10 Largest Monoliths in the World

What exactly is a monolith? Anyone who has seen the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey will probably have the image of an advanced machine built by aliens to encourage humankind to progress with technological development. Actually, the word monolith comes from the Greek word “monolithos”, derived from mono (“one” or “single”) and lithos (“stone”). In the context of this top 10 list it refers to a geological feature such as a mountain, consisting of a single massive stone or rock.

A problem with finding the largest monolith is that the term “monolith” is somewhat ambiguous. Geologists therefore often prefer the terms monadnock or inselberg (literally “island mountain”) to describe an isolated hill or a lone mountain that rises above the surrounding area. Most monoliths in this top 10 are inselbergs, although not every inselberg is a monolith. For example, Mount Augustus in western Australia is often called a monolith but it is actually a monocline, an exposed piece of rock belonging to a layer beneath. In other words a monocline is not a single piece of rock although the distinction isn’t always clear.

Another problem is that many rocks and mountains are called the largest monolith in the world but these claims are rarely backed up by geological information and may be based upon a single dimension such as height or circumference. Furthermore, height may be measured above sea level or the surrounding ground.

In any case, here is a list of some of the largest, biggest and most interesting monoliths on the planet.

10Pena de Bernal

Peña de Bernal (“Bernal Peak”) is Mexico’s largest monolith located in San Sebastian Bernal, a small town in the state of Queretaro. The rock rises 350 meters (1148 feet) above the town and was formed some 100 million years ago during the Jurassic period when it was at least three times higher than today.

Read more: Mexico Guide
9Rock of Gibraltar
Rock of Gibraltarflickr/funyansfr

The Rock of Gibraltar is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom on the southern coast of Spain at the entrance to the Mediterranean sea. The 426 meters (1,396 feet) high limestone monolith is the home of 27,800 Gibraltarians and 250 Barbary macaques, the only wild primates in Europe. In Greek mythology Gibraltar was one of the Pillars of Hercules which marked the edge of the Mediterranean and the known world.

Read more: Gibraltar Guide
8El Capitan, Yosemite

One of the most famous sights in Yosemite National Park, the granite monolith El Capitan rises almost 910 meter (3,000 foot) vertically from Yosemite Valey. It is is a favorite challenge among expert rock climbers. In 1958, Warren J. Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore were the first to climb the Nose of El Capitan using ropes, pitons and expansion bolts.

7Torres del Paine
Torres del Paineflickr/ik_kil

Torres del Paine is a national park in the Extreme South region of Patagonian Chile and features mountains, lakes and glaciers. The centerpiece of the park are the three Towers of Paine; spectacular granite monoliths shaped by the forces of glacial ice. The highest peak is about 2,500 meters (8200 feet).

Read more: Chile Guide
6Ben Amera

Mauritania’s best kept secret, the Ben Amera lies hidden in the desert waiting to be discovered by mass tourism. According to some sources it is the second largest monolith in the world after Uluru. Ben Amera is located 5km from Tmeimichat, a small village on the route of the desert train between Nouadhibou and Zouerate.

Read more: Mauritania Guide
5Devils Tower
Devils Towerflickr/f_lopiano

Rising 386 meters (1,267 feet) above the surrounding terrain, Devils Tower is the core of an ancient volcano exposed from erosion. It is located in the Black Hills in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming and was declared a United States National Monument in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The mountain became world famous in 1977 when it was chosen as the location of the alien-human rendezvous point in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning science fiction film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

4Sigiriya

Sigiriya is a spectacular 370 meter (1214 foot) high ‘Lion rock’ fortress overlooking the green jungle surroundings. It is one of Sri Lanka’s major tourist attractions. The Sigiriya rock is a hardened magma plug from an extinct and long-eroded volcano, similar to Devils Tower. From about the 5h century BC it was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery and later turned into a rock fortress by King Kasyapa.

