Top Tourist Destinations - Wonders of the World
As a global enterprise, tourism continues to be entered into by millions of people every year, all of whom flock various distances to see various sites and to experience different aspects of culture and history across the globe. Whilst a huge number of destinations intrigue the masses, capturing certain spiritual and cultural nuances that appeal in different ways to people from vastly varied backgrounds, the Seven New Wonders of the World seem to share this ability to impress, consistently drawing huge numbers of tourists eager for a slice of awe-inspiring, life-changing culture. Precisely what these Wonders possess that renders them so collectively appealing may be difficult to pinpoint, yet there can be no denying the cultural and historical value of each and every one one of them, as detailed below:
The Great Wall of China
The first Wonder on this list is also the oldest. Constructed from around the 6th century BCE in order to provide fortification against military invasion, the Great Wall as we now know it curves and winds from Shanhaiguan in Eastern China to Lop Nur in the West, stretching for roughly 6400km. Initially constructed mostly from packed earth and wood, it has been restored and rebuilt throughout the centuries to include the stronger materials of stone and brick. The history of the Wall is a long one, but begins largely with the unification of China under Qin Shi Huang in 221 BCE who, upon knocking down small sections of walls constructed by the individual Warring States, ordered that the remaining fortifications be joined to create a larger, more solid line of defence. The Great Wall continued to be repaired and expanded under the Han, Sui and Northern dynasties, but it was during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century that the wall we now know was constructed, solidified with stone and brick and adorned with numerous watchtowers as a strategic defence against the conflict with the Mongols. This wall was built further south than the Qin Wall, little of which remains today, and its primary purpose was not to reject people, but rather to prevent nomads from crossing with their horses and thus easily transporting stolen goods. The Great Wall now attracts a multitude of tourists every year, serving as tangible evidence of China's military history and of the great accomplishments that can be achieved by man.
Established around the same time as the Great Wall, this historical city in Ma'an, Jordan, with its architecture cut into the rock and its water conduit system, is certainly similarly impressive. It was established as the capital city of the Nabataeans from around the 6th century BCE, and was later incorporated as part of the important silk, spice and trade route that connected China, India and Southern Arabia, with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. It continued to be governed by the Nabataean people right up until around 100 CE, when the Romans secured the site. Reached through the Siq, a narrow gorge, the Al-Khazneh (treasury) is the first sight that comes into view, carved in the early 1st century BCE as the tomb of a Nabataean king. Whilst the treasury is often the most remarked upon feature, Petra also boasts rock-cut tombs, roman-style theatres, shrines and monasteries, and is additionally complete with archaeological museums. These sites collectively comprise the ancient city of Petra, which successfully draws thousands of tourists annually, eager to view the spectacular feats of Nabataean engineering that have been carved into the rose coloured rock.
Probably one of the best known wonders on this list, and certainly one of the most visited, the Colosseum, located in the heart of Rome, was commissioned in 72 CE by the emperor Vespasian, completed in 80 CE under the leadership of Titus, and remains the largest amphitheatre in the world, measuring 188m by 156m. Constructed from concrete and stone and estimated to seat about 50 000 spectators, it was the site of various affairs, most notably the gladiatorial contests now famously depicted in film and art. Gladiators were typically slave men or condemned criminals forced to fight against either each other or wild animals in grotesque displays of brutality that were eventually stopped by the advent of Christianity. Already a magnificent structure regardless of its violent history, the once marble-clad, velarium-adorned building would have been a truly awe-inspiring sight, and it is therefore little wonder that the Colosseum continues to attract flocks of tourists every day, despite having fallen into slight disrepair in the intervening centuries since its construction. Comprising eight arched entrances, four stories, and below-ground rooms and cages, the elliptical building, with its astonishing architecture and rich history, is truly a Wonder of the World.
This famous city, located in the Mexican state of Yucatán, was built by the Maya civilisation from around 700 CE, and is today one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico. It is specifically the Kukulkan Pyramid (El Castillo), measuring precisely 24m in height, that serves as the main tourist attraction, yet the city of Chichén Itzá itself boats many other archaeological wonders connected with Maya culture, including the impressively large ball court that was home to ceremonial games, the losers of which were executed. However, it is no surprise that El Castillo continues to gain such reverence from visitors. The step marble pyramid, comprising 365 steps (one for every day of the year), stands as a firm testament to the Maya's superb astronomical knowledge, a knowledge powerfully revealed by the fact that the structure is subjected to a shadow pattern that creates an image of a serpent upon the autumn and spring equinoxes. As a site of human sacrifice, Chichén Itzá was largely a religious and ceremonial city, yet it also served as a central hub of trade. It remains unclear why the city experienced sudden abandonment around the 1400s, but it certainly doesn't lack a population today, instead attracting millions of travel-enthusiasts every year.
Nestled amongst the rocks on the eastern slopes of the Andes, poised at the edge of the Amazon in Peru, Machu Picchu, constructed in the 15th century, is tangible proof of the majesty of the Inca Empire. Situated 2430m above sea-level, its purpose as either a ceremonial site, military fortification, or royal stronghold, is under activate debate by scholars, who have no written Inca language to rely on for information, and who therefore have little idea as to why the site may have been abandoned in the 16th century. Whatever the purpose of the city, there can be no doubting that the buildings and terraces blend almost seamlessly into the natural environment, highlighting, along with the promotion of agriculture and the use of a water distribution system to conserve water and restrict slope erosion, the genius of the Inca people. Now accessible by either a long hike on the Inca trail or by a considerably shorter train trip, Machu Picchu is visited by countless tourists from across the globe, who continue to be impressed and awed by its grandeur and its reflection of the majesty of a careful fusion between nature and architecture.
Located in the Agra District of India and built by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, between 1631 and 1648 in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal still stands as a colossal, white marble, mausoleum that is visited by tourists every day. Perfectly symmetrical and situated along a central axis, the structure is truly a feat of engineering genius that took thousands of workers to plan and construct. Nestled on the right bank of the Yamuna River in the Mughal gardens and complete with domes, arches, and marble relief work, it is considered to be a masterpiece and a perfect example of Muslim art. The mosque and the guest house, built of red sandstone, strikingly contrast with the marble of the tomb, creating a rich juxtaposition of colours that catch and draw the eye, perhaps contributing to the splendour that has bestowed the title of 'Wonder' upon this much-visited structure.
Christ the Redeemer
Standing high upon Corcovado Mountain and looking down upon the city of Rio de Janeiro, the 38m high monument, with arms outspread as though ushering in the multitude, has certainly drawn in its fair share of tourists since its opening in 1931. With a small chapel located at the base of the monument and panoramic views of the city, it comes as no surprise that this statue, created from donated funds by both Brazilian engineer, Heitor da Silva Costa, and French sculptor, Paul Landowski, continues to overwhelm and delight. Built from reinforced concrete and soapstone, the monument is subjected to erosion due to its exposure to the elements, and as such requires periodic maintenance work. It may lack the age of the other wonders, but Christ the Redeemer endures as a grand monument fit to rival all the others, and certainly stands, in the eyes of the many tourists who flock each year to Rio de Janeiro, as deserving of vast praise and attention.