You might say that the ancient Greek historian Herodotus and the scholar Callimachus came up with the first-ever travel listicle. After traversing the edges of civilisation and speaking with others who had journeyed even farther, the men devised a record of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. Yet while their writing has survived, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus have not. Only one of these masterpieces, the Great Pyramid of Giza, still exists. Fortunately, modern travellers can still check out these marvels—we’re sure Herodotus would have approved.
- Chichen Itza, Mexico
This stunning collection of Mayan ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula centres around the Temple of Kukulcan, a mighty step pyramid sometimes referred to as El Castillo. As you wander amongst the Temple of the Warriors, the Jaguar Temple, and the House of Eagles in this thousand-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, try to imagine the sheer awe archaeologists must have felt when they excavated it in 1841.
- Christ Redeemer, Brazil
The French sculptor Paul Landowski and the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa were primarily responsible for this 30-metre tall Art Deco depiction of Jesus Christ, who stands overlooking Rio de Janeiro from the pinnacle of the Corcovado mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park with his arms outstretched. Ever since construction workers laid down the first foundation stone in 1922, the figure has served as a symbol of the nearby city.
- The Great Wall, China
Conceived of by Emperor Qin Shi Huang around 220 B.C. as a means of defence against invading nomads, this 6,000-kilometre-long fortification is massive enough for astronauts to see it while orbiting the Earth. Most visitors hoping to get a closer look head for the Mutianyu section, which is both the easiest to reach from downtown Beijing and the most thoroughly restored. Those who venture slightly farther to the Jinshanling section will find fewer crowds and especially scenic views of rolling, forest-covered hills.
- Machu Picchu, Peru
Every year, thousands of travellers from around the globe brave an extensive journey and possible altitude sickness at 2,430 metres above sea level to visit this striking remnant of the Inca civilisation. Though the dry-stone structures date back to the 1400s, extensive reconstruction allows visitors to have a better sense of what they must have originally looked like.
- Petra, Jordan
In the 1800s, the English scholar John William Burgon famously dubbed these ruins in southwestern Jordan “a rose-red city half as old as time.” The ancient Greeks referred to it more simply as “Petra,” from the word for rock, for the magnificent sandstone formations surrounding it. Whatever you call it, these soaring facades carved directly into the rust-coloured cliffs are truly a sight to behold.
- The Roman Colosseum, Italy
Built by the Flavian emperors starting around 70 A.D., this amphitheatre resides just east of the Palatine Hill in the Italian capital. According to legend, the emperor Titus ordered a series of grand ceremonial games to officially dedicate the grand edifice. For 100 consecutive days, 50,000 Romans cheered at vicious gladiatorial matches and reenactments of naval battles, in which real ships sailed through the flooded centre of the arena.
- The Taj Mahal, India
Many view this alabaster-hued tomb for Mumtaz Mahal, the favourite wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, as an enduring testament to the power of love. Since 1648, travellers have come to gape at the ornate mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India. After admiring the work of calligraphers, stone masons, and other master craftsmen, be sure to leave time to stroll through the stunning 17 hectares of Mughal gardens.