Read more: Sri Lanka Guide
Read more: Sigiriya Guide
3Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountainflickr/Knivesout

Sugarloaf Mountain (Portuguese: Pao de Acucar) is one of the most commonly recognized and sought after tourist attraction in Rio de Janeiro. Situated on a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean, the mountain rises 396 meters (1,299 feet) above sea-level. A cable car brings visitors to the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain where spectacular views of Copacabana and other beaches can be admired.

Read more: Brazil Guide
2Zuma Rock
Zuma Rockflickr/dolapo

Nigeria’s answer to Australia’s Uluru, Zuma Rock lies north of Nigeria’s capital Abuja and is easily observed by driving the main road from Abuja to Kaduna. Although only one-third as wide as Uluru, Zuma Rock is more than twice as high, rising an impressive 725 meters (2378 feet) above its surroundings. According to some observers a person’s face can be recognized in the white part at the center of the rock.

Read more: Nigeria Guide
1Uluru/Ayers Rock

Uluru (or Ayers Rock) is one of Australia’s most recognizable natural icons, located 335 km (208 miles) south west of the nearest large town, Alice Springs. It is the largest monolith in the world. The world-renowned sandstone formation stands 348 meter (1,142 foot) high and measures 9.4 km (5.8 miles) in circumference. The rock undergoes dramatic color changes with its normally terracotta hue gradually changing to blue or violet at sunset to flaming red in the mornings as the sunrises behind it.

Read more: Australia Guide

Map of Largest Monoliths In The World

18 comments

  1. aussie boy

    number 1 is incorrect, people mistake Uluru as the largest in Australia but it isn’t – Mount Augustus – Western Australia – Australia is.

  2. vivek

    the list is beautiful but ignores some of the largest in the world including two from india.. madhugiri n savandurga..

  3. Vi

    Though Uluru isn’t largest rock in the world, but it probably could be called most beautiful rock between largest monoliths.

  4. James

    Those are great shots of amazing spots. Though I
    felt like the Squamish Chief (B.C.) should be included.

  5. shaun

    One common miss conception is that mount Augustus is a monolith, ITS NOT it is a Monocline. a monolith is one solid piece of rock where as a Monocline is several layers of rock that sit on each other, and, to quote Wikipedia ” step-like fold in rock strata consisting of a zone of steeper dip within an otherwise horizontal or gently-dipping sequence”. However mount Augustus is the world’s largest rock.

  6. praveen desai

    what about which in india a single rock (stone), why i goner . where as bhongir fort build in on single rock in 12 th century , it as 430 meters and 1410 feets . how it is not in list , it just 50 km from hyderabad. i’m not is that number one but it as to in top ten

  7. Todd

    I know this article is quite old but I just came across it. I agree with James above that I expected to see The Chief in this list, although it is actually called the Stawamus Chief, not Squamish which is the nearest town. It is listed as the 2nd largest granite monolith in the world, but I don’t know where that puts it in the list of all rock types.

  8. Alex Robinson

    Pico da Neblina at 2,994 metres makes Uluru look like a pimple. And the Pedra da Gavea at 842m from base to summit and lie Pao de Acucar also in Rio, is over twice Uluru’s height.

  9. Dale Pollard

    1 Brandberg Massif Namibia 2,606
    2 Half Dome USA 1,444
    3 Pine Mountain Australia 1062
    4 El Capitan USA 900
    5 Pedra da Gavea Brazil 842
    6 The Tooth of Time USA 760
    7 Zuma Rock Nigeria 725
    8 Stawamus Chief Canada 700
    9 Rock of Gibraltar UK 426
    10 Aso Rock Nigeria 400
    11 Sugarloaf Brazil 396
    12 Devil’s Tower USA 386
    13 Pena de Bernal Mexico 350
    14 Stone Mountain USA 251
    15 Mount Coolum Australia 208

  10. Dale Pollard

    Torres del Paine isn’t a monolith. It is a combination of sedimentary and granitic rock

  11. poppiesgdd

    Some comments here are about how high , but this is about total dimensions . For example Uluru only has less than 10% of its mass above ground . It is over 3 klms from end to end and 9.4 klms around the base .Others here are small in comparison .

  12. Obas

    you have to check again, Bukit Kelam (located in Sintang, West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia) is quite massive.

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