Water cascades down Iguazú Falls on the border between Brazil and Argentina in South America. The crescent-shaped waterfalls are one of the provisional winners of a controversial global contest that allowed people to vote, American Idol style, by Internet and phone to choose the seven natural wonders of the world.
A total of 220 countries paid a registration fee of U.S. $199 in 2007 to enter 440 candidate sites in the latest New7Wonders campaign—the brainchild of Swiss filmmaker and museum curator Bernard Weber.
The hundreds of candidate sites were whittled down to 28 by a New7Wonders panel led by a former head of UNESCO. The winners were chosen in a global public vote that ended November 11.
"We congratulate each of these participants on achieving the New 7 Wonders of Nature status and look forward to completing the confirmation process to celebrate each one in their own official inauguration ceremonies in early 2012," Weber said in a video posted online to announce the winners.
Robert Reid, the U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet travel guides, said Iguazú Falls is widely considered to be one of the great falls of the world. "It's like Niagara Falls plus the Taj Mahal," he said.
The site's grandeur may have as much to do with sound as with vision. "Last year I was talking to Tony Giles, a blind traveler who's been all around the world," Reid said, "and he said you just go there and it sounds like a symphony."
The New 7 Wonders of Nature contest is the second such contest organized by the New7Wonders Foundation. In 2001, it orchestrated a similar vote for the man-made New 7 Wonders of the World (pictures). Winners were announced in 2007.
"When the New 7 Wonders of Nature are confirmed, they will join the man-made New 7 Wonders of the World as being part of [the] global memory of humankind forever," Weber said.