Great Wall of China
Stretching about 4000 miles (6400 km) between Shanhaiguan in the east and Lop Nur in the west the Great Wall of China has to be on the top of many tourists must see destinations. The beginnings of the wall were started over 2500 years ago as a defensive structure. At its height it was guarded by over 1 million Chinese men to ward off enemies. Many parts of the wall no longer stand but sections near Beijing and tourist centers have either been preserved or reconstructed. The Great Wall of China is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Pulling guard duty here must have been a joy.
Chichen Itza is a vast Maya complex located in the central Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It is thought that Chichen Itza rose to the height of its power around 600 AD and fell about 1000 AD well before the Spanish conquerors entered the peninsula in the 1500’s.
The complex contains many examples of Mayan stone architecture including the step pyramid Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo), the Great Ball Court, and the Temple of Warriors. These are three of many buildings on the site comprising of about 2 square miles (5 sq km). Many of the buildings are in various stages of restore. During the spring equinox thousands of tourists flock to Chichen Itza to watch the shadow of the feather serpent crawl down the side of the Temple of Kukulkan. After a worldwide vote the Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo) was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Towering 8000 feet (2430 m) high in the Andes Mountains of Peru sits the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. It is located 43 miles from Cuzco the Inca capital. Said to be a religious retreat or a royal estate Machu Picchu’s construction is one of the sites endearing qualities. Built mostly from granite with some blocks weighing up to 50 tons the stones fit together so tightly that a knife blade can not fit between them. This was done all without the use of mortar. It is thought to have been built between 1460 and 1470 at the height of the Inca Empire. It is supposed that half of the population of Machu Picchu was killed by small pox around 1527. The Spanish conquistadores arrived at Cuzco in 1532 and there is no record that the Spanish ever knew of the city so it is thought that the city had been abandoned by this time. Machu Picchu is another of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Petra – Jordan
Another of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Petra was unknown to the Western world until introduced by Johann Ludwig BurckHardt in 1812 but it is believed to be at least 2000 years old. Petra is located about 162 miles (262 km) south of Amman, Jordan. There are over 800 individual monuments on the Petra site including buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways, and colonnaded streets. Most were carved right out of the native sandstone by the Nabataeans. One of the monuments pictured above is known as -al-Khazneh (Arabic for “the Treasury”) it was carved right out of the side of the cliff. It is known as the Treasury because some people thought there was treasure hidden inside. The real treasure is the beautiful rose colored building itself.
Great Barrier Reef
Off the coast of Queensland Australia lies the largest single structure created by living organisms. The Great Barrier Reef is so large it can been seen from space as the satellite photo above attests. It is the largest coral reef system in the world covering 133,000 square miles (344,400 sq km). A very popular tourist destination the Great Barrier Reef is also known for its fine fishing opportunities. Currently a large portion of the reef is protected from the impact of human use by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Unfortunately the reef and its ecosystem are threatened from other problems such as coral bleaching from climate change and threats from masses of crown-of-thorns starfish that feed on the reefs coral polyps.
Located in Agra, India the Taj Mahal is considered the best example of Mughal architecture. It is a style that combines Indian, Ottoman, Islamic, and Persian architecture styles. Construction commenced in 1632 and was completed about 1653. The structure was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in tribute to his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal.
The white marble mausoleum attracts 2 to 4 million visitors a year with over 200,000 coming from overseas.
Considered by some to be the most enormous falls in the world Victoria Falls in southern Africa is a very unique tourist destination. With a width of 1 mile (1.7 km) and a height of 360 feet (108 m) it boasts the largest falling sheet of water in the world. Located on the Zambezi River between Zimbabwe and Zambia it has quite a few unique features like the Devil’s Swimming Pool. Seen above the Devil’s Swimming Pool can be accessed usually in September and December when the river flow is lower. It is made possible due to a natural underwater rock wall right at the edge of the falls. Anyone like to go for a swim? Due to the current political tensions in Zimbabwe tourism on that side of the falls has dropped off considerably. Now more visitors entertain the Zambia side of the falls even though the accommodations are not as developed as on the Zimbabwe side.
Great Pyramids of Giza
Photo by Nina Aldin Thune
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing. Also known as the Pyramid of Cheops or Kufu is believed to have been built during a 20 year period concluding in 2560 BC. The Giza pyramids complex includes the Pyramid of Kufu, three smaller pyramids for Kufu’s wives, Pyramid of Khafre, Pyramid of Menkaure, and the Great Sphinx. The Great Pyramid has been a source of wonder throughout the ages. There is much disagreement upon how the construction of the pyramid was accomplished. For the size and magnitude of such an endeavor astounds us even today.
The Golden Temple
Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar, Punjab, India is considered the most sacred shrine of the Sikhs. It was originally built in 1574 AD the temple complex was completed in 1604. The Golden Temple is open to all visitors. It was built with four doors to show that members of all religions or faiths are welcome to meditate or listen to prayers of peace. If only all of the world’s societies were so open the world could be a much more peaceful place.
Olympus Mons is known as the tallest mountain in the solar system and is located on the planet Mars. Olympus Mons is approximately 3 times taller then Mount Everest at 16.7 miles high (27 k) or 88,600 feet above the surface of Mars. This must be an unbelievable site to behold in person. Though no longer thought to be active it is also the largest known volcano in the solar system. I know a lot of people would say that this is an impossible quest but I disagree. Some people alive today will very likely be able to get that chance. I believe that a person born today with a life span of about 80 years has the capability. Within 80 years a viable commercial space program is very likely. This will give people the opportunity to visit the solar system on a regular basis. This leads us to my final entry for this article.
Rings of Saturn
So after your visit to Olympus Mons you may as well swing by Saturn to see its rings. Although it is possible to see the rings with a telescope or good pair of binoculars how fantastic would it be to see them up close and in person? The rings are thought to be made up mostly of water ice crystals. There are gaps within the rings some created by Saturn’s moons and others are unexplained. So take a ride out for yourself and see what all the fuss is about.
No slight was intended for places not included. See also my Amazing Places in the US to See Before You Die