and shallow. One can only picture the earliest settlers riding up to the Grand Canyon's rim for the first time after traversing the American West. They must have experienced something comparable to what a modern traveler may experience when confronted with that same breathtaking view. On our list, the Grand Canyon is included together with nine other breath-taking sights from around the world.
The Sistine Chapel Ceiling
There isn't a single piece of art that everyone would unanimously agree is beautiful because all art is subjective, but you probably won't hear many complaints about the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Even while his largest fresco painting is undoubtedly his most well-known creation, Michelangelo, the original Renaissance man, is more frequently considered as a superb sculptor. Fresco is a difficult painting method where the artist uses wet plaster to create a bond that makes the paint truly become a part of the surface. Contrary to popular belief, the Italian painter, sculptor, and poet stood while painting more than 400 figures over the course of four years. The great artist said, "After four tortured years, more than 400 over life-size figures, I felt as old and as weary as Jeremiah. I was only 37, yet friends did not recognize the old man I had become." One great feature of the ceiling is that you can stand just about anywhere underneath it and view a single, distinct work of art.
Underwater at the Galapagos Islands
When Charles Darwin first visited the Galapagos Islands as part of a five-year voyage to map the region for the Royal Navy, it's possible that he had no idea what he was getting into. He and his colleagues collected thousands of samples from the local flora and animals, resulting in the discovery of hundreds of new species. Nearly 200 years later, the splendor of the life that exists on this archipelago above and below the sea is still breath-taking. Divers may still swim among marine life that hasn't developed a fear of humans, despite the inevitable growth in tourism. The islands are jealously protected. There are more than 300 species of fish, 650 kinds of mollusks and shells, 120 kinds of crabs, 200 kinds of starfish, and urchins. It becomes evident why diving in the protected waters of the Galapagos Islands is on the bucket lists of the majority of SCUBA aficionados when the giant sea tortoise, marine iguana, penguins, sea otters, dolphins, and sharks are included.
Top of Machu Picchu
Since their rediscovery in 1911, the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu have been the focus of investigation and conjecture. The "Lost City of the Incas" above the Urubamba Valley was known to Peruvians, but historians didn't begin to excavate and study it until Hiram Bingham did so in 1911. Since then, anthropologists, historians, and tourists have all taken notice of the tiers of stone ruins. Nobody knows for sure why the Incas constructed this architectural marvel, but some hypotheses suggest it was used as a place of pilgrimage for believers, a retreat for Incan kings, or an observatory for the stars. Whatever its purpose, seeing the ruins from below is still among the most breathtaking activities you can engage in. All three of the separate regions developed in the 1400s were designed to blend in with the surrounding natural environment. Machu Picchu is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World because of its history, mystique, and natural beauty.
Rim of the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon attracts more than 5 million tourists annually and is the crowning achievement of the National Park Service program in the United States. Only by experiencing it firsthand can one truly comprehend what it's like to stand on the canyon brink. The sheer enormity and magnitude of this wonder of the natural world are too great for words to adequately convey, and no camera can do it justice. It really does stop you in your tracks, and you have to see it for yourself. We may thank the Colorado River for creating the canyon, which is astoundingly long at 277 miles and widest at 18 miles. For a little more peace and quiet, consider traveling to the farther North Rim. Even though it receives only 10% as many people as the South Rim, this portion of the canyon is no less stunning.
Top of the Empire State Building
Many visitors to New York City have over the years been perplexed and perhaps even a little terrified by the size of the city's urban jungle. Although the excitement is at street level, there is no better way to experience it all and leave your breath behind than to take the lengthy elevator ride to the Empire State Building's observation deck. The ESB has once again overtaken the Twin Towers as the highest structure in New York since the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. The observation deck sits on the 86th level of this National Historic Monument, which rises straight up more than a quarter of a mile above the city streets. Since it opened in 1931, the view from the deck has stopped more than 110 million tourists in their tracks. The platform provides a 360-degree view of the 230 structures that are at least 30 stories tall, including an unrivaled view of the Chrysler Building's famed chrome spires.
