7 Wonders of the World: An Overview

Though we all harbor our own unique travel aspirations, there is at least marginal agreement that there are several essential world sites that merit pilgrimage. In 2001, a Swiss foundation initiated a campaign to discern which existing world monuments deserved an especial status referred to as a “wonder of the world.” Over 200 sites merited consideration. Once the tally had concluded, the seven sites that received the designated status included: The Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza, Petra, Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer, the Colosseum, and the Taj Mahal.

In the following article, we’ll delve into why these locations are worthy of such honorifics; and why, if you have the opportunity, you shouldn’t hesitate to visit them.


Photo courtesy of YouTube, Petra, Jordan | Civilisations

Location: Petra, Jordan

History: An ancient city nestled in Southeast Jordan, Petra was built along a terrace intersecting the Wadi Musa, or the Valley of Moses. Encircled by myriad sandstone cliffs, the region has been noted for its piercing shades of red, purple and yellow. Thought to be populated as early as 1200 BCE, Petra eventually became a critical inflection point for trade, connecting numerous civilizations, including the Chinese, Egyptians and Greeks. At its zenith, Petra was said to have housed a population of as much as 30,000 people.

In 106 CE, Petra was conquered by the Romans and promptly incorporated into the province of Arabia. As trading routes shifted in conjunction with the fluctuations of the Roman Empire, the city’s prosperity soon began to decline. After the Islamic invasion of the 7th century, any notable activity in Petra summarily ceased, though archaeological evidence suggests it was leveraged as a Crusader outpost in the 12th century. The city’s history largely passed into legend until its ruins were discovered in 1812 by a Swiss traveler named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It has now been preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, providing insight into our ancient past.

Fun Fact: Frequently referred to as the “Lost City,” Petra made its debut in Hollywood in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

Christ the Redeemer

Photo courtesy of YouTube, The Messiah | Cristo Redentor 4K Drone Footage

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

History: The majestic statue of Christ the Redeemer, lording over one of Brazil’s largest metropolises, was erected in 1931 and measures 98 feet tall. Horizontally, Christ the Redeemer possesses a gargantuan wingspan of 92 feet, almost equivalent to the statue’s verticality. The picturesque statue has become a powerful symbol for both Rio de Janeiro as well as the entire nation of Brazil. It remains the largest Art-Deco statue in the world.

In 1921 the Roman Catholic archdiocese, on the basis of previous efforts, sought to build a statue of Christ at the summit of Mount Corcovado. Permission was summarily granted in 1922 to commemorate Brazil’s independence from its previous colonial overlord, Portugal. Collaborating with both Brazilian artist Carlos Oswald Silva and French sculptor Paul Landowski, Heitor da Silva established a final design, with Christ in a standing pose, his arms generously outstretched.

The status was completed in 1931. Over the ensuing century, the statue has been continually renovated in deference to the millions of visitors who trek to the site annually. Escalators and panoramic elevators were added in 2002; and in 2006 a chapel was consecrated at its base in honor of the patron saint of Brazil.

Fun Fact: Peculiarly, the statue has become a pressure point for lightning strikes. In acknowledgement of this queer reality, the Brazilian government has arranged numerous lightning rods around Christ the Redeemer to divert the probability of such strikes. In 2014, prior to Brazil hosting the World Cup, lightning actually damaged the back of the statue’s head and a single fingertip. Officials promptly repaired the damage before the event ensued.

Chichen Itza

Photo courtesy of YouTube, Chichén Itzá – New Seven Wonders of the World

Location: Yucatan, Mexico

History: In ancient Mayan, Chichen Itza translates to “Where The Wise Men of the Water Live.” Welcoming over 2,500,000 visitors per year, the city was once the home of the Itza people, an ethnically Mayan group that came to control much of the Yucatan peninsula and present-day Mexico.

Though it is still speculative, the city was likely built in the early 400s (CE) and became a significant center for economic trade and political power. The city was built upon uneven terrain, which required much levelling in order to facilitate the construction of stable structures. The city, which was so vast as to include suburbs, was linked by nearly 100 paved roadways, or “sacbeob;” a unique feat given that during the time they were constructed, even most European cities failed to have similarly fashioned paved streets.

At its zenith, Chichen Itza housed approximately 50,000 residents. By the 9th century, it had become the regional capital for the central and northern Yucatan peninsula. Though the city began to lose its prominence during the 1200s, its extinction was largely made manifest by the arrival of pestilence-bearing Spanish conquistadors at the end of 15th century. In 1526, Chichen Itza was still vibrant enough for the Spanish to establish a temporary capital there, though the city slowly dissolved into an admixture of cattle farms.

Fun Fact: The most famous landmark in Chichen Itza is “El Castillo,” or “The Castle.” The castle was actually constructed by invaders of Chichen Itza. The pyramid they wrought reaches 79 feet, and each of the pyramid’s sides has 91 stairs. Including the step on the platform, there is a consequent total of 365 steps, the same numbers of days as in a traditional calendar year.

