Updated: Apr 3
TAJ MAHAL – India
The Taj Mahal is certainly one of the most iconic monuments in the world, and for good reason. Situated in the city of Agra in Northern India, the monument was bult by the reigning emperor in honor of his wife who died at childbirth in 1631. Located on the banks of the Yamuna River, the sprawling site includes much more than just the dramatic white marble mausoleum, although that is a great reason in itself to make the visit.
PETRA – Jordan
Located in the Southwest corner of Jordan, the ruins of Petra, which once was a sprawling metropolis and trading center dating from the 4th century BC, are not to be missed. The site was initially established by Nabateans, but shows clear influence of succeeding cultures that have resided there including Greek, Roman and Byzantine…and as some would argue even Egyptian. Not the easiest site to travel to, but once there, spend the extra day and take it all in, as it consists of SOOO much more than the most photographed Treasury Building shown here (think Raiders of the Lost Ark, 3rd movie)
GREAT WALL of CHINA
The Great Wall of China is an ancient series of walls and fortifications, totaling more than 13,000 miles in length, located primarily in northern China. Originally conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the third century B.C. as a means of preventing invasions from barbarians, the wall was continually lengthened over the following centuries to become the massive structure it is today with the most popular and best preserved section of the Great Wall being built in the 14th through 17th centuries A.D. The Wall never fully prevented invaders from entering China (just ask Gengis Khan) but it did make those incursions a little more difficult.
CHICHEN ITZA – Mexico
The ancient city of Chichen Itza is located near the northeastern tip of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, not too far from the famous resort city of Cancun. The site itself is about 4 square miles in size (apx 10 sq km). There are quite a number of reclaimed buildings throughout the area (and some still awaiting for the jungle to be removed) the most iconic of which is the El Castillo pyramid, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, which will take you 365 steps to reach summit. The city was founded around the 6th century AD, and at its peak was home to probably 35,000 inhabitants. However by the time the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the early 1500’s had been abandoned for some time.
ANGKOR WAT – Cambodia
Located about 3 ½ miles (6km) north of the Cambodian town of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist (now) temple originally built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple. Spreading over more than 400 acres, Angkor Wat has the reputation as being the largest religious monument in the world. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century. The complex sustained substantial damage during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970’s and other conflicts. The complex has since been rebuilt back in many areas to its former luster and glory.
PYRAMIDS of GIZA – Egypt
The Pyramids of Giza have the honor of being the only one of the original Seven Wonders of the World still around today. Located right on the edge of the city of Cairo, Egypt, next to the Nile River the Giza Pyramids have stood the test of time enduring weather, tourists, grave robbers/ tomb raiders, target practice for Napoleon’s army and more. Constructed around 4,500 years ago, the Pyramids were built as tombs for deceased Pharaohs. The largest of the three, the Great Pyramid, stands 481 ft (147m) in height. How they are built remains somewhat of a mystery to this day, although recent discoveries have narrowed down options dramatically. While there, check out the Sphinx, with its own air of mystery.
ROME COLOSSEUM – Italy
The Colosseum is a large amphitheater in Rome, Italy, built during the reign of the Flavian emperors as a gift to the Roman people, construction initiated around 70 BC and took about 10 years to complete. This enormous structure stands several stories high and has a base of about 189 by 156 meters (620 by 513 feet). Once all additions in the Colosseum were completed it could hold an audience of over 50,000 to view the gladiator duels, wild animals…even ship battles (!)…and more. The Colosseum started to deteriorate after the fall of Rome, and subsequent earthquakes, but went through an impressive restoration project about 30 years ago to regain so much of its former luster.
HAGIA SOPHIA – Turkey
Located in Istanbul, Turkey, The Hagia Sophia (meaning “holy wisdom”) is a domed monument originally built as a cathedral in the ancient city of what was then Constantinople. The structure was constructed on the site of two older churches, commencing in 532 AD and completed less than six years later. In its nearly 1,500 year life-span it has served as a cathedral, mosque and now a museum. The building is roughly about 270 feet (82 meters) long and 240 feet (73 meters) wide with the dome itself measuring 108 feet (33 meters) in diameter and rising 180 feet (55 meters). Whilst the exterior is inspiring in itself, the interior is even more memorable, and well worth a few hours of your time.
ACROPOLIS – Greece
Dating back as far as the Bronze Age, The Acropolis (meaning “high city” in Greek) of Athens is one of the most famous and recognizable ancient archaeological sites in the world. Located on a limestone hill high above Athens, Greece, the Acropolis has been inhabited since prehistoric times. During the course of its rather lengthy history the Acropolis was many things including a royal home, a citadel, a mythical residence of the gods and a religious center…with far more history than can be told in this little brief. Standing as a tribute to the rich history of Greece, it is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the famous, and widely photographed, Parthenon temple.
MACHU PICHU – Peru
Of all the Wonders listed in the three categories, this may well be the most challenging one to reach, but it is well worth it. “The Lost City of the Incas”, as it is known, sits on a nearly 8,000 foot high mountain ridge about 50 miles northwest of Cusco, Peru (another must see stop). Many parts of the site have been reconstructed in part to give visitors a true sense of what Machu Pichu must have been like hundreds of years ago. Take the four day hike along the Inca Trail to get here, or take the train to the town of Aguas Calientes and bus up the next day. Well worth seeing, and whilst there, why not make the nail-biting climb up "the stairs of death" to the top of Huayna Picchu overlooking the site...