There have been dozens of lists of the 7 Wonders of the World. The practice of naming seven remarkable structures goes back millennia, though no one seems to have a good reason as to why the list always stopped at seven. While no specific criteria for wonderhood has ever been established, all of these buildings have been impressively huge and ostensibly difficult to create. The original 7 should give you an idea of the scale we're dealing with here. This list included the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse at Alexandria.
Unfortunately, the centuries have not been kind of most of these wonders and, consequently, only the Great Pyramid remains standing to this day. Throughout the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment there were several attempts to name 7 new wonders, which often included Stonehenge, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Great Wall of China, but no consensus on the matter could be reached, and no definitive list was ever established. This all changed in 2000 when the New7Wonders Foundation, an organization based in Sweden, selected 200 monuments from around the world and gave people the chance to vote on the monument they believed was most wondrous. After tallying all of the votes, the New 7 Wonders of the World were presented to the world in 2007. As the only remaining wonder of the original seven, the Great Pyramid, did not make the final cut, it was made an honorary new wonder—kind of how Pete Best is an honorary Beatle.
Here are the seven structures that the world concluded are the most wondrous feats of the modern world:
The Great Wall of China
It took approximately two thousand years to build; it's more than 20,000 kilometers long; and it continues to be one of the most iconic structures in the entire world. Yes, it's pretty great.
More than just being one of the most ambitious projects in the history of humanity, the Great Wall is also a masterpiece of architecture and defensive strategy. Furthermore, you can walk on top of. In fact, you can even run a marathon on it. While the easiest way to get to the Great Wall is to take a tour from Beijing. There are numerous parts of the wall to explore. Badaling is the most popular, but the Gubeikou section is remote enough to afford visitors a degree of solitude that is rarely available in other parts of the wall. Though it has not been renovated, this is probably the best place to enjoy a serene walk and one of the most picturesque landscapes in China.
A unique blend of Hellenism and Eastern influences, Petra seems too impressive to be real. Half built within, half carved out of the rose-red sandstone pillars that dominate the landscape of southern Jordan, Petra served as a sanctuary and the central hub for Nabataean caravans for centuries. Petra was also a religious center during the height of the Roman Empire, though the city declined after being struck by several earthquakes. Much of this magnanimous city remains, however, and exploring this necropolis with its porticos and columns carved directly into the rock feels like you're wandering around Middle Earth more than Jordan. Easily accessible from Amman, Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, you can find the right tour to fit your needs. Petra continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East, once you’ve visited you will understand why.
Construction on the Colosseum was begun in 70 AD by Vespasian, a Roman Emperor who initiated several projects throughout Rome after the city suffered under the reigns of Nero, Galba, Otho and Vitellius—an emperor whom the historian Suetonius said was known for his "luxury and cruelty." The Colosseum very quickly came to signify the resurgence of Roman might and virtue, and continues to be one of the most enduring images of both the Roman Empire and modern Rome to this day. Furthermore, the Colosseum isn't just a solitary structure; it is in the very center of Rome. You can walk just a few hundred feet to marvel at such landmarks as the Roman Forum, the Circus Maximus and several of the world's most famous churches.
A popular destination for mystics, historians and hungover college students coming from Cancun, Chichen Itza represents one of the most well preserved pre-Columbian cities in Central America. Unlike many other historical sites on the Yucatán, Chichen Itza is a fusion of Mayan and Toletc architecture, art and culture. Comprised of several temples and other structures, Chichen Itza is less of a single wonder than an entire complex of stone buildings that you can spend several days exploring. Like many of the other wonders on this list, the site is one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in the world. With several ways to explore and experience the grandeur of Chichen Itza, you’re guaranteed to find the perfect one for you next vacation.
Situated high in the Andes, Machu Picchu is the most unique city in the world. While ancient alien theorists and other people with questionable degrees assume that only aliens could have produced such masterpieces, normal visitors will marvel at the ingenuity of the Inca. The exquisite masonry that produced the many structures that comprise the complex are is truly a sight to behold. Equally haunting and enchanting, visiting Machu Picchu has become something of a religious experience to many people.
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is situated on the bank of the Yamuna River in the Agra District in Uttar Pradesh. Built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal between 1632 and 1648, this structure is arguably the most famous mausoleum in the world, as well as the pinnacle of Indo-Islamic architecture. Combined with an immense garden, the Taj Mahal complex is one of the most popular attractions in all of India.
Christ the Redeemer
Situated high atop Corcovado Mountain and overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro, this colossal statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched is one of the most iconic images in South America. The Christ Redeemer statue was created by a team that included sculptors Paul Landowski and Gheorghe Leonida and engineers Heitor da Silva Costa Brazil and Albert Caquot over the course of nine years, this Art Deco masterpiece was officially opened to the public in 1931. Visiting this 98-meter statue remains at the top of the list of things to do in Brazil for tourists—not only because of its magnanimity and beauty, but also because of the spectacular views of Rio, Tijuca Forest National Park and the ocean.
If these 7 wonders haven't already made it on to your travel bucket list, you may want to add a few more spaces. Go, explore, and discover the structures that have left millions speechless and inspired countless others.