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The 7 Wonders of the World

By Ariana Crisafulli 2019-05-23 12:50:18

Anyone with two eyes can see that the world is full of wonderful things. One need only to look outside their window to marvel at manmade wonders or breathtaking natural scenery. But there are only a handful that have been deemed the Seven Wonders of the World.

Although you might more accurately say there are fourteen that can claim that title. The original seven were thought to be too out of date. After all, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Colossus of Rhodes only exist in documented history, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria isn’t exactly leading ships to safety these days. With so many wonders that still stand today, the world voted for seven ‘new’ wonders on 07/07/07 and decided on the following…

 

Taj Mahal

Location: Agra, India

This stunning architectural masterpiece was commissioned in 1632 and completed in 1658. Made of white marble, the Taj Mahal all but glows in the sunshine. It’s so stunning, UNESCO called it “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. Pictures truly do not do it justice.

The Taj Mahal is actually a mausoleum, built by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. It was dedicated to his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after she died giving birth to their 14th child. The tomb now holds the fake sarcophagi of Shah Jahan and his beloved Mumtaz Mahal. Their actual graves are on the site, but at a lower level. The site also holds incredible gardens on a 300-meter square property, as well as other outlying buildings, many of which house the sarcophagi of Shah Jahan’s other wives and even one of Mumtaz Mahal’s favorite servants.

The mausoleum is also part of what is known as “the Golden Triangle” in India, which also includes Jaipur (the pink city), and New Delhi. You can visit the Taj Mahal in Agra for 105 RMB per person.

 

Chichen Itza

Location: Yucatan, Mexico

Chichen Itza was one of the largest cities in the Maya Empire between AD 600 and AD 900. Some even say it was one of the mythical great cities, known as Tollans in Mesoamerican literature. Maya lore says that this great city was founded by a man/deity known as K’uk’ulkan (feathered serpent) who came from the west. As you walk around the city, you will most likely encounter him in the many feather-clad serpent carvings and statues throughout the city.

Today it is a cluster of ruins, many of which are quite well-preserved. Most notably, El Castillo, the massive four-sided pyramid, stands tall and intact for curious visitors. One of the most interesting things about the temple is its connection to the calendar. The pyramid has four sides and each side has 91 steps, for a total of 364 steps. One final step leads into the temple at the top of the pyramid for a grand total of… yes, you guessed it, 365.

The Maya, many of which are still alive today in Mexico and Guatemala, are well known for their astronomy and most notably for their calendar. You may even remember a certain “end of the world” scare in 2012 when the Mayan calendar was supposed to have ended. However, NASA dispelled this doomsday myth by saying, “Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012.”

Chichen Itza is also well-known for the Great Ball Court. Both the ball court and the sport that was played within its 149-meter-long, 30-meter-wide, and 8-meter-high dimensions make modern day sports look like child’s play. Although not all the rules of the game are known, it’s clear that the game used a rubber ball that had to be thrown through a small vertical hoop 6 meters off the ground! And if you think that modern day sports are high stakes, ponder over the carved depictions on the ball court walls featuring human sacrifice. Presumably the losers of this game had this particular honor.

Today you can visit Chichen Itza in the Yucatan state of southern Mexico, near Mérida. Entrance fee is 81 RMB for adults, and kids under 13 years old enter free.

 

The Colosseum

Location: Rome, Italy

Did you know that the Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built? I mean ever. It’s estimated that it could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators and had an average audience of some 65,000 people.

This world wonder and icon of Rome was commissioned in AD 72 under the reign of Vespasian and completed in AD 80 by his successor and heir, Titus. In its heyday, the Colosseum saw live spectacles that the Roman public clambered for (some of which would be considered heinously barbarous by today’s standards). Real sword battles between Gladiators (sometimes to the death), public executions, animal hunts, chariot races, reenactments of historical battles, and dramas based on classical mythology were all common fare in this massive outdoor arena. In some cases, the Colosseum was even flooded to allow for staged ship battles!

The people of Rome enjoyed these spectacles for about four centuries before the Coloseum fell into disuse due to changes in public opinion as well as the struggles of the Western Roman Empire. Today the Colosseum still stands, although in a state of disrepair due to natural phenomena and general lack of upkeep. However, it can still be visited in Rome today along with its neighbor, the Roman Forum, where the famous Roman senate debated and made laws for their people.

Tickets cost 95 RMB at the door. Citizens of European Union countries between the ages of 18 and 25 can enter for 60 RMB. Tickets are valid for two consecutive days and include entry to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum / Palatine Hill.

 

The Great Wall of China

Location: China

The Great Wall of China is actually more accurately described as a series of walls, fortifications, and mounds of tamped earth that generally stretch east to west across historical Chinese borders. Some estimates place the Wall at 21,000 kilometers long, and some even claim that it can be seen from space! The most common myth about the wall is that the Chinese built it to keep the Mongols out. In fact, pieces of the wall had already been in place as early as the 7th century BC, while the Mongols only became a force to reckon with under the rule of Genghis Khan in the 12th century AD.

