Ding Ding! The gloves are off as we compare two of our favourite historic wonders. It's the Grand Canyon vs the Cachaqui Valley.
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA is over 17 million years old, 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and 1 mile deep and is constantly changing as the Colorado River continues to run its course. The Native Americans viewed it as a holy site and due to its natural beauty, making pilgrimages to it to see what is left of the cultures from ancient civilisations. The first European thought to have seen it was a Spaniard in 1540 and it is now one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The Calchaqui Valley
The north western region of Argentina is where the Valles Calchaquies are. A small town called Cafayate lies in the middle of these valleys. The valleys contain many different geological and historical wonders, inhabited well before the Incas came to the region. They too were regarded as a holy site due to their spectacular natural beauty and bizarre rock formations. The area is now extremely important to the Argentines as an insight into the legacy of their ancestors.
Head to Head
Nearly 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon alone every year and the same numbers visit the whole of Argentina per year. The Valles Calchaquies are not well known at all outside of Argentina. It is mainly frequented by travellers and those passing through the area on the way to Salta or Bolivia.
So why is the Grand Canyon vastly more popular than the Valles Calchaquies despite their geographical and historical similarities? The obvious answer is that the Grand Canyon is world famous and significantly bigger. Yet people should not be so quick to misjudge Argentina's version of America's natural wonder. Although they can both be seen through an organised tour, I would recommend hiring your own car and going solo, especially for the Valles Calchaquies. Being independent gives you far more of an experience than an organised tour, because you can drive or walk through the valleys and explore at your own leisure, and even, quite often, finding yourself totally alone enabling you to really appreciate the stunning landscape. With the Canyon there are only designated viewing spots for the majority of tourists, meaning you share your experience with thousands of others all craving that perfect Kodak moment. What's more the Quebrada de Cafayate - the most popular of the valleys- is surrounded by vineyards and wine-cellars that are open to the public. This adds another dimension to the trip and beats the 5 hour journey from Vegas for the day, which is how most tourists visit the Canyon.
And the winner is...
Having said that, even if you are there with a tour group for a couple of hours, the Canyon never fails to take your breath away, such is the beauty and sheer immensity of this natural wonder. No amount of photographs or first-hand accounts can prepare you for the real thing. Therefore it wins this little battle; however, I highly recommend a trip to Argentina's mini version!
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