The highest mountain in Africa, and one of the most sought after climbs on many adventurers’ bucket lists. Kilimanjaro stands at a head-spinning 5,895m above sea level. Unbelievably, the beast of a mountain was scaled in a record six hours and 42 minutes by mountain guide Karl Egloff—the average person takes between five and nine days.
This trio of mountains found in the Himalayas contains some of the world’s most dangerous peaks: 39 people were killed in the October 2014 trekking disaster here, Nepal’s worst to date. However, the area is also home to some stunning sights. Mountainous scenery observable on the 230km Annapurna circuit is legendary, and it’s one of the few places where snow leopards live in the wild.
Mount Fuji, Japan
A whimsical icon of Japan, Mount Fuji’s almost perfectly symmetrical cone makes it one of the most beguiling sights in the natural world. Though undeniably beautiful, some speculators fear that the active volcano is under great pressure as a result of 2011’s Tohoku earthquake and could be at risk of eruption.
The highest mountain peak in North America (a gargantuan 6,190m above sea level), Denali is also one of the continent’s most visually alluring mountains. Despite many Americans knowing it as Mount McKinley, Alaskans have called it Denali for centuries, and the name was officially changed earlier this year to reflect the true history of the mountain. Local wildlife includes grizzly bears, wolves and golden eagles.
With around 130 active volcanoes, Indonesia is no stranger to eruptions. Mount Rinjani, the nation’s third largest volcano, has recently started spewing clouds of ash, causing many flights to and from Bali to be cancelled. When it’s not causing inconvenient travel delays, Rinjani is a gorgeous sight to behold, particularly due to its large crater lake, Segara Anak.
The striking pyramidal peak of the Matterhorn makes it a magnificent spectacle—its impressive north face is a sight that defines many people’s idea of what a mountain looks like. It can be found in the Alps, where its steep 4,478m summit makes it a worthy challenge for experienced mountain climbers.
Mauna Loa, Hawaii
Mauna Loa is so big that it takes up more than half of the land on Hawaii, and so huge that it causes the Pacific plate it resides on to sag under its weight. Quite aptly, its name means ‘long mountain’ in Hawaiian.
Kirkjufell is one of the most breathtaking sights in Iceland. With a sculpted appearance thanks to generations of sediment weathering, it makes for a magical photograph when foregrounded by the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, especially against the backdrop of the northern lights.
Table Mountain, South Africa
Probably the most aptly named mountain in the world, this flat-topped mountain overlooks Cape Town, giving the South African capital a recognisable natural landmark. All kinds of creatures live on Table Mountain, from porcupines to the rare ghost frog.
This volcano on the border of Chile and Bolivia is home to one of the world’s highest bodies of water, Licancabur Lake. At a height of 5,920m, air temperatures can drop to -30°C—not ideal for most animals. However, life does exist up here: plankton and microorganisms live in the lake.
Mighty natural monuments that reach higher than the clouds and provide homes for our planet’s most fascinating survivors—it’s no wonder that humans have always had a fixation with mountains.
A gauntlet of dangers, from subzero climates to volcanic eruptions, exist in these harsh environments. Perilous though they are, people are still willing to put up with extreme conditions in order to find out what the world looks like from the very top. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out these extraordinary mountains before planning your route to their summits.