Mother Nature is an amazing architect. All around the world, travelers can find natural bridges that are often more magnificent than even the best man-made constructions. According to David Brandt-Erichsen of the Natural Arch and Bridge Society, seeking these bridges out can lead to once-in-a-lifetime journeys.
"I have found that having an arch as a goal for a trip always takes me to beautiful places, many of which I would never have thought to go to otherwise," he says. "The arches are the frosting on a very good cake."
We've spoken to the experts at the society to compile a list of must-see arches — so enjoy, and get your passport ready.
The longest bridge
What: Fairy Bridge
Special features: It spans 400 feet.
This arch (seen above) is pretty special. It's the longest in the world by a long shot, and it's not a typical tourist destination.
"It is far off the beaten tourist track and very few Westerners have seen it," Brandt-Erichsen says. "A NABS group staying at a hotel a few hours away in 2010 were the first party of Westerners ever to stay there!"
The desert arch
What: Aloba Arch
Special features: It's the largest in the Sahara Desert with a height of 400 feet and span of 250 feet.
"Aloba Arch is the largest and grandest [bridge] in the Sahara Desert," Brandt-Erichsen says. "It is truly one of the most magnificent natural arches in the world, but one of the most seldom seen."
The European gem
What: Pont d'Arc
Where: Southern France
Special features: This is the biggest natural bridge in Europe, spanning 190 feet.
This bridge crosses the Ardeche River in Southern France and is the largest natural arch in Europe. It is visited often as the Ardeche is a popular spot for canoeing and kayaking.
The thinnest arch
What: Landscape Arch
Special features: The thinnest section is only 7 feet wide.
This skinny arch is located in the Devil's Garden section of Arches National Park, Utah, and is 290 feet long. The Arches National Park is home to a whole host of notable arches, including the Double Arch and Double O Arch.
The fairy tale bridge
What: Moon Hill
Special features: It's exceptionally beautiful.
This arch south of Yangshuo, China, may not be the biggest, but it certainly is beautiful. "There are many arches in China that are larger than the 112-foot span, but none are more beautiful," Brandt-Erichsen says.
The immortal bridge
What: Jiangzhou Immortal Bridge
Special features: A road and river pass under this bridge.
The Jiangzhou Immortal Bridge claims to be the second biggest in the world, reportedly 341 feet long. The distance, however, has yet to be confirmed.
The remote bridge
What: Forzagha Arch
Special features: There are no roads or trails leading to this arch.
Brandt-Erichsen cites this arch as "the most spectacular in the Akakus Plateau of Libya." It sits near the Algerian border and visitors must hire a guide to visit the area. It spans 105 feet and has a height of 144 feet — measured by NABS member Ray Millar with a laser rangefinder.
The big bridge
What: Rainbow Bridge
Special features: It has a span of 243 feet and height of 246 feet.
This magnificent bridge is made from Navajo sandstone. It's possible to visit this bridge by boat or by backpacking through trails around the Navajo Mountains.
The scuba spot
What: Azure Window
Where: Gozo, Malta
Special features: You can scuba dive while visiting this arch.
This limestone arch is near Dwejra Bay on Gozo Island, Malta, and is a popular spot for scuba diving. The structure was created after two sea caves collapsed. Scientists expect the arch to disintegrate in a few years as pieces of rock have begun to fall from its underside.
The high arch
What: Shipton's Arch
Special features: It has an estimated height of 1,200 feet and a span of 213 feet.
This is the highest known natural arch in the world — a mark confirmed by Guinness World Records.
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