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SITTING SEQUESTERED in rooms, in neighborhoods, in big cities can make you feel small and insignificant…but it’s a claustrophobic smallness. A feeling that human-made mechanisms beyond your control are ‘closing in on you.’

Then you pack a bag and get out. To the forest, the mountains, the open plains. Walls and fences recede, and suddenly you realize how small and insignificant city life is. Out here in the world you get a taste of true distance, a hint of the reality of your existence as a speck of nothing in an incomprehensibly vast and beautiful universe.

And if you’re lucky, when you’re back in your little room, typing it out on your computer…maybe you’ve brought a slice of that reality back with you.

This post is sponsored by the Nature Project, from Nature Valley.

Travelers Stoked on this Gallery

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About The Author

Hal Amen

Hal Amen is a managing editor at Matador. His personal travel blog is WayWorded.

  • Matt

    Incredible photos and love the theme.

  • Robin

    Really impressive.Loved the “Camping under the stars”.

  • Eric

    All I can come up with is Wow! Those are some amazing shots.

  • Kris

    Feeling high on Mt Kinabalu, Borneo rates for me.

  • Nick

    That last photo is magical! But the one that really made me go wow was deceptively simple – the solo sea kayaking.

  • Bela

    Amazing shots, I am impressed and honored being included amongst these!
    I can’t choose a favorite…. Congrats to the other photographers!

  • Anne

    Wow, what a great theme. I hope this becomes a photo series.

  • Carlo Alcos

    We are so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It’s nice to be reminded sometimes. How humbling.

  • nixwilliams

    Thanks for this marvellous essay!

    I have to admit that I was a bit put off when the first photo was one of people climbing Uluru. I’m glad that you added it shouldn’t be done, but I really want to emphasise that it is *not* there for visitors to climb. If you visit, *please* don’t climb it. Doing so goes directly against the wishes of local Indigenous Australians. This is (a) because of its cultural and spiritual significance, (b) because tourists deface it, shit on it, piss on it, leave litter on it, and (c) because people keep falling off or having heart attacks and dying, and the traditional owners feel a sense of responsibility for guests in their country. (I’m pretty sure the people who think it’s their right to climb, defecate on and otherwise disrespect Uluru wouldn’t do the same to, say, a cathedral.)

    Rant aside, however . . . wow! I’m flattered to be included!

  • Nancy

    I can’t even choose a favorite; they are all so stunning.

  • Sophie

    That cliff ascent…. we’re indeed tiny.

  • Julie

    In which Hal Amen proves he is the master of photo essays.

  • Evgheni

    What a beautiful walk around the globe !

    Amazing shots !

  • Eva

    I feel dwarfed just by looking at the photos. What amazing images! Despite the majesty of the mountains and trees, the solo sea kayaking was my favorite. Talk about infinity…

  • ricanohi

    well u so smart to climbing the mountain of fear
    i think if me us u i cannot do it…………

  • daphne

    We are so lucky to be able to be feeling dwarfed on this planet.

  • Gundisalv

    About the Iguazú Falls picture, that amazing picture is taken from the Argentinean side of the falls.

  • Adam

    Good God. Absolutely beautiful.

  • Jeff Titelius

    Truly spectacular images of the world and how in some respects, man is so insignificant to his/her surroundings. Such imposing stretches of landscapes evokes a feeling of being quite “small” in this great big beautiful world of ours. Matador has amassed and amazing collection of gifted and talented photographers how have the “vision” to freeze time and convey to the rest of the world, some of the most magical images of our stunning planet!!

  • Mary Ethel

    This truly great works of art could only be painted by God.

  • NagyI

    Amazing pictures! I would love to have these in bigger resolution so i can use them as a wallpaper on my desktop. :)

  • Mabel Barber

    I CAN NOT tell you how pleased I am that Iquazu Falls has been included in this essay. This place is truly a most special spot on this planet. I have been there twice and have been totally captivated by how humbling it is to stand and watch and feel the thunderous waterfalls. It has to be God’s garden!! It is one of those places that can make you a total believer in a higher power. Thank you for sharing it!!

  • Eldslukare

    Amazing!! <3

  • María

    I would love to be camping under the stars beside the love of my life, it would be a truly rewarding experience!

  • Punta del Este Real Estate

    incredible pictures, much much beauty

    tank you

  • mekke

    Wow…suprisingly, Mount Bromo is in the list !!
    Proud to be Indonesian …and yes, after seeing those pictures, I feel so small …
    So keep the mother nature clean … will be always in my mind ..

  • SF Brit

    Gundisalv ……I took the picture of Iguazu and I can assure you that I was standing on the Brazilian side of the falls.

  • SF Brit

    Thanks for including my Iguazu picture in your photo essay. I am flattered, especially as there are soo many other good ones on flickr out there. Hopefully, I can keep taking good shots and you can keep writing great essays.

    Oh, and by the way…..I think Namib Desert should have been on the list. I even have a perfect picture for you of it….just hadn’t posted it on flickr (doh!) ….I also think the Cave of Swallows in Mexico should be on the list.

    Many thanks

    SF Brit

    PS. I like the Cotopaxi picture the best. Heavenly!

  • Samaresh Biswal

    awesome pic

  • Rebekah

    These are breathtaking, just beautiful!

  • Cássio

    If this is true it only means that what shows in the picture is the Brazilian side ;)

  • Barbara Matthews

    Wonderful photos to discover on a Sunday morning! Now time to peruse the rest of the site!