When energetic particles, usually electrons, penetrate the Earth's upper atmosphere from the magnetosphere, a dazzling glow known as an aurora results in the night sky. When they penetrate, atoms and molecules they collide with absorb some of the energy and store it, producing what is known as an excited atom. This atom can only be calmed down by releasing its energy by ejecting a photon. This produces the glow that is visible on Earth. Although there are many other types of auroras, the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, is the most well-known. These are the variously colored lights in the polar region of the Northern Hemisphere. About 1,500 times a year, during a substorm, shimmering "curtains" of green, white, purple, and red cover the black, clear skies over the North Pole. At this time, the magnetosphere receives energy from the sun in the form of hot plasma gas. Curiosity-stricken people below are in awe of the spectacular effect when this gas fragments and enters the atmosphere of the planet. Travel north during the winter in Canada, Alaska, or Scandinavia for the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, and then keep a watch on the skies.
Earth from Space
Unfortunately, not many people will have the opportunity to witness this one in person, but even extremely detailed pictures of Earth taken from space may be rather spectacular. Today, the aesthetic value of satellite images is valued. The first image of Earth captured from space was a shaky black-and-white snapshot made in 1947 with a 35 millimeter movie camera [source: Reichhardt]. Researchers were fascinated by even this, but the camera was launched into space by an unmanned rocket. 14 years later, Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made history by being the first man to orbit the Earth. His post-flight account was as follows: There was a clear view of the Earth, which was surrounded by a lovely blue halo that smoothly transitioned from pale blue to blue to dark blue to violet to completely black. Space exploration has never been the same since that voyage. Anyone who has ever seen the Earthrise was probably as as in awe as Gagarin was. Perhaps more people will be able to experience this sight personally as colonization attempts and space tourism progress.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park in Montana may be the most breathtaking national park, even though Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite may receive more publicity than other national parks. The 730 kilometers of hiking paths in the park offer numerous breathtaking vistas. The park is well-known for its towering mountain ranges, solitary alpine lakes, a variety of fauna, and, of course, its glaciers. It does actually derive its name from the enormous glaciers that, 10,000 years ago, contributed to build the park's distinctive granite formations. Sadly, just 26 of the park's 150 glaciers remain today due to the effects of climate change on this jewel of great altitude. Don't forget to account for the snow line. For a hike without snow in the lower elevations, you'll have to wait until mid-June, and for the higher elevations, you'll have to wait until late July.
Peak of Mount Everest
This view is breath-taking in more ways than one. At the peak of Nepal's Mount Everest, you'll not only feel like you're on top of the world, but the amazing altitude will literally leave you gasping for air. Everest, which has a height of 29,035 feet, was formed roughly 60 million years ago. Climbers hardly ever try to finish the ascent outside of May and June, when the jet stream is pushed north, due to the harsh weather conditions at the summit. If you decide to ascend, you might come across some corpses on the way. On your route to the summit, there are roughly 120 bodies of people that the mountain claimed; it has been difficult to remove them. Don't let that discourage you, though. You can join the 150 mountaineers that attempt to reach the top each year if you have experience. When you reach the top, get your camera ready because you only have a little time there before beginning your descent.
Top of the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower in Paris gives visitors to New York City what the Empire State Building does. Even if there aren't as many jaw-dropping skyscrapers in the City of Lights as there are in Gotham, the view from the observation deck is nonetheless breathtaking. The tower is the second-tallest building in France, after the Millau Viaduct, and was the tallest building in the world when the Empire State Building was finished. Its height is 984 feet. Visitors can only ascend the tower's first and second stages, which are respectively 189 feet and 379 feet in height, despite there being 1,671 steps that lead to the top. You must take one of the two elevators that travel to the top lookout for the most stunning view every eight minutes, or roughly 100 times every day. Arrive about an hour before sunset to catch the "magic hour" before the sea of yellow lights comes to life as night falls for the greatest views.