The Great Wall was essentially a work in progress up until about 500 years ago. One of the most famous pieces of the wall was built as far back as 220–206 BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. However, most of that wall is now missing due to the ravages of time. The most commonly visited and well-maintained section was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).

Besides its role in the defense of the region, the Great Wall also played a key part in the Silk Road, acting as border control and a check point for the imposition of duties on goods, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration.

The most popular sections of the wall to visit are Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Badaling and Juyongguan. Tickets cost between 45 RMB and 120 RMB depending on the section of the wall, but you may also have to purchase cable car tickets. Tours are also available for around 240 RMB.

 

Petra

Location: Petra, Jordan

Settled around 312 BC, Petra is one of the oldest cities in the world! Its inhabitants were Arab peoples called Nabataeans who are believed to have arrived in what is today known as Jordan in the 6th century BC. Previously a nomadic tribe, the Nabataeans established the region as a focal trading point. Being situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, Petra was a significant junction between Egypt, Arabia and Syria-Phoenicia during Hellenistic and Roman times. It was also a key hub for trading Chinese silks, Indian spices, and Arabian incense.

The focal point of this modern-day tourist attraction is the stunning Al Khazneh. Although Al Khazneh translates to “the treasury”, it is believed to be the mausoleum of Nabataean King Aretas IV. This beautiful structure was not built but was actually carved into the flat rock face of the surrounding mountains. The red stone out of which the architecture and columns are carved give the city its nickname: the Rose City.

The city is also known for its 800 carved tombs, baths, funeral halls, temples, arched gateways, and colonnaded streets, as well as the 1-kilometer narrow passageway that serves as the entrance to Petra.

Currently, only 15% of Petra has been explored. Who knows how many more secrets are hidden away in this ancient city!

1 day pass: 489 RMB

2 day pass: 538 RMB

3 day pass: 587 RMB

 

Christ the Redeemer

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Christ the Redeemer is probably the most iconic landmark of Rio de Janeiro. Standing at 29.8 meters tall (not to mention the 8-meter pedestal it sits atop) with an arm span of 28 meters, this Art Deco statue is truly a sight to behold.

The statue was commissioned in 1922 after a petition to build a large religious monument in Rio found success. Construction on the statue was completed in 1931 and officially opened to the public on October 12th of that same year.

Today the statue can still be visited at the peak of Corcovado mountain. From this 700-meter vantage point, visitors not only get a close-up view of Christ the Redeemer, but are also privy to a stunning panoramic view of the city and coastline.

Adults can visit for 82 RMB and children between the ages of 6 and 12 enter for 41 RMB.

 

Machu Picchu

Location: Urubamba Province, Peru

Machu Picchu is arguably one of the most fascinating and exciting tourist destinations in the world, and deservedly has its place as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Today, many of its well-preserved buildings can still be visited by climbing or taking a bus to the mountain ridge on which it sits, 2,430 meters above sea level.

Most archeologists agree that the citadel of Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century for the ninth Incan ruler, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui. Pachacuti was a conqueror whose invasions expanded the influential Incan Empire from Ecuador to Chile.

Plenty of theories and mysteries surround Machu Picchu, which makes the site not only incredible to behold, but also fascinating to explore. Some say that it was built to honor a sacred landscape, and others believe that it was a recreation of an ancient Incan myth. Most popularly, people speculate that it was a holy nunnery for the Virgins of the Sun, a holy order of women dedicated to the Incan sun deity, Inti.

However, most archeologists agree that the site was built and used by the Incans for something far more prosaic. The prevailing theory is that Machu Picchu was constructed as a royal estate or retreat for Pachacuti.

Even more curious than the speculative history is the architecture. Some sections of Machu Picchu are built using a mortarless technique called ashlar that even modern-day engineers would be hard-pressed to replicate. The stone monoliths have been cut so precisely that mortar is not needed to keep the structure in place. In many places, the stones are so carefully laid, you can’t even fit a sheet of paper between them.

The site also holds a number of thought-provoking artifacts, including the sacred Intihuatana stone that accurately indicates the two equinoxes. Twice a year, the sun sits directly over the stone, creating no shadow.

Machu Picchu is very remote, which also adds to the magic. Getting there requires a series of hired vans or cars and one train ride that will take you to the town of Aguas Calientes at the base of the peak. From there you can either choose to walk up the 3,000 steps to Machu Picchu or take a bus to the top.

However, most visitors opt to do one of two treks available - either the Inca Trail or the less popular but equally stunning Salkantay Trail. These treks can be done between three to seven days depending on where you begin and how many detours you take. The treks themselves are incredible, but there really is nothing quite like arriving at the crest of Machu Picchu and seeing the stunning Inca citadel for yourself!

Machu Picchu entry tickets for adults cost 487 RMB. Students 25 years or younger and minors between the ages of 8 and 17 enter for 285 RMB. Tour prices vary depending on the agency and mode of transportation.

 

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