An A-list celebrity squished in the middle seat of coach. Time zone and currency exchange rate math that actually works out in your favor. And even that trip in which every plane, train and automobile leaves and arrives on time.
These are rare travel experiences to be sure, but even these don’t live up to the truly unique spectacles that are the Wonders of the World.
While the ancient Wonders of the World, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, have been lost to time, there are still the Pyramids, the Colosseum, the Great Wall of China and many more amazing sites around the world that are just waiting to be explored. Check out these modern-day Wonders of the World and the best ways to see them.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the last ancient Wonder of the World still in existence.
The tallest of the three pyramids, the Great Pyramid was built in 2650 B.C. as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu. At 455 feet tall, the pyramid was the tallest man-made structure for over 3,800 years.1
Two other pyramids join the Pyramid of Giza just outside of Cairo. The Sphinx, a recumbent lion with the head of a man, stands watch over all three pyramids, as it has for centuries.
The Great Pyramid is a masterpiece of skill and engineering. It’s estimated that approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone were cut, transported and assembled to create the structure. In other words, we know where Ikea got their inspiration…
You can take a tour to see the inside of the Pyramids. The Queen’s Chamber and the King’s Chamber can be accessed via a series of pathways, although the treasures inside were either looted or removed to museums. Behind the Great Pyramid, you can visit the Solar Boat Museum, which displays some of the boats reconstructed from the pyramids that were believed to ferry pharaohs to the underworld. (Say that 10 times fast: “Ferry pharaohs, ferry pharaohs…”)
Camel tours are the quintessential way to see the Pyramids, but be sure to negotiate your fee before you hop on. You can also schedule a tour at night to beat the heat and see the Pyramids under the night sky.
To get there: Travelers fly into Cairo and then take a bus or an organized tour to the Pyramids.
Built for spectators to watch gladiators to fight to the death, the Colosseum itself is now a marvel of modern architecture — even if “modern” means centuries old — drawing thousands of tourists to revisit the past.
Started in 72 A.D. and completed in 80 A.D., the Colosseum could seat between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, giving it a seating capacity as large as many modern-day stadiums.
Even today, the Colosseum is a monument to medieval Rome and its majestic power. Built of concrete and sand, the Colosseum features three stories with 80 arches each, framed by Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns. Seventy-six of these arches were numbered to help spectators find their seats. There are also 80 entrances to the Colosseum, which brings an ancient understanding to the term “crowd control.” These sound more like a modern-day NFL stadium than an ancient battleground, right?
The arena features a vast underground structure called the “hypogeum,” where the gladiators, prisoners and animals were held.2 Guided tours of this wonder of the world are available daily.
The Roman Forum is located just next door to the Colosseum. But the whole city of Rome is a tourist’s paradise or project (depending on how you view it) to see the sites. Walk the city or book a tour to see the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and the Spanish Steps.
Besides ancient history, food is a main attraction in Rome. Stop into any café and order a carafe of the house wine and a bowl of bucatini. And be sure to save room for a gelato (and seconds).
From an aerial perspective, it looks like the backbone of an ancient snake, stretching across China from East to West.
The Great Wall of China was originally built to protect the borders of China. Now, it’s a modern marvel at over 13,500 miles of stone, brick and stunning fortifications, much of which was built during the Ming Dynasty.
There’s no way to see all of the Great Wall. Choose the section you want to visit and start there. Badaling is the most famous section of the Wall and was the first to be opened to the public. This part of the Wall is marked with a sign: "He Who Has Never Been to the Great Wall Is Not a True Man."3 Badaling is located about 40 miles outside of Beijing and can be reached from public transportation or by train. Tours are also highly recommended.
You can access the wall by hiking, cable car or even by taking slow roller coaster.4 Other popular sections of the Wall can be found around the Beijing area, such as Mutianyu, Jinshanling, and Jiankou.
While in Beijing, be sure to visit the Forbidden City, which was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and Tiananmen Square, where you will find the Monument to the People's Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
Perhaps no other Wonder of the World is shrouded in more uncertainty. The mystery of Stonehenge has transfixed people for centuries.
The prehistoric monument is located in Wiltshire England, about 8 miles north of Salisbury. The ring of standing stones is believed to have been constructed from 3000 to 2000 BC. Each stone is roughly 13 feet high, 6 foot 11 inches wide and weighs 25 tons.5 Not even the most ripped CrossFit class is moving these behemoths.
Stonehenge is an eerie and mythic place. How was it built? Who created it? What was it used for? Was it created as a solar calendar or an ancient burial ground? Many of those questions are asked, but no one knows for sure.
Stonehenge offers an interactive visitor’s center with 365-degree audio-visual tours, plus Neolithic houses that replicate what life was like four and a half thousand years ago.
Stonehenge is perhaps the easiest and most inexpensive to access of the Wonders of the World. To get there, take the train to the Salisbury train station and then take the Stonehenge bus tour.
While in Salisbury, be sure to stop by the Salisbury Cathedral with its original copies of the Magna Carta or take a tour of Wilton House, the site of many English period movies such as “Sense & Sensibility.”
One of the great wonders of the natural world, the Grand Canyon is a 277-mile long canyon carved into the Arizona landscape by the Colorado River.
Most visitors see the Grand Canyon from the "South Rim," with its overlooks accessed by free park shuttle buses or by car.
Besides the sweeping views and the geological wonders of the canyons, it’s an outdoor paradise that can be explored with hiking, biking, rafting and even skydiving. You can take a free bus tour of picturesque Hermit Road, a scenic route that follows the South Rim for 7 miles to Hermits Rest. The route is closed to private cars, although it can also be accessed by on foot, by bike or by commercial bus.
The Canyon Rim Trail is also a popular way to view the stunning canyons.6
Most visitors fly into the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. The Grand Canyon is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the airport.
Called the “Rose City,” Petra is an ancient city carved into the stone deep in the deserts of Jordan.
Petra is believed to have been established as early as 300 B.C. But it was unknown to the Western world until 1812, when the city of Petra was discovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
Originally built by the Arab Nabataeans and eventually taken over by the Romans, Petra is a city carved into stone that is a marvel to behold.
The city is entered through the Siq, a narrow gorge flanked on either side by soaring cliffs. Petra features many formations built directly into the stone, including tombs, temples and a Roman-style theater.
Interesting fact: Several scenes from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” were filmed in Petra. So a trip here totally counts as adventure travel — bonus points for the fedora and whip.
The nearest airport is the Aqaba airport, which is an hour and a half away, or the larger Amman airport, which is a four-hour drive.
The Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil has become one of the new Wonders of the World. It’s definitely the “youngest” wonder on this list, having opened to the public in 1931.
The colossal statue of Jesus Christ is 98 feet tall with its arms spread at 92 feet. It was created by French sculptor Paul Landowski with the help of several engineers.7
The statue is located at the peak of the Corcovado Mountain overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro. Made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, the statue has become a symbol of Christianity across the world.
This modern marvel draws over a million visitors per year and also offers sweeping, 360-degree views of the city below.
Rio de Janeiro–Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport is the main airport serving the area. Plan to stay for more than a day; Rio de Janeiro also offers beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, a bustling city and of course, Carnival, the bacchanalian 5-day celebration held every spring.
The Wonders of the World is a tough list to crack. With a seemingly endless list of travel destinations, these have earned the rarest of accolades. But if you can slot them in for your next vacation or squeeze them on your bucket list, any of these destinations will be the trip of a lifetime.