You’ve no doubt heard people talk about the seven wonders of the world and wondered what exactly they are or where they are. The truth is that the original seven wonders of the world (established by the Greeks) don’t exist anymore except for one: the Pyramids of Giza. The Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Temple of Artemus and Diane, the Tomb of Mausolus, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Statue of Zeus are either completely gone or just bits of rubble that have somehow survived the last few millennia.
In 2007 a new list was compiled (better late than never) with noteworthy buildings or structures that sum up the ultimate human achievement of the “modern world” by 100 million voters. Surprisingly, the Egyptian pyramids didn’t make the cut this century, but there’s a good chance you’ve heard of everything else that DID make it on this list. Shaving the list of the “most wonderful things” in the world down to seven isn’t easy and there’s bound to be some disagreement as to what belongs and what doesn’t, but 100 million people can’t be wrong. Here are the places that made the list and the easiest way to visit them:
Chichen Itza– Probably the easiest location on the list can be visited as a day trip from a Cancun, Mexico. These Mayan ruins are famous for their pyramids, an observatory shaped building and Chacmul statues. You can rent a car from Cancun airport and drive 3 hours west or set up a tour excursion from your hotel. This trip is sometimes combined with a stop in a cenote or the archaeological site of Ek Balaam.
Petra– remember Indiana Jones and the last Crusade? The iconic setting was actually a real place. You won’t find any holy grails or 4000 year old guys with swords, but the winding canyons and Maccabee hewn rock buildings have to be seen to be believed. The easiest way to visit is to travel from Amman, Jordan by bus or car. Some travelers visit as a 2 or 3 day excursion from Israel that’s got a fairly easy border crossing. You can combine this trip with a visit to the Red Sea or Wadi Rum, the filming location for Lawrence of Arabia. Summer temperatures can get ridiculously hot, so travel during cooler months or times of the day.
Macchu Pichu– Considered by many to be the most spiritual place on earth, the Incan ruins are definitely a crowd pleaser. Llamas, tall mountains and coca leaf tea… what’s not to like? To get to the ancient ruins you have to get to Lima (which is a fairly inexpensive flight from Miami), then you take a short flight to Cuzco. You might need a day or two to adjust to the high altitude (some hotels have oxygen tanks) before booking a taxi or bus to Aguas Calientas. There’s lots of great stops along the way including other ruins in the Incan Valley, interesting markets and amazing salt pools. From AC, you take a bus ride to the famed archaeological site or hike the famous Incan trail for several days. There’s a few steps involved, but the effort is well worth the amazing experience.
Great Wall of China– there’s actually more than one section of the Great Wall of China, but the two most popular restored parts to visit are a short drive from Beijing. China is one of the best bargain destinations of the world at the moment. You can get a Chinese 10 year visa for $150 or travel visa free with a 24 hour stopover on the way to another Asian destination like Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. Flights to Beijing can be found for as little as $375 from LAX off season, so economically, this “wonder” is pretty easy to do. Once you’re in Beijing, you can take a bus or hire a taxi and combine your Great Wall visit with the Ming Tombs and other nearby attractions.
Taj Mahal– The Taj is the poster child of India and this white marble mausoleum and mosque is the place that most people think of when you mention India. There’s lots of great attractions in the country and many first time visitors opt for the Golden Triangle Tour that includes Delhi and Jaipur as well as the town of Agra where the shrine is located. A trip to India can sometimes be combined with a stop in Dubai or European hub if you’d like to add an additional destination. India has a good railway network for adventurous travelers or private car hire if you don’t like crowds.
Christ the Redeemer– The most famous statue of Jesus in the world rises high above Rio de Janeiro with arms spread wide open, maybe forgiving those people who got too wild at Carnival. Rio isn’t really close to anything else (except Buenos Aires and Iguasu Falls), but booking a trip there for Carnival can knock two things off your bucket list. From Copacabana, you can take the funicular to the top of the mountain or walk to the top if you’re feeling ambitious.
The Colosseum– Most trips to Italy include this iconic Roman amphitheater that has been able to withstand the elements of time for over 2,000 years. It’s not the only Roman colosseum left in the world, but it is the most visited and is easy to see in an hour or two when in Rome. The nearby forum admission is included with your ticket. Unless you’ve been able to to set up the special underground tour, you’ll only be permitted to walk around the stands. There’s lots of great sites to visit in Rome, so a visit there will keep you busy if you’re a history or art buff. Many people opt to visit the Venice/Florence/Rome triangle as a good overview of Italy.
The new Seven Wonders are spread out all over the world so it will take a few trips to visit them all, but it’s not nearly as difficult or as expensive as you might think.