Machu Picchu

Photo courtesy of YouTube, Road to Machu Picchu – Peru in 4K

Location: Eastern Cordillera, Peru

History: Located near the present-day city of Cuzco, Machu Picchu was believed to have been built at the height of the Inca Empire’s influence during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was believed to have been abandoned approximately 100 years after its construction, for reasons that are still dubious and postulated upon. There is no extant evidence that Spanish conquistadors were ever able to reach the mountain citadel, thus some historians believe Machu Picchu may have been abandoned as a consequence of the smallpox epidemic.

Though residents of the region were aware of Machu Picchu’s existence, it was not discovered by Western eyes until 1911 by American archaeologist Hiram Bingham. Most modern archaeologists believe Machu Picchu served as a royal site for Incan emperors and Incan nobility, though some contest it was a religious site, as evinced by its central location along a majestic mountainscape.

Today, hundreds of thousands of visitors make the strenuous trek to the manmade wonder, eager to observe the monuments, the structures, and the picturesque surroundings.  

Fun Fact: Peru is located in the notorious “Pacific Ring of Fire,” meaning it frequently experiences considerable seismic activity. The engineers of Machu Picchu, even as far as back as the 15th century, were aware of this and consequently made the structure essentially “earthquake-proof.”  

Great Wall of China

Photo courtesy of YouTube, The Great Wall of China in 4k 

Location: Beijing Province, China

History: One of the largest building projects ever undertaken, the Great Wall of China was continually built beginning in the 3rd century (BCE) till the 17th century (CE). The wall begins in Shanhaiguan in the Hebei province and ends at Jiayuguan in the Gansu provice. Its main body consists primarily of walls, horse tracks, watch towers, and fortresses, totaling roughly 13,000 miles in length.

The wall was originally conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang as a method of preventing the incursion of barbarian nomads to the North. The most preserved parts of the wall that remain today were constructed by the Ming dynasty between the 14th and 17th centuries. While the dynasty initially sought to expand the reach of China further outwards, it eventually instead adopted a defensive posture. Reforming and extending the wall became a focal point of its defensive strategy.

Once the Ming dynasty fell to the Qing dynasty in the 18th century, the Great Wall emerged more as a symbol of Chinese strength and the psychological representation of the Chinese people’s ability to diffuse the impact of external influences.

Fun Fact: A popular myth espouses that the Great Wall of China can actually be seen by the naked eye from space. Alas, this is but a fairy tale. In order to view the wall from space, a high-tech lens is actually needed.

The Colosseum

Photo courtesy of YouTube, Ancient Rome 101 | National Geographic

Location: Rome, Italy

History: During the Dionysian reign of Nero, the Roman Empire fell into a brief period of ostentation and excess. After Nero’s death, the Flavian emperors, the first of which was Vespasian, determined to mollify the growing decadence of the Roman court and Senate. Nero, during his rule, had built an extravagant place for himself near the center of Rome, adjacent to the ancient Forum. It had anticlimactically burnt down in 64 CE and in its place, Vespasian decreed that a new amphitheater for the public’s use be constructed. It would eventually become a place for large public events, including the infamous gladiatorial combats.

Vespasian’s successor, Titus, dedicated the Colosseum in 80 CE with a festival featuring 100 games. The final stages of the Colosseum were completed under the reign of Titus’ brother and successor, Domitian.

Public events continued at the Colosseum for four centuries, until evolving tastes rendered some entertainment too atavistic for public consumption. The arena also suffered incremental damage over the centuries, due to persistent earthquakes and other natural phenomena. Eventually, it was abandoned completely, used primarily as a quarry for other projects for Rome and areas within the vicinity of Rome. Beginning in the 18th century, however, multiple popes sought to conserve the site for posterity.

Fun Fact: During the opening party of the Colosseum in 80 CE, the Emperor Titus staged a mimicry of a sea battle in the Colosseum itself. The arena was flooded with several feet of water so ships could engage in farcical combat.

Taj Mahal

Photo courtesy of YouTube, Taj Mahal, India Video Tour in 4K

Location: Agra, India

History: The Taj Mahal is a grand mausoleum located in Agra, in the state of Utter Pradesh, northern India.

It was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to memorialize his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is essentially a temple enshrining the concept of love.

The Taj Mahal is, in addition, an architectural wonder. It blends Indian, Persian and  Islamic styles into a unique fusion. On either side of the Mausoleum are twin mosque buildings, lush gardens, as well as a museum for visitors. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and annually receives visits from millions of tourists.

Fun Fact: The Taj Mahal was constructed between 1632 and 1653 and cost a total of 32 million INR. The equivalent of that cost today, in US dollars, would be roughly $1,062,834,098. That’s right, it would cost over a billion dollars to construct.

For additional articles related to travel, reference the following articles:

10 Adventures Big And Small -Europe

10 Adventures Big And Small – Asia