  • Chinchu

    Simply mindblowing! Keep up the good work :)

  • Yessah

    Really nice photos, I enjoyed this. However it needs to be said that Mont Blanc is NOT Europe’s highest peak, it’s the highest European ALP peak. Elbrus, in the Russian Caucasus (18,510 feet) is taller.

  • Andy

    Why isn’t the Grand Canyon on this list?

  • astrid

    oh, and beautiful pictures!

  • Kossak



    Simply Outstandingly Beautiful!!!


    Would love to do a tour from one place to another.

  • SF Brit

    Cassio….I said I was “standing on the brazilian” side of the falls. Technically the image contains both Argentinian and Brazilian. I went to both sides. They are both stunning!! And I would always recommend both sides. However, if you want sunset / sunrise pics…go Brazilian!

  • Marie

    Nice theme! I love places that remind us how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme.

  • Erik

    Amazing photos. Just amazing…

  • Angela

    Fantastic. I LOVE feeling dwarfed by nature.

  • Tam

    Ooooh, fabulous images. I love the silvers/greys of the Bolivian salt plain :)

  • Rogier

    The image of the sand dunes reminded me of Khongorin Els – the Singing Dunes in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. Another great and remote desert. See the images at

    Another one of the world’s great wildernesses are the highlands of West Papua (Indonesia). Seldom travelled, and some areas haven’t even been properly mapped yet.

  • Vandana

    This is seriously awesome! love the pictures

  • lord xeon

    I agree, the Grand Canyon deserves a spot high on this list.
    Anyone who’s ever been there (I have), will know how your breath is taken away the first time you walk up to the edge and see the Colorado a mile below you.

    And that’s saying nothing for walking even partway down the Bright Angel trail.

    The Grand Canyon should be here, and I feel you missed something gravely by leaving it out.

  • El Cid Vacation Club

    breathtaking nature photos!! I love the shot in Equador and the Great Ocean Road!

  • Charlie M. Sianipar

    WOW, Great pictures, awesome …

  • Kate

    You have overlooked Africa entirely!!!

    Namib Desert, Namibia
    Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabawe
    Mountains between Rwanda, Uganda, and DRC
    Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
    and so many more.

  • extreme beauty

    truly is extreme beauty! this is stunning.
    i must say that Great Ocean Road, Australia is my favorite.

  • Spiros

    My God! Just wonderful. No more words ……

  • darmabum

    Great list . . . one (in my mind) glaring omission – the bottom of the Grand Canyon . . . at one point, over a vertical mile deep in the earth . . . and every inch is 5000 years . . .

  • Laurelle

    Steens Mountain, Oregon U.S.A.

    • MJF Images

      yes, that and Crater Lake.

  • fdavis

    I know there so many of these unimaginable places out there but a couple I simple have to add to the list are:

    Naukluft – Namibia
    Hole-in-the-Wall, Transkei, South Africa
    Mountains of the Moon (Ruwenzori Mountains), Uganda and DRC
    Serengeti, Kenya and Tanzania – Its impressive always but during the migration it is beyong inspiring.
    Tsitsikamma forest (Knysna Forest), South and Eastern Cape, South Africa. The forest is a Lord of the Rings lookalike and with the chance of bumping into one of the endangered Knysna Forest Elephants, the scale of insignificant soars!
    Patagonia and Terra del Fuega, Argentina and Chile
    Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles. This 35000HA atoll is populated by Giant Tortoises

    I’m sure there are so may other places out there… Pity I only have one lifetime to explore.

    Stunning photos btw :)

    • MJF Images

      You mean the Naukluft Mtns, or the Namib? I would think you meant the Namib Desert. Darn I missed the forest in South Africa. Sounds great. Obviously the middle of the ocean has to be the #1 place by far.

  • Lior

    The Ramon Creaters, Israel.
    Unique phenomena to this region, which holds 7 craters, 2 of them are just infinite. Catch them by sunrise and feel jlike just another one of the trilion grains of sand around.
    Photo of the small crater (“Ha’Maktesh Ha’Katan”):

  • Abby

    Not sure if others have mentioned this, but a little closer to home is Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland.

  • haitravel

    You are number one photo hunter.

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel

    Amazing photos! I especially like the one of the Igazu Falls. A lot of people try to create beauty with skyscrapers and fail to appreciate that some of the awesome beauty is provided by nature itself. These photographs are magnificent examples of nature’s canvas. Thank you for sharing them.

  • Daniel Erickson

    nice picts

  • Sacheet Pandit

    great snaps..thumbs up.

  • John H Clemson

    I was at the Brazilian side of Iquazu Foz in 1973. There is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Poor Niagara!” One would have to go to Pandora to see a more amazing set of falls!

  • Caitlin Baird

    Stunning photos

  • Clare Appleyard

    Phenomenal inspiration here!

  • Allison Medcraft

    Wow these pictures are amazing, I have been to Malham cove recently and it was beautiful!

  • flailin

    Out of anyplace I’ve lived and worked, Alaska made the biggest impression on me in terms of its scale. Northern Death Valley also is of a scale that is off the charts, plus everything is slightly tilted, adding to the sense of disorientation. Caves don’t seem at first to qualify, but some of those in Borneo (Deer Cave) are so huge they dwarf everything. Of course it’s impossible to say this is anything but a random sampling, not a “best of” list. But an interesting sampling.

  • MJF Images

    By the way, I think being on a boat in the middle of the ocean is by far the most “dwarfing” experience of all. But it is a feeling you can get in so many places. You do need to be open to it though.

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